” My horses were in good condition. Dandy and Billy, the coach-horses, were as sleek as seals. Gentleman Dick, my saddle-horse, showed manifest pleasure at seeing me, put his cheek against mine, laid his head on my shoulder, and would have nibbled at my ear had I permitted it, One of my Chinese geese was sitting on eggs ; the rest were sailing like frigates in a pond, with a whole fleet of white-topknot ducks. The hens were vying with each other which could bring out the earliest brood of chickens. Taffy and Tony, two pet dogs of a dandy race, kept more for show than use, received me with well-bred though rather cool civility ; while my little terrier slut, Ginger, bounded about me almost crazy with delight, having five little Gingers, toddling at her heels, with which she had enriched me during my absence. I forbear to say anything about my cows, my Durham heifer, or my pigeons, having gone as far with these rural matters as may be agreeable.”
Orkney NicknamesShapinsey-Defence of HellersayOrkney PanoramaMr. Balfour’s Shorthorns and Shetland PoniesThe Legend of “Spunky “-Orkney Sheep CrossesSheep MarksDevon and West Highland Bulls” Fishing Pork ” Orkney GarronsThe Fortescue HarriersSwanbinster Postal DifficultiesA Sea-sick Horse-The Message from the IceThe Hoy Farmer Consoled.
” SANDEY and Burray for rabbits, Rousay for grouse, and Shapinsey, Stronsey, Westrey, and Sandey for crops and cattle,”, was the terse synopsis of the Orkneys by ” a friend in council.” Then he waxed more diffusive, and told off on his fingers some of the fancy names of the natives. The men of Hoy are Hawks,” because they once ” supplied the great falcon from their cliffs to the pageants of crowned heads.” The ” seals ” dwell in North Ronaldsay, and the “Awks” (a diving sea-bird) in Westrey. Rousay men will be ” Mares ” to the end of the chapter, because their learned legates quite over-looked the necessity of bringing back a sire, when they executed their horse commission upon the main land. The natural bias of its. sons towards the rich soil of Stronsey is aptly typified by ” Limpets. Harra does not touch the coast, and therefore ” Let be for let be,” as the Harra man said to the crab, when he clutched it in his first wanderings by ” the sad sea waves,” has constituted them ” Crabs” for all time. It is in these epithets that the Orcadians, if they have a difference, hurl their mutual scorn, and a bloody nose is sometimes the sequel. The Shapinsey ” Sheep ” are just as touchy as any of them. On one occasion, when they were cutting peats in a thick fog on the Foot, they were assailed with ” Bela, Bah,” from a passing boat. Flinging their spades and tuskars aside, they pursued the aggressors in a boat, with threats of condign vengeance, half way to Stronsey, and then found that they were only sheep after all.
The eye of Washington Irving never rested on the maroon and green velvet of the Orkney caves but Shapinsey, which his parents quitted six months before his birth, was the home of his kith and kin for many generations. This island is six miles by three, and the sole property of Mr. Balfour. With the exception of a few primitive patches of grass and heather, it is now all reclaimed. The acreage under plough has increased from seven hundred in 1848 to nearly six thousand in ’63 and Mr. Balfour has also a large number of tenants in the adjacent islands, which he visits twice or three times a year in his yacht, with Marcus Calder, his factor. Some of, the Shapinsey holdings, which are let on improvement rentals to begin with, range from one or two hundred acres down to twenty-live, but many are limited to one of the ten-acre fields into which the island is parcelled. The fence-lines are drawn with mathematical regularity, and every farm has a name, be it Quholm, Inkermann, Balaklava, Lucknow, Ganderbreck, or Bashan. The Orcadians, except on provocation aforesaid, are a peculiarly quiet race, and no oath, blow, or drunkenness has ever been known in the Shapinsey revels, which principally resolve them-selves into- Highland games, sack races, and rifle-shooting. They are also of a highly-studious turn, and very fond of astronomy ; and as for “Allison’s History of Europe ” they have fairly read it to tatters.
