The South Fox fight was almost over. Three days only remained before the polling booths would be open, and the voters of the towns of Elgin and Clayfield and the surrounding townships would once again be invited to make their choice between a Liberal and a Conservative representative of the district in the Dominion House of Commons. The ground had never been more completely covered, every inch of advantage more stubbornly held, by either side, in the political history of the riding. There was no doubt of the hope that sat behind the deprecation in Walter Winter’s eye, nor of the anxiety that showed through the confidence freely expressed by the Liberal leaders. The issue would be no foregone conclusion, as it had been practically any time within the last eleven years; and as Horace Williams remarked to the select lot that met pretty frequently at the Express office for consultation and rally, they had “no use for any sort of carelessness.”
It was undeniably felt that the new idea, the great idea whose putative fatherhood in Canada certainly lay at the door of the Liberal party, had drawn in fewer supporters than might have been expected. In England Wallingham, wearing it like a medal, seemed to be courting political excommunication with it, except that Wallingham was so hard to effectively curse. The ex-Minister deserved, clearly, any ban that could be put upon him. No sort of remonstrance could hold him from going about openly and persistently exhorting people to “think imperially,” a liberty which, as is well known, the Holy Cobdenite Church, supreme in those islands, expressly forbids. Wallingham appeared to think that by teaching and explaining he could help his fellow-islanders to see further than the length of their fists, and exorcise from them the spirit, only a century and a quarter older and a trifle more sophisticated, that lost them the American colonies. But so far little had transpired to show that Wallingham was stronger than nature and destiny. There had been Wallingham meetings of remarkable enthusiasm; his supporters called them epoch-making, as if epochs were made of cheers. But the workingman of Great Britain was declaring stolidly in the by-elections against any favour to colonial produce at his expense, thereby showing himself one of those humble instruments that Providence uses for the downfall of arrogant empires. It will be thus, no doubt, that the workingman will explain in the future his eminent usefulness to the government of his country, and it will be in these terms that the cost of educating him by means of the ballot will be demonstrated. Meanwhile we may look on and cultivate philosophy; or we may make war upon the gods with Mr Wallingham which is, perhaps, the better part.