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For all that it is hard to avoid embarrassment
when one of her own coroneted countrywomen taste-
fully invites her assent to the proposition that only
blood tells.

The duke looks uneasy, but smiles, which is some-
times his way of showing that he is annoyed.

' ' Blood ? ' ' returns his wife. ' ' There are so many
varieties. ' '

"I mean the blue," says her friend.

"Some of that," observes Augusta, sweetly, "re-
minds one of the advertisement of the writing-fluid. ' '

"I never read advertisements."

"Blue in the first impression only, Hut mere black
at last."

"I was speaking of society."

"And I," retorted Augusta, "was thinking of the
seventy-odd millions of the United States."

"I regret to say that I have not so many
on my visiting-list. It is my misfortune, but
it might be awkward when it came to shaking
hands."

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The Yellow Van

"Once the Boman women were horny-handed;
and the world went pretty well then."

"I dare say; and once, no doubt, the American
woman made cheeses."

"I hope she makes them still: it may be useful
at a pinch."

"Quite out of fashion, I assure you."

"More 's the pity. Let us keep up our faith in
American ideas. I still like to think that, as soon
as we Ve found out how to heat the water in Boston
harbor, there '11 be afternoon tea for the universe."

The duke chuckles; and what can his wife want
more?

The people know each other, that is the great
point, and they blend. They meet so often at this
or other houses that they all seem to belong to one
great family. Yet they are deliciously catholic in
their tastes, interests, and ways of life. They have
a selectness of habit, training, and privilege rather
than of race, and they very much answer to the de-
scription of that most ancient of aristocracies who
had great domains, spoke a separate language, and
were held incapable of crime. The particularism
in the mode of speech may go no further than slang ;
but there it is as a sign of independence. They are
a law unto themselves. Apart from those of their
order who merely make a dash at it, and then run
back to work, they form a class who live to purely
recreative ends, and they are apt to die with some-
thing like a feeling of resentment at the carelessness
of Providence.

I 10



The Yellow Van

Their life has been magnificently organized for
active indolence by the labor of ages. They are
after the partridge now ; presently they will be after
the stag or the fox-cub, the salmon, or anything else
to their mind in water, earth, or air. It is house-
party after house-party, with London in between
for a sort of snap shot of a winter season, or south-
ern Europe or the Nile, and the strenuous toil of
pleasure all the way. They believe that most people
that is to say, the mass of mankind not in their
set are but half alive, and feel as sorry for them
as we all do for the babies born in that condition in
the slums. To keep up the sense of vitality, they
shrink from no experience that offers the promise
of a sensation.

One of the countesses keeps a bonnet-shop in
Bond street by deputy, of course, but still without
any attempt to conceal the matter from her own
set. Another dabbles in socialism ; not that she be-
lieves in it, for she believes in nothing in particular ;
but it is at least an experience and a pose. And
then she is so absolutely ignorant of the a-b-c of her
heresy that even the National Democratic Federa-
tion might be moved to tears. It is only baby, and
the gun is not charged. A little raconteur of stand-
ing, of that tattling sex which physiologists now say
is the male, tells stories of his order that even so-
cialists might like to hear. The rule of the profes-
sional secret makes it all safe. An informal dance
may belong to the amusements of this hour, but as
a rule the men are too dead beat after their day's

I I I



The Yellow Van

work with the gun for anything of that sort. They
revive for the smoking-room when the ladies have
left for the night, and there they swap the lies of
anecdote until the small hours of the morning.
"When it is not scandal it is the rigor of the game
in sport: pointer or retriever, the old style against
the new; aiming with only one eye open, or with
both, one school maintaining that nature has shown
her wonted prodigality in the supply of this organ ;
schools of shooting ; have your guns cut to measure,
though you buy your coats ready-made; soft shot,
chilled shot, hard shot; how best to lay out a wood
for a day's sport; poachers, polecats, pin-fires; and
so on until the head fairly spins with it, if one is
not to the manner born.

On Sunday the birds have a day off, and time to
count their missing friends. Their enemies go to
church, stroll through the stables, the kennels, and
even the picture-galleries, if they can find time for
the last without any breach of the divine ordinance
of repose for the day.

