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´╗┐Title: News from Nowhere, or, an Epoch of Rest : being some chapters from a utopian romance
Author: Morris, William, 1834-1896
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "News from Nowhere, or, an Epoch of Rest : being some chapters from a utopian romance" ***

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Transcribed from the 1908 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition by David
Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org



NEWS FROM NOWHERE
OR
AN EPOCH OF REST
BEING SOME CHAPTERS FROM
A UTOPIAN ROMANCE


BY
WILLIAM MORRIS,
AUTHOR OF 'THE EARTHLY PARADISE.'

_TENTH IMPRESSION_

LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK, BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA
1908

_All rights reserved_

_First printed serially in the_ Commonweal, 1890.

_Thence reprinted at Boston_, _Mass._, 1890.

_First English Edition_, _revised_, _Reeves & Turner_, 1891.

_Reprinted April_, _June_ 1891; _March_ 1892.

_Kelmscott Press Edition_, 1892.

_Since reprinted March_ 1895; _January_ 1897; _November_ 1899; _August_
1902; _July_ 1905; _January_ 1907; _and January_ 1908.



CHAPTER I: DISCUSSION AND BED


Up at the League, says a friend, there had been one night a brisk
conversational discussion, as to what would happen on the Morrow of the
Revolution, finally shading off into a vigorous statement by various
friends of their views on the future of the fully-developed new society.

Says our friend: Considering the subject, the discussion was
good-tempered; for those present being used to public meetings and after-
lecture debates, if they did not listen to each others' opinions (which
could scarcely be expected of them), at all events did not always attempt
to speak all together, as is the custom of people in ordinary polite
society when conversing on a subject which interests them.  For the rest,
there were six persons present, and consequently six sections of the
party were represented, four of which had strong but divergent Anarchist
opinions.  One of the sections, says our friend, a man whom he knows very
well indeed, sat almost silent at the beginning of the discussion, but at
last got drawn into it, and finished by roaring out very loud, and
damning all the rest for fools; after which befel a period of noise, and
then a lull, during which the aforesaid section, having said good-night
very amicably, took his way home by himself to a western suburb, using
the means of travelling which civilisation has forced upon us like a
habit.  As he sat in that vapour-bath of hurried and discontented
humanity, a carriage of the underground railway, he, like others, stewed
discontentedly, while in self-reproachful mood he turned over the many
excellent and conclusive arguments which, though they lay at his fingers'
ends, he had forgotten in the just past discussion.  But this frame of
mind he was so used to, that it didn't last him long, and after a brief
discomfort, caused by disgust with himself for having lost his temper
(which he was also well used to), he found himself musing on the subject-
matter of discussion, but still discontentedly and unhappily.  "If I
could but see a day of it," he said to himself; "if I could but see it!"

As he formed the words, the train stopped at his station, five minutes'
walk from his own house, which stood on the banks of the Thames, a little
way above an ugly suspension bridge.  He went out of the station, still
discontented and unhappy, muttering "If I could but see it! if I could
but see it!" but had not gone many steps towards the river before (says
our friend who tells the story) all that discontent and trouble seemed to
slip off him.

It was a beautiful night of early winter, the air just sharp enough to be
refreshing after the hot room and the stinking railway carriage.  The
wind, which had lately turned a point or two north of west, had blown the
sky clear of all cloud save a light fleck or two which went swiftly down
the heavens.  There was a young moon halfway up the sky, and as the home-
farer caught sight of it, tangled in the branches of a tall old elm, he
could scarce bring to his mind the shabby London suburb where he was, and
he felt as if he were in a pleasant country place--pleasanter, indeed,
than the deep country was as he had known it.

He came right down to the river-side, and lingered a little, looking over
the low wall to note the moonlit river, near upon high water, go swirling
and glittering up to Chiswick Eyot: as for the ugly bridge below, he did
not notice it or think of it, except when for a moment (says our friend)
it struck him that he missed the row of lights down stream.  Then he
turned to his house door and let himself in; and even as he shut the door
to, disappeared all remembrance of that brilliant logic and foresight
which had so illuminated the recent discussion; and of the discussion
itself there remained no trace, save a vague hope, that was now become a
pleasure, for days of peace and rest, and cleanness and smiling goodwill.

In this mood he tumbled into bed, and fell asleep after his wont, in two
minutes' time; but (contrary to his wont) woke up again not long after in
that curiously wide-awake condition which sometimes surprises even good
sleepers; a condition under which we feel all our wits preternaturally
sharpened, while all the miserable muddles we have ever got into, all the
disgraces and losses of our lives, will insist on thrusting themselves
forward for the consideration of those sharpened wits.

In this state he lay (says our friend) till he had almost begun to enjoy
it: till the tale of his stupidities amused him, and the entanglements
before him, which he saw so clearly, began to shape themselves into an
amusing story for him.

He heard one o'clock strike, then two and then three; after which he fell
asleep again.  Our friend says that from that sleep he awoke once more,
and afterwards went through such surprising adventures that he thinks
that they should be told to our comrades, and indeed the public in
general, and therefore proposes to tell them now.  But, says he, I think
it would be better if I told them in the first person, as if it were
myself who had gone through them; which, indeed, will be the easier and
more natural to me, since I understand the feelings and desires of the
comrade of whom I am telling better than any one else in the world does.



CHAPTER II: A MORNING BATH


Well, I awoke, and found that I had kicked my bedclothes off; and no
wonder, for it was hot and the sun shining brightly.  I jumped up and
washed and hurried on my clothes, but in a hazy and half-awake condition,
as if I had slept for a long, long while, and could not shake off the
weight of slumber.  In fact, I rather took it for granted that I was at
home in my own room than saw that it was so.

When I was dressed, I felt the place so hot that I made haste to get out
of the room and out of the house; and my first feeling was a delicious
relief caused by the fresh air and pleasant breeze; my second, as I began
to gather my wits together, mere measureless wonder: for it was winter
when I went to bed the last night, and now, by witness of the river-side
trees, it was summer, a beautiful bright morning seemingly of early June.
However, there was still the Thames sparkling under the sun, and near
high water, as last night I had seen it gleaming under the moon.

I had by no means shaken off the feeling of oppression, and wherever I
might have been should scarce have been quite conscious of the place; so
it was no wonder that I felt rather puzzled in despite of the familiar
face of the Thames.  Withal I felt dizzy and queer; and remembering that
people often got a boat and had a swim in mid-stream, I thought I would
do no less.  It seems very early, quoth I to myself, but I daresay I
shall find someone at Biffin's to take me.  However, I didn't get as far
as Biffin's, or even turn to my left thitherward, because just then I
began to see that there was a landing-stage right before me in front of
my house: in fact, on the place where my next-door neighbour had rigged
one up, though somehow it didn't look like that either.  Down I went on
to it, and sure enough among the empty boats moored to it lay a man on
his sculls in a solid-looking tub of a boat clearly meant for bathers.  He
nodded to me, and bade me good-morning as if he expected me, so I jumped
in without any words, and he paddled away quietly as I peeled for my
swim.  As we went, I looked down on the water, and couldn't help saying--

"How clear the water is this morning!"

"Is it?" said he; "I didn't notice it.  You know the flood-tide always
thickens it a bit."

"H'm," said I, "I have seen it pretty muddy even at half-ebb."

He said nothing in answer, but seemed rather astonished; and as he now
lay just stemming the tide, and I had my clothes off, I jumped in without
more ado.  Of course when I had my head above water again I turned
towards the tide, and my eyes naturally sought for the bridge, and so
utterly astonished was I by what I saw, that I forgot to strike out, and
went spluttering under water again, and when I came up made straight for
the boat; for I felt that I must ask some questions of my waterman, so
bewildering had been the half-sight I had seen from the face of the river
with the water hardly out of my eyes; though by this time I was quit of
the slumbrous and dizzy feeling, and was wide-awake and clear-headed.

As I got in up the steps which he had lowered, and he held out his hand
to help me, we went drifting speedily up towards Chiswick; but now he
caught up the sculls and brought her head round again, and said--"A short
swim, neighbour; but perhaps you find the water cold this morning, after
your journey.  Shall I put you ashore at once, or would you like to go
down to Putney before breakfast?"

He spoke in a way so unlike what I should have expected from a
Hammersmith waterman, that I stared at him, as I answered, "Please to
hold her a little; I want to look about me a bit."

"All right," he said; "it's no less pretty in its way here than it is off
Barn Elms; it's jolly everywhere this time in the morning.  I'm glad you
got up early; it's barely five o'clock yet."

If I was astonished with my sight of the river banks, I was no less
astonished at my waterman, now that I had time to look at him and see him
with my head and eyes clear.

He was a handsome young fellow, with a peculiarly pleasant and friendly
look about his eyes,--an expression which was quite new to me then,
though I soon became familiar with it.  For the rest, he was dark-haired
and berry-brown of skin, well-knit and strong, and obviously used to
exercising his muscles, but with nothing rough or coarse about him, and
clean as might be.  His dress was not like any modern work-a-day clothes
I had seen, but would have served very well as a costume for a picture of
fourteenth century life: it was of dark blue cloth, simple enough, but of
fine web, and without a stain on it.  He had a brown leather belt round
his waist, and I noticed that its clasp was of damascened steel
beautifully wrought.  In short, he seemed to be like some specially manly
and refined young gentleman, playing waterman for a spree, and I
concluded that this was the case.

I felt that I must make some conversation; so I pointed to the Surrey
bank, where I noticed some light plank stages running down the foreshore,
with windlasses at the landward end of them, and said, "What are they
doing with those things here?  If we were on the Tay, I should have said
that they were for drawing the salmon nets; but here--"

"Well," said he, smiling, "of course that is what they _are_ for.  Where
there are salmon, there are likely to be salmon-nets, Tay or Thames; but
of course they are not always in use; we don't want salmon _every_ day of
the season."

I was going to say, "But is this the Thames?" but held my peace in my
wonder, and turned my bewildered eyes eastward to look at the bridge
again, and thence to the shores of the London river; and surely there was
enough to astonish me.  For though there was a bridge across the stream
and houses on its banks, how all was changed from last night!  The soap-
works with their smoke-vomiting chimneys were gone; the engineer's works
gone; the lead-works gone; and no sound of rivetting and hammering came
down the west wind from Thorneycroft's.  Then the bridge!  I had perhaps
dreamed of such a bridge, but never seen such an one out of an
illuminated manuscript; for not even the Ponte Vecchio at Florence came
anywhere near it.  It was of stone arches, splendidly solid, and as
graceful as they were strong; high enough also to let ordinary river
traffic through easily.  Over the parapet showed quaint and fanciful
little buildings, which I supposed to be booths or shops, beset with
painted and gilded vanes and spirelets.  The stone was a little
weathered, but showed no marks of the grimy sootiness which I was used to
on every London building more than a year old.  In short, to me a wonder
of a bridge.

The sculler noted my eager astonished look, and said, as if in answer to
my thoughts--

"Yes, it _is_ a pretty bridge, isn't it?  Even the up-stream bridges,
which are so much smaller, are scarcely daintier, and the down-stream
ones are scarcely more dignified and stately."

I found myself saying, almost against my will, "How old is it?"

"Oh, not very old," he said; "it was built or at least opened, in 2003.
There used to be a rather plain timber bridge before then."

The date shut my mouth as if a key had been turned in a padlock fixed to
my lips; for I saw that something inexplicable had happened, and that if
I said much, I should be mixed up in a game of cross questions and
crooked answers.  So I tried to look unconcerned, and to glance in a
matter-of-course way at the banks of the river, though this is what I saw
up to the bridge and a little beyond; say as far as the site of the soap-
works.  Both shores had a line of very pretty houses, low and not large,
standing back a little way from the river; they were mostly built of red
brick and roofed with tiles, and looked, above all, comfortable, and as
if they were, so to say, alive, and sympathetic with the life of the
dwellers in them.  There was a continuous garden in front of them, going
down to the water's edge, in which the flowers were now blooming
luxuriantly, and sending delicious waves of summer scent over the eddying
stream.  Behind the houses, I could see great trees rising, mostly
planes, and looking down the water there were the reaches towards Putney
almost as if they were a lake with a forest shore, so thick were the big
trees; and I said aloud, but as if to myself--

"Well, I'm glad that they have not built over Barn Elms."

I blushed for my fatuity as the words slipped out of my mouth, and my
companion looked at me with a half smile which I thought I understood; so
to hide my confusion I said, "Please take me ashore now: I want to get my
breakfast."

He nodded, and brought her head round with a sharp stroke, and in a trice
we were at the landing-stage again.  He jumped out and I followed him;
and of course I was not surprised to see him wait, as if for the
inevitable after-piece that follows the doing of a service to a fellow-
citizen.  So I put my hand into my waistcoat-pocket, and said, "How
much?" though still with the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps I was
offering money to a gentleman.

He looked puzzled, and said, "How much?  I don't quite understand what
you are asking about.  Do you mean the tide?  If so, it is close on the
turn now."

I blushed, and said, stammering, "Please don't take it amiss if I ask
you; I mean no offence: but what ought I to pay you?  You see I am a
stranger, and don't know your customs--or your coins."

And therewith I took a handful of money out of my pocket, as one does in
a foreign country.  And by the way, I saw that the silver had oxydised,
and was like a blackleaded stove in colour.

He still seemed puzzled, but not at all offended; and he looked at the
coins with some curiosity.  I thought, Well after all, he _is_ a
waterman, and is considering what he may venture to take.  He seems such
a nice fellow that I'm sure I don't grudge him a little over-payment.  I
wonder, by the way, whether I couldn't hire him as a guide for a day or
two, since he is so intelligent.

Therewith my new friend said thoughtfully:

"I think I know what you mean.  You think that I have done you a service;
so you feel yourself bound to give me something which I am not to give to
a neighbour, unless he has done something special for me.  I have heard
of this kind of thing; but pardon me for saying, that it seems to us a
troublesome and roundabout custom; and we don't know how to manage it.
And you see this ferrying and giving people casts about the water is my
_business_, which I would do for anybody; so to take gifts in connection
with it would look very queer.  Besides, if one person gave me something,
then another might, and another, and so on; and I hope you won't think me
rude if I say that I shouldn't know where to stow away so many mementos
of friendship."

And he laughed loud and merrily, as if the idea of being paid for his
work was a very funny joke.  I confess I began to be afraid that the man
was mad, though he looked sane enough; and I was rather glad to think
that I was a good swimmer, since we were so close to a deep swift stream.
However, he went on by no means like a madman:

"As to your coins, they are curious, but not very old; they seem to be
all of the reign of Victoria; you might give them to some
scantily-furnished museum.  Ours has enough of such coins, besides a fair
number of earlier ones, many of which are beautiful, whereas these
nineteenth century ones are so beastly ugly, ain't they?  We have a piece
of Edward III., with the king in a ship, and little leopards and fleurs-
de-lys all along the gunwale, so delicately worked.  You see," he said,
with something of a smirk, "I am fond of working in gold and fine metals;
this buckle here is an early piece of mine."

No doubt I looked a little shy of him under the influence of that doubt
as to his sanity.  So he broke off short, and said in a kind voice:

"But I see that I am boring you, and I ask your pardon.  For, not to
mince matters, I can tell that you _are_ a stranger, and must come from a
place very unlike England.  But also it is clear that it won't do to
overdose you with information about this place, and that you had best
suck it in little by little.  Further, I should take it as very kind in
you if you would allow me to be the showman of our new world to you,
since you have stumbled on me first.  Though indeed it will be a mere
kindness on your part, for almost anybody would make as good a guide, and
many much better."

There certainly seemed no flavour in him of Colney Hatch; and besides I
thought I could easily shake him off if it turned out that he really was
mad; so I said:

"It is a very kind offer, but it is difficult for me to accept it,
unless--"  I was going to say, Unless you will let me pay you properly;
but fearing to stir up Colney Hatch again, I changed the sentence into,
"I fear I shall be taking you away from your work--or your amusement."

"O," he said, "don't trouble about that, because it will give me an
opportunity of doing a good turn to a friend of mine, who wants to take
my work here.  He is a weaver from Yorkshire, who has rather overdone
himself between his weaving and his mathematics, both indoor work, you
see; and being a great friend of mine, he naturally came to me to get him
some outdoor work.  If you think you can put up with me, pray take me as
your guide."

He added presently: "It is true that I have promised to go up-stream to
some special friends of mine, for the hay-harvest; but they won't be
ready for us for more than a week: and besides, you might go with me, you
know, and see some very nice people, besides making notes of our ways in
Oxfordshire.  You could hardly do better if you want to see the country."

I felt myself obliged to thank him, whatever might come of it; and he
added eagerly:

"Well, then, that's settled.  I will give my friend call; he is living in
the Guest House like you, and if he isn't up yet, he ought to be this
fine summer morning."

Therewith he took a little silver bugle-horn from his girdle and blew two
or three sharp but agreeable notes on it; and presently from the house
which stood on the site of my old dwelling (of which more hereafter)
another young man came sauntering towards us.  He was not so well-looking
or so strongly made as my sculler friend, being sandy-haired, rather
pale, and not stout-built; but his face was not wanting in that happy and
friendly expression which I had noticed in his friend.  As he came up
smiling towards us, I saw with pleasure that I must give up the Colney
Hatch theory as to the waterman, for no two madmen ever behaved as they
did before a sane man.  His dress also was of the same cut as the first
man's, though somewhat gayer, the surcoat being light green with a golden
spray embroidered on the breast, and his belt being of filagree silver-
work.

He gave me good-day very civilly, and greeting his friend joyously, said:

"Well, Dick, what is it this morning?  Am I to have my work, or rather
your work?  I dreamed last night that we were off up the river fishing."

"All right, Bob," said my sculler; "you will drop into my place, and if
you find it too much, there is George Brightling on the look out for a
stroke of work, and he lives close handy to you.  But see, here is a
stranger who is willing to amuse me to-day by taking me as his guide
about our country-side, and you may imagine I don't want to lose the
opportunity; so you had better take to the boat at once.  But in any case
I shouldn't have kept you out of it for long, since I am due in the hay-
fields in a few days."

The newcomer rubbed his hands with glee, but turning to me, said in a
friendly voice:

"Neighbour, both you and friend Dick are lucky, and will have a good time
to-day, as indeed I shall too.  But you had better both come in with me
at once and get something to eat, lest you should forget your dinner in
your amusement.  I suppose you came into the Guest House after I had gone
to bed last night?"

I nodded, not caring to enter into a long explanation which would have
led to nothing, and which in truth by this time I should have begun to
doubt myself.  And we all three turned toward the door of the Guest
House.



CHAPTER III: THE GUEST HOUSE AND BREAKFAST THEREIN


I lingered a little behind the others to have a stare at this house,
which, as I have told you, stood on the site of my old dwelling.

It was a longish building with its gable ends turned away from the road,
and long traceried windows coming rather low down set in the wall that
faced us.  It was very handsomely built of red brick with a lead roof;
and high up above the windows there ran a frieze of figure subjects in
baked clay, very well executed, and designed with a force and directness
which I had never noticed in modern work before.  The subjects I
recognised at once, and indeed was very particularly familiar with them.

However, all this I took in in a minute; for we were presently within
doors, and standing in a hall with a floor of marble mosaic and an open
timber roof.  There were no windows on the side opposite to the river,
but arches below leading into chambers, one of which showed a glimpse of
a garden beyond, and above them a long space of wall gaily painted (in
fresco, I thought) with similar subjects to those of the frieze outside;
everything about the place was handsome and generously solid as to
material; and though it was not very large (somewhat smaller than Crosby
Hall perhaps), one felt in it that exhilarating sense of space and
freedom which satisfactory architecture always gives to an unanxious man
who is in the habit of using his eyes.

In this pleasant place, which of course I knew to be the hall of the
Guest House, three young women were flitting to and fro.  As they were
the first of the sex I had seen on this eventful morning, I naturally
looked at them very attentively, and found them at least as good as the
gardens, the architecture, and the male men.  As to their dress, which of
course I took note of, I should say that they were decently veiled with
drapery, and not bundled up with millinery; that they were clothed like
women, not upholstered like armchairs, as most women of our time are.  In
short, their dress was somewhat between that of the ancient classical
costume and the simpler forms of the fourteenth century garments, though
it was clearly not an imitation of either: the materials were light and
gay to suit the season.  As to the women themselves, it was pleasant
indeed to see them, they were so kind and happy-looking in expression of
face, so shapely and well-knit of body, and thoroughly healthy-looking
and strong.  All were at least comely, and one of them very handsome and
regular of feature.  They came up to us at once merrily and without the
least affectation of shyness, and all three shook hands with me as if I
were a friend newly come back from a long journey: though I could not
help noticing that they looked askance at my garments; for I had on my
clothes of last night, and at the best was never a dressy person.

A word or two from Robert the weaver, and they bustled about on our
behoof, and presently came and took us by the hands and led us to a table
in the pleasantest corner of the hall, where our breakfast was spread for
us; and, as we sat down, one of them hurried out by the chambers
aforesaid, and came back again in a little while with a great bunch of
roses, very different in size and quality to what Hammersmith had been
wont to grow, but very like the produce of an old country garden.  She
hurried back thence into the buttery, and came back once more with a
delicately made glass, into which she put the flowers and set them down
in the midst of our table.  One of the others, who had run off also, then
came back with a big cabbage-leaf filled with strawberries, some of them
barely ripe, and said as she set them on the table, "There, now; I
thought of that before I got up this morning; but looking at the stranger
here getting into your boat, Dick, put it out of my head; so that I was
not before _all_ the blackbirds: however, there are a few about as good
as you will get them anywhere in Hammersmith this morning."

Robert patted her on the head in a friendly manner; and we fell to on our
breakfast, which was simple enough, but most delicately cooked, and set
on the table with much daintiness.  The bread was particularly good, and
was of several different kinds, from the big, rather close,
dark-coloured, sweet-tasting farmhouse loaf, which was most to my liking,
to the thin pipe-stems of wheaten crust, such as I have eaten in Turin.

As I was putting the first mouthfuls into my mouth my eye caught a carved
and gilded inscription on the panelling, behind what we should have
called the High Table in an Oxford college hall, and a familiar name in
it forced me to read it through.  Thus it ran:

   "_Guests and neighbours_, _on the site of this Guest-hall once stood
   the lecture-room of the Hammersmith Socialists_.  _Drink a glass to
   the memory_!  _May 1962_."

It is difficult to tell you how I felt as I read these words, and I
suppose my face showed how much I was moved, for both my friends looked
curiously at me, and there was silence between us for a little while.

Presently the weaver, who was scarcely so well mannered a man as the
ferryman, said to me rather awkwardly:

"Guest, we don't know what to call you: is there any indiscretion in
asking you your name?"

"Well," said I, "I have some doubts about it myself; so suppose you call
me Guest, which is a family name, you know, and add William to it if you
please."

Dick nodded kindly to me; but a shade of anxiousness passed over the
weaver's face, and he said--"I hope you don't mind my asking, but would
you tell me where you come from?  I am curious about such things for good
reasons, literary reasons."

Dick was clearly kicking him underneath the table; but he was not much
abashed, and awaited my answer somewhat eagerly.  As for me, I was just
going to blurt out "Hammersmith," when I bethought me what an
entanglement of cross purposes that would lead us into; so I took time to
invent a lie with circumstance, guarded by a little truth, and said:

"You see, I have been such a long time away from Europe that things seem
strange to me now; but I was born and bred on the edge of Epping Forest;
Walthamstow and Woodford, to wit."

"A pretty place, too," broke in Dick; "a very jolly place, now that the
trees have had time to grow again since the great clearing of houses in
1955."

Quoth the irrepressible weaver: "Dear neighbour, since you knew the
Forest some time ago, could you tell me what truth there is in the rumour
that in the nineteenth century the trees were all pollards?"

This was catching me on my archaeological natural-history side, and I
fell into the trap without any thought of where and when I was; so I
began on it, while one of the girls, the handsome one, who had been
scattering little twigs of lavender and other sweet-smelling herbs about
the floor, came near to listen, and stood behind me with her hand on my
shoulder, in which she held some of the plant that I used to call balm:
its strong sweet smell brought back to my mind my very early days in the
kitchen-garden at Woodford, and the large blue plums which grew on the
wall beyond the sweet-herb patch,--a connection of memories which all
boys will see at once.

I started off: "When I was a boy, and for long after, except for a piece
about Queen Elizabeth's Lodge, and for the part about High Beech, the
Forest was almost wholly made up of pollard hornbeams mixed with holly
thickets.  But when the Corporation of London took it over about twenty-
five years ago, the topping and lopping, which was a part of the old
commoners' rights, came to an end, and the trees were let to grow.  But I
have not seen the place now for many years, except once, when we Leaguers
went a pleasuring to High Beech.  I was very much shocked then to see how
it was built-over and altered; and the other day we heard that the
philistines were going to landscape-garden it.  But what you were saying
about the building being stopped and the trees growing is only too good
news;--only you know--"

At that point I suddenly remembered Dick's date, and stopped short rather
confused.  The eager weaver didn't notice my confusion, but said hastily,
as if he were almost aware of his breach of good manners, "But, I say,
how old are you?"

Dick and the pretty girl both burst out laughing, as if Robert's conduct
were excusable on the grounds of eccentricity; and Dick said amidst his
laughter:

"Hold hard, Bob; this questioning of guests won't do.  Why, much learning
is spoiling you.  You remind me of the radical cobblers in the silly old
novels, who, according to the authors, were prepared to trample down all
good manners in the pursuit of utilitarian knowledge.  The fact is, I
begin to think that you have so muddled your head with mathematics, and
with grubbing into those idiotic old books about political economy (he
he!), that you scarcely know how to behave.  Really, it is about time for
you to take to some open-air work, so that you may clear away the cobwebs
from your brain."

The weaver only laughed good-humouredly; and the girl went up to him and
patted his cheek and said laughingly, "Poor fellow! he was born so."

As for me, I was a little puzzled, but I laughed also, partly for
company's sake, and partly with pleasure at their unanxious happiness and
good temper; and before Robert could make the excuse to me which he was
getting ready, I said:

"But neighbours" (I had caught up that word), "I don't in the least mind
answering questions, when I can do so: ask me as many as you please; it's
fun for me.  I will tell you all about Epping Forest when I was a boy, if
you please; and as to my age, I'm not a fine lady, you know, so why
shouldn't I tell you?  I'm hard on fifty-six."

In spite of the recent lecture on good manners, the weaver could not help
giving a long "whew" of astonishment, and the others were so amused by
his _naivete_ that the merriment flitted all over their faces, though for
courtesy's sake they forbore actual laughter; while I looked from one to
the other in a puzzled manner, and at last said:

"Tell me, please, what is amiss: you know I want to learn from you.  And
please laugh; only tell me."

Well, they _did_ laugh, and I joined them again, for the above-stated
reasons.  But at last the pretty woman said coaxingly--

"Well, well, he _is_ rude, poor fellow! but you see I may as well tell
you what he is thinking about: he means that you look rather old for your
age.  But surely there need be no wonder in that, since you have been
travelling; and clearly from all you have been saying, in unsocial
countries.  It has often been said, and no doubt truly, that one ages
very quickly if one lives amongst unhappy people.  Also they say that
southern England is a good place for keeping good looks."  She blushed
and said: "How old am I, do you think?"

"Well," quoth I, "I have always been told that a woman is as old as she
looks, so without offence or flattery, I should say that you were
twenty."

She laughed merrily, and said, "I am well served out for fishing for
compliments, since I have to tell you the truth, to wit, that I am forty-
two."

I stared at her, and drew musical laughter from her again; but I might
well stare, for there was not a careful line on her face; her skin was as
smooth as ivory, her cheeks full and round, her lips as red as the roses
she had brought in; her beautiful arms, which she had bared for her work,
firm and well-knit from shoulder to wrist.  She blushed a little under my
gaze, though it was clear that she had taken me for a man of eighty; so
to pass it off I said--

"Well, you see, the old saw is proved right again, and I ought not to
have let you tempt me into asking you a rude question."

She laughed again, and said: "Well, lads, old and young, I must get to my
work now.  We shall be rather busy here presently; and I want to clear it
off soon, for I began to read a pretty old book yesterday, and I want to
get on with it this morning: so good-bye for the present."

She waved a hand to us, and stepped lightly down the hall, taking (as
Scott says) at least part of the sun from our table as she went.

When she was gone, Dick said "Now guest, won't you ask a question or two
of our friend here?  It is only fair that you should have your turn."

"I shall be very glad to answer them," said the weaver.

"If I ask you any questions, sir," said I, "they will not be very severe;
but since I hear that you are a weaver, I should like to ask you
something about that craft, as I am--or was--interested in it."

"Oh," said he, "I shall not be of much use to you there, I'm afraid.  I
only do the most mechanical kind of weaving, and am in fact but a poor
craftsman, unlike Dick here.  Then besides the weaving, I do a little
with machine printing and composing, though I am little use at the finer
kinds of printing; and moreover machine printing is beginning to die out,
along with the waning of the plague of book-making, so I have had to turn
to other things that I have a taste for, and have taken to mathematics;
and also I am writing a sort of antiquarian book about the peaceable and
private history, so to say, of the end of the nineteenth century,--more
for the sake of giving a picture of the country before the fighting began
than for anything else.  That was why I asked you those questions about
Epping Forest.  You have rather puzzled me, I confess, though your
information was so interesting.  But later on, I hope, we may have some
more talk together, when our friend Dick isn't here.  I know he thinks me
rather a grinder, and despises me for not being very deft with my hands:
that's the way nowadays.  From what I have read of the nineteenth century
literature (and I have read a good deal), it is clear to me that this is
a kind of revenge for the stupidity of that day, which despised everybody
who _could_ use his hands.  But Dick, old fellow, _Ne quid nimis_!  Don't
overdo it!"

"Come now," said Dick, "am I likely to?  Am I not the most tolerant man
in the world?  Am I not quite contented so long as you don't make me
learn mathematics, or go into your new science of aesthetics, and let me
do a little practical aesthetics with my gold and steel, and the blowpipe
and the nice little hammer?  But, hillo! here comes another questioner
for you, my poor guest.  I say, Bob, you must help me to defend him now."

"Here, Boffin," he cried out, after a pause; "here we are, if you must
have it!"

I looked over my shoulder, and saw something flash and gleam in the
sunlight that lay across the hall; so I turned round, and at my ease saw
a splendid figure slowly sauntering over the pavement; a man whose
surcoat was embroidered most copiously as well as elegantly, so that the
sun flashed back from him as if he had been clad in golden armour.  The
man himself was tall, dark-haired, and exceedingly handsome, and though
his face was no less kindly in expression than that of the others, he
moved with that somewhat haughty mien which great beauty is apt to give
to both men and women.  He came and sat down at our table with a smiling
face, stretching out his long legs and hanging his arm over the chair in
the slowly graceful way which tall and well-built people may use without
affectation.  He was a man in the prime of life, but looked as happy as a
child who has just got a new toy.  He bowed gracefully to me and said--

"I see clearly that you are the guest, of whom Annie has just told me,
who have come from some distant country that does not know of us, or our
ways of life.  So I daresay you would not mind answering me a few
questions; for you see--"

Here Dick broke in: "No, please, Boffin! let it alone for the present.  Of
course you want the guest to be happy and comfortable; and how can that
be if he has to trouble himself with answering all sorts of questions
while he is still confused with the new customs and people about him?  No,
no: I am going to take him where he can ask questions himself, and have
them answered; that is, to my great-grandfather in Bloomsbury: and I am
sure you can't have anything to say against that.  So instead of
bothering, you had much better go out to James Allen's and get a carriage
for me, as I shall drive him up myself; and please tell Jim to let me
have the old grey, for I can drive a wherry much better than a carriage.
Jump up, old fellow, and don't be disappointed; our guest will keep
himself for you and your stories."

I stared at Dick; for I wondered at his speaking to such a
dignified-looking personage so familiarly, not to say curtly; for I
thought that this Mr. Boffin, in spite of his well-known name out of
Dickens, must be at the least a senator of these strange people.  However,
he got up and said, "All right, old oar-wearer, whatever you like; this
is not one of my busy days; and though" (with a condescending bow to me)
"my pleasure of a talk with this learned guest is put off, I admit that
he ought to see your worthy kinsman as soon as possible.  Besides,
perhaps he will be the better able to answer _my_ questions after his own
have been answered."

And therewith he turned and swung himself out of the hall.

When he was well gone, I said: "Is it wrong to ask what Mr. Boffin is?
whose name, by the way, reminds me of many pleasant hours passed in
reading Dickens."

Dick laughed.  "Yes, yes," said he, "as it does us.  I see you take the
allusion.  Of course his real name is not Boffin, but Henry Johnson; we
only call him Boffin as a joke, partly because he is a dustman, and
partly because he will dress so showily, and get as much gold on him as a
baron of the Middle Ages.  As why should he not if he likes? only we are
his special friends, you know, so of course we jest with him."

I held my tongue for some time after that; but Dick went on:

"He is a capital fellow, and you can't help liking him; but he has a
weakness: he will spend his time in writing reactionary novels, and is
very proud of getting the local colour right, as he calls it; and as he
thinks you come from some forgotten corner of the earth, where people are
unhappy, and consequently interesting to a story-teller, he thinks he
might get some information out of you.  O, he will be quite
straightforward with you, for that matter.  Only for your own comfort
beware of him!"

"Well, Dick," said the weaver, doggedly, "I think his novels are very
good."

"Of course you do," said Dick; "birds of a feather flock together;
mathematics and antiquarian novels stand on much the same footing.  But
here he comes again."

And in effect the Golden Dustman hailed us from the hall-door; so we all
got up and went into the porch, before which, with a strong grey horse in
the shafts, stood a carriage ready for us which I could not help
noticing.  It was light and handy, but had none of that sickening
vulgarity which I had known as inseparable from the carriages of our
time, especially the "elegant" ones, but was as graceful and pleasant in
line as a Wessex waggon.  We got in, Dick and I.  The girls, who had come
into the porch to see us off, waved their hands to us; the weaver nodded
kindly; the dustman bowed as gracefully as a troubadour; Dick shook the
reins, and we were off.



CHAPTER IV: A MARKET BY THE WAY


We turned away from the river at once, and were soon in the main road
that runs through Hammersmith.  But I should have had no guess as to
where I was, if I had not started from the waterside; for King Street was
gone, and the highway ran through wide sunny meadows and garden-like
tillage.  The Creek, which we crossed at once, had been rescued from its
culvert, and as we went over its pretty bridge we saw its waters, yet
swollen by the tide, covered with gay boats of different sizes.  There
were houses about, some on the road, some amongst the fields with
pleasant lanes leading down to them, and each surrounded by a teeming
garden.  They were all pretty in design, and as solid as might be, but
countryfied in appearance, like yeomen's dwellings; some of them of red
brick like those by the river, but more of timber and plaster, which were
by the necessity of their construction so like mediaeval houses of the
same materials that I fairly felt as if I were alive in the fourteenth
century; a sensation helped out by the costume of the people that we met
or passed, in whose dress there was nothing "modern."  Almost everybody
was gaily dressed, but especially the women, who were so well-looking, or
even so handsome, that I could scarcely refrain my tongue from calling my
companion's attention to the fact.  Some faces I saw that were
thoughtful, and in these I noticed great nobility of expression, but none
that had a glimmer of unhappiness, and the greater part (we came upon a
good many people) were frankly and openly joyous.

I thought I knew the Broadway by the lie of the roads that still met
there.  On the north side of the road was a range of buildings and
courts, low, but very handsomely built and ornamented, and in that way
forming a great contrast to the unpretentiousness of the houses round
about; while above this lower building rose the steep lead-covered roof
and the buttresses and higher part of the wall of a great hall, of a
splendid and exuberant style of architecture, of which one can say little
more than that it seemed to me to embrace the best qualities of the
Gothic of northern Europe with those of the Saracenic and Byzantine,
though there was no copying of any one of these styles.  On the other,
the south side, of the road was an octagonal building with a high roof,
not unlike the Baptistry at Florence in outline, except that it was
surrounded by a lean-to that clearly made an arcade or cloisters to it:
it also was most delicately ornamented.

This whole mass of architecture which we had come upon so suddenly from
amidst the pleasant fields was not only exquisitely beautiful in itself,
but it bore upon it the expression of such generosity and abundance of
life that I was exhilarated to a pitch that I had never yet reached.  I
fairly chuckled for pleasure.  My friend seemed to understand it, and sat
looking on me with a pleased and affectionate interest.  We had pulled up
amongst a crowd of carts, wherein sat handsome healthy-looking people,
men, women, and children very gaily dressed, and which were clearly
market carts, as they were full of very tempting-looking country produce.

I said, "I need not ask if this is a market, for I see clearly that it
is; but what market is it that it is so splendid?  And what is the
glorious hall there, and what is the building on the south side?"

"O," said he, "it is just our Hammersmith market; and I am glad you like
it so much, for we are really proud of it.  Of course the hall inside is
our winter Mote-House; for in summer we mostly meet in the fields down by
the river opposite Barn Elms.  The building on our right hand is our
theatre: I hope you like it."

"I should be a fool if I didn't," said I.

He blushed a little as he said: "I am glad of that, too, because I had a
hand in it; I made the great doors, which are of damascened bronze.  We
will look at them later in the day, perhaps: but we ought to be getting
on now.  As to the market, this is not one of our busy days; so we shall
do better with it another time, because you will see more people."

I thanked him, and said: "Are these the regular country people?  What
very pretty girls there are amongst them."

As I spoke, my eye caught the face of a beautiful woman, tall,
dark-haired, and white-skinned, dressed in a pretty light-green dress in
honour of the season and the hot day, who smiled kindly on me, and more
kindly still, I thought on Dick; so I stopped a minute, but presently
went on:

"I ask because I do not see any of the country-looking people I should
have expected to see at a market--I mean selling things there."

"I don't understand," said he, "what kind of people you would expect to
see; nor quite what you mean by 'country' people.  These are the
neighbours, and that like they run in the Thames valley.  There are parts
of these islands which are rougher and rainier than we are here, and
there people are rougher in their dress; and they themselves are tougher
and more hard-bitten than we are to look at.  But some people like their
looks better than ours; they say they have more character in them--that's
the word.  Well, it's a matter of taste.--Anyhow, the cross between us
and them generally turns out well," added he, thoughtfully.

I heard him, though my eyes were turned away from him, for that pretty
girl was just disappearing through the gate with her big basket of early
peas, and I felt that disappointed kind of feeling which overtakes one
when one has seen an interesting or lovely face in the streets which one
is never likely to see again; and I was silent a little.  At last I said:
"What I mean is, that I haven't seen any poor people about--not one."

He knit his brows, looked puzzled, and said: "No, naturally; if anybody
is poorly, he is likely to be within doors, or at best crawling about the
garden: but I don't know of any one sick at present.  Why should you
expect to see poorly people on the road?"

"No, no," I said; "I don't mean sick people.  I mean poor people, you
know; rough people."

"No," said he, smiling merrily, "I really do not know.  The fact is, you
must come along quick to my great-grandfather, who will understand you
better than I do.  Come on, Greylocks!"  Therewith he shook the reins,
and we jogged along merrily eastward.



CHAPTER V: CHILDREN ON THE ROAD


Past the Broadway there were fewer houses on either side.  We presently
crossed a pretty little brook that ran across a piece of land dotted over
with trees, and awhile after came to another market and town-hall, as we
should call it.  Although there was nothing familiar to me in its
surroundings, I knew pretty well where we were, and was not surprised
when my guide said briefly, "Kensington Market."

Just after this we came into a short street of houses: or rather, one
long house on either side of the way, built of timber and plaster, and
with a pretty arcade over the footway before it.

Quoth Dick: "This is Kensington proper.  People are apt to gather here
rather thick, for they like the romance of the wood; and naturalists
haunt it, too; for it is a wild spot even here, what there is of it; for
it does not go far to the south: it goes from here northward and west
right over Paddington and a little way down Notting Hill: thence it runs
north-east to Primrose Hill, and so on; rather a narrow strip of it gets
through Kingsland to Stoke-Newington and Clapton, where it spreads out
along the heights above the Lea marshes; on the other side of which, as
you know, is Epping Forest holding out a hand to it.  This part we are
just coming to is called Kensington Gardens; though why 'gardens' I don't
know."

I rather longed to say, "Well, _I_ know"; but there were so many things
about me which I did _not_ know, in spite of his assumptions, that I
thought it better to hold my tongue.

The road plunged at once into a beautiful wood spreading out on either
side, but obviously much further on the north side, where even the oaks
and sweet chestnuts were of a good growth; while the quicker-growing
trees (amongst which I thought the planes and sycamores too numerous)
were very big and fine-grown.

It was exceedingly pleasant in the dappled shadow, for the day was
growing as hot as need be, and the coolness and shade soothed my excited
mind into a condition of dreamy pleasure, so that I felt as if I should
like to go on for ever through that balmy freshness.  My companion seemed
to share in my feelings, and let the horse go slower and slower as he sat
inhaling the green forest scents, chief amongst which was the smell of
the trodden bracken near the wayside.

Romantic as this Kensington wood was, however, it was not lonely.  We
came on many groups both coming and going, or wandering in the edges of
the wood.  Amongst these were many children from six or eight years old
up to sixteen or seventeen.  They seemed to me to be especially fine
specimens of their race, and enjoying themselves to the utmost; some of
them were hanging about little tents pitched on the greensward, and by
some of these fires were burning, with pots hanging over them gipsy
fashion.  Dick explained to me that there were scattered houses in the
forest, and indeed we caught a glimpse of one or two.  He said they were
mostly quite small, such as used to be called cottages when there were
slaves in the land, but they were pleasant enough and fitting for the
wood.

"They must be pretty well stocked with children," said I, pointing to the
many youngsters about the way.

"O," said he, "these children do not all come from the near houses, the
woodland houses, but from the country-side generally.  They often make up
parties, and come to play in the woods for weeks together in summer-time,
living in tents, as you see.  We rather encourage them to it; they learn
to do things for themselves, and get to notice the wild creatures; and,
you see, the less they stew inside houses the better for them.  Indeed, I
must tell you that many grown people will go to live in the forests
through the summer; though they for the most part go to the bigger ones,
like Windsor, or the Forest of Dean, or the northern wastes.  Apart from
the other pleasures of it, it gives them a little rough work, which I am
sorry to say is getting somewhat scarce for these last fifty years."

