Lord Rufford's Model Farm
At this time Senator Gotobed was paying a second visit to Rufford Hall. In the matter of Goarly and Scrobby he had never given way an inch. He was still strongly of opinion that a gentleman's pheasants had no right to eat his neighbour's corn, and that if damage were admitted, the person committing the injury should not take upon himself to assess the damage. He also thought,--and very often declared his thoughts,--that Goarly was justified in shooting not only foxes but hounds also when they came upon his property, and in moments of excitement had gone so far as to say that not even horses should be held sacred. He had, however, lately been driven to admit that Goarly himself was not all that a man should be, and that Mrs. Goarly's goose was an impostor. It was the theory,--the principle for which he combated, declaring that the evil condition of the man himself was due to the evil institutions among which he had been reared. By degrees evidence had been obtained of Scrobby's guilt in the matter of the red herrings, and he was to be tried for the offence of putting down poison. Goarly was to be the principal witness against his brother conspirator. Lord Rufford, instigated by his brother-in-law, and liking the spirit of the man, had invited the Senator to stay at the Hall while the case was being tried at the Rufford Quarter Sessions. I am afraid the invitation was given in a spirit of triumph over the Senator rather than with genuine hospitality. It was thought well that the American should be made to see in public the degradation of the abject creature with whom he had sympathised. Perhaps there were some who thought that in this way they would get the Senator's neck under their heels. If there were such they were likely to be mistaken, as the Senator was not a man prone to submit himself to such treatment.
He was seated at table with Lady Penwether and Miss Penge when Lord Rufford and his brother-in-law came into the room, after parting with Miss Trefoil in the manner described in the last chapter. Lady Penwether had watched their unwelcome visitor as she took her way across the park and had whispered something to Miss Penge. Miss Penge understood the matter thoroughly, and would not herself have made the slightest allusion to the other young lady. Had the Senator not been there the two gentlemen would have been allowed to take their places without a word on the subject. But the Senator had a marvellous gift of saying awkward things and would never be reticent. He stood for a while at the window in the drawing-room before he went across the hall, and even took up a pair of field-glasses to scrutinise the lady; and when they were all present he asked whether that was not Miss Trefoil whom he had seen down by the new fence. Lady Penwether, without seeming to look about her, did look about her for a few seconds to see whether the question might be allowed to die away unanswered. She perceived, from the Senator's face, that he intended to have an answer.
"Yes," she said, "that was Miss Trefoil. I am very glad that she is not coming in to disturb us."
"A great blessing," said Miss Penge.
"Where is she staying?" asked the Senator.
"I think she drove over from Rufford," said the elder lady.
"Poor young lady! She was engaged to marry my friend, Mr. John Morton. She must have felt his death very bitterly. He was an excellent young man; rather opinionated and perhaps too much wedded to the traditions of his own country; but, nevertheless, a painstaking, excellent young man. I had hoped to welcome her as Mrs. Morton in America."
"He was to have gone to Patagonia," said Lord Rufford, endeavouring to come to himself after the sufferings of the morning.
"We should have seen him back in Washington, Sir. Whenever you have anything good in diplomacy you generally send him to us. Poor young lady! Was she talking about him?"
"Not particularly," said his lordship.
"She must have remembered that when she was last here he was of the party, and it was but a few weeks ago,--only a little before Christmas. He struck me as being cold in his manner as an affianced lover. Was not that your idea, Lady Penwether?"
"I don't think I observed him especially."
"I have reason to believe that he was much attached to her. She could be sprightly enough; but at times there seemed to come a cold melancholy upon her too. It is I fancy so with most of your English ladies. Miss Trefoil always gave me the idea of being a good type of the English aristocracy." Lady Penwether and Miss Penge drew themselves up very stiffly. "You admired her, I think, my Lord."
"Very much indeed," said Lord Rufford, filling his mouth with pigeon-pie as he spoke, and not lifting his eyes from his plate.
"Will she be back to dinner?"
