Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAn Unsocial Socialist - Chapter VI
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter VI Post by :GrahamF Category :Long Stories Author :George Bernard Shaw Date :June 2011 Read :1706

Click below to download : An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter VI (Format : PDF)

An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter VI

CHAPTER VI


The year wore on, and the long winter evenings set in. The
studious young ladies at Alton College, elbows on desk and hands
over ears, shuddered chillily in fur tippets whilst they loaded
their memories with the statements of writers on moral science,
or, like men who swim upon corks, reasoned out mathematical
problems upon postulates. Whence it sometimes happened that the
more reasonable a student was in mathematics, the more
unreasonable she was in the affairs of real life, concerning
which few trustworthy postulates have yet been ascertained.

Agatha, not studious, and apt to shiver in winter, began to break
Rule No. 17 with increasing frequency. Rule No. 17 forbade the
students to enter the kitchen, or in any way to disturb the
servants in the discharge of their duties. Agatha broke it
because she was fond of making toffee, of eating it, of a good
fire, of doing any forbidden thing, and of the admiration with
which the servants listened to her ventriloquial and musical
feats. Gertrude accompanied her because she too liked toffee, and
because she plumed herself on her condescension to her inferiors.
Jane went because her two friends went, and the spirit of
adventure, the force of example, and the love of toffee often
brought more volunteers to these expeditions than Agatha thought
it safe to enlist. One evening Miss Wilson, going downstairs
alone to her private wine cellar, was arrested near the kitchen
by sounds of revelry, and, stopping to listen, overheard the
castanet dance (which reminded her of the emphasis with which
Agatha had snapped her fingers at Mrs. Miller), the bee on the
window pane, "Robin Adair" (encored by the servants), and an
imitation of herself in the act of appealing to Jane Carpenter's
better nature to induce her to study for the Cambridge Local. She
waited until the cold and her fear of being discovered spying
forced her to creep upstairs, ashamed of having enjoyed a silly
entertainment, and of conniving at a breach of the rules rather
than face a fresh quarrel with Agatha.

There was one particular in which matters between Agatha and the
college discipline did not go on exactly as before. Although she
had formerly supplied a disproportionately large number of the
confessions in the fault book, the entry which had nearly led to
her expulsion was the last she ever made in it. Not that her
conduct was better--it was rather the reverse. Miss Wilson never
mentioned the matter, the fault book being sacred from all
allusion on her part. But she saw that though Agatha would not
confess her own sins, she still assisted others to unburden their
consciences. The witticisms with which Jane unsuspectingly
enlivened the pages of the Recording Angel were conclusive on
this point.

Smilash had now adopted a profession. In the last days of autumn
he had whitewashed the chalet, painted the doors, windows, and
veranda, repaired the roof and interior, and improved the place
so much that the landlord had warned him that the rent would be
raised at the expiration of his twelvemonth's tenancy, remarking
that a tenant could not reasonably expect to have a pretty,
rain-tight dwelling-house for the same money as a hardly
habitable ruin. Smilash had immediately promised to dilapidate it
to its former state at the end of the year. He had put up a board
at the gate with an inscription copied from some printed cards
which he presented to persons who happened to converse with him.
______________________________________________________

JEFFERSON SMILASH

PAINTER, DECORATOR, GLAZIER, PLUMBER & GARDENER. Pianofortes
tuned. Domestic engineering in all its Branches. Families waited
upon at table or otherwise.

CHAMOUNIX VILLA, LYVERN. (N.B. Advice Gratis. No Reasonable offer
refused.) _______________________________________________________


The business thus announced, comprehensive as it was, did not
flourish. When asked by the curious for testimony to his
competence and respectability, he recklessly referred them to
Fairholme, to Josephs, and in particular to Miss Wilson, who, he
said, had known him from his earliest childhood. Fairholme, glad
of an opportunity to show that he was no mealy mouthed parson,
declared, when applied to, that Smilash was the greatest rogue in
the country. Josephs, partly from benevolence, and partly from a
vague fear that Smilash might at any moment take an action
against him for defamation of character, said he had no doubt
that he was a very cheap workman, and that it would be a charity
to give him some little job to encourage him. Miss Wilson
confirmed Fairholme's account; and the church organist, who had
tuned all the pianofortes in the neighborhood once a year for
nearly a quarter of a century, denounced the newcomer as Jack of
all trades and master of none. Hereupon the radicals of Lyvern, a
small and disreputable party, began to assert that there was no
harm in the man, and that the parsons and Miss Wilson, who lived
in a fine house and did nothing but take in the daughters of rich
swells as boarders, might employ their leisure better than in
taking the bread out of a poor work man's mouth. But as none of
this faction needed the services of a domestic engineer, he was
none the richer for their support, and the only patron he
obtained was a housemaid who was leaving her situation at a
country house in the vicinity, and wanted her box repaired, the
lid having fallen off. Smilash demanded half-a-crown for the job,
but on her demurring, immediately apologized and came down to a
shilling. For this sum he repainted the box, traced her initials
on it, and affixed new hinges, a Bramah lock, and brass handles,
at a cost to himself of ten shillings and several hours' labor.
The housemaid found fault with the color of the paint, made him
take off the handles, which, she said, reminded her of a coffin,
complained that a lock with such a small key couldn't be strong
enough for a large box, but admitted that it was all her own
fault for not employing a proper man. It got about that he had
made a poor job of the box; and as he, when taxed with this,
emphatically confirmed it, he got no other commission; and his
signboard served thenceforth only for the amusement of pedestrian
tourists and of shepherd boys with a taste for stone throwing.

