The Farm House, by Washington Irving
Hall, or The Humorists
———"Love and hay
Are thick sown, but come up full of thistles."
—BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
I was so much pleased with the anecdotes which were told me of
Ready-Money Jack Tibbets, that I got Master Simon, a day or two since,
to take me to his house. It was an old-fashioned farm-house built with
brick, with curiously twisted chimneys. It stood at a little distance
from the road, with a southern exposure, looking upon a soft green
slope of meadow. There was a small garden in front, with a row of
bee-hives humming among beds of sweet herbs and flowers. Well-scoured
milking tubs, with bright copper hoops, hung on the garden paling.
Fruit trees were trained up against the cottage, and pots of flowers
stood in the windows. A fat, superannuated mastiff lay in the sunshine
at the door; with a sleek cat sleeping peacefully across him.
Mr. Tibbets was from home at the time of our calling, but we were
received with hearty and homely welcome by his wife; a notable,
motherly woman, and a complete pattern for wives; since, according to
Master Simon's account, she never contradicts honest Jack, and yet
manages to have her own way, and to control him in every thing.
She received us in the main room of the house, a kind of parlour and
hall, with great brown beams of timber across it, which Mr. Tibbets is
apt to point out with some exultation, observing, that they don't put
such timber in houses now-a-days. The furniture was old-fashioned,
strong, and highly polished; the walls were hung with coloured prints
of the story of the Prodigal Son, who was represented in a red coat
and leather breeches. Over the fire-place was a blunderbuss, and a
hard-favoured likeness of Ready-Money Jack, taken when he was a young
man, by the same artist that painted the tavern sign; his mother
having taken a notion that the Tibbets had as much right to have a
gallery of family portraits as the folks at the Hall.
The good dame pressed us very much to take some refreshment, and
tempted us with a variety of household dainties, so that we were glad
to compound by tasting some of her homemade wines. While we were
there, the son and heir-apparent came home; a good-looking young
fellow, and something of a rustic beau. He took us over the premises,
and showed us the whole establishment. An air of homely but
substantial plenty prevailed throughout; every thing was of the best
materials, and in the best condition. Nothing was out of place, or ill
made; and you saw every where the signs of a man that took care to
have the worth of his money, and that paid as he went.
The farm-yard was well stocked; under a shed was a taxed cart, in trim
order, in which Ready-Money Jack took his wife about the country. His
well-fed horse neighed from the stable, and when led out into the
yard, to use the words of young Jack, "he shone like a bottle;" for he
said the old man made it a rule that every thing about him should fare
as well as he did himself.
I was pleased to see the pride which the young fellow seemed to have
of his father. He gave us several particulars concerning his habits,
which were pretty much to the effect of those I have already
mentioned. He had never suffered an account to stand in his life,
always providing the money before he purchased any thing; and, if
possible, paying in gold and silver. He had a great dislike to paper
money, and seldom went without a considerable sum in gold about him.
On my observing that it was a wonder he had never been waylaid and
robbed, the young fellow smiled at the idea of any one venturing upon
such an exploit, for I believe he thinks the old man would be a match
for Robin Hood and all his gang.
I have noticed that Master Simon seldom goes into any house without
having a world of private talk with some one or other of the family,
being a kind of universal counsellor and confidant. We had not been
long at the farm, before the old dame got him into a corner of her
parlour, where they had a long, whispering conference together; in
which I saw, by his shrugs, that there were some dubious matters
discussed, and by his nods that he agreed with every thing she said.
After we had come out, the young man accompanied us a little distance,
and then, drawing Master Simon aside into a green lane, they walked
and talked together for nearly half an hour. Master Simon, who has the
usual propensity of confidants to blab every thing to the next friend
they meet with, let me know that there was a love affair in question;
the young fellow having been smitten with the charms of Phoebe
Wilkins, the pretty niece of the housekeeper at the Hall. Like most
other love concerns, it had brought its troubles and perplexities.
Dame Tibbets had long been on intimate, gossiping terms with the
housekeeper, who often visited the farm-house; but when the neighbours
spoke to her of the likelihood of a match between her son and Phoebe
Wilkins, "Marry come up!" she scouted the very idea. The girl had
acted as lady's maid; and it was beneath the blood of the Tibbets',
who had lived on their own lands time out of mind, and owed reverence
and thanks to nobody, to have the heir-apparent marry a servant!
These vapourings had faithfully been carried to the housekeeper's ear,
by one of their mutual go-between friends. The old housekeeper's
blood, if not as ancient, was as quick as that of Dame Tibbets. She
had been accustomed to carry a high head at the Hall, and among the
villagers; and her faded brocade rustled with indignation at the
slight cast upon her alliance by the wife of a petty farmer. She
maintained that her niece had been a companion rather than a
waiting-maid to the young ladies. "Thank heavens, she was not obliged
to work for her living, and was as idle as any young lady in the land;
and when somebody died, would receive something that would be worth
the notice of some folks, with all their ready money."
A bitter feud had thus taken place between the two worthy dames, and
the young people were forbidden to think of one another. As to young
Jack, he was too much in love to reason upon the matter; and being a
little heady, and not standing in much awe of his mother, was ready to
sacrifice the whole dignity of the Tibbets' to his passion. He had
lately, however, had a violent quarrel with his mistress, in
consequence of some coquetry on her part, and at present stood aloof.
The politic mother was exerting all her ingenuity to widen the
accidental breach; but, as is most commonly the case, the more she
meddled with this perverse inclination of the son, the stronger it
grew. In the meantime, old Ready-Money was kept completely in the
dark; both parties were in awe and uncertainty as to what might be his
way of taking the matter, and dreaded to awaken the sleeping lion.
Between father and son, therefore, the worthy Mrs. Tibbets was full of
business, and at her wit's end. It is true there was no great danger
of honest Ready-Money's finding the thing out, if left to himself; for
he was of a most unsuspicious temper, and by no means quick of
apprehension; but there was daily risk of his attention being aroused,
by the cobwebs which his indefatigable wife was continually spinning
about his nose.
Such is the distracted state of politics, in the domestic empire of
Ready-Money Jack; which only shows the intrigues and internal dangers
to which the best-regulated governments are liable. In this perplexed
situation of their affairs, both mother and son have applied to Master
Simon for counsel; and, with all his experience in meddling with other
people's concerns, he finds it an exceedingly difficult part to play,
to agree with both parties, seeing that their opinions and wishes are
so diametrically opposite.