John Jerome (3)

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CHAPTER IX.


MY aunt came down to the lodgings I had hired, and then remarked that she should not go to see Godfrey and Anna in the tents till they had, as was proper, paid their respects to her.

    Now my aunt has one delightful quality.  You can call it obstinacy if you like; but I prefer to say she is not fickle, — she does not change her mind.  No amount of arguing makes any difference, so we never argue.  Think what a comfort that, with all it implies, must be in a family.

    The next morning our changeful English climate was on its best behaviour; and I drove Katharina across from that little Cumberland village to her brother-in-law's encampment, which was pitched in Westmoreland.

    The English tourist, with his usual partiality, will have nothing to do with certain sweet rural places, while he treads down the grass and makes Echo familiar with bad grammar in others; but Echo never contracts bad habits, and, though you cannot educate her, you may depend on her never using any vulgar expression of her own accord.

    But these tents, — as we turned the corner of a hill, on an abominably bad road, we saw them pitched on grass which grew in flat spaces, winding in and out among humpy knolls of rich flowering heather.

    A van stood a little apart; beyond it ran a small brook, and made a murmuring as it leaped over the stones.  In front was a space of sward, and on the left was a thick hedge with three fine maple trees in it; and behind that was a tangled wood, with a tumbled world of hills and steep rocky slopes, and then two mountain heads.

    Katharina was fascinated.

    Anna's tent was rather small, — that is, nine or ten feet by about twelve; but I knew it was most convenient in its shape and fittings.  For instance, besides the usual means of closing it (now fastened back), it had a pair of netted curtains in the opening, to keep out bees and wasps.  Wasps will not fly through a netting, though it may be large enough in the mesh to admit them.  Then this tent had a folding bed and a folding floor, besides some very comfortable folding chairs and a small table.  Godfrey's tent was like it, only a good deal larger; and the van was a large one, entered by a little set of steps.  It contained, beside their stores, three berths, for there slept in it, besides a girl who acted as nurse, two little boys about six years old.  Yes! they had their children with them; and these, with a picture-book before them, were lying in the heather upon their chests, nothing being seen of them but their straw hats, and four stout little legs which went up and down in the air almost with the regularity of pendulums.

    I saw the girl moving inside the van, and Anna seated on the steps.  I rather think she was shelling peas; but the moment the sisters caught sight of one another Katharina sprang from the carriage, rather frightening my cob, and Anna threw down the basket she held, and ran to meet her.  There was a good deal of kissing and patting and innocent delight, which presently attracted Godfrey's attention, and he came slouching up to pay kindly compliments, with his boys on either side of him, — little brown dimpled fellows, with round eyes full of curiosity, and screwed up critical mouths whose expression had come down direct from the paternal ancestor.  Godfrey's dress was not unlike that of a gamekeeper.  His large bulging pockets were evidently full of useful things.  He stands about six feet two in his stockings, and has large bones.  Something almost courtly in his gentleness appeared the more strange when compared with his surroundings, his peculiarly sincere air, countrified garb, and sunburnt face.

    Katharina was at first almost shy.  When two people meet after uneasy feelings or a quarrel, if one appears wholly at ease, the other is almost obliged to take the air of having been wrong.

    Godfrey and I went to take out the cob and tether him, for the tinker and his daughter at that time of day were gone on their rounds.  Then we strolled about, leaving the sisters together.  A fire was lighted behind the van, and here dinner was in course of being cooked.  A shoulder of lamb was stewing in a large earthen pot with a quantity of peas and some young carrots, — a cup of milk and a lump of butter making all the liquid, excepting its own gravy.  Another pan was turned over it.  Then, in a skillet, potatoes were cooking; and in another, a currant and raspberry pudding.

    A table was presently set, well under the shade of the maple trees.  When the sisters advanced to it I saw what a contrast Katharina presented to the rest of the party.  The cockney girl, who waited on us, gazed at her open-mouthed.  Godfrey had much objected to this young person's dining apart, but she insisted that she could not enjoy her victuals if she had to eat them with her "missis."  So when his insistence on equality became tyranny, and caused rebellion and tears, he gave way.

    Nobody minded eating with Godfrey, of course; and they all addressed him by the Christian name, according to order.  Jerome and Georgie sat on the grass.  Our table not being large enough for them, each had a wooden stool placed across his stout little legs, and on that his plate was set.

    I am bound to say that this was a very agreeable meal, and the admiration of the little boys for their unknown aunt was pretty to see.

    They kept turning up their little inquisitive faces to watch the unbuttoning of her long gloves.  Then they were interested in the delicate hand, with certain rings that sparkled on it.  She was a creature fresh from a house.  The general effect of her dress was pink and white, and the sun had not made free with it; but she was not clad for the moors, and everything about her, like her own figure, was supple and soft.

    "She's just come out of a house," was the remark of one small boy to the other; and they appeared to think this a romantic circumstance.

    Anna was brown; her teeth looked all the whiter for this.

    I felt that I had done a good action in bringing the sisters together.

    They were as happy as queens till tea-time, sitting with the little boys at their feet.  Meanwhile Godfrey and I took a ramble to look after certain wild creatures who would, I knew, be in the neighbourhood.  Very few people have the least idea what wild creatures are like.  Their notion generally is to shoot them, and then pick them up for examination; which is just the same thing as if some being of superior race, coming here and seeing children playing on a village green, were to shoot a few at long range, and then turn them over and describe them, and consider himself learned in their structure, habits, and appearance.

    We may suppose such a sportsman bagging this game; and being painted, by the artists of his race, sitting on a sofa or what not, and having a few dead children (in braces) tumbled beside him for ornament, — just as we daily have grouse and hares and snipes represented in our pictures.

    But to proceed, — wild birds, excepting when they have young in the nest, feed mainly in the morning and the evening.  If you settled yourself, for only two or three weeks, in a cottage or a tent on a green down, or by a wooded dingle, taking care to tie up your dog excepting in the middle of the day, you might — by putting forth such seeds as they love, and a little crock of water — get visits from almost every kind of wild bird in the neighbourhood.

    Oh, how people do love the country, and yearn after it!  All townsfolk do, particularly Londoners.

    At least, they say they do; but they say they really must give dinner parties, and they are as good as their word.

    And they say they should so like to see the long-tailed tit going out to his dinner party with his wife and his eight children after him, — the tail of each looking like one long pursuing feather, while they stand upside down under the branch as often as not, and then dart like baby meteors away; but Londoners hardly ever do see the long-tailed tit, and if you ask them why, they are confused and tell you that the long-tailed tit is a rare bird.

    No, you duffers in London are bereft of almost everything worth mentioning; and that is partly, indeed mainly, because you will have what other people have if you possibly can, and you will live as other people do.

    You must have servants forsooth, and look at the consequence of that; you cannot afford a fine telescope, or even microscope.

