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Chapter 16

Mr. Gotobed's Philanthropy

Mr. Gotobed, when the persecutions of Goarly were described to him at the scene of the dead fox, had expressed considerable admiration for the man's character as portrayed by what he then heard. The man,--a poor man too and despised in the land, was standing up for his rights, all alone, against the aristocracy and plutocracy of the county. He had killed the demon whom the aristocracy and plutocracy worshipped, and had appeared there in arms ready to defend his own territory,--one against so many, and so poor a man against men so rich! The Senator had at once said that he would call upon Mr. Goarly, and the Senator was a man who always carried out his purposes. Afterwards, from John Morton, and from others who knew the country better than Morton, he learned further particulars. On the Monday and Tuesday he fathomed,--or nearly fathomed,--that matter of the 7s. 6d. an acre. He learned at any rate that the owner of the wood admitted a damage done by him to the corn and had then, himself, assessed the damage without consultation with the injured party; and he was informed also that Goarly was going to law with the lord for a fuller compensation. He liked Goarly for killing the fox, and he liked him more for going to law with Lord Rufford.

He declared openly at Bragton his sympathy with the man and his intention of expressing it. Morton was annoyed and endeavoured to persuade him to leave the man alone; but in vain. No doubt had he expressed himself decisively and told his friend that he should be annoyed by a guest from his house taking part in such a matter, the Senator would have abstained and would merely have made one more note as to English peculiarities and English ideas of justice; but Morton could not bring himself to do this. "The feeling of the country will be altogether against you," he had said, hoping to deter the Senator. The Senator had replied that though the feeling of that little bit of the country might be against him he did not believe that such would be the case with the feeling of England generally. The ladies had all become a little afraid of Mr. Gotobed and hardly dared to express an opinion. Lady Augustus did say that she supposed that Goarly was a low vulgar fellow, which of course strengthened the Senator in his purpose.

The Senator on Wednesday would not wait for lunch but started a little before one with a crust of bread in his pocket to find his way to Goarly's house. There was no difficulty in this as he could see the wood as soon as he had got upon the high road. He found Twentyman's gate and followed directly the route which the hunting party had taken, till he came to the spot on which the crowd had been assembled. Close to this there was a hand-gate leading into Dillsborough wood, and standing in the gateway was a man. The Senator thought that this might not improbably be Goarly himself, and asked the question, "Might your name be Mr. Goarly, sir?"

"Me Goarly!" said the man in infinite disgust. "I ain't nothing of the kind,--and you knows it" That the man should have been annoyed at being taken for Goarly, that man being Bean the gamekeeper who would willingly have hung Goarly if he could, and would have thought it quite proper that a law should be now passed for hanging him at once, was natural enough. But why he should have told the Senator that the Senator knew he was not Goarly it might be difficult to explain. He probably at once regarded the Senator as an enemy, as a man on the other side, and therefore as a cunning knave who would be sure to come creeping about on false pretences. Bean, who had already heard of Bearside and had heard of Scrobby in connection with this matter, looked at the Senator very hard. He knew Bearside. The man certainly was not the attorney, and from what he had heard of Scrobby be didn't think he was Scrobby. The man was not like what in his imagination Scrobby would be. He did not know what to make of Mr. Gotobed,--who was a person of an imposing appearance, tall and thin, with a long nose and look of great acuteness, dressed in black from head to foot, but yet not looking quite like an English gentleman. He was a man to whom Bean in an ordinary way would have been civil,--civil in a cold guarded way; but how was he to be civil to anybody who addressed him as Goarly?

"I did not know it," said the Senator. "As Goarly lives near here I thought you might be Goarly. When I saw Goarly he had a gun, and you have a gun. Can you tell me where Goarly lives?"

"Tother side of the wood," said Bean pointing back with his thumb. "He never had a gun like this in his hand in all his born days."

"I dare say not, my friend. I can go through the wood I guess;" for Bean had pointed exactly over the gateway.

