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THEY AND I (chapter5)

2006-09-08 21:22


    I started the next morning to call upon St. Leonard. Near to the house I encountered young Hopkins on a horse. He was waving a pitchfork over his head and reciting "The Charge of the Light Brigade." The horse looked amused. He told me I should find "the gov'nor" up by the stables. St. Leonard is not an "old man." Dick must have seen him in a bad light. I should describe him as about the prime of life, a little older than myself, but nothing to speak of. Dick was right, however, in saying he was not like a farmer. To begin with, "Hubert St. Leonard" does not sound like a farmer. One can imagine a man with a name like that writing a book about farming, having theories on this subject. But in the ordinary course of nature things would not grow for him. He does not look like a farmer. One cannot say precisely what it is, but there is that about a farmer that tells you he is a farmer. The farmer has a way of leaning over a gate. There are not many ways of leaning over a gate. I have tried all I could think of, but it was never quite the right way. It has to be in the blood. A farmer has a way of standing on one leg and looking at a thing that isn't there. It sounds simple, but there is knack in it. The farmer is not surprised it is not there. He never expected it to be there. It is one of those things that ought to be, and is not. The farmer's life is full of such. Suffering reduced to a science is what the farmer stands for. All his life he is the good man struggling against adversity. Nothing his way comes right. This does not seem to be his planet. Providence means well, but she does not understand farming. She is doing her best, he supposes; that she is a born muddler is not her fault. If Providence could only step down for a month or two and take a few lessons in practical farming, things might be better; but this being out of the question there is nothing more to be said. From conversation with farmers one conjures up a picture of Providence as a well-intentioned amateur, put into a position for which she is utterly unsuited.

    "Rain," says Providence, "they are wanting rain. What did I do with that rain?" She finds the rain and starts it, and is pleased with herself until some Wandering Spirit pauses on his way and asks her sarcastically what she thinks she's doing.

    "Raining," explains Providence. "They wanted rain——farmers, you know, that sort of people."

    "They won't want anything for long," retorts the Spirit. "They'll be drowned in their beds before you've done with them."

    "Don't say that!" says Providence.

    "Well, have a look for yourself if you won't believe me," says the Spirit. "You've spoilt that harvest again, you've ruined all the fruit, and you are rotting even the turnips. Don't you ever learn by experience?"

    "It is so difficult," says Providence, "to regulate these things just right."

    "So it seems——for you," retorts the Spirit. "Anyhow, I should not rain any more, if I were you. If you must, at least give them time to build another ark." And the Wandering Spirit continues on his way.

    "The place does look a bit wet, now I come to notice it," says Providence, peeping down over the edge of her star. "Better turn on the fine weather, I suppose."

    She starts with she calls "set fair," and feeling now that she is something like a Providence, composes herself for a doze. She is startled out of her sleep by the return of the Wandering Spirit.

    "Been down there again?" she asks him pleasantly.

    "Just come back," explains the Wandering Spirit.

    "Pretty spot, isn't it?" says Providence. "Things nice and dry down there now, aren't they?"

    "You've hit it," he answers. "Dry is the word. The rivers are dried up, the wells are dried up, the cattle are dying, the grass is all withered. As for the harvest, there won't be any harvest for the next two years! Oh, yes, things are dry enough."

    One imagines Providence bursting into tears. "But you suggested yourself a little fine weather."

    "I know I did," answers the Spirit. "I didn't suggest a six months' drought with the thermometer at a hundred and twenty in the shade. Doesn't seem to me that you've got any sense at all."

    "I do wish this job had been given to someone else," says Providence.

    "Yes, and you are not the only one to wish it," retorts the Spirit unfeelingly.

    "I do my best," urges Providence, wiping her eyes with her wings. "I am not fitted for it."

    "A truer word you never uttered," retorts the Spirit.

    "I try——nobody could try harder," wails Providence. "Everything I do seems to be wrong."

    "What you want," says the Spirit, "is less enthusiasm and a little commonsense in place of it. You get excited, and then you lose your head. When you do send rain, ten to one you send it when it isn't wanted. You keep back your sunshine——just as a duffer at whist keeps back his trumps——until it is no good, and then you deal it out all at once."