He broke off, and then said, "I tell you all this, because I see that if
I talk I must be answering questions, which you are thinking, even if you
are not speaking them out; but my kinsman will tell you more about it."

I saw that I was likely to get out of my depth again, and so merely for
the sake of tiding over an awkwardness and to say something, I said--

"Well, the youngsters here will be all the fresher for school when the
summer gets over and they have to go back again."

"School?" he said; "yes, what do you mean by that word?  I don't see how
it can have anything to do with children.  We talk, indeed, of a school
of herring, and a school of painting, and in the former sense we might
talk of a school of children--but otherwise," said he, laughing, "I must
own myself beaten."

Hang it! thought I, I can't open my mouth without digging up some new
complexity.  I wouldn't try to set my friend right in his etymology; and
I thought I had best say nothing about the boy-farms which I had been
used to call schools, as I saw pretty clearly that they had disappeared;
so I said after a little fumbling, "I was using the word in the sense of
a system of education."

"Education?" said he, meditatively, "I know enough Latin to know that the
word must come from _educere_, to lead out; and I have heard it used; but
I have never met anybody who could give me a clear explanation of what it
means."

You may imagine how my new friends fell in my esteem when I heard this
frank avowal; and I said, rather contemptuously, "Well, education means a
system of teaching young people."

"Why not old people also?" said he with a twinkle in his eye.  "But," he
went on, "I can assure you our children learn, whether they go through a
'system of teaching' or not.  Why, you will not find one of these
children about here, boy or girl, who cannot swim; and every one of them
has been used to tumbling about the little forest ponies--there's one of
them now!  They all of them know how to cook; the bigger lads can mow;
many can thatch and do odd jobs at carpentering; or they know how to keep
shop.  I can tell you they know plenty of things."

"Yes, but their mental education, the teaching of their minds," said I,
kindly translating my phrase.

"Guest," said he, "perhaps you have not learned to do these things I have
been speaking about; and if that's the case, don't you run away with the
idea that it doesn't take some skill to do them, and doesn't give plenty
of work for one's mind: you would change your opinion if you saw a
Dorsetshire lad thatching, for instance.  But, however, I understand you
to be speaking of book-learning; and as to that, it is a simple affair.
Most children, seeing books lying about, manage to read by the time they
are four years old; though I am told it has not always been so.  As to
writing, we do not encourage them to scrawl too early (though scrawl a
little they will), because it gets them into a habit of ugly writing; and
what's the use of a lot of ugly writing being done, when rough printing
can be done so easily.  You understand that handsome writing we like, and
many people will write their books out when they make them, or get them
written; I mean books of which only a few copies are needed--poems, and
such like, you know.  However, I am wandering from my lambs; but you must
excuse me, for I am interested in this matter of writing, being myself a
fair-writer."

"Well," said I, "about the children; when they know how to read and
write, don't they learn something else--languages, for instance?"

"Of course," he said; "sometimes even before they can read, they can talk
French, which is the nearest language talked on the other side of the
water; and they soon get to know German also, which is talked by a huge
number of communes and colleges on the mainland.  These are the principal
languages we speak in these islands, along with English or Welsh, or
Irish, which is another form of Welsh; and children pick them up very
quickly, because their elders all know them; and besides our guests from
over sea often bring their children with them, and the little ones get
together, and rub their speech into one another."

"And the older languages?" said I.

"O, yes," said he, "they mostly learn Latin and Greek along with the
modern ones, when they do anything more than merely pick up the latter."

"And history?" said I; "how do you teach history?"

"Well," said he, "when a person can read, of course he reads what he
likes to; and he can easily get someone to tell him what are the best
books to read on such or such a subject, or to explain what he doesn't
understand in the books when he is reading them."

"Well," said I, "what else do they learn?  I suppose they don't all learn
history?"

"No, no," said he; "some don't care about it; in fact, I don't think many
do.  I have heard my great-grandfather say that it is mostly in periods
of turmoil and strife and confusion that people care much about history;
and you know," said my friend, with an amiable smile, "we are not like
that now.  No; many people study facts about the make of things and the
matters of cause and effect, so that knowledge increases on us, if that
be good; and some, as you heard about friend Bob yonder, will spend time
over mathematics.  'Tis no use forcing people's tastes."

Said I: "But you don't mean that children learn all these things?"

Said he: "That depends on what you mean by children; and also you must
remember how much they differ.  As a rule, they don't do much reading,
except for a few story-books, till they are about fifteen years old; we
don't encourage early bookishness: though you will find some children who
_will_ take to books very early; which perhaps is not good for them; but
it's no use thwarting them; and very often it doesn't last long with
them, and they find their level before they are twenty years old.  You
see, children are mostly given to imitating their elders, and when they
see most people about them engaged in genuinely amusing work, like house-
building and street-paving, and gardening, and the like, that is what
they want to be doing; so I don't think we need fear having too many book-
learned men."

What could I say?  I sat and held my peace, for fear of fresh
entanglements.  Besides, I was using my eyes with all my might, wondering
as the old horse jogged on, when I should come into London proper, and
what it would be like now.

But my companion couldn't let his subject quite drop, and went on
meditatively:

"After all, I don't know that it does them much harm, even if they do
grow up book-students.  Such people as that, 'tis a great pleasure seeing
them so happy over work which is not much sought for.  And besides, these
students are generally such pleasant people; so kind and sweet tempered;
so humble, and at the same time so anxious to teach everybody all that
they know.  Really, I like those that I have met prodigiously."

This seemed to me such very queer talk that I was on the point of asking
him another question; when just as we came to the top of a rising ground,
down a long glade of the wood on my right I caught sight of a stately
building whose outline was familiar to me, and I cried out, "Westminster
Abbey!"

"Yes," said Dick, "Westminster Abbey--what there is left of it."

"Why, what have you done with it?" quoth I in terror.

"What have _we_ done with it?" said he; "nothing much, save clean it.  But
you know the whole outside was spoiled centuries ago: as to the inside,
that remains in its beauty after the great clearance, which took place
over a hundred years ago, of the beastly monuments to fools and knaves,
which once blocked it up, as great-grandfather says."

We went on a little further, and I looked to the right again, and said,
in rather a doubtful tone of voice, "Why, there are the Houses of
Parliament!  Do you still use them?"

He burst out laughing, and was some time before he could control himself;
then he clapped me on the back and said:

"I take you, neighbour; you may well wonder at our keeping them standing,
and I know something about that, and my old kinsman has given me books to
read about the strange game that they played there.  Use them!  Well,
yes, they are used for a sort of subsidiary market, and a storage place
for manure, and they are handy for that, being on the waterside.  I
believe it was intended to pull them down quite at the beginning of our
days; but there was, I am told, a queer antiquarian society, which had
done some service in past times, and which straightway set up its pipe
against their destruction, as it has done with many other buildings,
which most people looked upon as worthless, and public nuisances; and it
was so energetic, and had such good reasons to give, that it generally
gained its point; and I must say that when all is said I am glad of it:
because you know at the worst these silly old buildings serve as a kind
of foil to the beautiful ones which we build now.  You will see several
others in these parts; the place my great-grandfather lives in, for
instance, and a big building called St. Paul's.  And you see, in this
matter we need not grudge a few poorish buildings standing, because we
can always build elsewhere; nor need we be anxious as to the breeding of
pleasant work in such matters, for there is always room for more and more
work in a new building, even without making it pretentious.  For
instance, elbow-room _within_ doors is to me so delightful that if I were
driven to it I would most sacrifice outdoor space to it.  Then, of
course, there is the ornament, which, as we must all allow, may easily be
overdone in mere living houses, but can hardly be in mote-halls and
markets, and so forth.  I must tell you, though, that my
great-grandfather sometimes tells me I am a little cracked on this
subject of fine building; and indeed I _do_ think that the energies of
mankind are chiefly of use to them for such work; for in that direction I
can see no end to the work, while in many others a limit does seem
possible."



CHAPTER VI: A LITTLE SHOPPING


As he spoke, we came suddenly out of the woodland into a short street of
handsomely built houses, which my companion named to me at once as
Piccadilly: the lower part of these I should have called shops, if it had
not been that, as far as I could see, the people were ignorant of the
arts of buying and selling.  Wares were displayed in their finely
designed fronts, as if to tempt people in, and people stood and looked at
them, or went in and came out with parcels under their arms, just like
the real thing.  On each side of the street ran an elegant arcade to
protect foot-passengers, as in some of the old Italian cities.  About
halfway down, a huge building of the kind I was now prepared to expect
told me that this also was a centre of some kind, and had its special
public buildings.

Said Dick: "Here, you see, is another market on a different plan from
most others: the upper stories of these houses are used for guest-houses;
for people from all about the country are apt to drift up hither from
time to time, as folk are very thick upon the ground, which you will see
evidence of presently, and there are people who are fond of crowds,
though I can't say that I am."

I couldn't help smiling to see how long a tradition would last.  Here was
the ghost of London still asserting itself as a centre,--an intellectual
centre, for aught I knew.  However, I said nothing, except that I asked
him to drive very slowly, as the things in the booths looked exceedingly
pretty.

"Yes," said he, "this is a very good market for pretty things, and is
mostly kept for the handsomer goods, as the Houses-of-Parliament market,
where they set out cabbages and turnips and such like things, along with
beer and the rougher kind of wine, is so near."

Then he looked at me curiously, and said, "Perhaps you would like to do a
little shopping, as 'tis called."

I looked at what I could see of my rough blue duds, which I had plenty of
opportunity of contrasting with the gay attire of the citizens we had
come across; and I thought that if, as seemed likely, I should presently
be shown about as a curiosity for the amusement of this most
unbusinesslike people, I should like to look a little less like a
discharged ship's purser.  But in spite of all that had happened, my hand
went down into my pocket again, where to my dismay it met nothing
metallic except two rusty old keys, and I remembered that amidst our talk
in the guest-hall at Hammersmith I had taken the cash out of my pocket to
show to the pretty Annie, and had left it lying there.  My face fell
fifty per cent., and Dick, beholding me, said rather sharply--

"Hilloa, Guest! what's the matter now?  Is it a wasp?"

"No," said I, "but I've left it behind."

"Well," said he, "whatever you have left behind, you can get in this
market again, so don't trouble yourself about it."

I had come to my senses by this time, and remembering the astounding
customs of this country, had no mind for another lecture on social
economy and the Edwardian coinage; so I said only--

"My clothes--Couldn't I?  You see--What do think could be done about
them?"

He didn't seem in the least inclined to laugh, but said quite gravely:

"O don't get new clothes yet.  You see, my great-grandfather is an
antiquarian, and he will want to see you just as you are.  And, you know,
I mustn't preach to you, but surely it wouldn't be right for you to take
away people's pleasure of studying your attire, by just going and making
yourself like everybody else.  You feel that, don't you?" said he,
earnestly.

I did _not_ feel it my duty to set myself up for a scarecrow amidst this
beauty-loving people, but I saw I had got across some ineradicable
prejudice, and that it wouldn't do to quarrel with my new friend.  So I
merely said, "O certainly, certainly."

"Well," said he, pleasantly, "you may as well see what the inside of
these booths is like: think of something you want."

Said I: "Could I get some tobacco and a pipe?"

"Of course," said he; "what was I thinking of, not asking you before?
Well, Bob is always telling me that we non-smokers are a selfish lot, and
I'm afraid he is right.  But come along; here is a place just handy."

Therewith he drew rein and jumped down, and I followed.  A very handsome
woman, splendidly clad in figured silk, was slowly passing by, looking
into the windows as she went.  To her quoth Dick: "Maiden, would you
kindly hold our horse while we go in for a little?"  She nodded to us
with a kind smile, and fell to patting the horse with her pretty hand.

"What a beautiful creature!" said I to Dick as we entered.

"What, old Greylocks?" said he, with a sly grin.

"No, no," said I; "Goldylocks,--the lady."

"Well, so she is," said he.  "'Tis a good job there are so many of them
that every Jack may have his Jill: else I fear that we should get
fighting for them.  Indeed," said he, becoming very grave, "I don't say
that it does not happen even now, sometimes.  For you know love is not a
very reasonable thing, and perversity and self-will are commoner than
some of our moralist's think."  He added, in a still more sombre tone:
"Yes, only a month ago there was a mishap down by us, that in the end
cost the lives of two men and a woman, and, as it were, put out the
sunlight for us for a while.  Don't ask me about it just now; I may tell
you about it later on."

By this time we were within the shop or booth, which had a counter, and
shelves on the walls, all very neat, though without any pretence of
showiness, but otherwise not very different to what I had been used to.
Within were a couple of children--a brown-skinned boy of about twelve,
who sat reading a book, and a pretty little girl of about a year older,
who was sitting also reading behind the counter; they were obviously
brother and sister.

"Good morning, little neighbours," said Dick.  "My friend here wants
tobacco and a pipe; can you help him?"

"O yes, certainly," said the girl with a sort of demure alertness which
was somewhat amusing.  The boy looked up, and fell to staring at my
outlandish attire, but presently reddened and turned his head, as if he
knew that he was not behaving prettily.

"Dear neighbour," said the girl, with the most solemn countenance of a
child playing at keeping shop, "what tobacco is it you would like?"

"Latakia," quoth I, feeling as if I were assisting at a child's game, and
wondering whether I should get anything but make-believe.

But the girl took a dainty little basket from a shelf beside her, went to
a jar, and took out a lot of tobacco and put the filled basket down on
the counter before me, where I could both smell and see that it was
excellent Latakia.

"But you haven't weighed it," said I, "and--and how much am I to take?"

"Why," she said, "I advise you to cram your bag, because you may be going
where you can't get Latakia.  Where is your bag?"

I fumbled about, and at last pulled out my piece of cotton print which
does duty with me for a tobacco pouch.  But the girl looked at it with
some disdain, and said--

"Dear neighbour, I can give you something much better than that cotton
rag."  And she tripped up the shop and came back presently, and as she
passed the boy whispered something in his ear, and he nodded and got up
and went out.  The girl held up in her finger and thumb a red morocco
bag, gaily embroidered, and said, "There, I have chosen one for you, and
you are to have it: it is pretty, and will hold a lot."

Therewith she fell to cramming it with the tobacco, and laid it down by
me and said, "Now for the pipe: that also you must let me choose for you;
there are three pretty ones just come in."

She disappeared again, and came back with a big-bowled pipe in her hand,
carved out of some hard wood very elaborately, and mounted in gold
sprinkled with little gems.  It was, in short, as pretty and gay a toy as
I had ever seen; something like the best kind of Japanese work, but
better.

"Dear me!" said I, when I set eyes on it, "this is altogether too grand
for me, or for anybody but the Emperor of the World.  Besides, I shall
lose it: I always lose my pipes."

The child seemed rather dashed, and said, "Don't you like it, neighbour?"

"O yes," I said, "of course I like it."

"Well, then, take it," said she, "and don't trouble about losing it.  What
will it matter if you do?  Somebody is sure to find it, and he will use
it, and you can get another."

I took it out of her hand to look at it, and while I did so, forgot my
caution, and said, "But however am I to pay for such a thing as this?"

Dick laid his hand on my shoulder as I spoke, and turning I met his eyes
with a comical expression in them, which warned me against another
exhibition of extinct commercial morality; so I reddened and held my
tongue, while the girl simply looked at me with the deepest gravity, as
if I were a foreigner blundering in my speech, for she clearly didn't
understand me a bit.

"Thank you so very much," I said at last, effusively, as I put the pipe
in my pocket, not without a qualm of doubt as to whether I shouldn't find
myself before a magistrate presently.

"O, you are so very welcome," said the little lass, with an affectation
of grown-up manners at their best which was very quaint.  "It is such a
pleasure to serve dear old gentlemen like you; especially when one can
see at once that you have come from far over sea."

"Yes, my dear," quoth I, "I have been a great traveller."

As I told this lie from pure politeness, in came the lad again, with a
tray in his hands, on which I saw a long flask and two beautiful glasses.
"Neighbours," said the girl (who did all the talking, her brother being
very shy, clearly) "please to drink a glass to us before you go, since we
do not have guests like this every day."

Therewith the boy put the tray on the counter and solemnly poured out a
straw-coloured wine into the long bowls.  Nothing loth, I drank, for I
was thirsty with the hot day; and thinks I, I am yet in the world, and
the grapes of the Rhine have not yet lost their flavour; for if ever I
drank good Steinberg, I drank it that morning; and I made a mental note
to ask Dick how they managed to make fine wine when there were no longer
labourers compelled to drink rot-gut instead of the fine wine which they
themselves made.

"Don't you drink a glass to us, dear little neighbours?" said I.

"I don't drink wine," said the lass; "I like lemonade better: but I wish
your health!"

"And I like ginger-beer better," said the little lad.

Well, well, thought I, neither have children's tastes changed much.  And
therewith we gave them good day and went out of the booth.

To my disappointment, like a change in a dream, a tall old man was
holding our horse instead of the beautiful woman.  He explained to us
that the maiden could not wait, and that he had taken her place; and he
winked at us and laughed when he saw how our faces fell, so that we had
nothing for it but to laugh also--

"Where are you going?" said he to Dick.

"To Bloomsbury," said Dick.

"If you two don't want to be alone, I'll come with you," said the old
man.

"All right," said Dick, "tell me when you want to get down and I'll stop
for you.  Let's get on."

So we got under way again; and I asked if children generally waited on
people in the markets.  "Often enough," said he, "when it isn't a matter
of dealing with heavy weights, but by no means always.  The children like
to amuse themselves with it, and it is good for them, because they handle
a lot of diverse wares and get to learn about them, how they are made,
and where they come from, and so on.  Besides, it is such very easy work
that anybody can do it.  It is said that in the early days of our epoch
there were a good many people who were hereditarily afflicted with a
disease called Idleness, because they were the direct descendants of
those who in the bad times used to force other people to work for
them--the people, you know, who are called slave-holders or employers of
labour in the history books.  Well, these Idleness-stricken people used
to serve booths _all_ their time, because they were fit for so little.
Indeed, I believe that at one time they were actually _compelled_ to do
some such work, because they, especially the women, got so ugly and
produced such ugly children if their disease was not treated sharply,
that the neighbours couldn't stand it.  However, I'm happy to say that
all that is gone by now; the disease is either extinct, or exists in such
a mild form that a short course of aperient medicine carries it off.  It
is sometimes called the Blue-devils now, or the Mulleygrubs.  Queer
names, ain't they?"

"Yes," said I, pondering much.  But the old man broke in:

"Yes, all that is true, neighbour; and I have seen some of those poor
women grown old.  But my father used to know some of them when they were
young; and he said that they were as little like young women as might be:
they had hands like bunches of skewers, and wretched little arms like
sticks; and waists like hour-glasses, and thin lips and peaked noses and
pale cheeks; and they were always pretending to be offended at anything
you said or did to them.  No wonder they bore ugly children, for no one
except men like them could be in love with them--poor things!"

He stopped, and seemed to be musing on his past life, and then said:

"And do you know, neighbours, that once on a time people were still
anxious about that disease of Idleness: at one time we gave ourselves a
great deal of trouble in trying to cure people of it.  Have you not read
any of the medical books on the subject?"

"No," said I; for the old man was speaking to me.

"Well," said he, "it was thought at the time that it was the survival of
the old mediaeval disease of leprosy: it seems it was very catching, for
many of the people afflicted by it were much secluded, and were waited
upon by a special class of diseased persons queerly dressed up, so that
they might be known.  They wore amongst other garments, breeches made of
worsted velvet, that stuff which used to be called plush some years ago."

All this seemed very interesting to me, and I should like to have made
the old man talk more.  But Dick got rather restive under so much ancient
history: besides, I suspect he wanted to keep me as fresh as he could for
his great-grandfather.  So he burst out laughing at last, and said:
"Excuse me, neighbours, but I can't help it.  Fancy people not liking to
work!--it's too ridiculous.  Why, even you like to work, old
fellow--sometimes," said he, affectionately patting the old horse with
the whip.  "What a queer disease! it may well be called Mulleygrubs!"

And he laughed out again most boisterously; rather too much so, I
thought, for his usual good manners; and I laughed with him for company's
sake, but from the teeth outward only; for _I_ saw nothing funny in
people not liking to work, as you may well imagine.



CHAPTER VII: TRAFALGAR SQUARE


And now again I was busy looking about me, for we were quite clear of
Piccadilly Market, and were in a region of elegantly-built much
ornamented houses, which I should have called villas if they had been
ugly and pretentious, which was very far from being the case.  Each house
stood in a garden carefully cultivated, and running over with flowers.
The blackbirds were singing their best amidst the garden-trees, which,
except for a bay here and there, and occasional groups of limes, seemed
to be all fruit-trees: there were a great many cherry-trees, now all
laden with fruit; and several times as we passed by a garden we were
offered baskets of fine fruit by children and young girls.  Amidst all
these gardens and houses it was of course impossible to trace the sites
of the old streets: but it seemed to me that the main roadways were the
same as of old.

We came presently into a large open space, sloping somewhat toward the
south, the sunny site of which had been taken advantage of for planting
an orchard, mainly, as I could see, of apricot-trees, in the midst of
which was a pretty gay little structure of wood, painted and gilded, that
looked like a refreshment-stall.  From the southern side of the said
orchard ran a long road, chequered over with the shadow of tall old pear
trees, at the end of which showed the high tower of the Parliament House,
or Dung Market.

A strange sensation came over me; I shut my eyes to keep out the sight of
the sun glittering on this fair abode of gardens, and for a moment there
passed before them a phantasmagoria of another day.  A great space
surrounded by tall ugly houses, with an ugly church at the corner and a
nondescript ugly cupolaed building at my back; the roadway thronged with
a sweltering and excited crowd, dominated by omnibuses crowded with
spectators.  In the midst a paved be-fountained square, populated only by
a few men dressed in blue, and a good many singularly ugly bronze images
(one on the top of a tall column).  The said square guarded up to the
edge of the roadway by a four-fold line of big men clad in blue, and
across the southern roadway the helmets of a band of horse-soldiers, dead
white in the greyness of the chilly November afternoon--I opened my eyes
to the sunlight again and looked round me, and cried out among the
whispering trees and odorous blossoms, "Trafalgar Square!"

"Yes," said Dick, who had drawn rein again, "so it is.  I don't wonder at
your finding the name ridiculous: but after all, it was nobody's business
to alter it, since the name of a dead folly doesn't bite.  Yet sometimes
I think we might have given it a name which would have commemorated the
great battle which was fought on the spot itself in 1952,--that was
important enough, if the historians don't lie."

"Which they generally do, or at least did," said the old man.  "For
instance, what can you make of this, neighbours?  I have read a muddled
account in a book--O a stupid book--called James' Social Democratic
History, of a fight which took place here in or about the year 1887 (I am
bad at dates).  Some people, says this story, were going to hold a ward-
mote here, or some such thing, and the Government of London, or the
Council, or the Commission, or what not other barbarous half-hatched body
of fools, fell upon these citizens (as they were then called) with the
armed hand.  That seems too ridiculous to be true; but according to this
version of the story, nothing much came of it, which certainly _is_ too
ridiculous to be true."

"Well," quoth I, "but after all your Mr. James is right so far, and it
_is_ true; except that there was no fighting, merely unarmed and
peaceable people attacked by ruffians armed with bludgeons."

"And they put up with that?" said Dick, with the first unpleasant
expression I had seen on his good-tempered face.

Said I, reddening: "We _had_ to put up with it; we couldn't help it."

The old man looked at me keenly, and said: "You seem to know a great deal
about it, neighbour!  And is it really true that nothing came of it?"

"This came of it," said I, "that a good many people were sent to prison
because of it."

"What, of the bludgeoners?" said the old man.  "Poor devils!"

"No, no," said I, "of the bludgeoned."

Said the old man rather severely: "Friend, I expect that you have been
reading some rotten collection of lies, and have been taken in by it too
easily."

"I assure you," said I, "what I have been saying is true."

"Well, well, I am sure you think so, neighbour," said the old man, "but I
don't see why you should be so cocksure."

As I couldn't explain why, I held my tongue.  Meanwhile Dick, who had
been sitting with knit brows, cogitating, spoke at last, and said gently
and rather sadly:

"How strange to think that there have been men like ourselves, and living
in this beautiful and happy country, who I suppose had feelings and
affections like ourselves, who could yet do such dreadful things."

"Yes," said I, in a didactic tone; "yet after all, even those days were a
great improvement on the days that had gone before them.  Have you not
read of the Mediaeval period, and the ferocity of its criminal laws; and
how in those days men fairly seemed to have enjoyed tormenting their
fellow men?--nay, for the matter of that, they made their God a tormentor
and a jailer rather than anything else."

"Yes," said Dick, "there are good books on that period also, some of
which I have read.  But as to the great improvement of the nineteenth
century, I don't see it.  After all, the Mediaeval folk acted after their
conscience, as your remark about their God (which is true) shows, and
they were ready to bear what they inflicted on others; whereas the
nineteenth century ones were hypocrites, and pretended to be humane, and
yet went on tormenting those whom they dared to treat so by shutting them
up in prison, for no reason at all, except that they were what they
themselves, the prison-masters, had forced them to be.  O, it's horrible
to think of!"

"But perhaps," said I, "they did not know what the prisons were like."

Dick seemed roused, and even angry.  "More shame for them," said he,
"when you and I know it all these years afterwards.  Look you, neighbour,
they couldn't fail to know what a disgrace a prison is to the
Commonwealth at the best, and that their prisons were a good step on
towards being at the worst."

Quoth I: "But have you no prisons at all now?"

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt that I had made a
mistake, for Dick flushed red and frowned, and the old man looked
surprised and pained; and presently Dick said angrily, yet as if
restraining himself somewhat--

"Man alive! how can you ask such a question?  Have I not told you that we
know what a prison means by the undoubted evidence of really trustworthy
books, helped out by our own imaginations?  And haven't you specially
called me to notice that the people about the roads and streets look
happy? and how could they look happy if they knew that their neighbours
were shut up in prison, while they bore such things quietly?  And if
there were people in prison, you couldn't hide it from folk, like you may
an occasional man-slaying; because that isn't done of set purpose, with a
lot of people backing up the slayer in cold blood, as this prison
business is.  Prisons, indeed!  O no, no, no!"

He stopped, and began to cool down, and said in a kind voice: "But
forgive me!  I needn't be so hot about it, since there are _not_ any
prisons: I'm afraid you will think the worse of me for losing my temper.
Of course, you, coming from the outlands, cannot be expected to know
about these things.  And now I'm afraid I have made you feel
uncomfortable."

In a way he had; but he was so generous in his heat, that I liked him the
better for it, and I said:

"No, really 'tis all my fault for being so stupid.  Let me change the
subject, and ask you what the stately building is on our left just
showing at the end of that grove of plane-trees?"

"Ah," he said, "that is an old building built before the middle of the
twentieth century, and as you see, in a queer fantastic style not over
beautiful; but there are some fine things inside it, too, mostly
pictures, some very old.  It is called the National Gallery; I have
sometimes puzzled as to what the name means: anyhow, nowadays wherever
there is a place where pictures are kept as curiosities permanently it is
called a National Gallery, perhaps after this one.  Of course there are a
good many of them up and down the country."

I didn't try to enlighten him, feeling the task too heavy; but I pulled
out my magnificent pipe and fell a-smoking, and the old horse jogged on
again.  As we went, I said:

"This pipe is a very elaborate toy, and you seem so reasonable in this
country, and your architecture is so good, that I rather wonder at your
turning out such trivialities."

It struck me as I spoke that this was rather ungrateful of me, after
having received such a fine present; but Dick didn't seem to notice my
bad manners, but said:

"Well, I don't know; it is a pretty thing, and since nobody need make
such things unless they like, I don't see why they shouldn't make them,
if they like.  Of course, if carvers were scarce they would all be busy
on the architecture, as you call it, and then these 'toys' (a good word)
would not be made; but since there are plenty of people who can carve--in
fact, almost everybody, and as work is somewhat scarce, or we are afraid
it may be, folk do not discourage this kind of petty work."

He mused a little, and seemed somewhat perturbed; but presently his face
cleared, and he said: "After all, you must admit that the pipe is a very
pretty thing, with the little people under the trees all cut so clean and
sweet;--too elaborate for a pipe, perhaps, but--well, it is very pretty."

"Too valuable for its use, perhaps," said I.

"What's that?" said he; "I don't understand."

I was just going in a helpless way to try to make him understand, when we
came by the gates of a big rambling building, in which work of some sort
seemed going on.  "What building is that?" said I, eagerly; for it was a
pleasure amidst all these strange things to see something a little like
what I was used to: "it seems to be a factory."

"Yes," he said, "I think I know what you mean, and that's what it is; but
we don't call them factories now, but Banded-workshops: that is, places
where people collect who want to work together."

"I suppose," said I, "power of some sort is used there?"

"No, no," said he.  "Why should people collect together to use power,
when they can have it at the places where they live, or hard by, any two
or three of them; or any one, for the matter of that?  No; folk collect
in these Banded-workshops to do hand-work in which working together is
necessary or convenient; such work is often very pleasant.  In there, for
instance, they make pottery and glass,--there, you can see the tops of
the furnaces.  Well, of course it's handy to have fair-sized ovens and
kilns and glass-pots, and a good lot of things to use them for: though of
course there are a good many such places, as it would be ridiculous if a
man had a liking for pot-making or glass-blowing that he should have to
live in one place or be obliged to forego the work he liked."

"I see no smoke coming from the furnaces," said I.

"Smoke?" said Dick; "why should you see smoke?"

I held my tongue, and he went on: "It's a nice place inside, though as
plain as you see outside.  As to the crafts, throwing the clay must be
jolly work: the glass-blowing is rather a sweltering job; but some folk
like it very much indeed; and I don't much wonder: there is such a sense
of power, when you have got deft in it, in dealing with the hot metal.  It
makes a lot of pleasant work," said he, smiling, "for however much care
you take of such goods, break they will, one day or another, so there is
always plenty to do."

I held my tongue and pondered.

We came just here on a gang of men road-mending which delayed us a
little; but I was not sorry for it; for all I had seen hitherto seemed a
mere part of a summer holiday; and I wanted to see how this folk would
set to on a piece of real necessary work.  They had been resting, and had
only just begun work again as we came up; so that the rattle of the picks
was what woke me from my musing.  There were about a dozen of them,
strong young men, looking much like a boating party at Oxford would have
looked in the days I remembered, and not more troubled with their work:
their outer raiment lay on the road-side in an orderly pile under the
guardianship of a six-year-old boy, who had his arm thrown over the neck
of a big mastiff, who was as happily lazy as if the summer-day had been
made for him alone.  As I eyed the pile of clothes, I could see the gleam
of gold and silk embroidery on it, and judged that some of these workmen
had tastes akin to those of the Golden Dustman of Hammersmith.  Beside
them lay a good big basket that had hints about it of cold pie and wine:
a half dozen of young women stood by watching the work or the workers,
both of which were worth watching, for the latter smote great strokes and
were very deft in their labour, and as handsome clean-built fellows as
you might find a dozen of in a summer day.  They were laughing and
talking merrily with each other and the women, but presently their
foreman looked up and saw our way stopped.  So he stayed his pick and
sang out, "Spell ho, mates! here are neighbours want to get past."
Whereon the others stopped also, and, drawing around us, helped the old
horse by easing our wheels over the half undone road, and then, like men
with a pleasant task on hand, hurried back to their work, only stopping
to give us a smiling good-day; so that the sound of the picks broke out
again before Greylocks had taken to his jog-trot.  Dick looked back over
his shoulder at them and said:

"They are in luck to-day: it's right down good sport trying how much pick-
work one can get into an hour; and I can see those neighbours know their
business well.  It is not a mere matter of strength getting on quickly
with such work; is it, guest?"

"I should think not," said I, "but to tell you the truth, I have never
tried my hand at it."

"Really?" said he gravely, "that seems a pity; it is good work for
hardening the muscles, and I like it; though I admit it is pleasanter the
second week than the first.  Not that I am a good hand at it: the fellows
used to chaff me at one job where I was working, I remember, and sing out
to me, 'Well rowed, stroke!'  'Put your back into it, bow!'"

"Not much of a joke," quoth I.

"Well," said Dick, "everything seems like a joke when we have a pleasant
spell of work on, and good fellows merry about us; we feels so happy, you
know."  Again I pondered silently.



CHAPTER VIII: AN OLD FRIEND


We now turned into a pleasant lane where the branches of great
plane-trees nearly met overhead, but behind them lay low houses standing
rather close together.

"This is Long Acre," quoth Dick; "so there must once have been a
cornfield here.  How curious it is that places change so, and yet keep
their old names!  Just look how thick the houses stand! and they are
still going on building, look you!"

"Yes," said the old man, "but I think the cornfields must have been built
over before the middle of the nineteenth century.  I have heard that
about here was one of the thickest parts of the town.  But I must get
down here, neighbours; I have got to call on a friend who lives in the
gardens behind this Long Acre.  Good-bye and good luck, Guest!"

And he jumped down and strode away vigorously, like a young man.

"How old should you say that neighbour will be?" said I to Dick as we
lost sight of him; for I saw that he was old, and yet he looked dry and
sturdy like a piece of old oak; a type of old man I was not used to
seeing.

"O, about ninety, I should say," said Dick.

"How long-lived your people must be!" said I.

"Yes," said Dick, "certainly we have beaten the threescore-and-ten of the
old Jewish proverb-book.  But then you see that was written of Syria, a
hot dry country, where people live faster than in our temperate climate.
However, I don't think it matters much, so long as a man is healthy and
happy while he _is_ alive.  But now, Guest, we are so near to my old
kinsman's dwelling-place that I think you had better keep all future
questions for him."

I nodded a yes; and therewith we turned to the left, and went down a
gentle slope through some beautiful rose-gardens, laid out on what I took
to be the site of Endell Street.  We passed on, and Dick drew rein an
instant as we came across a long straightish road with houses scantily
scattered up and down it.  He waved his hand right and left, and said,
"Holborn that side, Oxford Road that.  This was once a very important
part of the crowded city outside the ancient walls of the Roman and
Mediaeval burg: many of the feudal nobles of the Middle Ages, we are
told, had big houses on either side of Holborn.  I daresay you remember
that the Bishop of Ely's house is mentioned in Shakespeare's play of King
Richard III.; and there are some remains of that still left.  However,
this road is not of the same importance, now that the ancient city is
gone, walls and all."

He drove on again, while I smiled faintly to think how the nineteenth
century, of which such big words have been said, counted for nothing in
the memory of this man, who read Shakespeare and had not forgotten the
Middle Ages.

We crossed the road into a short narrow lane between the gardens, and
came out again into a wide road, on one side of which was a great and
long building, turning its gables away from the highway, which I saw at
once was another public group.  Opposite to it was a wide space of
greenery, without any wall or fence of any kind.  I looked through the
trees and saw beyond them a pillared portico quite familiar to me--no
less old a friend, in fact, than the British Museum.  It rather took my
breath away, amidst all the strange things I had seen; but I held my
tongue and let Dick speak.  Said he:

"Yonder is the British Museum, where my great-grandfather mostly lives;
so I won't say much about it.  The building on the left is the Museum
Market, and I think we had better turn in there for a minute or two; for
Greylocks will be wanting his rest and his oats; and I suppose you will
stay with my kinsman the greater part of the day; and to say the truth,
there may be some one there whom I particularly want to see, and perhaps
have a long talk with."

He blushed and sighed, not altogether with pleasure, I thought; so of
course I said nothing, and he turned the horse under an archway which
brought us into a very large paved quadrangle, with a big sycamore tree
in each corner and a plashing fountain in the midst.  Near the fountain
were a few market stalls, with awnings over them of gay striped linen
cloth, about which some people, mostly women and children, were moving
quietly, looking at the goods exposed there.  The ground floor of the
building round the quadrangle was occupied by a wide arcade or cloister,
whose fanciful but strong architecture I could not enough admire.  Here
also a few people were sauntering or sitting reading on the benches.

Dick said to me apologetically: "Here as elsewhere there is little doing
to-day; on a Friday you would see it thronged, and gay with people, and
in the afternoon there is generally music about the fountain.  However, I
daresay we shall have a pretty good gathering at our mid-day meal."

We drove through the quadrangle and by an archway, into a large handsome
stable on the other side, where we speedily stalled the old nag and made
him happy with horse-meat, and then turned and walked back again through
the market, Dick looking rather thoughtful, as it seemed to me.

I noticed that people couldn't help looking at me rather hard, and
considering my clothes and theirs, I didn't wonder; but whenever they
caught my eye they made me a very friendly sign of greeting.

We walked straight into the forecourt of the Museum, where, except that
the railings were gone, and the whispering boughs of the trees were all
about, nothing seemed changed; the very pigeons were wheeling about the
building and clinging to the ornaments of the pediment as I had seen them
of old.

Dick seemed grown a little absent, but he could not forbear giving me an
architectural note, and said:

"It is rather an ugly old building, isn't it?  Many people have wanted to
pull it down and rebuild it: and perhaps if work does really get scarce
we may yet do so.  But, as my great grandfather will tell you, it would
not be quite a straightforward job; for there are wonderful collections
in there of all kinds of antiquities, besides an enormous library with
many exceedingly beautiful books in it, and many most useful ones as
genuine records, texts of ancient works and the like; and the worry and
anxiety, and even risk, there would be in moving all this has saved the
buildings themselves.  Besides, as we said before, it is not a bad thing
to have some record of what our forefathers thought a handsome building.
For there is plenty of labour and material in it."

"I see there is," said I, "and I quite agree with you.  But now hadn't we
better make haste to see your great-grandfather?"

In fact, I could not help seeing that he was rather dallying with the
time.  He said, "Yes, we will go into the house in a minute.  My kinsman
is too old to do much work in the Museum, where he was a custodian of the
books for many years; but he still lives here a good deal; indeed I
think," said he, smiling, "that he looks upon himself as a part of the
books, or the books a part of him, I don't know which."

He hesitated a little longer, then flushing up, took my hand, and saying,
"Come along, then!" led me toward the door of one of the old official
dwellings.



CHAPTER IX: CONCERNING LOVE


"Your kinsman doesn't much care for beautiful building, then," said I, as
we entered the rather dreary classical house; which indeed was as bare as
need be, except for some big pots of the June flowers which stood about
here and there; though it was very clean and nicely whitewashed.

"O I don't know," said Dick, rather absently.  "He is getting old,
certainly, for he is over a hundred and five, and no doubt he doesn't
care about moving.  But of course he could live in a prettier house if he
liked: he is not obliged to live in one place any more than any one else.
This way, Guest."

And he led the way upstairs, and opening a door we went into a fair-sized
room of the old type, as plain as the rest of the house, with a few
necessary pieces of furniture, and those very simple and even rude, but
solid and with a good deal of carving about them, well designed but
rather crudely executed.  At the furthest corner of the room, at a desk
near the window, sat a little old man in a roomy oak chair, well
becushioned.  He was dressed in a sort of Norfolk jacket of blue serge
worn threadbare, with breeches of the same, and grey worsted stockings.
He jumped up from his chair, and cried out in a voice of considerable
volume for such an old man, "Welcome, Dick, my lad; Clara is here, and
will be more than glad to see you; so keep your heart up."

"Clara here?" quoth Dick; "if I had known, I would not have brought--At
least, I mean I would--"

He was stuttering and confused, clearly because he was anxious to say
nothing to make me feel one too many.  But the old man, who had not seen
me at first, helped him out by coming forward and saying to me in a kind
tone:

"Pray pardon me, for I did not notice that Dick, who is big enough to
hide anybody, you know, had brought a friend with him.  A most hearty
welcome to you!  All the more, as I almost hope that you are going to
amuse an old man by giving him news from over sea, for I can see that you
are come from over the water and far off countries."

He looked at me thoughtfully, almost anxiously, as he said in a changed
voice, "Might I ask you where you come from, as you are so clearly a
stranger?"

I said in an absent way: "I used to live in England, and now I am come
back again; and I slept last night at the Hammersmith Guest House."

He bowed gravely, but seemed, I thought, a little disappointed with my
answer.  As for me, I was now looking at him harder than good manners
allowed of; perhaps; for in truth his face, dried-apple-like as it was,
seemed strangely familiar to me; as if I had seen it before--in a looking-
glass it might be, said I to myself.

"Well," said the old man, "wherever you come from, you are come among
friends.  And I see my kinsman Richard Hammond has an air about him as if
he had brought you here for me to do something for you.  Is that so,
Dick?"

Dick, who was getting still more absent-minded and kept looking uneasily
at the door, managed to say, "Well, yes, kinsman: our guest finds things
much altered, and cannot understand it; nor can I; so I thought I would
bring him to you, since you know more of all that has happened within the
last two hundred years than any body else does.--What's that?"

And he turned toward the door again.  We heard footsteps outside; the
door opened, and in came a very beautiful young woman, who stopped short
on seeing Dick, and flushed as red as a rose, but faced him nevertheless.
Dick looked at her hard, and half reached out his hand toward her, and
his whole face quivered with emotion.

The old man did not leave them long in this shy discomfort, but said,
smiling with an old man's mirth:

"Dick, my lad, and you, my dear Clara, I rather think that we two
oldsters are in your way; for I think you will have plenty to say to each
other.  You had better go into Nelson's room up above; I know he has gone
out; and he has just been covering the walls all over with mediaeval
books, so it will be pretty enough even for you two and your renewed
pleasure."

The girl reached out her hand to Dick, and taking his led him out of the
room, looking straight before her; but it was easy to see that her
blushes came from happiness, not anger; as, indeed, love is far more self-
conscious than wrath.

