Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

. (page 4 of 19)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 4 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


selfishness crashes the awful message, Thou
fool ! this night ! "

" John, you terrify me. Are we then to live
only for others?"

"Oh, Jessie, in living for others we live for
ourselves best, and most of all. We are the
children of the King of heaven and earth, and
we serve him not for wages, but for love. We
are taking the journey of life through this world
60



JESSIE S AFFAIRS

on his order. We are in the King s high
way. "

" It is a very sorrowful and dangerous way to
many."

"It is, Jessie. The devils of murder and
robbery, of drunkenness and lust, of greed and
oppressions of every description are to be met
on it. Apollyon has straddled over the whole
width of the way; but then, what are we here
for but to prepare the way of the Lord and to
make its paths clean and straight, and utterly
destroy whatever defiles it? When men have
done this the millennium will be here."

" You make life such a terribly solemn thing
John."

" Solemn, but sweet; for we have so much love
and loving-kindness, as we take it together;
father and mother love, brother and sister love,
husband and wife love ; friends, and books, and
neighbours, and fellow-travellers ; good men and
women, all going the same way the way of
holiness, the King s highway."

" You ought to be a preacher, John, and not
a lawyer."

" Every man and woman may be a preacher
in the home, on the railways, out in the high
ways and byways. For instance, in teaching
Miss Lloyd music, you may teach her many
other things."

61



THE KING S HIGHWAY

" Miss Lloyd is an uncertain quantity, John.
She may be able to teach me other things.
I will tell you more about Miss Lloyd a month
hence. Now, John, I have had a hard day and
am very tired. I must go to sleep."

Then she kissed him, and, it must be admitted,
put away from her consideration all that he had
said. Her interest did not lie in that road at
present. She let the thought of riches and the
obligations of riches slip from her consciousness,
and began to wonder where Steve was, what
he was doing, and if he were thinking of her.
Then with a sigh she closed her eyes and whis
pered to herself, " What is in my heart shall
lie quiet a little while. I am tired tired of
everything."



62



CHAPTER IV

A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

THE month which Jessie had allowed herself
for determining the value of her first kind re
ception at Lloyd Park passed swiftly away;
and Alice disappointed none of the expecta
tions that her gracious behaviour had raised at
the first meeting. Indeed, in spite of Jessie s
doubting, touchy individuality, a kind of friend
ship had grown up between the girls ; though
Jessie was more and more puzzled as to what
possible circumstances had brought them to
gether. For it was soon evident to her that
Alice was no enthusiast about her music ; she
would have shirked her lessons if her conscien
tious teacher would have allowed her to do so.
She preferred, evidently, to ask Jessie questions,
and to talk to her endlessly about her life and
likings. And though Jessie was not destitute
of that dubious dislike and suspicious want of
confidence which seems the natural condition
between employer and employee, she found it
hard to maintain it in the presence of Alice.
63



THE KING S HIGHWAY

Had Jessie known that she was being wooed
for Steve s sake, she would have resented the
familiarity ; but who of us is proof against kind
ness which we believe to be given freely to our
person and attributes? Jessie s " unselfishness"
vanished gradually before the girlish confidences
that followed the usual music lesson; for there
was always a delicate little lunch ready at its
close ; and if people do not become good-na
tured while eating together, then they ought to
drop their association at once and for ever.

Their first confidence related to Lord Med-
way. For two weeks he remained at Lloyd
Park, and the music lessons were much inter
rupted by his intrusions. He himself was re
ceiving at the same time a lesson which his
vanity could not comprehend until it was put
into unmistakable English for him. Jessie had
divined his admiration at their first meeting ; at
their second, he made it still less equivocal. He
had discovered by this time that she was pres
ent simply as Miss Lloyd s teacher; and his
ideas about women were always modified by
their rank or wealth. His underhand, furtive
admiration deeply offended Jessie ; but he would
not accept such tokens of her annoyance as it
was in her power to give without making her
self and him also unpleasantly conspicuous.
At her fourth visit, she found him in the train,
64



A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

when she entered it to return to her home, and
he immediately addressed her in language about
whose affectionate tenor there was no mistaking.

She looked at him with a calm and sovereign
contempt, and answered : " We have nothing in
common, sir. My affections are placed far be
yond you. I would not marry you for all the
coronets in England."

