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the world. Its reckless burden shows how easily it
may have lent itself to mere pot-valiancy at the best
of times. Few could have hoped to live up to this
ideal, even in the Georgian ages of faith. And in
ours it is almost confessedly the hollow lie of the
smug tradesman at his masonic dinner and of the
basso of the convivial club. The syllabic pauses in
the measure of the chorus are obligatory for their
effect of intensity of conviction. And when the last
one of them has been rendered, with due effect,
from the very depths of being, one is transported to
a world of good-fellowship which seems a foretaste
of the stars. There is no time so propitious for the
borrowing of half-crowns. But in our decorous day
it is no more than a reminiscence of some golden

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age when rack punch produced no headache and
Irish twist was good for the bile. The basso is only
playing at it, and is probably the most exemplary
of bank-clerks. His hearers are only playing at it ;
but their occasional sips of real strong waters are
great helps to the make-believe of the game. Yet
there are limits to this power of illusion; and, for
all but the strongest natures, tea and cocoa and even
temperance champagne are a too abrupt descent
from the heights of artificial stimulation which they
are supposed to feign.

The first verse was enough for poor Job. After
an ineffectual attempt to bear his part in the chorus,
he set down his untasted cup of institute coffee and
staggered forth into the night, brushing from his
path the inquisitive group at the door.

" Blessed if he ain't got 's load in spite of 'em,"
said one of the women.

"Nay," said his more experienced spouse, sorrow-
fully; "it 's only temper this time, I reckon and
the wuss of the two. ' '

All expected to see him wend his way to the
Knuckle of Veal, but they were deceived. He made
straight for his own cottage, pursued by the echoes
of

"Pour out the Rhine wine, let it flow
Like a full and shining river,"

which the company were now washing down with
sassafras, a new beverage just introduced to their
notice by Mr. Raif.

289



XXXIII




ATURDAY afternoon, and Job in
a bit of fairyland all by himself,
smoking his pipe on the trunk of
a fallen tree. He has not wholly
lapsed, in spite of the bitter ex-
perience of yesterday. The pipe
may be a backsliding, but there is still a good half-
mile of innocence between him and the can of the
Knuckle of Veal. He is in a broad glade of wood-
land, bright in the sunshine of winter, and inde-
structibly beautiful all the year round. There is
temptation, however, at each end, for at the farther
one stands the inn of the Duke and the Ditcher.
Both houses are rooted only less deep in time than
the wood itself. The latter is part of an old royal
chase where thousands of fat bucks have died the
death according to the laws of forestry. Nothing
can exceed the charm of this winding way between
the two taverns, with its tiny river, broadening here
and there into pools where the fish often play at
hide-and-seek with the flashes of light and with the
flies caught in their ray. But all this, being a thing
of use and wont, is quite thrown away upon Job.
He is certainly not thinking of its history, running

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The Yellow Van

back into the very Saxon time, of its weird old
manor-house, where they hatched one of the deadliest
plots in English annals, of its caves once haunted
by the outlaw bands whose industry was plunder.
Every tree may conceivably have its story of tryst
and council, and even of summary execution when
the deer-stealer caught red-handed was hoisted high
in the wind. Wicked old trees they look, for all their
beauty. Most of their coating of bark is gone for-
ever, and some lie grim and unrepentant in their
ruin, where the winter storms, rather than the wood-
man, have cut them down.

So there sits Job on one of them, musing on the
hardness of the road to Jordan, and between two
portals of Paradise barred to him by his vow. His
back is turned on the village and on the Knuckle
of Veal, but for this very reason his face is toward
that point of the compass where the Duke and the
Ditcher is visible to the eye of faith. Look which
way he will, in fact, there is a snare of the enemy.
And presently a fellow-creature comes in sight, in
the person of Mr. Grimber, strolling from the hamlet
served by the last-named house.

' 'Day, Job."

"Day, Mr. GrimEer."

The slight distinction in the mode of salutation
was due to Grimber as a man of independent means.

"Home all right last night, Job?"

"Couldn't very well go wrong, as I see."

Mr. Grimber, as already explained, had squired
Job in his quest of repentance. He had no ex-

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cesses of his own to correct, but he had thought
it neighborly to stand by a friend in his hour of
trial.

"Nice thing to be able to get up in the mornin'
without a head on ye. ' '

"It is that," said Job, dutifully.

' ' And with your money in your pocket. ' '

"That's so."

"A week more of it, and you '11 be like me."

