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himself, with a sort of determined carelessness.

Somewhat to my surprise, Mr. Thompson gripped me affectionately by the
arm just above the elbow, and led me out of the room. "Very pleased to
make your acquaintance, old fellow," he said heartily. "You and I must
get to know each other better. Some night, when you've got nothing
better to do, you must come round to my digs and have a yarn, and a cup
of coffee. Now, what have you been doing with yourself all day?"

I was led into the big room again, and deposited in a chair, from which
I could see Mr. Perry slumbering by the window in the evening sunlight,
while the curate took one next to me, in which he sat upright, with his
legs crossed, and his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat.

"After all," he said, looking at me with manly but somewhat embarrassing
tenderness, "smoking and drinking and playing cards aren't everything in
the world, are they! You feel that yourself, I know. It's so jolly to
feel you've done something with your day - something to raise a pal."

I muttered something to the effect that it _was_ rather jolly; but he
did not seem to want me particularly to help in the conversation.

"Do you take any interest in Coleoptera?" he asked, and proceeded,
clasping his hands and cracking their joints: "Coleoptera is larks. A
few fellows come round to me every Tuesday evening, and we teach each
other something about the beggars. How would you like to join us
to-night?"

"I don't know where it is," I said.

He gave me the address of his rooms, with a half-concealed air of
eagerness.

"I mean I don't know where Coleoptera is," I said. "I never could tackle
geography."

"Oh, I see!" he said, not turning a hair, for which I respected him.
"No, you've got it wrong, old chap. Coleoptera is beetles, you know. The
fact is that I wanted to get up some subject that would give fellows
like you a taste for science. There's a good deal to be lost over it,
you know. Have you ever heard of Professor Gregory? He began just like
that, reading with a parson fellow who took an interest in him - I mean,
took an interest in science. Gregory was the son of a ground landlord,
you know, and if _he_ could raise himself to what he is now, anybody
could. Why don't you try it, old chap? I'm sure you look intelligent
enough."

I looked as modest as possible under the circumstances, and he seemed to
regard me more closely. "What's your line?" he asked. "What are you
doing to scare off the oof-bird?"[22]

I don't know what I should have replied to this question, but at that
moment Mr. Perry, whom I had observed gradually waking up, came over to
us and said: "Ah, Howard, I see you're in good hands, but I think we
must be going off now. The carriage is at the door, and my good Thomas
won't like to be kept waiting."

The curate looked at me again, with a slightly different expression, and
Mr. Perry said to him: "We don't often get a Highlander here, do we,
Thompson? Mr. Howard is making social enquiries. I dare say he has
learnt quite a lot from you."

The curate suddenly laughed. "I am afraid I have put my foot in it,
sir," he said. "If you come among us disguised as a rich man, you can't
complain of being treated like one."[23]

He was a good fellow, and we shook hands warmly as we parted.

FOOTNOTES:

[20] When I discussed this with Edward, he asked indignantly why those
in the liquor trade should be assisted in this way, when other traders
in a like predicament would get no help from the Government, but would
have to put up prices. I could give him no answer.

[21] The club to which Mr. Perry had introduced me would have
corresponded to a working man's club with us, and was under some sort of
clerical control. Its members set this, along with the annual
subscription, as against advantages enjoyed.

[22] Upsidonian expression for getting rid of your money.

[23] The clergy in Upsidonia were accustomed to treat the rich in a
slightly different manner from that in which they treated the poor.




CHAPTER XIII


We arrived home in time to dress for dinner. Lord Arthur had laid out my
evening clothes, and was still in the room, evidently ready for a little
conversation.

"Well, I suppose you met some pretty low-down swabs at old Perry's
club," he began "What did you do there?"

"I played bridge," I said, "and lost - I mean won - two hundred and
thirty-four pounds. I have accepted a U. O. Me for it. What do you do if
you haven't got the money?"

"Why, wait till you get landed with some, and swop it off. You're jolly
lucky! It's a dangerous game. Why, you might have had to receive it! Who
did you play with?"

"Lord Charles Delagrange was my partner. Do you know him?"

His face changed. "He's my uncle, I'm sorry to say," he said stiffly.
"But if I were to meet him in the street I should look the other way.
He's a swab of the first water."

