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LITERATURE, SCIENCE, AND ART
ESTABLISHED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, 1832
No. 61.-VOL. II.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 1885.
AGRICULTURE NEAR LONDON.
A HINT TO FARMERS.
THERE is probably no contrast more marked than that between the eager and vigorous life which pervades work and play in London, and the listlessness and want of energy which are generally so conspicuous in most of the agriculturists of the home counties. Flying from town to town by rail, the traveller does not grasp these and other salient agricultural features of the country. Only the pedestrian or rider, as he wanders at his will through lanes and along bridle-roads, is able thoroughly to become acquainted with the actual appearance of the farms which he passes. The contrast between the busy metropolis, which is so near, and the ill-cultivated country outside, continually serves to provide matter for profitable, if not always pleasant reflection. There is no better route for any one who wishes thus to combine exercise and reflection than that to the north of London -say, by way of Harrow, Pinner, and Rickmansworth to Amersham. He will then pass through very picturesque portions of the counties of Middlesex, Herts, and Bucks, and he will certainly see much which will give abundant food for thought. From London to Rickmansworth, a distance of seventeen miles, and between Uxbridge on the west and Watford on the east, the country is almost entirely devoted to grazing or haymaking. Field after field of grass is passed. There are few more charming pieces of rural scenery than the richly wooded fields as seen from the heights of Moor Park, or the view of Middlesex from the road between Uxbridge and Ickenham, which passes along the summits of the hills which border the southern side of the valley of the Colne.
between the agriculture of these two counties, for the Bucks farmer is not quite so fond of the enormous hedgerows which seem sometimes to make Herts quite oppressive. Perhaps, too, there are a few more sheep; but otherwise the main features are the same-fields of grain and turnips, and dense woods of oak or beech. The Colne, in fact, divides a pastoral from an arable country. But any one who is accustomed to a country-life can see that the farming is generally of a very wretched kind. The hedges, picturesque enough indeed, with their great masses of foliage, and wealth of honeysuckle and clematis, take up an enormous amount of ground, and the fields are too often disgracefully dirty. It would be easy to count many stubbles overgrown from end to end with groundsel and thistles, and turnip-fields full of poppies and other weeds. Such slovenliness of cultivation is of course kept in countenance by gaps in hedges and by half-broken gates, more picturesque to the sketcher than pleasing to the eye of a Scotch farmer. It is obvious, in fact, that agriculture in a great part of Bucks and Herts is in a thoroughly backward condition: the labourer, earning thirteen shillings a week, stupefies himself in one of the endless public-houses; and the farmer continues to grow wheat and complain at agricultural dinners of the badness of the times. Yet, within seventeen, twenty, and twenty-five miles of him is a vast population demanding food.
Let any one stand on the borders of the three counties which have been named, and the question will at once arise in his mind, Why, if the farmers in one part of Middlesex can profitably supply London with milk, butter, and hay, cannot the farmers of the adjacent districts do the same? The curious differences which prevail within a few miles may be shown by the fact that as you But to the north of this valley in Herts and go through the village of Harefield, on the south Bucks, the system of agriculture entirely changes. of the Colne, you will, about four or five o'clock There is very little grass-land except in the in the afternoon, see the milkman going round, valleys watered by the Chess and the Misbourne and women waiting at their doors for the evenstream. There is indeed a superficial difference | ing's supply. If you cross to the north side of
the Colne, you may have to go to three or four farms before you will find a place where it is possible to find any milk. The cottagers, except on rare occasions, do without it altogether; and labourers will tell you that it would pay a gentleman to keep a cow and sell the milk, when he did not require it, to the poor people. But it goes without saying that where there is milk, there may be also butter; and if it pays the farmers of Dorset to make butter and send it up to London, obviously it would be more profitable to the farmers who are nearer London to do the same. The great herds of milch cows which fill all the rich pastures from Axminster to Yeovil do not produce milk and butter for the people of those parts, as any one will discover who cares to ramble among the pleasant farmsteads of Dorset and Somerset.
leave their homes and settle in London. If a farmer has a clever son, he puts him to business in London. If the son of the carter gets on well at school, and is an intelligent and active youth, he very soon finds that more money can be made and more pleasure obtained in London, than in tilling wheat for thirteen shillings a week, and spending it on bad beer at the Three Bells; consequently, the agricultural population of Berks and Herts is 'the residuum.' That this circumstance must seriously affect the nature of the farming cannot be doubted. In these districts, farmers, so far from bracing themselves up to meet the altered conditions of the times, have as yet scarcely appreciated the fact that there has been a change. They are still on the lookout for a profitable market for their be sent in due season, as they daily expected rain wheat, with much the same feeling that it will when their tubs-for, in nine cases out of ten, a farmer does not possess a rain-water tank below ground-were dry, and the springs were beginning to get alarmingly low, in the hot summer
A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF.
