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dismiss his humbler friends with a few well-chosen
words of thanks and of welcome, to their entertain-
ment in the grounds.

The others, after leaving the barbican and the
Norman gateway, alight at the entrance to the main
building, and, passing by the grand staircase and
the guard-chamber, finally reach the great hall, in
which the reception is to be held. There is no ban-
quet, for there would be too many to serve; but
there are refreshments which the reporter in the
county paper will in due course describe as pala-
tial. The scene is one of wonderful suggestiveness,
as the county and the dependencies beyond, in their
myriad activities of wealth and industry, file before
the ducal pair, and it presents no bad image of the
state of a modern noble, and of his household of
agriculture, trade, and commerce which has taken the
place of the household of arms.



37




jLONBY is the new planet for
Augusta. Nothing resembles what
she has left behind, except the
human nature. In the planet,
according to Utopian fancy, they
are without lungs, without stom-
achs, or without feelings. In this one, while still
crouching under such burdens, they are like none
but themselves. They begin where other folk leave
off, and end in the same eccentric way. A topsy-
turvy world, yet such a world of its own!

The one compensation is her immense enthusiasm.
She has come as a believer. It is still the England
of her dreams an England where everything
stands out romantic, beautiful, against its back-
ground of historic past.

Her diffidence about herself is a hindrance.
What would she not give to be a mere spectator,
watching, wondering, taking in, with nothing to
give out, and thanking God meanwhile in whispers
for the variety and design of his universe. But
to have to lead the dance!

It would be overwhelming, were it not for the
rooted determination in her a sort of birthmark
of character to be equal to her fortunes, whatever
they may bring. The trial that has come to her



The Yellow Van

is none of her seeking, and she is going to see it
through. In this consideration the extremes of diffi-
dence and of self-confidence meet. The golden
rule for travel in all strange places is notoriously
to keep your nerve. In this way you keep your
head along with it, among the wildest. Augusta
is at present in a circle of chiefs, who watch her,
though not unkindly, for the slightest sign of fear.
And she is so frightened, and so brave.

Her strong points are those of the ancient Per-
sians: she can ride and speak the truth. The rid-
ing, in one of her station, is a mere accident of her
life among the ranches. She has no remembrance
of a time when she could not master a horse. That
mastery wins unwonted indulgence for her know-
ingness about other things.

"My dear," says her tutelary dowager, a relative
of the duke, "don't talk booky to 'em, or they '11
think you 've been a lecturer."

"Aunt Emily!"

"Well, yes, I know; only do give 'em a chance,
my dear. And don't let your travels run into ar-
chaeology. It gives them a turn. Don't mind an
old woman's counsel, and give me a kiss. I 'm so
delighted you 're goin' to be friends with Mary
Liddicot. She 's such a nice girl."

The dowager has certainly not spoken too soon.
The two younger women if Mary, as a mere legal
infant of seventeen, is to be reckoned a woman are
good friends already. They are together in the
private garden this morning.

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The Yellow Van

"Why not sit here, duchess?" And Mary throws
herself on a time-worn step of the terrace. "We
may dodge the sun for an hour under the balus-
trade."

It is notorious that no human being can possibly
be half so good as some women look, so devotees
must e'en make the best of the limitations of our
fallen nature. Here, for instance, is another of
them who seems all health of body and of mind
in fresh cheek, clear eye, straightness of manner.
Health is always beauty of a kind, but other is not
wanting in the fine, firm drawing of cheek and
brow, tempered into expression by the suavity of
the mouth and the benignant eyes.

"Will the steps bear us, Mary? That is the point.
And please don't call me 'duchess' any more. Au-
gusta is my name."

"Why not,d I mean Augusta as to the steps?"

"It will have to be something shorter to-morrow;
so I give you warning. As to your silly question,
look at the crannies and the moss."

"Yes; and as to your wise answer, don't forget
the fresh masonry on the other side."

"The old order and the new patchwork, eh,
Mary?"

"Just like Allonby, at any rate. We are more
consistent in decay at Liddicot."

"Well, I take your word for it; for who ought
to know Allonby, if you don 't ? That is why I want
you to show me round my own place."

"Then come to the bowling-green; we shall be

40



The Yellow Van

better under the terrace there. Give me a hand
with the sketching-traps, and I '11 lead the way."

"Oh, is n't it just lovely!" cries the delighted
duchess, as they reach a stretch of faultless turf
lying under the shelter of an ancient wall. "But
I forget : I must n 't put it in that way. ' '

"Why not?"

