’Here I rose—I was rather excited—and said that I hoped the reverend speaker was not deserting the sacred principle of compulsory temperance? Would the speaker allow people freedom to drink? All other issues were unimportant compared with that of freedom, except the interest of depriving a poor man of his beer. To catch smallpox was a Briton’s birthright, but not to take a modest quencher. No freedom to drink! “Down with the drink!” I cried, and drained my tea-cup, and waved it, amidst ringing cheers. Mr. Truman admitted that there were exceptions—one exception, at least. Disease must be free to all, not alcohol nor Ritualism. He thanked his young friend the gifted lecturer for recalling him to his principles.
’The principles of the good old cause, the Puritan cause, were as pure as glycerinated lymph, and he proposed to found a Liberal Vaccinationist League. They are great people for leagues at Bulcester, and they like the initials L. V. L. There was no drinking of toasts, for there was nothing to drink them in, and—do you know, Mr. Merton?—I think it must be nearly luncheon time.’
‘Champagne appears to me to be indicated,’ said Merton, who rang the bell and then summoned Miss Blossom from her typewriting.
‘We have done nothing,’ Merton said, ’but heaven only knows what we have escaped in the adventure of the Lady Novelist and the Vaccinationist.’
On taking counsel’s opinion, Merton learned, with a shudder, that if young Warren had used the Borgia ring, and if Jane had resented it, he might have been indicted for a common assault, under 24 and 25 Victoria, cap. 100, sec. 24, for ’unlawfully and maliciously administering a noxious thing with intent to annoy.’
‘I don’t think she could have proved the intent to annoy,’ said the learned counsel.
‘You don’t know a Bulcester jury as it was before the epidemic,’ said Merton. ’And I might have been an accessory before the fact, and, anyhow, we should all have got into the newspapers.’
Miss Martin was the most admired of the bridesmaids at the Warren-Truman marriage.
I. The Prize of a Lady’s Hand
’Yes, I guess that Pappa was reckoned considerable of a crank. A great educational reformer, and a progressive Democratic stalwart, that is the kind of hair-pin Pappa was! But it is awkward for me, some.’