When the door had shut on them the old man turned to me, still smiling,
and said:

"Frankly, my dear guest, you will do me a great service if you are come
to set my old tongue wagging.  My love of talk still abides with me, or
rather grows on me; and though it is pleasant enough to see these
youngsters moving about and playing together so seriously, as if the
whole world depended on their kisses (as indeed it does somewhat), yet I
don't think my tales of the past interest them much.  The last harvest,
the last baby, the last knot of carving in the market-place, is history
enough for them.  It was different, I think, when I was a lad, when we
were not so assured of peace and continuous plenty as we are now--Well,
well!  Without putting you to the question, let me ask you this: Am I to
consider you as an enquirer who knows a little of our modern ways of
life, or as one who comes from some place where the very foundations of
life are different from ours,--do you know anything or nothing about us?"

He looked at me keenly and with growing wonder in his eyes as he spoke;
and I answered in a low voice:

"I know only so much of your modern life as I could gather from using my
eyes on the way here from Hammersmith, and from asking some questions of
Richard Hammond, most of which he could hardly understand."

The old man smiled at this.  "Then," said he, "I am to speak to you as--"

"As if I were a being from another planet," said I.

The old man, whose name, by the bye, like his kinsman's, was Hammond,
smiled and nodded, and wheeling his seat round to me, bade me sit in a
heavy oak chair, and said, as he saw my eyes fix on its curious carving:

"Yes, I am much tied to the past, my past, you understand.  These very
pieces of furniture belong to a time before my early days; it was my
father who got them made; if they had been done within the last fifty
years they would have been much cleverer in execution; but I don't think
I should have liked them the better.  We were almost beginning again in
those days: and they were brisk, hot-headed times.  But you hear how
garrulous I am: ask me questions, ask me questions about anything, dear
guest; since I must talk, make my talk profitable to you."

I was silent for a minute, and then I said, somewhat nervously: "Excuse
me if I am rude; but I am so much interested in Richard, since he has
been so kind to me, a perfect stranger, that I should like to ask a
question about him."

"Well," said old Hammond, "if he were not 'kind', as you call it, to a
perfect stranger he would be thought a strange person, and people would
be apt to shun him.  But ask on, ask on! don't be shy of asking."

Said I: "That beautiful girl, is he going to be married to her?"

"Well," said he, "yes, he is.  He has been married to her once already,
and now I should say it is pretty clear that he will be married to her
again."

"Indeed," quoth I, wondering what that meant.

"Here is the whole tale," said old Hammond; "a short one enough; and now
I hope a happy one: they lived together two years the first time; were
both very young; and then she got it into her head that she was in love
with somebody else.  So she left poor Dick; I say _poor_ Dick, because he
had not found any one else.  But it did not last long, only about a year.
Then she came to me, as she was in the habit of bringing her troubles to
the old carle, and asked me how Dick was, and whether he was happy, and
all the rest of it.  So I saw how the land lay, and said that he was very
unhappy, and not at all well; which last at any rate was a lie.  There,
you can guess the rest.  Clara came to have a long talk with me to-day,
but Dick will serve her turn much better.  Indeed, if he hadn't chanced
in upon me to-day I should have had to have sent for him to-morrow."

"Dear me," said I.  "Have they any children?"

"Yes," said he, "two; they are staying with one of my daughters at
present, where, indeed, Clara has mostly been.  I wouldn't lose sight of
her, as I felt sure they would come together again: and Dick, who is the
best of good fellows, really took the matter to heart.  You see, he had
no other love to run to, as she had.  So I managed it all; as I have done
with such-like matters before."

"Ah," said I, "no doubt you wanted to keep them out of the Divorce Court:
but I suppose it often has to settle such matters."

"Then you suppose nonsense," said he.  "I know that there used to be such
lunatic affairs as divorce-courts: but just consider; all the cases that
came into them were matters of property quarrels: and I think, dear
guest," said he, smiling, "that though you do come from another planet,
you can see from the mere outside look of our world that quarrels about
private property could not go on amongst us in our days."

Indeed, my drive from Hammersmith to Bloomsbury, and all the quiet happy
life I had seen so many hints of; even apart from my shopping, would have
been enough to tell me that "the sacred rights of property," as we used
to think of them, were now no more.  So I sat silent while the old man
took up the thread of the discourse again, and said:

"Well, then, property quarrels being no longer possible, what remains in
these matters that a court of law could deal with?  Fancy a court for
enforcing a contract of passion or sentiment!  If such a thing were
needed as a _reductio ad absurdum_ of the enforcement of contract, such a
folly would do that for us."

He was silent again a little, and then said: "You must understand once
for all that we have changed these matters; or rather, that our way of
looking at them has changed, as we have changed within the last two
hundred years.  We do not deceive ourselves, indeed, or believe that we
can get rid of all the trouble that besets the dealings between the
sexes.  We know that we must face the unhappiness that comes of man and
woman confusing the relations between natural passion, and sentiment, and
the friendship which, when things go well, softens the awakening from
passing illusions: but we are not so mad as to pile up degradation on
that unhappiness by engaging in sordid squabbles about livelihood and
position, and the power of tyrannising over the children who have been
the results of love or lust."

Again he paused awhile, and again went on: "Calf love, mistaken for a
heroism that shall be lifelong, yet early waning into disappointment; the
inexplicable desire that comes on a man of riper years to be the all-in-
all to some one woman, whose ordinary human kindness and human beauty he
has idealised into superhuman perfection, and made the one object of his
desire; or lastly the reasonable longing of a strong and thoughtful man
to become the most intimate friend of some beautiful and wise woman, the
very type of the beauty and glory of the world which we love so well,--as
we exult in all the pleasure and exaltation of spirit which goes with
these things, so we set ourselves to bear the sorrow which not unseldom
goes with them also; remembering those lines of the ancient poet (I quote
roughly from memory one of the many translations of the nineteenth
century):

   'For this the Gods have fashioned man's grief and evil day
   That still for man hereafter might be the tale and the lay.'

Well, well, 'tis little likely anyhow that all tales shall be lacking, or
all sorrow cured."

He was silent for some time, and I would not interrupt him.  At last he
began again: "But you must know that we of these generations are strong
and healthy of body, and live easily; we pass our lives in reasonable
strife with nature, exercising not one side of ourselves only, but all
sides, taking the keenest pleasure in all the life of the world.  So it
is a point of honour with us not to be self-centred; not to suppose that
the world must cease because one man is sorry; therefore we should think
it foolish, or if you will, criminal, to exaggerate these matters of
sentiment and sensibility: we are no more inclined to eke out our
sentimental sorrows than to cherish our bodily pains; and we recognise
that there are other pleasures besides love-making.  You must remember,
also, that we are long-lived, and that therefore beauty both in man and
woman is not so fleeting as it was in the days when we were burdened so
heavily by self-inflicted diseases.  So we shake off these griefs in a
way which perhaps the sentimentalists of other times would think
contemptible and unheroic, but which we think necessary and manlike.  As
on the other hand, therefore, we have ceased to be commercial in our love-
matters, so also we have ceased to be _artificially_ foolish.  The folly
which comes by nature, the unwisdom of the immature man, or the older man
caught in a trap, we must put up with that, nor are we much ashamed of
it; but to be conventionally sensitive or sentimental--my friend, I am
old and perhaps disappointed, but at least I think we have cast off
_some_ of the follies of the older world."

He paused, as if for some words of mine; but I held my peace: then he
went on: "At least, if we suffer from the tyranny and fickleness of
nature or our own want of experience, we neither grimace about it, nor
lie.  If there must be sundering betwixt those who meant never to sunder,
so it must be: but there need be no pretext of unity when the reality of
it is gone: nor do we drive those who well know that they are incapable
of it to profess an undying sentiment which they cannot really feel: thus
it is that as that monstrosity of venal lust is no longer possible, so
also it is no longer needed.  Don't misunderstand me.  You did not seemed
shocked when I told you that there were no law-courts to enforce
contracts of sentiment or passion; but so curiously are men made, that
perhaps you will be shocked when I tell you that there is no code of
public opinion which takes the place of such courts, and which might be
as tyrannical and unreasonable as they were.  I do not say that people
don't judge their neighbours' conduct, sometimes, doubtless, unfairly.
But I do say that there is no unvarying conventional set of rules by
which people are judged; no bed of Procrustes to stretch or cramp their
minds and lives; no hypocritical excommunication which people are
_forced_ to pronounce, either by unconsidered habit, or by the
unexpressed threat of the lesser interdict if they are lax in their
hypocrisy.  Are you shocked now?"

"N-o--no," said I, with some hesitation.  "It is all so different."

"At any rate," said he, "one thing I think I can answer for: whatever
sentiment there is, it is real--and general; it is not confined to people
very specially refined.  I am also pretty sure, as I hinted to you just
now, that there is not by a great way as much suffering involved in these
matters either to men or to women as there used to be.  But excuse me for
being so prolix on this question!  You know you asked to be treated like
a being from another planet."

"Indeed I thank you very much," said I.  "Now may I ask you about the
position of women in your society?"

He laughed very heartily for a man of his years, and said: "It is not
without reason that I have got a reputation as a careful student of
history.  I believe I really do understand 'the Emancipation of Women
movement' of the nineteenth century.  I doubt if any other man now alive
does."

"Well?" said I, a little bit nettled by his merriment.

"Well," said he, "of course you will see that all that is a dead
controversy now.  The men have no longer any opportunity of tyrannising
over the women, or the women over the men; both of which things took
place in those old times.  The women do what they can do best, and what
they like best, and the men are neither jealous of it or injured by it.
This is such a commonplace that I am almost ashamed to state it."

I said, "O; and legislation? do they take any part in that?"

Hammond smiled and said: "I think you may wait for an answer to that
question till we get on to the subject of legislation.  There may be
novelties to you in that subject also."

"Very well," I said; "but about this woman question?  I saw at the Guest
House that the women were waiting on the men: that seems a little like
reaction doesn't it?"

"Does it?" said the old man; "perhaps you think housekeeping an
unimportant occupation, not deserving of respect.  I believe that was the
opinion of the 'advanced' women of the nineteenth century, and their male
backers.  If it is yours, I recommend to your notice an old Norwegian
folk-lore tale called How the Man minded the House, or some such title;
the result of which minding was that, after various tribulations, the man
and the family cow balanced each other at the end of a rope, the man
hanging halfway up the chimney, the cow dangling from the roof, which,
after the fashion of the country, was of turf and sloping down low to the
ground.  Hard on the cow, _I_ think.  Of course no such mishap could
happen to such a superior person as yourself," he added, chuckling.

I sat somewhat uneasy under this dry gibe.  Indeed, his manner of
treating this latter part of the question seemed to me a little
disrespectful.

"Come, now, my friend," quoth he, "don't you know that it is a great
pleasure to a clever woman to manage a house skilfully, and to do it so
that all the house-mates about her look pleased, and are grateful to her?
And then, you know, everybody likes to be ordered about by a pretty
woman: why, it is one of the pleasantest forms of flirtation.  You are
not so old that you cannot remember that.  Why, I remember it well."

And the old fellow chuckled again, and at last fairly burst out laughing.

"Excuse me," said he, after a while; "I am not laughing at anything you
could be thinking of; but at that silly nineteenth-century fashion,
current amongst rich so-called cultivated people, of ignoring all the
steps by which their daily dinner was reached, as matters too low for
their lofty intelligence.  Useless idiots!  Come, now, I am a 'literary
man,' as we queer animals used to be called, yet I am a pretty good cook
myself."

"So am I," said I.

"Well, then," said he, "I really think you can understand me better than
you would seem to do, judging by your words and your silence."

Said I: "Perhaps that is so; but people putting in practice commonly this
sense of interest in the ordinary occupations of life rather startles me.
I will ask you a question or two presently about that.  But I want to
return to the position of women amongst you.  You have studied the
'emancipation of women' business of the nineteenth century: don't you
remember that some of the 'superior' women wanted to emancipate the more
intelligent part of their sex from the bearing of children?"

The old man grew quite serious again.  Said he: "I _do_ remember about
that strange piece of baseless folly, the result, like all other follies
of the period, of the hideous class tyranny which then obtained.  What do
we think of it now? you would say.  My friend, that is a question easy to
answer.  How could it possibly be but that maternity should be highly
honoured amongst us?  Surely it is a matter of course that the natural
and necessary pains which the mother must go through form a bond of union
between man and woman, an extra stimulus to love and affection between
them, and that this is universally recognised.  For the rest, remember
that all the _artificial_ burdens of motherhood are now done away with.  A
mother has no longer any mere sordid anxieties for the future of her
children.  They may indeed turn out better or worse; they may disappoint
her highest hopes; such anxieties as these are a part of the mingled
pleasure and pain which goes to make up the life of mankind.  But at
least she is spared the fear (it was most commonly the certainty) that
artificial disabilities would make her children something less than men
and women: she knows that they will live and act according to the measure
of their own faculties.  In times past, it is clear that the 'Society' of
the day helped its Judaic god, and the 'Man of Science' of the time, in
visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children.  How to reverse this
process, how to take the sting out of heredity, has for long been one of
the most constant cares of the thoughtful men amongst us.  So that, you
see, the ordinarily healthy woman (and almost all our women are both
healthy and at least comely), respected as a child-bearer and rearer of
children, desired as a woman, loved as a companion, unanxious for the
future of her children, has far more instinct for maternity than the poor
drudge and mother of drudges of past days could ever have had; or than
her sister of the upper classes, brought up in affected ignorance of
natural facts, reared in an atmosphere of mingled prudery and prurience."

"You speak warmly," I said, "but I can see that you are right."

"Yes," he said, "and I will point out to you a token of all the benefits
which we have gained by our freedom.  What did you think of the looks of
the people whom you have come across to-day?"

Said I: "I could hardly have believed that there could be so many good-
looking people in any civilised country."

He crowed a little, like the old bird he was.  "What! are we still
civilised?" said he.  "Well, as to our looks, the English and Jutish
blood, which on the whole is predominant here, used not to produce much
beauty.  But I think we have improved it.  I know a man who has a large
collection of portraits printed from photographs of the nineteenth
century, and going over those and comparing them with the everyday faces
in these times, puts the improvement in our good looks beyond a doubt.
Now, there are some people who think it not too fantastic to connect this
increase of beauty directly with our freedom and good sense in the
matters we have been speaking of: they believe that a child born from the
natural and healthy love between a man and a woman, even if that be
transient, is likely to turn out better in all ways, and especially in
bodily beauty, than the birth of the respectable commercial marriage bed,
or of the dull despair of the drudge of that system.  They say, Pleasure
begets pleasure.  What do you think?"

"I am much of that mind," said I.



CHAPTER X: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


"Well," said the old man, shifting in his chair, "you must get on with
your questions, Guest; I have been some time answering this first one."

Said I: "I want an extra word or two about your ideas of education;
although I gathered from Dick that you let your children run wild and
didn't teach them anything; and in short, that you have so refined your
education, that now you have none."

"Then you gathered left-handed," quoth he.  "But of course I understand
your point of view about education, which is that of times past, when
'the struggle for life,' as men used to phrase it (_i.e._, the struggle
for a slave's rations on one side, and for a bouncing share of the slave-
holders' privilege on the other), pinched 'education' for most people
into a niggardly dole of not very accurate information; something to be
swallowed by the beginner in the art of living whether he liked it or
not, and was hungry for it or not: and which had been chewed and digested
over and over again by people who didn't care about it in order to serve
it out to other people who didn't care about it."

I stopped the old man's rising wrath by a laugh, and said: "Well, _you_
were not taught that way, at any rate, so you may let your anger run off
you a little."

"True, true," said he, smiling.  "I thank you for correcting my
ill-temper: I always fancy myself as living in any period of which we may
be speaking.  But, however, to put it in a cooler way: you expected to
see children thrust into schools when they had reached an age
conventionally supposed to be the due age, whatever their varying
faculties and dispositions might be, and when there, with like disregard
to facts to be subjected to a certain conventional course of 'learning.'
My friend, can't you see that such a proceeding means ignoring the fact
of _growth_, bodily and mental?  No one could come out of such a mill
uninjured; and those only would avoid being crushed by it who would have
the spirit of rebellion strong in them.  Fortunately most children have
had that at all times, or I do not know that we should ever have reached
our present position.  Now you see what it all comes to.  In the old
times all this was the result of _poverty_.  In the nineteenth century,
society was so miserably poor, owing to the systematised robbery on which
it was founded, that real education was impossible for anybody.  The
whole theory of their so-called education was that it was necessary to
shove a little information into a child, even if it were by means of
torture, and accompanied by twaddle which it was well known was of no
use, or else he would lack information lifelong: the hurry of poverty
forbade anything else.  All that is past; we are no longer hurried, and
the information lies ready to each one's hand when his own inclinations
impel him to seek it.  In this as in other matters we have become
wealthy: we can afford to give ourselves time to grow."

"Yes," said I, "but suppose the child, youth, man, never wants the
information, never grows in the direction you might hope him to do:
suppose, for instance, he objects to learning arithmetic or mathematics;
you can't force him when he _is_ grown; can't you force him while he is
growing, and oughtn't you to do so?"

"Well," said he, "were you forced to learn arithmetic and mathematics?"

"A little," said I.

"And how old are you now?"

"Say fifty-six," said I.

"And how much arithmetic and mathematics do you know now?" quoth the old
man, smiling rather mockingly.

Said I: "None whatever, I am sorry to say."

Hammond laughed quietly, but made no other comment on my admission, and I
dropped the subject of education, perceiving him to be hopeless on that
side.

I thought a little, and said: "You were speaking just now of households:
that sounded to me a little like the customs of past times; I should have
thought you would have lived more in public."

"Phalangsteries, eh?" said he.  "Well, we live as we like, and we like to
live as a rule with certain house-mates that we have got used to.
Remember, again, that poverty is extinct, and that the Fourierist
phalangsteries and all their kind, as was but natural at the time,
implied nothing but a refuge from mere destitution.  Such a way of life
as that, could only have been conceived of by people surrounded by the
worst form of poverty.  But you must understand therewith, that though
separate households are the rule amongst us, and though they differ in
their habits more or less, yet no door is shut to any good-tempered
person who is content to live as the other house-mates do: only of course
it would be unreasonable for one man to drop into a household and bid the
folk of it to alter their habits to please him, since he can go elsewhere
and live as he pleases.  However, I need not say much about all this, as
you are going up the river with Dick, and will find out for yourself by
experience how these matters are managed."

After a pause, I said: "Your big towns, now; how about them?  London,
which--which I have read about as the modern Babylon of civilization,
seems to have disappeared."

"Well, well," said old Hammond, "perhaps after all it is more like
ancient Babylon now than the 'modern Babylon' of the nineteenth century
was.  But let that pass.  After all, there is a good deal of population
in places between here and Hammersmith; nor have you seen the most
populous part of the town yet."

"Tell me, then," said I, "how is it towards the east?"

Said he: "Time was when if you mounted a good horse and rode straight
away from my door here at a round trot for an hour and a half; you would
still be in the thick of London, and the greater part of that would be
'slums,' as they were called; that is to say, places of torture for
innocent men and women; or worse, stews for rearing and breeding men and
women in such degradation that that torture should seem to them mere
ordinary and natural life."

"I know, I know," I said, rather impatiently.  "That was what was; tell
me something of what is.  Is any of that left?"

"Not an inch," said he; "but some memory of it abides with us, and I am
glad of it.  Once a year, on May-day, we hold a solemn feast in those
easterly communes of London to commemorate The Clearing of Misery, as it
is called.  On that day we have music and dancing, and merry games and
happy feasting on the site of some of the worst of the old slums, the
traditional memory of which we have kept.  On that occasion the custom is
for the prettiest girls to sing some of the old revolutionary songs, and
those which were the groans of the discontent, once so hopeless, on the
very spots where those terrible crimes of class-murder were committed day
by day for so many years.  To a man like me, who have studied the past so
diligently, it is a curious and touching sight to see some beautiful
girl, daintily clad, and crowned with flowers from the neighbouring
meadows, standing amongst the happy people, on some mound where of old
time stood the wretched apology for a house, a den in which men and women
lived packed amongst the filth like pilchards in a cask; lived in such a
way that they could only have endured it, as I said just now, by being
degraded out of humanity--to hear the terrible words of threatening and
lamentation coming from her sweet and beautiful lips, and she unconscious
of their real meaning: to hear her, for instance, singing Hood's Song of
the Shirt, and to think that all the time she does not understand what it
is all about--a tragedy grown inconceivable to her and her listeners.
Think of that, if you can, and of how glorious life is grown!"

"Indeed," said I, "it is difficult for me to think of it."

And I sat watching how his eyes glittered, and how the fresh life seemed
to glow in his face, and I wondered how at his age he should think of the
happiness of the world, or indeed anything but his coming dinner.

"Tell me in detail," said I, "what lies east of Bloomsbury now?"

Said he: "There are but few houses between this and the outer part of the
old city; but in the city we have a thickly-dwelling population.  Our
forefathers, in the first clearing of the slums, were not in a hurry to
pull down the houses in what was called at the end of the nineteenth
century the business quarter of the town, and what later got to be known
as the Swindling Kens.  You see, these houses, though they stood
hideously thick on the ground, were roomy and fairly solid in building,
and clean, because they were not used for living in, but as mere gambling
booths; so the poor people from the cleared slums took them for lodgings
and dwelt there, till the folk of those days had time to think of
something better for them; so the buildings were pulled down so gradually
that people got used to living thicker on the ground there than in most
places; therefore it remains the most populous part of London, or perhaps
of all these islands.  But it is very pleasant there, partly because of
the splendour of the architecture, which goes further than what you will
see elsewhere.  However, this crowding, if it may be called so, does not
go further than a street called Aldgate, a name which perhaps you may
have heard of.  Beyond that the houses are scattered wide about the
meadows there, which are very beautiful, especially when you get on to
the lovely river Lea (where old Isaak Walton used to fish, you know)
about the places called Stratford and Old Ford, names which of course you
will not have heard of, though the Romans were busy there once upon a
time."

Not heard of them! thought I to myself.  How strange! that I who had seen
the very last remnant of the pleasantness of the meadows by the Lea
destroyed, should have heard them spoken of with pleasantness come back
to them in full measure.

Hammond went on: "When you get down to the Thames side you come on the
Docks, which are works of the nineteenth century, and are still in use,
although not so thronged as they once were, since we discourage
centralisation all we can, and we have long ago dropped the pretension to
be the market of the world.  About these Docks are a good few houses,
which, however, are not inhabited by many people permanently; I mean,
those who use them come and go a good deal, the place being too low and
marshy for pleasant dwelling.  Past the Docks eastward and landward it is
all flat pasture, once marsh, except for a few gardens, and there are
very few permanent dwellings there: scarcely anything but a few sheds,
and cots for the men who come to look after the great herds of cattle
pasturing there.  But however, what with the beasts and the men, and the
scattered red-tiled roofs and the big hayricks, it does not make a bad
holiday to get a quiet pony and ride about there on a sunny afternoon of
autumn, and look over the river and the craft passing up and down, and on
to Shooters' Hill and the Kentish uplands, and then turn round to the
wide green sea of the Essex marsh-land, with the great domed line of the
sky, and the sun shining down in one flood of peaceful light over the
long distance.  There is a place called Canning's Town, and further out,
Silvertown, where the pleasant meadows are at their pleasantest:
doubtless they were once slums, and wretched enough."

The names grated on my ear, but I could not explain why to him.  So I
said: "And south of the river, what is it like?"

He said: "You would find it much the same as the land about Hammersmith.
North, again, the land runs up high, and there is an agreeable and well-
built town called Hampstead, which fitly ends London on that side.  It
looks down on the north-western end of the forest you passed through."

I smiled.  "So much for what was once London," said I.  "Now tell me
about the other towns of the country."

He said: "As to the big murky places which were once, as we know, the
centres of manufacture, they have, like the brick and mortar desert of
London, disappeared; only, since they were centres of nothing but
'manufacture,' and served no purpose but that of the gambling market,
they have left less signs of their existence than London.  Of course, the
great change in the use of mechanical force made this an easy matter, and
some approach to their break-up as centres would probably have taken
place, even if we had not changed our habits so much: but they being such
as they were, no sacrifice would have seemed too great a price to pay for
getting rid of the 'manufacturing districts,' as they used to be called.
For the rest, whatever coal or mineral we need is brought to grass and
sent whither it is needed with as little as possible of dirt, confusion,
and the distressing of quiet people's lives.  One is tempted to believe
from what one has read of the condition of those districts in the
nineteenth century, that those who had them under their power worried,
befouled, and degraded men out of malice prepense: but it was not so;
like the mis-education of which we were talking just now, it came of
their dreadful poverty.  They were obliged to put up with everything, and
even pretend that they liked it; whereas we can now deal with things
reasonably, and refuse to be saddled with what we do not want."

I confess I was not sorry to cut short with a question his glorifications
of the age he lived in.  Said I: "How about the smaller towns?  I suppose
you have swept those away entirely?"

"No, no," said he, "it hasn't gone that way.  On the contrary, there has
been but little clearance, though much rebuilding, in the smaller towns.
Their suburbs, indeed, when they had any, have melted away into the
general country, and space and elbow-room has been got in their centres:
but there are the towns still with their streets and squares and market-
places; so that it is by means of these smaller towns that we of to-day
can get some kind of idea of what the towns of the older world were
like;--I mean to say at their best."

"Take Oxford, for instance," said I.

"Yes," said he, "I suppose Oxford was beautiful even in the nineteenth
century.  At present it has the great interest of still preserving a
great mass of pre-commercial building, and is a very beautiful place, yet
there are many towns which have become scarcely less beautiful."

Said I: "In passing, may I ask if it is still a place of learning?"

"Still?" said he, smiling.  "Well, it has reverted to some of its best
traditions; so you may imagine how far it is from its nineteenth-century
position.  It is real learning, knowledge cultivated for its own sake--the
Art of Knowledge, in short--which is followed there, not the Commercial
learning of the past.  Though perhaps you do not know that in the
nineteenth century Oxford and its less interesting sister Cambridge
became definitely commercial.  They (and especially Oxford) were the
breeding places of a peculiar class of parasites, who called themselves
cultivated people; they were indeed cynical enough, as the so-called
educated classes of the day generally were; but they affected an
exaggeration of cynicism in order that they might be thought knowing and
worldly-wise.  The rich middle classes (they had no relation with the
working classes) treated them with the kind of contemptuous toleration
with which a mediaeval baron treated his jester; though it must be said
that they were by no means so pleasant as the old jesters were, being, in
fact, _the_ bores of society.  They were laughed at, despised--and paid.
Which last was what they aimed at."

Dear me! thought I, how apt history is to reverse contemporary judgments.
Surely only the worst of them were as bad as that.  But I must admit that
they were mostly prigs, and that they _were_ commercial.  I said aloud,
though more to myself than to Hammond, "Well, how could they be better
than the age that made them?"

"True," he said, "but their pretensions were higher."

"Were they?" said I, smiling.

"You drive me from corner to corner," said he, smiling in turn.  "Let me
say at least that they were a poor sequence to the aspirations of Oxford
of 'the barbarous Middle Ages.'"

"Yes, that will do," said I.

"Also," said Hammond, "what I have been saying of them is true in the
main.  But ask on!"

I said: "We have heard about London and the manufacturing districts and
the ordinary towns: how about the villages?"

Said Hammond: "You must know that toward the end of the nineteenth
century the villages were almost destroyed, unless where they became mere
adjuncts to the manufacturing districts, or formed a sort of minor
manufacturing districts themselves.  Houses were allowed to fall into
decay and actual ruin; trees were cut down for the sake of the few
shillings which the poor sticks would fetch; the building became
inexpressibly mean and hideous.  Labour was scarce; but wages fell
nevertheless.  All the small country arts of life which once added to the
little pleasures of country people were lost.  The country produce which
passed through the hands of the husbandmen never got so far as their
mouths.  Incredible shabbiness and niggardly pinching reigned over the
fields and acres which, in spite of the rude and careless husbandry of
the times, were so kind and bountiful.  Had you any inkling of all this?"

"I have heard that it was so," said I "but what followed?"

"The change," said Hammond, "which in these matters took place very early
in our epoch, was most strangely rapid.  People flocked into the country
villages, and, so to say, flung themselves upon the freed land like a
wild beast upon his prey; and in a very little time the villages of
England were more populous than they had been since the fourteenth
century, and were still growing fast.  Of course, this invasion of the
country was awkward to deal with, and would have created much misery, if
the folk had still been under the bondage of class monopoly.  But as it
was, things soon righted themselves.  People found out what they were fit
for, and gave up attempting to push themselves into occupations in which
they must needs fail.  The town invaded the country; but the invaders,
like the warlike invaders of early days, yielded to the influence of
their surroundings, and became country people; and in their turn, as they
became more numerous than the townsmen, influenced them also; so that the
difference between town and country grew less and less; and it was indeed
this world of the country vivified by the thought and briskness of town-
bred folk which has produced that happy and leisurely but eager life of
which you have had a first taste.  Again I say, many blunders were made,
but we have had time to set them right.  Much was left for the men of my
earlier life to deal with.  The crude ideas of the first half of the
twentieth century, when men were still oppressed by the fear of poverty,
and did not look enough to the present pleasure of ordinary daily life,
spoilt a great deal of what the commercial age had left us of external
beauty: and I admit that it was but slowly that men recovered from the
injuries that they inflicted on themselves even after they became free.
But slowly as the recovery came, it _did_ come; and the more you see of
us, the clearer it will be to you that we are happy.  That we live amidst
beauty without any fear of becoming effeminate; that we have plenty to
do, and on the whole enjoy doing it.  What more can we ask of life?"

He paused, as if he were seeking for words with which to express his
thought.  Then he said:

"This is how we stand.  England was once a country of clearings amongst
the woods and wastes, with a few towns interspersed, which were
fortresses for the feudal army, markets for the folk, gathering places
for the craftsmen.  It then became a country of huge and foul workshops
and fouler gambling-dens, surrounded by an ill-kept, poverty-stricken
farm, pillaged by the masters of the workshops.  It is now a garden,
where nothing is wasted and nothing is spoilt, with the necessary
dwellings, sheds, and workshops scattered up and down the country, all
trim and neat and pretty.  For, indeed, we should be too much ashamed of
ourselves if we allowed the making of goods, even on a large scale, to
carry with it the appearance, even, of desolation and misery.  Why, my
friend, those housewives we were talking of just now would teach us
better than that."

Said I: "This side of your change is certainly for the better.  But
though I shall soon see some of these villages, tell me in a word or two
what they are like, just to prepare me."

"Perhaps," said he, "you have seen a tolerable picture of these villages
as they were before the end of the nineteenth century.  Such things
exist."

"I have seen several of such pictures," said I.

"Well," said Hammond, "our villages are something like the best of such
places, with the church or mote-house of the neighbours for their chief
building.  Only note that there are no tokens of poverty about them: no
tumble-down picturesque; which, to tell you the truth, the artist usually
availed himself of to veil his incapacity for drawing architecture.  Such
things do not please us, even when they indicate no misery.  Like the
mediaevals, we like everything trim and clean, and orderly and bright; as
people always do when they have any sense of architectural power; because
then they know that they can have what they want, and they won't stand
any nonsense from Nature in their dealings with her."

"Besides the villages, are there any scattered country houses?" said I.

"Yes, plenty," said Hammond; "in fact, except in the wastes and forests
and amongst the sand-hills (like Hindhead in Surrey), it is not easy to
be out of sight of a house; and where the houses are thinly scattered
they run large, and are more like the old colleges than ordinary houses
as they used to be.  That is done for the sake of society, for a good
many people can dwell in such houses, as the country dwellers are not
necessarily husbandmen; though they almost all help in such work at
times.  The life that goes on in these big dwellings in the country is
very pleasant, especially as some of the most studious men of our time
live in them, and altogether there is a great variety of mind and mood to
be found in them which brightens and quickens the society there."

"I am rather surprised," said I, "by all this, for it seems to me that
after all the country must be tolerably populous."

"Certainly," said he; "the population is pretty much the same as it was
at the end of the nineteenth century; we have spread it, that is all.  Of
course, also, we have helped to populate other countries--where we were
wanted and were called for."

Said I: "One thing, it seems to me, does not go with your word of
'garden' for the country.  You have spoken of wastes and forests, and I
myself have seen the beginning of your Middlesex and Essex forest.  Why
do you keep such things in a garden? and isn't it very wasteful to do
so?"

"My friend," he said, "we like these pieces of wild nature, and can
afford them, so we have them; let alone that as to the forests, we need a
great deal of timber, and suppose that our sons and sons' sons will do
the like.  As to the land being a garden, I have heard that they used to
have shrubberies and rockeries in gardens once; and though I might not
like the artificial ones, I assure you that some of the natural rockeries
of our garden are worth seeing.  Go north this summer and look at the
Cumberland and Westmoreland ones,--where, by the way, you will see some
sheep-feeding, so that they are not so wasteful as you think; not so
wasteful as forcing-grounds for fruit out of season, _I_ think.  Go and
have a look at the sheep-walks high up the slopes between Ingleborough
and Pen-y-gwent, and tell me if you think we _waste_ the land there by
not covering it with factories for making things that nobody wants, which
was the chief business of the nineteenth century."

"I will try to go there," said I.

"It won't take much trying," said he.



CHAPTER XI: CONCERNING GOVERNMENT


"Now," said I, "I have come to the point of asking questions which I
suppose will be dry for you to answer and difficult for you to explain;
but I have foreseen for some time past that I must ask them, will I 'nill
I.  What kind of a government have you?  Has republicanism finally
triumphed? or have you come to a mere dictatorship, which some persons in
the nineteenth century used to prophesy as the ultimate outcome of
democracy?  Indeed, this last question does not seem so very
unreasonable, since you have turned your Parliament House into a dung-
market.  Or where do you house your present Parliament?"

The old man answered my smile with a hearty laugh, and said: "Well, well,
dung is not the worst kind of corruption; fertility may come of that,
whereas mere dearth came from the other kind, of which those walls once
held the great supporters.  Now, dear guest, let me tell you that our
present parliament would be hard to house in one place, because the whole
people is our parliament."

"I don't understand," said I.

"No, I suppose not," said he.  "I must now shock you by telling you that
we have no longer anything which you, a native of another planet, would
call a government."

"I am not so much shocked as you might think," said I, "as I know
something about governments.  But tell me, how do you manage, and how
have you come to this state of things?"

Said he: "It is true that we have to make some arrangements about our
affairs, concerning which you can ask presently; and it is also true that
everybody does not always agree with the details of these arrangements;
but, further, it is true that a man no more needs an elaborate system of
government, with its army, navy, and police, to force him to give way to
the will of the majority of his _equals_, than he wants a similar
machinery to make him understand that his head and a stone wall cannot
occupy the same space at the same moment.  Do you want further
explanation?"

"Well, yes, I do," quoth I.

Old Hammond settled himself in his chair with a look of enjoyment which
rather alarmed me, and made me dread a scientific disquisition: so I
sighed and abided.  He said:

"I suppose you know pretty well what the process of government was in the
bad old times?"

"I am supposed to know," said I.

(Hammond)  What was the government of those days?  Was it really the
Parliament or any part of it?

(I)  No.

(H.)  Was not the Parliament on the one side a kind of watch-committee
sitting to see that the interests of the Upper Classes took no hurt; and
on the other side a sort of blind to delude the people into supposing
that they had some share in the management of their own affairs?

(I)  History seems to show us this.

(H.)  To what extent did the people manage their own affairs?

(I)  I judge from what I have heard that sometimes they forced the
Parliament to make a law to legalise some alteration which had already
taken place.

(H.)  Anything else?

(I)  I think not.  As I am informed, if the people made any attempt to
deal with the _cause_ of their grievances, the law stepped in and said,
this is sedition, revolt, or what not, and slew or tortured the
ringleaders of such attempts.

(H.)  If Parliament was not the government then, nor the people either,
what was the government?

(I)  Can you tell me?

(H.)  I think we shall not be far wrong if we say that government was the
Law-Courts, backed up by the executive, which handled the brute force
that the deluded people allowed them to use for their own purposes; I
mean the army, navy, and police.

(I)  Reasonable men must needs think you are right.

(H.)  Now as to those Law-Courts.  Were they places of fair dealing
according to the ideas of the day?  Had a poor man a good chance of
defending his property and person in them?

(I)  It is a commonplace that even rich men looked upon a law-suit as a
dire misfortune, even if they gained the case; and as for a poor one--why,
it was considered a miracle of justice and beneficence if a poor man who
had once got into the clutches of the law escaped prison or utter ruin.

(H.)  It seems, then, my son, that the government by law-courts and
police, which was the real government of the nineteenth century, was not
a great success even to the people of that day, living under a class
system which proclaimed inequality and poverty as the law of God and the
bond which held the world together.

(I)  So it seems, indeed.

(H.)  And now that all this is changed, and the "rights of property,"
which mean the clenching the fist on a piece of goods and crying out to
the neighbours, You shan't have this!--now that all this has disappeared
so utterly that it is no longer possible even to jest upon its absurdity,
is such a Government possible?

(I)  It is impossible.

(H.)  Yes, happily.  But for what other purpose than the protection of
the rich from the poor, the strong from the weak, did this Government
exist?

(I.)  I have heard that it was said that their office was to defend their
own citizens against attack from other countries.

(H.)  It was said; but was anyone expected to believe this?  For
instance, did the English Government defend the English citizen against
the French?

(I)  So it was said.

(H.)  Then if the French had invaded England and conquered it, they would
not have allowed the English workmen to live well?

(I, laughing)  As far as I can make out, the English masters of the
English workmen saw to that: they took from their workmen as much of
their livelihood as they dared, because they wanted it for themselves.

(H.)  But if the French had conquered, would they not have taken more
still from the English workmen?

(I)  I do not think so; for in that case the English workmen would have
died of starvation; and then the French conquest would have ruined the
French, just as if the English horses and cattle had died of
under-feeding.  So that after all, the English _workmen_ would have been
no worse off for the conquest: their French Masters could have got no
more from them than their English masters did.

(H.)  This is true; and we may admit that the pretensions of the
government to defend the poor (_i.e._, the useful) people against other
countries come to nothing.  But that is but natural; for we have seen
already that it was the function of government to protect the rich
against the poor.  But did not the government defend its rich men against
other nations?

(I)  I do not remember to have heard that the rich needed defence;
because it is said that even when two nations were at war, the rich men
of each nation gambled with each other pretty much as usual, and even
sold each other weapons wherewith to kill their own countrymen.

(H.)  In short, it comes to this, that whereas the so-called government
of protection of property by means of the law-courts meant destruction of
wealth, this defence of the citizens of one country against those of
another country by means of war or the threat of war meant pretty much
the same thing.

(I)  I cannot deny it.

(H.)  Therefore the government really existed for the destruction of
wealth?

(I)  So it seems.  And yet--

(H.)  Yet what?

(I)  There were many rich people in those times.

(H.)  You see the consequences of that fact?

(I)  I think I do.  But tell me out what they were.

(H.)  If the government habitually destroyed wealth, the country must
have been poor?

(I)  Yes, certainly.

(H.)  Yet amidst this poverty the persons for the sake of whom the
government existed insisted on being rich whatever might happen?

(I)  So it was.

(H.)  What must happen if in a poor country some people insist on being
rich at the expense of the others?

(I)  Unutterable poverty for the others.  All this misery, then, was
caused by the destructive government of which we have been speaking?

(H.)  Nay, it would be incorrect to say so.  The government itself was
but the necessary result of the careless, aimless tyranny of the times;
it was but the machinery of tyranny.  Now tyranny has come to an end, and
we no longer need such machinery; we could not possibly use it since we
are free.  Therefore in your sense of the word we have no government.  Do
you understand this now?

(I)  Yes, I do.  But I will ask you some more questions as to how you as
free men manage your affairs.

(H.)  With all my heart.  Ask away.



CHAPTER XII: CONCERNING THE ARRANGEMENT OF LIFE


"Well," I said, "about those 'arrangements' which you spoke of as taking
the place of government, could you give me any account of them?"

"Neighbour," he said, "although we have simplified our lives a great deal
from what they were, and have got rid of many conventionalities and many
sham wants, which used to give our forefathers much trouble, yet our life
is too complex for me to tell you in detail by means of words how it is
arranged; you must find that out by living amongst us.  It is true that I
can better tell you what we don't do, than what we do do."

"Well?" said I.

"This is the way to put it," said he: "We have been living for a hundred
and fifty years, at least, more or less in our present manner, and a
tradition or habit of life has been growing on us; and that habit has
become a habit of acting on the whole for the best.  It is easy for us to
live without robbing each other.  It would be possible for us to contend
with and rob each other, but it would be harder for us than refraining
from strife and robbery.  That is in short the foundation of our life and
our happiness."

"Whereas in the old days," said I, "it was very hard to live without
strife and robbery.  That's what you mean, isn't it, by giving me the
negative side of your good conditions?"

"Yes," he said, "it was so hard, that those who habitually acted fairly
to their neighbours were celebrated as saints and heroes, and were looked
up to with the greatest reverence."

"While they were alive?" said I.

"No," said he, "after they were dead."

"But as to these days," I said; "you don't mean to tell me that no one
ever transgresses this habit of good fellowship?"

"Certainly not," said Hammond, "but when the transgressions occur,
everybody, transgressors and all, know them for what they are; the errors
of friends, not the habitual actions of persons driven into enmity
against society."

"I see," said I; "you mean that you have no 'criminal' classes."

"How could we have them," said he, "since there is no rich class to breed
enemies against the state by means of the injustice of the state?"

Said I: "I thought that I understood from something that fell from you a
little while ago that you had abolished civil law.  Is that so,
literally?"

"It abolished itself, my friend," said he.  "As I said before, the civil
law-courts were upheld for the defence of private property; for nobody
ever pretended that it was possible to make people act fairly to each
other by means of brute force.  Well, private property being abolished,
all the laws and all the legal 'crimes' which it had manufactured of
course came to an end.  Thou shalt not steal, had to be translated into,
Thou shalt work in order to live happily.  Is there any need to enforce
that commandment by violence?"

"Well," said I, "that is understood, and I agree with it; but how about
crimes of violence? would not their occurrence (and you admit that they
occur) make criminal law necessary?"

