“The truth is, T., there was some joking among the young people about the wine, and then Rowan went and ordered it.” This was Mrs Tappitt’s explanation about the champagne, made to her husband on the night of the ball, before she was allowed to go to sleep. But this by no means satisfied him. He did not choose, as he declared, that any young man should order whatever he might think necessary for his house. Then Mrs Tappitt made it worse. “To tell the truth, T., I think it was intended as a present to the girls. We are doing a great deal to make him comfortable, and I fancy he thought it right to make them this little return.” She should have known her husband better. It was true that he grudged the cost of the wine; but he would have preferred to endure that to the feeling that his table had been supplied by another man — by a young man whom he wished to regard as subject to himself, but who would not be subject, and at whom he was beginning to look with very unfavourable eyes. “A present to the girls? I tell you I won’t have such presents. And if it was so, I think he has been very impertinent — very impertinent indeed. I shall tell him so — and I shall insist on paying for the wine. And I must say, you ought not to have taken it.”
“Oh dear, T., I have been working so hard all night; and I do think you ought to let me go to sleep now, instead of scolding me.”
On the following morning the party was of course discussed in the Tappitt family under various circumstances. At the breakfast-table Mrs Rowan, with her son and daughter, were present; and then a song of triumph was sung. Everything had gone off with honour and glory, and the brewery had been immortalised for years to come. Mrs Butler Cornbury’s praises were spoken — with some little drawback of a sneer on them, because “she had made such a fuss with that girl Rachel Ray’; and then the girls had told of their partners, and Luke had declared it all to have been superb. But when the Rowans’ backs were turned, and the Tappitts were alone together, others besides old Tappitt himself had words to say in dispraise of Luke. Mrs Tappitt had been much inclined to make little of her husband’s objections to the young man while she hoped that he might possibly become her son-in-law. He might have been a thorn in the brewery, among the vats, but he would have been a flourishing young baytree in the outer world of Baslehurst. She had, however, no wish to encourage the growth of a thorn within her own premises, in order that Rachel Ray, or such as she, might have the advantage of the bay-tree. Luke Rowan had behaved very badly at her party. Not only had he failed to distinguish either of her own girls, but he had, as Mrs Tappitt said, made himself so conspicuous with that foolish girl, that all the world had been remarking it.
“Mrs Butler Cornbury seemed to think it all right,” said Cherry.
“Mrs Butler Cornbury is not everybody,” said Mrs Tappitt. “I didn’t think it right, I can assure you — and what’s more, your papa didn’t think it right.”
“And he was going on all the evening as though he were quite master in the house,” said Augusta. “He was ordering the musicians to do this and that all the evening.”
“He’ll find that he’s not master. Your papa is going to speak to him this very day.”
“What! — about Rachel?” asked Cherry, in dismay.
“About things in general,” said Mrs Tappitt. Then Mary Rowan returned to the room, and they all went back upon the glories of the ball. “I think it was nice,” said Mrs Tappitt, simpering. “I’m sure there was no trouble spared — nor yet expense.” She knew that she ought not to have uttered the last word, and she would have refrained if it had been possible to her — but it was not possible. The man who tells you how much his wine costs a dozen, knows that he is wrong while the words are in his mouth; but they are in his mouth, and he cannot restrain them.
