The Fixed Period, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter VIII.

The “John Bright.”

Jack, of course, did not go to New Zealand, and I was bound to quarrel with him, — temporarily. They held the meeting on the Town Flags, and many eloquent words were, no doubt, spoken. I did not go, of course, nor did I think it well to read the reports. Mrs Neverbend took it into her head at this time to speak to me only respecting the material wants of life. “Will you have another lump of sugar in your tea, Mr President?” Or, “If you want a second blanket on your bed, Mr Neverbend, and will say the word, it shall be supplied.” I took her in the same mood, and was dignified, cautious, and silent. With Jack I was supposed to have quarrelled altogether, and very grievous it was to me not to be able to speak to the lad of a morning or an evening. But he did not seem to be much the worse for it. As for turning him out of the house or stopping his pocket-money, that would be carrying the joke further than I could do it. Indeed it seemed to me that he was peculiarly happy at this time, for he did not go to his office. He spent his mornings in making speeches, and then went down in the afternoon on his bicycle to Little Christchurch.

So the time passed on, and the day absolutely came on which Crasweller was to be deposited. I had seen him constantly during the last few weeks, but he had not spoken to me on the subject. He had said that he would not leave Little Christchurch, and he did not do so. I do not think that he had been outside his own grounds once during these six weeks. He was always courteous to me, and would offer me tea and toast when I came, with a stately civility, as though there had been no subject of burning discord between us. Eva I rarely saw. That she was there I was aware, — but she never came into my presence till the evening before the appointed day, as I shall presently have to tell. Once or twice I did endeavour to lead him on to the subject; but he showed a disinclination to discuss it so invincible, that I was silenced. As I left him on the day before that on which he was to be deposited, I assured him that I would call for him on the morrow.

“Do not trouble yourself,” he said, repeating the words twice over. “It will be just the same whether you are here or not.” Then I shook my head by way of showing him that I would come, and I took my leave.

I must explain that during these last few weeks things had not gone quietly in Gladstonopolis, but there had been nothing like a serious riot. I was glad to find that, in spite of Jack’s speechifying, the younger part of the population was still true to me, and I did not doubt that I should still have got the majority of votes in the Assembly. A rumour was spread abroad that the twelve months of Crasweller’s period of probation were to be devoted to discussing the question, and I was told that my theory as to the Fixed Period would not in truth have been carried out merely because Mr Crasweller had changed his residence from Little Christchurch to the college. I had ordered an open barouche to be prepared for the occasion, and had got a pair of splendid horses fit for a triumphal march. With these I intended to call at Little Christchurch at noon, and to accompany Mr Crasweller up to the college, sitting on his left hand. On all other occasions, the President of the Republic sat in his carriage on the right side, and I had ever stood up for the dignities of my position. But this occasion was to be an exception to all rule.

On the evening before, as I was sitting in my library at home mournfully thinking of the occasion, telling myself that after all I could not devote my friend to what some might think a premature death, the door was opened, and Eva Crasweller was announced. She had on one of those round, close-fitting men’s hats which ladies now wear, but under it was a veil which quite hid her face. “I am taking a liberty, Mr Neverbend,” she said, “in troubling you at the present moment.”

“Eva, my dear, how can anything you do be called a liberty?”

“I do not know, Mr Neverbend. I have come to you because I am very unhappy.”

“I thought you had shunned me of late.”

“So I have. How could I help it, when you have been so anxious to deposit poor papa in that horrid place?”

“He was equally anxious a few years since.”

“Never! He agreed to it because you told him, and because you were a man able to persuade. It was not that he ever had his heart in it, even when it was not near enough to alarm himself. And he is not a

man fearful of death in the ordinary way. Papa is a brave man.”

“My darling child, it is beautiful to hear you say so of him.”