    You must go into society; and the consequence is, you cannot afford to have a houseboat on the river, or even a yacht on the coast.

    You must have a carriage, so you cannot have a good library.

    Or you must have carpets on your floors, and your wife must have silk gowns; so you cannot afford so much as a comfortable barge in which to enjoy your six weeks' holiday with your wife and brood.

    Why, with half the money you squandered on new carpets for your stairs you might have set up a tent and a donkey-cart.  Think of that!

    But the old carpet, you say, was almost in rags.

    Then why wasn't it taken up, and the stairs washed and left bare?

    If you did that, you say, people would think you so poor.

    And they do as it is; they always know whether their friends are well off or not.

    But you don't want a donkey-cart, and you do not wish to prowl about in a barge or live in a tent; you will go to the seaside, and walk on the parade and hear the band.

    Very well then, — you cannot see the long-tailed tit.

    However, there is no doubt much to be seen in cities or their immediate outskirts, if you know how to look; but it is always more difficult to see things when you do not expect them than when you do.

    Unless you have three eyes you will not see much; for the mind's eye is a great institution, and hugely helps those of which most of us have a pair.

    An ingenuous London cousin of mine, staying with me last year, was much taken with that yellow-coated fairy, the willow-warbler.  He soon learned to distinguish her from the chiff-chaff, about which latter bird he was very enthusiastic.  Her slender smallness, her darting flight, her modest skill in clearing insects from the leaf, her pretty talk, — chiff-chaff-chiff-cheff-chaff.  How charming!  He had not thought there was so small a bird in England.  Beside her, even the wren was bulky.  He had never heard her note before.

    He went home to his house in Addison Road, Kensington.  He had told me there were only sparrows, starlings, and an occasional robin to be seen in his garden; but the next day, going forth into it in company with a neighbour who was somewhat of a naturalist, he heard that note again, and felt that he could not be mistaken.  There are many good-sized trees in his and the adjacent gardens.  Some fine plane trees grew along his own wall.  He stole under the largest and stood a few moments in excited observation.  Something flitted and was silent something shook a leaf where all others were still; "and presently," said he, "the fairy finch" (she's not a finch, though) "darted higher up the boughs, shaking her yellowish green wings, made her little speech, and was not seen."

    "Why, that was a chill-chaff," he exclaimed excitedly.  "Yes," said the neighbour, who had been calmly looking on; "there were two last summer, but I do not think they built near here.  They did the year before."

    "He might have been talking of two sparrows or two cats," said my cousin, "he was so dispassionate; but as for me, I never was so surprised in my life, — never."

    In the middle of September several willow-warblers came to his garden and stayed more than a week.  They were on their way to the South.  Moral: There are more things in a suburban garden than a citizen dreams of in his philosophy.

    The most moral and excellent birds are those who, in this beautiful fashion, keep themselves to themselves.  Trees and thickets are their houses, and they live inside as a rule, and do not sit on the most conspicuous twigs any more than people in London sit habitually on their doorsteps.

    One often finds curious mistakes made, even on the commonest matters, in natural history.  I can easily fancy that if a naturalist from the sun could come down here to shoot specimens for museums, and could procure a grenadier in his busby, with his wife and child, the Sunnians might find it hard to think of the one as mate to the other; but we ought to know better than to make mistakes about the commonest of our wild birds.

    We all know, for instance, what the chaffinch is like; but why do we talk of green linnets?  Because in the autumn we see numbers of beautiful little soft-billed birds of an olive-green colour, with broad white bands on the wings and tail, and we call them green linnets.  If we called them hen chaffinches, with their young of the year, it would be more to the purpose; for the cock and hen chaffinch are in general almost as unlike as the supposed grenadier and his wife, all the young, females as well as males, being exactly like the mother.  Most books on birds, while admonishing the reader that there is but one true linnet, do not take the trouble to add this easily remembered fact.

    All the wild birds may be known from sparrows by their flight.  Some go in swift undulations, and all dart about with a more graceful and capable use of their wings.  That bustling wings flies with fussy laboured jerks, as if its little crop was fuller of stolen man's meat than was good for it.

    Sparrows are hereditary paupers.  None of them get their own living.  Beggars and scamps, they never think of setting up housekeeping for themselves as good working-birds do.  They must be with man and nowhere else, for they are essentially the creatures of civilization.  Who, indeed, ever heard of a wild sparrow?

Even in the more mountainous and sparsely inhabited parts of Scotland, where a bird has to do a day's pecking for a day's meat, we do not find them.

    I was talking to a keeper not long ago within a few miles of Pitlochry.

    He had not met with the bird.

    "What colour will she be?" he asked.

    "Brown, to be sure."

    "And will she be the size of a doo? or will she be larger?"

    However, though I am not pleased with the sparrow, I testify that even he does accidentally more good than harm; but if people say he does it from a sense of duty, or even if they say he has any moral sense at all, I cannot go with them.  I think he has not.  As for the other birds, — including the kestrel, who eats our mice for us, — their actions are so beneficent that it is rather mean of us to say these do not spring from a high motive.  Snails, slugs, grubs, beetles, spiders, aphids, tadpoles, moths, no doubt feel it hard that man should begin to tolerate the birds in a garden, but that is selfish of the snails, slugs, grubs, beetles, spiders, aphids, tadpoles, moths, etc.; and even though the motives of the birds should be no higher than those of man, I can only say that I would not snare a nightingale to save the life of the largest grub that was ever hatched.  If we would let the birds alone they would eat a few raspberries and peck at our ripe apples, but then, there would be three times as many at which to peck; whereas now, our fruit and flowers are riddled with the ravages of insects.  As for our rose trees, we expect to find blight upon them just as much as, if we went to see the Bruce's cave, we should expect to be shown the spider.  The cave, in fact, would not be complete without the spider; but the rose would be considerably more complete without the blight, and I sometimes see it so; but then I encourage the blue tit and other of my friendly visitors.

    Well, this is an unconscionably rambling Ramble.  I took it in company with Godfrey and a robin who was quite troublesome to us from his familiarity.  He would come when Godfrey whistled to him and "partake of our victuals;" but he would not go, and as he flitted about he had an air of authority and supervision, — sometimes standing right in the path as if he thought he could bar it to us, sometimes startling us with a shrill admonitory song from some bramble close to our elbows.

    When we caught sight of the tents there was a kettle boiling on a fire of sticks.

    "Wherever we are my dear Anna always expects to have her afternoon tea," observed Godfrey in a tone of kindly regret, "and sometimes this gives her and us a good deal of trouble."

    "She has given up a great deal that is more important," I replied.

    "But I could wish to see her more reasonable," said Godfrey.  "There I must allow that the two sexes are not equal, men are so vastly more reasonable than women."

