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of his supreme service to herself in the affair of the


The Yellow Van

card-table, the one crisis of her simple life. It came
with just such a rush of feeling as had kept her
silent and abashed in his presence when first she
realized the immensity of the obligation. Was it for
her to give him lessons, when in all their relations
his had ever been the guiding hand and brain, the
surer for his lightness of touch and his unconscious
avoidance of all vestige of a claim ? Beside such ap-
peals, what grossness in any other, and especially
in her own of mere social position ! She rejoiced
that this blunder had escaped him by the accidents
of nature and training, and she felt the full force
of his homage to her womanhood, and to that alone.
She was conquered by his sheer faculty the only
thing, happily, thank God, that wins at last, or where
would be the hopes of the race? Here was the
strength, in all its finest attributes, for which she
had learned to long, and especially in gentleness
and never-failing courtesy. Here, once more, was a

"It is for you to forgive me now," she said. "I
am but a girl yet, and you are a school-boy no more. ' '

"No, no," he laughed. "I am not to be dubbed
into that dignity at a moment's notice. Let me still
fancy we are only boy and girl together, for it has
been the greatest happiness of my life. But since
you embolden me to plead for favors, little play-
mate," and he took her hand, "promise me that
if I come to you when I am really dubbed, and ask
you a question, you will try to give me a kind

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She said nothing, but the blood rushed to her face
as she met his look with eyes as of molten fire from
rising tears.

It was a reply of a sort, and it was so encouraging
that, greatly daring, he drew her gently toward him.

And so it came about.

3 6 4


HE Saturday before the corona-
tion, and glorious August weather.
London was never brighter or less
severe flags out, crowds from all
parts of the country and, in spite
of previous disappointment, from
most parts of the earth. Every other conscript in
this huge army of pleasure looked as though he car-
ried the marshal's baton in his knapsack that is to
say, as one still hoping for a ticket for Westminster

The central point, as the great meeting-place for
plebs and aristocracy, was the Marble Arch. All
else in London is for one or the other. This is for
both. Here rank and wealth and fashion taking the
air, yonder their deadly opposites commending them
most heartily to the devil, in perpetual public meet-
ing, under the friendly guardianship of the police.
No other scene in the world to match this for the
hate of hate, the toleration of policy and contempt.
The police know what they are about. This as-
sumption that the devil is ever ready to anticipate is
one of the most persistent errors of the vulgar. He
is a great student of history, and he bides his time.
For those who refuse to bide theirs, the site of the

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busy old gallows of Hogarth's day is close at hand,
with its memorial stone : ' ' Here stood Tyburn Gate. ' '
It is a gentle hint to the disaffected that valor must
still be tempered by discretion.

A street preacher, who naturally enjoyed the same
liberty as the others, held forth on the late postpone-
ment of the ceremony as a judgment on the nation
for its slack attendance at church. The ballad-mon-
gers were in full cry, one of them on the subject of
imperial emigration. With its burden of " I mye be
a millionhair, " his song was quite a battle-hymn of
the democracy, at need. The cheap jacks bawled
their wares coronation medals and biographies of
the royal pair. The grass was black with recumbent
loafers sunning themselves through the long hours
between the closing of the casual wards in the morn-
ing and their opening at night.

Lord Ogreby and his family occupied a carriage
in the drive. That nobleman was at once cheerful
and depressed. His house had for generations
claimed the right of offering a toothpick to the mon-
arch, after dinner, on coronation day. It was done
on bended knee. The right had not been denied on
the present occasion by the Lord Chancellor, the Earl
Marshal, the Lord Chief Justice, and other members
of the Court of Claims ; but, as the Lord Chancellor
had observed in giving judgment, after counsel had
raised many points of antiquarian and feudal lore,
the question was, in this instance, beyond the pur-
view of the court. Since there would be no state
dinner, there could be no toothpick in active demand
as part of the pageant. The right was therefore in

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abeyance on the present occasion. The applicant
submitted, with the sense of duty done : at any rate,
he had fought the good fight. "I have my children
to think of," he said with spirit, "and one day the
banquet may be revived." He was now bearing
home a brand-new instrument of this description,
ordered perhaps precipitately; and, with its inner
and outer casings, it occupied no small part of the
roof of his coach.

