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THE COCK AND THE FOX.
BY THE Author of “PETER Priggins," &c.
Even the patient worm will turn if trodden on.
The fox, passing early one summer's morning near a farm-yard, was caught in a springe, which the farmer had planted there for that end. The cock, at a distance, saw what happened, and hardly yet daring to trust himself too near so dangerous a foe, approached him cautiously, and peeped at him, not without some horror and dread of mind. Reynard no sooner perceived it, than he addressed himself to him, with all the designing artifice imaginable. “ Dear cousin,” says he," you see what an unfortunate accident has befallen me here, and all upon your account: for, as I was creeping through yonder hedge, in my way homeward, I heard you crow, and was resolved to ask
did before I went any farther : but, by the way, I met with this disaster, and therefore now I must become an humble suitor to you for a knife to cut this plaguy string, or at least, that you would conceal my misfortune till I have gnawed it asunder with my teeth.” The cock, seeing how the case stood, made' no reply, but posted away as fast as he could, to give the farmer an account of the whole matter, who, taking a good weapon along with him, came and did the fox's business, before he could have time to effect his escape.
CAAP. I. On the coast of Sussex, on one of the numerous patches of land that have been claimed, or reclaimed, from the ocean, dwelt an honest John Bull of a man, called Simeon Brownstock. He was the cock of the island on which he dwelt, for he rented the whole of it from the lord of the manor, who had added it to his adjoining estate, by throwing up a huge sea-wall around it. I call it an island, although more strictly speaking, it ought to have been denominated a peninsula, seeing that it was approachable from the main land at low water, by a narrow neck which saved the expense of building a bridge, and was preserved by strong piles and shingles from the destructive effect of the tides. When Simeon Brownstock, then a mere lad, took the farm upon,
what I shall call, New Britain, he was looked upon as a bold man by some, and as a great fool by others. He was to cultivate it for twenty-one years rent-free, and had permission to underlet any part of it he chose under certain restrictions. It seems, at the first view, surprising that any landlord should let his land rent-free for so many years, but upon further investigation, the more surprising does it appear that any body could be found rash enough to undertake to cultivate and make a profit of a mere mass of muddy salterns and acres of sandy shingle, even in twenty-one years.
Simeon Brownstock thought he knew what he was doing, and it proved that he did. He had a tolerable sum of money by him, which had been left him by his father, and he married a young woman, who brought him no inconsiderable addition to it. When he took possession of Sandy Nook, as the house was called, which his landlord had built for him on the island of New Britain, he employed himself in assisting his wife to set the furniture and other effects which they had brought with them in due order. When this was done, he marked out a patch for a garden ; then he sowed it, and planted it with such vegetables as he fancied would grow in a spot so exposed to the sea-gales, and then -sat down and smoked his pipe as coolly as if he had nothing else to do.
“ Simeon, man, what hast done wi' all the live-stock?” asked his wife. “I thought they would have been here ’ere this ?”
“ Sold 'em all,” said Simeon, between two very voluminous whiffs.
“ Sold 'em?” shrieked the good woman, “sold 'em? What are we to do then for milk, and pork, and bacon, and eggs,
and_” “ Import 'em all.”
“And where from? I should like to know that. From the main land ?”
“Yes, marm—from France-get 'em cheap and good there," said Simeon.
“ France? what all that way off? Thousands of miles ? It ain't possible you could be such a fool as to dream of such a thing,” said Mrs. Brownstock.
“ Listen to me, marm. It has allays been a sentiment of mine, that the man as goes for to deceive his lawyer, his doctor, or his wife, is an ass,” said Simeon, as he charged his pipe.
“ There can be no question on that subject,” said his wife, sipping & little out of the tumbler, which Simeon had thrust over for the very purpose of sharing his grog with his half.
“ Well then, I'll let you into a secret; a man might break his heart, and all his ploughs and harrows, and waggons and carts, and other implements, before he could get the soil of New Britain to return him one penny per cent. under ten years at least ; and as for keeping live stock upon it under the same number of years, without importing their foodit ain't to be done. Now, you see, Sandy Nook lies very convenient for fishing, so I mean to have half-a-dozen fishing-vessels, well found and ably manned, and so, you see-don't you?”