“He is going with you to-morrow simply because he has made you a promise, and does not choose to have it said of him that he broke his word even to save his own life. Is not that courage? It is not with him as it is with you, who have your heart in the matter, because you think of some great thing that you will do, so that your name may be remembered to future generations.”

“It is not for that, Eva. I care not at all whether my name be remembered. It is for the good of many that I act.”

“He believes in no good, but is willing to go because of his promise. Is it fair to keep him to such a promise under such circumstances?”

“But the law — ”

“I will hear nothing of the law. The law means you and your influences. Papa is to be sacrificed to the law to suit your pleasure. Papa is to be destroyed, not because the law wishes it, but to suit the taste of Mr Neverbend.”

“Oh, Eva!”

“It is true.”

“To suit my taste?”

“Well — what else? You have got the idea into your head, and you will not drop it. And you have persuaded him because he is your friend. Oh, a most fatal friendship! He is to be sacrificed because, when thinking of other things, he did not care to differ with you.” Then she paused, as though to see whether I might not yield to her words. And if the words of any one would have availed to make me yield, I think it would have been hers as now spoken. “Do you know what people will say of you, Mr Neverbend?” she continued.

“What will they say?”

“If I only knew how best I could tell you! Your son has asked me — to be his wife.”

“I have long known that he has loved you well.”

“But it can never be,” she said, “if my father is to be carried away to this fearful place. People would say that you had hurried him off in order that Jack — ”

“Would you believe it, Eva?” said I, with indignation.

“It does not matter what I would believe. Mr Grundle is saying it already, and is accusing me too. And Mr Exors, the lawyer, is spreading it about. It has become quite the common report in Gladstonopolis that Jack is to become at once the owner of Little Christchurch.”

“Perish Little Christchurch!” I exclaimed. “My son would marry no man’s daughter for his money.”

“I do not believe it of Jack,” she said, “for I know that he is generous and good. There! I do love him better than any one in the world. But as things are, I can never marry him if papa is to be shut up in that wretched City of the Dead.”

“Not City of the Dead, my dear.”

“Oh, I cannot bear to think of it! — all alone with no one but me with him to watch him as day after day passes away, as the ghastly hour comes nearer and still nearer, when he is to be burned in those fearful furnaces!”

“The cremation, my dear, has nothing in truth to do with the Fixed Period.”

“To wait till the fatal day shall have arrived, and then to know that at a fixed hour he will be destroyed just because you have said so! Can you imagine what my feelings will be when that moment shall have come?”

I had not in truth thought of it. But now, when the idea was represented to my mind’s eye, I acknowledged to myself that it would be impossible that she should be left there for the occasion. How or when she should be taken away, or whither, I could not at the moment think. These would form questions which it would be very hard to answer. After some score of years, say, when the community would be used to the Fixed Period, I could understand that a daughter or a wife might leave the college, and go away into such solitudes as the occasion required, a week perhaps before the hour arranged for departure had come. Custom would make it comparatively easy; as custom has arranged such a period of mourning for a widow, and such another for a widower, a son, or a daughter. But here, with Eva, there would be no custom. She would have nothing to guide her, and might remain there till the last fatal moment. I had hoped that she might have married Jack, or perhaps Grundle, during the interval, — not having foreseen that the year, which was intended to be one of honour and glory, should become a time of mourning and tribulation. “Yes, my dear, it is very sad.”

“Sad! Was there ever a position in life so melancholy, so mournful, so unutterably miserable?” I remained there opposite, gazing into vacancy, but I could say nothing. “What do you intend to do, Mr Neverbend?” she asked. “It is altogether in your bosom. My father’s life or death is in your hands. What is your decision?” I could only remain steadfast; but it seemed to be impossible to say so. “Well, Mr Neverbend, will you speak?”

“It is not for me to decide. It is for the country.”

“The country!” she exclaimed, rising up; “it is your own pride, — your vanity and cruelty combined. You will not yield in this matter to me, your friend’s daughter, because your vanity tells you that when you have once said a thing, that thing shall come to pass.” Then she put the veil down over her face, and went out of the room.

