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his head slowly.

There was a moment's silence, and then he said: "It is an extraordinary
thing that with all the improvements in communication we never can get
our fish perfectly fresh. Mollie, will you take this away and give me
some kidneys and bacon. I beg your pardon, Edward - you were saying - ?"

Edward launched himself into an almost violent flood of speech. "I have
felt it coming for a long time," he said. "I have done what I could to
stem the tide, and to confine it in safe channels, such as I knew you,
dear father, would approve of. But the torrent has been too strong. It
has broken through all the puny obstacles I have set up. We are now
launched on its full flood, and heaven help those who are not to be
found on the right side."

"My dear Edward, tell us what has happened," said Mrs. Perry. "You are
keeping us on tenterhooks."

Edward calmed himself a little and said: "It is Mr. and Mrs. Bolster who
have put the match to the powder. I am proud to call them friends of
mine. The name of Bolster will ring through the ages as that of people
who did not shrink from taking a foremost place in the battle of
freedom. And I trust that the name of Perry will go down with it."

"Bolster is a very respectable fellow," said Mr. Perry. "I have nothing
whatever to say against Bolster, except that he has always been rather a
grumbler. But I do not want our name to ring through the ages with his,
Edward. Bolster and Perry! It would not sound well."

"What have they done, Edward?" asked Mrs. Perry. "Nothing foolish, I
hope."

"Last night," said Edward, consenting at last to be drawn into a plain
story, "Bolster came home to find that the inspectors had paid his house
a visit. It seems that the cook had given information that the
housekeeping bills had not been kept up to the level that the Bolsters
are assessed upon. They made a scene with Mrs. Bolster, and refused to
accept her explanation that her son, to whom she chiefly looked to help
them in their meals, was away at Coxford, and the servants had all along
refused to consume their proper share. The inspectors went away, and
directed all the Bolsters' tradespeople to supply the house with double
the quantity of goods ordered until further notice."

"They had no right to do that," said Mr. Perry. "They ought to have told
Mrs. Bolster to do it, and left an inspector there to see that the goods
were consumed. They have acted against the law."

"What do they care about the law?" exclaimed Edward bitterly. "The law
in Upsidonia is for the poor, not for the rich. Bolster has taken the
law into his own hands, and I am glad of it. I respect and honour him
for his noble stand. When he came home and learnt what had happened, he
threw every ounce of food in the house out into the garden. He did more
than that. He is a big man, as you know, and he forced his butler to get
up all the wine out of his cellar and pour it down the stable drains.
The servants were in a terrible state of anger, but they could do
nothing with him. He turned them out of the house neck and crop, and
told them they could go and complain to the police. He didn't care where
they went or what they did. He stood up to them all, men and women. Then
he barricaded all the doors and windows; but before he did so he threw
out all the money in the house and all the plate. He is now shut up with
Mrs. Bolster and quite prepared to stand a siege. I hope that thousands
will follow his example. It will be the end of this stifling tyranny.
The rich will be able to breathe once more, and the selfish poor will
have to shoulder their burdens and learn what misery they have inflicted
so callously on their unfortunate fellow creatures."

"I am afraid Bolster will get into trouble," said Mr. Perry calmly. "I
should not mix myself up with it, Edward, if I were you. We must go on
quietly in our own way, without setting class against class. The methods
of anarchy are not for such as us. My dear, another cup of tea, if you
please."

Edward choked down his emotion, and succeeded in making a fair
breakfast. But I thought that in this matter he did not see eye to eye
with his father. In his opinion the time for anarchy _had_ come, and he
was nerving himself to take a more prominent part in the struggle he saw
coming than the more cautious and experienced Mr. Perry would approve
of.

However, he gave us no hint of any intentions he may have formed while
we were together, and directly he had finished his meal left the room.




CHAPTER XXII


I followed Edward as soon as I could, for I had a crow of my own to pick
with him.

But I found him quite unable to discuss anything but the startling and
courageous behaviour of his friend, Mr. Bolster. He was going to his
house at once, and I said that I would go with him.

Mr. Bolster lived in a large house not far from Magnolia Hall, and as we
walked there I insisted upon Edward listening to my complaint.