All this to make a poor young duchess feel that
the world is a bigger and a stranger place than is
dreamed of in the philosophy of the geography
class, bigger even than the all outdoors of her wild-
est conceptions. Her brain throbs with the sense
of it. What a wonderful scene! And what won-
derful things she is going to do in it, and for it,
as lady of Allonby ! They marveled as much at her.
She had made no mistakes worth mentioning,
though her talk beat a book.

I 12




xir



HE duchess is driving over to
luncheon at Liddicot, one of the
moated halls that still survive in
this amazing land.

Sir Henry Liddicot at home is
the British squire in his most rare
and precious and exquisite survival. For a full
thousand years the family has been there, not
precisely at Liddicot Manor, of course, but there
in ownership, and in the county in settlement
one race winning, holding, and sitting tight. The
Conquest was an innovation to them. They read of
Norman William, as one might say, in their morning
papers, wondering what was up now, and feeling full
sure it would not be very much. The rumor of his
ship-building was brought to them by runners from
the south, and they set out with their quota to join
the Saxon king in obedience to royal messages from
the north. They were a most respectable family
in Alfred's time, and they had shaken their heads
over the extension of the empire when a later king
took Manchester. Dim rumors of the Mohammedan
invasion of India were brought by pious pilgrims to
the ale-bench of their hall fire.

Their halls, of course, have changed since then.
They have been rebuilt half a dozen times in every

8



The Yellow Van

style of domestic architecture, each of them Saxon
blockhouse, Norman keep, Elizabethan manor, with
Jacobean or Palladian notions to follow, in turn the
smartest thing of its kind.

Here or hereabout have been the Liddicots, taking
their share of every good thing going in all that
time. Think of it only. It may be simple enough
to win the luck, but to keep the luck in the family
for a thousand years! It is rare even in this land,
with an average peerage which is but a mushroom
growth. Families rise and fall as the sap of mas-
tery within them has a nimble or a sluggish flow.
So little will do it a touch, they say. The founder
toils; the founder's son takes it easy; the son's son
makes a fool of himself, and then, with the Jews
as brokers, the many come into their own again.

The Liddicots did it, in the first instance, by
their judicious mixture of the attributes of tiger and
fox. When they were not snatching, they laid a fin-
ger to the nose not defiantly, as in one of the many
varieties of that expressive gesture, but as in mature
reflection on the next step. They made their sub-
mission to the first William at the right time and
in the right way, and he gave them grace. They
sided with the greatest of the Edwards in his strug-
gle for domestic mastery, when all the other wise-
acres of their part of the country were putting
their money on the other horse. They made an
equally wise choice with the last Henry, who gave
them a monastery or two for their pains, and with
Dutch William. After that, though not all at once,

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The Yellow Van

the premonitions of the long sleep that overtakes all
of us at length came over them. They drew slowly
toward the conclusion that there is nothing more
to do but keep a sort of perpetual balance with
things as they are. The problem of perpetual rest
is as trying as that of perpetual motion, and it has
engaged the attention of whole generations of the
most respectable families time out of mind.

So they invented a sort of philosophy of fatigue
which, in their present representative, has reached
its finest flower. The good old baronet has an hon-
est impatience of every kind of thoroughness of
thought and action which makes him the perfect
Englishman of his time. His whole line in life is
determined by a rooted suspicion of first principles.
He lives by a glorified rule of thumb, and moves
from event to event with the pious ejaculation of
"Sufficient unto the day" He is incurably sus-
picious of all attempts to get to the bottom of things
in "politics, literature, science, and art." "Lord,
how the world is given to fads ! " is his cry of protest.
He shivers at the thought of new departures, unless
they are reasonably old, and he is sure that when
they started they went beyond what was necessary.
He accepts them as soon as they are there, just be-
cause they are there, for he is the very genius of
submission to the accomplished fact. But if he had
been asked his sanction in advance, they would have
had long to wait. He is for moderation in all things ;
even moderation "must n't go too far, you know"
the man of the unjust milieu, in a word.

