|Renewal of the Lease Refused|
Painting by Erskine Nicol - Engraving by Robert Bell
Mr. Mawkins sat motionless behind his paper-strewn table, a flinty expression engraved on his features. The face of the Man of Business was cunningly fashioned of flesh, a mortal flesh that was subject to the heat of the sun and the frost of winter and could be burnt or bitten respectively; but the heart, buried beneath layers of linen and silk and skin and bone, was quarried from stone. Grindstone to be precise for it had been formed by countless revolutions around an axis of Trade and could be measured in stone weight. Therein lay the foundation for the flinty face. The heart, being of such rigid quality, would outlast the flesh and sink into the grave untouched by either the warmth of human kindness or the cold comfort of commiseration.
Farmer Goggin stood close by, hat in hand with his eyes bent meekly upon the carpet beneath his worn boots. His own breast was weighted with the passions that only the desolate can know. Blighted potatoes had blighted his hopes. There was no food for the children. His rent was in arrears. And now, at the bottom of the barrel, the renewal of his lease was refused as were those of his neighbors. Potato plots would become grazing land and Lord Dollarhide, living across the sea in London, would still get his rents. Mawkins would have his share of the business, of course, and more besides, while Farmer Goggin would bend beneath the burden of the grindstone and make shift to endure, somewhere, somehow...
Painting by G. B. O'Neill - Engraving by P. Lightfoot
My husband and I found these old copies of 19th century engravings in an antique store not long after we were married. Renewal of the Lease Refused hangs in my reading corner in the front sitting room. The Foundling hangs in my powder room. Neither of them makes me happy, but both of them draw me in and make me think about other people in the world. The stories they tell could sit on the shelf with the likes of Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, or The Grapes of Wrath.