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of the countryside, leaned on his two walking-
sticks and turned a glazing eye to a pennon al-
ready in its place. And near him, for one precious
moment, lingered Job Gurt, the blacksmith, detained,
though unwillingly, on his way to the Knuckle of
Veal Inn, which formed the background of the
picture.

Hard by stood a lad and lass who had evidently
wandered into the composition in sheer preoccupa-
tion of mind. One of these, George Herion, seemed

20



The Yellow Van

a candidate for the honors which the venerable Sam-
son had long resigned. "Deft his tabor" was to be
surmised, for he looked light of limb; and "cudgel
stout," at need, was beyond all question, for
strength was written all over him, and especially
in the way in which his head was set on his neck,
and in his deep chest. He and Rose Edmer, the
pretty dark-haired girl by his side, his match to
scale in the lithe vigor of youth, were intent on
each other, and yet at once in spite of that and
because of it without eyes for anything much
lower than the sky. This was more specially true
of the young fellow. He was unmistakably in that
dawn of the idyl when the hopes and fears are in a
perfect balance which a hair may disturb either
way, with a certainty of delicious emotion. Blessed-
est of all moments, the moment when one is not
quite sure! Who was the inestimable sage that
defined happiness as the sense of constant progress
toward a desirable object? He was careful not
to speak of attainment. The girl was as yet of
those who have only to let themselves be loved to
make happiness enough for two.

Another female the term is obligatory as a sign
of respect was old Sally Artifex the Methody,
one of the most respected characters of the commu-
nity by reason of the fact that her life of incessant
drudgery best represented the common lot. She
almost looked her simple history, which was a
drunken husband long since laid comfortably out
of mischief, and a family "r'ared" by the practice

21



of all the virtues on the part of his widow, espe-
cially that of thrift. She was at this very moment
on her way to chapel, not for worship indeed, but
only for the scrubbing of the floors, without preju-
dice, of course, to her rights as communicant on the
appointed days.

Old Spurr, the small farmer, a wild figure in
shirt-sleeves earning a precarious subsistence by all
but incessant labors of the field, had suffered himself
to be drawn for a moment from his customary
bounds.

Even the constable paused the constable, Peascod
by name, and, to make it somewhat more ridiculous
by the accident of collocation, Herbert as well. That
there was no harm in him seemed to be attested by
his moon-face, and by his tall, gawky figure, as of
merely incipient manhood. He was liked in the vil-
lage because he was communicative and made no
secret of his ambition to work up to the metropolitan
service, and to distinguish himself by chasing burg-
lars over warehouse roofs.

Rupert Ness, the gamekeeper of Sir Henry Lid-
dicot, a neighboring baronet and landowner, was
naturally in the company of Herbert Peascod; and,
no less naturally, his eye was fixed on the sturdy,
thick-set figure of the poacher Bangs, who, as it was
near nightfall, might reasonably be suspected of be-
ing on his way to work.

Really intelligent curiosity was represented by
Mr. Grimber, a retired tradesman from London, who
had come here to end his days on a modest com-

22



The Yellow Van

petence amassed by forty years of strenuous chan-
dlery in the heart of Seven Dials.

Mr. Bascomb, the High-church vicar of Slocum
Magna, in his cap, and long black robe tied with a
sash round the waist, had, in his scholarly retire-
ment, heard of the event of the day, as, in his clerical
character, he might have heard of an apparition.
He mingled with the villagers and surveyed the scene
with an air of aloofness which still showed a friendly
intent. The other persons were the infinitely little
of Slocum Parva, mere items of entry in the parish
register, awaiting their only chance of publicity at
the judgment-day.

Slocum found its tongue next morning, and in
that and the few days following it lived a whole
cycle of Cathay. Its inn was thronged, and not
merely because the weather was warm. The work-
men from town, especially, were blessed with a
natural thirst that made them independent of the
accident of the seasons. There was a happy hug-
ger-mugger of good-fellowship, guzzle, crowding,
dirt, and bad air in its tap-room and bar-parlor,
and even in its kitchen and outhouses, which took
the overflow. Customers came from all parts. The
v countryside was astir, and more than the country-
side.

