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England in a motor-car. This
mystery is usually the reward of

years of toilsome observation. Mr.

Gooding was in a hurry. America, to which he be-
longed, is in much the same state. He purposed to
devote a day to it.

A project of Mary Liddicot's gave him the excuse
for the adventure. Mary was the delight of his
active and observant spirit, a constant stimulus to
his sense of wonder. She was something quite new,
as one of those who are still children at three-score
and ten, if they live as long, and this by no mere
reversion to second childishness. Simple and down-
right, she suggested an organism untroubled by con-
volutions of the brain. It was neither a fault nor a
quality with her, but merely a fact. These childlike
natures, seeing life solely in its direct issues, may
be the most vicious creatures alive. There are adults
of infancy in the jails, as well as in the country
houses and honeysuckle homes. They are not un-
known on thrones, and there they sometimes exhibit
amazing powers of mastery. Where this ever-endur-

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The Yellow Van

ing age of innocence is Hacked by a strong under-
standing, as in Mary's case, it is capable of yielding
precious result. She was a yea or nay girl, a sort
of high-bred Quaker, incapable of " point" in any-
thing but her shoes. She often hit the nail right on
the head in the most felicitous manner, yet, if you
complimented her for epigram, she said, ' ' Fancy ! ' '
not knowing in the least what you meant. Some-
times she seemed deliberately hard, sometimes quite
insensitive; and then, again, you thought she was
ready to swear blood-brotherhood with you on the
spot. You would have been just as wrong in this
case as in the others. You had given her a pleasur-
able emotion, and she showed it like any other child ;
that was all.

Mary and her father were going to London. The
squire began it. He had received another letter
from the mysterious money-lender, Mr. Claude Va-
vasour, hinting at the prudence of a friendly ar-
rangement of Tom Liddicot's affairs. The captain
being in South Africa fighting for his country, it
behooved those who were interested in the honor
of the family name to consider their position. Such
was the impression that Mr. Vavasour contrived to
convey, by suggestion, of course, without saying a
single word that could be quoted to his detriment.
It made the squire hot and cold, and finally led him
to form the strong resolution of facing Mr. Vavasour
in his den and having it out with him. Mary
dreaded the consequences, and tried to dissuade her
father in the process, of course, only urging the

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The Yellow Van

very things that made him more intent on his pur-
pose. Then she said she would go up with him, as
she wanted to go shopping. That was her nearest
approach to a stroke of politic subterfuge, but, the
squire having much the same cast of mind as her-
self, it served her turn.

Now came Mr. Gooding's opportunity. He pro-
posed to meet them in town, and give them a lift,
on their way home, in his car. Mary was wild with
delight. It was untried being. With that prospect
on her part, the squire's objection to the mode of
transit was speedily overruled. They went up by
train, on the understanding that their escort should
await them next morning for the return journey.

So, early on the appointed day, the squire knocked
at the door of Mr. Vavasour's office, situated in an
old nondescript West End square under the lee of
Buckingham Palace. Mary, who had been left below
in the cab, found plenty to amuse her in the move-
ment of the scene. She was still busy with anticipa-
tions of the coming trip when her father almost
rushed back into the street, as pale as one who had
seen a ghost, and a good half-hour before the time
for their meeting with the young man. And at his
heels, vainly attempting to perform the ceremony of
conducting him to the door, was Mr. Kisbye !

It was Mary 's turn to look pale now. She started,
averted her gaze from the apparition, and gave a
faint nod into vacancy in acknowledgment of an
obsequious bow.

Yet that glance of a single instant had shown

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The Yellow Van

her something more of him than she had yet seen.
In their chance encounters of the roadside she had
persistently cut him dead. She now realized him as
of middle height and age, bald, with the swarthy
look of a "foreigner," yet well dressed in the Eng-
lish manner, probably by way of an informal at-
tempt at naturalization.

The effect was scarcely less startling upon him.
He blushed through his tan, cast an admiring look
at the girl, muttered something which seemed to die
away on his lips, ducked again, and vanished.

The behavior of all, indeed, was as though each had
been a ghostly visitant for the others. The squire had
gone up-stairs to seek out an indeterminate money-
lender, and had found his detested neighbor of the
Grange. Mr. Kisbye had come down-stairs to show
him out, and had encountered Mary, hardly a phan-
tom, but still an entirely unexpected shape. Mary
had been as little prepared for this sudden discharge
of the hated creature at short range.

