E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE FFOLLIOTS OF REDMARLEY
L. ALLEN HARKER
MABEL VIOLET JEANS.
For that dread "move" you saw me through, For all the things you found to do. For china washed and pictures hung— And oh, those books, the hours among! For merry heart that goes all day, For jest that turns work into play, For all the dust and dusters shared, For that dear self you never spared: And most of all, that all of it Was light with laughter, spiced with wit— Take, dear, my love, and with it take The little book you helped to make.
First Edition . . . . . . . July, 1913 Cheaper Edition . . . . . . September, 1919 Reprinted . . . . . . . . . January, 1925
THE FFOLLIOTS OF REDMARLEY
"Father, what d'you think we'd better call him?" Mrs Gallup asked, when the baby was a week old; "have you thought of a name?"
"I've fixed on a name," her husband replied, triumphantly. "The child shall be called Eloquent."
"Eloquent," Mrs Gallup repeated, dubiously. "That's a queer name, isn't it? 'Tisn't a name at all, not really."
"It's going to be my son's name, anyhow," Mr Gallup retorted, positively. "I've thought the matter out, most careful I've considered it, and that's the name my son's got to be called . . . Eloquent Gallup he'll be, and a very good name too."
"But why Eloquent?" Mrs Gallup persisted. "How d'you know as he'll be eloquent? an' if he isn't, that name'll make him a laughing-stock. Suppose he was to grow up one of them say-nothing-to-nobody sort of chaps, always looking down his nose, and afraid to say 'Bo' to a goose: what's he to do with such a name?"
"There's no fear my son will grow up a-say-nothing-to-nobody sort of chap," said Mr Gallup, boastfully. "I'll take care of that. Now you listen to me, mother. You know the proverb 'Give a dog a bad name'——"
"I never said it was a bad name," Mrs Gallup pleaded.
"I should think you didn't—but look here, if it's true of a bad name, mustn't it be equally true of a good one? Why, it's argument, it's logic, that is. Call a boy Eloquent and ten to one he'll be eloquent, don't you see?"
"But what d'you want him to be eloquent for?" Mrs Gallup enquired almost tearfully. "What good will it do him—precious lamb?"
"There's others to be thought of as well as 'im," Mr Gallup remarked, mysteriously.
"Who? More children?" asked Mrs Gallup. "I don't see as he'd need to be eloquent just to mind his little brother or sister."
"Ellen Gallup, you listen to me. That babe lying there on your knee with a red face all puckered up is going to sway the multitude." Mrs Gallup gasped, and clutched her baby closer. "He's going to be one of those whose voice shall ring clarion-like"—here Mr Gallup unconsciously raised his own, and the baby stirred uneasily—"over"—he paused for a simile—he had been going to say "land and sea," but it didn't finish the sentence to his liking, "far and wide," he concluded, rather lamely.
Mrs Gallup made no remark, so he continued: "Eloquent Gallup shall be a politician. Some day he'll stand for parlyment, and he'll get in, and when he's there he'll speak up and he'll speak out for the rights of his fellow men, and he'll proclaim their wrongs."
And there and then, as if in vindication of his father's belief in him, the baby began to roar so lustily that further converse was impossible.
A week later, the baby was baptized Eloquent Abel Gallup. Abel was a concession to his mother's qualms. It was his father's name, and by her it was looked upon as a loophole of escape for her son, should Eloquent prove a misnomer.
"After all," she reflected, "if the poor chap shouldn't have the gift of the gab, Abel's a good everyday workin' name, and he can drop the E if it suits 'im. 'Tain't always them as has most to say does most, that's certain; and why his father's so set on him being one of those chaps forever standing on platforms and haranguing passes me. I never see no good come of an election yet, an' I've seen plenty of harm: what with drinkin' and quarrellin', and standin' for hours at street corners argifying. Politics is all very well in their place, but let it be a small place, says I, and let 'em keep there."
Abel Gallup was fifty years old and his wife over forty when they married; staid, home-loving people both. Abel's business was that of "a General Outfitter," and "The Golden Anchor" that was hung over the entrance to the shop presided over the fortunes of a sound, going concern. Only ready-made clothes were sold, only ready money was accepted. They were well-to-do, and living simply above their shop in the main street of Marlehouse were able to save largely.
Abel Gallup, however, was not merely a keen man of business and successful tradesman. He was, in addition, an idealist and a dreamer of dreams; but so shrewd and level-headed was he, that he kept the two things quite apart. His business was never neglected, and he returned to it all the fresher, inasmuch as in his off times his mind was ardently concerned with other things.
He was a self-educated, self-made man, who had started as shop-boy and risen to be proprietor. He had always been interested in politics, and in their study had found the relaxation that others sought in art, music, literature, or less intellectual pursuits. He was proud of his liking for politics, counting it for much righteousness that he should be able to find such joy in what he considered so useful and important a matter. In fact, he had a habit of saying, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you," with the comfortable reflection that such temporal prosperity as had been added to him was probably a reward for his abstention from all frivolous pleasures. He had no particular desire to rise in the world, himself. When he married, comparatively late in life, it was a woman of his own class, a comely, sensible, "comfortable" woman, who would order his house well, and see to it that there was "no waste."
She did all this; but she did infinitely more. She gave him a son, and in that son all his hopes and dreams, his secret humilities and unconscious vanities, his political devotions and antipathies were all brought together and focussed in one great determination that this son of his should have all that he had been denied; that in this son every one of his own inarticulate aspirations should find a voice.
He was a Congregationalist and a prominent member of this sect, the chief dissenting body in Marlehouse. He read little poetry and no fiction, but he was widely read in and thoroughly conversant with all the political events and controversies of both his own generation and of the one before it. A political meeting was to him what a public-house is to the habitual drunkard; he could not pass it. He never spoke in public himself, but he longed to do so with a longing that was intense as it was hopeless. He knew his limitations, and was quite conscious that his English was not that of the platform.
Little Eloquent could never remember when he first began to hear the names that were afterwards to be the most familiar household words to him. Two names, two personalities ever stood out in memory as an integral part of his child-life—those of William Ewart Gladstone and John Bright.
These were his father's idols.
They glowed, fixed planets in the political firmament, stable, unquenchable, a lamp to the feet of the faithful. Each shining with a steady radiance that the divergence in their views on many points could neither confuse nor obscure.
The square, dogged, fighting face of the man of peace; the serene, scholarly, aquiline features of the great Liberal leader were familiar to the little boy as the face of his own father.
That John Bright died when Eloquent was about six made no difference in his influence. There were two likenesses of him in the sitting-room, and under one of these the words were inscribed: "Be just and fear not"; and Eloquent, who was brought up to look upon justice as the first of political virtues, used to wonder wistfully whether such fearlessness could be achieved by one whose face at present showed none of those characteristics of force, strength, and pugnacity manifested in the portraits of the great commoner. But he found comfort in the reflection that "Dada," mirror of all the virtues, was yet quite mild and almost insignificant in appearance; a small, stout, dapper, very clean-looking little tradesman, with trim white whiskers, a bald head, and a round, rosy face, wherein shrewd, blue eyes twinkled cheerfully.
No, dada bore not the slightest resemblance either to Mr Gladstone or Mr Bright, and yet, Eloquent reflected, "what a man he was!" Dada was the chief factor in Eloquent's little world—law-giver, lover, and friend.
It is probable that his childhood would have been more normal and less politically precocious had his mother lived. But she died when he was four years old, a fortnight after the birth of a little sister who lived but a few hours.
Abel Gallup's sister came to keep house for them, and luckily, she, like his wife, was sensible and kindly, but she stood in great awe of her brother and never dreamt of criticising his conduct. Now his wife had never spared him her caustic, common-sense comments. Politics, especially where they might have affected the well-being of the child, were strictly kept in their proper place, And naturally she considered that, in the upbringing of a very small boy, that place should be remote almost to invisibility.
With her death all this was altered. Abel Gallup was very lonely, and turned to his little son for comfort. The child was biddable, loving, and gentle, and "to please his dada" had ever been held before him as his highest honour and duty.
Before he could read he could repeat long portions from the various speeches his father particularly admired; he learned by heart easily and had a retentive memory, and his father had only to say over a sentence two or three times when the child was word perfect. It gave Abel Gallup the most exquisite delight to stand his little son between his knees and hear the stirring, sonorous sentences rolled out in the high, child voice; and even in those early days he used to impress upon Eloquent that when he was grown-up he "would have to speak different to dada."
