Bunk Ho.
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"BUNK HO."


SPEND Christmas in town?  Not whilst the sun is shining so brightly over the house-tops, and the snow looking so white and crisp in the yet untrodden streets, reminding one how beautiful the country may be, even at this season.

    My friend S— thinks we might have a jolly day of it in his "snuggery," where neither squalling children on one hand, nor neighbour's piano on the other, would annoy us.  He has laid in a stock of some half-dozen cigars (a rare provision for my eccentric friend), besides several bottles of "wink and stagger," which his landlady knows nothing of; and these, with an occasional "chop," by way of a "stiffener," would be sufficient to comfort the inner man; whilst a glowing two-handful of fire, and an accommodating hob for the feet, and a sofa that we could loll on in turns, would nestle us in all the coziness we could desire.

    I am not so sanguine upon these matters as my friend is.  I am not certain that, were I to accept his offer, we should not go to sleep before dinner, or that the chequered board upon which so many potentates have been crowned and deposed, and the old cracked flute, which has to be soused in the waterbutt before it will sound a note, would not be abandoned for a turn in "at the King," and a "hob an' hob" with such of "his majesty's" subjects as might be present at his daily levee.

    Then, my friend has a horror of snow-balls, and in the alternative of a walk about town, sight-seeing, or giving calls, I am afraid we should have but little pleasure, as any urchin that should happen to possess a suspiciously laden pinafore, would have his movements narrowly watched, out of fear that a well-aimed "hard un" should be found in too close proximity with somebody's auricular organ.

    Out of town S— will not budge an inch at this season, for, although he professes to be a lover of nature, and an admirer of the grand and the picturesque, yet he can see no beauty in a snow-covered landscape, which he compares to the interior of a theatre with the wrappers hung around.

    Considering these objections on my friend's part to a day's pleasure out of doors, that eccentric, but worthy individual, will surely not blame me if I go on my journey alone; although there is a "sweet little spot" in the country that he would be glad to visit at another time, and share with me an admiration of its many attractions.

    Oh, "Daisy Nook!" if, through my faint picture of thy charms, many have been induced to crave acquaintance with thee, how much more ardent must the devotion be of one who has almost lived upon thy memories; whose ears have been charmed by the music of thy sweet echoes; whose eyes have drunk in the loveliness of thy embowered retreats, and the varied picturesqueness of the landscape which sweeps around thee; of one who has shook the hands of thy warm-hearted denizens, laughed at their quaint humour, and wept at their distresses.  I will visit thee to-day, though I may have to tread many weary miles of deep-piled snow carpet, accompanied only by my own reflections, and the sweet anticipations of a day's rational enjoyment amongst thy village worthies.

    Full of the briskness of the morning, and elate at the prospect of slides and footballs, I take my departure, pleased to find that the snow is not so deep as I expected, nor the air of that cutting rawness that makes the ears tingle, and the respirations feel frozen.  There is a nicely beaten track on the highroad, that becomes softer and fresher as I get country-wards, and people glide noiselessly past me, and seem amused at the quiet manner in which the everlasting reel of pedestrian life is being run.  Some look jolly and anticipatory of good doings; others, with soiled garments and crumpled mien, regard me with that peculiar stare that betokens a night spent out of bed.  A vehicle laden with hampers, from the top of which rises a good round column of grey coat and bright buttons, with an apex of red nose and low-crowned hat, whirls past me, and is soon lost amongst the mazy windings of the road.  How suggestive is that vision, of evergreen boughs and berries of mistletoe with which the hoary head of "Old Father Christmas" is enwreathed!  I hear merry voices, but they are within doors; and fancy pictures to me some kind-hearted, home-loving "paterfamilias" galloping over his stinted course in the drawing-room, mounted by a boisterous "Dulcissimus," and yoked to innumerable "hobbies," that tumble and dodge in his wake, whilst delighted juveniles roar lustily at the scene.  And now I come upon the robins—the poor outcasts, as it were, of the winged world—who do not desert us at this season for warmer climes, but cling to the old stacks and farmsteads of their summer haunts, and enliven with their plaintive twitter many an otherwise solitary place.  One of these has just quitted a doorstep, with a huge crust in its mouth, and is gone to seek a hiding-place wherein to store it for a future meal.  Thanks, that humanity hath still a crumb for thee, and that the unthinking child, who would rob thy nest when thou revellest in summer plenty, would now take thee to his bosom, and allow thee to share his humble pottage meal.

    The country is now opening before me, and I could count each footprint that the snow has yet received.  Indications of population are getting behind me, and the scene is becoming solitary and inductive of meditation.  The only moving thing in sight is a coal-laden cart worming itself slowly along the road, and attended by something enveloped in a coarse sack-apron, or slop, with perambulating haybands attached to the lower extremities, and guided by a pair of eyes that resemble a couple of pigeon's eggs deposited on a coal heap.  I am saluted with the compliments of the season, which I acknowledge by tendering to the black-a-moor what would undoubtedly be construed into the "price of a pint," and I am left to solitude again.

    Diverging from the highroad, I soon come upon the valley mentioned in my "summer ramble."  Here human foot hath not trodden since the snow fell.  The crystal carpet spreads in pure undulating sheets around me, only marred here and there by tufts of rank grass peering through it, like ill-conditioned moles on an otherwise spotless cheek.  The path becomes more uneven and more treacherous as I proceed, until I find myself sliding and dodging along, busily, if not merrily, and though


"Setting my staff wi' a' my skill
                                To keep me sicker,"


an occasional half-summersault brings me souse amongst the snow, giving me a sensation more lively than delightful, and furnishing my lips with an impromptu tune—one of that class of melodies that are generally whistled under circumstances of surprise or sudden recollection.  Proceeding along the edge of the valley, I struck into a path that was only indicated by a trench-like track, worming itself through the meadows in a wayward, zig-zag manner.  Here my walk was not, as the nature of the country would suggest, a thoroughly uninteresting one.  The trees were glistening with crystals, and appeared to form huge diadems, to which the sun's rays lent gold and silver as they shot through the boughs.  There was light pattering music in the hedges, and the brook below seemed to accompany me with its merry tinklings, as though it had been apprised through some hidden agency that it was Christmas-time, and was lending its carols to swell the joyousness of the season.  Now would come upon the ear a faint sound of bells; bells that were garrulous of "good tidings" and merry greetings; bells that seemed to speak of holly wreaths and wassail cups—of crackling pine-logs, and lighted windows gleaming through dark, naked orchards; bells, that said, "the primroses are coming,—coming too, the music of the groves;" bells, whose sound seemed to awaken tones that swelled above its own earthly resonance, tones thrilling with millennial prophecies, and proclaiming, as if from the heavens over Bethlehem,—GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, ON EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN.

    Summer hath not a feature more chastely beautiful than that which snow and stillness—the one far spreading, the other all pervading—gives to winter.  The solemn quietude of the deep woods, where each gnarled and naked denizen stands, like an arch Druid struck entranced in his forest temple, with the eloquence of decay and the life to come, upon his lips; the sun's rays—here slanting through hedgerows and forming chequered patterns on the snow-carpet, and yonder pillaring with vast columns the valley's slope, as the shadows of intervening poplars throw themselves across the stretching landscape—are features that belong not to summer, but lend a glory to the face of winter, and relieve the shadows which storm and darkness betimes fling over it.  And now the reader will, I hope, pardon my digression from this stilted vein, when I say that the scene around me conjured up other thoughts than the sublime, by bringing to mind the exquisite poem of my friend S—, "On winter," wherein he says—


"How must have Father Adam felt
 When, naked, he in Eden dwelt,
 And wintery breezes wildly blew,
 And now it freezed and then it snew?
 No tailor princes were there then,
 To clothe and hat our gentlemen;
 Nor Wellingtons, nor Bluchers strong
 Was there wherewith to get along.
 To think of him whilst dining out,
 Without a fire to warm his snout,
 Or take the tingling from his toes,
 Gives me the shivers, that it do-oes."


    I had now reached a point whence I could command a view of miles of open country, and where I could distinguish objects which I remember having seen on my previous visit.  "Daisy Nook" could not be far distant, and I felt no slight emotion at the thought that I was approaching a spot which had associated itself with many pleasing reminiscences.  Here was the lane in which I first encountered that impersonation of what is good and beautiful in our nature, the accomplished Miss Jackson; there, the stile against which Hobson, the philosophical weaver, was leaning; and yonder, what I supposed to be the "line of umbrageous old foresters," whose branches waved over the secluded village.  I had pictures of homely hospitality before me—of happy faces, with guileless hearts shining out of them—of that freshness in human nature which is one of the happiest characteristics of country life, and which hath a paradise of its own, peopled with the impersonations of its unsophisticated virtue.  I thought I heard a sound as of singing.  It might be the softly humming harmony of sweet thoughts which the soul can only hear in silence such as this.  But hush!—it is breaking through its indistinctness, and swelling into an unbroken strain, that sinks to murmuring cadences, or rises grandly to the skies, and floats there as if its burden was caught up and echoed by seraph voices from above.  How I felt elevated and subdued in turns as the notes varied on my ear, and lent their influence to my easily impressible soul!  I could have listened for ever to, and feasted as it were upon, that thrilling harmony.  But, gradually the sound died away, and when it was no longer audible, I listened again to catch another note for the memory to hang upon—but there was no response—silence fell for the moment deeply and sadly over me—the music had ceased.

    "Daisy Nook" now lay at my feet, with its little wildernesses of gardens, and its cottages peeping out of the snow, like so many molehills; and its river—which even the frost could not tame nor bind—brawling and swaggering, and leaping down its course as noisily and as waywardly as ever.  I had taken a wrong path, I found, and entered the valley at a point lower down than the one I entered at on my previous visit.  But there was a quiet charm about the place that repaid me for the trifling deviation I had made, inasmuch as it brought to mind many a dream, and many an episode, belonging to my boyish days.  I had always a love and reverence for venerable objects, and an old ruin would have been a source of inexpressible delight to me; and, whether it was a solitary column, or mouldering wall, if the ivy had twined around, or climbed over it, my fancy would have endowed it with all the qualities of a relic, and the associations of history.  Here, as if fearing to be seen by ungodly eyes, a lowly pile sleeps beneath the sheltering and wooded slope.  Scarcely a foot of wall is there of that humble edifice but the ivy has fastened upon, and clings to with all the loving tenacity which that plant seems endowed with.  The building is evidently devoted to religious purposes; yet no spire points from its roof, nor does summoning bell proclaim the hour of worship on Sabbath-tide.  It hath a meekness, yet a solemnity about it, that draws me towards the door, notwithstanding that I am out for a day's enjoyment; and if I was wanting in spiritual attentions, the very manner in which it is nestled beneath the shelving ridge, and surrounded by modern touches of unobtrusive shrubbery and quiet garden plot, would remind me that one of God's holy places was nigh.  I could hear the voice of prayer as I approached, breathed in low murmuring accents; and I concluded that the sweet psalmody I had heard but a few minutes before had issued from beneath that roof, and that the congregation assembled there were engaged in a form of Christmas thanksgiving, which partook more of the earnestness than the conventionalities of religious worship.

    Taking off my hat in the porch, I found myself in the presence of a venerable looking individual, whose head—white as the snow upon the roof over him—was bent forward in the attitude of devotion.  His manner seemed to invite me to a vacant place near him; but I hesitated, for I felt more timid on entering that lowly house of prayer than I should have felt had it been one of our gorgeous and awe-inspiring cathedrals.  The consciousness that I was unfit to measure creeds with those who knelt at the uncushioned benches before me, and poured their half audible responses in the ear of the Most High, kept me lingering at the door until then words—"Rest, remain and abide with us to-day and evermore"—remain, told me that the service was concluded.  The congregation rose, and soon the little aisle became thronged, and good folks whispered kind congratulations to their neighbours, and faces, that looked youthful as that on first morn of the "New Year," shone lovingly on others to which time was dealing shadows, whilst the benign countenance of the good pastor beamed with a look of pious serenity over all.