"Slang and not English slang, at that."

"What 's the matter with it?"

"Mary, you must help me in these little things.
Be cruel to be kind. What would you have said
now?"

"What about?"

"About the loveliness."

"What could I have said but 'it is lovely'?"

"Ah, you 've left out the 'just' in spite of your-
self; so I stand rebuked."

Lovely it is, for want of a better word. The
sheared grass stands as firm and upright in its
ranks as a regiment of Spanish pikemen. The wall,
a mere accident of lusty decay, has been turned to
the best account. It is paneled by its buttresses,
and every space between them is a mass of flowers
springing from a bed of mold at the base. There
are more flowers in the coping, with potted plants
to mark the lines of buttress, and the whole compo-
sition has the time-worn red of the brickwork for
its background. A clipped hedge forms the border
on the other side of the alley, and gives a choice
of luminous shade. There is more turf beyond the
wall, and beyond that a growth of wood vast and

41



The Yellow Van

deep enough, to all appearance, to house the whole
pagan world of dryad and faun. Impenetrable
privacy is the note. Surely, if there can be any
sure defense against the siege of troubles, here is
the triple line.

"Too beautiful," again murmurs Augusta.
"Who wants to play at stupid bowls in such a
place or to play at anything except being in hea-
ven?"

"Well, you must decide, you know. It is your
garden, all yours. Father says the duke himself
would hardly intrude without asking leave."

"Mary, we '11 sit here all day long and read
'The Golden Pomp.' "

"What about exercise?" says Mary, simply.

"Oh, very well. I '11 learn the stupid game, if
I must."

"Why should you? There are links on the other
side of the wood. Yours, too. 'All trespassers will
be prosecuted' even from the house-party."

' ' The house-party ! ' ' echoes Augusta, with a sigh.
"Well, never mind all that this morning. Let us
just sit here and feel sorry for most of our fellow-
creatures. Ach, du lieber Gott!"

The head coachman approaches and touches his
hat. "Would your Grace like to see the stables this
morning? The horses came down yesterday."

"Stables, Mary? Must it be stables now? One
might as well be back home."

"Well, you see they 're your stables. Jarvis
might feel ' '

42



The Yellow Van

"Say no more, my dear."

Mr. Jarvis is very proud of his horses, his car-
riages, his harness-room, of all that is his as head
coachman of the duke. The stables are marvelous;
and the lodging for the men is worthy of the
lodging for the beasts you can say no more.
The woodwork is real and rare, the plated metal
is as good as silver to the eye. The architect
was a poet playing with a fancy of stately comfort
in brick and tile picked out with crest, coronet, and
monogram, and with the most lavish exercise of
invention. The mere cleanliness is a marvel, too.
Mr. Jarvis 's ideal is a place in which the duke,
should he ever wish to do anything so absurd,
might "eat his dinner off the floor." With all its
brightness, it is as severe in taste as a Greek tem-
ple. There is no superfluity if only for that rea-
son, there is no dirt. There is only everything of
the very best, even light and air, and, at need, arti-
ficial warmth. The riding horses are shown by the
stud-groom, a swell of the domestic order who
wears no livery, and whose office is of historic
origin. The splendid creatures in residence, glis-
tening in their coats to match the general scheme,
turn meek faces, with eyes of fire, as the visitors
trip from stall to stall without once having to lift
a skirt. Here is Chieftain, the champion hunter of
England, who, it is hoped, may carry the duchess
herself.

The auguries are favorable. "The beauty
beauty!" cries her Grace, running her hand over

43



The Yellow Van

his coat. "We 're going to be the best friends in
the world, Chieftain." And she lays against his
neck a face that stands out fairer than ever from
the background of bay.

"Sixteen hands, or hardly an inch under, your
Grace."

"Surely not quite that!"

"It 's his build, and good proportions. He
matches himself all over. You can have a horse
as big as a house if you breed him right. If ever
anything happens to him, I '11 keep his skeleton,
and then your Grace will see what he is in bone."

"May my skeleton be ready first! I 'm going to
love him too much."

"Augusta, Augusta, come and see your new
ponies ! " It is a cry from Mary, who leads the
way. She stands in ecstasy before a pair matching
in everything but color, and in that a sharp con-
trast which shows that no match has been sought.

"Twelve hundred and fifty guineas is what the
duke paid," says Mr. Jarvis; and, like a wise man,
he leaves it there.