All the duke's places claimed their part in the
celebration. Allonby might have the best of it as
the ancestral home and residence, but Anstead, in
the far north, brought in even more revenue than
Allonby, and Lidstone, on the west, was not to be



The Yellow Van

left out. Then there was the London estate. Two
of the properties were the largest and richest in
a country which is the richest to the square mile
in the world. They had all the main essentials of
wealth mines and flourishing cities, harbors and
ports, endless acreage of plow-land and pasture all
the duke's, with a great density of population which
was his no less in effective ownership. An acre
means an acre in such a realm, and as for a league,
well, its potentialities are hardly to be realized.
For twenty miles round at Anstead, as for thirteen
here at Allonby and for about the same at Lidstone,
you might walk without setting foot on any man's
land but the duke's.

And these were only the massed estates, the
places his Grace might condescend to name if any
one were saucy to him. The fringes and pickings
unattached, any one of them a domain for an up-
start, dotted the kingdom. In thirteen different
counties you might call out, "Duke of Allonby!
Duke of Allonby!" and that great nobleman, or
some one of his name, would be there to answer,
"Here am I." There were three peerages in the
family. There was in all some quarter of a million
of acres, and of such acres as we have seen. The
London estate, not the largest of its kind, was ra-
ther to be measured by the square foot, so precious
was its content in squares and crescents, and even
in slums. If Allonby Castle had been bolted by
an earthquake, its owner would still have had his
choice of half a dozen other homes, each stored with
the spoil of the ages in the pomp of life.

24



The Yellow Van

Perhaps the village best vindicated its wisdom in
its readiness to accept its nickname of Silly Slocum.
Thankfulness and rest seemed the lesson of its
situation in such a landscape. And beyond, on the
other side of the park wall of red, mellowing into
roan with extreme age, was the Eden of Allonby,
a veritable garden of the Lord. How easy to be
good in such a place! How difficult not to be a
poet, if only impulse obeyed the soft persuasions
of nature, and faculty went with mere opportunity !
Everything was at Allonby in garden, wood, or
chase all "trees of noblest kind for sight, smell,
taste," all flowers in their season in the castle
grounds, or out of it in the conservatories, cave
and waterfall, fountain and "crisped brook,"
breezy stretches of open country, "shaggy hills,"
thicket, and tufted moor.

Slocum 's arch of evergreens crowned with a
vegetable coronet, and relieved at intervals with
pendent shields bearing the ducal blazon, though gen-
erally considered to do credit to the taste of all con-
cerned, seemed but a poor approach to this land of
wonders. The Venetian masts for once reduced the
straggling highway to the semblance of regularity.
An inscription in giant needlework spanning the
road, "Welcome to our Noble Duke and Duch-
ess," if not particularly choice, was at least sim-
ple and well meant. And the villagers had done
something on their own account. Many a cottage
exhibited a national flag as supplied by the cheap
Jacks, unyielding, by virtue of its material of tin
or cardboard, to the blandishments of the breeze.

2 5



IV




ENRY, how good you are to me!"
Augusta and the duke are in
their private waiting-room at the
station, watching the procession
as it forms for the march to Al-
lonby. The train which has
brought them so far backs coyly out of sight, as
though rather ashamed of the wreath on the funnel
of the engine.

She lays her hand on his arm, and their eyes
meet.

"It is all done for you, little woman. I want
to show them how proud I am of my wife."

They have come down for the great day of the
entry, and she is still under the impression of
their run through the perfect scenery. Its sug-
gestion of order, peace, prosperity, of a toilet made
every morning, as with brush and comb and even
tweezers, has appealed to her, as it appeals to
every one. It is beyond the England of her dreams.
''Henry, I feel that I am going to be happy ever
after. But please don 't go on making me talk. ' '

The absolute novelty of most of it is part of
the charm. You may always have that at command
by crossing a frontier for the first time. Every-



The Yellow Van

thing looks a little wilfully wrong, but with this
it has the air of being quite delightfully itself.
Even Peascod attains to originality as he takes his
place in the ranks of constabulary that are to lead
the way. Their helmets are, at any rate, somewhat
taller and uglier than the variety worn in town.

