Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/299

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"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"- Shakespeare.


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 292.] SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

THE BEECHGROVE FAMILY. " So you think, my lad, that you would be quite happy if you had such a hall as that we past this morning, with a park of old trees arid a lake with swans and a terraced garden, and pheasants feeding and crowing in every covert. Ay, but you're wrong, my lad. It isn't halls or parks, or anything that money can buy, that can make you happy." The speaker was a white-haired, hale old man, with that clear tinted complexion that speaks of an active and not too hard life spent out of doors. From his dress he might have been a small farmer, or a head gamekeeper, or a bailiff, or chief gardener ; and, from his way of speaking, it seemed as if he had been in the habit of conversing with his superiors, and had caught up some of their phrases and tones. "Why, here," he said, pulling out of his pocket a printed auctioneer's catalogue, " here is a paper I picked up in the bar of the station hotel, that tells a very different story of the Place where I passed more than fifty years of my life." There was not a prettier estate in this county than Beechgrove Park. A thousand acres iu a ring fence, beside common rights and other property that went with it. It was in the family of Squire Corburn, they say, for five hundred years and more. But the last three squires dipped it each deeper than the other ; for they all drank and all played deep, and drinking and dice don't go well together. Squire Andrew he was the last lived as his forefathers had done ; kept his hounds and drove his four-in-hand, and had open house always at race time, and strong ale and bread and cheese for every one that called any day in the week ; all which would not have hurt him so much if he had not always had either the dice-box or the brandy-bottle in his hand. He was the last of a bad sort who were called jolly good fellows, because they flung their money about to every lad or lass that would join their mad wicked pranks. Well, one evening he rolled off the sofa after dinner : and, before his poor wife could unloose his handkerchief, he was dead. Then it turned out that, for three years, he had only been living at the Place on sufferance, that everything there, land, bmise-furniture, pictures, horses, carriages everything, be- longed to old lawyer Eigors of Blexborough. Squire Corburn left no sons ; only two daughters. So the poor lady gathered up the little that was left to her. with a small income the Squire could not touch, and was seen no more. My father was bailiff over the home-farm, under Squire Corburn, and I was his deputy. So you may believe we had a nice place of it. The old lawyer had the character of being a hard man in business, and had mortgages over half the estates in the county ; but, as soon as Beechgrove Park came into his possession he altered his ways, retired from business, kept on all the old head servants, and carried on everything much the same as before ; only, as all was done in perfect order, he got more for his money. Except that he parted with the hounds, he put down no part of the Cor- burn state . He furnished the best rooms ; engaged a first-rate cook ; laid in some famous wine in addition to the old stock ; and, by these means, with capital pheasant pre- serves, and tKe reputation of having money to lend, he was soon visited ]py almost all the first people in the county. At first the old lawyer seemed to take a new lease of life, looking after his gardens and farm, and riding out to pay visits ; for he was a handsome old fellow, not much above sixty a widower, and mothers thought he might marry again. But it was too much for him at last. He took to drinking, and played such tricks with low company, that he went back as fast as he had gone forward, and one by one, was di'opped by his new friends ; for, al- though they might pardon strange beha- viour in one of themselves, they could not put up with the liberties of a man that some remembered an office-boy in Blexborough. The end of it was that he made jolly com- panions of whoever would be jolly with him, and ended by marrying the daughter and barmaid of Bob Carter, of the Swan Inn, a bouncing girl of eighteen. Now, the lawyer had a son whom he had brought up for the church, and was at college long enough ; though he never became a par- son, nor did he agree at all with his father. He used to be away a good deal, travelling, VOL. 292