Part 2 out of 5
tremulously, for he knew he was going too far. He carried it off
by adding, "You resemble all who love truth and hate lies, as I
"Then, sir," said the youth gravely, "you much belie your
reputation. And now I must leave you for another part of the
preserves, where I think it likely that last night's poachers may
now be, and where I shall pass the night in watching for them. You
may want your permit for a few miles further, so I will not take
it. Neither need you give it up at Sunch'ston. It is dated, and
will be useless after this evening."
With this he strode off into the forest, bowing politely but
somewhat coldly, and without encouraging my father's half proffered
My father turned sad and unsatisfied away.
"It serves me right," he said to himself; "he ought never to have
been my son; and yet, if such men can be brought by hook or by
crook into the world, surely the world should not ask questions
about the bringing. How cheerless everything looks now that he has
* * *
By this time it was three o'clock, and in another few minutes my
father came upon the ashes of the fire beside which he and the
Professors had supped on the preceding evening. It was only some
eighteen hours since they had come upon him, and yet what an age it
seemed! It was well the Ranger had left him, for though my father,
of course, would have known nothing about either fire or poachers,
it might have led to further falsehood, and by this time he had
become exhausted--not to say, for the time being, sick of lies
He trudged slowly on, without meeting a soul, until he came upon
some stones that evidently marked the limits of the preserves.
When he had got a mile or so beyond these, he struck a narrow and
not much frequented path, which he was sure would lead him towards
Sunch'ston, and soon afterwards, seeing a huge old chestnut tree
some thirty or forty yards from the path itself, he made towards it
and flung himself on the ground beneath its branches. There were
abundant signs that he was nearing farm lands and homesteads, but
there was no one about, and if any one saw him there was nothing in
his appearance to arouse suspicion.
He determined, therefore, to rest here till hunger should wake him,
and drive him into Sunch'ston, which, however, he did not wish to
reach till dusk if he could help it. He meant to buy a valise and
a few toilette necessaries before the shops should close, and then
engage a bedroom at the least frequented inn he could find that
looked fairly clean and comfortable.
He slept till nearly six, and on waking gathered his thoughts
together. He could not shake his newly found son from out of them,
but there was no good in dwelling upon him now, and he turned his
thoughts to the Professors. How, he wondered, were they getting
on, and what had they done with the things they had bought from
"How delightful it would be," he said to himself, "if I could find
where they have hidden their hoard, and hide it somewhere else."
He tried to project his mind into those of the Professors, as
though they were a team of straying bullocks whose probable action
he must determine before he set out to look for them.
On reflection, he concluded that the hidden property was not likely
to be far from the spot on which he now was. The Professors would
wait till they had got some way down towards Sunch'ston, so as to
have readier access to their property when they wanted to remove
it; but when they came upon a path and other signs that inhabited
dwellings could not be far distant, they would begin to look out
for a hiding-place. And they would take pretty well the first that
came. "Why, bless my heart," he exclaimed, "this tree is hollow; I
wonder whether--" and on looking up he saw an innocent little strip
of the very tough fibrous leaf commonly used while green as string,
or even rope, by the Erewhonians. The plant that makes this leaf
is so like the ubiquitous New Zealand Phormium tenax, or flax, as
it is there called, that I shall speak of it as flax in future, as
indeed I have already done without explanation on an earlier page;
for this plant grows on both sides of the great range. The piece
of flax, then, which my father caught sight of was fastened, at no
great height from the ground, round the branch of a strong sucker
that had grown from the roots of the chestnut tree, and going
thence for a couple of feet or so towards the place where the
parent tree became hollow, it disappeared into the cavity below.
My father had little difficulty in swarming the sucker till he
reached the bough on to which the flax was tied, and soon found
himself hauling up something from the bottom of the tree. In less
time than it takes to tell the tale he saw his own familiar red
blanket begin to show above the broken edge of the hollow, and in
another second there was a clinkum-clankum as the bundle fell upon
the ground. This was caused by the billy and the pannikin, which
were wrapped inside the blanket. As for the blanket, it had been
tied tightly at both ends, as well as at several points between,
and my father inwardly complimented the Professors on the neatness
with which they had packed and hidden their purchase. "But," he
said to himself with a laugh, "I think one of them must have got on
the other's back to reach that bough."
"Of course," thought he, "they will have taken the nuggets with
them." And yet he had seemed to hear a dumping as well as a
clinkum-clankum. He undid the blanket, carefully untying every
knot and keeping the flax. When he had unrolled it, he found to
his very pleasurable surprise that the pannikin was inside the
billy, and the nuggets with the receipt inside the pannikin. The
paper containing the tea having been torn, was wrapped up in a
handkerchief marked with Hanky's name.
"Down, conscience, down!" he exclaimed as he transferred the
nuggets, receipt, and handkerchief to his own pocket. "Eye of my
soul that you are! if you offend me I must pluck you out." His
conscience feared him and said nothing. As for the tea, he left it
in its torn paper.
He then put the billy, pannikin, and tea, back again inside the
blanket, which he tied neatly up, tie for tie with the Professor's
own flax, leaving no sign of any disturbance. He again swarmed the
sucker, till he reached the bough to which the blanket and its
contents had been made fast, and having attached the bundle, he
dropped it back into the hollow of the tree. He did everything
quite leisurely, for the Professors would be sure to wait till
nightfall before coming to fetch their property away.
"If I take nothing but the nuggets," he argued, "each of the
Professors will suspect the other of having conjured them into his
own pocket while the bundle was being made up. As for the
handkerchief, they must think what they like; but it will puzzle
Hanky to know why Panky should have been so anxious for a receipt,
if he meant stealing the nuggets. Let them muddle it out their own
Reflecting further, he concluded, perhaps rightly, that they had
left the nuggets where he had found them, because neither could
trust the other not to filch a few, if he had them in his own
possession, and they could not make a nice division without a pair
of scales. "At any rate," he said to himself, "there will be a
pretty quarrel when they find them gone."
Thus charitably did he brood over things that were not to happen.
The discovery of the Professors' hoard had refreshed him almost as
much as his sleep had done, and it being now past seven, he lit his
pipe--which, however, he smoked as furtively as he had done when he
was a boy at school, for he knew not whether smoking had yet become
an Erewhonian virtue or no--and walked briskly on towards
CHAPTER VII: SIGNS OF THE NEW ORDER OF THINGS CATCH MY FATHER'S
EYE ON EVERY SIDE
He had not gone far before a turn in the path--now rapidly
widening--showed him two high towers, seemingly some two miles off;
these he felt sure must be at Sunch'ston, he therefore stepped out,
lest he should find the shops shut before he got there.
On his former visit he had seen little of the town, for he was in
prison during his whole stay. He had had a glimpse of it on being
brought there by the people of the village where he had spent his
first night in Erewhon--a village which he had seen at some little
distance on his right hand, but which it would have been out of his
way to visit, even if he had wished to do so; and he had seen the
Museum of old machines, but on leaving the prison he had been
blindfolded. Nevertheless he felt sure that if the towers had been
there he should have seen them, and rightly guessed that they must
belong to the temple which was to be dedicated to himself on
When he had passed through the suburbs he found himself in the main
street. Space will not allow me to dwell on more than a few of the
things which caught his eye, and assured him that the change in
Erewhonian habits and opinions had been even more cataclysmic than
he had already divined. The first important building that he came
to proclaimed itself as the College of Spiritual Athletics, and in
the window of a shop that was evidently affiliated to the college
he saw an announcement that moral try-your-strengths, suitable for
every kind of ordinary temptation, would be provided on the
shortest notice. Some of those that aimed at the more common kinds
of temptation were kept in stock, but these consisted chiefly of
trials to the temper. On dropping, for example, a penny into a
slot, you could have a jet of fine pepper, flour, or brickdust,
whichever you might prefer, thrown on to your face, and thus
discover whether your composure stood in need of further
development or no. My father gathered this from the writing that
was pasted on to the try-your-strength, but he had no time to go
inside the shop and test either the machine or his own temper.
Other temptations to irritability required the agency of living
people, or at any rate living beings. Crying children, screaming
parrots, a spiteful monkey, might be hired on ridiculously easy
terms. He saw one advertisement, nicely framed, which ran as
"Mrs. Tantrums, Nagger, certificated by the College of Spiritual
Athletics. Terms for ordinary nagging, two shillings and sixpence
per hour. Hysterics extra."
Then followed a series of testimonials--for example:-
"Dear Mrs. Tantrums,--I have for years been tortured with a husband
of unusually peevish, irritable temper, who made my life so
intolerable that I sometimes answered him in a way that led to his
using personal violence towards me. After taking a course of
twelve sittings from you, I found my husband's temper comparatively
angelic, and we have ever since lived together in complete
Another was from a husband:-
"Mr.--presents his compliments to Mrs. Tantrums, and begs to assure
her that her extra special hysterics have so far surpassed anything
his wife can do, as to render him callous to those attacks which he
had formerly found so distressing."
There were many others of a like purport, but time did not permit
my father to do more than glance at them. He contented himself
with the two following, of which the first ran:-
"He did try it at last. A little correction of the right kind
taken at the right moment is invaluable. No more swearing. No
more bad language of any kind. A lamb-like temper ensured in about
twenty minutes, by a single dose of one of our spiritual
indigestion tabloids. In cases of all the more ordinary moral
ailments, from simple lying, to homicidal mania, in cases again of
tendency to hatred, malice, and uncharitableness; of atrophy or
hypertrophy of the conscience, of costiveness or diarrhoea of the
sympathetic instincts, &c., &c., our spiritual indigestion tabloids
will afford unfailing and immediate relief.
"N.B.--A bottle or two of our Sunchild Cordial will assist the
operation of the tabloids."
The second and last that I can give was as follows:-
"All else is useless. If you wish to be a social success, make
yourself a good listener. There is no short cut to this. A would-
be listener must learn the rudiments of his art and go through the
mill like other people. If he would develop a power of suffering
fools gladly, he must begin by suffering them without the gladness.