    "Vastly more," I repeated with cordiality; there is nothing like the reasonableness of men. Look at soldiers, for instance.  Though they may have been marching for hours, yet if they catch sight of the enemy, drawn up ready to give them battle, you never hear of their expecting to halt and have hot grog served out all round before they go into action.  There can be no doubt, though, that it would be a comfort under such circumstances.  Then an explorer or a hunter in the backwoods, far from the haunts of men, — does he ever cry out for his warm bath before he turns in?  Not at all.  He may have been used at home to all sorts of luxury, but he is reasonable."

    I am not reasonable, it appears to my own mind, for when I approached the tea-table and found the tinker present, helping to bring bits of wood to the fire and evidently expecting to share the meal, I said the low sun shone unpleasantly into the eyes of the ladies, and proposed that they should have their tea inside Anna's tent and that I should wait on them.

    On Sunday the tinker had cleaned himself up, and I did not object to him.  His hair, also, had been neatly raked down over his forehead.

    Now it was different.  Anna, of course, must do as her husband pleases; but why must Katharina listen to the tinker's talk?

    If I was desirous to heap up unanswerable questions I might add, "And why is my Malay boy to be spoilt by chronic idleness and the charms of the little flaxen-haired cockney, who retires affectedly behind the van whenever he appears?"  Yes, I thought that evening, when I saw her playing her little part, "You petty thing, you very small feminine highflyer, — why don't you find an empty chrysalis to creep into, or the drifting shell of a thrush's egg, if you want so much to hide?"

    Well, I drove Katharina back after a happy and successful day; and she gave her grandmother a glowing account of life in the encampment.

    "And what do they do when it rains?"

    "Anna says they do not care much about rain; they hardly notice it."

    "There are sometimes cold days; what then?"

    "They sit in the van."

    "The van, my dear?"

    "Yes, there is as much accommodation in it as in a first-class railway carriage.  People often sit almost all day in one of those, and eat in it too."

    "On a journey, — yes."

    "Godfrey painted the van up last week, — painted it yellow and picked it out with red."

    "Poor creature!  Poor misguided man!"

    "It was green.  He painted it yellow, that when he had been away in the evening it might be more conspicuous, more easily found in the dusk."

    The next day Godfrey and Anna, with their boys, came to pay their respects, and all parties were so careful that things passed off very well, though Godfrey had a Holland coat on, and the boys wore paper caps which their father had made for them.  Gloves are useless in hot weather, — none of them wore gloves; and blacking is a mere ornament, — their boots were not blacked.  But there was a glow of health about them which made the grandmother look all the more faded, and gave Katharina the air of a delicate greenhouse flower.

    The parting was cordial; and Anna was delighted to receive a specially pretty lamp, duly encased in glass, and warranted to burn in a draught and give no trouble.  I drove her home with this property, and the rest of the party walked.

    So far, I shall show this to Katharina; for the remainder, I think not.  Then why do I record it?  Why, indeed!

    "It's more than six months since that base fellow, Another, wrote to Katharina," said Anna.  We all call him Another.  I never mean to call him anything else.

    "I had no notion it was so long," was my answer.

    "What is to be done?" she next said.

    "Done!" I replied, "what can be done till he moves?  He has the game in his own hand."

    "It was good of you to bring her here," Anna observed; "she did so long for a confidential talk with me.  She has been telling me about it, and how coldly he writes.  I am sure he is tired of the engagement."

    "I wonder she is not tired of it too," I answered hotly.

    "Oh," said Anna, "then you think she is not tired of it?"

    "I am sure she is not; otherwise, why is she so different from her old joyous self?  No, I do not think she is breaking her heart about it, but I think she walks now in the shadow and not in the sunshine."


    "Do you know," said Katharina the next morning, while we were waiting for her grandmother to come down to breakfast, —"do you know that Anna is becoming almost as odd as Godfrey?  There is no end to the things that she does not care about and sees no good in."

    "For instance?"

    "For instance, — money, of all things in the world.  She does not see why exchanging would not do just as well!"

    "Then she can change the opal ring I gave her when she was married, for as many apples as she is likely to want while they camp out; but if I am to do without money, what can I give the tinker when he holds my horse?"

    "You might choose for him some other appropriate tribute."

    "But one may easily be impertinent with one's tribute.  A small manual on English grammar would be an appropriate present for the tinker, but it would be rude to give it, — just as rude as it would be to give a polecat a bottle of attar of roses."

    "Oh well, I think Anna was only half in earnest; but I am sure she meant it when she said she never took any kind of jewellery about with her, or had even her gold watch or money in her pocket when living in the tents, — because, if Godfrey chanced to be out of sight, she sometimes felt unprotected and in danger when tramps went by."

    "Hence her contentment in the companionship of the tinker's family.  There she touched on a weak point in tent life.  It is never safe to make one's self remote in a thickly settled country.  For a family to step forth from the shelter of a house is as if a nut should insist on being cracked and laid on the grass, to be free from the restraint of its shell."

    "All Godfrey's ways are perfectly ridiculous."

    "But the thought that lies at the root of them is a good one.  The luxury of the few is one chief cause of the poverty of the many.  He wants to return to a more primitive mode of life, — partly that money may be set free by this plan for helping the helpless, and partly to discover whether there is not a happier mode than the one he has been used to.  It cost the human race very many generations to learn the advantages of money over barter, and of a settled life over a wandering one.  It is truly ridiculous to want to give up money and houses; but perhaps his would not be a perfectly hopeless quest who should set himself to discover a way for using both better.  In one sense Anna cannot be called a helpmeet for Godfrey.  She simply lets him play these vagaries, instead of which she ought to help him to make some good thing out of them."

    Katharina laughed rather mischievously.

    "Jack," she said, "are you sure you shall be pleased if she does help him?"

    I was silent.  "I have thought a good deal about your Woman's Rights, myself, lately," she continued; "and you know, Jack, something must be done."

    "What ridiculous scheme has Anna got in her mind now," I exclaimed; but Katharina said not another word, partly because her grandmother at that moment came down to breakfast.

    Poor old grandmother!  She is much to be pitied, one main source of her revenue having completely failed.  Katharina has ninety pounds a year settled on her, and no more.  The grandmother has long foreseen that her own income, excepting an annuity of little more than the same sum, would eventually fail.  She used to say she hoped it would last her time.  It will not do so; at least I hope not, for it comes to an end with this year, when, strangely enough, the lease of her house expires also.


 
CHAPTER X.


NOW it had been intended that the day following, my aunt should pay her visit to the tents, but a strange dog overturned the canvas shade which served for a larder, and gnawed the contents, after which he played at pitch and toss with what remained; so it behoved Godfrey to take the donkey and cart to the nearest village, stopping, on his way, at our lodgings to postpone this visit.

    But I walked over to the tents with Katharina; and the sisters spent the day together.