Said he: "In your sense of the word, we have no criminal law either.  Let
us look at the matter closer, and see whence crimes of violence spring.
By far the greater part of these in past days were the result of the laws
of private property, which forbade the satisfaction of their natural
desires to all but a privileged few, and of the general visible coercion
which came of those laws.  All that cause of violent crime is gone.
Again, many violent acts came from the artificial perversion of the
sexual passions, which caused overweening jealousy and the like miseries.
Now, when you look carefully into these, you will find that what lay at
the bottom of them was mostly the idea (a law-made idea) of the woman
being the property of the man, whether he were husband, father, brother,
or what not.  That idea has of course vanished with private property, as
well as certain follies about the 'ruin' of women for following their
natural desires in an illegal way, which of course was a convention
caused by the laws of private property.

"Another cognate cause of crimes of violence was the family tyranny,
which was the subject of so many novels and stories of the past, and
which once more was the result of private property.  Of course that is
all ended, since families are held together by no bond of coercion, legal
or social, but by mutual liking and affection, and everybody is free to
come or go as he or she pleases.  Furthermore, our standards of honour
and public estimation are very different from the old ones; success in
besting our neighbours is a road to renown now closed, let us hope for
ever.  Each man is free to exercise his special faculty to the utmost,
and every one encourages him in so doing.  So that we have got rid of the
scowling envy, coupled by the poets with hatred, and surely with good
reason; heaps of unhappiness and ill-blood were caused by it, which with
irritable and passionate men--_i.e._, energetic and active men--often led
to violence."

I laughed, and said: "So that you now withdraw your admission, and say
that there is no violence amongst you?"

"No," said he, "I withdraw nothing; as I told you, such things will
happen.  Hot blood will err sometimes.  A man may strike another, and the
stricken strike back again, and the result be a homicide, to put it at
the worst.  But what then?  Shall we the neighbours make it worse still?
Shall we think so poorly of each other as to suppose that the slain man
calls on us to revenge him, when we know that if he had been maimed, he
would, when in cold blood and able to weigh all the circumstances, have
forgiven his manner?  Or will the death of the slayer bring the slain man
to life again and cure the unhappiness his loss has caused?"

"Yes," I said, "but consider, must not the safety of society be
safeguarded by some punishment?"

"There, neighbour!" said the old man, with some exultation "You have hit
the mark.  That _punishment_ of which men used to talk so wisely and act
so foolishly, what was it but the expression of their fear?  And they had
need to fear, since they--_i.e._, the rulers of society--were dwelling
like an armed band in a hostile country.  But we who live amongst our
friends need neither fear nor punish.  Surely if we, in dread of an
occasional rare homicide, an occasional rough blow, were solemnly and
legally to commit homicide and violence, we could only be a society of
ferocious cowards.  Don't you think so, neighbour?"

"Yes, I do, when I come to think of it from that side," said I.

"Yet you must understand," said the old man, "that when any violence is
committed, we expect the transgressor to make any atonement possible to
him, and he himself expects it.  But again, think if the destruction or
serious injury of a man momentarily overcome by wrath or folly can be any
atonement to the commonwealth?  Surely it can only be an additional
injury to it."

Said I: "But suppose the man has a habit of violence,--kills a man a
year, for instance?"

"Such a thing is unknown," said he.  "In a society where there is no
punishment to evade, no law to triumph over, remorse will certainly
follow transgression."

"And lesser outbreaks of violence," said I, "how do you deal with them?
for hitherto we have been talking of great tragedies, I suppose?"

Said Hammond: "If the ill-doer is not sick or mad (in which case he must
be restrained till his sickness or madness is cured) it is clear that
grief and humiliation must follow the ill-deed; and society in general
will make that pretty clear to the ill-doer if he should chance to be
dull to it; and again, some kind of atonement will follow,--at the least,
an open acknowledgement of the grief and humiliation.  Is it so hard to
say, I ask your pardon, neighbour?--Well, sometimes it is hard--and let
it be."

"You think that enough?" said I.

"Yes," said he, "and moreover it is all that we _can_ do.  If in addition
we torture the man, we turn his grief into anger, and the humiliation he
would otherwise feel for _his_ wrong-doing is swallowed up by a hope of
revenge for _our_ wrong-doing to him.  He has paid the legal penalty, and
can 'go and sin again' with comfort.  Shall we commit such a folly, then?
Remember Jesus had got the legal penalty remitted before he said 'Go and
sin no more.'  Let alone that in a society of equals you will not find
any one to play the part of torturer or jailer, though many to act as
nurse or doctor."

"So," said I, "you consider crime a mere spasmodic disease, which
requires no body of criminal law to deal with it?"

"Pretty much so," said he; "and since, as I have told you, we are a
healthy people generally, so we are not likely to be much troubled with
_this_ disease."

"Well, you have no civil law, and no criminal law.  But have you no laws
of the market, so to say--no regulation for the exchange of wares? for
you must exchange, even if you have no property."

Said he: "We have no obvious individual exchange, as you saw this morning
when you went a-shopping; but of course there are regulations of the
markets, varying according to the circumstances and guided by general
custom.  But as these are matters of general assent, which nobody dreams
of objecting to, so also we have made no provision for enforcing them:
therefore I don't call them laws.  In law, whether it be criminal or
civil, execution always follows judgment, and someone must suffer.  When
you see the judge on his bench, you see through him, as clearly as if he
were made of glass, the policeman to emprison, and the soldier to slay
some actual living person.  Such follies would make an agreeable market,
wouldn't they?"

"Certainly," said I, "that means turning the market into a mere battle-
field, in which many people must suffer as much as in the battle-field of
bullet and bayonet.  And from what I have seen I should suppose that your
marketing, great and little, is carried on in a way that makes it a
pleasant occupation."

"You are right, neighbour," said he.  "Although there are so many, indeed
by far the greater number amongst us, who would be unhappy if they were
not engaged in actually making things, and things which turn out
beautiful under their hands,--there are many, like the housekeepers I was
speaking of, whose delight is in administration and organisation, to use
long-tailed words; I mean people who like keeping things together,
avoiding waste, seeing that nothing sticks fast uselessly.  Such people
are thoroughly happy in their business, all the more as they are dealing
with actual facts, and not merely passing counters round to see what
share they shall have in the privileged taxation of useful people, which
was the business of the commercial folk in past days.  Well, what are you
going to ask me next?"



CHAPTER XIII: CONCERNING POLITICS


Said I: "How do you manage with politics?"

Said Hammond, smiling: "I am glad that it is of _me_ that you ask that
question; I do believe that anybody else would make you explain yourself,
or try to do so, till you were sickened of asking questions.  Indeed, I
believe I am the only man in England who would know what you mean; and
since I know, I will answer your question briefly by saying that we are
very well off as to politics,--because we have none.  If ever you make a
book out of this conversation, put this in a chapter by itself, after the
model of old Horrebow's Snakes in Iceland."

"I will," said I.



CHAPTER XIV: HOW MATTERS ARE MANAGED


Said I: "How about your relations with foreign nations?"

"I will not affect not to know what you mean," said he, "but I will tell
you at once that the whole system of rival and contending nations which
played so great a part in the 'government' of the world of civilisation
has disappeared along with the inequality betwixt man and man in
society."

"Does not that make the world duller?" said I.

"Why?" said the old man.

"The obliteration of national variety," said I.

"Nonsense," he said, somewhat snappishly.  "Cross the water and see.  You
will find plenty of variety: the landscape, the building, the diet, the
amusements, all various.  The men and women varying in looks as well as
in habits of thought; the costume far more various than in the commercial
period.  How should it add to the variety or dispel the dulness, to
coerce certain families or tribes, often heterogeneous and jarring with
one another, into certain artificial and mechanical groups, and call them
nations, and stimulate their patriotism--_i.e._, their foolish and
envious prejudices?"

"Well--I don't know how," said I.

"That's right," said Hammond cheerily; "you can easily understand that
now we are freed from this folly it is obvious to us that by means of
this very diversity the different strains of blood in the world can be
serviceable and pleasant to each other, without in the least wanting to
rob each other: we are all bent on the same enterprise, making the most
of our lives.  And I must tell you whatever quarrels or misunderstandings
arise, they very seldom take place between people of different race; and
consequently since there is less unreason in them, they are the more
readily appeased."

"Good," said I, "but as to those matters of politics; as to general
differences of opinion in one and the same community.  Do you assert that
there are none?"

"No, not at all," said he, somewhat snappishly; "but I do say that
differences of opinion about real solid things need not, and with us do
not, crystallise people into parties permanently hostile to one another,
with different theories as to the build of the universe and the progress
of time.  Isn't that what politics used to mean?"

"H'm, well," said I, "I am not so sure of that."

Said he: "I take, you, neighbour; they only _pretended_ to this serious
difference of opinion; for if it had existed they could not have dealt
together in the ordinary business of life; couldn't have eaten together,
bought and sold together, gambled together, cheated other people
together, but must have fought whenever they met: which would not have
suited them at all.  The game of the masters of politics was to cajole or
force the public to pay the expense of a luxurious life and exciting
amusement for a few cliques of ambitious persons: and the _pretence_ of
serious difference of opinion, belied by every action of their lives, was
quite good enough for that.  What has all that got to do with us?"

Said I: "Why, nothing, I should hope.  But I fear--In short, I have been
told that political strife was a necessary result of human nature."

"Human nature!" cried the old boy, impetuously; "what human nature?  The
human nature of paupers, of slaves, of slave-holders, or the human nature
of wealthy freemen?  Which?  Come, tell me that!"

"Well," said I, "I suppose there would be a difference according to
circumstances in people's action about these matters."

"I should think so, indeed," said he.  "At all events, experience shows
that it is so.  Amongst us, our differences concern matters of business,
and passing events as to them, and could not divide men permanently.  As
a rule, the immediate outcome shows which opinion on a given subject is
the right one; it is a matter of fact, not of speculation.  For instance,
it is clearly not easy to knock up a political party on the question as
to whether haymaking in such and such a country-side shall begin this
week or next, when all men agree that it must at latest begin the week
after next, and when any man can go down into the fields himself and see
whether the seeds are ripe enough for the cutting."

Said I: "And you settle these differences, great and small, by the will
of the majority, I suppose?"

"Certainly," said he; "how else could we settle them?  You see in matters
which are merely personal which do not affect the welfare of the
community--how a man shall dress, what he shall eat and drink, what he
shall write and read, and so forth--there can be no difference of
opinion, and everybody does as he pleases.  But when the matter is of
common interest to the whole community, and the doing or not doing
something affects everybody, the majority must have their way; unless the
minority were to take up arms and show by force that they were the
effective or real majority; which, however, in a society of men who are
free and equal is little likely to happen; because in such a community
the apparent majority _is_ the real majority, and the others, as I have
hinted before, know that too well to obstruct from mere pigheadedness;
especially as they have had plenty of opportunity of putting forward
their side of the question."

"How is that managed?" said I.

"Well," said he, "let us take one of our units of management, a commune,
or a ward, or a parish (for we have all three names, indicating little
real distinction between them now, though time was there was a good
deal).  In such a district, as you would call it, some neighbours think
that something ought to be done or undone: a new town-hall built; a
clearance of inconvenient houses; or say a stone bridge substituted for
some ugly old iron one,--there you have undoing and doing in one.  Well,
at the next ordinary meeting of the neighbours, or Mote, as we call it,
according to the ancient tongue of the times before bureaucracy, a
neighbour proposes the change, and of course, if everybody agrees, there
is an end of discussion, except about details.  Equally, if no one backs
the proposer,--'seconds him,' it used to be called--the matter drops for
the time being; a thing not likely to happen amongst reasonable men,
however, as the proposer is sure to have talked it over with others
before the Mote.  But supposing the affair proposed and seconded, if a
few of the neighbours disagree to it, if they think that the beastly iron
bridge will serve a little longer and they don't want to be bothered with
building a new one just then, they don't count heads that time, but put
off the formal discussion to the next Mote; and meantime arguments _pro_
and _con_ are flying about, and some get printed, so that everybody knows
what is going on; and when the Mote comes together again there is a
regular discussion and at last a vote by show of hands.  If the division
is a close one, the question is again put off for further discussion; if
the division is a wide one, the minority are asked if they will yield to
the more general opinion, which they often, nay, most commonly do.  If
they refuse, the question is debated a third time, when, if the minority
has not perceptibly grown, they always give way; though I believe there
is some half-forgotten rule by which they might still carry it on
further; but I say, what always happens is that they are convinced, not
perhaps that their view is the wrong one, but they cannot persuade or
force the community to adopt it."

"Very good," said I; "but what happens if the divisions are still
narrow?"

Said he: "As a matter of principle and according to the rule of such
cases, the question must then lapse, and the majority, if so narrow, has
to submit to sitting down under the _status quo_.  But I must tell you
that in point of fact the minority very seldom enforces this rule, but
generally yields in a friendly manner."

"But do you know," said I, "that there is something in all this very like
democracy; and I thought that democracy was considered to be in a
moribund condition many, many years ago."

The old boy's eyes twinkled.  "I grant you that our methods have that
drawback.  But what is to be done?  We can't get _anyone_ amongst us to
complain of his not always having his own way in the teeth of the
community, when it is clear that _everybody_ cannot have that indulgence.
What is to be done?"

"Well," said I, "I don't know."

Said he: "The only alternatives to our method that I can conceive of are
these.  First, that we should choose out, or breed, a class of superior
persons capable of judging on all matters without consulting the
neighbours; that, in short, we should get for ourselves what used to be
called an aristocracy of intellect; or, secondly, that for the purpose of
safe-guarding the freedom of the individual will, we should revert to a
system of private property again, and have slaves and slave-holders once
more.  What do you think of those two expedients?"

"Well," said I, "there is a third possibility--to wit, that every man
should be quite independent of every other, and that thus the tyranny of
society should be abolished."

He looked hard at me for a second or two, and then burst out laughing
very heartily; and I confess that I joined him.  When he recovered
himself he nodded at me, and said: "Yes, yes, I quite agree with you--and
so we all do."

"Yes," I said, "and besides, it does not press hardly on the minority:
for, take this matter of the bridge, no man is obliged to work on it if
he doesn't agree to its building.  At least, I suppose not."

He smiled, and said: "Shrewdly put; and yet from the point of view of the
native of another planet.  If the man of the minority does find his
feelings hurt, doubtless he may relieve them by refusing to help in
building the bridge.  But, dear neighbour, that is not a very effective
salve for the wound caused by the 'tyranny of a majority' in our society;
because all work that is done is either beneficial or hurtful to every
member of society.  The man is benefited by the bridge-building if it
turns out a good thing, and hurt by it if it turns out a bad one, whether
he puts a hand to it or not; and meanwhile he is benefiting the bridge-
builders by his work, whatever that may be.  In fact, I see no help for
him except the pleasure of saying 'I told you so' if the bridge-building
turns out to be a mistake and hurts him; if it benefits him he must
suffer in silence.  A terrible tyranny our Communism, is it not?  Folk
used often to be warned against this very unhappiness in times past, when
for every well-fed, contented person you saw a thousand miserable
starvelings.  Whereas for us, we grow fat and well-liking on the tyranny;
a tyranny, to say the truth, not to be made visible by any microscope I
know.  Don't be afraid, my friend; we are not going to seek for troubles
by calling our peace and plenty and happiness by ill names whose very
meaning we have forgotten!"

He sat musing for a little, and then started and said: "Are there any
more questions, dear guest?  The morning is waning fast amidst my
garrulity?"



CHAPTER XV: ON THE LACK OF INCENTIVE TO LABOUR IN A COMMUNIST SOCIETY


"Yes," said I.  "I was expecting Dick and Clara to make their appearance
any moment: but is there time to ask just one or two questions before
they come?"

"Try it, dear neighbour--try it," said old Hammond.  "For the more you
ask me the better I am pleased; and at any rate if they do come and find
me in the middle of an answer, they must sit quiet and pretend to listen
till I come to an end.  It won't hurt them; they will find it quite
amusing enough to sit side by side, conscious of their proximity to each
other."

I smiled, as I was bound to, and said: "Good; I will go on talking
without noticing them when they come in.  Now, this is what I want to ask
you about--to wit, how you get people to work when there is no reward of
labour, and especially how you get them to work strenuously?"

"No reward of labour?" said Hammond, gravely.  "The reward of labour is
_life_.  Is that not enough?"

"But no reward for especially good work," quoth I.

"Plenty of reward," said he--"the reward of creation.  The wages which
God gets, as people might have said time agone.  If you are going to ask
to be paid for the pleasure of creation, which is what excellence in work
means, the next thing we shall hear of will be a bill sent in for the
begetting of children."

"Well, but," said I, "the man of the nineteenth century would say there
is a natural desire towards the procreation of children, and a natural
desire not to work."

"Yes, yes," said he, "I know the ancient platitude,--wholly untrue;
indeed, to us quite meaningless.  Fourier, whom all men laughed at,
understood the matter better."

"Why is it meaningless to you?" said I.

He said: "Because it implies that all work is suffering, and we are so
far from thinking that, that, as you may have noticed, whereas we are not
short of wealth, there is a kind of fear growing up amongst us that we
shall one day be short of work.  It is a pleasure which we are afraid of
losing, not a pain."

"Yes," said I, "I have noticed that, and I was going to ask you about
that also.  But in the meantime, what do you positively mean to assert
about the pleasurableness of work amongst you?"

"This, that _all_ work is now pleasurable; either because of the hope of
gain in honour and wealth with which the work is done, which causes
pleasurable excitement, even when the actual work is not pleasant; or
else because it has grown into a pleasurable _habit_, as in the case with
what you may call mechanical work; and lastly (and most of our work is of
this kind) because there is conscious sensuous pleasure in the work
itself; it is done, that is, by artists."

"I see," said I.  "Can you now tell me how you have come to this happy
condition?  For, to speak plainly, this change from the conditions of the
older world seems to me far greater and more important than all the other
changes you have told me about as to crime, politics, property,
marriage."

"You are right there," said he.  "Indeed, you may say rather that it is
this change which makes all the others possible.  What is the object of
Revolution?  Surely to make people happy.  Revolution having brought its
foredoomed change about, how can you prevent the counter-revolution from
setting in except by making people happy?  What! shall we expect peace
and stability from unhappiness?  The gathering of grapes from thorns and
figs from thistles is a reasonable expectation compared with that!  And
happiness without happy daily work is impossible."

"Most obviously true," said I: for I thought the old boy was preaching a
little.  "But answer my question, as to how you gained this happiness."

"Briefly," said he, "by the absence of artificial coercion, and the
freedom for every man to do what he can do best, joined to the knowledge
of what productions of labour we really wanted.  I must admit that this
knowledge we reached slowly and painfully."

"Go on," said I, "give me more detail; explain more fully.  For this
subject interests me intensely."

"Yes, I will," said he; "but in order to do so I must weary you by
talking a little about the past.  Contrast is necessary for this
explanation.  Do you mind?"

"No, no," said I.

Said he, settling himself in his chair again for a long talk: "It is
clear from all that we hear and read, that in the last age of
civilisation men had got into a vicious circle in the matter of
production of wares.  They had reached a wonderful facility of
production, and in order to make the most of that facility they had
gradually created (or allowed to grow, rather) a most elaborate system of
buying and selling, which has been called the World-Market; and that
World-Market, once set a-going, forced them to go on making more and more
of these wares, whether they needed them or not.  So that while (of
course) they could not free themselves from the toil of making real
necessaries, they created in a never-ending series sham or artificial
necessaries, which became, under the iron rule of the aforesaid World-
Market, of equal importance to them with the real necessaries which
supported life.  By all this they burdened themselves with a prodigious
mass of work merely for the sake of keeping their wretched system going."

"Yes--and then?" said I.

"Why, then, since they had forced themselves to stagger along under this
horrible burden of unnecessary production, it became impossible for them
to look upon labour and its results from any other point of view than
one--to wit, the ceaseless endeavour to expend the least possible amount
of labour on any article made, and yet at the same time to make as many
articles as possible.  To this 'cheapening of production', as it was
called, everything was sacrificed: the happiness of the workman at his
work, nay, his most elementary comfort and bare health, his food, his
clothes, his dwelling, his leisure, his amusement, his education--his
life, in short--did not weigh a grain of sand in the balance against this
dire necessity of 'cheap production' of things, a great part of which
were not worth producing at all.  Nay, we are told, and we must believe
it, so overwhelming is the evidence, though many of our people scarcely
_can_ believe it, that even rich and powerful men, the masters of the
poor devils aforesaid, submitted to live amidst sights and sounds and
smells which it is in the very nature of man to abhor and flee from, in
order that their riches might bolster up this supreme folly.  The whole
community, in fact, was cast into the jaws of this ravening monster, 'the
cheap production' forced upon it by the World-Market."

"Dear me!" said I.  "But what happened?  Did not their cleverness and
facility in production master this chaos of misery at last?  Couldn't
they catch up with the World-Market, and then set to work to devise means
for relieving themselves from this fearful task of extra labour?"

He smiled bitterly.  "Did they even try to?" said he.  "I am not sure.
You know that according to the old saw the beetle gets used to living in
dung; and these people, whether they found the dung sweet or not,
certainly lived in it."

His estimate of the life of the nineteenth century made me catch my
breath a little; and I said feebly, "But the labour-saving machines?"

"Heyday!" quoth he.  "What's that you are saying? the labour-saving
machines?  Yes, they were made to 'save labour' (or, to speak more
plainly, the lives of men) on one piece of work in order that it might be
expended--I will say wasted--on another, probably useless, piece of work.
Friend, all their devices for cheapening labour simply resulted in
increasing the burden of labour.  The appetite of the World-Market grew
with what it fed on: the countries within the ring of 'civilisation'
(that is, organised misery) were glutted with the abortions of the
market, and force and fraud were used unsparingly to 'open up' countries
_outside_ that pale.  This process of 'opening up' is a strange one to
those who have read the professions of the men of that period and do not
understand their practice; and perhaps shows us at its worst the great
vice of the nineteenth century, the use of hypocrisy and cant to evade
the responsibility of vicarious ferocity.  When the civilised
World-Market coveted a country not yet in its clutches, some transparent
pretext was found--the suppression of a slavery different from and not so
cruel as that of commerce; the pushing of a religion no longer believed
in by its promoters; the 'rescue' of some desperado or homicidal madman
whose misdeeds had got him into trouble amongst the natives of the
'barbarous' country--any stick, in short, which would beat the dog at
all.  Then some bold, unprincipled, ignorant adventurer was found (no
difficult task in the days of competition), and he was bribed to 'create
a market' by breaking up whatever traditional society there might be in
the doomed country, and by destroying whatever leisure or pleasure he
found there.  He forced wares on the natives which they did not want, and
took their natural products in 'exchange,' as this form of robbery was
called, and thereby he 'created new wants,' to supply which (that is, to
be allowed to live by their new masters) the hapless, helpless people had
to sell themselves into the slavery of hopeless toil so that they might
have something wherewith to purchase the nullities of 'civilisation.'
Ah," said the old man, pointing the dealings of to the Museum, "I have
read books and papers in there, telling strange stories indeed of
civilisation (or organised misery) with 'non-civilisation'; from the time
when the British Government deliberately sent blankets infected with
small-pox as choice gifts to inconvenient tribes of Red-skins, to the
time when Africa was infested by a man named Stanley, who--"

"Excuse me," said I, "but as you know, time presses; and I want to keep
our question on the straightest line possible; and I want at once to ask
this about these wares made for the World-Market--how about their
quality; these people who were so clever about making goods, I suppose
they made them well?"

"Quality!" said the old man crustily, for he was rather peevish at being
cut short in his story; "how could they possibly attend to such trifles
as the quality of the wares they sold?  The best of them were of a lowish
average, the worst were transparent make-shifts for the things asked for,
which nobody would have put up with if they could have got anything else.
It was a current jest of the time that the wares were made to sell and
not to use; a jest which you, as coming from another planet, may
understand, but which our folk could not."

Said I: "What! did they make nothing well?"

"Why, yes," said he, "there was one class of goods which they did make
thoroughly well, and that was the class of machines which were used for
making things.  These were usually quite perfect pieces of workmanship,
admirably adapted to the end in view.  So that it may be fairly said that
the great achievement of the nineteenth century was the making of
machines which were wonders of invention, skill, and patience, and which
were used for the production of measureless quantities of worthless make-
shifts.  In truth, the owners of the machines did not consider anything
which they made as wares, but simply as means for the enrichment of
themselves.  Of course the only admitted test of utility in wares was the
finding of buyers for them--wise men or fools, as it might chance."

"And people put up with this?" said I.

"For a time," said he.

"And then?"

"And then the overturn," said the old man, smiling, "and the nineteenth
century saw itself as a man who has lost his clothes whilst bathing, and
has to walk naked through the town."

"You are very bitter about that unlucky nineteenth century," said I.

"Naturally," said he, "since I know so much about it."

He was silent a little, and then said: "There are traditions--nay, real
histories--in our family about it: my grandfather was one of its victims.
If you know something about it, you will understand what he suffered when
I tell you that he was in those days a genuine artist, a man of genius,
and a revolutionist."

"I think I do understand," said I: "but now, as it seems, you have
reversed all this?"

"Pretty much so," said he.  "The wares which we make are made because
they are needed: men make for their neighbours' use as if they were
making for themselves, not for a vague market of which they know nothing,
and over which they have no control: as there is no buying and selling,
it would be mere insanity to make goods on the chance of their being
wanted; for there is no longer anyone who can be compelled to buy them.
So that whatever is made is good, and thoroughly fit for its purpose.
Nothing can be made except for genuine use; therefore no inferior goods
are made.  Moreover, as aforesaid, we have now found out what we want, so
we make no more than we want; and as we are not driven to make a vast
quantity of useless things we have time and resources enough to consider
our pleasure in making them.  All work which would be irksome to do by
hand is done by immensely improved machinery; and in all work which it is
a pleasure to do by hand machinery is done without.  There is no
difficulty in finding work which suits the special turn of mind of
everybody; so that no man is sacrificed to the wants of another.  From
time to time, when we have found out that some piece of work was too
disagreeable or troublesome, we have given it up and done altogether
without the thing produced by it.  Now, surely you can see that under
these circumstances all the work that we do is an exercise of the mind
and body more or less pleasant to be done: so that instead of avoiding
work everybody seeks it: and, since people have got defter in doing the
work generation after generation, it has become so easy to do, that it
seems as if there were less done, though probably more is produced.  I
suppose this explains that fear, which I hinted at just now, of a
possible scarcity in work, which perhaps you have already noticed, and
which is a feeling on the increase, and has been for a score of years."

"But do you think," said I, "that there is any fear of a work-famine
amongst you?"

"No, I do not," said he, "and I will tell why; it is each man's business
to make his own work pleasanter and pleasanter, which of course tends
towards raising the standard of excellence, as no man enjoys turning out
work which is not a credit to him, and also to greater deliberation in
turning it out; and there is such a vast number of things which can be
treated as works of art, that this alone gives employment to a host of
deft people.  Again, if art be inexhaustible, so is science also; and
though it is no longer the only innocent occupation which is thought
worth an intelligent man spending his time upon, as it once was, yet
there are, and I suppose will be, many people who are excited by its
conquest of difficulties, and care for it more than for anything else.
Again, as more and more of pleasure is imported into work, I think we
shall take up kinds of work which produce desirable wares, but which we
gave up because we could not carry them on pleasantly.  Moreover, I think
that it is only in parts of Europe which are more advanced than the rest
of the world that you will hear this talk of the fear of a work-famine.
Those lands which were once the colonies of Great Britain, for instance,
and especially America--that part of it, above all, which was once the
United states--are now and will be for a long while a great resource to
us.  For these lands, and, I say, especially the northern parts of
America, suffered so terribly from the full force of the last days of
civilisation, and became such horrible places to live in, that they are
now very backward in all that makes life pleasant.  Indeed, one may say
that for nearly a hundred years the people of the northern parts of
America have been engaged in gradually making a dwelling-place out of a
stinking dust-heap; and there is still a great deal to do, especially as
the country is so big."

"Well," said I, "I am exceedingly glad to think that you have such a
prospect of happiness before you.  But I should like to ask a few more
questions, and then I have done for to-day."



CHAPTER XVI: DINNER IN THE HALL OF THE BLOOMSBURY MARKET


As I spoke, I heard footsteps near the door; the latch yielded, and in
came our two lovers, looking so handsome that one had no feeling of shame
in looking on at their little-concealed love-making; for indeed it seemed
as if all the world must be in love with them.  As for old Hammond, he
looked on them like an artist who has just painted a picture nearly as
well as he thought he could when he began it, and was perfectly happy.  He
said:

"Sit down, sit down, young folk, and don't make a noise.  Our guest here
has still some questions to ask me."

"Well, I should suppose so," said Dick; "you have only been three hours
and a half together; and it isn't to be hoped that the history of two
centuries could be told in three hours and a half: let alone that, for
all I know, you may have been wandering into the realms of geography and
craftsmanship."

"As to noise, my dear kinsman," said Clara, "you will very soon be
disturbed by the noise of the dinner-bell, which I should think will be
very pleasant music to our guest, who breakfasted early, it seems, and
probably had a tiring day yesterday."

I said: "Well, since you have spoken the word, I begin to feel that it is
so; but I have been feeding myself with wonder this long time past:
really, it's quite true," quoth I, as I saw her smile, O so prettily!  But
just then from some tower high up in the air came the sound of silvery
chimes playing a sweet clear tune, that sounded to my unaccustomed ears
like the song of the first blackbird in the spring, and called a rush of
memories to my mind, some of bad times, some of good, but all sweetened
now into mere pleasure.

"No more questions now before dinner," said Clara; and she took my hand
as an affectionate child would, and led me out of the room and down
stairs into the forecourt of the Museum, leaving the two Hammonds to
follow as they pleased.

We went into the market-place which I had been in before, a thinnish
stream of elegantly {1} dressed people going in along with us.  We turned
into the cloister and came to a richly moulded and carved doorway, where
a very pretty dark-haired young girl gave us each a beautiful bunch of
summer flowers, and we entered a hall much bigger than that of the
Hammersmith Guest House, more elaborate in its architecture and perhaps
more beautiful.  I found it difficult to keep my eyes off the
wall-pictures (for I thought it bad manners to stare at Clara all the
time, though she was quite worth it).  I saw at a glance that their
subjects were taken from queer old-world myths and imaginations which in
yesterday's world only about half a dozen people in the country knew
anything about; and when the two Hammonds sat down opposite to us, I said
to the old man, pointing to the frieze:

"How strange to see such subjects here!"

"Why?" said he.  "I don't see why you should be surprised; everybody
knows the tales; and they are graceful and pleasant subjects, not too
tragic for a place where people mostly eat and drink and amuse
themselves, and yet full of incident."

I smiled, and said: "Well, I scarcely expected to find record of the
Seven Swans and the King of the Golden Mountain and Faithful Henry, and
such curious pleasant imaginations as Jacob Grimm got together from the
childhood of the world, barely lingering even in his time: I should have
thought you would have forgotten such childishness by this time."

The old man smiled, and said nothing; but Dick turned rather red, and
broke out:

"What _do_ you mean, guest?  I think them very beautiful, I mean not only
the pictures, but the stories; and when we were children we used to
imagine them going on in every wood-end, by the bight of every stream:
every house in the fields was the Fairyland King's House to us.  Don't
you remember, Clara?"

"Yes," she said; and it seemed to me as if a slight cloud came over her
fair face.  I was going to speak to her on the subject, when the pretty
waitresses came to us smiling, and chattering sweetly like reed warblers
by the river side, and fell to giving us our dinner.  As to this, as at
our breakfast, everything was cooked and served with a daintiness which
showed that those who had prepared it were interested in it; but there
was no excess either of quantity or of gourmandise; everything was
simple, though so excellent of its kind; and it was made clear to us that
this was no feast, only an ordinary meal.  The glass, crockery, and plate
were very beautiful to my eyes, used to the study of mediaeval art; but a
nineteenth-century club-haunter would, I daresay, have found them rough
and lacking in finish; the crockery being lead-glazed pot-ware, though
beautifully ornamented; the only porcelain being here and there a piece
of old oriental ware.  The glass, again, though elegant and quaint, and
very varied in form, was somewhat bubbled and hornier in texture than the
commercial articles of the nineteenth century.  The furniture and general
fittings of the ball were much of a piece with the table-gear, beautiful
in form and highly ornamented, but without the commercial "finish" of the
joiners and cabinet-makers of our time.  Withal, there was a total
absence of what the nineteenth century calls "comfort"--that is, stuffy
inconvenience; so that, even apart from the delightful excitement of the
day, I had never eaten my dinner so pleasantly before.

When we had done eating, and were sitting a little while, with a bottle
of very good Bordeaux wine before us, Clara came back to the question of
the subject-matter of the pictures, as though it had troubled her.

She looked up at them, and said: "How is it that though we are so
interested with our life for the most part, yet when people take to
writing poems or painting pictures they seldom deal with our modern life,
or if they do, take good care to make their poems or pictures unlike that
life?  Are we not good enough to paint ourselves?  How is it that we find
the dreadful times of the past so interesting to us--in pictures and
poetry?"

Old Hammond smiled.  "It always was so, and I suppose always will be,"
said he, "however it may be explained.  It is true that in the nineteenth
century, when there was so little art and so much talk about it, there
was a theory that art and imaginative literature ought to deal with
contemporary life; but they never did so; for, if there was any pretence
of it, the author always took care (as Clara hinted just now) to
disguise, or exaggerate, or idealise, and in some way or another make it
strange; so that, for all the verisimilitude there was, he might just as
well have dealt with the times of the Pharaohs."

"Well," said Dick, "surely it is but natural to like these things
strange; just as when we were children, as I said just now, we used to
pretend to be so-and-so in such-and-such a place.  That's what these
pictures and poems do; and why shouldn't they?"

"Thou hast hit it, Dick," quoth old Hammond; "it is the child-like part
of us that produces works of imagination.  When we are children time
passes so slow with us that we seem to have time for everything."

He sighed, and then smiled and said: "At least let us rejoice that we
have got back our childhood again.  I drink to the days that are!"

"Second childhood," said I in a low voice, and then blushed at my double
rudeness, and hoped that he hadn't heard.  But he had, and turned to me
smiling, and said: "Yes, why not?  And for my part, I hope it may last
long; and that the world's next period of wise and unhappy manhood, if
that should happen, will speedily lead us to a third childhood: if indeed
this age be not our third.  Meantime, my friend, you must know that we
are too happy, both individually and collectively, to trouble ourselves
about what is to come hereafter."

"Well, for my part," said Clara, "I wish we were interesting enough to be
written or painted about."

Dick answered her with some lover's speech, impossible to be written
down, and then we sat quiet a little.



CHAPTER XVII: HOW THE CHANGE CAME


Dick broke the silence at last, saying: "Guest, forgive us for a little
after-dinner dulness.  What would you like to do?  Shall we have out
Greylocks and trot back to Hammersmith? or will you come with us and hear
some Welsh folk sing in a hall close by here? or would you like presently
to come with me into the City and see some really fine building? or--what
shall it be?"

"Well," said I, "as I am a stranger, I must let you choose for me."

In point of fact, I did not by any means want to be 'amused' just then;
and also I rather felt as if the old man, with his knowledge of past
times, and even a kind of inverted sympathy for them caused by his active
hatred of them, was as it were a blanket for me against the cold of this
very new world, where I was, so to say, stripped bare of every habitual
thought and way of acting; and I did not want to leave him too soon.  He
came to my rescue at once, and said--

"Wait a bit, Dick; there is someone else to be consulted besides you and
the guest here, and that is I.  I am not going to lose the pleasure of
his company just now, especially as I know he has something else to ask
me.  So go to your Welshmen, by all means; but first of all bring us
another bottle of wine to this nook, and then be off as soon as you like;
and come again and fetch our friend to go westward, but not too soon."

Dick nodded smilingly, and the old man and I were soon alone in the great
hall, the afternoon sun gleaming on the red wine in our tall
quaint-shaped glasses.  Then said Hammond:

"Does anything especially puzzle you about our way of living, now you
have heard a good deal and seen a little of it?"

Said I: "I think what puzzles me most is how it all came about."

"It well may," said he, "so great as the change is.  It would be
difficult indeed to tell you the whole story, perhaps impossible:
knowledge, discontent, treachery, disappointment, ruin, misery,
despair--those who worked for the change because they could see further
than other people went through all these phases of suffering; and
doubtless all the time the most of men looked on, not knowing what was
doing, thinking it all a matter of course, like the rising and setting of
the sun--and indeed it was so."

"Tell me one thing, if you can," said I.  "Did the change, the
'revolution' it used to be called, come peacefully?"

"Peacefully?" said he; "what peace was there amongst those poor confused
wretches of the nineteenth century?  It was war from beginning to end:
bitter war, till hope and pleasure put an end to it."

"Do you mean actual fighting with weapons?" said I, "or the strikes and
lock-outs and starvation of which we have heard?"

"Both, both," he said.  "As a matter of fact, the history of the terrible
period of transition from commercial slavery to freedom may thus be
summarised.  When the hope of realising a communal condition of life for
all men arose, quite late in the nineteenth century, the power of the
middle classes, the then tyrants of society, was so enormous and
crushing, that to almost all men, even those who had, you may say despite
themselves, despite their reason and judgment, conceived such hopes, it
seemed a dream.  So much was this the case that some of those more
enlightened men who were then called Socialists, although they well knew,
and even stated in public, that the only reasonable condition of Society
was that of pure Communism (such as you now see around you), yet shrunk
from what seemed to them the barren task of preaching the realisation of
a happy dream.  Looking back now, we can see that the great motive-power
of the change was a longing for freedom and equality, akin if you please
to the unreasonable passion of the lover; a sickness of heart that
rejected with loathing the aimless solitary life of the well-to-do
educated man of that time: phrases, my dear friend, which have lost their
meaning to us of the present day; so far removed we are from the dreadful
facts which they represent.

"Well, these men, though conscious of this feeling, had no faith in it,
as a means of bringing about the change.  Nor was that wonderful: for
looking around them they saw the huge mass of the oppressed classes too
much burdened with the misery of their lives, and too much overwhelmed by
the selfishness of misery, to be able to form a conception of any escape
from it except by the ordinary way prescribed by the system of slavery
under which they lived; which was nothing more than a remote chance of
climbing out of the oppressed into the oppressing class.

"Therefore, though they knew that the only reasonable aim for those who
would better the world was a condition of equality; in their impatience
and despair they managed to convince themselves that if they could by
hook or by crook get the machinery of production and the management of
property so altered that the 'lower classes' (so the horrible word ran)
might have their slavery somewhat ameliorated, they would be ready to fit
into this machinery, and would use it for bettering their condition still
more and still more, until at last the result would be a practical
equality (they were very fond of using the word 'practical'), because
'the rich' would be forced to pay so much for keeping 'the poor' in a
tolerable condition that the condition of riches would become no longer
valuable and would gradually die out.  Do you follow me?"

"Partly," said I.  "Go on."

Said old Hammond: "Well, since you follow me, you will see that as a
theory this was not altogether unreasonable; but 'practically,' it turned
out a failure."

"How so?" said I.

"Well, don't you see," said he, "because it involved the making of a
machinery by those who didn't know what they wanted the machines to do.
So far as the masses of the oppressed class furthered this scheme of
improvement, they did it to get themselves improved slave-rations--as
many of them as could.  And if those classes had really been incapable of
being touched by that instinct which produced the passion for freedom and
equality aforesaid, what would have happened, I think, would have been
this: that a certain part of the working classes would have been so far
improved in condition that they would have approached the condition of
the middling rich men; but below them would have been a great class of
most miserable slaves, whose slavery would have been far more hopeless
than the older class-slavery had been."

"What stood in the way of this?" said I.

"Why, of course," said he, "just that instinct for freedom aforesaid.  It
is true that the slave-class could not conceive the happiness of a free
life.  Yet they grew to understand (and very speedily too) that they were
oppressed by their masters, and they assumed, you see how justly, that
they could do without them, though perhaps they scarce knew how; so that
it came to this, that though they could not look forward to the happiness
or peace of the freeman, they did at least look forward to the war which
a vague hope told them would bring that peace about."

"Could you tell me rather more closely what actually took place?" said I;
for I thought _him_ rather vague here.

"Yes," he said, "I can.  That machinery of life for the use of people who
didn't know what they wanted of it, and which was known at the time as
State Socialism, was partly put in motion, though in a very piecemeal
way.  But it did not work smoothly; it was, of course, resisted at every
turn by the capitalists; and no wonder, for it tended more and more to
upset the commercial system I have told you of; without providing
anything really effective in its place.  The result was growing
confusion, great suffering amongst the working classes, and, as a
consequence, great discontent.  For a long time matters went on like
this.  The power of the upper classes had lessened, as their command over
wealth lessened, and they could not carry things wholly by the high hand
as they had been used to in earlier days.  So far the State Socialists
were justified by the result.  On the other hand, the working classes
were ill-organised, and growing poorer in reality, in spite of the gains
(also real in the long run) which they had forced from the masters.  Thus
matters hung in the balance; the masters could not reduce their slaves to
complete subjection, though they put down some feeble and partial riots
easily enough.  The workers forced their masters to grant them
ameliorations, real or imaginary, of their condition, but could not force
freedom from them.  At last came a great crash.  To explain this you must
understand that very great progress had been made amongst the workers,
though as before said but little in the direction of improved
livelihood."

I played the innocent and said: "In what direction could they improve, if
not in livelihood?"

Said he: "In the power to bring about a state of things in which
livelihood would be full, and easy to gain.  They had at last learned how
to combine after a long period of mistakes and disasters.  The workmen
had now a regular organization in the struggle against their masters, a
struggle which for more than half a century had been accepted as an
inevitable part of the conditions of the modern system of labour and
production.  This combination had now taken the form of a federation of
all or almost all the recognised wage-paid employments, and it was by its
means that those betterments of the conditions of the workmen had been
forced from the masters: and though they were not seldom mixed up with
the rioting that happened, especially in the earlier days of their
organization, it by no means formed an essential part of their tactics;
indeed at the time I am now speaking of they had got to be so strong that
most commonly the mere threat of a 'strike' was enough to gain any minor
point: because they had given up the foolish tactics of the ancient
trades unions of calling out of work a part only of the workers of such
and such an industry, and supporting them while out of work on the labour
of those that remained in.  By this time they had a biggish fund of money
for the support of strikes, and could stop a certain industry altogether
for a time if they so determined."