The first section of the procession consists of the
agricultural estates of the ducal realm, the tenants
holding under the duke. Here are the large far-
mers on horseback, the men renting by the five hun-
dred or the thousand acres, most of them belonging
to the smaller gentry and some to the greater.
They ride as masters of those who line the road,
with manifest pride in their great and well-ordered
farms, their farm-houses which are little mansions,
their stately use and wont of life the dinner-bell
and the dressing-bell before it, the refined woman-
hood in the drawing-room and boudoir, the prize
stock in their stables, whereby they make a living
of a kind out of land ever tending to cease alto-
gether to rear corn and men. The small farmers,
fifty-acre men aad less, are to follow them afoot,
and among them is the venerable Spurr, smartened
up for the occasion, his every-day self only to be
recognized in his still untamable beard and whisker
and his iron hair.

"And the hired hands behind them," says Au-
gusta, "in their store-clothes! Why don't they wear
their smock-frocks?"

"Because they have n't got 'em, my dear. No-
thing of that sort now except in the picture-books.

27



The Yellow Van

By the by, Augusta, would you mind saying 'agri-
cultural laborers'?"

"Oh, Henry, who told me I had such a tiny
mouth?"

She is aware of a secret pang of resentment
against Kate Greenaway, but she keeps her own
counsel, if only for fear of making another mis-
take. But for this she might have ventured a re-
mark on the vacuous placidity of the laborers'
faces, due, though she does not know it, to the fact
that, among the fifty of them, there is not so much
as a yard of land or the rudiments of a syllogism.

The carriages now being marshaled into line re-
store the dignity of the scene. They bear the chiefs
of the districts into which the Allonby estate is
marked out mostly younger sons, for the appoint-
ments are much coveted by men of family with a
turn for field-sports. The agent stands between the
tenants and the duke's head man receives their
petitions for redress of grievance, forwards these,
with the report, to the central office, and is gener-
ally a little governor of his province.

One agent, whose years and bearing do not sug-
gest recent service in the cavalry, is hailed with a
murmur of "There go old Snatcher" that betokens
a sort of gruesome admiration on the part of the
crowd.

" 'Old Snatcher'?" murmurs her Grace, as
though to give an opportunity for an explanation
without insisting on it.

"A mere nickname," returns the duke, evasively.

28



The Yellow Van

This personage, who has seen most of his service
under the late duke, is indeed the most skilful
picker up of unconsidered trifles of common land
in the whole countryside. In days past the peasant
had his rights to the waste land as well as the lord.
In fact, only when the man was served could the
master stretch out his hand for the superfluity.
Whole generations of Snatchers have generally put
an end to that, but, here and there, precious strips
of greensward, dear to the camping gipsy, remain
by the roadside and elsewhere, a kind of no-man's-
land. The venerable Snatcher has a way of grab-
bing those for his employer ''snicking" is the
local term which is unsurpassed. First, he puts
up a notice-board warning mankind at large against
trespass and its consequences. Then, when the no-
tice has matured into a kind of assumption of pri-
vate ownership, he puts up a fence. The fence, in
its turn, matures into a full recognition, as from
time immemorial; and the strip is now part of the
ducal domain.

"He seems a good old man," says the bride,
ready to take everything for the best.

The bridegroom says nothing to the contrary.

Distant strains from a band following the con-
stabulary show that the head of the procession has
begun to move. This leaves more elbow-room for
the next section, still in course of formation, the
staff of the Yard. The Yard is still a peculiar fea-
ture of some of the old-fashioned estates. It is
the great industrial village nestling under the

2 9



The Yellow Van

castle at the other side of the ridge, where all the
needful builders' work on the whole stretch of the
property is done by the duke's own men. It is
part of the traditional system of making the do-
main sufficient to itself, and wanting nothing from
the world without. Here are forges, workshops,
and the like, and all the duke's. The overseer, the
foremen, the gangers, marching heads up and with
steady step, have the air of old retainers, proud of
their service, and aware that, with good behavior,
it is a service for life. Their leader, the clerk of
the works, follows in a carriage, as befits one whose
business it is to decide in the last resort, subject
to the veto of a superior who has the right of per-
sonal audience and who takes the pleasure of his
Grace.

More music, and then come the retainers from
the north. Anstead, the duke's creation as a plea-
sure-city by the sea and his property, is represented
by its town council in deputation, a dash of wel-
come color in robe and chain. The great seaport
miles away, distinguishable from Anstead with
powerful glasses by the faint haze of its own smoke,
is the duke's, too, in ultimate ownership, and a
due share of its rich yield in the profits of com-
merce on every sea goes into his coffers. Grave
delegates of its harbor board follow the municipal-
ity of Anstead, to do their homage with the rest.