"He is too good," murmurs the duchess.

And, after all, it might have been worse. What
of that queen of Egypt who had the revenues of a
whole city to keep her in shoes alone!

The ponies are skittish and resent her caress ; but
she goes away with an uplifted forefinger that
promises a speedy struggle for the mastery.

"The Yankee trotter is for the duke. Supposed
to beat anything in this country," says Mr. Jar-

44



The Yellow Van

vis, in a tone which marks his indifference to all
that lies beyond. "Your Grace might like to see
the harness-room?" His h's bespeak his social al-
titude. He has risen by them, as well as by his
skill with the reins.

It is a wardrobe of fashion, only it has a richer
variety of suits. The more costly ones shine out
at you in gold plate and patent leather from their
cases of plate glass. Even the least costly have
that kind of right through excellence which marks
the struggle for perfection. The best that money
can buy is Mr. Jarvis's estimate of its claim to
notice; and he is right. Where it forbears orna-
ment, the leather is still silky to the touch; and the
mastery of its hand-stitching might bring a sad-
dler's apprentice to his knees.

The stud-groom, in the interest of his colleagues,
now urges the kennels, the stud-farm, the pedigree
cows, even the aviary, since there is everything in
the wonderful place. But the duchess has to tell
him that these are for another day. After duly
expressing her approbation, she turns toward the
castle, first stopping to pick up a bewildered Jap-
anese spaniel which has followed her to the
grounds. The picturesquely ugly mite is of course
one of the costliest things of its kind in all Eng-
land. Everything is of price at Allonby. The
meanest of the stable-hands flitting to and fro on
their labors in the glorious sunlight has the sense
of the choice and the exclusive. The fellow spong-
ing the foolish face of one of the Jerseys, that

45



The Yellow Van

keeps her apartment by the doctor's orders, is
ready, on the slightest encouragement, to recite her
style and titles to the distinguished visitor. Sally
is the heroine of half a dozen agricultural shows,
and her certificates of glory are nailed in black and
white over her stall. She is the best Jersey in all
England, bar none; she fetched the best price, and
she belongs to the best duke and duchess in that
favored land. It makes the lowest of them feel
their kinship with the real old sort of the founda-
tion of things ; and that is moral impulse, of a kind.
Here is Allonby, and on the other side of its wall
is the balance of the world. Their very expletives
are tempered by a sense of the dignity of their
office, and even their occasional profanity is counted
but another mode of clean speech at the Knuckle of
Veal.

The ladies are for turning back to the house, but
the duchess has a sudden fancy : ' ' Mary, I think
I '11 begin to be good friends with Chieftain now.
I 'm wild for a gallop. Ask them to saddle him,
while I run inside and put my habit on. ' '

"Augusta! The duke?"

"I thought he was my horse. I must have one
spin on him, if I die for it."

Her readiness to accept this gruesome condition
by no means puts the stud-groom at his ease.
"Your Grace might like to try him first in the
riding-school. We don't know him very well our-
selves yet."

"Hush! he 'd never forgive us if he heard us
talking like that. Wait for me here, Mary."

4 6



The Yellow Van

She scampers into the house, and her guide turns,
with a sigh, to give the necessary orders. They
have hardly been carried out when she reappears in
costume, and comes running toward the unhappy
pair.

' ' Her Grace took it into her own head, Miss Mary.
You '11 bear me out in that"

"You don't think it might be better to wait, Au-
gusta? He 's new to the place, you see, as well as
to the people. He might"

"How could he, now, when I 'm going to give
him this nice lump of sugar? But it 's not for the
goodies, Chieftain dear, is it? It 's because he
likes me."

She nestles up to him again, caresses him, seems
to whisper in his ear, glances at his girths, and in
another moment, with the help of a broad palm,
is in the saddle, with the reins in hand.

"Adios, Mary. Just one spin across the park!"

"She 's off," mutters the chief officer, evidently
not in the best temper with her, nor indeed with
anybody, including himself.

