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attics for people like yourself who come to see us; but I thought that
as you wanted to live for a time as the rich do, you would put up with
this. We can always move you."

I said that certainly under the circumstances I preferred this room to
an attic. It had a wide view of the largest slope of lawn and a
well-wooded landscape beyond. There was a big bed in it, a
well-furnished writing-table, and an easy chair by the window, through
which the open flowers of the magnolia outside wafted a sweet perfume.

"Well then, I will go and change my clothes," said Edward. "Lord Arthur
will show you the bathroom, and where my room is, if you want to come in
to me at any time."

He went out, and I took a closer look at the footman, who seemed to have
been indicated as Lord Arthur.

He was a handsome, rather disdainful-looking young man, and when Edward
had left the room he said familiarly: "Then you're one of us, eh? Why do
you want to rig yourself out in this sort of kit! Which will you wear? I
should recommend the white flannel, if you want to do the thing
thoroughly."

"The white flannel will do very well," I said. "I am studying social
conditions, and, as you say, want to do it thoroughly."

"Well, I think you're rather a fool," he said. "You can see all you want
of the rich by taking service with them as I have done. You needn't live
like them."

"I rather like making myself comfortable," I said tentatively.

His lip curled. "Is your mind comfortable when your body is
comfortable?" he asked.

"It is more likely to be so," I replied.

"There are a good many people with low tastes in the world," he said,
"but they don't generally acknowledge them in that unblushing way. If
you want a life of comfort because you like it, why don't you say so?
You'll find plenty of swabs[10] in your own class to join in with, who
don't pretend to be social students."

"I was only chaffing," I said. "Have you got a good place here?"

"Well, it's rather a bore to have to mix socially with your employers,
although the Perrys are very nice people really, and if it weren't for
all this philanthropic nonsense as good as anybody. Still, you can't
treat them exactly as you would other rich people, and we often have to
do ourselves a good deal better than we want to in the servants' hall,
simply because we can't foist all the best food on to them and see that
they get through it themselves. We're really helping them all the time
in their silly experiment, and although the between maid and the head
coachman and one or two more are reformers, most of us aren't, and
simply want to be let alone to live a hard life, as we should anywhere
else."

"Yes, I see. I suppose most of you are of good family and that sort of
thing?"

"One of the undergardeners is a baronet, but he's got more hard work to
do than you can get indoors. I'm the only other fellow with a title, but
I was never very strong. All my brothers are navvies, and it's hard luck
that I was pilled in my medical examination. Oh, yes, we're a pretty
good lot on the whole. Still, domestic service isn't what it used to be.
It is so crowded as a profession that it's difficult to get a place
where there's enough work to do. The women are better off, because they
can go out as generals. But for men it is getting more and more
difficult, owing to the spread of education amongst the lower classes.
The masters and mistresses are often so independent that if you don't
let them live as poorly as you do yourselves they'll just give you
notice. Well, I think that's all. The bathroom is just opposite. I'll go
and turn on the water."

"Thanks," I said. "Quite cold, please."

An indulgent smile illumined Lord Arthur's aristocratic features. "It's
plain that you've never learnt how to treat servants," he said. "If you
weren't a gentleman, I should turn you on a stewing hot one for that,
and see that you got into it."




CHAPTER VIII


The luncheon to which we presently sat down was everything that it
should have been from my point of view. It is true that Mrs. Perry had
thoughtfully provided some large hunks of bread and cold bacon, with
some beer in a tin can, for my especial benefit; but I made it quite
clear that I wanted no difference made on my account. My request to be
treated as one of themselves made an excellent impression on all of them
except Tom, who made a frugal meal of bread and cheese, and went off to
school before we were halfway through. I thought it rather remarkable
that a boy of his age should be able to refuse all the delicacies
provided, apparently without flinching, but there was no mistaking his
look of pained disgust when I refused the cold bacon.[11]

I noticed that all the rest of the family ate sparingly, except Mr.
Perry, who asked for second supplies of omelette, asparagus, and
strawberries, on the ground that he must do his duty. They left a good
deal on their plates, while making it look as little as possible, and
for every fruit that was not quite perfect they rejected at least three,
saying that they were bad. This was done with an eye on the servants,
who took their share in the conversation, and whose business it appeared
to be to see that everyone ate and drank as much as possible. I was
hungry, and did what I could to oblige them. But I could see that I was
not really pleasing them, for both butler and footman treated my
handsome appetite as an indelicate thing, while doing all they could to
satisfy it.

