“Now, as I would be forty in ten days,” said the farmer, “I was told just to call myself forty then and there; but the truth is the truth, and should be spoken at all times, come what may. And when the lots were drawn, it fell to me among others to leave home to be trained to fight. I was thinking how unhappy we should be to part, when I heard that if I paid nine guineas to another man, he would take my place, and I could remain at home with you. I had not the money, for you know the bad luck we had with the sheep this year, and how they died one after the other. But I went to Mr. Case and asked him to lend me the money. He said he would if I handed over to him my lease, for he said, ’If you do not repay me the guineas I shall keep the lease until you do.’”
“That was a fortnight ago, and to-night Attorney Case tells me he has discovered that, owing to some mistake in the lease, we may be turned out of the farm at any time. But I’ve not come to the worst part yet.”
Here Farmer Price stopped short, and his wife and Susan gazed anxiously into his face.
“The truth must be told,” he said with a deep sigh, “I must now leave you in three days.”
“Must you?” said his wife faintly. “Susan dear, open the window.” Susan ran to do as she was bid, and then returned to her mother’s side. The fresh air soon revived the poor woman, and she begged her husband to go on with his story, and to hide nothing from her.
Farmer Price had no wish to hide anything from those he loved so well. He believed that the truth should be spoken at all times, but never had he found it so difficult as at this moment. What had happened was this. Attorney Case had met Farmer Price that evening. The farmer was coming home, whistling, from a new-plowed field. The Attorney was on horseback, and had just dined at the Abbey with Sir Arthur Somers. The Abbey had until lately belonged to Sir Arthur’s elder brother, but now that he was dead, Sir Arthur owned the estate.
Attorney Case had looked after the property for the elder brother, and was anxious to be employed by Sir Arthur. There were many farms on the estate, and it had been part of the Attorney’s work to look after the repairs and to collect the rents. Unfortunately, he had an unpleasant way of dealing with the farmers, ordering them as he had no right to do, and being harsh with those who, through misfortune, had not enough money to to pay their rent in full. As the Attorney met Farmer Price he stopped him, saying, “A word with you, Farmer Price, if you please. Walk alongside my horse, and listen. You know the field with the pink hawthorn where the village children play? I am going to add it to my garden. I hear you say it does not belong to me. What do you mean by that?”
“I mean what I say,” said Price; “the field is not yours.” So angry was the Attorney on hearing this, that he at once made up his mind to hurt the farmer as much as he could.