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“Incurable !” Then, cut it off :
For the Man, for the State, it is better,
And the Freeman escape from his fetter.
“ Thrice Perilous !” Well, be it so :
More perilous still to be chattels and slaves ;
COR five years before I returned from my
T travels to reside at Tinlie Tower, and for about ten years thereafter, the Earthly Providence of Castlebraes was the Factor; and he went out and came in amongst the people loaded with curses. His name, as known in Heraldry, was Sir Edward Spry. But he was never spoken of amongst us, by any other name than that of Factor; or, when bitterness and hate required briefer utterance, Ned; or, Factor Neddy, if any lingering touch of good humour still fringed the hate.
How he came to be so universally and deeply disliked, a Stranger felt it particularly hard to understand. He was the most gracious-mannered man one ever met in all those Hilly regions. His words were literally smoother than butter; and his look was frank and guileless, as that of a sucking lamb. At table, he was the joy of all listeners. His stories of adventure, and his recitation of comic incidents, kept Ladies and Gentlemen in alternate moods of hushed attention or fits of explosive laughter. He had, besides, a rare grace, seldom seen in gifted talkers; he could remain perfectly silent, and listen eagerly to others for any length of time. Indeed, he scarcely broke silence of his own accord, or thrust himself on any Company; till they themselves called for him, and were all waiting to hear. He had thus always secured attention without claiming it. Everybody was eager to listen, and ready to applaud, so that not a shot missed its goal!
For a while, I was completely led captive by the Factor's gifts and graces. Till the last, I would have remained blinded, had I seen and known Sir Edward Spry only as he represented himself, without going down amongst the Crofters, Cottars, and Farmers, that I might know and see both sides, and judge for myself. So that I was one of the very last to blame the Marquis, our noble Landlord, feeling certain that, had I been circumstanced as he was, the chances were ten to one that I would have erred exactly as he did ;-I too would have sided with the Factor and opposed the People.
Once my eyes were really opened, therefore, my whole effort was to get behind the Factor, and direct at the Marquis himself. First of all, I cursed the whole system, which allowed this inhuman barrier betwixt him and the People on his Estates, by whose blood and brain, nerve and muscle, he was sustained in his great position. But, latterly, I began to curse the Marquis himself, for refusing to open his eyes, and look at the naked and glaring facts around him, the living
examples, the burning illustrations that constantly appealed to him, instead of looking at Things and Persons only and always through the Factor's eyes. That, in the long-run, I never can entirely forgive. A Man had better part with his Property, in free gifts to the Tenants, or hand it over to the Nation for Public uses, than retain it exclusively for selfish Rent-Drawing, the bleeding out of it, or rather out of those who labour on it, so many handfuls of Cash. At least I know only one baser and more cruel use to which he can put his Estate, and that is to surrender it and the People on it to the dictatorial management of the spite, cruelty, and caprice of a greedy and irresponsible Factor. Properties, that cannot be otherwise managed, might well be reclaimed by the Nation, and re-allotted for the Common Welfare.
Old Joe Brunt, the Cooper, now nearing his Hundredth Year, was the first to lead me to think practically on these matters.
Within a few days after my return to Tinlie Tower, my steps led me, as in duty bound, to visit the Oldest Inhabitant in all these Hills and Dales, and to present him with a small curio from the FarAway Lands. It was a Native Pipe from one of the Islands of the Southern Pacific Ocean; and never was a Three-Year-Old more charmed with a squeaking toy than was dear old Cooper Brunt with his Pipe and half a pound of pure Tobacco Cake.
For myself, I do not care to smoke. But my Saintly Father enjoyed “a draw”; sometimes reciting Ralph Erskine by way of half-apology
“Thus think and smoke Tobacco.” Also, not a few of the most delightful Human Beings I have ever known, or at this moment know, can do a fair thing in creating the cloud, under favourable conditions! I can never, therefore, without a certain amount of violence to my deepest nature, bring myself to think of the social “puff” as a thing to be promiscuously condemned.
True, from various points of view, it is a most ridiculous pastime, and hard to be defended on anything like rational grounds. True, also it has a tendency to lead Youngstrs to deceive their parents, under not infrequent conditions of life, and introduces a lack of perfect trust in the Family Circle. True, it breeds, in a certain type of fellows, an utter selfishness, and inconsiderateness of all others, as when they rudely and disgustingly blow their ejected “reek” into other people's faces, even the faces of Ladies and Invalids, passing them on the streets, or crowded behind them at the Ticket Box of a Train or Steamer,-a piece of thoughtless and ungentlemanly rudeness, if not cruelty, at which these men would be staggered, if they could but be got to look at it for one instant !
And yet, and yet - despite these and other hideous abuses—I am bound to confess that I am always glad to see a genuine Smoker, genuinely enjoying the solace of a puff, unselfishly, and apart from any annoyance to others. So much so, that I filled old Joe Brunt's pipe, and with my own lips set her agoing,—making sure that she was "lunting” bravely, before our crack began.
Possibly few, if any, of my readers ever saw a