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might never have dared raise a voice to her. The
duke 's agent was the duke, the duke was the duchess,
in their simple minds. It was all one great machinery
of fate which crushed them at their appointed time.
To those immortals what were the likes of them?

Yet the mothers counseled submission, after the
wont of their kind. "Do 'ee now 'umble yourself,"
said George's. "Tell un you be sorry-loike if ye
ha' done amiss. It 's the mother as nussed ye tell
ye so. Do, like a good boy."

"I '11 die fust, mammy," said the bad boy, the
form of the appeal taking him back to the time when
he drew his life from her breast. "If I went to
heel, I 'd only get another kick for my pains. What
did Kisbye sack me for? Nothin'. What have I

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done sence? Nothin' again. Ask Peascod if I ain't
always kep' within the act o' Parli'ment."

The poor old things looked at Rose, as though
urging her to back them. But she shook her head.
It was the second of her two moods, the dogged one.
"I '11 stand by what 'e does," was all she said.

"Well, not to 'umble hisself, deary," pleaded her
mother. ' ' P 'r 'aps 'e could get a cottage somewheres
else, an' not lose the bezness. He 's so cliver. Oh,
the bezness, the b'ezness!" And the two mourners
keened in chorus over the good thing dead and gone.

"It 's no use," said George. "I couldn't get a
foothold anywheres within ten mile of Allonby; an'
if I did, they 'd hunt me down. With their mark
ag'in' you, you 're a lost man."

"He 's goin' for a sojer, see if he ain't!" cried
the old woman. "Oh, cruel, cruel! an' with my gal
for 's wife ! ' '

Even the daughter paled.

"I 'm goin' to London," said George, kissing
Eose, "an' my gal 's goin' wi' me. Will that dew?"

"London!" wailed the desperate old creature.
"An' what '11 ye make there, ye silly sheep that
I should call you so ! What '11 ye make there ? ' '

"Make my fortune, mother. What I 've done
once with a bezness I can do again. That 's the place
to win the brass. That 's the place where every-
body 's free."

The neighbors dropped in to condole. "What
I 've noticed all ma little loife," said Job Gurt, "is
this: Speak yer mind, an' you get the sack. You

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don't get it for speakin' yer mind ; you get it, that 's
all. But it 's just as good as though you got itt'
other way. D' ye think they '11 chalk up more beer
for 'ee at the Knuckle o ' Veal because you 're what 's
called a victim? 'T ain't loikely. A wouldn't do
it mysen. Publican 's got to live. My old feyther
told me that when I wur a boy, an' I 've found it
roight."

An invincible terror of their betters, as beings
mighty to hurt, was the note with most of them.
There was the life of habit, with all its drawbacks,
and how change it without risk ? ' ' When ma missus
went off for a week last Easter to see her mother,
I missed her tongue. A take ma Bible oath on it, so
I did. When she 'ad 'er say I was payin' as I went
on." It was Job still.

"You 'd be a good plucked un, even if you was
a leaseholder, young man," said Mr. Grimber.
"People can't afford to 'ave so much sperrit when
their rates is included in the rent. ' '

Mr. Bascomb slipped two sovereigns into Rose's
hand, and then went home, with a sigh, to read ' ' The
City of God." Mr. Raif called, as in duty bound,
but it was only to shake his head. The domestic
chaplain had caught George in the very act of his
defiant utterance as to making his fortune in Lon-
don. He took leave of the outcast meekly, yet as
one giving thanks that he was rid of a knave.

The little home was broken up. The mothers took
most of the furniture to store for happier times;
the rest was sent to town. The business had no sell-

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ing value, and it was left to perish. The two out-
casts went forth quietly. The omens were not all
against them. It was a chilling spring, yet the
blackthorn flowered; a redstart sang them farewell.
But for this they might have lacked attention, the
neighbors having been specially canvassed by Grim-
ber, with a view to a display of masterly inactivity
within doors. It was thus, in its lack of publicity,
as in other respects, a sort of expulsion from Eden,
with Peascod's walking-stick as a poor substitute
for the flaming sword. They went forth to keep
London the largest of all the cities of the world, and
rural England, in a sense, the smallest of all the
countries. None but old Spurr came to bear a hand
with the traps, which George was himself to wheel
to the station for transport by a later train. Few
as these were, the little hand-cart would not hold all
of them, and George looked round for a lift.