Towards the end of luncheon, the butler, whose name was Blother, said to
Mrs. Perry: "Duff has sent in to say that the carriage horses want
exercise, and you had better pay a good long round of calls this
afternoon."

Mrs. Perry's face fell. "I rather wanted to stay at home this
afternoon," she said. "It is very hot, and I thought I would read a book
in the garden. Can't Mr. Duff have the horses exercised by one of the
grooms this afternoon?"

"I'm afraid not, Mrs. Perry," said Blother. "He says he gave you an
afternoon off yesterday, and two last week. It is not fair to refuse him
employment. He is in rather an excited state about it. I should go if I
were you."

"I suppose I must," she said with a sigh. "What are you going to do,
Samuel?"

"I thought of having a little nap," said Mr. Perry piously. "One must
not let one's little luxuries drop, or one loses sympathy with the rich.
At half-past three I have a committee meeting of the Society for the
Belief of Company Promoters, and at five o'clock I am to introduce a
deputation of brewers[12] to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I shall
go to the club after that for an hour, and I thought, perhaps, Mr.
Howard would like to join me there."

I said I should like to do so, and it was settled that I should be
driven into Culbut to join Mr. Perry at half-past five.

"That will make three carriages then, Blother," said Mr. Perry. "There
needn't be any grumbling in the stables this afternoon, at any rate."

Mrs. Perry retired to dress for her afternoon's occupation, Mr. Perry
sought the seclusion of the library, and Mollie went off to her
governess. This left Edward and Miss Miriam, and I rather hoped that
Edward might have some work to do.

My hopes were realised. He had a strenuous programme marked out. He was
to instruct a class of millionaires' sons in the principles of breeding
and running race-horses for loss, to audit the accounts of the
Orchid-Growers' Defence Association, and to prepare a lecture he had
undertaken to deliver at a meeting of the Young Poker-Players' Mutual
Improvement Society on "A Good Prose Style." This would take him all the
afternoon, and I begged him earnestly not to vary his plans on my
account.

He seemed obviously relieved. "If I had known you would be here," he
said, "I should not have set myself so much to do; but you will find
plenty of improving books in the library, and some uncomfortable chairs,
and I am sure that Miriam will talk to you if you wish to converse, or
play lawn-tennis with you if you would like to do that."

Miriam then offered, with a charming frankness, to make herself
responsible for my entertainment for the afternoon, and I was quite
pleased to have it so.[13]

"Would you like to play tennis?" she asked me, "or shall we talk on the
verandah? If you really want to suit yourself to your surroundings you
can smoke."

"We might sit on the verandah for a bit," I said, "and I will certainly
smoke. After that I should like to see the garden, if you will show me
round. And then I shall be quite ready for lawn-tennis."

For some reason, which I did not understand, she blushed when I asked
her to show me the garden, and turned her head away; but she only said:
"Come along, then," and led the way on to the shady verandah, from the
roof of which hung long trusses of wistaria, and from which the
beautiful garden could be seen spread in front of us with all its colour
and cool verdure.

FOOTNOTES:

[9] Buff with canary facings.

[10] Upsidonian word of unknown derivation, signifying a degraded being;
one who had lost caste.

[11] I learnt afterwards that it was a matter of "form" and that those
amongst Tom's schoolfellows who betrayed a liking for good things were
designated "Guts."

[12] A Bill was then before Parliament which would have burdened brewers
in perpetuity with the licences of the public-houses owned by them. Mr.
Perry regarded this proposal as an intolerable oppression of a deserving
body of men. The Bill was afterwards amended, and the brewers relieved
of a great anxiety.

[13] I had already taken a fancy to her. See page 66.




CHAPTER IX


There were basket chairs on the verandah, and I took the most
comfortable of them, after Miriam had chosen hers, which I should have
said was the least comfortable of all.

