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Grain and Chaff from an English Manor by Arthur H. Savory

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As a result of increased facilities within the last quarter of a
century for the exploration of formerly inaccessible parts of the
country, interest concerning our ancient villages has been largely
awakened. Most of these places have some unwritten history and
peculiarities worthy of attention, and an extensive literary field is
thus open to residents with opportunities for observation and

Such records have rarely been undertaken in the past, possibly because
those capable of doing so have not recognized that what are the
trivial features of everyday life in one generation may become
exceptional in the next, and later still will have disappeared

Gilbert White, who a hundred and thirty years ago published his
_Natural History of Selborne_, was the first, and I suppose the most
eminent, historian of any obscure village, and it is surprising, as
his book has for so long been regarded as a classic, that so few have
attempted a similar record. His great work remains an inspiring ideal
which village historians can keep in view, not without some hope of
producing a useful description of country life as they have seen it

It is a pleasure to acknowledge with grateful thanks the kind help of
friends and correspondents which I have received in writing this book.
Mr. Warde Fowler was good enough to look through the chapters while
still in manuscript, and I have also received great help from Mr.
Herbert A. Evans, who has read through the proofs. The help of
others--besides those whose names I give in the text--has been less
general and mostly confined to some details in the historical part of
the first chapter, and to portions of the subject-matter of the last.
Mr. Hugh Last, Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, most kindly gave
much valuable time to the examination of the Roman coins and assigning
them to their respective reigns; he contributed also the notes on the
Emperors, with special reference to the events in Britain which
occurred during their reigns. Mr. Dudley F. Nevill of Burley helped me
in a variety of ways, and Mr. C.A. Binyon of Badsey supplied some of
the historical details and information about the ancient roads.

Looking back over the years I spent at Aldington, I see much more
sunshine and blue sky than cloud and storm, notwithstanding the
difficulties of the times. It is a continual source of pleasure to go
over the familiar fields in imagination and to recall the kindly faces
of my loyal and willing labourers. I trust that what I have written of
them will make plain my grateful remembrance of their unfailing
sympathy and ready help.--ARTHUR H. SAVORY.


_January_, 1920.




II. THE FARM BAILIFF...................................... 11

III. THE HOP FOREMAN AND THE HOP DRIER..................... 23

IV. THE HEAD CARTER--THE CARPENTER........................ 35


VILLAGERS........................................... 57




--BAND--POSTMAN--CONCERTS........................... 119


XII. FARM SPECIALISTS...................................... 141


XIV. ORCHARDS--APPLES--CIDER--PERRY........................ 167

XV. PLUMS--CHERRIES....................................... 182


NEWSTYLE AND OLDSTYLE............................... 207

XVIII. HOPS--INSECT ATTACKS--HOP FAIRS....................... 220

URBE"............................................... 230

WISP--VARIOUS....................................... 239



XXIII. BUTTERFLIES--MOTHS--WASPS............................. 271

FURNITURE AND CHINA................................. 278

--STUPID PLACES..................................... 288

XXVI. Is ALDINGTON THE ROMAN ANTONA?........................ 294

INDEX....................................................... 306

"Ah, what a life were this! how sweet! how lovely!
Gives not the hawthorn-bush a sweeter shade
To shepherds looking on their silly sheep,
Than doth a rich embroider'd canopy
To kings that fear their subjects' treachery!"
_3 King Henry VI_.

"When I paused to lean on my hoe, these sounds and sights
I heard and saw anywhere in the row, a part of the inexhaustible
entertainment which the country offers."

"Life is sweet, brother.... There's night and day, brother,
both sweet things; sun, moon and stars, brother, all sweet
things; there's likewise the wind on the heath. Life is very
sweet, brother; who would wish to die?"
--BORROW: _Jasper Petulengro_.




"There's a divinity that shapes our ends."

"Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns."
--_Morte d'Arthur_.

In recalling my earliest impressions of the village of Aldington, near
Evesham, Worcestershire, the first picture that presents itself is of
two chestnut-trees in full bloom in front of the Manor House which
became my home, and their welcome was so gracious on that sunny May
morning that it inclined me to take a hopeful view of the inspection
of the house and land which was the object of my visit.

The village took its name from the Celtic _Alne_, white river; the
Anglo-Saxon, _ing_, children or clan; and _ton_, the enclosed place.
The whole name, therefore, signified "the enclosed place of the
children, or clan, of the Alne." There are many other Alnes in England
and Scotland, also Allens and Ellens as river names, probably
corruptions of Alne, and we have many instances of the combination of
a river name with _ing_ and _ton_, such as Lymington and Dartington.
The Celtic _Alne_ points to the antiquity of the place, and there were
extensive traces of Roman occupation to which I shall refer later.

The village was really no more than a hamlet ecclesiastically attached
to the much larger village of Badsey. In addition to Celtic, Roman,
and Anglo-Saxon associations, it figured before the Norman Conquest in
connection with the Monastery and Abbey of Evesham, the Manor and the
mill being mentioned in the Abbey records; and they were afterwards
set down in Domesday Survey.

The Vale of Evesham, in which Aldington is situated, lies at the foot
of the Cotswold Hills, and when approached from them a remarkable
change in climate and appearance is at once noticeable. Descending
from Broadway or Chipping Campden--that is, from an altitude of about
1,000 feet to one of 150 or less--on a mid-April day, one exchanges,
within a few miles, the grip of winter, grey stone walls and bare
trees, for the hopeful greenery of opening leaves and thickening
hedges, and the withered grass of the Hill pastures for the luxuriance
of the Vale meadows.

The earliness of the climate and the natural richness of the land is
the secret of the intensive cultivation which the Vale presents, and
year by year more and more acres pass out of the category of farming
into that of market-gardening and fruit-growing. The climate, however,
though invaluable for early vegetable crops, is a source of danger to
the fruit. After a few days of the warm, moist greenhouse temperature
which, influenced by the Gulf Stream, comes from the south-west up the
Severn and Avon valleys, between the Malverns and the Cotswolds, and
which brings out the plum blossom on thousands of acres, a bitter
frost sometimes occurs, when the destruction of the tender bloom is a
tragedy in the Vale, while the Hills escape owing to their more
backward development.

The Manor House had been added to and largely altered, but many years
had brought it into harmony with its surroundings, while Nature had
dealt kindly with its colouring, so that it carried the charm of long
use and continuous human habitation. Behind the house an old walled
garden, with flower-bordered grass walks under arches of honeysuckle
and roses, gave vistas of an ample mill-pond at the lower end, forming
one of the garden boundaries. The pond was almost surrounded by tall
black poplars which stretched protecting arms over the water, forming
a wide and lofty avenue extending to the faded red-brick mill itself,
and whispering continuously on the stillest summer day. The mill-wheel
could be seen revolving and glittering in the sunlight, and the hum of
distant machinery inside the mill could be heard. The brook, which fed
the pond, was fringed by ancient pollard willows; it wound through
luxuriant meadows with ploughed land or cornfields still farther back.
The whole formed a peaceful picture almost to the verge of drowsiness,
and reminded one of the "land in which it seemed always afternoon."

The space below the house and the upper part of the garden immediately
behind it was occupied by the rickyard, reaching to the mill and pond,
and a long range of mossy-roofed barns divided it from the farmyard
with its stables and cattle-sheds.

The village occupied one side only of the street, as it was
called--the street consisting of two arms at a right angle, with the
Manor House near its apex. The cottages were built, mostly in pairs,
of old brick, and tiled, having dormer windows, and gardens in front
and at the sides, well stocked with fruit-trees and fruit-bushes, and
this helped the cottagers towards the payment of their very moderate
rents, which had remained the same, I believe, for the best part of
half a century.

Throughout all the available space not so occupied, on either side of
the two arms of the street, and again behind the cottages themselves,
beautiful old orchards, chiefly of apple-trees, formed an unsurpassed
setting both when the blossom was out in pink and white, or the fruit
was ripening in gold and crimson, and even in winter, when the grey
limbs and twisted trunks of the bare trees admitted the level rays of
the sun.

The farm consisted of about 300 acres of mixed arable and grass land
on either side of two shallow valleys, along which wandered the main
brook and its tributary, uniting, where the valleys joined, into one
larger stream, so that all the grass land was abundantly supplied with
water for the stock. These irregular brooks, bordered throughout their
whole course with pollard willows, made a charming feature and gave
great character to the picture.

In the records of Evesham Abbey we find the Manor, including the lands
comprised therein, among the earliest property granted for its
endowment. The erection of the Abbey commenced about 701, and William
of Malmesbury, writing of the loneliness of the spot, tells us that a
small church, probably built by the Britons, had from an early date
existed there. In 709 sixty-five manses were given by Kenred, King of
Mercia, leagued with Offa, King of the East Angles, including one in
Aldinton _(sic)_, and Domesday Survey mentions one hide of land
(varying from 80 to 120 acres in different counties) in Aldintone
_(sic)_ as among the Abbey possessions at the time of the Norman

Abbot Randulf, who died in 1229, built a grange at Aldington, and
bought Aldington mill, in the reign of Henry III., when the hamlet was
a _berewic_ or corn farm held by the Abbey; and at the time of the
Dissolution it was granted to Sir Philip Hoby, who appears to have
been an intimate of Henry VIII., together with the Abbey buildings
themselves and much of its other landed property. The Manor remained
in the hands of the Hoby family for many years, and was one of Sir
Philip's principal seats. Freestone from the Abbey ruins seems to have
been largely used for additions probably made in the reign of Queen
Elizabeth, for in some alterations I made about 1888, I found many
carved and moulded stones, built into the walls, evidently the remains
of arches from an ecclesiastical building, and Sir Philip Hoby is
known to have treated the Abbey ruins as if they were nothing better
than a stone quarry.

Leland, who by command of Henry VIII. visited Evesham very soon after
the Dissolution, says that there was "noe towene" at Evesham before
the foundation of the Abbey, and the earliest mention of a bridge
there is recorded in monastic chronicles in 1159.

There is a notice of a Mr. Richard Hoby, youngest brother of Sir
Philip, as churchwarden in 1602, and a monument, much dilapidated, is
to be seen in the chancel of Badsey Church, erected to the memory of
his wife and that of her first husband by Margaret Newman, their
daughter, who married Richard Delabere of Southam, Warwickshire, in
1608. Aldington afterwards became the property of Sir Peter Courtene,
who was created a baronet in 1622.

Another explanation of the origin of the carved and moulded stones
mentioned above may be found in the former existence of a chapel at
Aldington, for there is evidence that a chapel existed there
immediately before the Dissolution. In an article in Badsey Parish
Magazine by Mr. E.A.B. Barnard, F.S.A., brought to my notice by the
editor, the Rev. W.C. Allsebrook, Vicar, details are given of the will
of Richard Yardley of Awnton (Aldington), dated January 22, 1531, in
which the following bequests are made:

To the Mother Church of Evesham, 2s.
To the Church of Badsey, a strike of wheat.
To the Church of Wykamford, one strike of barley.
To the Chappell at Awnton, one hog, one strike of wheat, and
one strike of barley.

