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The Fretful Porcupine, Observer, Volume XXVII, Issue 11, 1 December 1906
The Fretful Porcupine
IS a dissolution of Parliament imminent ? The question is a topic of
discussion at every street corner this week, and the Hon. Mr McNab's free talk on the question of the redistribution of seats is the cause. Evidently, Mr McNab considers that a dissolution and a general election are the inevitable sequence of the recasting of constituencies — that the North Island will naturally clamour to be given at once the opportunity to elect the three additional members to which it is entitled, and that it must get its way. Whether this is so constitutionally may be a nice question, but, at all events, it seems only fair dealing. As the South Island i» known to be over-represented, and the North Island under - represented, it would be unjust to allow such a state of things to continue, whatever the constitution may say.
True, the present Parliament was elected for three years, of which two have yet to run, and if members and Ministers agree to hold on to their seats the matter rests with them. Both members and Ministers, however, are sensitive to popular pressure, and if the North Island feela strongly on matter, they cannot hold out against it. From Mr MeNab's frankness to the reporters it is assumed that the matter has been discussed by Cabinet, and that their decision is in* favour of an early general election. Otherwise, there would be an impropriety in an individual Minister discussing to important a matter with the public at all. Even the subsequent cautious statement of the Premier that he sees no constitutional difficulty does not remove that impression. At any rate, local politicians are keeping their powder dry, and keenly watching the political sky-line.
The other day a young and in-nooent-loolring man, riding an equally young and innocent-looking horse, entered the precincts of a Waikato township and announced to all and sundry that he was desirous of selling his steed, and the Sooner the better. A purchaser was soon found, and the steed changed hands at £15. The reason of the vendor's haste in c mpleting the transaction was soon explained, for a coloured gentleman shortly afterwards appeared on the scene armed with the tribal tomahawk, and with the tribal glare in his pair of sparkling eyes. It appeared that the coloured gentleman was slightly excited, and interrogation i evealed the fact that the young and innocent man had become posssdsed of the coloured gentleman's hor6e without going through what he, no doubt, looked upon as the superfluous formality of payment. Thera ipon the village constable arrested *Y&t young man. But the arreßtee, like the gentleman in " Allan Water," had a winning tongue, and questionthe constable on his right to arrest him without a warrant.
The constable, whose library was limited to a copy, of the British Pharmacopoeia, looked up that authority without receiving a vast amount of information on the point of law. However, he decided toprooeed carefully, and instead of placing his prisoner in the lock-up he toot him to his own home to await events, and duly provided him with nourishment in the shape of tea, cost of said tea, presumably, to b« charged to the Hon. James McGowan. During the course of the evening, the constable, whose duties were varied, including among other things, chopping the family firewood, nursing the family baby, and suppressing the amatory enthusiasm of the family oat, went out to see a man about a dog, leaving the prisoner to help his wife in washing the dishes. This task being concluded, the prisoner reauested leave to retire to bed, which leave having been granted, he retired. But he must have made a mistake as to the location of his bedroom, for he hasn't been seen since. That constable is now in town, buying up all the works of law which he can find. He does not consider that the British Pnarmacopaeia is sound on legal questions.
A notable feature of the prospectus of the proposed new Opposition paper for Wellington is the number of exmembers of Parliament whose name* appear upon it. The provisional directors include Sir William Russell, John Duthie, and A. L. Herdman, all of whom lost their seats at last year's •lection*, and also H. D. Bell, head of on« of Wellington's principal law firms, who represented the city in the House some years ago. Political and squatting interests are writ large over the face of the enterprise. Apart from the need which the Opposition feel for a press organ with which to fight the Land Bill in a general way, they have probably been influenced by the fact that they have now no Journalistic mouthpiece in the capital. The Evening Post, though always a free lance in politics, has mostly fought on their side, but in late years It has been a staunch champion of Liberalism in matters that concern land, and it supports the current Land Bill whole-heartedly.
Doifn Taranaki way there is a night-watchman who believes in Deing. prepared for burglaries, and battlei, and murders, and prohibitionists and all sorts of awful tain pa Therefore, he usually goes to his v or,i armed to the teeth with a revolve r and an air which is ferocious enough to kill at a yard and a-half. The other day this eon of Mars found that his shooting-iron refused to gee, and he accordingly took it to the local gunsmith to have its anatomy seen to. The night air apparently made him forgetful, for he quite neglected to state that the weapon was loaded. The enterprising gunsmith proceeded to tap the revolver, which was a cowardly thing to do, considering that it was not very well. The invalid retaliated by exploding the overlooked cartridge, with the result that the gunsmith also exploded, and the next interview between the repairer and the night-watchman was decidedly unfit for publication.
