The New Arcadia/Chapter 19

CHAPTER XIX.

TOM LORD BECOMES SOPHISTICATED.

"We think
That when, like babes with fingers burned,
We count one bitter maxim more,
Our lesson all the world has learned.
And men are wiser than before.
That when we sob o'er fancied woes.
The angels hovering overhead
Count every pitying drop that flows.
And love us for the tears we shed."

Oliver Wendell Holmes.

"Hullo, Brown, old man, who'd have imagined you'd come to this!" It was Tom Lord who spoke. Arrived at the Homestead the night before, he had sauntered out before breakfast to see his friend, the young parson. "I thought to find you saying morning prayers with the milkmaids. Why, that is a pretty clerical get-up of yours!"

"Funny little man!" exclaimed Frank, rising from his stool. "I cannot give you a paw."

"Dripping, as usual, with the milk of human kindness," replied Tom, grinning, as was his wont, from ear to ear, his hands in his pockets, hat on the side of his head.

"We have not come to grief yet, you see," suggested Frank.

"By Jove, no; the place looks stunning. No strikes yet, or lock-outs?"

"Only Good Fortune struck, and Care locked out," replied the clergyman, with his head set against the cow's side.

"But I say, Brown, the 'living' cannot be a rich one if you have to milk your own cows before breakfast—they might provide you with a slavey."

"There are no slaveys here. I like to come and mingle with the young people and old folk while the freshness of morning lights on them. I don't care to look on with my hands in my pockets, so I milk a cow or two."

"One for my nob, I suppose; but I could not milk a cow if I was paid for it."

"No? Just loose that leg-rope, like a good fellow."

"How the deuce do you manage it? Won't untie," said Tom, who, while Frank was delivering his pailful to the man at the vat in the centre, was fumbling at the creature's leg, trying to untie the running knot on the rope about the cow's leg.

"Look out, man," cried Frank, laughing. "She'll kick your head off; she's a youngster."

"They don't kick, do they?"

"Only when they're scalded."

"Now, what do you do that for? To wash them? I heard that the whole box-and-dice of you have a swim in common every morning. That's jolly! I shall go tomorrow and see the fun.

"By Jove! what's that? My horse in a fit," exclaimed the townsman, "with the boss's best saddle on. Hullo!—look at his legs in the air. He seems to like it."

Frank looked round and roared with laughter.

"You are a city gossoon. He's only rolling. I'm glad it's not my saddle."

"Will he die?" asked Tom, anxiously. "Talk of turning up feet to the roses! I do believe the beggar wants to smash that confounded saddle, the way he goes back and back on to it. 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again.' There, he's over now on the other side." Putting up his eye-glass, Tom inquired—"Are you sure he's not ill?"

"Which—the saddle or the horse? The former very much so. You old brute," cried Frank, "up you get!" When the creature stood and shook himself, Frank examined the saddle, and put the rein over a fence.

"I rode over," explained Tom, "and thought I'd let him stray about and feed."

"Please remember we don't do that here," remonstrated Frank. "Though fairly prosperous, we are compelled to consider saddlery and other little items."

"He's such a confounded height,"growled Tom. "I led him to half-a-dozen fences to scramble up, but the brute would walk off just as I got my foot in the stirrup. You see, I'm not used to riding."

"No, I should think not.—What are you doing over there?" continued Frank. "That's the wrong side of the horse, never fool about there. A skittish beast wouldn't stand it. Hullo!—look out, you'll pull the saddle over! What on earth are you at?"

"I'm just practising getting up while you are there. Don't let him lean away from the fence, please, as he always does when I want him to stand as close as he can; and don't, like a good fellow, allow him to go on when I'm half up. It's deuced undignified snatching for reins and pummel and the other stirrup that you can never find, while, like John Brown's soul, your nag will 'go marching on.'"

Frank roared.

"Why, you little fool, you're getting up the wrong side."

"Blow'd if I am," insisted Tom, with the little breath left in his round body, as he balanced on the backbone of the animal, leaving it doubtful whether he would succeed in pulling a captured leg from under him, and as to which side he would roll off on.