Gudin delighted to paint the deep, yellow sunsets ; and strangers and even natives are restless under the great length of Midsummer twilight. Mr. Balfour takes it calmly enough in those lovely “Lapland nights,” and has often needed no reading-lamp near a south window, at two o’clock a.m. Vegetation is seldom at rest, and the yellow jessamines for the Christmas decorations of ’59 were plucked in the open air. The grass season is ” longer than a Syrian harvest” ; a fifth crop was once cut late in December, and the pasture had made good head by Twelfthday Winter comes with the nip of March, and hence the hardy trees which make their effort before May have invariably failed. The white-skinned and the mountain ash, the alder, the bay-leaved willow, the plane, and (where the land is deep) the elm, have all struggled through, but it has been with pain and sorrow. The varied music, which connoisseurs profess to find in their rustle, is drowned in one thorough bass, when the west wind sweeps the chords, and ” shaves the twigs as with a bill-hook.” Where the vapour of the sea-spray floats through the air, its presence is marked by the redness of the larches and the greatness of the pastures, which are said to find in it an antidote to sheep-rot The grass of the South isles is not equal to that of the North ; but the hay season is pretty universal in July and August, and the harvest homes at the end of October usher in a long, calm back-end, or ” Peerie Summer.” In old days, black oats or grey followed bere, varied occasionally with potatoes, and then white gowans and weeds to rest but modern Orkney farmers are wide awake. The five-shift is pretty universal, and wheat can be got to 63 lbs. and 44 bushels to the acre. Perhaps the most tenacious heritor is the ox-eyed daisy, which defies eradication, and sometimes covers a field like snow.
There are two Markets in Shapinsey, summer and winter, and the Agricultural Club meets on the school brae to give prizes for stock, poultry, butter, cheese, eggs, &c., in August ; and in February for a ploughing competition. Mr. Balfour soon extirpated the original breed of sheep as being utterly worthless, with the exception of a few which have been crossed with Southdowns for home consumption. The sheep now on the island are Leicester-Cheviot or ” halfbreds,” as they are strictly called all over Scotland to distinguish them from crosses. The cattle are crossed with Shorthorn bulls, the pigs with the Buccleuch breed, and the garrons with Clydesdales, whose fifteen two and three descendants are gradually supplanting the pony teams. The Balfour Castle herd began with pure Shorthorns from Chrisp and the Brothers Cruickshank. Females of nearly ” Herd-Book ” blood, were added from Sir John Sinclair of Barrock, Sir George Dunbar, and others ; and crossed chiefly with bulls from Sittyton, Dishforth, and Kingcausie. West Highland bulls have been furnished to some of the smaller tenants, in order to establish a more thrifty feeding race. Shetland queys have also been purchased, for the sake of improving the size of their stock, by better keep and careful selection for crossing, as well as the presumedly enduring impress of a first impregnation by a Shorthorn.
Strolling down the cunningly-receding walk from the castle, and so through the old stone gateway, with its grotesque carvings of syrens, satyrs in knicker-bockers, and cats with bagpipes, we reach the Shorthorns in Stronberry. Cruickshank’s Artisan draws himself up on a small knoll, among the calves, hard by a whole Mason tribe from Gulnare. The old red cow is there, with the roan Queen of Cruickshank’s Empress descent, and great in the milking vein ; and the udder of a beautiful black and white Shetland dame prophesies still more decisively of Scotch pints to come. The starlings rise in a cloud as we scale the stile, and stand among the Timothy-grass on the farm of Agricola. Beneath us is Kaiserklett, or Caesar’s Rock, where, according to tradition, Agricola’s trireme was wrecked, and left its only sign in the hilt of a dagger with Neptune’s figure struggling through verdigris. But there is a more peaceful tie with the past. A Pict’s house was found in what was once a small loch, but where oats are now waving, on the top of Nearhouse Field ; and the very next year after it had been drained, two plots of wild mustard, the infallible sign of old cultivated ground, sprang up on each side of the ruins.
Half the North isles of Orkney lie in a map before us: the dark heath of Edey, the rich pastures of Phurey and Westrey, Egilsey, with its old Pictish tower, the scene of the martyrdom of St. Magnus ; the thriving Rousay, once the home of wild hogs ; and the hill of Gairsay, whose barley has not lost its good name since Swein Asleifson brewed his own ale for those cruises to Cornwall and the Northumbrian coast, which filled Orkneyinga Saga with his exploits. The remains of the castle of Kolbein Hruga, a rival Viking, are still to be seen on Wyre, the low, green island at the foot of Rousay, whose fine western head-land of Skeabra stretches boldly towards Eynhalga, or Holy Island. This earliest home of Christianity in the Orkneys still lends its name to the beautiful strait that divides Rousay from Evie and Rendall, which are full of small fields of arbitrary rotations, like a Dutch concert, of all shades of green. Cottisearth, Binscarth, and the dark grouse hills round them are memorable in more modern times. Even a Cabinet Minister girded up his loins and fled from them at the news of a summons for poaching ; and it was there that the officers of the fleet roamed lawlessly, five-and-twenty abreast, in search of starlings and birds of warren.
