The Signal, it need not be said, disavowed complicity in this extraordinary entrapping of the Daily brigade by means of an odour. Could it be held responsible for the excesses of its disinterested sympathisers?... Still, the appalling trick showed the high temperature to which blood had risen in the genial battle between great rival organs. Persons in the inmost ring whispered that Denry Machin had at length been bested on this critically important day.
Snape’s Circus used to be one of the great shining institutions of North Staffordshire, trailing its magnificence on sculptured wheels from town to town, and occupying the dreams of boys from one generation to another. Its headquarters were at Axe, in the Moorlands, ten miles away from Hanbridge, but the riches of old Snape had chiefly come from the Five Towns. At the time of the struggle between the Signal and the Daily its decline had already begun. The aged proprietor had recently died, and the name, and the horses, and the chariots, and the carefully-repaired tents had been sold to strangers. On the Saturday of the anniversary and the football match (which was also Martinmas Saturday) the circus was set up at Oldcastle, on the edge of the Five Towns, and was giving its final performances of the season. Even boys will not go to circuses in the middle of a Five Towns’ winter. The Signal people had hired the processional portion of Snape’s for the late afternoon and early evening. And the instructions were that the entire cortege should be round about the Signal offices, in marching order, not later than five o’clock.
But at four o’clock several gentlemen with rosettes in their button-holes and Signal posters in their hands arrived important and panting at the fair-ground at Oldcastle, and announced that the programme had been altered at the last moment, in order to defeat certain feared machinations of the unscrupulous Daily. The cavalcade was to be split into three groups, one of which, the chief, was to enter Hanbridge by a “back road,” and the other two were to go to Bursley and Longshaw respectively. In this manner the forces of advertisement would be distributed, and the chief parts of the district equally honoured.
The special linen banners, pennons, and ribbons—bearing the words—
“SIGNAL: THIRTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY,” &c.
had already been hung and planted and draped about the gilded summits of the chariots. And after some delay the processions were started, separating at the bottom of the Cattle Market. The head of the Hanbridge part of the procession consisted of an enormous car of Jupiter, with six wheels and thirty-six paregorical figures (as the clown used to say), and drawn by six piebald steeds guided by white reins. This coach had a windowed interior (at the greater fairs it sometimes served as a box-office) and in the interior one of the delegates of the Signal had fixed himself; from it he directed the paths of the procession.