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the season - and was inclined towards sympathy with my state of mind. He
said that the earlier a fellow settled down in life the better it was
for him, and directly he and his fiancée could find a situation as
butler and housekeeper to an amenable married couple without
encumbrances, their wedding would take place. He talked more about his
own love affair than about mine, and made it plain - although I am sure
that he did not intend to - that my engagement was but a moderate affair
beside his. His father was a Marquis, and would largely decrease his
younger son's allowance upon his marriage; and his prospective
father-in-law was a Dean of aristocratic lineage, who was prepared to
settle on his daughter the whole debt for repairing the West front of
his cathedral.

Edward's attitude was a mixture of pleasure and anxiety. He said he
liked me personally, and there was no one to whom he would rather see
his sister married if he saw no difficulties in the way. "You won't tell
us where you come from," he said rather peevishly. "No one can call me
curious about my neighbours' affairs - I have far too many and important
ones of my own to occupy me - but if you are going to marry my sister I
_should_ like to know something more about you. How _did_ you come here?
If you walked from the Highlands, you couldn't have come into Culbut on
the side on which my father first saw you."

"I have already told you how I came," I said. "I walked over the moors,
and came through an underground passage into the wood where your father
found me. I don't profess to understand it; but that is exactly how it
happened."

He looked at me suspiciously. "My dear fellow," he said, "you are
playing with me. My father found you asleep in a little copse that you
have to pass through to get to the Female Penitentiary, which he was
visiting that afternoon. Beyond that there is at least a mile of suburb;
it is on the high-road to the town of Somersault, and the country is
well populated all the way."

"I am not surprised to hear it," I said. "I told you that I did not
understand what had happened. But I have given you the facts as I
remember them."

"Then it is very plain," said Edward, "that you must have suffered in
your brain, and have escaped from some lunatic asylum. Your behaviour
when we first met would seem to point to that; and the wildness of the
ideas which you disclosed to me was more like what one would expect to
exist in the brain of a maniac than anything else. I think it is very
likely that you do come from the Highlands; or why should you have
mentioned that region at all? Your appearance is good, and it is evident
that you have come from some place where you have filled a position of
dignity."

"I am glad that it strikes you like that," I said. "But I don't feel in
the least like a lunatic. In fact, I am quite sure that I am as sane as
you are."

"I think you are, _now_," said Edward; "and I don't see any reason why
you shouldn't remain so. If that is really the solution of your
eccentricities, then all my difficulties are done away with, and I can
welcome you, my dear fellow, cordially as a brother-in-law."

"Oh!" I said, somewhat taken aback. "You don't think that I might break
out again?"

"I should think it is unlikely; but if you did, we could easily have you
put away for a time. The great advantage would be that Miriam could
always get a divorce on the ground of insanity of partner, whenever she
wished it."

"Is that a ground for divorce in Upsidonia?"

"Yes; the passing of that law has been a great boon. People under
suspicion of weak intellect have become much more marriageable than they
were before."

"I shouldn't like to begin married life with the idea of a divorce
hanging over me."

"I don't say that Miriam would allow herself to count on a divorce at
present; and if I were you I should not tell her that you have suffered
from brain trouble."

"I won't," I said.

"No; and I won't, either. But one never knows what may happen in married
life, and it would be a comfort to know that Miriam would not be tied to
you for life if you turned out badly."

"Well, supposing we leave it at that," I said. "I think you're wrong
about my brain trouble, but if your idea comforts you at all, keep it by
all means; but keep it to yourself."




CHAPTER XVII


It is not customary, at least in England, to undertake the
responsibilities of married life without a probability of being able to
carry them out, and at the time I had come into Upsidonia I had not been
in what is called a position to marry. In that country my position was
quite satisfactory in this respect, but I did not propose to spend the
rest of my life in Upsidonia.

So I now had to think seriously about acquiring that independence which
would sweeten the existence that I looked forward to, with dear Miriam
as my life-long companion. I was as happy as a king in her garden, but
having achieved the step of being invited into it, I now looked forward
eagerly to the next step, which was to get out of Upsidonia by the way I
had come, and to take her with me.