Professor Proser, ex-straightener, certificated bore, pragmatic or
coruscating, with or without anecdotes, attends pupils at their own
houses. Terms moderate.
"Mrs. Proser, whose success as a professional mind-dresser is so
well-known that lengthened advertisement is unnecessary, prepares
ladies or gentlemen with appropriate remarks to be made at dinner-
parties or at-homes. Mrs. P. keeps herself well up to date with
all the latest scandals."
"Poor, poor, straighteners!" said my father to himself. "Alas!
that it should have been my fate to ruin you--for I suppose your
occupation is gone."
Tearing himself away from the College of Spiritual Athletics and
its affiliated shop, he passed on a few doors, only to find himself
looking in at what was neither more nor less than a chemist's shop.
In the window there were advertisements which showed that the
practice of medicine was now legal, but my father could not stay to
copy a single one of the fantastic announcements that a hurried
glance revealed to him.
It was also plain here, as from the shop already more fully
described, that the edicts against machines had been repealed, for
there were physical try-your-strengths, as in the other shop there
had been moral ones, and such machines under the old law would not
have been tolerated for a moment.
My father made his purchases just as the last shops were closing.
He noticed that almost all of them were full of articles labelled
"Dedication." There was Dedication gingerbread, stamped with a
moulded representation of the new temple; there were Dedication
syrups, Dedication pocket-handkerchiefs, also shewing the temple,
and in one corner giving a highly idealised portrait of my father
himself. The chariot and the horses figured largely, and in the
confectioners' shops there were models of the newly discovered
relic--made, so my father thought, with a little heap of cherries
or strawberries, smothered in chocolate. Outside one tailor's shop
he saw a flaring advertisement which can only be translated, "Try
our Dedication trousers, price ten shillings and sixpence."
Presently he passed the new temple, but it was too dark for him to
do more than see that it was a vast fane, and must have cost an
untold amount of money. At every turn he found himself more and
more shocked, as he realised more and more fully the mischief he
had already occasioned, and the certainty that this was small as
compared with that which would grow up hereafter.
"What," he said to me, very coherently and quietly, "was I to do?
I had struck a bargain with that dear fellow, though he knew not
what I meant, to the effect that I should try to undo the harm I
had done, by standing up before the people on Sunday and saying who
I was. True, they would not believe me. They would look at my
hair and see it black, whereas it should be very light. On this
they would look no further, but very likely tear me in pieces then
and there. Suppose that the authorities held a post-mortem
examination, and that many who knew me (let alone that all my
measurements and marks were recorded twenty years ago) identified
the body as mine: would those in power admit that I was the
Sunchild? Not they. The interests vested in my being now in the
palace of the sun are too great to allow of my having been torn to
pieces in Sunch'ston, no matter how truly I had been torn; the
whole thing would be hushed up, and the utmost that could come of
it would be a heresy which would in time be crushed.
"On the other hand, what business have I with 'would be' or 'would
not be?' Should I not speak out, come what may, when I see a whole
people being led astray by those who are merely exploiting them for
their own ends? Though I could do but little, ought I not to do
that little? What did that good fellow's instinct--so straight
from heaven, so true, so healthy--tell him? What did my own
instinct answer? What would the conscience of any honourable man
answer? Who can doubt?
"And yet, is there not reason? and is it not God-given as much as
instinct? I remember having heard an anthem in my young days, 'O
where shall wisdom be found? the deep saith it is not in me.' As
the singers kept on repeating the question, I kept on saying
sorrowfully to myself--'Ah, where, where, where?' and when the
triumphant answer came, 'The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and
to depart from evil is understanding,' I shrunk ashamed into myself
for not having foreseen it. In later life, when I have tried to
use this answer as a light by which I could walk, I found it served
but to the raising of another question, 'What is the fear of the
Lord, and what is evil in this particular case?' And my easy
method with spiritual dilemmas proved to be but a case of ignotum
"If Satan himself is at times transformed into an angel of light,
are not angels of light sometimes transformed into the likeness of
Satan? If the devil is not so black as he is painted, is God
always so white? And is there not another place in which it is
said, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,' as though
it were not the last word upon the subject? If a man should not do
evil that good may come, so neither should he do good that evil may
come; and though it were good for me to speak out, should I not do
better by refraining?
"Such were the lawless and uncertain thoughts that tortured me very
cruelly, so that I did what I had not done for many a long year--I
prayed for guidance. 'Shew me Thy will, O Lord,' I cried in great
distress, 'and strengthen me to do it when Thou hast shewn it me.'
But there was no answer. Instinct tore me one way and reason
another. Whereon I settled that I would obey the reason with which
God had endowed me, unless the instinct He had also given me should
thrash it out of me. I could get no further than this, that the
Lord hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He willeth He
hardeneth; and again I prayed that I might be among those on whom
He would shew His mercy.
"This was the strongest internal conflict that I ever remember to
have felt, and it was at the end of it that I perceived the first,
but as yet very faint, symptoms of that sickness from which I shall
not recover. Whether this be a token of mercy or no, my Father
which is in heaven knows, but I know not."
From what my father afterwards told me, I do not think the above
reflections had engrossed him for more than three or four minutes;
the giddiness which had for some seconds compelled him to lay hold
of the first thing he could catch at in order to avoid falling,
passed away without leaving a trace behind it, and his path seemed
to become comfortably clear before him. He settled it that the
proper thing to do would be to buy some food, start back at once
while his permit was still valid, help himself to the property
which he had sold the Professors, leaving the Erewhonians to
wrestle as they best might with the lot that it had pleased Heaven
to send them.
This, however, was too heroic a course. He was tired, and wanted a
night's rest in a bed; he was hungry, and wanted a substantial
meal; he was curious, moreover, to see the temple dedicated to
himself, and hear Hanky's sermon; there was also this further
difficulty, he should have to take what he had sold the Professors
without returning them their 4 pounds, 10s., for he could not do
without his blanket, &c.; and even if he left a bag of nuggets made
fast to the sucker, he must either place it where it could be seen
so easily that it would very likely get stolen, or hide it so
cleverly that the Professors would never find it. He therefore
compromised by concluding that he would sup and sleep in
Sunch'ston, get through the morrow as he best could without
attracting attention, deepen the stain on his face and hair, and
rely on the change so made in his appearance to prevent his being
recognised at the dedication of the temple. He would do nothing to
disillusion the people--to do this would only be making bad worse.
As soon as the service was over, he would set out towards the
preserves, and, when it was well dark, make for the statues. He
hoped that on such a great day the rangers might be many of them in
Sunch'ston; if there were any about, he must trust the moonless
night and his own quick eyes and ears to get him through the
The shops were by this time closed, but the keepers of a few stalls
were trying by lamplight to sell the wares they had not yet got rid
of. One of these was a bookstall, and, running his eye over some
of the volumes, my father saw one entitled -
"The Sayings of the Sunchild during his stay in Erewhon, to which
is added a true account of his return to the palace of the sun with
his Erewhonian bride. This is the only version authorised by the
Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Musical Banks; all other
versions being imperfect and inaccurate.--Bridgeford, XVIII., 150
pp. 8vo. Price 3s.
The reader will understand that I am giving the prices as nearly as
I can in their English equivalents. Another title was -
"The Sacrament of Divorce: an Occasional Sermon preached by Dr.
Gurgoyle, President of the Musical Banks for the Province of
Sunch'ston. 8vo, 16 pp. 6d.
Other titles ran -
"Counsels of Imperfection." 8vo, 20 pp. 6d.
"Hygiene; or, How to Diagnose your Doctor. 8vo, 10 pp. 3d.
"The Physics of Vicarious Existence," by Dr. Gurgoyle, President of
the Musical Banks for the Province of Sunch'ston. 8vo, 20 pp. 6d.
There were many other books whose titles would probably have
attracted my father as much as those that I have given, but he was
too tired and hungry to look at more. Finding that he could buy
all the foregoing for 4s. 9d., he bought them and stuffed them into
the valise that he had just bought. His purchases in all had now
amounted to a little over 1 pound, 10s. (silver), leaving him about
3 pounds (silver), including the money for which he had sold the
quails, to carry him on till Sunday afternoon. He intended to
spend say 2 pounds (silver), and keep the rest of the money in
order to give it to the British Museum.
He now began to search for an inn, and walked about the less
fashionable parts of the town till he found an unpretending tavern,
which he thought would suit him. Here, on importunity, he was
given a servant's room at the top of the house, all others being
engaged by visitors who had come for the dedication. He ordered a
meal, of which he stood in great need, and having eaten it, he
retired early for the night. But he smoked a pipe surreptitiously
up the chimney before he got into bed.
Meanwhile other things were happening, of which, happily for his
repose, he was still ignorant, and which he did not learn till a
few days later. Not to depart from chronological order I will deal
with them in my next chapter.
CHAPTER VIII: YRAM, NOW MAYORESS, GIVES A DINNER-PARTY, IN THE
COURSE OF WHICH SHE IS DISQUIETED BY WHAT SHE LEARNS FROM PROFESSOR
HANKY: SHE SENDS FOR HER SON GEORGE AND QUESTIONS HIM
The Professors, returning to their hotel early on the Friday
morning, found a note from the Mayoress urging them to be her
guests during the remainder of their visit, and to meet other
friends at dinner on this same evening. They accepted, and then
went to bed; for they had passed the night under the tree in which
they had hidden their purchase, and, as may be imagined, had slept
but little. They rested all day, and transferred themselves and
their belongings to the Mayor's house in time to dress for dinner.
When they came down into the drawing-room they found a brilliant
company assembled, chiefly Musical-Bankical like themselves. There
was Dr. Downie, Professor of Logomachy, and perhaps the most subtle
dialectician in Erewhon. He could say nothing in more words than
any man of his generation. His text-book on the "Art of Obscuring
Issues" had passed through ten or twelve editions, and was in the
hands of all aspirants for academic distinction. He had earned a
high reputation for sobriety of judgement by resolutely refusing to
have definite views on any subject; so safe a man was he
considered, that while still quite young he had been appointed to
the lucrative post of Thinker in Ordinary to the Royal Family.
