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Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 4 maj 2011 06:32

Occasionally he was exasperated that he could not avoid the discussions which his father, with a weak man's obstinacy, forced upon him. Some unhappy, baneful power seemed to drive Colonel Parsons to widen the rift, the existence of which caused him such exquisite pain; his natural kindliness was obscured by an uncontrollable irritation. One day he was reading the paper. "I see we've had another unfortunate reverse," he said, looking up. "Oh!" "I suppose you're delighted, Jamie?" "I'm very sorry. Why should I be otherwise?" "You always stick up for the enemies of your country." Turning to his brother-in-law, he explained: "James says that if he'd been a Cape Dutchman he'd have fought against us." "Well, he deserves to be court-martialled for saying so! "cried Major Forsyth. "I don't think he means to be taken seriously," said his mother. "Oh, yes, I do." It constantly annoyed James that when he said anything that was not quite an obvious truism, they should think he was speaking merely for effect. "Why, my dear mother, if you'd been a Boer woman you'd have potted at us from behind a haystack with the best of them." "The Boers are robbers and brigands." "That's just what they say we are." "But we're right." "And they're equally convinced that they are." "God can't be on both sides, James." "The odd thing is the certainty with which both sides claim His exclusive protection." "I should think it wicked to doubt that God is with us in a righteous war," said Mrs. Parsons. "If the Boers weren't deceived by that old villain Kruger, they'd never have fought us." "The Boers are strange people," replied James. "They actually prefer their independence to all the privileges and advantages of subjection.... The wonderful thing to me is that people should really think Mr. Kruger a hypocrite. A ruler who didn't honestly believe in himself and in his mission would never have had such influence. If a man wants power he must have self-faith; but then he may be narrow, intolerant, and vicious. His fellows will be like wax in his hands." "If Kruger had been honest, he wouldn't have put up with bribery and corruption." "The last thing I expect is consistency in an animal of such contrary instincts as man." "Every true Englishman, I'm thankful to say, thinks him a scoundrel and a blackguard." "In a hundred years he will probably think him a patriot and a hero. In that time the sentimental view will be the only one of interest; and the sentimental view will put the Transvaal in the same category as Poland." "You're nothing better than a pro-Boer, James." "I'm nothing of the kind; but seeing how conflicting was current opinion, I took some trouble to find for myself a justification of the war. I couldn't help wondering why I went and killed people to whom I was personally quite indifferent." "I hope because it was your duty as an officer of Her Majesty the Queen." "Not exactly. I came to the conclusion that I killed people because I liked it. The fighting instinct is in my blood, and I'm never so happy as when I'm shooting things. Killing tigers is very good sport, but it's not in it with killing men. That is my justification, so far as I personally am concerned. As a member of society, I wage war for a different reason. War is the natural instinct of all creatures; not only do progress and civilisation arise from it, but it is the very condition of existence. Men, beasts, and plants are all in the same position: unless they fight incessantly they're wiped out; there's no sitting on one side and looking on.... When a state wants a neighbour's land, it has a perfect right to take it--if it can. Success is its justification. We English wanted the Transvaal for our greater numbers, for our trade, for the continuance of our power; that was our right to take it. The only thing that seems to me undignified is the rather pitiful set of excuses we made up." "If those are your ideas, I think they are utterly ignoble."

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The tension between James and his parents became not less, but greater. That barrier which, almost from the beginning, they had watched with pain rise up between them now seemed indestructible, and all their efforts only made it more obvious and more stable. It was like some tropical plant which, for being cut down, grew ever with greater luxuriance. And there was a mischievous devil present at all their conversations that made them misunderstand one another as completely as though they spoke in different tongues. Notwithstanding their love, they were like strangers together; they could look at nothing from the same point of view. The Parsons had lived their whole lives in an artificial state. Ill-educated as most of their contemporaries in that particular class, they had just enough knowledge to render them dogmatic and intolerant. It requires a good deal of information to discover one's own ignorance, but to the consciousness of this the good people had never arrived. They felt they knew as much as necessary, and naturally on the most debatable questions were most assured. Their standpoint was inconceivably narrow. They had the best intentions in the world of doing their duty, but what their duty was they accepted on trust, frivolously. They walked round and round in a narrow circle, hemmed in by false ideals and by ugly prejudices, putting for the love of God unnecessary obstacles in their path and convinced that theirs was the only possible way, while all others led to damnation. They had never worked out an idea for themselves, never done a single deed on their own account, but invariably acted and thought according to the rule of their caste. They were not living creatures, but dogmatic machines. James, going into the world, quickly realised that he had been brought up to a state of things which did not exist. He was like a sailor who has put out to sea in an ornamental boat, and finds that his sail is useless, the ropes not made to work, and the rudder immovable. The long, buoyant wind of the world blew away like thistle-down the conventions which had seemed so secure a foundation. But he discovered in himself a wonderful curiosity, an eagerness for adventure which led him boldly to affront every peril; and the unknown lands of the intellect are every bit as dangerously fascinating as are those of sober fact. He read omnivorously, saw many and varied things; the universe was spread out before him like an enthralling play. Knowledge is like the root of a tree, attaching man by its tendrils to the life about him. James found in existence new beauties, new interests, new complexities; and he gained a lighter heart and, above all, an exquisite sense of freedom. At length he looked back with something like horror at that old life in which the fetters of ignorance had weighed so terribly upon him. On his return to Little Primpton, he found his people as he had left them, doing the same things, repeating at every well-known juncture the same trite observations. Their ingenuousness affected him as a negro, civilised and educated, on visiting after many years his native tribe, might be affected by their nose-rings and yellow ochre. James was astounded that they should ignore matters which he fancied common knowledge, and at the same time accept beliefs that he had thought completely dead. He was willing enough to shrug his shoulders and humour their prejudices, but they had made of them a rule of life which governed every action with an iron tyranny. It was in accordance with all these outworn conventions that they conducted the daily round. And presently James found that his father and mother were striving to draw him back into the prison. Unconsciously, even with the greatest tenderness, they sought to place upon his neck again that irksome yoke which he had so difficultly thrown off. If James had learnt anything, it was at all hazards to think for himself, accepting nothing on authority, questioning, doubting; it was to look upon life with a critical eye, trying to understand it, and to receive no ready-made explanations. Above all, he had learnt that every question has two sides. Now this was precisely what Colonel Parsons and his wife could never acknowledge; for them one view was certainly right, and the other as certainly wrong. There was no middle way. To doubt what they believed could only be ascribed to arrant folly or to wickedness. Sometimes James was thrown into a blind rage by the complacency with which from the depths of his nescience his father dogmatised. No man could have been more unassuming than he, and yet on just the points which were most uncertain his attitude was almost inconceivably arrogant. And James was horrified at the pettiness and the prejudice which he found in his home. Reading no books, for they thought it waste of time to read, the minds of his father and mother had sunk into such a narrow sluggishness that they could interest themselves only in trivialities. Their thoughts were occupied by their neighbours and the humdrum details of the life about them. Flattering themselves on their ideals and their high principles, they vegetated in stupid sloth and in a less than animal vacuity. Every topic of conversation above the most commonplace they found dull or incomprehensible. James learned that he had to talk to them almost as if they were children, and the tedium of those endless days was intolerable.