    "I'll try again," said Providence. "I'll try quite hard this time."

    "You've been trying again," retorts the Spirit unsympathetically, "ever since I have known you. It is not that you do not try. It is that you have not got the hang of things. Why don't you get yourself an almanack?"

    The Wandering Spirit takes his leave. Providence tells herself she really must get that almanack. She ties a knot in her handkerchief. It is not her fault: she was made like it. She forgets altogether for what reason she tied that knot. Thinks it was to remind her to send frosts in May, or Scotch mists in August. She is not sure which, so sends both. The farmer has ceased even to be angry with her——recognises that affliction and sorrow are good for his immortal soul, and pursues his way in calmness to the Bankruptcy Court.

    Hubert St. Leonard, of Windrush Bottom Farm, I found to be a worried- looking gentleman. He taps his weather-glass, and hopes and fears, not knowing as yet that all things have been ordered for his ill. It will be years before his spirit is attuned to that attitude of tranquil despair essential to the farmer: one feels it. He is tall and thin, with a sensitive, mobile face, and a curious trick of taking his head every now and again between his hands, as if to be sure it is still there. When I met him he was on the point of starting for his round, so I walked with him. He told me that he had not always been a farmer. Till a few years ago he had been a stockbroker. But he had always hated his office; and having saved a little, had determined when he came to forty to enjoy the rare luxury of living his own life. I asked him if he found that farming paid. He said:

    "As in everything else, it depends upon the price you put upon yourself. Now, as a casual observer, what wage per annum would you say I was worth?"

    It was an awkward question.

    "You are afraid that if you spoke candidly you would offend me," he suggested. "Very well. For the purpose of explaining my theory let us take, instead, your own case. I have read all your books, and I like them. Speaking as an admirer, I should estimate you at five hundred a year. You, perhaps, make two thousand, and consider yourself worth five."

    The whimsical smile with which he accompanied the speech disarmed me.

    "What we most of us do," he continued, "is to over-capitalise ourselves. John Smith, honestly worth a hundred a year, claims to be worth two. Result: difficulty of earning dividend, over-work, over- worry, constant fear of being wound up. Now, there is that about your work that suggests to me you would be happier earning five hundred a year than you ever will be earning two thousand. To pay your dividend——to earn your two thousand——you have to do work that brings you no pleasure in the doing. Content with five hundred, you could afford to do only that work that does give you pleasure. This is not a perfect world, we must remember. In the perfect world the thinker would be worth more than the mere jester. In the perfect world the farmer would be worth more than the stockbroker. In making the exchange I had to write myself down. I earn less money, but get more enjoyment out of life. I used to be able to afford champagne, but my liver was always wrong, and I dared not drink it. Now I cannot afford champagne, but I enjoy my beer. That is my theory, that we are all of us entitled to payment according to our market value, neither more nor less. You can take it all in cash. I used to. Or you can take less cash and more fun: that is what I am getting now."

    "It is delightful," I said, "to meet with a philosopher. One hears about them, of course; but I had got it into my mind they were all dead."

    "People laugh at philosophy," he said. "I never could understand why. It is the science of living a free, peaceful, happy existence. I would give half my remaining years to be a philosopher."

    "I am not laughing at philosophy," I said. "I honestly thought you were a philosopher. I judged so from the way you talked."

    "Talked!" he retorted. "Anybody can talk. As you have just said, I talk like a philosopher."

    "But you not only talk," I insisted, "you behave like a philosopher. Sacrificing your income to the joy of living your own life! It is the act of a philosopher."

    I wanted to keep him in good humour. I had three things to talk to him about: the cow, the donkey, and Dick.

