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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XXIV - Nathan is elected Chairman


NOTICE!

A PUBLIC MEETING of the ratepayers will be held in the schoolhouse on Tuesday evening, the 10th instant, convening at 8 o’clock, for the purpose of discussing the political questions of the day.

God save the Queen.

POSTERS bearing the above legend were to be seen about the first of July, adorning the walls of the tavern, the post-office, the toll-gate, and the red door of Dooley’s blacksmith shop. Several were pasted on boards, and the latter nailed to trees along the town-line, and where the roads forked at the turns to Tuffy’s Corners and Hornersville. A general election had been called, and the politicians were going about discussing the questions of the day, buttonholing the settlers, and making a vigorous canvass of the neighbourhood. The names of Baldwin and La Fontaine were heard on every hand, together with that of John A. Macdonald (then a rising young politician), Francis Hincks, and M. C. Cameron, who delighted in the cognomen of the "bare-footed boy," which had been given him by an opponent as a name of opprobrium.

The burning issues before the people were the secularization of the Clergy Reserves, the Double Shuffle, and Representation by Population, or Rep. by Pop., as it was called for short.

In the summer months, when a meeting was on, the settlers usually assembled an hour or so before the time announced for the meeting to begin; and as they sat about on the top rails of the fence adjoining the schoolhouse, awaiting the arrival of the speakers, and discussing in their own way the public questions, it was most interesting to listen to their remarks.

Muckle Peter, who was a supporter of Baldwin and La Fontaine, opined that these politicians would certainly carry the day, because "he hed been tell’t, but couldna vouch fer ‘t, thet Baldwin hed came frae th’ same country es himsel’, an’ hoo could he help but wun?"

Dooley, who was a Tory and a worshipper at the shrine of John A. Macdonald, curled up his lip contemptuously at Muckle Peter’s remark and said : —"Be japers, I’d back Jawn A. agin th’ hull crowd o’ yer Baldwins. I niver knowed a Baldwin thet wuz worth salt till his porridge, an’ I heered es how this man yer a-talkin’ aboot is no better thin he ought t’ be. In fact, it is rayported thet he wants t’ divide th’ hull Clurgy Resarves among himself an’ his fam’ly."

This sally of Dooley’s created a laugh, which Muckle Peter checked by remarking, with a sinister grin, that "howsumever th’ Resarves would be deevided, one thing wuz sure, th’ church o’ th’ dark ages tae whuch Dooley belonged wad no’ receive an acre."

Thus the time was occupied until the first buggy arrived, with one of the candidates and his friends. The candidate was of course very affable, and went about among the settlers, calling them by name and speaking to them as familiarly as if he knew each one intimately. Ere many minutes had elapsed, one after another of the settlers who were known to "hae a likin’ fer his bitters," was invited by a knowing wink from the candidate or his companion to make an excursion towards the buggy, in which was found a large jar of whiskey. By the time the other candidate had arrived and his supporters had also been invited to visit his buggy a few times, a number of the intelligent electors were "high."

Shortly after this a spontaneous movement was made towards the schoolhouse. Nathan, who was very officious on such occasions, usually snuffed and lighted the tallow candles that burned in the sockets of the "sconces" hanging on the walls. Then, after all was ready, there was an embarrassing pause, for some one had to move the appointment of a chairman. As has been previously stated, there was no one who loved the office as dearly as Nathan Larkins, and he took up a prominent seat at the front near the master’s desk, in order that he might be the more likely to be selected.

Jock, the drover, who had visited the buggy of the John A. candidate pretty frequently, was in great good humour, and he determined to have a "rise" out of old Nathan, so he stood up and said : —

"I move thet our old an’ distinguished neighbour, Nathan Larkins, be summoned t’ th’ high offis uv chairman, a position uv lofty dignity, callin’ es it does fer th’ exercise uv a very high order uv judicial prescience. Before Mr. Larkins is elected, howsumever, I would, on behalf uv myself an’ my fellow-settlers, call upon him fer a full, frank, an’ untrammelled statement uv his policy in conductin’ th’ meetin’, should his fellow-countrymen see it t’ be their dooty t’ ‘lect him."

There is always a man in every community who follows the practice of seconding motions. The function does not call for the exercise of any powers of oratory, nor is it calculated to exhaust the brain. It very often, however, results in the man’s name appearing in print, and he receives some little prominence at a very slight cost. The individual in the Scotch Settlement who always seconded motions was Paul Drew, —a well-meaning, "religious" personage whom Muckle Peter delighted to tease occasionally by asking him if he had ever yet received an "aunswer tae thet lang epusle thet aince he wrote tae th’ Ephesians."

"Second the motion," muttered Paul Drew, shuffling halfway to his feet.

While always impressed with a sense of his own importance, Nathan was overwhelmed at discovering the lofty opinion that was, as he fancied from Jock’s splendid tribute, entertained by the settlers with regard to himself. He said: —

"Fellow-citizens of this settlement and gentlemen from Hornersville, Tuffy’s Corners, and the Snow Road, for I see you all here, I promise you that if you see fit to repose such high confidence in one of yourselves, who realises his utter unworthiness (cough) and inability to discharge the functions appertaining to the office, I shall, God helping me, do the best in my power to hold the scales equal between the combatants and to administer even-handed justice to all."

This speech settled it, and Nathan was duly elected to the chair.


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