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trated with copperplates, as much too picturesquely
good to be true as a scene at the play. That feel-
ing, I remember, came on me with a perfect rush
at Warwick. I saw old beadsmen in cloaks that
suggested the funeral procession of Queen Eliza-
beth, walking in and out of old almshouses to match,
with an old Shaksperian square in the background.
I declare, when some incongruous old thing in an

.55



The Yellow Van

overcoat and a stovepipe hat came out of one of
the houses I could have shaken him for an anachro-
nism. And in the market-place I believe they were
roasting an ox whole, and hiring plowmen and
dairymaids at a 'statute' fair."

"But how would you hire them, Augusta? You
know that 's the proper way."

"Who said it was not? What a dear old land!"
' ' How do they hire them in your country, then ? ' '
"How do I know or care? Not that way, that 's
all. No such luck."

"What a funny sort of country it must be!"
"No, no. It just spreads itself about too much
to be anything in particular. This one is perfect,
and if I had my way I 'd put it all under a glass
case. Our glass case is the sky, and that 's too big
for comfort to the beholder. How are you going
to keep the dust off five and twenty miles of corn
all in one unbroken line ? What you lose in breadth
you gain in variety, intensity of impression. A
dozen 'vestiges of creation' is a space no bigger
than the back of your hand ! I want to label it all.
At least, Mary, help me to label out the 'county,'
that mysterious thing you were telling me about
the other day; the people to whom I have to go
and 'pay my respects' in the family coach, in re-
turn for their dutiful performances of the same
sort here."

"Well, first you want two big glass cases one
for our set and one more for the other."

"Tell me about the other. Our set I am begin-

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ning to know birth, acres, long settlement. Oh,
I am so frightened of some of them, Mary! But
don't you dare tell. I 'm going to manage them
by springing right into the cage, firing my pistol,
and keeping them too busy with the trick to have
time to devour me."

"They don't want to devour you, except in the
way of kindness nice as you would be."

"Nonsense. I 'm certain that venerable noble-
man (is n't that the right way to put it?) to whose
place I went the other day was a man-eater. Not
a sign was wanting the long, solemn face, the
sepulchral voice, the lean family drawn up behind,
in their huge cavern of a drawing-room, waiting
for their prey."

"Don't be so unkind. That 's just what you '11
find at Liddicot, I warn you, when you come to see
us in our moated hall. How can people help being
a thousand years old?"

"Child, you know I don't mean that."

"Besides, the Ogrebys and ourselves are just old-
timers; we don't set up for being smart. But
you '11 find plenty of nice people quite up to date,
I assure you. Why, look at Allonby itself ! ' '

"Still, Allonby is sometimes rather alarming.
I stumbled into the family mausoleum the other
day, railed off from the rest of the church. What
a scare all the effigies still glaring mastery over
the destinies of men from sightless orbs! Another
Temple of the Sun, with the embalmed Incas all in
rows from the beginning of a dateless line except

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that the Incas sat up to their work. And then, what
about the people who are not nice?"

"Oh, you '11 soon know more than you want about
them. They 're the real danger. You '11 find it
hard to keep out of their clutches, duchess as you
are."

"Are they so very hateful?"

"Dreadful people. They 've made all their
money in business, heaps and heaps of it ; and where
we are in any way salable they just come and buy
us out. Sometimes they issue us as companies, with
our names on the prospectus."

"Insolent creatures; and with their own money,
too!"

"You don't understand, Augusta; but you will."

"Silent contempt?"

"How are you to keep it up, when they make
such a noise? There 's a terror of a man down
here called Kisbye who tried his hardest to get a
corner in your procession the other day. His house-
parties are a perfect scandal, and he 's got the very
place in which the Parringtons were born."

"Well, it 's easy enough to keep out of it now."

"Not so easy as you think. He tries to do every-
thing, from the shooting to the dinners, twice as well
as everybody else, so far as the mere luxury goes.
And some of our younger sons positively go there
for the dinners. Why, even my brother Tom oh,
it 's a shame ! And they make game of it all when
they come away."

"And we both think that 's a greater shame still;



The Yellow Van

don't we, Mary? But don't be afraid: I am going
to be perfectly orthodox and hate Kisbye. Only just
now I am much busier with attractions than repul-
sions. I do so want to like everybody, the women
above all."

"What is to prevent it? I am sure they all want
to like you."

"Sometimes they seem so"

"So what?"