"5



The Yellow Van

He has elaborated his theory of life as a mere rub-
bing along in the old house on the old estate, both
slowly wearing to decay without discomfort and
without shock. All he wants is to live by the land,
as his fathers did before him, making it pay for all
their mistakes. His farmers farm stupidly, his la-
borers fly to the towns, he has a spendthrift son in
the army like his sire, one of the best fellows in
the world. Yet it never strikes him for one moment
that his wasteful housekeeping, his mortgages, his
entails, his huge system of patriarchal dependence,
is anything less than in the nature of things. He
is everything such a man may be expected to be:
not a Tory, only a Conservative, in favor of ' ' reason-
able reforms, ' ' such, for instance, as the one affecting
the precedence of baronets; not a Protectionist, the
name brings a shock to his mind, but only a per-
son desiring a moderate duty for the encouragement
of agriculture. He is a moderate churchman cer-
tainly not High, undoubtedly not Low, one capable
of tempering the rigor of the demand for the east-
ward position by the offer of an east-by-north. He
compounds for the confessional by now and then
asking his vicar to dinner, and casually putting
points of conduct to him over the wine. There is
nothing wrong with him in the world but his horo-
scope: he is Sir Roger de Coverley born just two
centuries too late.

To have everything in keeping, his home is his
castle in the most exact sense of the term. Where
else could he live but in one of the beautiful old



The Yellow Van

moated halls still to be found in England, with
living water in the moat? He still raises his draw-
bridge every night and lowers it every morning,
just because his fathers had done the like for cen-
turies, and he really is not equal to the effort of
beginning to leave off. His habits are not to be af-
fected by anything so transient as the new dispensa-
tion of a county constabulary. What joy in the
thought of this continuing city amid the eternal flux
of things! You may enter without difficulty by a
stone bridge on the other side, the tradespeople do
so enter every day, but that does not count.



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XIII

HE house comes in view at last,
peeping forth from its belt of trees
as the duchess approaches it on this
summer day. The trees were part
of the old scheme of fortification.
You might pass them without sus-
pecting that they screened an abode of men. The
garrison lay in hiding, or pounced forth in sudden
aggression, according to circumstances. Now that
concealment is no longer necessary, they show a gable
at need, or even a whole facade, through the gaps.
On one side you catch sight of a whole range of
domestic Tudor rising sheer from the moat, where
parts of it, resting on columns of solid stonework,
stand like a man in water up to the knees. In an-
other facade the owners before building have mani-
festly been at peace with the world. The struggle
of the more elemental kind is over. No one is going
to disturb the Liddicots. The architect therefore
plans for lawns sloping to the water's edge, treats
himself to the stone bridge aforesaid, and cuts down
the trees to give a fair view of his handiwork.

The drawbridge is lowered now, "for fun," as
Mary promised, and that young person is seen
waving joyous welcome from the castellated porch

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The Yellow Van

beyond. Augusta answers the signal with her hand-
kerchief, and, at the same time, becomes aware of
the master of the house. He is fishing in the moat
from his study window, and he decamps in some
confusion to take his place at his own door, where
he is seen in an entirely suitable framework. He
is of middle height, sturdy, square to the four winds
still like his dwelling. He looks engagingly dense,
obstinate, unideal and golden-hearted where he
likes, but only there. The manner is blunt one can
hardly say to a fault. He has a singular brevity of
conversational style, due to a desire to ' ' get it over ' '
with the smallest possible delay. His broad face
is now all melted out of its ordinary lines of char-
acter by his unaffected joy at the sight of his guest.
He bows his bare head low over her hand in courtly
style, leads her to the foot of the great oak stair-
case, and then, surrendering her to his daughter,
turns aside into the dining-room to await her re-
turn.

' ' Mary, what a place ! ' ' murmurs Augusta, as
they come down-stairs.

" Wait till you have seen it," laughs the girl.
"Dad, you had better let me be guide: you are too
slow. I '11 show you over at the same time, if you
behave yourself."

"All right, my dear. I shall be here when you
want me. Don't trust to her dates, duchess: when-
ever she gets beyond the Eestoration, I have to dig
her out."

A great peace steals over Augusta's mind as she



The Yellow Van

strolls through the black oak galleries, the low bed-
rooms, the lofty reception-rooms of these strata of
the past, with their furniture, folios, armor, gear
of hall, and gear of bower all in perfect keeping.

" We have everything a genuine old place should
have, I think," says Mary, simply, "including the
entire absence of a bed slept in by Queen Elizabeth.
Those beds are only for the new-fashioned show-
houses, and Wardour street can hardly keep pace
with the demand. If you want something real in that
line, we can show you a bed stuffed with rabbit's fur,
the down of its day. Don't look so serious, father
dear."

