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character. But I hope that I may come before he does; or it will be a bad look-out for me.'
"You may come to see me every day, my friend, and I shall be pleased to see you. But if you meet Hafer, be on your guard. has the rough manners of the mountains still, and has not seen the world, as I have."
Thus I was obliged to leave it. Not at all to my liking; yet with no right to complain of any one. This Lesghian Chief had laid me under a very great obligation, by overcoming for my sake his natural reluctance to recall a past so full of
CHAPTER XXIX.-LARGE AND LONG VIEWS.
Sûr Imar had spoken of happiness as resembling a mountain-eagle in the brevity of its visits, and the speed of its flight away from us, rather than the gentle dove whose nest is always near our roof, while the cooing of her soft content pervades the summer evening. And probably he was right enough as regards his own race and country, where all is rugged, strong, and fierce, and a pious life too often means pure impotence for robbery.
pain, and in such bitter contrast with the present conditions of his life. As a nation we make little of the debt which a foreigner incurs to the hospitality of England. The guest, moreover, is too graceful ever to inflict on us the pain of seeing him overwhelmed with gratitude. But this Lesghian Chief had formed what was perhaps a romantic view of the greatness of our policy, and a liking for us which is, I fear, by no means universal. This I hoped to work with diligence for my own advantage; as our Government used to do, as long as it still subsisted.
But if he only could have seen my father of a sunny morning, sitting in his little room, with the red cloth on the table, and the drawers of his cabinet pulled out, and his choicest coins laid gingerly with their faces tilted towards the light, and a chamois leather, and a box of powder, and a tiny bottle of acid to be used most sparinglythat Chief of great stature, and still greater mind, would have perceived that bliss may come with the downy plume of the dove, as well as the swoop of the eagle's pinion. For here was an ancient gentleman, who had never known flash and clash of steel, or the rush of hot blood upon frozen snow; but had
only been damaged by the rapid fall of grain, and no longer had the spirit to cry out at that; yet in the evening of his days found pleasure in the coinage of the past, when the currency failed so painfully. Often he shouted for his wife or daughter, to share some great discovery, some new interpretation of his magnifying glass, or the lens of imagination, over some battered disc, resembling the plate which our blacksmith clamps red-hot on the nose of a vainly squealing porker.
Then was Sir Harold's pleasure at the acme and the apex. What delight is perfect without something to find fault with? And the fonder one is of the poor short-comer, the sweeter it becomes to correct the loose idea.
"This indeed is frightful, my dear Grace! Will you never know an old L from a T? And how often must I tell you, that they run the other way? There's a tangle of your hair coming in the light again! If you want to be of any use, which you never can be, do go and cut off at least three quarters of it. One would think that girls were made
of nothing else but hair. Show me any mops and frizzles, on a feminine obverse. Look at this fascia! I'll get you one to-morrow. You fetch it round tightly, and then you cut off all the rest. Unless you like to bunch it, as a jockey does a horse, I shall speak to your mother about it. Nothing shall be done that you dislike. But you see for yourself how becoming it is?"
"Lovely, oh lovely! I am wild about it, father. But the lady has no nose. Is mine to come off too?"
"She has had a nose, and as good a one as yours. It is the mere accident of attrition. But here comes George! What can George want now? He knows that I never should be interrupted, with all these drawers open. If any rival Numismatist-I am sorry to say there is no honesty among them. Even the people at the British Museum when I lent them for comparison kept back three most valuable the gems, the gems of my whole collection!"
"Well, sir, I don't blame them. It was for the instruction of the nation." I knew that my father was even more proud than indignant at this fact-if fact it was, and he had long ago made it one, by telling it at least twice a-day. "But, I don't want to disturb you, sir, and I don't often do it. Only there are two things that I am bound to consult you about immediately, if you can spare me a few minutes, without having to put more important work aside."
My father sighed; for he hated business, as he had good cause to do, while Grace walked away with a lofty air, like a lady denied the franchise. Finding myself rather nervous, I began in a craven manner with other people's business.
"Bandilow wants to know, sir, whether he may break up halfmoon meadow, and plant it with
apple- and pear-trees. He says it is the only chance of his being able to pay his rent, next Lady day."
"But my dear George," Sir Harold replied, while he spread a silk handkerchief over his coins, lest the atmosphere of business should corrode them, "does the silly fellow expect to realise a fruit-crop betwixt this and then?"