    "No, it wasn't," he answered. "A philosopher would have remained a stockbroker and been just as happy. Philosophy does not depend upon environment. You put the philosopher down anywhere. It is all the same to him, he takes his philosophy with him. You can suddenly tell him he is an emperor, or give him penal servitude for life. He goes on being a philosopher just as if nothing had happened. We have an old tom-cat. The children lead it an awful life. It does not seem to matter to the cat. They shut it up in the piano: their idea is that it will make a noise and frighten someone. It doesn't make a noise; it goes to sleep. When an hour later someone opens the piano, the poor thing is lying there stretched out upon the keyboard purring to itself. They dress it up in the baby's clothes and take it out in the perambulator: it lies there perfectly contented looking round at the scenery——takes in the fresh air. They haul it about by its tail. You would think, to watch it swinging gently to and fro head downwards, that it was grateful to them for giving it a new sensation. Apparently it looks on everything that comes its way as helpful experience. It lost a leg last winter in a trap: it goes about quite cheerfully on three. Seems to be rather pleased, if anything, at having lost the fourth——saves washing. Now, he is your true philosopher, that cat; never minds what happens to him, and is equally contented if it doesn't."

    I found myself becoming fretful. I know a man with whom it is impossible to disagree. Men at the Club——new-comers——have been lured into taking bets that they could on any topic under the sun find themselves out of sympathy with him. They have denounced Mr. Lloyd George as a traitor to his country. This man has risen and shaken them by the hand, words being too weak to express his admiration of their outspoken fearlessness. You might have thought them Nihilists denouncing the Russian Government from the steps of the Kremlin at Moscow. They have, in the next breath, abused Mr. Balfour in terms transgressing the law of slander. He has almost fallen on their necks. It has transpired that the one dream of his life was to hear Mr. Balfour abused. I have talked to him myself for a quarter of an hour, and gathered that at heart he was a peace-at-any-price man, strongly in favour of Conscription, a vehement Republican, with a deep-rooted contempt for the working classes. It is not bad sport to collect half a dozen and talk round him. At such times he suggests the family dog that six people from different parts of the house are calling to at the same time. He wants to go to them all at once.

    I felt I had got to understand this man, or he would worry me.

    "We are going to be neighbours," I said, "and I am inclined to think I shall like you. That is, if I can get to know you. You commence by enthusing on philosophy: I hasten to agree with you. It is a noble science. When my youngest daughter has grown up, when the other one has learnt a little sense, when Dick is off my hands, and the British public has come to appreciate good literature, I am hoping to be a bit of a philosopher myself. But before I can explain to you my views you have already changed your own, and are likening the philosopher to an old tomcat that seems to be weak in his head. Soberly now, what are you?"

    "A fool," he answered promptly; "a most unfortunate fool. I have the mind of a philosopher coupled to an intensely irritable temperament. My philosophy teaches me to be ashamed of my irritability, and my irritability makes my philosophy appear to be arrant nonsense to myself. The philosopher in me tells me it does not matter when the twins fall down the wishing-well. It is not a deep well. It is not the first time they have fallen into it: it will not be the last. Such things pass: the philosopher only smiles. The man in me calls the philosopher a blithering idiot for saying it does not matter when it does matter. Men have to be called away from their work to haul them out. We all of us get wet. I get wet and excited, and that always starts my liver. The children's clothes are utterly spoilt. Confound them,"——the blood was mounting to his head-"they never care to go near the well except they are dressed in their best clothes. On other days they will stop indoors and read Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs.' There is something uncanny about twins. What is it? Why should twins be worse than other children? The ordinary child is not an angel, Heaven knows. Take these boots of mine. Look at them; I have had them for over two years. I tramp ten miles a day in them; they have been soaked through a hundred times. You buy a boy a pair of boots——"

    "Why don't you cover over the well?" I suggested.

    "There you are again," he replied. "The philosopher in me——the sensible man——says, 'What is the good of the well? It is nothing but mud and rubbish. Something is always falling into it——if it isn't the children it's the pigs. Why not do away with it?'"

    "Seems to be sound advice," I commented.

    "It is," he agreed. "No man alive has more sound commonsense than I have, if only I were capable of listening to myself. Do you know why I don't brick in that well? Because my wife told me I would have to. It was the first thing she said when she saw it. She says it again every time anything does fall into it. 'If only you would take my advice'——you know the sort of thing. Nobody irritates me more than the person who says, 'I told you so.' It's a picturesque old ruin: it used to be haunted. That's all been knocked on the head since we came. What self-respecting nymph can haunt a well into which children and pigs are for ever flopping?"

