Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 135
Publication Date: 1911
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Mr. Poskitt's Nightcaps, Stories Of A Yorkshire Farmer is a great collection of stories about rural Yorkshire lives at the start of the 1900s. From the Introduction: 'Everyone who has had the pleasure of Mr. Poskitt's acquaintance knows that that estimable Yorkshireman is not only the cheeriest of hosts, but the best of companions. Those of us who have known the Poskitt High Tea (a much more enjoyable meal than a late dinner) know what follows the consumption of Mrs. Poskitt's tender chickens and her home-fed hams.'
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In the cold dreariness of that February morning the whole glace looked chilly and repellent in the extreme. There, on a little knoll, which by comparison assumed almost hill-like proportions amongst the low level of the meadows and corn-lands at its feet, stood the farmstead—a rambling mass of rough grey walls and red roofs; house, barns, stables, granary, and byres occurring here and there without evident plan or arrangement. Two or three great elm-trees, now leafless, and black with winter moisture, rose high above the chimneys and gables like sentinels inclined to sleep at their posts; above their topmost branches half-a-score of rooks flapped lazy wings against the dull grey of the sky; their occasional disconsolate notes added to the melancholy of the scene. And yet to an experienced eye, versed in the craft of the land, there was everything to promise well in the outward aspect of High Elms Farm. The house, if very old, was in good repair, and so were the buildings; the land was of excellent quality. But it only needed one glance to see that the house had not been tenanted for some time; its windows gave an instant impression that neither lamp-light nor fire-light had gleamed through them of late, and to enter the great stone-paved kitchen was to experience the feeling of stepping into a vault. That feeling of dead emptiness was in all the outbuildings, too—the stables, the granary, the byres were lifeless, void; ghostliness of a strange sort seemed to abide in their silence. And beneath the curling mists which lay over the good acres of corn-land, weeds were flourishing instead of growing crops.
On that February morning two young men, so much alike that no one could mistake them for anything else than what they were—twin-brothers—stood at the stone porch of the house, staring at each other with mutually questioning eyes. They were tall, finely built, sturdy fellows of apparently twenty-six years of age, fair of hair, blue of eye, ruddy of cheek, with square, resolute jaws and an air of determination which promised well for their success in life. Closely alike in their looks, they carried their similarity to their dress. Each wore a shooting-coat of somewhat loud pattern; each sported a fancy waistcoat with gilt buttons; each wore natty riding-breeches of whipcord, which terminated in Newmarket gaiters of light fawn colour. Each wore his billycock hat inclined a little to the left side; each had a bit of partridge's feather stuck in his hatband. And at this moment each was nibbling at a straw.
"This is a queer place, Simpson," said one of these young men after a silence which had lasted for several minutes. "A real queer place!"
"It is, Isaac!" assented the other. "It is, my lad. The queerest place ever I set eyes on. You couldn't say a truer word."
Isaac Greaves nibbled more busily at his straw. He lifted the rakish-looking billycock and scratched his head.
"What's the matter with it?" he said. "What's up with it, like? It's a good house; they're good buildings, if they are old-fashioned; it's good land."
"Aye—sadly neglected," said his brother. "Fine crops of thistles."
"That could be put right," said Isaac. "Matter of work and patience that—the main thing is, it's good land. And—why can't they let it?"
Simpson Greaves shook his head. He, too, nibbled more zealously at his straw.
"There's something against it, evidently," he said. "Those two last tenants they had wouldn't stop—cleared out quick, both of 'em. For why, I don't know."
Isaac threw away his straw and drew a cigar from his waistcoat pocket. He lighted it and took two or three deliberate puffs before he spoke.
"Well," he said at last, "there's no doubt about it, Simpson—if it's to be had at the rent we've heard of it's such a bargain as no man in his senses should miss. I'm in for it, if you are. It's better land, it's a better house, they're better buildings than what we've got at present, and we're paying more than twice as much. And, of course, our time's up come Lady Day. Look here—we've got the lawyer's directions; let's ride on to Sicaster and see him and hear what he's got to say."
"Come on, then," assented Simpson. "It's only another five miles or so."
There were two stout cobs attached by their bridles to the garden gate, and on them the brothers soon rode into the nearest market-town. With no more delay than was necessitated by stabling the cobs and drinking a glass of ale at the Golden Lion, they presented themselves at the office of the solicitor who acted as agent for the estate on which High Elms Farm was situate, and in due course were conducted to his presence.
"I'll leave the talking to you, Isaac," whispered Simpson, who was more reserved than his twin-brother. "Find out all you can."
Isaac was nothing loath—he knew his powers. He plunged straight into the matter as soon as he and Simpson confronted an elderly man, who eyed them with interest.
"Morning, sir," said Isaac. "Our name is Greaves, Isaac and Simpson Greaves, brothers. We're just giving up a farm over Woodbarrow way yonder, and we're on the look-out for another. We heard at Cornchester market that you've a farm to let very cheap—High Elms Farm—so we thought we'd like to have a look at it and see you about it."
The solicitor looked steadily at both brothers, one after the other. Then he cleared his throat with a non-committal sort of cough.
"Yes," he said, "yes. Have you been over the place, Mr. Greaves?"
"We've been over every bit of it this morning," replied Isaac.