    I stood near a small wicket gate that opened into the shrubbery at one angle of building, contemplating an old yew tree, that seemed to be sighing over the remembrance of how many generations had passed away since it was planted there, when the gentleman whom I had noticed at prayers passed by me.  He was attended by a younger person—a lady; but whether she was plain or pretty I had not much opportunity of remarking, for her face was hidden behind a thick blue veil, which, though it was swept aside betimes by those troublesome breezes that will play at "pry," yet prevented me from obtaining as much as a glimpse of her countenance; notwithstanding, I felt no little curiosity about the owner of it.  Her step had all the lightness and elasticity of youth and, pardon me, ye saints, if I found anything else to admire, or if I was reminded of one who was the heroine of a little episode in my "Summer ramble" in that locality.  But the pair had vanished, and I was left to form my own conjectures as to whether the old gentleman could possibly be Colonel Jackson, of , "Bunk Ho'," and the lady his accomplished daughter.

    I was beginning to feel that it ought to be dinnertime, and visions of "toasted cheese and milk o' paradise" flitted before my fancy; for the fresh winter air had given my appetite an edge that threatened to be disagreeable if it was not soon attended to.  Taking the path by the river, I was not long in sighting, what was a most welcome object at the time, the hospitable establishment of that friend of thirsty souls, and purveyor to the society of good-fellowship—"Red Bill."  There it is, with its signboard swinging about as if it would go into fits with very jubilancy; and, what does not in the least astonish me, when I consider the character of the house, the very robins and sparrows seem to be holding a carnival about the roof.

    "A happy New Yer to yo', mesthur!" sings out an old woman, who was standing at a "fowt yate," with her arms wrapped in her apron.

    "The same to you, my good woman!" I replied, seasoning the compliment with wishing innumerable "returns" of the time.  She lifted her spectacles, and, shading her face with her hand, followed me with her eyes until I reached the door of the "House of Commons," when she turned about, and calling to some one in the house, I could hear her say,—"Tum, yon's a felly ut aw know."

    And now let me renew acquaintance with old friends and old scenes.  Ho! the fire there, "blinking" rosily within; ho! the snow melting on the roof, and dripping in merry showers from the eaves, and twinkling and splashing on rows of shining pebbles beneath; ho! the "fowt," swept clean as palace floor, and the porch, matted knee deep with straw, and the narrow strip of sanded floor behind; ho! the wooden latch, looking as if it would ask you to lift it and enter that favoured region; ho! the welcome within, and the greeting, and the ado making, and the apologising, and the pokering which the fire suffers; and, ho! the "Well, whoa'd ha' thowt o' seein' yo' here this mornin'?"

    Ordering a little refreshment, I took my seat near the fire, whose heat made my flesh tingle, and had the pleasure of finding that I was not quite alone.  A young man of rather eccentric appearance, and who was dressed in the most outrageous, or, as "S—" would have said, "the loudest" fashion of the time, was seated on the couch-chair, attentively poring over the contents of an old newspaper.  To my salute of "A Merry Christmas!" he returned "A Happy New Year!" and resumed his reading.  But on my pressing him with questions, which pointed more or less directly or indirectly to his business in that locality, he laid down the paper, and, with an effort that seemed to pull him into all manner of shapes and attitudes, informed me that our present quarters were the best in the village, although the "swipes" were not of the finest quality.  It afterwards fell out in the course of what the stranger might call a confidential chat, that he was by profession a land surveyor, and that during the previous summer he had been engaged in "going over" an estate behind the mantle-piece, and had picked up a rather interesting acquaintance with a pretty housemaid at the hall "over there," in the direction of the window, and that his present business in the village was to relight the fire of a suspended attachment in that quarter.  He had seen "Miss Jackson" once, and spoke of that lady as being a fine looking girl, but who "didn't come out," by which latter expression I was to understand that she did not mix with society of her own sphere; notwithstanding, she was a "deuced fine girl."

    Whilst thus engaged in a conversation that was gradually warming out of dulness into a brighter vein, the landlady entered, bringing with her a couple of "Welsh rarebits," of a kind peculiar to old village hostelries, and which may still be met with in out-of-the-way places, and amongst people who, in spite of a questionable march of improvement in such matters, still cling, not only to established usages, but to old methods of cookery.  Our present morceaux were hot muffins, newly baked, and covered over with a shining layer of cheese, that looked so delicious as to remind me of my former visit, when "Owd Tum" expatiated with his own peculiar and apt eloquence on the superior properties of "Red Bill's" fare.  One of these muffins was for the stranger, and, in justice to his appetite, I must say that it was devoured in a manner that would have done credit to an old hunter fresh from the chase.

    We had just finished our repast, and were squaring ourselves in our former places, when the door creaked upon its hinges, and a person somewhat in years entered, whom, from his being dressed in a suit of rusty black, with neckerchief to match, I took to be a poor clergyman, or one occupying some position in connection with a religious body.  After glancing round at nothing in particular, the old man took up his coat tails, and dropped quietly in the unoccupied end of the couch-chair, right under the range of the stranger's guns.

    "Yo' look'n frosty this mornin'," observed the landlady to the new comer, as she swept the few crumbs we had left from the table.

    "Well, it's a winterly sort of a day," replied the person addressed, "an' aw've noa bin thowed yet.  Bring mi a pint, wilta', Mary, an' just tak' th' chill off it.  Aw're us't aw could ha' swallut it if it ud bin as cowd as snow-bo's; be mi clockwark's gettin' like owd Gimp's cart shaft—rayther temporary.  Hello! mesthur! is that yo'?" he exclaimed, addressing me.

    I assured him I was the identical person referred to, but gave him to understand at the same time that he had a little the advantage of me in regard to our acquaintance.

    "What!" said he, "dunno' yo' know Owd Tum?"

    "You're not Hobson, are you!"

    "Yi'; what's laft o' him."

    "Well, really, I did not know you again."

    "Aw reckon," said he, "it's becose aw've meawtut, and getten in a bit tidier fither.  If yo'd seen mi i' mi owd wellers, an' mi clod-crushers, and mi curnboggart breechus, yo'd happen not ha' made two gexes at mi.  Be neaw aw've getten donned up i'th' Owd Kurnel's har'stone regimentals, foke takk'n mi t' bi summut different to what aw am."

    "Well, and how is the world using you?" I enquired.

    "Whorr?" he ejaculated, placing his hand over his ear, and leaning forward, so as to be better able to listen.  "Aw'm gettin' a bit deeof, so ut if yo' wanten t' tawk to mi aw'st ha' t' sit o'th' side on yo'."  With that he rose from his seat, and drawing a chair close to mine, enquired what I had to say.

    "How is the world using you?" I repeated.

    "Bo' meeterly, bo' meeterly," he replied; "yet," and he stretched down his waistcoat as he spoke, and seemed to take an interest in the peculiarity of the cut; "Aw've not had so mich t' grumble at as some foke;—noa lately, at anyrate."

    "Then you find the 'down hill' of life a little easier than the 'up hill.'"

    "Well, ther's a bit o' jowtin' neaw an' agen ut puts one eawt o' temper wi' things, be' aw ha' no' had so mich o' that brokken-yurt sort o' livin' as aw're us't have; that's what aw meean.  Yo're noa comn a fishin at this time o'th' yer, are yo'?"

    "No, indeed; what makes you ask that?"

    "Nowt, nobbut aw thowt thoose rods happen belungt to yo'."

    This was an allusion to a phenomenon which was observable in the opposite nook, and which appeared in the form of two legs projecting over a chair back like a pair of telescopes, connecting themselves at their nether extremities with the recumbent body of the genteel stranger, who, in his apparent fondness for the American method of sitting at ease, had nearly turned himself upside down for the purpose of enjoying a smoke.  The remark passed off without the stranger's hearing it, for he had got himself behind the old newspaper again, and the entrance of the landlady, with Hobson's beer, turned the conversation in another channel.

    "Well, here's a happy new yer to yo' o', an' a good deeol o' dittoes!" exclaimed "Owd Tum," taking up his pint, and lessening it by at least one half.  "Aw thowt every newyer's day 'ud ha' bin mi last, bo' they keepn comin' reawn like Owd Ratcher's creeam jug, ut never stopt till someb'dy wur laid under th' table.  Aw'st bi laid under summut elze before lung, aw reckon."

    "How is your old woman?" I enquired.

    "As cramm'd as a wisket, an' as cute as Dick's hat bant.  An' what dun yo' think?  Hoo's getten it int' her yed ut aw want bi beawt her, an' every mornin' hoo fo's eawt wi' th' lookin' glass, becose it winno' mak her t' look as yunk as hoo're us't be."

    "The old lady isn't getting jealous of you, is she?"

    "Husht, husht!" said Hobson in a whisper, "yo're puttin' yor yed in a dog-kennel neaw," and he looked round as if he thought ears were listening that ought not to be; "Tawk about summut elze, tawk abeawt summut elze."

    "Well, how are my old acquaintances—your friend Shadow, how is he?"

    "Eh, poor Jack! he's takken his reed an' geers in lung sin'."

    "How?"

    "He's—deead!""

    "Indeed! poor fellow!"

    "Ay, that winter ut things worn so bad bent him deawn like a windle, an' he never hove up his yed agen.  Aw're soory for th' owd lad, be' aw could no' help him."

    "Old age," I supposed.

    "Well, he met ha' livt a yer or two lunger if things had no' gone so croot wi' him; bo' it's like as every misfortin coom on him o' at wonst.  His yungest dowter—as nice a wench as need be for a poor body—went off in a decline, at a time, too, when hoo should ha' bin doin' her feythur some good.  This wur welly enoof for th' owd lad; bo' he totthert on, and followt his wheel a bit lunger; bo' he're never th' same chap agen, noather."

    "A grief that we all have to feel more or less, at one time or another," I observed.

    "Thrue, thrue; bo' wi' some it's felt different to to what it is wi' others.  Ther' are foke ut dunno' seem fort' care whoa's ta'en away so ut they're laft thersels.  Bo' thoose dunno' know what whoam is, nor what a blessin' it is fort' ha' breet an' lovin' een lookin' at 'em o' day lung; so conno' feel t' loss on 'em t' same when they're gone.  Bo' wi' foke ut'n wortcht, an' clemm'd, an' frettut t'gether; when they'n bitten o'th' same buttercake, an' drunken eawt o'th' same pot, an' hutcht t'gether of a winter's neet, an' warmt thersels at th' same foyar, an' neestud t'gether like shepsters ut'n never flown fro' under th' thatch; it's hard when they'n nowt t' stare at nobbut th' empty stoo', an' nowt laft nobbut thee' own weary sel's fort' care abeawt."

    "But your neighbour had another daughter, had he not?" I enquired.

    "He had," continued Hobson, "bo' hoo geet wed to a wastrel, an' that wur another blow for him.  This son-in-law geet it into his yed that Owd Jack lee i' moore nor his get, an' he'd have him i'th' heawse no lunger.  So he turnt him eawt o'th' dur i'th' cowd winter time, an' th' poor felly did nowt bo' wauk abeawt his owd whoam o' day, an', when neet coom, wheer he went, or what he did, wi could no' tell, for it wur some time afore wi yerd on him agen."

