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Hodge and His Masters by Richard Jefferies

Part 2 out of 6

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meaning of contango, and even of that mysterious term to the uninitiated,
'backwardation.' His speculations for the 'account' are sometimes heavy.
So much so, that occasionally, with thousands invested, he has hardly any
ready money. But, then, there are the crops; he can get money on the
coming crops. There is, too, the live stock money can be borrowed on the

Here lies the secret reason of the dread of foreign cattle disease. The
increase of our flocks and herds is, of course, a patriotic cry (and
founded on fact); but the secret pinch is this--if foot-and-mouth,
pleuro-pneumonia, or rinderpest threaten the stock, the tenant-farmer
cannot borrow on that security. The local bankers shake their heads--three
cases of rinderpest are equivalent to a reduction of 25 per cent. in the
borrowing power of the agriculturist. The auctioneers and our friends have
large transactions--'paper' here again. With certain members of the hunt
he books bets to a high amount; his face is not unknown at Tattersall's or
at the race meetings. But he does not flourish the betting-book in the
face of society. He bets--and holds his tongue. Some folks have an ancient
and foolish prejudice against betting; he respects sincere convictions.

Far and away he is the best fellow, the most pleasant company in the
shire, always welcome everywhere. He has read widely, is well educated;
but, above all, he is ever jolly, and his jollity is contagious. Despite
his investments and speculations, his brow never wears that sombre aspect
of gloomy care, that knitted concentration of wrinkles seen on the face of
the City man, who goes daily to his 'office.' The out-of-door bluffness,
the cheery ringing voice, and the upright form only to be gained in the
saddle over the breezy uplands, cling to him still. He wakes everybody up,
and, risky as perhaps some of his speculations are, is socially

The two young gentlemen, by-the-by, observed playing lawn-tennis from the
drawing-room window, are two of his pupils, whose high premiums and
payments assist to keep up the free and generous table, and who find
farming a very pleasant profession. The most striking characteristic of
their tutor is his Yankee-like fertility of resource and bold
innovations--the very antipodes of the old style of 'clod-compeller.'



Towards the hour of noon Harry Hodson, of Upcourt Farm, was slowly
ascending the long slope that led to his dwelling. In his left hand he
carried a hare, which swung slightly to and fro as he stepped out, and the
black-tipped ears rubbed now and then against a bunch of grass. His
double-barrel was under his right arm. Every day at the same hour Harry
turned towards home, for he adhered to the ways of his fathers and dined
at half-past twelve, except when the stress of harvest, or some important
agricultural operation, disturbed the usual household arrangements. It was
a beautiful October day, sunny and almost still, and, as he got on the
high ground, he paused and looked round. The stubbles stretched far away
on one side, where the country rose and fell in undulations. On the
distant horizon a column of smoke, broadening at the top, lifted itself
into the sky; he knew it was from the funnel of a steam-plough, whose
furnace had just been replenished with coal. The appearance of the smoke
somewhat resembled that left by a steamer at sea when the vessel is just
below the horizon. On the other hand were wooded meadows, where the rooks
were cawing--some in the oaks, some as they wheeled round in the air. Just
beneath him stood a row of wheat ricks--his own. His gaze finally rested
upon their conical roofs with satisfaction, and he then resumed his walk.

Even as he moved he seemed to bask in the sunshine; the sunshine pouring
down from the sky above, the material sunshine of the goodly wheat ricks,
and the physical sunshine of personal health and vigour. His walk was the
walk of a strong, prosperous man--each step long, steady, and firm, but
quite devoid of haste. He was, perhaps, forty years of age, in the very
prime of life, and though stooping a little, like so many countrymen, very
tall, and built proportionately broad across the shoulders and chest. His
features were handsome--perhaps there was a trace of indolence in their
good-humoured expression--and he had a thick black beard just marked with
one thin wavy line of grey. That trace of snow, if anything, rather added
to the manliness of his aspect, and conveyed the impression that he was at
the fulness of life when youth and experience meet. If anything, indeed,
he looked too comfortable, too placid. A little ambition, a little
restlessness, would perhaps have been good for him.

By degrees he got nearer to the house; but it was by degrees only, for he
stayed to look over every gate, and up into almost every tree. He stopped
to listen as his ear caught the sound of hoofs on the distant road, and
again at the faint noise of a gun fired a mile away. At the corner of a
field a team of horses--his own--were resting awhile as the carter and his
lad ate their luncheon. Harry stayed to talk to the man, and yet again at
the barn door to speak to his men at work within with the winnowing
machine. The homestead stood on an eminence, but was hidden by elms and
sycamores, so that it was possible to pass at a distance without observing

On entering the sitting-room Harry leaned his gun against the wall in the
angle between it and the bureau, from which action alone it might have
been known that he was a bachelor, and that there were no children about
the house to get into danger with fire-arms. His elderly aunt, who acted
as housekeeper, was already at table waiting for him. It was spread with a
snow-white cloth, and almost equally snow-white platter for bread--so much
and so well was it cleaned. They ate home-baked bread; they were so many
miles from a town or baker that it was difficult to get served regularly,
a circumstance which preserved that wholesome institution. There was a
chine of bacon, small ale, and a plentiful supply of good potatoes. The
farmer did full justice to the sweet picking off the chine, and then
lingered over an old cheese. Very few words were spoken.

Then, after his dinner, he sat in his arm-chair--the same that he had used
for many years--and took a book. For Harry rather enjoyed a book, provided
it was not too new. He read works of science, thirty years old, solid and
correct, but somewhat behind the age; he read histories, such as were
current in the early part of the present century, but none of a later date
than the end of the wars of the First Napoleon. The only thing modern he
cared for in literature was a 'society' journal, sent weekly from London.
These publications are widely read in the better class of farmsteads now.
Harry knew something of most things, even of geology. He could show you
the huge vertebrae of some extinct saurian, found while draining was being
done. He knew enough of archaeology to be able to tell any enthusiastic
student who chanced to come along where to find the tumuli and the
earthworks on the Downs. He had several Roman coins, and a fine bronze
spearhead, which had been found upon the farm. These were kept with care,
and produced to visitors with pride. Harry really did possess a wide fund
of solid, if quiet, knowledge. Presently, after reading a chapter or two,
he would drop off into a siesta, till some message came from the men or
the bailiff, asking for instructions.

The farmstead was, in fact, a mansion of large size, an old manor-house,
and had it been situate near a fashionable suburb and been placed in
repair would have been worth to let as much per annum as the rent of a
small farm. But it stood in a singularly lonely and outlying position, far
from any village of size, much less a town, and the very highway even was
so distant that you could only hear the horse's hoofs when the current of
air came from that direction. This was his aunt's--the housekeeper's--great
complaint, the distance to the highway. She grumbled because she could not
see the carriers' carts and the teams go by; she wanted to know what was
going on.

Harry, however, seemed contented with the placid calm of the vast house
that was practically empty, and rarely left it, except for his regular
weekly visit to market. After the fashion of a thoroughbred farmer he was
often rather late home on market nights. There were three brothers, all in
farms, and all well to do; the other two were married, and Harry was
finely plagued about being a bachelor. But the placid life at the old
place--he had succeeded to his father--somehow seemed to content him. He
had visitors at Christmas, he read his books of winter evenings and after
dinner; in autumn he strolled round with his double-barrel and knocked
over a hare or so, and so slumbered away the days. But he never neglected
the farming-everything was done almost exactly as it had been done by his

Old Harry Hodson was in his time one of the characters of that country
side. He was the true founder of the Hodson family. They had been yeomen
in a small way for generations, farming little holdings, and working like
labourers, plodding on, and never heard of outside their fifty-acre farms.
So they might have continued till this day had not old Harry Hodson arose
to be the genius--the very Napoleon--of farming in that district. When the
present Harry, the younger, had a visitor to his taste--_i.e._ one who was
not in a hurry--he would, in the evening, pull out the books and papers
and letters of his late father from the bureau (beside which stood the
gun), and explain how the money was made. The logs crackled and sparkled
on the hearth, the lamp burnt clear and bright; there was a low singing
sound in the chimney; the elderly aunt nodded and worked in her arm-chair,
and woke up and mixed fresh spirits and water, and went off to sleep
again; and still Harry would sit and smoke and sip and talk. By-and-by the
aunt would wish the visitor good-night, draw up the clock, and depart,
after mixing fresh tumblers and casting more logs upon the fire, for well
she knew her nephew's ways. Harry was no tippler, he never got
intoxicated; but he would sit and smoke and sip and talk with a friend,
and tell him all about it till the white daylight came peeping through the
chinks in the shutters.

Old Harry Hodson, then, made the money, and put two of his sons in large
farms, and paid all their expenses, so that they started fair, besides
leaving his own farm to the third. Old Harry Hodson made the money, yet he
could not have done it had he not married the exact woman. Women have made
the fortunes of Emperors by their advice and assistance, and the greatest
men the world has seen have owned that their success was owing to feminine
counsel. In like manner a woman made the policy of an obscure farmer a
success. When the old gentleman began to get well to do, and when he found
his teeth not so strong as of yore, and his palate less able to face the
coarse, fat, yellowy bacon that then formed the staple of the household
fare, he actually ventured so far as to have one joint of butcher's meat,
generally a leg of mutton, once a week. It was cooked for Sunday, and, so
far as that kind of meat was concerned, lasted till the next Sunday. But
his wife met this extravagant innovation with furious opposition. It was
sheer waste; it was something almost unpardonably prodigal. They had eaten
bacon all their lives, often bacon with the bristles thick upon it, and to
throw away money like this was positively wicked. However, the-old
gentleman, being stubborn as a horse-nail, persisted; the wife, still
grumbling, calmed down; and the one joint of meat became an institution.
Harry, the younger, still kept it up; but it had lost its significance in
his day, for he had a fowl or two in the week, and a hare or a partridge,
and, besides, had the choicest hams.

Now, this dispute between the old gentleman and his wife--this dispute as
to which should be most parsimonious--was typical of their whole course of
life. If one saved cheese-parings, the other would go without cheese at
all, and be content with dry bread. They lived--indeed, harder than their
own labourers, and it sometimes happened that the food they thought good
enough was refused by a cottager. When a strange carter, or shepherd, or
other labourer came to the house from a distance, perhaps with a waggon
for a load of produce or with some sheep, it was the custom to give them
some lunch. These men, unaccustomed even in their own cottages to such
coarse food, often declined to eat it, and went away empty, but not before
delivering their opinion of the fare, expressed in language of the rudest

No economy was too small for old Hodson; in the house his wife did almost
all the work. Nowadays a farmer's house alone keeps the women of one, or
even two, cottages fully employed. The washing is sent out, and occupies
one cottage woman the best part of her spare time. Other women come in to
do the extra work, the cleaning up and scouring, and so on. The expense of
employing these women is not great; but still it is an expense. Old Mrs.
Hodson did everything herself, and the children roughed it how they could,
playing in the mire with the pigs and geese. Afterwards, when old Hodson
began to get a little money, they were sent to a school in a market town.
There they certainly did pick up the rudiments, but lived almost as hard
as at home. Old Hodson, to give an instance of his method, would not even
fatten a pig, because it cost a trifle of ready money for 'toppings,' or
meal, and nothing on earth could induce him to part with a coin that he
had once grasped. He never fattened a pig (meaning for sale), but sold the
young porkers directly they were large enough to fetch a sovereign
a-piece, and kept the money.

The same system was carried on throughout the farm. The one he then
occupied was of small extent, and he did a very large proportion of the
work himself. He did not purchase stock at all in the modern sense; he
grew them. If he went to a sale he bought one or two despicable-looking
cattle at the lowest price, drove them home, and let them gradually gather
condition. The grass they ate grew almost as they ate it--in his own
words, 'They cut their own victuals'--_i.e._ with their teeth. He did not
miss the grass blades, but had he paid a high price then he would have
missed the money.

Here he was in direct conflict with modern farming. The theory of the
farming of the present day is that time is money, and, according to this,
Hodson made a great mistake. He should have given a high price for his
stock, have paid for cake, &c., and fattened them up as fast as possible,
and then realised. The logic is correct, and in any business or
manufacture could not be gainsaid. But Hodson did just the reverse. He did
not mind his cattle taking a little time to get into condition, provided
they cost him no ready money. Theoretically, the grass they ate
represented money, and might have been converted to a better use. But in
practice the reverse came true. He succeeded, and other men failed. His
cattle and his sheep, which he bought cheap and out of condition, quietly
improved (time being no object), and he sold them at a profit, from which
there were no long bills to deduct for cake.