"Oh dear no," said Lady Penwether. There was something in her tone which at last startled the Senator into perceiving that Miss Trefoil was not popular at Rufford Hall.
"She only came for a morning call," said Lord Rufford.
"Poor young woman. She has lost her husband, and, I am afraid, now has lost her friends also. I am told that she is not well off;--and from what I see and hear, I fancy that here in England a young lady without a dowry cannot easily replace a lover. I suppose, too, Miss Trefoil is not quite in her first youth."
"If you have done, Caroline," said Lady Penwether to Miss Penge, "I think we'll go into the other room."
That afternoon Sir George asked the Senator to accompany him for a walk. Sir George was held to be responsible for the Senator's presence, and was told by the ladies that he must do something with him. The next day, which was Friday, would be occupied by the affairs of Scrobby and Goarly, and on the Saturday he was to return to town. The two started about three with the object of walking round the park and the home farm--the Senator intent on his duty of examining the ways of English life to the very bottom. "I hope I did not say anything amiss about Miss Trefoil," he remarked, as they passed through a shrubbery gate into the park.
"No; I think not"
"I thought your good lady looked as though she did not like the subject"
"I am not sure that Miss Trefoil is very popular with the ladies up there."
"She's a handsome young woman and clever, though, as I said before, given to melancholy, and sometimes fastidious. When we were all here I thought that Lord Rufford admired her, and that poor Mr. Morton was a little jealous."
"I wasn't at Rufford then. Here we get out of the park on to the home farm. Rufford does it very well,--very well indeed."
"Looks after it altogether himself?"
"I cannot quite say that. He has a land-bailiff who lives in the house there."
"With a salary?"
"Oh yes; 120 pounds a year I think the man has:"
"And that house?" asked the Senator. "Why, the house and garden are worth 50 pounds a year."
"I dare say they are. Of course it costs money. It's near the park and had to be made ornamental."
"And does it pay?"
"Well, no; I should think not. In point of fact I know it does not. He loses about the value of the ground."
The Senator asked a great many more questions and then began his lecture. "A man who goes into trade and loses by it, cannot be doing good to himself or to others. You say, Sir George, that it is a model farm;--but it's a model of ruin. If you want to teach a man any other business, you don't specially select an example in which the proprietors are spending all their capital without any return. And if you would not do this in shoemaking, why in farming?"
"The neighbours are able to see how work should be done."
"Excuse me, Sir George, but it seems to me that they are enabled to see how work should not be done. If his lordship would stick up over his gate a notice to the effect that everything seen there was to be avoided, he might do some service. If he would publish his accounts half-yearly in the village newspaper--"
"There isn't a village newspaper."
"In the Rufford Gazette. There is a Rufford Gazette, and Rufford isn't much more than a village. If he would publish his accounts half-yearly in the Rufford Gazette, honestly showing how much he had lost by his system, how much capital had been misapplied, and how much labour wasted, he might serve as an example, like the pictures of 'The Idle Apprentice.' I don't see that he can do any other good,--unless it be to the estimable gentleman who is allowed to occupy the pretty house. I don't think you'd see anything like that model farm in our country, Sir."
"Your views, Mr. Gotobed, are utilitarian rather than picturesque."
"Oh!--if you say that it is done for the picturesque, that is another thing. Lord Rufford is a wealthy lord, and can afford to be picturesque. A green sward I should have thought handsomer, as well as less expensive, than a ploughed field, but that is a matter of taste. Only why call a pretty toy a model farm? You might mislead the British rustics."
They had by this time passed through a couple of fields which formed part of the model farm, and had come to a stile leading into a large meadow. "This I take it," said the Senator looking about him, "is beyond the limits of my Lord's plaything."
"This is Shugborough," said Sir George, "and there is John Runce, the occupier, on his pony. He at any rate is a model farmer." As he spoke Mr. Runce slowly trotted up to them touching his hat, and Mr. Gotobed recognized the man who had declined to sit next to him at the hunting breakfast. Runce also thought that he knew the gentleman. "Do you hunt to-morrow, Mr. Runce?" asked Sir George.