    Did I say it was a strange dog who ate the provisions?  So it was; a perfectly strange dog to them.  The fact is, it was my dog.  I brought him out and gave him to Anna, for it made me nervous to think how often she sat in the tent when the tinker and his daughter were away and Godfrey out of ear-shot; for he was a very absent man, and would wander forth and lose himself in thought, leaving it possible for any passing tramp to rob the tents, rifle the larder, and frighten the dame.  As for the little frighten boys, who generally trotted at their father's heels, they were too young to be of the slightest use.  The youngest, a dimpled imp five years old, had been presented by Katharina with a bow and arrows, and he appeared to think, so far as we could judge by his actions, that some small white clouds, lying about in various directions, were the right things to take aim at, — and stick the arrows into if that was at all feasible.

    Anna was delighted to welcome my dog, and Godfrey with great candour admitted that he was a most useful present.

    My Malay boy brought his kennel, and it was intended that for some days he should be tied up; but circumstances were too much for that dog, and, read by their light, it is evident that he was demoralized.  He felt as if the restraints of civilization were out of place there, and he ought to do as he liked; so he slipped his collar, and, when first observed at his unseemly gambols, appeared to be having a kind of waltz with a dead duck.

    I left the sisters together, and, sitting down on a knoll, pursued my own thoughts, dotting them down as they occurred.  They are already modified by the fact that I am a literary character, and by the chances opened to me by the writing of this book.

    For anything I know I am one of the celebrated men of futurity.

    This book, still in my own power, and which no one can force me to finish unless I please, may be a subject of investigation, curiosity, and controversy thousands of years hence; and yet I am not at all sure that on the chance of this any publisher would give me more for it now, so short-sighted is man.

    I think I see the savens of the future poring over my lucubrations, — fixing grammar by my phrases, and finding the sites of old towns by my measure.  They will spend much learning and acuteness over "the uncertainties surrounding" my aunt's Christian name.  They will try to evolve this out of their own internal consciousness, for I have fully made up my mind that they shall never know it from me; no, nor the name of Another.  They will dig up and steam a copy of my book as if it was a papyrus.  They will argue and fall out over my account of Katharina.  They will naturally discover that she was god-daughter to a queen — the wife of one Henry, of the eighth dynasty.  Others will dispute this, proving that she did not live till fifteen hundred years after his time.  It will be just like the Egyptian researches over again; and I dare say that, as in that case, they will not differ as to dates more than about three thousand years or so.

    It pleases me beforehand to think of their puzzles; but I do not intend to arrogate to myself any present honour from the fame of my book in the future.  I can wait.

    But now I consider the matter, there may not be much waiting.  A year will see this book out, — and who knows?

    I may "wake one morning and find," — etc.  Then the "society papers in England will tell.  They will tell the Christian names of all the ladies of my family; tell that I wear an eyeglass, that I have a great dislike to roast pig, that I am not descended from William the Norman, that my father was not a chimney-sweep, that I am "of gentlemanly manners and appearance," etc.  I shall then go to America to lecture, as is now the fashion.  The New York Herald, the Boston Daily Advertiser, the New York Tribune, the Boston Daily Globe, and other papers will send to interview me.  Their readers will know whether or not I wear paper collars, whether I prefer cold salmon or hot cockles, whether as a rule I stand most on my feet, or my head, or my dignity.  I shall like all that.

    Well, I do not want to balk myself.  It certainly appears proper to encourage this fine flow of ideas, but I should like to know how long I am going on in this way!

    Not very long, as the sequel shows.  A howl as from a small boy, then a sob, and presently little Jerome came limping up with a shoe in one hand, and some large tears coursing down his checks.

    "What's the matter, Five-years-old?

    "Mother's love, — and will you? — Oh, it does so hurt!"

    "Your foot?  Why, what have you done to it?"

    "A bumble-bee stinged it."  He sat down and pulled off his sock; and when he saw the parlous bump on his instep he sobbed again: "I was looking at her when she went down her hole, and then I just put a little bit of grass in, and she flew out and — and stinged me [sob] —and it hurts."

    "Come, come, — you mustn't blubber; you must be a man."

    There are few things that get the better of me more than a child's tears.  They seem to open up the whole question of human pain and want and sorrow.  Oh, what a great question that is!

    Is not my own sorrow, my own want, my own pain enough, that I must needs suffer for the whole?  Why must we all suffer?  And if the answer to that question is hidden, what shall we do with the next, for our answer to it is one main part of our probation here?  "How much," it runs, "of what man suffers is his appointed lot, and how much is the work or the fault or the mistake of his fellow-man?"

    "Do you know why you are here, you little Jerome?  No!  I will answer for you, — you do not; nor that it is the travails of the human conscience that have brought about for you this dinnerless day.  It is because so many are sunk in poverty that riches burn your father's hand, — because so many lie under rotten roofs that he cares for no roof at all.  We don't know what to be at, — such of us as think of these things, — for to remedy accomplished wrong does not breed a right; and that is why you are here, and how you came to tickle the bee in her hole, and she stung you.  Do you know what I mean?"

    "No."  Another sob.

    "That 's a good boy, — I knew you didn't."

    And so then the sock was put on, and the message given: "Mother's love, —and will you come and have some bread and cheese and ginger beer, because it will be a long time before dinner 's ready."

    It was a long time before dinner was ready.  It seemed as if the great-grandmother was never to see Jerome and Georgie and her grandson-in-law camping out; Anna scraping potatoes; Godfrey leading his chosen life, — spoiling good books by forgetting them and leaving them out for the dew to fall on them, also spoiling the cutlery.  It was part of Godfrey's elected service to clean the knives.  Most of them were rusty.

    There was a good deal of waste in that tent-hold, — nothing, of course, compared with the waste caused by servants in every ordinary household, but more obvious.  What then?  The experiment caused talk, — an amount of talk quite remarkable.  No sensible people could possibly wish to try it for themselves; but to meet with healthy and happy persons who had rooted themselves up, at least for the summer, and were going without so many of the comforts and luxuries of life, partly if not chiefly for their own pleasure, had a certain effect all over that neighbourhood.

    They are unchristian and even inhuman who do not pity the poor and try to help them.  In our degree we almost all do this; but, as a rule, we pour in our benefactions at the wrong end of the scale.  We should try most to help those who may be called the very highest of the poor, rather than those who are in every way the lowest.  A great part of what these highest poor want is moral help.  I am not thinking now of the poor who work for wages and spend them week by week, and have sufficient during youth and health and then succumb when old age draws on or sickness strikes them.  It is not only for them that the tender-hearted may well weep.

    There are those who earn their money by the quarter who feel the pinching of poverty quite as keenly; and yet, though for many of them life is now too hard, and they faint and sink under the weight of it, they might dwell in peace, have comfortable food and shelter, some domestic and intellectual pleasure, some agreeable sojourns in country places, if it were not that the tyranny of custom is so strong.  It is a power that the weak of the world cannot break.

