Marlocks of Merriton (II)
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CHAPTER II


THE road-mender had so much respect for the privacy of his neighbour's home, and such an instinctive delicacy in his regard for the sacredness of all domestic relations, that he no sooner heard the voice of the old Jacobin engaged in what he took to be some form of prayer, than he re-crossed the threshold, and closed the door so gently that the snick of the latch was only a kind of metallic whisper.  Creeping down the "fowt" with a cautious tread, and listening at each step he took, he returned from his reconnoitring expedition, and got beyond the enemy's lines without being observed.  His own door was opened sufficiently wide to permit such sounds to escape from within as were anything but grateful to his ear.  His old woman was "carryin on" about something.  That was quite evident from the manner in which certain words were drawn out, or chopped off in their utterance, as well as from the rattle she was making amongst the household crockery and spoonery.  With the reluctance of a schoolboy going up to be whipped, our friend entered his domicile, and made such a demonstration with his hammers and haybands as he approached his wife's presence, that it was a wonder she did not faint with terror.  But as that good lady's nerves were not quite made of spider's web, and as she had been accustomed to receive similar formidable displays without absolutely sinking into the earth, she on this occasion coolly inserted her knuckles in her stays, and inquired of her transgressing spouse if he knew who and where he was.  Receiving only a cough in answer to this compound question, she put another of an equally inferential character.

    "Are thy wits gone a woolgetherin?" she said, shaking a grey lock that had crept from beneath her cap, as if it had been a species of serpent hatched out of her temper.

    "Art' sayin summit to me?" returned the road-mender, in a tone that conveyed an expression of the deepest humility, as well as a consciousness of having been guilty of some sinful act.

    "Nawe," the wife retorted.  "I'm talkin to a stump wi' a blue jacket an' a red senglet on."

    "Oh, well; oh, well! get said what thou hast' say."  And the road-mender slunk into the chimney-nook, where he was at much unnecessary trouble in laying by his hammers, and hanging his haybands on two wooden pegs beside them.

    "It's no use me sayin nowt to thee," protested the dame, in a manner that would imply a doubt as to the efficacy of forty years' daily lecturing.  "I'm sure I've said enoogh to thee fort' mak thee heed me, if ever owt would."

    "Thou has, thou has, wench; goodness knows; but I m sich a bad larner, ut I'm hardly wo'th wastin skoo wage on," commented the stone-breaker, with an acquiescent grunt.

    "What hast' had th' hommers out this mornin for?" stormed the other.

    "I're feeart thou'd be breakin yeads wi' 'em if I laft 'em i' thy raich," was the peevish reply.  But it was spoken in such a low tone that "Margit" heard it not.

    "Thou'rt a smart un, that thou art," exclaimed the latter, drawing out her words so as to give them a rasping effect on her spouse's ears.  "I never thowt afore ut thou're so fond o' wark thou'd work ov a Sunday; that I never did.  This comes o' thy drinkin.  I wish th' churchwardens had ha' getten howd on thee; they'd ha' found thee a dry shop on't for a while."

    "I wish they'd howd o' thee," the road-mender muttered to himself, though loud enough for his wife to hear, if not distinctly.

    "What's that thou says?" the latter ejaculated, turning upon her husband a most severe look.

    "I're axin thee if thou'd seen or yerd owt o' Johnny Armitage to-day," was the reply, evidently given as a substitute for the former observation, from reasons of a pacific nature, or from a desire to avert the dame's threatened descent upon the offender.

    "Nawe, I ha' not," she snapped.

    "Oh, well."

    "Oh, well!  What art' well-in at?"

    "I're just gooin t' say I wanted t' see him."

    "An' a nice figger thou art fort' see anybody.  What dost' want to see him for?"  And the dame plunged a handful of nettles into the pot that was simmering over the fire.

    "I'm gooin t' help t' convert him to gooin to th' church ov a Sunday," the road-mender replied, in a subdued tone, as if he thought the announcement would be received with some little show of incredulity on the part of his wife.