"He seems cheerful enough," I said, "and enjoys his life thoroughly, to
all appearances."

"I dare say he does. But there must be times when he asks himself
whether the company he keeps is worth the price he pays for it. He can't
get any other. I shouldn't think there's a servants' hall in the country
that would be open to him now."

"I suppose the best society in the place is to be found in the servants'
hall."

"Of course it is - the best female society. You must come and dine with
us one night here. We'll give you a very poor dinner."

"Thank you. You are very kind."

"Not at all. Of course, it's a little different in this house. We have
to keep up the farce, and we don't like to put people like the Perrys
out. We generally choose a night for our parties when they are dining
out. In other houses you can just tell them upstairs that there won't be
any regular dinner for them, when you think of having guests of your
own."

At that moment Edward came into the room, and Lord Arthur left us,
saying that he must go and help Mr. Blother with the table.

Edward seemed a trifle disturbed. "I say," he said, "what is all this
about your being a Highlander?"

"Well, Miss Miriam and I settled it between ourselves that England must
be in the Highlands somewhere," I explained.

He looked at me with some suspicion. "It's all very well to have a
joke," he said, "and the story you made up to me was certainly very
ingenious and amusing, though highly absurd. But I don't think you ought
to want to keep it up any longer. It amused Miriam, but there's always
the danger, where a young girl lives in such surroundings as these, that
she may get a taste for luxury. You ought not to make it out to her that
people could live anywhere in the way you pretend without disgrace. It
is apt to confound right and wrong."

"My dear fellow," I said, "I quite see your point. But Miss Miriam is so
level-headed that I am sure she would never be affected in that way."

"Perhaps not," he said. "Still, I think it is time you dropped it. Of
course, I shouldn't dream of asking you where you really do come from,
if you don't want to tell me. It is quite obvious that you are well-born
and well-educated, and that is enough for me."

"My dear Edward, if you will let me call you so, I appreciate your
delicacy. All I have told you is true, but I have not the slightest wish
to publish it abroad if you think it would be better that I shouldn't."

"I think it is _much_ better that you shouldn't, unless you wish to lie
under the suspicion of being touched in the head."

"No, I don't wish that at all. As I am already supposed to be a
Highlander, suppose we keep to that."

"Well, if you like," he said unwillingly. "But if you are supposed to
have come from the Highlands, you ought to be more than a little
learned. I wonder you haven't already been asked what your subject is.
Is there any branch of learning in which you are an expert?"

"I took a First Class in the Classical Schools of my university, and am
a Fellow of my College, if you know what that means."

His face brightened.[24] "Of course, you _are_ a Highlander," he said,
with a smile. "I don't know why you want to make such a mystery of it; I
suppose it is out of modesty. Well, I won't bother you any more; I must
go and dress. My married sister, by the by, is coming to dine with her
husband. He is a very good fellow, and I am sure you will get on with
him. He is striving hard to overcome the defects of his birth. You
remember that I told you my sister had married into the Stock Exchange."


I found the family assembled in the drawing-room. I was quite pleased to
see Miriam again. I thought she looked very sweet in her white frock.
She had a lovely neck and shoulders, and her hair was very soft and
fair. She smiled at me as I came in, in a friendly fashion, and seemed
quite to have forgotten that a slight cloud had hung over us when we had
last parted. I remembered that I had not yet pumped Edward about the
mystery of the garden.

I was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Eppstein. Mr. Perry's eldest daughter
must have been some years older than Miriam. She was good-looking, but
wore a prim pinched-up expression. Her husband looked nervous. He was a
youngish dark man, with a small moustache and hot hands. He said: "I am
very pleased to make your acquaintance, sir," when we were introduced.

I took in Mrs. Perry, and had Miriam on the other side of me. Owing to
the smallness of the party, Mr. and Mrs. Eppstein sat next to one
another, on the other side of the table.

Curiously enough, the question I had been meaning to ask of Edward was
answered for me during the conversation with which we began.

"I have a piece of news for you," said Mrs. Eppstein, to the company
generally. "They say that Lady Grace Perkins has asked Sir Hugo Merton
into her garden."

Everyone expressed that sort of interest with which the news of an
unexpected engagement is received.

