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fortune, and Herman Eppstein might say what he liked about it
afterwards.




CHAPTER XXVII


We sat down to dinner that evening without Edward, but nobody expressed
any anxiety about him, as his philanthropic enterprises often detached
him from the family circle. I said nothing about our visits of the
morning, as I thought that Mr. and Mrs. Perry would be disturbed if they
knew that he was taking part in fanning the agitation amongst the
masters and mistresses of Culbut.

The evening papers were full of it. Mr. and Mrs. Bolster were still in a
state of siege, and it seemed unlikely that they would be dislodged
unless the authorities prevailed on their various tradespeople to stop
their supplies. Considering Mr. Bolster's treatment of them, I should
have thought this would not be difficult, but it was explained to me
that if they did not supply a customer with goods ordered by him, they
not only had those goods left on their hands, but had to receive payment
for them as well. Consequently, they would not consent to starve out Mr.
and Mrs. Bolster unless they were indemnified against gain by the
police; but probably that would be done in a day or two. In the
meantime, Mr. Bolster was having the time of his life, and providing
splendid copy for the papers.

I learnt, from the papers that Mr. Perry had brought home, and from his
reports of what he had heard, that the movement had gathered a good deal
more way than I should have thought possible from my experiences of the
morning. Quite a number of rich people had followed Mr. Bolster's
example, had turned out their servants, shut themselves up in their
houses, and thrown things out of the windows. In some cases the servants
had successfully resisted them, and had turned them out of their own
houses. But it was doubtful whether this was altogether a wise step on
their part, because, in the first place, it was an illegal action, and
gave the masters and mistresses a legitimate grievance, and in the
second it left them free to go about and stir up further trouble.

Mr. Perry shook his head over the whole business. "It is the result," he
said, "of last year's phenomenal harvest. There has been great distress
amongst the rich ever since. Food has dropped in price, and many
families are feeling the pinch of prosperity who have got along very
well so far. Unfortunately, this year seems likely to be an even more
prosperous one than last. I much fear that we are at the commencement of
a prolonged period of social unrest. But it is a bad look-out if it is
going to be met in this way. The people who are taking the law into
their own hands will not really better themselves in the long run, and
they will get many more into trouble who are innocent of all offence."

"I cannot find it in my heart to blame them much," said Mrs. Perry. "No
one who has not gone about amongst them as I have can form any idea of
what they have to suffer. One would have to have a hard heart not to
wish to help them."

"There are many of us who are trying to help them," said Mr. Perry. "If
everybody in the country would live only half as well as we do, there
would be no problem of wealth at all."

"And you have proved," I said boldly, "that one can live in easy
surroundings without losing anything in character, and without depriving
one's self of any legitimate pleasure in life."

But this statement was received well by nobody. Mr. Perry said that I
had probably been deceived by the cheerfulness with which he confronted
the trials of his life, and asked me if I really thought he enjoyed the
luxuries to which he subjected himself. Mrs. Perry said quietly that I
did not know how much their way of living cut them off from their
friends. Miriam said nothing, but looked at me warningly, as if I were
in danger of letting out our secret. Mr. Blother said that I didn't know
what I was talking about. And Lord Arthur said pointedly that when
people stayed in rich houses, and were always trying to sneak their work
from the servants by doing things for themselves, it was only natural
that they should hold silly views on the question.

"This preposterous movement," said Mr. Blother, "ought to have been
nipped in the bud. I think, before we see the end of it, Perry, you will
be rather sorry that you have taken such pains to improve the treatment
of prisoners. Give all these lunatics a year or two's dose of such
luxury as they have never dreamt of, and they will be glad enough to get
back to their own homes, and settle down quietly to do what their
servants tell them."

"If you were to shoot a few of them it would be more to the point," said
Lord Arthur vindictively. "Brutes!"

Edward did not return until late that night, and came into my room to
tell me what had happened. He was so exalted that he could not sleep
without unburdening himself, and what he had to tell was interesting
enough to keep me awake for as long as he liked to stay talking.

