George Fenn.

The Rosery Folk

Volume One Chapter One.
Sir James Scarletts garden

Pray speak gently, dear.

Speak gently! how can a man speak gently? The things are of no value, but it worries me, Ive taken such pains with them, through the cold weather, to bring them on.

You have, Sir James, you have, sir; and I never let the fire go out once.

No: but youve let the grapes go out, confound you! and if I find that you have been dishonest

Oh! but Im sure, dear, that he would not be.

Thank you kindly, my lady, said John Monnick, the old gardener, taking off his hat and wiping his streaming brow with his arm, as he stood bent and dejected, leaning upon his spade, with every line in his countenance puckered and drawn with trouble, and a helpless look of appeal in his eyes. No, my lady, I wouldnt let these here old hands take to picking and stealing, and manys the trouble Ive been in with Fanny and Martha and the others because I was so particular even to a gooseberry.

There, dear, I told you so!

But the grapes are gone, cried Sir James Scarlett angrily. Who could have taken them?

Thats what puzzles me, Master James, it do indeed. I did get into temptation once, and took something, but its been a lesson to me; and I said then, never no more, with the Lords help, and never no more, sir, its true, never up to now.

Then you confess you did steal some fruit once?

Yes, Master James, I confess it, sir, and a deal Ive thought about it since; and Ive come to think from much reading, sir, that though this here garden wasnt planted eastward in Eden its a very beautiful place; all the neighbours say, sir, that there aint a more beautiful little place for miles round, and Lady Martletts folks about wild at our growing such better fruit and flowers.

Oh, yes! I know all about that, but what has that to do with your confession?

Everything, if you please, Master James, for how could there be a beautiful garden even now without temptation coming into it, same as it did when that there apple, as brought all the sin into the world, was picked and eat?

There, that will do, Monnick; now speak out.

I will, sir and my lady, and ask your pardon humbly and get it off my mind. It were five year ago, sir, and just after youd took the place, and Id come up from old masters, sir.

Five years ago, John? said Lady Scarlett smiling.

Yes, my lady, five year, and itll be six at Michaelmas, and it wasnt over an apple but over one o them Willyum pears, as growd on that cup-shaped tree down side the south walk.

And you cleared that, did you? said Sir James grimly.

Nay, sir, I didnt; it were only one of em as had hung till it were dead-ripe, and then fell as soon as the sun came on it hot, and there it lay under the tree, with its rosy green and yellow side, and a big crack acrost it like a hopen mouth asking me to taste how good it was.

And did you, John? said Lady Scarlett, passing her arm through her husbands, and pressing it quietly.

Did I, my lady? I was mowing that there great walk and I went by it three or four times, but the grass there was dry and wiry and would not cut, and I had to go over it again and again, and the more I tried to resist the temptation the more it wouldnt flee before me, but kept on a-drawing and a-drawing of me till at last I dropped my scythe and rubber and ran right away, I did, Sir James and my lady, I did indeed.

And left the pear? said Sir James.

The old man shook his grey head sadly.

I was obliged to go and fetch my scythe and rubber, master.

I might ha left em till night, but that was the temptation on it a drawing of me till I went back, meaning to shut my eyes and snatch up the scythe and come away. But lor, my lady, you know how weak we sinful mortals be. I tried hard but my eyes would open, and so as I see that pear, I made a snatch at it, meaning to run with it right into the house at once.

And you did not, John? said Lady Scarlett.

No, maam, my lady, said the old man sadly. I got my finger all over juiced and I sucked it and that did for me. The taste of the sin was so good, Sir James, that I did eat that pear, thinking no one would know, and its lay heavy on my heart ever since.

And what about the grapes? said Sir James.

I dont, know, sir; I didnt know they were gone till you see it. That was the ony time, sir, as ever I dared to take any of the fruit, and I wish as I could turn myself inside out to show you how clean my heart is, sir, of ever doing you a wrong all cept that there pear, which has, as I said afore, lay heavy on my chesty ever since.

Well, there: I dont think you took the grapes, Monnick; but its very vexatious: I meant to send them to Lady Martlett. You must keep a good look out.

Thank you kindly, sir, and I will keep a look out, too. And you dont think Id rob you, my lady?

Indeed I dont, John, cried Lady Scarlett, who was divided between a desire to laugh and sorrow for the faithful old fellows trouble.

God bless your dear, sweet, kind face, my lady, and bless you too, Sir James, said the old fellow, taking off his ragged straw hat and standing bare-headed, I wouldnt rob you of a leaf.

