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    Chapter 2

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    Chapter 3
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    The thrilling, pathetic tone in which these words were uttered affected
    me not a little; and when the ceremony was over I continued staring
    vacantly at the speaker, ignorant of the fact that the beautiful young
    girl had her wide-open, startled eyes fixed on the bush which, I vainly
    imagined, concealed me from view.

    All at once she cried out: "Oh, father, look there! Who is that
    strange-looking man watching us from behind the bushes?"

    They all turned, and then I felt that fourteen or fifteen pairs of very
    keen eyes were on me, seeing me very plainly indeed, for in my curiosity
    and excitement I had come out from the thicker bushes to place myself
    behind a ragged, almost leafless shrub, which afforded the merest
    apology for a shelter. Putting a bold face on the matter, although I did
    not feel very easy, I came out and advanced to them, removing my
    battered old hat on the way, and bowing repeatedly to the assembled
    company. My courteous salutation was not returned; but all, with
    increasing astonishment pictured on their faces, continued staring at me
    as if they were looking on some grotesque apparition. Thinking it best
    to give an account of myself at once, and to apologize for intruding on
    their mysteries, I addressed myself to the old man:

    "I really beg your pardon," I said, "for having disturbed you at such an
    inconvenient time, and while you are engaged in these--these solemn
    rites; but I assure you, sir, it has been quite accidental. I happened
    to be walking here when I saw you coming, and thought it best to step
    out of the way until--well, until the funeral was over. The fact is, I
    met with a serious accident in the mountains over there. I fell down
    into a ravine, and a great heap of earth and stones fell on and stunned
    me, and I do not know how long I lay there before I recovered my senses.
    I daresay I am trespassing, but I am a perfect stranger here, and quite
    lost, and--and perhaps a little confused after my fall, and perhaps you
    will kindly tell me where to go to get some refreshment, and find out
    where I am."

    "Your story is a very strange one," said the old man in reply, after a
    pause of considerable duration. "That you are a perfect stranger in this
    place is evident from your appearance, your uncouth dress, and your
    thick speech."

    His words made me blush hotly, although I should not have minded his
    very personal remarks much if that beautiful girl had not been standing
    there listening to everything. My _uncouth_ garments, by the way,
    were made by a fashionable West End tailor, and fitted me perfectly,
    although just now they were, of course, very dirty. It was also a
    surprise to hear that I had a _thick speech_, since I had always
    been considered a remarkably clear speaker and good singer, and had
    frequently both sung and recited in public, at amateur entertainments.

    After a distressing interval of silence, during which they all continued
    regarding me with unabated curiosity, the old gentleman condescended to
    address me again and asked me my name and country.

    "My country," said I, with the natural pride of a Briton, "is England,
    and my name is Smith."

    "No such country is known to me," he returned; "nor have I ever heard
    such a name as yours."

    I was rather taken aback at his words, and yet did not just then by any
    means realize their full import. I was thinking only about my name; for
    without having penetrated into any perfectly savage country, I had been
    about the world a great deal for a young man, visiting the Colonies,
    India, Yokohama, and other distant places, and I had never yet been told
    that the name of Smith was an unfamiliar one.

    "I hardly know what to say," I returned, for he was evidently waiting
    for me to add something more to what I had stated. "It rather staggers
    me to hear that my name-well, you have not heard of _me_, of
    course, but there have been a great many distinguished men of the same
    name: Sydney Smith, for instance, and--and several others." It mortified
    me just then to find that I had forgotten all the other distinguished
    Smiths.

    He shook his head, and continued watching my face.

    "Not heard of them!" I exclaimed. "Well, I suppose you have heard of
    some of my great countrymen: Beaconsfield, Gladstone, Darwin,
    Burne-Jones, Ruskin, Queen Victoria, Tennyson, George Eliot, Herbert
    Spencer, General Gordon, Lord Randolph Churchill--"

    As he continued to shake his head after each name I at length paused.

    "Who are all these people you have named?" he asked.

    "They are all great and illustrious men and women who have a world-wide
    reputation," I answered.

    "And are there no more of them--have you told me the names of _all_
    the great people you have ever known or heard of?" he said, with a
    curious smile.

    "No, indeed," I answered, nettled at his words and manner. "It would
    take me until to-morrow to name _all_ the great men I have ever
    heard of. I suppose you have heard the names of Napoleon, Wellington,
    Nelson, Dante, Luther, Calvin, Bismarck, Voltaire?"

    He still shook his head.

    "Well, then," I continued, "Homer, Socrates, Alexander the Great,
    Confucius, Zoroaster, Plato, Shakespeare." Then, growing thoroughly
    desperate, I added in a burst: "Noah, Moses, Columbus, Hannibal, Adam
    and Eve!"