He tittered, but he was angry enough as he
continued : " I did not ask you to marry me.
Telling a pretty girl you love her is a long way
from wishing to marry her."

" Not in my case, sir. Loving a girl is the
way to marry her, as I have been taught. But
there is no question of love between you and
me. I should find it impossible on my part."

" You are a saucy little minx. And yet you
are so piquantly and provokingly tempting
that I intend to "

" If you say another word to me, sir, I will
report you to the conductor. Therefore, if you
do not wish to be left on the roadside, you will
do well to find another seat. I will not endure
your company any longer."

Then he lifted his hat and went to the other
end of the car, an angry and a mortified man ;
and Jessie smiled serenely at the courtesy. "It
is the force of habit," she thought ; " he is one
of those creatures who always lift their hats to
5 65



THE KING S HIGHWAY

women, but never, under any circumstances, re
spect them." In this decision, however, Jessie
was wrong. It was the force of virtue that for
once bared the nobleman s head ; and in spite
of his mortification he watched the proud, self-
respecting girl with a very sincere admiration
and esteem.

When she went to Lloyd Park the following
Saturday Lord Medway was in Newport, and
Alice took Jessie into her confidence. " I think
he wishes me to marry him," she said, " and
perhaps I may do so ; for father desires the
match very much. Have you ever been in love,
Jessie? " she asked.

" No not quite that is, I don t know. I
have met a young man lately whom I could
love, if it were prudent to do so."

" Oh, then, you are not in love ; you are in
prudence. What kind of a young man? Is he
handsome? "

" No, and yes. I will tell you what kind of a
young man he is. He was at a Trade s meeting
with my brother John and me, one night, and
some one speaking there called A, and B, and C,
and D, and Nicholas Lloyd hellish incarnations
of selfishness and covetousness. He leaped
upon the platform and told the workingmen
there and then to their faces, that they were in
their way every bit as selfish and covetous. And
66



A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

a big bullying fellow ordered him to make
an apology, and Steve flung off his coat and
knocked the man down before he knew what
had happened."

" Oh, how splendid ! I would have given a
thousand dollars to have been there ! Did you
say his name was Steve? "

" Yes ; Steve Morrison."

" How can you help loving a man like that !
Does he love you? Let me kiss you for him."
Her face was one charming smile, her eyes
full of radiant tears. She was thinking to her
self that in spite of the misunderstanding be
tween Steve and his father, Steve would not sit
still and hear his father called a " hellish incarna
tion." " Good ! Good ! " she ejaculated ; " and
indeed, Jessie, I cannot see how you can help
loving such a man as that ! What hinders? "

" I don t know who he is. He says nothing
of his past; nothing of his future; nothing of
his friends. He admits that he is lazy, and too
fond of travel. He is a fine scholar ; and yet,
when he needs money he does any kind of
rough, menial work to obtain what he wants
that, and no more. He has the carriage and
manners of a well-bred man, and yet he is poor.
He is an enigma; and no sensible girl wants to
marry an enigma. Now with Lord Medway it
is different. You know who and what he is,
67



THE KING S HIGHWAY

and where he comes from ; and you may imag
ine fairly enough the kind of life you-would be
likely to lead with him. This Steve Morrison
may be a proper person and he may
not."

" Oh, I am sure there is nothing wrong with
him ; I think I could trust him."

" You know only the right side of the gar
ment of life. I have seen the rough, frayed
inside. I go with John among the labouring
classes sometimes, and in our own home we have
learned what pinching and want means, not
lately, not since John and I could work; but
the scars of poverty are never obliterated by
any number of years. I don t want, therefore,
to marry a poor, struggling man. I never wish
to see my husband toil and suffer as my father
has done. I could not bear it so sweetly as
mother bears it. I should become cross and
disappointed, and perhaps wish for anarchy to
reign in every one s affairs."

" So, then, this poor Steve Morrison will have
to become rich Steve Morrison before you per
mit yourself to love him."

" I don t want riches. I want competence
and security. I like work. I should be glad
to help him ; but he must like work also : I
mean steady, respectable work."

" I can understand that to be just and right ;
68



A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

and yet, it does seem a pity that Love has to
take money into consider tion."