“I begin to think I do,” said Mrs. Brownstock. “Sprats is capital manure.'
** Capital ! especially when they are caught off the coast of France they seem to enjoy an English soil,” said Simeon.
“No difficulty in landing them here, either,” said his wife.
“ Not the least in the world. Capital shore-snug inlets -no revenue men about, and lots of opportunities of conveying the sprats inland, if any body should happen to want any."
"Well, Simeon, you are not so great a fool as I took you for,” said his wife, smiling benignantly on her smoking spouse.
“ Thank ye for the compliment, but you are not the only person who
has ranked Simeon Brownstock among the fools of the earth : but time will showwe shall see.”
For some ten years, the island of New Britain was not spoken of, even by its nearest neighbours. It was rarely visited, except by a medical man, who made his appearance there once a year, and rarely oftener, and then only to assist at a ceremony, which added an individual to the census of that part of the Queen's dominions. Even the lord of the soil and his steward, had not visited their tenant, but were satisfied with his assurances that he was doing very well, and getting the land, by degrees, into a productive state-thanks to the sprats and the sea-weeds, which were obtainable without much trouble or expense.
At the end of the ten years, the lord of the soil was applied to, through his steward, to build additional houses and farm-buildings on the island, in order to afford residences for the labourers, who increased in numbers as the land grew more productive, and to supply garners for stowing away
crops. This proposal seemed reasonable enough to the landlord, and so he told his steward. Tom Quickly, however, was a cunning fox, and did not assent immediately to his master's wish to oblige his tenant.
“ You hesitate, Mr. Quickly," said the landlord. “Surely Simeon Brownstock has done much, in so short a time, to redeem a barren spot, and ought not to be refused when he applies for means of adding to its fertility, and consequent value in the market.” “ I should like to visit the island, before any
further arrangements are made about these additional buildings," said Tom Quickly.
“Well, we will write to Simeon, and fix a day for paying him a visit, and surveying his improvements," said the master.
The “we” did not quite please the servant, so he suggested that the travelling to the island of New Britain, would be troublesome and inconvenient to any one not used to do business in such out-of-the-way spots, and offered to go by himself and report the result of his visit to his employer.
To this a ready assent was given.
“ It strikes me very forcibly," said Tom Quickly to himself, as he rode from his home towards the island of New Britain, “ that Simeon Brownstock has more irons than one in the fire. Such a barren spot as that was must have more than eaten up the capital he took there, in getting it to bear any thing, and yet, from what I hear, Simeon is not a poorer man than he was, and has had many applications from active, industrious men, to underlet them some hundreds of acres on the island. But, I will see with my own eyes, how he contrives it. He does not know of my coming, so I shall take him unawares, and if I find any thing wrong, and he refuses to stand something handsome, I am the man to spoil his sport, that's all.”
So saying, Tom Quickly spurred his nag over the heavy roads which led to the neck of land, by which, at low water, New Britain was approached; chuckling, internally, at the notion of making himself master of Simeon Brownstock's method of living, and getting rich upon nothing, and bringing up a family into the bargain. It is possible that Tom Quickly might have received a hint about the fishing-boats, and the sprat trade, but the result of his visit will prove whether he had or not.
CHAP. II. “Look out, governor, the signal's hoisted,” said a little, ruddy, chubby fellow, about nine years of age to Simeon Brownstock, on the day of Tom Quickly's visit to the island.
“Run you little tiger, and see what's in the wind,” shouted Mrs. Brownstock.
Away ran Simeon junior, and in less than ten minutes came back to say that a stranger on horseback was coming over the ridge-way (as the neck of land was called) into the island.
“ Stand by to see all clear,” shouted Simeon, laying down his pipe.
“Ay, ay, sir,” replied some half dozen jolly-looking seamen. stowed
away safe enough, except a keg or two for our own private tipple." Up with the trap, and away with it below, then on with
your round frocks and straw hats, and set about doing something like farming-men, as you ought to be,” said Simeon.
Ay, ay, sir,” said the sailors, and after ten minutes of active bustling, things wore a very different appearance in the farm-house of Sandy Nook to what they had done ere the young one had given notice of the signal's being hoisted.