"I guess you can't then," said Bean. The man who, like other gamekeepers, lived much in the company of gentlemen, was ordinarily a civil courteous fellow, who knew how to smile and make things pleasant. But at this moment he was very much put out. His covert had been found full of red herrings and strychnine, and his fox had been poisoned. He had lost his guinea on the day of the hunt, the guinea which would have been his perquisite had they found a live fox in his wood. And all this was being done by such a fellow as Goarly! And now this abandoned wretch was bringing an action against his Lordship and was leagued with such men as Scrobby and Bearside! It was a dreadful state of things! How was it likely that he should give a passage through the wood to anybody coming after Goarly? "You're on Mr. Twentyman's land now, as I dare say you know."

"I don't know anything about it"

"Well; that wood is Lord Rufford's wood."

"I did know as much as that, certainly."

"And you can't go into it."

"How shall I find Mr. Goarly's house?"

"If you'll get over that there ditch you'll be on Mister Goarly's land and that's all about it" Bean as he said this put a strongly ironical emphasis on the term of respect and then turned back into the wood.

The Senator made his way down the fence to the bank on which Goarly had stood with his gun, then over into Goarly's field, and so round the back of the wood till he saw a small red brick house standing perhaps four hundred yards from the covert, just on the elbow of a lane. It was a miserable-looking place with a pigsty and a dung heap and a small horse-pond or duck-puddle all close around it. The stack of chimneys seemed to threaten to fall, and as he approached from behind he could see that the two windows opening that way were stuffed with rags. There was a little cabbage garden which now seemed to be all stalks, and a single goose waddling about the duck-puddle. The Senator went to the door, and having knocked, was investigated by a woman from behind it. Yes, this was Goarly's house. What did the gentleman want? Goarly was at work in the field. Then she came out, the Senator having signified his friendly intentions, and summoned Goarly to the spot.

"I hope I see you well, sir," said the Senator putting out his hand as Goarly came up dragging a dung-York behind him.

Goarly rubbed his hand on his breeches before he gave it to be shaken and declared himself to be "pretty tidy, considering."

"I was present the other day, Mr. Goarly, when that dead fox was exposed to view."

"Was you, sir?"

"I was given to understand that you had destroyed the brute."

"Don't you believe a word on it then," said the woman interposing. "He didn't do nothing of the kind. Who ever seed him a' buying of red herrings and p'ison?"

"Hold your jaw," said Goarly,--familiarly. "Let 'em prove it. I don't know who you are, sir; but let 'em prove it"

"My name, Mr. Goarly, is Elias Gotobed. I am an American citizen, and Senator for the State of Mickewa." Mr. and Mrs. Goarly shook their heads at every separate item of information tendered to them. "I am on a visit to this country and am at present staying at the house of my friend, Mr. John Morton."

"He's the gentl'man from Bragton, Dan."

"Hold your jaw, can't you?" said the husband. Then he touched his hat to the Senator intending to signify that the Senator might, if he pleased, continue his narrative.

"If you did kill that fox, Mr. Goarly, I think you were quite right to kill him." Then Goarly winked at him, "I cannot imagine that even the laws of England could justify a man in perpetuating a breed of wild animals that are destructive to his neighbours' property."

"I could shoot 'un; not a doubt about that, Mister. I could shoot 'un; and I wull."

"Have a care, Dan," whispered Mrs. Goarly.

"Hold your jaw,--will ye? I could shoot 'un, Mister. I don't rightly know about p'ison."

"That fox we saw was poisoned I suppose," said the Senator carelessly.

"Have a care, Dan;--have a care!" whispered the wife.

"Allow me to assure both of you," said the Senator, "that you need fear nothing from me. I have come quite as a friend."

"Thank 'ee, sir," said Goarly again touching his hat.

"It seems to me," said the Senator, "that in this matter a great many men are leagued together against you."

"You may say that, sir. I didn't just catch your name, sir."

"My name is Gotobed;--Gotobed; Elias Gotobed, Senator from the State of Mickewa to the United States Congress." Mrs. Goarly who understood nothing of all these titles, and who had all along doubted, dropped a suspicious curtsey. Goarly, who understood a little now, took his hat altogether off. He was very much puzzled but inclined to think that if he managed matters rightly, profit might be got out of this very strange meeting. "In my country, Mr. Goarly, all men are free and equal."