The movement was fairly launched. The Cabinet Minister upon whom he had
called had told Edward that he was then and always on the side of the
rich, but there were reasons, which he would not waste valuable time by
recounting, why he could not put himself at their head in the present
revolt. So they had had to do without him, but had been so successful
that his leadership would hardly be missed.

"He will come in all right by and by, when he sees how strong the
agitation is," said Edward, "but not as leader. He has missed _that_
chance, and will be sorry for it. We have done an immense amount of
work already. We have formed a Masters' and Mistresses' Union, and have
already got a surprising number of adherents. To-morrow we expect to
more than double our figures, and before the week is out I believe we
shall be strong enough to resort to peaceful picketing. Some of the
younger men, who have not yet lost their muscle through luxurious
living, will be told off for that purpose, and it will be surprising if
they cannot induce many to join us who are still timidly holding off."

"Are the servants going to take united action?" I asked.

"They look to the Government to help them," said Edward. "It came in a
year ago on the cry of 'Work for All,' and their view is that it is
bound to see that they get work. They are at present merely scandalised
at finding that their victims are determined to throw off the yoke, and,
moreover, are strong enough to do it. They will be more scandalised
still, to-morrow, and very soon there will be so many of them without
situations that they will be forced to take some steps. But in the
meantime we shall organise - organise; and by the time they wake up to
do the same we shall be too strong for them. My dear fellow, you have
come to Culbut at a glorious moment. The vile structure of tyranny is
tottering to its base, and before you are many days older you will see
it topple over and sink into the dust, never more to be revived."

"That will be very interesting," I said. "You don't think that the
police will be strong enough to scotch the movement, before it grows?"

"It has grown beyond that already. They can't even get at Bolster. If
they had been able to arrest him at the start, they might have
intimidated the rest. But there must be some scores of people who have
barricaded themselves into their houses to-night, and thrown all their
surplus goods out of the window. They can't deal with them all; there
aren't enough of them to do it. No; we have already got to the point at
which we can make terms. Very soon we shall be strong enough to dictate
them. Oh, my dear Howard, I can't tell you what I feel about it. I feel
inclined now, at this moment, to throw every article of value in this
room out of the window."

"Oh, I shouldn't do that if I were you," I said, with an eye on the
silver-backed brushes I had acquired at the Universal Stores. "There is
nothing to complain of in this house."

"Not much, perhaps, but there is the principle. Still, our servants here
are our friends. Blother often spanked me as a child, and Arthur and I
played fives together at school. I don't want to make trouble here. I
think, considering what we have done to help the rich, nobody can call
us disloyal for standing outside."

"I am sure your father would much prefer it."

"Has he talked about it at all?" Edward asked a little anxiously. "What
are his views of the movement?"

"I think he feels that it is a little too upsetting altogether. He
showed no disposition to throw his dinner out of the window this
evening."

"That would, perhaps, be too much to expect of him," said Edward.
"Twenty years ago I am sure he would have been the first to do it."

"I am not so sure about that," I said. "He seems to have taken his own
quiet line from the beginning. He has forced himself rigidly into a life
of luxury, and, as far as I have observed, has never flinched from it."

"No," said Edward. "He has led a noble and beautiful life of
self-sacrifice, and it sometimes crosses my mind that it has rewarded
him by making him happier living as a rich man than as a poor man."

"The same idea has occasionally crossed _my_ mind," I said. "I shouldn't
drag him into it, if I were you."

"I think perhaps you are right. I should not like to distract his mind
by trying to persuade him to take a leading part in this great fight for
freedom. Let him go on in his quiet unselfish way. He has really been
fighting for us, and preparing the way for this all his life."

When Edward had told me all that had happened, and a great deal of what
he hoped would happen, he became rather pensive.

"Do you know," he said, "I believe this is the last night I may sleep in
my own peaceful home, which, for all its drawbacks of wealth and ease,
is still very dear to me. It may be weeks, or even years, before I may
come back to it."

"Why do you think that?" I asked.

"To-morrow we demonstrate. We march through the streets of Culbut with
banners. I shall be at the head of the procession, with others, of
course, but at any rate in a prominent position. I shall be a marked
man."

Legitimate pride in the thought of this distinction seemed to be
struggling in Edward's mind with the melancholy that was fast stealing
over him. He paused, and then added with a sigh: "Very likely I shall be
arrested."

"Oh, well," I said, "if you put your head in the lion's mouth you must
be prepared for his biting. I wish to goodness you would take it out
before it is too late - for the sake of your family, if not for your
own."

But Edward would not do that; he said that he must go on with his work,
wherever it led him. The only encouragement I could give him was that
they would probably treat his as a political offence, for which they
would only imprison him in the first division, in which, as he had once
assured me, they would give him plenty of manual labour, and feed him
chiefly on bread and water.

This cheered him somewhat, and he left me to prepare himself for the
morrow.




CHAPTER XXVIII


The parade of the newly formed Masters' and Mistresses' Union duly took
place, and was attended by no immediately unpleasant results as far as
Edward or the other leaders were concerned.

It was quite an orderly demonstration, and its organisers had been
astute enough to disassociate themselves from the anarchical proceedings
of Mr. Bolster, and those who had followed his lead. I discovered that
Edward had given me an over-coloured account of the importance that
these outbreaks had had in the movement, and possibly of his own share
in directing it. He carried a banner in the procession, on which had
been emblazoned, rather hurriedly, the words: "We Want to Make our own
Beds," and marched, surrounded by the mistresses, about halfway down the
line. If the police had made any arrests, I doubt if they would have
picked him out, or even if they would have noticed him.

All would have gone well if Edward had now been content to work on
these safe and constitutional lines. There were stronger heads than his
directing affairs, and with such success that they were able to throw
over those who had been responsible for quickening the unrest into life.
They even encouraged the police to take active steps against those who
had put themselves into a stage of siege. The tradespeople were forced
to stop their supplies, and they were all starved out within a week.
When they got them under lock and key they dealt leniently with them,
for public opinion was largely on their side. But Edward was so furious
with the cynical way in which his fellow progressives had repudiated
these noble-spirited pioneers that there was no holding him, and at last
he achieved that crown of martyrdom for which he had thirsted, and was
arrested, as he was leaving a meeting of the Super-Assessed Employers'
Protest League.

I went to the court to hear him tried, and met one of the policemen who
had come to take my finger-prints. He told me that I had nearly been
arrested too, as I had been seen with Edward in Mr. Bolster's garden
when he had been persuading people to throw things out of their own
windows, in imitation of that hero, but the authorities had refused to
prosecute me. Without actually saying so he gave me to understand that
Lord Potter was at the bottom of it, but that the case against Edward
was so strong that they could not refuse to take it up when once the
information had been laid.

Lord Potter pushed his way into the court as we were speaking together,
and when he saw me glared with fury, but said nothing, not even when I
asked him politely if he would like any more prints of Tom's
photographs.

These had turned out well, and created much amusement in the family
circle. Unknown to Mr. Perry, who might have objected, a print of each
had been sent to Lord Potter, and had probably pleased him less than the
rest of us:

Edward stood up in the dock like a man, acknowledged all that was
alleged against him, glorified in it, and made a speech to the effect
that a day would come.

The magistrate listened to him indulgently, and said he was sorry to see
a young man of his character and parentage in such a position. He would
not be doing his duty if he overlooked the offence, but on account of
Edward's hitherto blameless record, and the purity of his intentions,
would sentence him to a month's imprisonment in the first division. He
hoped that this very lenient punishment, for an offence that was graver
than he seemed to recognise, would encourage him for the future to
confine his efforts for the amelioration of the rich to more legitimate
channels.

I shook Edward by the hand as he was led away to undergo his punishment,
and he told me to tell his family not to grieve for him. Nothing would
daunt his spirit, and, if he survived his punishment, he should come out
of prison more determined to carry on his work than when he went in.

Edward's conviction cast a gloom over us at Magnolia Hall. Mr. Perry was
particularly cast down by it, and did not seem to be able to take any
comfort from the fact that Edward was to be treated as a prisoner of the
first class.

