FIGHTS THE FIGHT OF FAITH
The strenuous experiences through which Mr. Lavender had passed resulted in what Joe Petty called “a fair knock-out,” and he was forced to spend three days in the seclusion of his bed, deprived of his newspapers. He instructed Mrs. Petty, however, on no account to destroy or mislay any journal, but to keep them in a pile in his study. This she did, for though her first impulse was to light the kitchen fire with the five of them every morning, deliberate reflection convinced her that twenty journals read at one sitting would produce on him a more soporific effect than if he came down to a mere five.
Mr. Lavender passed his three days, therefore, in perfect repose, feeding Blink, staring at the ceiling, and conversing with Joe. An uneasy sense that he had been lacking in restraint caused his mind to dwell on life as seen by the monthly rather than the daily papers, and to hold with his chauffeur discussions of a somewhat philosophical character.
“As regards the government of this country, Joe,” he said, on the last evening of his retirement, “who do you consider really rules? For it is largely on this that our future must depend.”
“Can’t say, sir,” answered Joe, “unless it’s Botty.”
“I do not know whom or what you signify by that word,” replied Mr. Lavender; “I am wondering if it is the People who rule.”
“The People!” replied Joe; “the People’s like a gent in a lunatic asylum, allowed to ’ave instinks but not to express ’em. One day it’ll get aht, and we shall all step lively.”
“It is, perhaps, Public Opinion,” continued Mr. Lavender to himself, “as expressed in the Press.”
“Not it,” said Joe the nearest opinion the Press gets to expressin’ is that of Mayors. ’Ave you never noticed, sir, that when the Press is ’ard up for support of an opinion that the public don’t ’old, they go to the Mayors, and get ’em in two columns?”
“Mayors are most valuable public men,” said Mr. Lavender.
“I’ve nothin’ against ’em,” replied Joe; “very average lot in their walk of life; but they ain’t the People.”
Mr. Lavender sighed. “What, then, is the People, Joe?”
“I am,” replied Joe; “I’ve got no opinions on anything except that I want to live a quiet life—just enough beer and ’baccy, short hours, and no worry.”
“’If you compare that with the aspirations of Mayors you will see how sordid such a standard is,” said Mr. Lavender, gravely.
“Sordid it may be, sir,” replied Joe; “but there’s, a thing abaht it you ’aven’t noticed. I don’t want to sacrifice nobody to satisfy my aspirations. Why? Because I’ve got none. That’s priceless. Take the Press, take Parlyment, take Mayors—all mad on aspirations. Now it’s Free Trade, now it’s Imperialism; now it’s Liberty in Europe; now it’s Slavery in Ireland; now it’s sacrifice of the last man an’ the last dollar. You never can tell what aspiration’ll get ’em next. And the ’ole point of an aspiration is the sacrifice of someone else. Don’t you make a mistake, sir. I defy you to make a public speech which ’asn’t got that at the bottom of it.”