Mr Tappitt was not about to lecture Luke Rowan as to his conduct in regard to Rachel Ray. He found some difficulty in speaking to his would-be partner, even on matters of business, in a proper tone, and with, becoming authority. As he was so much the senior, and Rowan so much the junior, some such tone of superiority was, as he thought, indispensable. But he had great difficulty in assuming it. Rowan had a way with him that was not exactly a way of submission, and Tappitt would certainly not have dared to encounter him on any such matter as his behaviour in a drawing-room. When the time came he had not even the courage to allude to those champagne bottles, and it may be as well explained that Rowan paid the little bill at Griggs’s, without further reference to the matter. But the question of the brewery management was a matter vital to Tappitt. There, among the vats, he had reigned supreme since Bungall ceased to be king, and for continual mastery there it was worth his while to make a fight. That he was under difficulties even in that fight he had already begun to know. He could not talk Luke Rowan down, and make him go about his work in an orderly, everyday, businesslike fashion. Luke Rowan would not be talked down, nor would he be orderly — not according to Mr Tappitt’s orders. No doubt Mr Tappitt, under these circumstances, could decline the partnership; and this he was disposed to do; but he had been consulting lawyers, consulting papers, and looking into old accounts, and he had reason to fear that, under Bungall’s will, Luke Rowan would have the power of exacting from him much more than he was inclined to give.
“You’d better take him into the concern,” the lawyer had said. “A young head is always useful.”
“Not when the young head wants to be master,” Tappitt had answered. “If I’m to do that the whole thing will go to the dogs.” He did not exactly explain to the lawyer that Rowan had carried his infatuation so far as to be desirous of brewing good beer, but he did make it very clear that such a partner would; in his eyes, be anything but desirable.
“Then, upon my word, I think you’ll have to give him the ten thousand pounds. I don’t even know but what the demand is moderate.”
This was very bad news to Tappitt. “But suppose I haven’t got ten thousand pounds!” Now it was very well known that the property and the business were worth money, and the lawyer suggested that Rowan might take steps to have the whole concern sold. “Probably he might buy it himself and undertake to pay you so much a year,” suggested the lawyer. But this view of the matter was not at all in accordance with Mr Tappitt’s ideas. He had been brewer in Baslehurst for nearly thirty years, and still wished to remain so. Mrs Tappitt had been of opinion that all difficulties might be overcome if only Luke would fall in love with one of her girls. Mrs Rowan had been invited to Baslehurst specially with a view to some such arrangement. But Luke Rowan, as it seemed to them both now, was an obstinate young man, who, in matters of beer as well as in matters of love, would not be guided by those who best knew how to guide him. Mrs Tappitt had watched him closely at the ball, and had now given him up altogether. He had danced only once with Augusta, and then had left her the moment the dance was over. “I should offer him a hundred and fifty pounds a year out of the concern, and if he didn’t like that let him lump it,” said Mrs Tappitt. “Lump it!” said Mr Tappitt. “That means going to a London lawyer.” He felt the difficulties of his position as he prepared to speak his mind to young Rowan on the morning after the party; but on that occasion his strongest feeling was in favour of expelling the intruder. Any lot in life would be preferable to working in the brewery with such a partner as Luke Rowan.
“I suppose your head’s hardly cool enough for business,” he said, as Luke came in and took a stool in his office. Tappitt was sitting in his customary chair, with his arm resting on a large old-fashioned leather-covered table, which was strewed with his papers, and which had never been reduced to cleanliness or order within the memory of anyone connected with the establishment. He had turned his chair round from its accustomed place so as to face Rowan, who had perched himself on a stool which was commonly occupied by a boy whom Tappitt employed in his own office.
“My head not cool!” said Rowan. “It’s as cool as a cucumber. I wasn’t drinking last night.”
“I thought you might be tired with the dancing.” Then Tappitt’s mind flew off to the champagne, and he determined that the young man before him was too disagreeable to be endured.
“Oh, dear, no. Those things never tire me. I was across here with the men before eight this morning. Do you know, I’m sure we could save a third of the fuel by altering the flues? I never saw such contrivances. They must have been put in by the coal-merchants, for the sake of wasting coal.”
“If you please, we won’t mind the flues at present.”
“I only tell you; it’s for your sake much more than my own. If you won’t believe me, do you ask Newman to look at them the first time you see him in Baslehurst.”
“I don’t care a straw for Newman.”
“He’s got the best concerns in Devonshire, and knows what he’s about better than any man in these parts.”