    Here the stranger laid aside the newspaper, and, taking down his legs from their elevated position, leaned upon the table to listen.

    "Would none of your neighbours take your friend in under such circumstances?" I enquired of Hobson.

    "Yi, monny a one would ha' done; bo' wi o' lost th' seet on him, till one day awhile after, Owd Sparrow Shanks, th' o'erseer, coed, an' towd mi aw're wantut up at th' Knowe—that's th' warkheawse.

    Well, aw went, naa thinkin' what aw're gooin' abeawt, an' when aw geet theer, aw're shown to a bed wheer a mon lee, ut favvert he're wayin' his last drawdeawn o' life.

    'Tum, is that thee?' he sed.  'Good God, Jack! whoa'd ha' thowt o' seein' thee here, an' i' that plight?' aw sed.'

    'Aw'm fain theaw'rt comn, Tum, that aw am,' he sed; 'it's like a leetenin' to mi fort' see an owd fase afore aw goo.'  An' he put eawt his hont, ut wur as thin as a comm, an' lookt at mi so meeaninly.'

    "'Theaw'rt no' for deein', art ta, Jack?  Come, pluck up, an' look like thisel,' aw sed.  'Theaw munna leeav us yet, mon.'  He fixt his een on mi for a minit as if he'd bin us't to believin' o' ut aw sed, bo' deawted mi then, an' at last shut 'em, as nob'dy shuts their een bo' what's i'trainin' for another world, an' rowlt his yed backert an' forrud upo' th' pillow.

    'Aw'm gooin' Tum, aw' feel aw'm gooin',' he sed.  'Bo' ther's a looad upo' mi mind ut wants shiftin' afore aw con dee gradely.  Eawer Betty, Tum; lost think hoo's had owt t' do wi' bringin' mi here?' an' it favvert his heart ud a comn up as he sed it.

    'Eh, nawe, lad; aw'm sure hoo has no',' aw sed.  'It wur bo' th' tother day ut aw met her, an' when aw axt her wheer theaw wur, an' heaw theaw're gettin' on, hoo bastud eawt o' cryin', an' could no' tell mi.'

    'That's enoof, Tum,' he sed softly, an' then his hont twitcht i' mine, an' his lips went same as if he're makkin' prayer.  'Lift mi up, wilta', an' let mi look through th' window,' he sed; so aw lifted him up, an' sich a worn, thin felly he lookt; as leet as a chilt, an' as feeble, too.

    'Aw wisht aw could see her, Tum; bo' it's too lat' t' send for her neaw.  Theaw'll give her mi blessin', wilt no'?  Ay, aw'm sure theaw will.  Tum, aw conno' help thinkin' abeawt owd times, when thee an' me wurn yunk, an' wern us't play at marbles t'gether, an' goo a brid neezin'.  Wi never took no eggs, nor kilt no yung uns, did wi, Tum?'

    'Nawe, Jack,' aw sed.

    'Thoose wurn happy days, an' aw feel as aw're gooin' back to 'em,' he sed; 'bo' before aw goo, Tum, ther's summut aw want thi t' do.  Aw owe a milk score up at th' Ho'.  It's no' so mich, bo aw'm feeart they'n think aw did no' meean t' pay 'em.  Ther's a two-thri bits o' things belungin' to mi at Pincher's, wilt' try t' sell 'em for mi, an' pay th' debt off?'

    'Mak' thisel yezzy abeawt that, aw'll see ut o's made reet,' aw sed.

    'An' ther's Red Bill's, aw've a bit o' summut owin' there too, bo it's no' for drink.  Aw bin tryin' t' reckon it up afore theaw coom, bo aw couldno'.'

    'Never mind,' aw sed, 'aw'll bi thi egseketer to th' last penny.'

    'Thank thi, Tum, thank thi,' he said, 'it's a weary will aw'm makkin', is it no?'

    'It's His will, Jack, it's His will, no' thine, ut's bein' done.'

    'An' so it is, Tum, an' so it is: neaw lay mi deawn an' if it is no' too mich for thi t' do, mak' a bit of a prayer for mi; bo dunno let it be a book prayer, let it come fro' thi heart, an' God'll yer it.'

    So aw laid him deawn, an' then dropt o' mi knees bi th' bedside, an' made a bit of a prayer for him as he wantut.  Nobbut a two-thri words yo seen, for aw'd no larnin' to help mi eawt; bo poor as it wur, God o' Meety yerd it, for when aw'd done, aw lookt at Shadow, ut wur bo a shadow then, an' he're as quiet as a stopt clock;—he're stark deead.

    There was a silence as of that solemn death scene when Hobson had finished his narrative.  Then "stark deead" seemed to be echoed hoarsely from the chimney; "stark deead," had spirit voices in the lobby, and the massive poker which had been incautiously placed against the mantelpiece, was shaken by something from its equipoise, and rolling forward it fell with a loud sound upon the fender, seeming to ring "stark deead" with its fall!  There could have been nothing like it for impressiveness, except the falling of Trim's hat when the gallant Corporal was relating the account of Le Fevre's death in "Tristam Shandy."  We all felt it; and whether the old man regarded our silence as a tribute to his unadorned eloquence, or as the mere effect of listlessness, there was certainly nothing in his manner that betrayed either conclusion.  He sat rocking himself to and fro in an abstracted manner, and shaking his head betimes, and staring moodily at the fire.  The entrance of our hostess, however, broke the spell, and recalled "Owd Tum" to the presence of life and vigour, and the associations of a joyous season, by observing that he had not had his "new yer's gift yet."

    "Eh, bless thi, Mary," said Hobson, "aw're thinkin' abeawt summut elze.  Well, aw'd as lief have another pint as owt theaw con bring mi."

    "An' yo'st ha' one made nice, wi' a dhrop o' summut in it ut'll stir yo'r owd wheel-an-barrels up, an' bring th' snow off yo'r thatch i' sheawrs;" so saying, the landlady bounced out of the room, and immediately pots and glasses were ringing so musically in the kitchen, that had a troop of wassailers been making merry in that apartment, and the sound of revelry let in suddenly upon us, it could not have awakened such an air of cheerfulness as seemed to blink about the ceiling in the sweet firelight reflected there, and to be conveyed about the house on the busy tones which housewifery sent forth.

    "And so you fulfilled the trust your old friend placed in you by acting as his executor," I observed, not wishing to relinquish the subject of Shadow's death, from the interest which the circumstances connected with it had awakened in my mind.

    "Well, nay, aw con hardly say ut aw did, though aw did mi best," replied Hobson, seeming a little embarrassed.  "Aw went to Pincher's, as he towd mi t' do, but then nowt theer nobbut a pair o' twinin'-in rods, an' a loaf tin ut he'd ust for a pin-box, an' thoose would no' fotch above a pint o' Owd Haggy's porritch drink.  Ther' had bin a two shuttlet laith (fly), an' a pair o' beeams, an' a sixteen-shaft dobbin ut wur Jack's, bo' his son-in-law ud claimt 'em as things belungin' to his wife; so ut aw're just laft as aw wur.  Aw'd no brass o' mi own nobbut what ud as monny legs as an' ear-wig, or aw'd a paid th' milk score off misel; God knows aw would."

    There could be no doubt of it, by the manner in which he expressed himself.

    "How much might that little affair of your friend's be?" enquired the stranger, crossing over to Hobson, and whispering rather loudly in his ear.

    "Well," replied Owd Tum, "aw went up to th' Ho' an' axt Mary Ann, bo hoo would no' tell mi."

    "Get to know, if possible," said the other, "and though my purse is but a poor one, I'll discharge the liability."

    "Yo're very good, aw'm sure," said Hobson, "an' aw've no deawt bo' yo'd do as yo' promisen, bo'—well it's hard for t' rob foke o' that comfortable feelin' ut they getten fro' doin' a good turn, bo' th' milk score is paid.  Him ut pays o' eawer debts when He takes us int' His sarvice, paid th' debts off for poor owd Jack.  So Mary Ann towd mi when aw axt her agen."

    "Oh, I see, yes," said the stranger, feeling himself rebuked by the other's simple but profound reply.  "I did not think of that, I assure you," and he returned in confusion to his seat on the couch chair.

    Just then the landlady entered, bringing in Owd Tum's "new yer's gift," which foamed over the old-fashioned pot that contained it, in milky streams, and formed little white pools on the table.  My old friend slapped his knees quietly, gave a faint diddle on the hearth-stone, roused the fire until it sent sky-rockets up the chimney, then taking hold of the pint, which he seemed to welcome as if it had been a child absent from home since the Christmas before, delivered himself as follows,—

    "Mary,—God bless thee an thine; aw meean yo're Bill,—an' thi childer, if ever theaw has any, bo' aw think theaw'rt getten too owd; bless thi bread-flake, an' thi porritch dish, an' thi bacon hooks; may thi har'stone never be frozen o'er, bo aulus be as wot an' as comfortable as it is neaw.  May theaw never feel no little cowd feet i' bed, nor see no little meawths yammerin for summut ut theaw conno' give 'em.  May o' ut's abeawt thi prosper, just becose theaw likes seein' foke weel off, an' when theaws done i' this woald, may God o' Meety tak' thi to th' side o' Him, an' put as mony creawns o' thi yed as theaw's done good things i' this life, an' theaw'll have 'em yept up as hee as th' Teawer o' Babel, an' a breek or two o'th' top on't.  Amen."

    On concluding the above benediction, Hobson raised the pot to his lips, and the foam disappeared at a draught; then turning to me with a refreshing smack, said "Aw'm thowin' neaw like a snow-bo' on a top-bar."  And the ruby flushed into his nose, and the old twinkle dwelt in his eyes, and a drop of something stole down his cheek, and falling upon his coat sleeve, glittered like a pearl there,—a pearl of worth untold.

    The stranger, who had been somewhat taciturn since the entrance of "Owd Tum," now put aside his reserve, and seemed anxious to enter into conversation about something.  He was unfortunate however, either in the choice of his subjects, or his method of introducing them.  He tried the weather, and failed; made some observations on the appearance of the country, and failed in them also.  He next entered upon the pastimes of the season, but finding we knew little of the manner in which our "select" neighbours spent their Christmas, he took himself about and whistled.  There is much ready relief to be found in whistling; it supplies many a defect in our aptitude for conversation.  We may not be in possession of the whole, or even part of a tune, but we can run up and down a succession of notes that may themselves have all the charm of music, and serve to fill up a vacuum in loose talk as well as anything that Verdi or Rossini could impart to us.

    My new acquaintance had, I found, a well stocked repertory of these musical interludes, and when they failed to make silence tolerable, he fell back upon his supplies of the "Havana," which, until now, he had kept to himself; kindling his solitary fire in the dusky nook, and hiding his person behind a cloud of smoke that seemed to wrap even his ideas in its ample curtains.

    Looking round, however, and observing Owd Tum in the act of feeling his pockets over, as if in search of a hidden screw of the cut "narcotic," he drew forth his cigar-case, and with many apologies for what he seemed to consider an inadvertant omission of courtesy, invited my old friend to accept of a "weed."

    "A weed," exclaimed Hobson, "what's a weed?"

    "O a cigar, of course," replied the other, running his fingers over the contents of his case as a reporter would his pencils.  "Here's a good one; will you try it?"

    "Well, aye; aw dunno' mind if it's owt like 'bacco.  Thank yo; which eend man aw leet th' fust?"

    "Oh, the blunt end, to be sure," replied the stranger.  "But first take your penknife and cut the point from the other end."