The chapel, however, disappeared, and seems to have been superseded by
the assignment of the transept of Badsey Church as the Aldington
Chapel, and in 1561-62 the first churchwarden for Aldington was
elected at Badsey. The assignment may, however, have been only a
return to a much earlier similar arrangement when the transept was
added to Badsey Church about the end of the thirteenth century,
possibly expressly as a chapel for Aldington.

That it was an addition is proved by the remains of the arch over a
small Norman window in the north wall of the nave, which had to be cut
into to allow of the opening into the new transept. A shelf or ledge
is still to be seen in the east wall of the transept, probably the
remains of a super-altar, and, to the right of it, a piscina on the
north side of the chancel arch, and therefore inside the transept.

A large square pew and a smaller one behind it in the transept were
for centuries the recognized seats of the Aldington Manor family and
their servants, and so remained until the restoration of the church in
1885, when the pews were taken down and a row of chairs as near as
possible to the old position was allotted for the use of the same

In 1685 the Jarrett monument was placed immediately over the larger
pew in the east wall of the transept, bearing the following

Near this place lies interred in hope
of a joyful Resurrection the bodies of


of Aldington in this Parish Gent, aged 73
years, who died Anno Domini 1681
and of Jane his wife the daughter of William
Wattson of Bengeworth Gent, who died
Anno Domini 1683, aged 73 years,
by whom he had Issue three Sons
and two Daughters. Thomas Augustin and
Jane ley buried here with them and
Mary the youngest Daughter Married
Humphrey Mayo of hope in the County
of Herreford Gent, and William
the Eldest Son Marchant in London
set this Monument in a dutiful
and affectionate memory of them 1685.

It is pleasant to think of William, the eldest son, "marchant,"
returning in his prosperity to the quiet old village, braving the
dangers and inconveniences of unenclosed and miry roads, and riding
the 100 odd miles on horseback, to revisit the scenes of his
childhood, in order to do honour to the memories of his father and
mother. What a contrast to the crowded streets of London the old place
must have presented, and one has an idea that perhaps he regretted, in
spite of his success in commerce, that he had not elected in his
younger days to pursue the simple life.

The monument is a somewhat elaborate white marble tablet with a plump
cherub on guard, and with many of the scrolls and convolutions typical
of the Carolean and later Jacobean taste. This monument was removed to
the north wall of the nave two centuries later, in 1885, when the
church was restored, to allow of access to the new vestry then added.

William Jarrett, senr., and his wife lived through the very stirring
times of the Civil War in the reign of Charles I., about twenty miles
only from Edgehill, where, in 1642, twelve hundred men are reported to
have fallen. It is said that on the night of the anniversary of the
battle, October 23, in each succeeding year the uneasy ghosts of the
combatants resume the unfinished struggle, and that the clash of arms
is still to be heard rising and falling between hill and vale. The
worthy couple must have almost heard the echoes of the Battle of
Worcester in 1651, only eighteen miles distant, and have been well
acquainted with the details of the flight of Charles II., who, after
he left Boscobel, passed very near Aldington on his way to the old
house at Long Marston, where he spent a night, and, to complete his
disguise, turned the kitchen spit. This old house is still standing,
and is regarded with reverence.

The cherub on the Jarrett tablet bears a strong resemblance to two
similar cherubs which support a royal crown carved on the back of an
old walnut chair which I bought in the village in a cottage near the
Manor House. The design is well known as commemorating the restoration
of Charles II. in 1660, and I like to think that in bringing it back I
restored it to its old home, and that William Jarrett, senr., who was
doubtless a Royalist, enjoyed a peaceful pipe on many a winter's night
therein enthroned. I noticed, lately, in a description of a similar
chair in the _Connoisseur_, that the cherubs are spoken of as
_amorini_; I have always understood that they are angelic beings
supporting or guarding the sacred crown of the martyred King, though
possibly the appellation is not unsuitable if they are to be regarded
in connection with Charles II. alone.

There is a story of a hosiery factory established by refugee Huguenots
at the date of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 1685, and the
Jacobean building adjoining the east end of the Manor House is
probably the place referred to. Later it became a malthouse, and later
still was converted into hop-kilns by me. Being of Huguenot descent
myself, I take a special interest in this tradition.

In 1715 Aldington took its part in preparing to resist the Jacobites,
and the following record is copied from an old manuscript:


_L s. d._
1 musket and bayonet.................................. 0 0
1 cartridg box at..................................... 0 3 6
1 belt at............................................. 0 5 0
for 1 scabard and cleaning y^e blad and
blaking y^e hilt.................................... 0 3 6
1 12 0
(_On the back_.)
Three days pay........................................ 0 7 6
half A pound of pouder................................ 0 0 8
for y^e muster master ................................ 0 0 6
for listing money..................................... 0 1 0
for drums and cullers................................. 0 3 0
2 4 8
Thos Rock Con^{ble} 0 12 8

YEARE 1716/5 NOV. Y^e 7 & 8 1715 Y^e CHARGES FOR ATENDING AS

_s. d._

bringing in y^e Train souldiers....................... 3 0
spent when y^e soulders whent to Worcester............ 1 6

One can picture the scene in the little hamlet as Thomas Rock
collected his forces at the gossip corner; the little crowd of
admiring villagers and the martial bearing of the one recruit, as
with "cullers" flying and drums beating he marched away, followed by
the village children to the end of the lane.

William Tindal, in his _History of Evesham_, 1794, records the fact
that in 1790 Aldington belonged to Lord Foley, but history is silent
as to local events from that date until modern times, when, in the
first half of the next century, the Manor became the property of an
ancestor of the present owner. There is a tradition that the Manor
House was a small but beautiful old building, with a high-pitched
stone-slate roof and three gables in line at the front; but these
disappeared, the pitch of the roof was reduced, and about 1850 the
modern part of the house was added at the southern extremity of the
old structure.

As the neighbouring parish of Wickhamford is referred to in connection
with Badsey and Aldington several times in these pages, it may not be
out of place to give the following inscription on the tombstone of a
member of the Washington family. It is particularly of interest at the
present time, more especially to Americans, and it has not, as far as
I am aware, previously appeared in any other book.




Filiae perillustris & militari virtute clarissimi
Henrici Washington, collonelli,
Gulielmo Washington ex agro Northampton
Milite prognati;
ob res bellicosas tam Angl: quam Hibernia
fortiter, & feliciter gestas,
Illustrissimis Principib: & Regum optimis
Carolo primo et secundo charissimi:
Qui duxit uxorem Elizabetham ex antiqua, et
Generosa prosapia Packingtoniensium
De Westwood;
Familia intemeratae fidei in principes,
et amoris in patriam.
Ex praeclaris hisce natalibus Penelope oriunda,
Divini Numinis summa cum religione
Cultrix assidua;
Genetricis (parentum solae superstitis)
Ingens Solatium;
Aegrotantib. et egentib. mira promptitudine
Liberalis et benefica;
Humilis & casta, et soli Christo nupta;
Ex hac vita caduca ad sponsum migravit
Febr. 27 An. Dom. 1697.




Sacred to the memory of


daughter of that renowned and distinguished
soldier, Colonel Henry Washington. He was
descended from Sir William Washington,
Knight, of the county of Northampton, who
was highly esteemed by those most illustrious
Princes and best of Kings, Charles the First
and Second, for his valiant and successful warlike
deeds both in England and in Ireland:
he married ELIZABETH, of the ancient and
noble stock of the _Packingtons_ of Westwood,
a family of untarnished fidelity to its Prince
and love to its country. Sprung from such
illustrious ancestry, PENELOPE was a diligent
and pious worshipper of her Heavenly Father.
She was the consolation of her mother, her
only surviving parent; a prompt and liberal
benefactress of the sick and poor; humble and
pure in spirit, and wedded to Christ alone.

From this fleeting life she migrated
to her Spouse,
_February 27, Anno Domini. 1697_.



"If a job _has_ to be done you may as well do it first as last."

The labourers born and bred in the Vale of Evesham are mostly tall and
powerful men, and mine were no exception; where the land is good the
men compare favourably in size and strength with those in less
favoured localities, and the same applies to the horses, cattle, and
sheep; but the Vale, with its moist climate, does not produce such
ruddy complexions as the clear air of the Hills, and even the apples
tell the same story in their less brilliant colouring, except after an
unusually sunny summer. In the days of the Whitsuntide gatherings for
games of various kinds, sports, and contests of strength, the Vale men
excelled, and certain parishes, famous for the growth of the best
wheat, are still remembered as conspicuously successful.

My men, though grown up before education became compulsory, could all
read and write, and they were in no way inferior to the young men of
the present day. They were highly skilled in all the more difficult
agricultural operations, and it was easy to find among them good
thatchers, drainers, hedgers, ploughmen, and stockmen; they were,
mostly, married, with families of young children, and they lived close
to their work in the cottages that went with the farm. They exhibited
the variations, usual in all communities, of character and
disposition, and though somewhat prejudiced and wedded to old methods
and customs they were open to reason, loyal, and anxious to see the
land better farmed and restored to the condition in which the late
tenant found it, when entering upon his occupation seven years

The late tenant, my predecessor, though a gentleman and a pleasant man
to deal with, was no farmer for such strong and heavy land as the farm
presented; it was no fault of his, for the farmer, like the poet, is
born, not made, and, as I was often told, he was "nobody's enemy but
his own." His wife came of a good old stock of shorthorn breeders
whose name is known and honoured, not only at home, but throughout the
United States of America, our Dominions, and wherever the shorthorn
has established a reputation; and my men were satisfied that she was
the better farmer of the two.

I had scarcely bargained for the foul condition of the stubbles,
disclosed when the corn was harvested shortly before I took possession
at Michaelmas; they were overrun with couch grass--locally called
"squitch"--and the following summer I had 40 acres of bare-fallow,
repeatedly ploughed, harrowed, and cultivated throughout the whole
season, which, of course, produced nothing by way of return. My
predecessor had found that his arable land was approaching a condition
in which it was difficult to continue the usual course of cropping,
and had expressed his wish to one of the men that all the arable was
grass. He was answered, I was told:

"If you goes on as you be a-going it very soon will be!" I
heard, moreover, that a farming relative of his, on
inspecting the farm, shortly before he gave it up, had
pronounced his opinion that it was "all going to the devil
in a gale of wind!"