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 4 maj 2011 06:29

I've never been able to understand why. It didn't occur to me that I might get killed; it seemed the natural thing to do. It wasn't really brave, because I never realised that there was danger." * * * In the afternoon James received a note from Mrs. Clibborn, asking him to call upon her. Mary and her father were out walking, she said, so there would be no one to disturb them, and they could have a pleasant little chat. The invitation was a climax to Jamie's many vexations, and he laughed grimly at the prospect of that very foolish lady's indignation. Still, he felt bound to go. It was, after a fashion, a point of honour with him to avoid none of the annoyances which his act had brought upon him. It was partly in order to face every infliction that he insisted on remaining at Little Primpton. "Why haven't you been to see me, James?" Mrs. Clibborn murmured, with a surprisingly tender smile. "I thought you wouldn't wish me to." "James!" She sighed and cast up her eyes to heaven. "I always liked you. I shall never feel differently towards you." "It's very kind of you to say so," replied James, somewhat relieved. "You must come and see me often. It'll comfort you." "I'm afraid you and Colonel Clibborn must be very angry with me?" "I could never be angry with you, James.... Poor Reginald, he doesn't understand! But you can't deceive a woman." Mrs. Clibborn put her hand on Jamie's arm and gazed into his eyes. "I want you to tell me something. Do you love anyone else?" James looked at her quickly and hesitated. "If you had asked me the other day, I should have denied it with all my might. But now--I don't know." Mrs. Clibborn smiled. "I thought so," she said. "You can tell me, you know." She was convinced that James adored her, but wanted to hear him say so. It is notorious that to a handsome woman even the admiration of a crossing-sweeper is welcome. "Oh, it's no good any longer trying to conceal it from myself!" cried James, forgetting almost to whom he was speaking. "I'm sorry about Mary; no one knows how much. But I do love someone else, and I love her with all my heart and soul; and I shall never get over it now." "I knew it," sighed Mrs. Clibborn, complacently, "I knew it!" Then looking coyly at him: "Tell me about her." "I can't. I know my love is idiotic and impossible; but I can't help it. It's fate." "You're in love with a married woman, James." "How d'you know?" "My poor boy, d'you think you can deceive me! And is it not the wife of an officer?" "Yes." "A very old friend of yours?" "It's just that which makes it so terrible." "I knew it." "Oh, Mrs. Clibborn, I swear you're the only woman here who's got two ounces of gumption. If they'd only listened to you five years ago, we might all have been saved this awful wretchedness." He could not understand that Mrs. Clibborn, whose affectations were manifest, whose folly was notorious, should alone have guessed his secret. He was tired of perpetually concealing his thoughts. "I wish I could tell you everything!" he cried.

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The Vicar of Little Primpton was an earnest man, and he devoted much care to the composition of his sermons. He was used to expound twice a Sunday the more obvious parts of Holy Scripture, making in twenty minutes or half an hour, for the benefit of the vulgar, a number of trite reflections; and it must be confessed that he had great facility for explaining at decorous length texts which were plain to the meanest intelligence. But having a fair acquaintance with the thought of others, Mr. Jackson flattered himself that he was a thinker; and on suitable occasions attacked from his village pulpit the scarlet weed of heresy, expounding to an intelligent congregation of yokels and small boys the manifold difficulties of the Athanasian Creed. He was at his best in pouring vials of contempt upon the false creed of atheists, Romanists, Dissenters, and men of science. The theory of Evolution excited his bitterest scorn, and he would set up, like a row of nine-pins, the hypotheses of the greatest philosophers of the century, triumphantly to knock them down by the force of his own fearless intellect. His congregation were inattentive, and convinced beyond the need of argument, so they remained pious members of the Church of England. But this particular sermon, after mature consideration, the Vicar had made up his mind to devote to a matter of more pressing interest. He repeated the text. Mrs. Jackson, who knew what was coming, caught the curate's eye, and looked significantly at James. The homily, in fact, was directed against him; his were the pride, the arrogancy, and the evil way. He was blissfully unconscious of these faults, and for a minute or two the application missed him; but the Vicar of Little Primpton, intent upon what he honestly thought his duty, meant that there should be no mistake. He crossed his t's and dotted his i's, with the scrupulous accuracy of the scandal-monger telling a malicious story about some person whom charitably he does not name, yet wishes everyone to identify. Colonel Parsons started when suddenly the drift of the sermon dawned upon him, and then bowed his head with shame. His wife looked straight in front of her, two flaming spots upon her pale cheeks. Mary, in the next pew, dared not move, hardly dared breathe; her heart sank with dismay, and she feared she would faint. "How he must be suffering!" she muttered. They all felt for James intensely; the form of Mr. Jackson, hooded and surpliced, had acquired a new authority, and his solemn invective was sulphurous with the fires of Hell. They wondered how James could bear it. "He hasn't deserved this," thought Mrs. Parsons. But the Colonel bent his head still lower, accepting for his son the reproof, taking part of it himself. The humiliation seemed merited, and the only thing to do was to bear it meekly. James alone appeared unconcerned; the rapid glances at him saw no change in his calm, indifferent face. His eyes were closed, and one might have thought him asleep. Mr. Jackson noted the attitude, and attributed it to a wicked obstinacy. For the repentant sinner, acknowledging his fault, he would have had entire forgiveness; but James showed no contrition. Stiff-necked and sin-hardened, he required a further chastisement. "Courage, what is courage?" asked the preacher. "There is nothing more easy than to do a brave deed when the blood is hot. But to conduct one's life simply, modestly, with a meek spirit and a Christ-like submission, that is ten times more difficult Courage, unaccompanied by moral worth, is the quality of a brute-beast." He showed how much more creditable were the artless virtues of honesty and truthfulness; how better it was to keep one's word, to be kind-hearted and dutiful. Becoming more pointed, he mentioned the case which had caused them so much sorrow, warning the delinquent against conceit and self-assurance. "Pride goeth before a fall," he said. "And he that is mighty shall be abased." * * * They walked home silently, Colonel Parsons and his wife with downcast eyes, feeling that everyone was looking at them. Their hearts were too full for them to speak to one another, and they dared say nothing to James. But Major Forsyth had no scruples of delicacy; he attacked his nephew the moment they sat down to dinner. "Well, James, what did you think of the sermon? Feel a bit sore?" "Why should I?" "I fancy it was addressed pretty directly to you." "So I imagine," replied James, good-humouredly smiling. "I thought it singularly impertinent, but otherwise uninteresting." "Mr. Jackson doesn't think much of you," said Uncle William, with a laugh, ignoring his sister's look, which implored him to be silent. "I can bear that with equanimity. I never set up for a very wonderful person." "He was wrong to make little of your attempt to save young Larcher," said Mrs. Parsons, gently. "Why?" asked James. "He was partly right. Physical courage is more or less accidental. In battle one takes one's chance. One soon gets used to shells flying about; they're not so dangerous as they look, and after a while one forgets all about them. Now and then one gets hit, and then it's too late to be nervous."