"This is very delightful," I said. "After all, there are some
compensations in being rich."

I cast a glance at her as I said this. In her pretty cool white dress,
which fitted her beautifully, and with her abundant fair hair, carefully
and becomingly braided, she looked just like any other girl, the
daughter of well-to-do parents, who had been brought up to a life of
wealth and ease. For my part I like to see young girls having a good
time, and am not averse to sharing it with them. I was inclined to
wonder how far this very charming young girl was permitted to enjoy
naturally the good things provided for her, and how far she was affected
by the economic curiosities that surrounded her.

She did not reply directly to my endeavours to draw her out. "It is very
kind of you to make the best of us," she said a little coldly.

"Please don't be offended at my ignorance of the way things go here," I
said. "I have lived all my life in different surroundings, and it is all
quite new to me."

This speech did nothing to alter her slight air of coolness. "We don't
live in this way for fun," she said; and I made haste to explain
further.

"I don't mean that at all," I said. "I mean that the whole life of
Upsidonia is new to me, poor as well as rich. In my country things are
different altogether."

"How do you mean - in your country?" she asked with a puzzled air.

"I come from England," I said. "It is very much like Upsidonia in some
ways; in others it is quite different."

She received my information in the same way as Edward had done.
"England!" she repeated. "Where is that? I thought I was rather good at
geography; I took a prize in it at school. But I have never heard of
England. What direction is it in, and how did you come here?"

"I walked over the moors," I said. "I have been walking for some days. I
found myself yesterday evening in a wood just the other side of Culbut."

A light seemed to break in on her. "Oh, I see!" she exclaimed. "You came
over the hills. You are a Highlander! That is very interesting. No
wonder you look down a little on us Culbutians! But what made you leave
that paradise to come here? And why didn't you tell us before that you
were a Highlander? I am sure my father and mother would have been very
flattered."

She seemed quite excited, and regarded me with curiosity not unmixed
with reverence.[14]

"Well, I have never called myself a Highlander, exactly," I said. "In
England we call the Scotch Highlanders."

"England! Scotch!" she repeated. "How extraordinary it is! I must get
you to show it to me on a map."

"Yes, I should like to see a map," I said. "You see, everything is very
different with us."

"Oh, I know it is. You are the most fortunate people in the world. All
this must seem very extraordinary to you, and I'm afraid rather painful.
I wonder you take it all as naturally as you do. I suppose you have
never seen a house like this before?"

"It is certainly a very charming house," I said, "but it is not
altogether unlike the one I was brought up in near London."

Her air of bewilderment returned. "London!" she said. "I have never
heard of any of the places you mention. Is England a district?"

"Yes; a pretty large one."

"There are many districts in the Highlands that we know very little of,
but I had no idea that there were houses like this anywhere. I thought
you all lived so very simply, and were spared all the difficulties that
our rich have to undergo."

"In some parts of the Highlands that may be so. But in England it is
different. People who lived in a house like this would be considered
very fortunate, and they would certainly prefer it to a little house in
a street."

"How very extraordinary!" she said again. "But wouldn't they be looked
down upon?"

"Not at all. The people who live in the little houses are apt to be
looked down upon."

"But don't the upper classes all live in little houses?"

"No, they live mostly in the bigger ones, some of them in much bigger
ones than this; and the bigger they are the better they like them."

She became more and more interested. "I never heard anything like that
before," she said. "I should think it must be rather nice, if all of
them do it. Does the dirty set live in big houses? Oh, but I forgot, you
don't have a dirty set in the Highlands."

"We do in England," I said. "But we don't kow-tow to them as people seem
to do here. If Lord Potter were to show his face there he would be
liable to be locked up. We consider dirt a disgrace."

"Oh, so do we," she said hastily. "My aunt, Lady Blueberry, who is
_really_ a great lady, won't have anything to do with the dirty set. My
Uncle Blueberry says that the old tradition of Upsidonia was not even
extreme poverty, but only just so much as to escape the horrible burdens
of wealth."

"Is your uncle - - ?"

"He is the Earl of Blueberry. He is a postman."

"Well, in England he would not be likely to be that. At least, he might
be Postmaster-General. Our nobility is for the most part rich, and they
live in the finest houses, although some of them are obliged to work for
their living."

