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shamefully, horribly, atrociously-neglected, but capable of noble things, of grand things, of magnificent, with a trifle of judicious outlay!"
"Oh, please not to talk of outlay, my dear," said good Mrs. Hockin, gently; "it is such an odious word; and where in the world is it to come from?"
"Leave that to me. When I was a boy, my favourite copy in my copy-book was, 'Where there's a will, there's a way.' Miss Wood, what is your opinion? But, wait, you must have time to understand the subject. First we bring a railway-always the first step; why, the line is already made for it, by the course of the old river, and the distance from Newport three miles and a half. It ought not to cost quite 2007. a mile, the mere outlay for rails and sleepers. The land is all mine, and -and of course other landed proprietors'. Very well, these would all unite, of course; so that not a farthing need be paid for land, which is the best half of the battle. We have the station here-not too near my house, that would never do-I could not bear the noise-but in a fine central place where nobody on earth could object to it-lively, and close at hand for all of them. Unluckily I was just too late. We have lost a parliamentary year through that execrable calm-you remember all about it. Otherwise we would have had Billy Puff stabled at Bruntsea by the first of May. But never mind; we shall do it all the better and cheaper by taking our time about it. Very well, we have the railway opened, and the trade of the place developed. We build a fine terrace of elegant villas, a crescent also, and a large hotel replete with every luxury; and we form the finest sea-parade in England by simply assisting nature. Half London comes down here to bathe, to catch shrimps, to flirt, and to do all the rest of it. We become a select, salubrious, influential, and yet economical place; and then what do we do, Mrs. Hockin?"
My dear, how can I tell? But I hope that we should rest and be thankful."
"Not a bit of it. I should hope not, indeed. Erema, what do we do then?"
"It is useless to ask me. Well, then, perhaps you set up a handsome sawmill?"
"A sawmill! What a notion of Paradise! No, this is what we do --but remember that I speak in the strictest confidence; dishonest antagonism might arise, if we ventilated our ideas too soon-Mrs. Hockin and Miss Wood, we demand the restoration of our river!-the return of our river to its ancient course."
"I see," said his wife; "oh, how grand that would be; and how beautiful from our windows! That really, now, is a noble thought!” "A just one-simply a just one. Justice ought not to be noble, my dear, however rare it may be. Generosity, magnanimity, heroism, and so on-those are the things we call noble, my dear."
"And the founding of cities. Oh, my dear, I remember, when I was
at school, it was always said in what we called our histories, that the founders of cities had honours paid them, and altars built, and divinities done, and holidays held in their honour."
"To that I object," cried the Major, sternly. "If I founded fifty cities, I would never allow one holiday. The Sabbath is enough; one day in seven-fifteen per cent. of one's whole time; and twenty per cent. of your Sunday goes in church. Very right, of course, and loyal, and truly edifying Mrs. Hockin's father was a clergyman, Miss Wood; and the last thing I would ever allow on my manor would be a dissenting chapel; but still I will have no new churches here, and a man who might go against me. They all want to pick their own religious views, instead of reflecting who supports them! It never used to be so; and such things shall never occur on my manor. A good hotel, attendance included, and a sound and moderate table d'hôte; but no church, with a popish bag sent round, and money to pay, without anything to eat."
"My dear, my dear," cried Mrs. Hockin, "I never like you to talk like that. You quite forget who my father was, and your own second son such a very sound priest !"
"A priest! don't let him come here," cried the Major; “or I'll let him know what tonsure is, and read him the order of Melchisedec. A priest! After going round the world three times, to come home and be hailed as the father of a priest! Don't let him come near me, or I'll sacrifice him."
"Now, Major, you are very proud of him," his good wife answered, as he shook his stick. "How could he help taking orders when he was under orders to do so? And his views are sound to the last degree, most strictly correct and practical—at least, except as to celibacy."
"He holds that his own mother ought never to have been born! Miss Wood, do you call that practical?"