    He laughed; but before I could join him he was angry again. "Why should I block up an historic well, that is an ornament to the garden, because a pack of fools can't keep a gate shut? As for the children, what they want is a thorough good whipping, and one of these days——"

    A voice crying to us to stop interrupted him.

    "Am on my round. Can't come," he shouted.

    "But you must," explained the voice.

    He turned so quickly that he almost knocked me over. "Bother and confound them all!" he said. "Why don't they keep to the time-table? There's no system in this place. That is what ruins farming——want of system."

    He went on grumbling as he walked. I followed him. Halfway across the field we met the owner of the voice. She was a pleasant-looking lass, not exactly pretty——not the sort of girl one turns to look at in a crowd——yet, having seen her, it was agreeable to continue looking at her. St. Leonard introduced me to her as his eldest daughter, Janie, and explained to her that behind the study door, if only she would take the trouble to look, she would find a time-table

    "According to which," replied Miss Janie, with a smile, "you ought at the present moment to be in the rick-yard, which is just where I want you."

    "What time is it?" he asked, feeling his waistcoat for a watch that appeared not to be there.

    "Quarter to eleven," I told him.

    He took his head between his hands. "Good God!" he cried, "you don't say that!"

    The new binder, Miss Janie told us, had just arrived. She was anxious her father should see it was in working order before the men went back. "Otherwise," so she argued, "old Wilkins will persist it was all right when he delivered it, and we shall have no remedy."

    We turned towards the house.

    "Speaking of the practical," I said, "there were three things I came to talk to you about. First and foremost, that cow."

    "Ah, yes, the cow," said St. Leonard. He turned to his daughter. "It was Maud, was it not?"

    "No," she answered, "it was Susie."

    "It is the one," I said, "that bellows most all night and three parts of the day. Your boy Hopkins thinks maybe she's fretting."

    "Poor soul!" said St. Leonard. "We only took her calf away from her-when did we take her calf away from her?" he asked of Janie.

    "On Thursday morning," returned Janie; "the day we sent her over."

    "They feel it so at first," said St. Leonard sympathetically.

    "It sounds a brutal sentiment," I said, "but I was wondering if by any chance you happened to have by you one that didn't feel it quite so much. I suppose among cows there is no class that corresponds to what we term our 'Smart Set'——cows that don't really care for their calves, that are glad to get away from them?"

    Miss Janie smiled. When she smiled, you felt you would do much to see her smile again.

    "But why not keep it up at your house, in the paddock," she suggested, "and have the milk brought down? There is an excellent cowshed, and it is only a mile away."

    It struck me there was sense in this idea. I had not thought of that. I asked St. Leonard what I owed him for the cow. He asked Miss Janie, and she said sixteen pounds. I had been warned that in doing business with farmers it would be necessary always to bargain; but there was that about Miss Janie's tone telling me that when she said sixteen pounds she meant sixteen pounds. I began to see a brighter side to Hubert St. Leonard's career as a farmer.

    "Very well," I said; "we will regard the cow as settled."

    I made a note: "Cow, sixteen pounds. Have the cowshed got ready, and buy one of those big cans on wheels."

    "You don't happen to want milk?" I put it to Miss Janie. "Susie seems to be good for about five gallons a day. I'm afraid if we drink it all ourselves we'll get too fat."

    "At twopence halfpenny a quart, delivered at the house, as much as you like," replied Miss Janie.

    I made a note of that also. "Happen to know a useful boy?" I asked Miss Janie.

    "What about young Hopkins," suggested her father.

    "The only male thing on this farm——with the exception of yourself, of course, father dear——that has got any sense," said Miss Janie. "He can't have Hopkins."

    "The only fault I have to find with Hopkins," said St. Leonard, "is that he talks too much."

    "Personally," I said, "I should prefer a country lad. I have come down here to be in the country. With Hopkins around, I don't somehow feel it is the country. I might imagine it a garden city: that is as near as Hopkins would allow me to get. I should like myself something more suggestive of rural simplicity."

    "I think I know the sort of thing you mean," smiled Miss Janie. "Are you fairly good-tempered?"