The old man threw himself into the cab, and dart-
ing his fist through the trap, gasped, "Home!"

"Father," said the girl, "home is Liddicot now;
we can 't get there in a hansom. ' ' And, in obedience
to her amended order, the driver began to walk his
horse slowly round the square.

"What is it, dad?"

' ' Don 't you see for yourself, Polly ? Our money-
lender is Kisbye one face of Satan under two
hoods. An infernal usurer, with a place between ours
and the duke's. And Tom in his toils!"

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The Yellow Van

"Did n't he seem ashamed of being found out?"

''Never a bit."

"What did you say?"

"I said, 'Who are you? I came to see Mr. What-
d'-ye-call-'em.' "

"And then?"

" 'That 's my name in business,' says he, with a
smile for which I could have choked him."

"And you?"

"I said, 'Oh!' "

"Well?"

' ' Then he fingered his watch-guard. It may come
in useful if ever they want to hang him in chains. ' '

"Of course, dear and?"

"Well, you see, there was n't much to say after
that."

"Father, you are keeping something back."

"What is there to keep? Well, then he came
out with a rigmarole of his infernal shop-walker's
civility and attention on the subject of Tom's affairs.
His style was like a butler looking for a place. But
his meaning was, 'What are you going to do about
it? 'just that."

"Never mind, we can snub him to death, and then
he '11 have to leave the county."

"Much he cares for that, you little simpleton.
If snubbing could kill, we 'd have had him in his
grave long since. Polly, there was mastery in his
eye."

"Insolence, you mean, dad."

"No, not that exactly. That 's only his way in

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The Yellow Van

the country passing you with his coach and his
grinning grooms in livery, as if he invited you to
take it or leave it, the whole turnout. But in busi-
ness he rubs his hands. He treated me like a cus-
tomer, and was as sleek as if I had come to buy a
necktie. His table is his counter, where it 's not his
'social board.' Polly, I detest that man!"

Mary thought she had the whole story now, but
she was woefully in error. He was still keeping back
something that he would have died rather than tell
her. It was nothing less than the gentlest of all pos-
sible hints, on the part of Mr. Kisbye, that every-
thing might be arranged if the master of Liddicot
Manor would look favorably on the money-lender's
pretensions to Mary 's hand. Elusive as it was meant
to be, it was still plain to the father's excited sus-
ceptibilities and quickened apprehension of danger
to his house. He had risen in inexpressible disgust,
and made haste for the door without another word.

In truth, the interview was Mr. Kisbye 's oppor-
tunity, and, though it had taken him by surprise,
he had done his best to make the most of it. He
was in no hurry to be identified with Claude Vava-
sour, and he had hoped that his communications
with the squire would for some time longer be con-
fined to correspondence. On the other hand, he was
indifferent to the accident of the discovery. It was
necessarily Captain Liddicot 's secret, and, though
he had his own reasons for silence, it might at any
moment become common property. Yet, having
the squire face to face with him for the first time

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The Yellow Van

in their lives, Kisbye thought he could afford to give
a glimpse of his hand. He had lent freely to the
spendthrift son, on poor security, and he knew per-
fectly well that he could never hope to see his money
back. But he was willing to pay for his pleasures;
and the dreary gospel in which he had been reared
taught him that even this beautiful girl might not
be unattainable by money wisely invested in the em-
barrassments of a falling house. He despised her
father. His civility, as the old man had surmised,
was due merely to his sense of duty as a shopkeeper.
In the country he held himself as good a magnate
as the best, and he meant to lord it with them, and
over them, before he had done.

"Polly, Polly!" groaned the squire, as their cab
still kept up its soothing perambulations, ''he '11
get to Allonby one day, mark my words! That
brute is the new landed interest: the Liddicot mil-
lennium coming to its fag-end. His office was hung
with auctioneers' bills, as though he had half Eng-
land in the market. What do you think of this for
a crack of doom? 'Sutherland, Scotland. For sale,
by private bargain, the Island Kingdom of Tillee.
Winter shooting. Splendid golf-links,' and all the
rest of it. A kingdom ! Most likely for some
American. By the way, when will that young spark
be here?"

"He 's here already, father. There 's his motor
on the other side of the square."

"I can't do with him to-day. We '11 go home by
train."

