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good will, it was easy to treat the potatoes as an ice.
They ate their meal to the accompaniment of the
regular breathing of the child, visible rather than
audible, near as they were to its cot.

Their puzzle-box was now ready for one change
more. It became a bedroom by the simple expedient
of emptying a linen-chest, using its lid and a sup-
plementary flap with iron supports for the frame
of the couch, and drawing a pair of curtains to make
all snug within.

The lecturer went out to smoke his pipe, and finally
turned in, after the horse had rubbed good night on
his shoulder and received a pat in return. Soon there
was perfect quiet in the van, though not exactly
perfect peace. The cows in the field, with the curi-
osity which is said to be the bane of their sex, could
not refrain from approaching the vehicle for pur-
poses of exploration. Their deep breathing on the
very walls of the tenement would have been of
ghostly suggestion at this hour, had any one within
been wakeful enough to hear it. But it passed un-
noticed, with a direful rattle of their horns when

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The Yellow Van

these were caught in momentary entanglement with
the wheels. There was indeed something to hear
the livelong night, as there always is in the open
fields. Nature seems to wake when we sleep, and
as her stars are at least more visibly busy, so her
creeping and even some of her flying things are
more audibly so at night. It is their fear of man
perhaps, at any rate on the part of the crawling
under-world, that keeps the more timorous creatures
astir at unreasonable hours; and earth, that dis-
dains him, is notoriously given to all sorts of inop-
portune movements.

Next morning the yellow van had resumed its
travels through broad England before the moon-
face of Constable Peascod appeared at the gate of
the paddock. The child, sitting up in bed, was
blowing a penny trumpet as they passed under the
walls of Allonby. Nothing happened to the walls.



9 2




EOEGE followed Rose from the
meeting, and contrived to cut her
off from her mother's cottage by
taking a path which involved a
trespass on private grounds. He
was just in time. The road was
hilly, and she was on the last rise when she found
him before her. A few steps more would have
brought her in sight of the cottage, and, what is
more, the cottage in sight of her. Even as it was,
the moon was looking on.

She was still in high displeasure, and was for
passing him without a word. His passionate admi-
ration had made a woman of her, with all a woman's
claims. She had grown to it in a night and a day,
from the wild girlhood of her tousled hair and her
rough work at home and farm a spiritual condi-
tion till now tempered only by the Sunday-school.
The tremendous discovery that she was part of the
beauty of the world had come to her quite suddenly,
while yet she thought herself but a part of its
strength and coarser uses. All her upbringing had
fostered this depressing illusion. She had read no-
thing, seen nothing but the annual school treat in
the castle grounds. The county town was a far

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The Yellow Van

country to her ; great London, another world. Then
had come this fierce playmate of old to touch her
into a new and wholly bewitching sense of person-
ality with his rude deference and his honeyed
tongue. Something in her had suddenly tamed
him into gentleness and the wish to please, where
before there had been only the rude give-and-take
of the playground. And now, after all this, after
the almost mystical change, he could still find
time to listen to a mere spouter on the tail-board of
a van. To set his blood on fire was surely her glo-
rious privilege; and the very essence of the joy it
gave was in exclusive rights. The absurdity of the
position that all this involved jealousy of a public
movement did not wholly escape her, but it only
made the matter worse. Her rival was simply a
wretched handbill, not even any accredited obstacle
in flesh and blood. Added to this was the humilia-
tion of the burst of tears which had betrayed so
much. Could she ever forgive herself or him?

"Rose!"

"Keep your own side o' the road now. You no
business this side ; you know it as well 's me. ' '

This observation, which seems more properly to
belong to an altercation of carters, was still very
much to the purpose. It was a maxim of the com-
mon law of Slocum, in matters social, that young
people of opposite sexes who wished to avoid scan-
dal should keep opposite sides of the road. Even
lovers respected it. For all who were not in that
relationship it was obligatory. To ignore it was

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The Yellow Van

to be "talked about." The roads were narrow,
perhaps a considerate highway board had in this
way tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but,
such as they were, travelers of this critical standing
were expected to keep their left and right, though
they might be going the same way. It implied no
very flattering estimate of peasant manners, per-
haps, but that was as it might be. The local Pyra-
mus and Thisbe, who respected themselves and the
code, had always between them this wall of atmo-
spheregenerally a wall of darkness too, through
which their confidences were as those of the wan-
dering voice. If in the present instance the barrier
of obscurity was wanting, that was the fault of the
moon.

