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- The Unclassed - 30/74 -
"On its own merits, vastly so."
"And suppose there was no government What about your novels then?"
"I'd make a magnificent one out of the spectacle of chaos."
"But you know very well you're talking bosh," exclaimed Abraham, somewhat discomfited. "There must be government, and there must be order, say what you like. Its nature that the strong should rule over the weak, and show them what's for their own good. What else are we here for? if you're going to be a parson, well and good; then cry down the world as much as you please, and think only about heaven and hell. But as far as I can make out, there's government there too. The devil rebelled and was kicked out. Serve him right If he wasn't strong enough to hold his own, he'd ought to have kept quiet."
"You're a Conservative, of course," said Waymark, smiling. "You believe only in keeping the balance. You don't are about reform."
"Don't be so sure of that Let me have the chance and he power, and I'd reform hard enough, many a thing."
"Well, one might begin on a small scale. Suppose one took in hand Litany Lane and Elm Court? Suppose we exert our right as the stronger, and, to begin with, do a little whitewashing? Then sundry stairs and ceilings might be looked to. No doubt there'd be resistance, but on the whole it would be for the people's own good. A little fresh draining mightn't be amiss, or--"
"What the devil's all this to do with politics?" cried Abraham, whose face had grown dark.
"I should imagine, a good deal," returned Waymark, knocking out his pipe. "If you're for government, yen mustn't be above considering details."
"And so you think you have a hit at me, eh? Nothing of the kind. These are affairs of private contract, and no concern of government at all. In private contract a man has only a right to what he's strong enough to exact If a tenant tells me my houses ain't fit to live in, I tell him to go where he'll be better off' and I don't hinder him; I know well enough in a day or two there'll come somebody else. Ten to one he can't go, and he don't. Then why should I be at unnecessary expense in making the places better? As Boon as I can get no tenants I'll do so; not till then."
"You don't believe in works of mere humanity?"
"What the devil's humanity got to do with business?" cried Abraham.
"True," was Waymark's rejoinder.
"See, we won't talk of these kind of things," said Mr. Woodstock. "That's just what we always used to quarrel about, and I'm getting too old for quarrelling. Got any engagement this afternoon?"
"I thought of looking in to see a friend here in the street"
"Male or female?"
"Both; man and wife."
"Oh, then you have got some friends? So had I when I was your age. They go somehow when you get old. Your father was the last of them, I think. But you're not much like him, except a little in face. True, he was a Radical, but you,--well, I don't know what you are. If you'd been a son of mine, I'd have had you ill Parliament by now, somehow or other."
"I think you never had a son?" said Way mark, observing the note of melancholy which every now and then came up in the old man's talk.
"But you had some children, I think?"
"Yes, yes,--they're dead."
He had walked to the window, and suddenly turned round with a kind of impatience.
"Never mind the friend to-day; come and have some dinner with me. I seem to want a bit of company."
This was the first invitation of the kind Waymark had received. He accepted it, and they went out together.
"It's a pleasant part this," Mr. Woodstock said, as they walked by the river. "One might build himself a decent house somewhere about here, eh?"
"Do you think of doing so?"
"I think of doing so! What's the good of a house, and nobody to live in it?"
Waymark studied these various traits of the old man's humour, and constantly felt more of kindness towards him.
On the following day, just as he had collected his rents, and was on his way out of Litany Lane, Waymark was surprised at coming face to face with Mrs. Casti; yet more surprised when he perceived that she had come out from a public-house. She looked embarrassed, and for a moment seemed about to pass without recognising him; but he had raised his hat, and she could not but move her head in reply. She so obviously wished to avoid speaking, that he walked quickly on in another direction. He wondered what he could be doing in such a place as this. It could hardly be that she had acquaintances or connections here. Julian had not given him any particulars of Harriet's former life, and his friend's marriage was still a great puzzle to him. He knew well that the girl had no liking for himself; it was not improbable that this casual meeting would make their intercourse yet more strained. He thought for a moment of questioning Julian, but decided that the matter was no business of his.
It was so rare for him to meet an acquaintance in the streets, that a second chance of the same kind, only a few minutes later, surprised him greatly. This time the meeting as a pleasant one; somebody ran across to him from over the way, and he saw that it was Sally Fisher. She looked pleased. The girl had preserved a good deal of her sea-side complexion through the year and a half of town life, and, when happy, glowed all over her cheeks with the healthiest hue. She held out her hand in the usual frank, impulsive way.
"Oh, I thought it was you! You won't see I no more at the old place."
"No? How's that?"
"I'm leavin' un to-morrow. I've got a place in a shop, just by here, --a chandler's shop, and I'm going to live in."
"Indeed? Well, I'm glad to hear it. I dare say you'll be better off."
"Oh, I say,--you know your friend?"
"What about him?" asked the other, smiling as he looked into the girl's pretty face.
"Well," said Sally, "I don't mind you telling un where I live now, --if you like.--Look, there's the address on that paper; you can take it."
"Oh, I see. In point of fact, you _wish_ me to tell him?"
"Oh, I don't care. I dessay he don't want to know anything about I. But you can if you like."
"I will be sure to, and no doubt he will be delighted. He's been growing thin since I told him you declined to renew his acquaintance."
"Oh, don't talk! And now I must be off. Good-bye. I dessay I shall see you sometimes?"
"Without doubt. We'll have another Sunday at Richmond soon. Good-bye."
It was about four in the afternoon when Sally reached home, and she ran up at once to Ida's room, and burst in, crying out, "I've got it! I've got it!" with much dancing about and joyous singing. Ida rose with a faint smile of welcome. She had been sitting at the window, reading a book lent her by Waymark.
"They said they liked my appearance," Sally went on, "and 'ud give me a try. I go in to-morrow. It won't be a over easy place, neither. I've to do all the cleaning in the house, and there's a baby to look after when I'm not in the shop."
"And what will they give you?"
"Ten shillings a month for the first half-year; then a rise."
"And you're satisfied?"
"Oh, it'll do till something better turns up. Oh, I say, I met your friend just after I'd come away."
"Did you?" said Ida quietly.
"Yes; and I told him he could tell his friend where I was, if he liked."
"The Irishman, you know," explained Sally, moving about the room. "I told you he'd been asking after me."
Ida seemed all at once to awake from a dream. She uttered a long "Ah!" under her breath, and for a moment looked at the girl like one who is struck with an unexpected explanation. Then she turned away
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