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

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would not go back from what, he said, he regarded as a matter of
principle, and could not see that he was throwing away a unique
opportunity, but he agreed to withdraw the unwelcome Server.

In spite of the fact that every detail of the new school building had
been submitted to, and approved by, the Education Department, trouble
began with an officious inspector, who on his first visit complained
of the ventilation. An elementary school is never exactly a bed of
roses, but we had a lofty building and classrooms, with plenty of
windows, which could be adjusted to admit as much or as little fresh
air as was requisite. We protested without result, and we had
eventually to pull the new walls about and spend L20 on what we
considered an uncalled-for alteration.

Our inspectors of schools varied greatly: some were quiet with the
children and considerate with the teachers; others vindicated their
authority by unnecessary fault-finding, upsetting the teachers and
alarming the children. In the days of our voluntary school I have seen
a room full of children in a state of nervous tension, and the
mistress and pupil-teachers in tears, as the result of inconsiderate
reprimands and irritable speech. My sympathies have been strongly
aroused on such occasions with a child's terror of being made an
exhibition before the others. As a boy at Harrow, in the form of the
Rev. F.W. Farrar, afterwards Dean of Canterbury, I had an unpleasant
experience, though it was no fault of his and quite unintentional. The
Russian Government had sent a deputation of two learned professors to
England, to inquire into the educational system of the Public Schools,
with the view of sending a member of the Royal family for education in
this country. Among other schools, they visited Harrow, and Mr.
Farrar's form was one of those selected for inspection. It was the
evening of a winter's day, when, at the four o'clock school, we found
two very formidable-looking old gentlemen in spectacles and many furs
seated near the master's desk. Great was the consternation, but Mr.
Farrar was careful not to call upon any boy who would be likely to
exhibit himself as a failure. I was seated near Mr. Farrar, at one end
of a bench. He had a habit, when wanting to change his position, of
moving quite unconsciously across the intervening space between his
desk and this bench, and placing one foot on the bench close to the
nearest boy, he would, with one hand, play with the boy's hair, while
he held his book in the other. With horror, I found him approaching,
and shortly his hand was on my head, rubbing my hair round and round,
and ruffling it in a fashion very trying to any boy who was neat and
careful of his personal appearance. I could see the Russians staring
through their spectacles at these proceedings; possibly they thought
it a form of punishment unknown in Russia, and my feelings of
humiliation can be imagined. Finally he gave me a smack on the cheek
and retired to his desk, leaving my hair in a state of chaos, though
he had not the least idea of having done anything which might appear
unusual to the foreigners.

Dear "old Farrar"!--as we irreverently called him--it was an education
in itself to be in his form. I had the uncommon privilege of moving
upwards in the School at very much the same rate as he did as a
master, though I fear for my school reputation none too quickly. He
first kindled my admiration for the classic giants of English
literature, more especially the poets, taught me to appreciate the
rolling periods of Homer, and even the beauty of the characters of the
Greek alphabet. He was a voluminous student of the best in every form
of ancient and modern literature. He always kept a copy of Milton, his
favourite poet I think, on his desk, and, whenever a passage in the
Greek or Latin classics occurred, for which he could produce a
parallel, quoted pages without reference to the book.

I recall my delight and pride when I was sent on two occasions to the
headmaster, Dr. Butler, the late Master of Trinity, with copies of
original verses; and the honour I felt it to inscribe them, at Mr.
Farrar's request, in a MS. book he kept for the purpose of collecting
approved original efforts in the author's own writing. For it was his
habit once a week to give us subjects for verses or composition. A
unique effort of the Captain of the School cricket eleven, C.F.
Buller, comes back to me as I write; it did not however appear in the
MS. book. The School Chapel was the subject, full of interest and
stirring to the imagination, if only for the aisle to the memory of
Harrow officers who fell in the Crimea. Buller's flight of imagination
was as absurd as it was impertinent:

"The things in the Chapel nonsense are,
Don't you think so dear Fa_rrar_!"

Mr. Farrar, however, never took offence at such sallies. I remember,
when he was denouncing the old "yellow back" novels, murmurs becoming
audible, which were intended to reach him, of "Eric! Eric!"--the title
of his early school-boy story--he only smiled in acknowledgment. And
on an April 1st several boys who had plotted beforehand gazed
simultaneously and persistently at a spot on the ceiling, until his
eyes followed theirs unthinkingly in the same direction, when it
occurred to him, as nothing unusual was visible, that it was All
Fools' Day. He was very playful and indulgent; he kept a "squash"
racquet ball on his desk, and could throw it with accurate aim if he
noticed a boy dreaming or inattentive. He would never when scoring the
marks enter a 0, even after an abject failure, always saying, "Give
him a charity 1!"

Boys are quick judges of sermons: if interested, they listen without
an effort; if not interested, they _cannot_ listen. Whenever Mr.
Farrar's turn came as preacher in the School Chapel there was a subtle
stir and whisper of appreciation, "It's Farrar to-day." He was a
natural orator. I can still hear his magnificent voice swelling in
tones of passionate denunciation decreasing to gentle appeal, and
dying away in tender pathos. This was education in the true sense of
the word, and though I have wandered a long way from my immediate
subject, I feel that the digression is not irrelevant in contrast with
the mechanical instruction that goes by the name of education in the
Board Schools. I cannot help recalling too that in the ancient IVth
Form Room at Harrow, the roughest of old benches were, and I believe
still are, considered good enough for future bishops, judges, and
statesmen; while in the Board Schools expensive polished desks and
seats have to be provided at the cost of the ratepayers to be shortly
kicked to pieces by hobnailed shoes.

I was present at some amusing incidents in examinations at our village
school. A small boy was commanded by an inspector to read aloud, and
began in the usual child's high-keyed, expressionless, and
unpunctuated monotone:
d-two-of-them-are-spotted." "That's not the way to read," interposed
the inspector. "Give me the book." He stood up, striking an attitude,
head thrown well back, and reading with great deliberation and
emphasis: "I have _six_ LITTLE PIGS; two of them are _white_! Two of
them are _black_! and (confidentially) two of them are spot_tered_!"

I once picked up an elementary reading book in the school, and read as
follows: "Tom said to Jack, 'There is a hayrick down in the meadow;
shall we go and set it on fire?'" And so on, with an account of the
conflagration, highly coloured. So much for town ideas of the
education of country children; the suggestion was enough to bring
about the catastrophe, given the opportunity and a box of matches.

Some of the inspectors were very agreeable men; they occasionally came
to luncheon at my house, and I once asked where the best-managed
schools were to be found. The reply was, "In parishes where the
voluntary schools still exist, and the feudal system is mildly

Our villagers, reading of the large sums that we were obliged to
expend in response to the requirements of the Education Department,
and finding the consequent rates a burden, began to think of economy
and nothing but economy, so that though I had expected them to be only
too anxious to provide the very best possible education for their own
children, it came as a surprise that this was quite a subordinate aim
to that of keeping down the cost. And this was the more unexpected, as
the main cost fell upon the large ratepayers, like myself and the
railway company and the owners of land and cottages rented rate-free.
At the next election several of these economists became candidates,
with the result that many of the original members including myself
were not returned, in spite of the fact that our well-planned and
well-built schools were erected at a lower cost per child than any in
the neighbourhood. I was not sorry to escape from the monotony of
listening to interminable debates as to whether a necessary broom or
such-like trifle should be bought at one shilling or one and
threepence. For this was the kind of subject that the Board could
understand and liked to enlarge upon, while really important proposals
were carried with little consideration. As a matter of fact, members
of a School Board are no more than dummies in the hands of an
inflexible Department, and are appointed to carry out orders and
regulations without the power of modification, even when quite
unsuitable for a country village school.

There was some little excitement at the election; one of the members
of the old Board had been called "an ignoramus," in the stress of
battle, and being much concerned and mystified asked a neighbour what
the term signified, adding, no doubt thinking of a hippopotamus, that
he believed it was some kind of animal! His knowledge of zoology was
probably as limited as that disclosed by the following story:

A menagerie was on view at Evesham, to the great joy of many
juveniles as well as older people, for such exhibitions were
not very common in the town. Very early next morning, a
farmer, living about two miles from Aldington, was awakened
by a shower of small stones on his bedroom window. Looking
out he saw his shepherd in much excitement and alarm. "Oh
master, master, there's a beast with two tails, one in front
and one behind, a-pullin' up the mangolds, and a-eatin' of
'em!" The farmer hurried to the spot and saw an African
elephant which had escaped during the night; he was
wondering how to proceed when two keepers appeared and the
strange beast was led quietly back to the town.

As chairman of our School Board I early recognized among the members
discoverers of mare's-nests, who lost no opportunity of exhibiting
their own importance by intruding such matters into the already
overflowing _agenda_, and my method of dealing with them was so
successful, though I believe not original, that it may be found useful
by those called upon to preside over any of the multitudinous councils
now in existence. Whenever the member produced his cherished
discovery--generally very shadowy as to detail--I proposed the
appointment of a subcommittee, consisting of him and his sympathizers,
to inquire into the matter, and report at the next Board meeting. In
this way I shunted the bother of the investigation of usually some
trifle or unsubstantiated opinion on to his own shoulders, so that,
when he realized the time and trouble involved, he became much less
interested, and we heard very little more of the subject.

I suppose that everybody living in a country parish, who can look back
over the period of fifty years of compulsory education, would agree
that the results are insignificant in comparison with the effort, and
one cannot help wondering whether, after all, they justify the
gigantic cost. We appear to have tried to build too quickly on an
insecure foundation. Nature produces no permanent work in a hurry, and
Art is a blind leader unless she submits to Nature's laws. The pace
has been too great, and the fabric which we have reared is already
showing the defects in its construction.

How otherwise can we account for the littleness of the men
representing "the people," who have been rushed into the big
positions, and for the vulgarity of the present age? Vulgarity in
public worship; vulgarity in the manners, the speeches, and the ideals
of the House of Commons; vulgarity in "literature," on the stage, in
music, in the studio, and in a section of the Press; vulgarity in
building and the desecration of beautiful places; vulgarity in form
and colour of dress and decoration. We are far behind the design and
construction of the domestic furniture of 150 years ago, and we have
never equalled the architecture of the earliest periods, for stability
and stateliness.

The skim milk seems to have come to the top and the cream has gone to
the bottom, as the result of the contravention of the laws of
evolution, and the failure to perceive the analogy between the
simplest methods of agriculture, and the cultivation of mentality. We
have expected fruit and flowers from waste and untilled soil; we sowed
the seed of instruction without even ploughing the land, or
eradicating the prominent weeds, and we are reaping a crop of thistles
where we looked for figs, and thorns where we looked for grapes. The
seed scattered so lavishly by the wayside was devoured by the fowls of
the air; that which was sown upon the stony places, where there was
not much earth, could not withstand the heat of summer; and that which
fell among thorns was choked by the unconquered possessors of the
field. A little, a very little, which "fell into good ground brought
forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold";
and therein lies our only consolation.

The educational enthusiasts of 1870 forgot that the material they had
to work upon did not come from inherited refinement and intelligence;
that it was evolved from a parentage content with a vocabulary of some
500 words; that there was little nobility of home influence to assist
in the process of development; they crammed it with matter which it
could not assimilate, they took it from the open country air and the
sunshine, confined it in close and crowded school-rooms, and produced
what we see everywhere at the present time, at the cost of physical
deterioration--a diseased and unsettled mentality.

I am aware that there are those who decline to admit any influence of
mental heredity, and argue that environment is the only factor to be
considered. In a clever and well-reasoned work on the subject I lately
read, this proposition was substantiated by instances observable
especially among birds brought up in unnatural conditions. The writer,
however, entirely forgot the most conclusive piece of evidence in
favour of mental heredity which it is possible to adduce--namely, that
of the brood of ducklings, who, in spite of the unmistakable
manifestations of alarm on the part of a frantic foster-mother hen,
take to the water and enjoy it on the very first opportunity.



