"Ah!" said Bartle, pausing, with one hand on his back. "Then there's something in
the wind--there's something in the wind. Have you heard anything about what the
old squire means to do?"
"Why, yes," said Adam; "I'll tell you what I know, because I believe you can keep
a still tongue in your head if you like, and I hope you'll not let drop a word till it's
common talk, for I've particular reasons against its being known."
"Trust to me, my boy, trust to me. I've got no wife to worm it out of me and then
run out and cackle it in everybody's hearing. If you trust a man, let him be a
bachelor--let him be a bachelor."
"Well, then, it was so far settled yesterday that I'm to take the management o' the
woods. The captain sent for me t' offer it me, when I was seeing to the poles and
things here and I've agreed to't. But if anybody asks any questions upstairs, just
you take no notice, and turn the talk to something else, and I'll be obliged to you.
Now, let us go on, for we're pretty nigh the last, I think."
"I know what to do, never fear," said Bartle, moving on. "The news will be good
sauce to my dinner. Aye, aye, my boy, you'll get on. I'll back you for an eye at
measuring and a head-piece for figures, against any man in this county and
you've had good teaching--you've had good teaching."
When they got upstairs, the question which Arthur had left unsettled, as to who
was to be president, and who vice, was still under discussion, so that Adam's
entrance passed without remark.
"It stands to sense," Mr. Casson was saying, "as old Mr. Poyser, as is th' oldest
man i' the room, should sit at top o' the table. I wasn't butler fifteen year without
learning the rights and the wrongs about dinner."
"Nay, nay," said old Martin, "I'n gi'en up to my son; I'm no tenant now: let my son
take my place. Th' ould foulks ha' had their turn: they mun make way for the
"I should ha' thought the biggest tenant had the best right, more nor th' oldest,"
said Luke Britton, who was not fond of the critical Mr. Poyser; "there's Mester
Holdsworth has more land nor anybody else on th' estate."
"Well," said Mr. Poyser, "suppose we say the man wi' the foulest land shall sit at
top; then whoever gets th' honour, there'll be no envying on him."
"Eh, here's Mester Massey," said Mr. Craig, who, being a neutral in the dispute,
had no interest but in conciliation; "the schoolmaster ought to be able to tell you
what's right. Who's to sit at top o' the table, Mr. Massey?"