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THE BEECHGROVE FAMILY.

"So you think, my lad, that you would be
quite happy if you had such a hall as that we
past this morning, with a park of old trees
and a lake with swans and a terraced garden,
and pheasants feeding and crowing in every
covert. Ay, but you're wrong, my lad. It
isn't halls or parks, or anything that money
can buy, that can make you happy."

The speaker was a white-haired, hale old
man, with that clear tinted complexion that
speaks of an active and not too hard life spent
out of doors. From his dress he might have
been a small farmer, or a head gamekeeper, or
a bailiff, or chief gardener; and, from his way
of speaking, it seemed as if he had been in
the habit of conversing with his superiors,
and had caught up some of their phrases and
tones.

"Why, here," he said, pulling out of his
pocket a printed auctioneer's catalogue, "here
is a paper I picked up in the bar of the station
hotel, that tells a very different story of the
Place where I passed more than fifty years
of my life."

There was not a prettier estate in this
county than Beechgrove Park. A thousand
acres in a ring fence, beside common rights
and other property that went with it. It was
in the family of Squire Corburn, they say, for
five hundred years and more. But the last
three squires dipped it each deeper than the
other; for they all drank and all played
deep, and drinking and dice don't go well
together. Squire Andrewhe was the last
lived as his forefathers had done; kept his
hounds and drove his four-in-hand, and had
open house always at race time, and strong
ale and bread and cheese for every one
that called any day in the week; all which
would not have hurt him so much if he had
not always had either the dice-box or the
brandy-bottle in his hand. He was the last
of a bad sort who were called jolly good
fellows, because they flung their money about
to every lad or lass that would join their mad
wicked pranks.

Well, one evening he rolled off the sofa
after dinner: and, before his poor wife could
unloose his handkerchief, he was dead. Then
it turned out that, for three years, he had
only been living at the Place on sufferance,
that everything there, land, house-furniture,
pictures, horses, carriageseverything,
belonged to old lawyer Rigors of Blexborough.
Squire Corburn left no sons; only two
daughters. So the poor lady gathered up the
little that was left to her, with a small
income the Squire could not touch, and was
seen no more.

My father was bailiff over the home-farm,
under Squire Corburn, and I was his deputy.
So you may believe we had a nice place
of it.

The old lawyer had the character of being
a hard man in business, and had mortgages over
half the estates in the county; but, as soon as
Beechgrove Park came into his possession he
altered his ways, retired from business, kept
on all the old head servants, and carried on
everything much the same as before; only, as
all was done in perfect order, he got more
for his money. Except that he parted with
the hounds, he put down no part of the
Corburn state . He furnished the best rooms;
engaged a first-rate cook; laid in some
famous wine in addition to the old stock; and,
by these means, with capital pheasant
preserves, and the reputation of having money to
lend, he was soon visited by almost all the first
people in the county. At first the old lawyer
seemed to take a new lease of life, looking
after his gardens and farm, and riding out to
pay visits; for he was a handsome old fellow,
not much above sixtya widower, and
mothers thought he might marry again.

But it was too much for him at last.
He took to drinking, and played such tricks
with low company, that he went back as
fast as he had gone forward, and one by one,
was dropped by his new friends; for,
although they might pardon strange
behaviour in one of themselves, they could not
put up with the liberties of a man that some
remembered an office-boy in Blexborough.
The end of it was that he made jolly
companions of whoever would be jolly with him,
and ended by marrying the daughter and
barmaid of Bob Carter, of the Swan Inn, a
bouncing girl of eighteen.

Now, the lawyer had a son whom he had
brought up for the church, and was at college
long enough; though he never became a
parson, nor did he agree at all with his father.
He used to be away a good deal, travelling,


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