"There is sweet music here that softer falls
Than petals from blown roses on the grass."
_The Lotus-Eaters_.

Among village institutions a cricket club was started soon after I
first came, and I was able to lend a meadow in which the members could
play. I held the sinecure office of President. The members met,
discussed ways and means, drew up regulations, and instituted fines
for various delinquencies. Swearing was expensive at threepence each
time, but there was no definition of what were to be considered "swear
words." Locally, a usual expletive is, "daazz it," or, "I'll be
daazzed," and it was not long before a member making use of this
euphemism was accused of swearing. He protested that it was not
recognized by philological authorities as coming under the category,
but he had to pay up.

A village cricket match was regarded more as a contest than a pastime;
each side feared the censure of his parish, if conquered, so nothing
had to be given away likely to prove an advantage to an opposing team.
I once saw a member snatch a bat belonging to his own club from one of
the other side who was about to appropriate it for his innings with,
"No you don't." How different is the feeling, and how ready to help, a
member of a really sporting team would have been in similar
circumstances! Referring to help or advice in cricket matters, a story
is told of the late Dr. W.G. Grace. The incident happened in an
adjoining county to Worcestershire. The great batsman, crossing
Clifton Down, came upon some boys at cricket. Three sticks represented
the wickets, arranged so wide apart that the ball could pass through
without disturbing them. Ever ready to help, Dr. Grace pointed out the
fault and readjusted the sticks; as he turned away he heard, "What
does 'e know about it, I wonder!"

This carries me to a parallel happening at Stratford-on-Avon. The late
Sir Henry Irving and a friend fell in with a native on the outskirts
of the town, and being anxious to test the local reputation of the
poet asked the man if he had heard of a person named Shakespeare. The
man assented and volunteered the information that he was a writer. Did
he "know what Shakespeare had written?" Their informant could not say,
but, a moment after they had parted, he called back that he believed
he had written "part of the Bible."

An ancient villager, who was secretary of our Club and always acted as
umpire, gave me "out," incorrectly, for accidentally touching the
wicket when the ball was "dead." I retired without contesting his
decision, as I had been taught. Next time we met he apologized, having
discovered his mistake, but he was greatly impressed by my practical
example of "playing the game."

Cricket, though popular in my first years at Aldington, gradually
became difficult to arrange. As the market-garden industry superseded
farming, the young men found full employment for the long summer
evenings on their allotments and those of their parents. In the
winter, when horticultural work is not so pressing, they had plenty of
time on their hands, and a football club was formed. It flourished
exceedingly, and Badsey became almost invincible among the
neighbouring villages and even against the towns. They distinguished
themselves in the local League matches, and on one occasion, something
like two thousand spectators assembled to witness a final which Badsey
won, in the meadow I lent them; and I had the honour of presiding at a
grand dinner to celebrate the event. I notice in the local papers that
in spite of the interruption of the war they are now again thriving
and earning new laurels.

Our most important fete day was that upon which the Badsey, Aldington,
and Wickhamford Flower Show was held. The credit, for the original
inception and organization of this popular festival, is almost
entirely due, I think, to the public spirit and determination of my
old friend and co-churchwarden, Mr. Julius Sladden, of Badsey, and it
gives me much pleasure to record the debt of gratitude which the three
villages still owe him.

The Show is held as nearly as possible on the day of the ancient
Badsey wake, in most parishes still celebrated on the day of the
patron saint. In the case of Badsey the anniversary of the wake is the
25th of July (St. James's day). As a wake Badsey's observance is a
thing of the past; it was formerly a time of much cider-drinking, a
meeting-day for friends and relations, and for various trials of
strength and skill, though I believe the carousals outlasted the
sports by many years.

Nothing happier, in the way of a revival, and more civilized
enjoyment, could have been devised than a flower show, and it is now
one of the most popular fixtures of the neighbourhood with exceedingly
keen competition. Besides fruit, flowers, and vegetables, the exhibits
include such produce as butter and eggs, and my wife was very
successful with these, but on one occasion was rather disappointed to
find a beautiful dish of Langshan eggs, almost preternaturally brown
and rich-looking, disqualified. The judges were not acquainted with
the peculiarities of the breed--then a new one--and the reason for
disqualification, as we afterwards discovered, was "artificially
coloured." I believe exhibitors have been known to use coffee for this
purpose, and the judges, who had not the exhibitors' names before
them, fancied this to be an instance.

The children's exhibits of wild flower bouquets I always considered at
this and similar shows far the most interesting and beautiful among
the flowers; but, unfortunately, they very soon droop in a hot tent
and look rather unhappy.

Aldington Band was the outcome of a desire for musical expression on
the part of a few parishioners with some skill and experience in such
matters; it included performers on wind instruments and a big drum.
The Band was unfortunate at first in purchasing instruments of
differing pitch, as was discovered by my wife on attending a practice
at the request of the members. She pointed out the fault, and found an
instructor from Evesham to give them a course of lessons, so that with
a new set of instruments they soon improved. It was difficult, at
first, to find a suitable place for practice. A neighbour, a little
doubtful as to their attainments, suggested the railway arch in one of
my meadows as a nice airy spot under cover, but later expressed doubts
as to the safety of the trains running overhead on account of the
violence of the commotion beneath! This, of course, was mere chaff,
for they soon became so efficient that a large room was found for them
in the village, and eventually they were annually engaged to perform
the musical programme at the Badsey, Aldington, and Wickhamford Flower
Show. My gardener was the leading spirit of the Band, a great optimist
and the most willing man of any who ever reigned in my garden. There
was nothing he would not cheerfully undertake, and when we had a
difficulty in finding a sweep as required, he volunteered for the work
and became quite an adept, with the set of rods and brushes I bought
for the purpose.

Our postman, though not a villager, was quite an institution; he
walked a matter of ten miles a day from Evesham to Bretforton, taking
Aldington and Badsey on the way, and back at night. He filled up the
interval between the incoming and outgoing posts at Bretforton,
working at his trade as tailor. Entering our village each evening, he
announced his arrival by three blasts on his tin horn; he was very shy
of being observed in this performance, and the people had to catch him
as he passed and hand him their letters. He must have walked nearly
100,000 miles in the many years he was our postman, and he told me
before I left that more letters were addressed to the Manor when I
first came, than to all the rest of the houses in the village
together. When correspondence became more general a pillar-box was
erected, but I always regretted the loss of the familiar notes of the
tin horn.

Among Aldington's amusements no account would be complete without a
reference to the numerous concerts and entertainments for charitable
objects which my wife organized, and in which her musical talent
enabled her to take a prominent part; and although I feel some
hesitation in dealing with so personal a matter, I am certain that
many of those who co-operated with her in the organization and the
performance of these affairs will be pleased to have their
recollections of her own part in them revived.

She possessed a natural soprano voice of great sweetness and
flexibility, in combination with the sympathetic ability and clear
enunciation which add so much to the charm of vocal expression. She
was not allowed to begin singing, in earnest, before she was nineteen,
for fear of straining so delicate a voice, and she then had the
advantage of the tuition of Signor Caravoglia, one of the most
celebrated teachers of the time.

His method included deliberation in taking breath, thorough opening of
the mouth, practice before a mirror to produce a pleasing effect, and
to avoid facial contortion; he would not allow any visible effort, the
aim being to sing as naturally and spontaneously as a bird. His wife
played the accompaniments, so that the master could give his whole
attention to the attitude, production, and facial expression of the

Signer Caravoglia only consented to teach her on the express condition
that she would not sing in choruses, on account of the danger of
strain and overexertion. She practised regularly, chiefly exercises,
two hours a day in separate half hours. Her talent was soon recognized
at Malvern, where she lived before her marriage, and her assistance
was in great demand for amateur charity concerts.

I have a book full of newspaper reports of my wife's performances,
containing notices of concerts at Malvern repeatedly, Kidderminster,
Worcester, at Birmingham under the auspices of the Musical Section of
the Midland Institute--a very great honour before a highly critical
audience--Alcester, Pershore, Moreton-in-the-Marsh, Evesham, Broadway,
Badsey, Wallingford, and a great many villages in the Evesham
district. At Moreton she sang for the local Choral Society, taking the
soprano solos in the first part of Haydn's _Spring_, and the local
paper reported that her "birdlike voice added much to the beauty of
the cantata." In the second part of the concert she gave _The Bird
that came in Spring_, by Sterndale Bennett. I was always a little
nervous during this song in anticipation of the upper C towards the
finale, but it never failed to come true and brilliant. As we were
leaving by train the following morning we met a dear old musician who
had taken part in the chorus of the cantata. He begged to be
introduced to her, and said in his hearty congratulations on her
performance, that never before had such a note been heard in Moreton.

At one of the Broadway concerts my wife had the pleasure of meeting
Miss Maude Valerie White, who was playing the accompaniments for
performers of her own compositions, including _The Devout Lover_,
which, she told Miss White, she considered one of the best songs in
the English language, at the same time asking for her autograph. Miss
White was kind enough to write her signature with the MS. music of the
first phrase--notes and words--of the song in a book which my wife
kept for the autographs of distinguished musicians and celebrated

While at Malvern my wife once heard Jenny Lind in public, and she
describes it as a most memorable occasion.

Jenny Lind had for some years retired from public performance, but
consented to reappear at the request of a deputation of railway
employees anxious to arrange a concert in aid of the widows and
orphans of officials killed in a recent railway accident. She
stipulated that she should sing in two duets only, choosing the other
voice herself, and she selected Miss Hilda Wilson, the well-known
contralto of that time.

They sang two duets by Rubinstein, one being _The Song of the Summer
Birds_, full of elaborate execution. Her voice was so true, sweet and
flexible, trilling and warbling like a bird, and taking the A flat as
a climax of delight at the conclusion with the greatest ease, that
with closed eyes it might have been taken for the effort of a young

Jenny Lind was over seventy at the time; she was erect, tall, and
graceful; she wore a black dress with a good deal of white lace, and a
white lace cap. She was then Madame Otto Goldschmidt, living at the
Wynd's Point on the Herefordshire Beacon of the Malvern Range, and had
long been known as the "Swedish Nightingale."



"I'll give thrice so much land
To any well-deserving friend;
But in the way of bargain, mark ye me,
I'll cavil on the ninth part of a hair."
--_1 Henry IV_.

Dealers of all kinds were much more frequent callers at farm-houses in
the early days of my farming, than latterly when auction sales, to
some extent, superseded private negotiations, but the horse-dealer
remained constant, because comparatively few horses were offered by
auction. The horse-dealers appeared to conform to an understanding
that it was a breach of etiquette to exceed certain well-marked
boundaries in their search for purchases, or to interfere in each
other's business. This principle was carried so far as to prevent
dealers from one of these "countries" purchasing a horse at a fair
coming from another dealer's "country," and the understanding of
course minimized competition likely to raise the price. The dealers
however I think, gave fair values, governed for the most part by the
prices obtainable by them in the large towns.

Most of my horses, when for sale, were bought by a man in a
considerable way of business, a well-known breeder, too, of shire
horses, taking many prizes at the leading shows. A handsome man with a
presence, and an excellent judge, shrewd but straight. He would ask
the price after examining the animal, and make an offer which he would
very seldom exceed if refused at first; but he would spend some time
in conversation, apparently quite irrelevant and very amusing, though
always returning to the point at intervals with arguments in favour of
the acceptance of his bid. He was so genial and pleasant and such good
company, for no man was ever better acquainted with the ways of the
world, that he very rarely, I think, left the premises without a deal,
though sometimes he was in his gig before the final bargain was
struck. It is a custom of the trade for the seller to give something
back to the buyer by way of "luck money," and the last time I did
business with him I refused to give more than one shilling each on two
horses, as I never received more than that sum when a buyer myself. He
accepted cheerfully, telling me that a shilling each was quite worth
taking, as he had a thousand horses through his hands in the course of
every twelve months, and that a thousand shillings meant L50 a year.