Said I: "Was there not a serious danger of such moneys being misused--of
jobbery, in fact?"

Old Hammond wriggled uneasily on his seat, and said:

"Though all this happened so long ago, I still feel the pain of mere
shame when I have to tell you that it was more than a danger: that such
rascality often happened; indeed more than once the whole combination
seemed dropping to pieces because of it: but at the time of which I am
telling, things looked so threatening, and to the workmen at least the
necessity of their dealing with the fast-gathering trouble which the
labour-struggle had brought about, was so clear, that the conditions of
the times had begot a deep seriousness amongst all reasonable people; a
determination which put aside all non-essentials, and which to thinking
men was ominous of the swiftly-approaching change: such an element was
too dangerous for mere traitors and self-seekers, and one by one they
were thrust out and mostly joined the declared reactionaries."

"How about those ameliorations," said I; "what were they? or rather of
what nature?"

Said he: "Some of them, and these of the most practical importance to the
mens' livelihood, were yielded by the masters by direct compulsion on the
part of the men; the new conditions of labour so gained were indeed only
customary, enforced by no law: but, once established, the masters durst
not attempt to withdraw them in face of the growing power of the combined
workers.  Some again were steps on the path of 'State Socialism'; the
most important of which can be speedily summed up.  At the end of the
nineteenth century the cry arose for compelling the masters to employ
their men a less number of hours in the day: this cry gathered volume
quickly, and the masters had to yield to it.  But it was, of course,
clear that unless this meant a higher price for work per hour, it would
be a mere nullity, and that the masters, unless forced, would reduce it
to that.  Therefore after a long struggle another law was passed fixing a
minimum price for labour in the most important industries; which again
had to be supplemented by a law fixing the maximum price on the chief
wares then considered necessary for a workman's life."

"You were getting perilously near to the late Roman poor-rates," said I,
smiling, "and the doling out of bread to the proletariat."

"So many said at the time," said the old man drily; "and it has long been
a commonplace that that slough awaits State Socialism in the end, if it
gets to the end, which as you know it did not with us.  However it went
further than this minimum and maximum business, which by the by we can
now see was necessary.  The government now found it imperative on them to
meet the outcry of the master class at the approaching destruction of
Commerce (as desirable, had they known it, as the extinction of the
cholera, which has since happily taken place).  And they were forced to
meet it by a measure hostile to the masters, the establishment of
government factories for the production of necessary wares, and markets
for their sale.  These measures taken altogether did do something: they
were in fact of the nature of regulations made by the commander of a
beleaguered city.  But of course to the privileged classes it seemed as
if the end of the world were come when such laws were enacted.

"Nor was that altogether without a warrant: the spread of communistic
theories, and the partial practice of State Socialism had at first
disturbed, and at last almost paralysed the marvellous system of commerce
under which the old world had lived so feverishly, and had produced for
some few a life of gambler's pleasure, and for many, or most, a life of
mere misery: over and over again came 'bad times' as they were called,
and indeed they were bad enough for the wage-slaves.  The year 1952 was
one of the worst of these times; the workmen suffered dreadfully: the
partial, inefficient government factories, which were terribly jobbed,
all but broke down, and a vast part of the population had for the time
being to be fed on undisguised "charity" as it was called.

"The Combined Workers watched the situation with mingled hope and
anxiety.  They had already formulated their general demands; but now by a
solemn and universal vote of the whole of their federated societies, they
insisted on the first step being taken toward carrying out their demands:
this step would have led directly to handing over the management of the
whole natural resources of the country, together with the machinery for
using them into the power of the Combined Workers, and the reduction of
the privileged classes into the position of pensioners obviously
dependent on the pleasure of the workers.  The 'Resolution,' as it was
called, which was widely published in the newspapers of the day, was in
fact a declaration of war, and was so accepted by the master class.  They
began henceforward to prepare for a firm stand against the 'brutal and
ferocious communism of the day,' as they phrased it.  And as they were in
many ways still very powerful, or seemed so to be; they still hoped by
means of brute force to regain some of what they had lost, and perhaps in
the end the whole of it.  It was said amongst them on all hands that it
had been a great mistake of the various governments not to have resisted
sooner; and the liberals and radicals (the name as perhaps you may know
of the more democratically inclined part of the ruling classes) were much
blamed for having led the world to this pass by their mis-timed pedantry
and foolish sentimentality: and one Gladstone, or Gledstein (probably,
judging by this name, of Scandinavian descent), a notable politician of
the nineteenth century, was especially singled out for reprobation in
this respect.  I need scarcely point out to you the absurdity of all
this.  But terrible tragedy lay hidden behind this grinning through a
horse-collar of the reactionary party.  'The insatiable greed of the
lower classes must be repressed'--'The people must be taught a
lesson'--these were the sacramental phrases current amongst the
reactionists, and ominous enough they were."

The old man stopped to look keenly at my attentive and wondering face;
and then said:

"I know, dear guest, that I have been using words and phrases which few
people amongst us could understand without long and laborious
explanation; and not even then perhaps.  But since you have not yet gone
to sleep, and since I am speaking to you as to a being from another
planet, I may venture to ask you if you have followed me thus far?"

"O yes," said I, "I quite understand: pray go on; a great deal of what
you have been saying was common place with us--when--when--"

"Yes," said he gravely, "when you were dwelling in the other planet.
Well, now for the crash aforesaid.

"On some comparatively trifling occasion a great meeting was summoned by
the workmen leaders to meet in Trafalgar Square (about the right to meet
in which place there had for years and years been bickering).  The civic
bourgeois guard (called the police) attacked the said meeting with
bludgeons, according to their custom; many people were hurt in the
_melee_, of whom five in all died, either trampled to death on the spot,
or from the effects of their cudgelling; the meeting was scattered, and
some hundred of prisoners cast into gaol.  A similar meeting had been
treated in the same way a few days before at a place called Manchester,
which has now disappeared.  Thus the 'lesson' began.  The whole country
was thrown into a ferment by this; meetings were held which attempted
some rough organisation for the holding of another meeting to retort on
the authorities.  A huge crowd assembled in Trafalgar Square and the
neighbourhood (then a place of crowded streets), and was too big for the
bludgeon-armed police to cope with; there was a good deal of dry-blow
fighting; three or four of the people were killed, and half a score of
policemen were crushed to death in the throng, and the rest got away as
they could.  This was a victory for the people as far as it went.  The
next day all London (remember what it was in those days) was in a state
of turmoil.  Many of the rich fled into the country; the executive got
together soldiery, but did not dare to use them; and the police could not
be massed in any one place, because riots or threats of riots were
everywhere.  But in Manchester, where the people were not so courageous
or not so desperate as in London, several of the popular leaders were
arrested.  In London a convention of leaders was got together from the
Federation of Combined Workmen, and sat under the old revolutionary name
of the Committee of Public Safety; but as they had no drilled and armed
body of men to direct, they attempted no aggressive measures, but only
placarded the walls with somewhat vague appeals to the workmen not to
allow themselves to be trampled upon.  However, they called a meeting in
Trafalgar Square for the day fortnight of the last-mentioned skirmish.

"Meantime the town grew no quieter, and business came pretty much to an
end.  The newspapers--then, as always hitherto, almost entirely in the
hands of the masters--clamoured to the Government for repressive
measures; the rich citizens were enrolled as an extra body of police, and
armed with bludgeons like them; many of these were strong, well-fed, full-
blooded young men, and had plenty of stomach for fighting; but the
Government did not dare to use them, and contented itself with getting
full powers voted to it by the Parliament for suppressing any revolt, and
bringing up more and more soldiers to London.  Thus passed the week after
the great meeting; almost as large a one was held on the Sunday, which
went off peaceably on the whole, as no opposition to it was offered, and
again the people cried 'victory.'  But on the Monday the people woke up
to find that they were hungry.  During the last few days there had been
groups of men parading the streets asking (or, if you please, demanding)
money to buy food; and what for goodwill, what for fear, the richer
people gave them a good deal.  The authorities of the parishes also (I
haven't time to explain that phrase at present) gave willy-nilly what
provisions they could to wandering people; and the Government, by means
of its feeble national workshops, also fed a good number of half-starved
folk.  But in addition to this, several bakers' shops and other provision
stores had been emptied without a great deal of disturbance.  So far, so
good.  But on the Monday in question the Committee of Public Safety, on
the one hand afraid of general unorganised pillage, and on the other
emboldened by the wavering conduct of the authorities, sent a deputation
provided with carts and all necessary gear to clear out two or three big
provision stores in the centre of the town, leaving papers with the shop
managers promising to pay the price of them: and also in the part of the
town where they were strongest they took possession of several bakers'
shops and set men at work in them for the benefit of the people;--all of
which was done with little or no disturbance, the police assisting in
keeping order at the sack of the stores, as they would have done at a big
fire.

"But at this last stroke the reactionaries were so alarmed, that they
were, determined to force the executive into action.  The newspapers next
day all blazed into the fury of frightened people, and threatened the
people, the Government, and everybody they could think of, unless 'order
were at once restored.'  A deputation of leading commercial people waited
on the Government and told them that if they did not at once arrest the
Committee of Public Safety, they themselves would gather a body of men,
arm them, and fall on 'the incendiaries,' as they called them.

"They, together with a number of the newspaper editors, had a long
interview with the heads of the Government and two or three military men,
the deftest in their art that the country could furnish.  The deputation
came away from that interview, says a contemporary eye-witness, smiling
and satisfied, and said no more about raising an anti-popular army, but
that afternoon left London with their families for their country seats or
elsewhere.

"The next morning the Government proclaimed a state of siege in London,--a
thing common enough amongst the absolutist governments on the Continent,
but unheard-of in England in those days.  They appointed the youngest and
cleverest of their generals to command the proclaimed district; a man who
had won a certain sort of reputation in the disgraceful wars in which the
country had been long engaged from time to time.  The newspapers were in
ecstacies, and all the most fervent of the reactionaries now came to the
front; men who in ordinary times were forced to keep their opinions to
themselves or their immediate circle, but who began to look forward to
crushing once for all the Socialist, and even democratic tendencies,
which, said they, had been treated with such foolish indulgence for the
last sixty years.

"But the clever general took no visible action; and yet only a few of the
minor newspapers abused him; thoughtful men gathered from this that a
plot was hatching.  As for the Committee of Public Safety, whatever they
thought of their position, they had now gone too far to draw back; and
many of them, it seems, thought that the government would not act.  They
went on quietly organising their food supply, which was a miserable
driblet when all is said; and also as a retort to the state of siege,
they armed as many men as they could in the quarter where they were
strongest, but did not attempt to drill or organise them, thinking,
perhaps, that they could not at the best turn them into trained soldiers
till they had some breathing space.  The clever general, his soldiers,
and the police did not meddle with all this in the least in the world;
and things were quieter in London that week-end; though there were riots
in many places of the provinces, which were quelled by the authorities
without much trouble.  The most serious of these were at Glasgow and
Bristol.

"Well, the Sunday of the meeting came, and great crowds came to Trafalgar
Square in procession, the greater part of the Committee amongst them,
surrounded by their band of men armed somehow or other.  The streets were
quite peaceful and quiet, though there were many spectators to see the
procession pass.  Trafalgar Square had no body of police in it; the
people took quiet possession of it, and the meeting began.  The armed men
stood round the principal platform, and there were a few others armed
amidst the general crowd; but by far the greater part were unarmed.

"Most people thought the meeting would go off peaceably; but the members
of the Committee had heard from various quarters that something would be
attempted against them; but these rumours were vague, and they had no
idea of what threatened.  They soon found out.

"For before the streets about the Square were filled, a body of soldiers
poured into it from the north-west corner and took up their places by the
houses that stood on the west side.  The people growled at the sight of
the red-coats; the armed men of the Committee stood undecided, not
knowing what to do; and indeed this new influx so jammed the crowd
together that, unorganised as they were, they had little chance of
working through it.  They had scarcely grasped the fact of their enemies
being there, when another column of soldiers, pouring out of the streets
which led into the great southern road going down to the Parliament House
(still existing, and called the Dung Market), and also from the
embankment by the side of the Thames, marched up, pushing the crowd into
a denser and denser mass, and formed along the south side of the Square.
Then any of those who could see what was going on, knew at once that they
were in a trap, and could only wonder what would be done with them.

"The closely-packed crowd would not or could not budge, except under the
influence of the height of terror, which was soon to be supplied to them.
A few of the armed men struggled to the front, or climbled up to the base
of the monument which then stood there, that they might face the wall of
hidden fire before them; and to most men (there were many women amongst
them) it seemed as if the end of the world had come, and to-day seemed
strangely different from yesterday.  No sooner were the soldiers drawn up
aforesaid than, says an eye-witness, 'a glittering officer on horseback
came prancing out from the ranks on the south, and read something from a
paper which he held in his hand; which something, very few heard; but I
was told afterwards that it was an order for us to disperse, and a
warning that he had legal right to fire on the crowd else, and that he
would do so.  The crowd took it as a challenge of some sort, and a hoarse
threatening roar went up from them; and after that there was comparative
silence for a little, till the officer had got back into the ranks.  I
was near the edge of the crowd, towards the soldiers,' says this
eye-witness, 'and I saw three little machines being wheeled out in front
of the ranks, which I knew for mechanical guns.  I cried out, "Throw
yourselves down! they are going to fire!"  But no one scarcely could
throw himself down, so tight as the crowd were packed.  I heard a sharp
order given, and wondered where I should be the next minute; and then--It
was as if--the earth had opened, and hell had come up bodily amidst us.
It is no use trying to describe the scene that followed.  Deep lanes were
mowed amidst the thick crowd; the dead and dying covered the ground, and
the shrieks and wails and cries of horror filled all the air, till it
seemed as if there were nothing else in the world but murder and death.
Those of our armed men who were still unhurt cheered wildly and opened a
scattering fire on the soldiers.  One or two soldiers fell; and I saw the
officers going up and down the ranks urging the men to fire again; but
they received the orders in sullen silence, and let the butts of their
guns fall.  Only one sergeant ran to a machine-gun and began to set it
going; but a tall young man, an officer too, ran out of the ranks and
dragged him back by the collar; and the soldiers stood there motionless
while the horror-stricken crowd, nearly wholly unarmed (for most of the
armed men had fallen in that first discharge), drifted out of the Square.
I was told afterwards that the soldiers on the west side had fired also,
and done their part of the slaughter.  How I got out of the Square I
scarcely know: I went, not feeling the ground under me, what with rage
and terror and despair.'

"So says our eye-witness.  The number of the slain on the side of the
people in that shooting during a minute was prodigious; but it was not
easy to come at the truth about it; it was probably between one and two
thousand.  Of the soldiers, six were killed outright, and a dozen
wounded."

I listened, trembling with excitement.  The old man's eyes glittered and
his face flushed as he spoke, and told the tale of what I had often
thought might happen.  Yet I wondered that he should have got so elated
about a mere massacre, and I said:

"How fearful!  And I suppose that this massacre put an end to the whole
revolution for that time?"

"No, no," cried old Hammond; "it began it!"

He filled his glass and mine, and stood up and cried out, "Drink this
glass to the memory of those who died there, for indeed it would be a
long tale to tell how much we owe them."

I drank, and he sat down again and went on.

"That massacre of Trafalgar Square began the civil war, though, like all
such events, it gathered head slowly, and people scarcely knew what a
crisis they were acting in.

"Terrible as the massacre was, and hideous and overpowering as the first
terror had been, when the people had time to think about it, their
feeling was one of anger rather than fear; although the military
organisation of the state of siege was now carried out without shrinking
by the clever young general.  For though the ruling-classes when the news
spread next morning felt one gasp of horror and even dread, yet the
Government and their immediate backers felt that now the wine was drawn
and must be drunk.  However, even the most reactionary of the capitalist
papers, with two exceptions, stunned by the tremendous news, simply gave
an account of what had taken place, without making any comment upon it.
The exceptions were one, a so-called 'liberal' paper (the Government of
the day was of that complexion), which, after a preamble in which it
declared its undeviating sympathy with the cause of labour, proceeded to
point out that in times of revolutionary disturbance it behoved the
Government to be just but firm, and that by far the most merciful way of
dealing with the poor madmen who were attacking the very foundations of
society (which had made them mad and poor) was to shoot them at once, so
as to stop others from drifting into a position in which they would run a
chance of being shot.  In short, it praised the determined action of the
Government as the acme of human wisdom and mercy, and exulted in the
inauguration of an epoch of reasonable democracy free from the tyrannical
fads of Socialism.

"The other exception was a paper thought to be one of the most violent
opponents of democracy, and so it was; but the editor of it found his
manhood, and spoke for himself and not for his paper.  In a few simple,
indignant words he asked people to consider what a society was worth
which had to be defended by the massacre of unarmed citizens, and called
on the Government to withdraw their state of siege and put the general
and his officers who fired on the people on their trial for murder.  He
went further, and declared that whatever his opinion might be as to the
doctrines of the Socialists, he for one should throw in his lot with the
people, until the Government atoned for their atrocity by showing that
they were prepared to listen to the demands of men who knew what they
wanted, and whom the decrepitude of society forced into pushing their
demands in some way or other.

"Of course, this editor was immediately arrested by the military power;
but his bold words were already in the hands of the public, and produced
a great effect: so great an effect that the Government, after some
vacillation, withdrew the state of siege; though at the same time it
strengthened the military organisation and made it more stringent.  Three
of the Committee of Public Safety had been slain in Trafalgar Square: of
the rest the greater part went back to their old place of meeting, and
there awaited the event calmly.  They were arrested there on the Monday
morning, and would have been shot at once by the general, who was a mere
military machine, if the Government had not shrunk before the
responsibility of killing men without any trial.  There was at first a
talk of trying them by a special commission of judges, as it was
called--_i.e._, before a set of men bound to find them guilty, and whose
business it was to do so.  But with the Government the cold fit had
succeeded to the hot one; and the prisoners were brought before a jury at
the assizes.  There a fresh blow awaited the Government; for in spite of
the judge's charge, which distinctly instructed the jury to find the
prisoners guilty, they were acquitted, and the jury added to their
verdict a presentment, in which they condemned the action of the
soldiery, in the queer phraseology of the day, as 'rash, unfortunate, and
unnecessary.'  The Committee of Public Safety renewed its sittings, and
from thenceforth was a popular rallying-point in opposition to the
Parliament.  The Government now gave way on all sides, and made a show of
yielding to the demands of the people, though there was a widespread plot
for effecting a coup d'etat set on foot between the leaders of the two so-
called opposing parties in the parliamentary faction fight.  The well-
meaning part of the public was overjoyed, and thought that all danger of
a civil war was over.  The victory of the people was celebrated by huge
meetings held in the parks and elsewhere, in memory of the victims of the
great massacre.

"But the measures passed for the relief of the workers, though to the
upper classes they seemed ruinously revolutionary, were not thorough
enough to give the people food and a decent life, and they had to be
supplemented by unwritten enactments without legality to back them.
Although the Government and Parliament had the law-courts, the army, and
'society' at their backs, the Committee of Public Safety began to be a
force in the country, and really represented the producing classes.  It
began to improve immensely in the days which followed on the acquittal of
its members.  Its old members had little administrative capacity, though
with the exception of a few self-seekers and traitors, they were honest,
courageous men, and many of them were endowed with considerable talent of
other kinds.  But now that the times called for immediate action, came
forward the men capable of setting it on foot; and a new network of
workmen's associations grew up very speedily, whose avowed single object
was the tiding over of the ship of the community into a simple condition
of Communism; and as they practically undertook also the management of
the ordinary labour-war, they soon became the mouthpiece and intermediary
of the whole of the working classes; and the manufacturing
profit-grinders now found themselves powerless before this combination;
unless _their_ committee, Parliament, plucked up courage to begin the
civil war again, and to shoot right and left, they were bound to yield to
the demands of the men whom they employed, and pay higher and higher
wages for shorter and shorter day's work.  Yet one ally they had, and
that was the rapidly approaching breakdown of the whole system founded on
the World-Market and its supply; which now became so clear to all people,
that the middle classes, shocked for the moment into condemnation of the
Government for the great massacre, turned round nearly in a mass, and
called on the Government to look to matters, and put an end to the
tyranny of the Socialist leaders.

"Thus stimulated, the reactionist plot exploded probably before it was
ripe; but this time the people and their leaders were forewarned, and,
before the reactionaries could get under way, had taken the steps they
thought necessary.

"The Liberal Government (clearly by collusion) was beaten by the
Conservatives, though the latter were nominally much in the minority.  The
popular representatives in the House understood pretty well what this
meant, and after an attempt to fight the matter out by divisions in the
House of Commons, they made a protest, left the House, and came in a body
to the Committee of Public Safety: and the civil war began again in good
earnest.

"Yet its first act was not one of mere fighting.  The new Tory Government
determined to act, yet durst not re-enact the state of siege, but it sent
a body of soldiers and police to arrest the Committee of Public Safety in
the lump.  They made no resistance, though they might have done so, as
they had now a considerable body of men who were quite prepared for
extremities.  But they were determined to try first a weapon which they
thought stronger than street fighting.

"The members of the Committee went off quietly to prison; but they had
left their soul and their organisation behind them.  For they depended
not on a carefully arranged centre with all kinds of checks and counter-
checks about it, but on a huge mass of people in thorough sympathy with
the movement, bound together by a great number of links of small centres
with very simple instructions.  These instructions were now carried out.

"The next morning, when the leaders of the reaction were chuckling at the
effect which the report in the newspapers of their stroke would have upon
the public--no newspapers appeared; and it was only towards noon that a
few straggling sheets, about the size of the gazettes of the seventeenth
century, worked by policemen, soldiers, managers, and press-writers, were
dribbled through the streets.  They were greedily seized on and read; but
by this time the serious part of their news was stale, and people did not
need to be told that the GENERAL STRIKE had begun.  The railways did not
run, the telegraph-wires were unserved; flesh, fish, and green stuff
brought to market was allowed to lie there still packed and perishing;
the thousands of middle-class families, who were utterly dependant for
the next meal on the workers, made frantic efforts through their more
energetic members to cater for the needs of the day, and amongst those of
them who could throw off the fear of what was to follow, there was, I am
told, a certain enjoyment of this unexpected picnic--a forecast of the
days to come, in which all labour grew pleasant.

"So passed the first day, and towards evening the Government grew quite
distracted.  They had but one resource for putting down any popular
movement--to wit, mere brute-force; but there was nothing for them
against which to use their army and police: no armed bodies appeared in
the streets; the offices of the Federated Workmen were now, in
appearance, at least, turned into places for the relief of people thrown
out of work, and under the circumstances, they durst not arrest the men
engaged in such business, all the more, as even that night many quite
respectable people applied at these offices for relief, and swallowed
down the charity of the revolutionists along with their supper.  So the
Government massed soldiers and police here and there--and sat still for
that night, fully expecting on the morrow some manifesto from 'the
rebels,' as they now began to be called, which would give them an
opportunity of acting in some way or another.  They were disappointed.
The ordinary newspapers gave up the struggle that morning, and only one
very violent reactionary paper (called the _Daily Telegraph_) attempted
an appearance, and rated 'the rebels' in good set terms for their folly
and ingratitude in tearing out the bowels of their 'common mother,' the
English Nation, for the benefit of a few greedy paid agitators, and the
fools whom they were deluding.  On the other hand, the Socialist papers
(of which three only, representing somewhat different schools, were
published in London) came out full to the throat of well-printed matter.
They were greedily bought by the whole public, who, of course, like the
Government, expected a manifesto in them.  But they found no word of
reference to the great subject.  It seemed as if their editors had
ransacked their drawers for articles which would have been in place forty
years before, under the technical name of educational articles.  Most of
these were admirable and straightforward expositions of the doctrines and
practice of Socialism, free from haste and spite and hard words, and came
upon the public with a kind of May-day freshness, amidst the worry and
terror of the moment; and though the knowing well understood that the
meaning of this move in the game was mere defiance, and a token of
irreconcilable hostility to the then rulers of society, and though, also,
they were meant for nothing else by 'the rebels,' yet they really had
their effect as 'educational articles.'  However, 'education' of another
kind was acting upon the public with irresistible power, and probably
cleared their heads a little.

"As to the Government, they were absolutely terrified by this act of
'boycotting' (the slang word then current for such acts of abstention).
Their counsels became wild and vacillating to the last degree: one hour
they were for giving way for the present till they could hatch another
plot; the next they all but sent an order for the arrest in the lump of
all the workmen's committees; the next they were on the point of ordering
their brisk young general to take any excuse that offered for another
massacre.  But when they called to mind that the soldiery in that
'Battle' of Trafalgar Square were so daunted by the slaughter which they
had made, that they could not be got to fire a second volley, they shrank
back again from the dreadful courage necessary for carrying out another
massacre.  Meantime the prisoners, brought the second time before the
magistrates under a strong escort of soldiers, were the second time
remanded.

"The strike went on this day also.  The workmen's committees were
extended, and gave relief to great numbers of people, for they had
organised a considerable amount of production of food by men whom they
could depend upon.  Quite a number of well-to-do people were now
compelled to seek relief of them.  But another curious thing happened: a
band of young men of the upper classes armed themselves, and coolly went
marauding in the streets, taking what suited them of such eatables and
portables that they came across in the shops which had ventured to open.
This operation they carried out in Oxford Street, then a great street of
shops of all kinds.  The Government, being at that hour in one of their
yielding moods, thought this a fine opportunity for showing their
impartiality in the maintenance of 'order,' and sent to arrest these
hungry rich youths; who, however, surprised the police by a valiant
resistance, so that all but three escaped.  The Government did not gain
the reputation for impartiality which they expected from this move; for
they forgot that there were no evening papers; and the account of the
skirmish spread wide indeed, but in a distorted form for it was mostly
told simply as an exploit of the starving people from the East-end; and
everybody thought it was but natural for the Government to put them down
when and where they could.

"That evening the rebel prisoners were visited in their cells by _very_
polite and sympathetic persons, who pointed out to them what a suicidal
course they were following, and how dangerous these extreme courses were
for the popular cause.  Says one of the prisoners: 'It was great sport
comparing notes when we came out anent the attempt of the Government to
"get at" us separately in prison, and how we answered the blandishments
of the highly "intelligent and refined" persons set on to pump us.  One
laughed; another told extravagant long-bow stories to the envoy; a third
held a sulky silence; a fourth damned the polite spy and bade him hold
his jaw--and that was all they got out of us.'

"So passed the second day of the great strike.  It was clear to all
thinking people that the third day would bring on the crisis; for the
present suspense and ill-concealed terror was unendurable.  The ruling
classes, and the middle-class non-politicians who had been their real
strength and support, were as sheep lacking a shepherd; they literally
did not know what to do.

"One thing they found they had to do: try to get the 'rebels' to do
something.  So the next morning, the morning of the third day of the
strike, when the members of the Committee of Public Safety appeared again
before the magistrate, they found themselves treated with the greatest
possible courtesy--in fact, rather as envoys and ambassadors than
prisoners.  In short, the magistrate had received his orders; and with no
more to do than might come of a long stupid speech, which might have been
written by Dickens in mockery, he discharged the prisoners, who went back
to their meeting-place and at once began a due sitting.  It was high
time.  For this third day the mass was fermenting indeed.  There was, of
course, a vast number of working people who were not organised in the
least in the world; men who had been used to act as their masters drove
them, or rather as the system drove, of which their masters were a part.
That system was now falling to pieces, and the old pressure of the master
having been taken off these poor men, it seemed likely that nothing but
the mere animal necessities and passions of men would have any hold on
them, and that mere general overturn would be the result.  Doubtless this
would have happened if it had not been that the huge mass had been
leavened by Socialist opinion in the first place, and in the second by
actual contact with declared Socialists, many or indeed most of whom were
members of those bodies of workmen above said.

If anything of this kind had happened some years before, when the masters
of labour were still looked upon as the natural rulers of the people, and
even the poorest and most ignorant man leaned upon them for support,
while they submitted to their fleecing, the entire break-up of all
society would have followed.  But the long series of years during which
the workmen had learned to despise their rulers, had done away with their
dependence upon them, and they were now beginning to trust (somewhat
dangerously, as events proved) in the non-legal leaders whom events had
thrust forward; and though most of these were now become mere
figure-heads, their names and reputations were useful in this crisis as a
stop-gap.

"The effect of the news, therefore, of the release of the Committee gave
the Government some breathing time: for it was received with the greatest
joy by the workers, and even the well-to-do saw in it a respite from the
mere destruction which they had begun to dread, and the fear of which
most of them attributed to the weakness of the Government.  As far as the
passing hour went, perhaps they were right in this."

"How do you mean?" said I.  "What could the Government have done?  I
often used to think that they would be helpless in such a crisis."

Said old Hammond: "Of course I don't doubt that in the long run matters
would have come about as they did.  But if the Government could have
treated their army as a real army, and used them strategically as a
general would have done, looking on the people as a mere open enemy to be
shot at and dispersed wherever they turned up, they would probably have
gained the victory at the time."

"But would the soldiers have acted against the people in this way?" said
I.

Said he: "I think from all I have heard that they would have done so if
they had met bodies of men armed however badly, and however badly they
had been organised.  It seems also as if before the Trafalgar Square
massacre they might as a whole have been depended upon to fire upon an
unarmed crowd, though they were much honeycombed by Socialism.  The
reason for this was that they dreaded the use by apparently unarmed men
of an explosive called dynamite, of which many loud boasts were made by
the workers on the eve of these events; although it turned out to be of
little use as a material for war in the way that was expected.  Of course
the officers of the soldiery fanned this fear to the utmost, so that the
rank and file probably thought on that occasion that they were being led
into a desperate battle with men who were really armed, and whose weapon
was the more dreadful, because it was concealed.  After that massacre,
however, it was at all times doubtful if the regular soldiers would fire
upon an unarmed or half-armed crowd."

Said I: "The regular soldiers?  Then there were other combatants against
the people?"

"Yes," said he, "we shall come to that presently."

"Certainly," I said, "you had better go on straight with your story.  I
see that time is wearing."

Said Hammond: "The Government lost no time in coming to terms with the
Committee of Public Safety; for indeed they could think of nothing else
than the danger of the moment.  They sent a duly accredited envoy to
treat with these men, who somehow had obtained dominion over people's
minds, while the formal rulers had no hold except over their bodies.
There is no need at present to go into the details of the truce (for such
it was) between these high contracting parties, the Government of the
empire of Great Britain and a handful of working-men (as they were called
in scorn in those days), amongst whom, indeed, were some very capable and
'square-headed' persons, though, as aforesaid, the abler men were not
then the recognised leaders.  The upshot of it was that all the definite
claims of the people had to be granted.  We can now see that most of
these claims were of themselves not worth either demanding or resisting;
but they were looked on at that time as most important, and they were at
least tokens of revolt against the miserable system of life which was
then beginning to tumble to pieces.  One claim, however, was of the
utmost immediate importance, and this the Government tried hard to evade;
but as they were not dealing with fools, they had to yield at last.  This
was the claim of recognition and formal status for the Committee of
Public Safety, and all the associations which it fostered under its wing.
This it is clear meant two things: first, amnesty for 'the rebels,' great
and small, who, without a distinct act of civil war, could no longer be
attacked; and next, a continuance of the organised revolution.  Only one
point the Government could gain, and that was a name.  The dreadful
revolutionary title was dropped, and the body, with its branches, acted
under the respectable name of the 'Board of Conciliation and its local
offices.'  Carrying this name, it became the leader of the people in the
civil war which soon followed."

"O," said I, somewhat startled, "so the civil war went on, in spite of
all that had happened?"

"So it was," said he.  "In fact, it was this very legal recognition which
made the civil war possible in the ordinary sense of war; it took the
struggle out of the element of mere massacres on one side, and endurance
plus strikes on the other."

"And can you tell me in what kind of way the war was carried on?" said I.

"Yes" he said; "we have records and to spare of all that; and the essence
of them I can give you in a few words.  As I told you, the rank and file
of the army was not to be trusted by the reactionists; but the officers
generally were prepared for anything, for they were mostly the very
stupidest men in the country.  Whatever the Government might do, a great
part of the upper and middle classes were determined to set on foot a
counter revolution; for the Communism which now loomed ahead seemed quite
unendurable to them.  Bands of young men, like the marauders in the great
strike of whom I told you just now, armed themselves and drilled, and
began on any opportunity or pretence to skirmish with the people in the
streets.  The Government neither helped them nor put them down, but stood
by, hoping that something might come of it.  These 'Friends of Order,' as
they were called, had some successes at first, and grew bolder; they got
many officers of the regular army to help them, and by their means laid
hold of munitions of war of all kinds.  One part of their tactics
consisted in their guarding and even garrisoning the big factories of the
period: they held at one time, for instance, the whole of that place
called Manchester which I spoke of just now.  A sort of irregular war was
carried on with varied success all over the country; and at last the
Government, which at first pretended to ignore the struggle, or treat it
as mere rioting, definitely declared for 'the Friends of Order,' and
joined to their bands whatsoever of the regular army they could get
together, and made a desperate effort to overwhelm 'the rebels,' as they
were now once more called, and as indeed they called themselves.

"It was too late.  All ideas of peace on a basis of compromise had
disappeared on either side.  The end, it was seen clearly, must be either
absolute slavery for all but the privileged, or a system of life founded
on equality and Communism.  The sloth, the hopelessness, and if I may say
so, the cowardice of the last century, had given place to the eager,
restless heroism of a declared revolutionary period.  I will not say that
the people of that time foresaw the life we are leading now, but there
was a general instinct amongst them towards the essential part of that
life, and many men saw clearly beyond the desperate struggle of the day
into the peace which it was to bring about.  The men of that day who were
on the side of freedom were not unhappy, I think, though they were
harassed by hopes and fears, and sometimes torn by doubts, and the
conflict of duties hard to reconcile."

"But how did the people, the revolutionists, carry on the war?  What were
the elements of success on their side?"

I put this question, because I wanted to bring the old man back to the
definite history, and take him out of the musing mood so natural to an
old man.

He answered: "Well, they did not lack organisers; for the very conflict
itself, in days when, as I told you, men of any strength of mind cast
away all consideration for the ordinary business of life, developed the
necessary talent amongst them.  Indeed, from all I have read and heard, I
much doubt whether, without this seemingly dreadful civil war, the due
talent for administration would have been developed amongst the working
men.  Anyhow, it was there, and they soon got leaders far more than equal
to the best men amongst the reactionaries.  For the rest, they had no
difficulty about the material of their army; for that revolutionary
instinct so acted on the ordinary soldier in the ranks that the greater
part, certainly the best part, of the soldiers joined the side of the
people.  But the main element of their success was this, that wherever
the working people were not coerced, they worked, not for the
reactionists, but for 'the rebels.'  The reactionists could get no work
done for them outside the districts where they were all-powerful: and
even in those districts they were harassed by continual risings; and in
all cases and everywhere got nothing done without obstruction and black
looks and sulkiness; so that not only were their armies quite worn out
with the difficulties which they had to meet, but the non-combatants who
were on their side were so worried and beset with hatred and a thousand
little troubles and annoyances that life became almost unendurable to
them on those terms.  Not a few of them actually died of the worry; many
committed suicide.  Of course, a vast number of them joined actively in
the cause of reaction, and found some solace to their misery in the
eagerness of conflict.  Lastly, many thousands gave way and submitted to
'the rebels'; and as the numbers of these latter increased, it at last
became clear to all men that the cause which was once hopeless, was now
triumphant, and that the hopeless cause was that of slavery and
privilege."



CHAPTER XVIII: THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW LIFE


"Well," said I, "so you got clear out of all your trouble.  Were people
satisfied with the new order of things when it came?"

"People?" he said.  "Well, surely all must have been glad of peace when
it came; especially when they found, as they must have found, that after
all, they--even the once rich--were not living very badly.  As to those
who had been poor, all through the war, which lasted about two years,
their condition had been bettering, in spite of the struggle; and when
peace came at last, in a very short time they made great strides towards
a decent life.  The great difficulty was that the once-poor had such a
feeble conception of the real pleasure of life: so to say, they did not
ask enough, did not know how to ask enough, from the new state of things.
It was perhaps rather a good than an evil thing that the necessity for
restoring the wealth destroyed during the war forced them into working at
first almost as hard as they had been used to before the Revolution.  For
all historians are agreed that there never was a war in which there was
so much destruction of wares, and instruments for making them as in this
civil war."

"I am rather surprised at that," said I.

"Are you?  I don't see why," said Hammond.

"Why," I said, "because the party of order would surely look upon the
wealth as their own property, no share of which, if they could help it,
should go to their slaves, supposing they conquered.  And on the other
hand, it was just for the possession of that wealth that 'the rebels'
were fighting, and I should have thought, especially when they saw that
they were winning, that they would have been careful to destroy as little
as possible of what was so soon to be their own."

"It was as I have told you, however," said he.  "The party of order, when
they recovered from their first cowardice of surprise--or, if you please,
when they fairly saw that, whatever happened, they would be ruined,
fought with great bitterness, and cared little what they did, so long as
they injured the enemies who had destroyed the sweets of life for them.
As to 'the rebels,' I have told you that the outbreak of actual war made
them careless of trying to save the wretched scraps of wealth that they
had.  It was a common saying amongst them, Let the country be cleared of
everything except valiant living men, rather than that we fall into
slavery again!"

He sat silently thinking a little while, and then said:

"When the conflict was once really begun, it was seen how little of any
value there was in the old world of slavery and inequality.  Don't you
see what it means?  In the times which you are thinking of, and of which
you seem to know so much, there was no hope; nothing but the dull jog of
the mill-horse under compulsion of collar and whip; but in that fighting-
time that followed, all was hope: 'the rebels' at least felt themselves
strong enough to build up the world again from its dry bones,--and they
did it, too!" said the old man, his eyes glittering under his beetling
brows.  He went on: "And their opponents at least and at last learned
something about the reality of life, and its sorrows, which they--their
class, I mean--had once known nothing of.  In short, the two combatants,
the workman and the gentleman, between them--"

"Between them," said I, quickly, "they destroyed commercialism!"

"Yes, yes, yes," said he; "that is it.  Nor could it have been destroyed
otherwise; except, perhaps, by the whole of society gradually falling
into lower depths, till it should at last reach a condition as rude as
barbarism, but lacking both the hope and the pleasures of barbarism.
Surely the sharper, shorter remedy was the happiest."

"Most surely," said I.

"Yes," said the old man, "the world was being brought to its second
birth; how could that take place without a tragedy?  Moreover, think of
it.  The spirit of the new days, of our days, was to be delight in the
life of the world; intense and overweening love of the very skin and
surface of the earth on which man dwells, such as a lover has in the fair
flesh of the woman he loves; this, I say, was to be the new spirit of the
time.  All other moods save this had been exhausted: the unceasing
criticism, the boundless curiosity in the ways and thoughts of man, which
was the mood of the ancient Greek, to whom these things were not so much
a means, as an end, was gone past recovery; nor had there been really any
shadow of it in the so-called science of the nineteenth century, which,
as you must know, was in the main an appendage to the commercial system;
nay, not seldom an appendage to the police of that system.  In spite of
appearances, it was limited and cowardly, because it did not really
believe in itself.  It was the outcome, as it was the sole relief, of the
unhappiness of the period which made life so bitter even to the rich, and
which, as you may see with your bodily eyes, the great change has swept
away.  More akin to our way of looking at life was the spirit of the
Middle Ages, to whom heaven and the life of the next world was such a
reality, that it became to them a part of the life upon the earth; which
accordingly they loved and adorned, in spite of the ascetic doctrines of
their formal creed, which bade them contemn it.

"But that also, with its assured belief in heaven and hell as two
countries in which to live, has gone, and now we do, both in word and in
deed, believe in the continuous life of the world of men, and as it were,
add every day of that common life to the little stock of days which our
own mere individual experience wins for us: and consequently we are
happy.  Do you wonder at it?  In times past, indeed, men were told to
love their kind, to believe in the religion of humanity, and so forth.
But look you, just in the degree that a man had elevation of mind and
refinement enough to be able to value this idea, was he repelled by the
obvious aspect of the individuals composing the mass which he was to
worship; and he could only evade that repulsion by making a conventional
abstraction of mankind that had little actual or historical relation to
the race; which to his eyes was divided into blind tyrants on the one
hand and apathetic degraded slaves on the other.  But now, where is the
difficulty in accepting the religion of humanity, when the men and women
who go to make up humanity are free, happy, and energetic at least, and
most commonly beautiful of body also, and surrounded by beautiful things
of their own fashioning, and a nature bettered and not worsened by
contact with mankind?  This is what this age of the world has reserved
for us."

"It seems true," said I, "or ought to be, if what my eyes have seen is a
token of the general life you lead.  Can you now tell me anything of your
progress after the years of the struggle?"

Said he: "I could easily tell you more than you have time to listen to;
but I can at least hint at one of the chief difficulties which had to be
met: and that was, that when men began to settle down after the war, and
their labour had pretty much filled up the gap in wealth caused by the
destruction of that war, a kind of disappointment seemed coming over us,
and the prophecies of some of the reactionists of past times seemed as if
they would come true, and a dull level of utilitarian comfort be the end
for a while of our aspirations and success.  The loss of the competitive
spur to exertion had not, indeed, done anything to interfere with the
necessary production of the community, but how if it should make men dull
by giving them too much time for thought or idle musing?  But, after all,
this dull thunder-cloud only threatened us, and then passed over.
Probably, from what I have told you before, you will have a guess at the
remedy for such a disaster; remembering always that many of the things
which used to be produced--slave-wares for the poor and mere
wealth-wasting wares for the rich--ceased to be made.  That remedy was,
in short, the production of what used to be called art, but which has no
name amongst us now, because it has become a necessary part of the labour
of every man who produces."

