Before the time had come for the visit to Rufford Hall Mr. Gotobed had called upon Bearside the attorney and had learned as much as Mr. Bearside chose to tell him of the facts of the case. This took place on the Saturday morning and the interview was on the whole satisfactory to the Senator. But then having a theory of his own in his head, and being fond of ventilating his own theories, he explained thoroughly to the man the story which he wished to hear before the man was called upon to tell his story. Mr. Bearside of course told it accordingly. Goarly was a very poor man, and very ignorant; was perhaps not altogether so good a member of society as he might have been; but no doubt he had a strong case against the lord. The lord, so said Mr. Bearside, had fallen into a way of paying a certain recompense in certain cases for crops damaged by game; and having in this way laid down a rule for himself did not choose to have that rule disturbed. “Just feudalism!” said the indignant Senator. “No better, nor yet no worse than that, sir,” said the attorney who did not in the least know what feudalism was. “The strong hand backed by the strong rank and the strong purse determined to have its own way!” continued the Senator. “A most determined man is his lordship,” said the attorney. Then the Senator expressed his hope that Mr. Bearside would be able to see the poor man through it, and Mr. Bearside explained to the Senator that the poor man was a very poor man indeed, who had been so unfortunate with his land that he was hardly able to provide bread for himself and his children. He went so far as to insinuate that he was taking up this matter himself solely on the score of charity, adding that as he could not of course afford to be money out of pocket for expenses of witnesses, etc, he did not quite see how he was to proceed. Then the Senator made certain promises. He was, he said, going back to London in the course of next week, but he did not mind making himself responsible to the extent of fifty dollars if the thing were carried on, bona fide, to a conclusion. Mr. Bearside declared that it would of course be bona fide, and asked the Senator for his address. Would Mr. Gotobed object to putting his name to a little docket certifying to the amount promised? Mr. Gotobed gave an address, but thought that in such a matter as that his word might be trusted. If it were not trusted then the offer might fall to the ground. Mr. Bearside was profuse in his apologies and declared that the gentleman’s word was as good as his bond.
Mr. Gotobed made no secret of his doings. Perhaps he had a feeling that he could not justify himself in so strange a proceeding without absolute candour. He saw Mr. Mainwaring in the street as he left Bearside’s office and told him all about it. “I just want, sir, to see what’ll come of it”
“You’ll lose your fifty dollars, Mr. Gotobed, and only cause a little vexation to a high-spirited young nobleman.”
“Very likely, sir. But neither the loss of my dollars, nor Lord Rufford’s slight vexation will in the least disturb my rest. I’m not a rich man, sir, but I should like to watch the way in which such a question will be tried and brought to a conclusion in this aristocratic country. I don’t quite know what your laws may be, Mr. Mainwaring.”
“Just the same as your own, Mr. Gotobed, I take it”
“We have no game laws, sir. As I was saying I don’t understand your laws, but justice is the same everywhere. If this great lord’s game has eaten up the poor man’s wheat the great lord ought to pay for it.”
“The owners of game pay for the damage they do three times over,” said the parson, who was very strongly on that side of the question. “Do you think that such men as Goarly would be better off if the gentry were never to come into the country at all?”
“Perhaps, Mr. Mainwaring, I may think that there would be no Goarlys if there were no Ruffords. That, however, is a great question which cannot be argued on this case. All we can hope here is that one poor man may have an act of justice done him though in seeking for it he has to struggle against so wealthy a magnate as Lord Rufford.”
“What I hope is that he may be found out,” replied Mr. Mainwaring with equal enthusiasm, “and then he will be in Rufford gaol before long. That’s the justice I look for. Who do you think put down the poison in Dillsborough wood?”
“How was it that the poor woman lost all her geese?” asked the Senator.
“She was paid for a great many more than she lost, Mr. Gotobed.”
“That doesn’t touch upon the injustice of the proceeding. Who assessed the loss, sir? Who valued the geese? Am I to keep a pet tiger in my garden, and give you a couple of dollars when he destroys your pet dog, and think myself justified because dogs as a rule are not worth more than two dollars each? She has a right to her own geese on her own ground.”