The best piece of horse-dealing I ever did, was the purchase of a six
months old colt for L26, winning L20 in prizes with him as a
two-year-old, working him regularly at three and four on the farm, and
selling him at five for eighty guineas to a large brewery firm. Eighty
guineas in those days was a big price for a cart horse, though, of
course, in modern times, owing to the war, much higher prices can be

I remember another dealer, who, a notable figure in a white top hat
with a deep black band, and large coloured spectacles, was to be seen
at all the fairs and principal sales. He, too, had an ingratiating
manner, and would accost a young farmer with a hearty, "Good-morning,
Squire," or some such flattering introduction. A wise dealer always
knows how to keep up amicable relations with a possible seller or
buyer, and never descends to abuse, or the assumption of a personal
injury if he cannot persuade a seller to accept his price, as is the
case with some dealers with less _savoir faire_.

A successful cattle dealer I knew had similar tactics of fraternity,
always addressing his sellers as "Governor," with marked respect. But
the best instance of this diplomatic spirit occurred in the case of a
deal between an old Hampshire friend of mine and a well-known and
historic sheep dealer from the same county. My friend had lately
become the happy father of twins, the fact being widely known in the
neighbourhood, for he was a very prominent man. He had 100 sheep for
sale, and the dealer was inspecting them, in a pen near the house. As
the bargain proceeded, the front door opened, and a nurse-maid
appeared with the twins in their perambulator. The dealer noticed them
immediately, and was not slow to turn the incident to his advantage.
"There they be, there they be, the little darlings," he called out, "a
sovereign apiece nurse, a sovereign apiece." Diving into a capacious
pocket, he pulled out a handful of gold and silver, and selecting two
sovereigns he handed them to the nurse for the children. "After that,"
my friend said, "what could I do but sell him the sheep, though he got
them at two shillings a head less than I ought to have made." Now two
shillings a head, on one hundred sheep, represents ten pounds, leaving
eight pounds which the dealer earned by his keen insight into human

This dealer carried on business with a brother, and they were to be
seen for very many years at all the large Hampshire summer sheep
fairs, where indeed, sometimes, when prices were rising, they owned
nearly all the sheep offered for sale, having bought them up
beforehand. As in a favourable summer when there was plenty of keep
and a good prospect of abundant roots prices would rise as much as
10s. a head during the months of the big fairs, and as at a single
fair as many as 30,000 sheep would be for sale, the chances of profit
offered to the courageous dealer with capital are manifest.

Though risen from small beginnings, these brothers amassed
considerable fortunes, all of which, it was said, they invested in
real estate, so that they were known at one time to be worth at least
L100,000; and, as they continued in business for some years after the
time of which I am writing, they must have exceeded that sum
considerably as a total, though the values of land began to fall away
towards the end of their active existence.

The more energetic of the two used very original phrases, in which he
extolled the physical virtues of flocks he had to sell; referring to
their size, he would say, "Just look at their backs! look at their
backs! they be as long as a wet Sunday!" Watching him, you could see
that while giving full attention to his customer, and keeping him in a
good humour with pleasant chat, while a bargain was proceeding, his
glance perpetually wandered to the moving crowd around the pens, and
that he had not only eyes, but ears, open to catch any impression
bearing on the progress of the general trade. He knew everybody, and
intuition told him upon what business they were present.

These two dealers combined money-lending with sheep-dealing; if a
buyer had not the ready cash they would give credit for the purchase
price, the sheep forming the security; it being understood that when
they were again for sale the lenders should have the selling of them
on commission.

Speaking of horse-dealers I referred to the custom of giving "luck
money," otherwise called "chap money." The word "chap" takes its
derivation from the Anglo-Saxon _ceap_ price or bargain, and
_ceapean_, to bargain, whence come the words "chop," to exchange;
"cheap," "Cheapside," "Mealcheapen Street" in Worcester, "cheapjack,"
etc. Also, the prefix in the names of market towns, such as Chipping
Campden, Chipping Norton, etc. There is a curious place-name here in
Burley, New Forest, where I am now living, spelt "Shappen," which
puzzled me until I chanced to meet with an ancient print of a village
merry-making, with dancing and a May-pole and found that the name
Shappen applied especially to the spot, and that not far away the
Forest ponies and cattle were formerly penned for sale at an annual
fair in a lane, still called Pound Lane "Pound" is from the
Anglo-Saxon _pund_, a fold or inclosure. Shappen is evidently,
therefore, derived from _ceap_ (and possibly _pund_) as a place in
which bargains were struck, and the name testifies to the extreme
antiquity of the New Forest pony and cattle fair formerly held there.

There are several notable horse fairs still held near Evesham. Besides
the one at Pershore, already mentioned, the most important fairs are
held at Stow-on-the-Wold and Shipston-on-Stour, both very
out-of-the-way places; and many stories of the wiles of horse-copers
were related in connection therewith. I remember the following told as
occurring at Stow-on-the-Wold. A man approached a simple-looking young
farmer, and getting into conversation with him, pointed out a horse
not far off, telling him that he had quarrelled with the owner who
refused in consequence to sell him the horse which he wished to buy.
He promised the farmer L2 if he would undertake the negotiation, and
could buy the horse for L10. The farmer agreed, and after some
apparent difficulty succeeded in effecting the purchase at the sum
named, paid the money and returned with the horse to the place where
he had left his acquaintance. The latter, however, had disappeared,
and after searching the fair from one end to the other, the farmer
took back the horse, to repudiate the bargain. The owner had also
vanished, and the farmer found himself with an ancient screw, which
eventually he was glad to get rid of at a pound a leg, losing L6 on
the deal.

There are small pig-dealers, in almost every village, on the lookout
for bargains, and very cute men they generally are. One of these
well-known at Aldington, though nearly blind, could tell the points
and value of any pig in a marvellous way almost by intuition; it was
said of him that, "though blind, he was a better judge of a pig than
most folks with their eyes open."

At farm and other auction sales there are always anxious buyers who
make a practice of trying to depreciate ("crabbing," as it is called)
any article or property they particularly wish to purchase, by making
damaging statements or insinuations to anybody whom, they fear, is
also a probable buyer. At a sale of cottage property adjoining a
public-house, in a village not far from Aldington, a keen purchaser
remarked that there was no water on the premises. The auctioneer,
however, knowing that water was not his man's strong point,
immediately replied, "Oh, never mind the water, sir, there's plenty of
whisky to be had next door." At another property sale, the tenant of
the house on offer, gratuitously informed me that the roof was in a
very bad state; knowing my man, I was not surprised when the house was
knocked down to him, but I never saw any repairs to the roof in
progress afterwards.

A friend of mine had a caretaker in an empty house, and, finding that
no applications to view ever got beyond that stage, called at the
house with his wife, ostensibly as intending tenants. He was not
personally known to the caretaker, and on making the usual inquiries,
found the man by no means enthusiastic as to the amenities of the
place, and particularly doubtful as to the drainage, so much so as to
make it plain that any otherwise likely tenant would be repelled.
Knowing that all the sanitary arrangements were in perfect order, he
disclosed his identity, much to the dismay of the caretaker who, of
course, was dismissed.

The person who asks damaging questions of the auctioneer or solicitor
at a property sale, though perhaps not declared the buyer on the fall
of the hammer, not infrequently proves later to have been so, having
employed an agent to bid for him.

At a sale of farm stock and implements I was examining a waggon
practically new, though with no intention of buying, when I was
surprised by a cousin of the vendor volunteering the statement that,
having lately borrowed the waggon, he noticed one of the wheels giving
out a suspicious noise when in use, as if something were wrong. This
was a particularly bad case of "crabbing," as the man eventually
became the purchaser at a high price.

It is an alarming sensation to see one's name on a waggon for the
first time, especially when the vehicle has been wholly repainted in
blue or yellow to represent the owner's supposed political tendencies,
for such was the custom in Worcestershire; but perhaps one's name,
address, and crest on a hop-pocket is more alarming still, when we
remember that twenty or more of these pockets, all marked alike, will
form each of several loads to be carted from a London railway station
to the Borough, the seat of the hop-trade, on the way to the factor's
warehouses, for all beholders to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly

In the delightful and now somewhat rare book _Talpa; or, The
Chronicles of a Clay Farm_, by Chandos Wren Hoskins, one of the few
agricultural works ever written by a scholar, he refers to his first
experience of this sort, when speaking of his difficulty in making up
his mind as to whether he should let the property into which he had
just come by inheritance, or occupy it himself, as follows:

"What was to be done? Apostatize from all the promises and
vows made from my youth up, and take it _in hand_--that is,
in a bailiff's hand, which certain foregone experiences had
led me to conceive was of all things the most _out of hand_
(if that may be called so, which empties the hand and the
pocket too). Such seemed the only alternative! At first it
was an impossibility--then an improbability--and then, as
the ear of bearded corn wins its forbidden way up the
schoolboy's sleeve, and gains a point in advance by every
effort to stop or expel it, so did every determination,
every reflection counteract the very purpose it was summoned
to oppose, and, in short, one fine morning I almost jumped a
yard backward at seeing--my own name on a waggon!"

The reference to a bailiff reminds me of my father's illustration, one
evening at dessert, of the difference between a farmer selling his
produce personally, or doing so through the medium of a bailiff.
Taking three wine-glasses--No. 1 representing the farmer, No. 2 the
bailiff, and No. 3 the purchaser--he filled No. 1 with port and poured
the contents into No. 3; what few drops were left in No. 1 remained
the property of the farmer. But if the wine were poured into No. 2,
and from thence into No. 3, however much the complete transference was
attempted, some small portion always remained for the benefit of the

I always conducted my sales personally, except in small matters, and
my experience in the latter proved an exception to the above rule, as
I have previously related (pp. 17 and 20).

I commend _Talpa_, with George Cruikshank's clever illustrations, to
the attention of all readers of the curiosities of agriculture, as
well as to practical men; it is one of those uncommon books which
enters into the humorous side of farming under disadvantages--as, for
instance, prejudiced labourers who have long been employed upon such
work as draining. The author found one of the men, after instructions
to lay the pipes at a depth of three feet, cutting a drain about
eighteen inches deep, _laying in the tiles, one by one, and filling
the earth in over them as he went_. "I've been a-draining this forty
year and more--I ought to know summat about it." The author adds,
"Need I tell you who said this? or give you the whole of the colloquy
to which it furnished the epilogue?" _Talpa_ was published sixty-seven
years ago, but it contains much that might well be taken to heart by
our post-war amateur agricultural reconstructionists.

The tactics of a combination of buyers at a sale of household goods,
with an arrangement for one man to buy everything they want, so as to
avoid competition, is well known as "the knock out." I saw a most
flagrant case at a sale of valuable books at an old Cotswold Manor
House. The books were tied up, quite promiscuously, in parcels of half
a dozen or more, and although the room was crowded with dealers who
had been examining them with interest beforehand, practically only one
bidder appeared, and nearly every lot was sold to him for a few
shillings. I noticed several men taking notes of the prices made, and,
immediately the book sale was finished, they removed them to the lawn,
where they were resold by one of the gang at greatly enhanced prices.
They would, of course, eventually deduct the original cost from the
amount now realized and divide the difference amongst the buyers at
the second sale, _pro rata_, according to the amount of each man's
total purchases.