He had just exchanged bows with a lady driving
in the opposite direction and toward the arch. Her
fine face wore an air of weariness that heightened
the refinement of its beauty. After passing the gate,
her carriage turned down the Bayswater Road, and
drew up before a small turfed inclosure a few hun-
dred yards on the right-hand side. It was dismissed
there, with orders to call again in an hour.

The person who alighted was Augusta, Duchess
of Allonby, in town with the rest for the coming
ceremony. The place was her favorite retreat for
meditation, and it had been provided by the munifi-
cence of an estimable woman, now dead. It was a
small chapel, or a large monastic cell, just as you
chose to take it, but a chapel without a service or
other hindrance to pure spiritual contemplation.
Outside, the great roaring thoroughfare ; within, the.
peace of the desert, a house of reverie.

Thus spoke an inscription on its gate :

"Passengers through the busy streets of Lon-
don, enter this sanctuary for rest and silence and

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And again:

"Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Come
and rest awhile. Commune with your own hearts,
and be still."

The duchess did not immediately enter the chapel.
Nodding to the solitary attendant at the door, she
passed through a passage to a large garden at the
back, well hidden from the road. It was quite in the
note, being a garden of the cozy dead. For years
they had been disturbed by no newcomer of their
own recumbent order. They must have relished their
exclusiveness : they were the dead of St. George's,
Hanover Square. Posterity had not been unmind-
ful of their comfort. Their gravestones had been
removed from the original sites, as though to lighten
the indispensable labors of the last day ; and all was
now in readiness for either the trump of the arch-
angel or the pick of the speculative builder. One
monument showed that poor Laurence Sterne had
here found a bed, after the weariness of his closing
pilgrimage. It was but a bed for the night. The
flowery inscription, however, said nothing about the
body-snatchers who, in due course of business, had
stolen him away. Not for that mercurial spirit even
the rest of the grave !

Augusta took a turn round the cemetery, and then
entered the chapel. At first she had it all to herself,
for London set small store by this particular bounty
of the pious founder. At a later stage she was joined,

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on tiptoe, by a gray-headed senior, with one hand in
a sling and the other at his brow like herself, ap-
parently a refugee from the too insistent event of
the day. He had evidently come to think things out
on his own account, and he was quite unmindful of
her presence.

She would have preferred to be alone. It is amaz-
ing how few opportunities of this sort any of us en-
joy. There is ever some one by, within intrusive
hearing or scarcely less intrusive sight. The part-
nership of bed and board with humanity is some-
times too rigorous. We have to be gathered together
even for prayer. We live in crowds, think in crowds,
and rarely have the happiness to stand with no fel-
low-creature beyond the range of suggestion. Even
in this instance, it was still possible to spy other
strangers of a kind on the pictured wall. Its fine
sacred art told of things done long ago; yet these
might still have been kept more in the key of re-
pose. The too thunderous and tumultuous fellow-
ship of the prophets, with their deeds of judgment,
the excessively strenuous, though glorious, company
of the apostles, with their energy of ministration,
seemed superfluous in such a connection. The
Founder in the wilderness, another founder under
the tree, an apostle of quietism in his cell, would have
been enough for that contemplation, "without form,
likeness, manner, or figure," which is the all in all.

So Augusta just shut her eyes and began a medita-
tion. She was sick at heart. Her grief for the death
of Rose, long and deep, had gradually been merged

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in a sort of personal disappointment. She had come
out to her new life with such high hopes, and it had
all ended in this! At first she meant to accept the
system and work it out on its own lines. This failed
when she found that it ground out poverty, depen-
dence, and depopulation as by a mechanical law.
Then, fatuously, she aspired to reform it, and that
hope was now buried in a grave. The system had
triumphed over her more than over all the rest of
them put together. The only part before her now
was the insignificant one of leader of fashion and
ornament of the country-side. What a business, to
be forever setting an example in trivial things, as
one of the great exemplars of a nation perishing of
the imitation of its betters !