"I have no acquaintance with such things," I replied; we had none of them in California. But is it practical, Major Hockin-of course you know best in your engineering-I mean, would it not require something like a tunnel for the river and the railway to run on the same ground?" Why, bless me! That seems to have escaped my notice. You have not been with old Uncle Sam for nothing. We shall have to appoint you our chief engineer."
It seemed an unfortunate thing for me, and unfavourable to my purpose, that my host, and even my hostess too, should be so engrossed with their new estate, its beauties and capabilities. Mrs. Hockin devoted herself at once to fowls and pigs and the like extravagant economies, having bought, at some ill-starred moment, a book which proved that hens
ought to lay eggs in a manner to support themselves, their families, and the family they belonged to, at the price of one penny a dozen. Eggs being two shillings a dozen in Bruntsea, here was a margin for profit-no less than two thousand per cent. to be made, allowing for all accidents. The lady also found another book, divulging for a shilling the author's purely invaluable secret-how to work an acre of ground, pay houserent, supply the house grandly, and give away a barrow-load of vegetables every day to the poor of the parish, by keeping a pig-if that pig were kept properly. And after that, pork, and ham, and bacon came of him; while another golden pig went on.
Mrs. Hockin was very soft-hearted, and said that she never could make bacon of a pig like that; and I answered that if she ever got him it would be unwise to do so. However, the law was laid down in both books, that golden fowls and diamondic pigs must die the death before they begin to over-eat production; and the Major said, "To be sure. Yes, yes. Let them come to good meat, and then off with their heads." And his wife said that she was sure she could do it. When it comes to a question of tare and tret, false sentiment must be excluded.
At the moment, these things went by me as trifles, yet made me more impatient. Being older now, and beholding what happens with tolerance and complacence, I am only surprised that my good friends were so tolerant of me and so complacent. For I must have been a great annoyance to them, with my hurry and my one idea. Happily, they made allowance for me, which I was not old enough to make for them.
"Go to London, indeed! Go to London by yourself!" cried the Major, with a red face, and his glasses up, when I told him one morning that I could stop no longer without doing something. "Mary, my dear, when you have done out there, will you come in and reason-if you can -with Miss Wood? She vows that she is going to London, all alone."
"Oh, Major Hockin-oh, Nicholas dear, such a thing has happened!" Mrs. Hockin had scarcely any breath to tell us, as she came in through the window. "You know that they have only had three bushels, or, at any rate, not more than five, almost ever since they came. Erema, you know as well as I do."
"Seven and three quarter bushels of barley, at five and ninepence a bushel, Mary," said the Major, pulling out a pocket-book; "besides Indian corn, chopped meat, and potatoes!"
"And fourteen pounds of paddy," I said, which was a paltry thing of me; "not to mention a cake of graves, three sacks of brewers' grains, and then-I forget what next."
"You are too bad, all of you. Erema, I never thought you would turn against me so. And you made me get nearly all of it. But please to look here. What do you call this? Is this no reward? Is this not enough? Major, if you please, what do you call this? What a pity you have had your breakfast!"
"A blessing-if this was to be my breakfast. I call that, my dear,
the very smallest egg I have seen since I took sparrows' nests. No wonder they sell them at twelve a penny. I congratulate you upon your first egg, my dear Mary."
"Well, I don't care," replied Mrs. Hockin, who had the sweetest temper in the world. "Small beginnings make large endings; and an egg must be always small at one end. You scorn my first egg, and Erema should have had it, if she had been good. But she was very wicked, and I know not what to do with it."
"Blow it!" cried the Major. "I mean no harm, ladies. I never use low language. What I mean is, make a pin hole at each end, give a puff, and away goes two pennyworth, and you have a cabinet specimen, which your egg is quite fitted by its cost to be. But now, Mary, talk to Miss Wood, if you please. It is useless for me to say anything, and I have three appointments in the town"-he always called it "the town" now" three appointments, if not four; yes, I may certainly say four. Talk to Miss Wood, my dear, if you please. She wants to go to London, which would be absurd. Ladies seem to enter into ladies' logic. They seem to be able to appreciate it better, to see all the turnsand the ins and outs, which no man has intellect enough to see, or at least to make head or tail of. Good-by for the present; I had better be off."
