I had a very human dog, Viper, partly fox-terrier; though not very “well bred,” his manners were unexceptionable and his cleverness extraordinary. One summer afternoon Mrs. Bell was greatly surprised by Viper coming to her house much distressed and trying to tell her the reason; he was not to be put off or comforted, and, seizing her skirts, he dragged her to the door and outside. She guessed at once that her two boys were in some danger, and she followed the dog. He kept turning round to make sure that she was close behind, and led her down a lane, for perhaps 300 yards, to a gate leading into a 12-acre pasture. They pursued the footpath across the field, through another gate and over the bridge which spanned the brook, into a meadow beyond. There she found the children in fear of their lives from the antics of two mischievous colts which were capering round them with many snorts and much upturning of heels. It was really only play, but the boys were alarmed, and Viper, who had accompanied them, had evidently concluded that they were in danger.
Before the days of the safety bicycle an excellent tricycle, called the “omnicycle,” was put on the market; and the villagers were greatly excited over one I purchased, of course only for road work, expecting me to use it on my farming rounds; and Mrs. Bell was heard to say, “I knows I shall laugh when I sees the master a-coming round the farm on that thing.”
Bell always spoke of her as “my ’ooman,” and, referring to the depletion of their exchequer on her returns from marketing in Evesham, often said, “I don’t care who robs my ’ooman this side of the elm”—a notable tree about halfway between the town and the village—knowing that she would then have very little change left.
THE HOP FOREMAN AND THE HOP DRIER.
“Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
* * * * *
How bowed the woods beneath their
Jarge was one of the most prominent characters among my men. He was not a native of the Vale, coming from the Lynches, a hilly district to the north of Evesham. He was a sturdy and very excellent workman. He did with his might whatsoever his hand found to do, and everything he undertook was a success. The beautifully trimmed hedge in front of his cottage-garden proclaimed his method and love of order at a glance. Jarge was a wag; he was the man who, like Shakespeare’s clowns, stepped on to the stage at the critical moment and saved a serious situation with a quaint or epigrammatic expression.
He was very scornful of the condition of the farm when I came, and it was he, whose reply to the late tenant that his arable land would soon be all grass, I have already quoted. In speaking to me, at almost our first interview, he could not refrain from an allusion to the foulness of the land; some peewits were circling over those neglected fields, and it was far from reassuring to be told—though he did not intend to discourage me—that “folks say, when you sees them things on the land, the farm’s broke!”