“The new fashion of introducing the candidate’s children into an electio_ontest is a pretty one,” said Mrs. Panstreppon; “it takes away something fro_he acerbity of party warfare, and it makes an interesting experience fo_hildren to look back on in after years. Still, if you will listen to m_dvice, Matilda, you will not take Hyacinth with you down to Luffbridge o_lection day.”
“Not take Hyacinth!” exclaimed his mother; “but why not? Jutterly is bringin_is three children, and they are going to drive a pair of Nubian donkeys abou_he town, to emphasise the fact that their father has been appointed Colonia_ecretary. We are making the demand for a strong Navy a special feature i_our_ campaign, and it will be particularly appropriate to have Hyacint_ressed in his sailor suit. He’ll look heavenly.”
“The question is, not how he’ll look, but how he’ll behave. He’s a delightfu_hild, of course, but there is a strain of unbridled pugnacity in him tha_reaks out at times in a really alarming fashion. You may have forgotten th_ffair of the little Gaffin children; I haven’t.”
“I was in India at the time, and I’ve only a vague recollection of wha_appened; he was very naughty, I know.”
“He was in his goat-carriage, and met the Gaffins in their perambulator, an_e drove the goat full tilt at them and sent the perambulator spinning.
Little Jacky Gaffin was pinned down under the wreckage, and while the nurs_ad her hands full with the goat Hyacinth was laying into Jacky’s legs wit_is belt like a small fury.”
“I’m not defending him,” said Matilda, “but they must have done something t_nnoy him.”
“Nothing intentionally, but some one had unfortunately told him that they wer_alf French—their mother was a Duboc, you know—and he had been having _istory lesson that morning, and had just heard of the final loss of Calais b_he English, and was furious about it. He said he’d teach the little toads t_o snatching towns from us, but we didn’t know at the time that he wa_eferring to the Gaffins. I told him afterwards that all bad feeling betwee_he two nations had died out long ago, and that anyhow the Gaffins were onl_alf French, and he said that it was only the French half of Jacky that he ha_een hitting; the rest had been buried under the perambulator. If the loss o_alais unloosed such fury in him, I tremble to think what the possible loss o_he election might entail.”
“All that happened when he was eight; he’s older now and knows better.”
“Children with Hyacinth’s temperament don’t know better as they grow older; they merely know more.”
“Nonsense. He will enjoy the fun of the election, and in any case he’ll b_ired out by the time the poll is declared, and the new sailor suit that I’v_ad made for him is just in the right shade of blue for our election colours, and it will exactly match the blue of his eyes. He will be a perfectl_harming note of colour.”
“There is such a thing as letting one’s æsthetic sense override one’s mora_ense,” said Mrs. Panstreppon. “I believe you would have condoned the Sout_ea Bubble and the persecution of the Albigenses if they had been carried ou_n effective colour schemes. However, if anything unfortunate should happe_own at Luffbridge, don’t say it wasn’t foreseen by one member of the family.”
The election was keenly but decorously contested. The newly-appointe_olonial Secretary was personally popular, while the Government to which h_dhered was distinctly unpopular, and there was some expectancy that th_ajority of four hundred, obtained at the last election, would be altogethe_iped out. Both sides were hopeful, but neither could feel confident. Th_hildren were a great success; the little Jutterlys drove their chubby donkey_olemnly up and down the main streets, displaying posters which advocated th_laims of their father on the broad general grounds that he was their father, while as for Hyacinth, his conduct might have served as a model for an_eraph-child that had strayed unwittingly on to the scene of an electora_ontest. Of his own accord, and under the delighted eyes of half a doze_amera operators, he had gone up to the Jutterly children and presented the_ith a packet of butterscotch; “we needn’t be enemies because we’re wearin_he opposite colours,” he said with engaging friendliness, and the occupant_f the donkey-cart accepted his offering with polite solemnity. The grown-u_embers of both political camps were delighted at the incident—with th_xception of Mrs. Panstreppon, who shuddered.
“Never was Clytemnestra’s kiss sweeter than on the night she slew me,” sh_uoted, but made the quotation to herself.
The last hour of the poll was a period of unremitting labour for both parties; it was generally estimated that not more than a dozen votes separated th_andidates, and every effort was made to bring up obstinately waverin_lectors. It was with a feeling of relaxation and relief that every one hear_he clocks strike the hour for the close of the poll. Exclamations broke ou_rom the tired workers, and corks flew out from bottles.
“Well, if we haven’t won; we’ve done our level best.” “It has been a clea_traight fight, with no rancour.” “The children were quite a charmin_eature, weren’t they?”
The children? It suddenly occurred to everybody that they had seen nothing o_he children for the last hour. What had become of the three little Jutterly_nd their donkey-cart, and, for the matter of that, what had become o_yacinth. Hurried, anxious embassies went backwards and forwards between th_espective party headquarters and the various committee-rooms, but there wa_lank ignorance everywhere as to the whereabouts of the children. Every on_ad been too busy in the closing moments of the poll to bestow a thought o_hem. Then there came a telephone call at the Unionist Women’s Committee- rooms, and the voice of Hyacinth was heard demanding when the poll would b_eclared.
“Where are you, and where are the Jutterly children?” asked his mother.
“I’ve just finished having high-tea at a pastry-cook’s,” came the answer, “an_hey let me telephone. I’ve had a poached egg and a sausage roll and fou_eringues.”
“You’ll be ill. Are the little Jutterlys with you?”
“Rather not. They’re in a pigstye.”
“A pigstye? Why? What pigstye?”
“Near the Crawleigh Road. I met them driving about a back road, and told the_hey were to have tea with me, and put their donkeys in a yard that I knew of.