It came at a turn of the road. The yellow van
hove in sight, not in marching order at present, but
merely bound for the station, itself to take train to
a distant center for the opening of the spring cam-
paign. Only a carter's lad was in charge this time.
The lecturer, the wife, the baby, the posters were
to join at a later stage, and, for the moment, the
vehicle looked all forlorn. The driver wanted but a
word to induce him to hoist the bundle on the tail-
board; and with a "gee up," he took his place be-
hind the little cart. The two old grannies, yet to
be, hid their faces with their aprons and ran indoors.
The same thought had come to both of them in a

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flash. It looked exactly like a funeral procession
fourth-class.

They gravitated toward the east end of the great
city; and, while waiting to turn himself round, the
young fellow took his unskilled strength into the
market and found a job at the dock-side. At the
sight of their dismal lodging in dismal Poplar, Rose
wavered for a moment in utter heartbreak, and
would have written to her august friend. But
George sternly forbade, strong in his confidence of
righting himself, grim in his disdain. Nobody was
to know of this fleeting experience of discomfort;
even the mothers were to be spared details. Rose
was nothing loath on that point. Her peasant pride
revolted at the thought of the admission of even
temporary failure. All would come right so very
soon, and then she and George would return to
Slocum in state, wearing new Sunday clothes.

The duchess heard of it, for all that, if only in
the postscript of a belated letter:

" Your young friends Rose and George are now
your neighbors in town. Herion, I hear, has rather
lost his head with some notion of making his fortune
in London, and, on the strength of it, or perhaps we
had better say the weakness, has been disrespectful
to the agent. Anyhow, he has taken himself off with
his pretty little wife."

It was Mary reporting the reports of Mr. Raif.
So, notoriously, is history made. But the squire's

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daughter had enough to think of just now to excuse
her from trying to get her information at first
hand. In spite of the drawbridge at Liddicot Hall,
many worries and anxieties had crossed the moat,
and father and daughter agreed that all thought of
a season in town was out of the question. With
Tom at the front, they lacked the spirit for gaiety.
They lacked even the means, after the heavy pecu-
niary sacrifices entailed by his outfit and departure.

So Augusta read her postscript, not thinking there
was very much in it, and went on with her season.
It was a sad season, the shadow of the war was
over it, though the devotees of pleasure managed
to pick a bit here and there, like some sick navvy
at his third helping of rabbit-pie.

Yet even they had their trials. There was always
that weekly picture-book of the dead in the illus-
trated papers, with its portraits of the poor lads who
had been laid low on the veldt. The war seemed a
monster that devoured youth. There they were in
all the smartness of mufti or of uniform, beardless,
many of them without the barber's art, clear-eyed,
ingenuous, and, for all the manly glory of their
sacrifice, sheer mothers' boys. Yet the customary
things had to be done, for gaiety is one of the public
services, like the water and the gas. When the pub-
lic courage seemed to faint, the venerable Queen
came out and was driven through the cheering
streets, guarded, tended, as well as attended, even
in her carriage weary as with the memory of in-
numerable pageants and with the sense of the vanity



The Yellow Van

of things, almost immobile, bowing, if one may say
so, mainly from the eyes.

Incessantly they pitied themselves, especially
when they went to bed without a headache, and they
left town for Easter with the most sincere conviction
that they needed a thorough rest. Strengthened and
refreshed, they came back for a great dinner-party
at the duke's, a court concert, and a thousand and
one nothings which left them thoroughly exhausted
by Whitsuntide. There were no court balls for one
reason, because, with eight thousand of her Majesty's
Guards in South Africa, there were no dancers.
There were still enough soldiers left, however, to
make a brave show for the trooping of the colors for
the Queen's birthday, and a braver, if possible, for
the regimental dinners of a later stage. The first
meet of the coaching club was pretty. The duke
had promised to drive his own coach, but at the last
moment he had to confide Augusta to another chariot-
eer. He was engaged in finishing a weighty literary
deliverance on the causes of the depopulation of
rural England, to which he had been urged by the
editor of a fashionable review.