    "My penknife," exclaimed Owd Tum, shaking his head as if he thought the other was treating him to a whiff of gammon, "aw've no moore use for a penknife nor Queen Victorey has for a yeald hook.  Aw'll leet mi weed, as yo' co'en it, too," and he took a piece of paper from the oven, and twisting it so as to resemble an old pair of stays, stuck it into the fire, with an apparent disdain for the fancy "spills" which decorated the centre of the mantel-shelf.

    The cigar lighted, my old friend commenced pulling, and winking, and squinting most painfully, in the vain endeavour to get a cloud of smoke about his nose.  Now would he handle the tube as if it were a flute, then insert it betwixt his finger and thumb, with an apparent intention of writing his name in ashes; and, what with repeated essays to get up fire, and the difficulty he had in holding his "piece," so as not to interfere with the functions of his nasal organ, the lighted end was smouldering in ashy blackness, whilst the other assumed a moppish appearance, as if it intended to return to its native cabbage state.

    "Aw'st ha' rufflt mi bobbin inneaw," he said, with a look of dismay, and an apparent wishfulness to relinquish his task. "Aye, well; gi' mi a gradely churchwarden pipe, an' a screw o' owd Juddie's rooughpoo'd, an' yo' may keep o' sick like chitty-pearches as this to yorsels. Bo' let's see if aw conno' shap' it some other road," And, opening a drawer in the cupboard, he took out a long pipe, that had a bowl about the size of a pepper-duster, which, after having shaken out an old cork, and covered his clothes with ashes, he commenced filling with the ragged remnants of the cigar.

    "Aw reckon," he said; pulling a good whiff, with the bowl of the pipe stuck in the fire, and sending the smoke curling over his head; "Aw reckon yo're howdin' Kesmus up i'th' teawn as well as we are here?"

    "Certainly," I replied, "or most probably you would not have seen me in your village to-day."

    "Ay, ay; atin' an' drinkin', an' reawkin up o' neet, an' gettin' yung foke agate o' cooartin' ut never seed one another before;—aw reckon that's road yo' teawnsfoke howd'n yo'r Kesmus up?"

    I supposed he was pretty near the mark.

    "That sort may do for some foke ut 'ud rayther live i'th' neet nor i'th' day, bo' gie mi a good wide fielt, just beartud o'er wi' frost, an' a pair o' clogs ut winno' turn up their noses at th' smell o' shin booans, an' a foowt-bo' ut'll beawnce like a yung widow at a club-dinner;—that's sort for puttin' a more i' a good howsome swat, an' makkin' him t' feel hungry afore th' dinner's o'er th' foyer.  Aw've known monny a bakin' day shiftut through a good puncin' beawt i'th' Hee-fielt yonder."

    "Was the game of football much practised in the country now?" I enquired.

    "Noa so mich as it wur when aw're yunk," replied Hobson, "bo' wi never miss'n a Kesmus, just havin' a bit of o tussle t'gether, for th' sake o' keepin' owd times i' one's yed.  Ther's gooin' t' be a do to-day, an' if yo're stoppin' i'th' nook, you' may have a foowt in, if yo'n a mind."

    "Is the match for a wager?" I asked.

    "Well, yo' may co' it a wager, bo' it's nobbut which stands feyther for a steeam injun."

    "A steam engine!" exclaimed the stranger; "What kind of steam engine?  A churning, or a turnip-cutting affair?"

    "Nawe, yo're quite eawt on't," replied Owd Tum, grinning.  "It's a great, thumpin' pottatoe-pie, made in a weshin' mug, an' it's bein' baket i' Owd Juddie breek oon at this minit."

    "Lord bless us!" exclaimed the stranger.

    "Ay," confirmed Hobson, "aw expect th' Stewart hear inneaw.  He's like th' joss o'er it; an' when he comes wi'st not ha' mich reawm t' feight in, aw con tell yo'."

    "Why?"

    "Becose ther'll be a lot after him.  Th' foowt-bo' players meet'n here at one o'clock, an' they're noa bi' so mich beheend theer time, yo'n see."

    There was a loud barking of a dog at a distance, and directly a bang came to the door, as if some one had flung a wet sod from the river; then a whistle, and a voice calling "Blucher! get down there."

    "That's Blucher," ejaculated Owd Tum, jumping upon his feet, "an' here's his mesthur, wi' a whul regiment after him.  We'st ha' rare spooart inneaw."

    Another loud bang at the door; a sound as of the tramp of multitudinous feet, a rough seizure of the latch, and the steward, with his retinue, entered.  Blucher was already crouched under the table, and a crowd of rustics of all ages, sizes, and callings, with faces glowing like so many yule logs, took possession of the room where we sat, and immediately every chair in the house was put in requisition.

    The steward was a jolly-looking personage, with something of the huntsman's dash and the yeoman's sturdiness about him.  He was evidently in his proper element, surrounded as he was by a host of—not exactly dependants, but followers; and it took but a short time to convince me that he was knight of the revels, and leader of the sports at Christmas tide.

    "Neaw, lads, are yo' o' here?" he said, squaring himself on the hearthstone, and dashing himself up to the elbows in his sacks of pockets.

    Everybody looked at everybody, but nobody missed anybody in particular; still the number did not appear to be made up.

    "Co' th' rowls o'er," suggested one.

    "We'd best ha' some drink in th' fust," said another; a conclusion which no one appeared to dissent from.

    "Bring in a gallon," said the steward, and he drew a paper from his pocket, and viewed it over.

    The stranger looked uneasy whilst this was going on, and sat chewing the end of a tobacco pipe, and casting furtive glances towards his feet, as though he expected Blucher to make a sudden charge in that direction, in order to test the vulnerability of his boots.  Now the ale was brought in and served round—the jug never being allowed to stand until the last drop was drained.  Then the steward coughed, and prepared to call over the list of competitors who were to engage in the play, and—"Onswer to yor names!" went round the room.  Then be proceeded as follows:—

    "Ab-at-th'-Yate!"  "Here!"

    "Bockey!"  "Th' same chap yet!"

    "Cruttle!"  "Here!"

    "Cakey-o'-Matty's!"  "Sweepin' th' fish-ponn up at th' Ho'.  He'll bi ready bi th' bo's eawt! "

    "Duck-at-th'-weir-yed!"  "Qua-a-a-ack!" and the party answering to the foregoing cognomen imitated the call of the well-known fowl which he represented.

    "Elly-o'-Donny's!"  "Here!"

    "Futter!"  "Wheer he likes bein'!"  "Wheer's that?"  "I'th'nook here!"  There was a laugh at this remark.  The steward went on calling.

    "Gatty-o'-Thrutcher's!"  "A-back o'th' table!"

    "Grey-bob!"  "Pee-weet-ree-e-e-clink-clink-clink!" and a little fellow under the window imitated the song of the "grey-bob," or "chitty," properly "redpole,"—a bird familiar to most boys in rural districts.

    "Greawt-yed!"  "Here!"

    "Harry-at-Red-Ailses!"  "Here!"

    "Jannock!"  "He conno' come, becose his clogs are at cloggin'!"

    "Knocker!"  "Here!"

    "Lumpy-at-Skeawter's!"  "Here!"

    "Merry-clogs!"  "Never misst!"

    "Nokey!"  "Here!"

    "Pee-at-Ratcher's!"  "Gone for a tatchin'!"

    "Pompey!"  "Here!"

    "Rackey!"  "Gettin' th' bo' ready!"

    "Owd Rack-an'-hook!"  "Here!"

    "Well, that's twenty; Jannock conno' come, an Cakey-o'-Matty's 'll hardly be here i' time, so wi'st bi two short.  What sen yo' Mesthur," said he, addressing me, "wi'n yo' bi one?"

    I always liked a game at football, so could not refuse.

    "Well, aw'll put yo' deawn—stranger.  An' yo'," he said, turning to my friend on the sofa,—"Yo' favvern puncin' someb'dy off at knees,—win yo' be one?"

    "Well,—yes,—I don't mind," responded the worthy surveyor of land,—"only I shall have to learn the game."

    "Oh, yo'n larn when yo'n had yor shins crackt a time or two.  What name mun aw put yo' deawn?"

    "What you please—anything."

    "Put him deawn Dragon-bandin'," suggested a little fellow, who was playing with Blucher's head.

    "Dragon-bandin"' went down.

    "Neaw then, aw think wi'st do.  Is th' bo' ready?"  "Rackey's blowin' it up i'th' fowt; it'll be ready i' two minus."

    Thump went the football against the door, rebounding against the walls of the porch, and startling everyone to his feet.

    "Neaw, lads," said the steward, "let's ha' fair play; punce low, an' keep off one another's legs.  Wi'n co' sides when wi getter i'th' fielt."

    "Here," said Owd Tum, taking hold of the steward's elbow; "What have aw done amiss?"

    "Eh, Hobson, awd quite forgetter yo'.  Well, yo' mun punce at th' rook, an' be in at th' atin; will that do for yo'?"

    "That'll do," replied Hobson, with a wink, and he took stock of his gaiters, and felt if the straps were secure.

    The whole forum then sallied out, the stranger and I following, and Owd Tum trigging along with us.

    Never, I am sure, was there such a crew mustered as the one which made Daisy Nook ring with merry voices on this glorious New Year's morning. [p.33]  Never was warrior so elate at the prospect of certain victory as was each of these competitors in a harmless strife, as they speculated on the chances of the contest.  Some were matching themselves with others of something like equal powers, whilst those who could not reckon upon any chance of individual display, but must content themselves with "puncin' at th' rook," chaffed their more favoured brethren by ironical remarks on the length of their shanks or the size of their clogs.  One or two were measuring their "swing," by kicking at such objects as they might deem fit to experiment upon.  One kicked at a huge snow-ball that the children had rolled together, and the snow flew abroad, and spread in showers amongst the crowd.  Another tried his "length" at an old can and had the satisfaction of seeing his clog fly to within an inch of the river, whilst his comrades laughed an jeered, and advised him to put "th' lindherins" on if he meant to "keep th' fielt."  Now a snow-ball wool come whizzing from behind a garden hedge, followed by a juvenile yell, as the missile took effect on one or other of the players.  Then a word of encouragement would be dropped from a chamber window, accompanied by a wish from the speaker that she "wur a mon."  Quadrupeds as well as bipeds were in the highest glee.  Blucher held canine levees upon almost every ashmidden they came to, to which all the "fancy" in the village attended, and it was odds but each occasion ended in a most ferocious and curlike scramble for patronage.

    Crossing the bridge, we began to wind up a narrow path, which led through a slight fringe of wood, and brought us into a spacious meadow, from which the roof of "Bunk Ho'," with its modest stack of chimneys, sending up playful wreaths of smoke, could be seen."

    "This is th' fielt," observed Hobson, who had trudged at my elbow all the way we had come.  "It'll be rayther bad puncin' amung th' snow, bo' aw believe ut th' match ud ha' t' bi played if it wur as deep as a hay-moof, an' every mon ha' t' punce eawt of a hole; they're so keen."

    "Sides!" sung out the steward, as soon as we reached the middle of the field; and immediately each man was told off, who then took his position on the s"ide" to which he was allotted, and prepared for action.  The steward took the football, and, with the preliminary exclamation of "here goes!" sent it flying in the air, and then retired to a corner of the field to watch the game.

    What a lusty cheer rose from the group as the ball flew up from amongst them!  A moment it seemed poised in mid-air, then with a rebound, that seemed like the effect of a second kick, it dropped to within a yard of the spot from whence it was sent.  Then there was a closing in of some of the more venturesome spirits, and for some time the ball was oscillating in the narrow circle, as if it was struggling to get out and could not.