"There you're wrong," persisted Tom. "One injunction they gave me at the stables in town was, 'Keep to the right, sir, that's the rule of the road.' I always remember that, and know, at least, on which side to mount my horse."

"Well, get down now. Here, on the right side. Not like that," said Frank. "Grasp the mane and reins in your hand, and come down—so; let me turn you round, beside the shoulder, not at the flank, ready to be kicked."

"Then what'll a fellow do if he runs away? I like to keep my eye on the brute all the while."

"Come on," laughed Frank, "I must be off to my pigs."

Beyond the great cow-yard was the piggery. From the creamery a pipe high in air conveyed the skim-milk to a long trough about which pigs many and sundry were grunting, jostling, thrusting with nose and shoulder, devouring what they could; then, if the young people would let them, trampling the residue with their feet.

"Greedy creatures, these dirty pigs," soliloquized Tom, as the two leaned for a moment upon the fence.

"Irresistibly reminding of your vaunted social life in town—both alike a selfish, dog-in-the-manger scramble," remarked Frank, waggishly.

"That's rough, old man."

"But true to life nevertheless. There's a lot of the hog in our nature, and it comes out very strongly in the city. But these pigs are not dirty. Look at their glossy coats."

"But all pigs are dirty by nature."

"There you are generalizing again, and accepting traditional misbeliefs, as you do with respect to certain of your fellow-beings. Some working-men are indolent and ill-conditioned—therefore all are. Some poor people live in slums, are dirty and wretched—therefore all must be. Fallacy of the particular to the universal. You ought to know better, Tom."

"But how on earth can you keep pigs clean?"

"You see that race over the stream. Every day all the piggies," exclaimed Frank, "are driven through that trough before they get in here for their breakfast. If such care had ever been taken, Moses would not have condemned swine's flesh."

From the milk-duct, women and girls were drawing off the skim-milk and bearing it to round kiosk kind of sties with triangular-shaped compartments.

"What are those other sets of kiosks?" asked Tom, putting up his eye-glass; "not more pigs, I hope."

"We have a soul above bacon, though there are tons of it in the store—some of my own fattening too. That you are looking at is the poultry-farm."

"You wash your hens in that race as you do your pigs? I am getting quite sophisticated."

"Not unless they have a mania for setting. The geese and ducks revel in that mimic lake."

"You are a soaring sort here. I see your very ducks and geese take their pastime high in air," said Tom, pointing to a flight of birds sweeping above the water.

"By Jove! they settle in the trees too. 'Pon my soul I never saw a duck do that before. Do your fishes fly?"

"My dear fellow, you have everything to learn. Those are wild-fowl."

"They are mighty tame nevertheless, to judge by the way they make themselves at home."

"No one is allowed to disturb them. Our lakes and streams are alive with such. Those are black duck. These, in the tree, shags. These again, wild-geese."

"Ah, yes, standing on one leg, and sententiously surveying the water, now hiding their head so that we shall not see them."

"You muff! Don't you know a crane when you see one?"

"At least I recognize the 'rara avis.' Your black swans, now, are dignified."

"These," continued Frank, approaching another series of circular houses, "are our poultry-yards."

"You are death on triangles," remarked Tom, "like the first book of Euclid."

"All have a separate compartment for their fowls, and make what use they choose of this common run."

"That is, they take their chance of their ducks being considerably mixed, or being pecked at like a poor Benedict, or of being set upon by some game bird. I'd keep fighting-cocks if I went in for poultry here."

"'Every care and no responsibility,' is our rule."

"Who is that nice-looking girl fussing about those incubators?" asked Tom, as they looked in at a large shed, in which were artificial "mothers" and hundreds of chickens chirping. "I saw her just now at the milking-sheds."

"That's Miss Elms, the daughter of one of our overseers."

"There's no mistaking that face," replied Tom. "I saw it yesterday under peculiar circumstances. Thereby hangs a tale."

"Well, come home, and let's have it over the chops."