I soon recognized that I had a splendid staff of workers, and, under
advice from the late tenant, I selected one to be foreman or bailiff.
Blue-eyed, dark-haired, tall, lean, and muscular, he was the picture
of energy, in the prime of life. Straightforward, unselfish, a natural
leader of men, courageous and untiring, he immediately became devoted
to me, and remained my right hand, my dear friend, and adviser in the
practical working of the farm, throughout the twenty years that
followed. Like many of the agricultural labourers, his remote
ancestors belonged to a class higher in the social scale, and there
were traditions of a property in the county and a family vault in
Pershore Abbey Church. However this might be, William Bell was one of
Nature's gentlemen, and it was apparent in a variety of ways in his
daily life.

Shortly before my coming to Aldington he had received a legacy of
L150, which, without any legal necessity or outside suggestion, he had
in fairness, as he considered it, divided equally between his brother,
his sister and himself--each--and his share was on deposit at a bank.
Seeing that I was young--I was then twenty-two--and imagining that
some additional capital would be useful after all my outlay in
stocking the farm and furnishing the house, he, greatly to my surprise
and delight, offered in a little speech of much delicacy to lend me
his L50. I was immensely touched at such a practical mark of sympathy
and confidence, but was able to assure him gratefully that, for the
present at any rate, I could manage without it. On another occasion,
after a bad season, he voluntarily asked me to reduce his wages, to
which of course I did not see my way to agree.

Bell was always ready with a smart reply to anyone inclined to rally
him, or whom he thought inclined to do so; but his method was
inoffensive, though from most men it would have appeared impertinent.
In the very earliest days of my occupation the weather was so dry for
the time of year--October and November--that fallowing operations,
generally only possible in summer, could be successfully carried on, a
very unusual circumstance on such wet and heavy land. Meeting the
Vicar, a genial soul with a pleasant word for everyone, the latter
remarked that it was "rare weather for the new farmers." Bell, highly
sensitive, fancied he scented a quizzing reference to himself and to
me, and knowing that the Vicar's own land--he was then farming the
glebe with a somewhat unskilful bailiff--was getting out of hand,
replied: "Yes, sir; and not so bad for some of the old uns." Bell
happened to pass one day when I was talking to the Vicar at my gate.
"Hullo! Bell," said he, "hard at work as usual; nothing like hard
work, is there?" "No, sir," said Bell; "I suppose that's why you chose
the one-day-a-week job!"

Labourers have great contempt for the work of parsons, lawyers, and
indoor workers generally; a farmer who spends much time indoors over
correspondence and comes round his land late in the day is regarded as
an "afternoon" or "armchair" farmer, and a tradesman who runs a small
farm in addition to his other business is an "apron-string" farmer.
With some hours daily employed on letter-writing, accounts and labour
records, which a farm and the employment of many hands entails, and
with frequent calls from buyers and sellers, I was sometimes unable to
visit men working on distant fields until twelve o'clock or after, and
I was told that it had been said of me by some new hands, "why don't
'e come out and do some on it?"

It was remarked of the late tenant, "I reckon there was a good parson
spoiled when 'e was made a farmer." And of a lawyer, who combined
legal practice with the hobby of a small farm, that there was no doubt
that "Lawyer G----s kept farmer G----s."

Bell's favourite saying was, "If a job _has_ to be done you may as
well do it first as last," and it was so strongly impressed upon me by
his example that I think I have been under its influence, more or
less, all my life. He was certain to be to the fore in any emergency
when promptitude, courage, and resource were called for; he it was who
dashed into the pool below the mill and rescued a child, and when I
asked if he had no sense of the danger simply said that he never
thought about it. It was Bell who tackled a savage bull which, by a
mistaken order, was loose in the yard, and which, in the exuberance of
unwonted liberty, had smashed up two cow-cribs, and was beginning the
destruction of a pair of new barn doors, left open, and offering
temptation for further activity. The bull, secured under Bell's
leadership and manacled with a cart-rope, was induced to return to its
home in peace. When felling a tall poplar overhanging the mill-pond,
it was necessary to secure the tree with a rope fixed high up the
trunk and with a stout stake driven into the meadow, to prevent the
tree falling into the pond. Bell was the volunteer who climbed the
tree with one end of the rope tied round his body and fixed it in
position. He was always ready to undertake any specially difficult,
dirty, or hazardous duty, and in giving orders it was never "Go and do
it," but "Come on, let's do it." An example of this sort was not lost
upon the men; they could never say they were set to work that nobody
else would do, and their willing service acknowledged his tact.

One day a widow tenant asked me to read the will at the funeral of an
old woman lying dead at the cottage next her own. I consented, and
reached the cottage at the appointed time. It was the custom among the
villagers, when there was a will, to read it before, not after, the
ceremony, as, I believe, is the usual course. I found the coffin in
the living-room and the funeral party assembled, and the will, on a
sheet of notepaper, signed and witnessed in legal form, was put into
my hands. Looking it through, I could see that there would be trouble,
as all the money and effects were left to one person to the exclusion
of the other members of the family, all of whom were present. It was
quite simply expressed, and, after reading it slowly, I inquired if
they all understood its provisions. "Oh yes," they understood it "well
enough." I could see that the tone of the reply suggested some kind of
reservation; I asked if I could do anything more for them. The reply
was, "No," with their grateful thanks for my attendance; so, not being
expected to accompany the funeral, I retired. I was no sooner gone
than the trouble I had anticipated began, and the disappointed
relatives expressed their disapproval of the terms of the will, some
going so far as to decline to remain for the ceremony. Bell was not
among the guests or the bearers, but, hearing raised voices at the
cottage and guessing the cause, he boldly went to the spot, and in a
few moments had, with the approval of the sole legatee, arranged an
equal division of the money and goods; whereupon the whole party
proceeded in procession to the church. I think no one else in the
village could so easily have persuaded the favoured individual to
forgo the legal claim; but Bell was no ordinary man, and his simple
sincerity of purpose was so apparent, that his influence was not to be
resisted. Later in the evening a plain, but very useful, old oak chest
was sent to me, when the division of the furniture was arranged, as an
acknowledgment of my services and in recognition of the saving of a
lawyer's attendance and fee, with the thanks of the persons concerned.
I was loath to accept it, but it was of course impossible to refuse
such a delicate attention.

Bell's cheerfulness and his habit of making light of difficulties were
very contagious. I had early recognized the seriousness of the problem
presented by the foul condition of the land, but, as we gradually
began to reduce it to better order, I remarked that the prospect was
not so alarming after all. His reply was that when once the land was
clean, and in regular cropping, "a man might farm it with all the
playsure in life."

Though no "scholard," his wonderful memory stood him in good stead,
and was most valuable to me. He came in for a talk every evening, to
report the events of the day and arrange the work for the morrow.
After a long day spent with one of the carters delivering such things
as faggots--locally "kids"--of wood, he would recall the names of the
recipients, and the exact quantities delivered at each house without
the slightest effort. His only memoranda for approximate land
measurements would be produced on a stick with a notch denoting each
score yards or paces. This primitive method is particularly
interesting, the numeral a _score_ being derived from the Anglo-Saxon
_sciran_, to divide. Similar words are plough _share, shire, shears_,
and _shard_. He could keep the daily labour record when I was away
from home; but though I could always decipher his writing, he found it
difficult to read himself. A letter was a sore trial, and he often
told me that he would sooner walk to "Broddy" (Broadway) and back, ten
or eleven miles, than write to the veterinary surgeon there, whose
services we sometimes required.

We had a simple method of disposing of small pigs; it was an
understood thing that no pig was to be sold for less than a pound. I
had a good breed, always in demand by the cottagers, who never failed
to apply, sometimes, perhaps, before the pound size was quite reached,
as it was a case of first come first served, and there was the danger
that the best would be snapped up before an intending buyer could have
his choice. Bell's face was wreathed in smiles when he came in and
unloaded a pocketful of sovereigns on my study table, saying, when
trade was brisk, "I could sell myself if I was little pigs!"

Many and anxious were the deliberations we held in the early days of
my farming; the whole system of the late tenant was condemned by my
theoretical and Bell's practical knowledge, but they did not
invariably coincide, and, after a long discussion on some particular
point, he would yield, though I could see that he was not convinced,
with, "Well, I allows you to know best."

When, a few years later, I introduced hop-growing as a complete
novelty on the farm, he regarded it at first as an extravagant and
unprofitable hobby, akin to the hunters my predecessor kept. He
"reckoned," he said, that my hop-gardens were my "hunting horse," and
I heard that my neighbours quoted the old saw about "a fool and his
money." Bell was not so enlightened as to be quite proof against local
superstitions; I had to consult his almanac and find out when the
"moon southed," and when certain planets were in favourable
conjunction, before he would undertake some quite ordinary farm

He was a clever and courageous bee-master, and "took" all my
neighbours' swarms as well as my own, my gardener not being _persona
grata_ to bees. The job is not a popular one, and he would, when
accompanied by the owner, always ask, "Will you hold the ladder or
hive 'em?" The invariable answer was, "Hold the ladder." He firmly
believed in the necessity of telling the bees in cases where the owner
had died, the superstition being that unless the hive was tapped after
dark, when all were at home, and a set form of announcement repeated,
the bees would desert their quarters. I had an alarming experience
once with bees when cycling between Ringwood and Burley in the New
Forest, my present home. As I passed a house close to the road, a
swarm crossed my path, rising from their hive just as I reached the
hedge before the garden. There was a mighty humming, and I felt the
bees, with which I was colliding, striking my hands and face with some
violence. I expected a sting each moment, but my greatest fear was
lest the queen should have settled on my coat amongst the bees it had
collected, and that presently I should have the whole swarm in
possession. It was dangerous to stop, so I raced on some distance,
dismounted, discarded my coat, shaking off my unwelcome
fellow-travellers, and I was much surprised to find that none of them

Bell was an excellent brewer, and with good malt and some of our own
hops could produce a nice light bitter beer at a very moderate cost.
In years when cider was scarce we supplemented the men's short
allowance with beer, 4 bushels of malt to 100 gallons; and for years
he brewed a superior drink for the household, which, consumed in much
smaller quantities and requiring to be kept longer, was double the
strength. His methods were not scientific, and he scorned the use of a
"theometer," his rule being that the hot water was cool enough for the
addition of the malt when the steam was sufficiently gone off to allow
him "to see his face" on the surface.

