The barley was all carried at last, and the harvest suppers went by without waiting for the dismal black crop of beans. The apples and nuts were gathered and stored; the scent of whey departed from the farm-houses, and the scent of brewing came in its stead. The woods behind the Chase, and all the hedgerow trees, took on a solemn splendour under the dark low-hanging skies. Michaelmas was come, with its fragrant basketfuls of purple damsons, and its paler purple daisies, and its lads and lasses leaving or seeking service and winding along between the yellow hedges, with their bundles under their arms. But though Michaelmas was come, Mr. Thurle, that desirable tenant, did not come to the Chase Farm, and the old squire, after all, had been obliged to put in a new bailiff. It was known throughout the two parishes that the squire’s plan had been frustrated because the Poysers had refused to be “put upon,” and Mrs. Poyser’s outbreak was discussed in all the farm-houses with a zest which was only heightened by frequent repetition. The news that “Bony” was come back from Egypt was comparatively insipid, and the repulse of the French in Italy was nothing to Mrs. Poyser’s repulse of the old squire. Mr. Irwine had heard a version of it in every parishioner’s house, with the one exception of the Chase. But since he had always, with marvellous skill, avoided any quarrel with Mr. Donnithorne, he could not allow himself the pleasure of laughing at the old gentleman’s discomfiture with any one besides his mother, who declared that if she were rich she should like to allow Mrs. Poyser a pension for life, and wanted to invite her to the parsonage that she might hear an account of the scene from Mrs. Poyser’s own lips.
“No, no, Mother,” said Mr. Irwine; “it was a little bit of irregular justice on Mrs. Poyser’s part, but a magistrate like me must not countenance irregular justice. There must be no report spread that I have taken notice of the quarrel, else I shall lose the little good influence I have over the old man.”
“Well, I like that woman even better than her cream-cheeses,” said Mrs. Irwine. “She has the spirit of three men, with that pale face of hers. And she says such sharp things too.”
“Sharp! Yes, her tongue is like a new-set razor. She’s quite original in her talk too; one of those untaught wits that help to stock a country with proverbs. I told you that capital thing I heard her say about Craig—that he was like a cock, who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow. Now that’s an AEsop’s fable in a sentence.”
“But it will be a bad business if the old gentleman turns them out of the farm next Michaelmas, eh?” said Mrs. Irwine.
“Oh, that must not be; and Poyser is such a good tenant that Donnithorne is likely to think twice, and digest his spleen rather than turn them out. But if he should give them notice at Lady Day, Arthur and I must move heaven and earth to mollify him. Such old parishioners as they are must not go.”