    "I am quite sure that I have never heard of any of these names," he
    answered, still with that curious smile. "Nevertheless I can understand
    your surprise. It sometimes happens that the mind, owing an an imperfect
    adjustment of its faculties, resembles the uneducated vision in its
    method of judgment, regarding the things which are near as great and
    important, and those further away as less important, according to their
    distance. In such a case the individuals one hears about or associates
    with, come to be looked upon as the great and illustrious beings of the
    world, and all men in all places are expected to be familiar with their
    names. But come, my children, our sorrowful task is over, let us now
    return to the house. Come with us, Smith, and you shall have the
    refreshment you require."

    I was, of course, pleased with the invitation, but did not relish being
    addressed as "Smith," like some mere laborer or other common person
    tramping about the country.

    The long disconcerting scrutiny I had been subjected to had naturally
    made me very uncomfortable, and caused me to drop a little behind the
    others as we walked towards the house. The old man, however, still kept
    at my side; but whether from motives of courtesy, or because he wished
    to badger me a little more about my uncouth appearance and defective
    intellect, I was not sure. I was not anxious to continue the
    conversation, which had not proved very satisfactory; moreover, the
    beautiful girl I have already mentioned so frequently, was now walking
    just before me, hand in hand with the young man who had raised her from
    the ground. I was absorbed in admiration of her graceful figure,
    and--shall I be forgiven for mentioning such a detail?--her exquisitely
    rounded legs under her brief and beautiful garments. To my mind the
    garment was quite long enough. Every time I spoke, for my companion
    still maintained the conversation and I was obliged to reply, she hung
    back a little to catch my words. At such times she would also turn her
    pretty head partially round so as to see me: then her glances, beginning
    at my face, would wander down to my legs, and her lips would twitch and
    curl a little, seeming to express disgust and amusement at the same
    time. I was beginning to hate my legs, or rather my trousers, for I
    considered that under them I had as good a pair of calves as any man in
    the company.

    Presently I thought of something to say, something very simple, which my
    dignified old friend would be able to answer without intimating that he
    considered me a wild man of the woods or an escaped lunatic.

    "Can you tell me," I said pleasantly, "what is the name of your nearest
    town or city? how far it is from this place, and how I can get there?"

    At this question, or series of questions, the young girl turned quite
    round, and, waiting until I was even with her, she continued her walk at
    my side, although still holding her companion's hand.

    The old man looked at me with a grave smile--that smile was fast
    becoming intolerable--and said: "Are you so fond of honey, Smith? You
    shall have as much as you require without disturbing the bees. They are
    now taking advantage of this second spring to lay by a sufficient
    provision before winter sets in."

    After pondering some time over these enigmatical words, I said: "I
    daresay we are at cross purposes again. I mean," I added hurriedly,
    seeing the inquiring look on his face, "that we do not exactly
    understand each other, for the subject of honey was not in my thoughts."

    "What, then, do you mean by a city?" he asked.

    "What do I mean? Why, a city, I take it, is nothing more than a
    collection or congeries of houses--hundreds and thousands, or hundreds
    _of_ thousands of houses, all built close together, where one can
    live very comfortably for years without seeing a blade of grass."

    "I am afraid," he returned, "that the accident you met with in the
    mountains must have caused some injury to your brain; for I cannot in
    any other way account for these strange fantasies."

    "Do you mean seriously to tell me, sir, that you have never even heard
    of the existence of a city, where millions of human beings live crowded
    together in a small space? Of course I mean a small space comparatively;
    for in some cities you might walk all day without getting into the
    fields; and a city like that might be compared to a beehive so large
    that a bee might fly in a straight line all day without getting out of
    it."

    It struck me the moment I finished speaking that this comparison was not
    quite right somehow; but he did not ask me to explain: he had evidently
    ceased to pay any attention to what I said. The girl looked at me with
    an expression of pity, not to say contempt, and I felt at the same time
    ashamed and vexed. This served to rouse a kind of dogged spirit in me,
    and I returned to the subject once more.

    "Surely," I said, "you have heard of such cities as Paris, Vienna, Rome,
    Athens, Babylon, Jerusalem?"

    He only shook his head, and walked on in silence.

    "And London! London is the capital of England. Why," I exclaimed,
    beginning to see light, and wondering at myself for not having seen it
    sooner, "you are at present talking to me in the English language."

    "I fail to understand your meaning, and am even inclined to doubt that
    you have any," said he, a little ruffled. "I am addressing you in the
    language of human beings--that is all."