Owing to his having lived so long in such a quiet place, and the
limited outlook which his surroundings had so far afforded, Bell was
somewhat wanting in the sense of proportion, and when I had a field of
10 acres planted with potatoes, he told me quite seriously that he
doubted if the crop could ever be sold, as he didn't think there were
enough people in the country to eat them! I remember a parallel
incident at the first auction sale of stock ever held at Chipping
Campden, a lovely old town and, for centuries now long past, a leading
centre of the Cotswold wool trade. The pens, in the wide spaces
between the road and the footways, were, as I stood watching, rapidly
filling with fat sheep, and, I suppose, the scene being so novel and
so animated, the interest of the inhabitants was greatly excited, as
they stood in little groups at the house doors looking on. I heard an
ancient dame marvelling at the numbers of sheep collected--probably
only 1,000 or 1,200 all told--and expressing her certainty of the
impossibility of rinding mouths enough to consume such a mass of
mutton. As a matter of fact, there were, I suppose, four or five large
dealers present, any one of whom would have bought every sheep, could
he have seen a fair chance of a possible profit of threepence a head;
to say nothing of innumerable smaller dealers and retail butchers,
good for a score or two apiece. What I may call the parochial horizon
is well illustrated, too, by the announcement of a domestic economist:
"Farmer Jones lost two calves last week; I reckon we shall have beef a
lot dearer." And again by the recommendation of a shrewd and ancient
husbandman of my acquaintance that it was desirable for any young
farmer to get away from home and visit the county town sometimes, at
any rate on market days, and attend the "ordinary" dinner, even if it
cost him a few shillings--"for there," he added, "you med stick and
stick and stick at home until you knows nothin' at all." Shakespeare
puts the matter more tersely, if less forcibly, "Home-keeping youth
have ever homely wits." I cannot forbear, too, the temptation to
recall _Punch's_ picture at the time of King George's coronation. The
scene depicted two rustics gossiping at the parish pump, as to the
forthcoming village festivities, and the squire's carriage with the
squire and his family, followed by the luggage cart, on their way to
the railway station:

_First Rustic_. Where be them folks a-goin' to; I wonder?

_Second Rustic_. Off to Lunnon, I reckon, but they'll be back for the

Soon after the reopening of the church I overtook Bell as we were
returning from Sunday morning service. It was a dark day, and the
pulpit, having been moved from the south to the north side of the
nave--farther from the windows--the clerk lighted the desk candles
before the Vicar began his sermon. I asked Bell how he liked the
service, referring to the new choir and music; he hesitated, not
wanting, as I was the Vicar's churchwarden, to appear critical, but
being too conscientious to disguise his feelings. I could see that he
was troubled, and asked what was the matter. Then it came out; it was
"them candles!" which he took to be part of the ritual, and he added,
"But you ain't a-goin' to make a Papist of me!"

Bell was proof against attempted bribery, and often came chuckling to
me over his refusals of dishonest proposals. A man from whom I used to
buy large quantities of hop-poles required some withy "bonds" for
tying faggots; they are sold at a price per bundle of 100, and the
applicant suggested that 120 should be placed in each bundle. Bell was
to receive a recognition for his complicity in the fraud, and he
agreed on condition that in my next deal for hop-poles 100 should be
represented by 120 in like manner. The bargain did not materialize.

I found Bell a very amusing companion in walks and excursions we took
to fairs and sales for the purchase of stock. He knew the histories
and peculiarities of all the farmers and country people whose land or
houses we passed, and his stories made the miles very short. I often
helped with driving sheep and cattle home, and their persistence in
taking all the wrong turnings or in doubling back was surprising; but
two drovers are much more efficient than one, and we got to know
exactly where they would need circumventing. When we visited a town I
always took him to an inn or restaurant and gave him a good dinner.
Visiting what was then a much-frequented dining-place--Mountford's, at
Worcester, near the cathedral--we sat next to a well-known hon. and
rev. scholar of eccentric habits. He would read abstractedly,
forgetting his food for several minutes, then suddenly would make a
noisy dash for knife and fork, resuming the meal with great energy for
a while, and as suddenly relinquish the implements and return to his
reading, and so on continuously. I noticed Bell watching with great
surprise, much shocked at such unusual table manners, and presently he
could not forbear very gently nudging my elbow to draw my attention to
the performance.

Mountford's was celebrated for succulent veal cutlets with fried bacon
and tomato sauce, also for Severn salmon and lamperns; visitors to the
cathedral and china works generally refreshed themselves there, and it
was amusing to watch their exhausted and grim looks when entering and
waiting, in comparison with their beaming smiles when confessing their
indulgences on leaving; for no bills were rendered, and guests were
trusted to remember the details consumed. You will always find the
best eating-houses near the cathedrals; vergers' recitals are apt to
be long-winded, and visitors require speedy refreshment after a
complete round.

It was a popular village belief that bad luck follows if a woman was
the first to enter a house on Christmas morning, and Bell always made
a point of being the first over my threshold, shouting loudly his
greetings up the staircase.

Bell's wife survived him, living on in the same cottage in which he
was born and had passed his life. She was a hard-working woman, and
came over to my house once a week for some years to bake the bread,
made from my own wheat ground at the village mill. It was somewhat
dark in colour, owing to the most nutritious parts of the grain being
retained in the flour, but it was deliciously sweet and kept fresh for
the whole week. I only wish everyone could enjoy the same sort; the
modern bread is poor stuff by comparison, and its lack of nutritive
value is undoubtedly the cause of much of the poor physique of our
rural and urban population at the present time.

I had a very human dog, Viper, partly fox-terrier; though not very
"well bred," his manners were unexceptionable and his cleverness
extraordinary. One summer afternoon Mrs. Bell was greatly surprised by
Viper coming to her house much distressed and trying to tell her the
reason; he was not to be put off or comforted, and, seizing her
skirts, he dragged her to the door and outside. She guessed at once
that her two boys were in some danger, and she followed the dog. He
kept turning round to make sure that she was close behind, and led her
down a lane, for perhaps 300 yards, to a gate leading into a 12-acre
pasture. They pursued the footpath across the field, through another
gate and over the bridge which spanned the brook, into a meadow
beyond. There she found the children in fear of their lives from the
antics of two mischievous colts which were capering round them with
many snorts and much upturning of heels. It was really only play, but
the boys were alarmed, and Viper, who had accompanied them, had
evidently concluded that they were in danger.

Before the days of the safety bicycle an excellent tricycle, called
the "omnicycle," was put on the market; and the villagers were greatly
excited over one I purchased, of course only for road work, expecting
me to use it on my farming rounds; and Mrs. Bell was heard to say, "I
knows I shall laugh when I sees the master a-coming round the farm on
that thing."

Bell always spoke of her as "my 'ooman," and, referring to the
depletion of their exchequer on her returns from marketing in Evesham,
often said, "I don't care who robs my 'ooman this side of the elm"--a
notable tree about halfway between the town and the village--knowing
that she would then have very little change left.



"Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,

* * * * *

How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke."
--GRAY'S _Elegy_.

Jarge was one of the most prominent characters among my men. He was
not a native of the Vale, coming from the Lynches, a hilly district to
the north of Evesham. He was a sturdy and very excellent workman. He
did with his might whatsoever his hand found to do, and everything he
undertook was a success. The beautifully trimmed hedge in front of his
cottage-garden proclaimed his method and love of order at a glance.
Jarge was a wag; he was the man who, like Shakespeare's clowns,
stepped on to the stage at the critical moment and saved a serious
situation with a quaint or epigrammatic expression.

He was very scornful of the condition of the farm when I came, and it
was he, whose reply to the late tenant that his arable land would soon
be all grass, I have already quoted. In speaking to me, at almost our
first interview, he could not refrain from an allusion to the foulness
of the land; some peewits were circling over those neglected fields,
and it was far from reassuring to be told--though he did not intend to
discourage me--that "folks say, when you sees them things on the land,
the farm's broke!"

From the natural history point of view he was perfectly correct, as
peewits generally frequent wild and uncultivated places where the
ploughman and the labourer are rarely seen.

Owing to the somewhat unconvincing fact of his wife's brother being a
gamekeeper on the Marquis's estate near Jarge's native village, he had
acquired, and retained through all the years of my farming, a sporting
reputation; he was always the man selected for trapping any evil beast
or bird that might be worrying us; and when the cherries were
beginning to show ruddy complexions in the sunshine, and the starlings
and blackbirds were becoming troublesome, armed with an old
muzzle-loader of mine, he made incessant warfare against them, and his
gun could be heard as early as five o'clock in the morning, while the
shots would often come pattering down harmlessly on my greenhouse.
There came a time when some thieving carrion crows were robbing my
half-tame wild duck's nests of their eggs, and Jarge was, of course,
detailed to tackle them. Weeks elapsed without any result; the
depredations continued, and the men began to chaff him; finally Bell
"put the lid on," as people say nowadays, by the following sally: "Ah,
Jarge, if ever thee catches a craw 'twill be one as was hatched from
an addled egg!"

For weeks before harvest Jarge patrolled my wheatfields, crowds of
sparrows rising and dispersing for a time after every shot, only, I
fear, to foregather again very soon on another field, perhaps half a
mile distant. No doubt he sent some to my neighbours in return for
those which they sent to me.

Jarge was an instance of superior descent; his surname was that of an
ancient and prominent county family in former days; he carried himself
with dignity and was generally respected; he possessed the power of
very minute observation, and was of all others the man to find coins
or other small leavings of Roman and former occupiers of my land. His
eldest daughter was a charming girl, and, when Jarge became a widower,
she made a most efficient mistress of his household. She showed, too,
quite unmistakably her descent from distinguished ancestry. Tall,
clear-complexioned, graceful, dignified, and rather serious, but with
a sweet smile, she was a daughter of whom any man might have been
proud. To my thinking, she was the belle of the village, and she made
a very pretty picture in her sun-bonnet, among the green and golden
tracery of the hop-bine in the hopping season accompanied by the
smaller members of the family. At the "crib" into which the hops are
picked, many bushels proved their industry, and there were no leaves
or rubbish to call for rebuke at the midday and evening measurings.

I selected Jarge for foreman of the hop-picking as a most responsible
and trustworthy man; it was then that his sense of humour was most
conspicuous, a very important and valuable trait when 300 women and
children, and the men who supplied them with hops on the poles, have
to be kept cheerful and good-tempered every day and all day for three
weeks or a month, sometimes under trying conditions. For though
hop-picking is a fascinating occupation when the sun shines and the
sky is blue, it is otherwise when the mornings are damp or the hops
dripping with dew, and when heavy thunder-rains have left the ground
wet and cold.

He had a cheery word for all who were working steadily, and a
semi-sarcastic remark for the careless and unmethodical; a keen eye
for hops wasted and trodden into the ground, or for poles of
undersized hops, unwelcome to the pickers and hidden beneath those
from which the hops had been picked. He acted as buffer between
capital and labour, smoothing troubles over, telling me of the
pickers' difficulties, and explaining my side to the pickers when the
quality was poor and prices discouraging, so that the work went with a
swing and with happy faces and good-humoured chaff.

