THE SPEAKER was a man of his word, and resumed the Chair at seven o’clock. There was a full House. The Chamber was ablaze with electric light; the costly leather cushions lined with honourable members—the representatives of public opinion—sitting erect, alert, expectant-looking, and for once they respected the property for which their country went in debt, and rested their huge feet on the expensive carpet. The Strangers’ Gallery, creaking under the burden it had to bear, was packed from the balustrading to the back wall; and the eager, anxious crowd elbowed each other, and leaned over and gaped and grinned down upon the heads of the intellectual gathering below. The Ladies’ Gallery, charged to the last inch of its carrying capacity with the wives, daughters, and female friends of members and influential citizens, was alive with absurd-looking hats and fans, and the air was filled with perfume. Press representatives—their ranks reinforced for the occasion—sat turning over the leaves of note-books, preparing for action. The lobbies were filled with distinguished visitors, huddled together like sheep in a shed. Outside a multitude of disappointed ones repined their inability to gain admittance, and went home resolved to book seats and make sure of the next evening’s entertainment.
Those who witnessed the scene before tea knew Dad, and pointed him out to the rest of the audience. In every part of the House, fingers were indicating him, and murmurs of “That’s him—the big, hairy, old chap on the cross benches”—were audible in every gallery. Dad was the object of everyone’s admiration, the idol of the evening. But there was no vanity, no pride, no priggishness, no self-consciousness, about Dad’s political demeanour. There he sat, grave, stolid, stern.
Mr. Speaker, his black gown hanging loosely on him, and an extravagant plaster of embroidery protecting his chest, completed making some notes in a book, and, raising his head, adjusted his pince-nez and glared significantly at the members. It was the signal to commence fire. O’Reilly, the member for Churchland, rose slowly and ran his fingers through his shaggy white hair till it stood fairly on end.
“Mr. Speaker,” he commenced, “I wud just like to saay a few words in explanation uv what tuk place here in this——” (“Hear, hear.”)
“Is it the will of the House that the honourable member for Churchland be heard?” the Speaker put in promptly, lowering his spectacles to the tip of his Napoleonic nose, and staring all round with an air of tremendous authority. (Enthusiastic cries in the affirmative and yells of “Hear, hear!” and “The member for Churchland!”)
“I move that the member for Churchland be heard,” came in sonorous tones from the broad-backed Labour member for St. George.
“The motion is that the member for Churchland be heard. Those in favour say ‘Aye’” (an unanimous burst of “ay.e,” which made the spectators grin and giggle), “to the contrary, ‘no.’. . . . The ‘ayes’ have it.” (More giggling in the galleries.)
The member for Churchland proceeded:
“Well, Mister Speaker,” he said cheerfully, “I wish to saay that I regrit as much and may be more than even the Primeer himself, or any mimber of——”
He was interrupted by the member for Fillemupagen.
“Mis’er Spikker,” the latter hiccoughed, “I ri’sh poin’ order.” (Loud laughter.)
The Speaker frowned heavily on the member for Fillemupagen, and O’Reilly turned and hissed, “Will yez hould your tongue?” (Renewed laughter.)
“I ri’sh poin’ order,” the representative for Fillemupagen hiccoughed some more. (Cries of “Sit down!” and “The member for Churchland has the Chair!”)
The Premier sprang to his feet.
“Mr. Speaker!” he shouted, “I most emphatically protest against the business of the country being continuously obstructed in this manner, (Hear, hear.) If we are to have a repetition of the disgraceful exhibition this Chamber was treated to this afternoon——” (Uproar, mingled with cries of approval from the Ministerial side of the House and vehement shouts of “You’re obstructing yourself!” from Labourites.) “I submish, Mis’er Spikker,” the member for Fillemupagen continued to ejaculate, clutching the back of the bench in front of him for support, “thash I’msh (hic) jushly ent’led to ri’sh to (hic) poin’ order.” ( Great laughter from the Labour party, and “Positively disgraceful! Nothing but an ill-mannered lot of hooligans!” from the Chesterfield of the Assembly.)
“Will the honourable member be good enough to state his point of order?” the Speaker snapped, leaning forward and showing his false teeth. (“Hear, hear.”)
“Cer’ainly!” And the member for Fillemupagen lowered his head a little and clung tighter to the back of the bench while he tried to remember things, and caused more merriment and an exodus of disgusted females from the Ladies’ Gallery. “I callsh you ’tention to a breash stan’in orshers thish Housh, Mis’er Spikker.” (Tremendous burst of hilarity and cries of “Sit down!”) “Evshbody musher seen, an’ you musher seen, Mis’er Spikker, pershon not mem’er thish ’Oush come in thish Cham’er throughsh roof.” (Yells of laughter from the Labour party, dissent from the Government benches, and “Order, gentlemen, order!” from the Speaker.)
“There is no point of order in the question raised by the honourable member,” the latter decided angrily. “If such a breach were committed, the honourable gentleman should have moved the suspension of the standing orders and called attention to it at the time. (Hear, hear.) Having allowed it to pass, the matter cannot be dealt with now.” (Government cheers.)
