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CHAPTER XXX


"My dear," I said, when Miriam and I had once more sought the seclusion
of her garden, and she had asked me what it all meant, "you don't
understand English ways yet. It is not to be expected that you should,
with your upbringing. But it is absolutely necessary to have _some_
money in England, when you marry, and I thought I would do Hobson a good
turn by getting what I wanted from him. It is most unfortunate that it
has turned out as it has."

But she could not bring herself to this view. "I am sure that however
you may try to hide it," she said, "you really only did it because you
were sorry for the poor Hobsons. I love and honour you for it, and I am
glad you have been rewarded as you have, though I do hope you won't do
it again, because now you have _me_ to think of, you know, and, after
all, it is very risky."

"Miriam," I said, "I am not going to sail under false colours with you.
I wanted Hobson's money, and I don't know what on earth to do now I
haven't got it."

"Why, do just what we had arranged to do," she said. "I am ready to come
with you, and if it means that we shan't have to live in the rich way we
have talked about, I shall be all the better pleased. It has always been
rather a weight on my spirits, and I am very relieved to think that we
shall be poor after all."

"My dearest of girls, I am afraid you won't like being poor in England."

"I should like it anywhere. And I believe you have only been making up
all that you have told me, so as to test me."

"Test you? What do you mean?"

She took my arm, and laid her fair head on my shoulder. "I think you
must have been a little doubtful about me," she said, "always seeing me
in these unnatural surroundings. You must have thought that I couldn't
be brought up in a place like this all my life without being affected
by it. You wanted to see how much I cared for luxury for its own sake.
Truly, John, I don't want it at all. I only want you."

What was I to say to this touching confession?

What I did say caused her to continue: "The picture you drew of liking
to have things for the sake of having them was rather like a nightmare
to me. Think of a life in which one could never belong to one's self, or
to one another, because one was always bowed down by the weight of
possessions! And as we got older they would accumulate more and more,
until we became stifled by them. Why, one might even come to take no
pleasure in any beautiful things that didn't belong to one. One might
even envy other people what they had. Why should anybody _want_ to
burden themselves in that way?"

"Well, of course," I said, "one _can_ do all right without a lot of
things around one."

"Oh, yes; one would be so much happier. Beatrice Coghill, a friend of
mine, married about a year ago, and they took a little farm in the
country. I went to stay with them there. It was just large enough for
them to do all the work themselves. They live in the open air all day
long, and work hard, and never have a care in the world. She makes her
little home so sweet for her husband, and she told me she was always
thinking about it, and about him when he is out working in the fields.
In the evenings they read, and she plays to him. They don't mind the
long winters because they are always together, and do what they like
doing indoors. And in the summer they have their garden, and their walks
about the quiet fields. Sometimes they take a little holiday, and come
into Culbut to see their friends, and to hear some music, but they are
always glad to get back to their happy little home. They never have any
of the annoyances that we go through here every day of our lives, and
they can look forward to growing old together, and keeping all their
simple happiness to the end."

"My darling," I said. "That is a very pretty picture."

And, indeed, it seemed to me, as painted by Miriam, the prettiest sort
of picture. If I could make her happy, and myself happy with her, by
living a life of bodily toil in the open air, which is the best sort of
toil, and feeding the demands of the brain in the hours that seem set
apart by nature for such pursuits, then a little farm, by all means.

But a farm in England, however little, wants money to buy, money to
stock, and not infrequently money to carry on. It was only in Upsidonia
that one could acquire it, stock it, work it without any previous
experience, and live off it without any anxiety, as well as contribute
three hundred pounds a year towards the income of somebody else, with no
capital behind one. No English Parliament Act that I am aware of holds
out any such prospects to the small holder. It did cross my mind that it
might be worth while considering whether it would not be better to give
up all idea of leaving Upsidonia now or at any time. One could live more
comfortably in that country owing a hundred and seventy thousand pounds
than in any other that I know of. But I was already getting a little
tired of Upsidonia, and was looking forward keenly to taking Miriam away
with me. Besides, there was always that question of the newspaper
placard - "Who is Mr. John Howard?" - hanging over me. If I stayed in
Upsidonia, that would have to be answered sooner or later, and for all I
knew might be ripe for an answer at that very moment. No; curiosity
about me seemed to have died down for the time, but I was not in the
safest of positions; and the sooner I got out of the country, with
Miriam, the better.