Tyro railway porters down New Plymouth way are anxiously enquiring after the whereabouts of what they describe as a blacky-browny dog — not a blanky browny doe, but a blacky-browny dog. Said dog was consigned from Wellington to Auckland, and had a very pleasant journey as far as New Plymouth. "When he arrived there, however, the two porters in question saw a something in his eye which denoted thirst. Accordingly they released him from durance vile and haled him forth to have a drink. But that misguided dog was not looking for any liquid nourishment, ho was looking for his liberty. Therefor*, he slipped his collar and departed towards th« confines of •arth at a pace which made the porters themselves feel thirsty to look at. The dog was originally consigned to Auckland, but it is understood that the^ philanthropic porters, after an exhibition of such base ingratitude, have consigned him to an entirely different plao*.
The inaction of the MackeMe Trustees with reference to purchasing works of art from the Exhibition, has given rise to some comment. That the trustees are in a position to effect a purchase is ' evidenced from the fact that they held a meeting to consider the matter. The result of that meeting was that they decided that it would not be advisable at the present time to buy any pictures. No reason has been given to the public for this decision, but the public have every right to know the reason. The late Mr Mackelvie bequeathed his money for the benefit of the public, especially with reference to the enrichment of the Art Gallery. The fact is that the trustees have tarried too long. While from other centres delegates have been sent out to purchase the cream of the British art collection, Auckland has remained inactive. Lately the Ci.ty Council has apparently wakened up to the fact that a good chance is being missed, and has voted £500 for the purchase of pictures.
But this matter does not necessarily lie within the province of the City Council, whose revenue is raised by rates, which rates are struck for certain specific purposes. But with the Mackelvie trustees it is different. Money held in trust by them under the will of the late Mr Mackelvie for the purpose of the enrichment of the Art Gallery should certainly be found useful now. For never before has there been, and probably never again in our generation will there be, such a chance to acquire works of art by the best painters as there is at the present time. So far, our pictures have been chosen for us by a deputy at Home, and the result of that choosing has not in the past been of such a nature as to justify the continuation of such a policy, especially when there is, as at present, an excellent opportunity of acquiring art treasures at first hand. It is not yet too late to take action, and some definite steps should at once be taken.
A Southern town, which we shall not name lest other towns get jealous, is the proud possessor of a chimney - sweep who goes forth to war in a cab. A resident of the town in question, who wag not aware of this fact, requisitioned the services of the patrician sweep. The next day a cab drew up before the residence, and the inmates of the house, who supposed that some hitherto unknown wealthy relation was paying them a visit, immediately dived for their bedrooms and proceeded to don apparel which would be calculated to do justice to the occasion. But that apparel wai never donned, for chancing to look out of the window, they saw Mr Sweep leisurely descend from the cab and approach the door with his articles of war over his shoulder. # They had a faint hope that his aristocratic proclivities would prohibit him from, accepting any remuneration for the job. But he took it all right.
It the theft of three bananas calls for three months' imprisonment, how many years' gaol would it cost to steal a whole bunch? This conundrum is being asked by sundry amazed persons who have heard of an extraordinary sentence passed by Mr Dyer, S.M., at Helensville Police Court this week. The case was one in which a fisherman who ploughs the waters of the Kaipara was charged with having stolen bananas from a railway truck. As he was found by a railway official coming out of • a truck with three bananas in his hand, and as he therefore pleaded guilty to technical larceny, there was no option but to convict. Nevertheless, the facts of the case rendered criminal intent doubtful, and in any case nominal punishment would have met the enda of justice.
Briefly, the only evidence was that of the railway official, who found the accused with bananas in his possession. The man's own story was simplicity itself. He had been looking for a truck in which to send his fish to Auckland, aad, finding the door of one standing open, had gone in to see whether it was a fish truck. As it happened, it was not. Before leaving, he saw some green bananas lying loose on the floor, and, picking up two of them — even the official count made the number three at most — he was walking out when the railway official accosted him. On the officer remonstrating he threw the bananas away — and that was all. Substantially, this statement was in agreement with the account given by the railway people, except that they alleged that there were three bananas, and also asserted, but did not prove, that the door of the truck was closed, and must have been pulled open by the accused.
And for this petty offence, if, indeed, it was more than a silly, thoughtless act, the magistrate passed the ferocious sentence of three months' hard labour. Nothing was stated in court to show that there were any other black marks against the accused. The redoubtable Constable Tapp, with the usual impartiality of the police, did, indeed, mention that on a previous occasion this same fisherman nad been charged with an offence, but that the case had been dismissed. Then, if it had been dismissed, why Bhould it have been mentioned at all, unless it was desired to bias the mind of the magistrate? Even then, the magistrate ought to have been proof against the attempt to influence him. On the facts as they appear, the fisherman was treated with altogether uncalled-for harshness, and it will not be surprising! if a good deal more is heard of the case before it is done with.