" Money is a never-ceasing consideration with
the poor. How is it with the rich ? "

" Much the same. Do you believe Lord
Medway would marry me if I were a poor
girl?"

" Perhaps not."

" I am sure not. I should be as much out of
his thoughts as a three-roomed cottage to live
in, or a ready-made suit of clothing to wear."

" If you look at the matter in that light,
Alice, I would drop it altogether. There ought
to be love between you ; money is not enough."
" Yet, you will not love without money. I
have always read that love was the first and the
last thing; that we ought to marry for love, and
work for money and so on."

" We must do as the world does, and not as
it says. The world frowns on imprudent mar
riages. I think it is right. Steve himself told
the workingmen that if they married within
half a dollar of starvation they are brutally sel
fish ; and they are."

" Nevertheless, I am sorry for the poor,
splendid fellow. I wish you could love him
just for himself."

" You wish me to marry for love. Do you
love Lord Medway? "

69



THE KING S HIGHWAY

" He is pleasant and kind, and I am proud of
his position. I like to think of the title I shall
bear ; of the magnificent old home I shall go
to ; of the society and travel, yes, and of the
grand wedding father has promised me. Any
girl would like such things, and would not dis
like the man who gave them to her unless he
was remarkably ugly or disagreeable. Lord
Medway is fairly good-looking ; he has an aris
tocratic way with him, and he professes to think
me the loveliest woman he ever saw. After he
went to Newport I certainly missed him for a
day or two. I suppose, then, I have a little
love for him a little love, which time and cir
cumstances may make greater."

" Still, Alice, I do not think you are in love.
I remember the first night I met Steve. We
were all sitting at dinner when he came to us. I
thought I had never seen a man with such a
radiant face."

" He had such a happy, careless, uphead
manner, " continued Jessie, " such kind, thought
ful ways. His eyes were full of light and laugh
ter; and if I speak the truth, I must say that I
loved away myself in one short hour; yes, in
one short minute. And I confess, moreover, that
I never was so happy in my life. It was joy to
be in his presence ; and even when he had gone
away, the sense of the delight remained."
70



A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

" How I envy you, Jessie ! " said Alice.

" That night I said to myself, Love is not
our choice, it is our fate. Afterwards, I brought
reason to my condition; for I feel pretty sure,
Love only conquers when we dare not, or will
not, reason with him."

" But, oh, why wish to conquer, or to reason
away so sweet an experience? If I could feel
such love, I would give up everything for it;
that is, if the man who inspired it was a good
man, and worthy of a good woman s love."

" I doubt it. You would think of what peo
ple might say. Your prospective title already
fills your imagination. Your wedding and
your wedding dresses have become familiar
thoughts. Your talk is very much of the Eng
lish Court, and of English Society; and if your
one true lover were now to appear, and he was a
poor man, you would feel it as hard to accept
him as I feel it difficult to accept Steve Morri
son, with all the uncertainties of his position."

" I might. I am not sure for I know not
Love. Still, I have a presentiment that I shall
never marry Lord Medway why, I cannot tell.
Do you believe in presentiments ? "

" I see no reason for not doing so. A good

man or a good woman is allied to the heavenly

intelligences only a little lower than the

angels. Why should they not be informed and

7*



THE KING S HIGHWAY

impressed by their allies? I have a presenti
ment that I shall in the end marry Steve ; and
yet my reason is against it. What does Mrs.
Lloyd think about your marriage with Lord
Medway?"

" She is very much opposed to it. She does
not wish me to go so far away from her. Father
says "

At that moment the door opened, and Mr.
Lloyd entered the room. He was much pleased
to find Jessie there, and said, " I was going to
write a few lines to your brother, and tell him
how much I approved his last paper in The
Forum. It was a lucid and forcible argument.
I should like to have a conversation with him.
Can he dine with me on Monday? Tell him I
shall have two or three gentlemen present who
are of his way of thinking."

" I will give John your message, sir. I am
sure he will be pleased to accept your invi
tation."