“I dare say. But now, if you please, we won’t mind him. The concerns, as I have managed them, have done very well for me for the last thirty years — very well I may say also for your uncle, who understood what he was doing. I’m not very keen for so many changes. They cost a great deal of money, and as far as I can see don’t often lead to much profit.”
“If we don’t go on with the world,” said Rowan, “the world will leave us behind. Look at the new machinery they’re introducing everywhere. People don’t do it because they like to spend their money. It’s competition; and there’s competition in beer as well as in other things.”
For a minute or two Mr Tappitt sat in silence collecting his thoughts, and then he began his speech. “I’ll tell you what it is, Rowan, I don’t like these new-fangled ways. They’re very well for you, I dare say. You are young, and perhaps you may see your way. I’m old, and I don’t see mine among all these changes. It’s clear to me that you and I could not go on together as partners in the same concern. I should expect to have my own way — first because I’ve a deal of experience, and next because my share in the concern would be so much the greatest.”
“Stop a moment, Mr Tappitt; I’m not quite sure that it would be much the greatest. I don’t want to say anything about that now; only if I were to let your remark pass without notice it would seem that I had assented.”
“Ah; very well. I can only say that I hope you’ll find yourself mistaken. I’ve been over thirty years in the concern, and it would be odd if I with my large family were to find myself only equal with you, who have never been in the business at all, and ain’t even married yet.”
“I don’t see what being married has to do with it.”
“Don’t you? You’ll find that’s the way we look at these things down in these parts. You’re not in London here, Mr Rowan.”
“Certainly not; but I suppose the laws are the same. This is an affair of capital.”
“Capital!” said Mr Tappitt. “I don’t know that you’ve brought in any capital.”
“Bungall did, and I’m here as his representative. But you’d better let that pass by just at present. If we can agree as to the management of the business, you won’t find me a hard man to deal with as to our relative shares.” Hereupon Tappitt scratched his head, and tried to think. “But I don’t see how we are to agree about the management,” he continued. “You won’t be led by anybody.”
“I don’t know about that. I certainly want to improve the concern.”
“Ah, yes; and to ruin it. Whereas I’ve been making money out of it these thirty years. You and I won’t do together; that’s the long of it and the short of it.”
“It would be a putting of new wine into old bottles, you think?” suggested Rowan.
“I’m not saying anything about wine; but I do think that I ought to know something about beer.”
“And I’m to understand”, said Rowan, “that you have definitely determined not to carry on the old concern in conjunction with me as your partner.”
“Yes; I think I have.”
“But it will be as well to be sure. One can’t allow oneself to depend upon thinking.”
“Well, I am sure; I’ve made up my mind. I’ve no doubt you’re a very clever young man, but I am quite sure we should not do together; and to tell you the truth, Rowan, I don’t think you’ll ever make your fortune by brewing.”
“You think not?”
“I’m sorry for that.”
“I don’t know that you need be sorry. You’ll have a nice income for a single man to begin the world with, and there’s other businesses besides brewing — and a deal better.”
“Ah! But I’ve made up my mind to be a brewer. I like it. There’s opportunity for chemical experiments, and room for philosophical inquiry, which gives the trade a charm in my eyes. I dare say it seems odd to you, but I like being a brewer.”
Tappitt only scratched his head, and stared at him. “I do indeed,” continued Rowan. “Now a man can’t do anything to improve his own trade as a lawyer. A great deal will be done; but I’ve made up my mind that all that must come from the outside. All trades want improving; but I like a trade in which I can do the improvements myself — from the inside. Do you understand me, Mr Tappitt?” Mr Tappitt did not understand him — was very far indeed from understanding him.
“With such ideas as those I don’t think Baslehurst is the ground for you,” said Mr Tappitt.