"So near and yet so far, like the star in the song
so effusively indifferent, so cordially cold."

"Augusta!"

"Oh, don't misunderstand. It 's nothing per-
sonal, to you especially not even to myself. I
am sure they all treat me exactly as they treat
one another. But their aloofness is sometimes
a trial. I suppose it 's the smart manner. They
don't seem to care a hang for anybody or anything.
Yet underneath that mask of cynical hardness what
wonderful women some of them are! They know
so much, and they 've seen so much, and they Ve
even thought and felt so much, and they seem so
very much ashamed of it, after all. That hard,
short, dry style I 've seen in one or two here ! None
of us women are like that by nature mere souls
reduced to the state of an anatomical preparation.
Why should we make ourselves such pieces of bad
art?"

"I never thought of that. I suppose it must be
so, since you see it so. I wonder if it is because
they are trying to please the men? I remember,

59



The Yellow Van

now, how Tom changed as soon as he went to Eton :
not much kissing good-by and kissing how-d'-ye-do
after that. He did give me a furtive hug behind
the door at the end of the first term ; but it was too
good to last. Our men, you see, won't stand what
they call 'gush.' Will yours?"

"We never ask 'em," said Augusta, simply.
"They have to take us as we are. It does them a
world of good."

"That 's it, I suppose. You never let them get
out of hand. I wonder if they don't like you all
the better for just being yourselves, instead of try-
ing to talk golf and races and stables to them, and
all that."

"They like us well enough," said Augusta, as
simply as before. ' ' But never mind, dear. ' When
you are in Rome' you know the rest. And I 'm
going to get Anglicized as fast as I can."

"Take care we don't get Americanized first and
save you the trouble."

"No; my turn first. Come and help me out with
my visiting-list. Here 's a Blyth, I see."

"Excuse me, but would you mind not sounding
the 'th'? You know you asked me to mention any
little thing of that sort."

"Thank you a thousand times; but shall I never
call a fellow-creature by his right name in this
country? I learned 'Coohoon' and 'Chumley' and
'Abergenny' from a Sunday paper before I came
out, and I thought I was through. The rule of it,
the distracting rule? Shade of Ward McAllister,

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will nobody give me a glimpse into first principles?
Is it something like this : always sound one English-
man 's name as some other Englishman writes his?
I suppose we must be 'Applebys,' as we begin with
an 'AP; and Halifax is sounded as 'Gomshall,' dear
say it is; and 'Waldegrave' as 'Zoroaster,' by way
of giving a neighbor a lift."

"Augusta, you are really unfortunate to-day!
It 's 'Walgrave,' at any rate, as true as I live."

"Mary, Mary, we 've gossiped away half the
morning, and we 've a whole house-party on our
hands. Besides, I must have a first peep at the
village this afternoon."

"Which one-Mr. Kaif's?"

"No; little Slocum. That 's more to my taste.
But he may come all the same, if it 's part of his
show. ' '



61



VII




T was no easy matter. In these
exalted regions the simplest in-
cident has to be contrived. A
duchess from Allonby can hardly
walk into Slocum Parva as you or
I do. Nothing merely occurs in
such lives: everything is matter of specification.
Mr. Jarvis had to be consulted about the carriage,
and he put the priceless ponies in harness by way
of giving them an airing. Her Grace would fain
have walked, but she was told it was unusual in the
circumstances. Then the housekeeper was sent for.
In such houses domestics are as keenly concerned
for the privilege of menial office as are nobles in a
court of claims contending for their right of bear-
ing a towel or a pair of spurs at a coronation. In
vain may the unhappy object of their attentions
wish them at the devil. It is their "perquisite,"
not his luxury, and the thing is done for the doer's
sake. Custom ordained a hamperful of goodies and
physic whenever a Duchess of Allonby went among
her subjects for the first time.

"You may go in an old frock and a waterproof
later on," said Mary, as she stepped in after her
friend. Augusta sighed and took the reins. Mr.
Raif and a man in livery were in the rear.

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The Yellow Van

The drive in the fresh air, stirred by a rush from
a gap in the distant hills and cooled by a recent
shower, was exhilarating. The road was all vistas
contrived by centuries of landscape-gardening on
the grand scale. The village looked as blandly
beautiful as a mezzotint. Where the red tile failed,
brown thatch continued the curves of the exqui-
sitely broken line. A glory of honeysuckle and
other climbers covered window and porch; the gar-
den patches were in their later and richer bloom.
A lady, apparently on her travels in search of the
picturesque, rose from her easel and bowed as the
duchess passed. The children were still at their
lessons, but a shuffle of feet as the carriage skirted
the school seemed to betoken the spontaneous dis-
ruption of a class. Their mothers meekly awaited
developments in the gloom of interiors, as though
following some ritual of becoming behavior for
the Last Day.