I sat for some time motionless, trying to turn over in my mind all that she had said to me; but it seemed as though my faculties were utterly obliterated in despair. Eva had been to me almost as a daughter, and yet I was compelled to refuse her request for her father’s life. And when she had told me that it was my pride and vanity which had made me do so, I could not explain to her that they were not the cause. And, indeed, was I sure of myself that it was not so? I had flattered myself that I did it for the public good; but was I sure that obduracy did not come from my anxiety to be counted with Columbus and Galileo? or if not that, was there not something personal to myself in my desire that I should be known as one who had benefited my species? In considering such matters, it is so hard to separate the motives, — to say how much springs from some glorious longing to assist others in their struggle upwards in humanity, and how much again from mean personal ambition. I had thought that I had done it all in order that the failing strength of old age might be relieved, and that the race might from age to age be improved. But I now doubted myself, and feared lest that vanity of which Eva had spoken to me had overcome me. With my wife and son I could still be brave, — even with Crasweller I could be constant and hard; but to be obdurate with Eva was indeed a struggle. And when she told me that I did so through pride, I found it very hard to bear. And yet it was not that I was angry with the child. I became more and more attached to her the more loudly she spoke on behalf of her father. Her very indignation endeared me to her, and made me feel how excellent she was, how noble a wife she would be for my son. But was I to give way after all? Having brought the matter to such a pitch, was I to give up everything to the prayers of a girl? I was well aware even then that my theory was true. The old and effete should go, in order that the strong and manlike might rise in their places and do the work of the world with the wealth of the world at their command. Take the average of mankind all round, and there would be but the lessening of a year or two from the life of them all. Even taking those men who had arrived at twenty-five, to how few are allotted more than forty years of life! But yet how large a proportion of the wealth of the world remains in the hands of those who have passed that age, and are unable from senile imbecility to employ that wealth as it should be used! As I thought of this, I said to myself that Eva’s prayers might not avail, and I did take some comfort to myself in thinking that all was done for the sake of posterity. And then, again, when I thought of her prayers, and of those stern words which had followed her prayers, — of that charge of pride and vanity, — I did tell myself that pride and vanity were not absent.

She was gone now, and I felt that she must say and think evil things of me through all my future life. The time might perhaps come, when I too should have been taken away, and when her father should long since have been at rest, that softer thoughts would come across her mind. If it were only possible that I might go, so that Jack might be married to the girl he loved, that might be well. Then I wiped my eyes, and went forth to make arrangements for the morrow.

The morning came, — the 30th of June, — a bright, clear, winter morning, cold but still genial and pleasant as I got into the barouche and had myself driven to Little Christchurch. To say that my heart was sad within me would give no fair record of my condition. I was so crushed by grief, so obliterated by the agony of the hour, that I hardly saw what passed before my eyes. I only knew that the day had come, the terrible day for which in my ignorance I had yearned, and that I was totally unable to go through its ceremonies with dignity, or even with composure. But I observed as I was driven down the street, lying out at sea many miles to the left, a small spot of smoke on the horizon, as though it might be of some passing vessel. It did not in the least awaken my attention; but there it was, and I remembered to have thought as I passed on how blessed were they who steamed by unconscious of that terrible ordeal of the Fixed Period which I was bound to encounter.

I went to Little Christchurch, and there I found Mr Crasweller waiting for me in the hall. I came in and took his limp hand in mine, and congratulated him. Oh how vain, how wretched, sounded that congratulation in my own ears!

And it was spoken, I was aware, in a piteous tone of voice, and with meagre, bated breath. He merely shook his head, and attempted to pass on. “Will you not take your greatcoat?” said I, seeing that he was going out into the open air without protection.

“No; why should I? It will not be wanted up there.”