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The Yellow Van

Mary said, "Very well," and looked intensely
wretched. That was quite enough for her father.
In five minutes more they had transferred them-
selves and their slender hand-baggage the rest had
been sent on by train to the shining car, and were
picking their way through the London labyrinth
to a great main road.



223



XXV




RTHUR saw that there was some-
thing wrong, but took no notice
of it. His good breeding never
failed, and he made short work of
his salutations, as befitted the oc-
casion. Besides, he was his own
steersman, and for a good half-hour he enjoyed the
full benefit of the rule against superfluous speech
with the man at the wheel. He had not forgotten,
however, before starting, to make all taut for his
visitors, and particularly for the lady. "When we
get the way on," he said to Mary, "it may blow
half a gale." So he abounded in practical sugges-
tions as to veils and wraps and tresses struggling
to be free. His own outfit was simple in the extreme,
and the girl was thankful to him that he forbore
goggles and a leather jacket. The squire suffered
himself to be rigged for rough weather without a
word. It was a new experience for both of them,
for him especially, and he had his misgivings. He
might have said, with old Sam Johnson, when they
talked of conceivable travel at something over ten
miles an hour: "Sir, it would be impossible; you
could not breathe." They had forgotten that.
The horse traffic of the London streets did not

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The Yellow Van

appear to like the looks of them. Mr. Gooding con-
siderately gave it time to correct first impressions
by going at a crawl. Then, as they reached the sub-
urbs, he put on the pace.

"Oh!" said Mary. "Ugh!" said the squire.
Earth seemed to come rushing at them with intent to
do grievous bodily harm, but only to get tossed into
the background for its pains, as so much refuse of
picturesque wonder. Its villages, turrets, steeples,
and wayfaring folk were whirling, whirling, whirling
past, from an infinite of things that endure forever,
to an infinite of things that were. The lazy teams
seemed as trotters trying to break the record. The
very policemen on point duty were in the movement.
It was cosmic motion realized to sense, and for the
first time. "With the best of railway-cars the vault
of heaven is not in the race. Even a gallop was out
of the comparison. One had to work too much in
partnership with the horse for the sense of pure
effortless cleavage of the air. The motor-car is per-
haps a godsend for those of us who are too deep-
rooted in the idea of the stability of things. It is
a vastly more exhilarating suggestion of the earth's
dance than the pendulum and the sanded floor.

For the gray-haired senior it marked an end of
the old leisurely picturesque of travel, and brought
in a new one of landscape by lime-light flash. Soon
they were in Buckinghamshire, that second garden of
England ; in its dignified lenity of tone, a proof after
Woollett touched into color and life. Venerable
Aylesbury, which he knew, as matter of historic evi-

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The Yellow Van

dence, had endured for centuries, passed him, in an
instant, out of nothingness back into it again. Spires
that might have been Oxford seen from Bicester
glared at him for a moment, and then hurried by
to the common doom. For the first fifteen minutes
of it he was sulky ; in the second he began to feel that
he would lower the fines in cases of this description
before the bench; at the third he beamed like a
happy child. All his troubles, including Kisbye, had
gone to limbo with hamlet and town, the rushing
wind of things carrying freshness and healing to
the innermost nerves of the brain. Hurrah for the
latest life of the road ! When will the doctors codify
it into a treatment for half the worries of our lot?

Mary dared not confess to herself the ecstasy she
felt. She looked wistful with delight. Poor child !
she was at the budding age when we begin to realize
the fullness and the glory of the inheritance of sensa-
tion into which we have been born. Yet she had her
doubts, inspired, perhaps, by ascetic teachings of
Mr. Bascomb entirely foreign to her nature. Was
it right to feel so intensely alive ? She dreaded this
arrow-flight through space, as sometimes she dreaded
the very organ-peals and the quired hymns, lest they
should carry her to heights of presumption that
might, one day, measure only depths of spiritual
fall. Was not this rapture of physical being some-
thing to be watched and curbed before it made her
the bond-slave of sense? It might be rash to feel
such mastery over things in such a world.

' ' Too much pace for you ? ' ' inquired Mr. Gooding,

226



The Yellow Van

considerately. He knew that he was going too fast
and that he owed amends to the outraged law. He
was a sure hand; it is impossible to make a better
excuse for him. He steered for a fine, as others
sometimes ride for a fall. He simply could not resist
the temptation of giving her a happy scare.

"No; only too much 'don't care.' ' And with
quick, impulsive finger she checked his make-believe
attempt to slacken down.