This courtesy made quite an excitement in
the McAslin home. Mrs. McAslin thought,
" Nicholas still remembers. He favours my
children because he has not forgotten the old
days." John thought, " Mr. Lloyd is a sensible
man. He may be covetous and selfish, but on
the financial aspect of national affairs he holds
sound opinions." Mr. McAslin said with some
72



A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

pride, "Well, children, we may not be rich, but
the McAslins are of the best blood in Scotland.
If we look back on our history, John is like a
page out of a romance. My page has been but
a dull and difficult one, but who can tell what
adventures and what good fortune may come
to John?"

If John had any presentiment of an adventure,
he kept it still in his heart, and when Monday
arrived, prepared for his visit with an air of real,
or affected, unconcern. He said it was " unfor
tunate Jessie could not go with him ; " and Jessie
answered :

" Monday is the one impossible day in the
week for me. I have pupils until after the last
train for Lloyd s Station that is available for
the dinner hour and pupils are of more im
portance than a social entertainment; so you
will have to go without my protection, John."

When we cross the threshold of a strange
house, it is always an event to be noticed.
Nothing of perceptible importance may follow ;
and again, our footsteps may be full of fate,
and leading us on a road from which there is
no return. John crossed the Lloyd threshold
with every feeling held in abeyance, and yet at
high tension. He knew nothing of the ground
he was on; but he was alert, and watchful of
himself; and in that neutral mood of equi-
73



THE KING S HIGHWAY

poise which is ready to accommodate itself
to whatever is pleasant and equally ready to
repel whatever is antagonistic.

Mr. Lloyd met him cordially. He had two
gentlemen with him, Mr. Moran, a wealthy
capitalist, and Max Lehman, a fiery advocate
of Karl Marx s opinions. They soon fell into
a lively discussion, and John was particularly
interested in Max Lehman. He had heard of
him often. He was associated, in his mind,
with East-side sweating shops and Trades halls,
and all other places where dissatisfied labour
congregated. The argument, dropped for a
few moments at John s entrance, was soon
renewed.

"I am for the transfer of land and capital,
and of all the material and instruments of pro
duction, from the individual to the state. The
government ought to organise labour," said
Lehman, curtly.

" If the government organised labour," an
swered Mr. Moran, " it would soon come to
a square fight between the government and the
working classes ; that is, if they imposed upon
the government as some do upon their present
employers."

" They would not impose on the government.
They would be willing that the government
should hold property that they are not willing
74



A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

to have in private hands. Proudhon s famous
saying that property is robbery, is not far from
the truth."

" I admire your frankness, Mr. Lehman,"
said Lloyd. " You would then do away with
capitalists? "

" It was understood that I was to speak
frankly when I accepted your invitation. As
for capitalists, yes, I would do away with them ;
they are by no means necessary adjuncts to
capital. In every good business there is a
surplus value. This surplus is produced by
the labourer, but it is intercepted by the capi
talist, who gets it without paying for it. State
organisation would do away with this element
of personal selfishness and aggrandisement."

" Mr. Lehman," said John, " there is more
than one kind of labour in any good business.
You are supposing that there is only one kind
that of the hands. You are leaving out
of account altogether that of the head. The
inventor, the improver of processes, the dis
coverer of new markets, the whole work of
management and direction, is paid for out of
surplus values, and this mental work fully earns
its payment. Without head work there would
be little hand work, and one class of workers
are as worthy of payment as the other."

" That is right," said Mr. Lloyd.
75



THE KING S HIGHWAY

" Besides," continued John, " it is very doubt
ful if the government would be any more liberal
than the capitalist. Under present circum
stances it gets its work done at the very lowest
figure possible. How are you going to prevent
buyers buying in the cheapest market?"

"Legislation, sir, will "

"Legislation, Mr. Lehman," said John, "is
out of the question. It is as much beyond
legislation as are the fogs of the Atlantic. You
cannot kill the capitalist goose and retain the
income of the golden eggs. Say that legisla
tion equalises capital to-day, who would make
capital for the needs of the future? Men are
not bees ; if their honey was taken as soon as
their hives were full, they would cease to make
honey."

" The state would then take the place of the
capitalist."

" No state could take the place of that great
band of capitalists who, at this hour, are sus
taining the industries of the country."

" It is a false condition. We want a fairer
division of wealth. Capital and property are
fatal to the equal rights of men. All should
be equally well off."

"But to make all equally well off we shall
have to vastly increase production. How is
this to be done?"