Cattle-dealers, with a reputation as judges of fat stock at auctions,
have to be very careful not to let inexperienced butchers see them
bidding, because the latter will bid on the strength of the dealer's
estimate of value, arguing that the animal must be worth more to
himself as a butcher, than to the dealer who has to sell again. I have
often watched the crafty ways of such dealers not to give themselves
away in this manner, and their methods of concealing their bids. One I
particularly noticed, whose habit was to stand just below the
auctioneer's rostrum, facing the animal in the ring, with his back to
the auctioneer. When he wished to bid he raised his head very
slightly, making a nod backwards to the auctioneer, who, knowing his
man, was looking out for this method of attracting his attention.

Though the ordinary farm sale is by far the most amusing and
picturesque, the sale of pedigree stock is much more sensational. When
the shorthorn mania was at its height, and the merits of Bates and
Booth blood were hotly debated, when such phrases as "the sea-otter
touch," referring to the mossy coat of the red, white, or roan
shorthorn, were heard, and the Americans were competing with our own
breeders in purchasing the best stock they could find--prices were
hoisted to an extravagant height. There is no forming a "knock-out" at
a pedigree sale; sturdy competition is the only recognized method of
purchase, and the sporting spirit is a strong incentive, especially
when the vendor is known as a courageous buyer at the sales of the
leading breeders.

I attended the dispersal of a herd where the owner had been for years
one of these sporting buyers; he had, however, gone more for catalogue
blue-blood than perceptible excellence, and the stock were brought
into the ring scarcely up to the exhibition form which a pedigree sale
demands. The American buyers were well represented, and the popularity
of the vendor brought a great crowd of home buyers, so that the sale
went off with spirit. I chanced to sit next to the veterinary surgeon
who attended my own stock as well as the herd on offer, and it was
amusing to hear his confidential communications as the animals were
sold at huge prices. He knew their faults and weaknesses
professionally, and it was no breach of confidence, when a cow had
passed through the ring and extracted a big figure from an American
buyer, to whisper them in my ear. I noticed that the Americans, no
doubt with commissions to buy a particular strain of pedigree,
appeared to pay more attention to the catalogue than to the cattle
themselves, and I saw some sold at fancy prices, which I should really
have been sorry to see in my own non-pedigree herd. The sale was a
great success, from the vendor's point of view at any rate, and I
think the average exceeded seventy guineas all round, including calves
only a few months old.

Some years later I visited Shipston-on-Stour with two friends to
attend a shorthorn sale in that neighbourhood. Mr. Thornton, the
well-known pedigree salesman, was the auctioneer. He waited about for
a long time after the hour fixed for the sale, until it became evident
that something had gone wrong. It appeared that the sheriff's
representative had served a writ on the vendor restraining the sale,
and although it was stated that Thornton had offered a personal
guarantee that the proceeds should be handed over to the sheriff, the
representative could not exceed his instructions, and the sale was
abandoned. A large company, including many foreign buyers, had
assembled; it was difficult to get these together at a postponement,
and when the sale was proceeded with some weeks later, I fear the
result could scarcely have proved so satisfactory.

The Vale of Evesham is particularly suitable for pedigree shorthorn
breeding, as the soil and climate are very favourable for their
production according to exhibition type. It is otherwise with the
Jersey, for they quickly adapt themselves to the difference in their
environment as compared with the conditions in their native Channel
Island. When I exchanged my shorthorns for Jerseys, owing to the
foreign competition in the production of beef, which at sevenpence a
pound compared unfavourably with butter at fifteenpence, I imported my
cows direct from the Island, and afterwards bred from their
descendants, selling the bull calves, and occasionally buying a young
bull from Jersey. The blood was therefore kept absolutely pure, and,
as I was a member of the English Jersey Society, all my stock were
entered in the Herd Book.

As time went on my cattle presented a noticeable change from the
original type; they were larger, developing much more hair and bone,
and though they gained in strength of constitution, and were handsome
and profitable, they gradually lost the dainty deer-like appearance of
the imported stock; and though quite as valuable for the purposes of
the dairy, they would have been regarded in the show ring by
connoisseurs as having a tendency to coarseness. I was, at first,
successful at the shows, but as the character of my cattle altered I
recognized that they would stand no chance against Jerseys bred on
lighter land, and in a climate more nearly approximating to that of
their native country.

Precisely the same thing happened with my pedigree Shropshire sheep;
environment altered their character and produced a different
type--bone, wool, and size all increased. The wool was coarser and
darker in colour; they were good, useful, hardy stock, but could not
compete in quality with the pedigree sheep bred in their own county.
No pedigree Shropshire breeder will, as a rule, buy rams bred outside
his own district, for fear of introducing coarseness and an alteration
of the established exhibition type.

An amusing incident happened at Mr. Graham's sale at Yardley near
Birmingham, at which I was present. Mr. Graham had a reputation as a
Shropshire sheep-breeder; though not actually farming in the county,
his land was not unsuitable, and, on one occasion, I believe, he won
the first prize for a shearling ram at the show of the Royal
Agricultural Society of England.

I noticed a very non-agricultural individual in a top hat, who tried
to get into conversation with me and who succeeded in getting a
luncheon ticket gratis. These sale luncheons were at the time very
bountiful spreads, including plenty of champagne, and the man under my
observation made a very hearty meal. Short speeches and toasts always
follow, but an adjournment is quickly made to the sale tent, before
the evaporation of the effects of the hospitality. It is the custom
for a glove to be passed round to collect subscriptions for the
shepherd, during the progress of the sale, and on this occasion two
young fellows undertook the duty of collectors. The man, who had done
himself so well at Mr. Graham's expense, was evidently not buying or
even making bids, and to each of the collectors he said he had already
contributed to the other. Being suspicious they compared notes, and
found that he had made the same excuse to both. Such meanness after
the hospitality he had received was intolerable; shouting, "He's a
Welsher," they lifted him bodily, protesting and struggling, rushed
him out of the tent into a neighbouring field, and cast him into a
dirty pond covered with green and slimy duckweed! A miserable object
he scrambled out, for the pond was shallow, and took his dishevelled
and bedraggled presence away as fast as he could limp along, amid the
laughter and jeers of the crowd.

The Hampshire Down ram sales in the palmy days of farming were
organized upon the same scale of liberality, and while the sale was
proceeding steam was kept up by handing round boxes of sixpenny
cigars, and brandy and water in buckets. It is, of course, good policy
to keep a company of buyers in good humour, but I think it has long
since been recognized that hospitality was carried a little too far in
those times of prosperity, and, in these degenerate if more
business-like days, extravagance is much less evident, though there is
a hearty welcome and abundance for all.

Agricultural shows under favourable weather conditions are always
popular and well-attended. The large exhibitions of the Royal
Agricultural Society of England, the Bath and West of England, and the
Royal Counties, especially attract immense crowds; much business in
novel implements, machinery, seeds, and artificial fertilizers, was
done when times were good, and the towns in which the shows are held
benefit by a large increase in general trade. The weather, however, is
the arbiter as to the attendance, upon which the financial result of
the show depends.

In 1879, the last of the miserable decade that ruined thousands of
farmers all over the country with almost continuous wet seasons, poor
crops, and wretched prices, the Royal Agricultural Society held its
show at Kilburn. The ground had been carefully prepared and adapted
for the great show with the usual liberal outlay; the work for next
year's show always commencing as soon as the show of the current year
is over; but the site was situated on the stiff London clay, and,
after weeks of summer rains and the traffic caused by collecting the
heavy engines and machinery and the materials used in the construction
of the sheds and buildings, the ground was churned into a quagmire of
clay and water, so that in places it was impassable, and some of the
exhibits were isolated. Thousands of wattled hurdles were purchased in
Hampshire, and laid flat on the mud along the main routes to the tents
and sheds, but they were quickly trodden in out of sight. Many
ponderous engines were bogged on their way to their appointed places;
nothing could move them, and they remained looking like derelict
wrecks, plastered with mud, sunk unevenly above the axles of their

I attended the show and shall never forget the scene of disaster. One
afternoon the Prince of Wales--the late King Edward--and a Royal party
made a gallant attempt, in carriages, to see the principal exhibits,
and succeeded, by following a carefully selected and guarded route.
The crowd was dense by the side of the track, and people were making a
harvest by letting out chairs to stand on, so as to get a view of the
procession, with cries of, "'Ere you are, sir; 'ere you are, warranted
not to sink in more than a mile!" Outside the show-yard, too, the
streets were lined with long rows of nondescripts, scraping the
adhesive clay off the shoes of the people leaving the show.

I had a pocket of my hops on exhibition entered in the Worcester
class, and had great difficulty in getting near it. I found the shed
at last, deserted and surrounded by water, with a pool below the
benches on which the hops were staged. My pocket was sold straight
from the show-yard, and when my factor sent in the account, I found
that the pocket had gained no less than seventeen pounds from the damp
to which it had been subjected since it left my premises, about ten
days previously; hops, at that time, were worth about 1s. a pound, so
that the increased value more than balanced all expenses.

A story is told of Tennyson at the Royal Counties show at Guildford.
Accompanied by a lady and child he was walking round the exhibits,
closely followed by an ardent admirer, anxious to catch any nights of
fancy that might fall from his lips. Time passed, and the poet showed
no signs of inspiration until the party approached a refreshment tent;
then, to the lady he said, to the astonishment of the follower, "Just
look after this child a minute while I go and get a glass of beer!" I
cannot vouch for the truth of this story, but I tell the tale as 'twas
told to me.

It is surprising how long farm implements will last if kept in the dry
and repaired when necessary. I remember a waggon at Alton in the
seventies, which bore the name of the original owner and the date
1795; it was still in use. When I decided to give up farming, or
rather, when farming had given up me, I disposed of my stock and
implements by the usual auction sale. The attraction of a pedigree
herd of Jerseys, and a useful lot of horses and implements, brought a
large company together, and Aldington was a lively place that day. I
was talking to my son-in-law some time afterwards, and spoke with
amusement about the price an old iron Cambridge roller had made, not
in the least knowing who was the purchaser, until he said, "And _I was
the mug_ who bought it!" I believe, however, that a year or two later
it fully maintained its price when valued to the next owner, and
probably to-day it must be worth at least three times the money. I can
trace its history for a period of fifty-three years, and I don't think
it was new at the beginning.



"And who that knew him could forget
The busy wrinkles round his eyes."
--_The Miller's Daughter_.

Many specialists, in distinct professions, visited the farm in the
course of every twelve months, and each appeared at the season when
his particular services were likely to be required. Among these an
ancient grafter was one of the most important, and April was the month
which brought him to Aldington. In January we had usually beheaded
some trees that we considered not worth leaving as they were: these
would be trees producing inferior and nondescript cider apples, or
perry pears. And we had already cut, and laid in a shady place, half
covered with soil, the young shoots of profitable sorts to furnish the
grafts for converting the beheaded trees into valuable producers.

The old man's function was to prepare the grafts, and unite them in
deftly-cut notches with their new parents. His was a rosy-cheeked and
many-wrinkled face, reminding one of an apple stored all the winter,
and, in his brown velveteen coat, with immense pockets, he made a
notable figure. He loved a chat and was always happy and
communicative, and his arrival seemed as much a herald of spring as
that of the welcome cuckoo. He was paid "by the piece,"
"three-halfpence a graft and cider," quantity not specified, but an
important part of the bargain because of a superstition that grafts
"unwetted" would not thrive! Some of these large trees would have ten
or more limbs requiring separate grafting, and therefore they earned
him a considerable sum, but it is surprising how soon they make a new
head, come into bearing, and repay with interest the cost of the work.

