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It Is Never Too Late to Mend   By: (1814-1884)

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It Is Never Too Late to Mend

by Charles Reade

This attempt at a solid fiction is, with their permission, dedicated to the President, Fellows, and demies of St. Mary Magdalen College. Oxford, by a grateful son of that ancient, learned, and most charitable house.


GEORGE FIELDING cultivated a small farm in Berkshire.

This position is not so enviable as it was. Years ago, the farmers of England, had they been as intelligent as other traders, could have purchased the English soil by means of the huge percentage it offered them.

But now, I grieve to say, a farmer must be as sharp as his neighbors, or like his neighbors he will break. What do I say? There are soils and situations where, in spite of intelligence and sobriety, he is almost sure to break; just as there are shops where the lively, the severe, the industrious, the lazy, are fractured alike.

This last fact I make mine by perambulating a certain great street every three months, and observing how name succeeds to name as wave to wave.

Readers hardened by the Times will not perhaps go so far as to weep over a body of traders for being reduced to the average condition of all other traders. But the individual trader, who fights for existence against unfair odds, is to be pitied whether his shop has plate glass or a barn door to it; and he is the more to be pitied when he is sober, intelligent, proud, sensitive, and unlucky.

George Fielding was all these, who, a few years ago, assisted by his brother William, filled "The Grove" as nasty a little farm as any in Berkshire.

Discontented as he was, the expression hereinbefore written would have seemed profane to young Fielding, for a farmer's farm and a sailor's ship have always something sacred in the sufferer's eyes, though one sends one to jail, and the other the other to Jones.

It was four hundred acres, all arable, and most of it poor sour land. George's father had one hundred acres grass with it, but this had been separated six years ago.

There was not a tree, nor even an old stump to show for this word "Grove."

But in the country oral tradition still flourishes.

There had been trees in "The Grove," only the title had outlived the timber a few centuries.

On the morning of our tale George Fielding might have been seen near his own homestead, conversing with the Honorable Frank Winchester.

This gentleman was a character that will be common some day, but was nearly unique at the date of our story.

He had not an extraordinary intellect, but he had great natural gayety, and under that he had enormous good sense; his good sense was really brilliant, he had a sort of universal healthy mind that I can't understand how people get.

He was deeply in love with a lady who returned his passion, but she was hopelessly out of his reach, because he had not much money or expectations; instead of sitting down railing, or sauntering about whining, what did me the Honorable Frank Winchester? He looked over England for the means of getting this money, and not finding it there, he surveyed the globe and selected Australia, where, they told him, a little money turns to a deal, instead of dissolving in the hand like a lozenge in the mouth, as it does in London.

So here was an earl's son (in this age of commonplace events) going to Australia with five thousand pounds, as sheep farmer and general speculator.

He was trying hard to persuade George Fielding to accompany him as bailiff or agricultural adviser and manager.

He knew the young man's value, but to do him justice his aim was not purely selfish; he was aware that Fielding had a bad bargain in "The Grove," and the farmer had saved his life at great personal risk one day that he was seized with cramp bathing in the turbid waters of Cleve millpool, and he wanted to serve him in return. This was not his first attempt of the kind, and but for one reason perhaps he might have succeeded.

"You know me and I know you," said Mr. Winchester to George Fielding; "I must have somebody to put me in the way... Continue reading book >>

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