    In a city there will often be found whole streets full of such people.  They are just as well educated, and often as well connected, as folks who are rich; and they are all struggling, never having really enough of any one thing, — struggling "to keep themselves respectable," to get their children taught and clothed, putting the best on the outside and ashamed that even this should be so shabby.  These want moral help.

    Nobody but Godfrey would propose that they should live without houses over their heads.  They could not afford it.  But their houses should have stained floors instead of carpets.  The kitchens should have clean little cooking-stoves instead of the wasteful open range, and range, inhabitants should know how to cook.  The rich and idle having taken it into their heads to go to cooking-classes for their own amusement, the most timid of the poor may now take heart and dare to cook their own dinner.  I am an indifferent good cook myself; therefore I speak with authority.  I can boil an egg, roast an apple, and bake a potato with any man; and I say, out of the fullness of my knowledge, that it is a great mistake not to eat the article where it was cooked, — that is, in the kitchen.  When my chum and I cooked game over a fire in the backwoods, we never moved apart to devour it.  I have been very hungry in that paradise, Tasmania.  When we had caught a fine fat trout we cooked it on hot stones, and ate it then and there.  Therefore, you that are struggling should have your meals, or most of them, in the kitchen, — a nice cheerful kitchen.

    "What, with the servant?"

    "Oh, I am so frightened!  I don't think I dare say it.  I wish to insinuate, — in short, you must consider that I have lived a good deal among outlandish tribes and in desert places, — I think you don't want a servant!

    "Then who is to answer the door?"

    I have a good deal of house property in London, property in just such houses as I describe; and (would you believe it?) when, being in a confidential humour, I talked over some of the troubles of human life with a pleasant careworn gentlewoman who lived in one of them, she admitted that there was nothing in the house she could not do with pleasure; but she must have a servant, — else "who was to answer the door?"

    "It would be bad for your health to answer it yourself?"

    She scorned the question.  "No, but sometimes people come to call!"

    "So you pay about forty-five pounds a year, the difference between comfort and poverty, chiefly that these callers may have a maid-of-all-work to answer the door for them instead of a gentlewoman."

    The woman or the man who first invented servants deserves our thanks.  Of course if they are good ones they always get the better of us, as is but right; but it is rather hard if they are also to get the better of those to whom it would be a great stroke of good luck to be without them, and who have been known to think so.

    Here, perhaps, I had better address the reader, in order that mistakes may be avoided.  You would hardly think, probably, if I did not tell you, that I consider myself to have been, on the whole, — though it is true that I ramble, — discussing the subject of Woman's Rights ever since I began it; but I find it a slippery thing to get hold of, and partly because I am not used to writing for the public, and partly on account of my chivalrous respect for the sex, which makes it most distasteful to me to find fault, I do not seem to get on as I could wish.  I should also like my house property to let better; but this motive for pushing on the matter must be a subordinate one, as the sequel will assuredly prove.

    I went to eat bread and cheese, and draw the corks of the ginger beer bottles, as before said; and it was in consequence of the discourse I then heard between Anna and her sister that I wrote the foregoing remarks, for they had been reading my chapter on Woman's Rights, and laughing at it.

    N. B.  What most people call Woman's Rights I call Woman's Duties, — rights and duties in this case being convertible terms.

    I made some remark of this kind, on which the matron said: "Well, it is all very proper to laugh at, Jack, but I am determined not to be made ridiculous for nothing.  Godfrey has simply undone a good many things in our lives at present; but now I mean him to do a good many things, and Jack will have to help."

    "You had better help him yourself; the help now must come from women."

    "O yes, from women," said the maid, "but not from a woman.  Jack does not really think that you can help, Anna, or that I can."

    "I have made a scheme," said Anna with a decisive air of superiority.

    Now when I say that some of these pages are the direct result of my cogitations on Anna s scheme, the reader will at once know what sort of a scheme it was.

    "We want to talk to you about those two houses of yours in such and such a road," she began.

    I shall not specify the part of London in which those two houses stood, further than by saying that it was particularly unfashionable.  It was a wide road on a rising ground, and it was somewhere between the Baker-street Station of the Metropolitan Railway and the "Angel" at Islington.

    "You are going to let those two houses to us," continued Anna, "or rather to me; and you will allow me to break two doors in the wall between them, one on the ground floor and one in the floor over the drawing-room.  Godfrey is always talking about 'voluntary descent.'  I am tired of those words; but I have begun to think that if he could truly descend for a part of the day he would be as happy as a prince, and would enjoy himself like a man of education during the remainder.  But I must help him.  He would never have though of such a scheme for himself; so I mean to turn those two houses into something between a boarding-house and a lodging-house.  We shall have no servants.  I shall superintend.  Godfrey shall clean the knives and shoes for all the inmates, — also carry up the coals and go the errands.  Katharina will answer the door."

    "Katharina — answer — the door!"

    "Don't shout, Jack."

    "Katharina answer the door at a charity concern!"

    "Don't shout, Jack," repeated Katharina.  "I never saw such a noble air of indignation on your manly visage before.  Yes, — this is the direct result of your talk and teaching on Woman's Rights.  We are going to reform the world."

    "I have no patience with such nonsense.  However, you are not in earnest, of course."

    "Yes, we are; but it is not going to be a charity concern, — very much the contrary. I must do something after Christmas, of course."

    "Those are good houses," interrupted Anna.  "London has long overtaken them, and you know you told us yourself that they were thrown or your hands and were a loss to you because they stand back, as the other houses do, in narrow gardens.  When the leases of the other houses fall in, a row of shops will be run out into their gardens; but you may not build till this occurs."

    I began to be almost afraid that they were in earnest, and I only answered, "Nonsense!"

    "This is how we are always met," said Katharina demurely.  "It is the old story.  They say we cannot organize; and then they say 'Nonsense!' when we do."

    "But it is going to be done, Jack," said Anna.

    "Not in my houses, —"

    Katharina broke into the discourse again here.  "O yes, Jack, in yours!  You must have the courage of your opinions, you know.  He is often talking about new lights breaking upon his mind, Anna.  I used to think of Jack's mind, when I was a little girl, as if it must be riddled through and through by the holes those lights had made.  It is odd, after all these years, that there is not light enough inside it to show him the merits of our scheme."  She stopped to laugh, and then went on.  "You will have the floors of those houses stained for us, no doubt, and every day except Sunday I shall sweep them down with a long broom from top to bottom."

    "This is the direct outcome of your own notions," repeated Anna.

    So Godfrey was to be cured by "a heir of the dog that bit him."  Pardon my bad spelling.  Was I that dog?  Well, I am afraid I put a good many of his ideas into his head, but I had no suspicion then where they would lead him.