It is almost certain that the farmers in the districts near London who continue to grow wheat and the agricultural statistics have clearly | of 1884. shown that it is in the counties which are already characterised as grazing ones that the increase of permanent pasture has in the last few years taken place-have chiefly themselves to thank for the unprofitable nature of their business. At a recent meeting of the Middlesex Agricultural Society one speaker admitted that on his farm of five hundred acres he spent twenty-one pounds per week on labour; whilst, if it were grass-land, five pounds would be his weekly expenditure. Yet this worthy person seemed to have no intention of abandoning his present system, ostensibly from a good-natured wish not to throw labourers out of employment. That the question of the agricultural labourers must certainly become one worthy of serious consideration, there can be no doubt, for every acre which becomes permanent pasture lessens the demand for manual labour. Farmers, too, near London might well combine for the purpose of selling their own milk. A few amateurs have already done so with good results; but it is the professional farmers who should set such schemes on foot.
The most thriving kind of cultivation near London in the districts we have mentioned is certainly that of the cherry and the watercress. The latter is not a mere casual growth in streams and ponds; it is carefully planted every autumn, and thinned; the water is kept at a uniform depth, and the bottom is always bright and clean. If the watercress growers could but diffuse something of their care into the farmers, things might look brighter for them. As to the cherry orchards, they are a perfect treasure to many farmers in Bucks and Herts, who get a round sum of money
without cost of cultivation.
To some extent, perhaps, the low condition of agriculture so near London is caused-paradoxical as it may seem to say so-by this very proximity of the metropolis. It is a fact which cannot be disputed, that the most intelligent of the people
'WHAT is this I hear about Waring?' said General Gaunt, walking out upon the loggia, where the Durants were sitting, on the same memorable afternoon on which all that has been above related occurred. The general was dressed in loosely fitting light-coloured clothes. It was one of the recommendations of the Riviera to him clothes, which would have been useless to him at home. He was a very tall old man, very yellow, nay, almost greenish in the complexion, extremely spare, with a fine old white moustache, which had an immense effect upon his brown face. The well-worn epigram might be adapted in his case to say that nobody ever was so fierce as the general looked; and yet he was at bottom rather a mild old man, and had never hurt anybody, except the sepoys in the Mutiny, all his life. His head was covered with a broad light felt hat, which, soft as it was, took an aggressive cock when he put it on. He held his gloves dangling from his hand with the air of having been in too much haste to put them to their proper use. And his step, as he stepped off the carpet upon the marble of the loggia, sounded like that of an alert officer who has just heard force two miles off, and that there is no time to that the enemy has made a reconnaissance in lose. What is this I hear about Waring?' he
that he could wear out there all his old Indian
'Yes, indeed!' cried Mrs Durant.
It is a most remarkable story,' said his Reverence, shaking his head.
'But what is it?' asked the general. 'I found
metaphor, and I insisted upon plain English;
The old clergyman had been shaking his head all the time. He was dying to tell all that he knew; but he could not but improve the occasion. 'Oh, ladies, ladies!' he said, when there is anything to be told, the best of women is not to be trusted. But, general, our poor friend is no impostor. He never said he was a widower.'
'It's fortunate we've none of us girls'— the general began; then with a start: 'I forgot Miss Tasie; but she's a girl-a girl in ten thousand,' he added with a happy inspiration. Tasie, who was still seated behind the teacups, gave him a smile in reply.
'Poor dear Mr Waring,' she said, 'whether he is a widower or has a wife, it does not matter much. Nobody can call Mr Waring a flirt. He might be any one's grandfather from his manner. I cannot see that it matters a bit.'
Not so far as we are concerned, thank heaven,' said her mother with the air of one whose dear child has escaped a danger. But I don't think it is quite respectable for one of our small community to have a wife alive and never to let any one know.'
‘I understand, a most excellent woman; besides being a person of rank,' said Mr Durant. It has disturbed me very much, though, happily, as my wife says, from no private motive.' Here the good man paused, and gave vent to a sigh of thankfulness, establishing the impression that his ingenuous Tasie had escaped as by a miracle from Waring's wiles; and then he continued: "I think some one should speak to him on the subject. He ought to understand that now it is known, public opinion requires Some one should tell him'
'There is no one so fit as a clergyman,' the general said.