A debutante is the imperious need of every season,
of such a season above all. Augusta was the nine
days' wonder, and, human nature being what it is,
that was enough for her. London was new to her;
she had but passed through it on her arrival in Eng-
land. Her self-possession was much admired in the
circumstances. The truth is, she found it not by
seeking for it, but by a lucky accident. She was

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so intensely interested in what passed that she was
often able to forget her own share in it. She re-
sembled those favored persons on the Elizabethan
stage who were at once parts of the audience and
parts of the spectacle. Often when she was the real
center of attraction in a group she was eagerly and
interestedly aware of everybody in it but herself,
and so took it with a quiet absorption of curiosity
which served her as well as the hardihood bred of a
dozen campaigns. Her first drawing-room was a
kind of waking dream in which she was mainly
busy with the memories of a notable tale of fairy-
land read years ago by the fire in a ranch.

There were tableaux at the Great Opera House.
It was all society under a hat a big hat, of course.
Society filled the bill in every sense; the humblest
supers on the stage were personages, so were the
very gods in the gallery. Royalty swept the circle
from its box. It was a Mask of Peace and War,
something for a charity, with the colonies offering
toffy to mama, and the massed bands of the Guards
the poor Guards were nothing but band, with all
the men at the front blowing "Rule Britannia "
toward the universe. Public enthusiasm took its
temperature from the evening papers. There were
good telegrams that night, and the house felt good
along with them.

After the entertainment came supper at the res-
taurant. "When Augusta saw what a pretty sight
it was down-stairs she canceled the order for a pri-
vate room. A few of the tables were perfect con-
stellations. But it was very mixed, and there were

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dreadful-looking people here and there, guzzling like
trusts at feeding-time, and positively trying to make
believe they were hungry. This was finance. Kisbye
was among them, and he had the impudence to try
to catch the duke's eye! What a mixture it was,
and no mixing home and foreign nobility, South
African millionaires, mincing stage misses. Dying
is about the only unaffected thing in some lives.
Everybody that was anybody in any line that
seemed to be the rule: a collection of ''bests," even
in depravity. It gave one a sense of power, in a way.
Here, at least, were all the people who had found
out how to do things even those who could only
talk cleverly about doing them ; for the distinguished
author was not wanting, as a matter of course. Even
authors must eat ; and society seethes something bet-
ter than pottage for the sons of the prophets. The
Prince had won the Derby a second time, and the
duke was to dine with him at the Jockey Club in
honor of the occasion. The duchess received her Ma-
jesty's commands for a performance of opera at
Windsor Castle.

In a letter Augusta gave an account of these
gaieties with this postscript, in answer to Mary's:

"I think the Herions have made a mistake, but
we shall see. I like his pluck, all the same. Good
night, Mary. I 'm writing this before turning in.
I shall have a surprise for you soon. It will be a
surprise visit a stranger! male sex! There, you
must do the rest for yourself. Now get a wink of
sleep, if you can."

171




XIX

IR HENRY LIDDICOT is out of
sorts this morning, as he sits at
breakfast with his daughter in his
moated hall. He has had a kind of
threatening letter from a money-
lender, and not his money-lender,
but the other man 's. The other man is his son. Tom,
it seems, has accepted accommodation to gentlemen
about town as generously as it is usually offered in
the initial stage. He is deeply involved, in fact ; and
the money-lender, who signs himself Claude Vava-
sour, thinks that the squire may like to know. The
squire does not like to know in the least.

"I thought I 'd cleared him nicely before he went
out," he says. "I call it sly."
"No, no, father not that!"
"Who is this fellow with a name out of a playbill?
And what are we going to do ? "

Mary sighs at the thought of another appeal to
the family solicitors. It involves a confession of a
most embarrassed state of affairs. Messrs. Stall-
brass, Stallbrass, Fruhling, Jenkins & Prothero
where do family solicitors get these appalling collo-
cations? are a sort of outer conscience for the
squire, and he approaches them in his difficulties

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like a naughty Hoy. The girl knows what those dif-
ficulties are even better than her father. His poor
eyesight has long made him dependent on her for
clerical work.

"What are you going to do, father?"

"Put the letter in the fire."

"And Tom? Remember he 's not here to look af-
ter himself."

"I 'm tired of looking after him mess, clubs,
turf, life ab'out town there 's no end to it. Why
did n 't I send him into a marching regiment ? What
are you huddling up there, Polly?"

It was Tom's little bills for his late equipment for
the front as an officer of a crack regiment : luncheon-
baskets, cases of wines and spirits, guns, polo-clubs,
golf-tools, a truly edifying variety of fancy shirts
all consigned as "urgent military stores."

