The Fixed Period, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter IV.

Jack Neverbend.

Six months passed away, which, I must own to me was a period of great doubt and unhappiness, though it was relieved by certain moments of triumph. Of course, as the time drew nearer, the question of Crasweller’s deposition became generally discussed by the public of Gladstonopolis. And so also did the loves of Abraham Grundle and Eva Crasweller. There were “Evaites” and “Abrahamites” in the community; for though the match had not yet been altogether broken, it was known that the two young people differed altogether on the question of the old man’s deposition. It was said by the defendents of Grundle, who were to be found for the most part among the young men and young women, that Abraham was simply anxious to carry out the laws of his country. It happened that, during this period, he was elected to a vacant seat in the Assembly, so that, when the matter came on for discussion there, he was able to explain publicly his motives; and it must be owned that he did so with good words and with a certain amount of youthful eloquence. As for Eva, she was simply intent on preserving the lees of her father’s life, and had been heard to express an opinion that the college was “all humbug,” and that people ought to be allowed to live as long as it pleased God to let them. Of course she had with her the elderly ladies of the community, and among them my own wife as the foremost. Mrs Neverbend had never made herself prominent before in any public question; but on this she seemed to entertain a very warm opinion. Whether this arose entirely from her desire to promote Jack’s welfare, or from a reflection that her own period of deposition was gradually becoming nearer, I never could quite make up my mind. She had, at any rate, ten years to run, and I never heard from her any expressed fear of, — departure. She was, — and is, — a brave, good woman, attached to her household duties, anxious for her husband’s comfort, but beyond measure solicitous for all good things to befall that scapegrace Jack Neverbend, for whom she thinks that nothing is sufficiently rich or sufficiently grand. Jack is a handsome boy, I grant, but that is about all that can be said of him; and in this matter he has been diametrically opposed to his father from first to last.

It will be seen that, in such circumstances, none of these moments of triumph to which I have alluded can have come to me within my own home. There Mrs Neverbend and Jack, and after a while Eva, sat together in perpetual council against me. When these meetings first began, Eva still acknowledged herself to be the promised bride of Abraham Grundle. There were her own vows, and her parent’s assent, and something perhaps of remaining love. But presently she whispered to my wife that she could not but feel horror for the man who was anxious to “murder her father;” and by-and-by she began to own that she thought Jack a fine fellow. We had a wonderful cricket club in Gladstonopolis, and Britannula had challenged the English cricketers to come and play on the Little Christchurch ground, which they declared to be the only cricket ground as yet prepared on the face of the earth which had all the accomplishments possible for the due prosecution of the game. Now Jack, though very young, was captain of the club, and devoted much more of his time to that occupation than to his more legitimate business as a merchant. Eva, who had not hitherto paid much attention to cricket, became on a sudden passionately devoted to it; whereas Abraham Grundle, with a steadiness beyond his years, gave himself up more than ever to the business of the Assembly, and expressed some contempt for the game, though he was no mean player.

It had become necessary during this period to bring forward in the Assembly the whole question of the Fixed Period, as it was felt that, in the present state of public opinion, it would not be expedient to carry out the established law without the increased sanction which would be given to it by a further vote in the House. Public opinion would have forbidden us to deposit Crasweller without some such further authority. Therefore it was deemed necessary that a question should be asked, in which Crasweller’s name was not mentioned, but which might lead to some general debate. Young Grundle demanded one morning whether it was the intention of the Government to see that the different clauses as to the new law respecting depositions were at once carried out. “The House is aware, I believe,” he said, “that the first operation will soon be needed.” I may as well state here that this was repeated to Eva, and that she pretended to take huff at such a question from her lover. It was most indecent, she said; and she, after such words, must drop him for ever. It was not for some months after that, that she allowed Jack’s name to be mentioned with her own; but I was aware that it was partly settled between her and Jack and Mrs Neverbend. Grundle declared his intention of proceeding against old Crasweller in reference to the breach of contract, according to the laws of Britannula; but that Jack’s party disregarded altogether. In telling this, however, I am advancing a little beyond the point in my story to which I have as yet carried my reader.

