This sentence she repeated at intervals until the end came. After two hours there was a knocking at the door.
“Go away,” I said, but the knocker would not go away. So I opened. It was my agent, who whispered in an excited voice, “The count’s quite correct, you are in by seven.”
“All right,” I answered, “tell them we want some more brandy.”
At that moment Stephen Strong opened his eyes, and at that moment also there arose a mighty burst of cheering from the crowd assembled on the market-place without, to whom the Mayor had declared the numbers from a window of the town-hall.
The dying man heard the cheering, and looked at me inquiringly, for he could not speak. I tried to explain that I was elected on the recount, but was unable to make him understand. Then I hit upon an expedient. On the floor lay a Conservative rosette of blue ribbon. I took it up and took also my own Radical colours from my coat. Holding one of them in each hand before Strong’s dying eyes, I lifted up the Radical orange and let the Conservative blue fall to the floor.
He saw and understood, for a ghastly smile appeared upon his distorted face. Indeed, he did more—almost with his last breath he spoke in a hoarse, gurgling whisper, and his words were, “Bravo the A.V.’s!”
Now he shut his eyes, and I thought that the end had come, but, opening them presently, he fixed them with great earnestness first upon myself and then upon his wife, accompanying the glance with a slight movement of the head. I did not know what he could mean, but with his wife it was otherwise, for she said, “Don’t trouble yourself, Stephen, I quite understand.”
Five minutes more and it was over; Stephen Strong’s dilated heart had contracted for the last time.
“I see it has pleased the Lord that dear Stephen should die,” said Mrs. Strong in her quiet voice. “When you have spoken to the people out there, doctor, will you take me home? I am very sorry to trouble, but I saw that after he was gone Stephen wished me to turn to you.”
My return to Parliament meant not only the loss of a seat to the Government, a matter of no great moment in view of their enormous majority, but, probably, through their own fears, was construed by them into a solemn warning not to be disregarded. Certain papers and opposition speakers talked freely of the writing on the wall, and none saw that writing in larger, or more fiery letters, than the members of Her Majesty’s Government. I believe that to them it took the form not of Hebraic characters, but of two large Roman capitals, the letters A and V.
Hitherto the anti-vaccinators had been known as troublesome people who had to be reckoned with, but that they should prove strong enough to wrest what had been considered one of the safest seats in the kingdom out of the hands of the Unionists came upon the party as a revelation of the most unpleasant order. For Stephen Strong’s dying cry, of which the truth was universally acknowledged, “The A.V.’s have done it. Bravo the A.V.’s!” had echoed through the length and breadth of the land.