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being chiefly persons of Republican note, with a coloured print of the interior of the House of Lords with members assembled, all dinted and stained ; as though, in their virtuous frenzy, the denouncers of a bloated aristocracy had flung the dregs of their rum-and-water at it, and pelted it with bits of tobacco-pipe. Over the doorway is the design of a working man—a figure of Liberty ramming home a charge in a cannon, with the mysterious words beneath, “ Ireland—Chain Shot.”.
Then there are some framed boards inscribed with the names of the great men—some who have been, and some who still are attached to the cause. Horrible daubs these; as ill-lettered as the rules of a goose club exhibited in the tap-room of a beer-shop; the work of a genius who has as much disrespect for the Queen's English as for Majesty herself, for he spells solicitor "ter.” As for the company, among which might be counted fifteen or twenty females, it seemed to be of the respectable mechanic sort. A good-humoured assemblage, with a partiality it scorned to conceal for tobacco and beer, and one that was not to be checked by the lack of table room to stand a quart pot on. Nay, the trifling inconvenience afforded those present an opportunity of demonstrating still once again that invention —which of course means the grandeur and greatness of a nation—is peculiarly the offspring of the necessitous. Many of those present, as they sat on their chairs, held their hats by the brim between their knees, and converted the hat's interior into a snug receptacle for their pint of sixpenny—an instance of ingenuity that might be sought in vain amongst the bloated aristocracy.
But the most remarkable feature of the evening was that, though those who would have it so tried desperately hard, for it was not a Republican meeting at all. That is to say, it was not, as I had fully expected—and what any one who from time to time may have read of the tremendous doings at this stronghold of revolutionists would naturally expect—it was not an assemblage of persons who were unanimous in their discontent of affairs as they exist, and who come together to chafe at the old wound and keep it open, and amongst whom there is but one opinion as to the manner of healing it. To be sure there were a few of the red-hot school present, men who have seen service beneath the Reformers'-hill in Hyde Park, men who have spouted sedition to such an insane extent that, compassionating their infirmity, Government has refrained from shutting their mouths; such men as these were there, and spoke with as much violence as ever, but it was only the few that applauded ; and when they had done and more temperate men rose and had their say exactly on the other side, it was impossible not to perceive that these gave most satisfaction. I can't say what has gone before, but taking that Sunday evening as a fair sample of a Republican meeting and of what are the prospects of Republicanism in London, I should say that it would be a mere waste of labour to attempt to snuff it out. The “ brief candle” is already spasmodically flashing and flaring in the socket of the candlestick, and will presently expire without the aid of an extinguisher.
This certainly was my conviction, as at eleven o'clock I gladly made my way out of the unwholesome room reeking with tobacco smoke and the fumes of gin and beer, but it occurred to me afterwards that perhaps I jumped at somewhat hasty conclusions. I should not forget that it was Sunday night, and that it was very possible that many staunch Republicans might refrain from putting in an appearance from religious scruples.
They met twice a week, Sunday and Thursday, and if I came on a Thursday I might find a very different state of things.
Stay, I might do something better still. At the bar of the Hole-in-the-Wall, and on the walls of the discussion hall, there were printed notifications to the effect, that on Monday a concert would be held in the hall for the benefit of a tried and faithful Republican leader, and it was most sincerely hoped that on such an occasion his friends would rally round him.
This was exactly the thing. There might be many men whose conversion to the ways of Republicanism was so complete that they were content to sit and enjoy their opinions at home. But here was a claim on their gratitude as well as on their opinions. Here was a brother, a prominent man and a leader, who perhaps had expended his little savings in forwarding those interests they all had so much at heart, and who now would be sincerely glad to receive from his numerous friends the small sum of twopence each--that was the price of admission to the concert—to help him in his distress. Here would be a splendid opportunity, if London Republicans had any pluck remaining in them, to display their zeal to make the patriotic speech, to sing the song of revolution and regeneration.
Anticipating a crowded gathering, I reached the Holein-the-Wall half an hour before the advertised time of beginning the concert, but I was much more than that time too soon. As the appointed time drew nigh, three or four came in, and, as nothing was as yet stirring, took a pint of beer and a pipe at the bar. Three or four increased to ten, perhaps, and then somebody thought perhaps we might as well get up stairs. Some of them did not pay, however, for when there were at
least thirteen persons present there were only sixteen pence in the plate as the well-spread pence themselves confessed.
Then came in two notables, one of them, indeed, a gentleman who by this time might have written M.P. after his name had he not been unfortunate; but the company took no more notice of him than if he had been the waiter, and he took four of gin-and-water in a corner. Then began the singing, which fortunately was enlivened by the laughter and engaging liveliness of three or four married female Republicans who were tossing their male friends for threes of hot rum at a side table. I say that it was fortunate that these mirthful ladies were present, or otherwise the company might have gone to sleep. There were no stormy songs sung. The spirit of Song was as languid as though it were hard up for the twopences, and foresaw what a dismal failure the affair was. Somebody sang “Brigham Young,” and somebody else “Good Old Jeff,” and some one else “ Tom Bowling."
By half-past ten there were perhaps four more songs sung of an equally soul-stirring and revolutionary character, and there was about three and sixpence in the plate ; but after this the company began to dwindle, and I thought it time to take my departure.
THE NORTH DEVON SAVAGES.
STRANGEST of all strange company was that which, in my journalistic peregrinations, it was my lot to fall in with in North Devon. At first the vague rumours of a veritable savage tribe existing at a remote place called Nymet Rowland was received by the British public with incredulity. At the nick of time, however, I received from the good minister of the parish such information as decided me to make the journey, and if possible glean, as an eye-witness, some particulars of the manners, habits, and customs of these modern barbarians who were scandalizing the land. Without daring to breathe a word of my intention to anxious friends or family, I made the first step towards invading the barbarian stronghold by taking a North Devon ticket at Waterloo Railway Station.
Nymet Rowland, approaching it across country, is about a mile from Lapford station, on the North Devon line. The village is not numerously inhabited, but it contains several substantial farm-holdings, a sprinkling of the handsome residences of gentlemen farmers, and a venerable and goodly-sized church. Almost within the shadow of its ivy-clad square tower is to be found the kraal of the savage tribe of Cheriton. Hut, hovel, stye, or whatever else it should be termed, it is in every respect inferior to anything in the way of house architecture that can be met with in the most barbarous regions on the earth.