“The very ground!” said Rowan. “That’s just it — it’s the very place I want. Brewing, as I take it, is at a lower ebb here than in any other part of England,”— this at any rate was not complimentary to the brewer of thirty years’ standing —“than in any other part of England. The people swill themselves with the nasty juice of the apple because sound malt and hops have never been brought within their reach. I think Devonshire is the very county for a man who means to work hard, and who wishes to do good; and in all Devonshire I don’t think there’s a more fitting town than Baslehurst.”
Mr Tappitt was dumbfounded. Did this young man mean him to understand that it was his intention to open a rival establishment under his nose; to set up with Bungall’s money another brewery in opposition to Bungall’s brewery? Could such ingratitude as that be in the mind of anyone? “Oh,” said Tappitt; “I don’t quite understand, but I don’t doubt but what you say is all very fine.”
“I don’t think that it’s fine at all, Mr Tappitt, but I believe that it’s true. I represent Mr Bungall’s interest here in Baslehurst, and I intend to carry on Mr Bungall’s business in the town in which he established it.”
“This is Mr Bungall’s business — this here, where I’m sitting, and it is in my hands.”
“The use of these premises depends on you certainly.”
“Yes; and the name of the firm, and the — the — the — In point of fact, this is the old establishment. I never heard of such a thing in all my life.”
“Quite true; it is the old establishment; and if I should set up another brewery here, as I think it probable I may, I shall not make use of Bungall’s name. In the first place it would hardly be fair; and in the next place, by all accounts, he brewed such very bad beer that it would not be a credit to me. If you’ll tell me what your plan is, then I’ll tell you mine. You’ll find that everything shall be above-board, Mr Tappitt.”
“My plan? I’ve got no plan. I mean to go on here as I’ve always done.”
“But I suppose you intend to come to some arrangement with me. My claims are these: I will either come into this establishment on an equal footing with yourself, as regards share and management, or else I shall look to you to give me the sum of money to which my lawyers tell me I am entitled. In fact, you must either take me in or buy me out.”
“I was thinking of a settled income.”
“No; it wouldn’t suit me. I have told you what are my intentions, and to carry them out I must either have a concern of my own, or a share in a concern. A settled income would do me no good.”
“Two hundred a year,” suggested Tappitt.
“Psha! Three per cent would give me three hundred.”
“Ten thousand pounds is out of the question, you know.”
“Very well, Mr Tappitt. I can’t say anything fairer than I have done. It will suit my own views much the best to start alone, but I do not wish to oppose you if I can help it. Start alone I certainly will, if I cannot come in here on my own terms.”
After that there was nothing more said. Tappitt turned round, pretending to read his letters, and Rowan descending from his seat walked out into the yard of the brewery. His intention had been, ever since he had looked around him in Baslehurst, to be master of the place, or if not of that, to be master of some other. “It would break my heart to be sending out such stuff as that all my life,” he said to himself, as he watched the muddy stream run out of the shallow coolers. He had resolved that he would brew good beer. As to that ambition of putting down the consumption of cider, I myself am inclined to think that the habits of the country would be too strong for him. At the present moment he lighted a cigar and sauntered about the yard. He had now, for the first time, spoken openly of his purpose to Mr Tappitt; but, having done so, he resolved that there should be no more delay. “I’ll give him till Saturday for an answer,” he said. “If he isn’t ready with one by that time I’ll manage it through the lawyers.” After that he turned his mind to Rachel Ray and the events of the past evening. He had told Rachel that he would go out to Bragg’s End if she did not come into town, and he was quite resolved that he would do so. He knew well that she would not come in, understanding exactly those feelings of hers which would prevent it. Therefore his walk to Bragg’s End on that afternoon was a settled thing with him. They were to dine at the brewery at three, and he would go almost immediately after dinner. But what would he say to her when he got there, and what would he say to her mother? He had not even yet made up his mind that he would positively ask her on that day to be his wife, and yet he felt that if he found her at home he would undoubtedly do so. “I’ll arrange it all”, said he, “as I’m walking over.” Then he threw away the end of his cigar, and wandered about for the next half-hour among the vats and tubs and furnaces.