One night a great storm blew over Lyvern, and those young ladies
at Alton College who were afraid of lightning, said their prayers
with some earnestness. At half-past twelve the rain, wind, and
thunder made such a din that Agatha and Gertrude wrapped
themselves in shawls, stole downstairs to the window on the
landing outside Miss Wilson's study, and stood watching the
flashes give vivid glimpses of the landscape, and discussing in
whispers whether it was dangerous to stand near a window, and
whether brass stair-rods could attract lightning. Agatha, as
serious and friendly with a single companion as she was
mischievous and satirical before a larger audience, enjoyed the
scene quietly. The lightning did not terrify her, for she knew
little of the value of life, and fancied much concerning the
heroism of being indifferent to it. The tremors which the more
startling flashes caused her, only made her more conscious of her
own courage and its contrast with the uneasiness of Gertrude, who
at last, shrinking from a forked zigzag of blue flame, said:

"Let us go back to bed, Agatha. I feel sure that we are not safe
here."

"Quite as safe as in bed, where we cannot see anything. How the
house shakes! I believe the rain will batter in the windows
before--"

"Hush," whispered Gertrude, catching her arm in terror. "What was
that?"

"What?"

"I am sure I heard the bell--the gate bell. Oh, do let us go back
to bed."

"Nonsense! Who would be out on such a night as this? Perhaps the
wind rang it."

They waited for a few moments; Gertrude trembling, and Agatha
feeling, as she listened in the darkness, a sensation familiar to
persons who are afraid of ghosts. Presently a veiled clangor
mingled with the wind. A few sharp and urgent snatches of it came
unmistakably from the bell at the gate of the college grounds. It
was a loud bell, used to summon a servant from the college to
open the gates; for though there was a porter's lodge, it was
uninhabited.

"Who on earth can it be?" said Agatha. "Can't they find the
wicket, the idiots?"

"Oh, I hope not! Do come upstairs, Agatha."

"No, I won't. Go you, if you like." But Gertrude was afraid to go
alone. "I think I had better waken Miss Wilson, and tell her,"
continued Agatha. "It seems awful to shut anybody out on such a
night as this."

"But we don't know who it is."

"Well, I suppose you are not afraid of them, in any case," said
Agatha, knowing the contrary, but recognizing the convenience of
shaming Gertrude into silence.

They listened again. The storm was now very boisterous, and they
could not hear the bell. Suddenly there was a loud knocking at
the house door. Gertrude screamed, and her cry was echoed from
the rooms above, where several girls had heard the knocking also,
and had been driven by it into the state of mind which
accompanies the climax of a nightmare. Then a candle flickered on
the stairs, and Miss Wilson's voice, reassuringly firm, was
heard.

"Who is that?"

"It is I, Miss Wilson, and Gertrude. We have been watching the
storm, and there is some one knocking at the--" A tremendous
battery with the knocker, followed by a sound, confused by the
gale, as of a man shouting, interrupted her.

"They had better not open the door," said Miss Wilson, in some
alarm. "You are very imprudent, Agatha, to stand here. You will
catch your death of--Dear me! What can be the matter? She hurried
down, followed by Agatha, Gertrude, and some of the braver
students, to the hall, where they found a few shivering servants
watching the housekeeper, who was at the keyhole of the house
door, querulously asking who was there. She was evidently not
heard by those without, for the knocking recommenced whilst she
was speaking, and she recoiled as if she had received a blow on
the mouth. Miss Wilson then rattled the chain to attract
attention, and demanded again who was there.

"Let us in," was returned in a hollow shout through the keyhole.
"There is a dying woman and three children here. Open the door."

Miss Wilson lost her presence of mind. To gain time, she replied,
"I--I can't hear you. What do you say?"