He was a thoughtful old man and a moralist. I can see him now,
standing with his snuff-box open ready in his hand, and saying very
solemnly, "I often thinks as an apple-tree is very similar to a child,
for you know, sir, we're told to train up a child in the way he shall
go, and when he is old he will not depart therefrom." He then
refreshed himself with a mighty pinch of snuff, closing his box with a
snap that emphasized his air of complete conviction.

I think the sheep-dipper was one of the early arrivals. He brings with
him an apparatus which provides a bath, and a kind of gangway, rising
at an angle from it, upon which the sheep can stand after immersion,
to allow the superfluous liquid to find its way back into the bath;
each sheep is lifted by two men into the bath containing insecticide,
and has an interval for dripping before it rejoins the flock. In the
days when Viper was young, he was introduced to the process and given
a dip himself, much to his disgust; but that was the only time, for
ever afterwards no sooner did the sheep-dipper and his weird-looking
apparatus appear at night, in readiness for the performance on the
morrow, than Viper remembered his undignified experience, and, before
even the overture of the play commenced, vanished for the day. Nobody
saw him go, or knew where he went, but it was useless to call or
whistle, he was nowhere to be found.

I believe the active ingredient of the dip was a preparation of
arsenic, and upon one occasion I lost several sheep after the dipping,
presumably from arsenical poisoning absorbed through the skin. I met
the dipper a few days later, and he said with a beaming face that he
had "given 'em summat," meaning the parasites. His smiles disappeared
when I told him the result, and that the remedy had proved more fatal
than the disease. After this experience I used a more scientific dip
which was quite as effective and without the element of danger to the

Entries are to be found in the old parish records of sums paid and
chargeable to the parish for killing "woonts" (moles), but later
private enterprise was alone responsible. A mole-catcher had been
employed throughout the whole of my predecessor's time at Aldington,
with a yearly remuneration of 12s. On my arrival he called and asked
me to forward the account for the last year to his employer; it ran as
follows: "To dastroyin thay woonts, 12s." The man hoped that I should
continue the arrangement, but, as I had not seen a mole or a mole-hill
on the farm, I told him I would wait, and would send for him if I
found them troublesome. As a matter of fact I never saw a mole, or
heard of one on my land, throughout the twenty-eight years of my

Rat-catchers are necessary when rats are very numerous, but rats
appear to be very capricious, abounding in some seasons and scarce in
others. My particular rat-catcher was not a very highly evolved
specimen of humanity; he was thin and hungry-looking with an angular
face, bearing a strong resemblance to the creatures against whom he
waged warfare; he had a wandering, restless and furtive expression,
and appeared to be perpetually on the lookout for his prey, or for
manifestations of their cunning and other evil characteristics in the
humanity with which he came in contact. His terms were, "no cure, no
pay," which impressed one with his confidence in his own remedies; but
these were profound secrets, and I had to be content with the
assurance that he used nothing harmful to man or domestic animals. He
was certainly successful, and effectually cleared the ricks and
buildings at one of my outlying places previously badly infested; no
dead rats were ever found, but all disappeared very soon after I
engaged him.

It is well known that rats will unexpectedly desert quarters which
they have occupied for a long time, and travel in large bodies to a
new locality. An old man told me that, in walking by the brook-side
footpath from Aldington to Badsey, he once encountered one of these
armies; they looked so threatening and were in such numbers, that he
had to turn aside to allow them to pass, as they showed no signs of
giving way for him.

One morning my bailiff came in to say that a bean-rick had suddenly
been taken possession of by an immense number of rats, where shortly
before not one could have been found. A man going to the rick-yard
quite early had seen the roof of the rick black with them; they were
apparently drinking the dew hanging in drops on the straws of the
thatch. They were so close together, "so thick," as he expressed it,
that one was killed by a stone thrown "into the brown" of them. We
sent for the thrashing machine a day or two later, and killed over
seventy, and many escaped. Every dead rat was plastered with mud
underneath, especially on their tails, and it was evident that they
had only just arrived when first seen, and had travelled some
distance, probably the evening before, along the clayey overhanging
bank of the brook.

We always had great numbers of water-rats about brook; they are no
relation of the land-rat, having blunter, noses, shorter tails, and
very soft fur. They have not the loathsome appearance of the land-rat,
and live, almost entirely, on water-weeds, rushes, and other vegetable
matter. It is pretty to see them swimming across a stream; they dive
when alarmed, and remain out of sight a long time; they never leave
the water or the bank, and are quite innocent of depredations on corn.

In some counties, but not so far as I am aware in Worcestershire, one
of the harmless snappers up of unconsidered trifles is the
truffle-hunter. At Alton, in Hampshire, one of these men appeared in
summer; he carried an implement like a short-handled thistle spud, but
with a much longer blade, similar to that of a small spade but
narrower; he was accompanied by a frisky little Frenchified dog,
unlike any dog one commonly sees, and very alert. The hunting ground
was beneath the overhanging branches of beech-trees, growing on a
chalky soil; the man encouraged the dog by voice to hunt the surface
of the land regularly over; when the dog scented the truffles
underneath, he began to scratch, whereupon the implement came into
use, and they were soon secured. I have since been sorry that I did
not interview this truffle-hunter as to his methods and as to his dog,
for I believe he is no longer to be seen in his old haunts. But I did
get a pound or two to try, and was disappointed by the absence of
flavour. I have since read that the English truffle is considered very
inferior to the French, which is used in making _pate de foie gras_.

The wool-stapler makes his rounds as soon as shearing is completed;
his first call is to examine the fleeces, and if a deal results a
second visit follows for weighing and packing. He is of course well up
in market values, probably receiving a telegram every morning, when
trade is active, from the great wool-trade centre, Bradford. He is not
unwilling to give a special price for quality, but will sometimes
stipulate for secrecy as to the sum, because farmers, naturally,
compare notes, and everyone thinks himself entitled to the top price
no matter how inferior or badly washed his wool may be. The Bradford
stapler has the northern method of speech, which sounds unfamiliar in
the midland and southern counties, but it is not so cryptic as that of
the Scottish wool trade. The following colloquy is reported as having
passed between two Scots over a deal in woollen cloth.

_Buyer_. "'Oo?"

_Seller_. "Ay, 'oo."

_Buyer_. "A' 'oo?"

_Seller_. "Ay, a' 'oo."

_Buyer_. "A' _a_ 'oo?"

_Seller_. "Ay, a' _a_ 'oo."

Which, being interpreted, is: "Wool?"--"Yes, wool." "All wool?"--"Yes,
all wool." "All one wool?"--"Yes, all one wool."

When the stapler arrives for the weighing he brings his steelyards and
sheets; the wool is trod into the sheets, sewn up, and each sheet
weighed separately, an allowance being made for "tare" (the weight of
the sheet), and for "draught" (1/2 a pound in each tod, or 28 pounds).
This last is a survival of the old method of weighing wool, when only
enough fleeces were weighed at a time on the farmer's small machine to
come to a tod as nearly as possible. Buyers did not recognize anything
but level pounds (no quarters or halves), and consequently they got on
the average half a pound over the tod at each separate weighing,

Owing to the immense importations of Australian wool, the price of
English, which at one time was half-a-crown a pound, fell to the
miserable figure of sevenpence or thereabouts. When I was in
Lincolnshire, the tenant of the farm where I was a pupil clipped 14
pounds each from 200 "hoggs" (yearling sheep), which at 2s. 6d. per
pound produced 35s. per sheep, equal to L350, so the fall of
three-quarters of the value was a serious loss.

A story is told of a cunning wool buyer in the dim past weighing up
wool on an upper floor of some farm premises. As the fleeces passed
the machine they were thrown down an opening to the floor beneath in
readiness for packing. The pile of wool upstairs had been there some
time, and was full of rats. As the fleeces were moved a rat would
sometimes rush out trying to escape. No farm labourer can resist a rat
hunt, so the buyer being left alone beside the still unmoved fleeces,
whenever a rat appeared, and the men scattered in every direction in
pursuit, he took the opportunity to kick a few fleeces unweighed down
the opening. When the owner came to reckon the quantity the buyer
should have had, and compared it with the weight, the fraud was
discovered, and the deficiency had to be made good.

I heard of a Hampshire farmer whose wife was anxious for a
drawing-room to be added to an inadequate farmhouse, and the tenant
with some difficulty persuaded the landlord to make the alteration.
When the work was complete the farmer expressed the great satisfaction
of his wife and himself with the addition, and the landlord was
anxious to see the new room. Every time he suggested a day, the farmer
objected that it would be inconvenient to his wife, or that he himself
would be away from home. Time went on, and the landlord, finding it
impossible to arrange a day that was not objected to, made a surprise
visit, when shooting over the farm. The farmer protested as to the
inconvenience, but the owner insisted, and was conducted to the new
drawing-room. The door was thrown open, and the room was seen to be
stacked from floor to ceiling with wool, without a stick of furniture
in the place!

The veterinary surgeon is a necessary, but not very welcome visitor,
for, of course, his attendance means disease or accident to the stock.
He is not often mistaken in his diagnosis, though his patient cannot
detail his symptoms, or point to the position of the trouble. But the
vet is a man to be dispensed with as long as possible when epidemics,
like swine fever or foot and mouth disease, are raging in the
neighbourhood, because he may be a Government Inspector at such times,
and there is great danger to healthy stock if he has been officially
employed shortly before on an inspection. We had very little disease
at Aldington, being off the highroad, but we had one bad attack of
foot and mouth disease which I always thought was brought by a
veterinary surgeon. The complaint went all through my dairy cows and
fattening bullocks, and soon reduced them to lean beasts, but it was
surprising how quickly they picked up again in flesh and resumed their
normal appearance. It was curious to notice that, with the cows
standing side by side in the sheds, the disease would attack one and
miss the next two perhaps, then attack two and miss one, and so on;
doubtless it was a matter of predisposition on the part of those

The veterinary lecturer at Cirencester College told me that during the
cattle plague in the sixties he had a coat well worth L50 to any
veterinary surgeon, so impregnated was it with the infection. This man
was fond of scoring off the students, and had a habit at the
commencement of each lecture of holding a short _viva voce_
examination on the subject of the last. I remember when the tables
were turned upon him by a ready-witted student. The lecturer, who was
a superior veterinary surgeon, detailed a whole catalogue of
exaggerated symptoms exhibited by an imaginary horse, and selecting
his victim added, with a chuckle, "Now, Mr. K., perhaps you will
kindly tell us what treatment you would adopt under these
circumstances?" K. was not a very diligent student, and the lecturer
expected a display of ignorance, but his anticipated triumph was cut
short by the reply: "Well, if I had a horse as bad as all that _I_
should send for the vet." The lecturer expostulated, but could get
nothing further out of K., and was forced to recognize that the
general laugh which followed was against himself.

At a _post-mortem_, however, he was more successful in his choice of a
butt. A dead horse with organs exposed was the object before the
class, and the lecturer was asking questions as to their
identification. "Now, Mr. Jones, perhaps you will show us where his
lungs are?" Jones made an unsuccessful search. "Well, can we see where
his heart is?" and so on--all failures. Finally and scornfully, "Well,
perhaps you can show the gentlemen where his tail is!"

The village thatcher, Obadiah B., was an ancient, but efficient
workman when engaged upon cottages or farm buildings, for ricks
require only a comparatively temporary treatment. He was paid by the
"square" of 100 feet, and, although he was "no scholard," and never
used a tape, he was quite capable of checking by some method I could
never fathom my own measurements with it. The finishing touches to his
work were adjusted with the skill of an artist and the accuracy of a
mathematician; and a beautiful bordering of "buckles" in an elaborate
pattern of angles and crosses--"Fantykes" (Van Dycks), his
hard-working daughter Sally called them--completed the job. He
"reckoned" that each thatching would last at least twenty years, and
being well stricken in years, or "getting-up-along" as they say in
Hampshire, he would add gloomily, "_I_ shall never do it no more." He
was a true prophet, for on every building he thatched for me the work
outlived him, and even after the lapse of thirty years is not
completely worn out.

