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Here, There And Everywhere
by Lord Frederic Hamilton
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The old Clarence had one splendid final adventure before it fell to pieces from old age. At the 1892 Election I was the Unionist candidate for North Tyrone. In the North of Ireland political lines of demarcation are drawn sharply and definitely. People are either on one side or the other. I was quite aware that to win the seat I should have to poll every available vote. On the polling day I spent the whole day in going round the constituency and was consequently away from home. Late in the afternoon a messenger arrived at Baron's Court announcing that an elderly farmer, who lived six miles off and had lost the use of his legs, had been forgotten. As, owing to his infirmity, he was unable to sit on a jaunting-car, it had been arranged that a carriage should be sent for him, but this had not been done. The old man was most anxious to vote, but could only do so were a carriage sent for him, and in less than two hours the poll would close. My brother Ernest, and my sister-in-law, the present Dowager Duchess of Abercorn, were at home, and realising the vital importance of every vote, they went at once up to the stables, only to find that every available man, horse, or vehicle was already out, conveying voters to the poll. The stables were deserted. The Duchess recollected the comfortable old Clarence, and she and my brother together rolled it out into the yard, but a carriage without horses is rather useless, and there was not one single horse left in the stalls. My brother rushed off to see if he could find anything with four legs capable of dragging a carriage. He was fortunate enough to discover an ancient Clydesdale cart-mare in some adjacent farm buildings, but she was the solitary tenant of the stalls. He noticed, however, a three-year-old filly grazing in the park, and, with the aid of a sieve of oats and a halter, he at length succeeded in catching her, leading his two captives triumphantly back to the stable-yard. Now came a fresh difficulty. Every single set of harness was in use, and the harness-room was bare. The Duchess had a sudden inspiration. Over the fireplace in the harness-room, displayed in a glass show-case, was a set of State harness which my father had had specially made for great occasions in Dublin: gorgeous trappings of crimson and silver, heavy with bullion. The Duchess hurried off for the key, and with my brother's help harnessed the astounded mare and the filly, and then put them to. The filly, unlike the majority of the young of her sex, had apparently no love for the pomps and vanities of the world, and manifested her dislike of the splendours with which she was tricked-out by kicking furiously. The unclipped, ungroomed farm-horses, bedizened with crimson and silver, must have felt rather like a navvy in his working clothes who should suddenly find himself decked-out with the blue velvet mantle of a Knight of the Garter over his corduroys. The Duchess proposed fetching the old farmer herself, so she climbed to the box-seat and gathered the reins into her hands, but on being reminded by my brother that time was running short, and that the cart-horses would require a good deal of persuasion before they could be induced to accelerate their customary sober walk, she relinquished her place to him. Off they went, the filly still kicking frantically, the old Clydesdale mare, glittering with crimson and silver, uncertain as to whether she was dragging a plough or hauling the King in his State coach to the Opening of Parliament at Westminster. Once on the level the indignant animals felt themselves lashed into an unaccustomed gallop; they lumbered along at a clumsy canter, shaking the solid ground as they pounded it with their heavy feet, the ancient Clarence, enchanted at this last rollicking adventure, swaying and rolling behind them like a boat in a heavy sea. This extraordinary-looking turn-out continued its headlong course over bog-roads and through rough country lanes, to the astonishment of the inhabitants, till the lame farmer's house was reached. He was carefully lifted into the carriage, conveyed to the polling-place, and recorded his vote at 7.54 p.m., with just six minutes to spare before the poll closed. As it turned out I won the seat by fifty-six votes, so this rapid journey was really superfluous, but we all thought that it would be a much closer thing.

