The Old Wives' Tale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 635 pages of information about The Old Wives' Tale.
this time.” (The reference was to a light poll which had been taken several years before, when no interest had been aroused and the immature project yet defeated by a six to one majority.) All partisans of Federation sported a red ribbon; all Anti-Federationists sported a blue ribbon.  The schools were closed and the Federationists displayed their characteristic lack of scruple in appropriating the children.  The Federationists, with devilish skill, had hired the Bursley Town Silver Prize Band, an organization of terrific respectability, and had set it to march playing through the town followed by wagonettes crammed with children, who sang: 

Vote, vote, vote for Federation, Don’t be stupid, old and slow, We are sure that it will be Good for the communitie, So vote, vote, vote, and make it go.

How this performance could affect the decision of grave burgesses at the polls was not apparent; but the Anti-Federationists feared that it might, and before noon was come they had engaged two bands and had composed in committee, the following lyric in reply to the first one: 

Down, down, down, with Federation, As we are we’d rather stay; When the vote on Saturday’s read Federation will be dead, Good old Bursley’s sure to win the day.

They had also composed another song, entitled “Dear old Bursley,” which, however, they made the fatal error of setting to the music of “Auld Lang Syne.”  The effect was that of a dirge, and it perhaps influenced many voters in favour of the more cheerful party.  The Anti-Federationists, indeed, never regained the mean advantage filched by unscrupulous Federationists with the help of the Silver Prize Band and a few hundred infants.  The odds were against the Anti-Federationists.  The mayor had actually issued a letter to the inhabitants accusing the Anti-Federationists of unfair methods!  This was really too much!  The impudence of it knocked the breath out of its victims, and breath is very necessary in a polling contest.  The Federationists, as one of their prominent opponents admitted, ‘had it all their own way,’ dominating both the streets and the walls.  And when, early in the afternoon, Mr. Dick Povey sailed over the town in a balloon that was plainly decorated with the crimson of Federation, it was felt that the cause of Bursley’s separate identity was for ever lost.  Still, Bursley, with the willing aid of the public-houses, maintained its gaiety.

IV

Towards dusk a stout old lady, with grey hair, and a dowdy bonnet, and an expensive mantle, passed limping, very slowly, along Wedgwood Street and up the Cock Yard towards the Town Hall.  Her wrinkled face had an anxious look, but it was also very determined.  The busy, joyous Federationists and Anti-Federationists who knew her not saw merely a stout old lady fussing forth, and those who knew her saw merely Mrs. Povey and greeted her perfunctorily, a woman of her age and gait being rather out of place in that feverish altercation of opposed principles.  But it was more than a stout old lady, it was more than Mrs. Povey. that waddled with such painful deliberation through the streets—­it was a miracle.

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The Old Wives' Tale from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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