Pilliet in the Pillory.
A LIVELY DESCRIPTION OF A LIVELY EVENING. Mr W. H. Pilliet, the late member for Stanmore, was advertised to address a meeting of the constituents of that district in the Knightstown Library, last evening, at 8 o'clock. Owing to the peculiarly lively feelings which Mr Pilliet's whilom supporters have lately entertained with regard to Mr Pilliet's political conduct, ] much expectation had been raised as to the kind of reception he was likely to meet with. An instance of that delightful and soothing method of displaying the popular estimation of an xmpopular politician, known as " rotten-egging," was confidently looked forward to by many, and as the process is one which occurs but rarely, still more appeared likely to attend in order to watch its progress with an eye to gathering experience in such matters, and, possibly, with some idea of picking up a wrinkle or two to be turned to good account on similar occasions in the future. It was no surprise, therefore, on arriving at the Library, to find the small room, which was rather dimly lighted by kerosene lamps (gas having apparently not penetrated so far into the suburbs) crammed to its utmost capacity. Those present were evidently prepared for anything that might turn up in the way of what at such periods as general elections is euphemistically (for one of the parties engaged) termed "some fun." A fair proportion of the audience was composed of youths
and 'boys, and those "behind stood up, tightly wedged together, on the benches, and lined the open windows where they could do so. A large rough caricature, labelled " a gigantic rat," hung above one window, and noisy references to it were not infrequent either before or after the opening of the meeting. This little preliminary details will serve to put our readers au fait regarding the character of the meeting, and the temper of the audience. As 8 o'clock approached the "free and independent" began to exercise their right to those titles by rough and ready remarks on the purpose for which they were assembled, and as Mr Pilliet pushed his way up to the table through the closely packed throng, the variety and extent of their mimetic talents and power of lungs were suddenly called forth to the utter- i most. Hisses, groans, cat-calls, cries of " Eat, rat," " Puss, puss," and noises indescribable, made a combination of sweet sounds much more easily imagined than described. This state of things continued for some few minutes, during which Mr Pilliet turned down his coat collar, put aside his hat, and took up an easy and unconventional attitude, sitting on the edge of the table, with one leg supported and the other touching the ground. During a temporary lull in the storm, and period of what could, only by comparison with what went before, be called silence, he made several attempts to speak. " Gentlemen," quoth the once-elect of Stanmore, "you will all agree with me that " — " you're a rogue I" interpolated a rough and stentorian voice, and the uproar began again, the speaker having apparently expressed the sentiments of the mob more tersely and pithily than they could for themselves. Mr Pilliet stood to his guns, however, and for another beginning, declared his readiness to "make a little bargain with you," a proposition indignantly and promptly repelled ; " No, no !" ?t Too late !" " Never no more !" and a host of equivalents expressing the leading idea. Still the late member persevered, and seizing short " periods of depression," as they might be called, in the continuous row, j and by dint of shouting out a few sharp words at intervals in the hubbub, made it clear that he was willing to be judged at the ballot box and after the meeting, but that for the moment he would like to be heard quietly in his own defence. For the better maintenance of law and order he would like a chairman. No one at first appeared to relish this method of having " greatness thrust upon them," but general acclamation of the loudest free-and-easiest kind having unmistakeably selected Mr Squires, that gentleman took his seat, or rather stand, at the table. Amid howls, hisses, hootings and general outcry, he at length managed to announce in a few sentences, somewhat disjointed, and interrupted by means of exclamations of the most vigorous character and his own endeavours to reply to the sharpest of the rude word thrusts made at him, that it was English custom to try a man before you hanged him, and that Mr Pilliet had quite as much right to expect the preliminary ceremony as they had to inflict the other. The Chairman having thus cleared the way, and the audience having slightly moderated their transports, Mr Pilliet essayed his task once more. He got so far as to make himself fairly heard for a few minutes in succession, and then the noise broke out anew, in greater variety, if that were possible, than before. "You're too slippery," roared one elector, with his face all red with shouting, and his hat well back on his head. "Yer tail's come out," squeaked a youthful larrikin, and the witticism met with great approval. "Ah, he's in werry bad case," shrieked a third. "Where's the big cat?" and " Miau, Miau, Miau," in fifteen different keys, went round the room on the instant. Mr Pilliet stroked his moußtachios, and assumed his old attitude, patiently waiting for the riot to cease, when some wag, neatly seizing the suggestion offered him by the fixed expectant pose, pertinently enquired where the photographer was, which renewed the merriment and consequently the disturbance. Mr Squires now came to the rescue again, and, with the aid of an individual in the hall, whose nationality was scarcely concealed in his loud advice to the crowd to " kape quoyet and dacent;" and another who formally proposed that Mr Pilliet should get a hearing, that gentleman eventually did set out on his thorny road, pauses anl interruptions being scattered down it very thickly. In the first place, Mr Pilliet said he was there to explain his action in the House, and, secondly, his silence. He was not surprised at the reception he was receiving, for he