"Hugo Merton!" exclaimed Lord Arthur, who was handing round the soup.
"Why, I thought he was always hanging round little Rosie Fletcher's
gate."

"She wouldn't give him the invitation he wanted," said Mr. Blother, "and
I suppose he got tired of waiting for it. A glass of sherry, Edward?"

"No thank you," said Edward. "Didn't Lady Grace ask John Hardy into her
garden last summer?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Eppstein; "it was he who told Herman." She turned to
her husband. "The _large_ spoon, pet," she whispered, and then asked
aloud: "Didn't he say that her garden was very badly kept, dear?"

Mr. Eppstein blushed awkwardly. "He said it wasn't so tyesty as some
he'd been in," he said.

This reply caused some slight embarrassment, which Mr. Perry sought to
dissipate by saying: "John Hardy has certainly received invitations from
a good many ladies. No doubt he has a way with him."

"It is quite time he asked for a key," said Mrs. Perry somewhat
severely. "It is not fair on nice girls that he should go from one
garden to another as he does. And it is very ill-bred to talk about them
to others."

"I didn't arst 'im abaht it," said Mr. Eppstein.

"'Ask,' pet, not 'arst,'" whispered his wife.

Mr. Eppstein accepted the correction. "I didn't ask him," he said. "I
fancy he was upset like at getting the chuck, and wanted to sye
somethink narsty."

"Very likely that was it," said Mr. Perry, covering Mrs. Eppstein's
further corrections. "Well, I am sure I hope Lady Grace and Sir Hugo
will be happy together, and that it will end in his asking her for a
key. He wants a wife, and a home of his own. Our friend, Sir Hugo, is
employed in a large drapery establishment, Mr. Howard, where they have
the system of living in. You don't know anything about that over the
mountains."

"And you don't know anything about my lady's garden, either," said
Edward, leaning forward to address me across his sister. "I suppose you
hardly understand what we have been talking about?"

"I have gathered something of what it means," I said, glad to be able to
avow my ignorance, for Miriam's benefit, "but I didn't know before. I
suppose if a lady asks a man into her garden, it means that she - she
likes him?"

"She would not do it," said Mrs. Perry, "unless he had first shown that
he liked _her_, and would be glad to have the invitation."

"Rather a delicate subject for conversation at the dinner-table, isn't
it?" put in Mr. Blother, from the carving-table, where he was slicing
the salmon. "Why not let the men explain it when the ladies have left
the room?"

This suggestion was acceded to, and we talked on other subjects as long
as the ladies were with us.

Mrs. Eppstein seemed anxious that I should understand that, although she
had married beneath her, she had not done it for fun, so to speak. She
talked a great deal about lifting the richer classes, and her husband
seemed quite to fall in with her views upon the subject. I noticed that
as dinner progressed he drank considerably more wine than Edward did,
though not so much as Mr. Perry, and was inclined to take a larger share
in the conversation than at the beginning.

The subject of the servants[25] was introduced over dessert, and
Eppstein waxed eloquent and indignant at being expected to give up the
use of his library after dinner, because the house-maid was reading up
for matriculation at the Culbut University, and wanted a quiet room to
work in.

"Well, of course, we _can_ sit in the drawing-room," said Mrs. Eppstein.
"I don't mind that so much. But what I really had to put down my foot
about the other day was the new parlour-maid objecting to Herman and me
talking together at meals. I said, 'It may be quite reasonable to impose
silence upon the usual rich and vulgar family, but I should never think
of submitting to such a rule myself.' And then she had the impudence to
say that she didn't mind _my_ talking, and I could talk to her if I
liked, but the master's accent was so disagreeable that it unfitted her
for her work. I told her that my husband and I were one, and that if I
could put up with it _she_ could."

"Domestic servants are not what they were," said Mrs. Perry. "There used
to be something like friendship between them and their mistresses. I
know many ladies, who went out to service as girls, who still visit
their old mistresses, and even ask them to their own houses. But that
kindly feeling is getting rare nowadays. I do not think it is all the
fault of the mistresses, either, although with the spread of education,
they are certainly getting very uppish."