There, too, on the more lowly left, are Kirkwall, and its cathedral sacred to St. Magnus, the Mull of Deerness, and Hellersay still guarded by ” Thor” with such fidelity and valour. The bit of red bunting hangs listlessly to the mast, as the becalmed letter-packet, inch by inch, drifts home on its evening trip. The Streamlet yacht lies daintily in the Bay of Elwick, where Haco once mustered his fleet, and where a seagull is stepping to meet the tide, with his breast and his toes out, as stately as a Chancellor on the first day of term. The eider-duck haunts these shores ; the tern comes like a spectre in the fog, and lays its three blue eggs in the grass ; and the otter is true to a home, whose family crest is the head of Ottar the Dane, and where its form is carved in stone, as a token, over the castle-gate. Night after night, this dark tan fisher may be seen sliding noiselessly into the creek below the volunteer batteries, unvexed with thoughts of Dandy, hound, or gun. Shapinsey gunnery has a far nobler object. Ninety charges were dealt out to the volunteer artillery troop, and they smashed the target fifteen times on three practice-days, thirteen hundred yards out at sea. Not a few of Washington Irving’s kinsfolk were among the eighty which signed the Balfour muster-roll, and fell into rank behind the guns, and one of them still occupies the old house at Quholm. Inspired by the sight, we formed forthwith part of a storming party to Hellersay. Marcus Calder, that epicure in walking-sticks, fitted us all round from his armoury, the aggregate result of his visits to too confiding friends. Title or no title, they were all needed now. Thor steals down with a roan Sarah and a red Hagar to the beach, to dispute our landing, and manfully lows defiance, up to his very knees in the sedge. Vain is the form of Volunteer Allegiance in the provost of Kirkwall’s pocket. Thor has defied Professor Aytoun, sheriff of Orkney and the Shetlands, from the selfsame spot before, and what cares he for a provost ? Still he retreats under the stickand-stone practice, kneeling as he goes, and whirling the black loam far above his head, but only to advance, on our departure, with a louder flourish of trumpets than ever.
The Druid heads the Shetland pony contingent on Hellersay. All the foals are by him ; and among his dun, brown, and mealy-grey dames are Lady Grey and the aged piebald Lochelia, with her middle close to the ground. Duke, Jolly, Duchess, and Barney are not in the troop. Those pretty brown pairs do the phaeton work and the run from Worcester to Malvern, nine miles in the hour, is quite within their scope. Colonel Balfour, grandfather to the present proprietor of Shapinsey, begun pony breeding at the end of the last century. He improved the form ; and when the colours did not come as they expected, the natives, with a few drops of whisky to quicken them, laid the entire blame on Spunky, the Orcadian water kelpie. He was black, say they, and the? sire of some of the finest original ponies of the islands; and if he was disturbed in his courtships, he vanished under the waves in a mass of blue flame. The Hellersay stock have been quite able to ‘ dispense with him, as North Unst has furnished them with some of its choicest jewels. Brisk, the chestnut, dates very far back, and headed the Balfour stud for well nigh thirty years, and his brother Swift was in the flesh for nearly forty-six.
The piebald Cameron cost £24, and although he rather spoilt the colours, he introduced a better shape, a smaller head, and decidedly truer action. Odin, of the same colour, also kept up the form ; Thor got them nearly all skewbalds like himself ; and Lord Minimus was a grey, and the sire of grey beauties. They were shifted from island to island as the grass suits, and require the most careful drafting to keep them at nine hands. Mr. Balfour has about forty in all, of which the majority are duns and creams ; and they are always broken at three, and made very tractable in a week. Her Majesty has had a pair of them ; and some of the more fancy colours were once picked up by Ducrow.
