Return Of The Native Son: Chapter Three

Lord Lipton awoke in the morning and felt something to be missing. He was not sure about what it was, but he thought about what was missing as he bathed in his tub, changed into a clean set of clothing, and then wandered towards the dining room for breakfast. He had a simple and hearty breakfast with a mixture of eggs, meat, buttered bread, and potatoes, washed down with some sweet iced tea that he was pleased to see the cooks having learned to make according to his previous instructions. While chatting with his young cousin, he remembered that he still did not know her name. He asked her for her name and was informed that his young charge was named Clarissa, a name that caused his eyebrow to raise a little bit. He replied in kind and told her his Christian name, and told her how it would be proper and polite for her to refer to him if she needed something.

After they finished eating, Lord Lipton asked if his cousin wanted to come to the stable with him. She agreed, not knowing why, but happy to see the grounds where she was to live and willing to see the horses. As the servants gathered up the leftovers and plates and silverware to clean, the master of the house and his cousin walked over to the stable, where they saw the groom. Lord Lipton asked if they had any ponies that would be suitable to ride for his young cousin, and her eyes lit up when she saw that there was a gentle pony in the stables already that was fit for her to ride. When Lord Lipton asked her if she wanted the pony as her own to ride regularly, she did not believe that she could nod her head any faster to agree, and though she had never ridden an animal before, she had always appreciated horses, like many, and was pleased to find the pony to be gentle and mild. Lord Lipton smiled and thanked the groom, saying that he would likely be out before too long and would like a horse saddled up for him and the estate manager who was supposed to be over before too long.

As it happened, when they were walking out of the stables towards the house they saw the man in question coming towards the house as well. Lord Lipton introduced himself to the man and found him to be the estate manager they were waiting for. When Lord Lipton explained that he and his young cousin were hoping to take a ride around the estates and get a lay of the land for themselves, the manager said that would be a good idea and went over to walk his own horse to the stables so that they could all ride together. And so they did.

Lord Lipton was pleased to see his own land, which he had only seen a part of the previous day. He was pleased to see that the cottages did not look run down and that the fields appeared to be in good order. Given the fact that there had been no active owner for some time, he was glad that his tenants were not disposed to waste their time but instead grew a good harvest that likely would keep his estates in good form as he got used to them. Before too long they came to an area of cottages where some superannuated servants of the family lived, and here Lord Lipton could tell that there was little active farming going on because the cottagers were far too old for such rigorous labor.

Everyone got off of their horse or pony and tied them to one of the trees near the cottages, and the three of them made their way to one of the cottages to talk with the tenant there. When they got inside, they found a man sitting in his chair with a relative helping to feed him. Upon seeing Lord Lipton, the estate manager, and Clarissa, they rose as stately as they could.

“You may sit,” Lord Lipton said. “There is no need for you all to be uncomfortable on our behalf.” The cottagers sat down, wondering what was the cause for the visit.

“I am the new Lord Lipton,” he replied, “And I thought it would be good for me to visit my estate and see the people on it.”

The cottagers looked at each other, a bit worried.

“We have had this cottage ever since I retired from serving the old lord,” the man said. “I was once an assistant gardener to him, until I got arthritis too much to work in the garden. We had this cottage on good terms for the life of the lord.”

“Do you think I am going to turn you out to seek higher rents?” Lord Lipton replied.

“No one would blame you if you did,” the woman answered stoutly.

“I would blame myself for so doing,” Lord Lipton replied. Everyone else looked at him.

“Why are you here, then, and what do you want?” the man replied.

“I understand, better than you know, that your body has betrayed you and that you are not able bodied enough to pay rent for your cottage,” Lord Lipton said, and the man and woman owned that this was indeed the case.

“What you can pay me, though, is in stories about how my grandfather was, and how it was like to work for him,” he replied. “I believe I can afford to allow you and the rest of the retired servants to live in peace the rest of your lives, and to feed you from the proceeds of our garden. You have worked loyally for my family for decades, and I will count the service you did to my grandfather as service done to me. Do not be afraid that I will put you under rack rents and throw you out of homes simply to make a few more shillings for myself. I am not such a monster as that.”