That is true, perhaps, in the abstract; but with our poor friend- There are some men who will not take advice from a clergyman.'
'O Henry! do him justice. He has never shown anything but respect to you.'
'I should say that a man of the world, like the general'
'Oh, not I,' cried the general, getting up hurriedly. No, thank you; I never interfere any man's affairs.-That's your business, Padre. Besides I have no daughter-whether Le is married or not is nothing to me.'
'Nor to us, heaven be praised!' said Mrs Durant; and then she added: 'It is not for ourselves; it is for poor little Frances, a girl that has never known a mother's care! How much better for her to be with her mother, and properly introduced into society, than living in that huggermugger way without education, without companions. If it were not for Tasie, the child would never see a creature near her own age.'
'And I am much older than Frances,' said Tasie, rather to heighten the hardship of the situation than from any sense that this was true.
'Decidedly the Padre ought to talk to him,' said the Anglo-Indian. He ought to be made to feel that everybody at the station- Wife all right, do you know? Bless me! If the wife is all right, what does the man mean? Why can't they quarrel peaceably, and keep up appearances, as we all do?'
"O no; not all; we never quarrel.' 'Not for a long time, my love.'
'Henry, you may trust to my memory. Not for about thirty years. We had a little disagreement then about where we were to go for the summer. Oh, I remember it well-the agony it cost me !-Don't say "as we all do," general, for it would not be true.'
'You are a pair of old turtle-doves,' quoth the general. All the more reason why you should talk to him, Padre. Tell him he's come among us on false pretences, not knowing the damage he might have done. I always thought he was a queer hand to have the education of a little girl.'
'He taught her Latin; and that woman of theirs, Mariuccia, taught her to knit. That's all she knows. And her mother all the time in such a fine position, able to do anything for her. Oh, it is of Frances I think most.'
'It is quite evident,' said the general, 'that Mr Durant must interfere.'
'I think it very likely I shall do no good. A man of the world, a man like that'"There is no such great harm about the man.'
'And he is very good to Frances,' said Tasie, almost under her breath.
'I daresay he meant no harm,' said the general, if that is all. Only, he should be warned; and if anything can be done for Francesa pity she should see nobody, and never have a chance of establishing herself in life.'
'She ought to be introduced into society,' said Mrs Durant.-As for establishing herself in life, that is in the hands of providence, general. It is not to be supposed that such an idea ever enters into a girl's mind-unless it is put there, which is so often the case.'
"The general means,' said Tasie, 'that seeing people would make her more fit to be a companion for her papa. Frances is a dear girl; but it is quite true; she is wanting in conversation. They often sit a whole evening together and scarcely speak.'
'She is a nice little thing,' said the general energetically; 'I always thought so; and never was at a dance, I suppose, or a junketing of any description in her life. To be sure, we are all old duffers in this place. The Padre should interfere.'
'If I could see it was my duty,' said Mr Durant.
'I know what you mean,' said General Gaunt. 'I'm not too fond of interference myself. But when a man has concealed his antecedents, and they have been found out. And then the little girl'
It is Frances I am thinking of,' explained Mr Durant.
It was at last settled among them that it was
clearly the clergyman's business to interfere. He had been tolerably certain to begin with; but he liked the moral support of what he called a consensus of opinion. Mr Durant was not so reluctant to interfere as he professed to be. He had not much scope for those social duties which, he was of opinion, were not the least important of a clergyman's functions; and though there was a little excitement in the uncertainty from Sunday to Sunday how many people would be at church, what the collection would be, and other varying circumstances, yet the life of the clergyman at Bordighera was monotonous, and a little variety was welcome. In other chaplaincies which Mr Durant had held, he had come in contact with various romances of real life. These were still the days of gaming, when every German bath had its tapis vert and its little group of tragedies. But the Riviera was very tranquil, and Bordighera had just been found out by the invalid and the pleasure-seeker. It was monotonous: there had been few deaths, even among the visitors, which are always varieties in their way for the clergyman, and often are the means of making acquaintances both useful and agreeable to himself and his family. But as yet there had not even been many deaths. This gave great additional excitement to what is always exciting for a small community, the cropping up under their very noses, in their own immediate circle, of a mystery, of a discovery which afforded boundless opportunity for talk. The first thing naturally that had affected Mr and Mrs Durant was the miraculous escape of Tasie, to whom Mr Waring might have made himself agreeable, and who might have lost her peace of mind, for anything that could be said to the contrary. They said to each other that it was a hairbreadth escape; although it had not occurred previously to any one that any sort of mutual attraction between Mr Waring and Tasie was possible.