"Very likely he does, for he has found an apple on a tree he planted not more than two years ago; and the Society for the Promotion of British Fructiculture has sent him a coloured print of apples bigger than turnips and brighter than prize carnations. And you know what Lord Melladew did for him; they would not advance him any money-in fact he had to subscribe to them-but for a 'nominal price' they supplied him with a list of fifteen hundred kinds—”
"Oh, I don't want to hear any more about that. I should have some faith in it, if they put their own money into it, instead of being paid for persuading other people to invest in it. However, it is no concern of mine."
"Excuse me, sir, but I think it is. In a sort of sideway at any rate. You would not like an old tenant, whose family has held under ours for at least three centuries, to be robbed by private folly of the little the public mania has left him. I know the climate of Surrey pretty well, and there are very few better in England. Last May, the mercury stood below freezing-point at six in the morning, no less than eight times; and twice it was eight degrees below. Have we any fruitbloom that can laugh at that? You would not like an elderly man like Bandilow, with a large family dependent upon him, to be ruined, would you now? And he is already in arrears of rent?"
"Certainly I should grieve at
that, and throw him off every farthing, little as we can afford it. But my dear boy, you make the worst of things, and you are sadly obstinate; which perhaps is a family failing. Men of tenfold your knowledge have proved that the only remedy, and a very easy one, offered by Providence itself, for the present starvation of agriculture is to take to horticulture. If wheat will not pay at 30s. per quarter, fall back upon apples at a pound a bushel. And then there is jam, a glorious scheme."
I saw that all reason was in vain. Lord Melladew had got hold of my good father, and tip-top prices upon West-end counters had been quoted for orchard average. It was useless to say another word. But who ever ceased on that account?
"If the wheat crop is precarious, I should like to know what the fruit-crop is. Two years in three give a fair crop, of grain; scarcely one in three of fruit. If we turned every field into a broom of trees, would even the present low prices hold, in the years when there was anything on them? The fruit might roll on the ground and rot, whenever the season was plentiful. Englishmen cannot live on apples; and jam is only fit for children. But do as you like, sir. Do as you like." "George, I am guided too much sometimes by the way in which you look at things. You have formed very strong opinions, and there may be something in them. Nothing is more wonderful to me than the difference in character betwixt you and Harold. Harold looks at a thing all round, and is never quite sure about it. But you make up your mind without looking at all, and I defy anybody to move you.'
"I have made up my mind, sir, about another matter, which I came to put before you. And though I am not to be moved from it, I do
hope that you will take my view. But is Bandilow to have his way?" Certainly," my father answered with a pleasant smile, for he had formed the most erroneous opinions about me; "is no one to have his way but my son George? It is only fair to let a tenant crop his land as he thinks best, unless he injures it permanently; and especially such a man as Bandilow, who has stuck to us, when all the others dropped off. And there is another reason. Many of the newspapers, loving as some of them seem to do to stir up ill-will among Englishmen, keep on declaring that the landlords form the chief obstacle to the improvement of land. thing is absurd. You might just as well say that if you borrow a hundred pounds of me, I must long for your bankruptcy, lest you should repay me. What landlord would not be delighted if his tenant could make £50 an acre, as these people say? I only wish this fruit-craze could last."
"Father, you are right. What a blessing it would be, if they could only fetch it round! Let us hope for the best, as they do. And now for the other question, all about myself; and I hope you will take the same liberal views. But it is a long story. Have your easy-chair, and your little glass of mead that stops the cough. Well, Harold did some good in recommending that. You never get the cough as you used to have it."
"Harold is a very clever fellow," my father said, after a sip or two; "if that boy would only stick to something-or if I could make a blend of you two-well, well, we can't have everything."
"That is a righteous law for us; but it ought not to apply to you, sir, whose wishes are so moderate. For instance, I want a thing that I shall never get. May I call Mother in, to hear what it is?"
In this there was wisdom, gracious wisdom, such as we are inspired with sometimes, however foolish we may generally be. For whatever opinion my father might form, he would have my mother looking at him, and then she would be sure to give a glance at me, and the experience of years would be belied unless she gave utterance to a conclusion not directly counter, but sub-contrary, hypenantious-if such a word is pardonable-to the view which her husband had ventured to form without waiting for her suggestion. For they had grown so much alike, that both of them doubted about the joint-stock wisdom; as we all despise homeproduce.