Passing him and his son in the village street, outside his house, when
he was packing fruit for market, I heard him, his voice raised for my
benefit, thus admonishing his son who was casually using some of the
newer hampers: "Allus wear out the old, fust." But I must not
attribute to his son the unfilial retort which another youth made
under similar circumstances, when told to fetch some more hampers from
a shed some distance away: "No, father, _you_ fetch them, allus wear
out the old fust, you know."

Occasional visitors come with goods for sale in quest of orders, and
some are very persistent and difficult to get rid of. A man professing
to sell some artificial fertilizer called upon me with a small tin
sample box, containing a mixture which emitted a most villainous
odour. He sniffed with appreciation at the compound, probably
consisting of some nitrogenous material such as wool treated with
sulphuric or hydrochloric acid, and began his address. He had not gone
far before I remembered a story of a similar person in Hampshire. This
man had called upon the leading farmers, and offered them a bargain,
explaining that some trucks of artificial manure that he had consigned
to Walton Station had been sent by mistake to Alton. He sold many tons
in this way without any guarantee as to the analysis, but the buyers
found on using it that it was worthless. The seller tried his game on
again the following year, without success. One farmer whom he followed
from the farm-house to a turnip-field went so far as to show him his
hunting-crop, and pointing to the field gate at the same time,
intimated that if he did not with all speed place himself outside the
latter, he would make unpleasant acquaintance with the former. So now
when my caller mentioned a truck of the manure which had come by
mistake to Evesham Station, though consigned to Evershot in Somerset,
my suspicions were confirmed, and when I innocently remarked, "I think
I remember that truck, didn't it go to Alton once in mistake for
Walton?" his countenance fell, and he wished me "good-morning" in a

Hurdles in Worcestershire are generally made of "withy" (willow), and
it is interesting to watch the hurdle-maker at work. The poles have
first to be peeled, which can be done by unskilled labour, the pole
being fixed in an improvised upright vice made from the same material.
Then comes the skilled man, who cuts the poles into suitable lengths,
and splits the pieces into the correct widths. Next with an axe he
trims off the rough edges, shapes the ends of the rails, and pierces
the uprights with a centre-bit. Then he completes the mortise in a
moment with a chisel, the rails being laid in position as guides to
the size of the apertures. The rails are then driven home into the
mortise holes, and he skips backwards and forwards, over the hurdle
flat on the ground, as he nails the rails to the heads; two pieces, in
the form of a V reversed, connect the rails and keep them in place.

In counties where hazel is grown in the coppices, a wattled or "flake"
hurdle is the favourite, and they afford much more shelter to sheep in
the fold than the open withy hurdle, but, being more lightly made,
they require stakes and "shackles" to keep them in position. The hazel
hurdle-maker may be seen in the coppice surrounded by his material and
the clean fresh stacks of the work completed. The process of
manufacture differs from that of the open-railed hurdle: he has an
upright framework fixed to the ground with holes bored at the exact
places for the vertical pieces, and indicating the correct length of
the hurdle, when finished. The horizontal pieces or rods are
comparatively slender and easily twisted, and so can be bent back
where they reach the outside uprights, and they are interlaced with
the others in basket-making fashion. At this stage the hurdle presents
an unfinished appearance, with the ends of the horizontal rods
protruding from the face of the hurdle. Then the maker with a special
narrow and exceedingly sharp hatchet chops off at one blow each of the
projecting ends, with admirable accuracy, never missing his aim or
exceeding the exact degree of strength necessary to sever the
superfluous bit without injuring the hurdle itself. The hurdle-maker
is paid at a price per dozen, and he earns and deserves "good money."

The art of making wattled hurdles is passed on and carried down from
father to son for generations; the hurdle-maker is usually a cheery
man and receives a gracious welcome from the missus and the maids when
he calls at the farm-house, often emphasized by a pint of home-brewed.
He combines the accuracy of the draughtsman with the delicate touch of
the accomplished lawn-tennis player. His exits and his entrances from
and to the scene of his labours are made in the remote mysterious
surroundings of the seldom-trodden woods; overhead is the brilliant
blue of the clear spring sky; the sunshine lights up the quiet hazel
tones of his simple materials, his highly finished work, and his heaps
of clean fresh chips; and his stage is the newly cut coppice, carpeted
with primroses and wild hyacinths. I have never seen a representation
of this charming scene, and I commend the subject to the
country-loving artist as full of interest and colour, and as a theme
of natural beauty.

Our blacksmith came twice a week to the village when work was still
plentiful in the early days of my farming, and I was not yet the only
practical farmer in the place. I need not describe the forge: it has
been sung by Longfellow, made music of by Handel, and painted by
Morland; everybody knows its gleaming red-hot iron, its cascades of
sparks, and the melodious clank of the heavy hammer as it falls upon
the impressionable metal. In all pursuits which entail the use of an
open fire at night, its fascination attracts both busy and idle
villagers, and more especially in winter it becomes a centre for local
gossip. At that season the time-honoured gossip corner, close to the
Manor gate, was deserted for the warmth and action of the forge.
Blacksmiths, like other specialists, vary, and the difference may be
expressed as that between the man who fits the shoe to the hoof, and
the man who fits the hoof to the shoe--in other words, the workman and
the sloven. Doubtless many a slum-housed artisan in the big town,
driven from his country home by the flood of unfair foreign
competition, looks back with longing to the bright old cottage garden
of his youth and in his dreams hears the music of the forge, sees the
blazing fire, and sniffs the pungency of scorching hoof.



"And brushing ankle-deep in flowers,
We heard behind the woodbine veil
The milk that bubbled in the pail,
And buzzings of the honied hours."
--_In Memoriam_.

My farm had the reputation of being a good cheese farm, but a bad
butter farm; in spite, however, of this tradition I determined to
establish a pedigree Jersey herd for butter-making. For early in my
occupation I had abandoned the cheese manufacture of my predecessor
and later the production of unprofitable beef. My wife attended
various lectures and demonstrations and was soon able to prove that
the bad character of the farm for this purpose was not justified.
Within a few years she covered one wall of the dairy with prize cards
won at all the leading shows, and found a ready market for the
produce, chiefly by parcel post to friends. The butter, although it
commanded rather a better price than ordinary quality, was considered
not only by them but by the villagers more economical, as owing to its
solidity and freedom from butter milk, it would keep good
indefinitely, and "went much further."

The cream from my Jerseys was so thick that the cream crock could be
lifted up by the wooden spoon used for stirring, by merely plunging it
into the crock full of cream and raising it, without touching the
crock in any other way. With fifteen cows and heifers in milk on an
average, the Jerseys brought me in quite L300 a year in butter and
cream, without considering the value of the calves, and of the
skim-milk for the pigs, and they were worth a good deal besides from
the aesthetic point of view. I think that the word "dainty" describes
the Jersey better than any other adjective; their beautiful lines and
colouring in all shades of fawn and silver grey make them a continual
delight to behold. After all, however, the shorthorn is a magnificent
creature; they, too, have their aesthetic side; the outline is more
robust, their colouring more pronounced, and I think that "stately" is
the best description to apply to their distinguished bearing.

At Worcester, on market days, a great deal of butter is brought in by
the country people and retailed in the Market Hall, and many of these
farmers' wives and daughters have regular customers, who come each
week for their supply. On one occasion when the inspector of weights
and measures was making a surprise visit, and testing the weights of
the goods on offer, a man, standing near a stall where only one pound
of butter was left unsold, noticed that as soon as the owner became
aware of the inspector's entrance, she slipped two half-crowns into
the pat, obliterating the marks where they had been inserted. She was
evidently aware that the butter was not full weight, but with the
addition it satisfied the inspector's test, the two half-crowns just
balancing the one ounce short. No sooner was he gone than the
spectator came forward to buy the butter. She guessed that he had seen
the trick, and dared not refuse to sell, although she tried hard to
avoid doing so; so the cunning buyer walked off with fifteen ounces of
butter worth 1s. 2d., and 5s. in silver for his outlay of 1s. 3d.

In farm-houses where old-fashioned ways of butter-making are still
followed, and the thermometer is ignored, it happens sometimes that
after some hours' churning the butter does not "come." The traditional
remedy is then tried of introducing one or two half-crowns into the
churn, partly, I think, as a kind of charm, and partly with the idea
of what is called "cutting the curd." The remedy is certainly
sometimes successful, probably the coins set up a new movement in the
rotating cream, which causes an almost immediate appearance of the
butter. On the outside of the framework of the windows in some of
these old places, the word "dairy" or "cheese-room" may still be seen,
painted or incised. This is a survival from the days of the window
tax, and was necessary to claim the exemption which these rooms as
places of business enjoyed by law.

My former tutor, the late vicar of Old Basing in Hampshire, decided to
keep a cow on his glebe, and consulted the old parish clerk as to the
kind of cow he would recommend. The old man was the oracle of the
village on all matters secular as well as those connected with his
calling. "Well," he said, "what you wants is a nice pretty little cow,
not a great big beast as'll stand a-looking and a-staring at you all
day long." The vicar followed his advice, avoided the stony regard of
an unintelligent animal, and purchased a charming little tender-eyed
Brittany, which was quite an ornament to his meadow.

People were very shy of American beef when first imported but, being
lower in price than English it was bought by those who were willing to
sacrifice quality to cheapness. It was said that the most inferior
English was sold under the name of American, the best of the American
doing duty for medium quality English. I remember seeing a very
ancient and poverty-stricken cow knocked down to a Birmingham dealer,
who exclaimed exultingly as the hammer fell, "I'll make 'em some
'Merican biff in Brummagem this week."

The neglected and overgrown hedges, now so often seen on what was
formerly good wheat-growing land, have a useful side as shelter when
surrounding pasture. In the bitter winds which often occur in May,
when the cattle are first turned out after a winter in the yards well
littered with clean straw, they can be seen on the southern side
protected from the blast. Referring to the May blossom of the
white-thorn, an old proverb says, with a faulty rhyme:

"May come early or May come late
'Tis sure to make the old cow quake."

May Day has always been the customary date for turning out cattle to
grass, but people forget that old May Day was nearly a fortnight
later, which makes a great difference as to warmth and keep at that
time of year.

With changes of dates and times old customs and sayings lose their
force. Under the "daylight saving" arrangement we should alter, "Rain
before seven, fine before eleven," to "Rain before eight, fine before
twelve," which spoils the rhyme. And "Between one and two, you'll see
what the day means to do," into, "Between two and three, you'll see
what the day means to be."

A few years ago, when _Antony and Cleopatra_ was reproduced at a
London theatre by an eminent actor-manager, it was reported that his
mind was much exercised over the lines referring to the flight of
Pompey's galley:

"The breese upon her, like a cow in June,
Hoists sails and flies."

It was suggested that for "cow," the correct reading should be "crow,"
who might very well spread her wings to the breeze and fly. The
difficulty was caused by the word "breese" (the gad-fly)--no doubt
presumed to be an archaic spelling of "breeze." Shakespeare knew all
about farming, as about nearly everything else, and a year on a farm
would illustrate many of his allusions which the ordinary reader finds
somewhat cryptic; anyone who has seen the terrified stampede of cattle
with their tails erect when attacked by the gad-fly, will recognize
the force of the simile. The gad-fly pierces the skin of the animal,
laying its eggs beneath, just as the ichneumon makes use of a
caterpillar to provide a host for its progeny. No doubt the operation
is a painful one, but the caterpillar may survive, even into its
chrysalis stage, and the cow in due time is relieved, after an
uncomfortable experience, by the exit of the maggot or fly.

