THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE TWO LANDLORDS. (From the Agricultural Gazette.') CHAPTER 11. The people of Compton buried their squire, and then waited for the new era to proclaim itself. What would the new king say on the game question, or what would he do ? The stranger had stopped a day in Compton ; he had observed the dilapidations, moral and material; and wished much that the duties of a general repair lay-with him. He was told of an entail, and went sorrowful away. According to the view of some writers, all we have said of the evil plight of Compton might have been summed up in two words—“impoverished ” and “ entailed.” To be entailed and poor, and poor because entailed, are two of the greatest evils that can befall a landed property ; but, in the case of Compton, it turned out that rumour, which is ever floating in the air, and will for ever float there, was, as it often proves to be, unfounded. The old squire, instead of being poor, as he was reputed to have been, and tied hand and foot with settlements, mortgages, and the entail, had left L 30,000 in hard cash at his country bankers, besides leaving a will, directing the sale of his unentailed and unencumbered property at Compton. It would appear, then, that the condition of an estate depends more on the character of the owner than on the state of the law.. Unjust laws should be altered, but the ij lagement of estates and the well-being people will never be brought to ofnftcirm high level till all owners are good agriculturists and good men, or till the common sentiment of society renders the neglect of an estate an odious offence. The Compton property was bought by a wealthy gentleman named Goodhope, who drove down from London, thirty miles, having a taste for that sort of exercise, and was recognised at once as the stranger who had been so well received in the parlour of the Dew Drop inn. Old-fashioned folk often call a land proprietor a “ statesman,” and that is what he ought to be. He ought to be able to detect the necessity for reform, and to invent the needful measures of reform. All the evils in the case of Compton were founded in the impoverishment of the farms. Capital is the very sun and source of the welfare of an estate, and if it be lost or removed the same miseries ensue as when the sun in heaven ceases to perform his office of warming the earth and bringing to maturity its crops and fruits. Mr. Goodhope undertook the task of restoring capital to Compton as a necessary preliminary to other measures. The times were prosperous, his covenants were liberal, and his land was good, though the estate bore a bad character. Among six selected applicants who called on Mr. Goodhope together, by appointment, Mr. Lambert was the chief spokesman, by virtue of his large capital, and reputation as a farmer. He was in treaty for Weston, a fine farm of 500 acres, the most important holding on the estate. The letting of farms in prosperous times is an easy and simple business. The landlord settles the terms with himself, and then announces them to the applicants, and they aie accepted. If he be a “ statesman,” there is more to do. “ I preferred seeing you all together, gentlemen,” said the lord of Compton, “ for the sake of conference and dispatch. We will consider this a cabinet council. The question of rent need not be discussed ; we are agreed on that point. There are other matters which may be debated with great advantage to the common weal.” The landlord was here congratulated by his visitors in a very hearty manner on his declared intention to make Compton an example estate. He had begun at the right end, they said, in the destruction of the ground game. “Yes, and in giving you the right of shooting hares and rabbits, in the woods and out of them, during January. I should like to have drawn the line at rabbits, and to have kept the 100 acres of woods exclusively to myself.”—“ Hares eat swedes the same as rabbits,” said one of the future tenants. “ Unfortunately they do. We might feed them in the woods, on Mr. Meclii’s plan. I should like my son to have some shooting, and I am fond of it myself; but there is no middle course. If you have the rabbits—and you must have them—you must have the hares too. We must draw the line at pheasants and partridges. The covers must be alloted to the different farms, and you must work your wicked will in them, I am very sorry, but I cannot help it. People must be put before game. When I say ‘ people,’ I am thinking of the labourer as well as the farmer. You know the wretched state they are in. Gentlemen, you and I are the guardians of the poor. I would never have parted with my woods, but the truth is that game and a prosperous tenantry are incompatible on the same estate. Harold and I must forego our hares, and find our pleasure in the welfare of the people. ” The visitors were touched by the manner of this speech, and they declared that the hares should not be killed down so but that enough for the squire and his sob should be found at the fall of the leaf ; |wkl they kept their promise. “ Speaking, sir, of the labourers, said Mr. Lambert, “ their idle days are over. They will have work enough to do in future.” “ Yes, we shall need a great many hands for our improvements.” “They are rather a rough lot, I am afraid,” said one of the visitors. “ They have been injured to some extent, no doubt. Nothing spoils good men so soon as want of employment and bad pay. There are remedies in which I feel
