Page:Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.djvu/271

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The Brigands

The town of Mugsborough was governed by a set of individuals called the Municipal Council. Most of these 'representatives of the people' were well-to-do or retired tradesmen, for in the opinion of the inhabitants of Mugsborough the fact that a man had succeeded in accumulating money in business was a clear demonstration of his fitness to be intrusted with the business of the town.

The Municipal Council did just what they pleased. No one ever interfered with them. They never consulted the ratepayers in any way. Even at election times they did not trouble to hold meetings: each one of them issued a kind of manifesto setting forth his many noble qualities and calling for votes from the people, who never failed to respond, and who elected the same old crew of highly respectable brigands time after time.

The chief of the band was Mr Adam Sweater, managing director and principal shareholder of the large drapery business from which he had amassed a considerable fortune. Then there was Mr Rushton, 'the working man's Candidate'; Mr Amos Grinder, who had practically monopolised the greengrocery trade of the town; Mr Jeremiah Didlum, house-furnisher and 'Hire System' trader, who also did a big business in second hand stuffs; and various other prosperous tradesmen chosen by the inhabitants of Mugsborough to watch over their interests. There was only one member of the Council who did not belong to the band of brigands. This was Councillor Weakling, a retired physician, whose feeble protests against measures he disapproved of always ended in collapse.

For many years the brigands had looked with envious eyes on the huge profits of the Gas Company, and, bent on capturing the spoils, they formed themselves into an associa-