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Grain and Chaff from an English Manor
by Arthur H. Savory
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GRAIN AND CHAFF FROM AN ENGLISH MANOR

By ARTHUR H. SAVORY



OXFORD

BASIL BLACKWELL

1920



PREFACE

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

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

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

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

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

BURLEY, HANTS.

January, 1920.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. ALDINGTON VILLAGE—THE MANOR HOUSE—THE FARM.......... 1

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

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

IV. THE HEAD CARTER—THE CARPENTER........................ 35

V. AN OLD-FASHIONED SHEPHERD—OLD THICKER—A GARDENER—MY SECOND HEAD CARTER—A LABOURER......... 46

VI. CHARACTERISTICS OF AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS AND VILLAGERS........................................... 57

VII. MACHINERY—VILLAGE POLITICS—ASPARAGUS................ 80

VIII. MY THREE VICARS—CHURCH RESTORATION—CHURCHWARDEN EXPERIENCES—CLERICAL AND OTHER STORIES............. 89

IX. THE SCHOOL BOARD—RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION—SCHOOL INSPECTORS—DEAN FARHAR—COMPULSORY EDUCATION....... 106

X. VILLAGE INSTITUTIONS: CRICKET—FOOTBALL—FLOWER-SHOW —BAND—POSTMAN—CONCERTS........................... 119

XI. DEALERS—LUCK MONEY—FAIRS—SALES—EFFECT OF CLIMATE ON CATTLE AND SHEEP—AGRICULTURAL SHOWS..... 126

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

XIII. THE DAIRY—CATTLE—SHEEP—LAMBS—PIGS—POULTRY........ 153

XIV. ORCHARDS—APPLES—CIDER—PERRY........................ 167

XV. PLUMS—CHERRIES....................................... 182

XVI. TREES: ELM—OAK—BEECH—WILLOW—SCOTS-FIR............. 187

XVII. CORN—WHEAT—RIDGE AND FURROW—BARLEY—FARMERS NEWSTYLE AND OLDSTYLE............................... 207

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

XIX. METEOROLOGY—ETON AND HARROW AT LORD'S—"RUS IN URBE"............................................... 230

XX. CHANGING COURSE OF STREAMS—DEWPONDS—A WET HARVEST—WEATHER PHENOMENA—WILL-O'-THE- WISP—VARIOUS....................................... 239

XXI. BIRDS: PEACOCKS—A WHITE PHEASANT—ROOKS' ARITHMETIC.. 253

XXII. PETS: SUSIE—COCKY—TRUMP—CHIPS—WENDY—TAFFY........ 264

XXIII. BUTTERFLIES—MOTHS—WASPS............................. 271

XXIV. CYCLING—PAGEANTS OF THE ROADS—ROADSIDE CREATURES—HARMONIOUS BUILDING—COLLECTING OLD FURNITURE AND CHINA................................. 278

XXV. DIALECT—LOCAL PHRASEOLOGY IN SHAKESPEARE—NAMES —STUPID PLACES..................................... 288

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

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



"Ah, what a life were this! how sweet! how lovely! Gives not the hawthorn-bush a sweeter shade To shepherds looking on their silly sheep, Than doth a rich embroider'd canopy To kings that fear their subjects' treachery!" 3 King Henry VI.



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

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



GRAIN AND CHAFF FROM AN ENGLISH MANOR



CHAPTER I.



ALDINGTON VILLAGE—THE MANOR HOUSE—THE FARM.

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

"Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns." —Morte d'Arthur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WILLIAM JARRETT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A BILL FOR Y^e CONSTABLE OF ANTON DUN BY ME WM. PHIPPS.

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

(IN) A TRUE ACCOUNT OF Y^e CONS^{BL} OF ALDINGTON CHARGES FOR Y^e YEARE 1716/5 NOV. Y^e 7 & 8 1715 Y^e CHARGES FOR ATENDING AS CONS^{BL}

s. d.

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

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

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

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

INSCRIPTION

ON THE TOMBSTONE LYING ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE ALTAR, IN THE PARISH CHURCH OF WICKHAMFORD, NEAR EVESHAM, IN THE COUNTY OF WORCESTER, ENGLAND. M.S.

PENELOPES

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

[Translation]

INSCRIPTION

ON THE TOMBSTONE LYING ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE ALTAR, IN THE PARISH CHURCH OF WICKHAMFORD, NEAR EVESHAM, IN THE COUNTY OF WORCESTER, ENGLAND. M.S.

Sacred to the memory of

PENELOPE,

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

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



CHAPTER II.



THE FARM BAILIFF.

"If a job has to be done you may as well do it first as last." —WILLIAM BELL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Rustic. Where be them folks a-goin' to; I wonder?

Second Rustic. Off to Lunnon, I reckon, but they'll be back for the Cor-o-nation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER III.



THE HOP FOREMAN AND THE HOP DRIER.

"Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,

* * * * *

How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke." —GRAY'S Elegy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER IV.



THE HEAD CARTER—THE CARPENTER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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