Then I took them to see an old sow that had got ten little pigs. I got th_ow into the outer stye by giving her bits of bread, while the Jutterlys wen_n to look at the litter, then I bolted the door and left them there.”
“You wicked boy, do you mean to say you’ve left those poor children ther_lone in the pigstye?”
“They’re not alone, they’ve got ten little pigs in with them; they’re joll_ell crowded. They were pretty mad at being shut in, but not half as mad a_he old sow is at being shut out from her young ones. If she gets in whil_hey’re there she’ll bite them into mincemeat. I can get them out by lettin_ short ladder down through the top window, and that’s what I’m going to d_if we win_. If their blighted father gets in, I’m just going to open th_oor for the sow, and let her do what she dashed well likes to them. That’_hy I want to know when the poll will be declared.”
Here the narrator rang off. A wild stampede and a frantic sending-off o_essengers took place at the other end of the telephone. Nearly all th_orkers on either side had disappeared to their various club-rooms and public- house bars to await the declaration of the poll, but enough local informatio_ould be secured to determine the scene of Hyacinth’s exploit. Mr. John Bal_ad a stable yard down near the Crawleigh Road, up a short lane, and his so_as known to have a litter of ten young ones. Thither went in headlong hast_oth the candidates, Hyacinth’s mother, his aunt (Mrs. Panstreppon), and tw_r three hurriedly-summoned friends. The two Nubian donkeys, contentedl_unching at bundles of hay, met their gaze as they entered the yard. Th_oarse savage grunting of an enraged animal and the shriller note of thirtee_oung voices, three of them human, guided them to the stye, in the outer yar_f which a huge Yorkshire sow kept up a ceaseless raging patrol before _losed door. Reclining on the broad ledge of an open window, from which poin_f vantage he could reach down and shoot the bolt of the door, was Hyacinth, his blue sailor-suit somewhat the worse of wear, and his angel smile exchange_or a look of demoniacal determination.
“If any of you come a step nearer,” he shouted, “the sow will be inside i_alf a jiffy.”
A storm of threatening, arguing, entreating expostulation broke from th_affled rescue party, but it made no more impression on Hyacinth than th_quealing tempest that raged within the stye.
“If Jutterly heads the poll I’m going to let the sow in. I’ll teach th_lighters to win elections from us.”
“He means it,” said Mrs. Panstreppon; “I feared the worst when I saw tha_utterscotch incident.”
“It’s all right, my little man,” said Jutterly, with the duplicity to whic_ven a Colonial Secretary can sometimes stoop, “your father has been electe_y a large majority.”
“Liar!” retorted Hyacinth, with the directness of speech that is not merel_xcusable, but almost obligatory, in the political profession; “the vote_ren’t counted yet. You won’t gammon me as to the result, either. A boy tha_’ve palled with is going to fire a gun when the poll is declared; two shot_f we’ve won, one shot if we haven’t.”
The situation began to look critical. “Drug the sow,” whispered Hyacinth’_ather.
Some one went off in the motor to the nearest chemist’s shop and returne_resently with two large pieces of bread, liberally dosed with narcotic. Th_read was thrown deftly and unostentatiously into the stye, but Hyacinth sa_hrough the manœuvre. He set up a piercing imitation of a small pig i_urgatory, and the infuriated mother ramped round and round the stye; th_ieces of bread were trampled into slush.
At any moment now the poll might be declared. Jutterly flew back to the Tow_all, where the votes were being counted. His agent met him with a smile o_ope.
“You’re eleven ahead at present, and only about eighty more to be counted; you’re just going to squeak through.”
“I mustn’t squeak through,” exclaimed Jutterly, hoarsely. “You must object t_very doubtful vote on our side that can possibly be disallowed. I mus_not_ have the majority.”
Then was seen the unprecedented sight of a party agent challenging the vote_n his own side with a captiousness that his opponents would have hesitated t_isplay. One or two votes that would have certainly passed muster unde_rdinary circumstances were disallowed, but even so Jutterly was six ahea_ith only thirty more to be counted.
To the watchers by the stye the moments seemed intolerable. As a last resor_ome one had been sent for a gun with which to shoot the sow, though Hyacint_ould probably draw the bolt the moment such a weapon was brought into th_ard. Nearly all the men were away from their homes, however, on electio_ight, and the messenger had evidently gone far afield in his search. It mus_e a matter of minutes now to the declaration of the poll.
A sudden roar of shouting and cheering was heard from the direction of th_own Hall. Hyacinth’s father clutched a pitchfork and prepared to dash int_he stye in the forlorn hope of being in time.
A shot rang out in the evening air. Hyacinth stooped down from his perch an_ut his finger on the bolt. The sow pressed furiously against the door.
“Bang,” came another shot.
Hyacinth wriggled back, and sent a short ladder down through the window of th_nner stye.
“Now you can come up, you unclean little blighters,” he sang out; “my daddy’_ot in, not yours. Hurry up, I can’t keep the sow waiting much longer. An_on’t you jolly well come butting into any election again where I’m on th_ob.”
In the reaction that set in after the deliverance furious recrimination wer_ndulged in by the lately opposed candidates, their women folk, agents, an_arty helpers. A recount was demanded, but failed to establish the fact tha_he Colonial Secretary had obtained a majority. Altogether the election lef_ legacy of soreness behind it, apart from any that was experienced b_yacinth in person.
“It is the last time I shall let him go to an election,” exclaimed his mother.
“There I think you are going to extremes,” said Mrs. Panstreppon; “if ther_hould be a general election in Mexico I think you might safely let him g_here, but I doubt whether our English politics are suited to the rough an_umble of an angel-child.”