    "This scheme will oblige Godfrey to settle and root himself again," continued Anna; "and you know you say often that it is a disastrous thing to have no roots."

    "Excepting for islands," said Katharina.

    I had remarked the previous day that if islands had no roots we might (I was thinking specially of the sister island) — we might tow them out if we took our whole navy to the task.  We might anchor that particular island in the midst of the Atlantic, or moor her to the United States.  What a blessed thing that would be for — the States?

    "One of those is a really nice house," said Anna.  "Two large sitting-rooms on the ground floor, — a dining-room and a drawing-room, — one on either side the street door; and two nice rooms behind them, looking into a square garden.  Above these are five bedrooms, all good; and above again there are three tolerably comfortable attics.  Then below, only half underground, there are good kitchen-offices, and there is a capital room, with a boarded floor, which might be used as a nursery or work-room, and there is an eating-room.  Then, next door is the other house two stories higher, of the common London type, much newer, and yet I should think seventy or eighty years old, — a ten-roomed house.  As the houses are in such an utterly old-fashioned locality, the low one lets for ninety-five pounds a year, and the high for sixty-five.  With taxes, you told me they would cost the occupants two or three pounds less than three hundred a year, both together.  I shall have no carpets or curtains, and you will have to stain the floors.  I mean to have nine sets of people in them, all precisely equal, — such people as now pay about fifty pounds a year for rent, without rates and taxes, or for lodgings, and most of whom have one or two servants; and they will all soon be rich instead of being miserably poor, only —"

    "Only," I prompted her, finding that she paused.

    And she went on, "Only they will have their sitting-rooms in common, and will have their meals together.  No doubt they will sit in their bedrooms, however, a good deal, just as people do in a French hotel."

    Here she held up her hand, and began to count on her fingers.  "I thought first of having ten sets of people.  The tens in three hundred are thirty.  What are the nines in three hundred, Katharina?"

    O these fair creatures; how unbusiness-like they are!  Katharina did not answer.

    "Well, we'll say ten.  Then each set will have to pay thirty pounds for rent and taxes.  There are sixteen bedrooms in all, for all the rooms in the high house will be bedrooms."

    Here Katharina, who had been making a calculation in her own mind, enriched the conversation with a remark essentially feminine.

    "It would make it much easier if you said you would have eight sets of people.  That would come to thirty-eight pounds ten, for each set to pay for rent and rates and taxes, and there would be two bedrooms for each."  She added with great naοvetι, — "and there would not be so many to quarrel."

    "I think it will come to pass, Jack," said Anna persuasively.

    "Do you really?" I exclaimed.  "Well, I must go now and fetch your grandmother."  And I left them abruptly.  Katharina answer the door!


 
CHAPTER XI.


WELL, I called this a book without beginning, and now it shows signs of going on without end.  It certainly was not intended to chronicle the doings of two feminine plotters against cooks and housemaids, for such I perceive to be the gist of Anna's scheme.

    I set forth to fetch their grandmother, for the dinner was to be ready in an hour, — that is, about five o'clock; and the air being ominously warm still, and yet rather damp (though we had had no rain), I expected a break in the weather, and thought her visit must take place at once if it took place at all.  Take place it did.  All went off well at first; for, surprised as the old lady was at the mιnage, her position as guest made it imperative on her to be civil.

    "Well, Jack," said Katharina, when she found opportunity to speak to me apart, "Anna gets on fast.  I am sure the scheme will answer.  I feel quite zealous about it."

    "You could not have a worse symptom, — surtout point de zιle, as I say to my old watch every night when I wind her up.  Why, she goes so fast in her zeal for work that she gains a good hour in every twenty-four; and what does she get by it?  Neither thanks nor help, for I regularly put her back."

    "You had better let us try the thing in your houses," answered Katharina; "if not I think it will be tried in somebody else's.  Why, where is grandmother to go, and where am I to go?"

    "It will be Godfrey's duty to give his wife's grandmother a comfortable home if her own has to be broken up; and you — "

    She interrupted: "And I?  Surely I am at least fit to answer a door and do errands."

    "You are much more fit to be a good fellow's wife.  You seem to me quite to forget Another."

    I never omit an opportunity to mention Another; it is a point of honour with me.  I may have particular reasons, but if so they are nothing, reader, to you.

    Oh, how she sighed; and then she made slowly and thoughtfully an answer that my heart ached to hear.

    "Jack, it is more than a year now since we were first aware that grandmother would lose her property; and I felt, I mean I was sure, that what she had always said she should leave to me and my sisters counted somewhat with —"

    "With Another?" I asked in a low voice.  I was shocked for her, and wondered what was coming next.

    She sighed again, and seemed to be looking earnestly at the dark blue rims of the hills.  An unwonted touch of the rose was spread on her cheek and was infinitely becoming to her.

    "I did it for the best," she faltered, and turned away her face with an air of beautiful shame.  "I mean I did not write at first to tell him, because he owed me a letter, — and I hardly know how it is.  It cannot surely be his doing; but when I have in past years written twice to his once, I have always been made to feel that he was surprised."

    I wished at that moment that he had been there.  The savage in me, or what divines call the Old Adam, asserted itself, and testified that it would be sweet to kick him.

    She went on.

    "And so I waited, only on that account; and when I did write, of course I mentioned it and said when we had first heard it, and I expressed my regret on his account.  Then he, — O Jack, he wrote almost directly, and again he was surprised, and said so.  He was disappointed that I should have known this for months and not have told it to him."

    There was a touching humility in Katharina's manner.

    "Mean hound!" I muttered under my breath; and I hope she did not hear me, for she seemed to be deprecating any blame for him, and she tried to excuse him further.  "A long engagement is a great drag to a man.  He has given to ours five of the best years of his life."

    "So have you," I answered.

    "Of course!" she said, as if any drag it might have been to her was hardly worth mentioning.  Then suddenly rousing up, and speaking as if almost in spite of herself, she exclaimed: "But the hint that I had concealed my loss of a future fortune hurt me as if it had been a sting," — then checking herself she went on: "But I did not tell him so.  I wrote as gently as I could."

    Could this be Katharina?

    "And he has not answered?" was all I could find to say in reply.

    "No, and in the mean time inaction and uncertainty make me feel miserable and if you can let Anna have those houses —"

    "You think it would be a pleasant change for you to live in a dull neighbourhood in London, and answer a house-bell; but what do you suppose Another would think?  Will he approve when he returns?"

    Katharina, with a facility which showed how little she had thought on the matter, gave up that part of her plan at once.  "We need not have any answering of the door.  Anna says the low house has a vestibule shut in with glass doors.  We might have a brass plate outside under the visitors' bell, and engraved on it: 'Ring, then enter and shut the door.'  We could keep the glass door locked.  On hearing the bell it would be the business of some one to go and unlock it and let in the visitor, who would then be in the vestibule.  For all parcels and things for the kitchen there would be the kitchen door.  The thing we should most want would be a lift.  Will there be a lift?"