Then there arose a debate upon the whole principle of the measure, which was carried on with great warmth. I, as President, of course took no part in it; but, in accordance with our constitution, I heard it all from the chair which I usually occupied at the Speaker’s right hand. The arguments on which the greatest stress was laid tended to show that the Fixed Period had been carried chiefly with a view to relieving the miseries of the old. And it was conclusively shown that, in a very great majority of cases, life beyond sixty-eight was all vanity and vexation of spirit. That other argument as to the costliness of old men to the state was for the present dropped. Had you listened to young Grundle, insisting with all the vehemence of youth on the absolute wretchedness to which the aged had been condemned by the absence of any such law, — had you heard the miseries of rheumatism, gout, stone, and general debility pictured in the eloquent words of five-and-twenty, — you would have felt that all who could lend themselves to perpetuate such a state of things must be guilty of fiendish cruelty. He really rose to a great height of parliamentary excellence, and altogether carried with him the younger, and luckily the greater, part of the House. There was really nothing to be said on the other side, except a repetition of the prejudices of the Old World. But, alas! so strong are the weaknesses of the world, that prejudice can always vanquish truth by the mere strength of its battalions. Not till it had been proved and re-proved ten times over, was it understood that the sun could not have stood still upon Gideon. Crasweller, who was a member, and who took his seat during these debates without venturing to speak, merely whispered to his neighbour that the heartless greedy fellow was unwilling to wait for the wools of Little Christchurch.

Three divisions were made on the debate, and thrice did the Fixed–Periodists beat the old party by a majority of fifteen in a House consisting of eighty-five members. So strong was the feeling in the empire, that only two members were absent, and the number remained the same during the whole week of the debate. This, I did think, was a triumph; and I felt that the old country, which had really nothing on earth to do with the matter, could not interfere with an opinion expressed so strongly. My heart throbbed with pleasureable emotion as I heard that old age, which I was myself approaching, depicted in terms which made its impotence truly conspicuous, — till I felt that, had it been proposed to deposit all of us who had reached the age of fifty-eight, I really think that I should joyfully have given my assent to such a measure, and have walked off at once and deposited myself in the college.

But it was only at such moments that I was allowed to experience this feeling of triumph. I was encountered not only in my own house but in society generally, and on the very streets of Gladstonopolis, by the expression of an opinion that Crasweller would not be made to retire to the college at his Fixed Period. “What on earth is there to hinder it?” I said once to my old friend Ruggles. Ruggles was now somewhat over sixty, and was an agent in the town for country wool-growers. He took no part in politics; and though he had never agreed to the principle of the Fixed Period, had not interested himself in opposition to it. He was a man whom I regarded as indifferent to length of life, but one who would, upon the whole, rather face such lot as Nature might intend for him, than seek to improve it by any new reform.

“Eva Crasweller will hinder it,” said Ruggles.

“Eva is a mere child. Do you suppose that her opinion will be allowed to interrupt the laws of the whole community, and oppose the progress of civilisation?”

“Her feelings will,” said Ruggles. “Who’s to stand a daughter interceding for the life of her father?”

“One man cannot, but eighty-five can do so.”

“The eighty-five will be to the community just what the one would be to the eighty-five. I am not saying anything about your law. I am not expressing an opinion whether it would be good or bad. I should like to live out my own time, though I acknowledge that you Assembly men have on your shoulders the responsibility of deciding whether I shall do so or not. You could lead me away and deposit me without any trouble, because I am not popular. But the people are beginning to talk about Eva Crasweller and Abraham Grundle, and I tell you that all the volunteers you have in Britannula will not suffice to take the old man to the college, and to keep him there till you have polished him off. He would be deposited again at Little Christchurch in triumph, and the college would be left a wreck behind him.”

This view of the case was peculiarly distressing to me. As the chief magistrate of the community, nothing is so abhorrent to me as rebellion. Of a populace that are not law-abiding, nothing but evil can be predicted; whereas a people who will obey the laws cannot but be prosperous. It grieved me greatly to be told that the inhabitants of Gladstonopolis would rise in tumult and destroy the college merely to favour the views of a pretty girl. Was there any honour, or worse again, could there be any utility, in being the President of a republic in which such things could happen? I left my friend Ruggles in the street, and passed on to the executive hall in a very painful frame of mind.

When there, tidings reached me of a much sadder nature. At the very moment at which I had been talking with Ruggles in the street on the subject, a meeting had been held in the market-place with the express purpose of putting down the Fixed Period; and who had been the chief orator on the occasion but Jack Neverbend! My own son had taken upon himself this new work of public speechifying in direct opposition to his own father! And I had reason to believe that he was instigated to do so by my own wife! “Your son, sir, has been addressing the multitude about the Fixed Period, and they say that it has been quite beautiful to hear him.” It was thus that the matter was told me by one of the clerks in my office, and I own that I did receive some slight pleasure at finding that Jack could do something beyond cricket. But it became immediately necessary to take steps to stop the evil, and I was the more bound to do so because the only delinquent named to me was my own son.