"I should think you had," exclaimed Mrs. Hockin, as her husband marched off, with his side-lights on, and his short, quick step, and wellsatisfied glance at the hill which belonged to him, and the beach, over which he had rights of plunder-or, at least, Uncle Sam would have called them so, strictly as he stood up for his own.
"Now come and talk quietly to me, my dear," Mrs. Hockin began, most kindly, forgetting all the marvel of her first-born egg. "I have noticed how restless you are, and devoid of all healthy interest in anything. 'Listless' is the word. 'Listless' is exactly what I mean, Erema. When I was at your time of life, I could never have gone about caring for nothing. I wonder that you knew that I even had a
fowl; much more how much they had eaten !"
"I really do try to do all I can, and that is a proof of it," I said. "I am not quite so listless as you think. But those things do seem so little to me."
"My dear, if you were happy, they would seem quite large, as, after all the anxieties of my life, I am able now to think them. It is a power to be thankful for; or, at least, I often think so. Look at my husband! He has outlived and outlasted more trouble than any one, but myself, could reckon up to him; and yet he is as brisk, as full of life, as ready to begin a new thing to-morrow-when at our age there may be no to-morrow, except in that better world, my dear, of which it is high time for him and me to think; as I truly hope we may spare the time to do."
"Oh, don't talk like that," I cried. "Please, Mrs. Hockin, to think of your hens and chicks-at least there will be chicks by and-by. I
am almost sure there will, if you only persevere. It seems unfair to set our minds on any other world, till justice has been done in this."
"You are very young, my child, or you would know that in that case we never should think of it at all. But I don't want to preach you
a sermon, Erema, even if I could do so.
I only just want you to tell me
what you think, what good you imagine that you can do."
"It is no imagination. I am sure that I can right my father's wrongs. And I never shall rest till I do so."
"Are you sure that there is any wrong to right?" she asked in the warmth of the moment, and then, seeing perhaps how my colour changed, she looked at me sadly, and kissed my forehead.
“Oh, if you had only once seen him," I said; "without any exaggeration, you would have been satisfied at once. That he could ever have done any barm was impossible, utterly impossible. I am not as I was. I can listen to almost anything now quite calmly. But never let me hear such a wicked thing again."
"You must not go on like that, Erema, unless you wish to lose all your friends. No one can help being sorry for you. Very few girls have been placed as you are. I am sure when I think of my own daughters, I can never be too thankful. But the very first thing you have to learn, above all things, is to control yourself."
"I know it-I know it, of course," I said; "and I keep on trying my very best. I am thoroughly ashamed of what I said, and I hope you will try to forgive me."
"A very slight exertion is enough for that. But now, my dear, what I want to know is this-and you will excuse me if I ask too much. What good do you expect to get by going thus to London? Have you any friend there, anybody to trust, anything settled as to what you are to do?"
"Yes, everything is settled in my own mind," I answered very bravely; "I have the address of a very good woman, found among my father's papers, who nursed his children, and understood his nature, and always kept her faith in him. There must be a great many more who do the same, and she will be sure to know them and introduce me to them; and I shall be guided by their advice.”
"But suppose that this excellent woman is dead, or not to be found, or has changed her opinion."
"Her opinion she never could change. But if she is not to be found, I shall find her husband, or her children, or somebody. And besides that, I have a hundred things to do. I have the address of the agent through whom my father drew his income, though Uncle Sam let me know as little as he could. And I know who his bankers were-(when he had a bank), and he may have left important papers there."
"Come, that looks a little more sensible, my dear; bankers may always be relied upon. And there may be some valuable plate, Erema. But why not let the Major go with you? His advice is so invaluable."