    "Well, it seems awfully puzzling," said I; "but I hope you don't think I
    have been indulging in--well, tarradiddles." Then, seeing that I was
    making matters no clearer, I added: "I mean that I have not been telling
    untruths."

    "I could not think that," he answered sternly. "It would indeed be a
    clouded mind which could mistake mere disordered fancies for willful
    offenses against the truth. I have no doubt that when you have recovered
    from the effects of your late accident these vain thoughts and
    imaginations will cease to trouble you."

    "And in the meantime, perhaps, I had better say as little as possible,"
    said I, with considerable temper. "At present we do not seem able to
    understand each other at all."

    "You are right, we do not," he said; and then added with a grave smile,
    "although I must allow that this last remark of yours is quite
    intelligible."

    "I'm glad of that," I returned. "It is distressing to talk and not to be
    understood; it is like men calling to each other in a high wind, hearing
    voices but not able to distinguish words."

    "Again I understand you," said he approvingly; while the beautiful girl
    bestowed on me the coveted reward of a smile, which had no pity or
    contempt in it.

    "I think," I continued, determined to follow up this new train of ideas
    on which I had so luckily stumbled, "that we are not so far apart in
    mind after all. About some things we stand quite away from each other,
    like the widely diverging branches of a tree; but, like the branches, we
    have a meeting-place, and this is, I fancy, in that part of our nature
    where our feelings are. My accident in the hills has not disarranged
    that part of me, I am sure, and I can give you an instance. A little
    while ago when I was standing behind the bushes watching you all, I saw
    this young lady----"

    Here a look of surprise and inquiry from the girl warned me that I was
    once more plunging into obscurity.

    "When I saw _you_," I continued, somewhat amused at her manner,
    "cast yourself on the earth to kiss the cold face of one you had loved
    in life, I felt the tears of sympathy come to my own eyes."

    "Oh, how strange!" she exclaimed, flashing on me a glance from her
    green, mysterious eyes; and then, to increase my wonder and delight, she
    deliberately placed her hand in mine.

    "And yet not strange," said the old man, by way of comment on her words.

    "It seemed strange to Yoletta that one so unlike us outwardly should be
    so like us in heart," remarked the young man at her side.

    There was something about this speech which I did not altogether like,
    though I could not detect anything like sarcasm in the tone of the
    speaker.

    "And yet," continued the lovely girl, "you never saw him living--never
    heard his sweet voice, which still seems to come back to me like a
    melody from the distance."

    "Was he your father?" I asked.

    The question seemed to surprise her very much. "_He_ is our
    father," she returned, with a glance at the old gentleman, which seemed
    strange, for he certainly looked aged enough to be her great-grandfather.

    He smiled and said: "You forget, my daughter, that I am as little known
    to this stranger to our country as all the great and illustrious
    personages he has mentioned are to us."

    At this point I began to lose interest in the conversation. It was
    enough for me to feel that I held that precious hand in mine, and
    presently I felt tempted to administer a gentle squeeze. She looked at
    me and smiled, then glanced over my whole person, the survey finishing
    at my boots, which seemed to have a disagreeable fascination for her.
    She shivered slightly, and withdrew her hand from mine, and in my heart
    I cursed those rusty, thick-soled monstrosities in which my feet were
    cased. However, we were all on a better footing now; and I resolved for
    the future to avoid all dangerous topics, historical and geographical,
    and confine myself to subjects relating to the emotional side of our
    natures.

    At the end our way to the house was over a green turf, among great trees
    as in a park; and as there was no road or path, the first sight of the
    building seen near, when we emerged from the trees, came as a surprise.
    There were no gardens, lawns, inclosures or hedges near it, nor
    cultivation of any kind. It was like a wilderness, and the house
    produced the effect of a noble ruin. It was a hilly stone country where
    masses of stone cropped out here and there among the woods and on the
    green slopes, and it appeared that the house had been raised on the
    natural foundation of one of these rocks standing a little above the
    river that flowed behind it. The stone was gray, tinged with red, and
    the whole rock, covering an acre or so of ground, had been worn or hewn
    down to form a vast platform which stood about a dozen feet above the
    surrounding green level. The sloping and buttressed sides of the
    platform were clothed with ivy, wild shrubs, and various flowering
    plants. Broad, shallow steps led up to the house, which was all of the
    same material--reddish-gray stone; and the main entrance was beneath a
    lofty portico, the sculptured entablature of which was supported by
    sixteen huge caryatides, standing on round massive pedestals. The
    building was not high as a castle or cathedral; it was a dwelling-place,
    and had but one floor, and resembled a ruin to my eyes because of the
    extreme antiquity of its appearance, the weather-worn condition and
    massiveness of the sculptured surfaces, and the masses of ancient ivy
    covering it in places. On the central portion of the building rested a
    great dome-shaped roof, resembling ground glass of a pale reddish tint,
    producing the effect of a cloud resting on the stony summit of a hill.