There was Mr. Principal Crank, with his sister Mrs. Quack;
Professors Gabb and Bawl, with their wives and two or three erudite
Old Mrs. Humdrum (of whom more anon) was there of course, with her
venerable white hair and rich black satin dress, looking the very
ideal of all that a stately old dowager ought to be. In society
she was commonly known as Ydgrun, so perfectly did she correspond
with the conception of this strange goddess formed by the
Erewhonians. She was one of those who had visited my father when
he was in prison twenty years earlier. When he told me that she
was now called Ydgrun, he said, "I am sure that the Erinyes were
only Mrs. Humdrums, and that they were delightful people when you
came to know them. I do not believe they did the awful things we
say they did. I think, but am not quite sure, that they let
Orestes off; but even though they had not pardoned him, I doubt
whether they would have done anything more dreadful to him than
issue a mot d'ordre that he was not to be asked to any more
afternoon teas. This, however, would be down-right torture to some
people. At any rate," he continued, "be it the Erinyes, or Mrs.
Grundy, or Ydgrun, in all times and places it is woman who decides
whether society is to condone an offence or no."
Among the most attractive ladies present was one for whose
Erewhonian name I can find no English equivalent, and whom I must
therefore call Miss La Frime. She was Lady President of the
principal establishment for the higher education of young ladies,
and so celebrated was she, that pupils flocked to her from all
parts of the surrounding country. Her primer (written for the
Erewhonian Arts and Science Series) on the Art of Man-killing, was
the most complete thing of the kind that had yet been done; but
ill-natured people had been heard to say that she had killed all
her own admirers so effectually that not one of them had ever lived
to marry her. According to Erewhonian custom the successful
marriages of the pupils are inscribed yearly on the oak paneling of
the college refectory, and a reprint from these in pamphlet form
accompanies all the prospectuses that are sent out to parents. It
was alleged that no other ladies' seminary in Erewhon could show
such a brilliant record during all the years of Miss La Frime's
presidency. Many other guests of less note were there, but the
lions of the evening were the two Professors whom we have already
met with, and more particularly Hanky, who took the Mayoress in to
dinner. Panky, of course, wore his clothes reversed, as did
Principal Crank and Professor Gabb; the others were dressed English
Everything hung upon the hostess, for the host was little more than
a still handsome figure-head. He had been remarkable for his good
looks as a young man, and Strong is the nearest approach I can get
to a translation of his Erewhonian name. His face inspired
confidence at once, but he was a man of few words, and had little
of that grace which in his wife set every one instantly at his or
her ease. He knew that all would go well so long as he left
everything to her, and kept himself as far as might be in the
Before dinner was announced there was the usual buzz of
conversation, chiefly occupied with salutations, good wishes for
Sunday's weather, and admiration for the extreme beauty of the
Mayoress's three daughters, the two elder of whom were already out;
while the third, though only thirteen, might have passed for a year
or two older. Their mother was so much engrossed with receiving
her guests that it was not till they were all at table that she was
able to ask Hanky what he thought of the statues, which she had
heard that he and Professor Panky had been to see. She was told
how much interested he had been with them, and how unable he had
been to form any theory as to their date or object. He then added,
appealing to Panky, who was on the Mayoress's left hand, "but we
had rather a strange adventure on our way down, had we not, Panky?
We got lost, and were benighted in the forest. Happily we fell in
with one of the rangers who had lit a fire."
"Do I understand, then," said Yram, as I suppose we may as well
call her, "that you were out all last night? How tired you must
be! But I hope you had enough provisions with you?"
"Indeed we were out all night. We staid by the ranger's fire till
midnight, and then tried to find our way down, but we gave it up
soon after we had got out of the forest, and then waited under a
large chestnut tree till four or five this morning. As for food,
we had not so much as a mouthful from about three in the afternoon
till we got to our inn early this morning."
"Oh, you poor, poor people! how tired you must be."
"No; we made a good breakfast as soon as we got in, and then went
to bed, where we staid till it was time for us to come to your
Here Panky gave his friend a significant look, as much as to say
that he had said enough.
This set Hanky on at once. "Strange to say, the ranger was wearing
the old Erewhonian dress. It did me good to see it again after all
these years. It seems your son lets his men wear what few of the
old clothes they may still have, so long as they keep well away
from the town. But fancy how carefully these poor fellows husband
them; why, it must be seventeen years since the dress was
We all of us have skeletons, large or small, in some cupboard of
our lives, but a well regulated skeleton that will stay in its
cupboard quietly does not much matter. There are skeletons,
however, which can never be quite trusted not to open the cupboard
door at some awkward moment, go down stairs, ring the hall-door
bell, with grinning face announce themselves as the skeleton, and
ask whether the master or mistress is at home. This kind of
skeleton, though no bigger than a rabbit, will sometimes loom large
as that of a dinotherium. My father was Yram's skeleton. True, he
was a mere skeleton of a skeleton, for the chances were thousands
to one that he and my mother had perished long years ago; and even
though he rang at the bell, there was no harm that he either could
or would now do to her or hers; still, so long as she did not
certainly know that he was dead, or otherwise precluded from
returning, she could not be sure that he would not one day come
back by the way that he would alone know, and she had rather he
should not do so.
Hence, on hearing from Professor Hanky that a man had been seen
between the statues and Sunch'ston wearing the old Erewhonian
dress, she was disquieted and perplexed. The excuse he had
evidently made to the Professors aggravated her uneasiness, for it
was an obvious attempt to escape from an unexpected difficulty.
There could be no truth in it. Her son would as soon think of
wearing the old dress himself as of letting his men do so; and as
for having old clothes still to wear out after seventeen years, no
one but a Bridgeford Professor would accept this. She saw,
therefore, that she must keep her wits about her, and lead her
guests on to tell her as much as they could be induced to do.
"My son," she said innocently, "is always considerate to his men,
and that is why they are so devoted to him. I wonder which of them
it was? In what part of the preserves did you fall in with him?"
Hanky described the place, and gave the best idea he could of my
"Of course he was swarthy like the rest of us?"
"I saw nothing remarkable about him, except that his eyes were blue
and his eyelashes nearly white, which, as you know, is rare in
Erewhon. Indeed, I do not remember ever before to have seen a man
with dark hair and complexion but light eyelashes. Nature is
always doing something unusual."
"I have no doubt," said Yram, "that he was the man they call
Blacksheep, but I never noticed this peculiarity in him. If he was
Blacksheep, I am afraid you must have found him none too civil; he
is a rough diamond, and you would hardly be able to understand his
uncouth Sunch'ston dialect."
"On the contrary, he was most kind and thoughtful--even so far as
to take our permit from us, and thus save us the trouble of giving
it up at your son's office. As for his dialect, his grammar was
often at fault, but we could quite understand him."
"I am glad to hear he behaved better than I could have expected.
Did he say in what part of the preserves he had been?"
"He had been catching quails between the place where we saw him and
the statues; he was to deliver three dozen to your son this
afternoon for the Mayor's banquet on Sunday."
This was worse and worse. She had urged her son to provide her
with a supply of quails for Sunday's banquet, but he had begged her
not to insist on having them. There was no close time for them in
Erewhon, but he set his face against their being seen at table in
spring and summer. During the winter, when any great occasion
arose, he had allowed a few brace to be provided.
"I asked my son to let me have some," said Yram, who was now on
full scent. She laughed genially as she added, "Can you throw any
light upon the question whether I am likely to get my three dozen?
I have had no news as yet."
"The man had taken a good many; we saw them but did not count them.
He started about midnight for the ranger's shelter, where he said
he should sleep till daybreak, so as to make up his full tale
Yram had heard her son complain that there were no shelters on the
preserves, and state his intention of having some built before the
winter. Here too, then, the man's story must be false. She
changed the conversation for the moment, but quietly told a servant
to send high and low in search of her son, and if he could be
found, to bid him come to her at once. She then returned to her
"And did not this heartless wretch, knowing how hungry you must
both be, let you have a quail or two as an act of pardonable
"My dear Mayoress, how can you ask such a question? We knew you
would want all you could get; moreover, our permit threatened us
with all sorts of horrors if we so much as ate a single quail. I
assure you we never even allowed a thought of eating one of them to
cross our minds."
"Then," said Yram to herself, "they gorged upon them." What could
she think? A man who wore the old dress, and therefore who had
almost certainly been in Erewhon, but had been many years away from
it; who spoke the language well, but whose grammar was defective--
hence, again, one who had spent some time in Erewhon; who knew
nothing of the afforesting law now long since enacted, for how else
would he have dared to light a fire and be seen with quails in his
possession; an adroit liar, who on gleaning information from the
Professors had hazarded an excuse for immediately retracing his
steps; a man, too, with blue eyes and light eyelashes. What did it
matter about his hair being dark and his complexion swarthy--Higgs
was far too clever to attempt a second visit to Erewhon without
dyeing his hair and staining his face and hands. And he had got
their permit out of the Professors before he left them; clearly,
then, he meant coming back, and coming back at once before the
permit had expired. How could she doubt? My father, she felt
sure, must by this time be in Sunch'ston. He would go back to
change his clothes, which would not be very far down on the other
side the pass, for he would not put on his old Erewhonian dress
till he was on the point of entering Erewhon; and he would hide his
English dress rather than throw it away, for he would want it when
he went back again. It would be quite possible, then, for him to
get through the forest before the permit was void, and he would be
sure to go on to Sunch'ston for the night.
She chatted unconcernedly, now with one guest now with another,
while they in their turn chatted unconcernedly with one another.