- There is an air of opulence about a wedding that took place in New Plymouth a few days ago. Probably, a town that expect* to become the oilproducing centre of the southern hemisphere is entitled to give itself airs. And that may be the reason why the cabby on this occasion decorated the hoofs of his three pairs of snow-white steeds with a coating of gold paint. If the wells really do strike oil, and the gold accumulates, it may come to gold leaf.
What have the gimlet-featured members of the Purity Brigade to say about the statements of the Key. K. E. Matthews, representative of the British and Foreign Sailors' Society, with reference to those statues in the Albert Park ? According to the dailies, Mr Matthews alluded in terms of high praise to the statues in question. It must be decidedly diaciuraging to the purity dragoons to find a minister of religion holding such disgraceful views about these highly immoral (alleged) works of art. Under the circumstances, the sooner the Rev. Matthews takes wings unto himself and skedaddles, the better 'twill be for him, else he shall of a surety incur the wrath of the gimlets, and be cast into the outer darkness in company with those depraved people who profess to be admirers of Psyche.
A certain boniface in a mining township, nowhere near the centre of China, has, in his time, suffered much from moonlight flitting. The other night he was aroused from his virtuous repose by hearing bumping sounds on the outside of the building. He knew, from bitter experience, what these sounds portended, and it occurred to him that it would be just as well to take a walk outside and superintend matters. On getting outside, he found several of his miner boarders engrossed in the occupation of getting their luggage out by means of the fire escape. Such a waste of energy struck him as being sad, therefore he lifted up his voice and asked them why they didn't fetch their goods down through the- medium of the stairs, instead of going to such a tremendous amount of trouble in bringing them down the fire-escape. As the moonlighting boarders appeared to be too much overcome with astonishment at the suggestion to make any answer, the boniface pointed out that they might just as well have brought all their things down by the stairs, as their board was guaranteed by the company for which they were working, so that to him, personally, a moonlight flitting made no difference. Such tremendous waste of energy on the part of these boarders was indeed sad to contemplate.
About seven years ago a copious spring of water broke out in the hospital grounds, close to one of the buildings. Nobody could understand why a spring could suddenly start ninning at the top of a tallish spur. Scientists pow-wowed about it, and practical men pulled their hair in bewilderment over it, but no explanation was forthcoming. There wss nothing to be done but to label it a mystery, and let it-pass. Many queer things had happened at the hospital, and this was only one more to add to them. So things stood till the other day, when some alterations were being made to one of the buildings in the grounds.
The flow from the spring was troublesome, and someone in authority conceived the brilliant idea of tracing the water to its source, if only to divert the stream. No sooner suggested than put in hand. After the workmen had delved for a day or two at the job they came across a rusty old water-pipe, which pointed underneath the building, in the direction from which the stream came. Eventually, with chuckles that could have been heard on Grafton Koad, they ran the " spring " to earth. Its source was somewhere out Waitakerei way. All the water that had so long puzzled the officials and the scientists had come from the nozzle of an inch standpipe, the tap of which somebody had neglected to turn off before it was covered in and forgotten, years ago. The tap was turned off, and the "spring" dried up. Now sundry mathematicians are making calculations to ascertain how many hundred pounds worth of city water has been wasted from that inch pipe in the seven years or so that it has been running.
Tuesday's Star was a mournful example of newspaper sensationalism run mad. The accident at Calliope Dock was serious enimgh in itself, but the Star made it appear still worse by its startling head lines alleging a "collapse" of the dock bottom, and the occurrence of a huge tidal wave. As a matter of fact, there was neither a collapse nor a tidal wave, and the dock is as safe to-day as it was a week ago. The Star should remember the proverb about the " duty bird."
Those who find life monotonous in the cities might do worse than pay a short visit to Taihape ; where the mud comes from. The sojourn should not be too long a one, eb too much excitement is apt to cloy. The Taihape storekeepers nave formed a co-opera-tive concern and taken over one of the newspapers. " Rag-planter " Ivess has retaliated by promoting a co-operative store, and fills the interstices between paragraphs slating the Mayor, the pound-keeper and the lamp-lighter (who appear to be all more or less incriminated in the loathsome contemporary venture) with alluring references to the amount of soap wMch he has in stock, and the excellence of his tea. The editor who accepts pumpkins and other choice flora in payment of accounts is an old joke, but the journalist who goes into the soap, starch and candle business as a set-off against his literary prowess is probably unique in th« annals of newspaperdom.
It is time that the strain of Ministerial life was made less strenuous. This can be done by dividing the duties under the several heads and by appointing additional Ministers or Under - Secretaries. — Coromandel " News."
The Fretful Porcupine, Observer, Volume XXVII, Issue 11, 1 December 1906
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