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All The World’s Mad
by [?]

Up to thirty-two years of age David Hyam, of the village of Framley, in Staffordshire, was not a man of surprises. With enough of this world’s goods to give him comfort of body and suave gravity of manner, the figure he cut was becoming to his Quaker origin and profession. No one suspected the dynamic possibilities of his nature till a momentous day in August, in the middle Victorian period, when news from Bristol came that an uncle in chocolate had died and left him the third of a large fortune, without condition or proviso.

This was of a Friday, and on the Saturday following David did his first startling act–he offered marriage to Hope Marlowe, the only Quaker girl in Framley who had ever dared to discard the poke bonnet even for a day, and who had been publicly reproved for laughing in meeting–for Mistress Hope had a curious, albeit demure and suggestive, sense of humour; she was, in truth, a kind of sacred minuet in grey. Hope had promptly accepted David, at the same time taunting him softly with the fact that he had recklessly declared he would never marry, even saying profanely that upon his word and honour he never would! She repeated to him what his own mother once replied to his audacious worldly protests:

“If thee say thee will never, never, never do a thing, thee will some day surely do it.”

Then, seeing that David was a bit chagrined, Hope slipped one hand into his, drew him back within the door, lifted the shovel hat off his forehead, and whispered with a coquetry unworthy a Quaker maid:

“But thee did not say, friend David, thee would never, never, never smite thy friend on both cheeks after she had flouted thee.”

Having smitten her on both cheeks, after the manner of foolish men, David gravely got him to his home and to a sound sleep that night. Next morning, the remembrance of the pleasant smiting roused him to an outwardly sedate and inwardly vainglorious courage. Going with steady steps to the Friends’ meeting-house at the appointed time, the Spirit moved him, after a decorous pause, to announce his intended marriage to the prettiest Quaker in Framley, even the maid who had shocked the community’s sense of decorum and had been written down a rebel–though these things he did not say.

From the recesses of her poke bonnet Hope watched the effect of David’s words upon the meeting; but when the elders turned and looked at her, as became her judges before the Lord, her eyes dropped; also her heart thumped so hard she could hear it; and in the silence that followed it seemed to beat time to the words like the pendulum of a clock: “Fear not-Love on! Fear not–Love on!” But the heart beat faster still, the eyes came up quickly, and the face flushed a deep, excited red when David, rising again, said that, with the consent of the community–a consent which his voice subtly insisted upon–he would take a long journey into the Holy Land, into Syria, travelling to Baalbec and Damascus, and even beyond as far as the desolate city of Palmyra; and then, afterwards, into Egypt, where Joseph and the sons of Israel were captive aforetime. He would fain visit the Red Sea, and likewise confer with the Coptic Christians in Egypt, “of whom thee and me have read to our comfort,” he added piously, looking at friend Fairley, the oldest and heretofore the richest man in the community.

Friend Fairley rejoiced now that he had in by-gone days lent David books to read; but he rejoiced secretly, for though his old bookman’s heart warmed at the thought that he should in good time hear, from one who had seen with his own eyes, of the wonders of the East, it became him to assume a ponderous placidity–for Framley had always been doubtful of his bookishness and its influence on such as David. They said it boded no good; there were those even who called Fairley “a new light,” that schism in a sect.