"That's a fine thing, sir."

"It is a fine thing, my friend, if properly understood and properly used. Coming from such a country I was shocked to see so many rich men banded together against one who I suppose is not rich."

"Very far from it," said the woman.

"It's my own land, you know," said Goarly who was proud of his position as a landowner. "No one can't touch me on it, as long as the rates is paid. I'm as good a man here,"--and he stamped his foot on the ground,--"as his Lordship is in that there wood."

This was the first word spoken by the Goarlys that had pleased the Senator, and this set him off again. "Just so;--and I admire a man that will stand up for his own rights. I am told that you have found his Lordship's pheasants destructive to your corn."

"Didn't leave him hardly a grain last August," said Mrs. Goarly.

"Will you hold your jaw, woman, or will you not?" said the man turning round fiercely at her. "I'm going to have the law of his Lordship, sir. What's seven and six an acre? There's that quantity of pheasants in that wood as'd eat up any mortal thing as ever was grooved. Seven and six!"

"Didn't you propose arbitration?"

"I never didn't propose nothin'. I've axed two pound, and my lawyer says as how I'll get it. What I sold come off that other bit of ground down there. Wonderful crop! And this 'd've been the same. His Lordship ain't nothin' to me, Mr. Gotobed."

"You don't approve of hunting, Mr. Goarly."

"Oh, I approves if they'd pay a poor man for what harm they does him. Look at that there goose." Mr. Gotobed did look at the goose. "There's nine and twenty they've tuk from me, and only left un that." Now Mrs. Goarly's goose was well known in those parts. It was declared that she was more than a match for any fox in the county, but that Mrs. Goarly for the last two years had never owned any goose but this one.

"The foxes have eaten there all?" asked the Senator.

"Every mortal one."

"And the gentlemen of the hunt have paid you nothing."

"I had four half-crowns once," said the woman.

"If you don't send the heads you don't get it," said the man, "and then they'll keep you waiting months and months, just for their pleasures. Who's a going to put up with that? I ain't."

"And now you're going to law?"

"I am,--like a man. His Lordship ain't nothin' to me. I ain't afeard of his Lordship."

"Will it cost you much?"

"That's just what it will do, sir," said the woman.

"Didn't I tell you, hold your jaw?"

"The gentleman was going to offer to help us a little, Dan."

"I was going to say that I am interested in the case, and that you have all my good wishes. I do not like to offer pecuniary help."

"You're very good, sir; very good. This bit of land is mine; not a doubt of it;--but we're poor, sir."

"Indeed we is," said the woman. "What with taxes and rates, and them foxes as won't let me rear a head of poultry and them brutes of birds as eats up the corn, I often tells him he'd better sell the bit o' land and just set up for a public."

"It belonged to my feyther and grandfeyther," said Goarly.

Then the Senator's heart was softened again and he explained at great length that he would watch the case and if he saw his way clearly, befriend it with substantial aid. He asked about the attorney and took down Bearside's address. After that he shook hands with both of them, and then made his way back to Bragton through Mr. Twentyman's farm.

Mr. and Mrs. Goarly were left in a state of great perturbation of mind. They could not in the least make out among themselves who the gentleman was, or whether he had come for good or evil. That he called himself Gotobed Goarly did remember, and also that he had said that he was an American. All that which had referred to senatorial honours and the State of Mickewa had been lost upon Goarly. The question of course arose whether he was not a spy sent out by Lord Rufford's man of business, and Mrs. Goarly was clearly of opinion that such had been the nature of his employment. Had he really been a friend, she suggested, he would have left a sovereign behind him. "He didn't get no information from me," said Goarly.

"Only about Mr. Bearside."

"What's the odds of that? They all knows that. Bearside! Why should I be ashamed of Bearside? I'll do a deal better with Bearside than I would with that old woman, Masters."

"But he took it down in writing, Dan."

"What the d--'s the odds in that?"

"I don't like it when they puts it down in writing."

"Hold your jaw," said Goarly as he slowly shouldered the dung-fork to take it back to his work. But as they again discussed the matter that night the opinion gained ground upon them that the Senator had been an emissary from the enemy.

Anthony Trollope