And little Eloquent, not realising that his father referred merely to accent and general grammar, would puzzle for hours wondering how such men as Mr Gladstone or John Bright would express their common wants. In what lofty terms, for instance, would Mr Gladstone inform his aunt, if he had an aunt, that his collar was frayed at the back and was scratching his neck. This, Eloquent felt, was quite a likely contingency, "seeing as he wore 'em so high." And how, he wondered, would Mr John Bright intimate delicately to the authorities who ruled his home that he hoped there would be pork for dinner on Sunday and plenty of crackling. He felt certain that Mr Bright would be sympathetic in the matter of crackling; he didn't know why, but he was sure of it. Equally convinced was he that the great statesman would express his desire in impressive and rhetorical language. He repeated "bits" from the speeches that he knew, to see if he could fasten on a chance phrase here and there that could be introduced into the common conversations of life; but they never did fit, and he was fain to express his small wants in the plain language of the folk about him.
Another name floated vague and nebulous among the impressions of very early childhood: that of one Herbert Spencer; and this was curious, for Abel Gallup was what he would himself have described as "a sincere Believer." Nevertheless, he was immensely attracted by the philosopher's Study of Sociology, and little Eloquent was made to learn and repeat many long bits from that dispassionate work. There was no portrait of Mr Herbert Spencer hanging upon the walls; he was not a living force, a real presence, like Mr Gladstone or Mr Bright; he spake not with the words of "a great soul greatly stirred"; yet there was something in his polished and logical sentences that gave Eloquent a doubtless quite erroneous sense of his personality, and of a certain aloofness in his attitude. He never called into council the "bits" from Mr Herbert Spencer in order to find majestic language in which to express the ordinary wants of life.
Eloquent was taken to his first political meeting when he was six years old, and he fell asleep before he had been there half an hour. His father put his arm round the child, rested the heavy little head against his shoulder and let him sleep in peace. Not even the cheering woke him, and his father carried him home, still sleeping. Perhaps Abel believed that in some mysterious manner the child absorbed the opinions of the speakers through the pores. He was not in the least annoyed with the little boy for falling asleep, nor did his tender years prevent a repetition of the experiment a few months later. This time Eloquent kept awake for nearly an hour. He was dreadfully bored, but at the same time felt very elated and important. He was the only little boy in the hall.
Abel Gallup was never tired of impressing upon Eloquent that "the people had the power, and the people had the votes to send you to parlyment or keep you out. Don't you be misled, my boy, by them as would wish you to try to please the gentry by and bye. The gentry's few and the people's many. I don't say a word against the gentry, mind, they're all right in their proper place, and very pleasant they be, some of them, but when the time comes for you to stand, just you remember that even hereabout there's hundreds of little houses for one manshun, and in every one of those little houses there's a vote, and you can have it if you go the right way about. When you're in, Eloquent, then you can hob-a-nob with the gentry if it so pleases you; but till you're in, remember it's the working man as can make or mar you."
Eloquent's aunt, Miss Gallup, had for many years "kept" the post-office and general shop in the village of Redmarley; but when her brother asked her to come and look after his home and his motherless child, she did not hesitate. She resigned her position of post-mistress, sold the good-will of her shop, and went to live in Marlehouse at "The Sign of the Golden Anchor."
She did not lose her interest in Redmarley, however; she had many friends there, and it was one of the treats of little Eloquent's childhood to drive there with his aunt "in a shay," to spend the afternoon in the woods, and have tea afterwards either with the housekeeper at the "Manshun" or in one of the cottages in the village.
In those days, only one old gentleman lived at the "Manshun." He "kept himself very much to himself," so aunt said, and Eloquent never saw him except from an upper window in the Golden Anchor, when he happened to drive through Marlehouse.
Neither did the little boy ever see much of the interior of the "Manshun" itself, except the housekeeper's room, which was down a passage just inside the back entrance.
It was during these visits to the housekeeper at Redmarley that it first dawned upon Eloquent that there could be two opinions as to the absolute righteousness of the Liberal Cause. Moreover, he found out that his aunt's political views were not on all fours with those of his father. This last discovery was quite a shock to him, and there was worse in store. For while he sat in solemn silence devouring bread and jam at the housekeeper's well-spread table, with his own ears he heard her dare to speak of the Grand Old Man as "that there Gladstone," and the butler, an imposing gentleman in black, actually described him as "a snake in the grass."
"It's curious, Miss Gallup," the butler said, thoughtfully, "that your brother should be that side in politics, and him so well-to-do and all. If he'd been in the boot trade now, I could have understood it—there's something in the smell of leather that breeds Radicals like a bad drain breeds fever; but clothes now, and lining and neck-ties and hosiery, you'd think they'd have a softening effect on a man. Dissenter, too, he is, isn't he?"
"My brother's altogether out of the common run," Miss Gallup remarked, rather huffily. She might deplore his politics herself—when she was some distance away from him—but no one else should presume to find fault. "He may be mistaken in his views—I think he is mistaken—but that don't alter the fact that he's a very successful man: a solid man, well thought of in Marlehouse, I can tell you."
"Dada says," Eloquent broke in, "that he's successful because of his views."
"Well, to be sure," exclaimed the housekeeper in astonishment, "who'd have thought the child could understand."
"The child," groaned Miss Gallup, "hears nothing but politics all day long—it turns me cold sometimes, it does really."
ONE OF THEM
When Eloquent was six years old his visits to the "Manshun" at Redmarley ceased.
Old Mr Ffolliot died, and his nephew, Mr Hilary, reigned in his stead. The butler and the housekeeper, handsomely pensioned, left the village. The staff of servants was much reduced, and at first Mr Hilary Ffolliot only came down to Redmarley for two or three days at a time. Then he married and came to live there altogether.
Eloquent had liked going to Redmarley. The place attracted him, and the people were kind, even if they were wrong-headed as to politics. One day he asked his aunt when they would go again.
"I don't fancy we shall go much now," she replied; "most of my friends have left. It's all different now up at the 'Manshun,' with a young missus and a new housekeeper; though they seem pleased enough about it in the village; a well-spoken, nice-looking young lady they says she is, but I shan't go there no more. They don't know me and I don't know them, and there we'll have to leave it."
And there it was left.
Redmarley would probably have faded altogether from Eloquent's mind, but for something that occurred to give it a new interest in his eyes.
The summer that he was seven, he was sent to the Grammar School. He came home every day directly after morning lessons, for he was as yet considered too small to take part in the games which were at that time but slightly supervised.
One day he returned to find a victoria and pair standing at the shop door, coachman on the box, footman standing on the pavement. This was unusual. Such an equipage must, he felt, belong to some member of the dangerously seductive "upper classes" his dada warned him against so often. The class that some day would want him. The class he was to keep at arm's length till he was safely "in."
The shop door was open, and Eloquent looked in. Dada, himself, was serving a customer; moreover, he was looking particularly brisk and pleased.
Eloquent crept into the shop cautiously. None noticed him. The four shopmen were serving other customers, and they all happened to be at the counter on the right-hand side.
It was a long shop with two counters that stretched its entire length, and was rather dark and close as a rule, but to-day there was bright sunshine outside. It shone through the big plate-glass windows, the glass door stood open, and somehow the shop looked gay. Dada had the left-hand counter all to himself.
Eloquent had never before seen anyone in the least like this customer, who, with slender hands, sat turning over little ready-made suits, boy's suits, and feeling the stuff to see if it were strong; she had taken off one of her long white gloves, and it lay beside the suits.
Eloquent gazed and gazed, and edged up the side of the counter towards her. Had he possessed eyes for anybody else he would have observed that the four assistants were staring also, and that his father, even, seemed very much absorbed by this particular purchaser.
And, after all, why?
She was just a tall, quite young woman, very simply dressed in white.
But she was beautiful.
Not pretty; beautiful in a large, luminous, quite intelligible way.
It was all there, the gracious sovereignty of feature, colouring, above all, expression—that governs men.
Little Eloquent knew it and came edging up the shop, drawn irresistibly as by some powerful magnetic force.
The young shopmen knew it, and neglected their patrons as much as they dared to stare at her.
Mr Gallup knew it, and stood rubbing his hands and thoroughly enjoying the good moment.
Those other customers knew it, and although the inattention of the young shopmen annoyed them, they sat well sideways in their chairs that they, too, might take a peep at the lady without rudely turning round.
The only person in the shop who appeared to know nothing about it was the lady herself. She bent her lovely head over the little suits and pondered, murmuring:
"I do wish I knew which they'd like best, a Norfolk jacket, or a jacket and waistcoat. Can you remember which you liked best?" she asked, suddenly lifting large, earnest eyes to Mr Gallup's flushed and cheerful countenance.
