“Well,” said Mr. Poyser, “suppose we say the man wi’ the foulest land shall sit at top; then whoever gets th’ honour, there’ll be no envying on him.”
“Eh, here’s Mester Massey,” said Mr. Craig, who, being a neutral in the dispute, had no interest but in conciliation; “the schoolmaster ought to be able to tell you what’s right. Who’s to sit at top o’ the table, Mr. Massey?”
“Why, the broadest man,” said Bartle; “and then he won’t take up other folks’ room; and the next broadest must sit at bottom.”
This happy mode of settling the dispute produced much laughter—a smaller joke would have sufficed for that Mr. Casson, however, did not feel it compatible with his dignity and superior knowledge to join in the laugh, until it turned out that he was fixed on as the second broadest man. Martin Poyser the younger, as the broadest, was to be president, and Mr. Casson, as next broadest, was to be vice.
Owing to this arrangement, Adam, being, of course, at the bottom of the table, fell under the immediate observation of Mr. Casson, who, too much occupied with the question of precedence, had not hitherto noticed his entrance. Mr. Casson, we have seen, considered Adam “rather lifted up and peppery-like”: he thought the gentry made more fuss about this young carpenter than was necessary; they made no fuss about Mr. Casson, although he had been an excellent butler for fifteen years.
“Well, Mr. Bede, you’re one o’ them as mounts hup’ards apace,” he said, when Adam sat down. “You’ve niver dined here before, as I remember.”
“No, Mr. Casson,” said Adam, in his strong voice, that could be heard along the table; “I’ve never dined here before, but I come by Captain Donnithorne’s wish, and I hope it’s not disagreeable to anybody here.”
“Nay, nay,” said several voices at once, “we’re glad ye’re come. Who’s got anything to say again’ it?”
“And ye’ll sing us ‘Over the hills and far away,’ after dinner, wonna ye?” said Mr. Chowne. “That’s a song I’m uncommon fond on.”
“Peeh!” said Mr. Craig; “it’s not to be named by side o’ the Scotch tunes. I’ve never cared about singing myself; I’ve had something better to do. A man that’s got the names and the natur o’ plants in’s head isna likely to keep a hollow place t’ hold tunes in. But a second cousin o’ mine, a drovier, was a rare hand at remembering the Scotch tunes. He’d got nothing else to think on.”
“The Scotch tunes!” said Bartle Massey, contemptuously; “I’ve heard enough o’ the Scotch tunes to last me while I live. They’re fit for nothing but to frighten the birds with—that’s to say, the English birds, for the Scotch birds may sing Scotch for what I know. Give the lads a bagpipe instead of a rattle, and I’ll answer for it the corn ’ll be safe.”
“Yes, there’s folks as find a pleasure in undervallying what they know but little about,” said Mr. Craig.
“Why, the Scotch tunes are just like a scolding, nagging woman,” Bartle went on, without deigning to notice Mr. Craig’s remark. “They go on with the same thing over and over again, and never come to a reasonable end. Anybody ’ud think the Scotch tunes had always been asking a question of somebody as deaf as old Taft, and had never got an answer yet.”