"We can't very well live on a farm in England," I said. "There are many
reasons against it. But would you be content to live with me in the
simplest possible kind of way, while I worked for you in the way I have
learnt? I _could_ just manage it, and _I_ don't want anything more than
a tiny little house, with you in it, if _you_ don't."

She said that she didn't - that she loved the idea of being poor with me,
and that if I had really been used to living in luxury, although this
she could hardly believe, then she would show me how little luxury made
for happiness. She removed all my unworthy fears, and made me quite
ashamed of having had designs on Upsidonian pockets. I would leave the
country not a penny richer than when I came into it, except for the few
items I have already mentioned. I felt much more comfortable in mind
when I had taken this decision, and if along with it there went the
prospect of also freeing myself from the immense load of debt I had
contracted, by leaving it behind me, I can hardly be blamed for that
under prevailing conditions.

Miriam and I left her garden that evening in the most complete accord
with one another, both rather excited by our fast-approaching
departure, but both convinced that we should lead a life of such
happiness together as had never yet fallen to the lot of a married
couple.




CHAPTER XXXI


On the last evening but one, before Miriam and I were to go away
together, we were sitting round the tea-table in the verandah. Mrs.
Eppstein was with us, and Mr. Perry had said that he would be home at
five o'clock, but had not yet appeared. But we heard the wheels of the
carriage just as Mr. Blother had brought out the kettle, with the
intimation that we had better begin now; and Mr. Perry came out to us
directly, still wearing his tall hat, which Lord Arthur usually relieved
him of in the hall.

It was evident that he had news for us, and to judge by his face, on
which sat an expression combined of jubilance and modesty, it was good
news.

"Blother, old friend," said Mr. Perry, "don't go. I have something to
tell you."

Then he went up to Mrs. Perry, took her hand in his, kissed it, and
said: "Good evening, my lady."

Mrs. Perry exclaimed at this form of address, and after a short pause,
during which Mr. Perry removed his hat and looked rather sheepish, Mr.
Blother said joyfully: "Ah, I see. At last they have recognised your
value, and have knighted you. Three cheers for Sir Samuel and Lady
Perry!"

Mr. Perry held up his hand, and the cheers died on our lips. "You are on
the right track, Blother," he said, "but you have not gone far enough.
You should have said: 'Three cheers for Lord and Lady Magnolia!' which
is the title I have decided to adopt, subject to her ladyship's
approval. My dear, a great and unexpected honour has been conferred on
me. They have offered me a peerage, contingent on my accepting or
refusing it at once. I have accepted, thinking you would wish it for the
sake of the children, and my patent was handed to me this afternoon."

We all congratulated the new peer heartily, concealing our surprise at
the honour having been conferred on him, and saying that it was only
what ought to have been done long ago.

When Mr. Blother had left us to carry the news into the servants'
quarters, Mr. Perry, or rather Lord Magnolia, told us all about it.

"It is the reward of my life-long service in the cause of the
downtrodden," he said, "and dear Edward will be gratified to know that
the punishment so harshly inflicted upon him has had something to do
with it. I was given to understand that the Government much regrets the
necessity of having had to prosecute him, and, as a good deal of feeling
has been aroused against them in consequence of that action, they hoped
that this honour, conferred upon me so promptly, might remove some of
that feeling, as showing that, whatever may be thought of them, they are
really on our side. Therefore, in one way, I may be said to be doing as
much for them as they are doing for me, which made it, perhaps, easier
to accept the unlooked-for honour. I did not do so without some demur. I
said that I should not consent to be a mere puppet peer,[34] and they
assured me that nothing of the sort was intended. They also assured me
in the handsomest way that the offer of a peerage to me had long been
under consideration, and the only difficulty about it had been that my
way of living might bring ridicule on the nobility generally. I told
them at once that my work was far too dear to me to be given up, and
that if the stipulation was that I should leave my friends amongst the
rich, and go back to live amongst the poor, I could not consent to it.
They said that no such stipulation would be made, and that removed my
last objection."