And then the other aspects of the case became apparent. Mr Durant felt now that to pass it over, to say nothing about the matter, to allow Waring to suppose that everything was as it had always been, was impossible. He and his wife had decided this without the intervention of General Gaunt; but when the general appearedthe only other permanent pillar of society in Bordighera-then there arose that consensus which made further steps inevitable. Mrs Gaunt looked in later, after dinner, in the darkening; and she, too, was of opinion that something must be done. She was affected to tears by the thought of that mystery in their very midst, and of what the poor (unknown) lady must have suffered, deserted by her husband, and bereft of her child. 'He might at least have left her her child,' she said with a sob; and she was fully of opinion that he should be spoken to without delay, and that they should not rest till Frances had been restored to her mother. She thought it was a duty' on the part of Mr Durant to interfere. The consensus was thus unanimous; there was not a dissentient voice in the entire community. We will sleep upon it,' Mr Durant said. But the morning brought no further light. They were all agreed more strongly than ever that Waring ought to be spoken to, and that it was undeniably a duty for the clergyman to interfere.
Mr Durant accordingly set out before it was
too late, before the mid-day breakfast, which is the coolest and calmest moment of the day, the time for business, before social intercourse is supposed to begin. He was very carefully brushed from his hat to his shoes, and was indeed a very agreeable example of a neat old clerical gentleman. Ecclesiastical costume was much more easy in those days. It was before the era of long coats and soft hats, when a white tie was the one incontrovertible sign of the clergyman who did not think of calling himself a priest. He was indeed, having been for a number of years located in Catholic countries, very particular not to call himself a priest, or to condescend to any garb which could recall the soutane and threecornered hat of the indigenous clergy. His black clothes were spotless, but of the ordinary cut, perhaps a trifle old-fashioned. But yet neither soutane nor berretta could have made it more evident that Mr Durant, setting out with an ebony stick and black gloves, was an English clergyman going mildly, but firmly, to interfere. Had he been met with in the wilds of Africa, even there, mistake would have been impossible. In his serious eye, in the aspect of the corners of his mouth, in a certain air of gentle determination diffused over his whole person, this was apparent. It made a great impression upon Domenico when he opened the door. After what had happened yesterday, Domenico felt that anything might happen. Lo, this man's brow, like to a title leaf, foretells the nature of the tragic volume,' he said to Mariuccia-at least if he did not use these words, his meaning was the same. He ushered the English pastor into the room which Mr Waring occupied as a library, with bated breath. Master is going to catch it,' was what, perhaps, a light-minded Cockney might have said. But Domenico was a serious man, and did not trifle.
Waring's library was, like all the rooms of his suite, an oblong room, with three windows and as many doors, opening into the dining-room on one hand, and the anteroom on the other. It had the usual indecipherable fresco on the roof, and the walls on one side were half clothed with bookcases. Not a very large collection of books, and yet enough to make a pretty show, with their old gilding, and the dull white of the vellum in which so many were bound. It was a room in which he spent the most of his time, and it had been made comfortable according to the notions of comfort prevailing in these regions. There was a square of carpet under his writing-table. His chair was a large old fauteuil, covered with very faded damask; and curtains, also faded, were festooned over all the windows and doors. The persianis were shut, to keep out the sun, and the cool atmosphere had a greenish tint. Waring, however, did not look so peaceful as his room. He sat with his chair pushed away from the table, reading what seemed to be a novel. He had the air of a man who had taken refuge there from some embarrassment or annoyance; not the tranquil look of a man occupied in so-called studies needing leisure, with his notebooks at hand, and pen and ink within reach. Such a man is usually very glad to be interrupted in the midst of his self-imposed labours; and Waring's first movement was one of satisfaction. He threw down the book, with
an apology for having ever taken it up in the half-ashamed, half-violent way in which he got rid of it. Don't suppose I care for such rubbish, his gesture seemed to say. But the aspect of Mr Durant changed his look of welcome. He rose hurriedly, and gave his visitor a chair. 'You are early out,' he said.
'Yes; the morning, I find, is the best time. Even after the sun is down, it is never so fresh in the evening. Especially for business, I find it the best time.'
'That means, I suppose,' said Waring, 'that your visit this morning means business, and not mere friendship, as I had supposed?'