    "That's what aw co' a bit o' clognose music," observed Owd Tum, who was coaxing the stranger, or "Dragon-bandin"' as we must now call him, to "goo in an' tak' it off 'em."  "If it wur no' for th' snow yo'd yer ther shins crack like rush-cart-whips.  That's it, Racket', that's it!—neaw, owd lad,—goo into it! theaw's a bit o'th' owd ber in thi yet.  Follow it up, mon—follow it up!  Greawt-yed'll have it neaw!  Ha! theaw yorney!"

    The individual who answered to the euphonious name of "Greawt-yed" had been "lying out," and, on the ball approaching him, he seemed to measure the range, and caught it on its first rebound, then returned it with a little more interest than the other side might have desired.  The ball alighted so close to where our friend the land surveyor stood, that that individual might have caught it with his hands if he had been so disposed.  As it was, he seemed to take an oblique "survey" of the descending object, then running a few paces in the direction it was taking, was within an ace of receiving its spent force about the left ear.

    "Neaw, Tapeworm!" shouted some one who appeared to have forgotten the appellation by which the stranger was to be distinguished.  "Give it a gall-er, owd mon,—give it a gall-er!" [p.36]  But "Tapeworm," or, "Dragon-bandin'," instead of seconding his fellow-competitor's wishes, by sending the ball flying over the fence, turned round with a sudden wheel, and, as if he he felt the wind from a dozen pairs of clogs about his shins, threw up his heels, and bounced out of harm's reach with surprising agility.

    "Yon chap's belungt to th' flyin' artillery some time," observed a short-legged, dumpy fellow, who' though he experienced a difficulty of locomotion in consequence of the snow, was as "game" "as anyone in the field."  "If aw'd had as good a pair o' compasses as he has, aw'd ha' dofft someb'dy off at th' knees afore aw'd ha' letten sich a chance as that goo."

    The contest now became warm and general, and "clognose music" was being given out in rapidly succeeding "thuds," as the ball flew and dodged about amongst the forest of legs, or went up in a graceful "riser," that showed the finished qualities of some experienced player in the height of its ascent.  The chances of the game were in constant fluctuation, and the centre of the field was well kept by both sides, notwithstanding that several well-timed kicks sent the ball a considerable distance, to be caught up by some "out-lyer," and as successfully returned.

    Owd Tum's gaiters might now be seen in active movement,—sometimes in the very midst of the "tussle," and at others engaged in an ill-matched race with a more youthful competitor; but, with all the old enthusiast could not obtain a single kick to gratify his desire for distinction.  At last, when the game had been going on for about half an hour, " Racket'" caught the ball with his hands, and was about to give it a "riser," when Hobson went up to him, and begged that he might be allowed an opportunity of distinguishing himself a little more favourably than he had hitherto done.

    "Just lemmi ha' one punce," he said, "afore th' gam's up, wilta?  Aw'll punce o' thy side."

    The favour was conceded, and Owd Tum, taking the ball in one hand, and balancing it steadily with the air of an old professional, let fly a gaiter, and sent the ball spinning and bounding along the snow in a manner that promised to be a considerable stroke in the game.

    "Well done, Owd Thrums-an'-pooins'," shouted "Racket'," following up the ball, and giving it another lift that sent it clean over the fence,—the success of which stroke being hailed with a loud shout from his fellow-competitors, who were mad with delight that the game was so suddenly and so unexpectedly decided in their favour.  It was evidently all over; the field was lost and won, yet, notwithstanding the losing party were a little chagrined at their discomfiture, they did not object to the manner in which it had been brought about.  Strictly speaking, Hobson had no right to take part, on either side, but there were few who would willingly have deprived the old man of his participation in the action, or his share of the triumph.  Those who had lost shouted "Well done!"  And "Greawt-yed," the leader of the vanquished, as if forgetting on which side he had been playing, slapped the old hero on the shoulder, saying at the time, he would match him "agen any i'th' fielt for a new pair o' clogs."  Owd Tum took all this adulation quietly, for he seemed to know that it was bestowed more out of respect for him as a man than admiration of his qualities as a player.  He sought me as the party began to leave the field, and with that self-satisfied twinkle of the eye which I had often observed, begged to know my opinion upon the result of the contest.  I gave it him unreservedly; told him the winning party owed all their success to his skill and prowess, and that they ought to pledge him in a "full pint" at their "steam engine" refection, as acknowledging the service he had rendered them.  To this the veteran shook his head, as if half doubting my sincerity, and with a mode of emphasising peculiar to himself, said:—"I have seen th' day; bo' mi wynt's gone—mi wynt's gone."

    I looked round amongst the straggling group for our quondam friend, and companion on legs, the stranger land-surveyor, but nowhere could I discover him; and mentioning the circumstance to Hobson, the old man chuckled in his liveliest manner, and pointing to an elevated portion of the fence which we were approaching, said—"He's yondher; wheer he's bin this hawve-heawer."  There he was, sure enough, seeming, by his gesticulations, to be enjoying the issue of the game as though he had mainly contribute to its success; but, on some one sending a snow-ball in the direction of where he stood, the gallant "Dragon-bandin"' disappeared behind the fence, and it was some time ere we saw him again.

    And now let me rest my pinion in this wayward flight, and settle for a time upon a quiet hearth, away from the noise of revelry, which is loud under a certain roof.  The "steam engine" is rapidly losing its twenty-man-power, and "John Barleycorn" is assuming a reign that is seldom long in interregnum.  But I have left the revellers to their merriment and their potations, and am seated in a cozy chimney-corner, listening to the billing and cooing of an elderly pair; one of them in gaiters and rusty black, whose person I need not describe here; the other in modest printed gown and clean mob-cap, with apron crimped all over,—giving the person an air of ancient coquetry that makes me almost in love with age.  The two are preparing for another scene than the one I have just left; one more becoming their time of life, and more in character with that season's' enjoyments which may be said to laugh itself over the threshold of a new born year.  "Bunk Ho"' is to make merry this night; and neighbourly villagers, who may be ranked amongst good and homely people, who have not turned the needy from the door, nor "courted selfishness in many ways," are to be guests there.  Amongst the invited are my friends, Hobson and his worthy dame, and I am pressed to accompany them.  How can I refuse, when they assure me that my being a stranger would give me a claim to the hospitality of that noble mansion, which even the title of friend could not supersede.

    "Come, men; Mary Ann 'll bi fain t' see yo', aw'm sure hoo will;" entreated Owd Tum; "Hoo's getten beawt that little rott'n of hers; it geet ut it would no' ate porritch, an' then it deed.  Come, yo'n goo, aw'm sure.  Neaw Sarah, wench,—bless thi ow face,—art ready?"

    The wife frowned as she adjusted a sort of hood over her head, but on turning from the glass to give a finishing pluck at a modest bit of ribbon, a smile met the merry, loving look of her spouse, and, as the sun was shedding its last gleam aslant the grey landscape, we bent our steps towards "Bunk Ho'."

    Hail, hospitable mansion! at once the cradle and shelter of goodness—beacon of the world-wrecked, and earth's heaven for the weary-laden, and sorrow-wounded of our kind;—let me pause a moment ere I cross thy hallowed threshold, and give vent to the full emotion which is swelling in my breast, at the remembrance of how much the needy owe to thee, and how the good have cause to bless thee!  But I am summoned hence.  The door is swung ajar, and dreamily defined shadows are flitting to and fro in the firelight that blinks around the spacious hall, and the largely yuled hearth is laughing in broad grimace at the farther end.  I find myself in the presence of our gallant host and his circle of choice hearts, and perceive that already the revels have begun.  Oh, no simpered compliment, no flat smirk, nor sensual, glaring eye meets me there; but welcoming smiles—round and rosy—and greetings hearty as the hand can give, or the lips utter, seem to be festooned about us like the berry-laden evergreens that hang from the thickly foliaged ceiling.

    I had no conception of the game that was going on when we entered, for my attention was suddenly diverted from the general company to fix itself on a particular group that had as quickly formed in the centre of the hall, and over whose heads a monstrous, crown-like bush displayed clusters of luscious-looking yellow globes, that probably owed their sweetness more to the sun of Andalusia than the hothouses of "Bunk Ho'."  A merry cheer, which rang through the hall, told that something unusually jolly had been going on, and on my catching a sight of Owd Tum, who made himself conspicuous amongst the group by a grotesqueness that was plainly the effect of sudden bewilderment, I saw the explanation in a moment.  He looked up into the bush, as if he fancied an angel had dropped from amongst its foliage, and after saluting his beard with the gentlest of kisses, had returned to its green home, to reserve its favours for future comers.  The oranges, however, knew nothing about it, and as the sprigs of holly and mistletoe seemed indifferent about sheltering spirits, Hobson withdrew his eyes from their upward look, and, turning them on a laughing face that was peering from behind his shoulder, broke out into an exclamation that was perhaps more hearty than refined at the discovery.  But if there was a cheer at the cause of my agèd friend's confusion, there was one doubly as merry when his worthy dame, as if unconscious of the meaning of such customs, or the particular act that was to make her a candidate for their favours, stepped right under the fatal symbol, and began to examine its interior.  At this moment, up jumped the gallant host, in whom I recognised the venerable worshipper of the little chapel, and seizing the old girl by the waist, attempted to dispense the honours of the occasion in as graceful a manner as his infirmities would permit.  The attempt, however, was not successful, for Dame Hobson, becoming suddenly aware of his intention, twisted herself round, and before the old campaigner could return to the charge, she had put herself into an attitude from which defence was easy.  To her struggles she added remonstrances; and when she found that her persecutor was upon "rigid purpose bent," she threw herself upon his mercy, and, as if begging him to spare her life, entreated:—"Nawe, dunno' 'squire.  Nob'dy never busst mi nobbut eawer Tum an' th' childher."  This modest appeal had the effect of bringing about a compromise, and our worthy entertainer, after shaking by the hand his simple-minded guest, conducted her to a side table (intended for late comers) which was spread with such viands as are generally supposed to be associated with Christmas festivities.

    Here Owd Tum was just settling himself down, and, as I found myself most unceremoniously ushered to the same quarter, I proceeded to join the old couple in their repast.

    Let it not be recorded elsewhere, how we carved, and scooped, and dived, and plunged amongst the various substantials that were set before us; how Hobson could not get round a huge bone without making half the circuit of the table; how the carving knife slipped out and went into the cheese; how he bespattered the old lady's apron with gravy; how the damaged party scolded, concluding a most sublime lecture on "human capacities" by sundry disparaging allusions to her husband's "nieves," which, she said, were "never made for hondlin' sich tools as thoose."  Let it only be whispered how the insulted party protested that he was doing his best, but had not been accustomed to "thwitin' at sich a lump;" and how he at last threw up his task—declaring, as a sort of qualified excuse, that—"if it had nobbut bin abeawt th' mickleth of a meawse" he could have managed it better.

    You are not to suppose, dear reader, that while this is going on, the rest of the company are silently looking over our shoulders.  No; they are quite as busy as we are, and too mindful of the fun that is growing "fast and furious," to regard our little mischances.  In one corner, I behold a pair of legs—certainly not the shortest—that are trying to get the better of gravitation by sundry and futile efforts to erect themselves ceiling-wise, and have the satisfaction of discovering that we at the table are not making ourselves more ludicrous than is my newly recognised acquaintance, yclept "Dragon-bandin'," who, intent on redeeming certain articles that he had "forfeited" at some kind of play, is endeavouring to stand upon his head, while the onlookers are roaring with delight.

