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WHEN Mr. George Cherrybank came in for the Silverton property, on the death of his uncle, he brought with him to the Manor House a keen sense of his responsibilities as landlord and country gentleman. He was not one of those who are convinced that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and, even if he had been, the recent census would have been difficult of digestion; for the recent census made it painfully clear that the population of Silverton parish was drifting away to the towns, and a mere glance at the villagers would have led the most superficial observer to doubt whether the fittest had survived. How was the débâcle to be checked ? How was village life to be made more attractive 2 That was the problem which exercised the mind of George Cherrybank; and, as a partial attempt to solve it, he had, with the rector's cordial consent, determined to organise a series of lectures and entertainments for the winter months. The work of organisation was not a light one, for the amount of local talent that could be relied on was limited. The rector's tour to Palestine had already done duty several times, and had also been much exploited in his sermons; still, it could be served up again, and would fill the bill for one occasion. Then Major Bridge was always ready to give his lecture on ‘Big Game in Borneo’; and Mr. Cherrybank thought that he could himself improvise something on the Principles of Political Economy, though the recent Fiscal Controversy had somewhat confused his ideas. That accounted for three evenings; a concert and a penny reading would bring the total up to five ; a little bit of acting at Christmastime might increase it to six. But where were the rest of the entertainments to come from ? For Mr. Cherrybank's plan had been to have one per week, and an English winter, unfortunately, extends over a longer period than six weeks. In this dilemma Mrs. Cherrybank, acting for her husband, entered upon a correspondence with her friend Mrs. St. Helier, of Balham, an energetic and enthusiastic lady, who had espoused many causes in her day and sat at the feet of many Popes. The following extracts will give the reader a fair idea of its nature and scope : The Manor, Silverton: September 3, 1907. DARLING Tootoo, You are always so clever and so well informed that I am writing to you in a really great difficulty. Now do help me, like the dear, wise soul that you are. George is trying to arrange for some entertainments for our village this winter— something that will be instructive as well as amusing, you know. George is going to take political economy himself, and we have got promises from the Rector and Major Bridge; but, of course, that isn’t nearly enough. You have such heaps of clever friends! Do you think that you could persuade any of them to take pity on us 2 Of course we should put them up and give them some shooting or hunting and so on, and George always gets on so well with clever people. Now do think of somebody; I am sure you must know of heaps. Your loving, LULU.
PS.—Do you happen to know of a cook I am afraid we are going to lose Emma, as she can’t get accustomed to the country.
Garibaldi Villa, Balham : September 5, 1907. DEAREST LULU,-I am afraid that you vastly exaggerate my talents as a ‘Universal Provider.” I wish I could come myself and talk to your villagers, but, as you know, James can't spare me; and it isn’t easy to persuade people to lecture. So many men who are brilliant talkers in a drawing-room lose their nerve completely when they get on to a platform, like poor Charles Slackenthorpe. But I wonder that you haven’t thought of writing to Horace Wetherby; he has no nerves, and an evening with him is a revelation. . . . It's no use asking me about cooks, as I am in the same difficulty myself; for I fear I shall have to part with Mrs. Rice. I am practically certain that she drinks. Isn't it dreadful, for she exactly suited us ! - Your loving, Tootoo.
The Manor, Silverton: September 7, 1907. DARLING Tootoo, Thank you so much for your dear letter. Yes, I wish you could come; but who is Mr. Wetherby : George doesn't remember ever to have heard of him, so it’s not likely that poor ignorant little me should be any wiser. What is his subject, and could we write to him without knowing him 2 . . . I am so sorry about Mrs. Rice When I was with you last spring, Alice told me that she seemed very queer: I have asked her to-day whether she meant drink, and she says, “Yes, that was it ; only, of course, she didn’t like to say so then.’ Your loving, LULU.
Garibaldi Villa, Balham : September 9, 1907. DARLING LULU,-Not know who Horace Wetherby is . Whereever have you been living ! Why, he is the greatest and most original thinker of the day—a prophet, a sort of second Carlyle, and he writes in all the papers And what is his subject 2 Well, he can talk wisely and wittily about everything, from the cedar of Libanus to the hyssop that grows on the wall. You ought certainly to get him. An evening in his company will be quite as great a revelation to your country squires as to the villagers. . . . I find that I was quite mistaken about Mrs. Rice. She is a teetotaller of the bluest brand; but she has suffered a great deal from her teeth lately, poor thing, and, very unwisely, uses laudanum to allay the pain. I am afraid that your Alice must be rather malicious. Mrs. Rice tells me that she was a great mischiefmaker in the servants’ hall, and set them all by the ears. I think
it is right that you should know this. Your loving, Tootoo.