The whole district is rich in mine and quarry,
and it sends the representatives of the companies
mining under the great man. Augusta gives a lit-

3



The Yellow Van

tie cry at the sight of a few figures in outlandish
rig who form part of this contingent. They are
pallid in complexion, but wiry by the evidence of
their springy tread.

"Pitmen," explains the duke.

They wear brand-new mining-suits as a decora-
tive effect, and they carry their lamps and the wea-
pon-like tools of their craft. The duchess regards
them with wonder not unmixed with awe. They
have that strange air of otherworldliness common
to most men, even the roughest, who habitually
bear their lives in their hands. Other miners and
quarrymen follow, and the rear is brought up by
the mineral bailiff, a dignified person in a closed
carriage, who is chief officer of this part of the do-
main.

The Lidstone and London estates march together,
as being too far-fetched to claim full pride of place.
They are separated only by the steward of Allonby
Castle, a little beyond his beat, but seen in all the
better relief on that account. He is the prime minis-
ter of the mere household, and it is so vast, with its
army of servants, and so engrossing, with its huge
tradesmen's accounts and its frequent changes of
place, that its intendant need hardly yield a point
to a viceroy in his look of weariness of the labors of
his charge. The town contingent includes clerks,
agents, architects, and surveyors, some of them
members of the cabinet council of the board that
manages the London property, occasionally under
the presidency of the duke himself.

3 1



The Yellow Van

His Grace nods to the next comer, the great man
who centralizes the general management of the
whole territory in his capacious brain. He is the
only one of all the throng who has direct personal
relations with his master as a matter of right. He
sits in a finely appointed carriage, not gaudy but
good, behind high-stepping bays; and no mandarin
with the privilege of the audience-chamber could
wear a loftier air. You can do nothing without
him, and you had better make up your mind to
that. He dispenses as much patronage as a minister,
and he holds some of the proudest people of Eng-
land in the hollow of his hand. He is but one re-
move from supreme greatness, for as beyond him
there is nothing but the duke, so beyond the duke
there is nothing but the King of England.

The nobility and gentry whose carriages come
next in the line are, in a sense, equals of the duke,
yet they yield a willing homage to him as the chief
of their order. Many of their womankind are with
them, on their way to the reception. The duke
points out Sir Henry Liddicot, his near neighbor,
with his daughter, a fresh rosebud set in a fine con-
fusion of silk and chiffon, whose all but unattain-
able white and red wins Augusta's generous praise.
These are followed by the superior clergy, a prel-
ate as a matter of courtesy, and many members of
the chapter of the cathedral which has its site in
one of the duke's towns. His Grace presents to
so many pulpits that a wise church cannot remain
indifferent when he brings home his bride. It is

32



The Yellow Van

divinity still in the good company of law, as the
latter is represented in the file of gentry by the
county bench.

The marshal of the pageant now enters, hat in
hand, to claim the victims. Augusta feels sure all
the color has left her cheek as she steps forth on
her husband's arm to take her place in a chariot
and four with postilions and with outriders. Her
interest in the crowd, as a matter of narrative, is
henceforth lost in the crowd's interest in her. The
whole procession is now on the march, and it moves
to the most inspiriting discord of shouting, of bra-
zen instruments, and of clanging bells. Slocum
meanwhile, unable to contain itself any longer,
sends forth swift couriers from the village school
for tidings, and finally one returns breathless to
announce a sound of trumpets and a gleam of uni-
forms and arms. The villagers turn out to line
the street behind the masts; the school-children,
with some pushing and many rebukes, take their
places for the choral welcome; and then, since
there is nothing more to do, Slocum stands still and
listens to the beating of its own heart.