“You do not know the place,” I replied. “There are twenty acres of pleasure-ground for you to wander over.” Then he turned upon me a look, — oh, such a look! — and went on and took his place in the carriage. But Eva followed him, and spread a rug across his knees, and threw a cloak over his shoulders.

“Will not Eva come with us?” I said.

“No; my daughter will hide her face on such a day as this. It is for you and me to be carried through the city, — you because you are proud of the pageant, and me because I do not fear it.” This, too, added something to my sorrow. Then I looked and saw that Eva got into a small closed carriage in the rear, and was driven off by a circuitous route, to meet us, no doubt, at the college.

As we were driven away, — Crasweller and I, — I had not a word to say to him. And he seemed to collect himself in his fierceness, and to remain obdurately silent in his anger. In this way we drove on, till, coming to a turn of the road, the expanse of the sea appeared before us. Here again I observed a small cloud of smoke which had grown out of the spot I had before seen, and I was aware that some large ship was making its way into the harbour of Gladstonopolis. I turned my face towards it and gazed, and then a sudden thought struck me. How would it be with me if this were some great English vessel coming into our harbour on the very day of Crasweller’s deposition? A year since I would have rejoiced on such an occasion, and would have assured myself that I would show to the strangers the grandeur of this ceremony, which must have been new to them. But now a creeping terror took possession of me, and I felt my heart give way within me. I wanted no Englishman, nor American, to come and see the first day of our Fixed Period.

It was evident that Crasweller did not see the smoke; but to my eyes, as we progressed, it became nearer, till at last the hull of the vast vessel became manifest. Then as the carriage passed on into the street of Gladstonopolis at the spot where one side of the street forms the quay, the vessel with extreme rapidity steamed in, and I could see across the harbour that she was a ship of war. A certain sense of relief came upon my mind just then, because I felt sure that she had come to interfere with the work which I had in hand; but how base must be my condition when I could take delight in thinking that it had been interrupted!

By this time we had been joined by some eight or ten carriages, which formed, as it were, a funeral cortège behind us. But I could perceive that these carriages were filled for the most part by young men, and that there was no contemporary of Crasweller to be seen at all. As we went up the town hill, I could espy Barnes gibbering on the doorstep of his house, and Tallowax brandishing a large knife in his hand, and Exors waving a paper over his head, which I well knew to be a copy of the Act of our Assembly; but I could only pretend not to see them as our carriage passed on.

The chief street of Gladstonopolis, running through the centre of the city, descends a hill to the level of the harbour. As the vessel came in we began to ascend the hill, but the horses progressed very slowly. Crasweller sat perfectly speechless by my side. I went on with a forced smile upon my face, speaking occasionally to this or the other neighbour as we met them. I was forced to be in a certain degree cheerful, but grave and solemn in my cheerfulness. I was taking this man home for that last glorious year which he was about to pass in joyful anticipation of a happier life; and therefore I must be cheerful. But this was only the thing to be acted, the play to be played, by me the player. I must be solemn too, — silent as the churchyard, mournful as the grave, — because of the truth. Why was I thus driven to act a part that was false? On the brow of the hill we met a concourse of people both young and old, and I was glad to see that the latter had come out to greet us. But by degrees the crowd became so numerous that the carriage was stopped in its progress; and rising up, I motioned to those around us to let us pass. We became, however, more firmly enveloped in the masses, and at last I had to ask aloud that they would open and let us go on. “Mr President,” said one old gentleman to me, a tanner in the city, “there’s an English ship of war come into the harbour. I think they’ve got something to say to you.”

“Something to say to me! What can they have to say to me?” I replied, with all the dignity I could command.

“We’ll just stay and see; — we’ll just wait a few minutes,” said another elder. He was a bar-keeper with a red nose, and as he spoke he took up a place in front of the horses. It was in vain for me to press the coachman. It would have been indecent to do so at such a moment, and something at any rate was due to the position of Crasweller. He remained speechless in the carriage; but I thought that I could see, as I glanced at his face, that he took a strong interest in the proceedings. “They’re going to begin to come up the hill, Mr Bunnit,” said the bar-keeper to the tanner, “as soon as ever they’re out of their boats.”