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 4 maj 2011 06:27

Well, perhaps I should like to be quite English. I should feel more comfortable in my scorn of these regimental ladies if I thought they could find no reason to look down on me." "I don't think they look down on you." "Oh, don't they? They despise and loathe me." "When you were ill, they did all they could for you." "Foolish creature! Don't you know that to do good to your enemy is the very best way of showing your contempt." And so James could go on, questioning, replying, putting little jests into her mouth, or half-cynical repartees. Sometimes he spoke aloud, and then Mrs. Wallace's voice sounded in his ears, clear and rich and passionate, as though she were really standing in the flesh beside him. But always he finished by taking her in his arms and kissing her lips and her closed eyes, the lids transparent like the finest alabaster. He knew no pleasure greater than to place his hands on that lustrous hair. What could it matter now? He was not bound to Mary; he could do no harm to Mrs. Wallace, ten thousand miles away. * * * But Colonel Parsons broke into the charming dream. Bent and weary, he came across the lawn to find his son. The wan, pathetic figure brought back to James all the present bitterness. He sighed, and advanced to meet him. "You're very reckless to come out without a hat, father. I'll fetch you one, shall I?" "No, I'm not going to stay." The Colonel could summon up no answering smile to his boy's kind words. "I only came to tell you that Mrs. Jackson is in the drawing-room, and would like to see you." "What does she want?" "She'll explain herself. She has asked to see you alone." Jamie's face darkened, as some notion of Mrs. Jackson's object dawned upon him. "I don't know what she can have to talk to me about alone." "Please listen to her, Jamie. She's a very clever woman, and you can't fail to benefit by her advice." The Colonel never had an unfriendly word to say of anyone, and even for Mrs. Jackson's unwarrantable interferences could always find a good-natured justification. He was one of those deprecatory men who, in every difference of opinion, are convinced that they are certainly in the wrong. He would have borne with the most cheerful submission any rebuke of his own conduct, and been, indeed, vastly grateful to the Vicar's wife for pointing out his error. James found Mrs. Jackson sitting bolt upright on a straight-backed chair, convinced, such was her admirable sense of propriety, that a lounging attitude was incompatible with the performance of a duty. She held her hands on her lap, gently clasped; and her tight lips expressed as plainly as possible her conviction that though the way of righteousness was hard, she, thank God! had strength to walk it. "How d'you do, Mrs. Jackson?" "Good morning," she replied, with a stiff bow. James, though there was no fire, went over to the mantelpiece and leant against it, waiting for the lady to speak. "Captain Parsons, I have a very painful duty to perform." Those were her words, but it must have been a dense person who failed to perceive that Mrs. Jackson found her duty anything but painful. There was just that hard resonance in her voice that an inquisitor might have in condemning to the stake a Jew to whom he owed much money. "I suppose you will call me a busybody?" "Oh, I'm sure you would never interfere with what does not concern you," replied James, slowly. "Certainly not!" said Mrs. Jackson. "I come here because my conscience tells me to. What I wish to talk to you about concerns us all." "Shall I call my people? I'm sure they'd be interested." "I asked to see you alone, Captain Parsons," answered Mrs. Jackson, frigidly. "And it was for your sake. When one has to tell a person home-truths, he generally prefers that there should be no audience." "So you're going to tell me some home-truths, Mrs. Jackson?" said James, with a laugh. "You must think me very good-natured. How long have I had the pleasure of your acquaintance?" Mrs. Jackson's grimness did not relax. "One learns a good deal about people in a week." "D'you think so? I have an idea that ten years is a short time to get to know them. You must be very quick." "Actions often speak." "Actions are the most lying things in the world. They are due mostly to adventitious circumstances which have nothing to do with the character of the agent. I would never judge a man by his actions." "I didn't come here to discuss abstract things with you, Captain Parsons." "Why not? The abstract is so much more entertaining than the concrete. It affords opportunities for generalisation, which is the salt of conversation." "I'm a very busy woman," retorted Mrs. Jackson sharply, thinking that James was not treating her with proper seriousness. He was not so easy to tackle as she had imagined. "It's very good of you, then, to spare time to come and have a little chat with me," said James. "I did not come for that purpose, Captain Parsons." "Oh, I forgot--home-truths, wasn't it? I was thinking of Shakespeare and the musical glasses!" "Would you kindly remember that I am a clergyman's wife, Captain Parsons? I daresay you are not used to the society of such." "Pardon me, I even know an archdeacon quite well. He has a great gift of humour; a man wants it when he wears a silk apron." "Captain Parsons," said Mrs. Jackson, sternly, "there are some things over which it is unbecoming to jest. I wish to be as gentle as possible with you, but I may remind you that flippancy is not the best course for you to pursue."