The three then separated, Sir James Scarlett and his sweet young wife going towards the glass-houses, and old John Monnick shouldering his spade and watching them for a few moments before going down towards another part of the garden.

Eh, but theyre a handsome pair, he muttered. Hes a bit masterful, but hes got a good heart, and shes an angel, like a pear-tree growed by the water side, she is, bless her! and if I get hold of him as took them grapes Ill

He gave the little box edging a blow with the flat of the spade, with the effect that a great snail rolled out on to the path, and suffered death beneath the old gardeners heel, being crushed and ground into the gravel with savage earnestness.

That I will, said the old fellow, and then he walked away, meeting before he had gone many yards a tall, dark, grave-looking man of about thirty, coming slowly along the path reading. He was scrupulously attired in glossy black with tie to match, grey check trousers, and faultless shirt front, while his hat was of the most glossy. The hands that held the volume were white and carefully kept, while the expression of the mans face was that of some calm, thoughtful student, who passed the greater portion of his life with books, not men.

Ah, gardener, he said softly, and his voice was very rich and deep, what a lovely day! Your garden looks exquisite. I hope you are quite well.

Tidy, sir, thank you kindly, tidy; and, yes, the garden do look well just now, if we could keep out the thieves.

Ah! yes, the birds, and slugs, and snails, and insects, said the other with a soft, grave smile; but we must not forget, gardener, that these poor things do not comprehend the difference between right and wrong. The fair fruits of the earth are growing in their path, and they do not understand why they may not freely eat.

No, sir, of course not, said Monnick, giving his ear a vicious rub, but they has to pay for it precious dear when they are ketched.

Yes, gardener, yes, poor things, said the other, letting his head sink sidewise; and shutting his book upon one finger he crossed his wrists so that the work hung lightly from his shapely hand, while his eyes half-closed and a dreamy, thoughtful look came upon his face.

Its a deal o mischief they do, sir, like plagues of Egyp theyd be if they werent stopped.

All, yes, gardener, said the other contemplatively, but it often strikes me as being one of the darker sides of horticultural pursuits, that the gardeners way is by a path of blood.

John Monnick pushed his old straw hat a little on one side and stared.

I saw traps down by the wood to catch the soft velvet mole, a wire by a hole in the fence to take the harmless rabbit.

Harmless, sir? He took the hearts out of a row of young cauliflowers all in one night.

Ah, yes, but he sinned in ignorance. Then you are always destroying life. That implement you hold pierces the ground and cuts in two the burrowing worm. There was a scent of pungent fumes in the greenhouse and myriads of tiny flies lay scattered in the pots dead from the poisonous smoke. You crush the snail and slug, the beetle, and the grub. The birds are often shot. Yes, yes, I think Im right; your path is marked by blood, but this place is very bright and beautiful, gardener.

Yes, sir, it is, said Monnick, changing his spade to the other hand so as to tilt his straw hat the other way.

It is a privilege to come down upon this glowing summer day, from the smoke and noise and crowd of London streets.

Ay, sir, it must be, said the old man. I often pity you as lives there. I was never there but once and never want to go again.

And I envy you, gardener, said the speaker with a sigh, and raising his book he opened it, smiled sadly, nodded, and walked on.

And he might do that in London town, muttered the old man. Looks well! of course it does; but whats the use of looking at all my bedding plants through a book?

Ah! he said as he went on, its all very tine, but where would the niceness be if we didnt kill the snails? Master dont buy coke to heat the greenhouse to breed green fly and thrip, and as to the worms, and slugs, and grubs, theres room enough in the whole wide world without their coming here, hes a very nice smooth-spoken gent he is, and cant have ever cut a worm in two with digging in his blessed life; but somehow hes too fine for me. I wonder what his mother were like now, to have such a son. Lets see, masters mothers sister I think she were. Ah! peoples like plants, theyve sports and wariations from the payrent stock; but if I wanted to produce the finest specimen of human kind I wouldnt graft on he.

Volume One Chapter Two.
Down from Town

Little more than an hour before his words with the old gardener, Sir James was in his dingy office in Leadenhall Street, where, young as he was, through succession to his father, he stood head of a large shipping business. He had been waiting for his cousin, Arthur Prayle, who was invited to spend a few days with him in the country. Then a cab was taken, the train caught, and in an hour they were whirled down to a station in Berkshire, where, in light, simple, summer dress, looking bright and attractive as the country round, sat Lady Scarlett, eagerly watching the platform from her seat in the little phaeton drawn by two handsome cobs, who tossed their heads impatiently, and threw the white foam from their well-champed, brightly polished bits, to the bespecklement of the smart grooms hat and coat. Her face brightened as she caught sight of her husband, and fell a little as she saw that he was followed by his cousin, Arthur Prayle; but she smiled sweetly at their visitor, and held out her hand to him as he came up and raised his hat.

