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turreted with chimneys belching fire in the broad
day, its river of hot water from the works steam-
ing to the sky. Unwashed gangs on the roads, day-
shifts going home, after relief by night-shifts, as yet
shining from soap and towel, who are deep, deep
under the soil a perpetual motion of labor to feed
the mighty estate above. It is a ducal colliery, and
its grime is soon effaced by the beauties of the valley
that lead to the last great house on the list. Wild
moors, grim gorges, hill-slopes of purple heather,
with patches of grass showing through, and of gray
primeval stone polled with undying mosses; beet-
ling rocks with wooded summits ; streams crossed by
rustic bridges, and with villages to match in one
word, every imaginable beauty of hill and dale to
atone for the valley of doom we have just left. A
wayside inn now, with a "Devonshire Arms" to
warn us in whose country we are. Then the park,
a calm as of Eden, and more red deer, facing round
at the new enemy of sylvan peace to cover the flight
of their hinds. Chatsworth at last, the great house
seen through an opening in the immense circuit of
leafage by which it is screened, and with a river
flowing in its front. No time to pause now for the
belated traveler ; but he well knows what lies beyond.
A place that starts fair with a mention in Doomsday,

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The Yellow Van

and a product of all the centuries since in planning,
building, collecting for art and luxury and the pride
of life. Building and rebuilding. Tower added to
tower, and hall to hall, age by age. Wren one of its
architects; the Scottish queen one of its prisoners.
In happier times a school of landscape-gardening
surpassing the inventions of Eastern fable. A cloy-
ing mass of wonders in which a man not to the man-
ner born of the best in life might hardly hope to
sleep a wink for the throbbing sense of the wonders
of his lot.

But there is no time to linger. Daylight is begin-
ning to wane, and miles yet lie between the traveler
and the place to which he has telegraphed for rooms.
So, doubling on his route again, he makes for supper
and bed at the same pace as before, with only his
blazing lamps and the guide-posts to show the way.
They are hardly enough for a man who does not
know it already. The gloom deepens ; the very mile-
stones are now mute ; the great silence begins, and a
void of miles of country without a single wayfarer.
To make matters worse, the machine strikes work,
and for a full hour its driver fusses and fumes over
it without result. It moves again at last, but slowly,
and as though only under his own compulsion of
want of rest and refreshment.

And then a new trouble. A certain sickening soft-
ness in the sense of motion warns Mr. Gooding that
he has left the road. He alights in haste, to find
himself on turf, and in a leafy lane, with a timbered
glade beyond that may be the entrance to an en-

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The Yellow Van

chanted wood. He has clean lost his road, and, by
way of a call for guidance, he tries a blast on his
bugle-horn, now hoarser than ever with the labors
of the journey, and instinctively raises the wild war-
whoop of his college cry. This wholly new sensation
for Sherwood Forest wins sympathetic, though
hardly helpful, notice from the rabbits in frantic
scamper across the line of light. A second and a
third summons have but the same fortune; but a
final effort is answered by a shout in the distance,
and a responsive light from the blackness of the
forest belt. At closer quarters it is the wild figure
of a man past middle age, waving a lantern from the
tail-board of a covered vehicle.

11 Where am I?"

" In Sherwood Forest."

"Robin Hood's country?"

"Where else, if you expect an answer to the bugle-
horn?"

"The way to Edwinstowe, if you please."

"No guiding you that gate within an hour of mid-
night ; but you may come up here, if you don't mind
roughing it."

"Where?"

' ' In the yellow van. ' '



236



XXVII




ONVERSATIONAL preliminaries
are naturally brief when one has
the appetite of an ogre. In a very
few minutes Mr. Gooding was at
work on the squarest meal the van
could afford, with his host com-
placently looking on.

It was not a bad meal. The little larder produced
pressed beef and pickles, a slice of tongue, a loaf of
brown bread, a bottle of stout. A lamp threw a
roof ray on host and guest. The van stood in deep
shadow. Seen from the distance, they would have
looked well a bit of the void of darkness redeemed
to comfort and light.

It was another lecturer this time. Three-score and
five was about his age. His high cheek-bones, round-
ish head, keen glances flashing through the mere slits
of his eyes, even the crisp, curling hair, were all so
many signs of one about equally ready for the word
and the blow. No fear of the latter just now. He
was evidently in his most expansive mood as he
watched his guest.

' ' Redmond 's my name, if anybody wants to know
it. 'Jack Redmond' 'Old Redmond.' "

"My card by and by," returned the wayfarer,
helping himself to another slice of beef.