Miss La Frime to Mrs. Humdrum: "You know how he got his
professorship? No? I thought every one knew that. The question
the candidates had to answer was, whether it was wiser during a
long stay at a hotel to tip the servants pretty early, or to wait
till the stay was ended. All the other candidates took one side or
the other, and argued their case in full. Hanky sent in three
lines to the effect that the proper thing to do would be to promise
at the beginning, and go away without giving. The King, with whom
the appointment rested, was so much pleased with this answer that
he gave Hanky the professorship without so much as looking . . . "
Professor Gabb to Mrs. Humdrum: "Oh no, I can assure you there is
no truth in it. What happened was this. There was the usual
crowd, and the people cheered Professor after Professor, as he
stood before them in the great Bridgeford theatre and satisfied
them that a lump of butter which had been put into his mouth would
not melt in it. When Hanky's turn came he was taken suddenly
unwell, and had to leave the theatre, on which there was a report
in the house that the butter had melted; this was at once stopped
by the return of the Professor. Another piece of butter was put
into his mouth, and on being taken out after the usual time, was
found to shew no signs of having . . . "
Miss Bawl to Mr. Principal Crank: . . . "The Manager was so tall,
you know, and then there was that little mite of an assistant
manager--it WAS so funny. For the assistant manager's voice was
ever so much louder than the . . . "
Mrs. Bawl to Professor Gabb: . . . "Live for art! If I had to
choose whether I would lose either art or science, I have not the
smallest hesitation in saying that I would lose . . . "
The Mayor and Dr. Downie: . . . "That you are to be canonised at
the close of the year along with Professors Hanky and Panky?"
"I believe it is his Majesty's intention that the Professors and
myself are to head the list of the Sunchild's Saints, but we have
all of us got to . . . "
And so on, and so on, buzz, buzz, buzz, over the whole table.
Presently Yram turned to Hanky and said -
"By the way, Professor, you must have found it very cold up at the
statues, did you not? But I suppose the snow is all gone by this
"Yes, it was cold, and though the winter's snow is melted, there
had been a recent fall. Strange to say, we saw fresh footprints in
it, as of some one who had come up from the other side. But
thereon hangs a tale, about which I believe I should say nothing."
"Then say nothing, my dear Professor," said Yram with a frank
smile. "Above all," she added quietly and gravely, "say nothing to
the Mayor, nor to my son, till after Sunday. Even a whisper of
some one coming over from the other side disquiets them, and they
have enough on hand for the moment."
Panky, who had been growing more and more restive at his friend's
outspokenness, but who had encouraged it more than once by vainly
trying to check it, was relieved at hearing his hostess do for him
what he could not do for himself. As for Yram, she had got enough
out of the Professor to be now fully dissatisfied, and mentally
informed them that they might leave the witness-box. During the
rest of dinner she let the subject of their adventure severely
It seemed to her as though dinner was never going to end; but in
the course of time it did so, and presently the ladies withdrew.
As they were entering the drawing-room a servant told her that her
son had been found more easily than was expected, and was now in
his own room dressing.
"Tell him," she said, "to stay there till I come, which I will do
She remained for a few minutes with her guests, and then, excusing
herself quietly to Mrs. Humdrum, she stepped out and hastened to
her son's room. She told him that Professors Hanky and Panky were
staying in the house, and that during dinner they had told her
something he ought to know, but which there was no time to tell him
until her guests were gone. "I had rather," she said, "tell you
about it before you see the Professors, for if you see them the
whole thing will be reopened, and you are sure to let them see how
much more there is in it than they suspect. I want everything
hushed up for the moment; do not, therefore, join us. Have dinner
sent to you in your father's study. I will come to you about
"But, my dear mother," said George, "I have seen Panky already. I
walked down with him a good long way this afternoon."
Yram had not expected this, but she kept her countenance. "How did
you know," said she, "that he was Professor Panky? Did he tell you
"Certainly he did. He showed me his permit, which was made out in
favour of Professors Hanky and Panky, or either of them. He said
Hanky had been unable to come with him, and that he was himself
Yram again smiled very sweetly. "Then, my dear boy," she said, "I
am all the more anxious that you should not see him now. See
nobody but the servants and your brothers, and wait till I can
enlighten you. I must not stay another moment; but tell me this
much, have you seen any signs of poachers lately?"
"Yes; there were three last night."
"In what part of the preserves?"
Her son described the place.
"You are sure they had been killing quails?"
"Yes, and eating them--two on one side of a fire they had lit, and
one on the other; this last man had done all the plucking."
She kissed him with more than even her usual tenderness, and
returned to the drawing-room.
During the rest of the evening she was engaged in earnest
conversation with Mrs. Humdrum, leaving her other guests to her
daughters and to themselves. Mrs. Humdrum had been her closest
friend for many years, and carried more weight than any one else in
Sunch'ston, except, perhaps, Yram herself. "Tell him everything,"
she said to Yram at the close of their conversation; "we all dote
upon him; trust him frankly, as you trusted your husband before you
let him marry you. No lies, no reserve, no tears, and all will
come right. As for me, command me," and the good old lady rose to
take her leave with as kind a look on her face as ever irradiated
saint or angel. "I go early," she added, "for the others will go
when they see me do so, and the sooner you are alone the better."
By half an hour before midnight her guests had gone. Hanky and
Panky were given to understand that they must still be tired, and
had better go to bed. So was the Mayor; so were her sons and
daughters, except of course George, who was waiting for her with
some anxiety, for he had seen that she had something serious to
tell him. Then she went down into the study. Her son embraced her
as she entered, and moved an easy chair for her, but she would not
"No; I will have an upright one." Then, sitting composedly down on
the one her son placed for her, she said -
"And now to business. But let me first tell you that the Mayor was
told, twenty years ago, all the more important part of what you
will now hear. He does not yet know what has happened within the
last few hours, but either you or I will tell him to-morrow."
CHAPTER IX: INTERVIEW BETWEEN YRAM AND HER SON
"What did you think of Panky?"
"I could not make him out. If he had not been a Bridgeford
Professor I might have liked him; but you know how we all of us
distrust those people."
"Where did you meet him?"
"About two hours lower down than the statues."
"At what o'clock?"
"It might be between two and half-past."
"I suppose he did not say that at that hour he was in bed at his
hotel in Sunch'ston. Hardly! Tell me what passed between you."
"He had his permit open before we were within speaking distance. I
think he feared I should attack him without making sure whether he
was a foreign devil or no. I have told you he said he was
"I suppose he had a dark complexion and black hair like the rest of
"Dark complexion and hair purplish rather than black. I was
surprised to see that his eyelashes were as light as my own, and
his eyes were blue like mine--but you will have noticed this at
"No, my dear, I did not, and I think I should have done so if it
had been there to notice."
"Oh, but it was so indeed."
"Perhaps. Was there anything strange about his way of talking?"
"A little about his grammar, but these Bridgeford Professors have
often risen from the ranks. His pronunciation was nearly like
yours and mine."
"Was his manner friendly?"
"Very; more so than I could understand at first. I had not,
however, been with him long before I saw tears in his eyes, and
when I asked him whether he was in distress, he said I reminded him
of a son whom he had lost and had found after many years, only to
lose him almost immediately for ever. Hence his cordiality towards
"Then," said Yram half hysterically to herself, "he knew who you
were. Now, how, I wonder, did he find that out?" All vestige of
doubt as to who the man might be had now left her.
"Certainly he knew who I was. He spoke about you more than once,
and wished us every kind of prosperity, baring his head reverently
as he spoke."
"Poor fellow! Did he say anything about Higgs?"
"A good deal, and I was surprised to find he thought about it all
much as we do. But when I said that if I could go down into the
hell of which Higgs used to talk to you while he was in prison, I
should expect to find him in its hottest fires, he did not like
"Possibly not, my dear. Did you tell him how the other boys, when
you were at school, used sometimes to say you were son to this man
Higgs, and that the people of Sunch'ston used to say so also, till
the Mayor trounced two or three people so roundly that they held
their tongues for the future?"
"Not all that, but I said that silly people had believed me to be
the Sunchild's son, and what a disgrace I should hold it to be son
to such an impostor."
"What did he say to this?"
"He asked whether I should feel the disgrace less if Higgs were to
undo the mischief he had caused by coming back and shewing himself
to the people for what he was. But he said it would be no use for
him to do so, inasmuch as people would kill him but would not
"And you said?"
"Let him come back, speak out, and chance what might befall him.
In that case, I should honour him, father or no father."
"He asked if that would be a bargain; and when I said it would, he
grasped me warmly by the hand on Higgs's behalf--though what it
could matter to him passes my comprehension."
"But he saw that even though Higgs were to shew himself and say who
he was, it would mean death to himself and no good to any one
"Then he can have meant nothing by shaking hands with you. It was
an idle jest. And now for your poachers. You do not know who they
were? I will tell you. The two who sat on the one side the fire
were Professors Hanky and Panky from the City of the People who are
"No," said George vehemently. "Impossible."
"Yes, my dear boy, quite possible, and whether possible or
impossible, assuredly true."
"And the third man?"
"The third man was dressed in the old costume. He was in
possession of several brace of birds. The Professors vowed they
had not eaten any--"
"Oh yes, but they had," blurted out George.
"Of course they had, my dear; and a good thing too. Let us return
to the man in the old costume."
"That is puzzling. Who did he say he was?"
"He said he was one of your men; that you had instructed him to
provide you with three dozen quails for Sunday; and that you let
your men wear the old costume if they had any of it left, provided-
This was too much for George; he started to his feet. "What, my
dearest mother, does all this mean? You have been playing with me
all through. What is coming?"
"A very little more, and you shall hear. This man staid with the
Professors till nearly midnight, and then left them on the plea
that he would finish the night in the Ranger's shelter--"
"Ranger's shelter, indeed! Why--"
"Hush, my darling boy, be patient with me. He said he must be up
betimes, to run down the rest of the quails you had ordered him to
bring you. But before leaving the Professors he beguiled them into
giving him up their permit."
"Then, said George, striding about the room with his face flushed
and his eyes flashing, "he was the man with whom I walked down this
"And he must have changed his dress?"
"But where and how?"
"At some place not very far down on the other side the range, where
he had hidden his old clothes."
"And who, in the name of all that we hold most sacred, do you take
him to have been--for I see you know more than you have yet told
"My son, he was Higgs the Sunchild, father to that boy whom I love
next to my husband more dearly than any one in the whole world."