Ive brought Arthur down to get rid of the soot, Kitty, cried Scarlett heartily. See how solemn he looks.

I am very glad to see him, said Kate Scarlett, smiling, and colouring slightly.

There, jump up beside Kitty, old man, continued Scarlett. Shell soon rattle us home.

No, no, dear; youll drive.

What! In these lavender kids, and in this coat! cried Scarlett laughingly. No, thanks. Jump in, Arthur. Thats right. Im up. Let em go, Tom. Now, my beauties.

The handsome little pair of cobs shook their heads, and started off at a rapid trot, the groom catching the side of the phaeton as it passed him, and mounting beside his master in the seat behind; when the brisk, sweet, summer air seemed to bring a little colour into the cheeks of Arthur Prayle, and a great deal into those of Lady Scarlett, as she guided the spirited little pair along the dusty road, and then in between the long stretches of fir-wood, whence came delicious warm breathings of that lemony aromatic scent of the growing pines brought forth by the mid-day sun.

There, my lad, thats better than sitting in chambers, cried Scarlett. Fellows pooh-pooh me for living out here. It is living, my boy. Its dying, to shut yourself up in town.

Ah, yes, said Prayle with a sigh; it is very delicious.

Delicious I should think it is, cried Scarlett eagerly; and he stood up behind his wife, holding on by the back seat, as fine and manly a specimen of humanity as could be found in a days march. He was fashionably dressed, tightly buttoned up, and had the orthodox flower in his button-hole; but his bronzed face and fresh look told of country-life; and down in Berkshire, the staid solemnity of his London ways was cast aside for a buoyant youthfulness that made his sedate cousin turn slightly to gaze at him through his half-closed eyes.

Give them their heads, Kitty, cried Scarlett, as they approached a hill; and, as they heard the order, the cobs gave their crests a toss, and broke into a canter, breasting the hill, and keeping up the speed to the very top, where they were checked for the descent upon the other side.

There you are, old fellow, cried Scarlett. Theres the river winding among the patches of grove and meadow. Theres the Rosery; you can catch it beautifully now. Do you see how the creeper has gone up the chimney-stack? No, of course you cant from here. Gently, my beauties; steady, steady, little rascals. Dont pull your mistresss arms out by the roots.

A lovely view indeed, James, said the visitor. It seems more beautiful every time I come.

Oh, every place looks at its best now, said Scarlett heartily. I say, Ive got down a new boat; we must have a pull up to the locks. Thats the sort of thing to do you good, my boy.

Prayle smiled, and shrugged his shoulders lightly.

How long does it take you to drive from the station? he said quietly.

We allow five-and-twenty minutes, said Scarlett. We shall do it in twenty to-day. I like to go fast, and these little ruffians enjoy it. They want it: theyre getting too fat.

The cobs tossed their heads again at this, and tried to break into another canter.

Steady, steady, you larky little scoundrels. Give them a pull, Kitty. Oh, thats right; the gates open.

They were in sight of a rustic gateway banked with masses of rhododendrons and other flowering shrubs, and through this Mrs Scarlett deftly guided the phaeton, which seemed suddenly to run more quietly along the pretty curved gravel drive, whose sides were lawn of the most velvety green; while flowers of the brightest hues filled the many beds. The grounds were extensive, though the house was small and cottage-like, with its highly-pitched gables, latticed windows, and red-brick walls covered with magnificent specimens of creeping plants. On either side of the house were pretty extensive conservatories, and glimpses of other glass-houses could be seen beyond a tall thick hedge of yew. In fact, it was just the beau-ideal of a pretty country-home, with a steep slope down to the river.

Here we are, old fellow, cried Scarlett, as he leaped out and helped his wife to alight. Are they warm, Tom?

No, sir; not turned a hair, sir.

Thats right. Now then, Arthur. Same room as you had before. Will you take anything after your ride?

Oh, dear, no, said Prayle; and if youll allow me, Ill ramble about till dinner.

Do just what you like, old man. There are cigars and cigarettes in the study. If theres anything else you want, just ring.

Oh, dont; pray dont, said Prayle deprecatingly. You will spoil my visit if you make so much of me.

