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Mrs. Poyser has her Say Out.
(From "Adam Bede,” by George Eliot.) “Good day, Mrs. Poyser," said the old Squire, peering at her with his short-sighted eyes-a mode of looking at her which, as Mrs. Poyser observed, "allays aggravated her : it was as if you was an insect, and he was going to dab his finger-nail on you."
However, she said, “Your servant, sir,” and curtsied with an air of perfect deference as she advanced towards him : she was not the woman to misbehave towards her betters, and fly in the face of the Catechism, without severe provocation.
“Is your husband at home, Mrs. Poyser ?”
“ Yes, sir; he's only i' the rick-yard. I'll send for him in a minute, if you'll please to get down and step in." " Thank
I want to consult him about a little matter ; but you are quite as much concerned in it, if not more. I must have your opinion too.”
Hetty, run and tell your uncle to come in," said Mrs. Poyser, as they entered the house, and the old gentleman bowed low in answer to Hetty's curtsy ; while Totty, conscious of a pinafore stained with gooseberry jam, stood hiding her face against the clock, and peeping round furtively.
" What a fine old kitchen this is !” said Mr. Donnithorne, looking round admiringly. He always spoke in the same deliberate, well-chiselled, polite way, whether his words were sugary or venomous. “And you keep it so exquisitely clean, Mrs. Poyser. I like these premises, do you know, beyond any on the estate,"
Well, sir, since you're fond of 'em, I should be glad if you'd let a bit o' repairs be done to 'em, for the boarding's i’ that state, and we're like to be eaten up wi' rats and mice; and the cellar, you may stan' up to your knees i’ water in't, if you like to go down; but perhaps you'd rather believe my words. Won't you please to sit down, sir ? "
"Not yet; I must see your dairy. I have not seen it for years, and I hear on all hands about your fine cheese and butter," said the Squire, looking politely unconscious that there could be any question on which he and Mrs. Poyser
might happen to disagree. “I think I see the door open, there : you must not be surprised if I cast a covetous eye on your cream and butter, I don't expect that Mrs. Satchell's cream and butter will bear comparison with yours.”
“I can't say, sir, I'm sure. It's seldom I see other folks's butter, though there's some on it as one's no need to see—the smell's enough.”
“Ah, now this I like," said Mr. Donnithorne, looking round at the damp temple of cleanliness, but keeping near the door. “ I'm sure I should like my breakfast better if I knew the butter and cream came from this dairy. Thank you, that really is a pleasant sight. Unfortunately, my slight tendency to rheumatism makes me afraid of damp ; I'll sit down in your comfortable kitchen. Ah, Poyser, how do you do? In the midst of business, I see, as usual. I've been looking at your wife's beautiful dairy-the best manager in the parish, is she not?”
Mr. Poyser had just entered in shirt-sleeves and open waistcoat, with a face a shade redder than usual, from the exertion of "pitching." As he stood, red, rotund, and radiant, before the small, wiry, cool, old gentleman, he looked like a prize apple by the side of a withered crab.
“Will you please to take this chair, sir ?” he said, lifting his father's arm-chair forward a little : "you'll find it easy."
“No, thank you, I never sit in easy-chairs,” said the old gentleman, seating himself on a small chair near the door.
“Do you know, Mrs. Poyser—sit down, pray, both of youI've been far from contented, for some time, with Mrs. Satchell's dairy management.
I think she has not a good method, as you have.”
"Indeed, sir, I can't speak to that," said Mrs. Poyser, in a hard voice, rolling and unrolling her knitting, and looking icily out of the window, as she continued to stand opposite the Squire. Poyser might sit down if he liked, she thought : she wasn't going to sit down, as if she'd give in to any such smooth-tongued palaver. Mr. Poyser, who looked and felt the reverse of icy, did sit down in his three-cornered chair,
“And now, Poyser, as Satchell is laid up, I am intending to let the Chase Farm to a respectable tenant. I'm tired of
having a farm on my own hands-nothing is made the best of in such cases, as you know. A satisfactory bailiff is hard to find; and I think you and I, Poyser, and your excellent wife here, can enter into a little arrangement in consequence, which will be to our mutual advantage.”
“Oh,” said Mr. Poyser, with a good-natured blankness of imagination as to the nature of the arrangement.
“If I'm called upon to speak, sir," said Mrs. Poyser, after glancing at her husband with pity at his softness, "you know better than me; but I don't see what the Chase Farm is t’us -we've cumber enough wi' our own farm. Not but what I'm glad to hear o' anybody respectable coming into the parish ; there's some as ha' been brought in as hasn't been looked on i' that character.”