"Well, what do you want me to do?" he asked impatiently. "You don't know
where you come from, and I don't know either. My explanation is almost
certainly the right one, and you _must_ have some explanation of
yourself ready. What are you complaining about?"

"I'm complaining of your having told Miriam that I am an escaped
lunatic."

"My dear fellow, I'm pretty certain she suspected it. It was the
nonsense you talked to her when you first came that made me tell her the
truth. Now that she has the explanation she doesn't mind. No sensible
girl would. She knows you are all right at present, and she'll see that
you don't go wrong again."

I had to leave it at that. There was no satisfaction to be got out of
the officious Edward.

Mr. Bolster's house was a pretentious building in the Italianate Gothic
style, with Byzantine and other features. It stood in an extremely ugly
garden, with asphalt paths, and stretches of grass cut up into beds of
the shape of crescents, triangles, starfishes, Prince of Wales'
feathers, interrogation marks, all elaborately planted to imitate
carpets or rugs of the worst possible design. Wherever there was room
for it, there was a large glass-house, and apparently Mr. Bolster had
employed some of the hours of his self-imposed incarceration in throwing
things at them; for there was hardly a pane within range that was left
intact, and the ground about them was littered with lumps of coal and
with the smaller articles of household furnishing, with which he, and
possibly Mrs. Bolster, had missed their aim. The things with which they
had been more fortunate were inside the glass-houses, which presented a
picture of destruction that showed the seriousness of the battle now
being waged.

Scattered about on the flower-beds, and on the grass near the house, was
a curious assortment of articles, which included joints of meat, silver
épergnes, brocaded cushions, cooking utensils, wearing apparel,
pictures, clocks, and indeed every article of luxury that such a house
as this might contain.

We were not the only people who had come to gaze at this extraordinary
scene. There was a well-dressed ill-mannered crowd hanging about and
looking up at the shuttered windows; and more were driving up every
minute. Many of them gathered round Edward, who was generally
recognized, and gave him such items of news as they thought might
interest him.

"You'll see 'im in a minute," said one excited gentleman. "'E put 'is
'ead out of that window just now. 'Ad a cock-shy at one of the bobbies,
wiv a boot-tree. There it is."

"Have the police been here?" asked Edward. "Where are they now?"

"Gorn off to git some more. Lor lumme! it ain't 'arf a circus, is it?"

The opulent-looking overfed ladies and gentlemen around us seemed more
amused than impressed with what was going on. But Edward's face was very
grave. "Poor creatures!" he said aside to me. "They are hardly capable
of taking anything seriously. They lead such terrible lives that
anything is a distraction to them. When a chance of emancipation comes,
they are too sunk in misery to take it."

They did not appear to me to be precisely sunk in misery, and but for
their fine clothes and the smart-looking equipages in which they had
arrived, and which were now gathered round the gates waiting to take
them away again, they were exactly like a careless, rather noisy London
crowd, come out to see some fun.

As Edward was speaking there was a shout, and, looking up at a sort of
Florentine balcony stuck on to a crenellated tower, I saw the now
notorious Mr. Bolster, standing with his arms folded, surveying the
crowd. He was in shirt-sleeves, and had not brushed his hair. Possibly
he had thrown all the brushes in the house at the conservatories.

The crowd cheered him, and he bowed repeatedly with an air of
self-satisfaction, but presently held up his hand to command silence,
and then made a short speech.

"Fellow men and fellow women," he said. "I've begun, and now it's for
you to carry on. Down with servants! Down with luckshry! Down with the
pore!"

The renewed cheers with which this stirring address was received caused
Edward's eyes to brighten. "Their hearts are in the right place," he
said. "They only want a leader." Then he raised his voice and shouted:
"Three cheers for Bolster and his noble wife!"

The cheers were given, and Mrs. Bolster, attired in what I believe is
called a peignoir, appeared by the side of her husband and acknowledged
them with him. Then both of them retired from the balcony.

Edward now set himself to turn the enthusiasm of the crowd in a
practical direction. He did not address them collectively, but spoke to
one here and there, and presently had round him a number of people who
showed that they also recognized that Mr. Bolster's demonstration had
sprung from a state of affairs intolerable to them as well as to him.