    "Aw'st ha' no mooar o' that stuff!" exclaimed Owd Tum, who had helped himself to a slice of plum-pudding, and was now pulling his face at the first taste.  "Ther's summut abeawt it ut's noan gradely, aw'm sure.  It's nowt like what wi us't have at eawer club-dinner, ut coom on th' table i' thunner an leetenin', an' ud welly ha' sweelt a chap's eebrees off wi' lookin' at it.  That wur th' sort for shiftin' ther ribs, an' makkin' 'em t' tak' they wynt thick.  Bo' this—it smells like cat—hum,—ay,—wel,—Sarah wench, thee taste."

    Sarah tasted—pulled her face—then turning a severe look upon her husband, exclaimed, with a sort of sarcastic triumph,—"Theaw owd foo; theaw's temd caper-sauce on it, that theaw has; an' spoylt as nice a bit o' dumplin' as ever wur lapt in a rag.  Theaw', no business wi nowt at o' bo' a mess o' ale sops, or a two-thri fried angels; theaw crazy-pate."

    Owd Tum pocketed the rebuke with a chuckle, and begging that I would help him to a "nepplin' o' cheese," assured me that he would "rayther ha' had a creemin' o' summut bi hissel i'th' nook, than ha' sit deawn to th' best, 'qualaty' dinner ut ever made a chap saucy."

    Our repast finished, for to use my old friend's expression, we "made short up," as there was too much attraction elsewhere to allow of our indulging in a protracted meal, we rose from the table, and prepared ourselves for what might come next.  I took the opportunity thus presented to take stock of the company, and from the position I had taken, I could see everybody, and observe everything that was passing.

    To count the number of guests, would have been a difficult matter, for not only were they mixed up with the household, but each appeared to have some business with a neighbour across, so there was a stream down here, and a fluctuation there, that looked like a cross reel, or a set of "morris dancers" out of order.  Here was our friend the surveyor, who had at last succeeded in redeeming his "forfeits," a tête-à-tête with two bouncing girls (pardon me, I mean two good-looking ladies), with red arms, and faces that shone like newly waxed mahogany.  They were evidently sought for partners in the first dance, and the gallant "Dragon-bandin'," with a sort of "how-happy-could-I be-with-eitherish" expression in his manner, besieged first one and then the other, until the appearance of a heavily-shod swain, who bore down upon him like a three-decker, when the shy craft hoisted sail, and made for another station.  There was a rather spare young lady (I wish her face had had a more temperate look,) in a ball dress, and white-satin slippers that did not become the character of the house, and she was "pouring her soul" into the ear of another spare young lady with an operatic air, and a head-dress of very unseasonable flowers.  Both, as Hobson informed me, were assistants at a neighbouring boarding school, and tea-and-toast acquaintances of the steward's wife's.  Then there was a corner full of people who could do nothing but laugh and suck oranges, and with whom "Dragon-bandin"' was now getting on "nutty" terms.  Here was a forum of youngsters,—very dumplings,—burning their fingers with roasted apples which they plucked from the fire, and sent spinning and fizzing along the hearth, whilst admiring parents laughed approvingly at their glee.  Batches of indescribables, such as only a rural population can produce, were promenading and loitering about, when there was nothing particularly funny going on, and stiff "stocks" and loosely tied neckerchiefs, glossy curls, and stubble heads that put one in mind of newly dressed hay-stacks, mingled in their every variety of colour and form.  Mob cabs nodded to their more sprucely ribboned acquaintances, and the waddling dame of eighty showed the coy maiden of the first score how they used to foot it at Christmas parties in the "good old times" of her own day.  Shall I note the musicians?  Yes; they are worthy of being brought out of their corner to the light.  The first is a complete model of an old village fiddler, not a thoroughly blind one neither, but so darkened on the right side, as to be incapable of observing the young scamps on the hearth who are mimicking the action of his elbow.  Whether some wag had been experimenting with a candle upon old "tweedle-dee's" bow could not be much doubted, for in spite of the latter's frequent "rosining," the cat-gut would only answer with a squeak, which would set the juvenile imitators into a scream of discords.  The next had a much larger instrument, that uttered a tone like a growl, and when it got to the top of its voice, fairly barked; and what betwixt the yelping of the little one, and the deep-mouthed baying of this old "gronfeyther," as the juveniles called it, the orchestral effect was truly delightful.  The latter instrument was operated on by what appeared to be a superannuated "wait," in most dilapidated exteriors, who kept up the animation of his clay by frequent applications of a glass tumbler, down the side of which you might have seen a grey eye twinkle as the liquor was being gulped.  These two seemed to be under the conductorship of an itinerant harpist, a young man with a profusion of ringlets hanging about his ears, and who, from his whole "get up," I took to be a would-be imitator of "Blondel," of Cœur de Lion romance.  It struck me, too, that this young man (undoubtedly a fresh importation), was the object of considerable jealousy on the part of his rivals of the "cat-gut" order, for whenever he played, which was only occasionally, the others would rest their elbows, only now and then, when the thought of mischief induced them to put in a grunt or a yelp to mar some fine passage that the harp might be engaged in, which "accompaniments" were sure to be followed by a storm of music from the latter instrument that would drown the whole kennel into silence.

    But the company are getting impatient for a dance.  Small groups are joining hands, and restless feet are trying novel steps, to get the initiative for the "latest out."  Our friend the surveyor has at length found a partner in one newly arrived down stairs; who is all blushes and smiles, but who nevertheless "deports" herself in a manner that shows some acquaintance with ball-room etiquette.  The fair one leans on the arm of her faithful Dragon-bandin, and casts down her eyes towards a small slippered foot that is playing itself on the floor, with an air that seems to say, "how far above me is this lord of mine!"  Indeed he is far above her, for her curls are playing about the second button of his waistcoat, and when he stoops to listen to some sweet whisper, and gets jostled by a passer-by, and pushed from one position to another, the spectacle is ludicrous in the extreme.  Flitting about here and there, is our gallant host, his white head in good contrast with the profuse clusters of evergeens that form little groves in every nook, and his face beaming with an expression of jollity and good nature that makes a summer under that snowy canopy, and reflects its geniality on all around.  But where is that paragon of a daughter—the lovely Miss Jackson?  Ha! I see her yonder, with such a crowd of little-folks about her, that I wonder she is not torn to pieces.  Dispensing "gifts," I dare say she is, from the scrambling and racing that is going on, and the attention which her every movement awakens.  Let her come forth, ye little tormentors, that we may give the lie to the axiom, that "goodness hides in lowly places," and that the fairest flowers are "born to blush unseen," &c., &c.

    Now ply thine elbow, "Tweedledee;" grunt thy loudest old "Gronfeyther;" and "Blondel," tear not "thy chords asunder," nor dream of a willow-tree just now, for hither comes the lady of the house to tax your good-will for a merry strain, and lead her frisky lambkins through the dance!  I miss a companion from my side, an elderly one, and am left with only an old dame for company, whose look portends a matrimonial storm anon; for the clouds are lowering about her eyes, and her puckered mouth seems to be bottling vengeance.  Up starts the music, and away go the dancers.  Forty feet are "hastening to the wedding," though some are carrying heads to which a bridal wreath would hardly be becoming.  Bobbing up and down, is an iron-grey sconce, and contiguous are a pair of coat-tails, that are undergoing a peculiar sort of vibration, and I know there to be gaiters below that must be getting desperately hot, from the lively manner in which they are knocking about.  But who would not follow where his partner leads? for the lady takes the initiative in this instance, and she is young, and handsome, and good, and I daresay the old heart is blessing her all through the mazes of that merry romp.  But there is a hitch in the proceedings.  Couples get entangled and out of order.  Miss Jackson finds herself in company with the housemaid, and Owd Tum and "Dragon-bandin'" are running foul of everybody—bearing down the swain with heavy shoes, playing the deuce amongst muslin, and only stopping in their career when they find themselves confronted by a mob cap and a bony hand, both of which are shaking threateningly, and the exclamation of "theaw crazy owd foo! wilt sit thi' deawn?" brings the whole affair to a stand.

    "Aw'm noan toyart yet," responds Owd Tum, looking as restless as possible.  "Come, fiddlers, let's have a hurnpipe, an' aw'll show yo' a bit o' heel-an'-toe wark ut'll s'prise yo'.  Toodle-iddle-oo-dle-iddle-heighty-hom.  That's it.  Never mind her; hoo'll bi upo' th' floor hersel inneaw.  Toodle-iddle-oo-dle-iddle-heighty-hom.  Blaze away, Bill!"

    Bill did "blaze away," and his mate followed, and "Blondel" was moved by the merriment of the scene into an accompaniment; then Hobson, with a leap and a flourish, commenced a succession of steps, which he distinguished as—"leet, heavy, an' rowlin';—double-shuffle, and new-fanglet caper;" the latter of which he had seen his son "Joe" practice on the door flag.  Every alternate "step" was taken up by "Dragon-bandin'," who tried to imitate the "Sailor's Hornpipe,"—handling the lines, waving signals, and other movements,—which gave him the appearance of one of those automaton affairs that children term "jack-jumpers," and which are worked by pulling a string attached to each joint.  Owd Tum would sit down and rest whilst his partner was performing, but when his turn came, he would take his place on the floor apparently as fresh as ever.  I noticed, as the "backstone" was getting warm, that the weather in certain quarters was rapidly clearing up.  The thunderclouds, instead of waging elemental warfare in their direst fury, only emitted a slight pattering shower, and then disappeared, which change being observed by Hobson, that youthful individual called out,—"Come Sarah, wench; ger up and shake thi rags.  Theaw us't theaw could ha' doanct 'Owd Moll o' Gibberland' wi' anybody i'th' nook.  Come, frame thi owd carcus upo' th' floor, and tak th' step up."

    No sooner requested, than the "owd carcus" did "frame" itself on the floor; and after thrusting a thin lock of grey hair inside her cap, so as to secure it from falling over her face, Mrs. Hobson set herself in front of the musicians, and took up the "step" in right good earnest.  Now she would move from one side to another, then advance and retire—her feet making an almost inaudible attempt to "patter" in time to the music, and had it not been for the shaking of her cap screen, we should hardly have known that she was dancing.  Owd Tum was in ecstasies of delight, and alluding to what was going on, said,—"It byets foowtbo' plain'; does nor it?  Neaw, Sarah!" he sings out, "shuffle it off, wilta?  Wi couldno' leeave it i' betther honds."

    The wife complied, and just as she was putting in the last "shuffle," she threw up her head, and snapping her fingers at a group of "teens" that had gathered round this terpsichorean circle, exclaimed,—"Sixty-odd, wenches!" and then retired to her seat.

    The dance over, the Wassail was brought in and served round.  Fruit followed, in varieties that astonished the company. Owd Turn cracked nuts with his heel for himself and dame, and sipped at the fiddlers' tumbler until his eyes began to wink. Others were enjoying chat, as if that commodity was served round in "courses," whilst the musicians, now resting from an exertion that had quite blown them, were turning over the leaves of dog's eared tune-books, apparently consulting about the music for the next dance. But we are not to have another dance as yet. The harpsichord is brought out of its corner, and the lid opened. I wondered what the old thing was that stood there, with its gouty-looking legs encased in stockings of brown holland, and its " pin-engine" top looking as if it had been made by the village carpenter, for the purpose of boxing off dangerous machinery. But the first note struck, rang like a bell through the hall, and proved the instrument to be of that rare description that makes up in sweetness what it lacks in elegance; like many a thing I could name besides, if similies were wanting. Immediately the hum of voices sank into a whisper. The harpist is seen to confer with a lady. The harp is made to accord with the tones of the other instrument, and the prelimin-@@@ cries to a song are evidently being arranged. A moment's suspense, and then what a cheer went forth. as Miss Jackson took her seat at the old heirloom, and smiled her acknowledgments to the company. Crash went the harp, in imitation of a peal of bells: loud at first, and merry rang out the chimes; then, as if the sound was borne away upon the breeze, their tones fell faintly and indistinctly on the ear,—returning again, full and clear, and dying away at last into the slow dong-dong-dong of the funeral knell. Then the harpsichord chimed in with garrulous undertones;—light, and cheerful, and loving,—if music can love,—and with a tremour in her voice at first, but with a sweetness that seemed to contain her whole soul, the fair amateur sang—

 
THE WAVERLOW BELLS.