I was always pleased to hear the pickers singing, for I knew then that
all was well. Sometimes, after a trying day, when Jarge had been
called upon to expostulate, or "to talk" more than usual, the corners
of his mouth would take a downward turn, and he complained, perhaps,
of gipsies or tramps whom I was obliged to employ when the crop was
heavy, though they were kept in a gang apart from the villagers; but
he always came up happy again next morning, the mouth corners tending
upwards, and his broad and beaming smile with a radiance like the
rising sun on a midsummer morning.

Jarge was a man of discrimination. When we were forced to inaugurate a
School Board on account of the growing difficulty, owing to the bad
times, of collecting voluntary subscriptions, all the old school
managers, including my second Vicar--I served under three Vicars as
church-warden--refused to join the Board. Jarge, who was much
exercised in his mind as to the possibility of future bad management,
came to me, and referring to a proposal to place working-men on the
Board, said: "We wants men like you, sir, for members; what's the good
of sending we dunderyeads there?"

Going round the farm on his daughter's wedding-day, I was surprised to
find him at work; and when I asked him why he was not at the ceremony,
"Well," he replied, "I don't think much of weddings--the fittel
(victuals) ain't good enough; give me a jolly good fu-ner-ral!"

Jarge wore a brown velveteen coat on high-days and holidays by virtue
of his sporting reputation, and looked exceedingly smart with special
corduroy breeches and gaiters and a wide-awake felt hat. He was much
annoyed in Birmingham, whither I had sent all the men to an
agricultural show, at hearing a man say to a companion, "There's
another of them Country Johnnies." When I told him what a swell he
looked, he replied somewhat ruefully, "No! that's what I never could
be," as though he felt that his appearance was disappointingly rustic.

Though a most industrious man, he had dreams of the enjoyment of
complete leisure; he told me that if ever he possessed as much as
fifty pounds he would never do another day's work as long as he lived.
I answered that when that ideal was reached he would postpone his
projected ease until he had made it a hundred, and so on ad infinitum;
and this proved a correct forecast, for in time, by the aid of a
well-managed allotment and regular wages, he saved a good bit of
money. When I sold my fruit crops by auction, on the trees, for the
buyers to pick, just before I gave up my land, as I should not be
present to harvest the late apples and cider fruit after Michaelmas,
he came forward with a bid of one hundred pounds for one of the
orchards, though it was sold eventually for a higher price.

He was not well versed in finance, however, for when the owner of his
cottage offered, at his request, to build a new pigsty if he would pay
a rent of 5 per cent, annually on the cost--a very fair
proposal--Jarge declined with scorn, being, I think, under the
impression that the owner was demanding the complete sum of five
pounds annually, and I found it impossible to disabuse his mind of the
idea. He felt aggrieved also by the fact that, having paid rent for
twenty-five or thirty years, he was no nearer ownership of his cottage
than when he began. His argument was that, as he had paid more than
the value of the cottage, it should be his property; the details of
interest on capital and all rates and repairs paid by the owner did
not appeal to him.

On the occasion of a concert at Malvern, which my wife and her sister
organized for the benefit of our church restoration fund, I gave all
my men a holiday, and sent them off by train at an early hour; they
were to climb the Worcestershire Beacon--the highest point of the
Malvern range--in the morning, and attend the concert in the
afternoon. It was a lovely day, and the programme was duly carried
out. Next morning I found Jarge and another man, who had been detailed
for the day's work to sow nitrate of soda on a distant wheat-field,
sitting peacefully under the hedge; they told me that the excitement
and the climb had completely tired them out, but that they would stop
and complete the job, no matter how late at night that might be. It
was the hill-climbing, I think, that had brought into play muscles not
generally used in our flat country. I sympathized, and left them
resting, but the work was honourably concluded before they left the

When there was illness in Jarge's house and somebody told him that the
doctor had been seen leaving, he answered that he "Would sooner see
the butcher there any day"--not, perhaps, a very happy expression in
the circumstances, but intended to convey that a butcher's bill, for
good meat supplied, was more satisfactory than a doctor's account,
which represented nothing in the way of commissariat.

Among the annual trips to which I treated my men, I sent them for a
long summer day to London, and one of my pupils kindly volunteered to
act as conductor to the sights. They had a very successful day, and
the principal streets and shows were visited; among the latter the
Great Wheel, then very popular, was the one that seemed to interest
them most.

Next morning some of the travellers were hoeing beans in one of my
fields; I interviewed them on my round, and inquired what they thought
of London. They had much enjoyed the day, and were greatly struck by
the fact that the barmaid, at the place where they had eaten the lunch
they took with them, had recognized them as "Oostershire men"; they
had demanded their beer in three or four quart jugs, which could be
handed round so that each man could take a pull in turn, instead of
the usual fashion of separate glasses, and it appeared that this
indicated the locality from whence they came. Probably she had noticed
their accent, and, being a native of Worcestershire, remembered their
intimate drinking custom as a county peculiarity. The men proceeded to
describe the sights of London, and one of them added that there was
one thing they could not find there, stopping suddenly in some
confusion. I pressed him to explain. He still hesitated, and, turning
to the others, said: "_You_ tell the master, Bill." Bill was not so
diffident. "Well," he said, "we couldn't see a good-looking 'ooman in
Lunnon; for Jarge here, 'e was judge over 'em for a bit, and then Tom
'e took it, nor 'e couldn't see one neither!"

Jarge was somewhat of a _bon vivant_, and much appreciated my annual
present of a piece of Christmas beef. When thanking me and descanting
upon its tenderness and acceptability, on one occasion, he continued,
"It ain't like the sort of biff we folks has to put up with, that
tough you has to set in the middle of the room at dinner, for fear you
might daish your brains out agen the wall a-tuggin' at it with your

Jarge had one song and only one that I ever heard, and he was always
called upon for it at harvest suppers and other jollifications; it was
not a classic, but he rendered it with characteristic drollery, and
always brought down the house. I conclude my sketch of him by
mentioning it because it is almost my last impression of his vivid
personality, trotted out with great energy at my farewell supper, a
day or two before I left Aldington.

Among the men who were bequeathed to me, so to speak, by my
predecessor, Tom was one of whom I always had a high opinion. Tall,
vigorous, and well made, one recognized at once his possibilities as a
valuable man. He was somewhat cautious, taciturn, very sensitive and
reserved, but would open out in conversation when alone with me. As
quite a young man he had worked at the building of the branch line
from Oxford to Wolverhampton, via Worcester, the "O.W. and W.," or
"Old Wusser and Wusser," as it was called, until taken over by the
Great Western Railway. The latter, extending from London to Oxford,
was, I believe, one of Brunell's masterly conceptions, being without a
tunnel the whole way. But the new line had to pierce the Cotswolds
before reaching the Vale of Evesham, and Tom had many yarns about the
construction of the long Mickleton tunnel. Among them was a tradition
of the cost, so great that guineas laid edgeways throughout its length
would not pay for it.

In my time there was a splendid service of express trains running from
London to Worcester without a stop, and coming downhill into the Vale,
through the tunnel and towards Evesham, the speed approximated to a
mile a minute. I was talking to one of my men, a hedger, working near
the line which bounded a portion of my land, when one of the express
trains came dashing along and passed us with a roar in a few seconds.
"My word," said he, "I reckon that's a co-rider." I was puzzled, but
presently it came to me that he meant "corridor"; he had probably seen
the word in the local paper without having heard it pronounced.

It was a treat to watch Tom's magnificent physique when felling a big
tree, stripped to his shirt, with sleeves rolled up, and his gleaming
axe slowly raised and poised for a second above him before it fell
with the gathered impetus of its own weight and his powerful stress.
Biting time after time into the exact place aimed at, and at the most
effective angle possible, the clean chips would fly in all directions
until the necessary notch was cut and the basal outgrowths, close to
the ground around the sturdy column, were reduced, so that the
cross-cut saw could complete its downfall with a mighty crash. There
is always something sad about the felling of an ancient tree; one
feels it is a venerable creature that has passed long years of
unchallenged dominion on the spot occupied, and one can scarcely avoid
an idea of its intelligence and its silent record of passing
generations, who have welcomed its shade at blazing summer noontides,
or crept close to its warm touch for shelter from the winter's
chilling blast and the hissing hail.

Tom was always the leader of my team of mowers when the grass was cut,
for, with the large staff I employed on purpose for the all-important
hop-gardens, I never wanted, till towards the end of my time, to make
use of a machine. The steady swing of his scythe, with scarcely an
apparent effort, the swish, as the swathe fell beneath its keen edge,
and the final lift of the severed grasses at the end of the stroke,
all in regular rhythmic action, were very fascinating to watch. At
intervals came a halt for "whetting" the blade, and the musical sound
of rubber (sharpening stone) against steel, equally adroitly
accomplished, proved the artist at his work, with a delicacy of touch
which, perhaps in different circumstances, might have produced the
thrills with which Pachmann's velvet caress or Paderewski's refined
expression enchant a vast and rapturous audience.

As a land-drainer, too, I loved to watch him standing in the slippery
trench, with not an inch more soil moved than was necessary, lifting
out the decreasing "draws," and leaving a bottom nicely rounded
exactly to fit the pipes, and finally the methodical adjustment of
each pipe, with the concluding tap to bring it close to the last one
laid. Draining is an art which taxes the ability of the best of men,
for it must be remembered that, like the links of a chain, its
efficiency is no greater than that of its weakest part.

When I had to arrange for the harvesting of my first hop crop, it was
necessary to find a man who could be entrusted with the critical work
of drying the hops, and Tom was the man I chose. I had my kiln ready,
constructed in an old malthouse, on the latest principles, and in time
for the first crop. The kiln consisted of a space about 20 feet
square, walled off at one end of the old building, but with entrances
on the ground and first floors. Beneath, in the lower compartment, was
the fireplace, a yard square, and 16 feet above was the floor on which
the hops were dried. Anthracite coal was used for fuel, the fire being
maintained day and night throughout the picking--the morning's picking
drying between 1 p.m. and 12 midnight, and the afternoon's picking
between 1 a.m. and 12 o'clock noon. Tom was therefore on duty for the
whole twenty-four hours, with what snatches of sleep he could catch in
the initial stage of each drying and at odd moments.

The process requires great skill and attention; at first he and I,
with what little knowledge I had, puzzled it out together, he having
had no previous experience, and night after night I sat up with him
till the load came off the kiln at midnight. A slight excess of heat,
or an irregular application of it, will spoil the hops, the principle
being to raise the temperature, very gradually at first, to 30 or 40
degrees higher at the finish. Hops should be _blown_ dry by a blast of
hot air, not baked by heat alone. The drier, of course, has to keep a
watchful eye on the thermometer on the upper floor among the hops--Tom
always called it the "theometer"--regulating his fire accordingly and
the admission of cold air through adjustable ventilators on the
outside walls. This regulation varies according to the weather, the
moisture of the air, and the condition of the hops, and calls for
critical judgment and accuracy. Often, tired out with the previous
ordinary day's work, we had much ado to keep awake at night, and it
was fatal to arrange a too comfortable position with the warmth of the
glowing fire and the soporific scent of the hops. Then Tom would
announce that it was "time to get them little props out," which, in
imagination, were to support our wearied eyelids.