"Really, madam," said Mr Gallup, rather taken aback at the very personal turn the subject had taken, "I shouldn't think it matters in the least. Both are equally suitable."
At that moment, the lady caught sight of Eloquent edging, edging up the side of the counter, ever nearer to this astonishing vision.
"Here's somebody who can tell us," she exclaimed. "I'll explain to him. . . . I'm buying suits for three little boys—Sunday suits, for church and Sunday school, you know—I want them plain and serviceable so that by and bye they won't look funny for school—you know; well, would they like coats and waistcoats, or a Norfolk—which do you think?"
"Coats and waistcoats," said Eloquent promptly, his eyes still glued to her face.
"Why?" asked the lady.
"Because you can take off your coat, and then you're in your shirt-sleeves."
"But aren't you in your shirt-sleeves when you take off a Norfolk?"
"No," said Eloquent, "then you're in your shirt."
The lady laughed. Mr Gallup laughed. The assistants, who had not heard, for Eloquent spoke very low, sniggered sympathetically, and the other customers frowned.
"That settles it," said the lady, "and I'm very much obliged to you. I'll have the three little grey suits with coats and waistcoats. Poor little chaps, their mother died just a fortnight ago, and they've nothing tidy."
"My mother's dead," Eloquent announced abruptly.
The lady's eyes had been so soft, her face so tender and full of pity as she said, "poor little chaps," he felt a sudden spasm of jealousy. He wanted her to look at him like that.
He did not see his father's start, nor the momentary pained contraction of his cheerful features.
Eloquent's eyes were fixed on the lady's face, and sure enough he got what he wanted.
"I'm so sorry," she said simply, and she looked it; she had turned her kind eyes full upon him, eyes wide apart and grey and limpid.
He edged still nearer to her; so near that he stood upon her white dress with his dusty little boots, and still he stared unblinkingly.
The young lady looked puzzled. Why did the child regard her so fixedly? She suddenly awoke to the fact that everyone in the shop was looking at her. Even Mr Gallup, on the other side of the counter, seemed suddenly stricken by inertia, and instead of putting up the little suits in paper, was staring at the pair of them.
Then Eloquent was moved to explain.
"I've never seen anybody look like you before," he said gravely, "and I like watching you."
"Thank you," said the lady, and she patted his cheek.
Mr Gallup laughed, and came back to the affairs of the Golden Anchor, busying himself in tying up her parcel, while he explained that Eloquent was his only child.
Eloquent did not laugh, for she was going away.
Dada carried the parcel to the shop door and gave it to the footman. He put it in the carriage, and held out a thin silken cloak for the lady, which she put on. He covered her knees with a linen dust rug, and smiling and bowing she drove away.
Eloquent turned back into the shop with his father.
It seemed to have got very dark and gloomy again.
"Dada," he asked, "who is that lady?"
"That," said Mr Gallup, loudly and with no little pride, "is Mrs Ffolliot of Redmarley, the bride."
The customers were all listening, the four assistants were all listening.
Mr Gallup held out his hand to Eloquent, and together they went through the shop and upstairs into the sitting-room, that looked out upon the market-place.
"Dada, is she one of the Classes?" Eloquent inquired, nervously.
"I believe you, my boy," Mr Gallup responded jocosely, "very much so, she is; a regular out and outer."
His father went away chuckling, but Eloquent was much depressed.
He went and stood over against one of the portraits of John Bright and looked at him for help.
"Be just and fear not," said that statesman.
"All very well," thought Eloquent, "she didn't pat your cheek."
He went and sought counsel of Mr Gladstone, a youngish Mr Gladstone in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester: "At last, my friends, I have come amongst you . . . unmuzzled," said the legend underneath his portrait.
But Eloquent felt that this was just what he was not. He felt very muzzled indeed. All sorts of vague thoughts went surging through his brain that could find no expression in words.
"I do believe," he said desperately, "if she was to give the whisperingest little call, I'd be obliged to go . . . and so would you," he continued, shaking his head at Mr Gladstone, "you'd do just the same."
He felt that, in some inexplicable, subtly mysterious fashion, there was a kind of affinity between Mr Gladstone and Mrs Ffolliot.
Mr Gladstone would understand, and not be too hard upon him.
In the years that followed, he saw Mrs Ffolliot from time to time from the window or in the street, but never again did he come so close to her as to touch her.
Never did he see her, however, without that strange thrill of enthusiastic admiration; that dumb, inarticulate sense of having seen something entirely satisfying and delightful; satisfying for the moment only: he paid dearly for his brief joy in after hours of curious depression and an aching sense of emptiness and loss. She was so far away.
Sometimes she was driving with her husband, and little Eloquent wondered after they had passed what manner of man it could be who had the right to sit by her whenever he liked. He never had time to notice Mr Ffolliot, till one day he saw him in the carriage alone, and scrutinised him sternly. Long afterwards he read how some admirer of Lord Hartington had said that what he liked most about him was his "You-be-damnedness." The phrase, Eloquent felt, exactly described Mr Ffolliot; aloof, detached, a fastidious, fine gentleman to his finger tips, entirely careless as to what the common people thought of him; not willingly conscious, unless rudely reminded of their existence, that there were any common people: such, Eloquent felt sure, was Mr Ffolliot's mental attitude, and he hated him.
Mr Ffolliot wore a monocle, and just at that time a new figure loomed large on the little boy's political horizon—a figure held up before him not for admiration, but reprobation—as a turncoat, an apostate, a real and menacing danger to the Cause dada had most at heart; the well-known effigy of Mr Joseph Chamberlain. He always appeared with monocle and orchid. In his expression, judged by the illustrated papers, there was something of that same "you-be-damnedness" he disliked so much in Mr Ffolliot. Eloquent lumped them together in his mind, and hated Mr Ffolliot as ardently as he worshipped his wife; and to no one at all did he ever say a word about either of them.
He rose rapidly in the school, and when he was nine years old had reached a form with boys much older than himself, boys old enough to write essays; and Eloquent wrote essays too; essays which were cruder and quainter than those of his companions. One day the subject given—rather an abstruse theme for boys to tackle—was Beauty. Eloquent wrote as follows:
"Beauty is tall and has a pleasant sounding voice, and you want to come as near as you can. You want to look at her all the time because you don't see it often. Beauty is most pretty to look at and you don't seem to see anyone else when it's there. She smells nice, a wafty smell like tobacco plants not pipes in the evening. When beauty looks at you you feel glad and funny and she smiles at you and looks with her eyes. She is different to aunts and people's wives. Taller and quite a different shape. Beauty is different.—E. A. Gallup, class IIIb."
He was twelve years old when they left Marlehouse. His father had bought a larger business in a busy commercial town, where there was a grammar school famous throughout the Midlands.
There Eloquent was educated until he was seventeen, when he, too, went into the outfitting business. He attended lectures and the science school in his free time, and belonged to two or three debating clubs. He was in great request at the smaller political gatherings as a speaker, and with constant practice bade fair to justify his name.
He occasionally went to Marlehouse, generally on political business, but never to Redmarley. Nevertheless, stray items of Redmarley news reached him through his aunt, who still kept up her friendship with some of the village folk there.
From her he learned that there were a lot of young Ffolliots; that they were wild and "mishtiful," unmanageable and generally troublesome; that Mrs Ffolliot was still immensely popular and her husband hardly known after all these years; that, owing, it was supposed, to their increasing family, they did not entertain much, and that the "Manshun" itself looked much as it had always looked.
Eloquent made no comment on these revelations, but he treasured them in his heart. Some day he intended to go back to Redmarley. He never forgot Mrs Ffolliot, or the impression she had made upon him the first time he saw her.
When Eloquent was four-and-twenty Abel Gallup died. He then learned that his father was a much wealthier man than anyone had supposed. Miss Gallup was left an annuity of a hundred a year. The rest of the very considerable property (some seventy thousand pounds) was left to Eloquent, but with the proviso that until he was elected a member of Parliament he could not touch more than three hundred a year, though he was to be allowed two thousand pounds for his election expenses whenever, and as often as he chose to stand, until he was elected; as long as the money lasted. Once he was in Parliament the property was his absolutely, to dispose of as he thought fit.
It was proof of Abel Gallup's entire trust in his son, that there was not one word in the will that in any way whatsoever expressed even a hope as to the legatee's political convictions.
Miss Gallup went back to Redmarley. Eloquent sold the outfitting business, and went to London to study parliamentary business from the stranger's gallery.