He purchased no machinery whilst in this small place--which was chiefly
grass land--with the exception of a second-hand haymaking machine. The
money he made he put out at interest on mortgage of real property, and it
brought in about 4 per cent. It was said that in some few cases where the
security was good he lent it at a much higher rate to other farmers of
twenty times his outward show. After awhile he went into the great farm
now occupied by his son Harry, and commenced operations without borrowing
a single shilling. The reason was because he was in no hurry. He slowly
grew his money in the little farm, and then, and not till then, essayed
the greater. Even then he would not have ventured had not the
circumstances been peculiarly favourable. Like the present, it was a time
of depression generally, and in this particular case the former tenant had
lived high and farmed bad. The land was in the worst possible state, the
landlord could not let it, and Hodson was given to understand that he
could have it for next to nothing at first.

Now it was at this crisis of his life that he showed that in his own
sphere he possessed the true attribute of genius. Most men who had
practised rigid economy for twenty years, whose hours, and days, and weeks
had been occupied with little petty details, how to save a penny here and
a fourpenny bit yonder, would have become fossilised in the process. Their
minds would have become as narrow as their ways. They would have shrunk
from any venture, and continued in the old course to the end of their

Old Hodson, mean to the last degree in his way of living, narrow to the
narrowest point where sixpence could be got, nevertheless had a mind. He
saw that his opportunity had come, and he struck. He took the great corn
farm, and left his little place. The whole country side at once pronounced
him mad, and naturally anticipated his failure. The country side did not
yet understand two things. They did not know how much money he had saved,
and they did not know the capacity of his mind. He had not only saved
money, and judiciously invested it, but he had kept it a profound secret,
because he feared if his landlord learnt that he was saving money so fast
the rent of the little farm would have been speedily raised. Here, again,
he was in direct conflict with the modern farmer. The modern man, if he
has a good harvest or makes a profit, at once buys a 'turn-out,' and grand
furniture, and in every way 'exalts his gate,' When landlords saw their
tenants living in a style but little inferior to that they themselves kept
up, it was not really very surprising that the rents a few years back
began to rise so rapidly. In a measure tenants had themselves to blame for
that upward movement.

Old Hodson carried his money to a long distance from home to invest, so
anxious was he that neither his landlord nor any one else should know how
quickly he was getting rich. So he entered upon his new venture--the great
upland farm, with its broad cornfields, its expanse of sheep walk and
down, its meadows in the hollow, its copses (the copses alone almost as
big as his original holding), with plenty of money in his pocket, and
without being beholden to bank or lawyer for a single groat. Men thought
that the size of the place, the big manor-house, and so on, would turn his
head. Nothing of the kind; he proceeded as cautiously and prudently as
previously. He began by degrees. Instead of investing some thousand pounds
in implements and machinery at a single swoop, instead of purchasing three
hundred sheep right off with a single cheque, he commenced with one thing
at a time. In this course he was favoured by the condition of the land,
and by the conditions of the agreement. He got it, as it were, gradually
into cultivation, not all at once; he got his stock together, a score or
two at a time, as he felt they would answer. By the year the landlord was
to have the full rent: the new tenant was quite able to pay it, and did
pay it without hesitation at the very hour it was due. He bought very
little machinery, nothing but what was absolutely necessary--no expensive
steam-plough. His one great idea was still the same, _i.e._ spend no

Yet he was not bigoted or prejudiced to the customs of his
ancestors--another proof that he was a man of mind. Hodson foresaw, before
he had been long at Upcourt Farm, that corn was not going in future to be
so all in all important as it had been. As he said himself, 'We must go to
our flocks now for our rent, and not to our barn doors.' His aim,
therefore, became to farm into and through his flock, and it paid him
well. Here was a man at once economical to the verge of meanness, prudent
to the edge of timidity, yet capable of venturing when he saw his chance;
and above all, when that venture succeeded, capable of still living on
bacon and bread and cheese, and putting the money by.

In his earlier days Hodson was as close of speech as of expenditure, and
kept his proceedings a profound secret. As he grew older and took less
active exercise--the son resident at home carrying out his
instructions--he became more garrulous and liked to talk about his system.
The chief topic of his discourse was that a farmer in his day paid but one
rent, to the landlord, whereas now, on the modern plan, he paid eight
rents, and sometimes nine. First, of course, the modern farmer paid his
landlord (1); next he paid the seedsman (2); then the manure manufacturer
(3); the implement manufacturer (4); the auctioneer (5); the railroad, for
transit (6); the banker, for short loans (7); the lawyer or whoever
advanced half his original capital (8); the schoolmaster (9).

To begin at the end, the rent paid by the modern farmer to the
schoolmaster included the payment for the parish school; and, secondly,
and far more important, the sum paid for the education of his own
children. Hodson maintained that many farmers paid as much hard cash for
the education of their children, and for the necessary social surroundings
incident to that education, as men used to pay for the entire sustenance
of their households. Then there was the borrowed capital, and the short
loans from the banker; the interest on these two made two more rents.
Farmers paid rent to the railroad for the transit of their goods. The
auctioneer, whether he sold cattle and sheep, or whether he had a depot
for horses, was a new man whose profits were derived from the farmers.
There were few or no auctioneers or horse depositories when he began
business; now the auctioneer was everywhere, and every country town of any
consequence had its establishment for the reception and sale of horses.
Farmers sunk enough capital in steam-ploughs and machinery to stock a
small farm on the old system, and the interest on this sunk capital
represented another rent. It was the same with the artificial manure
merchant and with the seedsman. Farmers used to grow their own seed, or,
at most, bought from the corn dealers or a neighbour if by chance they
were out. Now the seedsman was an important person, and a grand shop might
be found, often several shops, in every market town, the owners of which
shops must likewise live upon the farmer. Here were eight or nine people
to pay rent to instead of one.

No wonder farming nowadays was not profitable. No wonder farmers could not
put their sons into farms. Let any one look round their own neighbourhood
and count up how many farmers had managed to do that. Why, they were
hardly to be found. Farmers' sons had to go into the towns to get a
livelihood now. Farming was too expensive a business on the modern
system--it was a luxury for a rich man, who could afford to pay eight or
nine landlords at once. The way he had got on was by paying one landlord
only. Old Hodson always finished his lecture by thrusting both hands into
his breeches pockets, and whispering to you confidentially that it was not
the least use for a man to go into farming now unless he had got ten
thousand pounds.

It was through the genius of this man that his three sons were doing so
well. At the present day, Harry, the younger, took his ease in his
arm-chair after his substantial but plain dinner, with little care about
the markets or the general depression. For much of the land was on high
ground and dry, and the soil there benefited by the wet. At the same time
sheep sold well, and Harry's flocks were large and noted. So he sauntered
round with his gun, and knocked over a hare, and came comfortably home to
dinner, easy in his mind, body, and pocket.

Harry was not a man of energy and intense concentrated purpose like his
father. He could never have built up a fortune, but, the money being
there, Harry was just the man to keep it. He was sufficiently prudent to
run no risk and to avoid speculation. He was sufficiently frugal not to
waste his substance on riotous living, and he was naturally of a placid
temperament, so that he was satisfied to silently and gradually accumulate
little by little. His knowledge of farming, imbibed from his father,
extended into every detail. If he seldom touched an implement now, he had
in his youth worked like the labourers, and literally followed the plough.
He was constantly about on the place, and his eye, by keeping the men
employed, earned far more money than his single arm could have done. Thus
he dwelt in the lonely manor-house, a living proof of the wisdom of his
father's system.

Harry is now looking, in his slow complacent way, for a wife. Being forty
years of age, he is not in a great hurry, and is not at all inclined to
make a present of himself to the first pretty face he meets. He does not
like the girl of the period; he fears she would spend too much money. Nor,
on the other hand, does he care for the country hoyden, whose mind and
person have never risen above the cheese-tub, with red hands, awkward
gait, loud voice, and limited conversation. He has read too much, in his
quiet way, and observed too much, in his quiet way, also, for that. He
wants a girl well educated, but not above her station, unaffected and yet
comely, fond of home and home duties, and yet not homely. And it would be
well if she had a few hundreds--a very small sum would do--for her dower.
It is not that he wants the money, which can be settled on herself; but
there is a vein of the old, prudent common sense running through Harry's
character. He is in no hurry; in time he will meet with her somewhere.



Two vehicles were gradually approaching each other from opposite
directions on a long, straight stretch of country road, which, at the
first glance, appeared level. The glare of the August sunshine reflected
from the white dust, the intense heat that caused a flickering motion of
the air like that which may be seen over a flue, the monotonous low
cropped hedges, the scarcity of trees, and boundless plain of cornfields,
all tended to deceive the eye. The road was not really level, but rose and
fell in narrow, steep valleys, that crossed it at right angles--the glance
saw across these valleys without recognising their existence. It was
curious to observe how first one and then the other vehicle suddenly
disappeared, as if they had sunk into the ground, and remained hidden for
some time. During the disappearance the vehicle was occupied in cautiously
going down one steep slope and slowly ascending the other. It then seemed
to rapidly come nearer till another hollow intervened, and it was abruptly
checked. The people who were driving could observe each other from a long
distance, and might naturally think that they should pass directly,
instead of which they did not seem to get much nearer. Some miles away,
where the same road crossed the Downs, it looked from afar like a white
line drawn perpendicularly up the hill.

The road itself was narrow, hardly wider than a lane, but on either side
was a broad strip of turf, each strip quite twice the width of the
metalled portion. On the verge of the dust the red pimpernel opened its
flowers to the bright blue cloudless sky, and the lowly convolvulus grew
thickly among the tall dusty bennets. Sweet short clover flowers stood but
a little way back; still nearer the hedges the grass was coarser, long,
and wire-like. Tall thistles stood beside the water furrows and beside the
ditch, and round the hawthorn bushes that grew at intervals on the sward
isolated from the hedge. Loose flints of great size lay here and there
among the grass, perhaps rolled aside surreptitiously by the
stone-breakers to save themselves trouble. Everything hot and dusty. The
clover dusty, the convolvulus dusty, the brambles and hawthorn, the small
scattered elms all dusty, all longing for a shower or for a cool breeze.

The reapers were at work in the wheat, but the plain was so level that it
was not possible to see them without mounting upon a flint heap. Then
their heads were just visible as they stood upright, but when they stooped
to use the hook they disappeared. Yonder, however, a solitary man in his
shirt-sleeves perched up above the corn went round and round the field,
and beside him strange awkward arms seemed to beat down the wheat. He was
driving a reaping machine, to which the windmill-like arms belonged.
Beside the road a shepherd lingered, leaning on a gate, while his flock,
which he was driving just as fast and no faster than they cared to eat
their way along the sward, fed part on one side and part on the other. Now
and then two or three sheep crossed over with the tinkling of a bell. In
the silence and stillness and brooding heat, the larks came and dusted
themselves in the white impalpable powder of the road. Farther away the
partridges stole quietly to an anthill at the edge of some barley. By the
white road, a white milestone, chipped and defaced, stood almost hidden
among thistles and brambles. Some white railings guarded the sides of a
bridge, or rather a low arch over a dry watercourse. Heat, dust, a glaring
whiteness, and a boundless expanse of golden wheat on either hand.

After awhile a towering four-in-hand coach rose out of the hollow where it
had been hidden, and came bowling along the level. The rapid hoofs beat
the dust, which sprang up and followed behind in a cloud, stretching far
in the rear, for in so still an atmosphere the particles were long before
they settled again. White parasols and light dust coats--everything that
could be contrived for coolness--gay feathers and fluttering fringes,
whose wearers sat in easy attitudes enjoying the breeze created by the
swift motion. Upon such a day the roof of a coach is more pleasant than
the thickest shade, because of that current of air, for the same leaves
that keep off the sun also prevent a passing zephyr from refreshing the
forehead. But the swifter the horses the sweeter the fresh wind to fan the
delicate cheek and drooping eyelid of indolent beauty. So idle were they
all that they barely spoke, and could only smile instead of laugh if one
exerted himself to utter a good jest. The gentleman who handled the
ribbons was the only one thoroughly awake.

