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The classics were considered a most valuable exercise of the faculties,
and the conservative teachers and men of learning held that it would be
a thousand pities to drop them, simply because they did not help the
learner to lose money.

[25] This was a favourite subject of conversation with ladies in
Upsidonia.




CHAPTER XIV


It was about a week after I had been welcomed into the Perry family that
we were all asked to take high tea at the house of Mrs. Perry's sister,
the Countess of Blueberry.

The most important thing that had happened in the meantime was that I
had fallen deeply in love with Miriam. We had been much together, and
our conversations had largely concerned themselves with the curious
state of things obtaining in the country from which I had come. Miriam
was deeply interested in what I told her, but I had to be very careful.
In some respects she became more and more inclined to approve of a
country in which wealth might be used to lessen care, instead of
increasing it, and in which even the richest were under no cloud of
inferiority. The pictures I painted of English life under conditions of
monetary ease appealed alike to her natural tastes, of which in
Upsidonia she had to be ashamed, if she were to show right feeling, and
to the philanthropic ideals in which she had been brought up. She could
never get it out of her mind that we showed great nobility of behaviour
in treating rich people with a total absence of contempt, and I did not
desire that she should, although I insisted upon the fact itself.

But every now and again I came up against a painful shrinking. I had to
be extraordinarily careful how I dealt with the subject of food, for
instance, and I think that if I had ever described to her a city
banquet, or even a college feast, I should have wiped out at a stroke
all the admiration she was inclined to show for the habits and customs
of my beloved country.

But short as had been the time since I had come to Magnolia Hall, I had
already adapted myself somewhat to the Upsidonian point of view - indeed,
a good deal more than I should have thought possible.

In the matter of food and drink, I was now inclined to despise the
delicate living that I had at first taken such pleasure in. I can only
say on my own behalf - if I have seemed to represent myself as greedier
than I will confess to being - that I had been living a hard active life
for some weeks past, and was in the most abounding physical health; also
that Mrs. Lemon, the Perrys' cook, was a supreme artist.[26] After all,
my usual life was necessarily abstemious, and it had happened to me
before to get very tired of luxurious living, when I had been staying
with friends accustomed to it, and to go back to my own moderate habits
with relief.

So I now ate and drank sparingly at Magnolia Hall, and was inclined to
feel the same disgust towards those who did neither as was commonly
expressed around me. And it did not any longer seem curious to me that
contempt for luxury should be a general and genuine feeling in
Upsidonia. It was encouraged by constant expression, and those who might
be temperamentally inclined towards what is called "doing themselves
well," were ashamed of indulging their inclinations out of respect for
public opinion.[27]

In the matter of clothes I had also somewhat changed my point of view.
It is gratifying to feel one's self well-dressed, if everyone is
well-dressed around one; but if one is not suitably dressed as well, the
gratification disappears. It was not long before I began to feel,
walking about the streets of Culbut, in the excellent clothes for which
I still owed money to the Universal Stores, that I was not in the
fashion. It was rather as if I had turned out to shoot, amongst a crowd
of men in tweeds and woollens, wearing a shiny silk hat, varnished
boots, and striped trousers with creases down them. I discovered that it
was only in the most exclusive set, of which Lord Potter was one of the
leaders, that it was the fashion to go ragged and dirty. The ordinary
members of the educated classes were as clean as we are. But they liked
old clothes, and didn't want to be bothered with large collections of
them, or of anything else. Those who spent the day in bodily toil always
changed in the evening, wearing the newer of their two suits, which took
the place of the other one when that was entirely worn out.

The mention of Lord Potter reminds me of an encounter I had with that
nobleman a few days after I had hoped I had seen the last of him, in the
police court.

I was walking along the road from Culbut to Magnolia Hall, and had
reached the point at which the villas were beginning to get larger and
to stand in gardens of some extent, when I saw a filthy-looking tramp
crossing the road from one gate to the other, and recognised him as I
passed as Lord Potter.

He did not look at me, but when I had gone on a few yards, he called
out: "Hi, you fellow!" in an authoritative voice.

I took no notice, and he called out again more loudly, so I turned round
to see what he wanted.