She folded her arms about him for a second, without kissing him,
and left him. "And now," she said, the moment she had closed the
door--"and now I may cry."
* * *
She did not cry for long, and having removed all trace of tears as
far as might be, she returned to her son outwardly composed and
cheerful. "Shall I say more now," she said, seeing how grave he
looked, "or shall I leave you, and talk further with you to-
"Good! A little before Higgs came here, the Mayor, as he now is,
poor, handsome, generous to a fault so far as he had the
wherewithal, was adored by all the women of his own rank in
Sunch'ston. Report said that he had adored many of them in return,
but after having known me for a very few days, he asked me to marry
him, protesting that he was a changed man. I liked him, as every
one else did, but I was not in love with him, and said so; he said
he would give me as much time as I chose, if I would not point-
blank refuse him; and so the matter was left.
"Within a week or so Higgs was brought to the prison, and he had
not been there long before I found, or thought I found, that I
liked him better than I liked Strong. I was a fool--but there! As
for Higgs, he liked, but did not love me. If I had let him alone
he would have done the like by me; and let each other alone we did,
till the day before he was taken down to the capital. On that day,
whether through his fault or mine I know not--we neither of us
meant it--it was as though Nature, my dear, was determined that you
should not slip through her fingers--well, on that day we took it
into our heads that we were broken-hearted lovers--the rest
followed. And how, my dearest boy, as I look upon you, can I feign
"My husband, who never saw Higgs, and knew nothing about him except
the too little that I told him, pressed his suit, and about a month
after Higgs had gone, having recovered my passing infatuation for
him, I took kindly to the Mayor and accepted him, without telling
him what I ought to have told him--but the words stuck in my
throat. I had not been engaged to him many days before I found
that there was something which I should not be able to hide much
"You know, my dear, that my mother had been long dead, and I never
had a sister or any near kinswoman. At my wits' end who I should
consult, instinct drew me to Mrs. Humdrum, then a woman of about
five-and-forty. She was a grand lady, while I was about the rank
of one of my own housemaids. I had no claim on her; I went to her
as a lost dog looks into the faces of people on a road, and singles
out the one who will most surely help him. I had had a good look
at her once as she was putting on her gloves, and I liked the way
she did it. I marvel at my own boldness. At any rate, I asked to
see her, and told her my story exactly as I have now told it to
"'You have no mother?' she said, when she had heard all.
"'Then, my dear, I will mother you myself. Higgs is out of the
question, so Strong must marry you at once. We will tell him
everything, and I, on your behalf, will insist upon it that the
engagement is at an end. I hear good reports of him, and if we are
fair towards him he will be generous towards us. Besides, I
believe he is so much in love with you that he would sell his soul
to get you. Send him to me. I can deal with him better than you
"And what," said George, "did my father, as I shall always call
him, say to all this?
"Truth bred chivalry in him at once. 'I will marry her,' he said,
with hardly a moment's hesitation, 'but it will be better that I
should not be put on any lower footing than Higgs was. I ought not
to be denied anything that has been allowed to him. If I am
trusted, I can trust myself to trust and think no evil either of
Higgs or her. They were pestered beyond endurance, as I have been
ere now. If I am held at arm's length till I am fast bound, I
shall marry Yram just the same, but I doubt whether she and I shall
ever be quite happy.'
"'Come to my house this evening,' said Mrs. Humdrum, 'and you will
find Yram there.' He came, he found me, and within a fortnight we
were man and wife."
"How much does not all this explain," said George, smiling but very
gravely. "And you are going to ask me to forgive you for robbing
me of such a father."
"He has forgiven me, my dear, for robbing him of such a son. He
never reproached me. From that day to this he has never given me a
harsh word or even syllable. When you were born he took to you at
once, as, indeed, who could help doing? for you were the sweetest
child both in looks and temper that it is possible to conceive.
Your having light hair and eyes made things more difficult; for
this, and your being born, almost to the day, nine months after
Higgs had left us, made people talk--but your father kept their
tongues within bounds. They talk still, but they liked what little
they saw of Higgs, they like the Mayor and me, and they like you
the best of all; so they please themselves by having the thing both
ways. Though, therefore, you are son to the Mayor, Higgs cast some
miraculous spell upon me before he left, whereby my son should be
in some measure his as well as the Mayor's. It was this miraculous
spell that caused you to be born two months too soon, and we called
you by Higgs's first name as though to show that we took that view
of the matter ourselves.
"Mrs. Humdrum, however, was very positive that there was no spell
at all. She had repeatedly heard her father say that the Mayor's
grandfather was light-haired and blue-eyed, and that every third
generation in that family a light-haired son was born. The people
believe this too. Nobody disbelieves Mrs. Humdrum, but they like
the miracle best, so that is how it has been settled.
"I never knew whether Mrs. Humdrum told her husband, but I think
she must; for a place was found almost immediately for my husband
in Mr. Humdrum's business. He made himself useful; after a few
years he was taken into partnership, and on Mr. Humdrum's death
became head of the firm. Between ourselves, he says laughingly
that all his success in life was due to Higgs and me."
"I shall give Mrs. Humdrum a double dose of kissing," said George
thoughtfully, "next time I see her."
"Oh, do, do; she will so like it. And now, my darling boy, tell
your poor mother whether or no you can forgive her."
He clasped her in his arms, and kissed her again and again, but for
a time he could find no utterance. Presently he smiled, and said,
"Of course I do, but it is you who should forgive me, for was it
not all my fault?"
When Yram, too, had become more calm, she said, "It is late, and we
have no time to lose. Higgs's coming at this time is mere
accident; if he had had news from Erewhon he would have known much
that he did not know. I cannot guess why he has come--probably
through mere curiosity, but he will hear or have heard--yes, you
and he talked about it--of the temple; being here, he will want to
see the dedication. From what you have told me I feel sure that he
will not make a fool of himself by saying who he is, but in spite
of his disguise he may be recognised. I do not doubt that he is
now in Sunch'ston; therefore, to-morrow morning scour the town to
find him. Tell him he is discovered, tell him you know from me
that he is your father, and that I wish to see him with all good-
will towards him. He will come. We will then talk to him, and
show him that he must go back at once. You can escort him to the
statues; after passing them he will be safe. He will give you no
trouble, but if he does, arrest him on a charge of poaching, and
take him to the gaol, where we must do the best we can with him--
but he will give you none. We need say nothing to the Professors.
No one but ourselves will know of his having been here."
On this she again embraced her son and left him. If two
photographs could have been taken of her, one as she opened the
door and looked fondly back on George, and the other as she closed
it behind her, the second portrait would have seemed taken ten
years later than the first.
As for George, he went gravely but not unhappily to his own room.
"So that ready, plausible fellow," he muttered to himself, "was my
own father. At any rate, I am not son to a fool--and he liked me."
CHAPTER X: MY FATHER, FEARING RECOGNITION AT SUNCH'-STON, BETAKES
HIMSELF TO THE NEIGHBOURING TOWN OF FAIRMEAD
I will now return to my father. Whether from fatigue or over-
excitement, he slept only by fits and starts, and when awake he
could not rid himself of the idea that, in spite of his disguise,
he might be recognised, either at his inn or in the town, by some
one of the many who had seen him when he was in prison. In this
case there was no knowing what might happen, but at best, discovery
would probably prevent his seeing the temple dedicated to himself,
and hearing Professor Hanky's sermon, which he was particularly
anxious to do.
So strongly did he feel the real or fancied danger he should incur
by spending Saturday in Sunch'ston, that he rose as soon as he
heard any one stirring, and having paid his bill, walked quietly
out of the house, without saying where he was going.
There was a town about ten miles off, not so important as
Sunch'ston, but having some 10,000 inhabitants; he resolved to find
accommodation there for the day and night, and to walk over to
Sunch'ston in time for the dedication ceremony, which he had found
on inquiry, would begin at eleven o'clock.
The country between Sunch'ston and Fairmead, as the town just
referred to was named, was still mountainous, and being well wooded
as well as well watered, abounded in views of singular beauty; but
I have no time to dwell on the enthusiasm with which my father
described them to me. The road took him at right angles to the
main road down the valley from Sunch'ston to the capital, and this
was one reason why he had chosen Fairmead rather than Clearwater,
which was the next town lower down on the main road. He did not,
indeed, anticipate that any one would want to find him, but whoever
might so want would be more likely to go straight down the valley
than to turn aside towards Fairmead.
On reaching this place, he found it pretty full of people, for
Saturday was market-day. There was a considerable open space in
the middle of the town, with an arcade running round three sides of
it, while the fourth was completely taken up by the venerable
Musical Bank of the city, a building which had weathered the storms
of more than five centuries. On the outside of the wall, abutting
on the market-place, were three wooden sedilia, in which the Mayor
and two coadjutors sate weekly on market-days to give advice,
redress grievances, and, if necessary (which it very seldom was) to
My father was much interested in watching the proceedings in a case
which he found on inquiry to be not infrequent. A man was
complaining to the Mayor that his daughter, a lovely child of eight
years old, had none of the faults common to children of her age,
and, in fact, seemed absolutely deficient in immoral sense. She
never told lies, had never stolen so much as a lollipop, never
showed any recalcitrancy about saying her prayers, and by her
incessant obedience had filled her poor father and mother with the
gravest anxiety as regards her future well-being. He feared it
would be necessary to send her to a deformatory.
"I have generally found," said the Mayor, gravely but kindly, "that
the fault in these distressing cases lies rather with the parent
than the children. Does the child never break anything by
"Yes," said the father.
"And you have duly punished her for it?"
"Alas! sir, I fear I only told her she was a naughty girl, and must
not do it again."
"Then how can you expect your child to learn those petty arts of
deception without which she must fall an easy prey to any one who
wishes to deceive her? How can she detect lying in other people
unless she has had some experience of it in her own practice? How,
again, can she learn when it will be well for her to lie, and when
to refrain from doing so, unless she has made many a mistake on a
small scale while at an age when mistakes do not greatly matter?