"Look 'ere, what do yer think of this?" asked one man. "Me and the
missus was going to the theaytre, and my second coachman was adrivin' of
us. Well, 'e took us round to where a old aunt of the cook's lived, and
there we 'ad to set in the kerridge for 'alf an hour, while 'e yarned
with 'er ladyship about a dinner-party they were giving in the servants'
'all, and 'oo was to be invited, and all such things as them. And 'er
taking no more notice of us than if we wasn't there!"

"Yuss, it's just like 'em," said another. "My groom of the chambers
'auled me over the coals the other day for not usin' up the stationery
quicker. Blarst 'im and 'is stationery, I sez, and I'd a good mind to
tell 'im so."

"Why didn't you?" asked Edward. "If you were all to make a stand against
this tyranny to which you are subjected, you could end it to-morrow. See
what Bolster has done! It isn't all talk with him; it's action."

But, much as they no doubt approved of Bolster's bold stand, they seemed
to shrink from taking any steps to follow his lead. Edward, who now
began to go round among them with a note-book to take the names of those
who were ready for concerted action, got more refusals than promises of
support.

"What's the good?" asked one man. "They'll git 'old of Bolster all
right, you'll see, and 'e'll be worse off than 'e was before. I ain't
agoing to risk my luxurious 'ome, and run myself into trouble, not till
I see a lot more of 'em chucking things about. It's all very well for
Bolster. 'E ain't got a lot o' kids depending on 'im. A pretty thing if
I was to leave mine to get through all the grub by themselves, while I
was sent to chokey! 'Cos they don't let you order in no less. I've got a
good appetite so far, and I can stand it better nor what they can."

That was the trouble with most of these long-suffering people. They were
fighting their daily battle against profusion, not for themselves
alone, but for dear ones dependent on them; and I could not find it in
my heart to blame them for shrinking from throwing themselves into
Edward's campaign.

But now there came a diversion. A butcher's cart drove up to the house,
driven by an aristocratic-looking young man in a blue coat. Mr. Bolster
appeared again on the Florentine balcony, and let down a basket, into
which was put a large assortment of fleshy delicacies. These he hauled
up. When he had collected them all around him, he held up four lamb
cutlets for us to see, and handed them to his wife. Then he began to
bombard the butcher with the rest of the lamb cutlets, sweetbreads,
lumps of suet, and everything else that he had so carefully taken from
him; and so accurate was his aim that the young man swung off down the
drive, shielding his well-greased head with his arm, and exhibiting
every sign of resentment. When he was out of range, he pulled up and
addressed Mr. Bolster most injuriously, threatening him with all sorts
of penalties. But the crowd, heartened by the exhibition, jeered at him,
and presently he drove away.

He had no sooner gone than the performance was repeated with a grocer,
then with a poulterer, and at intervals with other tradespeople. Mr.
Bolster kept the minimum of sustenance for himself and his wife, and
used everything else as a projectile; and I think he must have gone
rather short afterwards, for he was evidently enjoying himself, and
seemed to keep back very little.

Whilst the various tradespeople were thus being ignominiously driven off
the field, the coachmen and footmen and chauffeurs, who were waiting in
full view of what was happening, not only took no part in the fray, but
affected to ignore it completely.[32] They showed, however, a mild
degree of interest, and there was a considerable stir amongst the now
rapidly increasing crowd, as a squad of police marched on to the ground,
and with them seven or eight men and women in the dress of indoor
servants. It presently appeared that these had come, not to insist upon
being taken back again, or to demand their wages, which, no doubt, they
were pleased to go without, but to get such clothes as they wanted from
the house.

But Mr. Bolster was ready for them. Whenever they congregated somewhere
to make an entrance, he appeared at a window above them, and poured down
water on their heads. And the police, who had evidently come to put an
end to the whole business, were no more successful in forcing a way into
the house. The lower part was built to resemble a mediæval prison, and
stout iron bars and massive oak met them everywhere and defied their
efforts.

At last they marched off, drenched to the skins to get reinforcements;
but the inspector in charge of them remained, and in an authoritative
voice ordered the crowd to disperse.

The crowd, now greatly encouraged by Mr. Bolster's determined
resistance, refused to do so, though it showed a disposition to avoid
the inspector's eye; and he got angry, and threatened to make arrests
when his men returned.