"Don't be foolish, Mary."

"Well, never mind about the bed; but please,
Mary, I want a ghost only a little one."

"Nothing of that sort here," said the squire.

" Father! "

"Oh, you mean the noises. All fancy, that ! They
hung the wrong man, pure inadvertence, and
they thought he walked. They fidgeted that was
all. Besides, it was hundreds of years ago, and
what 's that to do with us?"

"Yes; but they hung him up -stairs, dad."

"Up-stairs?" shuddered Augusta.

"Old times, you know, duchess. We had to do
everything on the premises then, even the judging
and the rest. Modern improvements since cir-
cuits, jails, and what not. Every man's house was
his workshop, too. We 've a suit of Saxon armor,
all steel, and all made in the place."

120



The Yellow Van

"All very well for the armor, Sir Henry, I dare
say. But for the hanging who gave them the
right? "

"Manorial courts, you know every lord of a
manor his own judge, jury, executioner. I assure
you, there was no other way. Great improvements
now, and all for the best, I Ve no doubt."

"The duchess wants to see the room, father."

"Mary!" "Mary!" from both host and guest.
Yet, somehow, one led the way, and the other fol-
lowed. There was really nothing to see but a long,
bare attic immediately under the roof, with huge
whitewashed cross-beams, which looked little more
than a streak in the artificial gloom. The squire
seemed to feel that some apology was expected.

"You see, it was very hard to keep the field-labor-
ers from passing out of their class and place of set-
tlement and going to the towns to pick up a trade.
It is a difficulty even now, I assure you. Our people
were hard sometimes I can't deny that. We have
funny entries in the old register down-stairsburn-
ing on the forehead, and what not. Shocking! I
hate all that excess. But I suppose this really was a
bad case. It 's the only one on the family, so far
as I know. My grandfather's grandfather used
merely to put 'm in the stocks, and he would be
called unreasonable now. We must march with the
times. ' '

"Oh, we have been a disreputable gang in our
day!" laughs Mary. "We can show you a turret-
chamber in the other wing where one of our re-

121



The Yellow Van

moter grandmamas had to pass her honeymoon be-
hind bars and bolts, after she had been stolen from
her father's house."

"They went too far; I 've told you, they went
too far," says the squire, testily, as he turns from
the room. ' ' What can you say more ? But we might
still learn a thing or two, even from them. I 'm
going to offer you a carp at luncheon, duchess,
caught in the moat this morning, and own brother
in point of dressing and flavor to one that was stewed
in wine for King Henry VII when he passed this
way four hundred years ago."

"You must give me the receipt for Allonby, Sir
Henry."

"Mary will turn it into plain English for you.
It is in our old buttery-book one of the best bits
of reading in the library. You have to know how
to read it, though. It is all in monkish script, and
it looks as spider-webbed as a writ of Edward III. ' '

"And all illuminated, if you please," adds Mary,
"with an initial letter showing one early Liddicot
at dinner helping himself with thumb and finger,
and another wiping his mouth with his sleeve and
looking as though he had done no evil. Oh, we really
were a disreputable set once upon a time! Please
don't ask questions about the plate, duchess. Some
of it was no better than what the dreadful house-
Breaking people nowadays call 'swag' bagged from
the looted chateaux by a Liddicot who served under
the Regent Bedford in the French wars. ' '

"Mary, don't tease," says her father.

122



The Yellow Van

After luncheon they generously leave him to his
nap, on pretense of a stroll through the rooms.
There is the usual mixture of good and bad in the
picture-gallery, most of it old indeed, but not all
genuine. Some of the Titians were never seen by
that master. Yet they were entirely adequate for
wonder and delight to earlier Liddicots who had ac-
quired them on the grand tour. Mingled with these
are the family portraits dames and damsels of
many epochs (some, in which the family expression
reappears after temporary eclipse, looking like Mary
dressed for a masquerade) , judges and soldiers, with
here and there the kings they served. Both the
ladies stop before the effigy of a cavalryman of our
time, still glistening with the glories of varnishing-
day at the Academy, fair, yet well tanned by field-
sports, well groomed, square-chinned, round-headed,
close-cropped, and with a look of satisfaction in the
joy of being, characteristic of those spoiled children
of Fortune whom she has never put to the trouble
of saying "No."