The Sunchild (and here he reverently raised his hat), as you may
read in chapter thirty-one of his Sayings, has left us a touching
tale of a little boy, who, having cut down an apple tree in his
father's garden, lamented his inability to tell a lie. Some
commentators, indeed, have held that the evidence was so strongly
against the boy that no lie would have been of any use to him, and
that his perception of this fact was all that he intended to
convey; but the best authorities take his simple words, 'I cannot
tell a lie,' in their most natural sense, as being his expression
of regret at the way in which his education had been neglected. If
that case had come before me, I should have punished the boy's
father, unless he could show that the best authorities are mistaken
(as indeed they too generally are), and that under more favourable
circumstances the boy would have been able to lie, and would have
"There is no occasion for you to send your child to a deformatory.
I am always averse to extreme measures when I can avoid them.
Moreover, in a deformatory she would be almost certain to fall in
with characters as intractable as her own. Take her home and whip
her next time she so much as pulls about the salt. If you will do
this whenever you get a chance, I have every hope that you will
have no occasion to come to me again."
"Very well, sir," said the father, "I will do my best, but the
child is so instinctively truthful that I am afraid whipping will
be of little use."
There were other cases, none of them serious, which in the old days
would have been treated by a straightener. My father had already
surmised that the straightener had become extinct as a class,
having been superseded by the Managers and Cashiers of the Musical
Banks, but this became more apparent as he listened to the cases
that next came on. These were dealt with quite reasonably, except
that the magistrate always ordered an emetic and a strong purge in
addition to the rest of his sentence, as holding that all diseases
of the moral sense spring from impurities within the body, which
must be cleansed before there could be any hope of spiritual
improvement. If any devils were found in what passed from the
prisoner's body, he was to be brought up again; for in this case
the rest of the sentence might very possibly be remitted.
When the Mayor and his coadjutors had done sitting, my father
strolled round the Musical Bank and entered it by the main
entrance, which was on the top of a flight of steps that went down
on to the principal street of the town. How strange it is that, no
matter how gross a superstition may have polluted it, a holy place,
if hallowed by long veneration, remains always holy. Look at
Delphi. What a fraud it was, and yet how hallowed it must ever
remain. But letting this pass, Musical Banks, especially when of
great age, always fascinated my father, and being now tired with
his walk, he sat down on one of the many rush-bottomed seats, and
(for there was no service at this hour) gave free rein to
How peaceful it all was with its droning old-world smell of
ancestor, dry rot, and stale incense. As the clouds came and went,
the grey-green, cobweb-chastened, light ebbed and flowed over the
walls and ceiling; to watch the fitfulness of its streams was a
sufficient occupation. A hen laid an egg outside and began to
cackle--it was an event of magnitude; a peasant sharpening his
scythe, a blacksmith hammering at his anvil, the clack of a wooden
shoe upon the pavement, the boom of a bumble-bee, the dripping of
the fountain, all these things, with such concert as they kept,
invited the dewy-feathered sleep that visited him, and held him for
the best part of an hour.
My father has said that the Erewhonians never put up monuments or
write epitaphs for their dead, and this he believed to be still
true; but it was not so always, and on waking his eye was caught by
a monument of great beauty, which bore a date of about 1550 of our
era. It was to an old lady, who must have been very loveable if
the sweet smiling face of her recumbent figure was as faithful to
the original as its strongly marked individuality suggested. I
need not give the earlier part of her epitaph, which was
conventional enough, but my father was so struck with the
concluding lines, that he copied them into the note-book which he
always carried in his pocket. They ran:-
I fall asleep in the full and certain hope
That my slumber shall not be broken;
And that though I be all-forgetting,
Yet shall I not be all-forgotten,
But continue that life in the thoughts and deeds
Of those I loved,
Into which, while the power to strive was yet vouchsafed me,
I fondly strove to enter.
My father deplored his inability to do justice to the subtle
tenderness of the original, but the above was the nearest he could
get to it.
How different this from the opinions concerning a future state
which he had tried to set before the Erewhonians some twenty years
earlier. It all came back to him, as the storks had done, now that
he was again in an Erewhonian environment, and he particularly
remembered how one youth had inveighed against our European notions
of heaven and hell with a contemptuous flippancy that nothing but
youth and ignorance could even palliate.
"Sir," he had said to my father, "your heaven will not attract me
unless I can take my clothes and my luggage. Yes; and I must lose
my luggage and find it again. On arriving, I must be told that it
has unfortunately been taken to a wrong circle, and that there may
be some difficulty in recovering it--or it shall have been sent up
to mansion number five hundred thousand millions nine hundred
thousand forty six thousand eight hundred and eleven, whereas it
should have gone to four hundred thousand millions, &c., &c.; and
am I sure that I addressed it rightly? Then, when I am just
getting cross enough to run some risk of being turned out, the
luggage shall make its appearance, hat-box, umbrella, rug, golf-
sticks, bicycle, and everything else all quite correct, and in my
delight I shall tip the angel double and realise that I am enjoying
"Or I must have asked what I could have for breakfast, and be told
I could have boiled eggs, or eggs and bacon, or filleted plaice.
'Filleted plaice,' I shall exclaim, 'no! not that. Have you any
red mullets?' And the angel will say, 'Why no, sir, the gulf has
been so rough that there has hardly any fish come in this three
days, and there has been such a run on it that we have nothing left
"'Well, well,' I shall say, 'have you any kidneys?'
"'You can have one kidney, sir', will be the answer.
"'One kidney, indeed, and you call this heaven! At any rate you
will have sausages?'
"'Then the angel will say, 'We shall have some after Sunday, sir,
but we are quite out of them at present.'
"And I shall say, somewhat sulkily, 'Then I suppose I must have
eggs and bacon.'
"But in the morning there will come up a red mullet, beautifully
cooked, a couple of kidneys and three sausages browned to a turn,
and seasoned with just so much sage and thyme as will savour
without overwhelming them; and I shall eat everything. It shall
then transpire that the angel knew about the luggage, and what I
was to have for breakfast, all the time, but wanted to give me the
pleasure of finding things turn out better than I had expected.
Heaven would be a dull place without such occasional petty false
alarms as these."
I have no business to leave my father's story, but the mouth of the
ox that treadeth out the corn should not be so closely muzzled that
he cannot sometimes filch a mouthful for himself; and when I had
copied out the foregoing somewhat irreverent paragraphs, which I
took down (with no important addition or alteration) from my
father's lips, I could not refrain from making a few reflections of
my own, which I will ask the reader's forbearance if I lay before
Let heaven and hell alone, but think of Hades, with Tantalus,
Sisyphus, Tityus, and all the rest of them. How futile were the
attempts of the old Greeks and Romans to lay before us any
plausible conception of eternal torture. What were the Danaids
doing but that which each one of us has to do during his or her
whole life? What are our bodies if not sieves that we are for ever
trying to fill, but which we must refill continually without hope
of being able to keep them full for long together? Do we mind
this? Not so long as we can get the wherewithal to fill them; and
the Danaids never seem to have run short of water. They would
probably ere long take to clearing out any obstruction in their
sieves if they found them getting choked. What could it matter to
them whether the sieves got full or no? They were not paid for
Sisyphus, again! Can any one believe that he would go on rolling
that stone year after year and seeing it roll down again unless he
liked seeing it? We are not told that there was a dragon which
attacked him whenever he tried to shirk. If he had greatly cared
about getting his load over the last pinch, experience would have
shown him some way of doing so. The probability is that he got to
enjoy the downward rush of his stone, and very likely amused
himself by so timing it as to cause the greatest scare to the
greatest number of the shades that were below.
What though Tantalus found the water shun him and the fruits fly
from him when he tried to seize them? The writer of the "Odyssey"
gives us no hint that he was dying of thirst or hunger. The pores
of his skin would absorb enough water to prevent the first, and we
may be sure that he got fruit enough, one way or another, to keep
Tityus, as an effort after the conception of an eternity of
torture, is not successful. What could an eagle matter on the
liver of a man whose body covered nine acres? Before long he would
find it an agreeable stimulant. If, then, the greatest minds of
antiquity could invent nothing that should carry better conviction
of eternal torture, is it likely that the conviction can be carried
Methought I saw Jove sitting on the topmost ridges of Olympus and
confessing failure to Minerva. "I see, my dear," he said, "that
there is no use in trying to make people very happy or very
miserable for long together. Pain, if it does not soon kill,
consists not so much in present suffering as in the still recent
memory of a time when there was less, and in the fear that there
will soon be more; and so happiness lies less in immediate pleasure
than in lively recollection of a worse time and lively hope of
As for the young gentleman above referred to, my father met him
with the assurance that there had been several cases in which
living people had been caught up into heaven or carried down into
hell, and been allowed to return to earth and report what they had
seen; while to others visions had been vouchsafed so clearly that
thousands of authentic pictures had been painted of both states.
All incentive to good conduct, he had then alleged, was found to be
at once removed from those who doubted the fidelity of these
This at least was what he had then said, but I hardly think he
would have said it at the time of which I am now writing. As he
continued to sit in the Musical Bank, he took from his valise the
pamphlet on "The Physics of Vicarious Existence," by Dr. Gurgoyle,
which he had bought on the preceding evening, doubtless being led
to choose this particular work by the tenor of the old lady's
The second title he found to run, "Being Strictures on Certain
Heresies concerning a Future State that have been Engrafted on the
My father shuddered as he read this title. "How long," he said to
himself, "will it be before they are at one another's throats?"
On reading the pamphlet, he found it added little to what the
epitaph had already conveyed; but it interested him, as showing
that, however cataclysmic a change of national opinions may appear
to be, people will find means of bringing the new into more or less
conformity with the old.
Here it is a mere truism to say that many continue to live a
vicarious life long after they have ceased to be aware of living.