"Damnation!" said the voice, speaking this time to some one
outside. "They can't hear." And the knocking recommenced with
increased urgency. Agatha, excited, caught Miss Wilson's dressing
gown, and repeated to her what the voice had said. Miss Wilson
had heard distinctly enough, and she felt, without knowing
clearly why, that the door must be opened, but she was almost
over-mastered by a vague dread of what was to follow. She began
to undo the chain, and Agatha helped with the bolts. Two of the
servants exclaimed that they were all about to be murdered in
their beds, and ran away. A few of the students seemed inclined
to follow their example. At last the door, loosed, was blown wide
open, flinging Miss Wilson and Agatha back, and admitting a
whirlwind that tore round the hall, snatched at the women's
draperies, and blew out the lights. Agatha, by a hash of
lightning, saw for an instant two men straining at the door like
sailors at a capstan. Then she knew by the cessation of the
whirlwind that they had shut it. Matches were struck, the candles
relighted, and the newcomers clearly perceived.

Smilash, bareheaded, without a coat, his corduroy vest and
trousers heavy with rain; a rough-looking, middle-aged man,
poorly dressed like a shepherd, wet as Smilash, with the
expression, piteous, patient, and desperate, of one hard driven
by ill-fortune, and at the end of his resources; two little
children, a boy and a girl, almost naked, cowering under an old
sack that had served them as an umbrella; and, lying on the
settee where the two men had laid it, a heap of wretched wearing
apparel, sacking, and rotten matting, with Smilash's coat and
sou'wester, the whole covering a bundle which presently proved to
be an exhausted woman with a tiny infant at her breast. Smilash's
expression, as he looked at her, was ferocious.

"Sorry fur to trouble you, lady," said the man, after glancing
anxiously at Smilash, as if he had expected him to act as
spokesman; "but my roof and the side of my house has gone in the
storm, and my missus has been having another little one, and I am
sorry to ill-convenience you, Miss; but--but--"

"Inconvenience!" exclaimed Smilash. "It is the lady's privilege
to relieve you--her highest privilege!"

The little boy here began to cry from mere misery, and the woman
roused herself to say, "For shame, Tom! before the lady," and
then collapsed, too weak to care for what might happen next in
the world. Smilash looked impatiently at Miss Wilson, who
hesitated, and said to him:

"What do you expect me to do?"

"To help us," he replied. Then, with an explosion of nervous
energy, he added: "Do what your heart tells you to do. Give your
bed and your clothes to the woman, and let your girls pitch their
books to the devil for a few days and make something for these
poor little creatures to wear. The poor have worked hard enough
to clothe THEM. Let them take their turn now and clothe the
poor."

"No, no. Steady, master," said the man, stepping forward to
propitiate Miss Wilson, and evidently much oppressed by a sense
of unwelcomeness. "It ain't any fault of the lady's. Might I make
so bold as to ask you to put this woman of mine anywhere that may
be convenient until morning. Any sort of a place will do; she's
accustomed to rough it. Just to have a roof over her until I find
a room in the village where we can shake down." Here, led by his
own words to contemplate the future, he looked desolately round
the cornice of the hall, as if it were a shelf on which somebody
might have left a suitable lodging for him.

Miss Wilson turned her back decisively and contemptuously on
Smilash. She had recovered herself. "I will keep your wife here,"
she said to the man. "Every care shall be taken of her. The
children can stay too."

"Three cheers for moral science!" cried Smilash, ecstatically
breaking into the outrageous dialect he had forgotten in his
wrath. "Wot was my words to you, neighbor, when I said we should
bring your missus to the college, and you said, ironical-like,
'Aye, and bloomin' glad they'll be to see us there.' Did I not
say to you that the lady had a noble 'art, and would show it when
put to the test by sech a calamity as this?"

"Why should you bring my hasty words up again' me now, master,
when the lady has been so kind?" said the man with emotion. "I am
humbly grateful to you, Miss; and so is Bess. We are sensible of
the ill-convenience we--"

Miss Wilson, who had been conferring with the housekeeper, cut
his speech short by ordering him to carry his wife to bed, which
he did with the assistance of Smilash, now jubilant. Whilst they
were away, one of the servants, bidden to bring some blankets to
the woman's room, refused,saying that she was not going to wait
on that sort of people. Miss Wilson gave her warning almost
fiercely to quit the college next day. This excepted, no ill-will
was shown to the refugees. The young ladies were then requested
to return to bed.

Meanwhile the man, having laid his wife in a chamber palatial in
comparison with that which the storm had blown about her ears,
was congratulating her on her luck, and threatening the children
with the most violent chastisement if they failed to behave
themselves with strict propriety whilst they remained in that
house. Before leaving them he kissed his wife; and she, reviving,
asked him to look at the baby. He did so, and pensively
apostrophized it with a shocking epithet in anticipation of the
time when its appetite must be satisfied from the provision shop
instead of from its mother's breast. She laughed and cried shame
on him; and so they parted cheerfully. When he returned to the
hall with Smilash they found two mugs of beer waiting for them.
The girls had retired, and only Miss Wilson and the housekeeper
remained.