Mr, Raif made a good showman. The carriage
stopped here and there as he gave the word, and
the duchess saw tidy homes adorned with chromo-
lithographs of the royal family, bright furniture,
and clean-aproned matrons bobbing reverence from
the knees, for want of mastery of the art of lateral
extension. It distressed her. "Please don't be so
respectful," she said at first, until she saw that,
with their training, it gave them even more embar-
rassment to withhold than her to accept. Then she
yielded with one sigh more. And besides, resis-
tance was not in the spirit of a scene which

63



The Yellow Van

seemed to put to shame the placard of a county
paper outside the grocer's shop announcing battle,
murder, and sudden death in other parts of the
earth.

At a turn of the road a bent figure of age came
in sight. It was the octogenarian Skett, the broken-
down navvy whose acquaintance as one of the non-
descripts of village life we have already made. He
dragged himself homeward with the help of his
two walking-sticks and of a pair of lower limbs
which seemed ready at any moment to strike work
for life.

"Poor old man!" cried her Grace, reining in
the ponies. "Open the hamper, James, and see
what you think he would like."

"Quite unnecessary, duchess," said Mr. Raif,
rather hastily; "he is well provided for, and I 'm
afraid he is not much of a man for dainties."

"Tell me something about him."

"There is really little to tell. He was a good,
honest, hard-working fellow in his day, though not
very saving, I 'm afraid; and we do what we can
for him now."

"What do you do?"

"I don't quite know," returned Mr. Raif, in
some confusion, "but I can easily find out."

"And where is your cottage, old man?" said her
Benevolence perhaps by way of protest against
that tyranny of the middleman which is the curse
of our time.

But Mr. Raif was not easily baffled. "He lives

6 4



The Yellow Van

alone; and I am afraid your Grace might hardly
care"

"It ain't nor a stone 's-throw, neyther," piped
Samson, "if anybody 's a mind to come and see
a f eller-creetur. " There was desperation in his
manner; the vision splendid was not to be suffered
to fade without a struggle for better acquaintance.

"May I come?" said the duchess.

"And thank you kindly, if you don't mind walk-
ing," returned this more terrible infant of second
infancy: "you got good legs."

The duchess evidently bore no malice; Mr. Raif
looked unutterable horror.

It was one of a row of brick-built cottages in
the execrable taste of most modern work of this
kind. They formed a sort of back street for the
village, and their manifest avoidance of all out-
ward display bore the suggestion that even in Slo-
cum there was something not meant to meet the eye.
Their sites were part of a clearance made by the
old duke in accordance with the general policy of
keeping down population by keeping down house-
room. But the old duke had cut it too fine, and
had destroyed so rashly that his successor had been
obliged to build again to house his own laborers.
Still the area of ruin exceeded the area of restora-
tion; and the population of Slocum was smaller
in our period than it had been at the close of the
middle ages. It had finally attained to that state
of perfect numerical balance which is the glory of
the statistical tables of France. The governing



The Yellow Van

idea of the modern scheme of architecture was the
upturned box with holes in it, the smaller openings
as windows, the larger as doors. A lower box, if
it may be so described, was the day-room, an upper
the bedroom, and the two made a building which
might serve to remind a Chicago sky-scraper of the
modesty of its origin. The doors were an unneces-
sarily close fit for the inquisitive figures by whom
they were now filled. One of the latter, Mrs. Arti-
fex, seeing what company Samson was about to en-
tertain, now came into his cottage to "speak up
for him" in conjunctures wherein his own modesty
or his own courage as a petitioner for charitable fa-
vors might be expected to fail. The principle im-
ported a future exchange of good offices of the
same sort on his part.

His room was untidy. It was the penalty of
age and infirmity with him, as with most of his
neighbors. Their partners were mostly in the
churchyard. Their young people had gone to fight
for themselves in the world. The old were the mere
wastage of the settlement, kept there only because
they refused to enter the workhouse, and on a
scanty allowance of outdoor relief by which the
guardians made a reasonable bargain for the rate-
payers.

Samson's way of doing the honors was all his
own.