■ a deep interest, and I shall ask your couns sel and co-operation by-and-bye. At pre- , sent there is other business to attend to.” 3 Mr. Goodhope here produced maps of ; the estate. “ With regard to timber/’ he said, “lam guided by the same principles ■ as in the case of game. There must be no ■ bar to perfect management. The fields 1 must be cleared of hedgerows ready for ■ steam cultivation when it comes. I hope ■ to see it soon at Weston, Mr. Lambei t. “ I hope you may,” said Mr. Lambert. “ I am ready for it when it can be made to pay. But we shall see it at the ho ne farm first, sir, I suppose.” “ I don’t mean to farm an inch of the land myself except the kitchen garden. I doubt if a home farm can be made to pay. You are adepts in your art, gentlemen : I am only an amateur. ” “I will tell you what I think you will prove to be, Mr. Goodhope.” “ What is that “ A first-rate scrutineer*.” Mr. Goodhope rubbed his hands like a man who felt and anticipated pleasure, and laughed cheerity. His visitors were already as much at home with him as the guests of the Dew Drop inn had been. “ The field timber stands condemned,” said Mr. Goodhope, “ for the same reason as the rabbits. After all it is not so very beautiful ; not beautiful at all, in fact—only quaint. At present we have no breadth of landscape. I was looking for the church spire to-day from the windows at Weston, Mr. Lambert, and positively I could not see it for the trees standing about your fields—yours that will be. ” “I quite agree with you,” said the coming tenant. “ ’Tis a good landscape spoiled, sir.” “That is what I told Mrs. Goodhope, One tree hides another, and ail the salient noints are obscured by the hedgerows. She will think so by-and-byc, I am sure. Take these maps, gentlemen, two of them among you, and return them to me with the fields marked out with a view to steam cultivation. I may modify, hut I shall not mar your plans. I propose to plant some clumps and small copses at salient points of the estate, with a view to ornament, and for the sake of shelter ; and if these 10 or 15 acres of plantations should give us more ornament than we get from these abominable hedges, so much the better. ” Mr. Lambert, being a diplomatist, here hinted that the question of rent had not been settled. In those days a landlord could, in point of fact, dictate the rent and everything else ; still it was not worth while assuming that, so Mr. Lambert said with a free born air, “ About the rent, sir ?” “Forty shillings an acre,” said the landlord ; “ the land tithe free; its quality you are aware of as well as myself. 1 cannot discover any difference in the value of the farms you have applied for, gentlemen, and the terms of occupation will be the same —each farm to be put in order and held in a twenty-one years’ lease, unless objected to.” “How about unexhausted improvements, sir?” This was a subject then but little canvassed, but Mr. Lambert, as a person of advanced views, felt bound to broach it; and Mr. Goodhope, having frequently discussed the subject, was ready for it. “The question,” he said, “is a comparatively simple one with us. The land is of a character that cannot be improved by draining. The buildings are for me to do, and for you to keep in repair. But I see you have something to say, Mr. Lambert ; let us have it by all means.” “ Suppose I require additional buildings at any time ?” “ You have seen the plans and helped to prepare them. Do you think additions will he needed ?” “I am speaking for all, sir, and on principle.” “ Ah, I see ! you have a theory to air, pray explain it.” “ The buildings that suit a tenant on entry may not be sufficient later on. He may alter the character of his business ; he may become a breeder of superior stock, for example, with a world-wide reputation ; he may then require additional buildings, which he may have to erect. Will he be paid for them at quitting “ Will they be likely to be required after he has left, Mr. Lambert 1 I should not ask the question, but I well know you are not a man of mere theory, nor a man of mere words.” “I hope not, sir. I must admit that a stud or herd of world-wide reputation would not in all probability be found on the same farm during two generations. ” [to be continued.]
Permanent link to this item
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 104, 25 May 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 104, 25 May 1880
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.