Hellersay is also held by some crosses of South-downs with the native Orkney, which have horns and tufts, and are nearly as bizarre in their shape and colour, but weigh a trifle more. The second cross with the Leicester tup is more delicate, but on good pasture both first and second average from 18lbs. to 20 lbs. per quarter. In shape, but not in size, the first cross strains to the dam ; and when the Orkney tup is used, the lamb still keeps the ” bristling head and scrubby tail of its sire. On the whole, the South-down cross seems to “nick ” well, but the twist is hardly full enough till the third generation. The native sheep have always been a vagrant race, and they follow the tide when it ebbs, with a fine eye to the seaweed. A Highland Society essayist speaks of them forty years ago as only clipping 1 1/2 lbs., and ” thriving in holms not secure from eagles and corbies.” In Shapinsey, about that date, there would be fully fourteen hundred, and men who never paid a half-penny of rent would have flocks of sixty or seventy. In Holm alone there were fully nine hundred, where none are to be found pow, as the cottars will not use a tup of the sort, and go for a cross of Leicester or Southdown in their keery. At “sheep-run day” the owners used to meet, with whisky, cheese, and bread, on the hills or shore, and examine the marks before clipping. Petticoats, frocks, and blankets for home use were all made of the fleece, as well as a favourite black-and-white serge, which was once much worn in Burray. The marks would have puzzled a weird to decipher, as on the mainland alone there were nearly a thousand. The ” fordren elm ” mark was a piece out of the fore part of the ear, and the slit and hole variations on it were legion. Rigid laws were in force about overmarking ; and Orcadian invention had to exhaust itself on rags of many colours sewed into different portions of the wool. One proprietor gave the cottars three years’ notice to claim and take away their sheep, and then he made a clean sweep of the marks by simply cutting the ears off. The days of such communism are over now. At first the Orcadians were quite moved about their ” rights,” and it was only when their sheep had been seized, and a few Dutch auctions had come off, that they bowed their heads to a more rational regime. Mr. Archer Fortescue was very decisive on the Orkney mainland, and well supported by the other landlords ; and we remember how, on our first walk from Stromness to Swanbinster, one of these ex-flockmasters described him as quite “a man of wrath,” and conjured us not to set foot on his hill land, even if we did save a mile thereby.
Mr. Malcolm Laing brought in the Merinoes more than half-a-century ago, as well as pure Cheviots from Roxburghshire, but they all dwindled away. Then Mr. Heddle of Hoy, Mr. Fortescue and some others began them again. Not a few came from Mr. Gunn ; and for some years past the farmers have paid 45 to 48 to Caithness breeders for Leicesters, and generally, go in for half-bred lambs from Cheviot ewes of their own rearing. Mr. Learmont, of Housby in Stronsey, is the only one who puts the Leicester to half-bred ewes ; he also uses half-bred rams, to prevent the flock from getting too fine ; and Mr. M`Kenzie, of Stove in Sandey, has both Southdowns and Shrops.
Cattle, store and fat, of all ages from yearlings to threes, are exported for nine months of the year to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Banffshire; and yet the home market is so well supplied, that when the Channel Fleet called at Kirkwall 6,000 lbs. were furnished daily during its stay, and ten days’ rations to boot, “without deranging a single horn.” Such a thing as a pure Orkney bull is hardly to be found. They were larger than the Shetland, generally, with a white stripe down a razor back, and drooping hind quarters. Since the beginning :of the century there have been West Highland bulls from Dunrobin, which suited the Orkney cows ; but after the first cross the milk rather fell off. Devon bulls were another introduction of Mr. Malcolm Laing’s, and the cross fed kindly, but lacked under hair, and looked rather more critically at the heather than the Highlanders, The Devon bull held his colour when put to rough Angus cows, and the stock gained in maturity what they lost in hardihood ; but still they were coarse in their points, and the cross was pretty generally considered ” too sharp.” The calves by a Devon from a half Shorthorn Rousay quey came Shorthorn in colour and character ; and from a half Orkney and West Highland quey they were red and Devon-headed. Mr. Fortescue brought over Barometer and some other Angus bulls from the Portlethen herd, but the second cross with the country cattle did not pay us so well as the first. A Hereford bull has been recently imported by Mr. Cromarty, of South Ronaldsay, and is the first of the “red with white facings that ever reached these shores.