ANOTHER OF THEM
A young man was walking through Redmarley woods towards Redmarley village, and from time to time he gazed sorrowfully at his boots. There had been a lot of rain that winter, and now on this, the third Sunday in December, the pathway was covered with mud, which, when it was not sticky, was extremely slippery.
The young man walked rather slowly, twirling a smart cane as he went, and presently he burst into speech—more accurately—a speech.
"What, gentlemen," he demanded, loudly and rhetorically, "but no—I will not call you gentlemen; here to-night, I note it with pride and gladness, there are but few who can claim that courtesy title. I who speak, and most of you who do me the honour to listen, can lay claim to no prouder appellation than that of MEN. What then, fellow-men, I ask you, what is the House of Lords? What purpose does it serve except to delay all beneficent legislation, to waste the country's time and to nullify the best efforts. . . . Confound . . ."
He slipped, he staggered, his hat went one way, his stick another, and he sat down violently and with a splash in a particularly large puddle. And at that instant he was suddenly beset by a dog—a curiously long-legged fox-terrier—who came bouncing round him with short rushes and sharp barks. He had reached a part of the woods where the paths cross. Fir trees were very thick just there, and footsteps made hardly any sound in the soft mud.
A tall girl came quickly round the corner, calling "Parker!" and pulled up short as she beheld the stranger seated ingloriously in the puddle. But it was only for a moment; she hastened towards him, rebuking the dog as she came: "Be quiet, Parker, how rude of you, come off now, come to heel"—then, as he of the puddle, apparently paralysed by his undignified position, made no effort to arise, on reaching him she held out her hands, saying; "I wouldn't sit there if I were you, it's so awfully wet. Shall I pull you up? Dig your heels in, that's it. I say, you are in a mess!"
The leggy fox-terrier ceased to bark. Instead, he thrust an inquisitive nose into the stranger's bowler hat and sniffed dubiously.
The girl was strong and had pulled with a will.
"I am much obliged to you," the young man remarked stiffly, at the same time regarding his rescuer with a suspicious and inimical eye, to see if she were laughing at him.
She did nothing of the kind. Her candid gaze merely expressed dismay, subtly mingled with commiseration. "I don't see how we're to clean you," she said; "only scraping would do it—a trowel's best, but, then, I don't suppose you've got one about you."
The young man tried to look down his back, always a difficult feat.
"You're simply covered with mud from head to foot," she continued. "The only thing I can think of for you to do is to come to the stables, and I'll get Heaven to clean you . . . unless, perhaps," she added, doubtfully, "you were coming to the house."
"If you will kindly direct me to the village," he said, "I have to pay a call there, and no doubt my friends will assist me to remove some of this mud."
"But you can't go calling like that," she expostulated; "you'd far better come to the stables first. Heaven's so used to us, he'd clean you up in no time; besides, by far the quickest way to the village is down our drive. There's no right-of-way through these woods; didn't you see the boards?"
"Whenever," he spoke with deliberate emphasis, "I see a board to the effect that trespassers will be prosecuted, I make a point of walking over that land as a protest."
"Dear me," she said. "It must take you sadly out of your way sometimes. Where have you come from to-day?"
"Then you'd have saved yourself at least a mile and a half, and your trousers all that mud, if you'd stuck to the road; it's ever such a long way round to come by the woods."
"I prefer the woods."
There was such superior finality in his tone, that the girl was apparently crushed. She started to walk, he followed; she waited for him, and they tramped along side by side in silence; he, covertly taking stock of his companion; she, gazing straight ahead as though for the moment she had forgotten his existence.
A tall girl, evidently between sixteen and seventeen, for her hair was not "done up," but tied together at the back with a large bow, whence it streamed long and thick and wavy to her waist: abundant light brown hair, with just enough red in it to give it life and warmth.
His appraising eye took in the fact at once that all her clothes were old, shabby, and exceedingly well cut. Her hat was a shapeless soft felt with no trimming, save a rather ragged cord, and she wore it turned down all round. It had once been brown, but was now a mixture of soft faded tints like certain lichens growing on a roof. Her covert coat, rather too big, and quite nondescript in colour, washed by the rains of many winters, revealed in flowing lines the dim grace of the broad, yet slender shoulders beneath.
Her exceedingly short skirt was almost as weather-beaten as the coat, but it swung evenly with every step and there was no sagging at the back.
Last of all, his eyes dropped to her boots: wide welted, heavy brown boots; regular country boots; but here again was the charm of graceful line, and he knew instinctively that the feet they encased were slender and shapely and unspoiled.
He raised his eyes again to the serenely unconscious profile presented to his view: a very finished profile with nothing smudgy or uncertain about it. The little nose was high-bridged and decided, the red lips full and shut closely together, the upper short and deeply cleft in the centre.
He was just thinking that, in spite of his muddy hat, he would rather like her to look at him again, when she turned her large gaze upon him with the question:
"Were you preaching just before you fell down?"
He flushed hotly. "Certainly not—did it sound like . . . that?"
"Well, I wasn't sure. I thought if you were a curate trying a sermon you'd have said 'brethren,' but 'fellow men' would do, you know; and then I heard something about the 'house of the Lord,' and I was sure you must be a sucking parson; but when I came up I wasn't so sure. What were you saying over, if it wasn't a sermon?"
"It was stupid of me . . . but I do a good deal of public speaking, and I never dreamt anyone was within miles . . ."
"Oh, a speech, was it? Where are you going to speak it?"
"I shall probably address a meeting in Marlehouse to-morrow night."
"Because I've been asked to do so."
"Will it be in the paper on Saturday?"
"How grand; do tell me your name, then I can look for your speech. I'd love to read it and see if you begin with the bit I heard about fellow men and the house of the Lord."
"The House of Lords," he corrected.
"Oh," said the girl. "Them! It's them you're against. I was afraid you objected to churches."
"I don't care much for churches, either," he observed, gloomily. "Do you?"
"I've really never thought about it," she confessed. "One's supposed to like them . . . they're good things, surely?"
"Institutions must be judged by their actual utility; their adaptability to present needs. Traditional benefits can no longer be accepted as a reason for the support of any particular cause."
"I think," she said, "that the mud on your clothes is drying. It will probably brush off quite nicely."
Had he ever read Alice in Wonderland he might have remembered what preceded the Caucus Race. But he never had, so he merely thought that she was singularly frivolous and irrelevant.
"You haven't told me your name," she continued, "so that I can look for that speech. We're nearly home, and I'll hand you over to Heaven so that he can make you tidy for your call."
"My name is E. A. Gallup," he replied, shortly.
"Up or op?" she asked.
"Up," he replied, wishing to heaven it weren't.
"Mine's M. B. Ffolliot, two 'fs' and two 'ls'. We live here, you know."
"I guessed you were a Miss Ffolliot. In fact, I may say I knew it."
"Everyone knows us about here," she said sadly. "That's the worst of it. You can never get out of anything you've done."
E. A. Gallup looked surprised, but as she was again gazing into space she did not observe him.
"Whenever hay's trampled, or pheasants startled, or gates left open, or pigs chased, or turkeys furious, they always say, 'It's them varmints of young Ffolliots.'"
"Do you know," he said, and his grave face suddenly broke into a most boyish grin, "I believe even I have heard something of the kind."
"If you live anywhere within six miles of Redmarley you'll hear little else, and it isn't always us . . . though it is generally. This stupid gate's locked. We'll have to get over. It's easiest to do it like this."
"This" was to go back a few paces, run forward, put her hands on the top and vault the gate as a boy vaults a "gym" horse. E. A. Gallup did not attempt to follow suit. He climbed over, clumsily enough, dropping his stick on the wrong side. When he had recovered it, he raised his muddy hat with a sweep. "I see we are in a road of some sort, perhaps you will kindly direct me to the village, and I will not trouble . . . er . . . Mr Heaven——"
"But much the nearest way to the village is down our front drive. And we pass the stables to go to it."
"I couldn't think of intruding in your drive. Have the goodness to direct me."
"But the woods are ours just as much as the drive; where's the difference? In fact, we'd rather have people walk in the drive because of the pheasants."
"There is a difference, though it may not be apparent to you . . . if I follow this road, do I come to the village?"
"Don't be silly," she said shortly. "If you prefer to be all over mud there's no more to be said, but I can't direct you any more than I've done. If you want to get to the village you must go down our drive, unless you go wandering another mile and a half out of your way. It's quite a short drive; only you must come by the stables to get to it. Are you coming?"
"I'm afraid I seem ungrateful," he began.
"You do rather," she interrupted.
"I assure you I am not. I appreciate your kindness, but I cannot see why I should trouble . . ."