“You're likely to find Mr. Thurle an excellent neighbour, I assure you : such a one as you will feel glad to have accommodated by the little plan I'm going to mention ; especially as I hope you will find it as much to your own advantage
"Indeed, sir, if it's anything to our advantage, it'll be the first offer o' the sort I've heared on. It's them as take advantage that get advantage i' this world, I think : folks have to wait long enough afore it's brought to 'em."
“The fact is, Poyser," said the Squire, ignoring Mrs. Poyser's theory of worldly prosperity, “there is too much dairy land, and too little plough land, on the Chase Farm, to suit Thurle's purpose—indeed, he will only take the farm on condition of some change in it: his wife, it appears, is not a clever dairy-woman like yours. Now, the plan I'm thinking of is to effect a little exchange. If you were to have the Hollow Pastures, you might increase your dairy, which must be so profitable under your wife's management; and I should request you, Mrs. Poyser, to supply my house with milk, cream, and butter at the market prices. On the other hand, Poyser, you might let Thurle have the Lower and Upper Ridges, which really, with our wet seasons, would be a good riddance for you. There is much less risk in dairy land than corn land.”
Mr. Poyser was leaning forward, with his elbows on his knees, his head on one side, and his mouth screwed upapparently absorbed in making the tips of his fingers meet so as to represent with perfect accuracy the ribs of a ship. He was much too acute a man not to see through the whole business, and to forsee perfectly what would be his wife's view of the subject; but he disliked giving unpleasant answers; unless it was on a point of farming practice, he would rather give up than have a quarrel, any day; and, after all, it mattered more to bis wife than to him. So, after a few moments' silence, he looked up at her and said mildly, “What dost say ?”
Mrs. Poyser had had her eyes fixed on her husband with cold severity during his silence, but now she turned away her head with a toss, looked icily at the opposite roof of the cowshed, and spearing her knitting together with the loose pin, held it firmly between her clasped hands.
“Say? Why, I say you may do as you like about giving up any
your lease is up, which it won't be for a year come next Michaelmas, but I'll not consent to take more dairy work into my hands, either for love or money; and there's nayther love nor money here, as I can see, on'y other folks's love o' theirselves, and the money as is to go into other folks's pockets. I know there's them as is born t’own the land, and them as is born to sweat on't"-here Mrs. Poyser paused to gasp a little—"and I know it's christened folks's duty to submit to their betters as fur as flesh and blood ’ull bear it; but I'll not make a martyr o' myself, and wear myself to skin and bone, and worret myself as if I was a churn wi' butter a-coming in't, for no landlord in England, not if he was King George himself.”
“No, no, my dear Mrs. Poyser, certainly not,” said the Squire, still confident in his own powers of persuasion, "you must not overwork yourself; but don't you
your work will rather be lessened than increased in this way? There is so much milk required at the Abbey, that you will have little increase of cheese and butter making from the addition to your dairy; and I believe selling the milk is the most profitable way of disposing of dairy produce, is it not ?"
“Ay, that's true," said Mr. Poyser, unable to repress an
opinion on a question of farming profits, and forgetting that it was not in this case a purely abstract question.
“I daresay," said Mrs. Poyser bitterly, turning her head half-way towards her husband, and looking at the vacant armchair, “I daresay it's true for men as sit i' th' chimney-' corner and make believe as everything's cut wi'ins an' outs to fit int' everything else. If you could make a pudding wi’ thinking o'the batter, it ’ud be easy getting dinner. How do I know whether the milk 'ull be wanted constant? What's to make me sure as the house won't be put o' board wage afore we're many months older, and then I may
have to lie awake o’nights wi' twenty gallons o'milk on my mind—and Dingall’ull take no more butter, let alone paying for it; and we must fat pigs till we're obliged to beg the butcher on our knees to buy 'em, and lose half of 'em wi' the measles. And there's the fetching and carrying, as 'ud be welly half a day's work for a man an' hoss-that's to be took out o'the profits, I reckon? But there's folks 'ud hold a sieve under the pump and expect to carry away the water.”
"That difficulty—about the fetching and carrying-you will not have, Mrs. Poyser," said the Squire, who thought that this entrance into particulars indicated a distant inclination to compromise on Mrs. Poyser's part, "Bethell will do that regularly with the cart and pony.'
“Oh, sir, begging your pardon, I've never been used t' having gentlefolks's servants coming about my back places, a-making love to both the gells at once, and keeping 'em with their hands on their hips listening to all manner o' gossip when they should be down on their knees a-scouring. If we're to go to ruin, it shanna be wi' having our back kitchen turned into a public.
“Well, Poyser," said the Squire, shifting his tactics, and looking as if he thought Mrs. Poyser had suddenly withdrawn from the proceedings and left the room, "you can turn the Hollows into feeding-land. I can easily make another arrangement about supplying my house. And I shall not forget your readiness to accommodate your landlo:d as well as a neighbour. I know you will be glad to have your lease renewed for three years when the present one expires; otherwise, I daresay