When we decided that the hops were ready to be cooled down, to prevent
breaking when being taken off the drying floor, all doors, windows,
and ventilators were thrown open and the fire banked up, and, while
they were cooling, he went to neighbouring cottages to rouse the men
who came nightly to unload and reload the kiln, and then I could
retire to bed.

Tom was devoted to duty, and was so successful as a hop-drier that he
soon became capable of managing two more kilns in the same building,
which I enlarged as I gradually increased my acreage. In a good season
he would often have L100 worth of hops through his hands in the
twenty-four hours, sometimes more. He was the only man I ever employed
at this particular work, and throughout those years he turned out hops
to the value of nearly L30,000 without a single mishap or spoiled
kiln-load--a better proof of his devotion to duty than anything else I
could say.

He was a very picturesque figure when, "crowned with the sickle and
the wheaten sheaf, Autumn comes jovial on," and he was cutting wheat,
his head covered with a coloured handkerchief, knotted at the corners,
to protect the back of his neck from the sun, which must have been
much cooler than the felt hat--a kind of "billycock" with a flat
top--which he habitually wore. I have noticed that the labourer's
style of hat is a matter of great conservatism, probably due to the
fancy that he would "look odd" in any other, and would be liable to
chaff from his fellow-workers.

Tom had a tremendous reach, and got through a big day's work in the
harvest-field, but nearly always knocked himself up after two or three
days in the broiling sun, developing what he called, "Tantiddy's fire
" in one forearm; this is the local equivalent of St. Anthony's fire,
an ailment termed professionally erysipelas, but I have never heard
how it is connected with the saint.

Harvesters often work in pairs, and they are then "butties"
(partners), but not infrequently a harvester will be accompanied by
his wife or daughter to tie up the sheaves; and their active figures
among the golden corn, backed by a horizon of blue sky, make a
charming picture. The mind goes back to the old Scripture references
to the time of harvest, and the idea impresses itself that one is
looking at almost exactly the same scene as it appeared to the old
writers, and which they described in all the dignity of their stately

Tom was not much given to the epigrammatic expression of his thoughts,
like some of the other men, but he had a vein of humour. A relative of
his used to come over from Evesham to sing in our church choir, and I
remember a special occasion when the choir was somewhat _piano_ until
this singer's part came in; he had a strong and not very melodious
voice, and the effort and the effect alike were startling. Tom was in
church at the time, and had evidently been watching expectantly for
the _fortissimo_ climax; he told me afterwards that "when S. opened
his mouth I knew it was sure to come." It did!

I have mentioned Tom's cautiousness; he had a way of assenting to a
statement without committing himself to definite agreement. I once
asked him who the leaders had been in a disorderly incident, being
aware that he knew; I suggested the names, but the nearest approach to
assent which I could extract was, "If you spakes again you'll be



"There's a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and folks
most in general chooses the wrong un."
--TOM G.

Jim was my first head carter, and he dearly loved a horse. He had, as
the saying is, forgotten more about horses than most men ever knew,
and what he didn't know wasn't worth knowing.

He was a cheery man, and when I went to Aldington was about to be
married. Not being much of a "scholard," his first request was that I
would write out his name and that of his intended, for the publication
of the banns. A group of men was standing round at the time, and I
asked him how his somewhat unusual name was spelt. Seeing that he was
puzzled, I hazarded a guess myself, repeating the six letters in order
slowly. He was greatly surprised and pleased to recognize that my
attempt was correct, and, turning to the bystanders, remarked with the
utmost sincerity, "There ain't many as could have done that, mind
you!" I felt that my reputation for scholarship was established.

Jim was a fisherman, and was no representative of "a worm at one end
and a fool at the other." I gave him leave to fish in my brooks; he
was wily, patient, and successful, and one day brought me a nice
salmon-trout, by no means common in these streams. In thanking him, I
made him a standing offer of a shilling a pound for any more he could
catch, but he never got another. Writing of fishing, I cannot forbear
quoting Thomson's lines on the subject, under "Spring," the most vivid
description of the sport I have ever read:

"When with his lively ray the potent sun
Has pierced the streams, and roused the finny race,
Then, issuing cheerful, to thy sport repair;
Chief should the western breezes curling play,
And light o'er ether bear the shadowy clouds.
High to their fount, this day, amid the hills,
And woodlands warbling round, trace up the brooks;
The next, pursue their rocky-channel'd maze,
Down to the river, in whose ample wave
Their little naiads love to sport at large.
Just in the dubious point, where with the pool
Is mix'd the trembling stream, or where it boils
Around the stone, or from the hollow'd bank
Reverted plays in undulating flow,
There throw, nice-judging, the delusive fly;
And as you lead it round in artful curve,
With eye attentive mark the springing games
Straight as above the surface of the flood
They wanton rise, or urged by hunger leap,
Then fix, with gentle twitch, the barbed hook:
Some lightly tossing to the grassy bank,
And to the shelving shore slow-dragging some,
With various hand proportion'd to their force.
If yet too young, and easily deceived,
A worthless prey scarce bends your pliant rod,
Him, piteous of his youth and the short space
He has enjoy'd the vital light of heaven,
Soft disengage, and back into the stream
The speckled captive throw. But should you lure
From his dark haunt, beneath the tangled roots
Of pendant trees, the monarch of the brook,
Behoves you then to ply your finest art.
Long time he following cautious, scans the fly;
And oft attempts to seize it, but as oft
The dimpled water speaks his jealous fear.
At last, while haply yet the shaded sun
Passes a cloud, he desperate takes the death,
With sullen plunge. At once he darts along,
Deep-struck, and runs out all the lengthen'd line;
Then seeks the furthest ooze, the sheltering weed,
The cavern'd bank, his old secure abode;
And flies aloft, and flounces round the pool,
Indignant of the guile. With yielding hand,
That feels him still, yet to his furious course
Gives way, you, now retiring, following now
Across the stream, exhaust his idle rage:
Till floating broad upon his breathless side,
And to his fate abandon'd, to the shore
You gaily drag your unresisting prize."

Horses were scarce and dear when I went to Aldington, and many French
animals were being imported. I got an old acquaintance in the South of
England to send me four or five; they were all greys, useful workers,
but wanting the spirit and stamina of the English horse; and they
would always wait for the Englishman to start a heavy standing load
before throwing their weight into the collar. Jim told me that they
were "desperate ongain" (very awkward), and, as foreigners, well they
might be, for I myself had some difficulty in understanding the local
words of command, more especially in ploughing, when, with a team of
four, he shouted his orders, addressing the new horses by names with
which they were quite unfamiliar.

I admired Jim's loyalty to his late master, if not his veracity, at
the valuation of the stock, which I took over as it stood. Being aware
that there was a lame one or two among the horses, I warned my valuer
beforehand. We entered the stable, and my valuer, thinking to catch
Jim off his guard, asked casually which they were. Jim was quite ready
for him, and answered without a moment's hesitation, "Nerrun, sir"
(never a one). They were, however, easily detected when trotted out on
the road.

Jim was a capital hand at "getting up" a horse for sale; an extra sack
or two of corn, constant grooming, and rest in the stable, with the
aid of some mysterious powders, which, I think, contained arsenic,
soon brought out the "dapples," which he called "crown-pieces," on
their coats, and in a couple of months' time one scarcely recognized
the somewhat angular beast upon which his labours had wrought a
miracle, and put a ten-pound note at least on the value. We had an
ancient and otherwise doubtful mare, "Bonny," ready for Pershore Fair,
and the previous day Jim wanted to know if I intended to be present. I
told him, "No! I should have to tell too many lies." "Oh!" said he,
"I'll do all that, sir!" He sold the mare to a big dealer for all she
was worth, I think, though not a large figure. Soon afterwards I had
to expostulate with him about some fault. He explained the
circumstances from his point of view, adding, "And that's the truth,
sir, and the truth _is_ the truth, and"--triumphantly--"that's what'll
carry a man through the world!" I could say no more, but could not
help remembering his willingness to testify to Sonny's doubtful merits
at Pershore Fair.

Jim became a widower, but eventually married again; a good woman, who
made a capital wife. Shortly before the wedding, when he came to see
me on some business, my wife happened to be present; she was very
anxious to find out the date in order that we might attend. Jim was
shy, not wishing it to be generally known, and nothing could be got
out of him. On leaving, however, he repented and, looking back over
his shoulder, made the announcement, "Our job comes off next
Thursday," then closing the door quickly, he was gone.

He got my permission to visit his mother and son, both ailing in
Birmingham, and on his return I made inquiries. The boy was better,
but about his mother he said, "I don't take so much notice of she, for
her be regular weared out"--not unkindly or undutifully intended, but
just a plain statement of fact, simply put; for she was a very old
woman, and could not in the course of nature be expected to live much

That Jim had a tender heart I know, for when we lost a very favourite
horse, one which "you could not put at the wrong job," I found him
weeping and much distressed. Later he said, "When you lose a horse I
reckon it's a double loss, for you haven't got the horse or the
money." My mind being dominated by the unanswerable accuracy of the
latter part of the statement, I did not, for a moment, see that the
first part was fallacious, because, of course, one could not have both
at one and the same time.

He was an excellent ploughman, and considerable skill is demanded to
manage the long wood plough, locally made, and still the best
implement of the sort on the adhesive land of the Vale of Evesham. It
has no wheels, like the ordinary iron plough has, to regulate the
depth and width of the furrow-slice, because in wet weather, if tried
on this almost stoneless land, the wheels become so clogged with mud
and refuse, such as stubble from the previous crop, that they will not
revolve, sliding helplessly involved along the ground. Even the
mould-board is wood, generally pear-tree, to which the mud does not
adhere, as happens with iron. As an old neighbour explained to me,
"You can cut the newest bread with a wooden knife, whereas the doughy
crumb of the bread would stick to a steel one." Pear-tree wood is used
because it wears "slick" (smooth), and does not splinter like wood
which is longer in the grain.

With these long wood ploughs the ploughman himself regulates the depth
and width of the furrow-slice--_i.e.,_ each strip that is severed and
turned over--by holding the handles firmly in the correct position as
the plough travels along, for it cannot be left for a moment to its
own inclination. This entails strict attention and much muscular
effort, and, of course, the latter comes into play also in turning at
each end of the field. The result is very effective; the flat
mould-board offers the least possible resistance to the inversion of
the soil, whereas the iron plough, with a curling mould-board, presses
the crest of the furrow-slice into regularity of form, and gives a
more finished appearance at the expense of much extra friction and
labour for the horses.