The Manor, Silverton: September 10, 1907. DARLING Tootoo, Your prophet sounds delightfull But can we ask a favour of him without knowing him, and would he care to lecture to a small village audience like ours ? Of course, we should do our best to make everybody come, but they are very apathetic and not very intelligent. If you would be so kind, George thinks it would be better that you should sound him first. . . . I am so glad about Mrs. Rice But you are unjust to Alice; she is the soul of good-nature and most popular with the servants here. She says they knew all about the laudanum, and that it
came from the public-house ! Your loving, LULU.
Garibaldi Villa, Balham : September 12, 1907. DARLING LULU,-There was no reason why you shouldn't have written to Mr. Wetherby, as you know he doesn’t come for nothing. However, as you wished it, I have communicated with him, and he is to come to you on Nov. 10th—his one remaining free night, for he is in tremendous demand—for five guineas and expenses. He doesn’t shoot or hunt, but he likes to meet interesting people; so I daresay you will have a house-party then. . . . Mrs. Rice has shown me the bottle, and it has the label of Figg the chemist on it. She says that Alice shocked them all by the way
she ‘carried on with Joseph in the servants’ hall. Your loving, Tootoo.
The Manor, Silverton : September 14, 1907. MY DEAR Tootoo, George thinks that five guineas and expenses is a great deal to give, and, of course, if we were to pay all the lecturers at the same exorbitant figure we should soon be in the bankruptcy court. However, as you seem to have engaged him definitely, George thinks that we cannot now draw back. But we should like to know by what train he is coming and what his subject is to be—it must be something quite simple. We assume that he will not stay for more than one night. . . . I am afraid that Mrs. Rice must be a very malicious and untrustworthy woman, and I think that she should be made to apologise to Alice, who is
naturally very indignant at the odious calumny. Your affectionate, LULU.
Garibaldi Villa, Balham : September 15, 1907. DEAR LULU,-As after all the trouble I have taken you are not satisfied with my arrangements, you had better write to Mr. Wetherby yourself. The Philosophers' Club, Balham, will find him. I think you may be assured that he will not be eager to stay for more than the one night. . . . I think that an apology is due
not to, but from, Alice. Yours ev., T. S.T. H.
As the result of a further correspondence with Mr. Wetherby, it was decided that the lecture should be on some historical subject, and the prophet finally selected as his theme ‘The Swedes as the Pivot of Continental Politics.” Fearing that this title would sound rather formidably in the ears of rustics, Mr. Cherrybank shortened it to ‘The Swedes,’ and the local printer, thinking the definite article superfluous, cut it out, and issued the bill as follows:
On Nov. 10th, in the Schoolroom, at 8 P.M. punctually,
When November 10 came round, Mrs. Cherrybank was a little flustered. She was accustomed to entertain ordinary people, but she had had no experience of prophets, and original thought rather intimidated her. The house party consisted only of Mrs. Cherrybank's aunt, who was rather deaf, and a friend of her husband's who had come for the hunting; but she had invited the Rector and his wife, Major Bridge, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Knight, and half a dozen other local celebrities to an early dinner to meet the lecturer, who was expected to arrive at 6 P.M.
The first and most surprising revelation of the evening was the personal appearance of the prophet. Mrs. Cherrybank was prepared for a tall, majestic figure with a flowing white beard, and had half expected to be confronted with a leathern girdle and a demand for locusts and wild honey. Instead, there stepped into the room a small and stoutish man, faultlessly dressed, who bowed stiffly and talked about the weather. Nor did he shine in the drawing-room, in the trying interval that precedes the announcement of dinner. The guests, who had been somewhat intimidated by their hostess's description of Mr. Wetherby, were introduced one by one, and, finding that they had nothing to say, withdrew to talk hunting shop amongst themselves, leaving the prophet and Mr. Cherrybank to exchange platitudes on the hearthrug.
But at dinner, after the first glass of champagne, he took up his parable and spoke. The Rector was lamenting to his neighbour, Miss Binns, that in the course of his travels he had found comparatively few Christians in Palestine. Mr. Wetherby caught the remark, and, breaking off a conversation with his hostess on the amenities of Balham, he said in a loud voice, ‘Christianity has lost its hold on the Oriental mind through its Orientalism; in