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The Yellow Van

"You 're my sort," said the host. "Don't spare
it, though it 's a fellow-citizen o' yours. So 's the
tongue, for that matter, and the peaches that 's com-
ing next. We 've left off learning how to feed our-
selves in this country. All fellow-citizens."

It was some minutes before Mr. Gooding 's answer
came:

"How do you know about fellow-citizens?"

"You 're so careful in sounding your words."

"Now I '11 push on," said Mr. Gooding, as he rose
to fill his pipe.

' ' Could n 't think of it ; you 'd never find the way,
and I 'm too tired to show you. Stay to oblige me ;
and I '11 stand a drop of something short."

Arthur looked round.

' ' Oh, we 've got a spare bedroom, ' ' said the other,
proudly, "and I '11 fix you up in a twinkling, if
you '11 bring your rug inside."

"Done," laughed Mr. Gooding, without further
ado. And he went out and made the machine com-
fortable under a light cloth.

"Sleepy?" inquired Eedmond.

"Never a bit. I could go on all night now talk-
ing, motoring, anything you like."

"Make it talking. I have n't exchanged a blessed
word with anybody all day long."

"The van 's an old acquaintance. Never saw you
before. ' '

"No; I 'm not the regular man. T' other 's ill.
Labor o' love with me, but sometimes I pine for
company. I thought you might be a happy beggar-

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The Yellow Van

man on tramp, and we 'd have a rouse to pass the
hours. ' '

''Sorry to disappoint."

"You '11 do as well, far 's I can judge. They 're
good company, though, the roadside men. Lord !
what they see and say nothin' about! It 'u'd fill a
book. But you Ve got to know where to find 'em.
Wager I 'd lay my hand on two or three in a cave
by the roadside not so far from here. All snug, and
always a box of matches, and sometimes a bit o'
victual left for the next man. And the ' county con-
stab, ' if you please, none the wiser. Ah, it 's a fine
life in the summer-time."

The pipes were well alight by this time, and the
drop of something short had long been on the board.
Arthur pulled quietly and felt good. The trees,
with the light breeze stirring in their branches, were
evidently in the same mood. The rest was silence,
as though all living things were stilled by terror of
the lamp.

"Sherwood Forest, I think you said," murmured
the young man, dreamily.

The old one was in no hurry to reply. Hurry
was manifestly out of the question in such environ-
ment.

"'Hey, jolly Robin!'"
he observed at length.

" 'Hoe, jolly Robin!

Hey, jolly Robin Hood!' "
returned Mr. Gooding, with much solemnity.

' ' Good boy ! D ' ye know it, too ? ' ' cried the other,

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The Yellow Van

jumping up to pluck a pocket edition of the "Bal-
lads" from the library shelf.

"Why not?" said Gooding.

"Will ye cap verses?" said the other, with grow-
ing excitement. "To think of it and you all the
way from the other side! "

' ' Why not ? ' ' said the other, again. ' ' I, too, have
sat at good men 's feasts. ' '

"Only to think of it! It 's my Bible I 'm hand-
ling now Kobin, who stood up for all the weak
things of life against the strong things! A strong
man on the right side."

" 'All wemen wershep he,' '
said the guest.

"Your hand again," said the host, "wherever you
come from.

'He was a good out lawe
And dyde pore men much god.'
The poor against the rich, the laborer against the
lord.

'But loke ye do no housebonde harm
That tylleth with his plough. '

Robin, the first that struck for us after the long
night. The whole burden of it a protest against
the cruel forest laws, a part of the land laws that
have left bonny England where it is to-day. Cap,
cap, and be hanged to ye! It 's my happy night!"

" 'Hey, jolly Kobin!' "
said Mr. Gooding, again.

"Right again, youngster. That 's the spirit of it.
Jolly Robin. Grin and ply your cudgel. Keep a

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The Yellow Van

good heart. I can't do that. I waste myself m
rages. T ' other one was a hero. I am but as I am. ' '
"Yet you 're camped in the greenwood?
'There he herde the notes small
Of byrdes mery syngynge. ' ' :
"Aye, but you 're a crony, and no mistake !" cried
his admiring senior. ' ' Just one drop more ? ' '

"Thank you. My favorite tipple is fresh air, if
you don't mind."

"It 's all in Robin Shakspere's mate, and a
greater, for he sang in deeds. You 11 find every-
thing in that little book. He was a wise leech, with
his finger on the pulse of the world. Look at him
turning butcher, and breaking the trust with their
own tool of a cutting price.

'For he sold more meat for one peny
Than others could do for three. '
A frolic, and the fun on the side of the hungry man.
Ah, it was a merrier England when the nobodies had
the last laugh. Most of it 's sheer allegory, if you
know how to take it. The fight with the giants
nothing of the sort: a fight with the monopolists.
And when the biggest comes down:

' So from his shoulders he 's cut his head,
Which on the ground did fall,
And grumbling sore at Robin Hood,
To tie so dealt withal.'
Isn't it just like 'em never satisfied?"
"Seems a little exaggerated," said Mr. Gooding.
"Well, well, well, well! Grant me a miracle or
two for my Scripture ( since you 'd claim it for yours.

2 4 I



The Yellow Van

Suppose his full range at the butts was not exactly
the measured mile, as they say it was."

"Oh, that 's all right. They give it as a story of
the longbow."

''Anyhow, he shot on our side, and we want an-
other champion. Who '11 stand up for us now? As
fast as 'the million' make the money the millionaire
fobs it. Does it every time. Just a turn of the hand
like the spot stroke. Lord, will it ever be barred ! I
sometimes wonder how it 's all going to end."

"Don't worry," said Mr. Gooding, knocking out
his ashes for a refill.

"Which is as much as to say, 'Trust in Provi-
dence ' ? You may be right. P 'r 'ps it is n 't a matter
for champions, and it '11 settle itself, in the long run,
by getting worse so that it may get better. It 's a
growth, and we must give it its chance. Let it work
itself to a flower, poisonous or other, and then it '11
rot of its own accord. Dollar-hunting, land-grabbing
its own cure p'r'aps that 's the hope. It can't last
forever. They 're getting sick sick of their own
dismal trade.

"Beautiful story, that, of one of the mightiest of
your Yankee hunters did you ever strike it? When
he 'd made more than he knew what to do with, he
tried to unload a little, just to get breath, in a kind
of grand tour. Special cars and state-rooms all the
way along; special teams to whirl him about in
Europe; special guides, couriers, interpreters the
devil knows what. At last they got him to Amster-
dam, and tried to show him the pictures. He stood

242



The Yellow Van

it for half an hour, then slipped out to the Stock Ex-
change, and made fifty thousand in half an hour
more. ' '

"Manifest destiny," said Mr. Gooding.

"No; only secret itch. A case for the doctors, be-
lieve me. We shall live to see 'em at one another's
throats, and then mankind will come into its own
again. Ever noticed the gnawing envy in the eye of
Five Million when he feels that Six Million looks
on him like 'dirt' the hangdog shame of him?
Can't abear to be in the same room with his betters
in the infernal trade. The gradations of it! Five
Million a derision to Six, and a loathing to Four, and
so on till you reach the things that live in the mud. I
stood outside a fashionable restaurant the other day,
and watched two men in the street peering through
the crimson curtains at a party picking their dainty
way through a five-pound meal. Give you my word, I
thought one of 'em would have fallen down and wor-
shiped. However, to be fair, t' other blasphemed."

"They '11 get that dinner and the whole earth
soon as they are fit for it," said Mr. Gooding, "but
not a moment before. Tell 'em to hurry up over
their beer. That 's the meaning of America."

"Oh," groaned the old man, "we all thought so
once. But is there a more self-consciously degraded
thing in all creation than the American poor man?
I 've been there and marked his pariah shuffle and
his downcast eye."

"Give your coffee time to settle. You seem to
have been about a bit. ' '

243



The Yellow Van

"Everywhere, specially on your side Pacific
slope before you were born, islands, Australia. Lord,
Lord, it 's a big dot of a world ! ' '

"And all built on pretty much the same plan, eh ? "
said Mr. Gooding.

"That 's so; devil take the hindmost; and 'How
soon can I get out of it?' about the wisest thought
you can start with when you 're born. Really, the
burial club seems to be the only reasonable institu-
tion. And it might be such a happy family ! ' '

"Give us a song," said Mr. Gooding.

"What '11 you have 'England 's Going Down the
Hill'? Heard it from a gutter in a slum, sung by
the composer."

"It 's such a fine night," pleaded the guest.

And such a night it was. The glades, where
buskined Marian might have walked, stretched in
every direction under a sky luminous with stars.
One avenue seemed to end in a kind of amphitheater,
a conceivable council-place of the outlaw band. And
here and there was a great swarth of shade for
hiding, and still, no doubt, a shelter for all the
tremulous life of the forest, bending ten thousand
thousand pairs of eyes on the glare of light from
the van.

"As you please," said Redmond. "And what 's
your news ? ' '

"Oh, just the heart of England in a lightning-
flash. It 's that or nothing for the tourist."

"For the American tourist."

"Even for the stars themselves, I should say.

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The Yellow Van

They can't see much of us, with the ball in
flight."

"S'pose that 's why they never interfere. And
what do you think of it?"

"Pretty sight."

"Bah! You holiday people don't know how to
look at a landscape. You miss all the devilment of
it. If only you did know ! You 'd see the villages
in all their little infamies under their greasy smile.
Mother Ship ton's, the secret-boozing ken; and Mother
Quickly 's, that 's worse. They 're not even good in
their stagnation only goody at the best. How can
you wonder? They 've got so little for idle hands
to do. And so well, just like their betters, for that
matter, and for the same reason. It is n't the towns
that corrupt them. They corrupt the towns, taking
their wickedness and their poverty and their feck-
lessness up to market, because the energies behind
them can find no healthy outlet at home in- profitable
toil. A fine price we have to pay for your hothouse
'Beauties of England and Wales,' with all the
country-side driven by a kind of monster conscrip-
tion into the army of the slums. We 're worth some-
thing better than to make a holiday for Americans. ' '

He dropped his bantering tone, and flashed out
passionately :

' ' Look at me, ruined by farming ; and I 've toiled
like a slave all my life. Who killed Cock Robin?
Shall I tell you? The English land system. Here
am I to-day to show that the man who farms straight
and farms honest can't hope to make a living out of

2 45



The Yellow Van

it while idle ownership claims such a huge share of
his labor. We are being beat by the foreigner who
works for himself on his own patch. You can't keep
all this wicked luxury of landlord, aye, and gentle-
man farmer, too, out of one pair of laborer's hands.
But if you won 't try, there 's always plenty that will,
in the struggle for a crust. Have it or leave it ; and
if you don't like it, off with you to the main sewer
of London town. You can't live and thrive, in-
crease and multiply, here without the good leave of
your betters; and they won't give you leave. They
want the land for a pleasure-ground; they can get
their incomes somewhere else. Rural England is
starved for lack of an opening. Blank stagnation
everywhere, and kept so by word of command. Try
to do something to make a man of yourself, and see
how soon they '11 shunt you out of the place. Why
do your cities in America spring up in a night and
a day from log huts? Because every man 's free to
do his best. There is n't a hamlet in England but 's
hag-ridden by some 'noble house.' That 's what your
historian Motley meant when he talked of the fear-
ful price paid by the English people for the parks,
castles, fisheries, and fox-huntings of its 'splendid
aristocracy. '

' ' But there, ' ' he added, with a bitter laugh at his
own expense, "what 's the use of talking? I 'd say
pass the bottle, and forget it all, if I was a man of
that sort. The little van that goes up and down to
testify against it takes itself seriously enough; but
that 's only its foolishness. The feudal system don't

246



The Yellow Van

mind. And feudal system it is, alive and kicking as
fresh as ever in this our latest growth of time. For
the essence of the accursed thing is that one man 's
the property of another, and that his first care on
coming into his manhood is to find some fellow-
creature to kneel to, and, laying hand in hand, say,
'Please take possession of me.' The old system went
from man to man until it reached the highest. It 's
perfect to-day as between peasant and farmer, far-
mer and lord; but there 's sometimes a break when
the noble owner himself belongs to a money-lender
or to a queen of the music-halls.

"And now, youngster, let 's turn in. I 'm tired,
and you must be sleepy after this rigmarole. I '11
put the supper-things outside, and attend to 'em in
the morning. Would you mind giving me a lift with
the linen-chest? Thanks. There 's your bed on the
lid, if you '11 take out the big mattress. I '11 fix my-
self up on the other in my old soldier's cloak. Draw
the curtain, and there 's your spare room. Mind
your head, please, against the library shelves, and
don't go into the crockery when you 're taking off
your coat."

' ' The cloak for me, ' ' said Mr. Gooding. ' ' I must
turn out early to make it up with the machine."

"Well, every man to his taste. Good night, and
pleasant dreams ' ' ; and almost as the words left his
lips he was fast asleep.

Next morning a kindly hand on his shoulder
roused the young man to sunrise and all the glories
of Sherwood.

247



The Yellow Van

His toilet was deferred, but it took a full hour to
valet the car. The creature was sulky at first, and
seemed to have developed a mechanical spavin with
the hard work of the day before. Fortunately, there
was a good reserve of fuel.

All was right at last, and then Redmond, giving
his guest a send-off from the turf with his shoulder,
put him square to his work on the highroad.

"Good-by; good luck."

So they parted, and the young man was soon bowl-
ing along toward bath and breakfast, in the forest
hotel which he had missed in his wanderings the
night before. A telegram awaited him: "Want
you." It was signed "Augusta," and of course it
brought his wanderings to a close.



248



XXVIII




N receipt of Augusta's message
Arthur Gooding made straight for
Allonby. A certain note of im-
periousness in it had the double
charm of the elder sister and of
the woman. Though there was so
little difference in years between them, it carried him
back to the time where hers was the protecting arm
and the guiding brain.

He found her troubled, and yet with a certain
radiancy as of hope and certainty.

"Arthur, I want you to find a ring in the Eed Sea
two rings."

"One chance more for me."
"You Ve heard me speak of the Herions."
"I know all about them."
"Why, you never saw them in your 1"
"Never saw Alexander the Great, if it comes to
that."

"Don't be absurd, Arthur. Well, they are lost in
town, and I want them Sack at Allonby right
here."

"A slumming job."

"Just to please little-big sister. I don't think
you are quite so attentive as ever."

249



The Yellow Van

"Why?"

"You have n't started yet."

"I ought to be. You are quite as unreasonable."

J'l '11 get Mary to ask you."

"Don't be absurd, Augusta. Do you happen to
know the time of the next train?"

It was a large order, and he felt as much as the
express flew townward with a steady recurrent beat
of movement that made him feel like Sindbad under
the roc's wing. How shall the lost be found in
mighty London, the home of the vanishing-trick?
He steamed into the great station as the local trains
were steaming out with their freight of business men
homeward bound. The city fills and empties every
day, from its suburbs back to the suburbs again.
The return is a rush as of the river at Dinan, roar-
ing home in flood fast enough to drown the urchins
picking the pebbles from its bed. And any two of
these obscure wayfarers might be Rose and George.

Next morning it was, Where to begin ? All he had
to guide him was the returned envelop that bore
the address of their last-known lodging, with its in-
dorsement of "gone away." So he made that quar-
ter his starting-point. It was a strange neighbor-
hood, exquisitely dismal in its newer parts, as ex-
quisitely flavored with tender and fragrant mem-
ories in its many remains of the past. Here yet
stands the church that marks, though in a modern
casing, the site of Chaucer's "Scole of Stratford atte
Bowe" one of its ancient tombs within that of a
child who owed heaven to the kindness wherewith

250



The Yellow Van

"Nature his nurse gott him to bed betimes." And
hard by, a Board school, naked and unashamed,
stands where stood, not too long ago for some of us
to have passed our childhood there, an old hunting-
lodge of the first James, majestic in its gables and its
paneled glories, its finely ceiled state-rooms, its deep-
bayed hearths, sacred to the gods of the fireside.
Surely a pick in the hands of a vestryman may be
the deadliest of murderers' tools.

The lodging was in one of the mean streets that
have usurped the site of the old-time garden. The
landlady, a Megaera from the wash-tub, received
Mr. Gooding's inquiries with a look of mingled sus-
picion, respect, indifference, all in one glassy, non-
committal stare.

"Herion," said the young man, repeating his first
mention of the name.

"'Erring, 'Erring?" she mused.

"Why, certainly, if you wish it."

"A young feller, fine figger of a man, like, an'
wife to match? Sort of country couple?"

"That's it."

"Owe me thirteen shillin's rent."

"I '11 pay it."

She held out her hand at once, and, on the com-
pletion of the transaction, said in a really obliging
manner: "Well, they don't live here."

"Ah, don't tell me too much at once."

"You see, they went on all right till he lost his
job at the docks ; an ' then, you see, they fell be 'ind-
'and with their rent. An', of course, I could n't "

251



The Yellow Van

"You 're a pansy. But what 's become of them?"

"Couldn't tell yer, guvnor."

"Switch me on to somebody that can."

"Well, there was a man from the country as knew
'em porter at a ware 'us in the Borough name of
Jubb."

"The warehouse or the porter?"

"I couldn't say."

Jubb was found, and he proved to be the owner
of the shop. And, in due course, his porter was run
to earth for more leisurely examination in his own
home.

The porter was communicative, but hardly help-
ful. He and his wife were two grains of the human
rubbish which the feudal system dumps into the
towns. By good hap they had fallen in a cranny
of the stony places where, after a fashion, they might
take root. He was quiet in manner, as one awe-
struck with his luck, yet perplexed with yearnings
for the old village home. The inquirer had to en-
dure much from him in the way of reminiscence, in


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