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PAGE 3

The Temple Of Silence
by [?]

“What I can’t understand,” he said, “is why nobody is ever slanged for the real reason.”

“Hullo!” remarked Harry, humorously, “you beginning to take notice?”

“Well, take Verner,” continued Horne Fisher. “If we want to attack Verner, why not attack him? Why compliment him on being a romantic reactionary aristocrat? Who is Verner? Where does he come from? His name sounds old, but I never heard of it before, as the man said of the Crucifixion. Why talk about his blue blood? His blood may be gamboge yellow with green spots, for all anybody knows. All we know is that the old squire, Hawker, somehow ran through his money (and his second wife’s, I suppose, for she was rich enough), and sold the estate to a man named Verner. What did he make his money in? Oil? Army contracts?”

“I don’t know,” said Saltoun, looking at him thoughtfully.

“First thing I ever knew you didn’t know,” cried the exuberant Harry.

“And there’s more, besides,” went on Horne Fisher, who seemed to have suddenly found his tongue. “If we want country people to vote for us, why don’t we get somebody with some notion about the country? We don’t talk to people in Threadneedle Street about nothing but turnips and pigsties. Why do we talk to people in Somerset about nothing but slums and socialism? Why don’t we give the squire’s land to the squire’s tenants, instead of dragging in the county council?”

“Three acres and a cow,” cried Harry, emitting what the Parliamentary reports call an ironical cheer.

“Yes,” replied his brother, stubbornly. “Don’t you think agricultural laborers would rather have three acres and a cow than three acres of printed forms and a committee? Why doesn’t somebody start a yeoman party in politics, appealing to the old traditions of the small landowner? And why don’t they attack men like Verner for what they are, which is something about as old and traditional as an American oil trust?”

“You’d better lead the yeoman party yourself,” laughed Harry. “Don’t you think it would be a joke, Lord Saltoun, to see my brother and his merry men, with their bows and bills, marching down to Somerset all in Lincoln green instead of Lincoln and Bennet hats?”

“No,” answered Old Saltoun, “I don’t think it would be a joke. I think it would be an exceedingly serious and sensible idea.”

“Well, I’m jiggered!” cried Harry Fisher, staring at him. “I said just now it was the first fact you didn’t know, and I should say this is the first joke you didn’t see.”

“I’ve seen a good many things in my time,” said the old man, in his rather sour fashion. “I’ve told a good many lies in my time, too, and perhaps I’ve got rather sick of them. But there are lies and lies, for all that. Gentlemen used to lie just as schoolboys lie, because they hung together and partly to help one another out. But I’m damned if I can see why we should lie for these cosmopolitan cads who only help themselves. They’re not backing us up any more; they’re simply crowding us out. If a man like your brother likes to go into Parliament as a yeoman or a gentleman or a Jacobite or an Ancient Briton, I should say it would be a jolly good thing.”

In the rather startled silence that followed Horne Fisher sprang to his feet and all his dreary manner dropped off him.

“I’m ready to do it to-morrow,” he cried. “I suppose none of you fellows would back me up.”

Then Harry Fisher showed the finer side of his impetuosity. He made a sudden movement as if to shake hands.

“You’re a sport,” he said, “and I’ll back you up, if nobody else will. But we can all back you up, can’t we? I see what Lord Saltoun means, and, of course, he’s right. He’s always right.”

“So I will go down to Somerset,” said Horne Fisher.