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James felt no relief. He had looked forward to a sensation of freedom such as a man might feel when he had escaped from some tyrannous servitude, and was at liberty again to breathe the buoyant air of heaven. He imagined that his depression would vanish like an evil spirit exorcised so soon as ever he got from Mary his release; but instead it sat more heavily upon him. Unconvinced even yet that he had acted rightly, he went over the conversation word for word. It seemed singularly ineffectual. Wishing to show Mary that he did not break with her from caprice or frivolous reason, but with sorrowful reluctance, and full knowledge of her suffering, he had succeeded only in being futile and commonplace. He walked slowly towards Primpton House. He had before him the announcement to his mother and father; and he tried to order his thoughts. Mrs. Parsons, her household work finished, was knitting the inevitable socks; while the Colonel sat at the table, putting new stamps into his album. He chattered delightedly over his treasures, getting up now and then gravely to ask his wife some question or to point out a surcharge; she, good woman, showed interest by appropriate rejoinders. "There's no one in Tunbridge Wells who has such a fine collection as I have." "General Newsmith showed me his the other day, but it's not nearly so good as yours, Richmond." "I'm glad of that. I suppose his Mauritius are fine?" replied the Colonel, with some envy, for the general had lived several years on the island. "They're fair," said Mrs. Parsons, reassuringly; "but not so good as one would expect." "It takes a clever man to get together a good collection of stamps, although I shouldn't say it." They looked up when James entered. "I've just been putting in those Free States you brought me, Jamie. They look very well." The Colonel leant back to view them, with the satisfied look with which he might have examined an old master. "It was very thoughtful of Jamie to bring them," said Mrs. Parsons. "Ah, I knew he wouldn't forget his old father. Don't you remember, Frances, I said to you, 'I'll be bound the boy will bring some stamps with him.' They'll be valuable in a year or two. That's what I always say with regard to postage stamps; you can't waste your money. Now jewellery, for instance, gets old-fashioned, and china breaks; but you run no risk with stamps. When I buy stamps, I really feel that I'm as good as investing my money in consols." "Well, how's Mary this morning?" "I've been having a long talk with her." "Settled the day yet?" asked the Colonel, with a knowing little laugh. "No!" "Upon my word, Frances, I think we shall have to settle it for them. Things weren't like this when we were young. Why, Jamie, your mother and I got married six weeks after I was introduced to her at a croquet party." "We were married in haste, Richmond," said Mrs. Parsons, laughing. "Well, we've taken a long time to repent of it, my dear. It's over thirty years." "I fancy it's too late now." The Colonel took her hand and patted it. "If you get such a good wife as I have, Jamie, I don't think you'll have reason to complain. Will he, my dear?" "It's not for me to say, Richmond," replied Mrs. Parsons, smiling contentedly. "Do you want me to get married very much, father?" "Of course I do. I've set my heart upon it. I want to see what the new generations of Parsons are like before I die." "Listen, Richmond, Jamie has something to tell us." Mrs. Parsons had been looking at her son, and was struck at last by the agony of his expression. "What is it, Jamie?" she asked. "I'm afraid you'll be dreadfully disappointed. I'm so sorry--Mary and I are no longer engaged to be married." For a minute there was silence in the room. The old Colonel looked helplessly from wife to son. "What does he mean, Frances?" he said at last. Mrs. Parsons did not answer, and he turned to James.

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 4 maj 2011 06:23

After that, how could he say immediately that he no longer loved her, and wished to be released from his engagement? "I'm afraid you think I'm a very terrifying person," answered James. Her words had made his announcement impossible; another day had gone, and weakly he had let it pass. "What shall I do?" he murmured under his breath. "What a coward I am!" They came to the door of the Clibborns' house and Mary turned to say good-bye. She bent forward, smiling and blushing, and he quickly kissed her. * * * In the evening, James was sitting by the fire in the dining-room, thinking of that one subject which occupied all his thoughts. Colonel Parsons and his wife were at the table, engaged upon the game of backgammon which invariably filled the interval between supper and prayers. The rattle of dice came to James indistinctly, as in a dream, and he imagined fantastically that unseen powers were playing for his life. He sat with his head between his hands, staring at the flames as though to find in them a solution to his difficulty; but mockingly they spoke only of Mrs. Wallace and the caress of her limpid eyes. He turned away with a gesture of impatience. The game was just finished, and Mrs. Parsons, catching the expression on his face, asked: "What are you thinking of, Jamie?" "I?" he answered, looking up quickly, as though afraid that his secret had been divined. "Nothing!" Mrs. Parsons put the backgammon board away, making up her mind to speak, for she too suffered from a shyness which made the subjects she had nearest at heart precisely those that she could least bear to talk about. "When do you think of getting married, Jamie?" James started. "Why, you asked me that yesterday," He tried to make a joke of it. "Upon my word, you're very anxious to get rid of me." "I wonder if it's occurred to you that you're making Mary a little unhappy?" James stood up and leaned against the mantelpiece, his face upon his hand. "I should be sorry to do that, mother." "You've been home four days, and you've not said a word to show you love her." "I'm afraid I'm not very demonstrative." "That's what I said!" cried the Colonel, triumphantly. "Can't you try to say a word or two to prove you care for her, Jamie? She _is_ so fond of you," continued his mother. "I don't want to interfere with your private concerns, but I think it's only thoughtlessness on your part; and I'm sure you don't wish to make Mary miserable. Poor thing, she's so unhappy at home; she yearns for a little affection.... Won't you say something to her about your marriage?" "Has she asked you to speak to me?" inquired James. "No, dear. You know that she would never do anything of the kind. She would hate to think that I had said anything." James paused a moment. "I will speak to her to-morrow, mother." "That's right!" said the Colonel, cheerfully. "I know she's going to be in all the morning. Colonel and Mrs. Clibborn are going into Tunbridge Wells." "It will be a good opportunity."

