The Newfoundland Quarterly

Volume 3 (1903-1904)

A Modern Ursus by T. Hanrahan, S.C.S.

THE Merchant was wroth and with good reason. His party was victorious, but he had lost his own election through the faithlessness of the Heart’s Ease men.

“We’re in the divil’s ‘obble about ‘n,” they said, as they came to mark their ballots on polling day.

“What kin he do to us anyhow ?”

“What can I do to them,” roared the merchant, when this remark had been reported to him, ” what can I do to them!!! Why, I can send them a ‘Government Bull’ that will terrorize the neighbourhood.”

And thus it came to pass, in the subsequent distribution of political favors, that, by the same steamer which brought a grinding stone to Ireland’s Eye, a plough to Northern Bight, and a pig to Hickman’s Harbour, there came to ” Heart’s Ease” the most vicious bull on the North American Continent, imported ostensibly to improve the stock, but really to be the instrument of Mr. Y—-‘s vengeance on an offending electorate.

These were the days when the Colony had just entered upon a new era in its manufacturing industries, by the introduction of that most becoming article of feminine apparel—”the blouse.” The energetic teacher of the Heart’s Ease school was the happy possessor of a blouse—a poetic creation in red silk. I just mention this matter to show what serious consequences often hinge on apparently trivial causes.

The bull was landed with befitting pomp and ceremonial. He was a magnificent beast, and a gentle, as appeared from his quiet bearing (he was yet a little dizzy from the passage) and his leisurely manner of walking up the road towards Gooseberry Cove. But alas for the uncertainty of first impressions! Alas for education in the settlement!

The teacher had just closed her school and turned to walk down the road when Taurus appeared. A devilish gleain lit up his bad black eye as he caught sight of the red blouse. There was a rush and a roar !—two dreadful horns and two gleaming eyes, then—a figure that might have passed for the guardian angel of knowledge, was seen flying over the school-house. The bull scampered off to the woods, and willing hands bore the insensible form of the poor little victim of politics, and a red blouse, to her boarding house. She recovered in time and sent in her resignation, adding in a postscript to the Rev. Chairman of the Board, that she was ambitious of a higher grade, but thought it safer and more comfortable to sit for the exams, of the Council of Higher Education, especially as the Board of Examiners might not recognize the very high grade she had attained through the instrumentality of politics.

The bull was called Peter in revenge for an insult to Mr. Y— when he was canvassing the district. Peter Leward, the offender, thus telleth the story :

“I was down in m’ stage a-washin’ out a bit o’ fish when Kate, das me daughter, see, runs down out of bret to say der was a gentleman up in de path. ‘

Now, as gentlemen were scarce articles ’bout our way, I washes my ‘ans, and up I goes ; an’ I wid nar a cap on me head. Good evening. Skipper Peter,’ sez he. ‘Good evening,’ sez I.

“‘I’m around looking for votes, ‘sez he; I suppose you’ll give me yours?’ ”

” ‘If youse on —-‘s side,’ sez I, ‘I will, but if not, den youse kin go where you come from.’ ”

“Mr. D— will give you voting for —,’ sez he. ‘ I keers the h—l of a sight ’bout you or Mr. D—,’ sez I. ‘ Do l owe un anything? Not a rid cint. An’ me vote is me own, and he goes to Mr. — ”

” ‘Your tongue is pretty loose,’ sez he; ‘perhaps you are going to come out as a candidate yourself. Skipper Peter.’ ‘Yes,’ sez l, ‘me tongue is loose and me legs is loose too, as Peter Kent kin tell ‘ee. If you ever comes in talk wid’n, ax un who was the bes’ man, the day de two uv us killed the water bear on d’ice. But was de good o’ dat when I’m slack yer (pointin’ to me bald head). But if I had the learnin’, I’de cum out fur a member, an’ I’de go in too. And (I went over and clapped me han’ on his shoulder) you’re jes’ de man I’de ‘ave to hole on me baver ‘at while I’d be makin’ me speech in Givernment ‘Ouse!'”

This insult justifies all the subsequent acts of the defeated candidate. It even justifies his free gift of a red blouse each to the first born of the daughters of Heart’s Ease, so that the bull might be kept busy doing mischief, and the newspapers supplied with items reflecting on the principal man in the settlement.

Space does not permit of even a brief notice of the long list of crimes chargeable either directly or indirectly to the wandering Peter. The saddest phase of his three years and a half sojourn among the people was, that he not only tormented those who opposed the defeated candidate, but he made periodic visits to a settlement where they had voted to a man in his favor. But the hour of deliverance was at hand. Providence had raised up a man, William Lind by name,—a man in whose autobiography appears the following passage : “My heart never knew the throb of fear ; my countenance never felt the blush of embarrassment.” Lind was to be the deliverer of his people. A public meeting was convened and a plan of campaign decided on.

” Gentlemen, there is one stipulation I must insist on before I undertake this enterprise so fraught with danger.”

The meeting was about over, but at the words, all came suddenly to order. The speaker was Mr. Lind.

“You have asked me to rid you of a monster of iniquity; I have consented. You remember the story of ‘ Gideon and the Philistines; do you not?”

“We do—we do,” was murmured all over the hall.

“Well, just as Gideon would have no man who took too much time in drinking, neither will I, William Lind, take with me to-morrow, to attack the bull, any man who intends to sell his codliver to Brost, of Northern Bight. Let us have no nonsense. Mr. Secretary, divide the house on this important matter.”

“Now, gentlemen,” said the Secretary, ” those in favor of the bull and Brost (he was a politician that Secretary) go to the right, and those in favor of our deliverance and Mr. Lind pass to the left.”

With a cheer, all rushed to the left, and the meeting broke up after each man had pledged himself to sell all his codliver to Mr. Lind’s factory.

After the meeting Lind took a short cut through the woods for home. “It will be an easy victory,” he soliloquised ; “ten guns will make short work of Peter; and if these fellows keep their word, I ought to make a nice little bonus out of all the codli— Bellow !!—it was the bull right in the pathway.

“I hadn’t much time to think,” said Lind, describing the affair afterwards. “A spruce picket was lying on the ground. I snatched it, but the bull was on me like a flash. I stumbled backwards as he reached me, which, no doubt, saved my life; for his horns caught in my clothes instead of my stomach. I found myself going skywards. As I fell I brought down the picket with all the added momentum of my fall and broke off one of the bull’s horns. He caught me under the left arm with the remaining horn and threw me on top of a high rock, where he charged me again, and again. We had a hard battle there alone in the glade, but Peter was vanquished at last, and while he lay on the ground panting, I gave him a stab in the jugular vein with my pocket knife and let out his bold, bad, political life.”

The bull was dead; and next day the whole country side was ringing with the good news. Lind was the hero of the hour; his influence with the people was at once established; and to this day, the story is told at Xmas Firesides how the Government bull went down before the prowess of this “Modern Ursus.”


Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, January 2016
These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.