    "What! thee convert him?" exclaimed the latter, making a violent demonstration with her cap-screen.  Thou means th' tother road about, for I think thour't th' biggest sinner o'th' two.  I dunno' know whether thee or our Joe has it; for he's makkin a rappit-cote i'th' loomhouse, an' has bin knockin an' sawin till I'm sure everybody i'th' lone has yerd him; a wicked wratch as he is!"

    "Does nor he know that it's Sunday?"

    "Yigh, he knows it's Sunday by th' dinner."

    "Well, thou sees I didno' know.  By th' time he's yerd as mich o' thy tongue as his feyther has, he'll have had o'th' recollection dinned out of his yead."

    The road-mender thought it prudent to retreat after having fired this shot; so he made for the front door, whence he could hear a dropping fire given in ineffective discharges behind him.

    Sam leaned over the partition fence, and listened again at his neighbour's door.  There was no sound this time except the quiet ticking of the clock, and the occasional twitter of an anti-Sabbatarian canary.  He felt a strong desire to put his ear to the keyhole; but was afraid he could not reach it, and the fence (his own making) was but a rickety fabric of "laggins," worn-out treadles, and discarded weight ropes.  It might come down if he tested its resisting powers to the required stretch.  Had he been two inches taller he might have ventured upon a slight pressure against it, without any danger of coming to grief; but—there, now: a little further, and—hollo!  "Well done, blue weft!"

    This exclamation was caused by the road-mender finding himself pitched head foremost into his neighbour's garden, with a portion of the rickety fence apparently engaged in an effort to denude him of his nether garments.  The railing had given way under the last ounce of pressure (the old story of the camel and the feather), and going with a crash that alarmed the canary, as well as frightening away a couple of hens that were seeking to do a little model gardening, it left its constructor to moralise upon the consequences of a too eager curiosity to pry into the affairs of other people.  The noise had caused some alarm elsewhere; for just as the road-mender was getting a satisfactory account of the state of his legs, prior to making what is regarded as a cowardly use of them, he heard a door open; and looking up from among the gooseberry trees, beheld the person of the Jacobin standing over him.

    "What's the matter, neighbour?" said the latter, a smile radiating over a face that appeared to be casting off a shade of melancholy.

    "Well, yo' seen," replied the road-mender, getting upon his feet, and shaking himself, "our Margit's tongue's a bit peppery this mormn, like; an' I're gettin out o'th' road ont as fast as I could, an' geet o'erbalanced—it's a wonder I'm ever on my legs at o—an' down I coome among yo'r fayberry trees.'

    "Are you hurt?" inquired the Jacobin, with a commiserating look.

    "Well, I think my arms are o reet.  As for my yead, or my legs, they dunno' matter mich, for I've very little use for oather on 'em."

    "Come into the house.  I've some plaster that I find to be very good for bruises, and I'll give you a little of it.  But stop; I cannot ask you in now."  And again the shade came upon the Jacobin's face.

    "Why?" the looks of the road-mender said, though his lips spoke not.

    "Because," continued the other, the melancholy in his face growing more profound as he spoke, "my child is very ill.  I'm afraid she's in a fever."

    Fever!  That word was enough to scare the whole village, had it heard it.  Fever!  Dreadful announcement!  The road-mender shuddered.  The short bits of hair that fringed his temples seemed to rise, and the sweat began to ooze out of the patch of wrinkled tan.  Fever!  Let it get whispered abroad that such a terrible scourge was germinating in the Jacobin's house, and who would answer for the safety of his person, his furniture, or for the life of the tender flower drooping and thirsting in that heaven-forsaken waste?  Fever!  There might have been some of the infection concealed in the Jacobin's clothes, for his neighbour sprang away upon hearing the word, preferring to face the ordeal of a merciless tongue to risking the chances of a foul contagion fastening its teeth upon him.