He came up to Edward and said: "I would advise you not to mix yourself
up in this, Mr. Perry. I mean business, and if you are here when my men
come back, it will be my duty to arrest you first of all."

Edward hesitated a moment, and then turned abruptly on his heel and
walked off. I followed him, and he said as we went down the drive: "I
shan't shirk being arrested when the time comes, but it will be for
something more serious than refusing to move on when I am told to."

As we left the garden I turned back and saw Mr. Bolster showering from
an upper window articles of feminine apparel, which, floating amply down
the breeze, roused the crowd to renewed merriment.

FOOTNOTES:

[32] It would not have been etiquette for them to show any interest
whatever in the doings of their masters and mistresses, or to unbend in
any way while on duty. The second coachman whom we had just heard about
was behaving unprofessionally in talking to his own friends from the
box, although his fellow-servants would not blame him for
inconveniencing his master and mistress by so doing.




CHAPTER XXIII


As we walked away, Edward said contemptuously: "Isn't that just like the
race of servants all over? To come back for their _things_! Despicable
race of parasitical humbugs! If I were ever so poor I should be ashamed
of going out to service. I would sooner be the man who can hardly rise
from his chair through over-feeding, than the man who busies himself in
seeing that he consumes more than his share. The one is at any rate
trying to do his duty, with all the forces of poverty and oppression
ranged against him; the other merely wants to live in rich surroundings
without undergoing any of the disadvantages."

"I have rather suspected that," I said. "Still, they do live simply, as
far as I have observed. They are not like Lord Charles Delagrange, and
that sort of person, who likes luxury for its own sake."

"I am not at all sure that some of them don't," said Edward. "But, at
any rate, they all enjoy the contrast between their state and that of
their masters and mistresses. You have no idea what servants are,
Howard, by only knowing them at Magnolia Hall. Would you like to come
with me to a few houses where, I think, I may get recruits for this
movement? You will see then what the servants of the rich are really
like."

It was still early in the morning, and I did not want to call on Mr.
Hobson until later, so I accepted Edward's invitation. "But I hope you
are not going to run yourself up against the law," I said. "Your father
won't like that, nor any of your family."

"My dear Howard," said Edward obstinately, "I am a reformer. Now the
opportunity has come I must not be found wanting."

The first house we called at was a smaller one than either Magnolia Hall
or Mr. Bolster's palace-prison-fortress. Edward told me that it was the
home of a Mr. and Mrs. Slabb, who suffered much under the tyranny of a
houseful of female servants. He had strong hopes that they could be
worked up to revolt.

As we walked up the garden path, we observed some of the furniture
grouped awkwardly round the front door, and had to pick our way through
a barricade of chairs before we reached it, and rang the bell.

It was answered by an elderly maid, with her head tied up in a duster,
and a broom in her hand. She did not look at all pleased to see us, and
said at once: "We can't admit any callers to-day. The downstairs rooms
are being turned out."

Then she recognized Edward, and said more amiably: "Oh, it's you, Mr.
Perry! If you have come district-visiting, I don't so much mind. They're
in bed. We can't have them about when we are busy. Perhaps you and your
friend would like to go up and sit with them for half an hour. Poor
things, they'll be glad of a little company. We can't expect them to
enjoy these turning-out days as much as we do."

She led the way upstairs, and Edward threw an expressive look at me as
we were shown into a large bedroom, where Mr. and Mrs. Slabb were lying
side by side in a large bed, with a breakfast tray on a table by their
side.

"Here is Mr. Perry come to see you, with a friend," said the maid.
"You'll be glad to have a little chat. We're getting on very well
downstairs, but I'm afraid you won't be able to get up to-day, as we
have decided to have all the carpets beaten, and I'm not certain we
shan't have the sweep in to-morrow. But I mustn't stand here talking."

She took the breakfast tray and went out of the room, and the old lady
and gentleman brightened up a good deal as Edward sat down and began to
talk to them.

"We do so 'ate these days in bed," said Mrs. Slabb pathetically, "and
they won't even let us 'ave no books to read, because Augusta likes to
arrange them all in colours on the shelves downstairs, and she won't
'ave 'em took out. It do seem rather 'ard, don't it?"

