Tuesday, November 15, 2011

notice to quit

John had a disreputable old uncle who was the tenant of a poor little farm beside his father's.  One day when John came in from the garden, he found a great hubbub in the house.  His uncle was sitting there with his cheeks the colour of ashes.  His mother was crying.  His father was sitting very still with a solemn face.  And there, in the midst of them, was the Steward with his mask on,  John crept round to his mother and asked her what the matter was.

'Poor Uncle George has had notice to quit,' she said.
'Why?' said John.
'His lease is up.  The Landlord has sent him notice to quit.'
'But didn't you know how long the lease was for?'
'Oh, no, indeed we did not.  We thought it was for years and years more.  I am sure the Landlord never gave us any idea he was going to turn him out at a moment's notice like this.'
'Ah, but it doesn't need any notice,' broke in the Steward. 'You know he always retains the right to turn anyone out whenever he chooses.  It is very good of him to let any of us stay here at all.'
'To be sure, to be sure,' said the mother.
'That goes without saying,' said the father.
'I'm not complaining,' said Uncle George.  'But it seems cruelly hard.'
'Not at all, ' said the Steward.  'You've only got to go to the Castle and knock at the gate and see the Landlord himself.  You know that he's only turning you out of here to make you much more comfortable somewhere else.  Don't you?'
Uncle George nodded. He did not seem able to get his voice.


'Well, dear?'
'Could any of us be turned out without notice like that any day?'
'Well, yes.  But it is very unlikely.'
But we might be?'
'You oughtn't to be thinking of that sort of thing at your age.'
'Why oughtn't I?'
'It's not healthy.  A boy like you.'
'Can we break off the lease without notice too?'
'How do you mean?'
Well, the Landlord can turn us out of the farm whenever he likes.  Can we leave the farm whenever we like?'
'No, certainly not.'
Why not?'
'That's in the lease.  We must go when he likes, and stay as long as he likes.'
'I suppose because he makes the leases.'
'What would happen if we did leave?'
'He would be very angry.'
'Would he put us in the black hole?'
'Well, dear?'
'Will the Landlord put Uncle George in the black hole?'
'How dare you say such a thing about your poor uncle? Of course he won't.'
'But hasn't Uncle George broken all the rules?'
'Broken all the rules? Your Uncle George was a very good man.'
'You never told me that before,' said John.

~ C. S. Lewis
from The Pilgrim's Regress