What his other objections had been, Lord Magnolia did not tell us. It
was obvious that he had not had the least idea of such an honour ever
being conferred on him, and was quite agreeably stirred by it.

"I only wish that dear Edward were here to share our gratification," he
said, "but it will not be long now before we have him with us again. My
dear, I think you might write him a note to tell him what has happened.
To-morrow will be his day for receiving letters, and do not forget to
address him as the Honourable Edward Perry."

"I must go home at once and tell Herman," said Mrs. Eppstein. "It was a
step up for him to marry me, but he little thought that he would be
marrying into the peerage."

"Shall I be Lady Mollie, like Susan and Cynthia?" enquired Lord
Magnolia's younger daughter.

"You will be the Honourable Mollie, my love," replied that nobleman.
"You are all now the Honourable. But you must not think too much of
that. These distinctions are nothing in themselves, and you must not
forget that it is worth that counts, and that titles are usually given
as a reward to those who are the last to desire them for themselves. It
is so in this case. Nothing will be changed here, and we shall still go
on in our quiet way, trying to live for our fellow creatures, continuing
to share in their joys and in their sorrows, and living like the richest
and humblest of them."

At this moment, all the household, led by Mr. Blother and Mrs. Lemon,
came filing out on to the verandah, to congratulate their master on the
honour that had been conferred upon him.

Lord Magnolia received their felicitations with heartfelt gratitude, and
then Mr. Blother made a little speech.

"It is quite a new situation," he said, "for a domestic staff to find
themselves in the service of a peer of the realm, and it is a matter of
congratulation to one and all of us that the already unusual
circumstances under which we have all lived together here - some of us
for a number of years - have been so happy that no awkwardness has been
felt anywhere. Perhaps we, in the servants' hall, can take some of the
credit for that, for I think we can all say that we have borne some of
the burdens of wealth, and have not let them fall entirely upon the
shoulders of the excellent master and mistress with whom we have lived
in such friendly relations. If any of us have ever seemed to press too
hardly upon the younger members of the family, it has only been because
we did not wish them to succumb to the temptations of wealth, as they
might have done if they had been allowed to forget that servants are
usually in a far superior position to those whom they serve. For it
would never do for them to grow up thinking that life amongst the rich
was so pleasant as I think we servants may pride ourselves on having
made it at Magnolia Hall.

"However, I need say no more about that. What I _am_ going to say, on
behalf of myself and all my colleagues, is that we wish to mark this
happy occasion by an act of self-sacrifice. However my old friend, Lord
Magnolia, may wish to conduct his life in the future, we feel that for
this evening, at least, we should not like to see him and her ladyship
occupying an inferior situation to our own. We propose that the
household staff should take their places at the dinner-table, and be
waited upon by Lord Magnolia and his family, who will also cook the
dinner, and wash up afterwards."

It would be impossible to describe the emotion with which Lord Magnolia
met this touching offer of self-surrender, so handsomely acquiesced in
by the whole company before him. He said a great many things in reply,
but what he said most insistently, and repeated so that it could not
possibly be misunderstood, was that nothing would induce him to accept
it. Nothing was to be changed, he said. It would take away all his
gratification in the honour that had been done to him, if it was to be
thought that it would for a moment put him on the level of those whom he
had always been glad to call his friends. Let them keep their proud
position, and let those who thought and acted with him keep their humble
one. If they would do him that honour, let them all come in after dinner
and drink a glass of wine - such of them as were not teetotallers - with
him and his family. More than that he could not accept from them, if
they begged him on their bended knees.