In the North of Ireland where majorities, one way or the other, are often very narrow, electioneering has been raised almost to a fine art. A nephew of mine was the Unionist candidate for a certain city in the North of Ireland during the 1911 election. Here again it was certain that his majority could only be a very small one, and as is the custom in Ulster every individual vote was carefully attended to. One man, though a nominal supporter, was notoriously very shaky in his allegiance. He was a railway guard and left the city daily on the 7.30 a.m. train, before the poll would open, returning by the fast train from Dublin due at 7.40 p.m. He would thus on the polling day have had ample time in which to record his vote. The change in his political views was so well known that my nephew's Election Committee had written off his vote as a hostile one, but they had reckoned without the railway signalman. This signalman was a most ardent political partisan and a strong adherent of my nephew's, and he was determined to leave nothing to chance. Knowing perfectly how the land lay, he was resolved to give the dubious guard no opportunity of recording a possibly hostile vote, so, on his own initiative, he put his signals against the Dublin train and kept her waiting for twenty-two minutes, to the bewilderment of the passengers, until the striking of the clocks announced the closing of the poll. Then he released her, and the train rolled into the terminus at 8.5 p.m., so I fear that the guard was unable to record his vote, hostile or otherwise. I think that this is an example of finesse in electioneering which would never have occurred to an Englishman. My nephew won the seat by over fifty votes.

I have again exceeded the space allotted to me, and am reminded by a ruthless publisher of the present high cost of production.

We have strayed together through many lands, and should the pictures of these be dull or incomplete, I can but tender my apologies. I am quite conscious, too, that I have taken full advantage of the privilege which I claimed in the first chapter, and that I have at times wandered wide from the track which I was following. I must plead in extenuation that the interminable straight roads of France seem to me less interesting than the winding country lanes of England. Indeed, I am unable to conceive of any one walking for pleasure along the endless vistas of the French poplar-bordered highways, where every objective is clearly visible for miles ahead; it is the English meandering by-roads, with their twists and turns, their unexpected and intimate glimpses into rural life, their variety and surprises, which tempt the pedestrian on and on. We may accept Euclid's dictum that a straight line is the shortest road between two points; a wandering line, if longer, is surely as a rule the more interesting.

A Scottish clerical friend of mine, the minister of a large parish in the South of Scotland, told me that there were just two categories of people in the world, "decent bodies" and the reverse, and that the result of his seventy years' experience of this world was that the "decent bodies" largely predominated.

Although I am unable to claim quite as many years as my friend the old minister, my experience coincides with his, the "decent bodies" are in a great majority, I have met them everywhere amongst all classes, and in every part of the world, and their skins are not always white.

They may not be conspicuously to the fore, for the "decent bodies" are not given to self-advertisement. They have no love for the limelight, and would be distinctly annoyed should their advent be heralded with a flourish of trumpets. In the garden-borders the mignonette is a very inconspicuous little plant, and passes almost unnoticed beside the flaunting gaudiness of the dahlia or the showy spikes of the hollyhock, yet it is from that modest, low-growing, grey-green flower that comes the sweetness that perfumes the whole air, for the most optimistic person would hardly expect fragrance from dahlias or hollyhocks. They have their uses; they are showy, decorative and aspiring, but they do not scent the garden.

Between 1914 and 1918 I, in common with most people, came across countless hundreds of "decent bodies," many of them wearing V.A.D. nurse's uniforms. These little women did not put on their nurse's uniform merely to pose before a camera with elaborately made-up eyes and a carefully studied sympathetic expression, to return to ordinary fashionable attire at once afterwards. They scrubbed floors, and carried heavy weights, and worked till they nearly dropped, week after week, month after month, and year after year, but they were never too tired to whisper an encouraging word, or render some small service to a suffering lad. I wonder how many thousands of these lads owe their lives to those quiet, unassuming, patient little "decent bodies" in blue linen, and to the element of human sympathy which they supplied. And what of the occupants of the hospital beds themselves? We all know the splendid record of sufferings patiently borne, of indomitable courage and cheerfulness, and of countless little acts of thoughtfulness and consideration for others in a worse plight even than themselves. Who, after having had that experience, can falter in their belief that the "decent bodies" are in a majority?

I know many people looking forward to the future with gloom and apprehension. I do not share their views. For the moment the more blatant elements in the community are unquestionably monopolising the stage and focussing attention on themselves, but I know that behind them are the vast unseen armies of the "decent bodies," who will assert themselves when the time comes.

These "decent bodies" are not the exclusive product of one country, of one class, or of one sex. They are to be found "Here, There, and Everywhere."

THE END

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