A carter-boy accompanies each team, as driver, to keep the horses up
to their work and turn them at the ends. A farmer I knew in Hampshire
would not, if possible, employ a boy unless he could whistle--of
course the ability and degree of excellence is a guide to character,
and indicates to some extent a harmonious disposition; he always said,
"Now whistle," when engaging a new boy.

There are few more pleasant agricultural operations to watch and to
follow than a lusty team, a skilful ploughman, and a whistling boy at
work, on a glowing autumn day, when the stubble is covered with
gossamers gleaming with iridescent colours in the sunshine. The
upturned earth is fragrant, the fresh soil looks rich and full of
promise, there is the feeling that old mistakes and disappointments
are being buried out of sight, and the hope and anticipation of the

On a Lincolnshire farm where I was a pupil, an incident occurred
illustrating the anxiety of a carter for the welfare of his horses, in
combination with no small cunning. The owner, in the stable one Sunday
morning, noticed an open Bible in the manger; having doubts as to the
reliability of the carter, he regarded the Bible, so prominently
displayed, with some suspicion. Looking carefully all round he could
see nothing to find fault with, until he glanced upward at the floor
over the manger, where he discovered a protruding cork. He remembered
that a heap of oats was stored in the loft, from which the bailiff
gave out the rations for their teams to each man weekly. Getting the
key of the loft, he found that the cork was nicely adjusted to a hole
beneath the oats, so that the carter in question could exceed the
recognized ration whenever inclined. The fault was, of course, more
one of disobedience than of robbery, as the corn was consumed by his
master's horses, and the prominence of the Bible was perhaps the worst
feature, evidently a deceptive device to arrest suspicion, though it
proved to have exactly the opposite effect.

Very few of my men suffered from rheumatism, but Jim was an exception.
I think he applied horse embrocation to himself; he would extol its
efficacy, and would tell how, when the pain attacked his shoulder, the
remedy "druv it" to his back; applied to the latter, "it druv it" to
his legs; and so on indefinitely.

I kept about a dozen working horses besides colts; the latter are
broken at two years old, but only very lightly worked, and, when quiet
and handy, they are turned out again till a year older. Our method of
maintaining the full capacity of horse-power on the farm was to breed,
or buy at six months old, two colts, and sell off two of the oldest
horses every year. As two colts could be bought for forty or fifty
pounds at that age, and the two old horses sold for a hundred and
twenty pounds or thereabouts, a good balance was left on the
transaction, while the full strength of the teams was maintained.

Jim had sufficient foresight to view with alarm the gradual dispersion
of most of the oldest and best farmers in the neighbourhood, and the
conversion to grass of the arable land, owing to the unfair and
dangerous competition of American wheat. When we discussed the subject
and foretold the straits to which the country would be reduced in the
event of war with a great European Power, he concluded these
forebodings with the habitual remark, "Well, what I says is, them as
lives longest will see the most." A truism, no doubt, but, as time has
proved, by no means an incorrect view.

There was always plenty of employment for an estate carpenter on my
farms, as I had a vast number of buildings, including four separate
sets of barn, stable, sheds, and yard, away from the village, as well
as those near the Manor House, and many repairs were necessary. There
were, too, very many gates, repairs to fences, hurdle-making, and odd
jobs, to keep a man employed for months at a time. The building of
three hop-kilns, with the necessary storerooms for green and dried
hops, as the hop acreage increased, the preparation of hop-poles, and
the erection of wire-work on larger poles, which gradually superseded
the ordinary pole system, all demanded a great deal of regular work.

I was most fortunate in obtaining the services of a man living in a
neighbouring village, not only as estate carpenter, but as a skilled
joiner, and possessing all the knowledge and efficiency of an
experienced builder. When I first met him, or very soon afterwards,
Tom G. was a teetotaller, and I have always had immense admiration for
the strength of will which enabled him to conquer completely the drink
habit, for he freely admitted that he was entirely mastered by it in
his younger days. He told me, and it proves what a kindly word will
sometimes do, that the Squire of his village, who also employed him
largely, said to him, after praising some of his work, "There's only
one thing the matter with you, Tom, and that's the drink." "I went
home," said Tom, "and I thought to myself, if the drink is all that's
wrong with me, what a fool I must be to continue it. Next day I went
to Evesham and signed the pledge, and I've never touched a drop since,
though the smell and the sight of a public-house have been so sore a
temptation that many a time after a long day's work, and with money in
my pocket, I've gone a mile or two out of my way in order not to pass
a place of the sort."

His training as a carpenter had induced habits of great accuracy,
exact method, and lucid thought, and a chat with him, and watching his
quick and clever workmanship, was an educational opportunity. I have
always been fascinated by such work, and one of my earliest
recollections is of being taken by my father to interview a carpenter
about some small household job. His name was Snewin--I am not sure of
the spelling, for I was only about eight years old at the time--and we
found him in his workshop vigorously using a long plane on some red
deal boards, his feet buried in beautifully curled shavings, and the
whole place redolent of the delicious scent of turpentine. Every time
his plane travelled along the edge, to my childish fancy, the board
said in plaintive tones of remonstrance, _in crescendo_, his name,
"Snewin, _Snewin_," and again, "SNEWIN," and even now the scent and
action of planing a deal board always brings back the scene clearly to
my mind.

I suppose, therefore, it was partly old associations that induced the
fascination of watching Tom G. at his work, but there were other
reasons. With his axe, the edge beautifully ground and sharpened to a
razor-like finish, he could trim a piece of wood, or shape it, so
neatly that it presented almost the appearance of having been planed;
his saw, with no apparent effort, raced from end to end of a board or
across the grain of a piece of "quartering," and his chisels and plane
irons were ground to the correct concave bevel that relieves the
parting of a chip or shaving, and gives what he called "sweetness" to
the cutting action. He was a strong Conservative, good at an argument,
and had many heated discussions with some of my men whose tendencies
leaned to the opposite side; but his sound logic and common sense were
observable in all his ideas, and I think he generally came off best as
a shrewd and clear-headed debater, for from his employment in various
places his horizon was wider than that of the ordinary farm labourers.

Tom G. had considerable knowledge of the Bible, which he sometimes
employed in conversation; alluding to the work that was nearly always
waiting for him at Aldington, he told a friend of mine that there was
"earn (corn) in Egypt"; and when he had a written contract with me for
a special piece of work, and wished to suggest that as time went on we
might think of some improvement, and that there was no necessity to
adhere to the original specifications, he announced that "we bean't
Mades, nor we bean't Piersians" (we're not Medes, nor are we

No necessary measurement was ever guessed at, his "rule" was always
handy in a special pocket, but in cases where a rough guess was
sufficient he would hazard it by what he called "scowl of brow"
(intently regarding it). The agricultural labourer is inclined, both
with weights and measures, to be inaccurate, "reckoning it's near
enough." I found soon after I came to Aldington that the weighing
machine which had been in use throughout the whole of my predecessor's
time, and had weighed up hundreds of pounds of wool at 2s. and 2s. 6d.
a pound, cheese at 8d., and thousands of sacks of wheat, barley, and
beans, was about a pound in each hundredweight _against the seller_,
so that he must have lost a considerable sum in giving overweight.

Tom G. was scornful about weather signs, and summed up his doubts in
such matters with sarcasm: "I reckon that the indications for rain are
very similar to the indications for fine weather!" But the best
epigram I ever heard from him was, "There's a right way and a wrong
way to do everything, and folks most in general chooses the wrong un!"
I should like to see those words of wisdom on the title-page of every
school book, and blazoned up in letters of gold on the wall of every
classroom in every school in the kingdom.

I have referred to the hop-kilns I built. Throughout the work of
erecting them, and it was no small one, Tom G. was the leading spirit;
it gave scope for his abilities, I think, on a larger scale than any
building he had previously undertaken. We began with a kiln sufficient
for the first 6 acres planted; it was necessary, with the gradual
extinction of British corn-growing, to find something to supersede it,
and to compensate for the falling off in farm receipts. I had seen
something of hops as a pupil on a large farm near Alton, Hampshire,
where they occupied an area of over a hundred acres, but at that time
I had no intention of growing them myself, and had not been infected
with the glamour, formerly attaching to hops beyond any other crop,
that came to me later.

I visited the old Alton farm, and obtained all particulars of the
latest kind of hop-kiln in the neighbourhood from the inventor, and
instructed him to prepare plans and specifications for the conversion
of an old malthouse close to the Manor. I contracted with Tom G. for
all the carpenter's work, and with an excellent stonemason or
bricklayer for that belonging to his department. They both entered
with enthusiasm upon the job, and we had many interesting discussions
as to improvement, as it proceeded. Tom G. was a man of great
resource, and could always find a way out of every difficulty; he told
me, before we began, that he could see the completed building as if
actually finished, just as a great sculptor once said how easy it was
to produce a statue from a block of marble, for all he had to do was
to cut away the superfluous material!

The alterations entailed a new roof from end to end of the old
building, and a new floor for the upper part, the length being about
70 and the width about 20 feet. The old roof was covered mostly with
stone-slates--flakes of limestone from the Cotswolds--very uneven in
size and rough as to surface, and in part with ordinary blue slates.
The latter lie much more closely on the laths, the stone slates
allowing the passage of more air between them, and it was interesting
to find that while the ancient laths under the stone slates were
fairly well preserved, those beneath the blue slates were much
decayed, evidently from the fact of the damp in an unheated building
remaining longer where the air was excluded, though one would have
expected the close-lying blue slates to be the better protection of
the two.

Much expense was saved by Tom G.'s economical use of materials;
wherever the old oak beams could be used again they were incorporated
with the new work. He never cut sound old or new pieces of timber to
waste; almost every scrap came in somewhere, for he worked with his
head as well as his hands.

The difference in this respect is very noticeable in different men; an
old plumber once told me that he had been employed upon a pump on a
neighbouring farm, where the slot in which the handle works was so
worn on one side that the bolt which carries the handle had given way,
owing to the man, who had used it for years, not keeping it running
truly in the centre. He called the man's attention to the cause of the
damage, and, being a sententious old fellow, asked him why he didn't
think what he was doing. The answer was, "I'm not paid to think."

The hop-kiln was a great success, and later, with the same workmen, I
added two more, as my hopyards extended, on exactly the same lines.
They would probably have been annually in use in the picking season up
to the present time had it not been that the low prices ruling
latterly have rendered a crop which requires so much labour,
knowledge, and supervision, not worth growing.

I hear, however, with much satisfaction, that these old hop-kilns and
storerooms have been of great service during the war for drying
medicinal herbs, chiefly belladonna and henbane, and that in 1917 the
turnover exceeded L6,000.



"Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."
--GRAY'S _Elegy_.

