However—another strike or two like that recent abortion on the railways will dish the Labour Party and Trade Unionism as well—at least in the country. Down here we are new to the movement, but have gone into it keenly, without losing our heads. Indeed, I think we are finding more in our heads than we suspected. We keep to our code; and when we find that other men don’t, we begin to doubt of Unionism. One of the very best of our men said in my hearing at the time that if the railway strike were the kind of thing we were to expect, he, for one, would have no more to do with the Labourers’ Union. As I have said once before, I think, responsibility (which the Union is giving us) deepens our men and quickens them too. The time is at hand when they will begin to feel their power. I have no fears. I have long known them to be the salt of the earth. If the quotation would not be from one of my own works, I would quote now.
It is an old discussion, but all my travels have convinced me that a bad peasantry is the exception. Such exceptions there are, though I don’t mean to give them. If Zola had not made himself ridiculous in the act, so ridiculous as to show himself negligible, he would stand as the greatest traducer of his adopted country that France has ever harboured. But he was a specialist in his particular line of disgustfulness, and saw in rural France what he took there with him. They say that the Bulgarian peasant is a savage brute, “they” being the Greeks, of course. I would not mind betting a crown that he is nothing of the sort.
In manners, to be sure, peasantries differ remarkably. Here in the West, from Wilts to Cornwall, our rustics are sweet-mannered. They are instinctively gentlemen, if gentlehood consist, as I believe, in having regard for other people’s feelings. But in the Danish parts of England, to be plain, manners are to seek. That means from Bedfordshire pretty well up to Carlisle. North-east of that again, in Northumberland, you have delightful manners.
The Northumbrian peasant, like the Scottish, greets you as an equal, the Wiltshire man as a superior, yet neither loses dignity thereby. The Lancashire man treats you as his inferior, and is not himself advantaged, whether it be so or not.
I hope that I have secured for myself a haven, a yet more impenetrable shade than this, against the time when, having seen four generations of men, two behind and two beyond, I may consider in silence what is likely to be the end of it all. It is true that I am getting old, but I am not yet prepared for a lodge in the wilderness. My present house has a wall on the village street. The post-office is a matter of crossing the road; the church is at the bottom of a meadow. I like all that, because I like all my neighbours and the sound of their voices. At eleven o’clock in the morning I can hear the