'Friendship always, I hope,' said the tidy old clergyman, smoothing his hat with his hand; 'but I don't deny it is something more serious -a-a-question I want to ask you, if you don't mind'
Just at this moment, in the next room there rose a little momentary and pleasant clamour of voices and youthful laughter; two voices certainly--Frances and another. This made Mr Durant prick up his ears. "You have-visitors?'
'Yes. I will answer to the best of my ability,' said Waring with a smile.
Now was the time when Mr Durant realised the difficult nature of his mission. At home in his own house, especially in the midst of the consensus of opinions, with everybody encouraging him and pressing upon him the fact that it was a duty, the matter seemed easy enough. But when he found himself in Waring's house, looking a man in the face with whose concerns he had really no right to interfere, and who had not at all the air of a man ready to be brought to the confessional, Mr Durant's confidence failed him. He faltered a little; he looked at his very unlikely penitent, and then he looked at the hat which he was turning round in his hands, but which gave him no courage. Then he cleared his throat. The question is quite a simple one,' he said. "There can be no doubt of your ability-to answer. I am sure you will forgive me if I say, to begin with '
'One moment. Is this question-which seems to trouble you about my affairs or yours?'
Mr Durant's clear complexion betrayed something like a flush. That is just what I want to explain. You will acknowledge, my dear Waring, that you have been received here-well, there is not very much in our power-but with every friendly feeling, every desire to make you
one of us.'
'All this preface shows me that it is I who have been found wanting. You are quite right; you have been most hospitable and kind. myself, almost too much so; to my daughter, you have given all the society she has ever known.'
'I am glad, truly glad, that you think we have done our part. My dear friend, was it right, then, when we opened our arms to you so unsuspectingly, to come among us in a false character-under false colours?'
'Stop!' said Waring, growing pale. This is going a little too far. I suppose I understand what you mean. Mannering, who calls himself my old friend, has been here; and as he could not hold his tongue if his life depended upon it,
he has told you- But why you should accuse me of holding a false position, of coming under false colours-which was what you said '
'Waring' said the clergyman in a voice of mild thunder, did you never think, when you came here, comparatively a young, and-well, still a good-looking man-did you never think that there might be some susceptible heartsome woman's heart'
'Good heavens!' cried Waring, starting to his feet, 'I never supposed for a moment'
-Some young creature,' Mr Durant continued solemnly, whom it might be my duty and your duty to guard from deception; but who, naturally, taking you for a widower'
Waring's countenance of horror was unspeakable. He stood up before his table like a little boy who was about to be caned. Exclamations of dismay fell unconsciously from his lips. "Sir! I never thought
Mr Durant paused, to contemplate with pleasure the panic he had caused. He put down his hat and rubbed together his little fat white hands. 'By the blessing of providence,' he said, drawing a long breath, that danger has been averted. I say it with thankfulness. We have been preserved from any such terrible result. But had things been differently ordered-think, only think! and be grateful to providence.'
The answer which Waring made to this speech was to burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. He seemed incapable of recovering his gravity. As soon as he paused, exhausted, to draw breath, he was off again. The suggestion, when it ceased to be horrible, became ludicrous beyond description. He quavered forth: 'I beg your pardon' between the fits, which Mr Durant did not at all like. He sat looking on at the hilarity very gravely without a smile.
'I did not expect so much levity,' he said. 'I beg your pardon,' cried the culprit with tears running down his cheeks. 'Forgive me. If you will recollect that the character of a gay Lothario is the last one in the world'
'It is not necessary to be a gay Lothario,' returned the clergyman.-'Really, if this is to continue, it will be better that I should withdraw. Laughter was the last thing I intended to produce.'
It is not a bad thing, and it is not an indulgence I am given to. But, I think, considering what a very terrible alternative you set before me, we may be very glad it has ended in laughter. Mr Durant,' continued Waring, you have only anticipated an explanation I intended to make.--Mannering is an ass.'
'I am sure he is a most respectable member of society,' said Mr Durant with much gravity.
'So are many asses.-I have some one else to present to you, who is very unlike Mannering, but who betrays me still more distinctly.— Constance, I want you here.'
The old clergyman gazed, not believing his eyes, as there suddenly appeared in the doorway the tall figure of a girl who had never been seen as yet in Bordighera, a girl who was very simply dressed, yet who had an air which the old gentleman, acquainted, as he flattered himself, with the air of fine people, could not ignore. She stood with a careless grace, returning slightly,