I had experiences of various shepherds, and the man I remember best
was John C. Short, sturdy, strong, and willing, he was somewhat
prejudiced and old-fashioned, with many traditions and inherited
convictions as to remedies and the treatment of sheep. John had a
knowing expression; his nose projected and his forehead and chin
retreated, so that his profile was angular. He wore the old-fashioned
long smock-frock--not the modern short linen jacket which goes by the
name of smock, but a garment that reached to his knees, with a
beautifully worked front over the chest. It is a pity that these old
smock-frocks are no longer in vogue: I never see one now; they were
most picturesque, and afforded great protection from the rough weather
which a shepherd has constantly to face. His hat was of soft felt,
placed well towards the back of his head, and, behind it, he wore a
wealth of curls overlapping the collar of his smock. John was very
proud of his curls; he told a group of men, who were sheep-dipping
with him, that the parasites of the sheep, which are formidable in
appearance, never troubled him until they reached his head. "Into them
curls, I suppose, John?" said a flippant bystander. John was pleased
that his most attractive feature should receive even this recognition.

Altogether he presented a notable figure, and one quite typical of his
profession, especially when armed with his staff of office, his crook.
He was inclined to superstitious beliefs, and told me when I noticed
the matted condition of the manes of some colts domiciled in a distant
set of buildings that he reckoned "Old P. G."--an ancient dame in a
neighbouring cottage with a reputation for witchcraft--"had been
a-ridin' of 'em on moonlight nights." This matted appearance of colts'
manes, which is only the natural result of their not being groomed or
combed when young and unbroken, was known in many country places as
"hag-ridden." Such superstitions are now nearly, if not quite,
extinct, but still linger in old place-names, for it was usual in
former times to attribute any uncommon or surprising physical
appearance to supernatural agency. Thus we have such names as "Devil's
Dyke," "Devil's Punchbowl," "Puck Pits," "Pokes-down" (Puck's Down),
and many others.

The fairy rings, too, which puzzled our ancestors, are explicable by a
natural process. The starting-point is a fungus, _Marasmius oreades_,
which in due course sheds its spores in a tiny circle around it; the
decay of the fungus supplies nitrogen to the grass, and renders it
dark green in colour. The circle expands, always outwards, more and
more fungi appearing every year; it does not return inwards because
the mineral constituents of the soil are exhausted by the growth of
the fungus and of the grass, under the stimulus of the abundant
nitrogen left by the former, so that the dark ring of grass extends
its diameter year by year.

In the _Tempest_ Shakespeare refers to the fairies:

"... That
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites."

John carried a magic bottle of caustic liniment for application to the
feet of sheep affected with the complaint called "foot-rot." The cause
of this troublesome disease is excessive development of the walls of
the hoof, owing to the animals grazing exclusively on wet pasture, the
surface of which is too soft to keep them worn down; the walls
gradually double over and collect wet mud, which causes inflammation.
It never occurred on my arable land, either among ewes or younger
sheep, but whenever I bought sheep from the flint stones of Hampshire
and grazed them on soft pasture, it soon made its appearance. The
remedy is timely and constant paring of the hoof before any tendency
to lameness is observed, and when this is properly attended to no
caustic application is necessary. Lame sheep indicate an inefficient
shepherd, and the disorder has been well called "Shepherd's Neglect."

An eminent breeder of prize Hampshire Down sheep told me that, when
contemplating the exhibition of sheep, the first necessity is to get a
"prize shepherd," a man with a presence, and a reputation which he
would not risk in the show-ring without something worth exhibiting. I
started a flock of pedigree Shropshires, but my land was too good and
grew them too big and coarse for showing, and I soon found that it was
useless to try, though I succeeded in taking a prize at the
Warwickshire county show. It so happened that when my shepherd (not
John) returned in great triumph from the show, he found his first-born
son, who had arrived in his absence, awaiting him. "Well done,
shupperd," said a neighbour, "got him a son and a prize the same day!"

John was jealous of any interference in his remedial measures for
ailing sheep, but my wife, who doctored the village generally, was
anxious to try her hand, having little faith in his skill; so we
arranged that the next time he had what he considered a hopeless case
it was to be given over to her exclusively. The opportunity soon
occurred; a ewe was found caught by the fleece in some rough briars in
an old hedge, where it had been some hours in great distress, and,
with much struggling to free itself, it was quite exhausted. Pneumonia
supervened, and when John thought it impossible to save its life he
handed the case over to my wife. She succeeded, chiefly, I think, by
careful nursing, in pulling it through, much to John's surprise;
doubtless he thought its recovery a lucky fluke. John was given to
occasional alcoholic lapses; on one occasion I found him aimlessly
driving sheep across a field of growing mangolds! I could see that he
was muddled, and on reaching home later I sought an interview. He was
not to be found, but at his cottage his wife told me that John was not
very well. I postponed my reckoning till the following day, when, with
great readiness, he explained how it happened. "The day before," he
said, "I frained my fittle (refrained from my victuals) all day, and
when I got up yesterday I didn't feel justly righteous (quite right)
ov my inside; so I gets a bit of 'bacca, just about as much as _you_
med put in your pipe (this, apparently, to incriminate me), and I
putts it at the bottom of a tay-cup, with a drop ov rum; then I fills
it up with hot tay and drinks it off, and very soon I felt it a coming
over (overcoming) mer (me)."

Sheep-breeding was not one of the most important branches of farming
in my part of Worcestershire: the land is too stiff and wet, they
thrive much better on the Cotswolds or the chalk downs of Hampshire.
At one time I visited the latter county every summer, attending the
big fairs like Overton or Alresford, for the purpose of buying 100
draft ("full-mouthed") ewes from one of the best flocks. It was very
interesting in the early morning, reaching Overton by rail from
Basingstoke, where I had passed the night at the Red Lion with L300 in
bank-notes under my pillow, to see the gipsies in the village asleep
on the ground under their vans, the girls sometimes awake, combing
their hair, and beautifying themselves in readiness for the pleasure
fair where they were to appear in charge of the shooting-galleries and
competitions. A short walk, with only time for a passing glance at the
speckled trout near the bridge over the Itchen, which I never omitted,
took me to the sheep-pens on the hill-top where the fair is held. One
could see the flocks, with their shepherds always _in front_ and the
dogs behind, winding along the narrow lanes, which, from all
directions, lead to the hill, in a cloud of chalky dust, flock after
flock with only a few dividing yards between them. It is advisable to
reach the fairground thus early, to see the sheep before they are
penned; they can be much better inspected in the open than when packed
close together, and a more reliable opinion of their condition can be
formed. From the aesthetic point of view the grand old shepherds
interested me most, dignified, patriarchal men, with a reserve of
strength of character evident in their rugged features, and the
patience and hardihood that takes little heed of exposure to every
variety of weather.

The sheep were sold by auction, and when I had bought a pen of 100,
generally from Lord Ashburton's flock, paid the auctioneer's clerk as
soon as possible and received a ticket permitting the release of the
sheep, as the roads in all directions are soon crowded, I induced the
shepherd to help in driving them to the railway-station. He was always
a dear old fellow, and full of interesting information. On reaching
the station we packed the sheep into three open trucks, so close that
they could not jump out, and despatched them to Worcestershire,
whither they would arrive about noon the following day. We never had a
mishap with them on the journey, but they were terribly thirsty on
reaching Aldington, and made straight for water immediately.

Old Tricker came to Worcestershire originally with a farmer who
migrated from Suffolk, which proves him to have been a valuable man.
But he was worn out even when he first came to work for me, though as
willing and industrious as ever. My bailiff often praised him--for his
work was excellent, if somewhat slow on account of his age--and used
to tell him that "All as be the matter with you, Tricker, is that you
was born too soon," which was only too true, for he must have been the
oldest man on the farm by at least twenty years. He was a steady
worker, and was often so absorbed in his job, such as hoeing, that,
being, moreover, somewhat deaf, he was not aware of my approach until
I was quite close. On such occasions, with a violent start, he always
said: "My word, how you did frighten I, to be sure! Shows I don't look
about me much, however, don't it?"

He was fond of fairs, wakes, and "mops"--no doubt they were
reminiscent of old days, for he lived in the past--and he would often
beg a day off for such outings; he was a subject for the chaff of the
other men for his gaiety when these jaunts took place. They pretended
that, as a widower for many years, it was time for him to think of
another courtship. On a festive occasion, when we were giving a dinner
to all the men and their wives, great amusement was caused by
crackers, which the guests, I think, had never seen before, containing
paper caps and imitation jewellery; and it was a merry scene when all
around the tables were decorated in the most incongruous fashion. Old
Tricker happened to become possessed of a plain gilt wedding-ring, and
of course chaff was levelled at him from all sides: "Ah, Tricker; sly
dog, sly dog!" and so on. He was greatly pleased, accepting
good-naturedly the part of pantaloon of the piece; and I am sure, from
his beaming smiles, he felt, for a time at least, dozens of years

Years before, when still able to do a good day's work, he walked to
Ipswich to revisit his old home, a distance of about 160 miles, which
he accomplished in four days, and returned in the same time. He had
been specially struck by the building of a new post-office there--this
must have been at least thirty years before the time of which I am
writing. One of my brothers who lived near Ipswich was visiting me,
and I introduced him to the old man, knowing that they would have
common interests. No sooner did Tricker hear that my brother had just
come from Ipswich than he inquired anxiously if the new post-office
was finished. "Oh yes, and pulled down some years ago, and a new one
built!" Tricker was astonished; the years had evidently slipped by him
unnoticed, and no record of dates remained in his memory.

Tricker often got a little mixed in the names of novelties or in
unusual words. I chanced to pass him one day along the road, on my
omnicycle, and next time I saw him he referred to it, adding: "I
didn't know as you'd got a phlorsopher (velocipede and philosopher)"!
Some of my land had been occupied by the Romans in very distant days,
and coins and pottery were frequently found. Tricker, having heard of
the Romans, also of Roman Catholics, jumbled them together, and
"reckoned" that the former inhabitants of these fields were "some of
those old Romans or Cartholics."

This mixture of words, generally bearing some relation to each other,
was not infrequently carried still further by making one word of two.
With some of the villagers "conservatory" stood for conservative and
tory, and "containment" for concert and entertainment. A messenger who
was asked to bring _Daniel Deronda_ from the Evesham library returned
with the announcement that "Dannel Deronomy" was not available; this
appeared to be a confusion between the books of Daniel and
Deuteronomy. A cook (not a Worcestershire person) was asked if the
papers had come. "Yes; the _Standard_ has arrived, but not the Condy's
fluid _(Connoisseur)_ "! The regatta at Evesham was always "the
regretta." An old sexton working in a churchyard, from whom I inquired
if there was a bridge over the river, replied: "Only a temperance
bridge (temporary bridge)."

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