His eyes were downcast, indeed, because they never left his horses, but
his ears were sharply alive to the rhythmic beat of the hoofs and the
faint creak and occasional jingle of the harness. Had a single shoe failed
to send forth the proper sound as it struck the hard dry road, had there
been a creak or a jingle too many, or too few, those ears would instantly
have detected it. The downcast eyes that looked neither to the right nor
left--at the golden wheat or the broad fields of barley--were keenly
watching the ears of the team, and noting how one of the leaders lathered
and flung white froth upon the dust. From that height the bowed backs of
the reapers were visible in the corn. The reapers caught sight of the
coach, and stood up to look, and wiped their brows, and a distant hurrah
came from the boys among them. In all the pomp and glory of paint and
varnish the tall coach rolled on, gently swaying from side to side as the
springs yielded to the irregularities of the road. It came with a heavy
rumble like far-away thunder over the low arch that spanned the dry

Meantime the vehicle approaching from the opposite direction had also
appeared out of a hollow. It was a high, narrow gig of ancient make, drawn
by a horse too low for the shafts and too fat for work. In the gig sat two
people closely pressed together by reason of its narrow dimensions. The
lady wore a black silk dress, of good and indeed costly material, but
white with the dust that had settled upon it. Her hands were covered with
black cotton gloves, and she held a black umbrella. Her face was hidden by
a black veil; thin corkscrew curls fringed the back of her head. She was
stout, and sat heavily in the gig. The man wore a grey suit, too short in
the trousers--at least they appeared so as he sat with his knees wide
apart, and the toe of one heavy boot partly projecting at the side of the
dash-board. A much-worn straw hat was drawn over his eyes, and he held a
short whip in his red hand. He did not press his horse, but allowed the
lazy animal to go jog-trot at his own pace. The panels of the gig had lost
their original shining polish; the varnish had cracked and worn, till the
surface was rough and grey. The harness was equally bare and worn, the
reins mended more than once. The whole ramshackle concern looked as if it
would presently fall to pieces, but the horse was in much too good a

When the four-in-hand had come within about a hundred yards, the farmer
pulled his left rein hard, and drew his gig right out of the road on to
the sward, and then stopped dead, to give the coach the full use of the
way. As it passed he took off his straw hat, and his wife stooped low as a
makeshift for bowing. An outsider might have thought that the aristocratic
coach would have gone by this extremely humble couple without so much as
noticing it. But the gentleman who was driving lifted his hat to the dowdy
lady, with a gesture of marked politeness, and a young and
elegantly-dressed lady, his sister, nodded and smiled, and waved her hand
to her. After the coach had rolled some fifty yards away, the farmer
pulled into the road, and went on through the cloud of dust it had left
behind it, with a complacent smile upon his hard and weather-worn
features. 'A' be a nice young gentleman, the Honourable be,' said he
presently. 'So be Lady Blanche,' replied his wife, lifting her veil and
looking back after the four-in-hand. 'I'm sure her smile's that sweet it
be a pleasure for to see her.'

Half a mile farther the farmer drew out of the road again, drove close to
the hedge, stopped, and stood up to look over. A strongly-built young man,
who had been driving the reaping machine in his shirt-sleeves, alighted
from his seat and came across to the hedge.

'Goes very well to-day,' he said, meaning that the machine answered.

'You be got into a good upstanding piece, John,' replied the old man
sharply in his thin jerky voice, which curiously contrasted with his still
powerful frame. 'You take un in there and try un'--pointing to a piece
where the crop had been beaten down by a storm, and where the reapers were
at work. 'You had better put the rattletrap thing away, John, and go in
and help they. Never wasted money in all my life over such a thing as that
before. What be he going to do all the winter? Bide and rust, I 'spose.
Can you put un to cut off they nettles along the ditch among they stones?'

'It would break the knives,' said the son.

'But you could cut um with a hook, couldn't you?' asked the old man, in a
tone that was meant to convey withering contempt of a machine that could
only do one thing, and must perforce lie idle ten months of the year.

'That's hardly a fair way of looking at it,' the son ventured.

'John,' said his mother, severely, 'I can't think how you young men can
contradict your father. I'm sure young men never spoke so in my time; and
I'm sure your father has been prospered in his farming' (she felt her silk
dress), 'and has done very well without any machines, which cost a deal of
money--and Heaven knows there's a vast amount going out every day.'

A gruff voice interrupted her--one of the reapers had advanced along the
hedge, with a large earthenware jar in his hand.

'Measter,' he shouted to the farmer in the gig, 'can't you send us out
some better tackle than this yer stuff?'

He poured some ale out of the jar on the stubble with an expression of
utter disgust.

'It be the same as I drink myself,' said the farmer, sharply, and
immediately sat down, struck the horse, and drove off.

His son and the labourer--who could hardly have been distinguished apart
so far as their dress went--stood gazing after him for a few minutes. They
then turned, and each went back to his work without a word.

The farmer drove on steadily homewards at the same jog-trot pace that had
been his wont these forty years. The house stood a considerable distance
back from the road: it was a gabled building of large size, and not
without interest. It was approached by a drive that crossed a green, where
some ducks were waddling about, and entered the front garden, which was
surrounded by a low wall. Within was a lawn and an ancient yew tree. The
porch was overgrown with ivy, and the trees that rose behind the grey
tiles of the roof set the old house in a frame of foliage. A fine old
English homestead, where any man might be proud to dwell. But the farmer
did not turn up the drive. He followed the road till he came to a gate
leading into the rickyard, and, there getting out of the gig, held the
gate open while the horse walked through. He never used the drive or the
front door, but always came in and went out at the back, through the

The front garden and lawn were kept in good order, but no one belonging to
the house ever frequented it. Had any stranger driven up to the front
door, he might have hammered away with the narrow knocker--there was no
bell--for half an hour before making any one hear, and then probably it
would have been by the accident of the servant going by the passage, and
not by dint of noise. The household lived in the back part of the house.
There was a parlour well furnished, sweet with flowers placed there fresh
daily, and with the odour of those in the garden, whose scent came in at
the ever open window; but no one sat in it from week's end to week's end.
The whole life of the inmates passed in two back rooms--a sitting-room and

With some slight concessions to the times only, Farmer M---- led the life
his fathers led before him, and farmed his tenancy upon the same
principles. He did not, indeed, dine with the labourers, but he ate very
much the same food as they did. Some said he would eat what no labourer or
servant would touch; and, as he had stated, drank the same smallest of
small beer. His wife made a large quantity of home-made wine every year,
of which she partook in a moderate degree, and which was the liquor
usually set before visitors. They rose early, and at once went about their
work. He saw his men, and then got on his horse and rode round the farm.
He returned to luncheon, saw the men again, and again went out and took a
turn of work with them. He rode a horse because of the distance--the farm
being large--not for pleasure. Without it he could not have visited his
fields often enough to satisfy himself that the labourers were going on
with their work. He did not hunt, nor shoot--he had the right, but never
exercised it; though occasionally he was seen about the newly-sown fields
with a single-barrel gun, firing at the birds that congregated in crowds.
Neither would he allow his sons to shoot or hunt.

One worked with the labourers, acting as working bailiff--it was he who
drove the reaping machine, which, after long argument and much persuasion
the farmer bought, only to grumble at and abuse every day afterwards. The
other was apprenticed as a lad to a builder and carpenter of the market
town, and learned the trade exactly as the rest of the men did there. He
lodged in the town in the cheapest of houses, ate hard bread and cheese
with the carpenters and masons and bricklayers, and was glad when the
pittance he received was raised a shilling a week. Once now and then he
walked over to the farm on Sundays or holidays--he was not allowed to come
too often. They did not even send him in a basket of apples from the great
orchard; all the apples were carefully gathered and sold.

These two sons were now grown men, strong and robust, and better educated
than would have been imagined--thanks to their own industry and good
sense, and not to any schooling they received. Two finer specimens of
physical manhood it would have been difficult to find, yet their wages
were no more than those of ordinary labourers and workmen. The bailiff,
the eldest, had a pound a week, out of which he had to purchase every
necessary, and from which five shillings were deducted for lodgings. It
may be that he helped himself to various little perquisites, but his
income from every source was not equal to that of a junior clerk. The
other nominally received more, being now a skilled workman; but as he had
to pay for his lodgings and food in town, he was really hardly so well
off. Neither of these young men had the least chance of marrying till
their father should die; nothing on earth would induce him to part with
the money required to set the one in business up or the other in a
separate farm. He had worked all his time under his father, and it seemed
to him perfectly natural that his sons should work all their time under

There was one daughter, and she, too, was out at work. She was housekeeper
to an infirm old farmer; that is to say, she superintended the dairy and
the kitchen, and received hardly as much as a cook in a London
establishment. Like the sons, she was finely developed physically, and had
more of the manners of a lady than seemed possible under the

Her father's principles of farming were much the same as his plan of
housekeeping and family government. It consisted of never spending any
money. He bought no machines. The reaping machine was the one exception,
and a bitter point with the old man. He entered on no extensive draining
works, nor worried his landlord to begin them. He was content with the
tumble-down sheds till it was possible to shelter cattle in them no
longer. Sometimes he was compelled to purchase a small quantity of
artificial manure, but it was with extreme reluctance. He calculated to
produce sufficient manure in the stalls, for he kept a large head of
fattening cattle, and sheep to the greatest extent possible. He would
rather let a field lie fallow, and go without the crop from it, till
nature had restored the exhausted fertility, than supply that fertility at
the cost of spending money. The one guiding motto of his life was 'Save,
not invest.' When once he got hold of a sovereign he parted with it no
more; not though all the scientific professors in the world came to him
with their analyses, and statistics, and discoveries. He put it in the
bank, just as his father would have put it into a strong box under his
bed. There it remained, and the interest that accrued, small as it was,
was added to it.

Yet it was his pride to do his land well. He manured it well, because he
kept cattle and sheep, especially the latter, to the fullest capacity of
his acreage; and because, as said before, he could and did afford to let
land lie fallow when necessary. He was in no hurry. He was not anxious for
so much immediate percentage upon an investment in artificial manure or
steam-plough. He might have said, with a greater man, 'Time and I are
two.' It was Time, the slow passage of the years, that gave him his
profit. He was always providing for the future; he was never out of
anything, because he was never obliged to force a sale of produce in order
to get the ready cash to pay the bank its interest upon borrowed money. He
never borrowed; neither did he ever make a speech, or even so much as
attend a farmers' club, to listen to a scientific lecture. But his teams of
horses were the admiration of the country side--no such horses came into
the market town. His rent was paid punctually, and always with country
bank-notes--none of your clean, newfangled cheques, or Bank of England
crisp paper, but soiled, greasy country notes of small denomination.

Farmer M---- never asked for a return or reduction of his rent. The
neighbours said that he was cheaply rented: that was not true in regard to
the land itself. But he certainly was cheaply rented if the condition of
the farm was looked at. In the course of so many long years of careful
farming he had got his place into such a state of cultivation that it
could stand two or three bad seasons without much deterioration. The same
bad seasons quite spoiled the land of such of his neighbours as had relied
upon a constant application of stimulants to the soil. The stimulating
substances being no longer applied, as they could not afford to buy them,
the land fell back and appeared poor.

Farmer M---, of course, grumbled at the weather, but the crops belied his
lips. He was, in fact, wealthy--not the wealth that is seen in cities, but
rich for a countryman. He could have started both his sons in business
with solid capital. Yet he drank small beer which the reapers despised,
and drove about in a rusty old gig, with thousands to his credit at that
old country bank. When he got home that afternoon, he carefully put away
some bags of coin for the wages of the men, which he had been to fetch,
and at once started out for the rickyard, to see how things were
progressing. So the Honourable on the tall four-in-hand saluted with
marked emphasis the humble gig that pulled right out of the road to give
him the way, and the Lady Blanche waved her hand to the dowdy in the dusty
black silk with her sweetest smile. The Honourable, when he went over the
farm with his breechloader, invariably came in and drank a glass of the
small beer. The Lady Blanche, at least once in the autumn, rode up,
alighted, and drank one glass of the home-made wine with the dowdy. Her
papa, the landlord, was an invalid, but he as invariably sent a splendid
basket of hot-house grapes. But Farmer M---- was behind the age.

Had he looked over the hedge in the evening, he might have seen a row of
reapers walking down the road at the sudden sound of a jingling bell
behind them, open their line, and wheel like a squad, part to the right
and part to the left, to let the bicycle pass. After it had gone by they
closed their rank, and trudged on toward the village. They had been at
work all day in the uplands among the corn, cutting away with their hooks
low down the yellow straw. They began in the early morning, and had first
to walk two miles or more up to the harvest field. Stooping, as they
worked, to strike low enough, the hot sun poured his fierce rays upon
their shoulders and the backs of their necks. The sinews of the right arm
had continually to drive the steel through straw and tough weeds entangled
in the wheat. There was no shadow to sit under for luncheon, save that at
the side of the shocks, where the sheaves radiated heat and interrupted
the light air, so that the shadow was warmer than the sunshine. Coarse
cold bacon and bread, cheese, and a jar of small beer, or a tin can of
weak cold tea, were all they had to supply them with fresh strength for
further labour.

At last the evening came, the jackets so long thrown aside were resumed,
and the walk home began. After so many hours of wearisome labour it was
hardly strange that their natural senses were dulled--that they did not
look about them, nor converse gaily. By mutual, if unexpressed consent,
they intended to call at the wayside inn when they reached it, to rest on
the hard bench outside, and take a quart of stronger ale. Thus trudging
homewards after that exhausting day, they did not hear the almost silent
approach of the bicycle behind till the rider rang his bell. When he had
passed, the rider worked his feet faster, and swiftly sped away along the
dry and dusty road. He was a tall young gentleman, whose form was well set
off and shown by the tight-fitting bicycle costume. He rode well and with
perfect command--the track left in the dust was straight, there was no
wobbling or uncertainty.