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There was a pained hush, such as naturally occurs when someone has made a very horrible _faux pas_. They all looked at one another awkwardly; while Mary, ashamed at her mother's want of taste, kept her eyes glued to the carpet But Mrs. Clibborn's folly was so notorious that presently anger was succeeded by contemptuous amusement, and the curate came to the rescue with a loud guffaw. "Of course, you know your Marie Corelli by heart, Captain Parsons?" "I'm afraid I've never read one of them." "Not?" they all cried in surprise. "Oh, I'll send them to you to Primpton House," said Mr. Dryland. "I have them all. Why, no one's education is complete till he's read Marie Corelli." This was considered a very good hit at Mrs. Clibborn, and the dear people smiled at one another significantly. Even Mary could scarcely keep a straight face. The tea then appeared, and was taken more or less silently. With the exception of the fashionable Mrs. Clibborn, they were all more used to making a sit-down meal of it, and the care of holding a cup, with a piece of cake unsteadily balanced in the saucer, prevented them from indulging in very brilliant conversational feats; they found one gymnastic exercise quite sufficient at a time. But when the tea-cups were safely restored to the table, Mrs. Jackson suggested a little music. "Will you open the proceedings, Mary?" The curate went up to Miss Clibborn with a bow, gallantly offering his arm to escort her to the piano. Mary had thoughtfully brought her music, and began to play a 'Song Without Words,' by Mendelssohn. She was considered a fine pianist in Little Primpton. She attacked the notes with marked resolution, keeping the loud pedal down throughout; her eyes were fixed on the music with an intense, determined air, in which you saw an eagerness to perform a social duty, and her lips moved as conscientiously she counted time. Mary played the whole piece without making a single mistake, and at the end was much applauded. "There's nothing like classical music, is there?" cried the curate enthusiastically, as Mary stopped, rather out of breath, for she played, as she did everything else, with energy and thoroughness. "It's the only music I really love." "And those 'Songs Without Words' are beautiful," said Colonel Parsons, who was standing on Mary's other side. "Mendelssohn is my favourite composer," she replied. "He's so full of soul." "Ah, yes," murmured Mr. Dryland. "His heart seems to throb through all his music. It's strange that he should have been a Jew." "But then Our Lord was a Jew, wasn't He?" said Mary. "Yes, one is so apt to forget that." Mary turned the leaves, and finding another piece which was familiar to her, set about it. It was a satisfactory thing to listen to her performance. In Mary's decided touch one felt all the strength of her character, with its simple, unaffected candour and its eminent sense of propriety. In her execution one perceived the high purpose which animated her whole conduct; it was pure and wholesome, and thoroughly English. And her piano-playing served also as a moral lesson, for none could listen without remembering that life was not an affair to be taken lightly, but a strenuous endeavour: the world was a battlefield (this one realised more particularly when Mary forgot for a page or so to take her foot off the pedal); each one of us had a mission to perform, a duty to do, a function to fulfil. Meanwhile, James was trying to make conversation with Mrs. Clibborn. "How well Mary plays!" "D'you think so? I can't bear amateurs. I wish they wouldn't play." James looked at Mrs. Clibborn quickly. It rather surprised him that she, the very silliest woman he had ever known, should say the only sensible things he had heard that day. Nor could he forget that she had done her best to prevent his engagement. "I think you're a very wonderful woman," he said. "Oh, Jamie!" Mrs. Clibborn smiled and sighed, slipping forward her hand for him to take; but James was too preoccupied to notice the movement. "I'm beginning to think you really like me," murmured Mrs. Clibborn, cooing like an amorous dove. Then James was invited to sing, and refused. "Please do, Jamie!" cried Mary, smiling. "For my sake. You used to sing so nicely!" He still tried to excuse himself, but finding everyone insistent, went at last, with very bad grace, to the piano. He not only sang badly, but knew it, and was irritated that he should be forced to make a fool of himself. Mr. Dryland sang badly, but perfectly satisfied with himself, needed no pressing when his turn came. He made a speciality of old English songs, and thundered out in his most ecclesiastical manner a jovial ditty entitled, "Down Among the Dead Men." The afternoon was concluded by an adjournment to the dining-room to play bagatelle, the most inane of games, to which the billiard-player goes with contempt, changed quickly to wrath when he cannot put the balls into absurd little holes. Mary was an adept, and took pleasure in showing James how the thing should be done. He noticed that she and the curate managed the whole affair between them, arranging partners and advising freely. Mrs. Clibborn alone refused to play, saying frankly it was too idiotic a pastime. At last the party broke up, and in a group bade their farewells. "I'll walk home with you, Mary, if you don't mind," said James, "and smoke a pipe." Mary suddenly became radiant, and Colonel Parsons gave her a happy little smile and a friendly nod.... At last James had his opportunity. He lingered while Mary gathered together her music, and waited again to light his pipe, so that when they came out of the Vicarage gates the rest of the company were no longer in sight. The day had become overcast and sombre; on the even surface of the sky floated little ragged black clouds, like the fragments cast to the wind of some widowed, ample garment. It had grown cold, and James, accustomed to a warmer air, shivered a little. The country suddenly appeared cramped and circumscribed; in the fading light a dulness of colour came over tree and hedgerow which was singularly depressing. They walked in silence, while James looked for words. All day he had been trying to find some manner to express himself, but his mind, perplexed and weary, refused to help him. The walk to Mary's house could not take more than five minutes, and he saw the distance slipping away rapidly. If he meant to say anything it must be said at once; and his mouth was dry, he felt almost a physical inability to speak. He did not know how to prepare the way, how to approach the subject; and he was doubly tormented by the absolute necessity of breaking the silence.

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 3 maj 2011 09:29

Now this strange exhibition gave me a good idea and set me to thinking. If everybody about here was so honestly and sincerely afraid of Merlin's pretended magic as Clarence was, certainly a superior man like me ought to be shrewd enough to contrive some way to take advantage of such a state of things. I went on thinking, and worked out a plan. Then I said:   "Get up. Pull yourself together; look me in the eye. Do you know why I laughed?"   "No -- but for our blessed Lady's sake, do it no more."   "Well, I'll tell you why I laughed. Because I'm a magician myself."   "Thou!" The boy recoiled a step, and caught his breath, for the thing hit him rather sudden; but the aspect which he took on was very, very respectful. I took quick note of that; it indicated that a humbug didn't need to have a reputation in this asylum; people stood ready to take him at his word, without that. I resumed.   "I've know Merlin seven hundred years, and he --"   "Seven hun --"   "Don't interrupt me. He has died and come alive again thirteen times, and traveled under a new name every time: Smith, Jones, Robinson, Jackson, Peters, Haskins, Merlin -- a new alias every time he turns up. I knew him in Egypt three hundred years ago; I knew him in India five hundred years ago -- he is always blethering around in my way, everywhere I go; he makes me tired. He don't amount to shucks, as a magician; knows some of the old common tricks, but has never got beyond the rudiments, and never will. He is well enough for the provinces-- one-night stands and that sort of thing, you know -- but dear me, HE oughtn't to set up for an expert -- anyway not where there's a real artist. Now look here, Clarence, I am going to stand your friend, right along, and in return you must be mine. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to get word to the king that I am a magician myself -- and the Supreme Grand High-yu-Muckamuck and head of the tribe, at that; and I want him to be made to understand that I am just quietly arranging a little calamity here that will make the fur fly in these realms if Sir Kay's project is carried out and any harm comes to me. Will you get that to the king for me?"   The poor boy was in such a state that he could hardly answer me. It was pitiful to see a creature so terrified, so unnerved, so demoralized. But he promised everything; and on my side he made me promise over and over again that I would remain his friend, and never turn against him or cast any enchantments upon him. Then he worked his way out, staying himself with his hand along the wall, like a sick person.   Presently this thought occurred to me: how heedless I have been! When the boy gets calm, he will wonder why a great magician like me should have begged a boy like him to help me get out of this place; he will put this and that together, and will see that I am a humbug.   I worried over that heedless blunder for an hour, and called myself a great many hard names, meantime. But finally it occurred to me all of a sudden that these animals didn't reason; that THEY never put this and that together; that all their talk showed that they didn't know a discrepancy when they saw it. I was at rest, then.