It was a beautiful scene. The plantations on each
side rose and fell with the road; and their timber-
crowned heights and masses of bracken in the hol-
lows dear to the birds who were so soon to die were
full of mystery. It was anybody's landscape seen
in this light, though it lay in the heart of ordered
England, with all its measurements recorded in a
hundred deeds of settlement or parish rolls. A wild
man of the woods might have seen something to re-
mind him of home in its solid swaths of impenetra-
ble shade, with here and there a tremulous speck of
silver in the open as the brook caught a ray from
above. And, after all, in spite of the records, it
was perhaps as wild and unspoiled as nature had
left it. The road, with its fence and its hedge, was
about the only thing of human handiwork. Wild

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The Yellow Van

Celtic persons had probably sought vale and slope
on this very business now in hand. The Roman sol-
dier at his post hard by may have cursed the luck
that kept him a prisoner in this hole of an island
while the nut-brown girl in the Campagna was con-
soling herself with the other man.

"Just you keep your own side!"

"Not me; I want to see you near. Oh, Rose,
you 're the prettiest girl in all this world."

"T ain't likely."

It was her way of saying that flatteries would not
serve. We must excuse a certain want of art on
both sides. Thus they say sweet things, and thus
they reject them, in the real Arcadia. The proud
setting of earth and sky seems to touch it into
beauty in spite of all.

"Well, I never used to think so, sure," said the
swain. "It seemed to come to me, loike, all of a
sudden. Lord, I never thowt nothin' of ye, Rose,
when we used to go to school."

"An* I never thought nothin' o' you no time:
that 's all the difference."

"What a little tomboy you was! D'ye remember
how I pulled your 'air, one day, when you collared
my hoop ? You got it done so nice now. ' '

"You are a silly sheep, no mistake baa, baa!"

"I could chop off my 'and for it now, I could.
I can't tell what make me feel so. Maybe it 's the
long frocks."

"Gone foolish over a print gownd! I should be
'shamed to say so, if I was a young man."



The Yellow Van

"No, it ain't that, either. It 's a somethin'-like
in your eyes, an' in the way you holds yourself. I
often lays awake o' nights wonderin' what it is.
The fellers 'u 'd laugh at me about it, if they was n 't
afraid o' gettin' punched. Oh, Eose, you are a
beauty, no mistake. I could say my prayers to ye. ' '

"That 's wicked. People ha' been struck dead
in the Bible for less."

"It can't be. I never felt so good since I was
a little kid. No gammon, Rose. I think you 're
right about the sheep, though, all the same. I feel
silly-like ; an ' then, along wi ' that, I feel strong. I
could punch anything, I could, if you was lookin'
on. I seem to be walkin' about on buttercups.
Don't you go an' tell nobody, to make a laughin'-
stock o' me, or I '11 kill 'em. Oh, it 's the funniest
feelin' I ever had in my life. Eose, you must have
me: I '11 die if you don't."

What it lacked in fascination was made up by
the kindly mother watching over all the stars quite
intent upon the scene in spite of their having so
much to do elsewhere, the music of the nether-world
in the faint stirrings of leaf and flower in the breeze
and the fainter of creeping things, just as much in-
terested, in their way, as their betters ab'ove.

The night was in their souls; but one of them,
at least, hardly knew it. The peasant misses a
good deal in using his skies only as a weather sign.
His mate is often better advised.

"It 's the fine evenin' make you feel so," said
the girl, as though she were commiserating a sudden

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The Yellow Van

cold. She strove for sarcasm, but achieved only
tenderness and pity in spite of herself. "Daytime
you don 't care for me. ' '

"Why?" he asked fiercely, and crossing over to
his own side.

"Takin' up with a common showman. Ain't
that enough? Why, he '11 be gone to-morrer, miles
away; an' then where '11 you be? He 's got no
work to give away."

"I don't care about that. I '11 find work for
myself. ' '

"What work? George, George! What can such
as us do when we 've offended the big folks?"

"I '11 go on the road."

"Go on the road!" she echoed faintly.