"They are sending them to work underground in the coal mines now," he
said, "and they feed them chiefly on skilly. These were reforms that
were long since overdue, and I have perhaps had more to do with them
than anybody. But, even with those alleviations, imprisonment is a
terrible thing, and it goes to my heart that a son of mine should be
treated in this way, after all I have done. I sometimes wonder whether
it has been worth it, and whether I should not have done better for
those dear to me if I had kept to the life to which I was born."

Mrs. Perry and Miriam both assured him that he would not, and presently
managed to assuage the sharpness of his grief.

"You are one and all of you wonderful supports to a man who has taken up
a thankless and difficult task," he said. "When I see you so cheerfully
ready to bear your share of the burden, I must not shrink from doing my
part. I am still whole-hearted in my sympathy with the rich. Blother,
old friend, bring up a bottle of champagne - two bottles. I must not
falter. I cannot go to prison, but I can and will continue to play my
part in the great work."

Blother brought the champagne. He was much moved, and put all the
trouble down to the malignity of Lord Potter.

"No one would have taken any notice of Edward's foolish little game if
Potter hadn't forced them to," he said. "It is well known that Edward is
a quite harmless crank, and for your sake, Perry, they ought to have
left him alone. But don't take on about it. You won't find yourself any
the less regarded because of this, and when young Edward comes back to
us, we must try to keep him in better order."

Mr. Blother was right in saying that no one thought the worse of Mr.
Perry for the blow that had been dealt him. He received many tokens of
sympathy from both public and private sources, and soon came to regard
Edward's imprisonment with complete equanimity.

"I think this trial must have been sent to me for my good," he said to
me two days later. "I am experiencing a wonderful calm of spirit in
spite of it. I shall use the period of my poor Edward's incarceration as
a breathing space, and shall give up as many of my activities as
possible for the next month. When he returns to us, I think I shall
persuade him to travel for a time, and after that we shall be able to
return to our work together with renewed zest."




CHAPTER XXIX


Two days after Edward's conviction, when we were all getting a little
accustomed to his loss, Miriam and I had spent an hour of the afternoon
in her garden, laying plans for our now fast-approaching elopement, and
had just left it when Mollie came running towards us with the news that
Herman and Amelia had come to tea, and wanted to see us both.

I always felt a little uneasy at the thought of Herman Eppstein, and as
in two days' time he was to sell my holding in Mount Lebanons, I thought
that he might have come to say something to me about them.

I was determined, however, that he should not say it in the
drawing-room, if I could possibly help it. Directly we went in, I began
to talk about Edward, and about the exciting things that were happening
generally, and so infected the rest with my loquacity that they all
became loquacious too, and we made an animated party. Mr. Perry was
there, which was somewhat unusual, but since Edward's departure he had
been about the house a good deal, and seemed to find it restful.

I saw very plainly, though, that Eppstein was dying to bring out some
news, and only awaited a lull in the conversation to do so. I was also
doubtful whether his wife did not know as much about Mount Lebanons as
he did, for her eye was often fixed upon me with a curious expression.
She took her full share in the conversation, but I could see that she
would make no effort to prolong it if it flagged of its own accord. I
tried to make signs to Eppstein, but he either couldn't or wouldn't
understand them, and presently I had to resign myself to some ultimate
revelation.

Just as I thought, and the Eppsteins must also have thought, that this
time had come, there was a diversion. I heard a ring at the front door
bell, and heard Blother and Lord Arthur go across the hall to answer it.
I exerted myself to give the talk another fillip, until the caller, if
there was one, should arrive, and breathed again when the door was
flung open and Mr. Blother's sonorous voice announced a name. But when I
heard that name my spirit sank again.

The visitor was Mr. Hobson, and he came into the room with a wild and
disordered air, which changed to one of menace as, without even greeting
Mrs. Perry, he pointed at me and cried: "Deceiver! You are not what you
pretend to be!"

Few deceivers are; and my conscience was not wholly clear. But I was, at
any rate, unconscious of having done Mr. Hobson any harm, and asked him,
in some surprise, what complaint he had against me.