"Sit ye down, my loidy; here be old Sam Skett
a-waitin' his call all that 's left on him, all that 's
left!"

66



The Yellow Van

"Remember where you are, Skett," said Mr.
Raif, severely; "that 's hardly the way to speak to
her Grace."

"Oh, please let him speak as he likes," said Au-
gusta; "he won't hurt me."

"You be a beauty, an' no mistake," cried the
delighted old man. It was a tribute to moral quite
as much as to physical worth. Mr. Raif cast pro-
testing eyes upward, and a still more protesting
chin.

It was easy to see that Samson's manners had
stood in the way of his advancement in life. He
was not one of the courtly poor, and his obtuseness
left him beyond the reach of Mr. Raif 's art as an
introducer of indigence to the notice of the great.
Most of his neighbors in this row were in the same
plight. Mr. Raif's choicer specimens were the
trained bands of the model village within the do-
main, and the select few of Slocum Parva whom he
had just left. These had become, under his tui-
tion, as sleek as any peasants in old china. Poor
Skett was but the ignoble savage of the rural scene.
He was still magnificent in his ruin a giant in
beam, well-nigh as broad as long, and not short at
that. And nature seemed again to assert his bro-
therhood with the ox in the great flat face, and in
the neck all dewlapped with wrinkles. The blue
eye, bleared though it was with age, betokened the
Frisian peasant of almost pure descent. His brown
skin was a diaper of the seams of age and toil which
made him look like something in rhinoceros hide.

6 7



The Yellow Van

His history was that of many an English laborer
of his day. He was one of the earth-men of our
railway age, and he had left his lasting mark on the
planet with pick and shovel. He had read nothing,
for the best of all reasons, thought nothing,
hoped nothing, but had just dug, fed, and slept.
It was enough for pride. " Worked on the first
railway made in this warld," he piped, ''an* worked
all over the country after that, Aye, an' my own
brother went to a place called France an' Spain to
make more railways there under Muster Middle-
massold Middlemass whose son 's a lord now.
You '11 find that reet."

"What a fine strong man you must have been!"
said the duchess.

The compliment gave Sally an opening for the
neighborly office of the song of praise. "Aye, your
Grace, 'e wur a good un in 's time could wheel six
'undredweight. 'Is old feyther wur a good un too.
Made nothin' o' liftin' up a 'undred in each 'and."

"Aye, an' used to win beer wi' it," muttered
Samson, as though editing her with notes.

"Well, this 'ere man 'e could lift fifty more.
'Never give in' that was 'is motter; 'e was real
cruel at 's work. Took a job on the roads when 'e
'ad to give up his navvyin', an' one day, when
'e wur over seventy, they finds 'im lyin' in a faint
beside 's load o' stone."

"I 'ad n't give in, mind yer," annotated Samson.
"I 'd been knocked out o' time. Ricked ma back-
that 's what a did."

68



The Yellow Van

"Aye," interposed Sally; "an' thowt nothin' o'
buttin' 'is 'ead through the panel of a door, in 's
prime. ' '

"Don't you tell tales out of school," said Sam-
son, shyly; "young men will be young men."

It was honored age rebuking an untimely allu-
sion to the follies of youth. He felt that it was a
generous folly still, and that he had lived it down.

"Well, I hope you are comfortable now."

"Two an' six a week from the parish, an' six-
pence extry for coals in the bitter weather. Got
to be careful rent out of it, and every blessed
thing."

"He 's so lonesome, your Grace," said Mrs. Arti-
fex; "that 's the worst on 't. Fell out o' bed
t' other night, an' cut 'is face."

"It war n't nowt," he chuckled. "Why, old
Grutt 'e 'urt 'isself same way a month ago, an' he
ain't well yet."

Mr. Raif was manifestly ill at ease. It was not
exactly the show for a mistress of Allonby; and
he made a move for the door.

The duchess was content to follow, but she wished
first to make the old man a present, and she fum-
bled at her purse. There were difficulties. She had
yet to attain to full mastery of the value of the
coins in it, for the British monetary system is not
exactly a thing that comes by the light of nature.
If half a crown a week kept him going, it would per-
haps be unadvisable to give him so much. But what
was half a crown ? It was more bewildering, in the

6 9



The Yellow Van

circumstances, than Peel's: "What is a pound?"
She pecked wildly therefore, at the first thing that
came to hand a florin, as it proved. Then how
to offer it to him without wounding his self-respect ?
With her lifelong associations, she had scruples on
this point which had not been wholly overcome by
her short experience of European travel. The
good things in her hamper were, after all, mere
presents of courtesy, if you chose to look on them
in that light; but a tip in hard cash to one who
had been a workman, and was no tramp of the
roadside !