Mr Tappitt took himself into the house as soon as he found himself able to do so without being seen by young Rowan. He took himself into the house in order that he might consult with his wife as to this unexpected revelation that had been made to him; or rather that he might have an opportunity of saying to someone all the hard things which were now crowding themselves upon his mind with reference to this outrageous young man. Had anything ever been known, or heard, or told, equal in enormity to this wickedness! He was to be called upon to find capital for the establishment of a rival in his own town, or else he was to bind himself in a partnership with a youth who knew nothing of his business, but was nevertheless resolved to constitute himself the chief manager of it! He who had been so true to Bungall in his young days was now to be sacrificed in his old age to Bungall’s audacious representative! In the first of his anger he declared to his wife that he would pay no money and admit of no partnership. If Rowan did not choose to take his income as old Mrs Bungall had taken hers he might seek what redress the law would give him. It was in vain that Mrs Tappitt suggested that they would all be ruined. “Then we will be ruined,” said Tappitt hot with indignation; “but all Baslehurst — all Devonshire shall know why.” Pernicious young man! He could not explain — he could not even quite understand in what the atrocity of Rowan’s proposed scheme consisted, but he was possessed by a full conviction that it was atrocious. He had admitted this man into his house; he was even now entertaining as his guests the man’s mother and sister; he had allowed him to have the run of the brewery, so that he had seen both the nakedness and the fat of the land; and this was to be his reward! “If I were to tell it at the reading-room,” said Tappitt, “he would never be able to show himself again in the High Street.”
Mrs Tappitt, who was anxious but not enraged, did not see the matter quite in the same light, but she was not able to oppose her husband in his indignation. When she suggested that it might be well for them to raise money and pay off their enemy’s claim, merely stipulating that a rival brewery should not be established in Baslehurst, he swore an oath that he would raise no money for such a purpose. He would have no dealings with so foul a traitor except through his lawyer, Honyman. “But Honyman thinks you’d better settle with him,” pleaded Mrs T. “Then I’ll go to another lawyer,” said Tappitt. “If Honyman won’t stand to me I’ll go to Sharpit and Longfite. They won’t give way as long as there’s a leg to stand on.” For the time Mrs Tappitt let this pass. She knew how useless it would be to tell her husband at the present moment that Sharpit and Longfite would be the only winners in such a contest as that of which he spoke. At the present moment Mr Tappitt felt a pride in his anger, and was almost happy in the fury of his wrath; but Mrs Tappitt was very wretched. If that nasty girl, Rachel Ray, had not come in the way all might have been well.
“He shan’t eat another meal in this house,” said Tappitt. “I don’t care,” he went on, when his wife pleaded that Luke Rowan must be admitted to their table because of Mrs Rowan and Mary. “You can say what you like to them. They’re welcome to stay if they like it, or welcome to go; but he shan’t put his feet under my mahogany again.” On this point, however, he was brought to relent before the hour of dinner. Baslehurst, his wife told him, would be against him if he turned his guests away from his house hungry. If a fight was necessary for them, it would be everything to them that Baslehurst should be with them in the fight. It was therefore arranged that Mrs Tappitt should have a conversation with Mrs Rowan after dinner, while the young people were out in the evening. “He shan’t sleep in this house tomorrow,” said Tappitt, riveting his assertion with very strong language; and Mrs Tappitt understood that her communications were to be carried on upon that basis.
At three o’clock the Tappitts and Rowans all sat down to dinner. Mr Tappitt ate his meal in absolute silence; but the young people were full of the ball, and the elder ladies were very gracious to each other. At such entertainments Paterfamilias is simply required to find the provender and to carve it. If he does that satisfactorily, silence on his part is not regarded as a great evil. Mrs Tappitt knew that her husband’s mood was not happy, and Martha may have remarked that all was not right with her father. To the others I am inclined to think his ill humour was a matter of indifference.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55