I had already seen in a shop window, a blue ribbon
reposing in degage
fashion across it.
If a tumbler of the precious metal could be called
a magnificent goblet—it was scarcely bigger—it
deserved the title. The poor operator was declaiming
as I entered, in unmistakable Scotch, the history
of ‘Little Breeches,’ and giving it with
due pathos. I am bound to say that a sort of balcony
which hung out at the end was well filled by the unwashed
takers, or at least donees, of sixpenny tickets.
There was a purpose in this, as will be seen.
After being taken through ‘The Raven,’
and ‘The Dying Burglar,’ the competition
began. This was certainly the most diverting portion
of the entertainment, from its genuineness, the eagerness
of the competitors, and their ill-disguised jealousy.
There were four candidates. A doctor-looking
man with a beard, and who had the air either of reading
familiar prayers to his household with good parsonic
effect, or of having tried the stage, uttered his lines
with a very superior air, as though the thing were
not in doubt. Better than he, however, was one,
probably a draper’s assistant, who competed with
a wild and panting fashion, tossing his arms, now
raising, now dropping his voice, and every h
too. But a shabby man, who looked as if he had
once practised tailoring, next stepped on the platform,
and at once revealed himself as the local poet.
Encouraged by the generous applause, he announced
that he would recite some lines ’he ’ad
wrote on the great storm which committed such ‘avoc
on hour pier.’ There were local descriptions,
and local names, which always touched the true chord.
Notably an allusion to a virtuous magnate then, I believe,
’Amongst the var’ous
It should be widely
‘Twas William Brown’
(applause) ’that gave this town
Sailors’ ‘OME!’ (applause).
Need I say that when the votes came to be taken, this
poet received the cup? His joy and mantling smiles
I shall not forget, though the donor gave it to him
with unconcealed disgust; it showed what universal
suffrage led to. The doctor and the other defeated
candidates, who had been asked to retire to a private
room during the process of decision, were now obliged
to emerge in mortified procession, there being no
other mode of egress. The doctor’s face
was a study. The second part was to follow.
But it was now growing late, and time and mail-packets
wait for no man.
As I come forth from the Elocution Contest, I find
that night has closed in. Not a ripple is on
the far-stretching blue waste. From the high
cliffs that overhang the town and its amphitheatre
can be seen the faintly outlined harbour, where the
white-chimneyed packet snoozes as it were, the smoke
curling upwards, almost straight. The sea-air
blows fresh and welcome, though it does not beat on
a ‘fevered brow.’ There is a busy
hum and clatter in the streets, filled with soldiers
and sailors and chattering sojourners. Now do
the lamps begin to twinkle lazily. There is hardly
a breath stirring, and the great chalk-cliffs gleam
out in a ghostly fashion, like mammoth wave-crests.