    "I can generally," I answered, "confine myself to sarcasm. It pleases me, and as far as I have been able to notice, does neither harm nor good to anyone else."

    "I'll send you up a boy," promised Miss Janie.

    I thanked her. "And now we come to the donkey."

    "Nathaniel," explained Miss Janie, in answer to her father's look of enquiry. "We don't really want it."

    "Janie," said Mr. St. Leonard in a tone of authority, "I insist upon being honest."

    "I was going to be honest," retorted Miss Janie, offended.

    "My daughter Veronica has given me to understand," I said, "that if I buy her this donkey it will be, for her, the commencement of a new and better life. I do not attach undue importance to the bargain, but one never knows. The influences that make for reformation in human character are subtle and unexpected. Anyhow, it doesn't seem right to throw a chance away. Added to which, it has occurred to me that a donkey might be useful in the garden."

    "He has lived at my expense for upwards of two years," replied St. Leonard. "I cannot myself see any moral improvement he has brought into my family. What effect he may have upon your children, I cannot say. But when you talk about his being useful in a garden——"

    "He draws a cart," interrupted Miss Janie.

    "So long as someone walks beside him feeding him with carrots. We tried fixing the carrot on a pole six inches beyond his reach. That works all right in the picture: it starts this donkey kicking."

    "You know yourself," he continued with growing indignation, "the very last time your mother took him out she used up all her carrots getting there, with the result that he and the cart had to be hauled home behind a trolley." We had reached the yard. Nathaniel was standing with his head stretched out above the closed half of his stable door. I noticed points of resemblance between him and Veronica herself: there was about him a like suggestion of resignation, of suffering virtue misunderstood; his eye had the same wistful, yearning expression with which Veronica will stand before the window gazing out upon the purple sunset, while people are calling to her from distant parts of the house to come and put her things away. Miss Janie, bending over him, asked him to kiss her. He complied, but with a gentle, reproachful look that seemed to say, "Why call me back again to earth?"

    It made me mad with him. I was wrong in thinking Miss Janie not a pretty girl. Hers is that type of beauty that escapes attention by its own perfection. It is the eccentric, the discordant, that arrests the roving eye. To harmony one has to attune oneself.

    "I believe," said Miss Janie, as she drew away, wiping her cheek, "one could teach that donkey anything."

    Apparently she regarded willingness to kiss her as indication of exceptional amiability.

    "Except to work," commented her father. "I'll tell you what I'll do," he said. "If you take that donkey off my hands and promise not to send it back again, why, you can have it."

    "For nothing?" demanded Janie woefully.

    "For nothing," insisted her father. "And if I have any argument, I'll throw in the cart."

    Miss Janie sighed and shrugged her shoulders. It was arranged that Hopkins should deliver Nathaniel into my keeping some time the next day. Hopkins, it appeared, was the only person on the farm who could make the donkey go.

    "I don't know what it is," said St. Leonard, "but he has a way with him."

    "And now," I said, "there remains but Dick."

    "The lad I saw yesterday?" suggested St. Leonard. "Good-looking young fellow."

    "He is a nice boy," I said. "I don't really think I know a nicer boy than Dick; and clever, when you come to understand him. There is only

    one fault I have to find with Dick: I don't seem able to get him to work."

    Miss Janie was smiling. I asked her why.

    "I was thinking," she answered, "how close the resemblance appears to be between him and Nathaniel."

    It was true. I had not thought of it.

    "The mistake," said St. Leonard, "is with ourselves. We assume every boy to have the soul of a professor, and every girl a genius for music. We pack off our sons to cram themselves with Greek and Latin, and put our daughters down to strum at the piano. Nine times out of ten it is sheer waste of time. They sent me to Cambridge, and said I was lazy. I was not lazy. I was not intended by nature for a Senior Wrangler. I did not see the good of being a Senior Wrangler. Who wants a world of Senior Wranglers? Then why start every young man trying? I wanted to be a farmer. If intelligent lads were taught farming as a business, farming would pay. In the name of common- sense——"

    "I am inclined to agree with you," I interrupted him. "I would rather see Dick a good farmer than a third-rate barrister, anyhow. He thinks he could take an interest in farming. There are ten weeks before he need go back to Cambridge, sufficient time for the experiment. Will you take him as a pupil?"