"Oh, Heaven's used to it; he wouldn't mind, but it's evident you would, so come along. It will be dark before long, and I'll get into no end of a row if I'm out alone, and father meets me when I get in. Not a soul will see you, please hurry."
She led him across a deserted stableyard, and round the back of the house through a wide-walked formal garden, where Christmas roses shone star white in the herbacious border, where yew trees were clipped into fantastic shapes, and tall grey statues looked like ghosts in the gathering dusk, till they reached the sweep of gravelled drive in front of the house. Wide lawns sloped steeply to the banks of the Marle, which flowed through the grounds. The red December sun was reflected in a myriad flames in the many mullioned windows of the Manor. As the girl had promised, not a soul was in sight, and it was very still.
"There, Mr Gallup," she announced, cheerfully, "follow the drive and you'll find the village outside the gates. Good-bye! I must go in by the side door with these boots." And before he could do more than lift his hat while he murmured inarticulate thanks, she had walked swiftly away and vanished round the angle of the house.
For a moment he stood quite still, looking at the beautiful old Jacobean manor-house so warmly red in the sunset. Then he, too, turned and walked quickly down the winding drive, and as he went he murmured softly: "So that's what they're like . . . curious anomaly . . . curious anomaly."
The girl entered the house by the side door, changed her muddy boots and hung up her coat and hat in a little room devoted to boot boxes and pegs, and ran upstairs to the schoolroom. Her elder brother, Grantly, who lounged smoking in the deep window-seat, swung his feet to the floor with a plump, and sat facing her as she came in, saying sternly:
"Mary, who on earth was that man you were with? Where did you pick him up?"
Mary laughed. "I literally picked him up from the very wettest part of the wood, where all the firs are, you know. He was sitting mournfully in a young pond, apparently quite incapable of getting up by himself, and very much afraid of Parker, who was barking furiously."
"Showed his sense; but what was that chap doing there, and who is he?"
"He was trespassing, of course; makes a point of it, he says, but he'd evidently lost his way, so I put him right. I thought if he and the pater met there'd be words. He isn't at all a meek young man, and talks like that Course of Reading Miss Glover loves so."
"If he talked so much, he must have told you something about himself."
"Not much; his name is E. A. Gallup, and he was going to pay a call in Redmarley."
"What's he like? I only saw his back, and deucedly disreputable it was. He looked as if he had been rolling drunk."
Mary laughed again. "I shouldn't think he ever got drunk," she said; "he's far too solemn. In appearance, he's rather like a very respectable young milkman, fresh-coloured, you know, and sort of blunt everywhere, but he speaks—if you can imagine a cross between a very superior curate and the pater—that's what he speaks like, except that there's just an echo of an accent—not bad, you know, but there."
Grantly took the pipe out of his mouth and pulled the lobe of his ear meditatively.
"Gallup," he repeated. "Gallup, I've heard something about that name quite lately. Surely, if you walked with him right from the Forty Firs and talked all the time, you must have found out something more?"
"He's going to make a speech at Marlehouse to-morrow night; he was spouting away like anything just before he fell down. That's what made Parker bark so."
"I've got it," cried Grantly. "He's the Liberal candidate, that's what he is. He's standing against poor old Brooke of Medenham, and they say he'll get in, too—young brute."
"Is he a Labour member?"
"No, Liberal, they couldn't run a Labour member at Marlehouse; not enough cash in the constituency . . . tell you who he is, son of old Gallup that kept the ready-made clothes shop in the market-place—'Golden Anchor' or something, they called it. Mother used to buy suits there for the kids in the village for Easter, jolly decent suits they were, too."
"And does he keep on the 'Golden Anchor'?"
"I don't think so, but I don't know. Jolly good cheek marching through our woods, as if they belonged to him. Wish I'd met him."
"My dear chap, we're the last people in the world who can say anything to people for marching through other people's property, you especially. Why, nine-tenths of the bad rows, ever since any of us could walk, have been about that sort of thing."
"Good old Mary, that Radical chap's converted you. What else did he say? Come on; get it off your chest."
At that moment, the door was opened by an elderly man-servant, who announced: "The master wishes to speak to you, Miss Mary."
"Oh, Botticelli! Cimabue! Burne Jones!" Mary ejaculated. "The pater must have been looking out of the window, too. What bad luck."
"I wouldn't mention having touched the chap in your interview with the pater," Grantly called after her.
As Eloquent neared the Manor gates—those great gates famous throughout the country for the gryphons on their posts and their wonderful fairy-like iron tracery—a little boy came out from amongst the tall chestnuts in the avenue. His face was dirty and his sailor-suit much the worse for wear, but his outstanding, high-bridged little nose and broad, confident smile proclaimed him one of the family. He stood right in the stranger's path, exclaiming:
"Hullo! had a scrap with the keeper?"
His tone proclaimed a purely friendly curiosity. "Certainly not," Eloquent answered, coldly. "I had the misfortune to slip and fall."
"Why ever didn't they clean you up a bit at the house?" the little boy asked.
"Your sister was kind enough to suggest it——"
"Miss——" he hardly liked to say "M. B.," and paused.
"Big or little? There's only two."
"Rather big, I should say."
"Oh, that's Mary—did she bump into you?"
Eloquent looked hopelessly puzzled, and the boy hastened to add:
"She's a bit of a gawk, you know, and awfully strong. I thought she might have charged into you and knocked you over . . . she wouldn't mean to do it . . ."
"I must be going," said Eloquent, "good-evening," and he hastened on his way.
"Sorry you couldn't stop to tea," the small boy called after him hospitably. "I'm Ger, so you'll know me again when you see me."
The child stood for a minute looking after the stranger in the hope that he would turn his head, and nod or wave to him in friendly farewell, but he did neither. Ger gave a little sigh, and trotted up the drive towards home.
Outside the gates Eloquent paused and looked back at them. Brought from Verona generations ago, they were a perfect example of a perfect period. Richly decorative, various in design, light and flowing in form, the delicate curves broke into actual leafage, sweeping and free as nature's own. The Ffolliots were proud of their gates.
He gazed at them admiringly, and then, like Ger, he sighed.
"Why," he muttered, "why should they have had all this always? I wonder if it's the constant passing through gates like this that helps to make them what they are."
REFLECTION AND ENLIGHTENMENT
Eloquent found that M. B. Ffolliot had not deceived him as to the nearness of the village. A few yards to the left, over the bridge, and the long, irregular street lay in front of him; the river on one side; the houses, various in size and shape, but alike in one respect, that the most modern of them was over two hundred years old. He knew that his aunt's house was at the very end of the street and furthest from the bridge, and that Redmarley village was nearly a mile in length. Yet he did not hurry. He walked very slowly in the middle of the muddy road, resolved to marshal and tabulate his impressions as was his orderly wont.
But in this instance his impressions refused to conform to either process, and remained mutinously chaotic.
He found that, in thinking of Mary, he unconsciously called her "that girl," whereas such maidens as he hitherto had encountered were always "young ladies." He didn't know many "young ladies," but those he did know he there and then called into review and compared with Mary Ffolliot.
They were all of them much better dressed, he was certain of that. But he was equally assured that not one of them would have forborne to laugh at his plight, as he sat abject and ridiculous in the very largest puddle in Redmarley woods.
She had not laughed.
And would any one of these well-dressed young ladies (Eloquent took into account that it was Sunday) have held out helping hands to a total stranger with such absolute simplicity, so entirely as a matter of course? not as a young woman to a young man, but as one fellow-creature to another who had, literally, in this instance, fallen upon evil times.
How tall she was, and how strong.
Again (he blushed at the recollection) he seemed to feel the clasp of those muscular young hands in the worn tan-coloured gloves, gloves loose at the wrists, that did not button but were drawn on. He had noticed her leather gloves as she held out her hands to him, and knew that in the language of the trade they were "rather costly to start with, but lasted for ever."
They did not stock goods of that class in the particular branch of the outfitting trade that he knew best. People wouldn't pay the price. And he found himself saying over and over again, "wouldn't pay the price," and it was of the girl he was thinking, not of her gloves.
How eager she had been that he should come and be brushed; "I've no objection," Eloquent reflected, "to being under an obligation to her, but I'm hanged if I'd be beholden to Ffolliot for anything." Somehow it gave him infinite satisfaction to think of Mary's father in that familiar fashion. He, to put up boards about trespassers in the woods!
Who was he?
Eloquent ignored the fact that they were the same boards that had been there in old Mr Ffolliot's time, and badly needed repainting.
That little boy, too, who first appeared to suspect him of poaching, and then expressed sorrow that he would not stay to tea. What an extraordinary family they seemed to be!