    I remained standing on the grass about thirty yards from the first steps
    after the others had gone in, all but the old gentleman, who still kept
    with me. By-and-by, withdrawing to a stone bench under an oak-tree, he
    motioned to me to take a seat by his side. He said nothing, but appeared
    to be quietly enjoying my undisguised surprise and admiration.

    "A noble mansion!" I remarked at length to my venerable host, feeling,
    Englishman-like, a sudden great access of respect towards the owner of a
    big house. Men in such a position can afford to be as eccentric as they
    like, even to the wearing of Carnivalesque garments, burying their
    friends or relations in a park, and shaking their heads over such names
    as Smith or Shakespeare. "A glorious place! It must have cost a pot of
    money, and taken a long time to build."

    "What you mean by _a pot of money_ I do not know," said he. "When
    you add _a long time to build_, I am also puzzled to understand
    you. For are not all houses, like the forest of trees, the human race,
    the world we live in, eternal?"

    "If they stand forever they are so in one sense, I suppose," I answered,
    beginning to fear that I had already unfortunately broken the rule I had
    so recently laid down for my own guidance. "But the trees of the forest,
    to which you compare a house, spring from seed, do they not? and so have
    a beginning. Their end also, like the end of man, is to die and return
    to the dust."

    "That is true," he returned; "it is, moreover, a truth which I do not
    now hear for the first time; but it has no connection with the subject
    we are discussing. Men pass away, and others take their places. Trees
    also decay, but the forest does not die, or suffer for the loss of
    individual trees; is it not the same with the house and the family
    inhabiting it, which is one with the house, and endures forever, albeit
    the members composing it must all in time return to the dust?"

    "Is there no decay, then, of the materials composing a house?"

    "Assuredly there is! Even the hardest stone is worn in time by the
    elements, or by the footsteps of many generations of men; but the stone
    that decays is removed, and the house does not suffer."

    "I have never looked at it quite in this light before," said I. "But
    surely we can build a house whenever we wish!"

    "Build a house whenever we wish!" he repeated, with that astonished look
    which threatened to become the permanent expression of his face--so long
    as he had me to talk with, at any rate.

    "Yes, or pull one down if we find it unsuitable--" But his look of
    horror here made me pause, and to finish the sentence I added: "Of
    course, you must admit that a house had a beginning?"

    "Yes; and so had the forest, the mountain, the human race, the world
    itself. But the origin of all these things is covered with the mists of
    time."

    "Does it never happen, then, that a house, however substantially
    built--"

    "However what! But never mind; you continue to speak in riddles. Pray,
    finish what you were saying."

    "Does it never happen that a house is overthrown by some natural
    force--by floods, or subsidence of the earth, or is destroyed by
    lightning or fire?"

    "No!" he answered, with such tremendous emphasis that he almost made me
    jump from my seat. "Are you alone so ignorant of these things that you
    speak of building and of pulling down a house?"

    "Well, I fancied I knew a lot of things once," I answered, with a sigh.
    "But perhaps I was mistaken--people often are. I should like to hear you
    say something more about all these things--I mean about the house and
    the family, and the rest of it."

    "Are you not, then, able to read--have you been taught absolutely
    nothing?"

    "Oh yes, certainly I can read," I answered, joyfully seizing at once on
    the suggestion, which seemed to open a simple, pleasant way of escape
    from the difficulty. "I am by no means a studious person; perhaps I am
    never so happy as when I have nothing to read. Nevertheless, I do
    occasionally look into books, and greatly appreciate their gentle,
    kindly ways. They never shut themselves up with a sound like a slap, or
    throw themselves at your head for a duffer, but seem silently grateful
    for being read, even by a stupid person, and teach you very patiently,
    like a pretty, meek-spirited young girl."

    "I am very pleased to hear it," said he. "You shall read and learn all
    these things for yourself, which is the best method. Or perhaps I ought
    rather to say, you shall by reading recall them to your mind, for it is
    impossible to believe that it has always been in its present pitiable
    condition. I can only attribute such a mental state, with its disordered
    fancies about cities, or immense hives of human beings, and other things
    equally frightful to contemplate, and its absolute vacancy concerning
    ordinary matters of knowledge, to the grave accident you met with in the
    hills. Doubtless in falling your head was struck and injured by a stone.
    Let us hope that you will soon recover possession of your memory and
    other faculties. And now let us repair to the eating-room, for it is
    best to refresh the body first, and the mind afterwards."
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