"Obliged!" she echoed. "Don't they all exercise their right to work?"

"It is a right that has somewhat fallen into abeyance, but some of them
do. Others prefer to amuse themselves. In fact, to make a clean breast
of it, we all like to have plenty of money in England, so that we can
live in nice houses, and go about and enjoy ourselves, and wear nice
clothes, and eat and drink nice things."

A shade of disgust crossed her face. "How very different it all is to
what I have been told!" she said. "But I am glad you told me about the
eating and drinking. I thought you did what you did at lunch to please
Mrs. Lemon, our cook."

I was a trifle disturbed at this speech. "Well, of course, that was
partly the reason," I said. "And you mustn't run away with the idea that
we encourage greediness. But surely, now, you must like living in a
pretty house like this, with this lovely garden, better than being
cooped up in a street!"

"Perhaps, if all one's friends did it," she said thoughtfully. "Don't
your upper classes live in towns at all? Oh, but I forgot, there are no
towns in the Highlands."

"There are in England. There is London. It is rather a big town. Our
upper classes live there part of the year, if they can afford it. Some
of them have country houses and town houses as well."

"At what time of the year do they go to their town houses?"

"Late spring and early summer are the times when things are at their
gayest."

"But that is when the country is at its loveliest. What do they do with
their country houses?"

"They shut them up - leave a few servants in them."

"Ah! I suppose they have to consider their servants. Otherwise it seems
absurd for people who like the country to leave it when it is at its
best."

"There are very pretty parks in London."

"So there are here. So we are not so very different in our tastes, you
see."

"Tell me truthfully," I said, leaving this point; "don't you like
wearing pretty clothes?"

She blushed, and laughed. "Perhaps I should if all my friends did," she
said, but added a little primly: "You can be prettily dressed when you
are poor, and you don't have to change your clothes two or three times a
day to please your maid."

"You wouldn't have to please your maid in England," I said. "She would
have to please you, and if she didn't you would get rid of her and have
another one."

She looked at me incredulously. "That is the most extraordinary thing
you have told me yet," she said. "Servants here are the greatest
nuisance in the world. They won't let you do a thing for yourself if
they can possibly stop you, and you can't call your life your own. How
I envy my cousins sometimes, who can go where they like and do what they
like without for ever being obliged to think of finding work for a lot
of disagreeable superior servants!"

"But can't you do what you like?" I asked. "Aren't you and I going to do
what we like this afternoon? Your servants haven't bothered us much so
far."

"Our servants are very kind to us. Of course it is not as though we
really belonged to the rich. But I must say that I am rather surprised
at their having left us alone for so long."

As if in answer to her, the butler, Mr. Blother, and the footman, Lord
Arthur, came out of the house at that moment, carrying a tray on which
was a large jug of iced cup of some sort, and a dish of strawberries and
cream.

"Oh, Mr. Blother!" exclaimed Miriam. "You can't be so cruel as to expect
us to eat and drink any more now!"

"My dear Miriam," said Mr. Blother, in a fatherly manner, "you must eat
a few strawberries, or what is the good of the gardener picking them? I
will let you off the hock cup until you have had a set or two; but I
thought that both you and Mr. Howard would be able to drink it after you
had got hot. It is quite time you began to play. Arthur and I are ready
to field the balls now, and we want some exercise out of doors badly."

He and the footman bustled away to put up the net, and I went upstairs
to put on a pair of tennis shoes. When I came down again the net was up
and the racquets and balls were ready for us.

Lord Arthur looked at me with some displeasure. "I don't know why you
couldn't have asked me to fetch your shoes," he said. "You and I will
fall out if you bring your airs of poverty and independence here."

"I'll give you some work to do, if that is what you want," I said. "I'm
not very good at this game, and I am a hard and rather wild hitter."

But it was Mr. Blother who fielded the balls behind Miriam, and it
pleased me to see him running about here and there in his swallowtail
coat, and getting into a terrible state of perspiration and
breathlessness.

When we had played a couple of sets it was Mr. Blother who stopped us.