“God bless the old flag for ever and ever!” said Mr Bunnit. “I knew they wouldn’t let us deposit any one.”

Thus their secret was declared. These old men, — the tanner and whisky-dealer, and the like, — had sent home to England to get assistance against their own Government! There had always been a scum of the population, — the dirty, frothy, meaningless foam at the top, — men like the drunken old bar-keeper, who had still clung submissive to the old country, — men who knew nothing of progress and civilisation, — who were content with what they ate and drank, and chiefly with the latter. “Here they come. God bless their gold bands!” said he of the red nose. Yes; — up the hill they came, three gilded British naval officers surrounded by a crowd of Britannulans.

Crasweller heard it all, but did not move from his place. But he leaned forward, and he bit his lip, and I saw that his right hand shook as it grasped the arm of the carriage. There was nothing for me but to throw myself back and remain tranquil. I was, however, well aware that an hour of despair and opposition, and of defeat, was coming upon me. Up they came, and were received with three deafening cheers by the crowd immediately round the carriage. “I beg your pardon, sir,” said one of the three, whom I afterwards learned to be the second lieutenant; “are you the President of this Republic?”

“I am,” replied I; “and what may you be?”

“I am the second lieutenant on board H.M.‘s gunboat, the John Bright.” I had heard of this vessel, which had been named from a gallant officer, who, in the beginning of the century, had seated himself on a barrel of gunpowder, and had, single-handed, quelled a mutiny. He had been made Earl Bright for what he had done on that occasion, but the vessel was still called J. B. throughout the service.

“And what may be your business with me, Mr Second Lieutenant?”

“Our captain, Captain Battleax’s compliments, and he hopes you won’t object to postpone this interesting ceremony for a day or two till he may come and see. He is sure that Mr Crasweller won’t mind.” Then he took off his hat to my old friend. “The captain would have come up himself, but he can’t leave the ship before he sees his big gun laid on and made safe. He is very sorry to be so unceremonious, but the 250-ton steam-swiveller requires a great deal of care.”

“Laid on?” I suggested.

“Well — yes. It is always necessary, when the ship lets go her anchor, to point the gun in the most effective manner.”

“She won’t go off, will she?” asked Bunnit.

“Not without provocation, I think. The captain has the exploding wire under double lock and key in his own state-room. If he only touched the spring, we about the locality here would be knocked into little bits in less time than it will take you to think about it. Indeed the whole of this side of the hill would become an instantaneous ruin without the sign of a human being anywhere.”

There was a threat in this which I could not endure. And indeed, for myself, I did not care how soon I might be annihilated. England, with unsurpassed tyranny, had sent out one of her brutal modern inventions, and threatened us all with blood and gore and murder if we did not give up our beneficent modern theory. It was the malevolent influence of the intellect applied to brute force, dominating its benevolent influence as applied to philanthropy. What was the John Bright to me that it should come there prepared to send me into eternity by its bloodthirsty mechanism? It is an evil sign of the times, — of the times that are in so many respects hopeful, — that the greatest inventions of the day should always take the shape of engines of destruction! But what could I do in the agony of the moment? I could but show the coolness of my courage by desiring the coachman to drive on.

“For God’s sake, don’t!” said Crasweller, jumping up.

“He shan’t stir a step,” said Bunnit to the bar-keeper.

“He can’t move an inch,” replied the other. “We know what our precious lives are worth; don’t we, Mr Bunnit?”

What could I do? “Mr Second Lieutenant, I must hold you responsible for this interruption,” said I.

“Exactly so. I am responsible, — as far as stopping this carriage goes. Had all the town turned out in your favour, and had this gentleman insisted on being carried away to be buried — ”

“Nothing of that kind,” said Crasweller.