"The old order, the old manners, the old faith-
piteous to have to smirk one's way through all their
proprieties, feeling all the while how they have lost
their shaping virtue for the men and women of the
time. A day in Mr. Raif 's school as a preparation
for the shock of our modern battle of life ! A day
in Mr. Kaif 's church ! Really, some religions are not
much better than some stimulants. The Dutch
courage of these rites for the ordeals of poverty,
pain, and death! And most of them so dreadfully
old-fashioned, as if the chief business of the science
of all the sciences was not to be perpetually renew-
ing itself with the larger outlook on nature, and the
expansion of the mind and soul. Never has any
church been the same thing, thank God, in any two
ages, or even in any two generations. Man's re-


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ligions are as the hairs of his head for number, and
inevitably so. And Mr. Eaif trying so hard to make
us all letter-perfect in the prayer-book of the day be-
fore yesterday!"

The ray from the skylight, after illuminating the
face of a pictured apostle, was now rendering the
same service to a martyr. Nothing else had hap-
pened. The stranger kept himself to himself with a
discretion beyond praise. He stroked his wounded
hand from time to time, but he never once looked
Augusta's way.

"And sometimes, to be fair," she mused, being
still fancy-free, "the poverty of the discoveries, the
mere islands under the lee that are mistaken for a
continent! Our smart set touchingly busy under
American leadership in applying the principles of
the game of bluff to man's relations with his Maker
trying to will themselves into a good time, and the
prolongation of it in earthly immortality. Religions
that satisfy the sense of wonder, the sense of credul-
ity, without making any troublesome demands on
the sense of duty. Mere fancy patterns in Relieving,
without even the tables from the Mount. Made-up .
mysteries of the great panjandrum, coupled with the
right to do as you darned please. Life all apparatus.
Automatic cures for drunkenness, and medicated
baths for weakness of the will. Interested quests
for missing faculties stolen or strayed through the
ages. Whole drawing-rooms full of Pointed Toes
trying to think anemic glands into energy, in the
hope of coming on the track of their lost tribes of

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sense. Why not make the best of those you have?
Marcus took overmuch pains in the enumeration
of his debts to the wise. He forgot his debt to the
fools in teaching him what to laugh at and to loathe.

"Poor Points ! on the issue of this warfare between
them and the Squares turns the welfare of England,
and of all human society. History is but a record
of its varied fortunes. The Points had a merry time
of it in the Italy of the Renascence, and, as we know,
their symbol actually curled upward with the sense
of successful aspiration to the mastery of life. But
a time came!

"The time is coming here; and England 's going
to win, and beat down its baser part under its feet.
Let us have that faith in our race."

A fly buzzed, not without shock to the spirit of the
scene.* It was tumult of a kind. Augusta thought
"shoo!" to it with the happiest results; and, after
this triumphant exercise of will power, resumed.

Meanwhile the stranger had not been idle on his
own account. He uttered no word, gave no outward
and visible sign beyond the occasional stroking of
the bandaged hand. He merely thought his thoughts,
like his neighbor, but, by a law of sympathy which
others may know how to trace, they flowed more or
less in the same current as hers. For this is what
he was saying to himself :

"Real superiorities anywhere the rarest thing.
Whole sections in church and state perishing for the
want of them, and the mere caretakers not likely
to be of much avail on England's coming judgment-


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day. I mind me of a certain sheep 's carcass seen out-
side a butcher's shop at Christmas-tide, with its card
to indicate high honors at Islington. Yet the throat
bore witness to just the same treatment as that of
the common fellows alongside which had gained no
decoration. And the pompous victim had no doubt
been hustled to his doom and stretched on the rack
as rudely by the fierce tireman with the knife. Fancy
its ineffectual bleat : 'Mind what you are doing ! I 'm
a first prize at the cattle show ! ' At this stage, alas !
it was but one sheep more."

In his next flight he almost touched Augusta mind
to mind.