“If it be so,” I said aloud in the office, “Jack Neverbend shall sleep this night in prison.” But it did not occur to me at the moment that it would be necessary I should have formal evidence that Jack was conspiring against the laws before I could send him to jail. I had no more power over him in that respect than on any one else. Had I declared that he should be sent to bed without his supper, I should have expressed myself better both as a father and a magistrate.

I went home, and on entering the house the first person that I saw was Eva. Now, as this matter went on, I became full of wrath with my son, and with my wife, and with poor old Crasweller; but I never could bring myself to be angry with Eva. There was a coaxing, sweet, feminine way with her which overcame all opposition. And I had already begun to regard her as my daughter-in-law, and to love her dearly in that position, although there were moments in which Jack’s impudence and new spirit of opposition almost tempted me to disinherit him.

“Eva,” I said, “what is this that I hear of a public meeting in the streets?”

“Oh, Mr Neverbend,” she said, taking me by the arm, “there are only a few boys who are talking about papa.” Through all the noises and tumults of these times there was an evident determination to speak of Jack as a boy. Everything that he did and all that he said were merely the efflux of his high spirits as a schoolboy. Eva always spoke of him as a kind of younger brother. And yet I soon found that the one opponent whom I had most to fear in Britannula was my own son.

“But why,” I asked, “should these foolish boys discuss the serious question respecting your dear father in the public street?”

“They don’t want to have him — deposited,” she said, almost sobbing as she spoke.

“But, my dear,” I began, determined to teach her the whole theory of the Fixed Period with all its advantages from first to last.

But she interrupted me at once. “Oh, Mr Neverbend, I know what a good thing it is — to talk about. I have no doubt the world will be a great deal the better for it. And if all the papas had been deposited for the last five hundred years, I don’t suppose that I should care so much about it. But to be the first that ever it happened to in all the world! Why should papa be the first? You ought to begin with some weak, crotchety, poor old cripple, who would be a great deal better out of the way. But papa is in excellent health, and has all his wits about him a great deal better than Mr Grundle. He manages everything at Little Christchurch, and manages it very well.”

“But, my dear — ” I was going to explain to her that in a question of such enormous public interest as this of the Fixed Period it was impossible to consider the merits of individual cases. But she interrupted me again before I could get out a word.

“Oh, Mr Neverbend, they’ll never be able to do it, and I’m afraid that then you’ll be vexed.”

“My dear, if the law be — ”

“Oh yes, the law is a very beautiful thing; but what’s the good of laws if they cannot be carried out? There’s Jack there; — of course he is only a boy, but he swears that all the executive, and all the Assembly, and all the volunteers in Britannula, shan’t lead my papa into that beastly college.”

“Beastly! My dear, you cannot have seen the college. It is perfectly beautiful.”

“That’s only what Jack says. It’s Jack that calls it beastly. Of course he’s not much of a man as yet, but he is your own son. And I do think, that for an earnest spirit about a thing, Jack is a very fine fellow.”

“Abraham Grundle, you know, is just as warm on the other side.”

“I hate Abraham Grundle. I don’t want ever to hear his name again. I understand very well what it is that Abraham Grundle is after. He never cared a straw for me; nor I much for him, if you come to that.”

“But you are contracted.”

“If you think that I am going to marry a man because our names have been written down in a book together, you are very much mistaken. He is a nasty mean fellow, and I will never speak to him again as long as I live. He would deposit papa this very moment if he had the power. Whereas Jack is determined to stand up for him as long as he has got a tongue to shout or hands to fight.” These were terrible words, but I had heard the same sentiment myself from Jack’s own lips. “Of course Jack is nothing to me,” she continued, with that half sob which had become habitual to her whenever she was forced to speak of her father’s deposition. “He is only a boy, but we all know that he could thrash Abraham Grundle at once. And to my thinking he is much more fit to be a member of the Assembly.”

As she would not hear a word that I said to her, and was only intent on expressing the warmth of her own feelings, I allowed her to go her way, and retired to the privacy of my own library. There I endeavoured to console myself as best I might by thinking of the brilliant nature of Jack’s prospects. He himself was over head and ears in love with Eva, and it was clear to me that Eva was nearly as fond of him. And then the sly rogue had found the certain way to obtain old Crasweller’s consent. Grundle had thought that if he could once see his father-in-law deposited, he would have nothing to do but to walk into Little Christchurch as master. That was the accusation generally made against him in Gladstonopolis. But Jack, who did not, as far as I could see, care a straw for humanity in the matter, had vehemently taken the side of the Anti–Fixed-Periodists as the safest way to get the father’s consent. There was a contract of marriage, no doubt, and Grundle would be entitled to take a quarter of the father’s possessions if he could prove that the contract had been broken. Such was the law of Britannula on the subject. But not a shilling had as yet been claimed by any man under that law. And Crasweller no doubt concluded that Grundle would be unwilling to bear the odium of being the first. And there were clauses in the law which would make it very difficult for him to prove the validity of the contract. It had been already asserted by many that a girl could not be expected to marry the man who had endeavoured to destroy her father; and although in my mind there could be no doubt that Abraham Grundle had only done his duty as a senator, there was no knowing what view of the case a jury might take in Gladstonopolis. And then, if the worst came to the worst, Crasweller would resign a fourth of his property almost without a pang, and Jack would content himself in making the meanness of Grundle conspicuous to his fellow-citizens.

And now I must confess that, as I sat alone in my library, I did hesitate for an hour as to my future conduct. Might it not be better for me to abandon altogether the Fixed Period and all its glories? Even in Britannula the world might be too strong for me. Should I not take the good things that were offered, and allow Jack to marry his wife and be happy in his own way? In my very heart I loved him quite as well as did his mother, and thought that he was the finest young fellow that Britannula had produced. And if this kind of thing went on, it might be that I should be driven to quarrel with him altogether, and to have him punished under the law, like some old Roman of old. And I must confess that my relations with Mrs Neverbend made me very unfit to ape the Roman paterfamilias. She never interfered with public business, but she had a way of talking about household matters in which she was always victorious. Looking back as I did at this moment on the past, it seemed to me that she and Jack, who were the two persons I loved best in the world, had been the enemies who had always successfully conspired against me. “Do have done with your Fixed Period and nonsense,” she had said to me only yesterday. “It’s all very well for the Assembly; but when you come to killing poor Mr Crasweller in real life, it is quite out of the question.” And then, when I began to explain to her at length the immense importance of the subject, she only remarked that that would do very well for the Assembly. Should I abandon it all, take the good things with which God had provided me, and retire into private life? I had two sides to my character, and could see myself sitting in luxurious comfort amidst the furniture of Crasweller’s verandah while Eva and her children were around, and Jack was standing with a cigar in his mouth outside laying down the law for the cricketers at Gladstonopolis. “Were not better done as others use,” I said to myself over and over again as I sat there wearied with this contest, and thinking of the much more frightful agony I should be called upon to endure when the time had actually come for the departure of old Crasweller.

And then again if I should fail! For half an hour or so I did fear that I should fail. I had been always a most popular magistrate, but now, it seemed, had come the time in which all my popularity must be abandoned. Jack, who was quick enough at understanding the aspect of things, had already begun to ask the people whether they would see their old friend Crasweller murdered in cold blood. It was a dreadful word, but I was assured that he had used it. How would it be when the time even for depositing had come, and an attempt was made to lead the old man up through the streets of Gladstonopolis? Should I have strength of character to perform the task in opposition to the loudly expressed wishes of the inhabitants, and to march him along protected by a strong body of volunteers? And how would it be if the volunteers themselves refused to act on the side of law and order? Should I not absolutely fail; and would it not afterwards be told of me that, as President, I had broken down in an attempt to carry out the project with which my name had been so long associated?

As I sat there alone I had almost determined to yield. But suddenly there came upon me a memory of Socrates, of Galileo, of Hampden, and of Washington. What great things had these men done by constancy, in opposition to the wills and prejudices of the outside world! How triumphant they now appeared to have been in fighting against the enormous odds which power had brought against them! And how pleasant now were the very sounds of their names to all who loved their fellow-creatures! In some moments of private thought, anxious as were now my own, they too must have doubted. They must have asked themselves the question, whether they were strong enough to carry their great reforms against the world. But in these very moments the necessary strength had been given to them. It must have been that, when almost despairing, they had been comforted by an inner truth, and had been all but inspired to trust with confidence in their cause. They, too, had been weak, and had trembled, and had almost feared. But they had found in their own hearts that on which they could rely. Had they been less sorely pressed than was I now at this present moment? Had not they believed and trusted and been confident? As I thought of it, I became aware that it was not only necessary for a man to imagine new truths, but to be able to endure, and to suffer, and to bring them to maturity. And how often before a truth was brought to maturity must it be necessary that he who had imagined it, and seen it, and planned it, must give his very life for it, and all in vain? But not perhaps all in vain as far as the world was concerned; but only in vain in regard to the feelings and knowledge of the man himself. In struggling for the welfare of his fellow-creatures, a man must dare to endure to be obliterated, — must be content to go down unheard of, — or, worse still, ridiculed, and perhaps abused by all, — in order that something afterwards may remain of those changes which he has been enabled to see, but not to carry out. How many things are requisite to true greatness! But, first of all, is required that self-negation which is able to plan new blessings, although certain that those blessings will be accounted as curses by the world at large.