"Sorry to be alive, perhaps?" he asked, his twink-
ling eye still set straight ahead.

"No ; only sorry not to be sorry. I " The wind
caught the rest.

Thereafter she scarcely spoke; but the deepened
pink of her exquisite complexion, the fire of her
glance, made words a superfluity. The run was, in
the main, a mere inter jectional transaction from first
to last. Another benefit of this matchless invention
is that it tends to prove the futility of utterance.

For this reason it precludes even expostulation
on the part of the justly scandalized wayfarer. As
the terror threatens him at short notice, he naturally
postpones the assertion of his rights under the High-
ways Act until he has reached cover. When he has
reached it the terror is out of range, and reproof
would be a waste of words. There can be no im-
pressiveness in mere fag-ends of objurgation strug-
gling in the teeth of a hostile wind. The very barn-
door fowls see the folly of protest. They hold out
longer than their superiors, and the lord of the harem
preserves the majesty of his strut until the thing

227



The Yellow Van

is almost upon him. Then, with a screech which is
still but horror, he signals the sauve qui pent, sup-
plementing an all too lingering hop with a flutter
that costs him some of the glories of his tail. If a
reproach comes afterward, it is only in the form
of a quavering screech of remonstrance, as from
man to man, against the brutality to say nothing
of the fatuous want of respect for a common interest
of domestic supremacy that lowers him in the eyes
of his womankind.

At Stratford-on-Avon father and daughter had
perforce to alight to catch a cross-country train for
Liddicot. The squire was profuse in thanks. Mary
simply pressed the young fellow's hand, and mur-
mured, "So soon!" It was, in substance, a prayer
to Apollo for one more lift in the chariot of the sun.



228



XXVI




R. GOODING himself had to stop
for a fresh supply of oil and for
some needful adjustments that
promised to detain him for half an
hour. It was against his will. He
had come, not exactly to see middle
England in a day, but only to survey what he hoped
to see, later on, in a month or a year. It was but a
mode of looking at the map. He wanted the lie of
the land in actual vision, as he already had it in his
reading wide and deep. And, for that matter, no
length of time could fully serve here. The church,
the winding river, the ancient bridge, the broad,
bland land, which a thunder-storm will touch with
terror and a burst of sunshine recover to hope and
joy what are they but hints of a secret of the all-
sufficiency of genius that none of us will ever
fathom? Out of this, without further aid from na-
ture, came the cave of Cymbeline, perhaps, the
beetling rock of Lear; for Dover cliff is but a legend
the fairy wood of the ' ' Dream. ' ' The rest is pure
chemistry of the brain, or perhaps, as they fable it,
some earlier soul-birth with the universe for its
range.
Yet some is still here to-day, as, for those who

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The Yellow Van

know how to see it, it was three centuries ago. The
wench Audrey, a mere speck of white in the deepen-
ing twilight, still heads homeward the lumbering
kine. The patient creatures, the horned impact of
which, in rage, might be measured by a very respect-
able figure in tons, groan with anguish because a
slip of a girl bars their passage with a twig; and
matter owns its allegiance even to this humblest
manifestation of mind. A fellow at road-making,
who touched his hat vaguely, as though to propitiate
mankind at large, was Costard fallen on less cheer-
ful days. Another, in the modern blue of his office,
who solemnly demanded Mr. Gooding's name and
address, though the vehicle was then demurely travel-
ing at a pace within the act, was not far to seek.

" Fancy I could name you without asking," was
the reply. ''You are Constable Dull of blessed mem-
ory, and you serve Ferdinand, King of Navarre. ' '

"Young joker," returned the officer, "none of
your lip."

Unchangeable England! Nowhere, except of
course in Navarre, is the policeman so much the
mere monitor of the evil-doer, looking down on him,
indeed, from cerulean heights, yet still ready to
admit that he, too, once trod earth and its miry ways.
This one drew no sword, flourished no truncheon.
He simply made an entry in his note-book, and re-
sumed his round.