'That be a better job than ourn, you,' said one of the men, as they
watched the bicycle rapidly proceeding ahead.

'Ay,' replied his mate, 'he be a vine varmer, he be.'

Master Phillip, having a clear stretch of road, put on his utmost speed,
and neither heard the comments made upon him, nor would ha e cared if he
had. He was in haste, for he was late, and feared every minute to hear the
distant dinner bell. It was his vacation, and Master Phillip, having
temporarily left his studies, was visiting a gentleman who had taken a
country mansion and shooting for the season. His host had accumulated
wealth in the 'City,' and naturally considered himself an authority on
country matters. Master Phillip's 'governor' was likewise in a large way
of business, and possessed of wealth, and thought it the correct thing for
one of his sons to 'go in' for agriculture--a highly genteel occupation,
if rightly followed, with capital and intelligence. Phillip liked to ride
his bicycle in the cool of the evening, and was supposed in these
excursions to be taking a survey of the soil and the crops, and to be
comparing the style of agriculture in the district to that to which he had
been trained while pursuing his studies. He slipped past the wayside inn;
he glided by the cottages and gardens at the outskirts of the village; and
then, leaving the more thickly inhabited part on one side, went by a
rickyard. Men were busy in the yard putting up the last load of the
evening, and the farmer in his shirt-sleeves was working among and
directing the rest. The bicyclist without a glance rode on, and shortly
after reached the lodge gates. They were open, in anticipation of his

He rode up the long drive, across the park, under the old elms, and
alighted at the mansion before the dinner bell rang, much to his relief;
for his host had more than one daughter, and Phillip liked to arrange his
toilet to perfection before he joined their society. His twenty-five-guinea
dressing-case, elaborately fitted up--too completely indeed, for he had no
use for the razor--soon enabled him to trim and prepare for the
dining-room. His five-guinea coat, elegant studs, spotless shirt and
wristbands, valuable seal ring on one finger, patent leather boots,
keyless watch, eyeglass, gold toothpick in one pocket, were all carefully
selected, and in the best possible style. Mr. Phillip--he would have
scorned the boyish 'master'--was a gentleman, from the perfumed locks
above to the polished patent leather below. There was _ton_ in his very
air, in the 'ah, ah,' of his treble London tone of voice, the antithesis
of the broad country bass. He had a firm belief in the fitness of
things--in the unities, so to speak, of suit, action, and time.

When his team were struggling to force the ball by kick, or other
permitted means, across the tented field, Phillip was arrayed in accurate
football costume. When he stood on the close-mown lawn within the
white-marked square of tennis and faced the net, his jacket was barred or
striped with scarlet. Then there was the bicycle dress, the morning coat,
the shooting jacket, and the dinner coat, not to mention the Ulster or
Connaught overcoat, the dust coat, and minor items innumerable. Whether
Phillip rolled in the mire at football, or bestrode a bicycle, or sat down
to snow-white tablecloth and napkin, he conscientiously dressed the part.
The very completeness of his prescribed studies--the exhaustive character
of the curriculum-naturally induced a frame of mind not to be satisfied
with anything short of absolute precision, and perhaps even apt to extend
itself into dilettanteism.

Like geology, the science of agriculture is so vast, it embraces so wide a
range, that one really hardly knows where it begins or ends. Phillip's
knowledge was universal. He understood all about astronomy, and had
prepared an abstract of figures proving the connection of sun-spots,
rainfall, and the price of wheat. Algebra was the easiest and at the same
time the most accurate mode of conducting the intricate calculations
arising out of the complicated question of food--of flesh formers and heat
generators--that is to say, how much a sheep increased in weight by
gnawing a turnip. Nothing could be more useful than botany-those who could
not distinguish between a dicotyledon and a monocotyledon could certainly
never rightly grasp the nature of a hedgerow. _Bellis perennis_ and
_Sinapis arvensis_ were not to be confounded, and _Triticum repens_ was a
sure sign of a bad farmer. Chemistry proved that too small a quantity of
silicate made John Barleycorn weak in the knee; ammonia, animal
phosphates, nitrogen, and so on, were mere names to many ignorant folk.
The various stages and the different developments of insect life were next
to be considered.

As to the soil and strata--the very groundwork of a farm--geology was the
true guide to the proper selection of suitable seed. Crops had been
garnered by the aid of the electric light, the plough had been driven by
the Gramme machine; electricity, then, would play a foremost part in
future farming, and should be studied with enthusiasm. Without mathematics
nothing could be done; without ornithological study, how know which bird
revelled on grain and which destroyed injurious insects? Spectrum analysis
detected the adulteration of valuable compounds; the photographer recorded
the exact action of the trotting horse; the telephone might convey orders
from one end of an estate to the other; and thus you might go through the
whole alphabet, the whole cyclopaedia of science, and apply every single
branch to agriculture.

It is to be hoped that Phillip's conversational account of his studies has
been correctly reproduced here. The chemical terms look rather weak, but
the memory of an ordinary listener can hardly be expected to retain such a
mass of technicalities. He had piles of strongly-bound books, the reward
of successful examinations, besides diplomas and certificates of
proficiency. These subjects could be pursued under cover, but there was
besides the field work, which had a more practical sound; model farms to
be visited; steam-engines to be seen at work; lectures to be listened to
on the spot; deep-drainage operations, a new drill, or a new sheaf-binder
to be looked at. Then there were the experimental plots--something like
the little _parterres_ seen at the edge of lawns.

One plot was sown without manure, another was sown with manure, a third
had a different kind of manure. The dozen mangolds grown in one patch were
pulled up and carefully weighed. The grains of wheat in an ear standing in
an adjacent patch were counted and recorded. As these plots were about a
yard wide, and could be kept clean, no matter what the weather; and as a
wheelbarrow load of clay, or chalk, or sand thrown down would alter the
geological formation, the results obtained from them were certainly
instructive, and would be very useful as a guide to the cultivation of a
thousand acres. There was also a large, heavy iron roller, which the
scholars could if they chose drag round and round the gravel path.

Architecture, again, touches the agriculturist nearly. He requires
buildings for the pigs, cattle, horses, labourers, engine and machinery,
lastly, for himself. Out of doors almost any farmhouse that could be
visited might be made by a lecturer an illustrative example of what ought
to be avoided. Scarcely one could be found that was not full of
mistakes--utterly wrong, and erected regardless of design and utility.
Within doors, with ink, tracing paper, compasses, straight-edge and ruler,
really valuable ground plans, front elevations, and so on, could be laid
down. Altogether, with this circle of science to study, the future farmer
had very hard work to face. Such exhaustive mental labour induced a
certain nervousness that could only be allayed by relaxation. The bicycle
afforded a grateful change. Mounted upon the slender, swift-revolving
wheel, Mr. Phillip in the cool of the evening, after the long day of
study, sometimes proceeded to stretch his limbs. The light cigar soothed
his weary and overstrained mind.

The bicycle by-and-by, as if drawn by the power of gravitation, approached
more and more nearly to the distant town. It threaded the streets, and
finally stopped in the archway of an inn. There, leaned against the wall,
under the eye of the respectful ostler, the bicycle reposed. The owner
strolled upstairs, and in the company of choice spirits studied the laws
of right angles, of motion, and retarding friction, upon the level surface
of the billiard table. Somewhere in a not much frequented street there
could be seen a small window in which a coloured plate of fashions was
always displayed. There were also some bonnets, trimming, and tasteful
feathers. Nothing could be more attractive than this window. The milliner
was young and pretty, and seemed to have a cousin equally young and
pretty. Poor, lonely, friendless creatures, it was not surprising they
should welcome a little flirtation. The bicycle which so swiftly carries
the young man of the present day beyond the penetrating vision of his aunt
or tutor has much to answer for.

But, as pointed out previously, such exhaustive scientific training
naturally tends to make the mind mathematical. It cannot be satisfied
unless its surroundings--the substantial realisation of the concrete-are
perfect. So Mr. Phillip had a suit for every purpose--for football,
cricket, tennis, bicycle, shooting, dining, and strolling about. In the
same way he possessed a perfect armoury of athletic and other useful
implements. There were fine bats by the best makers for cricket, rods for
trout fishing, splendid modified choke-bores, saddles, jockey caps, and so
on. A gentleman like this could hardly long remain in the solitary halls
of learning--society must claim him for parties, balls, dinners, and the
usual round. It was understood that his 'governor' was a man of
substantial wealth; that Phillip would certainly be placed in an extensive
farm, to play the pleasant part of a gentleman farmer. People with
marriageable daughters looked upon the clever scholar as a desirable
addition to their drawing-rooms. Phillip, in short, found himself by
degrees involved in a whirl of festivities, and was never at a loss where
to go for amusement when he could obtain leave to seek relaxation. If such
social adulation made him a little vain, if it led to the purchase of a
twenty-five-guinea dressing-case, and to frequent consultations with the
tailor, it really was not Phillip's fault. He felt himself popular, and
accepted the position.

When the vacation came, gathering up a fresh pile of grandly-bound prize
books, broad sheets of diplomas, and certificates, Phillip departed to his
friend's mansion for the partridge shooting. Coming down the road on the
bicycle he overtook the reapers, and sprang his bell to warn them. The
reapers thought Phillip's job better than theirs.

At dinner, while sipping his claret, Phillip delivered his opinion upon
the agriculture of the district, which he had surveyed from his bicycle.
It was incomplete, stationary, or retrograde. The form of the fields alone
was an index to the character of the farmers who cultivated them. Not one
had a regular shape. The fields were neither circles, squares,
parallelograms, nor triangles. One side, perhaps, might be straight; the
hedgerow on the other had a dozen curves, and came up to a point. With
such irregular enclosures it was impossible that the farmer could plan out
his course with the necessary accuracy. The same incompleteness ran
through everything--one field was well tilled, the next indifferently, the
third full of weeds. Here was a good modern cattle-shed, well-designed for
the purpose; yonder was a tumble-down building, with holes in the roof and

So, too, with the implements--a farmer never seemed to have a complete
set. One farmer had, perhaps, a reaping machine, but he had not got an
elevator; another had an elevator, but no steam-plough. No one had a full
set of machinery. If they drained, they only drained one field; the entire
farm was never by any possibility finished straight off. If the farmer had
two new light carts of approved construction, he was sure to have three
old rumbling waggons, in drawing which there was a great waste of power.
Why not have all light carts? There was no uniformity. The farming mind
lacked breadth of view, and dwelt too much on detail. It was not, of
course, the fault of the tenants of the present day, but the very houses
they inhabited were always put in the wrong place. Where the ground was
low, flat, and liable to be flooded, the farmhouse was always built by a
brook. When the storms of winter came the brook overflowed, and the place
was almost inaccessible. In hilly districts, where there was not much
water, the farmhouse was situate on the slope, or perhaps on the plateau
above, and in summer very likely every drop of water used had to be drawn
up there from a distance in tanks.

The whole of rural England, in short, wanted rearranging upon mathematical
principles. To begin at the smallest divisions, the fields should be
mapped out like the squares of a chessboard; next, the parishes; and,
lastly, the counties. You ought to be able to work steam-ploughing tackle
across a whole parish, if the rope could be made strong enough. If you
talked with a farmer, you found him somehow or other quite incapable of
following a logical sequence of argument. He got on very well for a few
sentences, but, just as one was going to come to the conclusion, his mind
seized on some little paltry detail, and refused to move any farther. He
positively could not follow you to a logical conclusion. If you, for
instance, tried to show him that a certain course of cropping was the
correct one for certain fields, he would listen for awhile, and then
suddenly declare that the turnips in one of the said fields last year were
a failure. That particular crop of turnips had nothing at all to do with
the system at large, but the farmer could see nothing else.

What had struck him most, however, in that particular district, as he
traversed it on the bicycle, was the great loss of time that must result
from the absence of rapid means of communication on large farms. The
distance across a large farm might, perhaps, be a mile. Some farms were
not very broad, but extended in a narrow strip for a great way. Hours were
occupied in riding round such farms, hours which might be saved by simple
means. Suppose, for example, that a gang of labourers were at work in the
harvest-field, three-quarters of a mile from the farmhouse. Now, why not
have a field telegraph, like that employed in military operations? The
cable or wire was rolled on a drum like those used for watering a lawn.
All that was needed was to harness a pony, and the drum would unroll and
lay the wire as it revolved. The farmer could then sit in his office and
telegraph his instructions without a moment's delay. He could tap the
barometer, and wire to the bailiff in the field to be expeditious, for the
mercury was falling. Practically, there was no more necessity for the
farmer to go outside his office than for a merchant in Mincing Lane. The
merchant did not sail in every ship whose cargo was consigned to him: why
should the farmer watch every waggon loaded? Steam could drive the
farmer's plough, cut the chaff, pump the water, and, in short, do
everything. The field telegraph could be laid down to any required spot
with the greatest ease, and thus, sitting in his office chair, the farmer
could control the operations of the farm without once soiling his hands.
Mr. Phillip, as he concluded his remarks, reached his glass of claret, and
thus incidentally exhibited his own hand, which was as white as a lady's.