"Didn't you hear me call?" he asked angrily. "Which is Hoggenschlick's
house?"

"I don't know," I said.

"Well, just run in and ask if Hoggenschlick lives here, and tell him
that Lord Potter wants to see him. I think this is the house. If it
isn't, it is the one across the road."

"Don't you think you might find out which it is for yourself?" I asked.
"I'm not your servant."

His face changed as he recognised me. "Oh, it's you!" he exclaimed
disagreeably; "and dressed like the cad I knew you were when I first saw
you. If you give me any of your impudence you'll find yourself in
trouble again, and I'll take care you don't get off this time. I shall
keep my eye on you. Where are you living?"

"Where I can get a wash sometimes," I replied. "You don't seem to be so
fortunate."

Then I turned round and walked on, leaving him very angry.

But to return to Miriam. England, and English life, was a little secret
between us; I did not talk about them to anybody else, and asked her not
to do so. The fact that she entered willingly into this understanding,
which I found so agreeable, being in that state of mind in which _any_
understanding with her would have pleased me, was very gratifying, as
tending to show that she had something of the same feeling about it as I
had. Oh, we were getting on very well! But she had not yet invited me
into her garden.

FOOTNOTES:

[26] She was also an extremely nice woman - the widow of a well-known
musician, and herself no mean performer, on the harp.

[27] The same sort of thing holds amongst us, in matters of art, for
instance. Perhaps the majority of us prefer chatty pictures with a
strong love interest to the works of Holbein and Rembrandt; but we would
not make the same fuss if there were a danger of their being taken out
of the country.




CHAPTER XV


The Earl of Blueberry was, as I have said, a suburban postman, and as it
was his month for making an evening round he was not present at Lady
Blueberry's tea-party. And their only son, the Young Viscount Sandpits,
had just been commissioned to one of the smart gangs of navvies in which
the aristocratic youth of Culbut were delighted to serve, if they were
of good enough physique. He, also, was on a night shift, and I did not
see him at that time. But the young Ladies Susan and Cynthia Maxted were
there, and extremely nice and well-mannered children they were, and very
pretty too. They wore clean print frocks, hand-knitted worsted
stockings, and serviceable shoes.

Mrs. Perry, Miriam, and Mollie also wore clothes suitable for the
occasion. Edward had on a suit of threadbare serge, which he had told
me, coming along, that he reserved for such occasions as this; and I
wore again the clothes in which I had come into Upsidonia.

We were the only men of the party. Tom was playing cricket, and Mr.
Perry had said that he was not feeling very well, and would dine quietly
at his club.

Lady Blueberry received us most graciously in her charming kitchen, from
which we went into the parlour, where the table was spread.

Blueberry House was typical of those in the aristocratic quarters of
Culbut. You entered by way of the scullery and kitchen, which, with a
small yard, were in front of the house. But immediately behind these was
a large room occupying the whole breadth of the house, and looking out
on to a peaceful park.[28]

We were left for a few minutes in the parlour, while Lady Blueberry took
the scones out of the oven and made the tea, and the Ladies Susan and
Cynthia, with Mollie's help, brought plates and the teapot to the table.

The parlour was cool and airy, with well-polished floor-boards, but no
carpet. The walls were whitewashed and hung with family portraits, some
of which seemed to me to be very fine. There was an equestrian portrait
of the first Earl of Blueberry in the dress of a royal stableman, that
looked to me like a Vandyke, which, of course, it could not have been;
and another of an eighteenth century countess carrying a milkpail, which
I should have sworn was a Sir Joshua if I had seen it anywhere else. A
charming group of Lady Blueberry and her two daughters, with their own
kitchen as a background, was by the famous Upsidonian artist, Corporal,
who had also painted Lord Blueberry with his letter-bag, and the gallant
young Sandpits, in corduroys, with his pick and shovel.

Lord Blueberry was a dignified figure of a man in this picture, and I
thought as I looked at it that I should have felt some hesitation in
offering him a tip at Christmas time. But if I had been a resident in
Culbut, he, no doubt, would have given me one, and I should not have
dared to refuse. Young Lord Sandpits was extremely handsome, and stood
up boldly, with his muscular arms bare to the elbows, the picture of
virile youth. The artist had got some wonderful lines into this picture,
especially in the hang of the trousers, which were strapped below the
knee.