11 America, best of actual nations, no doubt, as
once was England before it. But ware breakers!
What are you going to Americanize ? Match factories
and steam lines are nearly done ; but social justice-
how do you stand for that? America eaten up with
the pride of life, with Europe waiting for a lead.
Are you going to carry it and yourself farther, or
only to sink back into mother's arms? Once the
hope of the nations, now only their competitor and
conqueror a very different thing! Money the too
universal test : preachers and poets filing their return
of income for the newspapers, to show how well it
pays. Not less riches or less comfort for all, but a
better share for some. What are you going to do
about the back premises ?

"Come over and help as soon as you can, if only
for the sake of helping yourself. Society everywhere
apparently under sentence of death for ill-distributed


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wealth pomp and privation both exceeding all
healthful bounds, with resultant deadness of soul
and stint of body. For the last see factories and
' far-flung battle-line. '

"Touching, yet foolish too, the idle rich every-
where, now so extensively resorting to cremation in
the vain hope of giving the recording-angel the slip.
He '11 find the body, you bet. Discourage, if pos-
sible, by suitable remonstrances. Cremation a good
thing, but must be loved for itself.

* ' Will anybody give England a new type of young
man, the nation's pride? The government might
offer a prize. High marks for modesty, simplicity,
earnestness, book-work in the things that count, and
the power of 'swotting' at the art of life. General
aim highest possible differentiation from the snipe.
Class 1, Young Men of Family ; Class 2, Officers and
Gentlemen; Class 3, Officers; Class 4, Sons of Toil.
Extra prizes for young women to match.

"A new sort of person wanted very much every-
where. Meantime, the counter-jumper may be of
help. Strike, but hear. He is frugal, hard-working,
obliging, and of a more than courtly civility. His
whole life a training in these qualities, with their
underlying self-denial and self-control. Has been
under the harrow, no small part of it. A wise legis-
lature should see that every child had a touch of
this instrument at the start. It is far more impor-
tant than the lancet; and, in this case, we might
fairly abolish the conscientious objector. Similarly,
little shop-girls (maids of all work, with ten in


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family preferred) quite the hope of the nation. No
damn nonsense in them, and the country is perishing
of that. They see life in its realities of labor, tem-
perance, simplicity, low-pitched claim. Young lady-
hood is killing the one half of us, and young spark-
ishness the other. Post-office and other clerical va-
rieties of our modern miss, of great promise, but
should be warned against being too sweet on them-
selves, and prayed with, morning and evening,
against airs. Compulsory marriage between these
and young navvies of good conduct worth consider-
ing as an extreme measure. Marriage with the
merely muscular heathen in the boating and football
line placed in the table of prohibited degrees.

"The absolute necessity of reorganizing our duf-
fers in the interest of the social order. A possible
revolt of them how awful! Think of their finding
a second Spartacus, these failures in all departments,
and rising on their lords and masters, the clever fel-
lows! The feudal system no other than the clever
fellows in their setting of age and circumstance.
Muttered wrath of the duffers against these for their
usurpation of all the best things of life as their fee
for leadership. 'After all, we have our stomachs as
well as you; and why make us suffer so fearfully
for want of brains?' If they found no Spartacus,
the defect might still be made good by mere weight
of numbers as though the sheep turned on the dog,
on a deliberate reckoning of the cost in torn fleeces.
Defeat in the end, no doubt, but what havoc in the
course of it ! Perhaps more economic in the long run,


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in every sense, to admit them to a larger share of the
pudding. 'Let us in, or we will spoil your universe'
what a rallying-cry !"

Then Augusta struck in with a stray thought:
''Beautiful on the mountains, Scottish or American,
the feet of those poor students working as plowmen,
stokers, packers, and cabmen in the intervals of their
college terms. Surely Oxford might be restored
to persons of this stamp without troubling Mr.