    The old woman was engaged in "lithing" the broth when her spouse rushed in to tell her the dreadful tidings he had just heard.  Before the latter could utter a word, the dame was so struck with the expression of alarm so visible in his looks, that she involuntarily cast her eyes upward, as if expecting the ceiling to be giving way, or the smoke to be oozing through the numerous cracks.

    "Whatever's to do now?" she exclaimed, hurriedly placing the lithing bowl on the hob, and looking alarmed in her turn.  "Are th' churchwardens comin for thee?  Sarve thee reet, if they are.  If they putten thee opo' th' stone stoo', an' fasten thy stockins wi' a pair o' wooden garters (the stocks), thou'll be a nice seet for everybody to stare at when th' church looses.  Hast' getten thy tongue hondcuffed o'ready?  What's to do, I say?"

    "Th' feyver, Margit!" ejaculated the road-mender, pointing with his finger in the direction of the chimney-nook, as if the pestilence was hatching amongst the haybands and hammers he had previously placed there.

    "Th' feyver!  What dost' meean?"

    "It's there."  And again the road-mender pointed towards the nook.

    "Then thou's browt it wi' thee," said the dame, seizing hold of the tongs, and darting at the nook, as if she expected the disease had presented itself in the form of a frog, or a toad, or a newt.  "This comes o' thy workin ov a Sunday.  We'st ha' some sort o' bad luck beside, I reckon, through it."

    "What art' rootin about wi' th' tongs for?" asked the road-mender, impatiently.  "Dost' think thou con pike a disorder up, same as thou does a cinder, an' carry it out o'th' house?  I tell thee it's th' feyver, next dur, owd Johnny Armitage's wench."

    "Eh, dear me! thou doesno' say so?" was the dame's exclamation, as the right interpretation of her husband's announcement penetrated to her somewhat obtuse faculties.

    "Yigh; owd Johnny's towd me so just now."

    "Eh, whatever mun we do?"

    "We mun be better folk.  Thou hasno' bin to th' church sin' that Sunday ut thou couldno' get thy bonnet in at th' dur, an' thou had to turn back."  And the road-mender could not help smiling as he called up the reminiscence.

    "Joe," shouted the dame to her son, in the loomhouse, "give o'er o' that knockin an' sawin, an' come out."

    "Is th' dinner ready?" demanded Joe, pausing in his persistent hammering at a pointless nail that refused to be driven through a stout piece of oak, used in the construction of his model "rappit-cote."

    "Dinner ready, sure!  How con th' dinner be ready yet, dost think?" replied the mother; and she looked in at the loomhouse door, and spoke in a more subdued tone.  "Put that wood by.  Throw summat o'er it, so ut it conno' be seen.  Come into th' house, an' down o' thy knees in a minnit."

    "Nawe, I shanno'," said the very dutiful son, aiming another blow at the obstinate nail.

    "Ift' doesno' come, I'll fling a stoo' at thy yead, thou sinful wratch!" said the dame, raising her voice to a more authoritative pitch.  "Come at once, I say," and she flew at the youth, seized him by the hair, and in the true spirit of Christian humility, as interpreted by ignorant Merritonians, compelled him to assume an attitude of supplication.

    Muttering over something that appeared to have the effect of softening the dame's anger, as well as quieting her alarm, the hopeful rose upon his feet, and drawing a varnished sleeve across his eyes, promised to use his clogs for a purpose not intended by the clogger, if she did not allow him to proceed with the construction of his rabbit-cote.

    "Dost know ther's th' feyver next dur, an' thee carryin on o' this fashion?" demanded Margit, making a charge at the few buttons attached to Joe's waistcoat, and thereby imperilling the existence of several ragged button-holes.

    "Th' feyver!" exclaimed the latter; his looks betraying a degree of fright that one would have thought could only have been produced by the sudden appearance of a "boggart."  "Howd it back, mother, till I get out o'th' house; an' the rappit-cote may go to ―."  Well, where it might have gone to, the mother heard not; for the son was out of the house and far up the lane before she could get out of the loomhouse.