The girl had actually owned to being constantly suspected of all sorts of damage, and not always wrongfully either. He was devoured by curiosity as to what forms her lawlessness could take.
"A bit of a gawk" her young brother had called her. How dared he?
"Goddess," thought Eloquent, was much more appropriate than gawk. He had no very clear conception of a goddess, but vaguely pictured a woman fair and simple and superb and young—not quite so young as Mary Ffolliot. It was only during the last year or two that he had read any poetry, and he was never quite sure whether he liked it or not. It was upsetting stuff he considered, vaguely disquieting and suggestive. Yet there were times when it came in useful. It said things for a chap that he couldn't say for himself. It expressed the inexpressible . . . in words. It synthesised and formulated fantastic and illusive experiences.
His youthful facility in learning "bits" of prose by heart had not deserted him, and he found verse even easier to remember; in fact, sometimes certain stanzas would recur with irritating persistency when he didn't want them at all; and in thinking of this, to him, new type of girl, there flowed into his mind the lines:
"Walking in maiden wise, Modest and kind and fair, The freshness of spring in her eyes And the fulness of spring in her hair."
Gawk, indeed! that little boy ought to have his head smacked.
And having come to a definite condition at last, he found he had reached his aunt's house. The lamp was lit in the parlour and the blind was down, for it was already quite dark. He had taken twenty-five minutes to walk from Mr Ffolliot's gates to his aunt's house.
Miss Gallup, plump, ruddy, and garrulous, very like her brother Abel with her round pink face and twinkling eyes, was greatly delighted to see him.
"You've come to your old aunt first thing, Eloquent," she cried triumphantly, "which is no more than I expected, though none the less gratifying, and you nearly a member and all. How things do come to pass, to be sure. I wish as your poor father had lived to see this day, and you going into parlyment with the best of 'em."
"Don't say 'going in,' aunt," Eloquent expostulated. "It's quite on the cards that they won't elect me. Personally, I think they would have done better to put up a stronger candidate. Marlehouse is always looked upon as a safe Tory seat; you know Mr Brooke has been member for a long time, and was unopposed at the last election."
"An' never opens his mouth in London from one year's end to the other, sits and sleeps, so I've heard, and leaves the rest to do all the talking and bills and that. My dear boy, don't tell me! Marlehouse folk's got too much sense to give the go-by to one as can talk and was born amongst 'em, and they all know you."
"But, Aunt Susan, I thought you were ever such a Tory. What has become of all your political convictions, if you want me to get in?"
Miss Gallup laughed. "Precious little chance; I had of 'aving any convictions all the years I kept house for your dear father; an' a pretty aunt I'd be if I could go against you now. Politics is all very well, but flesh and blood's a deal more, an' a woman wouldn't be half a woman if she didn't stand by her own. It don't seem to matter much which side's in. There'll be plenty to find fault with 'em whichever it is, and anyway from all I can hear just now you're on the winnin' side, so 'vote for Gallup,' says I, an' get someone as'll speak up for you—and not sit mumchance for all the world like a stuckey image night after night. Your bag come by the carrier all right yesterday. And now you must want your tea after that long walk—but, good gracious me, boy, have you met with an accident, or what, that you're all over with mud like that? You aren't hurted, are you?"
Eloquent again explained his mishap, but he said nothing about Mary Ffolliot. His aunt took him to the back-door and brushed him vigorously, then they both sat down to tea in her exceedingly cosy sitting-room.
"Do you like being back here again after all these years, Aunt Susan?" asked Eloquent. "I suppose everything has changed very much since you lived here before."
"Not so much as you'd think; and then the place is the same, and as one grows older that counts for a lot. When one's young, one's all for change and gallivantin', but once you're up in years 'tis the old things you cares for most; 'an when I heard as the house I was born in was empty I just had to come back. Redmarley village don't change, because no one can build. Mr Ffolliot sees to that; not one rood of land will he sell, and the old houses looks just the same as when I was a little girl. Your father he left Redmarley when he was fourteen, and went 'prentice to the 'Golden Anchor,' an' he never cared for the village like me. I hardly knew him when I was young, he being twelve years older than me, and him coming home but seldom."
"It must make a good deal of difference having a family at . . . the Manor," said Eloquent, with studied carelessness. He had nearly said "the Manshun," after the fashion of the villagers.
"Of course it do. There's changes there, if you like."
"I suppose you sometimes see . . . the young people?"
"See them? I should just think we do, and hear them and hear about them from morning to night. There never was more mixable children than the young Ffolliots."
"How many are there?" Eloquent tried to keep his voice cool and uninterested, but he felt as he used to feel when he was a child in "hiding games," when some one told him he was "getting warm."
"Well, there's Mr Grantly, he's the eldest; he's going to be an officer in the army like his grandpa; he's gone apprentice to some shop."
"What?" asked Eloquent, in astonishment.
"I thought it a bit queer myself, but Miss Mary herself did say it. 'Grantly's gone to the shop,' she said, 'to learn to be a soldier'; and I said, 'Well, the gentry's got more sense than I thought for, if they gives 'em a trade as well.' And Miss Mary she said again, he'd gone to a shop right enough, and went off laughing."
"But that's impossible," said Eloquent. "He must have gone either to Sandhurst or Woolwich; there's nowhere else he could go."
"She never mentioned neither of those names. 'Shop,' she said . . . you needn't look at me like that, Eloquent . . . I'm positive."
"You were telling me how many children there were," Eloquent remarked pacifically, "Grantly, the eldest son, and then . . . ?"
"I'm getting warm," his mind kept saying.
"Then Miss Mary, just a year younger, very like her mother she is . . . in looks, but she hasn't got the gumption of Mrs Ffolliot. That'll come, perhaps . . . later. A bit of a tomboy she's bin, but she's settling down."
"I suppose she is nearly grown up?"
"Between seventeen and eighteen, she'll be, but not done up her hair yet—that's Mr Ffolliot's doin's; he's full of fads as an egg's full o' meat. Then there's the twins, Uz and Buz they calls 'em. They're at Rugby School, they are, but they'll be home for the holidays almost directly. I can't say I'm partial to scripture names myself, and only last time he was here I asked Mr Grantly what they called them that for, when there was so many prettier names in our language, and he said, quite solemn like, 'Uz his first-born and Buz his brother, that's why, you see.' And I said, 'but they're twins, sir'; and he said, 'but Uz was born five minutes before Buz, so it's quite correct,' and went off laughing. They're always laughing at something, those children."
"Then are there just the four?' asked Eloquent, who knew perfectly well there were more.
"Oh, bless you, no; there's Master Ger; now I call him the pick of the bunch, the most conformable little chap and full of sense: he'll talk to you like one of yourselves; he's everybody's friend, is Master Ger. Miss Kitten's the youngest, and a nice handful she is. She and Master Ger does everything together, and they do say as she's the only one as don't care two pins for her papa; nothing cows her, she'd sauce the king himself if she got the chance."
"From what you say, I gather that they seem to do pretty much as they like," Eloquent remarked primly.
"Outside they do, but in the house they say those poor children's hushed up something dreadful. Mr Ffolliot's a regular old Betty, he never ought to have had one child, let alone six. He's always reading and writing and studying and sitting with his nose in a book, and then he complains of nerves. I'd nerve him if I was his wife—but she's all for peace, poor lady, and I suppose she makes the best of a bad job."
"Is she unhappy?" Eloquent demanded, with real solicitude.
"If she is, she don't show it, anyhow. She goes her way, and he goes his, and her way's crowded with the children, and there it is."
"Are you thinking of going to church, Aunt Susan?"
Miss Gallup looked surprised.
"Well, no, not if you don't want to come. I generally go, but I'm more than willing to stop with you."
"But I'd like to go," Eloquent asserted, and got very red in the face as he did so. "I don't think I've ever been in the church here."
"Well, there's no chapel as you could go to if you was ever so minded. Old Mr Molyneux mayn't be so active as some, but there's never been no dissent since he was vicar, and that's forty years last Michaelmas."
"What about my father?" Eloquent suggested.
"Your dear father got his dissenting opinions and his politics in Marlehouse, not here."
"Then I'm afraid I shan't get many votes from this village," said Eloquent, but he said it cheerfully, as though he didn't care.
"That's for you to see to," Miss Gallup said significantly; "there's no tellin' what a persuasive tongue mayn't do."
As Eloquent walked through the darkness with his aunt, he heard her cheerful voice go rippling on as in a dream. He had no idea what she talked about, his whole mind was concentrated in the question: "Will she be there?"