' ' Ah, ' ' he said, as though mollified in some curious
way, "it 's a dearer trade than it was in my day.
March of progress, I suppose." But he said no
more.

There was silence for a while, broken only by the
chipping of an egg-shell.

"I gave him all he wanted," he added presently,
"and ready money, too. I don't see why he should
spring all this private debt upon me. The land
won't stand it."

You never could answer for the squire's mental
machinery as an implement of research. Perhaps
somewhere in the background of his mind was an
idea of the burdens upon an acre of Liddicot land



The Yellow Van

as they had been accumulated by the slow growth of
custom in the course of centuries. So much may be
conjectured, for he murmured: "There 's you and
me, and Tom, and your Aunt Dorothy, and your
Aunt Elizabeth "and with that he seemed to give
it up.

An expert might have followed up the clue in this
way: Not only did all the persons named expect to
reap and garner the acre for their private needs:
there were the poor relatives, as well as the entailed
ones a venerable second cousin or two in foreign
boarding-houses to whom the squire was "good."
Further claims were represented by the pensioned
servants and other dependents, one of them an old
fellow in the next cottage to Skett's, who had been
surly to all and several for the last fifteen years
of bedridden impotence on the strength of his hav-
ing carried the ferrets in his pocket when the squire
went ratting as a boy. Then came the farmer and
his laborers, with their respective wives, children,
and hangers-on, according to degree, who naturally
expected to live by the land. Each claimed his share,
big or little. This was only the pure ideal of the ar-
rangement. Some got the share only now and then ;
others never got it at all. The fractions, as they
stood in the scheme of benevolent muddle, always
overran the total. The acre wouldn't go round.
The attempt to make it behave itself was the stand-
ing puzzle of the patriarch's life. The squire and
his son and daughter of course had to come first.
He was sorry for those who came last and he thought
the government ought to be ashamed of itself.

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The Yellow Van

"Couldn't we cut down the living expenses,
dad?"

"Be reasonable, my dear. We used to be almost
a first-class house ; we 're hardly a third now. How
many people have we about the place ? ' '

" Quite fifty."

' ' Thought as much, ' ' he said, with a quiet chuckle.
"Cut it down if you can. We 're undermanned in
stablemen and keepers ; we have n 't a single war-
rener. Where are you going to begin on the home
farm?"

" Do we want all those mechanics idling about ? ' '

"All right; sack your bricklayer, carpenter,
painter, and wheelwright, and get it jobbed outside.
But take care, Polly, or you '11 have the moat in the
cellars one day, if not the cellars in the moat."

"Still-"

"I gave up the deer-park before you were born,"
he pleaded. "Reason that 's all I want. Half our
gardeners are boys. We 've hardly got anything
under glass. But I 'm not exactly going to the green-
grocer for my peaches, for all that."

"Well, father, but-"

"And I don't think you 'd like to put down the
laundry, Mary, with all these new-fashioned com-
plaints about. Come, now, let 's stick to something
or give up the game. ' '

It was his way of looking at life. He had brought
up his son on it. Some such thought was in Mary's
mind.

"Then I 'm afraid Mr. Vavasour is inevitable,"
was all she said.

175



The Yellow Van

"No, no; I don't go so far as that. Sorry I 'm a
magistrate : I should like to put him in the moat. ' '

"He 'd walk still, father. It would only be a
second ghost at Liddicot."

"It 's Tom's extravagance," he began. But then
he thought of his boy at the front, and his anger
melted away. Such a good fellow, such a nice, manly
sort of lad a first-class athlete, the best gentleman
jockey in the county, so simple and straight with
his breezy belief that youth was the season for en-
joyment and that the chief business of his elders was
to push him on without any exertion on his part !
Only wanting everything he had a mind to, and
prone to measure himself with the best.

"It 's my fault as much as his," he mused. "I
ought to go to headquarters and give him a lift. I
know one or two at the War Office used to, at any
rate. It 's a mischief we can't entertain a bit in
town this season. And yet it 's nobody 's fault, after
all. It 's the state of the country. "What are you
to do with a wretched government that won't look
after the landed interest?"

He took up a newspaper, but it seemed only a fresh
cause of annoyance, for, with the exclamation ' ' Gad-
flies!" he threw it down again.

