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   Chapter 45 HENEREY BROWN & CO. AGAIN.

Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 12398

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


THE first paroxysm of rage being over, Sir Moses remounted his dog-cart, and drove rapidly off, seeming to take pleasure in making his boy-groom (who was at the mare's head) run after it as long as he could.

"What's it Baronet off?" exclaimed Mr. Gallon, staring with astonishment at the fast-receding vehicle; "what's it, Baronet off?" repeated he, thinking he would have to go to Pangburn Park for his money.

"O dear Thom Mothes is gone!" lisped pretty Miss Mechlinton, who wanted to have a look at our hero, Mr. Pringle, who she heard was frightfully handsome, and alarmingly rich. And the ladies, who had been too much occupied with the sudden rush of excited people to notice Sir Moses's movements, wondered what had happened that he didn't come to give his tongue an airing among them as usual. One said he had got the tooth-ache; another, the ear-ache; a third, that he had got something in his eye; while a satirical gentleman said it looked mure like a B. in his bonnet.

"Ony hoo," however, as Mr. Gallon would say, Sir Moses was presently out of the field and on to the hard turnpike again.

We need scarcely say that Mr. Pringle's ride home with him was not of a very agreeable character: indeed, the Baronet had seldom been seen to be so put out of his way, and the mare came in for frequent salutations with the whip-latitudinally, longitudinally, and horizontally, over the head and ears, accompanied by cutting commentaries on Flintoff's utter uselessness and inability to do anything but drink.

He "never saw such a man-domd if ever he did," and he whipped the mare again in confirmation of the opinion.

Nor did matters mend on arriving at home; for here Mr. Mordecai Nathan met him in the entrance hall, with a very doleful face, to announce that Henerey Brown & Co., who had long been coddling up their horses, had that morning succeeded in sloping with them and their stock to Halterley Fair, and selling them in open market, leaving a note hanging to the key in the house-door, saying that they had gone to Horseterhaylia where Sir Moses needn't trouble to follow them.

"Ond dom it!" shrieked the Baronet, jumping up in the air like a stricken deer; "ond dom it! I'm robbed! I'm robbed! I'm ruined! I'm ruined!" and tottering to an arm-chair, he sank, overpowered with the blow. Henerey Brown & Co. had indeed been too many for him. After a long course of retrograding husbandry, they seemed all at once to have turned over a new leaf, if not in the tillage way, at all events in that still better way for the land, the cattle line,-store stock, with some symptoms of beef on their bones, and sheep with whole fleeces, going on all-fours depastured the fields, making Mordecai Nathan think it was all the fruits of his superior management. Alaek a-day! They belonged to a friend of Lawyer Hindmarch's, who thought Henerey Brown & Co. might as well eat all off the land ere they left. And so they ate it as bare as a board.

"Ond dom it, how came you to let them escape?" now demanded the Baronet, wringing his hands in despair; "ond dom it, how came you to let them escape?" continued he, throwing himself back in the chair.

"Why really, Sir Moses, I was perfectly deceived; I thought they were beginning to do better, for though they were back with their ploughing, they seemed to be turning their attention to stock, and I was in hopes that in time they would pull round."

"Pull round!" ejaculated the Baronet; "pull round! They'll flatten me I know with their pulling;" and thereupon he kicked out both legs before him as if he was done with them altogether.

His seat being in the line of the door, a rude draught now caught his shoulder, which making him think it was no use sitting there to take cold and the rheumatism, he suddenly bounced up, and telling Nathan to stay where he was, he ran up stairs, and quickly changed his fine satiney, velvetey, holiday garments, for a suit of dingy old tweeds, that looked desperately in want of the washing-tub. Then surmounting the whole with a drab wide-awake, he clutched a knotty dog-whip, and set off on foot with his agent to the scene of disaster, rehearsing the licking he would give Henerey with the whip if he caught him, as he went.

Away he strode, as if he was walking a match, down Dolly's Close, over the stile, into Farmer Hayford's fields, and away by the back of the lodges, through Orwell Plantation and Lowestoff End, into the Rushworth and Mayland Road.

Doblington farm-house then stood on the rising ground before him. It was indeed a wretched, dilapidated, woe-begone-looking place; bad enough when enlivened with the presence of cattle and the other concomitants of a farm; but now, with only a poor white pigeon, that Henerey Brown & Co., as if in bitter irony, had left behind them, it looked the very picture of misery and poverty-stricken desolation.

It was red-tiled and had been rough-cast, but the casting was fast coming off, leaving fine map-like tracings of green damp on the walls,-a sort of map of Italy on one side of the door, a map of Africa on the other, one of Horseterhaylia about the centre, with a perfect battery of old hats bristling in the broken panes of the windows. Nor was this all; for, by way of saving coals, Henerey & Humphrey had consumed all the available wood about the place-stable-fittings, cow-house-fittings, pig-sty-fittings, even part of the staircase-and acting under the able advice of Lawyer Hindmarch, had carried away the pot and oven from the kitchen, and all the grates from the fire-places, under pretence of having bought them of the outgoing tenant when they entered,-a fact that the lawyer said "would be difficult to disprove." If it had not been that Henerey Brown & Co. had been sitting rent-free, and that the dilapidated state of the premises formed an excellent subject of attack for parrying payment when rent came to be demanded, it would be difficult to imagine people living in a house where they had to wheel their beds about to get to the least drop-exposed quarter, and where the ceilings bagged down from the rafters like old-fashioned window-hangings. People, however, can put up with a great deal when

it saves their own pockets. Master and man having surveyed the exterior then entered.