The furniture in Lady Blueberry's parlour all seemed to be old, but
there was very little of it. There were no easy chairs, and, indeed, no
upholstery at all, or anything that detracted from the air of severe
simplicity that was the note of the room, and attracted strongly by its
restfulness. With the exception of the family portraits, there was no
ornament whatever. The tea-table was set with crockery of the cheapest
description, but all the shapes were good, and the colour was pleasing.
A grand piano in a corner of the room seemed a somewhat incongruous
feature, but Miriam told me as I looked at it that her cousin Susan was
exceptionally gifted musically, and she would get her to play for me
after tea.[29]

Lady Blueberry presided most graciously at the tea-table. She had that
perfectly natural air of courtesy combined with dignity which is the
mark of a great lady anywhere. She was formed in a classical mould,
which the severe lines of her afternoon-gown of black alpaca, relieved
with touches of white at the neck and wrists, suited admirably. Her
abundant hair was brushed back from her broad and placid brow, and
knotted simply on the nape of her neck. There were marks of toil on her
beautifully shaped hands, which, according to Upsidonian ideas, became
them better than jewels.

We talked about a step-sister of Lord Blueberry's - a Mrs. Claude
Chanticleer - who was a prominent member of the dirty set. Mrs. Perry had
asked about her, and Lady Blueberry's calm face had been somewhat
overshadowed as she told us that Tricky, as they called her, had been
causing her family considerable anxiety.

"She is always going in for some new extravagance," she said. "She and
Claudie gave up their two rooms, as you know, about a year ago, when
Mrs. Chetwynd-Jones died of pneumonia, and took possession of her
railway arch."

"But they only use that for a town residence, don't they?" asked Mrs.
Perry.

"Well, of course they went out of town for the hop-picking, and went
from one barn party to another through the rest of the autumn; but they
were in town for the whole of the winter, and I am quite sure that
Tricky must have suffered a good deal from exposure."

"She leads such a rackety life, too," said Edward. "I was coming home
from my Lads' Club very late one night in January, and I saw Claudie and
Mrs. Claudie and a lot of others round a watchman's shelter. None of
them were speaking a word, and they all looked as if they would die of
cold before the morning."

"And they call that pleasure!" said Lady Blueberry.

"Do they really persuade themselves that it is pleasure?" I asked.

"They say that endurance is the highest form of pleasure," said Lady
Blueberry. "And of course it is so in a way. At least, no sensible
person would leave endurance of hardships out of their life altogether.
But the dirty set, as they call them, are so eager for new sensations
that they never use any method of life moderately, and would just as
soon throw it over altogether, whether it was helpful or not, if anybody
started some new craze."

"Susan and I saw Auntie Tricky in the gallery of the opera," said Lady
Cynthia, "the night that Aunt Maude took us. Uncle Claudie wasn't there.
Auntie Tricky was with Lord Hebron. And we saw them supping together at
the whelk stall in Paradise Row when we were coming home."

"That will do, dear," said Lady Blueberry, with calm authority. "Lord
Hebron is an old friend of Uncle Claudie's, and no doubt he had asked
him to look after Auntie Tricky for the evening."

"It is a good thing, at any rate," said Edward, "that they got through
the winter in their railway arch. It would not be so bad now. And I
suppose they will soon be off to the strawberry fields?"

"I am not sure," said Lady Blueberry. "Tricky came to see me the other
day, and told me she thought of going in for the complicated life this
summer. It seems to me a perfectly insane idea. After the privations she
has gone through her digestion will not stand it. But there it is! It is
a new idea; others are taking it up, and, of course, Tricky must be in
the movement."

"Besides," said Edward, "the complicated life, as it is practised by the
dirty set, is such a sham. If they lived it seriously, as we do, year in
and year out, and really did live it with all its drawbacks, they would
very soon get tired of it."

"Of course they would," said Lady Blueberry. "It is not the same thing
at all."

"How do they live it?" I enquired.