So it was settled. Lord Magnolia drank several glasses of wine that
evening, and went up to bed in as happy a frame of mind as that of any
peer in Upsidonia.

FOOTNOTES:

[34] In one sense, all the members of the Upsidonian Upper House were
puppet peers. Their chamber was the oldest building in Culbut, and one
of which the inhabitants of that city were justly proud. But it lacked
accommodation. It had been built at a time when there were only twelve
peers in the whole of Upsidonia, and as it had been reckoned that never
more than half of them would be present at a debate, it had been
designed to hold only six people.

But, according to the system on which the Upper House worked, this was
ample. All the business was done by five peers - the Lord Chancellor, and
two representing each party. As there were no facilities for reporting
debates, they held none. In fact, speeches had reduced themselves in the
course of years to three formulæ. These were: (1) "Let it go"; (2) "I
think not"; and (3) "Try again."

Two peers made a quorum, and as a matter of convenience business was
usually left to the Lord Chancellor and one peer, who represented the
Government when one side was in office, and the Opposition when the
other side was in office.

But it must not be supposed that this ancient House had been denuded of
all its powers. Far from it. Parliamentary business was much less
contentious than with us, and this simple procedure was found to suffice
for the bills of most sessions. It worked perhaps better for one party
than the other, but as most of the peers belonged to the larger party it
was considered only fair that it should do so.

But when a really controversial measure was sent up to the House of
Lords, there was a very different state of affairs. Then all the peers
in the country were entitled to vote, and the full Committee sat for a
week, while the papers were coming in.

It was usually a struggle between the "Let it go's," and the "I think
nots"; but the "Try agains" were sometimes in the majority, and the Bill
was sent down to the Lower House for amendment. The peers had no
machinery for amending it themselves, and no direct means of indicating
the amendments they wished made. With the common-sense that was a
feature of so many Upsidonian institutions, it was taken for granted
that the House of Commons would know perfectly well what was expected of
them, and would put it into their Bill if they wanted it passed when it
was sent up a second time.

The great body of peers - men for the most part who had other things to
think of - seldom made any objection to announcing which way they
intended to vote. If they didn't, they were liable to be constantly
worried by people coming to them to find out, when they wanted to get on
with their work.

If the Government was particularly annoyed at the rejection of a Bill,
they would send it up again, and, to avoid any further fuss, the peers
would usually fall back upon a fourth formula, which provided for this
contingency. This was: "Settle it for yourselves"; and it meant that the
Bill would go to the House of Lords Committee again in the usual way,
and would be passed.

The system worked well on the whole, and it had never happened that a
Bill had gone more than three times to the whole body of peers. They
always broke down on the third canvass, even if it was on a question
that affected themselves adversely. They could not stand the nuisance of
being continually interrupted and annoyed; and many of them turned
against their own party for the sake of getting it all over, and being
allowed to settle down quietly again.




CHAPTER XXXII


My last day in Upsidonia had arrived, and the time was fast approaching
when I was about to rob that country of its brightest jewel. Towards the
evening, feeling restless, I set out for a walk. Miriam was with her
mother, and as there was no one else whose company I desired at that
time I went alone.

I thought I might as well see exactly how long it would take to walk to
the other side of Culbut so as to run no risk of meeting many people
when I should take the same road with Miriam, very early the next
morning.

When I got into the busier part of Culbut, I bought an evening paper,
and running my eye idly over its columns, came upon one headed: "The
Truth about John Howard at Last. Arrest Shortly Expected. New Peer
Victimised."

I took refuge upon the top of a tram-car, and read the column through.
It stated that the Master of McGillicuddy, the son of the respected
Highland Baron of that ilk, had been brought to the office of the paper
by another highly respected nobleman - in whom I had no difficulty in
recognising Lord Potter - and had authorised them to announce, for the
protection of all honest people, that there was a dangerous criminal in
their midst, whom they would do well to beware of.