"Well," said Sir Moses, looking round on the scene of desolation, "they've made a clean sweep at all events."

"They have that," assented Mr. Mordecai Nathan.

"I wonder it didn't strike you, when you caught them selling their straw off at night, that they would be doing something of this sort," observed Sir Moses.

"Why, I thought it rather strange," replied Mr. Nathan; "only they assured me that for every load of straw they sold, they brought back double the value in guano, or I certainly should have been more on the alert."

"Guano be hanged!" rejoined the Baronet, trying to open the kitchen window, to let some fresh air into the foul apartment; "guano be hanged! one ton of guano makes itself into twenty ton with the aid of Kentish gravel. No better trade than spurious manure-manufacturing; almost as good as cabbage-cigar making. Besides," continued he, "the straw goes off to a certainty, whereas there's no certainty about the guano coming back instead of it. Oh, dom it, man," continued he, knocking some of the old hats out of the broken panes, after a fruitless effort to open the window, "I'd have walked the bailiffs into the beggars if I could have foreseen this."

"So would I, Sir Moses," replied Mr. Nathan; "only who could we get to come in their place?"

That observation of Mr. Mordecai Nathan comprises a great deal, and accounts for much apparent good landlordism, which lets a bad tenant go on from year to year with the occasional payment of a driblet of rent, instead of ejecting him; the real fact being that the landlord knows there is no one to get to come in his place-no better one at least-and that fact constitutes one of the principal difficulties of land-owning. If a landlord is not prepared to take an out-of-order farm into his own hands, he must either put up with an incompetent non-paying tenant, or run the risk of getting a worse one from the general body of outlying incompetence. A farm will always let for something.

There is a regular rolling stock of bad farmers in every country, who pass from district to district, exercising their ingenuity in extracting whatever little good their predecessors have left in the land. These men are the steady, determined enemies to grass. Their great delight is to get leave to plough out an old pasture-held under pretence of laying it down better. There won't be a grass field on a farm but what they will take some exception to, and ask leave to have "out" as they call it. Then if they get leave, they take care never to have a good take of seeds, and so plough on and plough on, promising to lay it down better after each fresh attempt, just as a thimble-rigger urges his dupe to go on and go on, and try his luck once more, until land and dupe are both fairly exhausted. The tenant then marches, and the thimble-rigger decamps, each in search of fresh fields and flats new.

Considering that all writers on agriculture agree that grass land pays double, if not treble, what arable land does, and that one is so much more beautiful to the eye than the other, to say nothing of pleasanter to ride over, we often wonder that landlords have not turned their attention more to the increase and encouragement of grass land on their estates than they have done.

To be sure they have always had the difficulty to contend with we have named, viz., a constant hankering on the part of even some good tenants to plough it out. A poor grass-field, like Gay's hare, seems to have no friends. Each man proposes to improve it by ploughing it out, forgetful of the fact, that it may also be improved by manuring the surface. The quantity of arable land on a farm is what puts landlords so much in the power of bad farmers. If farms consisted of three parts grass and one part plough, instead of three parts plough and one part grass, no landlord need ever put up with an indifferent, incompetent tenant; for the grass would carry him through, and he could either let the farm off, field by field, to butchers and graziers, or pasture it himself, or hay it if he liked. Nothing pays better than hay. A very small capital would then suffice for the arable land; and there being, as we said before, a rolling stock of scratching land-starvers always on the look-out for out-of-order farms, so every landowner should have a rolling stock of horses and farm-implements ready to turn upon any one that is not getting justice done it. There is no fear of gentlemen being overloaded with land; for the old saying, "It's a good thing to follow the laird," will always insure plenty of applicants for any farm a landlord is leaving-supposing, of course, that he has been doing it justice himself, which we must say landlords always do; the first result we see of a gentleman farming being the increase of the size of his stock-yard, and this oftentimes in the face of a diminished acreage under the plough.

Then see what a saving there is in grass-farming compared to tillage husbandry: no ploughs, no harrows, no horses, no lazy leg-dragging clowns, who require constant watching; the cattle will feed whether master is at home or polishing St. James's Street in paper boots and a tight bearing-rein.

Again, the independence of the grass-farmer is so great. When the wind howls and the rain beats, and the torrents roar, and John Flail lies quaking in bed, fearing for his corn, then old Tom Nebuchadnezzar turns quietly over on his side like the Irish jontleman who, when told the house was on fire, replied, "Arrah, by Jasus, I'm only a lodger!" and says, "Ord rot it, let it rain; it'll do me no harm! I'm only a grass-grower!"

But we are leaving Sir Moses in the midst of his desolation, with nothing but the chilly fog of a winter's evening and his own bright thoughts to console him.

"And dom it, I'm off," exclaimed he, fairly overcome with the impurity of the place; and hurrying out, he ran away towards home, leaving Mr. Mordecai Nathan to lock the empty house up, or not, just as he liked.

And to Pangburn Park let us now follow the Baronet, and see what our friend Billy is about.

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