Said I: "What! had men any time or opportunity for cultivating the fine
arts amidst the desperate struggle for life and freedom that you have
told me of?"

Said Hammond: "You must not suppose that the new form of art was founded
chiefly on the memory of the art of the past; although, strange to say,
the civil war was much less destructive of art than of other things, and
though what of art existed under the old forms, revived in a wonderful
way during the latter part of the struggle, especially as regards music
and poetry.  The art or work-pleasure, as one ought to call it, of which
I am now speaking, sprung up almost spontaneously, it seems, from a kind
of instinct amongst people, no longer driven desperately to painful and
terrible over-work, to do the best they could with the work in hand--to
make it excellent of its kind; and when that had gone on for a little, a
craving for beauty seemed to awaken in men's minds, and they began rudely
and awkwardly to ornament the wares which they made; and when they had
once set to work at that, it soon began to grow.  All this was much
helped by the abolition of the squalor which our immediate ancestors put
up with so coolly; and by the leisurely, but not stupid, country-life
which now grew (as I told you before) to be common amongst us.  Thus at
last and by slow degrees we got pleasure into our work; then we became
conscious of that pleasure, and cultivated it, and took care that we had
our fill of it; and then all was gained, and we were happy.  So may it be
for ages and ages!"

The old man fell into a reverie, not altogether without melancholy I
thought; but I would not break it.  Suddenly he started, and said: "Well,
dear guest, here are come Dick and Clara to fetch you away, and there is
an end of my talk; which I daresay you will not be sorry for; the long
day is coming to an end, and you will have a pleasant ride back to
Hammersmith."



CHAPTER XIX: THE DRIVE BACK TO HAMMERSMITH


I said nothing, for I was not inclined for mere politeness to him after
such very serious talk; but in fact I should liked to have gone on
talking with the older man, who could understand something at least of my
wonted ways of looking at life, whereas, with the younger people, in
spite of all their kindness, I really was a being from another planet.
However, I made the best of it, and smiled as amiably as I could on the
young couple; and Dick returned the smile by saying, "Well, guest, I am
glad to have you again, and to find that you and my kinsman have not
quite talked yourselves into another world; I was half suspecting as I
was listening to the Welshmen yonder that you would presently be
vanishing away from us, and began to picture my kinsman sitting in the
hall staring at nothing and finding that he had been talking a while past
to nobody."

I felt rather uncomfortable at this speech, for suddenly the picture of
the sordid squabble, the dirty and miserable tragedy of the life I had
left for a while, came before my eyes; and I had, as it were, a vision of
all my longings for rest and peace in the past, and I loathed the idea of
going back to it again.  But the old man chuckled and said:

"Don't be afraid, Dick.  In any case, I have not been talking to thin
air; nor, indeed to this new friend of ours only.  Who knows but I may
not have been talking to many people?  For perhaps our guest may some day
go back to the people he has come from, and may take a message from us
which may bear fruit for them, and consequently for us."

Dick looked puzzled, and said: "Well, gaffer, I do not quite understand
what you mean.  All I can say is, that I hope he will not leave us: for
don't you see, he is another kind of man to what we are used to, and
somehow he makes us think of all kind of things; and already I feel as if
I could understand Dickens the better for having talked with him."

"Yes," said Clara, "and I think in a few months we shall make him look
younger; and I should like to see what he was like with the wrinkles
smoothed out of his face.  Don't you think he will look younger after a
little time with us?"

The old man shook his head, and looked earnestly at me, but did not
answer her, and for a moment or two we were all silent.  Then Clara broke
out:

"Kinsman, I don't like this: something or another troubles me, and I feel
as if something untoward were going to happen.  You have been talking of
past miseries to the guest, and have been living in past unhappy times,
and it is in the air all round us, and makes us feel as if we were
longing for something that we cannot have."

The old man smiled on her kindly, and said: "Well, my child, if that be
so, go and live in the present, and you will soon shake it off." Then he
turned to me, and said: "Do you remember anything like that, guest, in
the country from which you come?"

The lovers had turned aside now, and were talking together softly, and
not heeding us; so I said, but in a low voice: "Yes, when I was a happy
child on a sunny holiday, and had everything that I could think of."

"So it is," said he.  "You remember just now you twitted me with living
in the second childhood of the world.  You will find it a happy world to
live in; you will be happy there--for a while."

Again I did not like his scarcely veiled threat, and was beginning to
trouble myself with trying to remember how I had got amongst this curious
people, when the old man called out in a cheery voice: "Now, my children,
take your guest away, and make much of him; for it is your business to
make him sleek of skin and peaceful of mind: he has by no means been as
lucky as you have.  Farewell, guest!" and he grasped my hand warmly.

"Good-bye," said I, "and thank you very much for all that you have told
me.  I will come and see you as soon as I come back to London.  May I?"

"Yes," he said, "come by all means--if you can."

"It won't be for some time yet," quoth Dick, in his cheery voice; "for
when the hay is in up the river, I shall be for taking him a round
through the country between hay and wheat harvest, to see how our friends
live in the north country.  Then in the wheat harvest we shall do a good
stroke of work, I should hope,--in Wiltshire by preference; for he will
be getting a little hard with all the open-air living, and I shall be as
tough as nails."

"But you will take me along, won't you, Dick?" said Clara, laying her
pretty hand on his shoulder.

"Will I not?" said Dick, somewhat boisterously.  "And we will manage to
send you to bed pretty tired every night; and you will look so beautiful
with your neck all brown, and your hands too, and you under your gown as
white as privet, that you will get some of those strange discontented
whims out of your head, my dear.  However, our week's haymaking will do
all that for you."

The girl reddened very prettily, and not for shame but for pleasure; and
the old man laughed, and said:

"Guest, I see that you will be as comfortable as need be; for you need
not fear that those two will be too officious with you: they will be so
busy with each other, that they will leave you a good deal to yourself, I
am sure, and that is a real kindness to a guest, after all.  O, you need
not be afraid of being one too many, either: it is just what these birds
in a nest like, to have a good convenient friend to turn to, so that they
may relieve the ecstasies of love with the solid commonplace of
friendship.  Besides, Dick, and much more Clara, likes a little talking
at times; and you know lovers do not talk unless they get into trouble,
they only prattle.  Good-bye, guest; may you be happy!"

Clara went up to old Hammond, threw her arms about his neck and kissed
him heartily, and said:

"You are a dear old man, and may have your jest about me as much as you
please; and it won't be long before we see you again; and you may be sure
we shall make our guest happy; though, mind you, there is some truth in
what you say."

Then I shook hands again, and we went out of the hall and into the
cloisters, and so in the street found Greylocks in the shafts waiting for
us.  He was well looked after; for a little lad of about seven years old
had his hand on the rein and was solemnly looking up into his face; on
his back, withal, was a girl of fourteen, holding a three-year old sister
on before her; while another girl, about a year older than the boy, hung
on behind.  The three were occupied partly with eating cherries, partly
with patting and punching Greylocks, who took all their caresses in good
part, but pricked up his ears when Dick made his appearance.  The girls
got off quietly, and going up to Clara, made much of her and snuggled up
to her.  And then we got into the carriage, Dick shook the reins, and we
got under way at once, Greylocks trotting soberly between the lovely
trees of the London streets, that were sending floods of fragrance into
the cool evening air; for it was now getting toward sunset.

We could hardly go but fair and softly all the way, as there were a great
many people abroad in that cool hour.  Seeing so many people made me
notice their looks the more; and I must say, my taste, cultivated in the
sombre greyness, or rather brownness, of the nineteenth century, was
rather apt to condemn the gaiety and brightness of the raiment; and I
even ventured to say as much to Clara.  She seemed rather surprised, and
even slightly indignant, and said: "Well, well, what's the matter?  They
are not about any dirty work; they are only amusing themselves in the
fine evening; there is nothing to foul their clothes.  Come, doesn't it
all look very pretty?  It isn't gaudy, you know."

Indeed that was true; for many of the people were clad in colours that
were sober enough, though beautiful, and the harmony of the colours was
perfect and most delightful.

I said, "Yes, that is so; but how can everybody afford such costly
garments?  Look! there goes a middle-aged man in a sober grey dress; but
I can see from here that it is made of very fine woollen stuff, and is
covered with silk embroidery."

Said Clara: "He could wear shabby clothes if he pleased,--that is, if he
didn't think he would hurt people's feelings by doing so."

"But please tell me," said I, "how can they afford it?"

As soon as I had spoken I perceived that I had got back to my old
blunder; for I saw Dick's shoulders shaking with laughter; but he
wouldn't say a word, but handed me over to the tender mercies of Clara,
who said--

"Why, I don't know what you mean.  Of course we can afford it, or else we
shouldn't do it.  It would be easy enough for us to say, we will only
spend our labour on making our clothes comfortable: but we don't choose
to stop there.  Why do you find fault with us?  Does it seem to you as if
we starved ourselves of food in order to make ourselves fine clothes?  Or
do you think there is anything wrong in liking to see the coverings of
our bodies beautiful like our bodies are?--just as a deer's or an otter's
skin has been made beautiful from the first?  Come, what is wrong with
you?"

I bowed before the storm, and mumbled out some excuse or other.  I must
say, I might have known that people who were so fond of architecture
generally, would not be backward in ornamenting themselves; all the more
as the shape of their raiment, apart from its colour, was both beautiful
and reasonable--veiling the form, without either muffling or caricaturing
it.

Clara was soon mollified; and as we drove along toward the wood before
mentioned, she said to Dick--

"I tell you what, Dick: now that kinsman Hammond the Elder has seen our
guest in his queer clothes, I think we ought to find him something decent
to put on for our journey to-morrow: especially since, if we do not, we
shall have to answer all sorts of questions as to his clothes and where
they came from.  Besides," she said slily, "when he is clad in handsome
garments he will not be so quick to blame us for our childishness in
wasting our time in making ourselves look pleasant to each other."

"All right, Clara," said Dick; "he shall have everything that you--that
he wants to have.  I will look something out for him before he gets up to-
morrow."



CHAPTER XX: THE HAMMERSMITH GUEST-HOUSE AGAIN


Amidst such talk, driving quietly through the balmy evening, we came to
Hammersmith, and were well received by our friends there.  Boffin, in a
fresh suit of clothes, welcomed me back with stately courtesy; the weaver
wanted to button-hole me and get out of me what old Hammond had said, but
was very friendly and cheerful when Dick warned him off; Annie shook
hands with me, and hoped I had had a pleasant day--so kindly, that I felt
a slight pang as our hands parted; for to say the truth, I liked her
better than Clara, who seemed to be always a little on the defensive,
whereas Annie was as frank as could be, and seemed to get honest pleasure
from everything and everybody about her without the least effort.

We had quite a little feast that evening, partly in my honour, and
partly, I suspect, though nothing was said about it, in honour of Dick
and Clara coming together again.  The wine was of the best; the hall was
redolent of rich summer flowers; and after supper we not only had music
(Annie, to my mind, surpassing all the others for sweetness and clearness
of voice, as well as for feeling and meaning), but at last we even got to
telling stories, and sat there listening, with no other light but that of
the summer moon streaming through the beautiful traceries of the windows,
as if we had belonged to time long passed, when books were scarce and the
art of reading somewhat rare.  Indeed, I may say here, that, though, as
you will have noted, my friends had mostly something to say about books,
yet they were not great readers, considering the refinement of their
manners and the great amount of leisure which they obviously had.  In
fact, when Dick, especially, mentioned a book, he did so with an air of a
man who has accomplished an achievement; as much as to say, "There, you
see, I have actually read that!"

The evening passed all too quickly for me; since that day, for the first
time in my life, I was having my fill of the pleasure of the eyes without
any of that sense of incongruity, that dread of approaching ruin, which
had always beset me hitherto when I had been amongst the beautiful works
of art of the past, mingled with the lovely nature of the present; both
of them, in fact, the result of the long centuries of tradition, which
had compelled men to produce the art, and compelled nature to run into
the mould of the ages.  Here I could enjoy everything without an
afterthought of the injustice and miserable toil which made my leisure;
the ignorance and dulness of life which went to make my keen appreciation
of history; the tyranny and the struggle full of fear and mishap which
went to make my romance.  The only weight I had upon my heart was a vague
fear as it drew toward bed-time concerning the place wherein I should
wake on the morrow: but I choked that down, and went to bed happy, and in
a very few moments was in a dreamless sleep.



CHAPTER XXI: GOING UP THE RIVER


When I did wake, to a beautiful sunny morning, I leapt out of bed with my
over-night apprehension still clinging to me, which vanished delightfully
however in a moment as I looked around my little sleeping chamber and saw
the pale but pure-coloured figures painted on the plaster of the wall,
with verses written underneath them which I knew somewhat over well.  I
dressed speedily, in a suit of blue laid ready for me, so handsome that I
quite blushed when I had got into it, feeling as I did so that excited
pleasure of anticipation of a holiday, which, well remembered as it was,
I had not felt since I was a boy, new come home for the summer holidays.

It seemed quite early in the morning, and I expected to have the hall to
myself when I came into it out of the corridor wherein was my sleeping
chamber; but I met Annie at once, who let fall her broom and gave me a
kiss, quite meaningless I fear, except as betokening friendship, though
she reddened as she did it, not from shyness, but from friendly pleasure,
and then stood and picked up her broom again, and went on with her
sweeping, nodding to me as if to bid me stand out of the way and look on;
which, to say the truth, I thought amusing enough, as there were five
other girls helping her, and their graceful figures engaged in the
leisurely work were worth going a long way to see, and their merry talk
and laughing as they swept in quite a scientific manner was worth going a
long way to hear.  But Annie presently threw me back a word or two as she
went on to the other end of the hall: "Guest," she said, "I am glad that
you are up early, though we wouldn't disturb you; for our Thames is a
lovely river at half-past six on a June morning: and as it would be a
pity for you to lose it, I am told just to give you a cup of milk and a
bit of bread outside there, and put you into the boat: for Dick and Clara
are all ready now.  Wait half a minute till I have swept down this row."

So presently she let her broom drop again, and came and took me by the
hand and led me out on to the terrace above the river, to a little table
under the boughs, where my bread and milk took the form of as dainty a
breakfast as any one could desire, and then sat by me as I ate.  And in a
minute or two Dick and Clara came to me, the latter looking most fresh
and beautiful in a light silk embroidered gown, which to my unused eyes
was extravagantly gay and bright; while Dick was also handsomely dressed
in white flannel prettily embroidered.  Clara raised her gown in her
hands as she gave me the morning greeting, and said laughingly: "Look,
guest! you see we are at least as fine as any of the people you felt
inclined to scold last night; you see we are not going to make the bright
day and the flowers feel ashamed of themselves.  Now scold me!"

Quoth I: "No, indeed; the pair of you seem as if you were born out of the
summer day itself; and I will scold you when I scold it."

"Well, you know," said Dick, "this is a special day--all these days are,
I mean.  The hay-harvest is in some ways better than corn-harvest because
of the beautiful weather; and really, unless you had worked in the hay-
field in fine weather, you couldn't tell what pleasant work it is.  The
women look so pretty at it, too," he said, shyly; "so all things
considered, I think we are right to adorn it in a simple manner."

"Do the women work at it in silk dresses?" said I, smiling.

Dick was going to answer me soberly; but Clara put her hand over his
mouth, and said, "No, no, Dick; not too much information for him, or I
shall think that you are your old kinsman again.  Let him find out for
himself: he will not have long to wait."

"Yes," quoth Annie, "don't make your description of the picture too fine,
or else he will be disappointed when the curtain is drawn.  I don't want
him to be disappointed.  But now it's time for you to be gone, if you are
to have the best of the tide, and also of the sunny morning.  Good-bye,
guest."

She kissed me in her frank friendly way, and almost took away from me my
desire for the expedition thereby; but I had to get over that, as it was
clear that so delightful a woman would hardly be without a due lover of
her own age.  We went down the steps of the landing stage, and got into a
pretty boat, not too light to hold us and our belongings comfortably, and
handsomely ornamented; and just as we got in, down came Boffin and the
weaver to see us off.  The former had now veiled his splendour in a due
suit of working clothes, crowned with a fantail hat, which he took off,
however, to wave us farewell with his grave old-Spanish-like courtesy.
Then Dick pushed off into the stream, and bent vigorously to his sculls,
and Hammersmith, with its noble trees and beautiful water-side houses,
began to slip away from us.

As we went, I could not help putting beside his promised picture of the
hay-field as it was then the picture of it as I remembered it, and
especially the images of the women engaged in the work rose up before me:
the row of gaunt figures, lean, flat-breasted, ugly, without a grace of
form or face about them; dressed in wretched skimpy print gowns, and
hideous flapping sun-bonnets, moving their rakes in a listless mechanical
way.  How often had that marred the loveliness of the June day to me; how
often had I longed to see the hay-fields peopled with men and women
worthy of the sweet abundance of midsummer, of its endless wealth of
beautiful sights, and delicious sounds and scents.  And now, the world
had grown old and wiser, and I was to see my hope realised at last!



CHAPTER XXII: HAMPTON COURT AND A PRAISER OF PAST TIMES


So on we went, Dick rowing in an easy tireless way, and Clara sitting by
my side admiring his manly beauty and heartily good-natured face, and
thinking, I fancy, of nothing else.  As we went higher up the river,
there was less difference between the Thames of that day and Thames as I
remembered it; for setting aside the hideous vulgarity of the cockney
villas of the well-to-do, stockbrokers and other such, which in older
time marred the beauty of the bough-hung banks, even this beginning of
the country Thames was always beautiful; and as we slipped between the
lovely summer greenery, I almost felt my youth come back to me, and as if
I were on one of those water excursions which I used to enjoy so much in
days when I was too happy to think that there could be much amiss
anywhere.

At last we came to a reach of the river where on the left hand a very
pretty little village with some old houses in it came down to the edge of
the water, over which was a ferry; and beyond these houses the elm-beset
meadows ended in a fringe of tall willows, while on the right hand went
the tow-path and a clear space before a row of trees, which rose up
behind huge and ancient, the ornaments of a great park: but these drew
back still further from the river at the end of the reach to make way for
a little town of quaint and pretty houses, some new, some old, dominated
by the long walls and sharp gables of a great red-brick pile of building,
partly of the latest Gothic, partly of the court-style of Dutch William,
but so blended together by the bright sun and beautiful surroundings,
including the bright blue river, which it looked down upon, that even
amidst the beautiful buildings of that new happy time it had a strange
charm about it.  A great wave of fragrance, amidst which the lime-tree
blossom was clearly to be distinguished, came down to us from its unseen
gardens, as Clara sat up in her place, and said:

"O Dick, dear, couldn't we stop at Hampton Court for to-day, and take the
guest about the park a little, and show him those sweet old buildings?
Somehow, I suppose because you have lived so near it, you have seldom
taken me to Hampton Court."

Dick rested on his oars a little, and said: "Well, well, Clara, you are
lazy to-day.  I didn't feel like stopping short of Shepperton for the
night; suppose we just go and have our dinner at the Court, and go on
again about five o'clock?"

"Well," she said, "so be it; but I should like the guest to have spent an
hour or two in the Park."

"The Park!" said Dick; "why, the whole Thames-side is a park this time of
the year; and for my part, I had rather lie under an elm-tree on the
borders of a wheat-field, with the bees humming about me and the corn-
crake crying from furrow to furrow, than in any park in England.
Besides--"

"Besides," said she, "you want to get on to your dearly-loved upper
Thames, and show your prowess down the heavy swathes of the mowing
grass."

She looked at him fondly, and I could tell that she was seeing him in her
mind's eye showing his splendid form at its best amidst the rhymed
strokes of the scythes; and she looked down at her own pretty feet with a
half sigh, as though she were contrasting her slight woman's beauty with
his man's beauty; as women will when they are really in love, and are not
spoiled with conventional sentiment.

As for Dick, he looked at her admiringly a while, and then said at last:
"Well, Clara, I do wish we were there!  But, hilloa! we are getting back
way."  And he set to work sculling again, and in two minutes we were all
standing on the gravelly strand below the bridge, which, as you may
imagine, was no longer the old hideous iron abortion, but a handsome
piece of very solid oak framing.

We went into the Court and straight into the great hall, so well
remembered, where there were tables spread for dinner, and everything
arranged much as in Hammersmith Guest-Hall.  Dinner over, we sauntered
through the ancient rooms, where the pictures and tapestry were still
preserved, and nothing was much changed, except that the people whom we
met there had an indefinable kind of look of being at home and at ease,
which communicated itself to me, so that I felt that the beautiful old
place was mine in the best sense of the word; and my pleasure of past
days seemed to add itself to that of to-day, and filled my whole soul
with content.

Dick (who, in spite of Clara's gibe, knew the place very well) told me
that the beautiful old Tudor rooms, which I remembered had been the
dwellings of the lesser fry of Court flunkies, were now much used by
people coming and going; for, beautiful as architecture had now become,
and although the whole face of the country had quite recovered its
beauty, there was still a sort of tradition of pleasure and beauty which
clung to that group of buildings, and people thought going to Hampton
Court a necessary summer outing, as they did in the days when London was
so grimy and miserable.  We went into some of the rooms looking into the
old garden, and were well received by the people in them, who got
speedily into talk with us, and looked with politely half-concealed
wonder at my strange face.  Besides these birds of passage, and a few
regular dwellers in the place, we saw out in the meadows near the garden,
down "the Long Water," as it used to be called, many gay tents with men,
women, and children round about them.  As it seemed, this pleasure-loving
people were fond of tent-life, with all its inconveniences, which,
indeed, they turned into pleasure also.

We left this old friend by the time appointed, and I made some feeble
show of taking the sculls; but Dick repulsed me, not much to my grief, I
must say, as I found I had quite enough to do between the enjoyment of
the beautiful time and my own lazily blended thoughts.

As to Dick, it was quite right to let him pull, for he was as strong as a
horse, and had the greatest delight in bodily exercise, whatever it was.
We really had some difficulty in getting him to stop when it was getting
rather more than dusk, and the moon was brightening just as we were off
Runnymede.  We landed there, and were looking about for a place whereon
to pitch our tents (for we had brought two with us), when an old man came
up to us, bade us good evening, and asked if we were housed for that that
night; and finding that we were not, bade us home to his house.  Nothing
loth, we went with him, and Clara took his hand in a coaxing way which I
noticed she used with old men; and as we went on our way, made some
commonplace remark about the beauty of the day.  The old man stopped
short, and looked at her and said: "You really like it then?"

"Yes," she said, looking very much astonished, "Don't you?"

"Well," said he, "perhaps I do.  I did, at any rate, when I was younger;
but now I think I should like it cooler."

She said nothing, and went on, the night growing about as dark as it
would be; till just at the rise of the hill we came to a hedge with a
gate in it, which the old man unlatched and led us into a garden, at the
end of which we could see a little house, one of whose little windows was
already yellow with candlelight.  We could see even under the doubtful
light of the moon and the last of the western glow that the garden was
stuffed full of flowers; and the fragrance it gave out in the gathering
coolness was so wonderfully sweet, that it seemed the very heart of the
delight of the June dusk; so that we three stopped instinctively, and
Clara gave forth a little sweet "O," like a bird beginning to sing.

"What's the matter?" said the old man, a little testily, and pulling at
her hand.  "There's no dog; or have you trodden on a thorn and hurt your
foot?"

"No, no, neighbour," she said; "but how sweet, how sweet it is!"

"Of course it is," said he, "but do you care so much for that?"

She laughed out musically, and we followed suit in our gruffer voices;
and then she said: "Of course I do, neighbour; don't you?"

"Well, I don't know," quoth the old fellow; then he added, as if somewhat
ashamed of himself: "Besides, you know, when the waters are out and all
Runnymede is flooded, it's none so pleasant."

"_I_ should like it," quoth Dick.  "What a jolly sail one would get about
here on the floods on a bright frosty January morning!"

"_Would_ you like it?" said our host.  "Well, I won't argue with you,
neighbour; it isn't worth while.  Come in and have some supper."

We went up a paved path between the roses, and straight into a very
pretty room, panelled and carved, and as clean as a new pin; but the
chief ornament of which was a young woman, light-haired and grey-eyed,
but with her face and hands and bare feet tanned quite brown with the
sun.  Though she was very lightly clad, that was clearly from choice, not
from poverty, though these were the first cottage-dwellers I had come
across; for her gown was of silk, and on her wrists were bracelets that
seemed to me of great value.  She was lying on a sheep-skin near the
window, but jumped up as soon as we entered, and when she saw the guests
behind the old man, she clapped her hands and cried out with pleasure,
and when she got us into the middle of the room, fairly danced round us
in delight of our company.

"What!" said the old man, "you are pleased, are you, Ellen?"

The girl danced up to him and threw her arms round him, and said: "Yes I
am, and so ought you to be grandfather."

"Well, well, I am," said he, "as much as I can be pleased.  Guests,
please be seated."

This seemed rather strange to us; stranger, I suspect, to my friends than
to me; but Dick took the opportunity of both the host and his
grand-daughter being out of the room to say to me, softly: "A grumbler:
there are a few of them still.  Once upon a time, I am told, they were
quite a nuisance."

The old man came in as he spoke and sat down beside us with a sigh,
which, indeed, seemed fetched up as if he wanted us to take notice of it;
but just then the girl came in with the victuals, and the carle missed
his mark, what between our hunger generally and that I was pretty busy
watching the grand-daughter moving about as beautiful as a picture.

Everything to eat and drink, though it was somewhat different to what we
had had in London, was better than good, but the old man eyed rather
sulkily the chief dish on the table, on which lay a leash of fine perch,
and said:

"H'm, perch!  I am sorry we can't do better for you, guests.  The time
was when we might have had a good piece of salmon up from London for you;
but the times have grown mean and petty."

"Yes, but you might have had it now," said the girl, giggling, "if you
had known that they were coming."

"It's our fault for not bringing it with us, neighbours," said Dick, good-
humouredly.  "But if the times have grown petty, at any rate the perch
haven't; that fellow in the middle there must have weighed a good two
pounds when he was showing his dark stripes and red fins to the minnows
yonder.  And as to the salmon, why, neighbour, my friend here, who comes
from the outlands, was quite surprised yesterday morning when I told him
we had plenty of salmon at Hammersmith.  I am sure I have heard nothing
of the times worsening."

He looked a little uncomfortable.  And the old man, turning to me, said
very courteously:

"Well, sir, I am happy to see a man from over the water; but I really
must appeal to you to say whether on the whole you are not better off in
your country; where I suppose, from what our guest says, you are brisker
and more alive, because you have not wholly got rid of competition.  You
see, I have read not a few books of the past days, and certainly _they_
are much more alive than those which are written now; and good sound
unlimited competition was the condition under which they were written,--if
we didn't know that from the record of history, we should know it from
the books themselves.  There is a spirit of adventure in them, and signs
of a capacity to extract good out of evil which our literature quite
lacks now; and I cannot help thinking that our moralists and historians
exaggerate hugely the unhappiness of the past days, in which such
splendid works of imagination and intellect were produced."

Clara listened to him with restless eyes, as if she were excited and
pleased; Dick knitted his brow and looked still more uncomfortable, but
said nothing.  Indeed, the old man gradually, as he warmed to his
subject, dropped his sneering manner, and both spoke and looked very
seriously.  But the girl broke out before I could deliver myself of the
answer I was framing:

"Books, books! always books, grandfather!  When will you understand that
after all it is the world we live in which interests us; the world of
which we are a part, and which we can never love too much?  Look!" she
said, throwing open the casement wider and showing us the white light
sparkling between the black shadows of the moonlit garden, through which
ran a little shiver of the summer night-wind, "look! these are our books
in these days!--and these," she said, stepping lightly up to the two
lovers and laying a hand on each of their shoulders; "and the guest
there, with his over-sea knowledge and experience;--yes, and even you,
grandfather" (a smile ran over her face as she spoke), "with all your
grumbling and wishing yourself back again in the good old days,--in
which, as far as I can make out, a harmless and lazy old man like you
would either have pretty nearly starved, or have had to pay soldiers and
people to take the folk's victuals and clothes and houses away from them
by force.  Yes, these are our books; and if we want more, can we not find
work to do in the beautiful buildings that we raise up all over the
country (and I know there was nothing like them in past times), wherein a
man can put forth whatever is in him, and make his hands set forth his
mind and his soul."

She paused a little, and I for my part could not help staring at her, and
thinking that if she were a book, the pictures in it were most lovely.
The colour mantled in her delicate sunburnt cheeks; her grey eyes, light
amidst the tan of her face, kindly looked on us all as she spoke.  She
paused, and said again:

"As for your books, they were well enough for times when intelligent
people had but little else in which they could take pleasure, and when
they must needs supplement the sordid miseries of their own lives with
imaginations of the lives of other people.  But I say flatly that in
spite of all their cleverness and vigour, and capacity for story-telling,
there is something loathsome about them.  Some of them, indeed, do here
and there show some feeling for those whom the history-books call 'poor,'
and of the misery of whose lives we have some inkling; but presently they
give it up, and towards the end of the story we must be contented to see
the hero and heroine living happily in an island of bliss on other
people's troubles; and that after a long series of sham troubles (or
mostly sham) of their own making, illustrated by dreary introspective
nonsense about their feelings and aspirations, and all the rest of it;
while the world must even then have gone on its way, and dug and sewed
and baked and built and carpentered round about these useless--animals."

"There!" said the old man, reverting to his dry sulky manner again.
"There's eloquence!  I suppose you like it?"

"Yes," said I, very emphatically.

"Well," said he, "now the storm of eloquence has lulled for a little,
suppose you answer my question?--that is, if you like, you know," quoth
he, with a sudden access of courtesy.

"What question?" said I.  For I must confess that Ellen's strange and
almost wild beauty had put it out of my head.

Said he: "First of all (excuse my catechising), is there competition in
life, after the old kind, in the country whence you come?"

"Yes," said I, "it is the rule there."  And I wondered as I spoke what
fresh complications I should get into as a result of this answer.

"Question two," said the carle: "Are you not on the whole much freer,
more energetic--in a word, healthier and happier--for it?"

I smiled.  "You wouldn't talk so if you had any idea of our life.  To me
you seem here as if you were living in heaven compared with us of the
country from which I came."

"Heaven?" said he: "you like heaven, do you?"

"Yes," said I--snappishly, I am afraid; for I was beginning rather to
resent his formula.

"Well, I am far from sure that I do," quoth he.  "I think one may do more
with one's life than sitting on a damp cloud and singing hymns."

I was rather nettled by this inconsequence, and said: "Well, neighbour,
to be short, and without using metaphors, in the land whence I come,
where the competition which produced those literary works which you
admire so much is still the rule, most people are thoroughly unhappy;
here, to me at least most people seem thoroughly happy."

"No offence, guest--no offence," said he; "but let me ask you; you like
that, do you?"

His formula, put with such obstinate persistence, made us all laugh
heartily; and even the old man joined in the laughter on the sly.
However, he was by no means beaten, and said presently:

"From all I can hear, I should judge that a young woman so beautiful as
my dear Ellen yonder would have been a lady, as they called it in the old
time, and wouldn't have had to wear a few rags of silk as she does now,
or to have browned herself in the sun as she has to do now.  What do you
say to that, eh?"

Here Clara, who had been pretty much silent hitherto, struck in, and
said: "Well, really, I don't think that you would have mended matters, or
that they want mending.  Don't you see that she is dressed deliciously
for this beautiful weather?  And as for the sun-burning of your
hay-fields, why, I hope to pick up some of that for myself when we get a
little higher up the river.  Look if I don't need a little sun on my
pasty white skin!"

And she stripped up the sleeve from her arm and laid it beside Ellen's
who was now sitting next her.  To say the truth, it was rather amusing to
me to see Clara putting herself forward as a town-bred fine lady, for she
was as well-knit and clean-skinned a girl as might be met with anywhere
at the best.  Dick stroked the beautiful arm rather shyly, and pulled
down the sleeve again, while she blushed at his touch; and the old man
said laughingly: "Well, I suppose you _do_ like that; don't you?"

Ellen kissed her new friend, and we all sat silent for a little, till she
broke out into a sweet shrill song, and held us all entranced with the
wonder of her clear voice; and the old grumbler sat looking at her
lovingly.  The other young people sang also in due time; and then Ellen
showed us to our beds in small cottage chambers, fragrant and clean as
the ideal of the old pastoral poets; and the pleasure of the evening
quite extinguished my fear of the last night, that I should wake up in
the old miserable world of worn-out pleasures, and hopes that were half
fears.



CHAPTER XXIII: AN EARLY MORNING BY RUNNYMEDE


Though there were no rough noises to wake me, I could not lie long abed
the next morning, where the world seemed so well awake, and, despite the
old grumbler, so happy; so I got up, and found that, early as it was,
someone had been stirring, since all was trim and in its place in the
little parlour, and the table laid for the morning meal.  Nobody was
afoot in the house as then, however, so I went out a-doors, and after a
turn or two round the superabundant garden, I wandered down over the
meadow to the river-side, where lay our boat, looking quite familiar and
friendly to me.  I walked up stream a little, watching the light mist
curling up from the river till the sun gained power to draw it all away;
saw the bleak speckling the water under the willow boughs, whence the
tiny flies they fed on were falling in myriads; heard the great chub
splashing here and there at some belated moth or other, and felt almost
back again in my boyhood.  Then I went back again to the boat, and
loitered there a minute or two, and then walked slowly up the meadow
towards the little house.  I noted now that there were four more houses
of about the same size on the slope away from the river.  The meadow in
which I was going was not up for hay; but a row of flake-hurdles ran up
the slope not far from me on each side, and in the field so parted off
from ours on the left they were making hay busily by now, in the simple
fashion of the days when I was a boy.  My feet turned that way
instinctively, as I wanted to see how haymakers looked in these new and
better times, and also I rather expected to see Ellen there.  I came to
the hurdles and stood looking over into the hay-field, and was close to
the end of the long line of haymakers who were spreading the low ridges
to dry off the night dew.  The majority of these were young women clad
much like Ellen last night, though not mostly in silk, but in light
woollen mostly gaily embroidered; the men being all clad in white flannel
embroidered in bright colours.  The meadow looked like a gigantic tulip-
bed because of them.  All hands were working deliberately but well and
steadily, though they were as noisy with merry talk as a grove of autumn
starlings.  Half a dozen of them, men and women, came up to me and shook
hands, gave me the sele of the morning, and asked a few questions as to
whence and whither, and wishing me good luck, went back to their work.
Ellen, to my disappointment, was not amongst them, but presently I saw a
light figure come out of the hay-field higher up the slope, and make for
our house; and that was Ellen, holding a basket in her hand.  But before
she had come to the garden gate, out came Dick and Clara, who, after a
minute's pause, came down to meet me, leaving Ellen in the garden; then
we three went down to the boat, talking mere morning prattle.  We stayed
there a little, Dick arranging some of the matters in her, for we had
only taken up to the house such things as we thought the dew might
damage; and then we went toward the house again; but when we came near
the garden, Dick stopped us by laying a hand on my arm and said,--

"Just look a moment."

I looked, and over the low hedge saw Ellen, shading her eyes against the
sun as she looked toward the hay-field, a light wind stirring in her
tawny hair, her eyes like light jewels amidst her sunburnt face, which
looked as if the warmth of the sun were yet in it.

"Look, guest," said Dick; "doesn't it all look like one of those very
stories out of Grimm that we were talking about up in Bloomsbury?  Here
are we two lovers wandering about the world, and we have come to a fairy
garden, and there is the very fairy herself amidst of it: I wonder what
she will do for us."

Said Clara demurely, but not stiffly: "Is she a good fairy, Dick?"

"O, yes," said he; "and according to the card, she would do better, if it
were not for the gnome or wood-spirit, our grumbling friend of last
night."

We laughed at this; and I said, "I hope you see that you have left me out
of the tale."

"Well," said he, "that's true.  You had better consider that you have got
the cap of darkness, and are seeing everything, yourself invisible."

That touched me on my weak side of not feeling sure of my position in
this beautiful new country; so in order not to make matters worse, I held
my tongue, and we all went into the garden and up to the house together.
I noticed by the way that Clara must really rather have felt the contrast
between herself as a town madam and this piece of the summer country that
we all admired so, for she had rather dressed after Ellen that morning as
to thinness and scantiness, and went barefoot also, except for light
sandals.

The old man greeted us kindly in the parlour, and said: "Well, guests, so
you have been looking about to search into the nakedness of the land: I
suppose your illusions of last night have given way a bit before the
morning light?  Do you still like, it, eh?"

"Very much," said I, doggedly; "it is one of the prettiest places on the
lower Thames."

"Oho!" said he; "so you know the Thames, do you?"

I reddened, for I saw Dick and Clara looking at me, and scarcely knew
what to say.  However, since I had said in our early intercourse with my
Hammersmith friends that I had known Epping Forest, I thought a hasty
generalisation might be better in avoiding complications than a downright
lie; so I said--

"I have been in this country before; and I have been on the Thames in
those days."

"O," said the old man, eagerly, "so you have been in this country before.
Now really, don't you _find_ it (apart from all theory, you know) much
changed for the worse?"

"No, not at all," said I; "I find it much changed for the better."

"Ah," quoth he, "I fear that you have been prejudiced by some theory or
another.  However, of course the time when you were here before must have
been so near our own days that the deterioration might not be very great:
as then we were, of course, still living under the same customs as we are
now.  I was thinking of earlier days than that."

"In short," said Clara, "you have _theories_ about the change which has
taken place."

"I have facts as well," said he.  "Look here! from this hill you can see
just four little houses, including this one.  Well, I know for certain
that in old times, even in the summer, when the leaves were thickest, you
could see from the same place six quite big and fine houses; and higher
up the water, garden joined garden right up to Windsor; and there were
big houses in all the gardens.  Ah!  England was an important place in
those days."

I was getting nettled, and said: "What you mean is that you
de-cockneyised the place, and sent the damned flunkies packing, and that
everybody can live comfortably and happily, and not a few damned thieves
only, who were centres of vulgarity and corruption wherever they were,
and who, as to this lovely river, destroyed its beauty morally, and had
almost destroyed it physically, when they were thrown out of it."

There was silence after this outburst, which for the life of me I could
not help, remembering how I had suffered from cockneyism and its cause on
those same waters of old time.  But at last the old man said, quite
coolly:

"My dear guest, I really don't know what you mean by either cockneys, or
flunkies, or thieves, or damned; or how only a few people could live
happily and comfortably in a wealthy country.  All I can see is that you
are angry, and I fear with me: so if you like we will change the
subject."

I thought this kind and hospitable in him, considering his obstinacy
about his theory; and hastened to say that I did not mean to be angry,
only emphatic.  He bowed gravely, and I thought the storm was over, when
suddenly Ellen broke in:

"Grandfather, our guest is reticent from courtesy; but really what he has
in his mind to say to you ought to be said; so as I know pretty well what
it is, I will say it for him: for as you know, I have been taught these
things by people who--"

"Yes," said the old man, "by the sage of Bloomsbury, and others."

"O," said Dick, "so you know my old kinsman Hammond?"

"Yes," said she, "and other people too, as my grandfather says, and they
have taught me things: and this is the upshot of it.  We live in a little
house now, not because we have nothing grander to do than working in the
fields, but because we please; for if we liked, we could go and live in a
big house amongst pleasant companions."

Grumbled the old man: "Just so!  As if I would live amongst those
conceited fellows; all of them looking down upon me!"

She smiled on him kindly, but went on as if he had not spoken.  "In the
past times, when those big houses of which grandfather speaks were so
plenty, we _must_ have lived in a cottage whether we had liked it or not;
and the said cottage, instead of having in it everything we want, would
have been bare and empty.  We should not have got enough to eat; our
clothes would have been ugly to look at, dirty and frowsy.  You,
grandfather, have done no hard work for years now, but wander about and
read your books and have nothing to worry you; and as for me, I work hard
when I like it, because I like it, and think it does me good, and knits
up my muscles, and makes me prettier to look at, and healthier and
happier.  But in those past days you, grandfather, would have had to work
hard after you were old; and would have been always afraid of having to
be shut up in a kind of prison along with other old men, half-starved and
without amusement.  And as for me, I am twenty years old.  In those days
my middle age would be beginning now, and in a few years I should be
pinched, thin, and haggard, beset with troubles and miseries, so that no
one could have guessed that I was once a beautiful girl.

"Is this what you have had in your mind, guest?" said she, the tears in
her eyes at thought of the past miseries of people like herself.

"Yes," said I, much moved; "that and more.  Often--in my country I have
seen that wretched change you have spoken of, from the fresh handsome
country lass to the poor draggle-tailed country woman."

The old man sat silent for a little, but presently recovered himself and
took comfort in his old phrase of "Well, you like it so, do you?"

"Yes," said Ellen, "I love life better than death."

"O, you do, do you?" said he.  "Well, for my part I like reading a good
old book with plenty of fun in it, like Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair.'  Why
don't you write books like that now?  Ask that question of your
Bloomsbury sage."

Seeing Dick's cheeks reddening a little at this sally, and noting that
silence followed, I thought I had better do something.  So I said: "I am
only the guest, friends; but I know you want to show me your river at its
best, so don't you think we had better be moving presently, as it is
certainly going to be a hot day?"



CHAPTER XXIV: UP THE THAMES: THE SECOND DAY


They were not slow to take my hint; and indeed, as to the mere time of
day, it was best for us to be off, as it was past seven o'clock, and the
day promised to be very hot.  So we got up and went down to our
boat--Ellen thoughtful and abstracted; the old man very kind and
courteous, as if to make up for his crabbedness of opinion.  Clara was
cheerful and natural, but a little subdued, I thought; and she at least
was not sorry to be gone, and often looked shyly and timidly at Ellen and
her strange wild beauty.  So we got into the boat, Dick saying as he took
his place, "Well, it _is_ a fine day!" and the old man answering "What!
you like that, do you?" once more; and presently Dick was sending the
bows swiftly through the slow weed-checked stream.  I turned round as we
got into mid-stream, and waving my hand to our hosts, saw Ellen leaning
on the old man's shoulder, and caressing his healthy apple-red cheek, and
quite a keen pang smote me as I thought how I should never see the
beautiful girl again.  Presently I insisted on taking the sculls, and I
rowed a good deal that day; which no doubt accounts for the fact that we
got very late to the place which Dick had aimed at.  Clara was
particularly affectionate to Dick, as I noticed from the rowing thwart;
but as for him, he was as frankly kind and merry as ever; and I was glad
to see it, as a man of his temperament could not have taken her caresses
cheerfully and without embarrassment if he had been at all entangled by
the fairy of our last night's abode.