    "Yon lad's takken th' boggart finely," said the road-mender, laughing (some people would jest over the grave), an' he'll come noane back till his stomach brings him, noather."

    "He's like his feyther, he's a keaward," said the dame, looking for all the world as if she did not know what she was saying.  "Look after thoose broth, Sam, while I goo an' see what owd 'Mary o' Jone's o' Sally's' has to say about it, before we're too late."

    Mary o' Jone's o' Sally's, an old beldam who had the reputation of being a fortune-teller, lived in a cot close by.  It has been levelled with the road long since; but it was, at that time, quite a model dwelling for such as dealt in the black art to inhabit.  The walls of this tenement were of rough stones and mud; the roof of sods and rotten wisps of thatch that turned to manure, and fed long stalks of rankest grass, growing in bristly tufts, where it was not browned by absolute decay.  The "easings" were so low that a portion had to be cut away to let in the door; and the one window was a single "bull's-eye" square of glass, admitting a feeble ray of greenish light, that was of no use to anybody but the spiders.  The interior, when not redolent of burning turf, smelt of damp and mould, and was as dark as the spirits that were supposed to haunt it.  The chimney, through a compulsory economy of space, was seldom permitted to perform its functions; being for the most part choked up with sods, deposited there by mischievous boys, who could scramble on the roof as easily as mount a fence.  How the cot was furnished was never known till the day on which it tumbled; for the light was never sufficient to reveal anything to the eye except one post and the coverlet of a bed; a table that had to stand in a corner to stand at all; a chair that was constantly leaning towards the table, as if asking for support; and a stool that appeared to have abandoned all idea of ever rising to the dignity of a chair.  The old woman was of a pattern with her abode.  An only window shed its feeble light upon her soul; her chimney was choked up with snuff; and her roof had nothing upon it except here and there a straggling remnant of thatch, that no one remembered being any other colour than grey.  She had so long accustomed herself to sitting on the rickety chair, that if, when calling at a neighbour's house, she happened to sit on a firm one, she would lean on one side, and seem to be in constant fear of going over on the other.  Her habits were as singular as her person was repulsive; and she moved in an atmosphere of mystery, that strengthened the convictions of her neighbours as to her possession of the faculty of foreknowledge, and the power to avert the visitation of evil by feats of the necromantic art.

    Mary was sitting at the door, reading an old brown-leaved Bible, when the road-mender's wife presented herself at the gate.

    The beldam closed the book, raised her glasses, and looked up at Margit.

    "Thou looks meeterly flayed, wench," she observed, before the other had an opportunity of disclosing the purpose of her errand.

    "Flayed I may weel be, Mary," returned Margit, shaking her head ominously, "for what dun yo' think?"

    "Hoo's a good fortin-teller ut knows what folk thinken," replied the prophetess, making way for her neighbour to enter the cot.  "Come in, wench, an' kank thee down on th' bed, for th' stoo's low an' rotten, an' happen would nor howd thee.  What is it thou has to tell me; an uncouth (piece of news) or a tale?"

    "An uncouth, Mary," replied the road-mender's wife, taking her seat on the bed.  "The feyver's about."

    "That's ill news, wench; but not so bad as famine, or blight, or unholy Jacobin war.  Wheere's it brokken out?"

    "At Johnny Armitage's."

    This was communicated in a whisper, and with a misgiving as to whether some supernatural manifestation would not make itself visible about the chimney, or among the weird-looking rafters.

    "That unfearin, book-worshippin, Heaven-forswearin Jacobin!  Him ut said I'd no power o'er sperrits, an' couldno' tell when luck or mis-luck's comin.  It's a judgment on him for his unbelief."  And the Sybil rubbed her hands with fiendish satisfaction.

    "But we may catch it, Mary," observed the road-mender's wife.

    "Nay; I'll tak care o' that," said the sorceress.

    "How, Mary?"