“And Lord Rufford, sir, as I take it,” said Runciman, who had been allowed to come up and hear the end of the conversation, “has a right to his own foxes in his own coverts.”
“Yes — if he could keep them there, my friend. But as it is the nature of foxes to wander away and to be thieves, he has no such right.”
“Of course, sir, begging your pardon,” said Runciman, “I was speaking of England.” Runciman had heard of the Senator Gotobed, as indeed had all Dillsborough by this time.
“And I am speaking of justice all the world over,” said the Senator slapping his hand upon his thigh. “But I only want to see. It may be that England is a country in which a poor man should not attempt to hold a few acres of land.”
On that night the Dillsborough club met as usual and, as a matter of course, Goarly and the American Senator were the subjects chiefly discussed. Everybody in the room knew — or thought that he knew — that Goarly was a cheating fraudulent knave, and that Lord Rufford was, at any rate, in this case acting properly. They all understood the old goose, and were aware, nearly to a bushel, of the amount of wheat which the man had sold off those two fields. Runciman knew that the interest on the mortgage had been paid, and could only have been paid out of the produce; and Larry Twentyman knew that if Goarly took his 7s. 6d. an acre he would be better off than if the wood had not been there. But yet among them all they didn’t quite see how they were to confute the Senator’s logic. They could not answer it satisfactorily, even among themselves; but they felt that if Goarly could be detected in some offence, that would confute the Senator. Among themselves it was sufficient to repeat the well-known fact that Goarly was a rascal; but with reference to this aggravating, interfering, and most obnoxious American it would be necessary to prove it.
“His Lordship has put it into Masters’s hands, I’m told,” said the doctor. At this time neither the attorney nor Larry Twentyman were in the room.
“He couldn’t have done better,” said Runciman, speaking from behind a long clay pipe.
“All the same he was nibbling at Goarly,” said Ned Botsey.
“I don’t know that he was nibbling at Goarly at all, Mr. Botsey,” said the landlord. “Goarly came to him, and Goarly was refused. What more would you have?”
“It’s all one to me,” said Botsey; “only I do think that in a sporting county like this the place ought to be made too hot to hold a blackguard like that. If he comes out at me with his gun I’ll ride over him. And I wouldn’t mind riding over that American too.”
“That’s just what would suit Goarly’s book,” said the doctor.
“Exactly what Goarly would like,” said Harry Stubbings.
Then Mr. Masters and Larry entered the room. On that evening two things had occurred to the attorney. Nickem had returned, and had asked for and received an additional week’s leave of absence. He had declined to explain accurately what he was doing but gave the attorney to understand that he thought that he was on the way to the bottom of the whole thing. Then, after Nickem had left him, Mr. Masters had a letter of instructions from Lord Rufford’s steward. When he received it, and found that his paid services had been absolutely employed on behalf of his Lordship, he almost regretted the encouragement he had given to Nickem. In the first place he might want Nickem. And then he felt that in his present position he ought not to be a party to anything underhand. But Nickem was gone, and he was obliged to console himself by thinking that Nickem was at any rate employing his intellect on the right side. When he left his house with Larry Twentyman he had told his wife nothing about Lord Rufford. Up to this time he and his wife had not as yet reconciled their difference, and poor Mary was still living in misery. Larry, though he had called for the attorney, had not sat down in the parlour, and had barely spoken to Mary. “For gracious sake, Mr. Twentyman, don’t let him stay in that place there half the night,” said Mrs. Masters. “It ain’t fit for a father of a family.”
“Father never does stay half the night,” said Kate, who took more liberties in that house than any one else.
“Hold your tongue, miss. I don’t know whether it wouldn’t be better for you, Mr. Twentyman, if you were not there so often yourself.” Poor Larry felt this to be hard. He was not even engaged as yet, and as far as he could see was not on the way to be engaged. In such condition surely his possible mother-in-law could have no right to interfere with him. He condescended to make no reply, but crossed the passage and carried the attorney off with him.
“You’ve heard what that American gentleman has been about, Mr. Masters?” asked the landlord.
“I’m told he’s been with Bearside.”