"Yes; there 's more things to peddle than little
tracts about the land pots and pans and kettles,
knives and forks, needles and thread, candles and
calico, tea and sugar. I '11 be a general shop on
wheels that 's what I '11 be. I 've thought over it
dozen o' times when I been thinkin' of you.
There 's a fortune in it. Why, there ain't no place
nearer than Randsford, if you want a gridiron!
I '11 take the villages for twenty mile round Allon-
by. It 's a fortune, sure ! I can do anything in all
the world if you '11 only put your 'and in mine."

No knight of old could have been prouder on his
quest of giant or dragon or holy cup; no man of
our day in his boast of a high ambition in church
or state. All 's relative: for the scale of Slocum
Parva, George Herion was a hero of romance.

9 8



The Yellow Van

It was entrancing in its perspective of high des-
tinies, but she dared not trust herself to believe in
it too soon. And, besides, she felt real alarms.
Public opinion would the gossips approve and
support? Her mother?

"You couldn't never do it, George. How are
you goin' to get your license? Oh, it is a big world
to fight in that way, an' no mistake."

"I '11 do it, no fear, if you '11 say yes."

"George, I 'm frightened for ye only for that.
Can't you wait?"

"Wait! What for to see if Mr. Kisbye '11 take
me back again?"

"Never that, George, with my will. And you
know it."

"Well, then, wait for what? Wait or starve?
Starve an' p'r'aps lose you! No; I '11 have your
promise now, or I '11 go many a long mile afore I
see you again if ever I do."

She paled, even in the moonlight. "Many a long
mile."

"Rose, mark my words; there's goin' to be
fightin' in that there place they call Africa. You
remember; we 've sung it out on the maps many a
time. There '11 be fightin' to see which is best
man, the Queen or old Krujer. That 's where I '11
go, and good-by to your sojer-boy!"

It was decisive. Swiftly came over her the horror
of the thought that her unkindness might drive him
to his death ; and, death or not, that, with him gone,
life would fall into abysses of spiritual solitude and

99



The Yellow Van

spiritual insignificance from which she could never
pluck it out. There could be no life now without
him to cleave to, him to cleave to her.

She was on his side of the road now, and the vil-
lage Grundy missed the chance of a lifetime. She
crossed to where he stood facing her, on the little
bridge that spanned the gully, and threw herself
sobbing on his Breast. Then, suddenly raising her
head, she returned his kiss of passion, and ran home
without another word.

He did not try to follow her. He sat down on the
stone parapet, looked up at the sky, and for the first
time in his life saw that it was something more
than a barometer. His whole soul was in that
tumult of the sense of being which we reach in its
fullness but once or twice in a lifetime. Nature is
chary of the experience, for it is a revelation of her
innermost secret. The great experiences will alone
do it great music, great love. And with this came a
sense of the inadequacy of the thing revealed. It was
not great enough for his superlative mood rich
enough, full enough. If he had known how, he could
have cried out with the lover in the German song :

"Earth, hast thou no fairer flowers

Than these to show?
Sky, hast thou no orbs of fire

That brighter glow?
My heart 's so full of happiness,

It must, it will, o'erflow!"

So here we have a plowboy quite a common
plowboy touched with gentleness, poetry, religion,

100



The Yellow Van

and all because a dairymaid, the right dairymaid,
though a common one still, has given him a kiss.
Eeally, really, it is almost enough to make one be-
lieve that your one valid introduction to the whole
circle of arts and sciences is immortal love.



101



XI




T was Augusta's first house-party
at Allonby a great trial. She
was responsible as hostess, and a
mere onlooker, as one new to the
whole thing. If her first country
season failed, she failed with it.
To make it succeed, she had to keep hundreds of
persons amused, in relays counted by the score, for
weeks at a stretch. A great gathering of this kind
is, no doubt, Liberty Hall, but it must still offer
only a freedom of choice in enchantments. And
for these the host and hostess are responsible, say
what you will. Whatever happens, their guests are
never to know a moment of weariness, except by
their own default. Think of the responsibilities of
it, as a sort of variety-show in excelsis, with light-
ning changes of program, and something to suit
everybody's taste.