I need say little about the lovely reaches of the river here.  I duly
noted that absence of cockney villas which the old man had lamented; and
I saw with pleasure that my old enemies the "Gothic" cast-iron bridges
had been replaced by handsome oak and stone ones.  Also the banks of the
forest that we passed through had lost their courtly game-keeperish
trimness, and were as wild and beautiful as need he, though the trees
were clearly well seen to.  I thought it best, in order to get the most
direct information, to play the innocent about Eton and Windsor; but Dick
volunteered his knowledge to me as we lay in Datchet lock about the
first.  Quoth he:

"Up yonder are some beautiful old buildings, which were built for a great
college or teaching-place by one of the mediaeval kings--Edward the
Sixth, I think" (I smiled to myself at his rather natural blunder).  "He
meant poor people's sons to be taught there what knowledge was going in
his days; but it was a matter of course that in the times of which you
seem to know so much they spoilt whatever good there was in the founder's
intentions.  My old kinsman says that they treated them in a very simple
way, and instead of teaching poor men's sons to know something, they
taught rich men's sons to know nothing.  It seems from what he says that
it was a place for the 'aristocracy' (if you know what that word means; I
have been told its meaning) to get rid of the company of their male
children for a great part of the year.  I daresay old Hammond would give
you plenty of information in detail about it."

"What is it used for now?" said I.

"Well," said he, "the buildings were a good deal spoilt by the last few
generations of aristocrats, who seem to have had a great hatred against
beautiful old buildings, and indeed all records of past history; but it
is still a delightful place.  Of course, we cannot use it quite as the
founder intended, since our ideas about teaching young people are so
changed from the ideas of his time; so it is used now as a dwelling for
people engaged in learning; and folk from round about come and get taught
things that they want to learn; and there is a great library there of the
best books.  So that I don't think that the old dead king would be much
hurt if he were to come to life and see what we are doing there."

"Well," said Clara, laughing, "I think he would miss the boys."

"Not always, my dear," said Dick, "for there are often plenty of boys
there, who come to get taught; and also," said he, smiling, "to learn
boating and swimming.  I wish we could stop there: but perhaps we had
better do that coming down the water."

The lock-gates opened as he spoke, and out we went, and on.  And as for
Windsor, he said nothing till I lay on my oars (for I was sculling then)
in Clewer reach, and looking up, said, "What is all that building up
there?"

Said he: "There, I thought I would wait till you asked, yourself.  That
is Windsor Castle: that also I thought I would keep for you till we come
down the water.  It looks fine from here, doesn't it?  But a great deal
of it has been built or skinned in the time of the Degradation, and we
wouldn't pull the buildings down, since they were there; just as with the
buildings of the Dung-Market.  You know, of course, that it was the
palace of our old mediaeval kings, and was used later on for the same
purpose by the parliamentary commercial sham-kings, as my old kinsman
calls them."

"Yes," said I, "I know all that.  What is it used for now?"

"A great many people live there," said he, "as, with all drawbacks, it is
a pleasant place; there is also a well-arranged store of antiquities of
various kinds that have seemed worth keeping--a museum, it would have
been called in the times you understand so well."

I drew my sculls through the water at that last word, and pulled as if I
were fleeing from those times which I understood so well; and we were
soon going up the once sorely be-cockneyed reaches of the river about
Maidenhead, which now looked as pleasant and enjoyable as the up-river
reaches.

The morning was now getting on, the morning of a jewel of a summer day;
one of those days which, if they were commoner in these islands, would
make our climate the best of all climates, without dispute.  A light wind
blew from the west; the little clouds that had arisen at about our
breakfast time had seemed to get higher and higher in the heavens; and in
spite of the burning sun we no more longed for rain than we feared it.
Burning as the sun was, there was a fresh feeling in the air that almost
set us a-longing for the rest of the hot afternoon, and the stretch of
blossoming wheat seen from the shadow of the boughs.  No one unburdened
with very heavy anxieties could have felt otherwise than happy that
morning: and it must be said that whatever anxieties might lie beneath
the surface of things, we didn't seem to come across any of them.

We passed by several fields where haymaking was going on, but Dick, and
especially Clara, were so jealous of our up-river festival that they
would not allow me to have much to say to them.  I could only notice that
the people in the fields looked strong and handsome, both men and women,
and that so far from there being any appearance of sordidness about their
attire, they seemed to be dressed specially for the occasion,--lightly,
of course, but gaily and with plenty of adornment.

Both on this day as well as yesterday we had, as you may think, met and
passed and been passed by many craft of one kind and another.  The most
part of these were being rowed like ourselves, or were sailing, in the
sort of way that sailing is managed on the upper reaches of the river;
but every now and then we came on barges, laden with hay or other country
produce, or carrying bricks, lime, timber, and the like, and these were
going on their way without any means of propulsion visible to me--just a
man at the tiller, with often a friend or two laughing and talking with
him.  Dick, seeing on one occasion this day, that I was looking rather
hard on one of these, said: "That is one of our force-barges; it is quite
as easy to work vehicles by force by water as by land."

I understood pretty well that these "force vehicles" had taken the place
of our old steam-power carrying; but I took good care not to ask any
questions about them, as I knew well enough both that I should never be
able to understand how they were worked, and that in attempting to do so
I should betray myself, or get into some complication impossible to
explain; so I merely said, "Yes, of course, I understand."

We went ashore at Bisham, where the remains of the old Abbey and the
Elizabethan house that had been added to them yet remained, none the
worse for many years of careful and appreciative habitation.  The folk of
the place, however, were mostly in the fields that day, both men and
women; so we met only two old men there, and a younger one who had stayed
at home to get on with some literary work, which I imagine we
considerably interrupted.  Yet I also think that the hard-working man who
received us was not very sorry for the interruption.  Anyhow, he kept on
pressing us to stay over and over again, till at last we did not get away
till the cool of the evening.

However, that mattered little to us; the nights were light, for the moon
was shining in her third quarter, and it was all one to Dick whether he
sculled or sat quiet in the boat: so we went away a great pace.  The
evening sun shone bright on the remains of the old buildings at
Medmenham; close beside which arose an irregular pile of building which
Dick told us was a very pleasant house; and there were plenty of houses
visible on the wide meadows opposite, under the hill; for, as it seems
that the beauty of Hurley had compelled people to build and live there a
good deal.  The sun very low down showed us Henley little altered in
outward aspect from what I remembered it.  Actual daylight failed us as
we passed through the lovely reaches of Wargrave and Shiplake; but the
moon rose behind us presently.  I should like to have seen with my eyes
what success the new order of things had had in getting rid of the
sprawling mess with which commercialism had littered the banks of the
wide stream about Reading and Caversham: certainly everything smelt too
deliciously in the early night for there to be any of the old careless
sordidness of so-called manufacture; and in answer to my question as to
what sort of a place Reading was, Dick answered:

"O, a nice town enough in its way; mostly rebuilt within the last hundred
years; and there are a good many houses, as you can see by the lights
just down under the hills yonder.  In fact, it is one of the most
populous places on the Thames round about here.  Keep up your spirits,
guest! we are close to our journey's end for the night.  I ought to ask
your pardon for not stopping at one of the houses here or higher up; but
a friend, who is living in a very pleasant house in the Maple-Durham
meads, particularly wanted me and Clara to come and see him on our way up
the Thames; and I thought you wouldn't mind this bit of night
travelling."

He need not have adjured me to keep up my spirits, which were as high as
possible; though the strangeness and excitement of the happy and quiet
life which I saw everywhere around me was, it is true, a little wearing
off, yet a deep content, as different as possible from languid
acquiescence, was taking its place, and I was, as it were, really new-
born.

We landed presently just where I remembered the river making an elbow to
the north towards the ancient house of the Blunts; with the wide meadows
spreading on the right-hand side, and on the left the long line of
beautiful old trees overhanging the water.  As we got out of the boat, I
said to Dick--

"Is it the old house we are going to?"

"No," he said, "though that is standing still in green old age, and is
well inhabited.  I see, by the way, that you know your Thames well.  But
my friend Walter Allen, who asked me to stop here, lives in a house, not
very big, which has been built here lately, because these meadows are so
much liked, especially in summer, that there was getting to be rather too
much of tenting on the open field; so the parishes here about, who rather
objected to that, built three houses between this and Caversham, and
quite a large one at Basildon, a little higher up.  Look, yonder are the
lights of Walter Allen's house!"

So we walked over the grass of the meadows under a flood of moonlight,
and soon came to the house, which was low and built round a quadrangle
big enough to get plenty of sunshine in it.  Walter Allen, Dick's friend,
was leaning against the jamb of the doorway waiting for us, and took us
into the hall without overplus of words.  There were not many people in
it, as some of the dwellers there were away at the haymaking in the
neighbourhood, and some, as Walter told us, were wandering about the
meadow enjoying the beautiful moonlit night.  Dick's friend looked to be
a man of about forty; tall, black-haired, very kind-looking and
thoughtful; but rather to my surprise there was a shade of melancholy on
his face, and he seemed a little abstracted and inattentive to our chat,
in spite of obvious efforts to listen.

Dick looked on him from time to time, and seemed troubled; and at last he
said: "I say, old fellow, if there is anything the matter which we didn't
know of when you wrote to me, don't you think you had better tell us
about it at once?  Or else we shall think we have come here at an unlucky
time, and are not quite wanted."

Walter turned red, and seemed to have some difficulty in restraining his
tears, but said at last: "Of course everybody here is very glad to see
you, Dick, and your friends; but it is true that we are not at our best,
in spite of the fine weather and the glorious hay-crop.  We have had a
death here."

Said Dick: "Well, you should get over that, neighbour: such things must
be."

"Yes," Walter said, "but this was a death by violence, and it seems
likely to lead to at least one more; and somehow it makes us feel rather
shy of one another; and to say the truth, that is one reason why there
are so few of us present to-night."

"Tell us the story, Walter," said Dick; "perhaps telling it will help you
to shake off your sadness."

Said Walter: "Well, I will; and I will make it short enough, though I
daresay it might be spun out into a long one, as used to be done with
such subjects in the old novels.  There is a very charming girl here whom
we all like, and whom some of us do more than like; and she very
naturally liked one of us better than anybody else.  And another of us (I
won't name him) got fairly bitten with love-madness, and used to go about
making himself as unpleasant as he could--not of malice prepense, of
course; so that the girl, who liked him well enough at first, though she
didn't love him, began fairly to dislike him.  Of course, those of us who
knew him best--myself amongst others--advised him to go away, as he was
making matters worse and worse for himself every day.  Well, he wouldn't
take our advice (that also, I suppose, was a matter of course), so we had
to tell him that he _must_ go, or the inevitable sending to Coventry
would follow; for his individual trouble had so overmastered him that we
felt that _we_ must go if he did not.

"He took that better than we expected, when something or other--an
interview with the girl, I think, and some hot words with the successful
lover following close upon it, threw him quite off his balance; and he
got hold of an axe and fell upon his rival when there was no one by; and
in the struggle that followed the man attacked, hit him an unlucky blow
and killed him.  And now the slayer in his turn is so upset that he is
like to kill himself; and if he does, the girl will do as much, I fear.
And all this we could no more help than the earthquake of the year before
last."

"It is very unhappy," said Dick; "but since the man is dead, and cannot
be brought to life again, and since the slayer had no malice in him, I
cannot for the life of me see why he shouldn't get over it before long.
Besides, it was the right man that was killed and not the wrong.  Why
should a man brood over a mere accident for ever?  And the girl?"

"As to her," said Walter, "the whole thing seems to have inspired her
with terror rather than grief.  What you say about the man is true, or it
should be; but then, you see, the excitement and jealousy that was the
prelude to this tragedy had made an evil and feverish element round about
him, from which he does not seem to be able to escape.  However, we have
advised him to go away--in fact, to cross the seas; but he is in such a
state that I do not think he _can_ go unless someone _takes_ him, and I
think it will fall to my lot to do so; which is scarcely a cheerful
outlook for me."

"O, you will find a certain kind of interest in it," said Dick.  "And of
course he _must_ soon look upon the affair from a reasonable point of
view sooner or later."

"Well, at any rate," quoth Walter, "now that I have eased my mind by
making you uncomfortable, let us have an end of the subject for the
present.  Are you going to take your guest to Oxford?"

"Why, of course we must pass through it," said Dick, smiling, "as we are
going into the upper waters: but I thought that we wouldn't stop there,
or we shall be belated as to the haymaking up our way.  So Oxford and my
learned lecture on it, all got at second-hand from my old kinsman, must
wait till we come down the water a fortnight hence."

I listened to this story with much surprise, and could not help wondering
at first that the man who had slain the other had not been put in custody
till it could be proved that he killed his rival in self-defence only.
However, the more I thought of it, the plainer it grew to me that no
amount of examination of witnesses, who had witnessed nothing but the ill-
blood between the two rivals, would have done anything to clear up the
case.  I could not help thinking, also, that the remorse of this homicide
gave point to what old Hammond had said to me about the way in which this
strange people dealt with what I had been used to hear called crimes.
Truly, the remorse was exaggerated; but it was quite clear that the
slayer took the whole consequences of the act upon himself, and did not
expect society to whitewash him by punishing him.  I had no fear any
longer that "the sacredness of human life" was likely to suffer amongst
my friends from the absence of gallows and prison.



CHAPTER XXV: THE THIRD DAY ON THE THAMES


As we went down to the boat next morning, Walter could not quite keep off
the subject of last night, though he was more hopeful than he had been
then, and seemed to think that if the unlucky homicide could not be got
to go over-sea, he might at any rate go and live somewhere in the
neighbourhood pretty much by himself; at any rate, that was what he
himself had proposed.  To Dick, and I must say to me also, this seemed a
strange remedy; and Dick said as much.  Quoth he:

"Friend Walter, don't set the man brooding on the tragedy by letting him
live alone.  That will only strengthen his idea that he has committed a
crime, and you will have him killing himself in good earnest."

Said Clara: "I don't know.  If I may say what I think of it, it is that
he had better have his fill of gloom now, and, so to say, wake up
presently to see how little need there has been for it; and then he will
live happily afterwards.  As for his killing himself, you need not be
afraid of that; for, from all you tell me, he is really very much in love
with the woman; and to speak plainly, until his love is satisfied, he
will not only stick to life as tightly as he can, but will also make the
most of every event of his life--will, so to say, hug himself up in it;
and I think that this is the real explanation of his taking the whole
matter with such an excess of tragedy."

Walter looked thoughtful, and said: "Well, you may be right; and perhaps
we should have treated it all more lightly: but you see, guest" (turning
to me), "such things happen so seldom, that when they do happen, we
cannot help being much taken up with it.  For the rest, we are all
inclined, to excuse our poor friend for making us so unhappy, on the
ground that he does it out of an exaggerated respect for human life and
its happiness.  Well, I will say no more about it; only this: will you
give me a cast up stream, as I want to look after a lonely habitation for
the poor fellow, since he will have it so, and I hear that there is one
which would suit us very well on the downs beyond Streatley; so if you
will put me ashore there I will walk up the hill and look to it."

"Is the house in question empty?" said I.

"No," said Walter, "but the man who lives there will go out of it, of
course, when he hears that we want it.  You see, we think that the fresh
air of the downs and the very emptiness of the landscape will do our
friend good."

"Yes," said Clara, smiling, "and he will not be so far from his beloved
that they cannot easily meet if they have a mind to--as they certainly
will."

This talk had brought us down to the boat, and we were presently afloat
on the beautiful broad stream, Dick driving the prow swiftly through the
windless water of the early summer morning, for it was not yet six
o'clock.  We were at the lock in a very little time; and as we lay rising
and rising on the in-coming water, I could not help wondering that my old
friend the pound-lock, and that of the very simplest and most rural kind,
should hold its place there; so I said:

"I have been wondering, as we passed lock after lock, that you people, so
prosperous as you are, and especially since you are so anxious for
pleasant work to do, have not invented something which would get rid of
this clumsy business of going up-stairs by means of these rude
contrivances."

Dick laughed.  "My dear friend," said he, "as long as water has the
clumsy habit of running down hill, I fear we must humour it by going up-
stairs when we have our faces turned from the sea.  And really I don't
see why you should fall foul of Maple-Durham lock, which I think a very
pretty place."

There was no doubt about the latter assertion, I thought, as I looked up
at the overhanging boughs of the great trees, with the sun coming
glittering through the leaves, and listened to the song of the summer
blackbirds as it mingled with the sound of the backwater near us.  So not
being able to say why I wanted the locks away--which, indeed, I didn't do
at all--I held my peace.  But Walter said--

"You see, guest, this is not an age of inventions.  The last epoch did
all that for us, and we are now content to use such of its inventions as
we find handy, and leaving those alone which we don't want.  I believe,
as a matter of fact, that some time ago (I can't give you a date) some
elaborate machinery was used for the locks, though people did not go so
far as try to make the water run up hill.  However, it was troublesome, I
suppose, and the simple hatches, and the gates, with a big counterpoising
beam, were found to answer every purpose, and were easily mended when
wanted with material always to hand: so here they are, as you see."

"Besides," said Dick, "this kind of lock is pretty, as you can see; and I
can't help thinking that your machine-lock, winding up like a watch,
would have been ugly and would have spoiled the look of the river: and
that is surely reason enough for keeping such locks as these.  Good-bye,
old fellow!" said he to the lock, as he pushed us out through the now
open gates by a vigorous stroke of the boat-hook.  "May you live long,
and have your green old age renewed for ever!"

On we went; and the water had the familiar aspect to me of the days
before Pangbourne had been thoroughly cocknified, as I have seen it.  It
(Pangbourne) was distinctly a village still--_i.e._, a definite group of
houses, and as pretty as might be.  The beech-woods still covered the
hill that rose above Basildon; but the flat fields beneath them were much
more populous than I remembered them, as there were five large houses in
sight, very carefully designed so as not to hurt the character of the
country.  Down on the green lip of the river, just where the water turns
toward the Goring and Streatley reaches, were half a dozen girls playing
about on the grass.  They hailed us as we were about passing them, as
they noted that we were travellers, and we stopped a minute to talk with
them.  They had been bathing, and were light clad and bare-footed, and
were bound for the meadows on the Berkshire side, where the haymaking had
begun, and were passing the time merrily enough till the Berkshire folk
came in their punt to fetch them.  At first nothing would content them
but we must go with them into the hay-field, and breakfast with them; but
Dick put forward his theory of beginning the hay-harvest higher up the
water, and not spoiling my pleasure therein by giving me a taste of it
elsewhere, and they gave way, though unwillingly.  In revenge they asked
me a great many questions about the country I came from and the manners
of life there, which I found rather puzzling to answer; and doubtless
what answers I did give were puzzling enough to them.  I noticed both
with these pretty girls and with everybody else we met, that in default
of serious news, such as we had heard at Maple-Durham, they were eager to
discuss all the little details of life: the weather, the hay-crop, the
last new house, the plenty or lack of such and such birds, and so on; and
they talked of these things not in a fatuous and conventional way, but as
taking, I say, real interest in them.  Moreover, I found that the women
knew as much about all these things as the men: could name a flower, and
knew its qualities; could tell you the habitat of such and such birds and
fish, and the like.

It is almost strange what a difference this intelligence made in my
estimate of the country life of that day; for it used to be said in past
times, and on the whole truly, that outside their daily work country
people knew little of the country, and at least could tell you nothing
about it; while here were these people as eager about all the goings on
in the fields and woods and downs as if they had been Cockneys newly
escaped from the tyranny of bricks and mortar.

I may mention as a detail worth noticing that not only did there seem to
be a great many more birds about of the non-predatory kinds, but their
enemies the birds of prey were also commoner.  A kite hung over our heads
as we passed Medmenham yesterday; magpies were quite common in the
hedgerows; I saw several sparrow-hawks, and I think a merlin; and now
just as we were passing the pretty bridge which had taken the place of
Basildon railway-bridge, a couple of ravens croaked above our boat, as
they sailed off to the higher ground of the downs.  I concluded from all
this that the days of the gamekeeper were over, and did not even need to
ask Dick a question about it.



CHAPTER XXVI: THE OBSTINATE REFUSERS


Before we parted from these girls we saw two sturdy young men and a woman
putting off from the Berkshire shore, and then Dick bethought him of a
little banter of the girls, and asked them how it was that there was
nobody of the male kind to go with them across the water, and where their
boats were gone to.  Said one, the youngest of the party: "O, they have
got the big punt to lead stone from up the water."

"Who do you mean by 'they,' dear child?" said Dick.

Said an older girl, laughing: "You had better go and see them.  Look
there," and she pointed northwest, "don't you see building going on
there?"

"Yes," said Dick, "and I am rather surprised at this time of the year;
why are they not haymaking with you?"

The girls all laughed at this, and before their laugh was over, the
Berkshire boat had run on to the grass and the girls stepped in lightly,
still sniggering, while the new comers gave us the sele of the day.  But
before they were under way again, the tall girl said:

"Excuse us for laughing, dear neighbours, but we have had some friendly
bickering with the builders up yonder, and as we have no time to tell you
the story, you had better go and ask them: they will be glad to see
you--if you don't hinder their work."

They all laughed again at that, and waved us a pretty farewell as the
punters set them over toward the other shore, and left us standing on the
bank beside our boat.

"Let us go and see them," said Clara; "that is, if you are not in a hurry
to get to Streatley, Walter?"

"O no," said Walter, "I shall be glad of the excuse to have a little more
of your company."

So we left the boat moored there, and went on up the slow slope of the
hill; but I said to Dick on the way, being somewhat mystified: "What was
all that laughing about? what was the joke!"

"I can guess pretty well," said Dick; "some of them up there have got a
piece of work which interests them, and they won't go to the haymaking,
which doesn't matter at all, because there are plenty of people to do
such easy-hard work as that; only, since haymaking is a regular festival,
the neighbours find it amusing to jeer good-humouredly at them."

"I see," said I, "much as if in Dickens's time some young people were so
wrapped up in their work that they wouldn't keep Christmas."

"Just so," said Dick, "only these people need not be young either."

"But what did you mean by easy-hard work?" said I.

Quoth Dick: "Did I say that?  I mean work that tries the muscles and
hardens them and sends you pleasantly weary to bed, but which isn't
trying in other ways: doesn't harass you in short.  Such work is always
pleasant if you don't overdo it.  Only, mind you, good mowing requires
some little skill.  I'm a pretty good mower."

This talk brought us up to the house that was a-building, not a large
one, which stood at the end of a beautiful orchard surrounded by an old
stone wall.  "O yes, I see," said Dick; "I remember, a beautiful place
for a house: but a starveling of a nineteenth century house stood there:
I am glad they are rebuilding: it's all stone, too, though it need not
have been in this part of the country: my word, though, they are making a
neat job of it: but I wouldn't have made it all ashlar."

Walter and Clara were already talking to a tall man clad in his mason's
blouse, who looked about forty, but was I daresay older, who had his
mallet and chisel in hand; there were at work in the shed and on the
scaffold about half a dozen men and two women, blouse-clad like the
carles, while a very pretty woman who was not in the work but was dressed
in an elegant suit of blue linen came sauntering up to us with her
knitting in her hand.  She welcomed us and said, smiling: "So you are
come up from the water to see the Obstinate Refusers: where are you going
haymaking, neighbours?"

"O, right up above Oxford," said Dick; "it is rather a late country.  But
what share have you got with the Refusers, pretty neighbour?"

Said she, with a laugh: "O, I am the lucky one who doesn't want to work;
though sometimes I get it, for I serve as model to Mistress Philippa
there when she wants one: she is our head carver; come and see her."

She led us up to the door of the unfinished house, where a rather little
woman was working with mallet and chisel on the wall near by.  She seemed
very intent on what she was doing, and did not turn round when we came
up; but a taller woman, quite a girl she seemed, who was at work near by,
had already knocked off, and was standing looking from Clara to Dick with
delighted eyes.  None of the others paid much heed to us.

The blue-clad girl laid her hand on the carver's shoulder and said: "Now
Philippa, if you gobble up your work like that, you will soon have none
to do; and what will become of you then?"

The carver turned round hurriedly and showed us the face of a woman of
forty (or so she seemed), and said rather pettishly, but in a sweet
voice:

"Don't talk nonsense, Kate, and don't interrupt me if you can help it."
She stopped short when she saw us, then went on with the kind smile of
welcome which never failed us.  "Thank you for coming to see us,
neighbours; but I am sure that you won't think me unkind if I go on with
my work, especially when I tell you that I was ill and unable to do
anything all through April and May; and this open-air and the sun and the
work together, and my feeling well again too, make a mere delight of
every hour to me; and excuse me, I must go on."

She fell to work accordingly on a carving in low relief of flowers and
figures, but talked on amidst her mallet strokes: "You see, we all think
this the prettiest place for a house up and down these reaches; and the
site has been so long encumbered with an unworthy one, that we masons
were determined to pay off fate and destiny for once, and build the
prettiest house we could compass here--and so--and so--"

Here she lapsed into mere carving, but the tall foreman came up and said:
"Yes, neighbours, that is it: so it is going to be all ashlar because we
want to carve a kind of a wreath of flowers and figures all round it; and
we have been much hindered by one thing or other--Philippa's illness
amongst others,--and though we could have managed our wreath without
her--"

"Could you, though?" grumbled the last-named from the face of the wall.

"Well, at any rate, she is our best carver, and it would not have been
kind to begin the carving without her.  So you see," said he, looking at
Dick and me, "we really couldn't go haymaking, could we, neighbours?  But
you see, we are getting on so fast now with this splendid weather, that I
think we may well spare a week or ten days at wheat-harvest; and won't we
go at that work then!  Come down then to the acres that lie north and by
west here at our backs and you shall see good harvesters, neighbours.

"Hurrah, for a good brag!" called a voice from the scaffold above us;
"our foreman thinks that an easier job than putting one stone on
another!"

There was a general laugh at this sally, in which the tall foreman
joined; and with that we saw a lad bringing out a little table into the
shadow of the stone-shed, which he set down there, and then going back,
came out again with the inevitable big wickered flask and tall glasses,
whereon the foreman led us up to due seats on blocks of stone, and said:

"Well, neighbours, drink to my brag coming true, or I shall think you
don't believe me!  Up there!" said he, hailing the scaffold, "are you
coming down for a glass?"  Three of the workmen came running down the
ladder as men with good "building legs" will do; but the others didn't
answer, except the joker (if he must so be called), who called out
without turning round: "Excuse me, neighbours for not getting down.  I
must get on: my work is not superintending, like the gaffer's yonder;
but, you fellows, send us up a glass to drink the haymakers' health."  Of
course, Philippa would not turn away from her beloved work; but the other
woman carver came; she turned out to be Philippa's daughter, but was a
tall strong girl, black-haired and gipsey-like of face and curiously
solemn of manner.  The rest gathered round us and clinked glasses, and
the men on the scaffold turned about and drank to our healths; but the
busy little woman by the door would have none of it all, but only
shrugged her shoulders when her daughter came up to her and touched her.

So we shook hands and turned our backs on the Obstinate Refusers, went
down the slope to our boat, and before we had gone many steps heard the
full tune of tinkling trowels mingle with the humming of the bees and the
singing of the larks above the little plain of Basildon.



CHAPTER XXVII: THE UPPER WATERS


We set Walter ashore on the Berkshire side, amidst all the beauties of
Streatley, and so went our ways into what once would have been the deeper
country under the foot-hills of the White Horse; and though the contrast
between half-cocknified and wholly unsophisticated country existed no
longer, a feeling of exultation rose within me (as it used to do) at
sight of the familiar and still unchanged hills of the Berkshire range.

We stopped at Wallingford for our mid-day meal; of course, all signs of
squalor and poverty had disappeared from the streets of the ancient town,
and many ugly houses had been taken down and many pretty new ones built,
but I thought it curious, that the town still looked like the old place I
remembered so well; for indeed it looked like that ought to have looked.

At dinner we fell in with an old, but very bright and intelligent man,
who seemed in a country way to be another edition of old Hammond.  He had
an extraordinary detailed knowledge of the ancient history of the country-
side from the time of Alfred to the days of the Parliamentary Wars, many
events of which, as you may know, were enacted round about Wallingford.
But, what was more interesting to us, he had detailed record of the
period of the change to the present state of things, and told us a great
deal about it, and especially of that exodus of the people from the town
to the country, and the gradual recovery by the town-bred people on one
side, and the country-bred people on the other, of those arts of life
which they had each lost; which loss, as he told us, had at one time gone
so far that not only was it impossible to find a carpenter or a smith in
a village or small country town, but that people in such places had even
forgotten how to bake bread, and that at Wallingford, for instance, the
bread came down with the newspapers by an early train from London, worked
in some way, the explanation of which I could not understand.  He told us
also that the townspeople who came into the country used to pick up the
agricultural arts by carefully watching the way in which the machines
worked, gathering an idea of handicraft from machinery; because at that
time almost everything in and about the fields was done by elaborate
machines used quite unintelligently by the labourers.  On the other hand,
the old men amongst the labourers managed to teach the younger ones
gradually a little artizanship, such as the use of the saw and the plane,
the work of the smithy, and so forth; for once more, by that time it was
as much as--or rather, more than--a man could do to fix an ash pole to a
rake by handiwork; so that it would take a machine worth a thousand
pounds, a group of workmen, and half a day's travelling, to do five
shillings' worth of work.  He showed us, among other things, an account
of a certain village council who were working hard at all this business;
and the record of their intense earnestness in getting to the bottom of
some matter which in time past would have been thought quite trivial, as,
for example, the due proportions of alkali and oil for soap-making for
the village wash, or the exact heat of the water into which a leg of
mutton should be plunged for boiling--all this joined to the utter
absence of anything like party feeling, which even in a village assembly
would certainly have made its appearance in an earlier epoch, was very
amusing, and at the same time instructive.

This old man, whose name was Henry Morsom, took us, after our meal and a
rest, into a biggish hall which contained a large collection of articles
of manufacture and art from the last days of the machine period to that
day; and he went over them with us, and explained them with great care.
They also were very interesting, showing the transition from the
makeshift work of the machines (which was at about its worst a little
after the Civil War before told of) into the first years of the new
handicraft period.  Of course, there was much overlapping of the periods:
and at first the new handwork came in very slowly.

"You must remember," said the old antiquary, "that the handicraft was not
the result of what used to be called material necessity: on the contrary,
by that time the machines had been so much improved that almost all
necessary work might have been done by them: and indeed many people at
that time, and before it, used to think that machinery would entirely
supersede handicraft; which certainly, on the face of it, seemed more
than likely.  But there was another opinion, far less logical, prevalent
amongst the rich people before the days of freedom, which did not die out
at once after that epoch had begun.  This opinion, which from all I can
learn seemed as natural then, as it seems absurd now, was, that while the
ordinary daily work of the world would be done entirely by automatic
machinery, the energies of the more intelligent part of mankind would be
set free to follow the higher forms of the arts, as well as science and
the study of history.  It was strange, was it not, that they should thus
ignore that aspiration after complete equality which we now recognise as
the bond of all happy human society?"

I did not answer, but thought the more.  Dick looked thoughtful, and
said:

"Strange, neighbour?  Well, I don't know.  I have often heard my old
kinsman say the one aim of all people before our time was to avoid work,
or at least they thought it was; so of course the work which their daily
life forced them to do, seemed more like work than that which they seemed
to choose for themselves."

"True enough," said Morsom.  "Anyhow, they soon began to find out their
mistake, and that only slaves and slave-holders could live solely by
setting machines going."

Clara broke in here, flushing a little as she spoke: "Was not their
mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been
living?--a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind,
animate and inanimate--'nature,' as people used to call it--as one thing,
and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way,
that they should try to make 'nature' their slave, since they thought
'nature' was something outside them."

"Surely," said Morsom; "and they were puzzled as to what to do, till they
found the feeling against a mechanical life, which had begun before the
Great Change amongst people who had leisure to think of such things, was
spreading insensibly; till at last under the guise of pleasure that was
not supposed to be work, work that was pleasure began to push out the
mechanical toil, which they had once hoped at the best to reduce to
narrow limits indeed, but never to get rid of; and which, moreover, they
found they could not limit as they had hoped to do."

"When did this new revolution gather head?" said I.

"In the half-century that followed the Great Change," said Morsom, "it
began to be noteworthy; machine after machine was quietly dropped under
the excuse that the machines could not produce works of art, and that
works of art were more and more called for.  Look here," he said, "here
are some of the works of that time--rough and unskilful in handiwork, but
solid and showing some sense of pleasure in the making."

"They are very curious," said I, taking up a piece of pottery from
amongst the specimens which the antiquary was showing us; "not a bit like
the work of either savages or barbarians, and yet with what would once
have been called a hatred of civilisation impressed upon them."

"Yes," said Morsom, "you must not look for delicacy there: in that period
you could only have got that from a man who was practically a slave.  But
now, you see," said he, leading me on a little, "we have learned the
trick of handicraft, and have added the utmost refinement of workmanship
to the freedom of fancy and imagination."

I looked, and wondered indeed at the deftness and abundance of beauty of
the work of men who had at last learned to accept life itself as a
pleasure, and the satisfaction of the common needs of mankind and the
preparation for them, as work fit for the best of the race.  I mused
silently; but at last I said--

"What is to come after this?"

The old man laughed.  "I don't know," said he; "we will meet it when it
comes."

"Meanwhile," quoth Dick, "we have got to meet the rest of our day's
journey; so out into the street and down to the strand!  Will you come a
turn with us, neighbour?  Our friend is greedy of your stories."

"I will go as far as Oxford with you," said he; "I want a book or two out
of the Bodleian Library.  I suppose you will sleep in the old city?"

"No," said Dick, "we are going higher up; the hay is waiting us there,
you know."

Morsom nodded, and we all went into the street together, and got into the
boat a little above the town bridge.  But just as Dick was getting the
sculls into the rowlocks, the bows of another boat came thrusting through
the low arch.  Even at first sight it was a gay little craft
indeed--bright green, and painted over with elegantly drawn flowers.  As
it cleared the arch, a figure as bright and gay-clad as the boat rose up
in it; a slim girl dressed in light blue silk that fluttered in the
draughty wind of the bridge.  I thought I knew the figure, and sure
enough, as she turned her head to us, and showed her beautiful face, I
saw with joy that it was none other than the fairy godmother from the
abundant garden on Runnymede--Ellen, to wit.

We all stopped to receive her.  Dick rose in the boat and cried out a
genial good morrow; I tried to be as genial as Dick, but failed; Clara
waved a delicate hand to her; and Morsom nodded and looked on with
interest.  As to Ellen, the beautiful brown of her face was deepened by a
flush, as she brought the gunwale of her boat alongside ours, and said:

"You see, neighbours, I had some doubt if you would all three come back
past Runnymede, or if you did, whether you would stop there; and besides,
I am not sure whether we--my father and I--shall not be away in a week or
two, for he wants to see a brother of his in the north country, and I
should not like him to go without me.  So I thought I might never see you
again, and that seemed uncomfortable to me, and--and so I came after
you."

"Well," said Dick, "I am sure we are all very glad of that; although you
may be sure that as for Clara and me, we should have made a point of
coming to see you, and of coming the second time, if we had found you
away the first.  But, dear neighbour, there you are alone in the boat,
and you have been sculling pretty hard I should think, and might find a
little quiet sitting pleasant; so we had better part our company into
two."

"Yes," said Ellen, "I thought you would do that, so I have brought a
rudder for my boat: will you help me to ship it, please?"

And she went aft in her boat and pushed along our side till she had
brought the stern close to Dick's hand.  He knelt down in our boat and
she in hers, and the usual fumbling took place over hanging the rudder on
its hooks; for, as you may imagine, no change had taken place in the
arrangement of such an unimportant matter as the rudder of a pleasure-
boat.  As the two beautiful young faces bent over the rudder, they seemed
to me to be very close together, and though it only lasted a moment, a
sort of pang shot through me as I looked on.  Clara sat in her place and
did not look round, but presently she said, with just the least stiffness
in her tone:

"How shall we divide?  Won't you go into Ellen's boat, Dick, since,
without offence to our guest, you are the better sculler?"

Dick stood up and laid his hand on her shoulder, and said: "No, no; let
Guest try what he can do--he ought to be getting into training now.
Besides, we are in no hurry: we are not going far above Oxford; and even
if we are benighted, we shall have the moon, which will give us nothing
worse of a night than a greyer day."

"Besides," said I, "I may manage to do a little more with my sculling
than merely keeping the boat from drifting down stream."

They all laughed at this, as if it had a been very good joke; and I
thought that Ellen's laugh, even amongst the others, was one of the
pleasantest sounds I had ever heard.

To be short, I got into the new-come boat, not a little elated, and
taking the sculls, set to work to show off a little.  For--must I say
it?--I felt as if even that happy world were made the happier for my
being so near this strange girl; although I must say that of all the
persons I had seen in that world renewed, she was the most unfamiliar to
me, the most unlike what I could have thought of.  Clara, for instance,
beautiful and bright as she was, was not unlike a _very_ pleasant and
unaffected young lady; and the other girls also seemed nothing more than
specimens of very much improved types which I had known in other times.
But this girl was not only beautiful with a beauty quite different from
that of "a young lady," but was in all ways so strangely interesting; so
that I kept wondering what she would say or do next to surprise and
please me.  Not, indeed, that there was anything startling in what she
actually said or did; but it was all done in a new way, and always with
that indefinable interest and pleasure of life, which I had noticed more
or less in everybody, but which in her was more marked and more charming
than in anyone else that I had seen.

We were soon under way and going at a fair pace through the beautiful
reaches of the river, between Bensington and Dorchester.  It was now
about the middle of the afternoon, warm rather than hot, and quite
windless; the clouds high up and light, pearly white, and gleaming,
softened the sun's burning, but did not hide the pale blue in most
places, though they seemed to give it height and consistency; the sky, in
short, looked really like a vault, as poets have sometimes called it, and
not like mere limitless air, but a vault so vast and full of light that
it did not in any way oppress the spirits.  It was the sort of afternoon
that Tennyson must have been thinking about, when he said of the Lotos-
Eaters' land that it was a land where it was always afternoon.

Ellen leaned back in the stern and seemed to enjoy herself thoroughly.  I
could see that she was really looking at things and let nothing escape
her, and as I watched her, an uncomfortable feeling that she had been a
little touched by love of the deft, ready, and handsome Dick, and that
she had been constrained to follow us because of it, faded out of my
mind; since if it had been so, she surely could not have been so
excitedly pleased, even with the beautiful scenes we were passing
through.  For some time she did not say much, but at last, as we had
passed under Shillingford Bridge (new built, but somewhat on its old
lines), she bade me hold the boat while she had a good look at the
landscape through the graceful arch.  Then she turned about to me and
said:

"I do not know whether to be sorry or glad that this is the first time
that I have been in these reaches.  It is true that it is a great
pleasure to see all this for the first time; but if I had had a year or
two of memory of it, how sweetly it would all have mingled with my life,
waking or dreaming!  I am so glad Dick has been pulling slowly, so as to
linger out the time here.  How do you feel about your first visit to
these waters?"

I do not suppose she meant a trap for me, but anyhow I fell into it, and
said: "My first visit!  It is not my first visit by many a time.  I know
these reaches well; indeed, I may say that I know every yard of the
Thames from Hammersmith to Cricklade."

I saw the complications that might follow, as her eyes fixed mine with a
curious look in them, that I had seen before at Runnymede, when I had
said something which made it difficult for others to understand my
present position amongst these people.  I reddened, and said, in order to
cover my mistake: "I wonder you have never been up so high as this, since
you live on the Thames, and moreover row so well that it would be no
great labour to you.  Let alone," quoth I, insinuatingly, "that anybody
would be glad to row you."

She laughed, clearly not at my compliment (as I am sure she need not have
done, since it was a very commonplace fact), but at something which was
stirring in her mind; and she still looked at me kindly, but with the
above-said keen look in her eyes, and then she said:

"Well, perhaps it is strange, though I have a good deal to do at home,
what with looking after my father, and dealing with two or three young
men who have taken a special liking to me, and all of whom I cannot
please at once.  But you, dear neighbour; it seems to me stranger that
you should know the upper river, than that I should not know it; for, as
I understand, you have only been in England a few days.  But perhaps you
mean that you have read about it in books, and seen pictures of
it?--though that does not come to much, either."

"Truly," said I.  "Besides, I have not read any books about the Thames:
it was one of the minor stupidities of our time that no one thought fit
to write a decent book about what may fairly be called our only English
river."

The words were no sooner out of my mouth than I saw that I had made
another mistake; and I felt really annoyed with myself, as I did not want
to go into a long explanation just then, or begin another series of
Odyssean lies.  Somehow, Ellen seemed to see this, and she took no
advantage of my slip; her piercing look changed into one of mere frank
kindness, and she said:

"Well, anyhow I am glad that I am travelling these waters with you, since
you know our river so well, and I know little of it past Pangbourne, for
you can tell me all I want to know about it."  She paused a minute, and
then said: "Yet you must understand that the part I do know, I know as
thoroughly as you do.  I should be sorry for you to think that I am
careless of a thing so beautiful and interesting as the Thames."

She said this quite earnestly, and with an air of affectionate appeal to
me which pleased me very much; but I could see that she was only keeping
her doubts about me for another time.

Presently we came to Day's Lock, where Dick and his two sitters had
waited for us.  He would have me go ashore, as if to show me something
which I had never seen before; and nothing loth I followed him, Ellen by
my side, to the well-remembered Dykes, and the long church beyond them,
which was still used for various purposes by the good folk of Dorchester:
where, by the way, the village guest-house still had the sign of the
Fleur-de-luce which it used to bear in the days when hospitality had to
be bought and sold.  This time, however, I made no sign of all this being
familiar to me: though as we sat for a while on the mound of the Dykes
looking up at Sinodun and its clear-cut trench, and its sister _mamelon_
of Whittenham, I felt somewhat uncomfortable under Ellen's serious
attentive look, which almost drew from me the cry, "How little anything
is changed here!"