    "Husht!—yon's th' church bell gooin.  It mun be done now, for Sattin has a hond in it, an' his power mun be crossed before it's too late.  That Jacobin has a wicked book in his house, th' 'Reets o' Mon' it's coed; an' I've said long sin' ut if that book wurno' brunt, th' plague ud come upo' Merriton!"  The hag threw up a shrivelled arm among the rafters as she delivered herself of this conclusion, and her client felt awe-stricken at the manifestation of such an amount of supernatural wisdom.

    "But whoa dar fetch th' book out?" asked the latter.

    "It needs noane," was the reply.  "Set fire to th' house, if he winno' give th' book up.  That ud kill th' disorder an' o; and what's riskin two lives, to sure deeath to scores?  It mun be done."

    "But that poor wench has done no hurt to nob'dy," urged the road-mender's wife.  "It ud be a pity if hoo're lost, too."

    "What does that matter?  Our Saviour wur innocent, an' wur crucified.  They didno' spare Him.  Away wi' thee, wench, an' shout it i'th' lone while folks are cumin' fro' th' church, or else it may be too late.  What, thou winnot?  Then I will!"  And the hag chaunted—


An eye for an eye, an' a tooth for a tooth;
Confusion to error, an' promise to truth.
Do unto others the ill they do you;
That's the religion of Gentile an' Jew.


    Meanwhile a part of the old beldam's undertaking had been anticipated.  The rumour of pestilence had gone through the village like a war-cry, and no lip that took up the word was niggardly of its office, but spread it wherever there was an ear to listen, and gave it a darker meaning every time it was spoken.  Villagers were gathered in small groups about the lane, and conferred in whispers.  The parson was the centre of a larger group assembled near the church gates; his usually benign face now clouded by a dark thought, and his ears forced to listen to wicked suggestions, and creeds of humanity that have no parallel in the teachings of our glorious Christianity.  Fever and Jacobinism were synonymous evils, so the people decreed.  Both must be exterminated before Merriton could open its doors with safety; and who so fit to lead them against their common enemies as the apostle of that faith which enjoins "peace and good-will to men?"

    "Promise me that you will use no violence towards this man or his house, or anything that is his," said the reverend gentleman, "and I will go down with you, and make inquiries about this wicked book."

    The promise was reluctantly given, and with a slow, measured step, and a prayerful heart, the vicar led the excited remnant of his congregation down to the gate of the Jacobin's house.

    Mary o' Jone's o' Sally's, the fortune-telling crone, was there already, inciting her neighbours to such deeds as would at another time have made them shudder to think of.  But what scruples will not bigotry and fear overcome?  These who would have been charitable yesterday are now as exacting as "Shylock," and demand their "pound of flesh" to the "ninth part of a hair."  At the door stands the Jacobin, pallid with grief and dismay, begging in the name of something that does not concern them then that his little household idols might be spared.  And more plaintive comes a voice from the sick-room, a childish-treble voice, that dares to breathe the name of God in its prayers, yet pierces no heart save one; and she, the owner of that heart, mourns for the loss of another such a girl buried the week before.  No, no; to spare would be a compromise with the spirit of darkness; though their Master preached mercy, a doctrine that might have done for the mitreless preachers of Galilee, but was heresy to some of the fishermen's successors in this land.  No; apply the torch at once, and let fire purge the air of the twofold poison that infected it!

    But stop!  The people fall back, and their clamour is hushed for the moment.  The vicar has opened the gate, and now beards pestilence and sin at the door.

    "Neighbour," says he, "the people are wroth against you, because you harbour wicked books, and teach false doctrines to those who will listen to you.  I come, as a minister of our blessed gospel, to implore you to purify your house from such a contagion, that we may as fellow-Christians seek to avert the spread of another contagion amongst us, and which my parishioners look upon as a judgment."

    "What books do you refer to?" demanded the Jacobin, in a sorrowful tone.

    "One which is known as the 'Rights of Man.'"

    "Shall I commit it to your hands?"

    "If you please."

    "You will commit it afterwards to the flames, I presume?"