When I heard of this "turning-out" process taking place regularly twice
a week - once for the downstairs rooms and once for the upstairs - and
that each floor took one whole day, and sometimes more, I thought it
_was_ rather hard. Mr. and Mrs. Slabb kept four maids, all demons for
cleanliness and order. Sunday was the only day on which they could
count, with certainty, on not being kept in bed or confined to one room
downstairs; and even then they were only allowed to sit on certain
chairs, and might not amuse themselves in any way, for the four maids
were strict Sabbatarians.

But in spite of their much-hampered life neither Mr. nor Mrs. Slabb
received with any favour Edward's invitation to them to dismiss the
whole of their household and join the revolt of the masters and
mistresses. Their faces grew longer and longer as he described the
battle already joined.

"They are very good to us on the 'ole," said Mrs. Slabb. "We are more
like friends than mistress and servants - not like some. Sometimes they
even asks us to sit with them in the kitchen on Sunday evenings and sing
'ymns. I shouldn't like to do nothink to offend them. And Augusta's 'ad
trouble, too. Her 'usband took and run off with 'is master's daughter,
when they was butler and cook together in a big 'ouse. No, Mr. Perry, I
shouldn't like to seem ungrateful to them. And, after all, it _is_ nice
to 'ave your 'ouse lookin' as clean as a new pin, always, ain't it? It's
worth givin' up somethink for."

"P'raps they'll let us get up for a little this afternoon and 'ave a
walk in the garden," said Mr. Slabb hopefully. "The carpets was beat
only las' week, and they can't take so long. We'd be careful not to get
in the way."

As Edward said afterwards, what could you do with people like that? They
hugged their chains.

In one of the houses we visited we came across a man who had suffered a
great disappointment. He had seen an advertisement of somebody's
self-digesting food, and had ordered in a large supply of it. But his
idea that it would digest itself if you left it alone long enough had
turned out to be erroneous, and his servants were forcing him to go
through the preliminary process of swallowing it.

He joined Edward's league.

It was in the larger houses that Edward gained the few adherents that
were the meagre result of the morning's visiting. Most of these houses
were so crammed with furniture and foolish and tasteless ornaments that
it was almost impossible to move in them, for their owners were
compelled to go on buying. I noticed that Edward's mention of Mr.
Bolster's glorious breaking of glass had more effect than any of his
arguments. I would mark the eyes of the man - it was nearly always a man
to whom he was speaking - brighten, as he looked furtively round the
room, and fed his imagination on one glorious crowded ten minutes, in
which he would demolish every detested article around him. And indeed
one gentleman, in a vast saloon containing several hundreds of China and
glass ornaments, began then and there. We left him whooping with joy as
he made a determined onslaught on them with a poker.

Edward was frankly disappointed at the result of his campaign. "What is
the good of trying to help them?" he asked. "They will not help
themselves. I sometimes ask myself if most of them really desire to be
poor, and to gain all the benefits of character that come from
poverty."

"Probably not," I replied. "If you were to take away the obligation of
over-stuffing themselves with food and their houses with furniture, and
give them servants they could order about, I should think they would
consider themselves well-off."

"I am afraid you are right," said Edward, with a sigh. "I verily believe
that if we had offered to take money from all the people we have
visited, instead of asking them to bestir themselves to gain their own
freedom, our morning would have been a triumphant success."

"Well, shall we try?" I suggested. "There is still time."

But Edward scoffed at the idea of mere indiscriminate charity. "It would
only be tinkering at the disease," he said. "I want to cure it."




CHAPTER XXIV


Edward now announced his intention of going in to Culbut to call on a
Cabinet Minister of advanced Radical views.

"I have great hopes of him," he said. "The poor hate him, because they
say he is trying to foist property on to them by removing their taxes
one after the other, and piling them on the rich, and that if he goes on
in this way much longer he will wreck the Constitution, and that that is
really what he wishes to do. They say he is on the side of capital
because he has none himself; but, as a matter of fact, he has sprung
from the rich, and has a very tender heart for their sufferings; I have
often heard him say so. If he will put himself at the head of this
movement its success will be assured."

I wished Edward good luck, and when I had seen him safely round the
corner set out to find Mr. Hobson's house.


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