Seeing myself in the right way thus, while indulging in all due deference, I did my very best to let them know that I had striven after things above me. My father was ready to concede that point; but my mother could not conceive it, and was eager to branch out into a long discourse, about all the great people akin to us in body, but in mind not as yet awake to it. My father joined me in abbreviating that though at such a time it was hard measure - but he heard the old Grandfather Clock strike one; and if mother got wound up on that chain, the hour hand might go round the dial before he got any luncheon! Therefore he spoke decisively.
"What we have heard from George is not altogether what I expected. Everybody knows, though he seems to imagine that nobody ever dreamed of it, that he had found some attraction among those very strange people that live in the dell. Who they are, or what they do there, it has never concerned me to enquire. When strangers come into a neighbourhood, and desire to keep themselves to themselves, no English gentleman would ever think
of obtruding himself upon them. They may be very estimable, and even of very high rank in a foreign way, as George supposes. But when they pack themselves up inside a wall, without even a bell, or if they have one with only fierce dogs to answer it, all we can do is to leave them to the Police, or the Government, or the Newspapers. The right of asylum is sacred in England. Of Continental intrigues we know nothing, and we refuse to be mixed up with them. Even with a Radical Government in power-my dear, you quite agree with me?"
"In every word that you have said, my dear. But when our George, without asking his mother, goes out of his way to make strange acquaintance, and people who pretend to look down upon us
"You have no right to say that, my dear. We must not think that they are so absurd. They have the highest opinion of this Country, as of course they are bound to have, except as to our one great mistake. And there, if I understand George aright, Prince-what's his name, Mari? It sounds like New Zealand, but at any rate his views do him very high credit. He spoke of Free Trade with very fine contempt; I think you told me so, George?”
"Sir, he could not find any word strong enough to describe our folly. And the testimony of an outsiderbut you never use such language, sir."
"No, I leave that to younger people, who may live to see the worst of it. But this gentleman must have great perception, as well as much integrity. You think that he draws a large revenue, and this young lady is his only child."
"My dear, you forget how they live out there," said my mother, who was above lucre, and my father as well too superior to show it.
"Who can tell how many wives they have? And their laws not too respectable, I am half afraid, upon such points."
"I was very well up in Geography once," my father replied with a smile at her, "I could construe some of Prometheus Vinctus, and I have a coin, with the rock and the chain and the vulture, but the Titan has been eaten to nothing by time. It is extremely valuable; yet the British Museum failed to steal it. That Prince comes from the very same spot. It may have been struck by his ancestors. George says that they come in a direct line from Noah's own greatgrandson."
"In that case, indeed, who are we to talk of our own children? Who, indeed, are we ?" My mother glanced upward, as if to watch the whole of creation sliding. "Although to a reasonable mind the Heptarchy is as much as one requires to be sure of. But I should like to see that girl, George."
"Stop," said my father, "I am not a sceptic; Mama, you must not set a bad example. I had my little doubts about the Ark, I must confess, until so many people attacked it, among them a Bishop of our Church, who continued to enjoy his income. If he was in earnest, he scarcely could be honest, and in that case, who would listen to him? And if the Ark rested upon Ararat, that would be the neighbourhood to know all about it. I will not contradict Prince Maori."
"But it is the girl I care about;" my mother made a great point of the tempers of young women. "George is so peaceable, and he never argues. I cannot risk his happiness with a wife who may be descended from-from even the females mentioned in the Bible."
"My dear mother, what a hurry you are in. The young lady does
not care a fig about me yet. And I am very much afraid that she never, never will. Only I thought that I had better let you know."
"This sort of thing has never happened to you before, and that is very greatly to your credit, George." My father looked stealthily at my mother, lest her conscience should involve her in some misconstruction here. "But we must talk it over first, your Mother and myself. We could have no idea that such a thing was happening on our property, I mean-of course, what used to be ours. It seems to be departing from the proper way so much, and the practice of the family. I am sure there are plenty of nice girls round here."
"I am not so sure of that," said my mother rather quickly, and giving me a signal to leave the rest to her; "English girls are not at all as they were in my time. They have dropped all their modest looks and delicacy. They talk slang, and they speak without being introduced, and they call one another Jack and Jemmy, and they let young men give them pairs of gloves, and they come into a room with both arms swinging; and as for their dresses, and the way they do their