Mary caught it as it fell. They were attacking
his precious boy, by implication, in a scathing dia-
tribe on "Our Military Dunces," provoked by some
fresh blunder at the front. These unfortunate per-
sons, it seemed, had learned nothing of their trade,
and consequently they had nothing to forget. The

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The Yellow Van

particular insect in question had dipped its stingf
in a recent report on military education, and it left
venom with every wound. Sandhurst was a mere
survival of the practical joke; the cadets at Wool-
wich took their lessons of application from a muzzle-
loading howitzer without a carriage ; even Aldershot
was nearly as bad. The military geography, in spite
of the manuals, was child's play. It was sleepy
hollow everywhere; ignorance was positively wor-
shiped throughout the army.

The poor girl dropped the paper in her turn. A
tear trickled down her cheek, for Tom's sake,
and she wished she could horsewhip somebody. It
was a new and ghastly light on the absent hero's
contempt of book work, and his amiable derision, a
grace in itself, at the expense of the fellow that
''swots."

"It 's a lie!" thundered the squire. "That lad's
education, first and last, cost me seven thousand
pound." He was not grumbling now; he was only
protesting against the attack. He was proud of the
cost. It was part of his duty to his son to give him
the best that money could buy ; and in this, of course,
as in most things, the more you paid the more
you had. It was at the root of his philosophy of
life.

"A fine sum," he murmured, after a pause, "to
be at the mercy of the pull of a trigger from such
as them!"

It was the expression of his disgust at the thought
of all that invested capital in the graces of mind
12



The Yellow Van

and station under the rifle of a crouching farmer.
It made him realize the cost of the war.

"And they pretend he can't spell, father! Did
you ever hear such impertinence ?^' The same
thought was in both their minds. It was all per-
sonal to Tom.

' ' All spite all newspaper spite, ' ' he said. ' ' Some
of our little comforts have reached the front, I sup-
pose, and they can't bear the thought of it. Such
people never can. Just see what they say about the
pursuing column."

It was a mocking account of a so-called flying
column, hampered with portable beds, wash-stands,
and what not, including tents of a cool green to
baffle the sun. The column flew all the same, ap-
parently under the influence of a terrible colonel
who could put up with a dog-biscuit for ration, and
who sent all the finery to the rear. Tom's regiment
was actually named, with the additional fact that at
the end of the day the mess still managed to appear
in some approach to suitable evening wear.

"That 'a Tom all over," said the old man. "He 'd
be lost without his change at dinner-time. But
green 's going too far, ' ' he added reflectively. "It 's
a bit foppish, if you ask me."

Some misgiving appeared to enter the girl 's mind.
She echoed him no more. There was none in the
squire's. "I know that sort," he said, harking back
to the abstemious colonel. "Promotion from the
ranks, eh ? All done to curry favor. I suppose he 's
one of K 's lot."



The Yellow Van

The force of manly indignation could no further

go. K was that tremendous figure, hated of the

squire and his kind for his unseemly passion for
the rigor of the game of war a passion that threat-
ened to spoil the army as a good thing for men of
family. It was the old ideal of military service
perishing under the rude shocks of the new men
the men who were for bringing a gentlemanlike call-
ing back to its old realities of berserker fury and
berserker sweat. The fury was all very well in its
season. It was so easy to die in that game, as in
tiger-shooting, or, for that matter, in riding to
hounds; but it was disgusting to think of having
to run the risk without the relief of the elementary
comforts of home.

Mary was silent still. She thought of a passage
in one of Tom's letters in which that amiable youth
had related, with such spelling as he could muster,
an adventure of his own with the personage in ques-
tion. A group of officers of Tom's regiment at Cape
Town, on easy leave, were laying themselves out for
a round of social pleasures while waiting for "an-
other flutter" at the front. The leave had been had

for the asking before K arrived to take matters

in hand, and the distraction of the hour was a game
of pool. To the assembled heroes enters suddenly a
grim figure in khaki, colossal, with little to dis-
tinguish his rank but his commanding port and a
something in the solemn glare of his eye that strikes

awe into the beholder. It is K himself, come

down in a night and a day of incessant traveling to

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whip up stragglers. ''What are you doing here,
gentlemen?" "On leave, sir, from the front."
"Get back to the front by the next train, or home
by the next steamer. " ' ' Pretty cool, and for a chap
in the Engineers, Polly!" said Tom. "Guess how


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