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Letters From Troy
by [?]

So we handed up our nomination papers, and while the Chairman and overseers were checking them off by the register, Old Pilot James got upon his legs.

He said that as long as he could remember–man and boy–he had always practised carols in that very Town Hall upon the first Tuesday in December. The Vicar–as soon as he had done boiling the kettle in the next room–would come in and confirm his words. The practices were held on the first Tuesday in December, and on each successive Tuesday until St. Thomas’s Day, when they had one extra. If St. Thomas’s Day fell on a Tuesday, then the extra practice would be on Wednesday. He had received no notice of the change.

Thomas Rabling rose and explained that at a meeting held last Saturday, the singers had agreed to postpone the first practice in view of Local Self-Government. Mr. James had been present and had not objected.

George William Oke–a blockmaker, who had never sung a carol or attended a practice in his life–stood up and said, rather unnecessarily, that this was the first he’d heard of it.

Old Pilot James, answering Mr. Rabling, admitted that he might have been present at the meeting on Saturday. But he was deaf, as everybody knew–and Mr. Rabling no less than the rest–and hadn’t heard a word of what was said. If he had, he should have objected. But, deaf or not deaf, he still took a delight in singing; and, if only as a matter of principle, he was going to sing, “God rest you merry, gentlemen,” then and there. He was an old man, and they might turn him out if they liked; but he warned them it would be brutal, and might lead to a summons.

Well, the Chairman was making a long business of the nomination papers: so just to pass the time we let the old man sing. It seemed churlish, too, not to join in the chorus; and by and by the whole meeting was singing with a will. We sang “Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” and “I saw Three Ships,” and the Cherry-tree Carol, and “Dives and Lazarus.” We had come to that verse where Dives is carried off to sit on the serpent’s knee, when the Chairman rose and said that only five of the nomination papers were spoilt, and he declared sixty-seven ladies and gentlemen to be duly nominated.

We all pricked up our ears at the word “ladies.” However, there turned out to be one lady only; and when the Chairman read out her name, her husband–a naval pensioner, William Carclew–stood up and explained that he had only meant it for a joke upon the old woman, just to give her a start, and he hoped it would go no farther. This seemed fair and natural enough; but the Chairman said if Mrs. Carclew wished to withdraw her name she had better do so at once by word of mouth. So Carclew had to run home and fetch her. While he was gone we finished “Dives and Lazarus.”

In five minutes’ time back came Carclew, followed by Mrs. Carclew, who announced–in a rich brogue–that since her man had conspired to put this fool’s trick upon her, why now she would stand, begob! “Arrah now, people, people, and a gay man he’ll look houlding the babby, while I’m afther superinthendin’ the Parush!” So the Chairman declared her duly nominated. It will surprise me if she does not head the poll on the 17th.

The Chairman now invited us to interrogate the candidates, if we wished. By this time we were getting pretty well into the way of Self-Government, and all enjoying it amazingly. Of course our lady candidate, Mrs. Carclew, had the first few questions; but these were mostly jocular and domestic, and I am bound to say the lady gave as good as was brought. The only sensible question came from Old Pilot James, who asked if she believed in the ballot. For his part he had never given a vote for anybody since Forster brought in the ballot in ‘seventy-one. He favoured peace and quiet; and he liked to walk up to the hustings and give his vote, and hear ’em say, “Well done!” or “You ‘–‘ old scoundrel!” as the case might be. He didn’t mind being called “a ‘–‘ old scoundrel,” provided it was said to him by a gentleman who weighed his words. Since Forster brought in the ballot he had always gone to the poll regular. He always took his paper and wrote opposite the names: “Shan’t say a word. Got my living to get. Yours obediently, Matthias James”–and would advise everybody else to do the same.