    "Probably, if I let Godfrey take the houses and he makes one.  Has the scheme been mentioned to him?"

    "Not yet.  Anna thought it better to say nothing till she had thought the thing out, or decided on all the people.  She has made sure of some to whom she spoke last spring."

    Then Katharina mentioned our friend F.'s sister, a widow with small means, mother of the chubby-faced boy.  Her husband had been a benevolent physician whose practice had brought him in little beyond the blessings of the poor, unless you like to count the presumable blessing of heaven.  Anna had discussed the scheme with F.  He was much taken with it, perhaps because his sister was living beyond her income.  He urged that it should be begun at once, and wanted to force it on.

    "Habit that, nothing but habit," said I.  "He forced strawberries last spring; and when I said they were better in their season, he pitied me and forced a smile."

    Then she mentioned a curate, an old friend.  Let us call him John Blank.  He was married; his wife had about one hundred a year; and they were both tamed by narrow means, four children, and constant intercourse with the wretched.  What a jolly young fellow he once was!  I remember his telling me, when we were lads, that once when living in London his purse was stolen, and he knew not what to do till he bethought himself of a certain beggar to whom he had often given pence; so he went to the beggar's beat and borrowed a sovereign of him, promising to return it next day, which he did.  Then the beggar with a twinkle in his eye said, "Is there any think else I can do for you, sir?"  And I said, "No," quoth Blank, "unless he would remember me in his will."

    I often see him now in his cups, "swelling visibly" (as Dickens would express it) at afternoon tea, for he is a total abstainer, and a most intemperate one; though certainly there is nothing in his drink to excite him, for, as the clerk of his church remarked, "You can liquor up, but you cannot water up."

    So our friend F.'s sister, with the chubby-faced boy who attended King's College School, were to make up the first set of inmates, and John Blank and his family the second set.  The third would be Katharina and her grandmother.  From this latter they would get plenty of advice gratis.  All these people were perfectly well acquainted with one another.  The fourth set would be Godfrey and his family.

    You may often flatter yourself ,that you know something of your grown-up fellow-mortals, but children are destined to be always surprising.  Little Jerome surprised me after that very conversation with Katharina.  He came and sat beside us with a countenance of the sweetest innocence, when suddenly he exclaimed: "John Jerome,"—so he has been taught to address me, — "John Jerome, what's a ghost like?"

    "There are no such things as ghosts," said Katharina promptly.

    "But if there were ghosts," persisted the child, what would they be like?"

    If you cannot explain a thing to a small boy, it is then, as I have found, best to answer him with a sentence that he cannot possibly make anything of; and he will ponder over it and cease to pose you.

    "I cannot explain that," I answered; "you are talking nonsense.  You might just as well ask How tall is a nonentity?  Where is Newgate now it has been pulled down? or Who is the Old Bailey?"

    "Who is he?" asked the incorrigible infant.  "There's no such person."

    "Oh —"

    Here we were called by the tinker's daughter to come to the tent to tea.  I could not help pitying Anna when I saw her surrounded by these her husband's chosen associates.  The presence of her grandmother seemed to show her afresh how incongruous were the elements brought together.  The choir-master's wife was there too.  She had brought a cream cheese and Anna had purchased it of her; and when we came up she was relating some recent experiences.  She had paid a visit to London, going by an excursion train; and she was eloquent on the wonders of the shops and omnibuses, and the crowds of people.  "And they took us to see the pictures where those fountains are.  I did like that."

    Godfrey beamed upon her.  It was the first time that art, real art, had been brought before her notice, and her unsophisticated mind perceived its beauty at once.  She did like that.

    "Which pictures pleased you most?" he asked.

    "Well, there was a tailor cutting out a coat, for one.  He was as natural as life."

    "Yes, you are right; that is a fine picture."

    "But the one I took most particular notice of was what they call a Cardinal, I think.  Well, Godfrey, I can only say the button-holes in that man's coat, — they seemed worked so as you could see every stitch, and his cunning little eyes followed us round the place; but the silk of his tippet was that beautifully done that you could even see the quality.  It was the corded sort, worth about eight and sixpence a yard.  'I'll never say another word again pictures so long as I live,' says a man that stood by; and then several others said the same.  Andrea was the name of the gentleman in the picture."

    I think Godfrey would have been very glad if his wife's grandmother had not heard those last critical remarks; but if a man should "have the courage of his opinions," he certainly should "have the courage of his actions."  Godfrey had asked me whether I did not think he ought to make these honest people welcome to his society and I said, "Certainly!" and so long as his wife was to live on an open moor, the more honest tinkers and gardeners with their honest wives she had about her, the better.  There was, however, a sparkle in the grandmother's eye that annoyed him, and Katharina openly smiled.

    I was too much occupied to notice much of what went on, for the mist I had foreseen was coming up faster than was pleasant, and my Malay did not appear with the cob to take the grandmother home.  There was nothing for it but to sit quietly.  Rather a marked silence had followed.  Anna looked at me uneasily.  We were on an elevated spot; but a barley-field, seen some way off, showed its sheaves standing with ghostlike indistinctness.  Of course whatever happened she could not offer her grandmother a bed.  Go home in the open carriage she must.  The tinker and his daughter withdrew; so did the choir-master's wife; and we sat and made conversation as well as we could, till suddenly little George, who is in general as silent as his father, took advantage of a pause and began, "Father, when I go to heaven —"

    A startled look came over Godfrey's face, as if he would greatly have grudged his firstborn to that better country; but when the child paused, he said, "Well, my boy?"

    "When I am in heaven, and the Queen is in heaven too, will the tradespeople say 'Your Majesty' to her?"

    "No," answered Godfrey, after pondering for a moment, and then probably giving up the hope of making a fuller answer.

    "Are you sure, father?"

    "Yes, I believe I may say that I am quite sure."

    "I s'pose then," quoth the other little fellow, "they'll only say Ma'am.'  And what do you think we shall say to the angels?"

    "I have never been told, — I don't know."

    "Does anybody know?"

    "I think not."

    The cob at last, and very restless and unwilling to stand.  Such a drive home as we had may I never encounter again, — in a thick mist, over an open country, with a timid old lady beside me, and a restless horse inclined to shy at the sheaves and at everything else that in the mist took an unwonted aspect.  My Malay boy was to walk home.  Katharina sat behind.  We lost our way three times.  The grandmother caught a very severe cold, and was ill for more than a week.  In the mean time the weather broke up, — first a tempest, then a downfall of rain, then another tempest with a fog to follow, then some chilly damp days.