It is not a mad gallop by any means, but it is
a smart one. Chieftain is fresh and skittish for
mere joy of life, but he has a foolish idea that he
could get on better if he had the spin to himself.
He flies with her now and then, and once or twice
shakes himself ominously, as though thinking he
would like to ask a question before accepting her
for better or for worse. It is presently asked and
answered. As soon as they have come to a perfect
understanding, she gives him his head for a run

47



The Yellow Van

before the wind, talking pleasantly to him the
while. Then, just as he begins to feel he has had
enough of it, she gently eases him down into trot
and walk, leaving him, and perhaps herself for a
moment, to fancy that it is all over. But there is
a long fence between them and the spot where Mary
and the others stand, and it is clear that Augusta
has made up her mind to take it on her way back.
The gradual change in Chieftain's pace shows that
he has received the necessary orders, and soon he is
in full course for the obstacle.

"I don't like this kind of circus work," mutters
Mr. Jarvis, wiping a cold drop from his brow. "I
can't stand it, if you ask me." There is no time
to say or even to think more. In another moment
they are at it, and, in a moment again, safe and
sound on the other side of the wall.

"She 's done it, by" mutters Mr. Jarvis, rein-
ing himself in on the very edge of expression.
"This must be my lucky day." He also forbears
to add, "Who said she 'd only been a governess?"
but it is in his mind. His only additional obser-
vation is, "She '11 do."

"Sorry!" laughs Augusta, as she touches earth
and her friend's cheek once more. "It had to be
done. I was beginning to feel you know. But
don't look so cross, dear! I guess I can take care
of myself as well as the next one when I 'm on a
horse. ' '

"What about the appointment with Mr. Raif ?"
was all that Mary allowed herself to say.

4 8



The Yellow Van

"With Mr. Raif?"

"Yes: the domestic chaplain, duchess."
"Augusta, if you please Miss Liddicot!"
"And Mr. Bascomb. You know they are both
to come to you this morning about the poor in the
village. I dare say they are waiting in your morn-
ing-room. ' '

"Oh, hurry up, Mary, like like a little lamb,
and go in and amuse them while I change. I '11 be
down again before you have finished with the wea-
ther." And she was almost as good as her word.



49



VI




!j|R. RAIF, the domestic chaplain, is
the born conscience-keeper of a
noble pair, sleek, apple-faced, un-
wrinkled, untroubled by a doubt.
He has cast all difficulty of that
sort behind him in his solitary
volume "The Struggle for Faith," the title-page
of which is the sole attestation of his having ever
wrestled with a fiend. The victory has been so un-
mistakably on the right side that it has left him
scarcely a memory of the encounter. The work
commended him to the duke by the orthodoxy of
its sentiments, and he was appointed to the dig-
nified office of reading prayers twice a day to the
household. He has thus, by anticipation, entered
into the joy of his Lord. His parsonage, within
the gates of the domain, has a wide prospect of the
scenery that may easily be regarded as an outlook
on the plains of heaven. There, surely, in the re-
moter distance, is the green bank in a flowery val-
ley where angels will one day serve far more excel-
lent nourishment than afternoon tea to him and to
the whole croquet-party on his lawn. All is in
harmony in the celestial view. In the nearer dis-
tance is the model village of the domain, in which

5



The Yellow Van

Mr. Raif keeps in comfort the castle poor for Al-
lonby has its pet breeds in this line, as in horses
and cows on the easy condition of their being per-
fectly virtuous in order that they may be per-
fectly happy. They rise with the lark and retire
with the other reputable birds. They carouse on
mineral waters. They peruse the cheaper British
poets in a reading-room which is quite a little mas-
terpiece of domestic Gothic, and in which a bust
of Shakspere faces a bust of the duke. They see
Palestine with the aid of lantern-slides. So may
we hope to enjoy our leisure in a better world.

"Your Grace will come and see us soon, I feel
sure. I do not press. The multifarious duties of
the present moment I know something of their
claims. But some questions are urgent. Our wilder
spirits in the reading-room are getting up a round-
robin for beer."

"Very sad!"

"I was glad when the pitmen who came to the
procession went back to their homes. They do our
people no good. Happily, cock-fighting on bank-
holidays is a purely acquired taste."

"I suppose I ought to like him, Mary," said the
duchess, when he had turned his back; "but some-
howwell, I dare say he is quite a good man."

"Mr. Bascomb is my favorite," returned Mary.
"See, here he comes through the gate. I wish the
other looked a little less sure both of earth and
heaven. Dear old Bas ! His hold on earth is of the
weakest. He contrives to look untidy in spite of a

5 1



The Yellow Van

cassock that hides him from head to foot. Even a
man, one would think, could hardly go wrong with
an overall of that sort. But only look at the but-
tonsall in the wrong holes!"