“Then I think I may assume that Captain Battleax will not fire his gun. But if you will allow me, I will ask him a question.” Then he put a minute whistle up to his mouth, and I could see, for the first time, that there hung from this the thinnest possible metal wire, — a thread of silk, I would have said, only that it was much less palpable, — which had been dropped from the whistle as the lieutenant had come along, and which now communicated with the vessel. I had, of course, heard of this hair telephone, but I had never before seen it used in such perfection. I was assured afterwards that one of the ship’s officers could go ten miles inland and still hold communication with his captain. He put the instrument alternately to his mouth and to his ear, and then informed me that Captain Battleax was desirous that we should all go home to our own houses.

“I decline to go to my own house,” I said. The lieutenant shrugged his shoulders. “Coachman, as soon as the crowd has dispersed itself, you will drive on.” The coachman, who was an old assistant in my establishment, turned round and looked at me aghast. But he was soon put out of his trouble. Bunnit and the bar-keeper took out the horses and proceeded to lead them down the hill. Crasweller, as soon as he saw this, said that he presumed he might go back, as he could not possibly go on. “It is but three miles for us to walk,” I said.

“I am forbidden to permit this gentleman to proceed either on foot or with the carriage,” said the lieutenant. “I am to ask if he will do Captain Battleax the honour to come on board and take tiffin with him. If I could only prevail on you, Mr President.” On this I shook my head in eager denial. “Exactly so; but he will hope to see you on another occasion soon.” I little thought then, how many long days I should have to pass with Captain Battleax and his officers, or how pleasant companions I should find them when the remembrance of the present indignity had been somewhat softened by time.

Crasweller turned upon his heel and walked down the hill with the officers, — all the crowd accompanying them; while Bunnit and the bar-keeper had gone off with the horses. I had not descended from the carriage; but there I was, planted alone, — the President of the Republic left on the top of the hill in his carriage without means of locomotion! On looking round I saw Jack, and with Jack I saw also a lady, shrouded from head to foot in black garments, with a veil over her face, whom I knew, from the little round hat upon her head, to be Eva. Jack came up to me, but where Eva went I could not see. “Shall we walk down to the house?” he said. I felt that his coming to me at such a moment was kind, because I had been, as it were, deserted by all the world. Then he opened the door of the carriage, and I came out. “It was very odd that those fellows should have turned up just at this moment,” said Jack.

“When things happen very oddly, as you call it, they seem to have been premeditated.”

“Not their coming to-day. That has not been premeditated; at least not to my knowledge. Indeed I did not in the least know what the English were likely to do.”

“Do you think it right to send to the enemies of your country for aid against your country?” This I asked with much indignation, and I had refused as yet to take his arm.

“Oh but, sir, England isn’t our enemy.”

“Not when she comes and interrupts the quiet execution of our laws by threats of blowing us and our city and our citizens to instant destruction!”

“She would never have done it. I don’t suppose that big gun is even loaded.”

“The more contemptible is her position. She threatens us with a lie in her mouth.”

“I know nothing about it, sir. The gun may be there all right, and the gunpowder, and the twenty tons of iron shot. But I’m sure she’ll not fire it off in our harbour. They say that each shot costs two thousand five hundred pounds, and that the wear and tear to the vessel is two thousand more. There are things so terrible, that if you will only create a belief in them, that will suffice without anything else. I suppose we may walk down. Crasweller has gone, and you can do nothing without him.”

This was true, and I therefore prepared to descend the hill. My position as President of the Republic did demand a certain amount of personal dignity; and how was I to uphold that in my present circumstances? “Jack,” said I, “it is the sign of a noble mind to bear contumely without petulance. Since our horses have gone before us, and Crasweller and the crowd have gone, we will follow them.” Then I put my arm within his, and as I walked down the hill, I almost took joy in thinking that Crasweller had been spared.