She was quite ready to go, after our marriage. Indeed, the Highlands,
where it was supposed that we should settle down, was so cut off from
communication with the rest of Upsidonia that a separation was taken
for granted, both by herself and her family.[30]

"Tell me about the sort of house we shall live in," said Miriam, as we
sat together on a seat in her garden, under the shade of a
sweet-smelling lime.

"My dear," I said, "we shall be able to live in any sort of house we
want to. It is delightful to think of. All the beautiful places in the
world are open to us, and we need be tied to none of them."

"I don't want more than one house," said Miriam. "I can't get it out of
my head, in spite of everything you have told me, that more than one
would be a bother. Besides, you wouldn't know which to call your home."

"Quite right," I said. "Even with us, more than one house might quite
well be a bother; and to enjoy your possessions you want to have them
all around you."

"I suppose I _shall_ get to enjoy possessions," she said dubiously. "But
I don't want too many of them, John dear."

"You shall have just as many, or just as few, as you please. We shall
enjoy ourselves immensely in acquiring them."

"Do you think we shall? I shall try and like what you like. But it is a
little difficult."

"You shall have some beautiful frocks, Miriam. I know you will like
that."

She laughed. "How wicked it sounds!" she said. "Don't tell mother that I
shall like having beautiful frocks. Are you _sure_ that other
girls - other married women - won't look down on me if I am well-dressed?
I shouldn't like to be looked down upon, for _your_ sake."

"My dear, get all that out of your head. The more you spend the less
likely you are to be looked down upon."

"It sounds so funny. But it sounds rather nice too. Of course, it isn't
really _wrong_ to like spending money, rather, if everybody else does
it."

"Not a bit. Not if you've got it to spend. And we _shall_ have. I am
going to see about that. Well, shall we live in the country?"

"That would be rather nice, John. In a dear little house with a pretty
garden, and no labour-saving appliances."

"I don't think you will want to live in a little house when you get to
England. I thought, perhaps, we might find some very delightful
old-fashioned country house, in a beautiful part of the country, with a
few thousand acres of land, good shooting, and a model home farm, which
I could tackle myself."

"Do you know anything about farming?"

"Not much; but I should rather like to try it."

"Isn't it rather dangerous? Mightn't you make a lot of money over it?"

"I think I could escape the danger. How would you like an old red-brick
house, with a moat, and beautiful carving and plastering and all that
sort of thing inside? I know of one near where I was born that we might
be able to get."

"Is it in a village, with nice people in it?"

"It is near a charming village, which would belong to us. There aren't
any other big houses very near."

"Would the other people call on us, and be friendly?"

"Oh, yes. There are a lot of good houses all about. The neighbours would
all call on us."

"Yes, the rich neighbours. But the people in the village? Would the
vicar's wife call on us, if we lived in a house like that?"

"I expect she would, if the vicar has a wife, of which I am not sure."

"And the labourers' wives - would they call?"

"Probably not. No, I don't think the labourers' wives would call."

"Then shouldn't we feel rather out of it?"

"You could call on them if you wanted to. They would be very pleased to
see you. _Any_ body would be pleased to see you."

"Dear old boy!" she said affectionately. "You think far too much of me.
But I like you to. Somehow I don't think I should like to live in a
house like that, John. For one thing, I shouldn't like to be always
going to see people who wouldn't come and see me. Couldn't we live
somewhere among our own sort of people - the people who are well-off, and
_yet_ well-educated, that you told me about - well, like _we_ should be?"

"You don't want to live in London, do you?"

"That's where you live, isn't it?"

"Only because my work makes it convenient."

"But you wouldn't give up your work?"

"I should give up some of it, that I do at present. I don't say I should
give up _all_ work."

"Oh no, you couldn't do that."

"But I shouldn't have to live in London in order to work. I would much
rather live out of it, and have it to go to."

"That is what I really feel about Culbut. If we could live here, just as
we do, without feeling that we were different from other people, I
should like it better than living in Culbut itself. Do they look down on
the rich people living in the suburbs near London, as they do here?"