This view is as old as the non omnis moriar of Horace, and we may
be sure some thousands of years older. It is only, therefore, with
much diffidence that I have decided to give a resume of opinions
many of which those whom I alone wish to please will have laid to
heart from their youth upwards. In brief, Dr. Gurgoyle's
contention comes to little more than saying that the quick are more
dead, and the dead more quick, than we commonly think. To be
alive, according to him, is only to be unable to understand how
dead one is, and to be dead is only to be invincibly ignorant
concerning our own livingness--for the dead would be as living as
the living if we could only get them to believe it.
CHAPTER XI: PRESIDENT GURGOYLE'S PAMPHLET "ON THE PHYSICS OF
Belief, like any other moving body, follows the path of least
resistance, and this path had led Dr. Gurgoyle to the conviction,
real or feigned, that my father was son to the sun, probably by the
moon, and that his ascent into the sky with an earthly bride was
due to the sun's interference with the laws of nature.
Nevertheless he was looked upon as more or less of a survival, and
was deemed lukewarm, if not heretical, by those who seemed to be
the pillars of the new system.
My father soon found that not even Panky could manipulate his
teaching more freely than the Doctor had done. My father had
taught that when a man was dead there was an end of him, until he
should rise again in the flesh at the last day, to enter into
eternity either of happiness or misery. He had, indeed, often
talked of the immortality which some achieve even in this world;
but he had cheapened this, declaring it to be an unsubstantial
mockery, that could give no such comfort in the hour of death as
was unquestionably given by belief in heaven and hell.
Dr. Gurgoyle, however, had an equal horror, on the one hand, of
anything involving resumption of life by the body when it was once
dead, and on the other, of the view that life ended with the change
which we call death. He did not, indeed, pretend that he could do
much to take away the sting from death, nor would he do this if he
could, for if men did not fear death unduly, they would often court
it unduly. Death can only be belauded at the cost of belittling
life; but he held that a reasonable assurance of fair fame after
death is a truer consolation to the dying, a truer comfort to
surviving friends, and a more real incentive to good conduct in
this life, than any of the consolations or incentives falsely
fathered upon the Sunchild.
He began by setting aside every saying ascribed, however truly, to
my father, if it made against his views, and by putting his own
glosses on all that he could gloze into an appearance of being in
his favour. I will pass over his attempt to combat the rapidly
spreading belief in a heaven and hell such as we accept, and will
only summarise his contention that, of our two lives--namely, the
one we live in our own persons, and that other life which we live
in other people both before our reputed death and after it--the
second is as essential a factor of our complete life as the first
is, and sometimes more so.
Life, he urged, lies not in bodily organs, but in the power to use
them, and in the use that is made of them--that is to say, in the
work they do. As the essence of a factory is not in the building
wherein the work is done, nor yet in the implements used in turning
it out, but in the will-power of the master and in the goods he
makes; so the true life of a man is in his will and work, not in
his body. "Those," he argued, "who make the life of a man reside
within his body, are like one who should mistake the carpenter's
tool-box for the carpenter."
He maintained that this had been my father's teaching, for which my
father heartily trusts that he may be forgiven.
He went on to say that our will-power is not wholly limited to the
working of its own special system of organs, but under certain
conditions can work and be worked upon by other will-powers like
itself: so that if, for example, A's will-power has got such hold
on B's as to be able, through B, to work B's mechanism, what seems
to have been B's action will in reality have been more A's than
B's, and this in the same real sense as though the physical action
had been effected through A's own mechanical system--A, in fact,
will have been living in B. The universally admitted maxim that he
who does this or that by the hand of an agent does it himself,
shews that the foregoing view is only a roundabout way of stating
what common sense treats as a matter of course.
Hence, though A's individual will-power must be held to cease when
the tools it works with are destroyed or out of gear, yet, so long
as any survivors were so possessed by it while it was still
efficient, or, again, become so impressed by its operation on them
through work that he has left, as to act in obedience to his will-
power rather than their own, A has a certain amount of bona fide
life still remaining. His vicarious life is not affected by the
dissolution of his body; and in many cases the sum total of a man's
vicarious action and of its outcome exceeds to an almost infinite
extent the sum total of those actions and works that were effected
through the mechanism of his own physical organs. In these cases
his vicarious life is more truly his life than any that he lived in
his own person.
"True," continued the Doctor, "while living in his own person, a
man knows, or thinks he knows, what he is doing, whereas we have no
reason to suppose such knowledge on the part of one whose body is
already dust; but the consciousness of the doer has less to do with
the livingness of the deed than people generally admit. We know
nothing of the power that sets our heart beating, nor yet of the
beating itself so long as it is normal. We know nothing of our
breathing or of our digestion, of the all-important work we
achieved as embryos, nor of our growth from infancy to manhood. No
one will say that these were not actions of a living agent, but the
more normal, the healthier, and thus the more truly living, the
agent is, the less he will know or have known of his own action.
The part of our bodily life that enters into our consciousness is
very small as compared with that of which we have no consciousness.
What completer proof can we have that livingness consists in deed
rather than in consciousness of deed?
"The foregoing remarks are not intended to apply so much to
vicarious action in virtue, we will say, of a settlement, or
testamentary disposition that cannot be set aside. Such action is
apt to be too unintelligent, too far from variation and quick
change to rank as true vicarious action; indeed it is not rarely
found to effect the very opposite of what the person who made the
settlement or will desired. They are meant to apply to that more
intelligent and versatile action engendered by affectionate
remembrance. Nevertheless, even the compulsory vicarious action
taken in consequence of a will, and indeed the very name "will"
itself, shews that though we cannot take either flesh or money with
us, we can leave our will-power behind us in very efficient
"This vicarious life (on which I have insisted, I fear at
unnecessary length, for it is so obvious that none can have failed
to realise it) is lived by every one of us before death as well as
after it, and is little less important to us than that of which we
are to some extent conscious in our own persons. A man, we will
say, has written a book which delights or displeases thousands of
whom he knows nothing, and who know nothing of him. The book, we
will suppose, has considerable, or at any rate some influence on
the action of these people. Let us suppose the writer fast asleep
while others are enjoying his work, and acting in consequence of
it, perhaps at long distances from him. Which is his truest life--
the one he is leading in them, or that equally unconscious life
residing in his own sleeping body? Can there be a doubt that the
vicarious life is the more efficient?
"Or when we are waking, how powerfully does not the life we are
living in others pain or delight us, according as others think ill
or well of us? How truly do we not recognise it as part of our own
existence, and how great an influence does not the fear of a
present hell in men's bad thoughts, and the hope of a present
heaven in their good ones, influence our own conduct? Have we not
here a true heaven and a true hell, as compared with the efficiency
of which these gross material ones so falsely engrafted on to the
Sunchild's teaching are but as the flint implements of a
prehistoric race? 'If a man,' said the Sunchild, 'fear not man,
whom he hath seen, neither will he fear God, whom he hath not
My father again assures me that he never said this. Returning to
Dr. Gurgoyle, he continued:- "It may be urged that on a man's death
one of the great factors of his life is so annihilated that no kind
of true life can be any further conceded to him. For to live is to
be influenced, as well as to influence; and when a man is dead how
can he be influenced? He can haunt, but he cannot any more be
haunted. He can come to us, but we cannot go to him. On ceasing,
therefore, to be impressionable, so great a part of that wherein
his life consisted is removed, that no true life can be conceded to
"I do not pretend that a man is as fully alive after his so-called
death as before it. He is not. All I contend for is, that a
considerable amount of efficient life still remains to some of us,
and that a little life remains to all of us, after what we commonly
regard as the complete cessation of life. In answer, then, to
those who have just urged that the destruction of one of the two
great factors of life destroys life altogether, I reply that the
same must hold good as regards death.
"If to live is to be influenced and to influence, and if a man
cannot be held as living when he can no longer be influenced,
surely to die is to be no longer able either to influence or be
influenced, and a man cannot be held dead until both these two
factors of death are present. If failure of the power to be
influenced vitiates life, presence of the power to influence
vitiates death. And no one will deny that a man can influence for
many a long year after he is vulgarly reputed as dead.
"It seems, then, that there is no such thing as either absolute
life without any alloy of death, nor absolute death without any
alloy of life, until, that is to say, all posthumous power to
influence has faded away. And this, perhaps, is what the Sunchild
meant by saying that in the midst of life we are in death, and so
also that in the midst of death we are in life.
"And there is this, too. No man can influence fully until he can
no more be influenced--that is to say, till after his so-called
death. Till then, his 'he' is still unsettled. We know not what
other influences may not be brought to bear upon him that may
change the character of the influence he will exert on ourselves.
Therefore, he is not fully living till he is no longer living. He
is an incomplete work, which cannot have full effect till finished.
And as for his vicarious life--which we have seen to be very real--
this can be, and is, influenced by just appreciation, undue praise
or calumny, and is subject, it may be, to secular vicissitudes of
good and evil fortune.
"If this is not true, let us have no more talk about the
immortality of great men and women. The Sunchild was never weary
of talking to us (as we then sometimes thought, a little tediously)
about a great poet of that nation to which it pleased him to feign
that he belonged. How plainly can we not now see that his words
were spoken for our learning--for the enforcement of that true view
of heaven and hell on which I am feebly trying to insist? The
poet's name, he said, was Shakespeare. Whilst he was alive, very
few people understood his greatness; whereas now, after some three
hundred years, he is deemed the greatest poet that the world has
ever known. 'Can this man,' he asked, 'be said to have been truly
born till many a long year after he had been reputed as truly dead?
While he was in the flesh, was he more than a mere embryo growing
towards birth into that life of the world to come in which he now
shines so gloriously? What a small thing was that flesh and blood
life, of which he was alone conscious, as compared with that
fleshless life which he lives but knows not in the lives of
millions, and which, had it ever been fully revealed even to his
imagination, we may be sure that he could not have reached?'
"These were the Sunchild's words, as repeated to me by one of his
chosen friends while he was yet amongst us. Which, then, of this
man's two lives should we deem best worth having, if we could
choose one or other, but not both? The felt or the unfelt? Who
would not go cheerfully to block or stake if he knew that by doing
so he could win such life as this poet lives, though he also knew
that on having won it he could know no more about it? Does not
this prove that in our heart of hearts we deem an unfelt life, in
the heaven of men's loving thoughts, to be better worth having than
any we can reasonably hope for and still feel?