And all tastes were there: of statesman, soldier,
sportsman, artist, light of literature, and mere man
or woman of the world some of them doubling
their parts with the sport. They came down in
sets, for three or five days, usually the former; and
for each in his turn Allonby was to be a realized
fairy-tale. Augusta had never dreamed of the like

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The Yellow Van

of it, for the descriptions accessible to her had
failed altogether in their rendering of its atmo-
spheric effects. What she wanted to do was stand
in the corner and look on, in speechless curiosity,
at the best of England, and even of the rest of the
world, in its best moment of social expansion.
What she had to do was take her place as leader of
the revels, and give the note. The task might have
been beyond her powers but for precious aid. Aunt
Emily was there, as duenna, for counsel in the
higher proprieties; and, for the others, there were
any number of the ministers of household state who
held office under the duke. Happily, both ministers
and their masters are permitted to qualify by a
sort of impartial ignorance of the work of depart-
ments. Allonby could only be governed like an
empire, it was such a big affair. For her first sea-
son, at any rate, our duchess, nee Augusta Gooding,
was content to do as she was told, and she was as
submissive to her bureaucracy as a sultan or a
czar.

The style of it, the luxury, the wealth, the very
extravagance well, no words will serve! As in
London the triumph of entertaining is to make ex-
tremes meet by bringing the fruits of summer to
the winter board, so here you have to overcome the
natural quiet of a scene formed for introspection
and repose by the importation of all the bustle of
town. Out of its season, Allonby was as magnifi-
cently dull as a peak in the Andes. It was a peak
itself, for that matter, but a host of the most bril-

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The Yellow Van

liant figures were to dance on it in the most glitter-
ing panoply of revel, with nothing to put them
out of countenance but the occasional solemnity of
the sky. What a business to get the right people,
and to put them in the way of keeping each other
amused! As Augusta sped or failed in this task, so
might the family influence wax or wane in the
remotest parts of the earth. For every parting
guest took his report to the next house of call on
his ceaseless round of pleasure, until it became smok-
ing-room talk in Ultima Thule, and giant headline
in the neighborhood of the Golden Gate.

It was an unusually large party this year because
of the marriage. The fame of the duke's strange
adventure in love had gone forth, and every one
wanted to see his conqueror. The tiny station could
hardly cope with the traffic, fortified as the manager
was by the assistance of an emergency gang. At
night, especially, it suggested the arrival of distin-
guished company in Hades, with its many cries in-
dicative of souls in travail, and strange flashings of
light in the gloom. For every newcomer had to be
supplied with carriage accommodation according to
his needs, even if these went no higher than the
station fly ; and many, as an additional courtesy due
to sex or rank, exacted a ducal carriage, with a
brake for the piles of luggage that strewed the plat-
form. The luggage was distracting. The men's
was bad enough in its litter of the gear of sport.
The women's well, it is only to be imagined in its
lavish provision for three or four complete toilets

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The Yellow Van

a day, and no day like the last. And with many of
them came their body-servants: the English valets;
the French maids watching over huge sarcophagi of
basket-trunks, or grasping headless "shapes" in
palls of brown holland which seemed to have been
denied a portion of their funeral rites. For the mo-
ment the maids were more in evidence, as they
clubbed their way through the press with jewel-
cases and hardly less precious dressing-bags which
they kept in their own charge. The servants, of
course, had to be lodged as well as their betters;
and their life in the great cavernous halls below
stairs was only less wondrous in character and va-
riety than the life above. The others seemed to
claim every nook of the vast superstructure for the
needs of their state in bedrooms, dressing-rooms,
and even sitting-rooms for the married pairs.

The stately and elaborate routine of it begins
from the moment they enter the castle gates. To-
morrow most of the men go after partridges, and
most of the women after the devices of their own
hearts. The pheasant remains sacred and inviolate
till the first of the next month. It is still being
coddled for the gun in its preserves of rich
bracken watched against poachers for the early
market by men who lie out all night; fed, almost
as with a spoon, with huge smoking messes of In-
dian corn which the keepers carry to its haunts,
whistling a call to dinner as they go. The shooting
people are early afoot, and they breakfast by them-
selves. The regular meal is later, when the ladies

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The Yellow Van

come down in charming morning toilets, and the
ladies' men are in attendance. The meal is wholly
devoid of form. The guests straggle down in any
order of time that pleases them, and, as often as not,
help themselves from the sideboard to the more solid
fare. They eat as our ancestors ate in the German
woods; and no one smirks, hands a dish, or takes
any ceremonial notice of his neighbor. You are per-
fectly free in every respect, even to fast or feast in
your own room.