    "These people will."

    The Jacobin stepped back into the house, and in a moment returned, bearing open in his hands a large calf-bound tome, the appearance of which took the vicar by surprise, as he had speculated on its being a small and insignificant-looking volume, adapted for concealment about the person.

    "My ideas of the 'Rights of Man' are gathered from this book.  What other you mean I know not.  Take it, and when you have read it as much as I have, and learned the lessons of charity it teaches, you will be no less fitted than now for your duties as a minister of Christ.  What, you seem surprised!"

    The Jacobin had reason to make this remark; the vicar was surprised, nay confounded; for his eye had lighted on a passage in that forbidden book that would have afforded him a text for an eloquent and impressive sermon:—"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."

    "This the 'Rights of Man?'" the vicar exclaimed, scarcely believing his eyes as he glanced over the text.

    "The book that teaches us the most truly what are the rights and duties of men. I have no other," replied the Jacobin.

    The vicar was silent and thoughtful for a moment; then, turning to the crowd of people at the gate, said, in his most impressive manner—

    "Neighbours, we have mistaken this man.  He is no Jacobin, but a Christian like ourselves; for lo! when I demand of him the book upon which he builds his faith, he presents to me the Bible.  Go home, neighbours, and pray that you may be as good Christians as he."

    A murmur went through the crowd.  It was not the harsh sound that had struck the Jacobin's ear as he opened the door.  There were expressions of pity heard in that buzz of voices, and more than one brave-hearted woman pressed to the gate, and offered a ministering hand on behalf of the dear child about whom the shadow of death was then hovering.  The more timid slunk away in shame and fear; whilst others, disappointed at what promised to them to be a glorious marlock, glutted their mischievous desires by an uncompromising descent upon the cot of the fortune-teller, every stone of which would have been levelled to the ground but for the interference of the churchwardens, who happened to be passing at the time.

    The vicar remained with the Jacobin, and prayed with him.  Softly they ascended the stairs, pausing at each step to listen, with a fear that the voice of the sufferer might be hushed for ever.  More softly still!  No sound yet; not even a sob.  Hush! was that the rustle of a seraph's wing bearing the freed spirit heavenward? or was it that of the Angel of Mercy, sent to pour balm on a father's breaking heart?  They are now at the bedside, the one kneeling and the other listening with an anxious ear to the music of a settling slumber, that indicates the crisis to have been passed.  That rustling must have been the departure of Death, foiled of his purpose, for the patient sleeps a calm unruffled sleep, and the hectic flush is leaving her cheek, like the unfolding of rosy curtains to disclose a bower of lilies.

    Shall I tell you more?  The reputed Jacobin was a learnèd physician, who had sought the retirement of Merriton in order that he might pursue his investigations into the soundness of a theory much disputed by the faculty.  His retiring habits, and the mystery surrounding his daily life, had engendered a suspicion in the minds of curious Merritonians that he was a follower of "Tom Paine."  They could see piles of books on shelves as they passed the cottage; and what business had people with so much reading, unless they were intent upon turning the world upside down?  So reasoned Merriton; and so does society yet reason on behalf of men who are in advance of their time.

    You see the neat brick mansion on the rise of the hill yonder?  That is now the residence of "Johnny Armitage."  Children of large families blame him for bringing so many "babbies" into the world; but the poor of Merriton bless him for his kind heart and ministering hand.  As for his daughter, Patience Armitage, she is married to his assistant; and three happier, worthier people there are not in Merriton.  Well, of course the parson must not be put on one side, for he's a jolly trump; fond of putting his knee under the doctor's table, and christening little "Jacobins" as they succeed each other to the family cradle at "Merriton Lodge."

    The road-mender has filled his last "rut."  Death laid his hammer on him one day, a short time ago; and his gravestone now fills up a space in that pavement with which the arch-destroyer is gradually covering the earth.


――――♦――――

 
THE GALLITHUMPIANS.

CHAPTER I.