had stood at Stanmore with a " platform " entirely his own. What he had voluntarily told the electors then was that they would find him an uncompromising opponent of the Government, a statement which brought forth howls of disapproval, and loud assertions of " You went in on the Greyite ticket." "No, never," asseverated Mr Pilliet sternly, and was going on to demonstrate his out and out democratic views when — enter Mr Dorney. (The delight of the crowd, now thoroughly warmed to their work, knew no bounds at seeing the two friends so close together, and a five minutes' lively fire and fusillade of chaff ensued, kindly enquiries after "that letter," barks, howls, applause, general hullabaloo, and, finally, three hearty cheers for the incomer, given with great gusto. This episode disposed of, Mr Pilliet got under weigh once more.) No question had been asked him if he would support Sir George Grey or Montgomery, and he defied any man to prove that he had promised to support either. He went up to Wellington to promote Liberal measures, and Hansard was there to prove that he had fought for them. With regard to the way in which he caire to vote, as he had done at first, for the Government, he had done so because the Opposition could neither settle their differences, decide on a policy, or on what they should turn out the Ministry, nor did they know who was to be their leader when they had disposed of their opponents. All that he could say on this subject was fully borne out by what Mr Holmes, one of the most prominent members of the Opposition, had lately stated. As for the uproar which had been raised against him, that, he declared, had been fomented principally by the Lyttellon Times and Star, to which journals he devoted some minutes of uncomplimentary criticism, and then went on to explain his silence since the session and after previous sessions. Boiled down, Mr Pilliet's defence amounted to this ; that if he had tried to address thorn two sessions ago they would not have listened to him even as patiently as they were doing then — a mildly sarcastic way of putting it, which did not seem to be caught ; and that, as he had no ambition to stand again, there was no necessity for it. He had learnt, to his cost, that a successful politician could not be an honest man, and this dictum, so reassuring a week before the general election, was capped a few minutes later by the j remark that Parliament was " a disgusting 1 hot-bed of party fights, waged between j men who wanted to kick men out of office ! simply to get in themselves." His vote, this j session, had been promised to the Opposi- j tion, if they could succeed in mixing their oil and water. They openly admitted, in asking for a dissolution, that they could not patch up alliances, and so, when the division came, he walked out of the House, being unable to vote with the Ministry or j for the Opposition. When his offer to j resign the Stanmore seat in favour of Sir j Julius Yogel was made, hft wished them to ] remember that it meant the resignation of i .£2OO to a poor man. (Applause.) That offer had been withdrawn, as, when he ] consulted those who knew the feelings of j the electors, he found that they did not wish him to leave. Sir Julius, who had been telegraphed to " on their own hook," by Messrs Howland and Hulbert, saying j that he would bo welcomed at Stanmore, had asked him at Dunedin for an explanation of this discrepancy and had received one. [Mr Dorney, in attempting to speak to the correctness of this statement, rose, and began to make some rather solemn remarks, at which some hidden bass voice piously ejaculated " Let us pray," ; and threw the speaker off the rails : in the roar of laughter raised.] i Mr Pilliet, who was now drawing towai'ds the close of hie confession said
that if a requisition had been signed he would have come to address the electors -, that he would never forget the kindness lie had received from those of Stanmore " and how you returned it," put in one of his tormentors— and that in serving theinhe had " risked money, health, and the opinion of his fellow-creatures," which appeal won him some applause. He also claimed to have in his possession documents to prove that he was the man who had compelled the restoration of 6d a day to the Addington workmen's wages. From this, to the close of the meeting chaff and fast and furious fun, noise and obstinate question and answer, were the prevailing features of this interesting evening. The famous Dorney correspondence came under discussion, which was enlivened by a stray egg or two. Luckily they were not of that odorous description, which, according to Mark Twain, induces the belief that they were laid by a very unhealthy hen, but fresh and " yolky." What threatened, for the moment, to prove a very galling cross-fire was stopped by shutting the window from which the second proceeded, and the Chairman, who had been " taken " on the nape of the neck, was thus made safe. Practice with such expensive ammunition is beyond the means of most people, and only a few shots were indulged in. As a finale to the proceedings the issue was put by the Chair- j man, "Is Mr Pilliet's explanation and ! address satisfactory P " Hands were held up in about equal numbers for and against it, but, in the reigning confusion and noise, it was hard to say whether the answer was given in the affirmative or negative. Whether the crowd meant further mischief is also hard to determine. Mr Pilliet took his departure by the door at the back of the Library, and, piloted by a friend, took his way home in the darkness unmolested, save by the memories of the hootings which concluded the proceedings. A crowd of men had, however, assembled a little way down the road, and stopped cabs as they passed, so it appears as if further enjoyment had been intended for the late member for Stanmore. They were baulked of their prey.
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Pilliet in the Pillory., Star, Issue 5055, 16 July 1884
Pilliet in the Pillory. Star, Issue 5055, 16 July 1884
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