Some of the ladies will presently change to tweeds
to join the guns, perhaps to take a shot, if they like.
The duchess draws the line here in her duties of
patronage, but not for want of knowledge of the
game. She can go as straight to the mark on a
target as the others on a bird. The wild life of the
woods has been about her from childhood, but she
has never drawn trigger on a living thing. But,
now and then, she joins the shooting-parties at their
luncheon in field or farm-house, wherever the pro-
gram of the day's sport may lead. The meal is
sometimes spread in one of the little rustic lodges
that dot the domain. It is Watteau without the ar-
tificiality, if also without the rather incongruous
grace. The birds are the business. Every incident
of this part of the day, new to Augusta's eyes, at-
tests the pomp and circumstance of sport: the
lordly keepers, rulers of the hour; the obedient
"guns"; the silent line all working to signs, lest a
bird should hear a whisper or a footfall where it
is presently going to die to something like a roar of
artillery; the rustic beaters driving the game on to

1 06



The Yellow Van

its fate, and their hang-dog air as of creatures who
have all their lives been driven on to theirs in much
the same way all so manifestly a growth of law,
custom, class supremacy, and class pride, maturing
through centuries of time.

The other arts of life must await their turn till
the tea-hour unites most of the party at the castle
perhaps in the vast hall, for the greater freedom
of movement and incidentally the greater brilliancy
of effect. Augusta is here again, in another change
of toilet, and as a matter of duty the only one in
bonds, because it is her part to see that the others
have their perfect liberty. For, if they do not like
any of these things, they may sketch the ruins, bury
themselves in the library, play billiards, ride, drive,
or what not, or even take a nap. It is her part to
see that they have no hindrance in such pursuits,
especially in the subtlest and most disagreeable
form of a too manifest solicitude for their comfort.
In fact, she has to make everything occur accord-
ing to desire for everybody, without seeming to have
any hand in the matter. The dowager is invaluable
here, and not the least so with her occasional "My
dear, just let 'em alone." Most of them uncon-
sciously second her efforts by their usage of the
mode of life, and by their knowledge of their own
minds. For the burden of ceremony in England you
must attend a tea in the suburbs with muffins for
four. At this reunion it is soothing, to Augusta at
least, to find that women do enter a little more fully
into the scheme of things. Some sports, like some
faiths, do not tend to give the sex an indispensable

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The Yellow Van

part in life. Manu, it is said, was produced without
female assistance, and was but an emanation of the
austerities of prayer. Live and let live: for one
half of the world, at least, it can never be his best
title to regard.

After tea it is again Liberty Hall till the first
bell sounds for dinner, when you enter into com-
munity life. It is much the same with the hours
that immediately follow. Nothing seems to happen
by contrivance, but everything occurs at the right
time even the impromptu charades. Augusta
knows. The artists from the Frangais who have
come down from London for the duologue are ad-
mittedly a matter of pecuniary arrangement, but
they are received on a footing of social equality
with a nuance which might leave all but themselves
ignorant of the fact. The thought-readers, though
they seem so spontaneous, are a put-up job. The
dowager suggested the man of letters who is now
writing his autograph. Her life is spent in little
services of this sort, and she prides herself on being
able to "get" anybody in the world of notoriety
that the world of fashion may at any moment wish
to see. All she asks is a little backing from those
in whose interest she labors. "Certainly I can get
him if you want him ; but you must take the trouble
to read one of his writin's. It makes him look like
a fool ; and, if that does n 't so much matter, only
think of me ! It is so awkward to have people starin'
at him, and talkin' about the weather, as if he was
a mere gun."

1 08



The Yellow Van

The duke is proud of his wife's success, and it is
unquestionable. There is not the slightest difficulty
with the old families. Their own claims of birth
are much more modest than other persons, who have
none, are disposed to make for them. And besides,
the duke's pleasure would be enough, if Augusta's
modesty, good sense, and self-reliance were not there
to keep her armed at every point. She always has
the tone, if sometimes she may lack the manner, of
their august order.


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