Make much of you, lad? Stuff! Good-bye, Buddy; good-bye, Jen, he cried, patting the cobs. Take care of them, Tom. Beauties, arent they, Arthur? My present to Kate. Now then, come along.

He led the visitor into the tiled hall, at every corner of which was some large jardini?re full of flowers, and up the broad staircase to the guest-chamber, flowers being in the window even here; while the floors were covered with the softest carpets and rugs, and pictures and engravings of no little merit covered the walls.

You have a magnificent place here, James, said the visitor, with a sigh.

Nonsense, man. Half the beauty is Natures own doing, aided by your humble servant, Kitty, old John Monnick, and a couple of labourers. Why, I pay less for this pretty Elizabethan cottage than I should for some brick dungeon in a West-end square. Less? Why, I dont pay half. Now, Im going to unfig.

He nodded pleasantly at his guest, and left him alone, when a scowl came over Prayles face, and glancing round at the well-furnished room, with its bright fittings and charming flowers in window and vase, he said in a low and bitter voice: Why should this weak boor be rolling in wealth, while I have to pinch and spare and contrive in my dim blank chambers? The world is not fair. Oh, it is not fair!

As he stood there in the middle of the room, a distant sound made him turn his head sharply, and he caught sight of his frowning face in the dressing-glass, when, smoothing away the wrinkles, he paid a few attentions to his personal appearance, and went down to stroll about the grounds.

Volume One Chapter Three.
Fannys Magazines

Have you brought my magazines, William? said a bright-faced, eager girl, with no slight pretensions to good looks, as she stood there in her neat, dark, closely fitting dress with white apron, collar and cuffs, and natty muslin cap with black ribbon, looking the very model of the neat-handed Phyllis many people think so satisfactory for a parlour-maid. The William addressed was a broad-shouldered, heavy-looking young man of three or four and thirty, dressed in brown velveteen coat and vest, and drab cord trousers. He was very cleanly shaved; his fair crisp hair closely cut; and he had evidently been paying a great deal of attention to his heavy boots. There was a sprig of southernwood in his button-hole, a smaller sprig in his mouth; and he held in one hand his soft felt hat, in the other, one of those ash, quarter-staff-looking implements, with a tiny spade at the end, known to farmers as a thistle-spud a companion that served him as walking-stick and a means of getting rid of the obnoxious weeds about his little farm. For Brother William, otherwise William Cressy, farmed the twenty acres that had been held by his ancestors for the past two hundred years, and it was his custom to walk over every Saturday to see how his sister Fanny was getting on, the said young lady having been in service at the Rosery ever since Sir James Scarletts marriage, he always timed his visit so that he should get there just before Martha set out the tea-things, and from regular usage Martha always placed an extra cup extra large as well, for Brother William, who afterwards stayed until supper, and then declared, in a tone quite of remonstrance, Well, I must go now, as if he had been all along pressed to stay, whereas he had scarcely spoken all the time, and been hardly spoken to, but had sat stolidly in an armed Windsor chair staring at Martha, the housemaid, as she darned, stockings, a whole basket full, with the light making a broad path upon her carefully smoothed and glossy hair.

Yes; here they be, said Brother William, solemnly drawing a couple of the most romantic and highly flavoured of the penny weeklies of the day from his breast-pocket, and opening and smoothing them out, so as to display to the best advantage the woodcuts on the front pages of each, where, remarkably similar in style, a very undulatory young lady in evening dress was listening to the attentions of a small-headed, square-shouldered gentleman of impossible height, with an enormous moustache, worn probably to make up for his paucity of cranial hair. Yes; here they be; and I dont think much of em either.

No! what do you know about them? said the girl sharply. If it had been the Farmers Friend, with its rubbish about crops and horseballs and drenches, you would say it was good reading.

Mebbe, said Brother William, placing his soft hat very carefully upon the rounded knob of his thistle staff, and standing it up in a corner of the room adjoining the kitchen. Mebbe, Fanny, my lass; but I dont see what good its going to do you reading bout dooks and lords a-marrying housemaids, as they dont never do do they, Martha?

I never knew of such a thing, Mr Cressy, said Martha in a quiet demure way. I did once hear of a gentleman marrying his cook.

Yes, said Brother William solemnly, I think I did hear of such a thing as that, and that might be sensible; but in them magazines they never marry the cooks its always the housemaids and Fannys getting her head full of such stuff.

You mind your own business, William, and let me mind mine, if you please, said the young lady warmly.

Oh, all right, my dear; only, Im your brother, you know, said the young man, hitching himself more comfortably into his chair. Got company, I see.

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