THE IMPRESSIONS ARE INTENSIFIED
The service at Redmarley Church was "medium high." It boasted an organist and a surpliced choir, and the choir intoned the responses. "The old Vicar," as Mr Molyneux liked to be called, was musical, and saw to it that the Sunday services were melodiously and well rendered. Very rarely was there a week-day service. The villagers would have regarded them in the light of a dangerous innovation; yet, notwithstanding the lack of daily services, the church stood open from sunrise to sunset always, and though very few people ever entered it during the week, they would have been most indignant had it ever been shut.
The church was too big for the village: it was built early in the fourteenth century when the Manor House was a monastery, and at a time when Redmarley was the religious centre for half a dozen outlying villages that now had churches of their own. Therefore, it was never full, and even if every soul in the village had made a point of going to divine service at the same time, it would still have appeared but sparsely attended.
Miss Gallup's seat, with a red cushion and red footstools and everything handsome about it, was about half-way up the aisle on the left.
On the right, one behind the other, were two long oaken pews next the chancel steps belonging to the Manor House. In the one, there were three young women, obviously servants; the front one was empty.
Eloquent began to wish he had not come.
People bustled and creaked and pattered up the aisle after their several fashions. The organist started the voluntary, and the choir came in.
The congregation stood up, when suddenly his aunt gave Eloquent's elbow a jerk, and whispered: "There's Mr Grantly and Miss Mary."
As if he didn't know!
Just the same leisurely, unconscious, strolling walk that got over the ground so much more quickly than one would have thought.
She had changed her clothes and looked, he noted it with positive relief, much more Sundayish. In fact, her costume (Eloquent used this dreadful word) now compared quite favourably with those of the other young ladies of his acquaintance. Not that she in the least resembled them. Not a bit. Her things were ever so much plainer, but Eloquent's eagle eye, trained to acute observation by his long service in the outfitting line, grasped at once that plain as was the dark blue coat and skirt, it was uncommonly well made. She wore blue fox furs, too, hat and stole and muff all matching, and her hair was tied twice with dark blue ribbon, at the nape of the neck and about half-way down.
Yes, M. B. Ffolliot was very tidy indeed. Behind her followed a youth ridiculously like her in feature, but he was half a head taller. He walked with quick, short steps, and had a very flat back and square shoulders. His appearance, even allowing for the high seriousness of an outfitter's point of view, was eminently satisfactory. There was no fleck or speck of fluff or dust or mud about his clothes. He was, Eloquent decided grimly, a "knut" of the nuttiest flavour; from the top of his exceedingly smooth head to his admirable grey spats and well-shaped boots, a thoroughly well-dressed young man.
"Shop, indeed!" thought Eloquent. "He's never seen the wrong side of a counter in his life."
"Rend your hearts and not your garments," so the Vicar adjured the congregation in his agreeable monotone, and the service began.
Eloquent could see Mary's back between the heads of two maids: her hair shone burnished and bright in the lamplight. Just before the psalms she turned and whispered to her brother, and he caught a glimpse of her profile for the space of three seconds.
When the psalms ended, the "knut" came out into the aisle, mounted the steps leading to the lectern, and started to read the first lesson.
"Woe to thee that spoilest and thou wast not spoiled," Grantly Ffolliot began in a voice of thunder. The congregation lifted startled heads, and looked considerably surprised. Grantly was nervous. He read very fast, and so loud that Mary was moved to cover her ears with her hands; and Eloquent saw her and sympathised.
Now here was a matter in which he could give young Ffolliot points and a beating. He longed passionately to stand up at that brass bird and read the Bible to the people of Redmarley; to one person in particular. He knew exactly the pitch of voice necessary to fill a building of that size.
"He that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from the holding of bribes. . . ."
How curiously applicable certain of Isaiah's exhortations are to the present day, thought Eloquent. . . . The "knut" had somewhat subdued his voice, and even he could not spoil the music and the majesty of the words, "a place of broad rivers and streams wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby." Two more verses, and the first lesson was ended, and Grantly Ffolliot, flushed but supremely thankful, made his way back to his seat.
Eloquent registered a vow.
The vicar himself read the second lesson, and the meditations of the assembled worshippers were undisturbed.
The vicar always preached for exactly ten minutes. He took an old-fashioned hour-glass up into the pulpit with him, and when it ran out he concluded his discourse. Redmarley folk highly approved this ritual. When stray parsons came to preach, especially if they were dignitaries of the church, a body could never tell what they might be at, and the suspense was wearing. Why, the Dean of Garchester had been known to keep on for half an hour.
The Redmarley worshippers rarely slept. It wasn't worth while. Instead, they kept a wary eye upon the hour-glass. They trusted to their vicar's honour, and he rarely failed them. As the last grains of sand ran out he turned to the east, and most people were back home and sitting down to supper by eight o'clock.
Miss Gallup never hurried out of church. She thought it unseemly. Therefore, it came to pass that Eloquent was still standing in his place as Mary Ffolliot and her brother came down the aisle. Mary looked him full in the face as she passed, and smiled frankly at him with friendly recognition.
The "knut" had gone on ahead.
Eloquent gave no answering smile. For one thing, he had never for one moment expected her to take the slightest notice of him, and the fact that she had done so raised a perfect tumult of unexpected and inexplicable emotion.
The hot blood rushed to his face, and there was a singing in his ears. He turned right round and stared down the aisle at her retreating form, and was only roused to a sense of mundane things by a violent poke in the small of his back, and his aunt's voice buzzing in an irritated whisper: "Go on, my boy, do you want to stop here all night?"
"Mr Grantly read very nice, didn't he?"
Miss Gallup remarked complacently, as they were walking home.
"To tell you the truth, Aunt Susan, I thought he read very badly: he bellowed so, and was absolutely wanting in expression."
"Poor young gentleman," Miss Gallup said tolerantly. "Last time he read, back in summer it was, he did read so soft like, no one could hear a word he said, and I know they all went on at him something dreadful, so this time I suppose he thought as they should hear him."
"Do you think," Eloquent asked diffidently, "that Mr Molyneux would like me to read the lessons some Sunday when I'm down here?"
Miss Gallup stopped short.
"Well, now," she exclaimed, "to think of you suggestin' that, an' I was just wonderin' at that very minute whether if I was to ask you—you'd snap my head off, you being chapel and all."
Eloquent longed to say that he was not so wrapped up in chapel as all that, but long habits of self-restraint stood him in good stead. Where possible votes were concerned it did not do to speak the thought of the moment, so he merely remarked indifferently that he'd be "pleased to be of any assistance."
"Of course," Miss Gallup continued, as she walked on, "there's no knowing whether, with the election coming on and all, the vicar might think it quite suitable, though he's generally glad to get any one to read as will."
"Surely," Eloquent said severely, "he does not carry his political views into his religious life, to the extent of boycotting those who do not agree with him."
"It's his church," Miss Gallup rejoined stoutly; "no one can read in it without 'tis his wish."
"My dear aunt, you surely don't imagine that I want to read the lessons at Redmarley except as a matter of kindness . . . assistance to Mr Molyneux. What other reason can I have?"
"Well," said Miss Gallup, shrewdly, "it might be that you wanted to show how well you could do it . . ." she paused.
Eloquent blushed in the darkness.
"And with an election coming on, you never know what motives folks has," she continued. "But it's my belief Mr Molyneux'd be pleased as Punch. He's all for friendliness, he is. I know who wouldn't be pleased, though——"
"Who is that?" asked Eloquent, as his aunt had stopped, evidently waiting to be questioned.
"Why, Mr Ffolliot; he don't take much part in politics, but he thinks Redmarley belongs to him, and he'd be mighty astonished if you was to get up and read in the parish church, and him not been told anything about it."
"I shall certainly call on Mr Molyneux tomorrow," said Eloquent.
Hilary Ffolliot, squire of Redmarley in the county of Garsetshire, did not appreciate the blessings heaped upon him by providence in the shape of so numerous a family, and from their very earliest years manifested a strong determination that no child of his should be spoilt through any injudicious slackening of discipline.
His rules and regulations were as the sands of the sea for number, and as they all tended in the same direction, namely, to the effacement of his lively and ubiquitous offspring, it is hardly surprising that such a large and healthy family found it difficult, not to say impossible, to attain to his ideal of the whole duty of children. And although a desire not to transgress his code regarding silence and decorum in such parts of the house as were within ear-shot of his study was strong in the children, knowing how swift and sure was the retribution overtaking such offenders—yet, however willing the spirit, the flesh was weak, and succumbed to temptations to jump whole flights of stairs, to slide down bannisters, arriving with a sounding thump at the bottom, and occasionally to bang the schoolroom door in the faces of the pursuing brethren.