"Well, Sir George, no; I think not. I b'lieve I must go to Rufford and hear that fellow Scrobby get it hot and heavy."
"We seem all to be going that way. You think he'll be convicted, Sir."
"If there's a juryman left in the country worth his salt, he'll be convicted," said Mr. Runce, almost enraged at the doubt. "But that other fellow; he's to get off. That's what kills me, Sir George."
"You're alluding to Mr. Goarly, Sir," said the Senator.
"That's about it, certainly," said Runce, still looking very suspiciously at his companion.
"I almost think he is the bigger rogue of the two," said the Senator.
"Well," said Runce; "well! I don't know as he ain't. Six of one and half a dozen of the other! That's about it" But he was evidently pacified by the opinion.
"Goarly is certainly a rascal all round," continued the Senator. Runce looked at him to make sure whether he was the man who had uttered such fearful blasphemies at the breakfast-table. "I think we had a little discussion about this before, Mr. Runce."
"I am very glad to see you have changed your principles, Sir."
"Not a bit of it. I am too old to change my principles, Mr. Runce. And much as I admire this country I don't think it's the place in which I should be induced to do so." Runce looked at him again with a scowl on his face and with a falling mouth. "Mr. Goarly is certainly a blackguard."
"Well;--I rather think he is."
"But a blackguard may have a good cause. Put it in your own case, Mr. Runce. If his Lordship's pheasants ate up your wheat--"
"They're welcome;--they're welcome! The more the merrier. But they don't. Pheasants know when they're well off."
"Or if a crowd of horsemen rode over your fences, don't you think--"
"My fences! They'd be welcome in my wife's bedroom if the fox took that way. My fences! It's what I has fences for,--to be ridden over."
"You didn't exactly hear what I have to say, Mr. Runce."
"And I don't want. No offence, sir, if you be a friend of my Lord's; but if his Lordship was to say himself that Goarly was right, I wouldn't listen to him. A good cause,--and he going about at dead o' night with his pockets full of p'ison! Hounds and foxes all one!--or little childer either for the matter o' that, if they happened on the herrings!"
"I have not said his cause was good, Mr. Runce."
"I'll wish you good evening, Sir George," said the farmer, reining his pony round. "Good evening to you, sir." And Mr. Runce trotted or rather ambled off, unable to endure another word.
"An honest man, I dare say," said the Senator.
"Certainly; and not a bad specimen of a British farmer."
"Not a bad specimen of a Briton generally;--but still, perhaps, a little unreasonable." After that Sir George said as little as he could, till he had brought the Senator back to the hall.
"I think it's all over now," said Lady Penwether to Miss Penge, when the gentlemen had left them alone in the afternoon.
"I'm sure I hope so,--for his sake. What a woman to come here by herself, in that way!"
"I don't think he ever cared for her in the least."
"I can't say that I have troubled myself much about that," replied Miss Penge. "For the sake of the family generally, and the property, and all that, I should be very very sorry to think that he was going to make her Lady Rufford. I dare say he has amused himself with her."
"There was very little of that, as far as I can learn;--very little encouragement indeed! What we saw here was the worst of it. He was hardly with her at all at Mistletoe."
"I hope it will make him more cautious;--that's all," said Miss Penge. Miss Penge was now a great heiress, having had her lawsuit respecting certain shares in a Welsh coal-mine settled since we last saw her. As all the world knows she came from one of the oldest Commoner's families in the West of England, and is, moreover, a handsome young woman, only twenty-seven years of age. Lady Penwether thinks that she is the very woman to be mistress of Rufford, and I do not know that Miss Penge herself is averse to the idea. Lord Rufford has been too lately wounded to rise at the bait quite immediately; but his sister knows that her brother is impressionable and that a little patience will go a long way. They have, however, all agreed at the hall that Arabella's name shall not again be mentioned.
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