"Would you allow me to offer you a little a
little change?" she said timidly, slipping the florin
into his palm of horn.

To her intense relief, Samson did not hurl it to
the ground with the pride of the free-Horn. He
only said, "Thank ye kindly," and fobbed it with
the avidity of a Tantalus who has unexpectedly
caught a bite.

Mr. Raif looked vainly round for a diversion,
until it came by the mere compulsion of his desire,
as they passed one of the honeysuckle cottages on
their way to the carriage.

A neatly dressed girl was standing in the porch,
half hidden in its shade, and evidently keeping an
eye on the road.

The duchess whispered to her friend: "Why,
surely, Mary, it is your village beauty, Rose-
Rose-"

"Rose Edmer. Oh, is n't it funny! She 's wait-

70



The Yellow Van

ing to catch a glimpse of him on his way home from
work ; and she '11 vanish as soon as he comes in sight.
She 's dairymaid at Allonby, you know, one of
your people, and he a laborer at Kisbye's you re-
member George Herion, the young fellow I told
you about to-day. Do speak to her, Augusta. She
is so sweet."

It was an unfortunate moment for an introduc-
tion, for Rose wanted anything but company, even,
as we have seen, the company of George. She was
in the earliest and perhaps the most entrancing
stage of the divine complaint. George's love for
her, admiration for her, was her first initiation into
love and admiration for herself. Hitherto she had
been a chit of a girl, half aware, or scarcely aware
at all, that she was anything out of the common.
He had lifted her into the fullness of the realiza-
tion of personality, and had brought into her soul
the exquisite delight of the feeling that she was
part of the beauty of the world. From this came
wonder, pride, joy in herself nay, a kind of rev-
erence of her own girlhood. Oh, the music of it!
All the things she had done before, not knowing
there was anything in them, fetching water from
the well (he had spoken with a rude rapture of her
beauty as she stood there), plucking berries from
the garden for the meal, were now sanctified as
so many things that gave her a part in life. She
had grown from child to essential woman in a night,
with the thought of that part. She loved George
though as yet she was in no hurry to tell him so

7 1



The Yellow Van

for loving her. Of course she was in no hurry.
What joy to go on forever like this, to be merely
courted and adored!

And, besides, she must not make herself too
cheap. There was always that dreadful warning
of her mate in the dairy, Silly Jane. Jane, yet
little more than a child, had suddenly found love
in the confession of a stable-boy of much the same
standing, and had forthwith called her playmates
about her to make solemn renunciation of childish
things. There could be no more hide-and-seek, or
skipping-rope: she had a sweetheart now. The
ceremony included the refusal of her dinner as a
public function. She wanted nothing but a slice
of bread and butter, and the right to sing softly to
herself all day long. The whole village knew it:
it was a jest at the Knuckle of Veal. Then one
day, goaded thereto perhaps by the banter of the
inn, the stable-boy, without a word of warning,
gave a penny to an infant, and told her to seek
Silly Jane with the message that he had had enough
of her. The message was duly delivered before a
whole household, and for a day or two Jane's pa-
rents thought it prudent to keep watch on the well.
The precaution was unnecessary. Silly Jane re-
sumed her dinner and her skipping-rope, not much
the worse, except that she was more of a laughing-
stock than ever. Better death than that fate for
Rose. So, as Mr. Raif opened the garden gate to
summon her to the presence of the duchess, she
abruptly fled from the porch, and locked herself

7 2



The Yellow Van

in her chamber, with a determination to die rather
than meet any lady in the land.

Yet, in spite of this agreeable diversion, Mr.
Raif's feelings were doomed to yet another shock.
The ponies were in full trot for the castle when they
showed a disposition to shy at a strange object sur-
rounded by awe-struck urchins on the village green.
It was a huge covered van of the kind used by
traveling showmen ; it was painted in bright aggres-
sive yellow, and it bore the announcement of a
"Lecture on the Land and the People" for that
very night. The mystery was deepened by the cir-
cumstance that the vehicle was as yet hermetically
closed, and that, having no horse in the shafts, and
to all appearance no human being in charge, it
gave not a sign of life.

"What does it mean?" said Mary.

"Radicals, I am very much afraid," said Mr.
Raif.


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