Old Jamie and Ailse went adown the brookside,
Arm-in-arm, as when young, before Ailse was a bride;
And what made them pause near the Hollybank-wells?
'Twas to list to the chimes of the Waverlow bells.

"How sweet," said old Jamie, "how sweet on the ear,
Comes the ding-donging sound of yon curfew, my dear!"
But old Ailse ne'er replies—for her bosom now swells—
Oh, she loved in her childhood those Waverlow bells.

"Thou remember'st," said Jamie, "the night we first met,
Near the Abbey-field gate—the old gate is there yet—
When we roamed, in the moonlight, o'er fields and through dells,
And our hearts beat along with the Waverlow bells.

And then that wakes morning, so early at church,
When I led thee a bride, through the old ivy porch,
And our new home we made where the curate now dwells,
And we danced to the music of Waverlow bells.

And when that wakes morning came round the next year,
How we bore a sweet child to the christ'ning font there;
But our joy-peals soon changed to the saddest of knells,
And we mourned at the sound of the Waverlow bells."

Then in silence, a moment, the old couple stood,
Their hearts in the churchyard, their eyes on the flood;
And the tear, as it starts, a sad memory tells:—
Oh! they heard a loved voice in those Waverlow bells.

"Our Ann," said old Ailse, "was the fairest of girls:
She had heaven in her face, and the sun in her curls;
Now she sleeps in a bed where the worm makes its cells,
And her lullaby's sung by the Waverlow bells."

"But her soul," Jamie said, "she'd a soul in her eyes,
And their brightness is gone to its home in the skies;
We may meet her there yet, where the good spirit dwells,
When we'll hear them no more—those old Waverlow bells."

Once again—only once—this old couple were seen
Stepping out in the gloaming across the old green,
And to wander adown by the Hollybank-wells,
Just to list to the chimes of the Waverlow bells.

Now the good folks are sleeping beneath the cold sod,
But their souls are in bliss with their daughter and God,
And each maid in the village now mournfully tells
How old Jamie and Ailse loved the Waverlow bells.


    "God bless her!" exclaimed Hobson, when the song was finished; "God bless her!" he repeated, taking hold of a corner of his wife's apron, and wiping something from his cheek; "Aw could ate her to a thumb-buttercake; that aw could.  Sarah, theaw conno sing like that, tho' theaw could ha' sung onset like a nightingell, when theaw wove thoose gossimer tippets, an' aw thowt they noan like thi'."

    "Howd thi' noyse!"

    Yes, silence! you garrulous old critic; for here is another candidate for lyrical honours in the person of our friend "Dragon-bandin'."  How the housemaid smiles and blushes, looking any way, only not towards her lover, for there he stands alone by the harp, with his thumbs stuck in his waistcoat pockets, and his eyes uplifted towards the ceiling, as if invoking Apollo's aid; then, with a cough and a flinging forward of his chest, he fires away with—


"Maxweltown's braes are bonny,
     When early fa's the dew-m,
 'Twas there that Annie Lorry
     Gave me her promise true-m,
     Gave me her promise true-m,
     Which ne'er forgot shall be;
 And for bonny Annie Lau-au-rie-m,
     I'd lay me down and dee-m.
 Her brow is like the snow drift
     Her throat—is—like—the—swan,
 Her ――"


    A pause—a scratch of the head—a cough—confessions of a "break down"—and then—an ignominious dive into a corner, where nothing could be seen for several minutes but a pair of boots, kicking at imaginary obstacles in the air.

    "Dun yo' think yon chap's o' his weft in?" said Owd Tum to me, seeming by his manner to have had some previous discovery confirmed.

    "To be sure; only he's a little eccentric!"

    "Wether he's egsentric or not, he's summut like what Owd Calamity wur when they teed him deawn i' bed, an' shavet his toppin."

    Now one of the boarding-school assistants has caught the singing epidemic, and is preparing to eclipse her fair rival who has gone before.  With what a stately air she stalks towards the harpsichord, fanning herself with a sheet of music, and looking languishingly at the rows of ivory before her.  Hush! she is off already with—


"I cannot mind my wheel, mother,
 I cannot mind my wheel."


    "Theaw would mind it, if theaw'd eawer Sal at thi back," was Owd Tum's observation, as the plaint of the love-sick maiden fell upon his ear.  "An' theaw'd wind good bobbins, too, aw'll uphowd thi'; an' pike th' knots eawt, or elze hood tak' th' knots eawt o' thee, an' smartly too."

    "Silence! deawn theer," sung out the swain with heavy shoes.  But the song was finished before Hobson could settle down into the required decorum, and then it was only on conditions that his "owd gell" would sing, that he could be induced to behave with something like propriety.

    "Come, Sarah," he said; "give us one o' thi best, an' aw'll ax that chap wi' th' pooins reawnd his yed fort play his thingumyjig for thi."

    "Aw'st do beawt that," replied the wife, who required no second invitation to follow in the wake of harmony.  "Aw could do betther if aw'd mi wheel here; be' aw'll thry t' do mi best."  And with a voice that hardly got louder than the mewing of a cat, she sang a song that I had often heard before, but which Burns would with difficulty have recognised as his own, from the text in which it was given;


"'Twas there I took my last fareweddle,
 O' my sweet Heedlian Maory."


    "Well done, Owd Ballispipe!" shouted Hobson, slapping his wife on the shoulder, as she consigned "Heedlian Maory" to the "green sod" and the "cold clay."  "Theaw's gan that bant, heawever.  Let her sup o' that oyntment ut theaw weets thi throat wi; wilta Sammy," said he, turning to the whole-eyed fiddler, who handed his tumbler to the old dame, with the exclamation of "quite welkim!"

    "Oh, aw say, Sammy, theaw're ust theaw could ha' towd a good tale or two, when theaw fiddlet o' Setterday neets at Owd Ratcher's.  Hast forgotten 'em o'?"

    Sammy smiled, and, for a moment, past recollections seemed to bring a little sunshine in his face.  "Ha, well," he replied, "aw ha' no' towd a tale this good while; bo' aw yerd a new un th' tother neet, Tum, an' th' fust time ut we'n a pint t'gether aw'll tell it thi'."

    "Let's have it neaw, afore yon pair o' twinin'-in rods starts o' singin' agen.  Aw'm sure th' owd Kurnul 'll like it."  So saying, Hobson was at our host's elbow in a twinkling, and immediately returned with a message to the effect that "Sammy Scutcher" might lay aside his "owd grondfeyther" for awhile, and favour the company with such anecdotes as he might think would please.

    The fiddler took a pull at his "oyntment," and removing to a seat in front, as the harp sounded "to order," proceeded with his new story of—


 
THE HAZEL-CLOUGH BOGGART.


    One fine moonleet neet at th' backeend o' that yer at pottatos wurn so rotten, Owd George o' Jammie's wur lookin' through th' chamber window, just before gooin' t' bed.  He liv't then at that farm-heawse at top o' th' Hazel Cloof, an' farm't th' lond abeawt.  So did his feyther afore him.  Well, Owd George had a nice crop o' what he coed Indian limestones, at had ne'er ta'en th' disorder, bo kept as seawnd as a dobber o' th' gettin' up time.  They'rn growin' i'th' Broo Fielt, at th' front o' th' heawse; an' Owd George thowt ut some 'dy wur helpin' t' get 'em ut didno' care mich abeawt th' ten commandments; so he spent a neet or two i' watchin' for t' see if he could find th' thief eawt.  This neet at aw'm spakin' on, he'd bin reawnd th' fielt a time or two, an' seen ut o' wur quiet, an' foke i' bed, as he thowt, when it coom int' his yed at he'd just peep through th' window, afore he dofft hissel, if it wur nobbut for't to see heaw nice an' quiet everythin' look't abeawt.  Well, he'd yawkt an' cowght un yam-yam'd for abeawt five minits, and skeawlt a time or two toart th' pottato-fielt, when he thowt he yerd someb'dy comin' leatherin' up th' lone, same as if they'rn runnin' for ther life.  He harkent an' look't an' hardly took his wynt, till at th' last he seed a mon dart through th' yate, an' mak' straight toart th' heawse.  "That's noan o' th' thief," Owd George thowt to hissel'.  "If he is, he's badly looad'n.  What con he want here, aw wondhur?  He's noan com'n a-stalin' thoose at 're ready getten, is he?  If he is, darm his impidence."

    "Neaw, neaw," he sheawts, "if theaw'rt comin a sleepin i'th' barn, theawd better ax my leeaf th' fust.  Whoa art to?"

    "It's me, George, it's me; an' do lemmi in," th' chap sed, "for aw'm very nee feeart to th' deeath."

    "Wheay, what's up?" Owd George sed.

    "Oh, dear me! aw've just comn through th' cloof, an' aw've seen summut.  Do oppen th' dur, for God's sake."

    Owd George poo'd his yed in, an' went deawn th' stairs, an' oppent th' dur, when whoa should dart in, wi' a face as white as a puddin'-cleawt, bo' Ned-at-th'-barn-eend; him at mow'd a match onct wi' Breawn Tummy.

    "What is it theaw's seen?" Owd George sed, "for theaw looks fleigh'd enough."

    "Eh, George! eh, George!" Ned sed, an' he favvert bein' likker for't tumble deawn.

    "Hast' seen a thief?" Owd George sed.  Aw da' say he're thinkin' abeawt his pottatos.

    "Wurr no' that, George; wurr no' that!"

    "Theaw's noa seen a murdhur, hasta?"

    "Wurr no' that, George; wurr no' that!"

    "Wheay, what i' th' name o' th' owd witch o' Fearnyhaugh hast' seen then?" Owd George sed; an' he staret at Ned same's if he thowt at th' mon wur beside hissel.

    "Aw've seen—aw've seen—eh, George! aw've seen a boggart!"

    "Oh, ah, hum! theaw's seen a boggart, hasta?  Well, well, if that's o' aw met as weel blow th' candle eawt, an' go t' bed agen.  Be wheere did theaw see it?" Owd George sed.

    "I'th' cloof yonder, at th' side o'th' Cawve fielt yate; aw had t' come as close past it as fro' here to th' shipp'n."

    "Did it stir?" Owd George sed.

    "Nawe, it never stir'd.  It stood theer agen th' backin; an' sich een it had; awst never forget 'em.  Just same as if th' moonleet were shoinin' through em."

    "Did theaw see owt of a seck at th' side on't?

    "Nawe, aw seed nowt nobbut th' boggart; that wur enoof."

    "Well," Owd George sed, "theaw tells a strange tale;" an' he pluckt his neetcap off his yed, an' put his jacket on.  "Aw dunno like th' thowts o' my greawnd bein' pasturt wi' th' devul's cattle; so wi'd best see if we conno shift this boggart, aw think.  Thee get that pikel eawt o'th' nook, an' aw'll tak' Teawzer theer, an' we'n go reawnd bi Thatcher's, an' get him an' their Sam fort' go with us, an' see if his boggartship 'll stond his greawnd agen steel an' pepper."