He said it with a certain sadness, for, to tell the
truth, he pitied his crony in the prospect. His secret
longing was for something to give a pulse to life.
It was the stronger now that, for Job 's sake, he had
cut himself off from his modest potation and the
chatter of the inn. It is all very well to be the per-
fect ratepayer, but that Nirvana of civic propriety
has its drawbacks and its trials. It is attainable only
by a series of negations, and these are hard fare for
the spirit of man. Grimber hardly knew what was
the matter with him, except that he was weary of
his own perfections. He had never done wrong, in
so far as he could detect the thing by his limited
knowledge of its opposite, yet he had still missed
his reward. His religion was a matter of what he
regarded as "decent observance" a silk hat on
Sundays, a black coat, alertness in the responses, a
recognizable contribution to the volume of the
hymn. His domestic icon was a lithograph of a
royal family that he honored not only with his lips
but with his heart. He called one of its members,
who was prudence personified, "our sailor prince,"
and tried to figure him to consciousness as a rollick-

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ing blade. He was of that lowest middle class that
is a bulwark of Britain, and at once its pride and
its despair. His gospel was convention, his law the
fiat of his betters in church and state. His life as a
retired tallow-chandler was almost absolutely without
events. Its terrific sensations were the unwonted
recurrence of a grand bezique and a sequence in the
same hand ; its herculean labors, the turning out of
the corner cupboard this day week, or the fortnightly
polishing of a watch-case with shammy leather with-
out injury to the works. And yet and yet People
behindhand with their rent, and actually without
hope of mercy for unpaid rates, seemed sometimes
to get so much more out of life.

"Which way are you walking?" he said to Job.

"Yourn, if you like."

"I was thinkin' of gettin' 'ome again."

So they turned toward the hamlet, still following
the fairy pathway of the glade.

"I sometimes feel funny-like, in a manner of
speakin'," Mr. Grimber said.

It was a difficult complaint to diagnose on such in-
dications. Job did not make the attempt. "I Ve
felt that way myself," was his reply.

The hamlet was now in sight, its most conspicuous
object an ornamental glass Hall, quicksilvered in
laundry blue, which marked the garden-patch of
Mr. Grimber 's home.

"Will you come in and have a bottle o' pop?"
said Mr. Grimber. "Or, stop a minute: I '11 bring
it outside. It 's cleanin'-up day, an' she might fancy
there was mud on our boots."

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"If there was any other place, we need n't trouble
her, need us?" said Job.

There was a creaking noise overhead: it was the
sign of the Duke and the Ditcher swinging gently
in the breeze.

"Match that for music if you can," said Job,
apostrophizing an observant bird.

Mr. Grimber looked up at the same moment, and
their eyes met.

"Just one," said Job. In another moment they
were in the parlor of the inn.

What is the philosophy of this wretched habit?
Possibly mere association of ideas. Certain it is
that, hitherto of all creatures the most forlorn, Job
no sooner had an earthenware pitcher Before him,
nay, sniffed its mere coming in the ale-house reek,
than he became quite another man. And, curiously
enough, nature, powerless over him till now, began
to woo him with effect. He chirruped responsively
to P robin on the window-sill, plucked a twig from
the garden and put it in his coat. To feel this top
of the morning in one's blood without the help of
fermentations must be the triumph of the strenuous
life. Perhaps, indeed, there is no feeling it without
some extraneous aid : it is as hard a problem as ever
to lift yourself in your own basket. Natures are to
be known and classed by the aids they seek. Shall
it be woman's eyes, stringed instruments, or a bottle
and a jug?

It was much the same with Grimber. Both men,
clown and tallow-chandler, became in a trice hu-

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mane, courteous, affable, preventive, according to
their degree and their breeding in every service of
the gentler life extraordinary creatures that we are.

"We known each other a long time, Mr. Grimber."

" An' respected each other, I 'ope, Mr. Gurt ; 't any
rate, I-"

"Call me Job, if you doan' mind. Funny I never
'eared your Christian name."

"It ain't much of a one for friendship Ebenezer.
Grim 's what she calls me."

"You 're a trump-card, Grim."

"I do my best."

' ' I ain 't used this place much : my end 's the
Knuckle o' Veal."

"Nor me, either. This one 's a bit too near the
'ouse."

"An', besides, there isn't the same company. I
will say that, Grim."

"Ever hear the story o' the sign?"

"Yes, an' want to 'ear it ag'in."