“ Here he comes, whoever he is,” said Simeon. “ I'll be busy about my books, while you find out what the stranger's business is.” “ Trust me for that,” replied the wife, pump
him if he has any water in his hold.”
“Good morming, madam," said Tom Quickly. “Pray is Mr. Brownstock within?"
“And who may you be that asks the question ?” inquired Mrs. Brownstock
“My name is surely not necessary to be known before I get an answer to so simple a question,” said Tom.
“I don't know that, we live at a lone house, and how do I know but you may be come about something as you should not come about.
“ Hulloh, youngster! is your father within?" said Tom, calling to young Simeon, who was swinging carelessly on a gate hard by.
“ Ask mother," replied the boy.
“ Hulloh! you sir in the smock frock, where's your master ?" asked Toin of a stout man, who appeared at the barn-door.
“Ask missus,” replied the man.
“Here, take my horse, that's a good fellow, give him a feed of oats, and I'll give you a shilling for your trouble,” said Tom.
“Can't without master's leave," said the man. “Well
, never mind the oats, just hold the horse while I go in doors," said Tom.
“Come in, if you dare,” said Mrs. Brownstock, “without giving your name and telling your business. Here, Sam, let loose Towzer and Boatswain, and bid them mind this impudent stranger."
No sooner had Mrs. Brownstock spoken these words, than the man in the smock-frock ran round the corner of the house, and returned with two enormous mastiffs, to whom he said, “ Mind him !" as he pointed to the steward, who was in the act of lowering himself from the saddle.
“Mrs. Brownstock, madam, this is, I must say it, very extraordinary
treatment towards your landlord's man of business,” said Tom, turning very pale at the savage looks of Towzer and Boatswain.
“Who?—what ?- you surely arn't the lawyer, or steward, or whatever you
call yourself, Thomas Quickly ?” asked Mrs. Brownstock. “But I am though, and I think this is very extraordinary conduct,” said Tom.
" Why didn't you write to tell us you were coming, sir ? then we should have been ready to receive you.
“ Exactly,” said Tom to himself; “ but that was not part of my plan.”
“Here, Sam,” continued the good wife,“ tie up Towzer and Boatswain, and then take this good gentleman's horse and water and feed him well. Now, sir, walk in, you will find Simeon, poor man, busy over his books, seeing how few pounds he has left out of what he brought into this unfortunate island.
“A-humph !" said Tom, as he landed from his roadster, and followed his now very attentive hostess into the house.
“Simeon, here be master's lawyer, steward, or overlooker, or something, come to see thee.”
“Who ?" asked Simeon, without removing his eyes from his books.
“ Master Quickly he calls himself ; walk in, sir, and speak to my husband."
Tom Quickly was not slow in accepting this invitation, and found Simeon, as his wife had foretold, gloomily scanning his ledger.
“Ah, Mr. Quickly, I had serious thoughts of coming to see you as you did not seem any ways inclined to pay me a visit,” said Simeon, very lugubriously. “I thought of asking for a few pounds from our master just to put me a little in place again."
"A-humph !" said Tom. Snug house you have here, at any rategood furniture, and all that kind of thing
--lots of people want to take farms under you too-sprats are capital manure for grounds recovered from the salt water.”
Simeon looked at Tom and Tom at Simeon, who, after staring the steward down, calmly replied, “Very capital when you cannot get any thing else.”
Tom coughed, and seemed rather confused as he asked whether Mister Brownstock had not made application to the lord of the soil for the erection of buildings and farm-houses in the island.
“Of course I have,” said Simeon ; “having got the land into tolerable condition by means of sprats and other manures, I am anxious to repay myself for some portion of my enormous outlay before I am ruined entirely."
“A-humph!" said Tom.
“ What do you mean by 'a-humph!' I neither know nor care-but I am not going to be ruined and involve my family for any steward that ever lived," said Simeon, showing sulky.
“My good friend, you entirely mistake me. Instead of ruining you, I am here to stand your friend,” said Tom, grasping the reluctantly extended hand of Simeon.
“Oh! oh! that's it, is it? Here, missus, bring out something to eat and drink this gentleman's a friend,” shouted the farmer.
Tom did not quite like the tone in which this was spoken, but he grinned