In 1840, only two or three Orcadian farmers had Shorthorn crosses, whereas now considerably more than two-thirds of the cattle are so bred. At that date, there were only a few West Highlanders in Bur-ray and Holm, and the rest were Orkney blacks. So great has been the progess, that tenants can now sell young beasts at £4 where £3 10s. was then thought a catch. Mr. Bakie of Tankerness, Mr. Trail of Woodwick, and Mr. Petrie of Graham’s Ha’, began the Shorthorn bull system ; and since then all prices from £50 to £20 have been paid for them to Yorkshire and Aberdeenshire breeders. Very few pure Shorthorn cows have been imported except by Mr. Balfour, and he and Mr. Cromarty are the only breeders of bulls. The foundation on which the farmers have had to work is a very cross-bred one; and the length of leg and lack of hair, which are too manifest in many of the stock, confirm the truth of Mr. Scarth’s opinion, that the West Highland bull must be used once more as a corrective. The calves are generally dropped between February and April, and run with their dams till nearly harvest-time, when the men and women have no English thirst for beer, but are quite satisfied with two quarts of milk a day.
The native pig is long-legged, coarse, and hard to feed ; but the Buccleuch breed and the improved Neapolitans from Sir George Dunbar have wrought a healthy change. Except in one little island, the farmers only keep pigs for their own use, and much of the pork, which is sold and shipped at Kirkwall, is chiefly fed for eight to twelve months by the fisher-men and cottars. The ” fishing pork ” has always a high yellow colour, when salted, which is not to be wondered at, as the contents of the trough are generally fish offal, ” tang “-which grows, like bent, high on the rockssea-weed, and turnips, all boiled together. The very eggs of the hens, which follow the ebb and eat insects among the rocks, catch a peculiar flavour ; but the hen-wives say, “It’s we oddsits only an egg for sale.”
Very little attention is paid to horse-breeding. When Orcadian garrons were garrons with a mould of their own, the colt used to live under the cottar’s roof, and have a green sheaf thrown to it through the large aperture, which made it a joint-tenant in the fire heat ; but this Arab-like feeling has worn itself out. Mongrels from Caithness have ruined the stamp, and the farmers now cross up their small mares with Clydesdales or whatever comes first to hand. The grey Sunbeam brought in some blood, and made matters better for a time; but, as an old farmer said to us in the Vanguard, “All this wild crossing doesn’t do ; we’ll never build up our garrons again. We attend far too little to it. The mares are not the biggest of the two, and we’re quite wrong there.” Hence the game Orkney garron, pure and simple, with his strong fore-end, straight hind-legs, and good couplings, lives pretty nearly in memory. Prices for horses are wretched, and fully 120 per cent. less than they were during the Russian war.
Still those Orcadian sportsmen ” who followed Jehu,” as Mr. Fortescue was termed when he first introduced them to the ” merry harriers,” are gene-rally very fairly mounted. Some of them ride furiously, and others are found consistently on eminences, ” enjoying the sport and the scenery.” The cottars had never seen a leap taken before this new era set in, and were nearly as excited thereat as an old woman in one of the Border counties, who rushed forth and clasped her hands frantically, when a scarlet went in and out of her potato-garden” Niver let me see that bonny young man kill hissel.”
The hunting does not begin until Mr. Fortescue’s return from Aberdeenshire, late in January ; but the pack are generally equal to forty or fifty brace, hunting five days a fortnight up to May morning, The kennel at Swanbinster is near the sea, and more than once the deep toll of some of the Hebden blood has acted like an Inchcape bell, and prevented sailors as well as the master of the pack from running in a fog on that treacherous shore. Dick Smith, the first whip and kennel huntsman, is a great character, and enthusiast as well. He was born, like his master, in Devonshire ; and his hunting budget of ” Horner Wood, Withy Pool, Winnesford, and all that way,” is inexhaustible. As for the story of the stag which took the sea near Porlock it is quite an epic poem, when told with his curious chuckle. He has one very cherished link with Dulverton in ” Crowner,” whose granddam, as he duly impressed on us, was from there. The Huxwell drafts have done good service, and so have the Eamont and the Holker. Eamont Bluecap was quite a pilot till Gipsey arrived from Wales ; Bachelor has a strain of the bloodhound in him and ” knows to a nicety when she squats ” ; Bustler is quite a guide-post on the roads ; and Royal swings himself round in his cast quicker than any of the ten couple. Dick grows vastly excited when she ” begins to lollop,” and not only rides hard, but strictly for the pot, of which, strange as it may seem, on one occasion a pig partially deprived him. The hound Monitor is his “difficulty ” : he will call him ” Wallater” ; “for, Maister, I never could remember the name of that theer hound.”
Mr. Fortescue has 3,500 acres of his own to hunt over, of which a sixth is enclosed, drained, and under rotation, and the rest hill and bog. The whole was purchased eighteen years ago at about 45s. an acre. The house and steading are at Swanbinster, rather in a hollow near the sea, half-way between Kirkwall and Stromness, whose fish offal, ashes, &c., are thus very handy for manure. There is not enough sun for mangolds, but carrots grow well, and so do swedes and Aberdeenshire purple tops, and green-top yellows. The large hay coils which are built up round poles, and tied down with cords for a month before they are put into the rick, are quite an improvement on the Cumberland ” pikes,” and every-thing about the place gave evidence of vigorous management, and wool at half-a-crown a pound. The past only peeped out in the little grey bridge to which the honeysuckle was clinging, and the plat of purple heather which was kept intact to mark the victory of the tile and the ploughshare. Mr. Fortescue has both a Cheviot and a half-bred side of the hill, and. the older half of his thirty score of Cheviot ewes are all put to the Leicester. Some of his tups are of three parts Sanday blood, and he has also introduced a Lincoln to Orkney. The herd comprises fifteen Angus cows, and he intends to keep them pure, and only put his ” shot queys” to a Shorthorn.
The sloop was lying at the pier, waiting for a breeze to start with the draft Cheviot ewes to Aberdeen ; and. if the packet is indisposed during the winter months, she sometimes takes the mail-bags across the Pent-land. It is, however, only of later years that there has been a regular winter post. In 1848 the local inspector for the Drainage Loan Commissioners. found three official letters in his bag one morning. No. I directed a survey and a report ; No. 2 asked why it was not sent in; and No. 3 was in the shape of a sort of peremptory mandamus to him, to defer no longer answering No. and No. 2. The reply was to the effect that winter correspondence with the Orkneys always required a six weeks’ margin, seeing that they were sometimes twenty-one days without. a mail. During the summer, letters posted in London on Saturday night are nearly always delivered at Kirkwall on Tuesday; but in winter there are still terrible correspondence gaps.
From Bowscarth to Stromness was a weary beginning on the saddle; and there was a most vivid realization of the Orkney phrase, ” he blaws and she wettens.” When we did get there, under every dis couragement, considerably before the time appointed for shipment, we were told on the pier that they had ” been waiting half an hour for a fellow with a horse.” Well might a fellow-passenger subsequently confide to us, on fresh provocation, ” They don’t keep no clocks herethey ought to be put in the papers.” Stromness, with its lonely ashtree and its zigzag outline of house and jetty, looked like a city of the dead, as dawn grew into day. A strange steamer was moored in the harbour, and as quick as thought its boat was lowered and at our side. “Report at Lloyd’s, Award and Sultan lost in the icecrews saved,” said the fur-capped captain ; and off it shot on its shadowy track. The whole scene read like a passage from ” The Phantom Ship.”
Our mate was quite learned on the subject of sea-sickness in animals, and esteemed pigs happy because they can get relief. There is one advantage in looking after a very sick horse for three hours and a half which we spent in actively checkmating its efforts to back down the hatchway, or make a bone-mill of the engine-room–that we had no time to be sick ourselves, and rode it out like a sea-gull.
We were soon past the Orkney Lighthouse, and labouring along two miles an hour against a heavy tide.
“Where hawk and osprey scream for joy Over the beetling cliffs of Hoy.”
The lyre birds, which are said to be great appetizers before dinner, and so fat, that with a wick through them they can do good candle-duty, haunt that ” Old Man,” who has had his share in many a hecatomb of victims. Still the survivors, to quote the words of a small farmer, when he requested Lord Macaulay’s uncle to marry him, would seem to have found consolation : ” Oh ! sir, but the ways of Providence are wonderful ! I thocht I had met with a sair misfortune, when I lost baith my coo and my wife at aince over the cliff, twa months sin; but I gaed over to Graimsay, and I hae gotten a far better coo and a far bonnier wife?’