    "Eh, George! dunnot ax me t' goo," Ned sed, "for I dar' not."

    "Then awst think it's thee uts stown my pottatos," Owd George sed, "an' ut there's no bigger boggart i'th' country nor theaw art."

    "Nay, George, afore yo'st think that abeawt me aw'll go wi' you, an' face th' boggart if it fleighs me."

    "Come on, then," owd George sed; an' he raicht Teawzer deawn fro' th' chimdypiece, ut had booath barrels ready looaden, an' Ned shoothert pikel, an' off they booath seet o' boggart huntin'.

    Thatcher wur rakin' th' foyer when they geet to their heawse, an' Sam wur just comn in fro' cooartin; an' when Owd George towd 'em what they'rn after.  Thatcher went welly beside hissel.  He doanct abeawt th' floor like a scopperil, an' swore they had no had a bit o gradely spooart abeawt theer sin' th' last eawl catchin', an' that wur two yer gone; bo' if th' boggart had any gam in it, they'd have a skit eawt on't, that they would.

    "Come, Sam," he sed, "just get th' thowts o' yon wench eawt o' thi yed, an' fotch summut heavy eawt o'th' barn—summut ut'll noa be shy at brimstone; an' if yon boggart is nor as tough as Jone o' Butcher's barn-beef, wi'n let moonleet into't afore wi'n done."

    Sam went, an' browt an owd scythe blade for hissel, an' a midden fork for his feyther, an' they o' four seet eawt, mooar like a gang o' poachers nor owt elze.  "Wi'n goo across th' Great Meadow," Thatcher sed, "it'll bi th' next road."

    So across th' Great Meadow they went, an' deawn bi th' Owler Dingle; an' when they geet at th' side o' that pit at th' bottom, Thatcher stopt.

    "Let's see," he sed; "it's here where Crazy Ailse dreawnt hersel, is nor it, George?"

    "Aw believe it is," George sed.

    "Well, as nee as aw con think, it'll bi fifty yer sin"' Thatcher sed; "an' foke sen ut they comn back agen every fifty yer; dunno' they, George?"

    George sed nowt, for he thowt Thatcher wur up to some sort o' develment.

    "Neaw," Thatcher sed, "if there is owt o'th' sort aw wish wi met see it neaw—oather rise eawt o'th' pit or come up th' dingle."

    "Howd yer wicked noyse, feyther; an' come away," Sam sed, "yo'n happen see summut soon enoof."

    "Well, they had no' getten monny yards fur, when Ned laid howd o' Owd George's arm, an' very nee poo'd him deawn.

    "Look, neaw, it's yonder," he sed, "un' his knees rappt agen th' pikel-stail like two battin-rods.

    Theer th' boggart wur, sure enoof, wi' it yed reeart i'th' hedge, an' it body lapp't in a sheet ut lookt as white as a new halidy shirt.

    "They o' stood as quiet as if they'd bin asleep,—starin' at th' boggart, an' wonderin' what it could be.  Owd George begun feelin' rayther queer toart his hat; bo' when he thowt abeawt his Indian limestones, he tried t' persuade hissel ut th' boggart had stown 'em.

    "Hast had owt missin' eawt o' thy greawnd," he sed to Thatcher.

    "A two-thri turmits," Thatcher sed; "that's o'."

    "Aw've had above a looad o' my pottatos stown, an' it's my belief at yon boggart knows summut abeawt 'em," Owd George sed.  "An' he's comn o' yon fashin fort' mak foke think it's feearin'.  Look,—did nor he shift then?"

    "Yi," Sam sed; "aw'm sure he did.  Bang into him, George."

    Owd George level't th' gun.

    "Neaw, then!" he sheawts.  "If theaw'rt oather a boggart or a thief aw'st foyer i' two minits; so just look eawt.  Recollect, aw'm a kunstable, an' aw pay tithes an' church-rates, so theaw conno' hurt mi chus what theaw art!"

    Th' boggart never stirr'd a peg, be' kept stondin' theer as brazent as a pot-cat.

    "Neaw, Thatcher, so be't'in' it's a mon, an' aw shoot him deead, what will it be co'ed?  Theaw's bin a o'erseer, so theaw knows th' law better nor me."

    "It'll be co'ed justifiable whomicide," Thatcher sed, "an' th' law couldno' hurt thi' finger for it."

    Owd George level't th' gun agen.

    "Neaw," he sheawts, "aw'll gie thi another chance, for aw dunno' want t' ha' no blood upo' mi yed; so ut if theaw'll gie thysel up, an' tell us heaw theaw likes mi Indian limestones, aw'll let thi off; be' if theaw does noather, aw'st be like t' shoot thi, an' then tak thi up."

    Whether th' boggart ne'er yerd him, or it didno' care about bein' shot at, they couldno' tell, bo' it ne'er stirr'd chus what Owd George sed.  So at last he keawntut twenty, an' then sed, "Here goes!"  Bo' it didno' go; an' he aim't, an' he gruntut, an' he poo'd at th' trigger, bo' Teawzer wouldno' bark for o' that.

    "Why does no' foyer?" Thatcher sed.

    "Aw conno'; summut keeps gettin' howd o' mi finger."

    "Let me thry," Sam sed.  So he geet howd o'th' gun, an' banged booath barrels off at once, an' leet soss i'th' doytch, wi' Ned-at-th'-barn-eend under him.

    Owd George ne'er look't whether th' boggart wur shot or not, bo' off he took as fast as he could leather an' run, an' th' tother chaps after him—helter, skelter, like a moonleet steeple-chase.  Ther' a pikel laft here, an' a fork theer, an' th' scythe wur gone wi' Teawzer to th' Owd Lad, for anythin' they knew or caret just then, for noan on 'em wanted t' carry mich, an' away they ran, an' ne'er stopt till they geet to Thatcher's dur.  Sam puncet th' dur oppen at one punce, an' Owd George leet i'th' middle o'th' heawse floor like a seck of his Indian limestones.  Ned-at-th'-barn-eend laft one of his clogs in a gutter, an' sheawtut "Murther!" for he thowt th' boggart had takken it.

    Well, they fastent th' dur', an' Owd George sed he're wheer he should tarry that neet.  Thatcher threw an owd stock upo' th' foyer; an' when they'd getten ther wynt abit, he slit two pair o' gallowsus off a flitch o' bac'n ut hung i'th' nook, an' put 'em to th' foyer.  So they o' four keawert reawnd th' har'stone, tellin' boggart tales, an' gratin' their chops wi' yards o' collops, till th' cocks began a crowin'.

    Owd George sed he dust goo whoam then; so him an' Ned piket off, an' crept toart whoam, as quietly as they could, an' went t' bed.  George snoort an' moandhurt amung th' blankets till porritch time, an' chus heaw their Grace sheawtut at bottom o'th stairs, he kept sayin', "Arta thief or a boggart?" an' then began a ramblin' abeawt his Indian limestones.  When he wakkent, he could hardly believe bo' what he'd bin' doin' o'th' o'er neet wur a dhream; bo' when he geet up, an' lookt for Teawzer o'er th' chimdy-piece, an' mist it, he fairly swat agen; an' it wur a good while afore he could touch his breakfast.  Th' neighbours geet a wynd ut ther'd bin summut seen i'th Hazel Cloof, for Ned-at-th'-barn-eend had bin bletherin abeawt it i'th' smithy, an' th' schoomesthur wur howdin' a krunner's inquest on it i' Owd Wyndy's loomheawse.  Owd George crept as far as th' yate after he'd swallut his porritch, an' then up th' lone as far as th' skoo' fowt, wheer ther a lot stood tawkin' abeawt th' boggart.  So George had his akeawnt for t' give, an' rare whisperin' an' wonderin' ther wur backert an' forrud.  Limpin' Ike, th' fortin' teller, sed it wur a sign o' war, an' they met expect yerrin' summut abeawt th' French comin' afore lung.  Th' skoomesthur made no deawbt bo' science 'ud explain it o', if they nobbut understood th' laws o' hoptics an' phantumgory, or summut as he co'ed it.  Billy Softly said he thowt it wur t' best for t' be sure ut they wurn, sure, for he hadno' forgetter th' mischief ut th' owd witch o' Fearneyhaugh had done, so he'd nail't a horse-hoof upo' th' shipp'n dur, an' hanged a baws'n clog i'th' chimdy, for witch charms.

    Well, while they'rn tawkin', a lad coom runnin' past, an' sed th' sodiers wurn comin' up th' lone.  "Didno' aw tell yo?" Limpin' Ike said, an' they o' staret one at another.  Inneawe, ther sich a sheawt set up, for th' sodiers, i'stead o' bein' th' French, wur nowt bo' a pa'cel o' skoolads, ut had t' come across th' Hazel Cloof to th' skoo'.  One on 'em march't i'th' front wi' summut draggin' after him ut favvert a lung fleawer poke; th' next had a gun of his shoothur, an' one had a pikel, an' another a midden fork, an' th' last o'th' lot flourisht an owd reawsty scythe-blade abeawt.  Owd George went stark-starin' mad when he seed this, an' he grabbed howd o' him ut had th' gun, an' axt him wheer he'd stow, that fro.  Th' lad sed—"We'n fund it i'th' Hazel Cloof, an' thoose tother things, an' that balloon ut went up fro' the Goose Paster yesterday."

    Th' boggart wur fund eawt in a minit.  It wur this balloon ut had dropt i'th' hedge; an' neaw they coom t' look at it, it wur stickt full o' pellet holes, as if it had been shot at.  Owd George took howd o'th' gun, for he knew it wur Teawzer, an' swore if it wur chargt he'd blow Ned-at-th'-barn-eend's yed as hee as ever th' balloon had bin—that he would.  An' ther sich sheawtin an' laithin as never wur; an' when Thatcher geet t'yer ut they'd catcht th' boggart, he made o' sorts o' gam o' Owd George, an' sed he knew what it wur o'th' time, for he'd seen it leet.  Th' Indian limestones wurn getten up straight forrud, an' a nice crop they turnt eawt; an' the next seedlins ut Owd George-o'-Jammies raist, Thatcher kessunt 'em Boggart Booans, an' th' same sort are co'ed so to this day.

    No sooner had the applause which followed the recital of the foregoing story subsided, than "blind-man's buff" was announced.  The heavily-shod swain, with eyes bandaged, was already scaring people into corners, and catching at chair-backs, with a zest that put the whole company into screams of merriment.  I receive a light tap on the shoulder, and on turning round, find myself confronted by "Dragon-bandin'," who, from his manner, seems to have some important communication to make.  He informs me "it is ten o'clock."  Indeed!  How the night has stolen upon us!  Ten o'clock!  Then it is time we departed.  Come, friends; a hasty good night to you all; good night, and a happy New Year!  Good night—good night!  Your hand, old friend—yours, mother; good night!  Our gratitude to you, our worthy host; blessings on your lovely daughter; and God be with you all!  Farewell!  Good night, in the hall; good night, in the lobby; good night, at the door; then ho! for the stars, and the snow, the gossiping brook, and the weird woods, and the lonely highway—for home!

    Merrily we tread the crackling snow; bravely we breast the treacherous slopes; gaily we slide along trodden paths; singing, laughing, chatting, we go, till the welkin, illumed by the city's lights, beacons us home at last.




FOOTNOTES


p.33 The reader must observe that, in most villages about Manchester, the Christmas holidays do not commence until New Year's Day.

p.36 Send it to the goal.





Abel Heywood, Printer and Publisher, 58, Oldham-st.

 


 

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