"I think that it is entirely the fault of the servants," said Edward.
"The rich are not content now to be mere drudges, and to spend their
lives on being waited on hand and foot. And it is not right that they
should be. Servants are really a parasitical class, and it is unfair
that the burden of providing them with work should be put upon the rich,
when they are so over-burdened already with having to consume more than
their fair share of the produce of the country."

"There'll be a strike some day," said Eppstein rather excitedly. "You
mark my words. If the rich was to combine together and say they wouldn't
eat no more than they wanted to, and all was to agree to chuck the food
they didn't want away, p'raps the poor would think twice about piling it
up on them."

"That would be a serious day for the country," said Mr. Perry. "We must
work by legitimate means, not anarchy. The solution of the problem of
over-production can only come, I feel sure, by more individual members
of the community sympathising with the rich, and sharing their lives, as
we try to do here. It is not easy, I know. I have spent my own time in a
humble endeavour to lead the way, but sometimes I am rather inclined to
sink under the burden. I have my moments of dejection. There are times
when I feel as if I positively cannot face the prospect of another rich
meal."

He sat at the foot of the table with his shirt-front crumpled and eyes
slightly glazed, and it was not difficult to believe that this was one
of the moments he had so feelingly alluded to, in which his
philanthropic efforts sat heavily on him.

But Edward, who had been as abstemious as had been permitted him, leant
forward and put his hand on his father's. "Cheer up, dad," he said. "You
are doing a noble work; you must not faint under it."

"I do feel rather faint," said Mr. Perry. "I wish Blother would bring
the brandy."

The ladies left us at this point, and Edward, who was in a mood of
harangue, went into this question of food, which counted for so much in
the economic problems of Upsidonia.

"You see, it must all come down to that in the end," he said.
"Agricultural and pastoral pursuits are so much sought after that the
over-production of food is the most serious item in the general
over-production of the country. The cry of 'back to the towns' is all
very well, but people won't live in artificial surroundings if they have
once tasted the pleasure and excitement of hard bodily toil; and you
can't make them."

"Well, you wouldn't like it yourself for long," said Eppstein, "not if
you know when you're well off. 'Ow did you get 'ere from the 'Ighlands?
Walk? Tell us abaht it."

"We were going to tell Howard about my lady's garden," said Edward. "You
see, Howard, in the country there is room for everybody, and the young
men and young girls can go courting in a natural way, in lanes with
briar hedges and nightingales and the moon, and all that sort of thing.
They can secure the necessary privacy. But in towns there is so little
privacy. It is the one thing in which the rich are really better off
than the poor, because they have large houses and gardens of their own."

"Which seem to belong more to their servants than to them," I said.

"Well, of course, the servants have to be considered. I am not an
extremist, and I do not advocate, as some do, that property should carry
no disadvantages other than those obviously inherent in it. If the rich,
for instance, were allowed to surround themselves with the gracious
things of life - space, freedom, flowers, art, leisure for study and
self-improvement - without the checks that a wise State has imposed upon
the abuse of those things, the incentive to break loose from the bonds
of property would be lessened. Don't you agree with me, Herman?"

"It's a bore, sometimes, to 'ave to eat too much," Eppstein corroborated
him.

"Quite so!" said Mr. Perry, awakening suddenly out of a species of
trance. "Quite so, Herman! Then why eat too much? I ask you - _why_ eat
too much?"

"'Cos the State makes you," said Eppstein.

"Ah!" said Mr. Perry, wagging his head with an expression of deep
wisdom. "But now you're talking politics." He then relapsed into his
former air of aloofness.

"Well, to come back to my lady's garden," said Edward. "It is generally
acknowledged that it is a good thing for young girls to be alone
sometimes, and in beautiful surroundings, so that they may feed their
minds on beautiful thoughts. So every girl in the towns, when she
reaches a certain age, has a garden of her own given to her, which she
has to look after entirely herself. She can retire into it whenever she
pleases, and nobody may break in on her privacy. When she accepts the
attentions of a man, she invites him into her garden, and if the
intimacy between them stands the test, by and by he asks her for a key.
If she consents to give him one, he has the right to enter her garden
whenever he pleases."

"A very pretty notion," I said, thinking all the time how dreadfully
forward I must have seemed to Miriam in asking her to show me the
garden - which she must naturally have taken to mean _her_ garden - after
about an hour's acquaintance, and wondering how soon I could get her to
ask me to see it of her own accord.