We stopped again at Abingdon, which, like Wallingford, was in a way both
old and new to me, since it had been lifted out of its nineteenth-century
degradation, and otherwise was as little altered as might be.

Sunset was in the sky as we skirted Oxford by Oseney; we stopped a minute
or two hard by the ancient castle to put Henry Morsom ashore.  It was a
matter of course that so far as they could be seen from the river, I
missed none of the towers and spires of that once don-beridden city; but
the meadows all round, which, when I had last passed through them, were
getting daily more and more squalid, more and more impressed with the
seal of the "stir and intellectual life of the nineteenth century," were
no longer intellectual, but had once again become as beautiful as they
should be, and the little hill of Hinksey, with two or three very pretty
stone houses new-grown on it (I use the word advisedly; for they seemed
to belong to it) looked down happily on the full streams and waving
grass, grey now, but for the sunset, with its fast-ripening seeds.

The railway having disappeared, and therewith the various level bridges
over the streams of Thames, we were soon through Medley Lock and in the
wide water that washes Port Meadow, with its numerous population of geese
nowise diminished; and I thought with interest how its name and use had
survived from the older imperfect communal period, through the time of
the confused struggle and tyranny of the rights of property, into the
present rest and happiness of complete Communism.

I was taken ashore again at Godstow, to see the remains of the old
nunnery, pretty nearly in the same condition as I had remembered them;
and from the high bridge over the cut close by, I could see, even in the
twilight, how beautiful the little village with its grey stone houses had
become; for we had now come into the stone-country, in which every house
must be either built, walls and roof, of grey stone or be a blot on the
landscape.

We still rowed on after this, Ellen taking the sculls in my boat; we
passed a weir a little higher up, and about three miles beyond it came by
moonlight again to a little town, where we slept at a house thinly
inhabited, as its folk were mostly tented in the hay-fields.



CHAPTER XXVIII: THE LITTLE RIVER


We started before six o'clock the next morning, as we were still twenty-
five miles from our resting place, and Dick wanted to be there before
dusk.  The journey was pleasant, though to those who do not know the
upper Thames, there is little to say about it.  Ellen and I were once
more together in her boat, though Dick, for fairness' sake, was for
having me in his, and letting the two women scull the green toy.  Ellen,
however, would not allow this, but claimed me as the interesting person
of the company.  "After having come so far," said she, "I will not be put
off with a companion who will be always thinking of somebody else than
me: the guest is the only person who can amuse me properly.  I mean that
really," said she, turning to me, "and have not said it merely as a
pretty saying."

Clara blushed and looked very happy at all this; for I think up to this
time she had been rather frightened of Ellen.  As for me I felt young
again, and strange hopes of my youth were mingling with the pleasure of
the present; almost destroying it, and quickening it into something like
pain.

As we passed through the short and winding reaches of the now quickly
lessening stream, Ellen said: "How pleasant this little river is to me,
who am used to a great wide wash of water; it almost seems as if we shall
have to stop at every reach-end.  I expect before I get home this evening
I shall have realised what a little country England is, since we can so
soon get to the end of its biggest river."

"It is not big," said I, "but it is pretty."

"Yes," she said, "and don't you find it difficult to imagine the times
when this little pretty country was treated by its folk as if it had been
an ugly characterless waste, with no delicate beauty to be guarded, with
no heed taken of the ever fresh pleasure of the recurring seasons, and
changeful weather, and diverse quality of the soil, and so forth?  How
could people be so cruel to themselves?"

"And to each other," said I.  Then a sudden resolution took hold of me,
and I said: "Dear neighbour, I may as well tell you at once that I find
it easier to imagine all that ugly past than you do, because I myself
have been part of it.  I see both that you have divined something of this
in me; and also I think you will believe me when I tell you of it, so
that I am going to hide nothing from you at all."

She was silent a little, and then she said: "My friend, you have guessed
right about me; and to tell you the truth I have followed you up from
Runnymede in order that I might ask you many questions, and because I saw
that you were not one of us; and that interested and pleased me, and I
wanted to make you as happy as you could be.  To say the truth, there was
a risk in it," said she, blushing--"I mean as to Dick and Clara; for I
must tell you, since we are going to be such close friends, that even
amongst us, where there are so many beautiful women, I have often
troubled men's minds disastrously.  That is one reason why I was living
alone with my father in the cottage at Runnymede.  But it did not answer
on that score; for of course people came there, as the place is not a
desert, and they seemed to find me all the more interesting for living
alone like that, and fell to making stories of me to themselves--like I
know you did, my friend.  Well, let that pass.  This evening, or
to-morrow morning, I shall make a proposal to you to do something which
would please me very much, and I think would not hurt you."

I broke in eagerly, saying that I would do anything in the world for her;
for indeed, in spite of my years and the too obvious signs of them
(though that feeling of renewed youth was not a mere passing sensation, I
think)--in spite of my years, I say, I felt altogether too happy in the
company of this delightful girl, and was prepared to take her confidences
for more than they meant perhaps.

She laughed now, but looked very kindly on me.  "Well," she said,
"meantime for the present we will let it be; for I must look at this new
country that we are passing through.  See how the river has changed
character again: it is broad now, and the reaches are long and very slow-
running.  And look, there is a ferry!"

I told her the name of it, as I slowed off to put the ferry-chain over
our heads; and on we went passing by a bank clad with oak trees on our
left hand, till the stream narrowed again and deepened, and we rowed on
between walls of tall reeds, whose population of reed sparrows and
warblers were delightfully restless, twittering and chuckling as the wash
of the boats stirred the reeds from the water upwards in the still, hot
morning.

She smiled with pleasure, and her lazy enjoyment of the new scene seemed
to bring out her beauty doubly as she leaned back amidst the cushions,
though she was far from languid; her idleness being the idleness of a
person, strong and well-knit both in body and mind, deliberately resting.

"Look!" she said, springing up suddenly from her place without any
obvious effort, and balancing herself with exquisite grace and ease;
"look at the beautiful old bridge ahead!"

"I need scarcely look at that," said I, not turning my head away from her
beauty.  "I know what it is; though" (with a smile) "we used not to call
it the Old Bridge time agone."

She looked down upon me kindly, and said, "How well we get on now you are
no longer on your guard against me!"

And she stood looking thoughtfully at me still, till she had to sit down
as we passed under the middle one of the row of little pointed arches of
the oldest bridge across the Thames.

"O the beautiful fields!" she said; "I had no idea of the charm of a very
small river like this.  The smallness of the scale of everything, the
short reaches, and the speedy change of the banks, give one a feeling of
going somewhere, of coming to something strange, a feeling of adventure
which I have not felt in bigger waters."

I looked up at her delightedly; for her voice, saying the very thing
which I was thinking, was like a caress to me.  She caught my eye and her
cheeks reddened under their tan, and she said simply:

"I must tell you, my friend, that when my father leaves the Thames this
summer he will take me away to a place near the Roman wall in Cumberland;
so that this voyage of mine is farewell to the south; of course with my
goodwill in a way; and yet I am sorry for it.  I hadn't the heart to tell
Dick yesterday that we were as good as gone from the Thames-side; but
somehow to you I must needs tell it."

She stopped and seemed very thoughtful for awhile, and then said smiling:

"I must say that I don't like moving about from one home to another; one
gets so pleasantly used to all the detail of the life about one; it fits
so harmoniously and happily into one's own life, that beginning again,
even in a small way, is a kind of pain.  But I daresay in the country
which you come from, you would think this petty and unadventurous, and
would think the worse of me for it."

She smiled at me caressingly as she spoke, and I made haste to answer:
"O, no, indeed; again you echo my very thoughts.  But I hardly expected
to hear you speak so.  I gathered from all I have heard that there was a
great deal of changing of abode amongst you in this country."

"Well," she said, "of course people are free to move about; but except
for pleasure-parties, especially in harvest and hay-time, like this of
ours, I don't think they do so much.  I admit that I also have other
moods than that of stay-at-home, as I hinted just now, and I should like
to go with you all through the west country--thinking of nothing,"
concluded she smiling.

"I should have plenty to think of," said I.



CHAPTER XXIX: A RESTING-PLACE ON THE UPPER THAMES


Presently at a place where the river flowed round a headland of the
meadows, we stopped a while for rest and victuals, and settled ourselves
on a beautiful bank which almost reached the dignity of a hill-side: the
wide meadows spread before us, and already the scythe was busy amidst the
hay.  One change I noticed amidst the quiet beauty of the fields--to wit,
that they were planted with trees here and there, often fruit-trees, and
that there was none of the niggardly begrudging of space to a handsome
tree which I remembered too well; and though the willows were often
polled (or shrowded, as they call it in that country-side), this was done
with some regard to beauty: I mean that there was no polling of rows on
rows so as to destroy the pleasantness of half a mile of country, but a
thoughtful sequence in the cutting, that prevented a sudden bareness
anywhere.  To be short, the fields were everywhere treated as a garden
made for the pleasure as well as the livelihood of all, as old Hammond
told me was the case.

On this bank or bent of the hill, then, we had our mid-day meal; somewhat
early for dinner, if that mattered, but we had been stirring early: the
slender stream of the Thames winding below us between the garden of a
country I have been telling of; a furlong from us was a beautiful little
islet begrown with graceful trees; on the slopes westward of us was a
wood of varied growth overhanging the narrow meadow on the south side of
the river; while to the north was a wide stretch of mead rising very
gradually from the river's edge.  A delicate spire of an ancient building
rose up from out of the trees in the middle distance, with a few grey
houses clustered about it; while nearer to us, in fact not half a furlong
from the water, was a quite modern stone house--a wide quadrangle of one
story, the buildings that made it being quite low.  There was no garden
between it and the river, nothing but a row of pear-trees still quite
young and slender; and though there did not seem to be much ornament
about it, it had a sort of natural elegance, like that of the trees
themselves.

As we sat looking down on all this in the sweet June day, rather happy
than merry, Ellen, who sat next me, her hand clasped about one knee,
leaned sideways to me, and said in a low voice which Dick and Clara might
have noted if they had not been busy in happy wordless love-making:
"Friend, in your country were the houses of your field-labourers anything
like that?"

I said: "Well, at any rate the houses of our rich men were not; they were
mere blots upon the face of the land."

"I find that hard to understand," she said.  "I can see why the workmen,
who were so oppressed, should not have been able to live in beautiful
houses; for it takes time and leisure, and minds not over-burdened with
care, to make beautiful dwellings; and I quite understand that these poor
people were not allowed to live in such a way as to have these (to us)
necessary good things.  But why the rich men, who had the time and the
leisure and the materials for building, as it would be in this case,
should not have housed themselves well, I do not understand as yet.  I
know what you are meaning to say to me," she said, looking me full in the
eyes and blushing, "to wit that their houses and all belonging to them
were generally ugly and base, unless they chanced to be ancient like
yonder remnant of our forefathers' work" (pointing to the spire); "that
they were--let me see; what is the word?"

"Vulgar," said I.  "We used to say," said I, "that the ugliness and
vulgarity of the rich men's dwellings was a necessary reflection from the
sordidness and bareness of life which they forced upon the poor people."

She knit her brows as in thought; then turned a brightened face on me, as
if she had caught the idea, and said: "Yes, friend, I see what you mean.
We have sometimes--those of us who look into these things--talked this
very matter over; because, to say the truth, we have plenty of record of
the so-called arts of the time before Equality of Life; and there are not
wanting people who say that the state of that society was not the cause
of all that ugliness; that they were ugly in their life because they
liked to be, and could have had beautiful things about them if they had
chosen; just as a man or body of men now may, if they please, make things
more or less beautiful--Stop!  I know what you are going to say."

"Do you?" said I, smiling, yet with a beating heart.

"Yes," she said; "you are answering me, teaching me, in some way or
another, although you have not spoken the words aloud.  You were going to
say that in times of inequality it was an essential condition of the life
of these rich men that they should not themselves make what they wanted
for the adornment of their lives, but should force those to make them
whom they forced to live pinched and sordid lives; and that as a
necessary consequence the sordidness and pinching, the ugly barrenness of
those ruined lives, were worked up into the adornment of the lives of the
rich, and art died out amongst men?  Was that what you would say, my
friend?"

"Yes, yes," I said, looking at her eagerly; for she had risen and was
standing on the edge of the bent, the light wind stirring her dainty
raiment, one hand laid on her bosom, the other arm stretched downward and
clenched in her earnestness.

"It is true," she said, "it is true!  We have proved it true!"

I think amidst my--something more than interest in her, and admiration
for her, I was beginning to wonder how it would all end.  I had a
glimmering of fear of what might follow; of anxiety as to the remedy
which this new age might offer for the missing of something one might set
one's heart on.  But now Dick rose to his feet and cried out in his
hearty manner: "Neighbour Ellen, are you quarrelling with the guest, or
are you worrying him to tell you things which he cannot properly explain
to our ignorance?"

"Neither, dear neighbour," she said.  "I was so far from quarrelling with
him that I think I have been making him good friends both with himself
and me.  Is it so, dear guest?" she said, looking down at me with a
delightful smile of confidence in being understood.

"Indeed it is," said I.

"Well, moreover," she said, "I must say for him that he has explained
himself to me very well indeed, so that I quite understand him."

"All right," quoth Dick.  "When I first set eyes on you at Runnymede I
knew that there was something wonderful in your keenness of wits.  I
don't say that as a mere pretty speech to please you," said he quickly,
"but because it is true; and it made me want to see more of you.  But,
come, we ought to be going; for we are not half way, and we ought to be
in well before sunset."

And therewith he took Clara's hand, and led her down the bent.  But Ellen
stood thoughtfully looking down for a little, and as I took her hand to
follow Dick, she turned round to me and said:

"You might tell me a great deal and make many things clear to me, if you
would."

"Yes," said I, "I am pretty well fit for that,--and for nothing else--an
old man like me."

She did not notice the bitterness which, whether I liked it or not, was
in my voice as I spoke, but went on: "It is not so much for myself; I
should be quite content to dream about past times, and if I could not
idealise them, yet at least idealise some of the people who lived in
them.  But I think sometimes people are too careless of the history of
the past--too apt to leave it in the hands of old learned men like
Hammond.  Who knows?  Happy as we are, times may alter; we may be bitten
with some impulse towards change, and many things may seem too wonderful
for us to resist, too exciting not to catch at, if we do not know that
they are but phases of what has been before; and withal ruinous,
deceitful, and sordid."

As we went slowly down toward the boats she said again: "Not for myself
alone, dear friend; I shall have children; perhaps before the end a good
many;--I hope so.  And though of course I cannot force any special kind
of knowledge upon them, yet, my Friend, I cannot help thinking that just
as they might be like me in body, so I might impress upon them some part
of my ways of thinking; that is, indeed, some of the essential part of
myself; that part which was not mere moods, created by the matters and
events round about me.  What do you think?"

Of one thing I was sure, that her beauty and kindness and eagerness
combined, forced me to think as she did, when she was not earnestly
laying herself open to receive my thoughts.  I said, what at the time was
true, that I thought it most important; and presently stood entranced by
the wonder of her grace as she stepped into the light boat, and held out
her hand to me.  And so on we went up the Thames still--or whither?



CHAPTER XXX: THE JOURNEY'S END


On we went.  In spite of my new-born excitement about Ellen, and my
gathering fear of where it would land me, I could not help taking
abundant interest in the condition of the river and its banks; all the
more as she never seemed weary of the changing picture, but looked at
every yard of flowery bank and gurgling eddy with the same kind of
affectionate interest which I myself once had so fully, as I used to
think, and perhaps had not altogether lost even in this strangely changed
society with all its wonders.  Ellen seemed delighted with my pleasure at
this, that, or the other piece of carefulness in dealing with the river:
the nursing of pretty corners; the ingenuity in dealing with difficulties
of water-engineering, so that the most obviously useful works looked
beautiful and natural also.  All this, I say, pleased me hugely, and she
was pleased at my pleasure--but rather puzzled too.

"You seem astonished," she said, just after we had passed a mill {2}
which spanned all the stream save the water-way for traffic, but which
was as beautiful in its way as a Gothic cathedral--"You seem astonished
at this being so pleasant to look at."

"Yes," I said, "in a way I am; though I don't see why it should not be."

"Ah!" she said, looking at me admiringly, yet with a lurking smile in her
face, "you know all about the history of the past.  Were they not always
careful about this little stream which now adds so much pleasantness to
the country side?  It would always be easy to manage this little river.
Ah!  I forgot, though," she said, as her eye caught mine, "in the days we
are thinking of pleasure was wholly neglected in such matters.  But how
did they manage the river in the days that you--"  Lived in she was going
to say; but correcting herself, said--"in the days of which you have
record?"

"They _mis_managed it," quoth I.  "Up to the first half of the nineteenth
century, when it was still more or less of a highway for the country
people, some care was taken of the river and its banks; and though I
don't suppose anyone troubled himself about its aspect, yet it was trim
and beautiful.  But when the railways--of which no doubt you have
heard--came into power, they would not allow the people of the country to
use either the natural or artificial waterways, of which latter there
were a great many.  I suppose when we get higher up we shall see one of
these; a very important one, which one of these railways entirely closed
to the public, so that they might force people to send their goods by
their private road, and so tax them as heavily as they could."

Ellen laughed heartily.  "Well," she said, "that is not stated clearly
enough in our history-books, and it is worth knowing.  But certainly the
people of those days must have been a curiously lazy set.  We are not
either fidgety or quarrelsome now, but if any one tried such a piece of
folly on us, we should use the said waterways, whoever gaidsaid us:
surely that would be simple enough.  However, I remember other cases of
this stupidity: when I was on the Rhine two years ago, I remember they
showed us ruins of old castles, which, according to what we heard, must
have been made for pretty much the same purpose as the railways were.  But
I am interrupting your history of the river: pray go on."

"It is both short and stupid enough," said I.  "The river having lost its
practical or commercial value--that is, being of no use to make money
of--"

She nodded.  "I understand what that queer phrase means," said she.  "Go
on!"

"Well, it was utterly neglected, till at last it became a nuisance--"

"Yes," quoth Ellen, "I understand: like the railways and the robber
knights.  Yes?"

"So then they turned the makeshift business on to it, and handed it over
to a body up in London, who from time to time, in order to show that they
had something to do, did some damage here and there,--cut down trees,
destroying the banks thereby; dredged the river (where it was not needed
always), and threw the dredgings on the fields so as to spoil them; and
so forth.  But for the most part they practised 'masterly inactivity,' as
it was then called--that is, they drew their salaries, and let things
alone."

"Drew their salaries," she said.  "I know that means that they were
allowed to take an extra lot of other people's goods for doing nothing.
And if that had been all, it really might have been worth while to let
them do so, if you couldn't find any other way of keeping them quiet; but
it seems to me that being so paid, they could not help doing something,
and that something was bound to be mischief,--because," said she,
kindling with sudden anger, "the whole business was founded on lies and
false pretensions.  I don't mean only these river-guardians, but all
these master-people I have read of."

"Yes," said I, "how happy you are to have got out of the parsimony of
oppression!"

"Why do you sigh?" she said, kindly and somewhat anxiously.  "You seem to
think that it will not last?"

"It will last for you," quoth I.

"But why not for you?" said she.  "Surely it is for all the world; and if
your country is somewhat backward, it will come into line before long.
Or," she said quickly, "are you thinking that you must soon go back
again?  I will make my proposal which I told you of at once, and so
perhaps put an end to your anxiety.  I was going to propose that you
should live with us where we are going.  I feel quite old friends with
you, and should be sorry to lose you."  Then she smiled on me, and said:
"Do you know, I begin to suspect you of wanting to nurse a sham sorrow,
like the ridiculous characters in some of those queer old novels that I
have come across now and then."

I really had almost begun to suspect it myself, but I refused to admit so
much; so I sighed no more, but fell to giving my delightful companion
what little pieces of history I knew about the river and its borderlands;
and the time passed pleasantly enough; and between the two of us (she was
a better sculler than I was, and seemed quite tireless) we kept up fairly
well with Dick, hot as the afternoon was, and swallowed up the way at a
great rate.  At last we passed under another ancient bridge; and through
meadows bordered at first with huge elm-trees mingled with sweet chestnut
of younger but very elegant growth; and the meadows widened out so much
that it seemed as if the trees must now be on the bents only, or about
the houses, except for the growth of willows on the immediate banks; so
that the wide stretch of grass was little broken here.  Dick got very
much excited now, and often stood up in the boat to cry out to us that
this was such and such a field, and so forth; and we caught fire at his
enthusiasm for the hay-field and its harvest, and pulled our best.

At last as we were passing through a reach of the river where on the side
of the towing-path was a highish bank with a thick whispering bed of
reeds before it, and on the other side a higher bank, clothed with
willows that dipped into the stream and crowned by ancient elm-trees, we
saw bright figures coming along close to the bank, as if they were
looking for something; as, indeed, they were, and we--that is, Dick and
his company--were what they were looking for.  Dick lay on his oars, and
we followed his example.  He gave a joyous shout to the people on the
bank, which was echoed back from it in many voices, deep and sweetly
shrill; for there were above a dozen persons, both men, women, and
children.  A tall handsome woman, with black wavy hair and deep-set grey
eyes, came forward on the bank and waved her hand gracefully to us, and
said:

"Dick, my friend, we have almost had to wait for you!  What excuse have
you to make for your slavish punctuality?  Why didn't you take us by
surprise, and come yesterday?"

"O," said Dick, with an almost imperceptible jerk of his head toward our
boat, "we didn't want to come too quick up the water; there is so much to
see for those who have not been up here before."

"True, true," said the stately lady, for stately is the word that must be
used for her; "and we want them to get to know the wet way from the east
thoroughly well, since they must often use it now.  But come ashore at
once, Dick, and you, dear neighbours; there is a break in the reeds and a
good landing-place just round the corner.  We can carry up your things,
or send some of the lads after them."

"No, no," said Dick; "it is easier going by water, though it is but a
step.  Besides, I want to bring my friend here to the proper place.  We
will go on to the Ford; and you can talk to us from the bank as we paddle
along."

He pulled his sculls through the water, and on we went, turning a sharp
angle and going north a little.  Presently we saw before us a bank of elm-
trees, which told us of a house amidst them, though I looked in vain for
the grey walls that I expected to see there.  As we went, the folk on the
bank talked indeed, mingling their kind voices with the cuckoo's song,
the sweet strong whistle of the blackbirds, and the ceaseless note of the
corn-crake as he crept through the long grass of the mowing-field; whence
came waves of fragrance from the flowering clover amidst of the ripe
grass.

In a few minutes we had passed through a deep eddying pool into the sharp
stream that ran from the ford, and beached our craft on a tiny strand of
limestone-gravel, and stepped ashore into the arms of our up-river
friends, our journey done.

I disentangled myself from the merry throng, and mounting on the cart-
road that ran along the river some feet above the water, I looked round
about me.  The river came down through a wide meadow on my left, which
was grey now with the ripened seeding grasses; the gleaming water was
lost presently by a turn of the bank, but over the meadow I could see the
mingled gables of a building where I knew the lock must be, and which now
seemed to combine a mill with it.  A low wooded ridge bounded the river-
plain to the south and south-east, whence we had come, and a few low
houses lay about its feet and up its slope.  I turned a little to my
right, and through the hawthorn sprays and long shoots of the wild roses
could see the flat country spreading out far away under the sun of the
calm evening, till something that might be called hills with a look of
sheep-pastures about them bounded it with a soft blue line.  Before me,
the elm-boughs still hid most of what houses there might be in this river-
side dwelling of men; but to the right of the cart-road a few grey
buildings of the simplest kind showed here and there.

There I stood in a dreamy mood, and rubbed my eyes as if I were not
wholly awake, and half expected to see the gay-clad company of beautiful
men and women change to two or three spindle-legged back-bowed men and
haggard, hollow-eyed, ill-favoured women, who once wore down the soil of
this land with their heavy hopeless feet, from day to day, and season to
season, and year to year.  But no change came as yet, and my heart
swelled with joy as I thought of all the beautiful grey villages, from
the river to the plain and the plain to the uplands, which I could
picture to myself so well, all peopled now with this happy and lovely
folk, who had cast away riches and attained to wealth.



CHAPTER XXXI: AN OLD HOUSE AMONGST NEW FOLK


As I stood there Ellen detached herself from our happy friends who still
stood on the little strand and came up to me.  She took me by the hand,
and said softly, "Take me on to the house at once; we need not wait for
the others: I had rather not."

I had a mind to say that I did not know the way thither, and that the
river-side dwellers should lead; but almost without my will my feet moved
on along the road they knew.  The raised way led us into a little field
bounded by a backwater of the river on one side; on the right hand we
could see a cluster of small houses and barns, new and old, and before us
a grey stone barn and a wall partly overgrown with ivy, over which a few
grey gables showed.  The village road ended in the shallow of the
aforesaid backwater.  We crossed the road, and again almost without my
will my hand raised the latch of a door in the wall, and we stood
presently on a stone path which led up to the old house to which fate in
the shape of Dick had so strangely brought me in this new world of men.
My companion gave a sigh of pleased surprise and enjoyment; nor did I
wonder, for the garden between the wall and the house was redolent of the
June flowers, and the roses were rolling over one another with that
delicious superabundance of small well-tended gardens which at first
sight takes away all thought from the beholder save that of beauty.  The
blackbirds were singing their loudest, the doves were cooing on the roof-
ridge, the rooks in the high elm-trees beyond were garrulous among the
young leaves, and the swifts wheeled whining about the gables.  And the
house itself was a fit guardian for all the beauty of this heart of
summer.

Once again Ellen echoed my thoughts as she said:

"Yes, friend, this is what I came out for to see; this many-gabled old
house built by the simple country-folk of the long-past times, regardless
of all the turmoil that was going on in cities and courts, is lovely
still amidst all the beauty which these latter days have created; and I
do not wonder at our friends tending it carefully and making much of it.
It seems to me as if it had waited for these happy days, and held in it
the gathered crumbs of happiness of the confused and turbulent past."

She led me up close to the house, and laid her shapely sun-browned hand
and arm on the lichened wall as if to embrace it, and cried out, "O me!  O
me!  How I love the earth, and the seasons, and weather, and all things
that deal with it, and all that grows out of it,--as this has done!"

I could not answer her, or say a word.  Her exultation and pleasure were
so keen and exquisite, and her beauty, so delicate, yet so interfused
with energy, expressed it so fully, that any added word would have been
commonplace and futile.  I dreaded lest the others should come in
suddenly and break the spell she had cast about me; but we stood there a
while by the corner of the big gable of the house, and no one came.  I
heard the merry voices some way off presently, and knew that they were
going along the river to the great meadow on the other side of the house
and garden.

We drew back a little, and looked up at the house: the door and the
windows were open to the fragrant sun-cured air; from the upper window-
sills hung festoons of flowers in honour of the festival, as if the
others shared in the love for the old house.

"Come in," said Ellen.  "I hope nothing will spoil it inside; but I don't
think it will.  Come! we must go back presently to the others.  They have
gone on to the tents; for surely they must have tents pitched for the
haymakers--the house would not hold a tithe of the folk, I am sure."

She led me on to the door, murmuring little above her breath as she did
so, "The earth and the growth of it and the life of it!  If I could but
say or show how I love it!"

We went in, and found no soul in any room as we wandered from room to
room,--from the rose-covered porch to the strange and quaint garrets
amongst the great timbers of the roof, where of old time the tillers and
herdsmen of the manor slept, but which a-nights seemed now, by the small
size of the beds, and the litter of useless and disregarded
matters--bunches of dying flowers, feathers of birds, shells of
starling's eggs, caddis worms in mugs, and the like--seemed to be
inhabited for the time by children.

Everywhere there was but little furniture, and that only the most
necessary, and of the simplest forms.  The extravagant love of ornament
which I had noted in this people elsewhere seemed here to have given
place to the feeling that the house itself and its associations was the
ornament of the country life amidst which it had been left stranded from
old times, and that to re-ornament it would but take away its use as a
piece of natural beauty.

We sat down at last in a room over the wall which Ellen had caressed, and
which was still hung with old tapestry, originally of no artistic value,
but now faded into pleasant grey tones which harmonised thoroughly well
with the quiet of the place, and which would have been ill supplanted by
brighter and more striking decoration.

I asked a few random questions of Ellen as we sat there, but scarcely
listened to her answers, and presently became silent, and then scarce
conscious of anything, but that I was there in that old room, the doves
crooning from the roofs of the barn and dovecot beyond the window
opposite to me.

My thought returned to me after what I think was but a minute or two, but
which, as in a vivid dream, seemed as if it had lasted a long time, when
I saw Ellen sitting, looking all the fuller of life and pleasure and
desire from the contrast with the grey faded tapestry with its futile
design, which was now only bearable because it had grown so faint and
feeble.

She looked at me kindly, but as if she read me through and through.  She
said: "You have begun again your never-ending contrast between the past
and this present.  Is it not so?"

"True," said I.  "I was thinking of what you, with your capacity and
intelligence, joined to your love of pleasure, and your impatience of
unreasonable restraint--of what you would have been in that past.  And
even now, when all is won and has been for a long time, my heart is
sickened with thinking of all the waste of life that has gone on for so
many years."

"So many centuries," she said, "so many ages!"

"True," I said; "too true," and sat silent again.

She rose up and said: "Come, I must not let you go off into a dream again
so soon.  If we must lose you, I want you to see all that you can see
first before you go back again."

"Lose me?" I said--"go back again?  Am I not to go up to the North with
you?  What do you mean?"

She smiled somewhat sadly, and said: "Not yet; we will not talk of that
yet.  Only, what were you thinking of just now?"

I said falteringly: "I was saying to myself, The past, the present?
Should she not have said the contrast of the present with the future: of
blind despair with hope?"

"I knew it," she said.  Then she caught my hand and said excitedly,
"Come, while there is yet time!  Come!" And she led me out of the room;
and as we were going downstairs and out of the house into the garden by a
little side door which opened out of a curious lobby, she said in a calm
voice, as if she wished me to forget her sudden nervousness: "Come! we
ought to join the others before they come here looking for us.  And let
me tell you, my friend, that I can see you are too apt to fall into mere
dreamy musing: no doubt because you are not yet used to our life of
repose amidst of energy; of work which is pleasure and pleasure which is
work."

She paused a little, and as we came out into the lovely garden again, she
said: "My friend, you were saying that you wondered what I should have
been if I had lived in those past days of turmoil and oppression.  Well,
I think I have studied the history of them to know pretty well.  I should
have been one of the poor, for my father when he was working was a mere
tiller of the soil.  Well, I could not have borne that; therefore my
beauty and cleverness and brightness" (she spoke with no blush or simper
of false shame) "would have been sold to rich men, and my life would have
been wasted indeed; for I know enough of that to know that I should have
had no choice, no power of will over my life; and that I should never
have bought pleasure from the rich men, or even opportunity of action,
whereby I might have won some true excitement.  I should have wrecked and
wasted in one way or another, either by penury or by luxury.  Is it not
so?"

"Indeed it is," said I.

She was going to say something else, when a little gate in the fence,
which led into a small elm-shaded field, was opened, and Dick came with
hasty cheerfulness up the garden path, and was presently standing between
us, a hand laid on the shoulder of each.  He said: "Well, neighbours, I
thought you two would like to see the old house quietly without a crowd
in it.  Isn't it a jewel of a house after its kind?  Well, come along,
for it is getting towards dinner-time.  Perhaps you, guest, would like a
swim before we sit down to what I fancy will be a pretty long feast?"

"Yes," I said, "I should like that."

"Well, good-bye for the present, neighbour Ellen," said Dick.  "Here
comes Clara to take care of you, as I fancy she is more at home amongst
our friends here."

Clara came out of the fields as he spoke; and with one look at Ellen I
turned and went with Dick, doubting, if I must say the truth, whether I
should see her again.



CHAPTER XXXII: THE FEAST'S BEGINNING--THE END


Dick brought me at once into the little field which, as I had seen from
the garden, was covered with gaily-coloured tents arranged in orderly
lanes, about which were sitting and lying on the grass some fifty or
sixty men, women, and children, all of them in the height of good temper
and enjoyment--with their holiday mood on, so to say.

"You are thinking that we don't make a great show as to numbers," said
Dick; "but you must remember that we shall have more to-morrow; because
in this haymaking work there is room for a great many people who are not
over-skilled in country matters: and there are many who lead sedentary
lives, whom it would be unkind to deprive of their pleasure in the hay-
field--scientific men and close students generally: so that the skilled
workmen, outside those who are wanted as mowers, and foremen of the
haymaking, stand aside, and take a little downright rest, which you know
is good for them, whether they like it or not: or else they go to other
countrysides, as I am doing here.  You see, the scientific men and
historians, and students generally, will not be wanted till we are fairly
in the midst of the tedding, which of course will not be till the day
after to-morrow."  With that he brought me out of the little field on to
a kind of causeway above the river-side meadow, and thence turning to the
left on to a path through the mowing grass, which was thick and very
tall, led on till we came to the river above the weir and its mill.  There
we had a delightful swim in the broad piece of water above the lock,
where the river looked much bigger than its natural size from its being
dammed up by the weir.

"Now we are in a fit mood for dinner," said Dick, when we had dressed and
were going through the grass again; "and certainly of all the cheerful
meals in the year, this one of haysel is the cheerfullest; not even
excepting the corn-harvest feast; for then the year is beginning to fail,
and one cannot help having a feeling behind all the gaiety, of the coming
of the dark days, and the shorn fields and empty gardens; and the spring
is almost too far off to look forward to.  It is, then, in the autumn,
when one almost believes in death."

"How strangely you talk," said I, "of such a constantly recurring and
consequently commonplace matter as the sequence of the seasons." And
indeed these people were like children about such things, and had what
seemed to me a quite exaggerated interest in the weather, a fine day, a
dark night, or a brilliant one, and the like.

"Strangely?" said he.  "Is it strange to sympathise with the year and its
gains and losses?"

"At any rate," said I, "if you look upon the course of the year as a
beautiful and interesting drama, which is what I think you do, you should
be as much pleased and interested with the winter and its trouble and
pain as with this wonderful summer luxury."

"And am I not?" said Dick, rather warmly; "only I can't look upon it as
if I were sitting in a theatre seeing the play going on before me, myself
taking no part of it.  It is difficult," said he, smiling
good-humouredly, "for a non-literary man like me to explain myself
properly, like that dear girl Ellen would; but I mean that I am part of
it all, and feel the pain as well as the pleasure in my own person.  It
is not done for me by somebody else, merely that I may eat and drink and
sleep; but I myself do my share of it."

In his way also, as Ellen in hers, I could see that Dick had that
passionate love of the earth which was common to but few people at least,
in the days I knew; in which the prevailing feeling amongst intellectual
persons was a kind of sour distaste for the changing drama of the year,
for the life of earth and its dealings with men.  Indeed, in those days
it was thought poetic and imaginative to look upon life as a thing to be
borne, rather than enjoyed.

So I mused till Dick's laugh brought me back into the Oxfordshire hay-
fields.  "One thing seems strange to me," said he--"that I must needs
trouble myself about the winter and its scantiness, in the midst of the
summer abundance.  If it hadn't happened to me before, I should have
thought it was your doing, guest; that you had thrown a kind of evil
charm over me.  Now, you know," said he, suddenly, "that's only a joke,
so you mustn't take it to heart."

"All right," said I; "I don't."  Yet I did feel somewhat uneasy at his
words, after all.

We crossed the causeway this time, and did not turn back to the house,
but went along a path beside a field of wheat now almost ready to
blossom.  I said:

"We do not dine in the house or garden, then?--as indeed I did not expect
to do.  Where do we meet, then?  For I can see that the houses are mostly
very small."

"Yes," said Dick, "you are right, they are small in this country-side:
there are so many good old houses left, that people dwell a good deal in
such small detached houses.  As to our dinner, we are going to have our
feast in the church.  I wish, for your sake, it were as big and handsome
as that of the old Roman town to the west, or the forest town to the
north; {3} but, however, it will hold us all; and though it is a little
thing, it is beautiful in its way."

This was somewhat new to me, this dinner in a church, and I thought of
the church-ales of the Middle Ages; but I said nothing, and presently we
came out into the road which ran through the village.  Dick looked up and
down it, and seeing only two straggling groups before us, said: "It seems
as if we must be somewhat late; they are all gone on; and they will be
sure to make a point of waiting for you, as the guest of guests, since
you come from so far."

He hastened as he spoke, and I kept up with him, and presently we came to
a little avenue of lime-trees which led us straight to the church porch,
from whose open door came the sound of cheerful voices and laughter, and
varied merriment.

"Yes," said Dick, "it's the coolest place for one thing, this hot
evening.  Come along; they will be glad to see you."

Indeed, in spite of my bath, I felt the weather more sultry and
oppressive than on any day of our journey yet.

We went into the church, which was a simple little building with one
little aisle divided from the nave by three round arches, a chancel, and
a rather roomy transept for so small a building, the windows mostly of
the graceful Oxfordshire fourteenth century type.  There was no modern
architectural decoration in it; it looked, indeed, as if none had been
attempted since the Puritans whitewashed the mediaeval saints and
histories on the wall.  It was, however, gaily dressed up for this latter-
day festival, with festoons of flowers from arch to arch, and great
pitchers of flowers standing about on the floor; while under the west
window hung two cross scythes, their blades polished white, and gleaming
from out of the flowers that wreathed them.  But its best ornament was
the crowd of handsome, happy-looking men and women that were set down to
table, and who, with their bright faces and rich hair over their gay
holiday raiment, looked, as the Persian poet puts it, like a bed of
tulips in the sun.  Though the church was a small one, there was plenty
of room; for a small church makes a biggish house; and on this evening
there was no need to set cross tables along the transepts; though
doubtless these would be wanted next day, when the learned men of whom
Dick has been speaking should be come to take their more humble part in
the haymaking.

I stood on the threshold with the expectant smile on my face of a man who
is going to take part in a festivity which he is really prepared to
enjoy.  Dick, standing by me was looking round the company with an air of
proprietorship in them, I thought.  Opposite me sat Clara and Ellen, with
Dick's place open between them: they were smiling, but their beautiful
faces were each turned towards the neighbours on either side, who were
talking to them, and they did not seem to see me.  I turned to Dick,
expecting him to lead me forward, and he turned his face to me; but
strange to say, though it was as smiling and cheerful as ever, it made no
response to my glance--nay, he seemed to take no heed at all of my
presence, and I noticed that none of the company looked at me.  A pang
shot through me, as of some disaster long expected and suddenly realised.
Dick moved on a little without a word to me.  I was not three yards from
the two women who, though they had been my companions for such a short
time, had really, as I thought, become my friends.  Clara's face was
turned full upon me now, but she also did not seem to see me, though I
know I was trying to catch her eye with an appealing look.  I turned to
Ellen, and she _did_ seem to recognise me for an instant; but her bright
face turned sad directly, and she shook her head with a mournful look,
and the next moment all consciousness of my presence had faded from her
face.

I felt lonely and sick at heart past the power of words to describe.  I
hung about a minute longer, and then turned and went out of the porch
again and through the lime-avenue into the road, while the blackbirds
sang their strongest from the bushes about me in the hot June evening.

Once more without any conscious effort of will I set my face toward the
old house by the ford, but as I turned round the corner which led to the
remains of the village cross, I came upon a figure strangely contrasting
with the joyous, beautiful people I had left behind in the church.  It
was a man who looked old, but whom I knew from habit, now half forgotten,
was really not much more than fifty.  His face was rugged, and grimed
rather than dirty; his eyes dull and bleared; his body bent, his calves
thin and spindly, his feet dragging and limping.  His clothing was a
mixture of dirt and rags long over-familiar to me.  As I passed him he
touched his hat with some real goodwill and courtesy, and much servility.

Inexpressibly shocked, I hurried past him and hastened along the road
that led to the river and the lower end of the village; but suddenly I
saw as it were a black cloud rolling along to meet me, like a nightmare
of my childish days; and for a while I was conscious of nothing else than
being in the dark, and whether I was walking, or sitting, or lying down,
I could not tell.

*  * *

I lay in my bed in my house at dingy Hammersmith thinking about it all;
and trying to consider if I was overwhelmed with despair at finding I had
been dreaming a dream; and strange to say, I found that I was not so
despairing.

Or indeed _was_ it a dream?  If so, why was I so conscious all along that
I was really seeing all that new life from the outside, still wrapped up
in the prejudices, the anxieties, the distrust of this time of doubt and
struggle?

All along, though those friends were so real to me, I had been feeling as
if I had no business amongst them: as though the time would come when
they would reject me, and say, as Ellen's last mournful look seemed to
say, "No, it will not do; you cannot be of us; you belong so entirely to
the unhappiness of the past that our happiness even would weary you.  Go
back again, now you have seen us, and your outward eyes have learned that
in spite of all the infallible maxims of your day there is yet a time of
rest in store for the world, when mastery has changed into fellowship--but
not before.  Go back again, then, and while you live you will see all
round you people engaged in making others live lives which are not their
own, while they themselves care nothing for their own real lives--men who
hate life though they fear death.  Go back and be the happier for having
seen us, for having added a little hope to your struggle.  Go on living
while you may, striving, with whatsoever pain and labour needs must be,
to build up little by little the new day of fellowship, and rest, and
happiness."

Yes, surely! and if others can see it as I have seen it, then it may be
called a vision rather than a dream.



FOOTNOTES:


{1}  "Elegant," I mean, as a Persian pattern is elegant; not like a rich
"elegant" lady out for a morning call.  I should rather call that
genteel.

{2}  I should have said that all along the Thames there were abundance of
mills used for various purposes; none of which were in any degree
unsightly, and many strikingly beautiful; and the gardens about them
marvels of loveliness.

{3}  Cirencester and Burford he must have meant.





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