    St. Leonard grasped his head between his hands and held it firmly. "If I consent," he said, "I must insist on being honest"

    I saw the woefulness again in Janie's eyes.

    "I think," I said, "it is my turn to be honest. I have got the donkey for nothing; I insist on paying for Dick. They are waiting for you in the rick-yard. I will settle the terms with Miss Janie."

    He regarded us both suspiciously.

    "I will promise to be honest," laughed Miss Janie.

    "If it's more than I'm worth," he said, "I'll send him home again. My theory is——"

    He stumbled over a pig which, according to the time-table, ought not to have been there. They went off hurriedly together, the pig leading, both screaming. Miss Janie said she would show me the short cut across the fields; we could talk as we went. We walked in silence for awhile.

    "You must not think," she said, "I like being the one to do all the haggling. I feel a little sore about it very often. But somebody, of course, must do it; and as for father, poor dear——"

    I looked at her. Her's is the beauty to which a touch of sadness adds a charm.

    "How old are you?" I asked her.

    "Twenty," she answered, "next birthday."

    "I judged you to be older," I said.

    "Most people do," she answered.

    "My daughter Robina," I said, "is just the same age——according to years; and Dick is twenty-one. I hope you will be friends with them. They have got sense, both of them. It comes out every now and again and surprises you. Veronica, I think, is nine. I am not sure how Veronica is going to turn out. Sometimes things happen that make us think she has a beautiful character, and then for quite long periods she seems to lose it altogether. The Little Mother——I don't know why we always call her Little Mother-will not join us till things are more ship-shape. She does not like to be thought an invalid, and if we have her about anywhere near work that has to be done, and are not always watching her, she gets at it and tires herself."

    "I am glad we are going to be neighbours," said Miss Janie. "There are ten of us altogether. Father, I am sure, you will like; clever men always like father. Mother's day is Friday. As a rule it is the only day no one ever calls." She laughed. The cloud had vanished. "They come on other days and find us all in our old clothes. On Friday afternoon we sit in state and nobody comes near us, and we have to eat the cakes ourselves. It makes her so cross. You will try and remember Fridays, won't you?"

    I made a note of it then and there.

    "I am the eldest," she continued, "as I think father told you. Harry and Jack came next; but Jack is in Canada and Harry died, so there is somewhat of a gap between me and the rest. Bertie is twelve and Ted eleven; they are home just now for the holidays. Sally is eight, and then there come the twins. People don't half believe the tales that are told about twins, but I am sure there is no need to exaggerate. They are only six, but they have a sense of humour you would hardly credit. One is a boy, and the other a girl. They are always changing clothes, and we are never quite sure which is which. Wilfrid gets sent to bed because Winnie has not practised her scales, and Winnie is given syrup of squills because Wilfried has been eating green gooseberries. Last spring Winnie had the measles. When the doctor came on the fifth day he was as pleased as punch; he said it was the quickest cure he had ever known, and that really there was no reason why she might not get up. We had our suspicions, and they were right. Winnie was hiding in the cupboard, wrapped up in a blanket. They don't seem to mind what trouble they get into, provided it isn't their own. The only safe plan, unless you happen to catch them red-handed, is to divide the punishment between them, and leave them to settle accounts between themselves afterwards. Algy is four; till last year he was always called the baby. Now, of course, there is no excuse; but the name still clings to him in spite of his indignant protestations. Father called upstairs to him the other day: 'Baby, bring me down my gaiters.' He walked straight up to the cradle and woke up the baby. 'Get up,' I heard him say——I was just outside the door——'and take your father down his gaiters. Don't you hear him calling you?' He is a droll little fellow. Father took him to Oxford last Saturday. He is small for his age. The ticket-collector, quite contented, threw him a glance, and merely as a matter of form asked if he was under three. 'No,' he shouted before father could reply; 'I 'sists on being honest. I'se four.' It is father's pet phrase."

    "What view do you take of the exchange," I asked her, "from stockbroking with its larger income to farming with its smaller?"