"Well, it 's like this. Years an' years ago there
was another Duke of Allonby, an' he was 'untin'
in these parts in the days when 'untin' was some-
thin' like. He 'ad young noblemen to 'old 'is ster-
rups for 'im when 'e mounted, an' 'e was as good
as a king. Well, one day he 'd gone on so greedy
after a fat buck that he lost all 'is people an' 'e finds
'isself alone.

"There was a ditcher at work by the roadside, an'
the duke 'e runs up to ask 'is way. But, afore he
could get a start, the ditcher 'e says: 'Young man,

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The Yellow Van

they say the duke 's a-'untin' in these parts; I '11
stand a jug o' ale if you can point 'im out. I bin
'is bondman for thirty year,' 'e says, 'an' I 've a
fancy to see the look of 'im before I die. '

" 'Brown ale?' says the duke.

" 'Brown an' nappy,' says the ditcher.

" 'Come wi' me,' says the duke.

" ' 'Ow 'm I to know it 's 'im before I part wi'
my money ? ' says the ditcher. 'E was no fool.

" "E '11 be the only man wearin' 'is 'at,' says the
duke, 'when all the others is standin' around.'

" 'Then I can show ye where they others is,' says
the ditcher.

' ' So they jogged on till they came to a great open
place over yonder to this day where all the no-
bility an' gentry was standin' about, with a sort
o' worried look, waitin' for their master.

"The moment they see 'im, down they goes on
their knees, off goes their 'ats (bonnets they called
'em in those times, both male an' female), an' they
begins 'orn-blowin' for joy.

" 'Which be the duke?' says the ditcher.

" 'Well, us two is the only ones kivered,' says t'
other: 'so it must be either you or me.'

"Down drops the ditcher on both knees, with
'is 'ands up. 'Spare a poor man's life, my lord,'
says 'e.

" 'Where 's that jug of ale?' says the duke,
laughin'; an' they rode off to this very 'ouse to
' 'ave it, with all the others trampin' behind.

"When they 'd finished it, the duke 'e stands 'im

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The Yellow Van

one more, an' then, 'I make you my 'ead forester,'
'e says just like that. Them was the days!"

"An' all dead an' gone," said Job.

"We must be stirrin', lad," said Grimber, relaps-
ing into melancholy. "Enough 's as good as a
feast."

"You might see me a bit o' the way 'ome," said
Job. "I 'm close to the Knuckle."

"I know it, lad; too close. There 's your trouble,
Job."

"I like your company. I never knew the kind
o' man you was till this day."

"I-she!"

They went back through the wood talking of good
men aging, good men gone, touching life with the
poetry without which it is a dead thing to the dull-
est soul. The lowest wretch lives on only for the
hope of hours like these. We must idealize human
relations or die. Every man is a poet, if only the
few sing. The British navvy, that thing of granite,
is quite mawkish in his cups, and gushes with a
fervor that would put a miss in her teens to shame.
The boor of Teniers sees heaven as a transparency
through the Bottom of his upturned can. The whole
business of saint, sage, and social reformer is to help
us to see it without a headache next morning. Music
is perhaps only an alcoholic wave purged of its
grossness. Where would the devil be but for the
dullness of some lives? Their talk was worthy of
the wood, of the sunshine, of the luminous shade
below it, of the whole beautiful world.

2 97



The Yellow Van

Then they came to the Knuckle of Veal.

The Knuckle of Veal understood it all in a glance,
and gave them "the time of day," but took no other
notice, as they fell into their accustomed places.

It was as old in memories as the Duke and the
Ditcher, and just such another shanty of prehistoric
planks in the upper story, rough-cast, and Eliza-
bethan brickwork in the lower, tile and thatch above,
blackened beams to hold it all together, old brown
outhouses where Jack Ostler had called to Tom Tap-
ster in the earliest coaching times, and thirty far-
mers' chaises, all with yellow wheels, had been put
upon market-days; a tap-room with a fireplace
of wrought iron whereto generations of shepherds
watching their flocks by night had stolen from the
hills for furtive comfort to talk the Armada and the
landing of the Dutch king ; a wainscot pock-marked
all over with the incised initials of countless dead,
monumental in its way, as deciphered by that
Academy of Inscriptions, the ale-bench and the old-
est inhabitant. What are you to do with such a
place but keep out of it ? And in this they failed.

"Only a drain this time," said Grimber. "I 've
got my measure."

"Tol-lol! tol-lol!" sang Job. "Give us a toast,
old corpse-light!"

It was purely accidental, but unfortunate. Grim-
ber 's father had been an undertaker.

"Who 're ye gettin' at?" he said, putting down
his glass.

