Page:Instead of a Book, Tucker.djvu/106

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
90
90
INSTEAD OF A BOOK. THE INDIVIDUAL, SOCIETY, AND THE STATE.

full of money and a cellar full of beer"; only my cellar was nine miles off and my money was inconvertible, to all practical intents and purposes. There was no other inn; I dare not try the Green Griffin, and I did not know the way to "Mrs. Fletcher's." I wanted to get back to town. "Is there a railway station anywhere near here?" I inquired of a bald-headed man, who was removing flower-pots from his front parlor window-sill. "Railway station?" he repeated with a snigger, "not much; how should there be a railway station?" "And pray why not?" I asked. "You may well ask," replied the bald-headed man; "if you knew these parts, you would know that half the land between here and town belongs to Lord Brownmead; and he opposed the bill which the Company brought into Parliament; so of course the lords threw it out and refused the concession: that is why there is no railway station. That is why you and I may walk or creep or go in balloons. I wonder his lordship or his lordship's ancestors ever allowed the high road to be made. Why should not you and I grub our way underground, like moles? It is good enough for us, I suppose. Railway station, indeed!" And down came a flower-pot with a crash, just to accentuate the absurdity of the idea. "Lord Brownmead belongs to the Liberty and Property Defence League, you know, and he says no one has a right to interfere with his liberty to do what he likes with his own land. Quite right; quite right," he continued in the same tone of bitter irony, "nothing like liberty and property!" This was an awkward dig for me. I had always believed in liberty, and I was thinking of joining Lord Brownmead's association. "Perhaps there is a tramway or some other sufficient means of rapid communication," I suggested, "in which case it may be that a railway is not imperatively necessary." "Perhaps there is," sneered the little man, "perhaps there is; only there isn't, don't you see, so that's where it is; and if you prefer walking or paying for a fly, I am sure I have no objection. You have my full permission, and Lord Brownmead's too; only mind you don't take the short cut by the bridle-path, because that is closed. It appears it is not a right of way. It is private, quite private. Don't forget." I did not want the irascible little man to take me for a toady, so I merely asked why there was no tramway. "Why?" he shouted, and I began to fear physical argument, "why? because Lord Brownmead and the carriage-folk say that tramways cut up the road and damage the wheels of their carriages: that's why. Isn't it a sufficient reason for you? We lower ten thousand must walk, for fear the upper ten should have to pay for an extra coat of paint at the carriage-builder's. That's reasonable, isn't it?" "I do not know that it is, my dear sir," I replied, "but after all you know we have a right to use the common road in any way for which it was originally intended. They can do no more. And it does seem to me that a tramway monopolizes for the benefit of a class (a large class, I grant you) more than its fair share of the common rights of way. Ordinary traffic is very much impeded by it, and the rails do certainly cause damage and annoyance to persons who never use the public vehicles. Trams may be expedient, friend, but they certainly are not just." I thought this would have wound up the little man for at least another quarter of an hour, but who can read the human mind? Not another word did he utter. I fancy my last remark had satisfied him that I was a Tory or an aristocrat or one of the carriage-folk, and consequently beneath contempt and outside the pale of reason. After an awkward pause, I ventured to say: "Well, thank you, I wish you good morning," but even that elicited no

response, and I walked slowly off, feeling some slight loss of dignity,