    "Perhaps it was selfish," she answered, "but I am afraid I rather encouraged father. It seems to me mean, making your living out of work that does no good to anyone. I hate the bargaining, but the farming itself I love. Of course, it means having only one evening dress a year and making that myself. But even when I had a lot I always preferred wearing the one that I thought suited me the best. As for the children, they are as healthy as young savages, and everything they want to make them happy is just outside the door. The boys won't go to college; but seeing they will have to earn their own living, that, perhaps, is just as well. It is mother, poor dear, that worries so." She laughed again. "Her favourite walk is to the workhouse. She came back quite excited the other day because she had heard the Guardians intend to try the experiment of building separate houses for old married couples. She is convinced she and father are going to end their days there."

    "You, as the business partner," I asked her, "are hopeful that the farm will pay?"

    "Oh, yes," she answered, "it will pay all right——it does pay, for the matter of that. We live on it and live comfortably. But, of course, I can see mother's point of view, with seven young children to bring up. And it is not only that." She stopped herself abruptly. "Oh, well," she continued with a laugh, "you have got to know us. Father is trying. He loves experiments, and a woman hates experiments. Last year it was bare feet. I daresay it is healthier. But children who have been about in bare feet all the morning——well, it isn't pleasant when they sit down to lunch; I don't care what you say. You can't be always washing. He is so unpractical. He was quite angry with mother and myself because we wouldn't. And a man in bare feet looks so ridiculous. This summer it is short hair and no hats; and Sally had such pretty hair. Next year it will be sabots or turbans—— something or other suggesting the idea that we've lately escaped from a fair. On Mondays and Thursdays we talk French. We have got a French nurse; and those are the only days in the week on which she doesn't understand a word that's said to her. We can none of us understand father, and that makes him furious. He won't say it in English; he makes a note of it, meaning to tell us on Tuesday or Friday, and then, of course, he forgets, and wonders why we haven't done it. He's the dearest fellow alive. When I think of him as a big boy, then he is charming, and if he really were only a big boy there are times when I would shake him and feel better for it."

    She laughed again. I wanted her to go on talking, because her laugh was so delightful. But we had reached the road, and she said she must go back: there were so many things she had to do.

    "We have not settled about Dick," I reminded her.

    "Mother took rather a liking to him," she murmured.

    "If Dick could make a living," I said, "by getting people to like him, I should not be so anxious about his future——lazy young devil!"

    "He has promised to work hard if you let him take up farming," said Miss Janie.

    "He has been talking to you?" I said.

    She admitted it.

    "He will begin well," I said. "I know him. In a month he will have tired of it, and be clamouring to do something else."

    "I shall be very disappointed in him if he does," she said.

    "I will tell him that," I said, "it may help. People don't like other people to be disappointed in them."

    "I would rather you didn't," she said. "You could say that father will be disappointed in him. Father formed rather a good opinion of him, I know."

    "I will tell him," I suggested, "that we shall all be disappointed in him."

    She agreed to that, and we parted. I remembered, when she was gone, that after all we had not settled terms.

    Dick overtook me a little way from home.

    "I have settled your business," I told him.

    "It's awfully good of you," said Dick.

    "Mind," I continued, "it's on the understanding that you throw yourself into the thing and work hard. If you don't, I shall be disappointed in you, I tell you so frankly."

    "That's all right, governor," he answered cheerfully. "Don't you worry."

    "Mr. St. Leonard will also be disappointed in you, Dick," I informed him. "He has formed a very high opinion of you. Don't give him cause to change it."

    "I'll get on all right with him," answered Dick. "Jolly old duffer, ain't he?" "Miss Janie will also be disappointed in you," I added.

    "Did she say that?" he asked.

    "She mentioned it casually," I explained: "though now I come to think of it she asked me not to say so. What she wanted me to impress upon you was that her father would be disappointed in you."

    Dick walked beside me in silence for awhile.

    "Sorry I've been a worry to you, dad," he said at last

    "Glad to hear you say so," I replied.

    "I'm going to turn over a new leaf, dad," he said. "I'm going to work hard."

    "About time," I said.

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