    Anna had promptly withdrawn with her boys and her maid to the nearest inn, leaving Godfrey to pack, "fold his tents like the Arabs, and silently steal away."  But she made an excuse of this illness to come and see her grandmother every day, and at the same hour my Malay boy also made an excuse to absent himself daily, and I believe he and Anna always met in the road; which circumstance, together with my having picked up a piece of paper with the words "Agreeable Miss" heading it, as if it was to be a letter, made me surer than ever that he was trying to make himself acceptable to the little cockney with the flaxen hair.  I might have remembered, when I despised that creature for being so small, so altogether petty, that after all she was the size of life.

    But I did not expect her to bring matters on very fast, and was surprised to learn one morning that the lad was off, — had dressed himself in his best clothes, taken his other effects with him, and departed, telling our landlady that he was going to be married.  He had laid the cloth for breakfast, and when Katharina lifted up the teapot she found a letter behind it addressed to me.

    It ran thus:—


"HONOURED JOHN JEROME, ESQUIRE

    "The fate of a man is not that which commute he possibly, when the day appears.  I to you declare this that I depart.  The cob have I given his corn.  Do not weep for me.  I go to unite myself with Maria.  With her I shall no more lament the absence of your honourable mare. If the mare had you not sold I would not have leave you desolate Profound Salaams.

"G. C. REA."


    I was exceedingly cross, but I could see that Katharina was much amused.  She remarked that Anna, being now left with the two boys, would see how she really liked doing entirely without a servant.  "For, as you can easily see, Jack," she observed, "her scheme is chiefly one for dispensing with servants."

    "I think you mean, for turning all the inmates of her houses into servants," I replied; "you will all find plenty to do."

    "Not half what there is to do in an ordinary house," she answered.  "It will all be done by one o'clock because there will be so many to do it.  Some will be upstairs; some will be in the kitchen, cooking.  We have learned to cook already at those fashionable classes.  The house will need the less cleaning because of there being no carpets.  Each set of people will have saved out what is best and handsomest of their furniture, books, and other possessions; so that the whole house, including sitting-rooms, will be handsomely furnished, and rugs and mats will be laid down on the floors."

    "All right," I exclaimed; "anything to get rid of servants.  They are unmitigated nuisances, — ungrateful sometimes, frequently dishonest, and always extravagant."

    I was angry just then, and could not help showing it.  Where, indeed, was I to get a man at an hour's notice to attend to my cob and the carriage, wait at table (for my landlady utterly declined to enter the sitting-rooms), and do all the errands, — an invalid's requirements among them?

    These latter included medicines, and sometimes wanted fetching by the railway from the nearest town, which was twelve miles off.

    Katharina has occasionally a sweet touch of deference in her manner which is very becoming to her.  To be sure it generally enables her to get what she wants!  I never like to be bullied by a woman.

    She put down her egg.  She was just then cracking its shell.

    "When you said 'all right,'" she began, "perhaps you did not mean that we were to have the houses and do as we liked."

    I was surprised and remained silent.

    "I thought for the moment that you did," she went on; "but I do not want to be unfair, or to make out that you have promised them if you have not."

    I felt that this was all Another's doing, — this pathetic desire for something to occupy her hands and her thoughts; and yet, though I had never felt more displeased with him, what happiness could she hope for but in his eventual return? and what would become of her if he, finding she had put herself out of the station in which she had been born, was angry and got up a quarrel and a separation from her?  Another, as I know well, is as proud as he is mean. I like to think trenchant truths concerning him, though I keep them to myself for her sake.

    "What of Another?" I said; "will he be displeased?"

    There was a long pause.  At last she lifted up her face: "Do you think there is any risk of that?"

    "I am afraid there is."

    "You seem to have a very mean opinion of him."

    There was a poser for me.  I could not deny it, and silence was consent.

    "I am sure he is not unreasonable," she said at last.  "This is manifestly the right thing to be done if I can do it.  He will acknowledge that it is.  It insures that I shall be with Anna, that grandmamma shall be with us both, and that we shall have plenty to live upon.  Yes, I will do what I think right, if I may."

    "Very well," I replied; "then when I say 'all right' I mean that you shall have the houses and do as you please in them."

    Consent appeared all the sweeter to Katharina because it had not been forthcoming at once; and then she talked, — and she talked till she almost made me feel that she was to inherit a fortune instead of losing one.  The next day Anna came to see us, went upstairs to pay her respects to the invalid, as in duty bound, then descended and talked to us.

    Where were the boys?

    Oh, she had telegraphed to London for Martha, and Martha had arrived.  The boys were with her.

    Martha was a housemaid who had been left in London.

    "What an advantage it will be to get rid of servants altogether," quoth I fervently.

    "And of the tents," said Anna.

    "And of the carpets, and the dinner parties, and the leisure."

    "And of the tents," repeated Anna.

    It is of no use arguing with a woman.

    "I thought you rather liked the tents."

    "I thought so myself till I discovered this way of getting out of them.  As to leisure, we shall have nothing to do after one o'clock, when we are to dine.  We shall not have a late dinner.  The lords of creation will dine in the middle of the day away from home, as we find they do now.  The tea-things for afternoon tea will be set out on a table in the drawing-room; for each family must have an afternoon once a week to be at home for its special friends, and exclusive use of the room for that day, — grandmother and I can have the same day, — the other inmates sitting in other rooms or being out.  Then there will be a grand meal at eight o'clock for all, — cold meat and fruit and tea and coffee.  It will not take long to lay the cloth for it, — there will be many to do it, — and all will come up on the lift.  We must have great order and punctuality."

    "If the scheme is really to be so advantageous, why does it want so much excusing and explaining?"

    "Because it is untried.  But when it has answered thoroughly I shall extend it.  Then you will admire it!  There will soon be a whole street full of such pairs of houses.  The inmates will have been so far sifted that they will be pleased to associate together; and if outsiders take it into their heads to look down on them it will not signify, for they can have a great deal of society among themselves.  They will all be in easy circumstances and be equals in birth and standing.  Of course they will have the best of their goods, books, and musical instruments with them."

    "Yes! and we shall have taken ourselves with us," said Katharina; "we shall not succumb to circumstances and become quite other selves."

    "That is the best thing I have heard yet; but it remains to be proved whether you can ride rough-shod over circumstances, and keep the same tone of manners and the same degree of culture that you have now."

    "You would not doubt it if you could enter into the scheme more heartily, and if you knew more of it."

    "Can it be that I know less of it than you do?  However, I agree that we often make mistakes for want of fuller knowledge.  I was walking in the Bishop's garden yesterday, beyond the town, and if I told you that I met there a vertebrate animal of a genus which can talk, you would not know whether it was the Bishop or whether it was his tame jackdaw that I met, even if I should add that the vertebrate accosted me with 'How are you, mate?'"

    "It was the jackdaw."

    "You cannot prove that, for want of more knowledge."



[Chapter  XII.]

 


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