A branch of the Roman road, Ryknield Street, commonly called Buckle
Street, leaving the former near Bidford-on-Avon and running over the
Cotswolds via Weston Subedge, was known in former times as Buggilde or
Buggeld Street, derived possibly from the Latin _buculus_, a young
bullock. No doubt vast herds of cattle traversed the road from the
vale to the hills, or vice versa, according to the abundance of keep
and the time of year. Similar roads in Dorset and Wiltshire are still
known as "ox droves," and in the former county, at least, both young
heifers and bullocks are known as "bullicks."

Cattle are subject to all manner of disorders which, though puzzling
to the owner to diagnose, are not as a rule beyond the skill of a good
veterinary surgeon to alleviate; but there are also accidents which
are much more annoying, being impossible to foresee. I had occasional
losses from the latter causes: once in the night when a cow was thrown
on her back into a deep brick manger; and once when a small piece of
sacking, part of a decorticated cotton-cake bag, was somehow mixed in
with the food, and induced internal inflammation.

It is a difficult matter for a farmer when selling fat cattle direct
to the butcher, to compete with him in a correct estimate of the
weight, and it is therefore advisable to sell at a price per pound of
the dead weight when dressed; this, however, is not always feasible,
and a very close estimate can be arrived at by measurement of the
girth and length of the live animal, following rules laid down in the
handbooks on the subject of fat stock. It is a mistake to suppose that
the fattening of stock is a profitable undertaking _per se_. On all
arable farms there is a certain amount of food, hay, straw, chaff,
roots, etc., which must be consumed on the premises for the sake of
keeping up the fertility of the land, but I believe that only under
very exceptional circumstances can a shilling's-worth of food and
attendance be converted into a shilling's-worth of meat, so that if in
the future the price of corn is to fall back into anything approaching
pre-war values, the corn crops, as well as the intermediate green
crops, which are only a means for producing corn, must be
discontinued, and the land will again become inferior pasture.
Old-fashioned farmers recognized the absence of direct profit in the
winter of fattening cattle especially on the produce of arable land,
and the saying is well known that, "the man who fattens many bullocks
never wants much paper on which to make his will."

There are few pleasanter sights about farm premises than to see, as
the short winter day is drawing to an end, and the twilight is
stealing around the ricks and buildings, a nicely sheltered yard full
of contented cattle deeply bedded down in clean bright wheat straw,
and settling themselves comfortably for the night; and, when one pulls
the bed-clothes up to one's ears, one can go to sleep thinking happily
that they too are enjoying a refreshing sleep. Cattle and sheep can
stand severe cold, if they are sheltered from bitter winds and have
dry quarters in which to lie; even lambs are none the worse for coming
into the world in a snow-covered pasture; and an opened stable window
without a draught will often cure a horse of a long-standing chronic
cough. It was pitiful in the early days of the war to see the Indian
troops with their mountain batteries at Ashurst, near Lyndhurst, in
the New Forest, the mules up to their knees and hocks in black mud,
owing to the unfortunate selection of an unsound site for the camp.

A "deadly man for ship"--one of those expressions not uncommon in
Worcestershire, on the _lucus a non lucendo_ principle--signifies a
celebrated sheep breeder; the word "deadly," in this sense, is akin to
the Hampshire and Dorset "terrible," or, "turrble," as a term of
admiration or the appreciation of excellence; but there are occasions
even in the most carefully tended flocks where accidents cannot be
anticipated. Such an event occurred to a Cotswold ram, which after
washing was placed in an orchard near my house to dry before shearing.
The ram had an immense fleece on him, nineteen pounds as it afterwards
proved, and the wool round the neck was somewhat ragged. As he lay
asleep with his head turned round and muzzle pointing backwards, some
little movement caused his head to become entangled in the loose wool,
and he was found hanged in his own fleece.

I was watching, with my bailiff, a splendid lot of lambs fat and ready
for the butcher; two of them were having a game--walking backwards
from each other, and suddenly rushing together like two knights in a
medieval tournament, their heads meeting with a concussion and a
resounding smack--when one instantly fell to the ground with a broken
neck. Had no one been present the meat would have been worthless, but
my man was equal to the occasion, and, borrowing my pocket knife,
produced the flow of blood necessary to render the meat fit for human
food. My villagers had a feast that week, and my own table was graced
by an excellent joint of real English lamb. Of course we never
attempted to consume any of the meat from animals which had been
killed when suffering from a doubtful complaint, though some people
are by no means particular in this matter.

A doctor told me that when attending a case at a farmhouse he was
invited to join the family at their midday meal, and was surprised to
see a nice fore-quarter of lamb on the table. His host gave him an
ample helping, and he had just made a beginning with it and the mint
sauce, green peas, and new potatoes, when the founder of the feast
announced by way of excusing the indulgence in such a luxury: "This
un, you know was a bit casualty, so we thought it better to make sure
of un." My informant told me that then and there his appetite
completely failed, and, to the dismay of his host he had to relinquish
his knife and fork.

It is always policy to kill a sheep to save its life, as the saying
is, and the way to make the most of it is to send any fat animal,
which is off its feed and looking somewhat thoughtful, to the butcher
at once. He knows quite well whether the sheep is fit for food, and if
he decides against it, all one expects is the value of the skin. But
people are very shy of buying meat about which they have any
misgiving, and my butcher once told me not to send him an "emergency
sheep" _in one of my own carts_, but to ask him to fetch it himself:
"It's like this," he explained, "when a customer comes in for a nice
joint of mutton, if he is a near neighbour, he will perhaps add, 'I
would rather not have a bit of the sheep that came in a day or two ago
in one of Mr. S.'s carts'!"

It was always cheering in February, "fill dyke, be it black or be it
white," on a dark morning, to hear the young lambs and their mothers
calling to each other in the orchards, where there is some grass all
the year round under the shelter of the apple trees; or when a
springlike morning appears, about the time of St. Valentine's Day, and
the thrushes are singing love-songs to their mates, and the first
brimstone butterfly has dared to leave his winter seclusion for the
fickle sunshine, to realize that Spring is coming, and the active work
of the farm is about to recommence. There is a superstition that when
the master sees the firstling of the flock, if its head is turned
towards him, good luck for the year will follow, but it is most
unlucky if its head is turned away.

After the disastrous wet season of 1879 immense losses ensued from the
prevalence of the fatal liver rot; many thousands of sheep were sold
at the auctions for 3s. or 4s. apiece, and sound mutton was
exceedingly scarce and dear. It was represented to a very August
personage, that if the people could be induced to forgo the
consumption of lamb, these in due course would grow into sheep, and
the price of mutton would be reduced. Accordingly an order was issued
forbidding the appearance of lamb on the Court tables. It had not
occurred to the proposer of this scheme that a scarcity of food for
the developing lambs would result, nor was it understood that the
producers of fat lambs make special cropping arrangements for their
keep, with the object of clearing out their stock about Easter, in
time to plough the ground, and follow the roots where the ewes and
lambs have been feeding, with barley. The "classes" copied the example
of the Court, as in duty bound, and the demand fell to zero. But the
lambs had to be sold for the reasons mentioned, and, in the absence of
the usual demand, the unfortunate producers offered them at almost any
price. The miners and the pottery workers in Staffordshire were not so
loyal as the "classes"; they welcomed the unusual opportunity of
buying early lamb at 9d. a pound, and trains composed entirely of
trucks full of lambs from the south of England to the Midlands
supplied them abundantly.

The edict, when its effect was apparent, was therefore revoked, but it
was too late, the lambs were gone, and as everybody was hungry for his
usual Easter lamb, the demand was immense, and the price rose in
proportion. I had thirty or forty lambs intended for the Easter
markets, and had, with great difficulty and the sacrifice of grass
which should have stood for hay, managed to keep them on, scarcely
knowing what to do with them. But the sudden demand arose just in
time, and I sent them to the Alcester auction sale, where buyers from
Birmingham and the neighbourhood attend in large numbers. A capital
sale resulted, the price going as high as 60s., in those days a big
figure for lambs about four months old. I was so pleased with the
result and my deliverance from the dilemma, that, passing through the
town on my way home, and spying an old Worcester china cup and saucer,
and a bowl oL the same, all with the rare square mark, I invested some
of my plunder in what time has proved an excellent speculation, and my
cabinet is still decorated with these mementoes, which I never see
without calling to mind the story of the lamb edict and its result.

During the Great War some controlling wiseacre evolved precisely the
same scheme for bringing about an imaginary increase in the supply of
mutton, by prohibiting the slaughter of any lambs until June. The
Dorset breeders, who buy in ewes at high prices for the special
production of early lamb--the lambs of this breed are born in October
and November--were more particularly affected, and the absurdity of
the prohibition having been later represented to the authorities, the
order was withdrawn, though not before great loss and difficulty were
inflicted upon the unfortunate producers. It goes to prove the
necessity of the administration of such matters by competent men, and
how easily apparently sound theory in inexperienced hands may conflict
with economical practice.

Of late years the competition of the importations of New Zealand lamb
has reduced the price of English lamb to an unremunerative level. This
thin dry stuff bears about the same resemblance to real fat home-grown
lamb, as do the proverbial chalk and cheese to each other; but it is
good enough for the restaurants and eating-houses; and the consumer
who lacks the critical faculty of the connoisseur in such matters,
devours his "Canterbury" lamb, well disguised with mint sauce, in
sublime ignorance, and, apparently, without missing the succulence of
the real article--convinced as he is that it was produced in the
neighbourhood of the cathedral city of the same name, and unaware of
the existence of such a place as Canterbury in New Zealand, or that
the name, if not exactly a fraud, is calculated to mislead. Doubtless
it is the mint sauce that satisfies the uncritical palate. Just as the
boy who, when asked after a treat of oysters how he liked them, said
with gusto, "The oysters was good, but the vinegar and pepper was

It is well known that there is a tendency among men in charge of
special kinds of domestic animals gradually to approximate to them in
appearance, and we are told that men sometimes gradually acquire a
resemblance to men they admire. I knew a pedigree-pig herdsman, very
successful in the show-ring, who was curiously like his charges, and I
had at least two shepherds whose profiles were extraordinarily
sheepish--though not in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Such an
appearance confers a singularly simple expression. It must have been a
man whose character justified such a facial peculiarity, who, having
to bring the flock of one of my neighbours over a railway crossing
between two of his fields, neglected to open the further gate first,
drove the sheep on to the rails, and proceeded to do so, only to find
the sheep, in the meantime, had wandered down the line. Before he
could collect them a train dashed into them, and many were killed and
others injured. The railway company not only repudiated all liability,
but sent in a counterclaim for damage to their engine!

But the tables were turned morally, if not actually, by a friend of
mine, who certainly scored off a railway company. My friend's waggon,
with two horses and a load of hay, was passing over a level crossing
on his land, when the London express came into view slinging downhill
in all the majesty of triumphant speed, but far enough away to be
brought up in time, ignominiously and abruptly. The railway company
wrote my friend a letter of remonstrance suggestive of pains and
penalties, and telling him that his waggoner should have made sure of
the safety of crossing before attempting it--not an easy thing to do
at this particular place. My friend replied that his right of way
existed centuries before the railway was dreamed of, that the crossing
was a concession for the company's convenience, it had saved the
expense of a bridge, and that his hay was an urgent matter in view of
the weather; and that uninterrupted harvesting was of more importance
than the punctuality of their passengers.

I have sometimes passed through a remote village on a Sunday where the
obsequies of a pig were to be seen in full view from the road; these
were usually places where the church was in an adjoining
mother-parish, and of course there are times when, for reasons of
health or perhaps more correctly ill-health, it is impossible to defer
the ceremony. As a rule, I should imagine that greater privacy is
sought, at any rate so far as the public point of view is concerned.
One remembers the story of the man doing some Sunday carpentering; his
wife expostulated with him as a Sabbath breaker; he replied that in
driving in the nails he could not help making some noise; "then why,"
said she, "don't you use screws?"