On and forever onward ! A rush of eight miles by
a perfect road: a mighty fortress with foundations
in the solid rock, a wide, wide stretch of battlement

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The Yellow Van

and tower, shining plate-glass, port-holes that are
mere mysteries of shade, and a huge flag that now
only dominates a landscape where it once dominated
a land Warwick. The rush continued for five miles
more, and other towers, red in the sun for all the
waste of years, and as wide in their sweep as the cir-
cuit of a walled city Kenilworth. About as far
again, and then three spires on the sky-line, and
thrice three times as many factory chimneys
Coventry. Old gabled houses here, flanked by new
emporiums; tramways in the winding streets of the
"ride"; above them telegraph wires from which a
second Peeping Tom might flash his secret to the
uttermost ends of the earth in time for the evening
editions. England still, the past and the present
inextricable at once a patchwork and a growth.
Creeping disentanglement for the machine, then an-
other rush, and a smear that means a mining village.
Compensation at hand in George Eliot's country. A
dip in the road Griff, the home, snug in its hollow,
and lovely still. A rise, and the turning to castel-
lated Arbury, the Cheverel Manor of "Mr. Gilfil's
Love-Story. " Chilvers Coton (Shepperton) beyond,
and then Nuneaton (Milby or nothing), the girl-
hood's haunt. Clear of all that, after a good run,
the Ashby-de-la-Zouch of Mary Stuart's captivity,
and of "Ivanhoe." Next, the Derby of Celt and
Roman, Saxon and Dane, of the Pretender's march,
and Heaven and history only know what beside.
Mr. Gooding is able to give full fifteen minutes to
its memories, for the machine calls a halt for more

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The Yellow Van

fuel. It is hardly enough for the depth and breadth
of it in dateless time. Roads that the legions once
trod, especially the legion recruited in Spain, with
many a brown cheek and flashing eye in the sur-
viving peasantry to tell the tale. Ipstones hard by,
with its townsfolk, British to this day in every es-
sential of race type for soul and body keen eyes,
black hair, manner that is all nerves: some tribe
that escaped exterminating conquest the Corvi, per-
haps by the accident of a river full of ravines,
roads all tracks and byways, a sort of British Trans-
vaal. The Corvi keep shop there now, immune from
the tourist as from the Roman, but ready, behind
their counters, to make the modern invader pay
for all.

A long swerve to the right, rather a blunder of
Mr. Gooding's, and Ollerton as a starting-point for
the dukeries. You may cover them with a hat,
though it must be a Quaker's of the old school. The
agent's house, castellated, if you please, to mark
his state, a placid stream banked with dense trees,
bushes, and osiers, and exquisite in its windings of
luminous shade. Then Thoresby Park, a dukery,
though now the seat of an earldom ; and in the dis-
tance the manor, a mass of modern masonry seen
through the glass, but softened by the blue haze
into perfect keeping with the sylvan scenery. Work-
men's houses a picture, like everything else on the
estate Arcadia in a ring-fence. Up hill and down
dale, the road stretching to the horizon ; but courage !
and presently Clumber. Magnificent glades of

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The Yellow Van

woodland, deer, red j(and proud of it), bracken to
your waist. In a clearing an old inn, with its sign
the arms of the "family," "Loyaute n'a honte," as
Mr. Gooding makes it out in the rush, and the ribbon
of the Garter conspicuous in the decorative scheme.
Hard by, one of the gates of the estate, and presently
the house, seen through an opening in the deep woods
Italian in the general scheme, and a mere thing
of yesterday, being less than a century and a half
old. Then the great gate, with a long, long avenue
of limes as exquisitely trimmed as anything at Al-
lonby. Out of the park again, by another gate of
weather-stained stone, and now the road to Welbeck.
Lodges, the trailing growths of which might earn
for England a subtitle of the Flowery Land, but
little life of man or beast here or anywhere else.
Now and then a laborer; now and then a game-
keeping giant, white-bearded, perhaps, and red-
nosed, each effect ever keeping pace with the other
in intensity. But the men are rare, the villages rarer
still. It is yet an unpeopled land, with scores of
square miles waiting for effective settlement, vast
wastes of beauty in virgin forest or cultivated park.
Welbeck at last, an ordered scheme of grandeur like
the rest, massive, endless, and finally burrowing un-
derground in architectural caves of Kentucky, as
wondrous as anything above. The whole region, like
distant Allonby itself, manifestly a government
within a government, with England lying outside.

To Worksop Manor now, a dukery still by cour-
tesy, as having once been the seat of a duke. Thence,

2 33



The Yellow Van

quitting the charmed circle, a long run for Chats-
worth imperative for Mr. Gooding, though his ma-
chine begins to pant for rest. But he calls on it, and
it answers, and whirls him to new scenes, one of them
a lurid city of Dis, on the edge of the coal region,


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