"I think you have done enough for the present," he said, wiping his
heated brow. "Thank you very much, Mr. Howard, for playing so badly. I
have seldom enjoyed a game more. Now I think you can both manage to
polish off some of that hock cup."

I was quite ready to do so. I rather spoilt the good impression I had
made on Mr. Blother by asking if he did not feel inclined for a drink
himself. He withered me with his eye, and stalked off indoors, followed
by the indignant Lord Arthur, who said to me as he passed:

"You seem to have brought very queer ideas of behaviour with you,
wherever you have come from."

Miriam too looked at me doubtfully when we were once more left alone
together. "I know you only meant it for fun," she said, "but Mr. Blother
is so kind and good that it is a shame to tease him."

"But don't you think he would like a drink?" I asked. "You saw how
awfully hot he was."

"Of course he would like it," she said. "That is why I think it is too
bad to tease him."

I enjoyed my own drink a good deal. Mr. Blother was a king of
cup-makers.

Miriam sipped only half a glass, and I was careful not to press her to
drink any more. I was quite capable of emptying the rest of the jug
myself, and poured out a second glass, with the remark that I had not
meant to offend Mr. Blother, and I would now try to make it up to him.

This pleased her, and she said, with her delightful frank and friendly
smile: "You are really awfully good, and I am sure the servants will
adore you. We do our best to treat them well, but I am afraid we do
grumble a lot, and you seem to do things to please them quite
naturally."

"We are brought up to be unselfish in England," I said modestly, and
filled a third glass, emptying the jug.

"Are you ready to play again?" Miriam asked. "We might get two of the
maids to field the balls. They would be pleased if we were to ask them."

"I have had a good deal of exercise lately," I said, "and it is very
hot. What I should really like to do would be to sit here a little
longer, and then have a wander round the garden. I am very fond of
gardens, and I should like to see this one, which looks lovely."

Again, to my great surprise, Miriam blushed deeply. She rose from her
chair, and said, looking away from me: "I am going in now. Mollie will
be out in a minute, and she will take you round the garden if you want
to see it."

Then she went indoors, leaving me to wonder what on earth I had said to
cause her such confusion.

FOOTNOTES:

[14] The Highlanders were much looked up to by dwellers in other parts
of Upsidonia. They were a thrifty hard-living race of fine physique, who
had kept very much to themselves, owing largely to the inaccessibility
of the country they inhabited; they seldom visited any other part of
Upsidonia, or welcomed visitors to their own. They had no rich among
them, and seemed to have solved all the economic problems that were so
disturbing in and around Culbut, for instance. There were no towns in
the Highlands; everybody lived on the land, and as the soil was very
poor they had a hard struggle for existence, which brought out the best
that was in them. Luxury was absolutely unknown amongst them, but
learning flourished. Living so far north, they had long dark winters,
which they spent in close study. Their chief form of relaxation was the
holding of competitive examinations, for which they all entered. Those
who came out first were examiners next time.




CHAPTER X


I was not left alone long. Mollie came out of the house, and greeted me
in friendly childish fashion.

"Lessons over for the day," she said, throwing herself into a chair. "I
suppose you will be awfully shocked if I say that I am glad of it."

She shook her thick mass of curls at me, with a challenging laugh.

"I am not shocked in the least," I said. "I think lessons on a hot
afternoon must be a great bore for little girls."

"What an awful thing to say! I am afraid you are a very wicked man, but,
of course, you don't mean it. Miriam is rather tired of talking to you,
and asked me to come and take her place. What shall we do?"

I was rather disturbed at the information so frankly delivered, and said
boldly: "I want to see the garden. Will you take me round?"

The request, which had driven Miriam away, seemed to make no
disagreeable impression on Mollie. She jumped up at once and said: "Yes,
come along; and after that we will play tennis, unless you're too tired.
Tom won't play with me,[15] and I hardly ever get a game."

We went round the garden, which was beautifully laid out and beautifully
kept. We came across three or four gardeners, all toiling as if for
their lives, and one of them, I supposed, was the baronet of whom Lord
Arthur had told me, although none of them looked in the least like a
baronet.

There was a lovely rose-garden, in a corner by itself, and as roses
were rather a hobby of mine I examined each of the beds with some care.


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