Then I got up, and as I walked about the room I declared to myself aloud my purpose. Though I might perish in the attempt, I would certainly endeavour to carry out the doctrine of the Fixed Period. Though the people might be against me, and regard me as their enemy, — that people for whose welfare I had done it all, — still I would persevere, even though I might be destined to fall in the attempt. Though the wife of my bosom and the son of my loins should turn against me, and embitter my last moments by their enmity, still would I persevere. When they came to speak of the vices and the virtues of President Neverbend, — to tell of his weakness and his strength, — it should never be said of him that he had been deterred by fear of the people from carrying out the great measure which he had projected solely for their benefit.

Comforted by this resolve, I went into Mrs Neverbend’s parlour, where I found her son Jack sitting with her. They had evidently been talking about Jack’s speech in the market-place; and I could see that the young orator’s brow was still flushed with the triumph of the moment. “Father,” said he, immediately, “you will never be able to deposit old Crasweller. People won’t let you do it.”

“The people of Britannula,” I said, “will never interfere to prevent their magistrate from acting in accordance with the law.”

“Bother!” said Mrs Neverbend. When my wife said “bother,” it was, I was aware, of no use to argue with her. Indeed, Mrs Neverbend is a lady upon whom argument is for the most part thrown away. She forms her opinion from the things around her, and is, in regard to domestic life, and to her neighbours, and to the conduct of people with whom she lives, almost invariably right. She has a quick insight, and an affectionate heart, which together keep her from going astray. She knows how to do good, and when to do it. But to abstract argument, and to political truth, she is wilfully blind. I felt it to be necessary that I should select this opportunity for making Jack understand that I would not fear his opposition; but I own that I could have wished that Mrs Neverbend had not been present on the occasion.

“Won’t they?” said Jack. “That’s just what I fancy they will do.”

“Do you mean to say that it is what you wish them to do, — that you think it right that they should do it?”

“I don’t think Crasweller ought to be deposited, if you mean that, father.”

“Not though the law requires it?” This I said in a tone of authority. “Have you formed any idea in your own mind of the subjection to the law which is demanded from all good citizens? Have you ever bethought yourself that the law should be in all things — ”

“Oh, Mr President, pray do not make a speech here,” said my wife. “I shall never understand it, and I do not think that Jack is much wiser than I am.”

“I do not know what you mean by a speech, Sarah.” My wife’s name is Sarah. “But it is necessary that Jack should be instructed that he, at any rate, must obey the law. He is my son, and, as such, it is essentially necessary that he should be amenable to it. The law demands — ”

“You can’t do it, and there’s an end of it,” said Mrs Neverbend. “You and all your laws will never be able to put an end to poor Mr Crasweller, — and it would be a great shame if you did. You don’t see it; but the feeling here in the city is becoming very strong. The people won’t have it; and I must say that it is only rational that Jack should be on the same side. He is a man now, and has a right to his own opinion as well as another.”

“Jack,” said I, with much solemnity, “do you value your father’s blessing?”

“Well; sir, yes,” said he. “A blessing, I suppose, means something of an allowance paid quarterly.”

I turned away my face that he might not see the smile which I felt was involuntarily creeping across it. “Sir,” said I, “a father’s blessing has much more than a pecuniary value. It includes that kind of relation between a parent and his son without which life would be a burden to me, and, I should think, very grievous to you also.”

“Of course I hope that you and I may always be on good terms.”

I was obliged to take this admission for what it was worth. “If you wish to remain on good terms with me,” said I, “you must not oppose me in public when I am acting as a public magistrate.”

“Is he to see Mr Crasweller murdered before his very eyes, and to say nothing about it?” said Mrs Neverbend.

Of all terms in the language there was none so offensive to me as that odious word when used in reference to the ceremony which I had intended to be so gracious and alluring. “Sarah,” said I, turning upon her in my anger, “that is a very improper word, and one which you should not tempt the boy to use, especially in my presence.”