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Well, I liked the king, and as king I respected him -- respected the office; at least respected it as much as I was capable of respecting any unearned supremacy; but as MEN I looked down upon him and his nobles -- privately. And he and they liked me, and respected my office; but as an animal, without birth or sham title, they looked down upon me -- and were not particularly private about it, either. I didn't charge for my opinion about them, and they didn't charge for their opinion about me: the account was square, the books balanced, everybody was satisfied.  I WAS so tired that even my fears were not able to keep me awake long.   When I next came to myself, I seemed to have been asleep a very long time. My first thought was, "Well, what an astonishing dream I've had! I reckon I've waked only just in time to keep from being hanged or drowned or burned or something.... I'll nap again till the whistle blows, and then I'll go down to the arms factory and have it out with Hercules."   But just then I heard the harsh music of rusty chains and bolts, a light flashed in my eyes, and that butterfly, Clarence, stood before me! I gasped with surprise; my breath almost got away from me.   "What!" I said, "you here yet? Go along with the rest of the dream! scatter!"   But he only laughed, in his light-hearted way, and fell to making fun of my sorry plight.   "All right," I said resignedly, "let the dream go on; I'm in no hurry."   "Prithee what dream?"   "What dream? Why, the dream that I am in Arthur's court -- a person who never existed; and that I am talking to you, who are nothing but a work of the imagination."   "Oh, la, indeed! and is it a dream that you're to be burned to-morrow? Ho-ho -- answer me that!"   The shock that went through me was distressing. I now began to reason that my situation was in the last degree serious, dream or no dream; for I knew by past experience of the lifelike intensity of dreams, that to be burned to death, even in a dream, would be very far from being a jest, and was a thing to be avoided, by any means, fair or foul, that I could contrive. So I said beseechingly:   "Ah, Clarence, good boy, only friend I've got, -- for you ARE my friend, aren't you? -- don't fail me; help me to devise some way of escaping from this place!"   "Now do but hear thyself! Escape? Why, man, the corridors are in guard and keep of men-at-arms."   "No doubt, no doubt. But how many, Clarence? Not many, I hope?"   "Full a score. One may not hope to escape." After a pause -- hesitatingly: "and there be other reasons -- and weightier."   "Other ones? What are they?"   "Well, they say -- oh, but I daren't, indeed daren't!"   "Why, poor lad, what is the matter? Why do you blench? Why do you tremble so?"   "Oh, in sooth, there is need! I do want to tell you, but --"   "Come, come, be brave, be a man -- speak out, there's a good lad!"   He hesitated, pulled one way by desire, the other way by fear; then he stole to the door and peeped out, listening; and finally crept close to me and put his mouth to my ear and told me his fearful news in a whisper, and with all the cowering apprehension of one who was venturing upon awful ground and speaking of things whose very mention might be freighted with death.   "Merlin, in his malice, has woven a spell about this dungeon, and there bides not the man in these kingdoms that would be desperate enough to essay to cross its lines with you! Now God pity me, I have told it! Ah, be kind to me, be merciful to a poor boy who means thee well; for an thou betray me I am lost!"   I laughed the only really refreshing laugh I had had for some time; and shouted:   "Merlin has wrought a spell! MERLIN, forsooth! That cheap old humbug, that maundering old ass? Bosh, pure bosh, the silliest bosh in the world! Why, it does seem to me that of all the childish, idiotic, chuckle-headed, chicken-livered superstitions that ev -- oh, damn Merlin!"   But Clarence had slumped to his knees before I had half finished, and he was like to go out of his mind with fright.

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 3 maj 2011 09:26

Well, it was a curious country, and full of interest. And the people! They were the quaintest and simplest and trustingest race; why, they were nothing but rabbits. It was pitiful for a person born in a wholesome free atmosphere to listen to their humble and hearty outpourings of loyalty toward their king and Church and nobility; as if they had any more occasion to love and honor king and Church and noble than a slave has to love and honor the lash, or a dog has to love and honor the stranger that kicks him! Why, dear me,ANY kind of royalty, howsoever modified, ANY kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don't believe it when somebody else tells you. It is enough to make a body ashamed of his race to think of the sort of froth that has always occupied its thrones without shadow of right or reason, and the seventh-rate people that have always figured as its aristocracies -- a company of monarchs and nobles who, as a rule, would have achieved only poverty and obscurity if left, like their betters, to their own exertions.   The most of King Arthur's British nation were slaves, pure and simple, and bore that name, and wore the iron collar on their necks; and the rest were slaves in fact, but without the name; they imagined themselves men and freemen, and called themselves so. The truth was, the nation as a body was in the world for one object, and one only: to grovel before king and Church and noble; to slave for them, sweat blood for them, starve that they might be fed, work that they might play, drink misery to the dregs that they might be happy, go naked that they might wear silks and jewels, pay taxes that they might be spared from paying them, be familiar all their lives with the degrading language and postures of adulation that they might walk in pride and think themselves the gods of this world. And for all this, the thanks they got were cuffs and contempt; and so poor-spirited were they that they took even this sort of attention as an honor.

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Well, whenever one of those people got a thing into his head, there was no getting it out again. I knew that, so I saved my breath, and offered no explanations. As soon as Sir Sagramor got well, he notified me that there was a little account to settle between us, and he named a day three or four years in the future; place of settlement, the lists where the offense had been given. I said I would be ready when he got back. You see, he was going for the Holy Grail. The boys all took a flier at the Holy Grail now and then. It was a several years' cruise. They always put in the long absence snooping around, in the most conscientious way, though none of them had any idea where the Holy Grail really was, and I don't think any of them actually expected to find it, or would have known what to do with it if he HAD run across it. You see, it was just the Northwest Passage of that day, as you may say; that was all. Every year expeditions went out holy grailing, and next year relief expeditions went out to hunt for THEM. There was worlds of reputation in it, but no money. Why, they actually wanted ME to put in! Well, I should smile.TO be vested with enormous authority is a fine thing; but to have the on-looking world consent to it is a finer. The tower episode solidified my power, and made it impregnable. If any were perchance disposed to be jealous and critical before that, they experienced a change of heart, now. There was not any one in the kingdom who would have considered it good judgment to meddle with my matters.   I was fast getting adjusted to my situation and circumstances. For a time, I used to wake up, mornings, and smile at my "dream," and listen for the Colt's factory whistle; but that sort of thing played itself out, gradually, and at last I was fully able to realize that I was actually living in the sixth century, and in Arthur's court, not a lunatic asylum. After that, I was just as much at home in that century as I could have been in any other; and as for preference, I wouldn't have traded it for the twentieth. Look at the opportunities here for a man of knowledge, brains, pluck, and enterprise to sail in and grow up with the country. The grandest field that ever was; and all my own; not a competitor; not a man who wasn't a baby to me in acquirements and capacities; whereas, what would I amount to in the twentieth century? I should be foreman of a factory, that is about all; and could drag a seine down street any day and catch a hundred better men than myself.   What a jump I had made! I couldn't keep from thinking about it, and contemplating it, just as one does who has struck oil. There was nothing back of me that could approach it, unless it might be Joseph's case; and Joseph's only approached it, it didn't equal it, quite. For it stands to reason that as Joseph's splendid financial ingenuities advantaged nobody but the king, the general public must have regarded him with a good deal of disfavor, whereas I had done my entire public a kindness in sparing the sun, and was popular by reason of it.   I was no shadow of a king; I was the substance; the king himself was the shadow. My power was colossal; and it was not a mere name, as such things have generally been, it was the genuine article. I stood here, at the very spring and source of the second great period of the world's history; and could see the trickling stream of that history gather and deepen and broaden, and roll its mighty tides down the far centuries; and I could note the upspringing of adventurers like myself in the shelter of its long array of thrones: De Montforts, Gavestons, Mortimers, Villierses; the war-making, campaign-directing wantons of France, and Charles the Second's scepter-wielding drabs; but nowhere in the procession was my fullsized fellow visible. I was a Unique; and glad to know that that fact could not be dislodged or challenged for thirteen centuries and a half, for sure. Yes, in power I was equal to the king. At the same time there was another power that was a trifle stronger than both of us put together. That was the Church. I do not wish to disguise that fact. I couldn't, if I wanted to. But never mind about that, now; it will show up, in its proper place, later on. It didn't cause me any trouble in the beginning -- at least any of consequence.

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 3 maj 2011 09:22

Ah, fair sir, it were woundily hard to tell, they are so many, and do so lap the one upon the other, and being made all in the same image and tincted with the same color, one may not know the one league from its fellow, nor how to count them except they be taken apart, and ye wit well it were God's work to do that, being not within man's capacity; for ye will note --"   "Hold on, hold on, never mind about the distance; WHEREABOUTS does the castle lie? What's the direction from here?"   "Ah, please you sir, it hath no direction from here; by reason that the road lieth not straight, but turneth evermore; wherefore the direction of its place abideth not, but is some time under the one sky and anon under another, whereso if ye be minded that it is in the east, and wend thitherward, ye shall observe that the way of the road doth yet again turn upon itself by the space of half a circle, and this marvel happing again and yet again and still again, it will grieve you that you had thought by vanities of the mind to thwart and bring to naught the will of Him that giveth not a castle a direction from a place except it pleaseth Him, and if it please Him not, will the rather that even all castles and all directions thereunto vanish out of the earth, leaving the places wherein they tarried desolate and vacant, so warning His creatures that where He will He will, and where He will not He --"   "Oh, that's all right, that's all right, give us a rest; never mind about the direction, HANG the direction -- I beg pardon, I beg a thousand pardons, I am not well to-day; pay no attention when I soliloquize, it is an old habit, an old, bad habit, and hard to get rid of when one's digestion is all disordered with eating food that was raised forever and ever before he was born; good land! a man can't keep his functions regular on spring chickens thirteen hundred years old. But come -- never mind about that; let's -- have you got such a thing as a map of that region about you? Now a good map --"   "Is it peradventure that manner of thing which of late the unbelievers have brought from over the great seas, which, being boiled in oil, and an onion and salt added thereto, doth --"   "What, a map? What are you talking about? Don't you know what a map is? There, there, never mind, don't explain, I hate explanations; they fog a thing up so that you can't tell anything about it. Run along, dear; good-day; show her the way, Clarence."

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It was good to have a rest -- and peace. But nothing is quite perfect in this life, at any time. I had made a pipe a while back, and also some pretty fair tobacco; not the real thing, but what some of the Indians use: the inside bark of the willow, dried. These comforts had been in the helmet, and now I had them again, but no matches.   Gradually, as the time wore along, one annoying fact was borne in upon my understanding -- that we were weather-bound. An armed novice cannot mount his horse without help and plenty of it. Sandy was not enough; not enough for me, anyway. We had to wait until somebody should come along. Waiting, in silence, would have been agreeable enough, for I was full of matter for reflection, and wanted to give it a chance to work. I wanted to try and think out how it was that rational or even half-rational men could ever have learned to wear armor, considering its inconveniences; and how they had managed to keep up such a fashion for generations when it was plain that what I had suffered to-day they had had to suffer all the days of their lives. I wanted to think that out; and moreover I wanted to think out some way to reform this evil and persuade the people to let the foolish fashion die out; but thinking was out of the question in the circumstances. You couldn't think, where Sandy was.   She was a quite biddable creature and good-hearted, but she had a flow of talk that was as steady as a mill, and made your head sore like the drays and wagons in a city. If she had had a cork she would have been a comfort. But you can't cork that kind; they would die. Her clack was going all day, and you would think something would surely happen to her works, by and by; but no, they never got out of order; and she never had to slack up for words. She could grind, and pump, and churn, and buzz by the week, and never stop to oil up or blow out. And yet the result was just nothing but wind. She never had any ideas, any more than a fog has. She was a perfect blatherskite; I mean for jaw, jaw, jaw, talk, talk, talk, jabber, jabber, jabber; but just as good as she could be. I hadn't minded her mill that morning, on account of having that hornets' nest of other troubles; but more than once in the afternoon I had to say:   "Take a rest, child; the way you are using up all the domestic air, the kingdom will have to go to importing it by to-morrow, and it's a low enough treasury without that." THERE never was such a country for wandering liars; and they were of both sexes. Hardly a month went by without one of these tramps arriving; and generally loaded with a tale about some princess or other wanting help to get her out of some far-away castle where she was held in captivity by a lawless scoundrel, usually a giant. Now you would think that the first thing the king would do after listening to such a novelette from an entire stranger, would be to ask for credentials -- yes, and a pointer or two as to locality of castle, best route to it, and so on. But nobody ever thought of so simple and common-sense a thing at that. No, everybody swallowed these people's lies whole, and never asked a question of any sort or about anything. Well, one day when I was not around, one of these people came along -- it was a she one, this time -- and told a tale of the usual pattern. Her mistress was a captive in a vast and gloomy castle, along with forty-four other young and beautiful girls, pretty much all of them princesses; they had been languishing in that cruel captivity for twenty-six years; the masters of the castle were three stupendous brothers, each with four arms and one eye -- the eye in the center of the forehead, and as big as a fruit. Sort of fruit not mentioned; their usual slovenliness in statistics.   Would you believe it? The king and the whole Round Table were in raptures over this preposterous opportunity for adventure. Every knight of the Table jumped for the chance, and begged for it; but to their vexation and chagrin the king conferred it upon me, who had not asked for it at all.   By an effort, I contained my joy when Clarence brought me the news. But he -- he could not contain his. His mouth gushed delight and gratitude in a steady discharge -- delight in my good fortune, gratitude to the king for this splendid mark of his favor for me. He could keep neither his legs nor his body still, but pirouetted about the place in an airy ecstasy of happiness.   On my side, I could have cursed the kindness that conferred upon me this benefaction, but I kept my vexation under the surface for policy's sake, and did what I could to let on to be glad. Indeed, I SAID I was glad. And in a way it was true; I was as glad as a person is when he is scalped.   Well, one must make the best of things, and not waste time with useless fretting, but get down to business and see what can be done. In all lies there is wheat among the chaff; I must get at the wheat in this case: so I sent for the girl and she came. She was a comely enough creature, and soft and modest, but, if signs went for anything, she didn't know as much as a lady's watch. I said:   "My dear, have you been questioned as to particulars?"