The cottagers thanked him, and asked him when he wanted to hear stories. Lord Lipton said that he was busy now but said he would come over on a certain time every week, and would want to hear stories then, and they agreed to the time. After leaving this cottage, he visited the other few cottages around and made the same deal with the other older servants in the small neighborhood, and all of them were shocked that he wanted to hear stories for their rent rather than receiving money that they and he knew that they did not have. How could the stories of a few forgotten old people serve as currency? He explained to them, patiently, that he had not grown up here and had found himself Lord of an estate with generations of history, to which he was a stranger, and that their stories about his grandfather and their own lives would help him feel more at home and better connected to the estate and its history. Once they understood that they were doing him some good by telling him stories, and setting their landlord at ease, they were happy to see him and looked forward to seeing him week by week in the future. Their fears stilled and their good feeling restored, the three got on their mounts and went towards the parish church.

It was at this point that the estate manager cleared his throat and asked Lord Lipton for a favor. “What is it you seek?” Lord Lipton asked. The estate manager asked Lord Lipton if he had thought about who this borough would be sending to Parliament in this election. Lord Lipton said that he had given the matter some thought since he had seen it discussed in some of the many letters he had looked at yesterday, but that he knew nothing of what it meant to be the landlord of a rotten borough. The estate manager asked him if he knew anything about the incumbent MP from the borough. Lord Lipton replied that he did not.

“The man generally votes with the slave merchant interest of Hull,” the estate manager replied, and he saw that this revelation had the desired effect of making Lord Lipton look serious.

“As you might well imagine, I am no friend of the slave trading interest,” Lord Lipton replied.

“I did not take you for such a man, not least after what I have seen this morning,” he answered.

“And so you wish to sit in the House of Commons yourself? On what interest?” Lord Lipton queried.

“I will, of course, keep in close contact with you about your own interests, but my own interests are humane. I seek the well-being of the good people of the area, and I believe you do as well,” the manager said.

“So far you are correct,” he answered. “Do you have in mind someone to take your place as estate manager? I do not think you could do justice in Westminster while also being manager here.”

“I thought that my nephew would be ready to step up to be estate manager in my stead. I have been training him for some time as my assistant, and now that you have succeeded to the estate, perhaps it would be worthwhile for him to succeed me in turn.”

“If you have trained him well, I see no reason why we could not try out such an arrangement,” Lord Lipton. “Do you think the incumbent wishes to hold onto this position?”

“He might be persuaded to step aside in order to avoid an embarrassing loss,” the manager said.

“But he might not,” Lord Lipton continued.

“He might be stubborn, that is true,” the manager said.

“How about we have a public dinner for the entire borough, where you will speak about your own candidacy and where I will make it clear that you have my support and approval?” Lord Lipton asked.

“I would greatly appreciate that. I think that would have the desired effect.”

“Let it be done, then. We can set the date that is most convenient,” Lord Lipton said. The discussion ended with mutual satisfaction. Clarissa looked with surprise to see the sorts of affairs that her cousin had to deal with on a continual basis, moving from politics to personal matters, always working on some sort of business regarding the state or the offices of state. She had seen her father to be a busy and industrious person but had thought that the high and mighty lords of England were more of a leisurely type. She was finding that spending time around her noble cousin was itself an education into the work that was required to keep an estate going. She did not yet understand that this education was by design on the part of the Viscount, who thought that it would be wise for his cousin to prepare herself for what it would be like to be the wife of a conscientious member of the gentry, whom he thought she would be likely to marry, when the time came.

When they got to the church and to the parson’s house next to it, they saw the parson working a bit on his glebe land. Lord Lipton and the estate manager greeted the young clergyman. They did not wish to interrupt his work for too much, but Lord Lipton asked if there would be a convenient time for them to discuss parish business. The parson replied that he would have a bit more time to sit and chat after morning services, and the two of them agreed to talk after services. With that, the riding party returned home, ready to enjoy a pleasant tea with each other, having conducted a great deal of business over the course of the morning.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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