A rattling, thumping, booming noise, like the beating of their war drums
by savages, comes over the hedge where the bees are busy at the bramble
flowers. The bees take no heed, they pass from flower to flower, seeking
the sweet honey to store at home in the hive, as their bee ancestors did
before the Roman legions marched to Cowey Stakes. Their habits have not
changed; their 'social' relations are the same; they have not called in
the aid of machinery to enlarge their liquid, wealth, or to increase the
facility of collecting it. There is a low murmur rather than a buzz along
the hedgerow; but over it the hot summer breeze brings the thumping,
rattling, booming sound of hollow metal striking against the ground or in
contact with other metal. These ringing noises, which so little accord
with the sweet-scented hay and green hedgerows, are caused by the careless
handling of milk tins dragged hither and thither by the men who are
getting the afternoon milk ready for transit to the railway station miles
away. Each tin bears a brazen badge engraved with the name of the milkman
who will retail its contents in distant London. It may be delivered to the
countess in Belgravia, and reach her dainty lip in the morning chocolate,
or it may be eagerly swallowed up by the half-starved children of some
back court in the purlieus of the Seven Dials.

Sturdy milkmaids may still be seen in London, sweeping the crowded
pavement clear before them as they walk with swinging tread, a yoke on
their shoulders, from door to door. Some remnant of the traditional dairy
thus survives in the stony streets that are separated so widely from the
country. But here, beside the hay, the hedgerows, the bees, the flowers
that precede the blackberries--here in the heart of the meadows the
romance has departed. Everything is mechanical or scientific. From the
refrigerator that cools the milk, the thermometer that tests its
temperature, the lactometer that proves its quality, all is mechanical
precision. The tins themselves are metal--wood, the old country material
for almost every purpose, is eschewed--and they are swung up into a waggon
specially built for the purpose. It is the very antithesis of the jolting
and cumbrous waggon used for generations in the hay-fields and among the
corn. It is light, elegantly proportioned, painted, varnished--the work
rather of a coachbuilder than a cartwright. The horse harnessed in it is
equally unlike the cart-horse. A quick, wiry horse, that may be driven in
a trap or gig, is the style--one that will rattle along and catch the

The driver takes his seat and handles the reins with the air of a man
driving a tradesman's van, instead of walking, like the true old carter,
or sitting on the shaft. The vehicle rattles off to the station, where
ten, fifteen, or perhaps twenty such converge at the same hour, and then
ensues a scene of bustle, chaff, and rough language. The tins are placed
in the van specially reserved for them, the whistle sounds, the
passengers--who have been wondering why on earth there was all this noise
and delay at a little roadside station without so much as a visible
steeple--withdraw their heads from the windows; the wheels revolve, and,
gathering speed, the train disappears round the curve, hastening to the
metropolis. Then the empty tins returned from town have to be conveyed
home with more rattling, thumping and booming of hollow tin--there to be
carefully cleansed, for which purpose vast quantities of hot water must be
ready, and coal, of course, must be consumed in proportion.

This beautiful afternoon the booming seems to sound more than usual; it
may perhaps be the wind that carries the noise along. But Mr. George, the
farmer, who has been working among the haymakers, steps out from the rank,
and going some way aside pauses awhile to consider. You should not address
him as Farmer George. Farmer as an affix is not the thing now; farmers are
'Mr. So-and-so.' Not that there is any false pride about the present
individual; his memory goes back too far, and he has had too much
experience of the world. He leans on his prong--the sharp forks worn
bright as silver from use--stuck in the sward, and his chest pressing on
the top of the handle, or rather on both hands, with which he holds it.
The handle makes an angle of forty-five degrees with his body, and thus
gives considerable support and relief while he reflects.

He leans on his prong, facing to windward, and gazing straight into the
teeth of the light breeze, as he has done these forty and odd summers
past. Like the captain of a sailing ship, the eye of the master haymaker
must be always watching the horizon to windward. He depends on the sky,
like the mariner, and spreads his canvas and shapes his course by the
clouds. He must note their varying form and drift; the height and
thickness and hue; whether there is a dew in the evenings; whether the
distant hills are clearly defined or misty; and what the sunset portends.
From the signs of the sunset he learns, like the antique Roman

'When the south projects a stormy day,
And when the clearing north will puff the clouds away.'

According as the interpretation of the signs be favourable, adverse, or
doubtful, so he gives his orders.

This afternoon, as he stands leaning on the prong, he marks the soft air
which seems itself to be heated, and renders the shade, if you seek it for
coolness, as sultry as the open field. The flies are numerous and
busy--the horses can barely stand still, and nod their heads to shake them
off. The hills seem near, and the trees on the summit are distinctly
visible. Such noises as are heard seem exaggerated and hollow. There is
but little cloud, mere thin flecks; but the horizon has a brassy look, and
the blue of the sky is hard and opaque. Farmer George recollects that the
barometer he tapped before coming out showed a falling mercury; he does
not like these appearances, more especially the heated breeze. There is a
large quantity of hay in the meadow, much of it quite ready for carting,
indeed, the waggons are picking it up as fast as they can, and the rest,
if left spread about through next day--Sunday--would be fit on Monday.

On Sunday there are no wages to pay to the labourers; but the sun, if it
shines, works as hard and effectually as ever. It is always a temptation
to the haymaker to leave his half-made hay spread about for Sunday, so
that on Monday morning he may find it made. Another reason why he
hesitates is because he knows he will have trouble with the labourers, who
will want to be off early as it is Saturday. They are not so ready to work
an hour or two overtime as when he was a boy. On the other hand, he
recollects that the weather cablegrams from America foretell the arrival
of a depression. What would his grandfather have thought of adjusting the
work in an English meadow to the tenour of news from the other side of the

Suddenly, while he ponders, there arises a shout from the labourers. The
hay in one spot, as if seized by an invisible force, lifts itself up and
revolves round and round, rising higher every turn. A miniature cyclone is
whirling it up--a column of hay twisting in a circle and rising above the
trees. Then the force of the whirlwind spends itself; some of the hay
falls on the oaks, and some drifts with the breeze across the field before
it sinks.

This decides him at once. He resolves to have all the hay carted that he
can, and the remainder put up into haycocks. The men grumble when they
hear it; perhaps a year ago they would have openly mutinied, and refused
to work beyond the usual hour. But, though wages are still high, the
labourers feel that they are not so much the masters as they were--they
grumble, but obey. The haycocks are put up, and the rick-cloth unfolded
over the partly made rick. Farmer George himself sees to it that the cloth
does not touch the rick at the edges, or the rain, if it comes, will go
through instead of shooting off, and that the ropes are taut and firmly
belayed. His caution is justified in the night by a violent thunderstorm,
and in the morning it is raining steadily.

It rains again on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Thursday it does not
rain, but the hedges are wet, the ground is soaked, the grass hung with
raindrops, the sky heavy with masses of drifting cloud. The hay cannot be
touched; it must lie a day till sufficiently dry. Friday is more hopeful.
He walks out into the fields, and kicks a haycock half over. The hay is
still wet, but he congratulates himself that not much damage is done.
Saturday Is warm and fine--work goes on again. But Sunday is near. Sunday
is fiery hot. Monday, the rain pours down with tropical vehemence.

Thus the monotonous, heart-breaking days go by and lengthen into weeks,
and the weeks extend into months. The wheat is turning colour, and still
the hay lies about, and the farmer has ceased even to tap the barometer.
Those fields that are not cut are brown as brown can be--the grass has
seeded and is over ripe. The labourers come every day, and some trifling
job is found for them--the garden path is weeded, the nettles cut, and
such little matters done. Their wages are paid every week in silver and
gold--harvest wages, for which no stroke of harvest work has been done. He
must keep them on, because any day the weather may brighten, and then they
will be wanted. But the weather does not brighten, and the drain of ready
cash continues. Besides the men, the mowing machine is idle in the shed.
Even if the rain ceases, the crops are so laid that it is doubtful if it
can be employed. The horse-rake is idle, the elevator is idle, the
haymaking machine is idle, and these represent capital, if not to a large
amount. He notes the price of hay at the market. For months past it has
been low--so low that it has hardly paid him to sell that portion of old
hay which he felt he could spare. From October of last year to June of
this [1879] the price remained about the same. It is now rising, but he
has no more old hay to part with, and the new is not yet made. He has to
bear in mind that his herd of cows has to be kept in high feed all the
winter, to supply an unvarying quantity of milk to the London purchaser.

These wet days, forcing him unwillingly to stay within doors, send him to
his books and accounts, and they tell a story somewhat at variance with
the prevalent belief that dairy-farming is the only branch of farming that
is still profitable. First, as to the milk-selling. Cows naturally yield a
larger supply in the summer than in winter, but by the provisions of the
contract between the farmer and the milkman the quantity sent in summer is
not to exceed, and the quantity in winter not to fall short of, a
stipulated amount.[Footnote: An improvement upon this system has been
introduced by the leading metropolitan dairy company. The farmer is asked
to fix a minimum quantity which he will engage to supply daily, but he can
send as much more as he likes. This permits of economical and natural
management in a dairy, which was very difficult under the rigid rule
mentioned above.] The price received in summer is about fivepence or
fivepence-halfpenny per imperial gallon, afterwards retailed in London at
about one shilling and eightpence. When the cost of conveyance to the
station, of the horses, of the wear and tear, of the men who have to be
paid for doing nothing else but look after the milk, is deducted, the
profit to the farmer is but small. He thinks, too, that he notices a
decided falling-off in the demand for milk even at this price.

Some dairies find a difficulty in disposing of the milk--they cannot find
a purchaser. He has himself a considerable surplus over and above what the
contract allows him to send. This must either be wasted entirely or made
into butter and cheese. In order to make cheese, the plant, the tubs,
vats, presses, and so on, must be kept in readiness, and there must be an
experienced person to superintend the work. This person must be paid a
salary, and lodge and board in the house, representing therefore a
considerable outlay. The cheese, when made and sent to market, fluctuates
of course in price: it may be as low as fourpence a pound wholesale; it
may go as high as sixpence. Fourpence a pound wholesale will not pay for
the making; sixpence will leave a profit; but of late the price has gone
rather to the lower than the higher figure. A few years since, when the
iron industries flourished, this kind of cheese had a good and ready sale,
and there was a profit belonging to it; but since the iron trade has been
in so depressed a condition this cheese has sold badly. The surplus milk
consequently brings no profit, and is only made into cheese because it
shall not be wasted, and in the hope that possibly a favourable turn of
the cheese market may happen. Neither the summer cheese nor the summer
milk is bringing him in a fortune.

Meantime the hay is spoiling in the fields. But a few years ago, when
agricultural prices were inflated, and men's minds were full of
confidence, he recollects seeing standing grass crops sold by auction for
5_l_. the acre, and in some cases even higher prices were realised. This
year similar auctions of standing grass crops hardly realised 30_s_. an
acre, and in some instances a purchaser could not be found even at that
price. The difference in the value of grass represented by these prices is
very great.

He has no pigs to sell, because, for a long while past, he has had nothing
upon which to feed them, the milk being sold. The pigsties are full of
weeds; he can hardly fatten one for his own use, and has scarcely better
facilities for keeping pigs than an agricultural labourer. The carriage of
the milk to the station requires at least two quick horses, and perhaps
more; one cannot do it twice a day, even with a very moderate load. The
hard highway and the incessant work would soon knock a single horse up.
The mowing machine and the horse-rake must be drawn by a similar horse, so
that the dairy farm may be said to require a style of horse like that
employed by omnibus proprietors. The acreage being limited, he can only
keep a certain number of horses, and, therefore, has no room for a brood

Farmer George is aware that nothing now pays like a brood cart mare with
fair good luck. The colt born in April is often sold six months
afterwards, in September, for 20_l_. or 25_l_., and even up to 30_l_.,
according to excellence. The value of cart-horse colts has risen greatly,
and those who are fortunately able to maintain a brood mare have reaped
the profit. But Mr. George, selling the milk, and keeping a whole stud of
nags for the milk cart, the mowing machine, the horse-rake, and so forth,
cannot maintain a brood mare as well. In the winter, it is true, the milk
may sell for as high a price as tenpence per gallon of four quarts, but
then he has a difficulty in procuring the quantity contracted for, and may
perhaps have to buy of neighbours to keep up the precise supply.