An old Dorset labourer who helped with the removal of the pig-wash,
and did other small jobs for successive tenants of mine at a furnished
cottage on my land in Hampshire, invariably estimated the social
status and resources of each new tenant by the consistency of the
wash. When some rather extravagant occupiers were in possession, he
reported them as, "Quite the right sort; their wash is real good,
thick stuff." The villagers at Aldington did not smoke their bacon,
but, as it usually hung in the kitchen not far from the big open
hearth, and as the place was often full of fragrant wood smoke, the
bacon acquired a pleasant suggestion of the smoked article of the
southern counties. The cottagers rarely complained of the smoky state
of their kitchens, consoling themselves with the saying, "'Tis better
to be smoke-dried nor starred [starved with the cold] to death." Bacon
naturally suggests eggs; many of the villagers kept a few fowls which
sometimes strayed into my orchards; as a rule, I made no objection,
but it was not pleasing, when the apples were over-ripe and dropping
from the trees, to notice the destructive marks of their beaks on some
extra fine Blenheim oranges.

My wife determined to take over our fowls into her own jurisdiction;
hitherto they had been under my bailiff's care, and he rather resented
the change as an implication on his management, until it was explained
that she was anxious to undertake the poultry as a hobby. One of the
carter boys was detailed to collect the eggs, as some of the
hen-houses were in out-of-the-way corners of the yards and difficult
to approach. My wife thought the middleman was appropriating most of
the profit; she was determined to get as directly to the consumer as
possible and, among others, she arranged with the head of a large
school for a weekly supply of dairy and poultry produce. All went well
for a time until one day the boy, anxious to produce as many eggs as
possible, as he received a royalty per dozen for collecting,
discovered some nests which my man had set for hatching before he
retired from the post. The boy, not recognizing this important fact,
came in greatly pleased with an unusually large quantity, and it so
happened that the school received the eggs from this special lot. Next
morning forty eggs appeared at the boys' breakfast table, and forty
boys simultaneously suffered a terrible shock on the discovery of
forty incomplete chickens. The head wrote an aggrieved letter of
complaint, and though my wife was by that time able to explain the
matter, and regret her own loss too of forty chickens, he removed his
custom to a more reliable source.

This schoolmaster was a collector of antique furniture and china, and,
knowing that I was interested, he asked me to come and see some
Chippendale chairs he had just acquired. It happened that some months
before I had declined to buy four or five chairs that were offered at
10s. apiece. I had not then fully developed the taste for the antique,
which once acquired forbids the connoisseur to refuse anything good,
whether really wanted or not, and at that time there was much more
choice in such matters than at the present day. The chairs were very
dilapidated and I did not recognize their possibilities, but I noticed
the arms of the elbow chairs were particularly good, being carved at
the junction of the horizontal and vertical pieces with eagles' heads.
Deciding that I did not want them I sent a dealer to the house and
forgot all about the matter. The schoolmaster took me into his
drawing-room, and I instantly recognized the set I had refused; they
were quite transformed, nicely cleaned, lightly polished, and the
seats newly covered. I duly admired them, and on inquiry found that he
had purchased them in Worcester from the dealer I had sent to look at
them; they cost him L5 each, and I suppose at the present time they
would be worth L20 apiece at least.

I have previously mentioned old Viper as a family friend, but like all
dogs he had his faults. He acquired a liking for new laid eggs and
hunted the rickyard for nests in the straw. My bailiff determined to
cure him; he carefully blew an egg, and filled it with a mixture of
which mustard was the chief component. Viper was tempted to sample the
egg, which he accepted with a great show of innocence; the effect when
he had broken the shell was electrical; he fled with downcast tail and
complete dejection, and nothing would ever induce him to touch an egg

The whirligig of time has indeed brought its revenge in the matter of
the market value of eggs. In Worcestershire we have had to give them
away at eighteen or twenty for a shilling; last (1918-1919) winter we
sold some at 7s. a dozen, and many more at 5s.



"Lo! sweetened with the summer light,
The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow
Drops in a silent autumn night."
--_The Lotus-Eaters_.

A curious old punning Latin line, illustrating various meanings of the
word _malus_, an apple, seems appropriate, as a commencement, to
writing about apples; it is I think very little known, and too good to
be forgotten. _Malo, malo, malo, malo_; it is translated thus:

"_Malo_, I would rather be,
_Malo_, in an apple-tree,
_Malo_, than a bad boy,
_Malo_, in adversity."

The fruit was an important item on the Aldington Manor Farm, and when
later I bought an adjoining farm of seventy acres with orcharding, and
had planted nine acres of plum trees, my total fruit area amounted to
about thirty acres. There was a saying in the neighbourhood which
pleased me greatly, that "it was always harvest at Aldington"; it was
not so much intended to signify that there was always something coming
in, as to convey an impression of the constant activity and employment
of labour that continued throughout the seasons without intermission,
though it was true that with the diversity of my crops and stock,
there was a more or less continuous return. I had a shock when an old
friend in a neighbouring village spoke of me as a "pomologist," the
title seemed much too distinguished, and personally I have never
claimed the right to anything better than the rather pretty old title
of "orchardist."

The position of an orchard is of the utmost importance; shelter is
necessary, but it must be above the ordinary spring frost level of the
district. I should say that no orchard should be less than 150 feet
above sea-level, to be fairly safe, and 200 feet would in nearly any
ordinary spring be quite secure against frost. The climate has a
remarkable effect upon the colour of apples, and colour is one of the
most valuable of market properties, for the ordinary town buyer is a
poor judge of the merits of apples and prefers colour and size to most
other considerations. Here in the south of England seven miles from
the sea, in a dry and sunny climate, all apples develop a much more
brilliant colour than in the moist climate of the Vale of Evesham.

I fear that very few planters of fruit trees think of following the
routine which Virgil describes in his second _Georgic_, as practised
by the careful orchardist, when transplanting. Dryden's translation is
as follows:

"Some peasants, not t' omit the nicest care,
Of the same soil their nursery prepare
With that of their plantation; lest the tree,
Translated should not with the soil agree.
Beside, to plant it as it was, they mark
The heav'ns four quarters on the tender bark,
And to the north or south restore the side,
Which at their birth did heat or cold abide:
So strong is custom; such effects can use
In tender souls of pliant plants produce."

Virgil was born in the year 70 B.C., and died, age 51, in 19 B.C., so
that over nineteen centuries have elapsed since these words were
written; as he was an excellent farmer, he would not have mentioned
the practice unless he considered the advice sound. It is quite
possible that the vertical cracking of the bark on one side of a young
transplanted tree may be due to a change from the cool north aspect to
the heat of the south. At any rate the experiment is well worth
trying, and nurserymen would not find it much trouble to run a chalk
line down the south side of each tree, when lifting them, as a guide
for the purchaser.

As showing how conservative is the popular demand for apples, Cox's
Orange Pippin, which is absolutely unapproached for flavour, and is
perfectly sound and eatable from early in November till Easter if
carefully picked at the right moment and properly stored, was
cultivated thirty or forty years before the British public discovered
its extraordinary qualities! I find it described as one of the best
dessert apples in Dr. Hogg's _Fruit Manual_, and my copy is the third
edition published in 1866, so it must have been well known to him some
years previously, though we never heard much about it until after the
twentieth century came in. Though the colour, when well grown, is
highly attractive to the connoisseur, the ordinary buyer did not
readily take to it as it is rather small. In 1917 Cox's Orange Pippin,
however, really came into its own; I myself, here in the New Forest,
grew over 3,000 pounds on about 120 trees planted in 1906, each branch
pruned as a _cordon_, and very thinly dispersed, and the trees
restricted to a height of about 14 feet. The apples were mostly sold
in Covent Garden at 6d. a pound, clear of railway carriage and
salesmen's commission. In 1918, a year of great scarcity, these apples
were selling in the London shops up to 3s. 6d. apiece! Now that its
reputation is fully established, it is likely to be many years before
it becomes relatively low in price, as the foreign apples of this kind
cannot compare in flavour with those grown in our own orchards. I
appreciate the man whose attention was wholly given to some
particularly dainty dish, and, being bored at the table by a
persistent talker, gently said, "Hush! and let me _listen_ to the

As an early market apple there is none more popular than the Worcester
Pearmain, first grown in the early eighties by Messrs. R. Smith and
Co., of Worcester, and said to be a cross between King of the Pippins
and the old Quarrenden (nearly always called Quarantine). It is a most
attractive fruit--brilliant in colour, medium size, with pleasant
brisk flavour--and is an early and regular bearer. I recognized its
possibilities as soon as I saw it, and getting all the grafts I could
collect, and they were very scarce at the time, I had the branches of
some of my old worthless trees cut off, and set my old grafter to
convert them into Worcester Pearmains; they soon came into bearing and
produced abundant and profitable crops.

This apple is not much use for keeping beyond a month or so, as it
soon loses its crisp texture and distinctive flavour, and it is its
earliness and colour that makes it so popular in its season. Its
regularity as a bearer is due to its early maturity; it can be picked
in August, which allows plenty of time, in favourable weather, for
next year's fruit buds to develop before winter; whereas with the late
sorts these buds have very little chance to mature while the current
year's fruit is ripening, with the result that a blank season nearly
always follows an abundant yield. The Worcester Pearmain is so highly
decorative, with its large pale pink and white blossoms in spring and
its glowing red fruit in autumn, that it would be worth growing for
these qualities alone in the amateur's garden, and in any case it is
an apple that nobody should be without.

An old apple, not sufficiently known, is the Rosemary Russet; it has
the distinctive russet-bronze colouring, always indicative of flavour,
with a rosy flush on the sunny side, and Dr. Hogg describes it further
as, "flesh yellow, crisp, tender, very juicy, sugary and highly
aromatic--a first-rate dessert apple, in use from December to
February." In my opinion it comes next, though _longo intervallo_, to
Cox's Orange Pippin, but it wants good land to make the best of it. It
may with confidence be produced as a rarity across the walnuts and the
wine to the connossieur in apples.

In Covent Garden Market King Pippins are known as "Kings"; Cox's
Orange Pippins as "C.O.P.'s"; Cellinis as "Selinas"; Kerry pippins as
"Careys"; _Court pendu plat_ as "Corpendus"; and the pear, _Josephine
de Malines_ as "Joseph on the palings"! The Wellington is sold as
"Wellington," but in the markets of the large northern towns it is
known as "Normanton Wonder."

In Worcestershire St. Swithin's Day, July 15, is called
"apple-christening day," when a good rain often gives a great impetus
to their growth, and a little later great quantities of small apples
may be seen under the trees; this is Nature's method of limiting the
crop to reasonable proportions, the weak ones falling off and the
fittest surviving. The inexperienced grower may be somewhat alarmed by
this apparent destruction of his prospects, but the older hand knows
better, and my bailiff always said: "When I sees plenty of apples
under the trees about midsummer, I knows there'll be plenty to pick
towards Michaelmas."

The Blenheim Orange was the leading apple at Aldington; some kind
person had, sixty or seventy years before my time, planted a number of
trees which had thrived wonderfully on that rich land. The Blenheim is
a nice dessert apple and a splendid "cooker"; the trees take many
years to come into bearing, and then they make up for lost time.
Nature is never in a hurry to produce her best results. As a market
apple the Blenheim has a great reputation; if an Evesham fruit dealer
was asked if he could do with any apples, his first question was
always: "Be 'em Blemmins?"

"September blow soft till the fruit's in the loft," is the prayer of

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