"Here's your health, mum," said the man, before drinking; "and
may you find such another as yourself to help you when you're in
trouble, which Lord send may never come!"

"Is your house quite destroyed?" said Miss Wilson. "Where will
you spend the night?"

"Don't you think of me, mum. Master Smilash here will kindly put
me up 'til morning."

"His health!" said Smilash, touching the mug with his lips.

"The roof and south wall is browed right away," continued the
man, after pausing for a moment to puzzle over Smilash's meaning.
"I doubt if there's a stone of it standing by this."

"But Sir John will build it for you again. You are one of his
herds, are you not?"

"I am, Miss. But not he; he'll be glad it's down. He don't like
people livin' on the land. I have told him time and again that
the place was ready to fall; but he said I couldn't expect him to
lay out money on a house that he got no rent for. You see, Miss,
I didn't pay any rent. I took low wages; and the bit of a hut was
a sort of set-off again' what I was paid short of the other men.
I couldn't afford to have it repaired, though I did what I could
to patch and prop it. And now most like I shall be blamed for
letting it be blew down, and shall have to live in half a room in
the town and pay two or three shillin's a week, besides walkin'
three miles to and from my work every day. A gentleman like Sir
John don't hardly know what the value of a penny is to us
laborin' folk, nor how cruel hard his estate rules and the like
comes on us."

"Sir John's health!" said Smilash, touching the mug as before.
The man drank a mouthful humbly, and Smilash continued, "Here's
to the glorious landed gentry of old England: bless 'em!"

"Master Smilash is only jokin'," said the man apologetically.
"It's his way."

"You should not bring a family into the world if you are so
poor," said Miss Wilson severely. "Can you not see that you
impoverish yourself by doing so--to put the matter on no higher
grounds."

"Reverend Mr. Malthus's health!" remarked Smilash, repeating his
pantomime.

"Some say it's the children, and some say it's the drink, Miss,"
said the man submissively. "But from what I see, family or no
family, drunk or sober, the poor gets poorer and the rich richer
every day."

"Ain't it disgustin' to hear a man so ignorant of the improvement
in the condition of his class?" said Smilash, appealing to Miss
Wilson.

"If you intend to take this man home with you," she said, turning
sharply on him, "you had better do it at once."

"I take it kind on your part that you ask me to do anythink,
after your up and telling Mr. Wickens that I am the last person
in Lyvern you would trust with a job."

"So you are--the very last. Why don't you drink your beer?"

"Not in scorn of your brewing, lady; but because, bein' a common
man, water is good enough for me."

"I wish you good-night, Miss," said the man; "and thank you
kindly for Bess and the children."

"Good-night," she replied, stepping aside to avoid any salutation
from Smilash. But he went up to her and said in a low voice, and
with the Trefusis manner and accent:

"Good-night, Miss Wilson. If you should ever be in want of the
services of a dog, a man, or a domestic engineer, remind Smilash
of Bess and the children, and he will act for you in any of those
capacities."

They opened the door cautiously, and found that the wind,
conquered by the rain, had abated. Miss Wilson's candle, though
it flickered in the draught, was not extinguished this time; and
she was presently left with the housekeeper, bolting and chaining
the door, and listening to the crunching of feet on the gravel
outside dying away through the steady pattering of the rain.

Content of CHAPTER VI (George Bernard Shaw's novel: An Unsocial Socialist)

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter VII An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter VII

An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter VII
CHAPTER VIIAgatha was at this time in her seventeenth year. She had a livelyperception of the foibles of others, and no reverence for herseniors, whom she thought dull, cautious, and ridiculouslyamenable by commonplaces. But she was subject to the illusionwhich disables youth in spite of its superiority to age. Shethought herself an exception. Crediting Mr. Jansenius and thegeneral mob of mankind with nothing but a grovellingconsciousness of some few material facts, she felt in herself anexquisite sense and all-embracing conception of nature, sharedonly by her favorite poets and heroes of romance and history.Hence she was in the common youthful case of
PREVIOUS BOOKS

An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter V An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter V

An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter V
CHAPTER VWhat had passed between Smilash and Henrietta remained unknownexcept to themselves. Agatha had seen Henrietta clasping his neckin her arms, but had not waited to hear the exclamation of"Sidney, Sidney," which followed, nor to see him press her faceto his breast in his anxiety to stifle her voice as he said, "Mydarling love, don't screech I implore you. Confound it, we shallhave the whole pack here in a moment. Hush!""Don't leave me again, Sidney," she entreated, clinging faster tohim as his perplexed gaze, wandering towards the entrance to theshrubbery, seemed to forsake her. A din of voices in thatdirection precipitated
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT