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"Maybe I'm wrong," says Tom; "we'll
see at the giving away, presently."

Spite of the rude faces and rude accent,
there was the most refined politeness in the
whole spirit and manner of this little
confabulationa politeness not assumed, but bred
of natural good feeling. I wished prizes to
them both most heartily.

Giving-away time was at hand as I went
out again into the sunny afternoon. A
temporary throne had been made for the President
upon the grass. Judges and committee
formed a group behind the chair of state.
The treasurer was there with funds, the
secretary with his cards of honour. For the
best kept cottage garden in each parish the
money prize added to the card was a half-
sovereign, and for the next best a crown-
piece. To decide upon these garden prizes,
the seven judges, men of rank and standing
qualified for their voluntary task, had undertaken
an aggregate of travelling equal to four
hundred miles. Forms are brought out, and
a gay host of ladies, glittering under the sun
in an arch before the chairman's seat, create
for once a rainbow without any cloud.
Gentlemen, and cottagers, and curiosity seekers of
all grades, press down over the circle from
without, while children, licensed law-breakers,
tumble about upon the sacred space through
which the prize winners are to march up
under a bright fire of eyes to take their
honours. No less than one hundred and
forty-five prizes are to be distributed, and
each prize-holder has to be found and
summoned, often by as many shouts from mouth
to mouth as call a witness into the Old Bailey.
John Tom is wanted. John Tom!—John
Tom!—after a long pause there prances into
the ring a stout old lady, with two large
umbrellas in one hand, and a basket in the
other. "Are you John Tom?" "Yes, sir,"
she answers, with a curtsey. It is understood
that she is John Tom's mother, grandmother,
or sister, and she takes the prize on his behalf.

Old men come upyoung men come; wives
come in place of husbands, mothers represent
sons. Some shamble up; some run up; some
who receive cards of commendation without
money stand stock still when they are up, and
cannot be made to understand the card without
a coin upon it. Stupidity abounds; the
acuter men take more than one prize; the
same faces often reappear. In 1850, when
the Society began, there were one hundred
and fifty-six competitors, and a hundred and
four prizes were awarded to the best out of
five hundred and eighty-seven productions.
The year after, among a hundred and four
competitors there were distributed one
hundred and twenty-four prizes, the highest total
netted by one man being then one pound ten
shillings. This year Stephen Gadd, of
Northiam, has the second best garden, the best
parsnips, the best parish onions, the best
basket of vegetables, the best district onions,
the best district basket of vegetables, the best
runner beans, and the best district cake of
wax, for which he receives in money on his
prize cards thirty-five shillings and sixpence,
together with a costly Bible;—one of two
awarded to the two foremost men. So
prosperous is this year's show, I am told, that
it is contemplated next year to take a whole
day for the exhibition, and to fetch in a skilful
gardener to scatter hints about on the
occasion. The number of competitors for the
garden prizes has risen this year from forty
to seventy-five, and the healthy influence
exerted on the cottagers in this respect is very
marked. One whole parish, which could not
show last year a cottage garden worthy of
award, this year contains gardens which not
only obtain prizes; but which are fit to
compete with those of any gentleman in the same

The Gardens of Eye then flourish; and
long may they flourish. I can't wait for the
end of the distribution, because the last train
from this remote and rural spot leaves for
London at twenty minutes past five. I shall
miss the President's closing address, and I am
told that I shall miss one of the most agreeable
annual events of Rye. The President is
evidently popular. I cannot help it. I must
go. It is but a short walk down to the
station; and as I wait there, I look back
and see the tent, the flags, the gay and silent
group about the presidential chair upon the
grass. Here and there a lady and a child
or two are coming down the Rope-walk, on
their way home, I opine, to tea. The autumn
sun, already casting evening shadows, throws
a rich light over them all. The train carries
me off, and, as it passes quite close to the field,
I point out to a fellow-passenger the rustic
festival. "It is a happy scene," he says; and
I agree with him.


'TWAS in the old times, and the fierce Normans lay
All baffled and chafing in sight of their prey;
A few strips of plank and a fortress of wood
And courage, betwixt them and Paris there stood.

That rude tower covered the champions of France,
So few, the foe counted the band at a glance,
Those men, were they many as brave, there, I trow,
The Norman that host might have counted till now.

Lo, swift from the city a messenger sped,
And scarce gathered breath till his errand was said:
"Return, ye brave knights, ere the morrow comes on,
The foe may in mockery bid ye be gone.

"Come back, ye have gallantly done your devoir;
Our traitorous river doth rise to the roar,
And struggling to span the full waters in rain,
Yon frail bridge, ere nightfall, will sink in the Seine."

One glance at the Normans, one gaze on the Seine,
Then spake they their vow as one man to remain:
"Tell Paris 'tis joy with her foemen to stay,
While e'en our dead bodies can block up their way.