Av lucyshanxu lucyshanxu - 3 maj 2011 09:14

The talk of these meek people had a strange enough sound in a formerly American ear. They were freemen, but they could not leave the estates of their lord or their bishop without his permission; they could not prepare their own bread, but must have their corn ground and their bread baked at his mill and his bakery, and pay roundly for the same; they could not sell a piece of their own property without paying him a handsome percentage of the proceeds, nor buy a piece of somebody else's without remembering him in cash for the privilege; they had to harvest his grain for him gratis, and be ready to come at a moment's notice, leaving their own crop to destruction by the threatened storm; they had to let him plant fruit trees in their fields, and then keep their indignation to themselves when his heedless fruit-gatherers trampled the grain around the trees; they had to smother their anger when his hunting parties galloped through their fields laying waste the result of their patient toil; they were not allowed to keep doves themselves, and when the swarms from my lord's dovecote settled on their crops they must not lose their temper and kill a bird, for awful would the penalty be; when the harvest was at last gathered, then came the procession of robbers to levy their blackmail upon it: first the Church carted off its fat tenth, then the king's commissioner took his twentieth, then my lord's people made a mighty inroad upon the remainder; after which, the skinned freeman had liberty to bestow the remnant in his barn, in case it was worth the trouble; there were taxes, and taxes, and taxes, and more taxes, and taxes again, and yet other taxes -- upon this free and independent pauper, but none upon his lord the baron or the bishop, none upon the wasteful nobility or the all-devouring Church; if the baron would sleep unvexed, the freeman must sit up all night after his day's work and whip the ponds to keep the frogs quiet; if the freeman's daughter -- but no, that last infamy of monarchical government is unprintable; and finally, if the freeman, grown desperate with his tortures, found his life unendurable under such conditions, and sacrificed it and fled to death for mercy and refuge, the gentle Church condemned him to eternal fire, the gentle law buried him at midnight at the cross-roads with a stake through his back, and his master the baron or the bishop confiscated all his property and turned his widow and his orphans out of doors.

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Night approached, and with it a storm. The darkness came on fast. We must camp, of course. I found a good shelter for the demoiselle under a rock, and went off and found another for myself. But I was obliged to remain in my armor, because I could not get it off by myself and yet could not allow Alisande to help, because it would have seemed so like undressing before folk. It would not have amounted to that in reality, because I had clothes on underneath; but the prejudices of one's breeding are not gotten rid of just at a jump, and I knew that when it came to stripping off that bob-tailed iron petticoat I should be embarrassed.   With the storm came a change of weather; and the stronger the wind blew, and the wilder the rain lashed around, the colder and colder it got. Pretty soon, various kinds of bugs and ants and worms and things began to flock in out of the wet and crawl down inside my armor to get warm; and while some of them behaved well enough, and snuggled up amongst my clothes and got quiet, the majority were of a restless, uncomfortable sort, and never stayed still, but went on prowling and hunting for they did not know what; especially the ants, which went tickling along in wearisome procession from one end of me to the other by the hour, and are a kind of creatures which I never wish to sleep with again. It would be my advice to persons situated in this way, to not roll or thrash around, because this excites the interest of all the different sorts of animals and makes every last one of them want to turn out and see what is going on, and this makes things worse than they were before, and of course makes you objurgate harder, too, if you can. Still, if one did not roll and thrash around he would die; so perhaps it is as well to do one way as the other; there is no real choice. Even after I was frozen solid I could still distinguish that tickling, just as a corpse does when he is taking electric treatment. I said I would never wear armor after this trip.   All those trying hours whilst I was frozen and yet was in a living fire, as you may say, on account of that swarm of crawlers, that same unanswerable question kept circling and circling through my tired head: How do people stand this miserable armor? How have they managed to stand it all these generations? How can they sleep at night for dreading the tortures of next day?   When the morning came at last, I was in a bad enough plight: seedy, drowsy, fagged, from want of sleep; weary from thrashing around, famished from long fasting; pining for a bath, and to get rid of the animals; and crippled with rheumatism. And how had it fared with the nobly born, the titled aristocrat, the Demoiselle Alisande la Carteloise? Why, she was as fresh as a squirrel; she had slept like the dead; and as for a bath, probably neither she nor any other noble in the land had ever had one, and so she was not missing it. Measured by modern standards, they were merely modified savages, those people. This noble lady showed no impatience to get to breakfast -- and that smacks of the savage, too. On their journeys those Britons were used to long fasts, and knew how to bear them; and also how to freight up against probable fasts before starting, after the style of the Indian and the anaconda. As like as not, Sandy was loaded for a three-day stretch.   We were off before sunrise, Sandy riding and I limping along behind. In half an hour we came upon a group of ragged poor creatures who had assembled to mend the thing which was regarded as a road. They were as humble as animals to me; and when I proposed to breakfast with them, they were so flattered, so overwhelmed by this extraordinary condescension of mine that at first they were not able to believe that I was in earnest. My lady put up her scornful lip and withdrew to one side; she said in their hearing that she would as soon think of eating with the other cattle -- a remark which embarrassed these poor devils merely because it referred to them, and not because it insulted or offended them, for it didn't. And yet they were not slaves, not chattels. By a sarcasm of law and phrase they were freemen. Seven-tenths of the free population of the country were of just their class and degree: small "independent" farmers, artisans, etc.; which is to say, they were the nation, the actual Nation; they were about all of it that was useful, or worth saving, or really respect-worthy, and to subtract them would have been to subtract the Nation and leave behind some dregs, some refuse, in the shape of a king, nobility and gentry, idle, unproductive, acquainted mainly with the arts of wasting and destroying, and of no sort of use or value in any rationally constructed world. And yet, by ingenious contrivance, this gilded minority, instead of being in the tail of the procession where it belonged, was marching head up and banners flying, at the other end of it; had elected itself to be the Nation, and these innumerable clams had permitted it so long that they had come at last to accept it as a truth; and not only that, but to believe it right and as it should be. The priests had told their fathers and themselves that this ironical state of things was ordained of God; and so, not reflecting upon how unlike God it would be to amuse himself with sarcasms, and especially such poor transparent ones as this, they had dropped the matter there and become respectfully quiet.


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