"They make up a party," said Lady Blueberry, "and descend upon some
large house in the country, where they live a life of ease and luxury as
long as it amuses them. I think myself that to play at being rich in
that way is extremely immoral. It has already been known to give some of
the younger people who have practised it a taste for luxury that has led
them into a life of degradation. I believe young Bertie Pilliner has
been quite ruined by it. I heard the other day that he had acquired a
motor-car, and joined a golf club. And he used to be such a nice boy. He
was in Sandpit's gang, but, of course, he had to be requested to go."

"What becomes of the people whose houses they descend upon?" I enquired.
"Do they live with them as their guests?"

Lady Blueberry laughed pleasantly. "That would not suit them at all,"
she said. "They choose their house - generally the most elaborate one
they can find - and write and tell the owners that they are to leave it
by a certain date. Then they take possession of it, and live just as if
they were rich themselves, but, as Edward says, they suffer none of the
inconveniences. They refuse to do the least little thing that the
servants tell them, and as they are not among their own possessions they
do not feel the burden of them. It is only because the servants like to
have people they can associate with, instead of their masters and
mistresses, and the owners of the houses are glad to have somebody to
consume their stores while they can go away for a holiday, that the
system is possible at all."

"It is a very dangerous game to play at," said Edward, "and goes
directly against all our work. If the movement spreads to any extent it
will prove to be an immense temptation to those whose principles are not
firmly fixed. They will see the complicated life in an entirely false
aspect, and think that it is always like that, and, perhaps, even that
it is preferable to the simple life. Then the very foundations of
society will be undermined, and we shall have such a revolution as it
makes me tremble to think of."

He spoke so earnestly that the young Lady Cynthia, who was of a
sympathetic disposition, burst into tears, and implored her mother not
to let Auntie Tricky lead the complicated life any more.

Lady Blueberry soothed her tenderly, and said that she would do what she
could to prevent it, and soon afterwards we rose from the table.

Mrs. Perry stayed in the house to help her sister wash up, and, no
doubt, to have a little intimate conversation with her; and Edward went
off with apologies, to some engagement in the way of self-improvement.
The rest of us adjourned to the park, and when we had seen the children
happily amusing themselves in the pony paddocks, where there were
hurdles, and a little water-jump, I had the delight, which I had hoped
all along might come to me, of wandering alone with Miriam through the
bosky shades of that beautiful pleasance.

Miriam seemed at first a little nervous, but we soon fell into easy
converse, which gradually drifted, with possibly a little urging on my
part, into one of a more confidential nature. I will not repeat any of
it; perhaps it is not worth repeating. I said things that come easily to
the lips of any lover, and she received them with a sweet modesty that
made me think them almost inspired.

It was a lovely quiet evening; the retired walks in which we strolled
amongst the trees and flowers might have been deep in the country,
instead of in the heart of a city; and if we met, as we did sometimes,
other pairs of lovers, who had fled to these comparative solitudes, they
only seemed to justify our own emotional condition. It soon became
wooing in dead earnest with me, but I knew that I must not pass a
certain point in my declarations until Miriam gave me to understand that
I had leave to do so.

At last, when once or twice she had turned from me, twisting her
handkerchief in her little ungloved hands, and pausing as if about to
say something which she could not make up her mind to say, I cried: "Oh,
this heavenly garden! I shall never forget walking here with you this
evening as long as I live."

Then she turned towards me, and smiled and blushed and dropped her eyes
again, and said: "Would you like to walk with me in _my_ garden?"

At these words I forgot all about Upsidonia, and the possibility of
shocking her by accelerating its etiquette. Hang etiquette at so sweet a
moment! I took her in my arms and kissed her.

And apparently etiquette was the same at this stage in Upsidonia as
everywhere else. Or else she forgot all about it too.

FOOTNOTES:

[28] This park was one of the most beautiful of the many in Culbut, and
of something like twenty acres in extent. It was not really a public
park, although it was called so, and was kept up with public money. It
was used exclusively by the inhabitants of the houses abutting on to it;
the Ladies Susan and Cynthia might play all over it without any risk of
infection, mental or physical, from rich children; and if Lord and Lady
Blueberry took a walk there in the cool of the evening they would meet
none but those whom it might be agreeable to them to meet.

