It is determined with something like humour that communities very young should occupy themselves almost altogether with matters of grave and serious import. The vision of life at that period is no doubt unimpeded and clear; its conditions offer themselves with a certain nakedness and force, both as to this world and to that which is to come. The town of Elgin thus knew two controlling interests—the interest of politics and the interest of religion. Both are terms we must nevertheless circumscribe. Politics wore a complexion strictly local, provincial, or Dominion. The last step of France in Siam, the disputed influence of Germany in the Persian Gulf, the struggle of the Powers in China were not matters greatly talked over in Elgin; the theatre of European diplomacy had no absorbed spectators here. Nor can I claim that interest in the affairs of Great Britain was in any way extravagant.
A sentiment of affection for the reigning house certainly prevailed. It was arbitrary, rococo, unrelated to current conditions as a tradition sung down in a ballad, an anachronism of the heart, cherished through long rude lifetimes for the beauty and poetry of it—when you consider, beauty and poetry can be thought of in this. Here was no Court aiding the transmutation of the middle class, no King spending money; here were no picturesque contacts of Royalty and the people, no pageantry, no blazonry of the past, nothing to lift the heart but an occasional telegram from the monarch expressing, upon an event of public importance, a suitable emotion. Yet the common love for the throne amounted to a half-ashamed enthusiasm that burned with something like a sacred flame, and was among the things not ordinarily alluded to, because of the shyness that attaches to all feeling that cannot be justified in plain terms. A sentiment of affection for the reigning house certainly prevailed; but it was a thing by itself. The fall of a British Government would hardly fail to excite comment, and the retirement of a Prime Minister would induce both the Mercury and the Express to publish a biographical sketch of him, considerably shorter than the leader embodying the editor’s views as to who should get the electric light contract. But the Government might become the sole employer of labour in those islands, Church and school might part company for ever, landlords might be deprived of all but compassionate allowances and, except for the degree of extravagance involved in these propositions, they would hardly be current in Elgin. The complications of England’s foreign policy were less significant still. It was recognized dimly that England had a foreign policy, more or less had to have it, as they would have said in Elgin; it was part of the huge unnecessary scheme of things for which she was responsible—unnecessary from Elgin’s point of view as a father’s financial obligations might be to a child he had parted