"There is a tendency that way," I admitted. "How would you like to live
at Cambridge? I should be amongst friends, and there would be plenty to
do there."

"I think it would be delightful from what you have told me about it. You
could do your work there, couldn't you?"

"Yes, I could do a lot of work, if I wanted to; and I could always get a
game of some sort."

"I thought it was only the undergraduates who played games. You couldn't
row in the boat, could you?"

"I could row _you_ in a boat. We could get a lot of fun in Cambridge,
and we could always go to London when we wanted to."

"And we could get a pretty house there - not too big?"

"Yes, we could get that. I think perhaps you're right about the big
house. Whoever loves the golden mean will avoid a palace as much as a
hovel. Horace says that, or something like it, and what is good enough
for Horace is good enough for me, also for my sweet Upsidonian bride.
Miriam, I adore you, and it is at least a quarter of an hour since I had
a kiss."

So we settled to live in Cambridge when we got to England, in the
prettiest house we could find, with the prettiest garden, and I prided
myself greatly on the moderation of my desires, while Miriam wondered
whether we were not laying up trouble for ourselves, when I said that we
should want at least four servants in the sort of house I had in my
mind.

FOOTNOTES:

[30] Even in the case of a marriage between families living respectively
in town and country the separation was more complete than with us. There
were few railways in Upsidonia, and even motor-cars were looked upon
with suspicion, and only used by the rich. The poor preferred to drive,
or still more to walk. But as the population of Upsidonia was divided
between those who liked to live in the country and those who liked to
live in towns, there was not so much going and coming as with us.




CHAPTER XVIII


A day or two after Miriam had first invited me into her garden the
invitation was made public in the fashionable intelligence of the Culbut
newspapers, and she and I were the recipients of many congratulations
from the numerous friends and relations of the Perrys.

We were entertained by not a few of them. We went to Sunday mid-day
dinner with the Earl and Countess of Rumborough, in the parlour behind
their shop, over which an aroma of jaded cauliflower lay more in
evidence than is customary in the mansions of the great. We drank tea
again with the Earl and Countess of Blueberry, and this time the head of
the house was present, and treated me with a stately courtesy that
impressed me a good deal with the dignity of the family with which I was
about to connect myself. I also dined with the Viscount Sandpits, at the
mess of his gang, sitting on a plank in the middle of one of the busiest
streets in Culbut, and drinking beer out of a tin can.[31] A married
sister of Mr. Perry's, not bitten with philanthropic ideas, gave a
theatre party for us, and we sat in the front row of the pit, after an
agreeable wait of an hour outside the door, and ate oranges between the
acts. And we conferred a much-appreciated honour on a rich relation of
Mr. Perry's by accepting an invitation to a dinner-party at her house.
Her husband had been unfortunate in the coal business, and had sunk from
a clerkship in a colliery company to owning the whole concern. Most of
our fellow guests were melancholy and rather subservient people who had
made a similar mess of their lives, and were pathetically envious of the
bright prospects that were opening out before Miriam and me.

And finally, Mrs. Claudie Chanticleer, who had turned up one morning at
Magnolia Hall, in a bedraggled and hectic state, to take away a few
scraps from the dustbin, invited us to a picnic in the country, to meet
all that was smartest and dirtiest in the exclusive set of which she was
an ornament.

We were a little doubtful about accepting this invitation, gratifying as
it was. It was Mr. Perry who pressed us to do so. He said that he hated
the dirty set and all their ways. It was not through such as they that
the regeneration of Upsidonian society would come. At the same time,
they included amongst them some of the most aristocratic families in the
country, and it would give us a _cachet_ to have our names in the papers
as having taken part in one of their entertainments. When we still
demurred, he pointed out that my social investigations could not be
considered complete unless I mixed with all classes of the community. So
at last we accepted the invitation.

Mr. Perry refused it for himself, as he said he had a touch of
rheumatism and was afraid of the damp grass; but Edward accepted, saying
that he had been working very hard lately and wanted recreation; and
Mrs. Perry went to chaperon Miriam. Mrs. Eppstein, who had seen the
announcement of the coming function in the papers, came round to hear
all about it, and said that she had not for a moment expected that
Tricky Chanticleer would have asked _her_, although they had been at
school together, and in those days nobody thought anything of Tricky,
who had always had a red nose.

Most of us walked to the place appointed for the picnic, which was on a
stretch of grass beside a high-road; and we were the dirtiest and most
disreputable-looking company I have ever been in. But Mrs. Perry, and
some of the older ladies, went in the Duchess of Somersault's caravan,
which was hung round with baskets and brooms and wicker chairs; and
there were a few donkey carts as well, and an organ barrow for the
younger children who could not be left behind. Mrs. Claudie brought what
was necessary for the picnic in an old perambulator, which she wheeled
herself.

We were accompanied all the way by a crowd of rich sightseers, and a
favourite amusement of the younger and sprightlier members of our party
was to get a ride behind the carriages, and for the others to cry "Whip
behind!" and to shriek with laughter at them.

The food consisted of scraps wrapped up in pieces of newspaper, but tea
was made in an old tin pot over a fire of sticks, and everyone had
brought what they wanted in the way of mugs and utensils for themselves.
I must confess that if one didn't eat, or only ate the eggs and fruit
which some of the young bloods had raided from the farmhouses that we
passed on the way, the entertainment was amusing enough. It was rather
annoying to be surrounded by a crowd of gaping sightseers, but the
company seemed to be used to it, and, indeed, to prefer it to seclusion,
or they would not have fixed upon so public a spot. Newspaper reporters
were a good deal in evidence, and cameras were directed on us from all
sides, as we sat on the grass and enjoyed ourselves.

There were many quite intelligent people there. The company, ragged and
filthy as it was, was superior to that which I had met in Mr. Perry's
club, or to the people I had come across in the large houses in which I
had gone slumming with Mrs. Perry.

I happened to sit on the grass next to a travelling tinker, who told me
that he had been Master of a college at Coxford, but had given it up
because he wanted to see more of life.

"I have often been accused of being a snob," he said, "especially by
those who are envious of the fine company I keep. It is true that my
birth would not entitle me to a place in this brilliant society, but I
consider that my learning ought to gain me an entrance into any society,
and it has as a matter of fact gained me an entrance into this. I
consider that this is the best society that can be had, not because it
is aristocratic and exclusive, but because it opens up larger vistas of
life. Purely learned society does not do that, and after spending over
thirty years of my life in Coxford, I grew tired of it, and set out to
play my part in the great world."

Finding himself possessed of a sympathetic listener, he expatiated
further on the advantages of his present life. He had not seen his way
to denuding himself of all property. He had acquired his tinker's outfit
because his previous life had unfitted him for the purest form of
idleness. "One has to be born and brought up to that," he said, "and, as
I told you, I do not pretend to have had the advantages of some of our
friends about us here."

"But isn't work a good thing?" I asked; for here he seemed to be denying
one of the basic principles of Upsidonian philosophy.

"It is not one of the best things in itself," he said, "although for the
great mass of mankind it is necessary. Freedom and knowledge are the
best things; and freedom is even better than knowledge."

"I shouldn't have thought that all the people about us here were
remarkable for their love of knowledge," I said.

"Not perhaps of knowledge to be learnt from books," he said, "though a
good many of them are not lacking in that. But in knowledge that comes
from going about in the world, and seeing human nature denuded of all
its trappings, there is hardly any one of those you see around you who
is not superior to the most learned scholars of the universities. They
know the simple facts of life, as none who do not enjoy the freedom of
extreme poverty can possibly know them; and the simple facts of life are
the great facts of life."

"Do you consider poverty to be an end in itself?" I asked, mindful of
the criticisms I had heard directed against the dirty set.

"It is so near to being an end," he said, "that there is no harm in
considering it so. It is only by denuding yourself of everything that
you can possess everything - beginning with yourself, which is the only
possession really worth anything, and the only one which those foolish
people who cannot make up their minds to do without _some_ form of
property never can attain to. Why should I want more than the whole
earth? It is mine, if I do not shut myself up in one little corner of it
and put a fence round me. The moment I do that I lose all the rest. I
have exchanged the world for a building plot. With every possession I
permit myself, I gouge out a weak place in my armour; I am vulnerable at
that point. Possessing nothing, I am impervious to attack."

"You can't possess absolutely no thing," I said. "You must have clothes,
for instance."

"You must, as society is at present constituted; and you are vulnerable,
as I said, at that point. If anybody takes away my clothes, I lose my
freedom. I cannot go about till I have found some more. And if anybody
takes away my tinker's barrow, I lose the work that my training has
unfitted me to be without. It is not, strictly speaking, the barrow that
I am vulnerable over, because if I could do without it I should have
practically my only burden removed; it is the habits I have acquired
that are the unfortunate possession there. And that is why book-learning
would be considered an evil in a purer state of society. Books
themselves are, of course, the most odious form of bondage, and even in
my tied-down days I never would acquire them for myself, but borrowed
those I could not do without, and committed what was necessary to
memory."

"Why should book-learning be considered an evil?" I asked.

"Because it is an acquisition. You are vulnerable in your memory, in
which you have stored it. The only knowledge that is worth having is
that which impresses itself on the collective mind of mankind. Nobody
can take that away from you, because you share it with all the rest. It
is all about you."

"Excuse my touching upon a possibly delicate subject," I said, "but do
you object to the name that is commonly fastened on to you?"

"The dirty set? Not at all. Why should I? Cleanliness is only a habit,
and a very binding and inconvenient one. If you can break yourself of
that one habit alone, you are well on the way to realise what freedom
means. You have broken the chain that keeps you circling round in the
narrow orbit of the soap-dish and the water-jug, and can wander where
the spirit leads you. I have not taken a bath since I left Coxford, and
all desire to do so has now left me."

The fact had obtruded itself upon me to such an extent that the desire
on my part to leave _him_ now became insistent, and as there came a
general movement at the moment towards the cocoanut shies, put up by Sir
Sigismund Rosenbaum, I withdrew myself from his society. But he was an
interesting man, and had given me something to think over.

FOOTNOTES:

[31] Sandpit's Gang was a very smart one. Its members could shift more
stuff in an hour than ordinary gangs in two. It was one of the sights of
the town to see them running to and fro with heavily loaded barrows,
over a plank so narrow that it seemed as if they _must_ fall off and
hurt themselves.




CHAPTER XIX


It was at this point that Lord Potter came upon the scene. He had, I
believe, refused Mrs. Claudie's invitation, but whether he could not
bear to be left out of any important society function, or whether he had
made up his mind to take this opportunity of making himself publicly
unpleasant to me, he came shuffling along the road, with his toes
sticking out of his boots, and was greeted with acclamations by the
distinguished company.

I happened to be standing next to Mrs. Claudie when he came up to her,
and he favoured me with an indignant and contemptuous glare before he
showed me his shoulder, shook hands with her, and said in a loud voice:
"And where is the fortunate gentleman from the Highlands? I should like
to be introduced to him."

Mrs. Claudie indicated me. "This is Mr. Howard," she said. "Let me
introduce you to Lord Potter."

Lord Potter affected an air of intense astonishment. "This fellow!" he
exclaimed. "My dear lady, you have been victimised. This is an impudent
adventurer, who spent his first night in Culbut in a gaol. He may be
good enough company for Mr. Perry, but I am more surprised than I can
say to find him here."

There was an awkward silence, which I broke by saying: "I am just as
surprised to see Lord Potter here as he can be to see me. He knew
perfectly well who I was. He could have stopped away if he didn't want
to meet me."

Lord Potter ignored this speech. "I am very sorry to have to cast a
cloud over your pleasant party, Mrs. Chanticleer," he said, "but this
fellow is not what he pretends to be. He is no more a Highlander than I
am. When I get back to town I shall put the police on to him. I expect
it will be found that he has absconded from some big house and has left
a lot of money behind him. He is masquerading as a poor man, but he will
certainly get into trouble over it. I should advise you to pack him off,
and have no more to do with him."

Fortunately, Miriam was not near us at the time, but I saw Edward
shouldering his way through the group of puzzled and rather scandalised


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