“English is English, Mr President,” she said. She always called me “Mr President” when she intended to oppose me.

“You might as well say that a man was murdered when he is — is — killed in battle.” I had been about to say “executed,” but I stopped myself. Men are not executed in Britannula.

“No. He is fighting his country’s battle and dies gloriously.”

“He has his leg shot off, or his arm, and is too frequently left to perish miserably on the ground. Here every comfort will be provided for him, so that he may depart from this world without a pang, when, in the course of years, he shall have lived beyond the period at which he can work and be useful.”

“But look at Mr Crasweller, father. Who is more useful than he is?”

Nothing had been more unlucky to me as the promoter of the Fixed Period than the peculiar healthiness and general sanity of him who was by chance to be our first martyr. It might have been possible to make Jack understand that a rule which had been found to be applicable to the world at large was not fitted for some peculiar individual, but it was quite impossible to bring this home to the mind of Mrs Neverbend. I must, I felt, choose some other opportunity for expounding that side of the argument. I would at the present moment take a leaf out of my wife’s book and go straight to my purpose. “I tell you what it is, young man,” said I; “I do not intend to be thwarted by you in carrying on the great reform to which I have devoted my life. If you cannot hold your tongue at the present moment, and abstain from making public addresses in the market-place, you shall go out of Britannula. It is well that you should travel and see something of the world before you commence the trade of public orator. Now I think of it, the Alpine Club from Sydney are to be in New Zealand this summer, and it will suit you very well to go and climb up Mount Earnshawe and see all the beauties of nature instead of talking nonsense here in Gladstonopolis.”

“Oh, father, I should like nothing better,” cried Jack, enthusiastically.

“Nonsense,” said Mrs Neverbend; “are you going to send the poor boy to break his neck among the glaciers? Don’t you remember that Dick Ardwinkle was lost there a year or two ago, and came to his death in a most frightful manner?”

“That was before I was born,” said Jack, “or at any rate very shortly afterwards. And they hadn’t then invented the new patent steel climbing arms. Since they came up, no one has ever been lost among the glaciers.”

“You had better prepare then to go,” said I, thinking that the idea of getting rid of Jack in this manner was very happy.

“But, father,” said he, “of course I can’t stir a step till after the great cricket-match.”

“You must give up cricket for this time. So good an opportunity for visiting the New Zealand mountains may never come again.”

“Give up the match!” he exclaimed. “Why, the English sixteen are coming here on purpose to play us, and swear that they’ll beat us by means of the new catapult. But I know that our steam-bowler will beat their catapult hollow. At any rate I cannot stir from here till after the match is over. I’ve got to arrange everything myself. Besides, they do count something on my spring-batting. I should be regarded as absolutely a traitor to my country if I were to leave Britannula while this is going on. The young Marquis of Marylebone, their leader, is to stay at our house; and the vessel bringing them will be due here about eleven o’clock next Wednesday.”

“Eleven o’clock next Wednesday,” said I, in surprise. I had not as yet heard of this match, nor of the coming of our aristocratic visitor.

“They won’t be above thirty minutes late at the outside. They left the Land’s End three weeks ago last Tuesday at two, and London at half-past ten. We have had three or four water telegrams from them since they started, and they hadn’t then lost ten minutes on the journey. Of course I must be at home to receive the Marquis of Marylebone.”

All this set me thinking about many things. It was true that at such a moment I could not use my parental authority to send Jack out of the island. To such an extent had the childish amusements of youth been carried, as to give to them all the importance of politics and social science. What I had heard about this cricket-match had gone in at one ear and come out at the other; but now that it was brought home to me, I was aware that all my authority would not serve to banish Jack till it was over. Not only would he not obey me, but he would be supported in his disobedience by even the elders of the community. But perhaps the worst feature of it all was the arrival just now at Gladstonopolis of a crowd of educated Englishmen. When I say educated I mean prejudiced. They would be Englishmen with no ideas beyond those current in the last century, and would be altogether deaf to the wisdom of the Fixed Period. I saw at a glance that I must wait till they should have taken their departure, and postpone all further discussion on the subject as far as might be possible till Gladstonopolis should have been left to her natural quiescence after the disturbance of the cricket. “Very well,” said I, leaving the room. “Then it may come to pass that you will never be able to visit the wonderful glories of Mount Earnshawe.”

“Plenty of time for that,” said Jack, as I shut the door.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/trollope/anthony/fixed_period/chapter4.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43