They are in the village now, and the volunteer
band blows "The Conquering Hero," a welcome
relief from previous excesses in the "Wedding
March." The strains presently cease by command,
as the children take up their choral song, clear, ex-
quisite, and penetrating to the innermost sense with
the inalienable innocence of the singers, let the
little monkeys be what they may. It is maddening

3

33



The Yellow Van

when the band resumes. The very frogs in the
pond, roused from their broken slumbers, croak a
protest that serves to swell the volume of acclaim.
It would be hard to say whether they or the visitors
best represent the negligible quantity. The gulf is
a wide one between both of them and Henry Plan-
tagenet Mackenzie Norice-Vesey-Ravelin-Harfoot,
Duke and Marquis of Allonby and Lidstone, Earl
Ravelin, Viscount and Baron Rodmund, Earl Nor-
ice, and Lord Poynce. There was more of it as the
lawyers compared parchments over his marriage
settlement, as there will be more when the heralds
recite style and titles over his grave.

He is a most amiable nobleman to the view, es-
pecially as he now sits bowing and smiling from
his seat. The features, in so far as they are those
of a race, were evidently once strong. But they
have been rounded by centuries of easy living, and
the assurance of a life beyond the accident of
events. The eyes have lost the glare of those of
the great ancestor who held the French duke fast
at Crecy till the first of the Liddicots came up to
make good the precious prize and to earn that fifth
share in the ransom which was the foundation
of both their fortunes. The chin may be as square
as ever beneath its soft coating of flesh, but there
is the coating, as you can but guess. All the old fa-
mily faces get worn down in this way. The snub
noses of the Pharaohs attest the dateless age of their
line. Such are the ravages of ineffable calm; and
Eastern art has done well to choose their effects for

34



The Yellow Van

its type of a being that has passed beyond all per-
turbation of mortal affairs. The duke, in fact, in
one aspect, is a Buddha in a Bond-street tie the
right tie. His very hair is neither dark nor light,
but chestnut; his blue eyes sparkle with geniality
but with no stronger flame; his features are regu-
lar; his eyebrows form an easy line; he seems nei-
ther tall nor short, but just the mean. With so
many stored deeds behind him, he has no taste for
further exercise in the toils of the arena. He looks
as restful as an old athlete.

His duchess, whose one moment of misgiving has
long since passed, wins general praise. Her dress-
makers and her sense of self-respect, between them,
have wrought wonders in fitting her for her new
part. It is the governess still, but the American
variety of the type; and in the short drive she has
taught herself to regard the roaring crowd before
her as but a larger class. She is a stately creature
in Build and beauty, a Diana of Versailles who has
stooped to the yoke of marriage. The note of the
face is dignity with animation. It looks at once
supermundane and yet aware; above the meaner
concerns of life, yet not unmindful of their exis-
tence. All beauty has its particular "message."
Why the message of this type of it has so much at-
traction for the race of man, which, in its aggre-
gate, rarely rises superior to petty concerns, is a
mystery. Yet it is perhaps to be explained by the
fact that we are prepared to admire in others our
own unrealized ideals, and that next to succeeding

35



The Yellow Van

on one's own account is the pleasure of beholding
another who has arrived.

The duchess looks as magnanimous as we all
should like to be. She is therefore as interesting
as those ladies of the pagan heaven who have at
once, with the sense of mortal anxieties, the power
to despise them. The firm, regular features are
tempered into amiability by the gracious curves of
the mouth, by the lenity of the eyes, and even by
the magnificent sweep of the hair from the brow,
as though it had been carried backward in one im-
petuous gesture, in a futile attempt to escape from
the oppression of a mass of gold. She is tall one
can see that as she sits and queenly in her bear-
ing, in being superbly at ease with herself. She
bows to right and left, looks happy and even
touched, and speaks frequently to the duke in run-
ning comment on everything she sees. The village
beauty, Rose Edmer, is evidently one subject of re-
mark as she gazes with trance-like fixity on the
vision of commanding loveliness before her. In
this way the eyes on both sides meet, as though in
pledge of future acquaintance. "While Rose looks
at the duchess, George Herion, after a momentary
glance of curiosity at the carriage, looks at her.
The arrangement seems eminently satisfactory to
all the parties concerned.

Yeomanry and mounted police close the proces-
sion, and it is soon lost in the ample grounds, with
their twenty miles of drives. Then it winds about
till it comes in sight of the castle on the other side

36



The Yellow Van

of the lake, with the time-worn battlements and
towers rising from their foundation of solid rock
and glowing in the rays of the setting sun. As it
nears the outer gate it halts to enable the duke to


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