“Sir,” said Jack, as we walked on, “I want to tell you something.”

“What is it?”

“Something of most extreme importance to me! I never thought that I should have been so fortunate as to announce to you what I’ve now got to say. I hardly know whether I am standing on my head or my heels. Eva Crasweller has promised to be my wife.”

“Indeed!”

“If you will make us happy by giving us your permission.”

“I should not have thought that she would have asked for that.”

“She has to ask her father, and he’s all right. He did say, when I spoke to him this morning, that his permission would go for nothing, as he was about to be led away and deposited. Of course I told him that all that would amount to nothing.”

“To nothing! What right had you to say so?”

“Well, sir, — you see that a party of us were quite determined. Eva had said that she would never let me even speak to her as long as her father’s life was in danger. She altogether hated that wretch Grundle for wanting to get rid of him. I swore to her that I would do the best I could, and she said that if I could succeed, then — she thought she could love me. What was a fellow to do?”

“What did you do?”

“I had it all out with Sir Kennington Oval, who is the prince of good fellows; and he telegraphed to his uncle, who is Secretary for Benevolence, or some such thing, at home.”

“England is not your home,” said I.

“It’s the way we all speak of it.”

“And what did he say?”

“Well, he went to work, and the John Bright was sent out here. But it was only an accident that it should come on this very day.”

And this was the way in which things are to be managed in Britannula! Because a young boy had fallen in love with a pretty girl, the whole wealth of England was to be used for a most nefarious purpose, and a great nation was to exercise its tyranny over a small one, in which her own language was spoken and her own customs followed! In every way England had had reason to be proud of her youngest child. We Britannulans had become noted for intellect, morals, health, and prosperity. We had advanced a step upwards, and had adopted the Fixed Period. Then, at the instance of this lad, a leviathan of war was to be sent out to crush us unless we would consent to put down the cherished conviction of our hearts! As I thought of all, walking down the street hanging on Jack’s arm, I had to ask myself whether the Fixed Period was the cherished conviction of our hearts. It was so of some, no doubt; and I had been able, by the intensity of my will, — and something, too, by the covetousness and hurry of the younger men, — to cause my wishes to prevail in the community. I did not find that I had reconciled myself to the use of this covetousness with the object of achieving a purpose which I believed to be thoroughly good. But the heartfelt conviction had not been strong with the people. I was forced to confess as much. Had it indeed been really strong with any but myself? Was I not in the position of a shepherd driving sheep into a pasture which was distasteful to them? Eat, O sheep, and you will love the food in good time, — you or the lambs that are coming after you! What sheep will go into unsavoury pastures, with no hopes but such as these held out to them? And yet I had been right. The pasture had been the best which the ingenuity of man had found for the maintenance of sheep.

“Jack,” said I, “what a poor, stupid, lovelorn boy you are!”

“I daresay I am,” said Jack, meekly.

“You put the kisses of a pretty girl, who may perhaps make you a good wife, — and, again, may make you a bad one, — against all the world in arms.”

“I am quite sure about that,” said Jack.

“Sure about what?”

“That there is not a fellow in all Britannula will have such a wife as Eva.”

“That means that you are in love. And because you are in love, you are to throw over — not merely your father, because in such an affair that goes for nothing — ”

“Oh, but it does; I have thought so much about it.”

“I’m much obliged to you. But you are to put yourself in opposition to the greatest movement made on behalf of the human race for centuries; you are to set yourself up against — ”

“Galileo and Columbus,” he suggested, quoting my words with great cruelty.

“The modern Galileo, sir; the Columbus of this age. And you are to conquer them! I, the father, have to submit to you the son; I the President of fifty-seven, to you the schoolboy of twenty-one; I the thoughtful man, to you the thoughtless boy! I congratulate you; but I do not congratulate the world on the extreme folly which still guides its actions.” Then I left him, and going into the executive chambers, sat myself down and cried in the very agony of a broken heart.

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