His herd must also be managed for the purpose, and must be well fed, and
he will probably have to buy food for them in addition to his hay. The nag
horses, too, that draw the milk waggon, have to be fed during the winter,
and are no slight expense. As for fattening a beast in a stall, with a
view to take the prize at Christmas at the local show, he has abandoned
that, finding that it costs more to bring the animal up to the condition
required than he can afterwards sell it for. There is no profit in that.
America presses upon him hard, too--as hard, or harder, than on the
wheat-grower. Cases have been known of American cheese being sold in
manufacturing towns as low as twopence per pound retail--given away by
despairing competition.

How, then, is the dairyman to succeed when he cannot, positively cannot,
make cheese to sell at less than fourpence per pound wholesale? Of course
such instances are exceptional, but American cheese is usually sold a
penny or more a pound below the English ordinary, and this cuts the ground
from under the dairyman's feet; and the American cheese too is acquiring a
reputation for richness, and, price for price, surpasses the English in
quality. Some people who have long cherished a prejudice against the
American have found, upon at last being induced to try the two, that the
Canadian cheddar is actually superior to the English cheddar, the English
selling at tenpence per pound and the Canadian at sevenpence.

Mr. George finds he pays a very high rent for his grass land--some 50_s_.
per acre--and upon reckoning up the figures in his account-books heaves a
sigh. His neighbours perchance may be making fortunes, though they tell
quite a different tale, but he feels that he is not growing rich. The work
is hard, or rather it is continuous. No one has to attend to his duties so
regularly all the year round as the man who looks after cows. They cannot
be left a single day from the 1st of January to the 31st of December. Nor
is the social state of things altogether pleasant to reflect on. His sons
and daughters have all left home; not one would stay and take to the dairy
work. They have gone into the towns, and found more congenial employment
there. He is himself growing in years. His wife, having once left off
making cheese when the milk selling commenced, and having tasted the
sweets of rest, is unwilling to return to that hard labour. When it is
done he must pay some one to do it.

In every way ready money is going out of the house. Cash to pay the
haymakers idling about in the sheds out of the rain; cash to pay the men
who manage the milk; cash to pay the woman who makes the cheese out of the
surplus milk; cash to pay the blacksmith for continually re-shoeing the
milk cart nags and for mending machines; cash to pay the brewer and the
butcher and the baker, neither of whom took a sovereign here when he was a
lad, for his father ate his own bacon, brewed his own beer, and baked his
own bread; cash to pay for the education of the cottagers' children; cash,
a great deal of cash, to pay the landlord.

Mr. George, having had enough of his accounts, rises and goes to the
window. A rain cloud sweeping along the distant hills has hidden them from
sight, and the rack hurries overhead driven before the stormy wind. There
comes a knock at the door. It is the collector calling the second time for
the poor rates, which have grown heavier of late.

But, however delayed, the haymaking is finished at last, and by-and-by,
when the leaves have fallen and the hunting commences, a good run drives
away for the time at least the memory of so unpropitious a season. Then
Mr. George some mild morning forms one of a little group of well-mounted
farmers waiting at a quiet corner while the hounds draw a great wood. Two
of them are men long past middle age, whose once tawny beards are
grizzled, but who are still game, perhaps more so than the rising
generation. The rest have followed them here, aware that these old hands
know every inch of the country, and are certain to be in the right place.
The spot is not far from the park wall, where the wood runs up into a
wedge-shaped point, and ends in a low mound and hedge. Most of the company
at the meet in the park have naturally cantered across the level sward,
scattering the sheep as they go, and are now assembled along the side of
the wood, near where a green 'drive' goes through it, and apparently gives
direct access to the fields beyond. From thence they can see the huntsman
in the wood occasionally, and trace the exact course the hounds are taking
in their search.

A gallant show it is by the wood! Horsemen and horsewomen, late comers
hastening up, restless horses, a throng for ever in motion, and every now
and then the blast of a horn rising up from the trees beneath. A gallant
show indeed, but two old cunning ones and their followers have slipped
away down to this obscure corner where they can see nothing of it, and are
themselves hidden. They know that the wood is triangular in shape, and
that from this, the apex, they have merely to pass the low hedge in front,
and, turning to the left, ride along the lower side, and so bisect the
course the fox will probably take. They know that the 'drive,' which
offers so straight and easy a descent through the wood from the park, is
pleasant enough till the lower ground is reached. There the soft, oozy
earth, which can never dry under the trees, is poached into a slough
through which even timber carriages cannot be drawn. Nor can a horseman
slip aside, because of the ash poles and thorn thickets. Those who are
trapped there must return to the park and gallop all round the wood
outside, unless they like to venture a roll in that liquid mud. Any one
can go to a meet, but to know all the peculiarities of the covers is only
given to those who have ridden over the country these forty years. In this
corner a detached copse of spruce fir keeps off the wind--the direction of
which they have noted--and in this shelter it is almost warm.

The distant crack of a whip, the solitary cry of a hound, a hollow shout,
and similar sounds, come frequently, and now and then there is an
irrepressible stir in the little group as they hear one of the many false
alarms that always occur in drawing a great wood. To these noises they are
keenly sensitive, but utterly ignore the signs of other life around them.
A pheasant, alarmed by the hounds, comes running quietly, thinking to
escape into the line of isolated copses that commences here; but, suddenly
confronted by the horsemen just outside, rises with an uproar, and goes
sailing down over the fields. Two squirrels, happy in the mild weather,
frisk out of the copse into the dank grass, till a curvet of one of the
horses frightens them up into the firs again.

Horses and men are becoming impatient. 'That dalled keeper has left an
earth open,' remarks one of the riders. His companion points with his whip
at the hedge just where it joins the wood. A long slender muzzle is thrust
for a moment cautiously over the bare sandy mound under cover of a thorn
stole. One sniff, and it is withdrawn. The fox thought also to steal away
along the copses, the worst and most baffling course he could choose. Five
minutes afterwards, and there is this time no mistake. There comes from
the park above the low, dull, rushing roar of hundreds of hoofs, that
strike the sward together, and force by sheer weight the reluctant earth
to resound. The two old hands lead over the hedge, and the little company,
slipping along below the wood, find themselves well on the track, far in
front of the main body. There is a block in the treacherous 'drive,' those
who where foremost struggling to get back, and those behind struggling to
come down. The rest at last, learning the truth, are galloping round the
outside, and taking it out of their horses before they get on the course
at all.

It is a splendid burst, and the pace is terrible. The farmers' powerful
horses find it heavy going across the fresh ploughed furrows and the wet
'squishey' meadows, where the double mounds cannot be shirked. Now a lull,
and the two old hands, a little at fault, make for the rising ground,
where are some ricks, and a threshing machine at work, thinking from
thence to see over the tall hedgerows. Upon the rick the labourers have
stopped work, and are eagerly watching the chase, for from that height
they can see the whole field. Yonder the main body have found a succession
of fields with the gates all open: some carting is in progress, and the
gates have been left open for the carter's convenience. A hundred horsemen
and eight or ten ladies are galloping in an extended line along this
route, riding hardest, as often happens, when the hounds are quiet, that
they may be ready when the chiding commences.

Suddenly the labourers exclaim and point, the hounds open, and the
farmers, knowing from the direction they point where to ride, are off. But
this time the fox has doubled, so that the squadrons hitherto behind are
now closest up, and the farmers in the rear: thus the fortune of war
changes, and the race is not to the swift. The labourers on the rick,
which stands on the side of a hill, are fully as excited as the riders,
and they can see what the hunter himself rarely views, _i.e._ the fox
slipping ahead before the hounds. Then they turn to alternately laugh at,
and shout directions to a disconsolate gentleman, who, ignorant of the
district, is pounded in a small meadow. He is riding frantically round and
round, afraid to risk the broad brook which encircles it, because of the
treacherous bank, and maddened by the receding sound of the chase. A boy
gets off the rick and runs to earn sixpence by showing a way out. So from
the rick Hodge has his share of the sport, and at that elevation can see
over a wide stretch of what he--changing the 'd' into a 'j'--calls 'the
juke's country.'

It is a famous land. There are spaces, which on the map look large, and
yet have no distinctive character, no individuality as it were. Such broad
expanses of plain and vale are usefully employed in the production of
cattle and corn. Villages, hamlets, even towns are dotted about them, but
a list of such places would not contain a single name that would catch the
eye. Though occupying so many square miles, the district, so far as the
world is concerned, is non-existent. It is socially a blank. But 'the
juke's country' is a well-known land. There are names connected with it
which are familiar not only in England, but all the world over, where
men--and where do they not?--converse of sport. Something beyond mere
utility, beyond ploughing and sowing, has given it within its bounds a
species of separate nationality. The personal influence of an acknowledged
leader has organised society and impressed it with a quiet enthusiasm.
Even the bitterest Radical forgives the patrician who shoots or rides
exceptionally well, and hunting is a pursuit which brings the peer and the
commoner side by side.

The agricultural population speak as one man upon the subject. The old
farmer will tell you with pride how his advice was sought when disease
entered the kennels, and how his remedy saved the lives of valuable
hounds. The farmer's son, a mere lad, whose head barely rises to his
saddle, talks of 'the duke' as his hero. This boy knows the country, and
can ride straight, better than many a gentleman with groom and second
horse behind. Already, like his elders, he looks forward impatiently to
the fall of the leaf. The tenants' wives and daughters allude with
pleasure to the annual social gatherings at the mansion, and it is
apparent that something like a real bond exists between landlord and
tenant. No false pride separates the one from the other--intercourse is
easy, for a man of high and ancient lineage can speak freely to the
humblest labourer without endangering his precedence. It needs none of the
parvenu's _hauteur_ and pomp to support his dignity. Every tenant is
treated alike.

On small estates there is sometimes a complaint that the largest tenant is
petted while the lesser are harshly treated. Nothing of that is known
here. The tenants are as well content as it is possible for men to be who
are passing under the universal depression. _Noblesse oblige_--it would be
impossible for that ancient house to stoop to meanness. The head rides to
the hunt, as his ancestors rode to battle, with a hundred horsemen behind
him. His colours are like the cockades of olden times. Once now and then
even Royalty honours the meet with its presence. Round that ancient house
the goodwill of the county gathers; and when any family event--as a
marriage--takes place, the hearty congratulations offered come from far
beyond the actual property. His pastime is not without its use--all are
agreed that hunting really does improve the breed of horses. Certainly it
gives a life, a go, a social movement to the country which nothing else

It is a pleasant land withal--a land of hill and vale, of wood and copse.
How well remembered are the copses on the hills, and the steeples, those
time-honoured landmarks to wandering riders! The small meadows with double
mounds have held captive many a stranger. The river that winds through
them enters by-and-by a small but ancient town, with its memories of the
fierce Danes, and its present talk of the hunt. About five o'clock on
winter afternoons there is a clank of spurs in the courtyard of the old
inn, and the bar is crowded with men in breeches and top-boots. As they
refresh themselves there is a ceaseless hum of conversation, how so-and-so
came a cropper, how another went at the brook in style, or how some poor
horse got staked and was mercifully shot. A talk, in short, like that in
camp after a battle, of wounds and glory. Most of these men are tenant
farmers, and reference is sure to be made to the price of cheese, and the
forthcoming local agricultural show.

This old market town has been noted for generations as a great cheese
centre. It is not, perhaps, the most convenient situation for such a
market, and its population is inconsiderable; but the trade is, somehow or
other, a tradition of the place, and traditions are hard to shake. Efforts
have been made to establish rival markets in towns nearer to the modern
resorts of commerce, but in vain. The attempt has always proved a failure,
and to this day the prices quoted at this place rule those of the
adjoining counties, and are watched in distant cities. The depression made
itself felt here in a very practical manner, for prices fell to such an
extent that the manufacture of the old style of cheese became almost a
dead loss. Some farmers abandoned it, and at much trouble and expense
changed their system, and began to produce Cheddar and Stilton. But when
the Stilton was at last ready, there was no demand for it. Almost
suddenly, however, and quite recently, a demand sprang up, and the price
of that cheese rose. They say here in the bar that this probably saved
many from difficulties; large stocks that had been lying on hand
unsaleable for months going off at a good price. They hope that it is an
omen of returning prosperity, and do not fail to observe the remarkable
illustration it affords of the close connection between trade and
agriculture. For no sooner did the iron trade revive than the price of
cheese responded. The elder men cannot refrain from chuckling over the
altered tone of the inhabitants of cities towards the farmers. 'Years
ago,' they say, 'we were held up to scorn, and told that we were quite
useless; there was nothing so contemptible as the British farmer. Now they
have discovered that, after all, we are some good, and even Manchester
sympathises with us.'