76



A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

" Organisation communism the diffusion
of power will lead to the diffusion of wealth."

At this point a servant announced dinner,
and the gentlemen rose; but as they went to
the dining-room the conversation was contin
ued " Yes, sir, organisation and suffrage, as
an experiment; if it fails "

"What then?"

" We will try communism. Property is fatal
to equality."

" Communism is fatal to liberty."

They were just within the door as John
uttered the words. They fell from his lips
with a force and conviction that left on his
handsome face a very becoming dignity, and
the next moment a beautiful woman stood be
fore him. His eyes caught her eyes, and then
Mr. Lloyd introduced his daughter to John.
Both went through the same strange, vivid
experience, but what it meant neither of them
at the time knew or cared. They had simply
found each other. The recognition was instan
taneous ; the greeting mutually happy and free
from doubt; the influence on both distinctly
exhilarating. Mr. Lloyd perceived nothing
unusual in this meeting; the mystical mother
was clearer-eyed. She saw in both faces a
fine intangible revealing of something not yet
known to themselves ; she saw it in their smiles,
77



THE KING S HIGHWAY

and in the quick, wide opening of their eyes,
for the eyes are ever the leaders in love.

" This is the beginning of some predestined
end," she thought; and through all the clash
of contradiction and assertion she watched John
with an interest he was quite unconscious
of.

A conversation so absorbing to all parties
could not be long interrupted by minor subjects.
Mr. Lloyd praised his fine wines, as if their
possession were a personal merit ; but that sub
ject raised little enthusiasm ; and Max Lehman
quickly returned to his communistic dreams.
Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Moran put in occasional
denials of his position, but John listened until
the German Socialist had exhausted his argu
ment. Then he spoke with a calm decision
that had in it no element of fret or doubt.

" The destruction of capital and the transfer
of land to the government this, then, is what
you want ! But these things mean pillage,
bloodshed, national madness, misery and ruin,
not only to the rich and to the middle class, but
most irretrievably of all to the poor. To teach
the ignorant, the lazy, and the criminal that
their property is plundered from them by the
manufacturer and the capitalist is to turn partial
distress into universal catastrophe."

" In the midst of so much poverty and wrong,
78



A STRANGE DINNER PARTY

are we to sit still and do nothing, John Mc-
Aslin ? " asked Lehman, passionately.

" God forbid ! " John answered, with an equal
fervour. " There is work enough for all to do.
But is it not better to cut off the causes than to
dally over effects? "

" That is what the Socialists desire to do."

" No ; they flatter or they madden their
audiences. They do not dare to tell them that
a great deal of their misery is caused by their
own laziness and vice. They harangue against
the sins and self-indulgence of the rich ; they
have not the courage to point out the sins and
vices of the poor their thriftlessness, their
disgracefully early and improvident marriages,
and above all, their drunkenness."

" They are no worse than others."

" They profess to be better, and they are not,
and you know they are not. The poor clergy
man and the poor clerk are thrifty. In many
cases they make no more than the skilled work
man, yet they bring up their families decently
and live within their narrow means. When
wages are high do the working classes save for
a bad time ? No, they are not only extrava
gant, they are wasteful. They do not seem to
realise that luxury and extravagance are as bad
in the poor as in the rich. In the middle classes
a man does not marry until he can support a
79



THE KING S HIGHWAY

wife and family; a labourer will marry on a
dollar, take his wife into squalid, crowded rooms,
and bring into the world such stunted, wretched
children as, in the terrible language of South,
are not so much born as damned into the
world. But drunkenness is the master fiend of
their poverty and distress ; and drunkenness is
in itself a whole world of sin. If there were no
other sin, it would be sufficient to bring to us
every calamity. Communism will not make the
poor man thrifty, self-denying, and sober; on
the contrary, it would increase his extravagance
and self-indulgence and intemperance."

" At any rate, it would be well to try the
effect of more money and more leisure on him."

" You have not considered that there is a
destiny in riches, and that they are beyond our
control. Riches do not come by chance or by
accident. And I, for one, do not consider the
possession of great wealth an enviable condition.
No thoughtful man would do so."

" For what reason ? " asked Mr. Lloyd.

" Because of the responsibility attached to it,


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 4 of 19)