"And the converse of this is true; many a man has unhesitatingly
laid down his felt life to escape unfelt infamy in the hell of
men's hatred and contempt. As body is the sacrament, or outward
and visible sign, of mind; so is posterity the sacrament of those
who live after death. Each is the mechanism through which the
other becomes effective.
"I grant that many live but a short time when the breath is out of
them. Few seeds germinate as compared with those that rot or are
eaten, and most of this world's denizens are little more than
still-born as regards the larger life, while none are immortal to
the end of time. But the end of time is not worth considering; not
a few live as many centuries as either they or we need think about,
and surely the world, so far as we can guess its object, was made
rather to be enjoyed than to last. 'Come and go' pervades all
things of which we have knowledge, and if there was any provision
made, it seems to have been for a short life and a merry one, with
enough chance of extension beyond the grave to be worth trying for,
rather than for the perpetuity even of the best and noblest.
"Granted, again, that few live after death as long or as fully as
they had hoped to do, while many, when quick, can have had none but
the faintest idea of the immortality that awaited them; it is
nevertheless true that none are so still-born on death as not to
enter into a life of some sort, however short and humble. A short
life or a long one can no more be bargained for in the unseen world
than in the seen; as, however, care on the part of parents can do
much for the longer life and greater well-being of their offspring
in this world, so the conduct of that offspring in this world does
much both to secure for itself longer tenure of life in the next,
and to determine whether that life shall be one of reward or
"'Reward or punishment,' some reader will perhaps exclaim; 'what
mockery, when the essence of reward and punishment lies in their
being felt by those who have earned them.' I can do nothing with
those who either cry for the moon, or deny that it has two sides,
on the ground that we can see but one. Here comes in faith, of
which the Sunchild said, that though we can do little with it, we
can do nothing without it. Faith does not consist, as some have
falsely urged, in believing things on insufficient evidence; this
is not faith, but faithlessness to all that we should hold most
faithfully. Faith consists in holding that the instincts of the
best men and women are in themselves an evidence which may not be
set aside lightly; and the best men and women have ever held that
death is better than dishonour, and desirable if honour is to be
"It follows, then, that though our conscious flesh and blood life
is the only one that we can fully apprehend, yet we do also indeed
move, even here, in an unseen world, wherein, when our palpable
life is ended, we shall continue to live for a shorter or longer
time--reaping roughly, though not infallibly, much as we have sown.
Of this unseen world the best men and women will be almost as
heedless while in the flesh as they will be when their life in
flesh is over; for, as the Sunchild often said, 'The Kingdom of
Heaven cometh not by observation.' It will be all in all to them,
and at the same time nothing, for the better people they are, the
less they will think of anything but this present life.
"What an ineffable contradiction in terms have we not here. What a
reversal, is it not, of all this world's canons, that we should
hold even the best of all that we can know or feel in this life to
be a poor thing as compared with hopes the fulfilment of which we
can never either feel or know. Yet we all hold this, however
little we may admit it to ourselves. For the world at heart
despises its own canons."
I cannot quote further from Dr. Gurgoyle's pamphlet; suffice it
that he presently dealt with those who say that it is not right of
any man to aim at thrusting himself in among the living when he has
had his day. "Let him die," say they, "and let die as his fathers
before him." He argued that as we had a right to pester people
till we got ourselves born, so also we have a right to pester them
for extension of life beyond the grave. Life, whether before the
grave or afterwards, is like love--all reason is against it, and
all healthy instinct for it. Instinct on such matters is the older
and safer guide; no one, therefore, should seek to efface himself
as regards the next world more than as regards this. If he is to
be effaced, let others efface him; do not let him commit suicide.
Freely we have received; freely, therefore, let us take as much
more as we can get, and let it be a stand-up fight between
ourselves and posterity to see whether it can get rid of us or no.
If it can, let it; if it cannot, it must put up with us. It can
better care for itself than we can for ourselves when the breath is
out of us.
Not the least important duty, he continued, of posterity towards
itself lies in passing righteous judgement on the forbears who
stand up before it. They should be allowed the benefit of a doubt,
and peccadilloes should be ignored; but when no doubt exists that a
man was engrainedly mean and cowardly, his reputation must remain
in the Purgatory of Time for a term varying from, say, a hundred to
two thousand years. After a hundred years it may generally come
down, though it will still be under a cloud. After two thousand
years it may be mentioned in any society without holding up of
hands in horror. Our sense of moral guilt varies inversely as the
squares of its distance in time and space from ourselves.
Not so with heroism; this loses no lustre through time and
distance. Good is gold; it is rare, but it will not tarnish. Evil
is like dirty water--plentiful and foul, but it will run itself
clear of taint.
The Doctor having thus expatiated on his own opinions concerning
heaven and hell, concluded by tilting at those which all right-
minded people hold among ourselves. I shall adhere to my
determination not to reproduce his arguments; suffice it that
though less flippant than those of the young student whom I have
already referred to, they were more plausible; and though I could
easily demolish them, the reader will probably prefer that I should
not set them up for the mere pleasure of knocking them down. Here,
then, I take my leave of good Dr. Gurgoyle and his pamphlet;
neither can I interrupt my story further by saying anything about
the other two pamphlets purchased by my father.
CHAPTER XII: GEORGE FAILS TO FIND MY FATHER, WHEREON YRAM CAUTIONS
On the morning after the interview with her son described in a
foregoing chapter, Yram told her husband what she had gathered from
the Professors, and said that she was expecting Higgs every moment,
inasmuch as she was confident that George would soon find him.
"Do what you like, my dear," said the Mayor. "I shall keep out of
the way, for you will manage him better without me. You know what
I think of you."
He then went unconcernedly to his breakfast, at which the
Professors found him somewhat taciturn. Indeed they set him down
as one of the dullest and most uninteresting people they had ever
When George returned and told his mother that though he had at last
found the inn at which my father had slept, my father had left and
could not be traced, she was disconcerted, but after a few minutes
she said -
"He will come back here for the dedication, but there will be such
crowds that we may not see him till he is inside the temple, and it
will save trouble if we can lay hold on him sooner. Therefore,
ride either to Clearwater or Fairmead, and see if you can find him.
Try Fairmead first; it is more out of the way. If you cannot hear
of him there, come back, get another horse, and try Clearwater. If
you fail here too, we must give him up, and look out for him in the
temple to-morrow morning."
"Are you going to say anything to the Professors?"
"Not if you can bring Higgs here before night-fall. If you cannot
do this I must talk it over with my husband; I shall have some
hours in which to make up my mind. Now go--the sooner the better."
It was nearly eleven, and in a few minutes George was on his way.
By noon he was at Fairmead, where he tried all the inns in vain for
news of a person answering the description of my father--for not
knowing what name my father might choose to give, he could trust
only to description. He concluded that since my father could not
be heard of in Fairmead by one o'clock (as it nearly was by the
time he had been round all the inns) he must have gone somewhere
else; he therefore rode back to Sunch'ston, made a hasty lunch, got
a fresh horse, and rode to Clearwater, where he met with no better
success. At all the inns both at Fairmead and Clearwater he left
word that if the person he had described came later in the day, he
was to be told that the Mayoress particularly begged him to return
at once to Sunch'ston, and come to the Mayor's house.
Now all the time that George was at Fairmead my father was inside
the Musical Bank, which he had entered before going to any inn.
Here he had been sitting for nearly a couple of hours, resting,
dreaming, and reading Bishop Gurgoyle's pamphlet. If he had left
the Bank five minutes earlier, he would probably have been seen by
George in the main street of Fairmead--as he found out on reaching
the inn which he selected and ordering dinner.
He had hardly got inside the house before the waiter told him that
young Mr. Strong, the Ranger from Sunch'ston, had been enquiring
for him and had left a message for him, which was duly delivered.
My father, though in reality somewhat disquieted, showed no
uneasiness, and said how sorry he was to have missed seeing Mr.
Strong. "But," he added, "it does not much matter; I need not go
back this afternoon, for I shall be at Sunch'ston to-morrow morning
and will go straight to the Mayor's."
He had no suspicion that he was discovered, but he was a good deal
puzzled. Presently he inclined to the opinion that George, still
believing him to be Professor Panky, had wanted to invite him to
the banquet on the following day--for he had no idea that Hanky and
Panky were staying with the Mayor and Mayoress. Or perhaps the
Mayor and his wife did not like so distinguished a man's having
been unable to find a lodging in Sunch'ston, and wanted him to stay
with them. Ill satisfied as he was with any theory he could form,
he nevertheless reflected that he could not do better than stay
where he was for the night, inasmuch as no one would be likely to
look for him a second time at Fairmead. He therefore ordered his
room at once.
It was nearly seven before George got back to Sunch'ston. In the
meantime Yram and the Mayor had considered the question whether
anything was to be said to the Professors or no. They were
confident that my father would not commit himself--why, indeed,
should he have dyed his hair and otherwise disguised himself, if he
had not intended to remain undiscovered? Oh no; the probability
was that if nothing was said to the Professors now, nothing need
ever be said, for my father might be escorted back to the statues
by George on the Sunday evening and be told that he was not to
return. Moreover, even though something untoward were to happen
after all, the Professors would have no reason for thinking that
their hostess had known of the Sunchild's being in Sunch'ston.
On the other hand, they were her guests, and it would not be
handsome to keep Hanky, at any rate, in the dark, when the
knowledge that the Sunchild was listening to every word he said
might make him modify his sermon not a little. It might or it
might not, but that was a matter for him, not her. The only
question for her was whether or no it would be sharp practice to
know what she knew and say nothing about it. Her husband hated
finesse as much as she did, and they settled it that though the
question was a nice one, the more proper thing to do would be to
tell the Professors what it might so possibly concern one or both
of them to know.
On George's return without news of my father, they found he thought
just as they did; so it was arranged that they should let the
Professors dine in peace, but tell them about the Sunchild's being
again in Erewhon as soon as dinner was over.