It is now hoped that the forthcoming local show--largely patronised and
promoted by the chief of the hunting field--will be better than was at one
time anticipated. Those who would like to see the real working of an
agricultural show such as this should contrive to visit the yard early in
the morning of the opening day, some few hours before the public are
admitted. The bustle, the crash of excited exhibitors, the cries of men in
charge of cattle, the apparently inextricable confusion, as if everything
had been put off to the last moment--the whole scene is intensely
agricultural. Every one is calling for the secretary. A drover wants to
know where to put his fat cattle; a carter wants to ask where a great
cart-horse is to stand--he and his horse together are hopelessly
floundering about in the crowd. The agent of a firm of implement
manufacturers has a telegram that another machine is coming, and is
anxious for extra space; the representative of an artificial manure
factory is vainly seeking a parcel that has got mislaid. The seedsman
requires permission to somewhat shift his stall; wherever is the

When he appears, a clergyman at once pounces on him to apply for tickets
for the dinner, and is followed by a farmer, who must have a form and an
explanation how to fill it up. One of his labourers has decided at the
last minute to enter for a prize--he has had a year to make up his mind
in. A crowd of members of the Society are pushing round for a private
view, and watching the judges at their work. They all turn to the
secretary to ask where such and such an exhibit may be found, and demand
why on earth the catalogues are not ready? Mr. Secretary, a stout tenant
farmer, in breeches and top-boots, whose broad face beams with good nature
(selected, perhaps, for that very quality), pants and wipes his forehead,
for, despite the cold, the exertion and the universal flurry have made him
quiet hot. He gives every inquirer a civil answer, and affably begs the
eager folk that press upon him to come up into the committee-room.

At this a satisfied smile replaces the troubled expression upon their
faces. They feel that their difficulties are at an end; they have got hold
of the right man at last--there is something soothing in the very sound of
the committee-room. When they get up into this important apartment they
find it quite empty. There is a blazing fire in the grate, and littered on
the long table is a mass of forms, letters, lists, and proofs of the
catalogue waiting for the judges' decision to be entered. After half an
hour or so their hopes begin to fall, and possibly some one goes down to
try and haul the secretary up into his office. The messenger finds that
much-desired man in the midst of an excited group; one has him by the arm
pulling him forward, another by the coat dragging him back, a third is
bawling at him at the top of a powerful voice.

By-and-by, however, the secretary comes panting up into the committee-room
with a letter in his hand and a pleased expression on his features. He
announces that he has just had a note from his Grace, who, with his party,
will be here early, and who hopes that all is going on well. Then to
business, and it is surprising how quickly he disposes of it. A farmer
himself, he knows exactly what is wanted, and gives the right order
without a moment's hesitation. It is no new experience to him, and despite
all this apparent confusion, everything presently falls into its place.

After the opening of the show there is a meeting, at which certain prizes
are distributed, among them rewards to the best ploughman in 'the juke's
country,' and to those labourers who have remained longest in the service
of one master. For the graceful duty of presentation a marchioness has
been selected, who, with other visitors of high social rank, has come over
from that famous hunting mansion. To meet that brilliant party the whole
agricultural interest has assembled. The room is crowded with tenant
farmers, the entire hunting field is present. Every clergyman in the
district is here, together with the gentry, and many visitors for the
hunting season. Among them, shoulder to shoulder, are numbers of
agricultural labourers, their wives, and daughters, dressed in their best
for the occasion. After some speeches, a name is called, and an aged
labourer steps forward.

His grandchildren are behind him; two of his sons, quite elderly
themselves, attend him almost to the front, so that he may have to make
but a few steps unsupported. The old man is frosted with age, and moves
stiffly, like a piece of mechanism rather than a living creature, nor is
there any expression--neither smile nor interest--upon his absolutely
immobile features. He wears breeches and gaiters, and a blue coat cut in
the style of two generations since. There is a small clear space in the
midst of the well-dressed throng. There he stands, and for the moment the
hum is hushed.

For sixty years that old man laboured upon one farm; sixty years of
ploughing and sowing, sixty harvests. What excitement, what discoveries
and inventions--with what giant strides the world has progressed while he
quietly followed the plough! An acknowledgment has been publicly awarded
to him for that long and faithful service. He puts forth his arm; his dry,
horny fingers are crooked, and he can neither straighten nor bend them.
Not the least sign appears upon his countenance that he is even conscious
of what is passing. There is a quick flash of jewelled rings ungloved to
the light, and the reward is placed in that claw-like grasp by the white
hand of the marchioness.

Not all the gallant cavalry of the land fearlessly charging hedge and
brook can, however, repel the invasion of a foe mightier than their chief.
Frost sometimes comes and checks their gaiety. Snow falls, and levels
every furrow, and then Hodge going to his work in the morning can clearly
trace the track of one of his most powerful masters, Squire Reynard, who
has been abroad in the night, and, likely enough, throttled the
traditional grey goose. The farmer watches for the frozen thatch to drip;
the gentleman visiting the stable looks up disconsolately at the icicles
dependent from the slated eave with the same hope. The sight of a stray
seagull wandering inland is gladly welcomed, as the harbinger of drenching
clouds sweeping up on soft south-westerly gales from the nearest coast.

The hunt is up once more, and so short are the hours of the day in the
dead of the year, that early night often closes round the chase. From out
of the gloom and the mist comes the distant note of the horn, with a weird
and old-world sound. By-and-by the labourer, trudging homeward, is
overtaken by a hunter whose horse's neck droops with weariness. His boots
are splashed with mud, his coat torn by the thorns. He is a visitor,
vainly trying to find his way home, having come some ten or fifteen miles
across country since the morning. The labourer shows the route--the
longest way round is the shortest at night--and as they go listens eagerly
to the hunter's tale of the run. At the cross roads they part with mutual
goodwill towards each other, and a shilling, easily earned, pays that
night for the cottager's pipe and glass of ale.



A pair of well-matched bays in silver-plated harness, and driven by a
coachman in livery, turn an easy curve round a corner of the narrow
country road, forcing you to step on the sward by the crimson-leaved
bramble bushes, and sprinkling the dust over the previously glossy surface
of the newly fallen horse chestnuts. Two ladies, elegantly dressed, lounge
in the carriage with that graceful idleness--that indifferent
indolence--only to be acquired in an atmosphere of luxury. Before they
pass out of sight round another turn of the road it is possible to observe
that one at least possesses hair of the fashionable hue, and a complexion
delicately brilliant--whether wholly natural or partly aided by art. The
other must be pronounced a shade less rich in the colours of youth, but is
perhaps even more expensively dressed. An experienced observer would at
once put them down as mother and daughter, as, indeed, they are.

The polished spokes of the wheels glitter in the sun, the hoofs of the
high-stepping pair beat the firm road in regular cadence, and smoothly the
carriage rolls on till the brown beech at the corner hides it. But a sense
of wealth, of social station, and refinement--strange and in strong
contrast to the rustic scene--lingers behind, like a faint odour of
perfume. There are the slow teams pulling stolidly at the ploughs--they
were stopped, of course, for the carters to stare at the equipage; there
are the wheat ricks; yonder a lone farmstead, and black cattle grazing in
the pasture. Surely the costly bays, whose hoofs may even now be heard,
must belong to the lordly owner of these broad acres--this undulating
landscape of grass and stubble, which is not beautiful but evidently

A very brief inquiry at the adjacent market town disposes of this natural
conclusion. It is the carriage of a tenant farmer--but what a tenant! The
shopkeepers here are eloquent, positively gratefully eloquent, in the
praise of his wife and daughter. Customers!--no such customers had been
known in the old borough from time immemorial. The tradesman as he speaks
involuntarily pulls out his till, glances in, and shuts it up with a
satisfied bang. The old style of farmer, solid and substantial enough,
fumbling at the bottom of his canvas bag for silver and gold, was a crusty
curmudgeon where silk and satin, kid gloves, and so forth were concerned.
His wife had to look sharp after her poultry, geese and turkeys, and such
similar perquisites, in order to indulge in any innocent vanity,
notwithstanding that the rent was paid and a heavy balance at the bank.

Then he would have such a length of credit--a year at least--and nowadays
a shopkeeper, though sure of his money, cannot wait long for it. But to
ask for the account was to give mortal offence. The bill would be paid
with the remark, intended to be intensely sarcastic, 'Suppose you thought
we was a-going to run away--eh?' and the door would never again be
darkened by those antique breeches and gaiters. As for the common run of
ordinary farmers, their wives bought a good deal, but wanted it cheap and,
looking at the low price of corn and the 'paper' there was floating about,
it did not do to allow a long bill to be run up. But the Grange
people--ah! the Grange people put some life into the place. 'Money! they
must have heaps of money' (lowering his voice to a whisper). 'Why, Mrs.
---- brought him a fortune, sir; why, she's got a larger income than our
squire' (as if it were, rank treason to say so). 'Mr. ---- has got money
too, and bless you, they holds their heads as high as their landlord's,
and good reason they should. They spend as much in a week as the squire do
in a month, and don't cheapen nothing, and your cheque just whenever you
like to ask for it. That's what I calls gentlefolks.' For till and counter
gauge long descent, and heraldic quarterings, and ancestral Crusaders, far
below the chink of ready money, that synonym for all the virtues.

The Grange people, indeed, are so conspicuous, that there is little
secrecy about them or their affairs. The house they reside in--it cannot
be called a farmstead--is a large villa-like mansion of recent erection,
and fitted with every modern convenience. The real farmstead which it
supplanted lies in a hollow at some distance, and is occupied by the head
bailiff, for there are several employed. As the architecture of the villa
is consonant with modern 'taste,' so too the inferior is furnished in the
'best style,' of course under the supervision of the mistress. Mrs. ----
has filled it with rosewood and ormolu, with chairs completely gilt, legs,
back, seat, and all, with luxurious ottomans, 'occasional' tables inlaid
with mother-o'-pearl, soft carpets, polished brazen grate-fittings,
semi-ecclesiastical, semi-mediaeval, and so forth.

Everywhere the glitter of glass, mirrors over the mantelpieces, mirrors
let into panels, glass chiffoniers, and pendent prisms of glass round the
ornamental candlesticks. Mixed with this some of the latest productions of
the new English Renaissance--stiff, straight-back, plain oak chairs, such
as men in armour may have used--together with Japanese screens. In short,
just such a medley of artistic styles as may be seen in scores of suburban
villas where money is of little account, and even in houses of higher
social pretensions. There is the usual illustrated dining-room literature,
the usual _bric-a-brac_, the usual cabinet series of poets. There are oil
paintings on the walls; there is an immense amount of the most expensive
electroplate on the dinner table; the toilet accessories in the guest
chambers are 'elegant' and _recherche_. The upholsterer has not been

For Mrs. ---- is the daughter of a commercial man, one of the principals
of a great firm, and has been accustomed to these things from her youth
upwards. She has no sympathies with the past, that even yet is loth to
quit its hold of the soil and of those who are bred upon it. The ancient
simplicity and plainness of country life are positively repulsive to her;
she associates them with poverty. Her sympathies are with warm,
well-lighted rooms, full of comfort, shadowless because of the glare of
much gas. She is not vulgar, just the reverse--she is a thorough lady, but
she is not of the country and its traditions. She is the city and the
suburb transplanted to the midst of corn, and grass, and cattle. She has
her maid, skilled in the toilet, her carriage and pair and pony carriage,
grooms, footmen, just exactly as she would have done had she brought her
magnificent dowry to a villa at Sydenham.

In the season, with her daughter, she goes to town, and drives daily in
the park, just the same as to-day she has driven through the leaf-strewn
country-lane to the market town. They go also to the sea-side, and now and
then to the Continent. They are, of course, invited to the local balls,
and to many of the best houses on more private occasions. The
ramifications of finance do not except the proudest descendants of the
Crusaders, and the 'firm' has its clients even among them. Bonnets come
down from Madame Louise, boxes of novels from Mudie's; 'Le Follet' is read
in the original, and many a Parisian romance as well. Visitors are
continually coming and going--the carriage is perpetually backwards and
forwards to the distant railway station. Friends come to the shooting, the
hunting, the fishing; there is never any lack of society.

The house is full of servants, and need be, to wait upon these people.
Now, in former days, and not such a great while since, the best of
servants came from the country. Mistresses sought for them, and mourned
when, having imbibed town ways and town independence, they took their
departure to 'better' themselves. But that is a thing of the past; it is
gone with the disappearance of the old style of country life. Servant
girls in farmhouses when young used to have a terribly hard life: hard
work, hard fare, up early of a morning, stone flags under foot by day,
bare boards under foot upstairs, small pay, and hard words too often. But
they turned out the best of women, the healthiest and strongest, the most
sought after. Now they learn a great deal about Timbuctoo, and will soon,
no doubt, about Cyprus; but the 'servant from the country' is no more.
Nothing less will suit them to begin with than the service of the parish
clergyman, then they aspire to the Grange, get there, and receive a
finishing education, and can never afterwards condescend to go where a
footman is not kept. They become, in short, fine ladies, whose fathers are
still at the plough--ladies who at home have been glad of bread and bacon,
and now cannot possibly survive without hot butcher's meat every day, and
game and fish in their seasons.