“But I shay dishinc’ly, Mis’er Spikker” (more Labour laughter, which was shared heartily by occupants of the gallery, and “Order!”), “I shay this ’Oush cansh!”
“Order, order!” the Speaker shouted. “I ask the honourable member for Fillemupagen to resume his seat.” ( Cheers from the Government and cries of disapproval from the Labour party.)
“I shay this ’Ouse cansh.” (Uproar.)
“The honourable member must not further address the House,” snorted the Speaker, with shot and shell in his eye.
“It’sh not Bri’sh jus’ice!” (“Order, order!” and uproar.)
“Will the honourable member resume his seat?” (Cheers from the Government, laughter from the Labour party, and “If this bleggardly conduct continues, I will deem it mai duty as a protest to walk out of the Chambah,” from the Chesterfield. Then renewed merriment. )
In the midst of all the commotion an excited old man in the Strangers’ Gallery dropped a heavy walking-stick on the heads of the occupants of the cross benches, and consternation and confusion set in amongst the “Independents.” They seemed to think the owner of the blackthorn was following in pursuit of his property, and fled in disorder, and took shelter on the Labour benches. Labour members welcomed them with loud guffaws, jeers, and hilarity. The Independents gazed up in scorn at the gallery, and the occupants of it, writhing in emotion, grinned back at them. The member for Mopoke Meadow, who had received most of the force of the falling missile, rubbed the back of his ear and shouted boisterously:
“Mr. Speaker, I appeal to you, Sir, for protection——”
“Order!” the Speaker retorted. (Laughter.)
“But, Mr. Speak——”
“Order! Order!” (Vehement merriment, in which the gallery heartily joined.)
The member for Mopoke Meadow sat down and in savage, indignant undertones murmured his opinion of Mr. Speaker. “A one-sided pig!” he said, and raised more merriment in his corner of the Chamber.
Again the Premier appealed for peace, but in vain.
“D——d undignified of you,” the Chesterfield called out. “Less decorum could not be expected from a Parliament of blackfellahs or South Sea Ailanders.” (“Hear, hear,” and laughter.)
But the Speaker had not settled with the member for Fillemupagen, who was still upon his feet.
“The honourable member for Churchland,” he said with great dignity, “is in possession of the chair, and again I ask the honourable member for Fillemupagen to resume his seat.” (“Hear, hear.”)
“Wonsh reshume any sheat,” the member for Fillemupagen jerked out stubbornly. (Commotion.)
“The honourable gentleman is distinctly out of order in refusing to resume his seat.”
“Mis’er (hic) Spikker!” (Loud laughter.)
“I wish make pershonal exsp’nation——”
“Order!” (and tremendous laughter from the Labour party) .
“I have the chair, Mr. Speaker!” O’Reilly yelled in defence of his Parliamentary rights.
“The honourable member for Churchland is in possession of the chair, and the member for Fillemupagen must resume his seat.”
“Wellsh, ’en (hic) I movesh——”
“Your rulinsh——” (Laughter.)
“Be dish’greed.” (Roars of laughter.)
“Order, order, order!”
“Itsh not——” (Yells and howls of laughter.)
“Bri’ish justice!” (Shrieks of laughter.)
“Order, order!” (Howls of merriment and confusion.)
“It’s Kanaka shustice!” (Dissent, cries of “Shame! Shame!” and “Order, order!” from the Speaker.)
“Yoush a Kanaka youshelf!” (Uproar, more cries of ‘’Shame!” and “Name him!” and laughter from the Labour members.)
The Premier again rose amidst all the disorder and commotion, and excitedly called the Speaker’s attention to the words of the member for Fillemupagen.
“I have never heard,” he said, “of such disrespectful language ever being used in any British House of Parliament.” ( Cheers from the Government. )
“My attention having been drawn by the Leader of the Government to the most offensive and unparliamentary language addressed to this House by the honourable member for Fillemupagen,” the Speaker said, “I ask that honourable member to withdraw the words ‘You are a kanaka yourself,’ and apologise to this House.” (Cheers and uproar.)
“I shay so a- (hic) -gen!” (More disorder and prolonged laughter.)
“Upon my soul,” the Chesterfield interjected, addressing himself to the Labour party, “but you fellahs are the greatest lot of jackasses it has evah——”
“Order!” And continued bursts of hilarity.
The Chesterfield obeyed the Chair, and the Premier rose again.
“I move. Sir,” he said, “that the member for Fillemupagen be suspended from this Chamber for twenty-four hours.” (Renewed cheers from the Government, and shouts of disapproval from the Labour members.)
The motion was put and carried, and the Speaker passed sentence, and ordered the offending one to leave the Chamber.
Several members approached the member for Fillemupagen to persuade him leave the precincts quietly, but the honourable gentleman was only beginning to feel his feet. He shoved his friends aside, waved his hands about, danced into the middle of the Chamber, and offered to fight the Speaker and the Premier on the spot, and started to feel and fumble for the buttons of his coat.
Excitement was tremendous. But before the member for Fillemupagen could divest himself of any of his garments the sergeant-at-arms appeared and escorted him out amidst cheers and counter-cheers, howls, and hoots, and laughter.