[29] Genuine aristocrats, like the Blueberrys and the Rumboroughs, never
hesitated to acquire such possessions as seemed necessary for a
well-balanced life, or for legitimate pleasure. In the matter of music,
all poor children were taught some instrument at first, but only those
who showed considerable aptitude for it were allowed to go beyond a
certain point. And they were never allowed to practise at home, even
where there was a piano. But on reaching the age of fourteen, if they
could pass a rather stiff examination, their parents submitted to the
annoyance of acquiring another piece of property, such as a piano, or a
violin, for the sake of the pleasure they could gain from their
children's performance.

As a consequence of these wise provisions, there were no girls to be
found in Upsidonian homes, at least among the poor, who, as the result
of a long and expensive education, could play one piece and three hymn
tunes indifferently, and did so whenever they felt inclined.




CHAPTER XVI


I am not going to describe Miriam's garden. I will only say that of all
the gardens I have ever seen, large or small, it remains in my memory as
the quietest, the most retired and the most beautiful. It was not long
before I asked for a key, and Miriam gave me one; and I was free of that
enchanted spot, and of all the sweet intercourse it brought me.

When, on that evening, we hurried away from the comparative solitude of
the park, to enfence ourselves in the complete solitude of Miriam's
garden, and left Mrs. Perry and Mollie to come home by themselves, the
only excuse that we could offer was the true one. Before the evening was
out it was known to all the occupants of Magnolia Hall that Miriam had
asked me into her garden.

Dear Mrs. Perry smiled on us and kissed us both. She was an unworldly
woman, and only desired her daughter's happiness. Mollie showed a
gratifying excitement at the unexpected news; Tom eyed me rather
suspiciously, and, while not witholding his congratulations, said
enigmatically that it was my white flannel suit, but he supposed he
should get used to it in time. Edward expressed some doubts. I had to
have it out with Edward. But that was later. When he came home that
night I had already interviewed Mr. Perry.

Mr. Perry was as kind as possible, but, as was only natural, wanted to
know something about my circumstances.

"You are aware," he said, "of the great work in which my life is spent.
I am not able to do as much for my daughters as I should look to doing,
if I lived as my neighbours do. But I will do what I can. You shall
allow me three hundred pounds a year, and I will get rid of it as best I
can. At five per cent interest, that would be tantamount to a settlement
of six thousand pounds; and I should charge my estate with it, so that
you would not suffer in the event of my death."

I thanked him suitably, and, gathering my wits about me, offered to
settle upon Miriam Mr. Brummer's U. O. Me for two hundred and
thirty-four pounds, and my account with the Universal Stores of a
hundred pounds odd.

"I am sorry to say that those are the only debts I have in the world," I
said, "but on the other hand I do not earn much money."

"Excuse my asking the question," said Mr. Perry diffidently, "but what
is your occupation?"

"I will make a clean breast of it to you," I said. "I am a University
Extension lecturer, and am also employed in editing educational works."

"A very honourable occupation," said Mr. Perry. "A scholar is always a
respectable person, and his calling is not a lucrative one."

"I hope," I said, "that there will never be any doubt about my being
able to support Miriam in the poor way in which a daughter of yours
ought to live."

Mr. Perry sighed pensively. "I will not deny," he said, "that I should
have liked a larger settlement. I have already sacrificed one daughter
to my passion for the amelioration of mankind, and although Herman
Eppstein's character is irreproachable I suffer somewhat from the
remarks of my friends as to that marriage. I should have liked Miriam to
make what the world calls a good match, and to be placed beyond all risk
of wealth. Still, with what I can do for you, you will start your
married life in embarrassed circumstances, and we must hope that no
unforeseen accidents will occur. If you keep to your comparatively
ill-paid work, and avoid the temptation that so many young men fall
into, of trying to get poor quick, all will go well. It is something, at
any rate, to have a daughter marrying into a Highland family, and my
friends can hardly reproach me with another misalliance in that
respect."

He said this with an agreeable smile, and I left him, feeling that I had
got through the interview more easily than I could have hoped for.

I had the congratulations of Lord Arthur. He himself was in the stage of
walking out, or rather of walking in her garden, with a house-maid from
a neighbouring establishment - one of the prettiest of the d├ębutantes of


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