But to return. Mrs. ---- and her daughter have also their saddle horses.
They do not often hunt, but frequently go to the meet. They have, it is
true, an acceptable excuse for preferring riding to walking--the fashion
of tying the dress back so tightly makes it extremely difficult for a lady
to get over a country stile. The rigours of winter only enable them to
appear even yet more charming in furs and sealskin. In all this the Grange
people have not laid themselves open to any reproach as to the
extravagance or pretension of their doings. With them it is genuine, real,
unaffected: in brief, they have money, and have a right to what it can

Mr. ---- is not a tenant farmer from necessity; personally he is not a
farmer at all, and knows no more of shorthorns than the veriest 'City'
man. He has a certain taste for country life, and this is his way of
enjoying it--and a very acute way, too, when you come to analyse it. The
major portion of his capital is, with his wife's, in the 'firm'; it is
administered and employed for him by men whose family interests and his
are identical, whose knowledge of business is profound, whose own capital
is there too. It is a fortunate state of things, not brought about in a
day, but the growth of more than one generation. Now this man, as has been
remarked, has a taste for country life--that is to say, he is an
enthusiast over horses--not betting, but horses in their best form. He
likes to ride and drive about, to shoot, and fish, and hunt. There is
nothing despicable in this, but, after the manner of men, of course he
must find an excuse.

He found it in the children when they were young--two boys and one girl.
It was better for them to have country air, to ride about the country
lanes, and over the hills. The atmosphere altogether was more healthy,
more manly than in the suburbs of a city. The excuse is a good one. Now
come the means; two plans are open to him. He can buy an estate, or he can
rent a large farm, or rather series of farms. If he purchases a fine
estate he must withdraw his capital from business. In the first place,
that would be inconvenient to old friends, and even unjust to them; in the
second place, it would reduce his income most materially. Suppose we say,
not for absolute exactness, but for the sake of present contrast, that
capital well invested in business brings in ten per cent. The same capital
invested in land brings in, say, three per cent. nominally; but is it as
much in reality if you deduct those expensive improvements upon which
tenants insist nowadays, and the five per cents, and ten per cents,
allowed off the rent in bad years? At all events, it is certain that
landlords, as a class, are investing more and more every year in business,
which looks as if they did not consider land itself sufficiently
remunerative. In addition, when you have bought your estate, should you
subsequently wish to realise, the difficulties and delays are very trying.
You cannot go down to your broker and say, 'Sell me a thousand acres this
morning.' Capital in land is locked up.

Mr. ----, having been trained in traditions of ready money and easy
transfer, does not like this prospect. But as the tenant of a great farm
it is quite another matter. The larger part of his capital still remains
in the 'firm,' and earns him a handsome income. That which is invested in
stock, cattle, horses, implements, &c., is in a sense readily negotiable
if ever he should desire to leave. Instead of having to pet and pamper
discontented tenants, his landlord has to pet and pamper him. He has, in
fact, got the upper hand. There are plenty of landlords who would be only
too glad to get the rich Mr. ---- to manure and deep-plough their lands;
but there are comparatively few Mr. ----'s whose rent-day payments can be
implicitly relied on. Mr. ----, in point of fact, gets all the sweets of
the country gentleman's life, and leaves the owner all the sour. He has no
heir presumptive to check his proceedings; no law of entail to restrain
him; no old settlements to bind him hand and foot; none of those hundred
and one family interests to consult which accumulate in the course of
years around a landed estate, and so seriously curtail the freedom of the
man in possession, the head of the family. So far as liberty and financial
considerations go, he is much better off than his landlord, who perhaps
has a title.

Though he knows nothing of farming, he has the family instinct of accounts
and figures; he audits the balance-sheets and books of his bailiff
personally, and is not easily cheated. Small peculations of course go on,
but nothing serious. The farms pay their way, and contribute a trifle
towards the household expenses. For the rest, it is taken out in liberty,
out-of-door life, field sports, and unlimited horses. His wife and
daughter mix in the best society the county affords, besides their annual
visits to town and the sea-side: they probably enjoy thrice the liberty
and pleasure they would elsewhere. Certainly they are in blooming health.
The eldest son is studying for the law, the younger has the commercial
instinct more strongly developed, and is already with the 'firm.' Both of
them get the full benefit of country life whenever they wish; both of them
feel that there is plenty of capital behind them, and not the slightest
jealousy exists on account of primogeniture. Of course they have their
troubles--what family has not its troubles?--but on the whole their
position is an enviable one.

When Mrs. ---- and her daughter rustle into their pew at church--placed
next in honour to that of the proprietor of the soil--all eyes are turned
upon them. The old-fashioned farmer's wife, who until her years pressed
heavily upon her made the cheese and butter in her husband's dairy, is not
so old but that her eyes can distinguish the colour of a ribbon. She may
talk of such things as vanities, and unknown in her day, but for all that
a pair of keen eyes criticise skirt, and trimmings, and braidings, and so
forth, as displayed up in the Grange pew. Her daughter, who is quite
young--for in her mother's time farming people did not marry till late in
life--brings a still keener pair of eyes to bear in the same direction.

The bonnets from Regent Street are things to think over and talk of. The
old lady disinters her ancient finery; the girl, by hook or crook, is
determined to dress in the fashion. If one farmer's wife is a fine lady,
why not another? Do not even the servant girls at the Grange come out
twenty times finer than people who have a canvas bag full of sovereigns at
home, and many such bags at the bank? So that the Grange people, though
they pay their way handsomely, and plough deep and manure lavishly, and
lead the van of agriculture, are not, perhaps, an unmixed good. They help
on that sapping and undermining of the ancient, sturdy simplicity, the
solid oak of country character, replacing it with veneer. It is not, of
course, all, or a tenth part, their fault, or in any way traceable to
them. It is part and parcel of the wide-spread social changes which have
gradually been proceeding.

But the tenant farmer's wife who made the butter and cheese, and even
helped to salt bacon, where is she now? Where are the healthy daughters
that used to assist her? The wife is a fine lady--not, indeed, with
carriage and pair, but with a dandy dog-cart at least; not with
three-guinea bonnets, but with a costly sealskin jacket. There are kid
gloves on her hands; there is a suspicion of perfume about her; there is a
rustling of silk and satin, and a waving of ostrich feathers. The daughter
is pale and interesting, and interprets Beethoven, and paints the old
mill; while a skilled person, hired at a high price, rules in the dairy.
The son rides a-hunting, and is glib on the odds. The 'offices'--such it
is the fashion to call the places in which work was formerly done--are
carefully kept in the background. The violets and snowdrops and crocuses
are rooted up, all the sweet and tender old flowers ruthlessly eradicated,
to make way for a blazing parterre after the manner of the suburban
villa--gay in the summer, in the spring a wilderness of clay, in the
autumn a howling desert of musty evergreens..

The 'civilisation' of the town has, in fact, gone out and taken root
afresh in the country. There is no reason why the farmer should not be
educated; there is no reason why his wife should not wear a sealskin
jacket, or the daughter interpret Beethoven. But the question arises, Has
not some of the old stubborn spirit of earnest work and careful prudence
gone with the advent of the piano and the oil painting? While wearing the
dress of a lady, the wife cannot tuck up her sleeves and see to the
butter, or even feed the poultry, which are down at the pen across 'a
nasty dirty field.' It is easy to say that farming is gone to the dogs,
that corn is low, and stock uncertain, and rents high, and so forth. All
that is true, but difficulties are nothing new; nor must too much be
expected from the land.

A moderate-sized farm, of from 200 to 800 acres, will no more enable the
mistress and the misses to play the fine lady to-day than it would two
generations ago. It requires work now the same as then--steady,
persevering work--and, what is more important, prudence, economy,
parsimony if you like; nor do these necessarily mean the coarse manners of
a former age. Manners may be good, education may be good, the intellect
and even the artistic sense may be cultivated, and yet extravagance
avoided. The proverb is true still: 'You cannot have your hare and cook
him too.' Now so many cook their hares in the present day without even
waiting to catch them first. A euphuism has been invented to cover the
wrongfulness of this system; it is now called 'discounting.' The fine lady
farmers discount their husbands' corn and fat cattle, cheese and butter,
before they reach the market. By-and-by the plough stops in the furrow,
and the team is put up to auction, and farewell is said to the old
homestead for evermore.

There was no warmer welcome to be met with in life than used to be
bestowed upon the fortunate visitor to an old house in the country where
the people were not exactly farmers in the ordinary sense, because they
were sufficiently well off to be independent, and yet made no pretence to
gentility. You dropped in quite unexpectedly and informally after a
pleasant stroll about the fields with a double-barrel, untrammelled by any
attendant. The dogs were all over cleavers sticking to their coats, and
your boots had to be wiped with a wisp of straw; your pocket was heavy
with a couple of rabbits or a hare, and your hands black enough from
powder and handling gates and stiles. But they made you feel immediately
that such trifles were not of the slightest account.

The dogs were allowed to rush in anyhow and set to work to lick their paws
by the fire as if the house was their own. Your apology about your boots
and general state of disorder was received with a smile by the mistress,
who said she had sons of her own, and knew their ways. Forthwith one
sturdy son seized the double-barrel, and conveyed it to a place of safety;
a second took the rabbits or the hare, that you might not be incommoded by
such a lump in your pocket, and sent the game on home to your quarters by
a labourer; a third relieved you of your hat. As many tall young ladies
rose to offer you a seat, so that it was really difficult to know which
way to turn, besides which the old grandfather with silvery hair pressed
you to take his chair by the fire.

They had just sat down to the old-fashioned tea at half-past four, and in
a moment there was a cup and plate ready. The tea had a fragrant scent,
warm and grateful after the moist atmosphere of the meadows, smelling of
decaying leaves. The mistress suggested that a nip of brandy might improve
it, thinking that tea was hardly strong enough for a man. But that was,
declined; for what could be more delicious than the sweet, thick cream
poured in by a liberal hand? A fine ham had already been put on the table,
as if by magic--the girls really seemed to anticipate everything you could
possibly want. As for the butter, it was exquisite, and so, too, the
home-baked bread, the more so, because only touched in the processes of
preparing by the whitest and softest of hands. Such simple things become
luxuries when brought to perfection by loving care. The old dog on the
hearthrug came thrusting his nose into your hands, making almost too great
friends, being perfectly well aware (cunning old fellow) that he could
coax more out of a visitor than one of the family, who knew how he had
stuffed all day.

Over all there was an atmosphere of welcome, a genial brightness. The
young men were anxious to tell you where the best sport could be got. The
young ladies had a merry, genuine, unaffected smile--clearly delighted to
see you, and not in the least ashamed of it. They showed an evident desire
to please, without a trace of an _arriere pensee_. Tall, well-developed,
in the height of good health, the bloom upon the cheek and the brilliant
eyes formed a picture irresistibly charming. But it was the merry laugh
that so long dwelt in the memory--nothing so thoroughly enchants one as
the woman who laughs from her heart in the joyousness of youth. They
joined freely in the conversation, but did not thrust themselves forward.
They were, of course, eager for news of the far away world, but not a hint
was breathed of those social scandals which now form our favourite gossip.
From little side remarks concerning domestic matters it was evident that
they were well acquainted with household duties. Indeed, they assisted to
remove the things from the table without any consciousness that it was a
menial task.

It was not long after tea before, drawing round the fire, pipes were
produced, and you were asked to smoke. Of course you declined on account
of the ladies, but it was none the less pleasant to be asked. There was
the great secret of it all-the genuine, liberal, open-handed and
open-hearted proffering of all the house contained to the guest. And it
was none the less an amusing conversation because each of the girls
candidly avowed her own opinions upon such topics as were started--blushing
a little, it is true, if you asked the reason for the opinion, for ladies
are not always quite ready with the why and wherefore. But the contrast of
character, the individuality displayed, gave a zest and interest to the
talk; so that the hour wore late before you were aware of it. Then, if you
would go, two, at least, of the three boys piloted you by the best and
cleanest route, and did not wish you farewell till you were in the
straight road. This was not so many years ago.

Today, if you call at such a country house, how strangely different is the
reception! None of the family come to the door to meet you. A servant
shows you into a parlour--drawing-room is the proper word now--well
carpeted and furnished in the modern style. She then takes your name--what
a world of change is shown in that trifling piece of etiquette! By-and-by,
after the proper interval, the ladies enter in morning costume, not a

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