ARRIVED at Brisbane, Dad set out with his portmanteau for his old boarding-house on Wiekham Terrace. He had scarcely entered the establishment when the boarders were rushing wildly into each other’s rooms, calling out, “Esau is back.” They all remembered Dad, and seemed pleased to see him again.
Next morning, at breakfast, Dad sat over a plate of sausage, and, in a loud voice, inquired the way to Parliament House. Several of the boarders directed him.
“Are you going to hear them speak, Mr. Rudd? “ the boarding-house-keeper asked.
“Well—yes,” Dad answered, “and to speak myself, p’raps.”
They all stared at Dad then, and one who read the papers regularly, and had a memory for names, asked him if he was related to the Rudd who was returned for Eton.
Dad leaned back as if he was in a barber’s chair, and laughed heartily.
“I’m ’im,” he said. . . . “It’s me that beat Mulligan.”
They all stared again and laughed.
“Really, though, Mr. Rudd?” the boarding-house-keeper asked meekly, and as if she secretly doubted Dad.
“Yairs,” Dad went on, ignoring the lady, “I beat Mulligan easy enough. . . . be three ’und’ed an’ ten, I think it were.”
“If I’d known you had a member of Parliament here, Mrs. Brown,” a beery-looking boarder, the wag of the house, said, rising and leaning on the back of his chair, “I’d have taken off my boots.”
There was a loud roar round the table then, and every eye was fixed cheerfully on Dad. Dad glared at the wag. The wag smiled placidly back at him.
“Well,” Dad said, “that would be more than y’ do when y’ go to bed, perhaps.”
They all roared louder then, and the wag changed colour and went away.
And one reached over and said, “Good man!” to Dad, and hit him hard on the back and made him spill all the tea out of his saucer, which he had just blown cool and was lifting to his head. Dad frowned. Then another boarder repeated Dad’s retort to the wag, and the room rang with renewed hilarity. And the same boarder punched Dad on the back a second time, and caused a sausage to escape from his fork.
“Damn you!” Dad shouted, turning fiercely on him. But the boarder had folded his serviette, and hurried from the table, chuckling. So did the others.
Dad found his way to Parliament House, and entered the building as if he was proprietor of it. He seemed to be emulating in dignity and lordliness the member for Glengallon.
Several messengers and a calm, well-groomed, well-fed policeman approached Dad. They appeared to suspect he was a new, hairy sort of Guy Fawkes, with evil designs on the costly and sacred edifice.
“Where’s th’ place where they’re speakin’?” Dad asked.
The Law pointed up a wide staircase, and said:
“But y’ can’t go there. . . . Have you a ticket?”
“Go along there, then,” the policeman said, point-ing through a doorway; “you’ll get a ticket for the gallery, and go up the stairs.”
Dad poked his way through, and a boy in brass buttons handed him a ticket in silence, and pointed up the stairs in more silence.
Dad blundered up like an elephant, his footsteps and false steps echoing all over the building. He reached the top breathless, and when his eyes rested upon a group of ordinary-looking people crouching in listening attitudes, he looked bewildered. A police-man, with white gloves on, and his hair oiled and parted in the centre, grimaced and motioned to Dad to sit down.
“I repeat, Sir, that the Government have made no efforts whatever to encourage the right people to come and settle here,” came from the depths of the Chamber.
Dad looked doAvn and saw all the eminent legislators of his country lolloping idly on the benches.
“Damn it!” he exclaimed in a loud voice, “that’s where I’ve to be!”
Those in the gallery turned their heads and looked angrily at Dad. The policeman tiptoed up a few short steps and whispered a short warning into Dad’s ear.
“Do you know who I am?” Dad said in a voice that travelled round the building and reached the ear of Mr. Speaker, down below, who turned his eyes on the gallery.
The policeman squeezed Dad’s arm viciously to silence him, but he might just as well have squeezed one of the wooden forms.
“Do you know who I am?” Dad said again, in a louder key.
The policeman grimaced some more, and removed Dad’s hat from his head and tried to force him into a seat. Dad recovered his hat with a violent wrench, and hit the policeman on the head with it, and knocked the parting out of his hair and planted a lot of dust in it. The gallery stood up to enjoy Dad. The policeman clenched his teeth, and pounced fiercely on Dad. But Dad put both hands to him, and shoved him right off his feet, and he fell down the short steps with a thud against a little man with a bald head, and crushed him under a form. The gallery forgot about the debate going on below, and, in one voice, cheered the new show. Dad expanded his chest and extended his nostrils, and stood game and defiant-looking, waiting for the Law to renew the attack.
“Clear the gallery!” came from Mr. Speaker.
Then there was commotion! In an instant three policemen appeared in the gallery and seized Dad, and rolled down the stairs with him. Dad yelled and fought with them like a Ned Kelly; and the Law had just sent for a cab to take Dad to gaol when the member for Toogoom appeared and recognised him. He explained matters, then took Dad into the refreshment room and calmed him.