"Ah, men are just as clever in muddle as in all
else. One of us would have blundered into the right
hole midway uncertain sex. Tell me something
about him before he comes up."

"Great scholar, great gentleman," said Mary,
breathlessly talking against time as the parson
gained on them in his toil up the sloping walk.
"Warn me when he 's within ear-shot, but remem-
ber he 's a trifle deaf. ' '

"Go on: still half a minute to the good."

"Does n't believe there has been any Christian
church to speak of for hundreds of years."

"Oh, Mary! Only ten seconds more. Make the
best use of them."

"Thinks that Allonby should be melted down
and spent in making everybody good."

"Why, that 's rank Social How do you do,
Mr. Bascomb? Very glad to meet you. Miss Lid-
dicot has been saying such nice things in your
praise!"

Five and forty is about his age, but his untidi-
ness adds some ten years to the rough estimate. A
skullcap worn at the back of his head, at a slope
that suggests miraculous agency, gives an effect of
the innocence of childhood. The state of his robe
seems to show that he has been valeted by a house-
maid who has mislaid her duster. The tall, spare

5 2



The Yellow Van

figure, bent with the toil of patristic learning, the
high Roman cast of the face, are so many notes of
the mystic. But the dreamy eyes have that in
them which betokens a terrible fellow to meet in
some stock-exchange concerned with the transac-
tions of another world.

He smiled affectionately at Mary and took her
hand, first making his bow to the duchess, not with-
out grace. This done, he gazed on the new mis-
tress of Allonby as though he had, at once, a
perfect sense of her beauty and a like power of re-
ferring it to the same category of impersonal won-
ders of nature as the rose and the dawn.

"It is a joy to me to meet you, madam. You
have so much power for good, and I am sure you
are disposed to use it."

His voice is music in its intonations, as voices
are wont to be when they have ever kept close touch
with the spiritual harmonies of which music is
made.

"I hope I may be able to make myself useful,
with your help. But there seems so little to do
here. It is different in town."

"Madam, we are of the earth, as well as on it.
I think you will find that. Kest assured you will
not languish for want of opportunity."

"Mr. Raif has promised to show me his model
village."

A slight cloud passed over his features. "I have
no doubt Mr. Raif has done his best with it, but
somehow these questions of machinery I shall be

53



The Yellow Van

pleased to take your Grace's opinion on all the
villages at some future time."

The conversation soon drifted into generalities,
wherein, however, he showed himself so utterly in-
competent, or at any rate so ill at ease, that the
duchess in mercy gave him an opportunity of es-
cape. On leaving, he looked at her again with a
kind of awe, and seemed to take her in from head
to foot.

"Pray don't flatter yourself," laughs Mary.
"He fixes every charming woman in that way;
but half the time, you know, he forgets that they
are alive. I do believe he thinks we are plants, and
that one day he '11 try to break off a finger for a
buttonhole. He used to lift me on to the table
and look at me like some little image of piety, all
the time I was in short frocks. It was done quite
without distinction of persons. He treated Rose
Edmer in just the same way. Dear old thing I
do love him so ! "

"And so shall I. But who is Rose Edmer? You
know, child, you are my guide to Allonby."

"Rose Edmer is the village beauty. Every self-
respecting village has an institution of that kind."

"Then I know her perfectly well. Listen: dark-
eyed as well as dark-haired ; heavy-eyed, too, a little,
by reason of a sort of lowering mischief in the lids.
I made her show them to me all the same, for they
were wide open as I passed. Trouble there, if
crossed. The face a good oval, not so much by
the narrowness at the chin as by the breadth at the

54



The Yellow Van

cheek. Lips that pout more with determination
than with caprice, and that I should say might give
great satisfaction in other uses. What a little
type ! No, not a type at all, but just her individual
self. And what an inventory, eh? Gracious! it 's
like an early Victorian novel."

"That 's the girl. True as steel, I should say,
if you win her; but wants winning all the same.
They say George Herion is the boy to do it. It
will be a pretty game, lost or won, for the on-
lookers. ' '

"George Herion I never saw him."

"Perhaps, duchess, because he never saw you,
saving your presence, all the same. It 's the crisis
of his fate, so I hear and I get a bulletin almost
every morning from my maid."

"No wonder. It would never do to let love-mak-
ing become one of the lost arts; so let us all keep
an eye on Phyllis and Corydon. Ah, what a land,
what a land ! ' '

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know. The whole country seems like
a book so many 'Half Hours in a Library,' illus-


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