Well, there in the window we were gathered on that July forenoon (for the mayors in those back-a-long days weren’t chosen in November as they are now), and the sun—it was a bright day—slanting high down our side of the street, and my mother holding me tight as we leaned out, for I was just rising five, and extraordinary heavy in the head. And out upon the steps of the Town Hall stepped Landlord Cummins, Mayor, with the town crier and maces before him, and his robes hanging handsomely about his calves, and his beaver hat and all the rest of the paraphernalia, prepared to march to church.
While he stood there, bowing to a score of people, and looking as big as bull’s beef, who should step out from the pavement under us but Uncle Billy Bosistow! He was a ragged old scarecrow, turned a bit grey and lean with iniquitous living, but not more than half-drunk; and he stepped into the middle of the roadway and cut a low reverence to his worship, flinging out his leg like a dancing-master. And says he, in a high cackle, very solemn but mocking:
“I salute thee, O Mayor! Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before thy God.”
“Put that dam fool in the stocks!” cried his worship, very red in the gills, and speaking vicious. And Uncle Billy was collared and marched off between two constables, while the procession formed up to lead the new Mayor to church.
Well, that, as it happened, wasn’t a lucky start-off for Mr. Cummins’s year of office. For no sooner was Billy let out of the stocks than off he went to Lawyer Mennear, who was a young man then just set up in practice, and as keen for a job as a huer for pilchards; and between them they patched up an action for false imprisonment—damages claimed, one hundred pounds.
The case came on at Bodmin, and the Mayor was cast in damages, twenty-five pounds. He paid, of course, though with a very long face. But Billy’s revenge didn’t stop here. Instead of putting the money by, the old varmint laid it out in the best way he could to annoy his enemy. And the way he contrived it was this. Every free Saturday he’d put a sovereign in his pocket, and start the round of the public-houses— always beginning with Cummins’s own house, the Welcome Home. Cummins, you see, couldn’t refuse to serve him: the law wouldn’t allow it. So he’d pull out a brand new sovereign and slap it on the counter and eye it. “Ah!” he’d say, “it was a dear friend gave me that there coin. His heart’s in the right place, which is more’n can be said for his calves. Two-pennyworth of gin, please, your Worship.” The Mayor’s dignity wouldn’t let him serve it, so, the first day, he called his wife down. Mrs. Cummins began by trying argument. “William,” she said, “the Lord knows you wouldn’t have this money if there was justice in England. But got it you have, and now be a sensible man and put it by for a rainy day.” “Mrs. Mayor,” answers Billy, slow and vicious, “if