' ' That 's my brother Tom, ' ' says the girl, fondly,
in answer to the other's glance of inquiry, "and
he 's coming down next week."

"What a lovely man I mean what a fine, hand-
some fellow. Is n't he just perfect!"

"Oh, he 's not so bad, though I say it, and the
most good-natured thing in the world. But he 's
just a little costly for poor father. Not that he can
help that: it 's a crack regiment, you know."

"I suppose he 's hard at work at his mili-

123



The Yellow Van

tary studies, with all this trouble ahead at the
Cape."

"I don't think so. You see, he had to pass, and
all that sort of thing, before he got in, and they
don't trouble them much after that. And, besides,
he knows where he is on a horse, and he 's quite a
beautiful shot; so there does n't seem much more to
learn. ' '

"One sometimes fancies there might be," says the
duchess, gravely. "But I dare say he has quite
enough to do."

"Never a moment to spare, I assure you, and
four house-parties ahead. It was a terrible London
season; in fact, he 's coming down to rest."

"Please bring him to Allonby, dear, before the
week is out. I hope I shall have a brother to show
you soon. I 've written for Arthur, who has just
left college. The baby, I call him, because he 's
three years younger than I am; but he 'd pass for
a man, all the same."

"That will be nice."

The girl is for hurrying on ; but the duchess insists
on stopping to look at another portrait that hangs
by the side of Tom's. It is Mary herself. She is
very handsome, tall and finely built. She has dig-
nity a courteous and gentle dignity, not by any
means the terrifying "hauteur" of the melodra-
matic heroine, though the head is held very high
and the whole posture is strong and quietly self-pos-
sessed. The dress, so far as one can see it beneath
the big cloak, seems to be a sort of lace tea-gown,

I2 4



The Yellow Van

freely flowing. The face is a full oval (not a peaky
egg-shape), the nose straight and somewhat Grecian.
Large brown eyes, frank and kind, and beautifully
curved, full lips, give the face an expression of
truth and sweetness. Over the brow, which is broad
and high, the hair descends in little films and curls,
and is piled up on the head in light masses. Resting
on these clouds of b'rown, a large black hat with
plumes sweeps upward in a bold slant. It reminds
one of the head-gear of some Velasquez portrait
a Spanish general or monarch ; and the folds of the
dark mantle, lightened as it is by creamy satin and
lace, voluminously falling from the shoulders and
down the front, add to the rich and flowing effect.
It is pleasantly free from the frightened, unim-
aginative stiffness of ordinary modern costume. Yet
Mary is no Velasquez lady with mysterious eyes
that look at one straight and brimful of meaning,
yet will not reveal one of their myriad secrets. In
spite of her great mantle and sweeping hat, Velas-
quez would either have refused to paint her, or he
would have given her different eyes and a different
expression. Her attraction thus transformed might,
to some tastes, be more powerful, but she would have
lost her simple English quality, and the grand, free,
modern look that belongs peculiarly to our day
if portraits truly represent the women of the past.

At their leave-taking Mary gives her guest a bunch
of rare and precious ferns that might have suggested
a whole course of lectures to a professor of botany
maidenhair, spleenwort, three-leaved saxifrage,

125



The Yellow Van

hart's-tongue, ivy-leaved snapdragon, even umbel-
lated chickweed, picked from the crannies of wall
and roof, or from the crumbling brickwork of the
moat.

The duchess wonders as she drives away whether
men or mosses have anything more to fear when once
they have turned the corner of a thousand years.



126




XIV

HE found the duke out of sorts on
her return.

"He won't sell and be hanged
to him ! " he said, handing her a let-
ter from his solicitors. One of the
inclosures was a note from his
neighbor, Mr. Kisbye of "The Grange," refusing
to part with a piece of land on any terms.

Years ago, in a fatal moment when the duke's
agent happened to be looking the other way, Mr.
Kisbye snapped up a field or two that impaired
the rounded integrity of the ducal domain.

This purchase cut right into the estate, and
spoiled the amenity of it. The intruder got it by
an extravagant bid to a needy owner, at a time when
his Grace's solicitors were opening their parallels
in the usual impious way that assumes the eternal
duration of the world. He wanted a country settle-
ment, and here it was within a stone's cast of one


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