“And has offered to pay his bill for him if he’ll carry on the business for Goarly. Whoever heard the like of that?”
“What sort of a man is he?” asked the doctor. “A great man in his own country everybody says,” answered Runciman. “I wish he’d stayed there. He comes over here and thinks he understands everything just as though he had lived here all his life. Did you say gin cold, Larry; and rum for you, Mr. Masters?” Then the landlord gave the orders to the girl who had answered the bell.
“But they say he’s actually going to Lord Rufford’s,” said young Botsey who would have given one of his fingers to be asked to the lord’s house.
“They are all going from Bragton,” said Runciman.
“The young squire is going to ride one of my horses,” said Harry Stubbings.
“That’ll be an easy three pounds in your pockets, Harry,” said the doctor. In answer to which Harry remarked that he took all that as it came, the heavies and lights together, and that there was not much change to be got out of three sovereigns when some gentlemen had had a horse out for the day — particularly when a gentleman didn’t pay perhaps for twelve months.
“The whole party is going,” continued the landlord. “How he is to have the cheek to go into his Lordship’s house after what he is doing is more than I can understand.”
“What business is it of his?” said Larry angrily. “That’s what I want to know. What’d he think if we went and interfered over there? I shouldn’t be surprised if he got a little rough usage before he’s out of the county. I’m told he came across Bean when he was ferreting about the other day, and that Bean gave him quite as good as he brought.”
“I say he’s a spy,” said Ribbs the butcher from his seat on the sofa. “I hates a spy.”
Soon after that Mr. Masters left the room and Larry Twentyman followed him. There was something almost ridiculous in the way the young man would follow the attorney about on these Saturday evenings — as though he could make love to the girl by talking to the father. But on this occasion he had something special to say. “So Mary’s going to Cheltenham, Mr. Masters.”
“Yes, she is. You don’t see any objection to that, I hope.”
“Not in the least, Mr. Masters. I wish she might go anywhere to enjoy herself. And from all I’ve heard Lady Ushant is a very good sort of lady.”
“A very good sort of lady. She won’t do Mary any harm, Twentyman.”
“I don’t suppose she will. But there’s one thing I should like to know. Why shouldn’t she tell me before she goes that she’ll have me?”
“I wish she would with all my heart.”
“And Mrs. Masters is all on my side.”
“And the girls have always been my friends.”
“I think we are all your friends, Twentyman. I’m sure Mary is. But that isn’t marrying; is it?”
“If you would speak to her, Mr. Masters.”
“What would you have me say? I couldn’t bid my girl to have one man or another. I could only tell her what I think, and that she knows already.”
“If you were to say that you wished it! She thinks so much about you:’
“I couldn’t tell her that I wished it in a manner that would drive her into it. Of course it would be a very good match. But I have only to think of her happiness and I must leave her to judge what will make her happy.”
“I should like to have it fixed some way before she starts,” said Larry in an altered tone.
“Of course you are your own master, Twentyman. And you have behaved very well”
“This is a kind of thing that a man can’t stand,” said the young farmer sulkily. “Good night, Mr. Masters” Then he walked off home to Chowton Farm meditating on his own condition and trying to make up his mind to leave the scornful girl and become a free man. But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t even quite make up his mind that he would try to do it. There was a bitterness within as he thought of permanent fixed failure which he could not digest. There was a craving in his heart which he did not himself quite understand, but which made him think that the world would be unfit to be lived in if he were to be altogether separated from Mary Masters. He couldn’t separate himself from her. It was all very well thinking of it, talking of it, threatening it; but in truth he couldn’t do it. There might of course be an emergency in which he must do it. She might declare that she loved some one else and she might marry that other person. In that event he saw no other alternative but — as he expressed it to himself — “to run a mucker.” Whether the “mucker” should be run against Mary, or against the fortunate lover, or against himself, he did not at present resolve.
But he did resolve as he reached his own hall door that he would make one more passionate appeal to Mary herself before she started for Cheltenham, and that he would not make it out on a public path, or in the Masters’ family parlour before all the Masters’ family; — but that he would have her secluded, by herself, so that he might speak out all that was in him, to the best of his ability.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01