Thus it was that strangers ringing the front-door bell at the Manor House were, on being admitted, faced by large cards on the opposite wall bearing such devices as, "Be sure you shut the door quietly," "Do not speak loudly," "Go round to the back if possible." And it is told of one timid guest, that on reading the aforesaid directions (which, by the way, were only supposed to apply to the children) he incontinently fled before the astonished butler could stop him; and, as directed, meekly rang the back-door bell, some five minutes afterwards.
Mr Ffolliot suffered from nerves. He was by temperament quite unfitted to be either a country squire or the father of a large family. Above all, was he singularly unable to bear with equanimity the strain upon his income such a large family entailed. He liked his comforts about him, he was by nature of a contemplative and aesthetically studious turn, and saw no good reason why his learned leisure should suffer interruption, or his delicate susceptibilities be ruffled by such incongruities as the loud voices and inharmonious movements of a set of thoughtless children.
The village was small and well-to-do, his duties as a landowner sat lightly upon him, and he was very awe-inspiring, didactic, and distant in his dealings with the surrounding neighbours. He had a fine taste in old prints and old port, and every spring his health necessitated a somewhat lengthened stay in an "oasis" which he had "discovered," so he said, in the south of France, where he communed with nature, and manifested a nice appreciation of the artistic efforts of his host's most excellent cook.
In fact, the matter of intercourse with outsiders was largely left to the discretion of his wife; and whoever had much to do with Mrs Ffolliot (and most people wanted as much as they could get) spent a good deal of time in the society of the children. And to the children—what was she not to those children?
For them "mother" signified everything that was kind, and gay, and gracious, and above all, understanding. Other people might be stupid, and attaint with evil intention accidents, which while certainly unfortunate in their results, were wholly unpremeditated, but mother always gave the offender the benefit of the doubt, and not infrequently by her charms of person and persuasive arts of conversation, so effectually turned away the wrath of the injured one (generally a farmer), that no hint of the escapade reached Mr Ffolliot's ears.
For the fact is that being somewhat tightly kept at home, the young Ffolliots were more than something of a nuisance when they went abroad; and as several of them generally were abroad, in their train did mischief and destruction follow.
For three hundred years there had been Ffolliots at Redmarley; of the last three owners two were married and childless, and the one immediately preceding Mr Hilary Ffolliot was a bachelor. But the fact that the Manor had not for over a hundred years descended from father to son, in no way affected the love each reigning Ffolliot felt for it.
There was something about Redmarley that seized the imagination and the affection of the dwellers there. The little grey stone village that lay so lovingly along the banks of the Marle was so enduring, so valorous in its sturdy indifference to time; in the way its gabled cottages under their overhanging eaves faced summer sun and winter rains, and instead of crumbling away seemed but to stand the firmer and more dignified in their cheery eld.
The Ffolliots were good landlords. No leaking roofs or defective walls were complained of at Redmarley. Never was Ffolliot yet who had not realised the unique quality of the village, and done his best to maintain it. It never grew, rarely was a house to let, and the jerry builder was an unknown evil. It was a healthy village, too, set high in the clean Cotswold air. Big farms surrounded it, the nearest railway line was three miles off, and the nearest station almost seven.
Of course there was poverty and a good deal of rheumatism among the older inhabitants, but on the whole the periodic outbursts of industrial discontent and unrest that convulsed other parts of England seemed to pass Redmarley by.
Had the Manor stood empty or the vicar been a poor man with a large family, doubtless things would have been uncomfortable enough to stir the villagers out of their habitual philosophic acceptance of the "rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate" as an inevitable and immutable law. But they couldn't actively dislike either squire or parson, and although the agricultural labourer is slow of speech he is not lacking in shrewdness, and those at Redmarley realised that things would be much worse than they were if Squire and Parson were suddenly eliminated.
Hilary Ffolliot liked the role of landed proprietor in the abstract. He would not have let the Manor and lived elsewhere for the world. He went regularly to church on Sunday morning, though it bored him extremely, because, like Major Pendennis, he thought that "when a gentleman is sur ses terres he must give an example to the country people." Had he been starving he would not have sold a single rood of Redmarley land to assuage his hunger. Similarly he would himself have done without a great many things rather than let any of his people go hungry. But it was only because they were his people, part of the state and circumstance of Redmarley. He didn't care for them a bit as individuals. Any intercourse with the peasantry was irksome to him. Dialect afflicted him. He had nothing to say to them, and they were stricken dumb in his awe-inspiring presence. He was well content to have few personal dealings with those, who, in his own mind, he thought of as his "retainers." He left everything of that sort to his wife.
It was the same with the children. He looked upon them as a concession to Marjory's liking for that sort of thing: and by "that sort of thing" he meant his wife's enthusiastic interest in her fellow-creatures.
To be sure he was pleased that there should be no question as to a direct heir . . . but . . . six of them was really rather a nuisance. Children were like peasantry, inclined to be awkward and uncouth, crude in thought and word and deed; apt to be sticky unless fresh from the hands of nurse; in summer nearly always hot, frequently dirty, and certainly always noisy, with, moreover, a distinct leaning towards low company and a plainly manifest discomfort in his own.
He was proud of them because they were Ffolliots, and because they were tall and straight and handsome (how wisely he had chosen their mother!), and he supposed that some day, when they became more civilised, he would be able to take some pleasure in their society. Even the two eldest, Grantly and Mary, wearied him. He could never seem to find any topic of mutual interest, except Redmarley itself, and then they always introduced irrelevant matter relating to the inhabitants that he had no desire to hear.
Had Marjory, his wife, grown plain and anxious during her twenty years of married life, it is probable she would have bored him too. But she kept her hold upon him because she was not only the most beautiful woman he knew, but she satisfied his artistic sensibilities all round. She was full of individuality and quick-witted decision. Long ago she had made up her mind that it was quite impossible to alter him, but she was equally assured as to her perfect right to differ from him in every possible way. He quite fell in with this view of the situation; so long as he was allowed unchallenged to be as stiff and stand-off and unapproachable as he pleased, he was well content that she should be extraordinarily sympathetic, gracious, and gay. It pleased him that the "retainers" should adore her and come to her in their troubles and difficulties; that she should be constantly surrounded by her children; that she should be in great request at every social gathering in the county.
Did it happen that his need of her clashed with the children's, and that just then she considered theirs was the stronger claim, he was annoyed; but apart from that he approved of her devotion to them. Somebody must look after the children; and it was not in his line.
So many things were not in his line.
One day, early in their married life, with unusual want of tact, Marjory had asked him what his line was.
The question surprised and distressed him, it was so difficult to answer. However, the retort courteous came easily to Mr Ffolliot, and raising her hand to his lips, he replied, "To provide a sufficiently beautiful setting for you, my dear, that is my metier at present." And Marjory, who had spent a long, hot morning in superintending the removal of books, busts, and pictures to the room that, for the future, was to be his study, the room that till then had been her drawing-room, felt an unregenerate desire to slap him with the hand he had just kissed.
Mr Ffolliot believed that he could best develop the ultimate highest that was in him if his surroundings were entirely harmonious. Therefore had he selected the sunniest, largest room on the entrance floor for his own study. It had a lovely view of the river.
The oak wainscotting and shelves were removed there piece by piece from the old library at the back, which faced north and had rather an uninteresting outlook towards the woods. This rather gloomy chamber he caused to be newly panelled with wood enamelled white, and presented it to his wife for her own use with a "God bless you, my darling, I hope you may have many happy hours here."
Her drawing-room was the only room in Redmarley that Marjory Ffolliot thoroughly disliked, and she never sat there if she could help it.
On that Sunday afternoon when Eloquent thought fit to visit his aunt, Mr Ffolliot had left his writing-table and was standing in one of the great windows that he might look out and, with the delicate appreciation of the connoisseur, savour the crimson beauties of the winter sunset.
As he gazed he mentally applauded the pageant of colour provided for his enjoyment, and then he perceived two figures standing not fifty yards from his window.
One he recognised at once as his daughter, and for a moment he included her in his beatitude at the prospect presented to his view. Yes; Mary was undoubtedly pleasing to the eye, she was growing very like his wife, and for that resemblance, like the Ancient Mariner, "he blessed her unaware."
But when he became fully cognisant of the other figure, his feeling wholly changed. He screwed his eyeglass firmly into his eye and glared at the couple.
Who on earth was this muddy, rather plebeian-looking person with whom Mary was conversing on apparently friendly and familiar terms? He suddenly realised with an irritated sense of rapidly approaching complications that Mary was nearly grown up.