It was Herman Eppstein who took up the question, and dealt with it with
a resource which I should hardly have expected of him.

"I know all about it, Mr. 'Obson," he said, "and you 'aven't nothing to
grumble at. Mr. 'Oward took over your shares at market price, and did
you a very good turn. If you'd a knowed you could do better by 'anging
on to them, why did you let 'em go?"

Mr. Hobson sank into a chair, and buried his face in his hands, rocking
his body to and fro.

"I might have known it," he said. "Nothing I ever do goes right. If I
had kept those shares, I should have been a poor man once more. And I
_should_ have kept them, if he hadn't come and pretended to be doing me
a good turn."

He lifted up his head, and hissed the word "Viper!" at me, and then
subsided once more into his state of misery.

"What is it all about, Herman? What has happened?" asked Mr. Perry.

I also wanted to know what had happened. I was not feeling at all
comfortable, and no longer wished to prevent Eppstein from telling his
story.

"Mr. 'Oward took over thirty-five thousand Mount Lebanon shares from Mr.
'Obson. It was all in order, and Mr. 'Obson must 'ave been precious glad
to get rid of them. Mr. 'Oward 'olds them now, and I take this
opportunity of congratulating him. Still, I do think, as 'e is almost a
member of this family and you might say, 'e might 'ave let some of the
rest of us into the know, instead of keeping all the good luck to
'imself."

"What has happened?" asked Mr. Perry again.

"Arst 'im. 'E'll tell you," said Eppstein.

"I would rather you did," I said. "You can put it more lucidly."

"Well, they've been rocky for a long time," explained Eppstein, "but
they bulled them up, and never let on that they'd come to the end of
their lode. But this afternoon the news come that there's been no gold
for a long time, and they've been paying interest out of capital. And
that ain't all. There's never been more than five shillings a share paid
on them. They're calling up another five shillings at the end of a
month, and they'll call up the rest at three months' intervals, and then
they'll wind up. 'Oward, I don't bear no malice - you've got the bulge on
all of us this time - and I should like to shake 'ands with you."

I shook hands with him, my brain in a tumult, then with his wife, and
finally with Mr. Perry, who had by this time taken in the full meaning
of Eppstein's announcement, which was a good deal more than I had.

It was Hobson who brought home to me the appalling reality.

"He came to me," he said accusingly, "and offered to take twenty or
thirty thousand pounds from me as a free gift. He led me up to offering
him all my holding in Mount Lebanons. If I had kept them I should have
stood to lose over £140,000 now, and should have been entitled to pay up
another £26,000 in calls - nearly £170,000 in all. And now _he_ has lost
all that, and I say it isn't fair. He has swindled me."

There followed an altercation between him and Eppstein and Mr. Perry.
Mr. Perry rebuked him for the unfounded accusations he had made against
me, and Eppstein told him that _he_ was the swindler if he expected to
lose it both ways. But still, he kept on repeating his reproaches, and
finally I took a bold resolution, and generously offered to let him have
his shares back again.

But neither Eppstein nor Mr. Perry would hear of this, and I was not in
a position to press it. After all, Hobson had already lost the full
value of his shares, and could only stand to gain by the amount he would
have had to pay up on the calls.

When this was pointed out to him, he acknowledged that he had never been
much of a business man, apologised to me for his behaviour, and went
away somewhat comforted, leaving me to the congratulations of the
family.

I accepted them, I hope, modestly. I was almost paralysed by the blow.
Instead of being able to leave Upsidonia with a comfortable fortune, I
should leave it under an appalling burden of debt. I had lost a hundred
and seventy thousand pounds, and could only comfort myself with the
resolution never again as long as I lived to put my finger in the Stock
Exchange pie. But it was cold comfort enough, and I broke away as soon
as I could from the delight of Mr. Perry, who now saw in me a most
eligible son-in-law, and from the ill-concealed jealousy of Mrs.
Eppstein. I took Eppstein into the library with me on the plea of
business. I wanted time to think before I had another talk with Miriam,
who, I could see, had been deeply puzzled by the foregoing conversation,
and whose due it was to have all the explanation I could offer.


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