“Then what is your scheme?” Fardell asked.
“My scheme!” Mannering repeated. “I don’t quite understand you!”
“Of course you don’t,” Fardell answered, vigourously. “You can weave academic arguments, you can make figures and statistics dance to any damned tune you please. If I tried to argue with you, you’d squash me flat. And what’s it all come to? My pals must starve for the gratification of your intellectual vanity. You won’t listen to Tariff Reform. Then what do you propose, to light the forges and fill the mills? Nothing! I say, unless you’ve got a counter scheme of your own, you ought to try ours.”
“Come, Mr. Fardell,” Mannering said, “I can assure you that all I have said and written is the outcome of honest thought. I—”
“Stop!” Fardell exclaimed. “Honest thought! Yes! Where? In your study. That’s where you theorists do your mischief. You can’t make laws for the people in your study. You can’t tell the status of the workingman from the figures you read in your study. You’re like half the smug people in the world who discuss this question in the railway carriages and in their clubs. I’ve heard ’em till I’d like to shove their self-opinionated arguments down their throats, strip their clothes off their backs, and send them down to live with my pals, or starve with them. Any little idiot who buys a penny paper and who’s doing pretty well for himself, thinks he can lay down the law about Free Trade. You’re all of one kidney, sir! You none of you realize this. There are men as good as any of you, whose wives and children are as dear to them as yours to you, who’ve got to see them get thinner and thinner, who don’t know where to get a day’s work or lay their hands upon a copper, and all the while their kids come crying to them for something to eat. Put yourself in their place, sir, and try and realize the torture of it. I’ve been amongst ’em. I’ve spent half of what I made, and a good many thousands it was, buying food for them. Can you wonder that my fingers have itched for the throats of these smug, prosperous pigs, who spurt platitudes and think things are very well as they are because they’re making their little bit? What right have you—any of you—to hesitate for a second to try any means to help those poor devils, unless you’ve got a better scheme of your own? Will you tell me that, sir?”
They had reached Mannering’s house, and he threw open the gate.
“You must come in with me and talk about these things,” Mannering said, gravely. “You seem to be the sort of person I’ve been wanting to meet for a long time.”
DEBTS OF HONOUR
Berenice found the following morning a note from Borrowdean, which caused her some perplexity.
“If you really care,” he said, “to do Mannering a good turn, look his niece up now and then. I am afraid that young woman has rather lost her head since she came to London, and she is making friends who will do her no particular good.”
Berenice ordered her carriage early, and drove round to Portland Crescent.