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The Yellow Van

"It 's my fun, like," explained Job. "No offense,
cocky. ' '

"I don't like your fun," said Grimber. "I bin
a ratepayer for forty year. ' '

"Ratepayer yourself," said Job, incoherently.

"Wish I could return the compliment."

' ' That 's a snack 't me, I s 'pose. ' '

"Take it as y' like."

There was sullen silence for a while.

Job resumed: "Pity to spoil a good meetin'. Will
y ' 'ave a sentiment from me ? ' '

"Out with it."

" ' 'Eart to 'eart an' 'and to 'and.' "

"That 's better," said the other, returning his
grip.

"Tol-lol! tol-lol!" sang Job.

"Must be going now," said Grimber.

"I '11 see yer a bit of the way."

"Mean to say you think I 'm "

"For 'eart to 'eart an' 'and to 'and; that 's all,"
said Job.

They sallied forth again, arm in arm. The scene
was divine to both of them now, as they stepped aside
to save a winter flower, giggled at the reflection of
the scudding clouds in the pool veritable babes in
the wood.

"It 's a gran' world," said Job. "Take it fro'
me."

"Never thought there was so many respec'ble
people in it."

2 99



The Yellow Van

"A gran' life, Grim gran' feller-creatur's!
You 're one."

"Oh, as for that"

"Never thought it, all the years I 've known yer.
Fancied you was a bit of a milksop."

"No offense; fancied it myself sometimes."

"This 'ere religion they talk s' much about
should n 't wonder if it was somethin ' like what we 're
feelin' now. Eh, Grim?"

" 'T ain't all apistles an' collicks taken cold, lay
your life."

"One more at the Ditcher eh, Grim? Then
you '11 see me a bit of the way back?"

Job had scarcely spoken when a shawled female
figure came in sight, and his fellow-sinner was
plucked from him as for translation to another
sphere. It was done, not by a gesture, not by so
much as a word : a single glance sufficed ; but it was
one of the right sort. He was alone.

It was a bereavement, yet St. Francis himself
could hardly have been at less loss for companion-
ship. Nature, which Job had had about him for half
a century without his being aware of it, was there
in visible presence at last. "Chip, chip, birdikin!"
he cried to a sparrow in the path.

Cold obstruction had gone out of the whole frame
of things, moral and physical. There was no more
effort in the world. He walked on air, and with as
much ease as any nymph of Guide's "Aurora."
Earth was one vast pneumatic tire.

"Danged if I couldn't finish it mysen now!" he

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The Yellow Van

muttered, as he neared the Knuckle again. And he
sat down on a fallen trunk, all smooth and silvery
with eld, and resumed, as from the balked innings
of the night before:

"In wo-man's smile there may be guile;

She 's skilled in arts de-ceiv-ing,
And she may be most false to me

When most I am be-liev-ing.
Friend more sin-cere I che-rish here,

While lips to glass I 'm link-ing,
And corn-fort true the whole year through ' '

He was about to collect himself for the supreme
effort of the bass note when a composite apparition
of a most extraordinary character came in full view
at an angle of the glade. It consisted of the royal
and ducal party from the castle, in charge of Mr.
Raif. The princess and the duchess led the way,
with the domestic chaplain as cicerone. The per-
sonages of the suite were a little in the background,
with young Mr. Gooding. A knot of villagers
haunting the footsteps of the great folks brought up
the rear. Mrs. Gurt was among these, and Constable
Peascod seemed to have them all in custody, as for
some prospective offense. Arthur took a mean ad-
vantage of his being out of his sister's range of
vision by showing that he still had the heart to smile.
The faces of the others expressed blank consterna-
tion, though a close observer might have detected
that the royal personage was ready on short notice

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The Yellow Van

to give way. But Augusta's bearing awed all within
reach of her glance. She looked stern displeasure,
her beautiful head thrown back, her color coming
and going, her lips firm-set. And, as a slight change
of position brought him under her gaze, Mr. Gooding
became as demure as the rest, and looked sadly
toward the ground.

As for Mr. Raif, he was overwhelmed with con-
fusion. It was the opportunity of a lifetime spoiled,
and he gasped dismay as the bishopric seemed to
fade off forever into the things that might have
been. He had been leading the party round the
whole circle of his good works the model village,
and all its apparatus of automatic virtue, and the
village proper, with its selected poor in evidence
and the others out of sight. He had arranged his
itinerary so as to conclude the demonstration with a
distant view of the Knuckle of Veal as a section
of the inferno from which he had just rescued a soul
in torment, when this wretched mischance occurred.

The only person quite at his ease was the offender.
He beamed serenely on the whole party, and then
tried to fix the princess herself with a smile that had
in it unfathomed depths of ineptitude.

"Why, Gurt, what is the meaning of" began
Mr. Raif ; but the rest was beyond his power.

"Is drink-ing, drink-ing, drink-ing,"

gurgled the miserable creature, to conclude his stave.
"Gurt, you 're intox "

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The Yellow Van

"John Barleycorn beats me, gents. I 'm 'appy
when I 'm beat. Good aft 'noon, all."

It was too painful to last. The royal party turned
toward the castle as though they had pressing busi-
ness in that quarter, and Constable Peascod laid
hands on Job.

"Know the sayin', sir," cried the delinquent in
a parting shot at Mr. Raif , ' ' ' When you die it 's for
a long time'?"

The village was about to relieve its long-pent-up
feelings with a titter, when it was checked by a glance
at Mrs. Gurt. She followed her wretched partner
to the lockup as she might have followed him to his
grave; and there was despair in her face as he was
led off, still wearing his fatuous smile. Like many
a woman before her, she was asking herself one of
the bitterest of all questions whether drink might
not be a more terrible thing to bear in a man than
infidelity itself. And, after all, infidelity of a kind
it was, and the grossest. It was a counter-influence
to hers, and that thought made for jealousy in its
most corroding pang. The more sordid her tri-
umphant rival, the more galling the sense of her own
inferiority of attraction. A living woman, after all,
was a worthier conqueror. It was champion against
champion, and discomfiture by nothing more humili-
ating than the luck of the lists. But defeat by a
mere swinish appetite!

' ' Tell him I think he 's a brute beast, Mrs. Jukes, ' '
she said to the inspector's wife. "And jest loosen
his neck-hankecher, if you doan' mind."

33



The Yellow Van

He was frivolous still, and insisted on giving his
name as Tobit for the charge-sheet.

There was this excuse for him: the rural station
was hardly a place to bring a man to repentance with
a sharp turn prison, if you like, but still a prison
in Arcadia. An old cottage converted to its present
uses, it was rather a residence for the two constables
in charge than a house of detention. Its red brick
stained with age, its latticed windows overlooking
a churchyard which seemed but a change-house on
the road to heaven, its walls of loam and timber over-
hanging a ground floor that had once been upright
but was now not ashamed of looking tired, were all
perfect beauty. So was the low doorway, with the
neatly dressed children playing on the step, under
the eye of a fatherly official at the desk within, while
the house-mother bustled to and fro between the
sitting-room and kitchen to make tea. Arcadia, in
spite of the handcuffs hanging over the porch, a
feeble effort of the law to look terrible belied by
everything else in the place. Emblems merely
no more. An emblem, too, the strange antediluvian
contrivance a sort of scaffold-pole with a hook at
the end that ran the whole length of the side wall.
It was a relic of the days when the villagers strug-
gled with fire as best they might, the men fishing for
goods and chattels with this unwieldy rod, and the
women praying for a good catch. As for the two
cells, they were but a mild joke perpetrated at the
expense of the outhouses in the back yard. Job
was consigned to one of them that happened to

34



The Yellow Van

be empty ; the other still held the logs for the winter
fire.

The inspector's wife had brought him a cup of tea
when he was locked in. She presently revisited his
dungeon, though not officially, to ask him, through
the air-hole in the door, if he would like another
lump of sugar. But there was a change. He was
beginning to be that most abject thing on earth,
a sot whose Dutch courage, Dutch friendship, Dutch
faith, hope, and charity, are passing off. The sing-
ing had ceased ; the voice within was one of weeping
and lamentation. He was the victim now. He
maundered over his sorrows, the injustice of the
world to lowly merit, his desertion by his friends.
He had been his own worst enemy, but only in being
too good, too considerate, too helpful toward the hu-
man race.

The woman, who could have passed a competitive
examination in all the symptoms, withdrew without
another word.

Left sniveling perhaps over the thought of a
motherland drowning, not even in malmsey, but in
swipes.



20



35




XXXIV

HE next day brought the visit of
the royal pair to a close. They
left on Monday, with the same
ceremony as before, and with an
air of benignant weariness. The
Points breathed once more, and
fresh arrivals added a reinforcement to their ranks.
It seemed like old times again. The Square-Toed
age could not have lasted; really distinguished per-
sons were beginning to yawn. The castle wore
an unmistakable air of high spirits. The joy of liv-
ing began to dispute the empire of sensation with
the mere pious opinion of the certainty of death.


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