Eppstein laughed rather vulgarly. "You should see the old maids standing
with their garden gates wide open," he said.

"Oh, not all of them, Herman," expostulated Edward. "And some of the old
maids' gardens are as beautifully kept as any young girl's, and it is
quite a privilege to be invited into them. You are not expected to ask
for a key, and if you did they wouldn't give you one."

"Oh, wouldn't they!" exclaimed Eppstein. "You try, my boy. Now look
'ere, I'll tell you. When I was courtin' Amelia - - "

But he did not continue his reminiscences, for Mr. Perry, suddenly
emerging from his gloomy trance, sang with a happy smile:

"When I married A-me-li-ar, Rum-ti tumti tum," - and then laughed
consumedly.

We all shared in his hilarity, and when he had relapsed once more into
his solemn and even dejected mood, with the same suddenness as he had
emerged from it, I asked: "Do they give up their gardens when they
marry?"

"Seldom at once," said Edward. "They need not give them up at all, and
there are cases of old men and women still keeping up the gardens in
which they first made love to one another, and retiring to them
frequently. But in practice they are generally given up within a year or
so. They haven't the time to look after them."

At this point Mr. Perry said that he felt rather giddy. He thought he
had done rather too much during the day, and would be better in bed. So
Mr. Blother was summoned to help him upstairs, and we went into the
drawing-room without him.

We talked, and Miriam played to us. It was delightful to sit by the
open window, looking out on to the lovely garden, which lay mysterious
under a sky of spangled velvet, and listen to the sweet music she made.

By and by I felt that I did not want to talk any more, and fortunately I
was left to myself for a time, where I could see the garden, and by
turning my head could also see Miriam, her fair hair irradiated by the
shaded lamp that stood by the piano.

Soft thoughts began to steal over me - very soft thoughts, and very sweet
ones. I thought how delightful it would be to sit every evening like
this and listen to Miriam playing; and still more delightful if there
should come a time when she would shut the piano and come across the
room and put her hand on my shoulder, and look out on to the moonlight
lawn and the dark shrubs and the starry sky with me; and neither of us
would want to speak, but only to feel that the other was there.

And the night before I had spent in prison, and had not even known that
there was such a girl as Miriam!

FOOTNOTES:

[24] They possessed all the Greek and Latin Classics in Upsidonia, but
had not learnt to treat them as living languages. Their greatest
scholars had decided that although they were made up of words, or what
looked like words, they had not, and never had had, any consecutive
meaning. At one time a school had arisen which held them to be
mathematical symbols, and a certain Professor Pottinger had claimed to
have proved that they referred to the movements of the heavenly bodies.
He had predicted, out of Propertius, the arrival of a hitherto unknown
comet, but the comet had failed to make its appearance, and the
influence of his school had dwindled.

Another advanced school, led by a Professor of a Highland University,
taught that the words did have an actual meaning. By picking out all
those that are known to-day, such as "omnibus," "miles," "tandem,"
"[Greek: hêkista]," and the like, and rearranging them, this school
professed to have translated a good deal. But as each student rearranged
them differently, the results were not altogether satisfactory, even to
themselves.

I was told of a don in the University of Culbut who had been struck with
the number of words which did not seem to correspond with any
pronunciation, however corrupt, with which Upsidonians were acquainted;
and who even went so far as to say that classical words that were not
known might not be those words themselves, but symbolical, as it were,
of quite different words. The word "hoc," for instance, he did not
believe to be a mis-spelling of the wine of that name, or even to stand
for "hook," as some scholars maintained. And there had always been a
dispute as to whether the word "et," which occurred so frequently in
both languages, should be read as "ate," or as "Et," with a capital,
short for "Etta," or "Henrietta." This man boldly proclaimed that it was
neither, but from the frequency of its occurrence, was probably intended
to represent the word "and." He was, however, unable to explain why
people who wished to write "and" should prefer to write "et"; and
although his views had aroused some interest in learned circles, he was
commonly regarded as a crank.

The great mass of Upsidonian classical scholars were content to employ
themselves usefully in examining the different collocations of words in
various authors, and in the schools a great deal was learnt by heart.


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