And thus the stranger again, still harping on
England's daughter across the seas:

"New and serious attempt on the part of our
writing clan to rediscover America, following in the
wake of our modern Columbus of philosophical liter-
ature, E. J. Payne. More and Montaigne and Shak-
spere saw that the machinery of feudalism was out-
worn, and that we must cross the Atlantic for a new
start in truth and nature, if not, as now, to re-teach
its second crop of aborigines the lesson they are them-
selves making haste to forget. With all its faults,
America still looming large as the land of ideas.
We must pass through and beyond it to get to higher
things. They beat us by their impertinent curiosity
about everything under the sun, including their own
souls. They are actually trying to make a new re-
ligion, and, though the attempt may not succeed,
it must have precious results of the experimental

"That Easter-day metaphysic of a worthy bishop
sin and death abashed before a miracle, and ut-


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terly overthrown. He owns, to his sorrow, that 'the
church is not in possession.' How can it be, good
man? It does not meet the facts of modern suffer-
ing, modern discontent ; and we want a new adjust-
ment. Be not alarmed; there have been hundreds
before, each more or less adequate, and therefore true
for its hour. There will be thousands again.

"Try brotherhoods of social justice, but brother-
hoods of the world instead of the cloister; sister-
hoodsand more especially as well. Anchorites of
the warehouse and of the drawing-room, desperately
concerned in finding out how a fine life should be
led, and in bringing liberty, equality, and fraternity
into every-day concerns. Being pledged one to an-
other by their vows cooperators of the affections;
trusts of the heart; contrivers of corners in mag-
nanimity, self-sacrifice, self-control, leading the
world's life, but even that to finer issues, and the
soul's life in the temples that are also their homes.

"But not overmuch organization. The 'plan of
salvation' ill-omened phrase! It is all so pigeon-
holed and docketed nowadays in affairs of the spirit
so far in the fetching, so remote. Rome and Lam-
beth these bureaus of paradise ! Less crimson tape.

"And give the men thus bred their chance of the
land, and of every other good thing going. The
land for the people, without a revolution of blood
unless you insist on it. Break the territorial aris-
tocracy, old and new, and buy them out. Liddicot
and his Grace of Allonby quite ready for heaven;
Kisbye also ripe for a bit of a change in another


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sphere. The state as owner; and, as holder at a
fair rent, anybody that can put the brown earth
to good use in any quantity. Other ownership, other
rent of it, a crime, as between man and man."

Augusta was just getting ready for the anti-
strophe; and how much longer the silent choral
might have gone on between them no man can say.
But at this moment the attendant came in, and
making a sign to her, held out his hand for the
expected shilling, not in vain. It was time to go,
the carriage of the Duchess of Allonby stopped the

The duke was waiting for her.

' ' I am in luck, ' ' he said. ' ' I was looking for you
in the drive, and I met the carriage." He seemed
uneasy for all that.

"I have asked him for to-day, Augusta, just to
get it over. Would you mind ? There '11 be nobody

''And who is the somebody?"

"Well Kisbye, you know!"

It was the sign of capitulation.

"As you please, Henry, of course," and she turned
her head to save him the sight of a wry face.

There was a sense of something impending in the
banners, the roll of the traffic, the hum of the street.
Was it the end of an epoch the old order that had
passed away, the new that had come to take its place ?
The omens were not all favorable. The sky became
suddenly overcast ; there was a threat of storm.

Another vehicle was at the gate, rather to the


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ducal coachman's disgust. It was a curious struc-
ture, mounted on a lorry, as though for repairs, and
evidently much the worse for a late mishap.

Augusta at once recognized the yellow van. And,
as she did so, the stranger stalking forth erect, like
a soldier taking his place for battle, nodded a march-
ing order to the man at the horse's head.

Old Redmond stood confessed ; and the van served
as an introduction.

"You have met with an accident?"

"Hardly that, duchess." And he touched his cap.

She started.

"A broken head and what not; a house broken
over it in a riot raised by the land-grabbers. We
shall get both mended, and go on as before. Such
things are among our rules of the road."

"Poor man!"

"I need no pity: we '11 have England for the Eng-
lish people yet."

All moved away the battered veteran to his line
of march, the Duchess of Allonby only to dinner with
Mr. Kisbye ! She sighed : it was impossible not to
feel the difference in the dignity of their fates.

When last seen, the van was in a ray from a sun-
burst that parted the clouds.



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Online LibraryRichard WhiteingThe yellow van → online text (page 21 of 21)