A prisoner undergoing a term of penal servitude for representing himself
as a professor of dead languages, and practising a long series of cruel
frauds on young students, many of whom had lost places in the monthly
examinations owing to his empirical methods of tuition, had escaped from
gaol some weeks before. He was known to have gone south, no doubt with
the idea of practising the same frauds on the less sophisticated
scholars of Upsidonia. There was no doubt whatever that the person
already arrested on his arrival in Culbut for a gross insult to a highly
respected personage was this escaped prisoner, masquerading under
another name. The police, who had hitherto failed to trace the escaped
convict, had been notified, and, by the time these words were in print,
would no doubt have got him once more safely under lock and key.

Unless the paper was mistaken in this last statement, I had probably
passed the police on my way into Culbut, and they were now at Magnolia
Hall awaiting my return. According to the descriptions given by the
Master of McGillicuddy of the escaped prisoner, he might have been my
twin brother dressed up in my own clothes.

I need not reproduce the scorn with which the journal, which was that
chiefly read by the members of the dirty set, expressed itself about the
newly created peer, who had been taken in by this unscrupulous criminal,
and had even allowed him to become engaged to his daughter. It pained me
greatly, and would certainly pain Lord Magnolia no less when he should
come to read it.

The blow was a stunning one. If there was such a criminal at large as
had been described by the Master of McGillicuddy, which I had no reason
to doubt, it would be very difficult to persuade the police that I was
not that criminal. Indeed, how could I expect to persuade them of
anything! I could give no account of myself that would satisfy them that
they were arresting an innocent person, and even if the Highland police
eventually disclaimed me, I knew it would take some time to get them to
Culbut, and in the meantime I should certainly be kept in custody. It
was quite certain that the moment I returned to Magnolia Hall I should
be arrested, even if I got so far, and at dawn the next morning, when
Miriam and I ought to have been starting on the happiest of journeys
together, I should be most comfortably housed in prison.

The more I thought of it, the more angry I became at this most unkind
stroke of fate, and the more angry with the preposterous Lord Potter,
who had undoubtedly brought it upon me. I could not get at Miriam to
tell her to start alone and join me somewhere on the road. I could do
nothing. I was robbed of all I had hoped for as it seemed just within my
grasp.

I walked on and on, trying to form some plan. I walked right through
Culbut, with my eyes mostly on the ground.

By and by, something caused me to lift them, and I found myself passing
a little wood, which, with a start of surprise, I recognised as the one
from which I had made my first entry into Culbut.

It was, as Edward had said, and as was now quite plain to me, part of
the grounds of a large institution, and looked, from this side, quite
unlike what I had taken it to be when I had entered it from the other.

Still, in spite of Edward's description of the kind of country that lay
beyond, I had certainly entered this wood from the cave, in the way I
have described, and I had not the smallest doubt but what I could return
by the same way.

I thought that I might as well satisfy myself of the exact whereabouts
of the cave, so that I should be able to lead Miriam directly to it, if
I should succeed in getting her away. The only plan that seemed to me
possible was to keep away from Magnolia Hall until nightfall, and then
try in some way to communicate with her, and boldly carry her off under
cover of darkness. Very likely the house would be watched, and we might
be followed, even if we escaped. I did not want to run any risk by
groping about in the wood, when possibly time would be of value.

I found the trees and the bushes without the least difficulty, just as I
remembered them, and pushed through them to the dark aperture of the
cave.

I went in a short distance, not meaning to go very far, but just to
satisfy myself that the way was clear.

I am sure that I had not penetrated more than fifty yards, for the light
still held faintly, when suddenly the same roar was in my ears as had
frightened the man who had entered the cave with me from the other end.
I was aware of something odd in my head, which may have been a heavy
blow, although it did not feel like one.

Then I lost consciousness completely.

* * * * *

I came to, to find myself lying in bed, in a little room lit by a
lattice window, through which was a view of rolling purple moor. I felt
very weak, and when I tried to move, found that my body was heavily
bandaged and my head swathed. The movement caused a sharp pain to shoot
through me, and again I lost consciousness.

This was nearly six weeks ago. I am now sitting in a little slip of a


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