I HAVE heard my grandfather say that Merriton, in his time, was more uncouth in its habits than it is even now, in this blessed reign of the Fourth William.  I do not know exactly what period of his life the old gentleman called "his time;" for he used to say in commencing a story, "When I're a lad," or "In my yard-wide days," or "When I're agate o' snootin after wenches," or "When I're teed to thy grondmother," or "When little Turting-towers had begun o' poppin up they years round th' porritch dish, like little pigs at a trough, it wur a grand time;" from which I may conclude that Merriton, during the reigns of the two last Georges, must have enjoyed twenty or thirty years of uninterrupted prosperity; notwithstanding which, we read of "barley times," bad trade, visitations of pestilence, and long, devastating wars.  But there is this to be said of your true Merritonian, that he has sources of enjoyment in things that to others might be productive only of misery.  I have heard him laugh heartily at a funeral, however unseemly it might be to do so; and make jokes at poverty, that I should not wonder at seeing him look downhearted at the prospect of doing well in the world.  No doubt his notions of political and social economy would upset all others, if carried into practice.  He "would live and let live;" and though to reduce such a theory to a practical illustration of its principles might tax to the utmost the faculties of the most profound thinker, he is nevertheless right in the main.  He would shoulder no man on the road through life; that is his meaning.  He would be content to leave the race for wealth to such uneasy natures as are never satisfied with a reasonable share of that which a watchful Providence sends for all.  He complains not of want of elbow-room.  He is not anxious to provide for the future of a lazy offspring, by accumulating property to be quarrelled over at his death.  To encourage independent effort, he takes his son affectionately by the hair of the head, and says—"Bill, we connot o be gentlemen.  Someb'dy 'll ha' to wayve, an' delve, an' use hommers an' axes, an' live so ut they winno' be plagued wi' what they coen th' geaut.  Thou's a good pair o' honds o' thy own; a set o' teeth ut are fit for a grinnin match, an' a pair o' shanks ut dunno' want proppin up wi' sticks.  Thou's th' wo'ld afore thee; a feyther's example at thy back; a pair o' clogs an' a shirt; an' what can thou want moore?  Nowt!  Then thou'rt fit to live.  If thou seed a mon up to th' ears in a pit, what wouldt' do?  Poo him out, wouldta?  That's reet, Bill; it's th' key to th' whul duty o' mon—help one another.  Go to thy porritch."

    Such is a sample of Merritonian philosophy.  How it was exemplified in the daily life of its propounders and their followers, is to be the subject of this and the succeeding chapter.

    Somewhere about the time when the first Bonaparte was engaged in his praiseworthy endeavours to depopulate Europe, there existed in Merriton a society of social reformers calling themselves "Gallithumpians."  The qualifications for membership were exceedingly simple.  If the candidate had returned a favourable answer to the question, "Dost' want to see th' wo'ld a bit betther than it is?" he had subscribed to the fundamental principle of the Gallithumpian creed.  If he had said "Ay" to the further question, "Dost' believe ut fun's better nor physic; an' ut long faces are an abomination?" he was deemed eligible to be made acquainted with the initiatory tenets of the society.  If he pledged himself never to lose sight of the public good for private gain, he was invested with a ragged coat—the Gallithumpian badge—and further inducted into the great mysteries of living cheaply, dealing fairly, and using the world as if he wished it to last beyond his own time.

    The Gallithumpians had a motto, which embodied in its injunctions the objects it was desirable should be carried out, "Never rob anybody of a day's wark;" a principle which found great favour among most aspirants to the investiture of the ragged garment.  It was contended by eminent Gallithumpians that, if the Creator had intended man should work after sunset, He would have given him a pair of cat's eyes, or otherwise endowed him with the faculty of groping his way through the most profound darkness.  Fire and water were sent for cooking purposes, and not for driving engines; for of what use was it employing steam power, when hands were idle that could do the work; unless there was a communion of property, and each member went on the idle list in his turn?  Nothing could prove of lasting benefit that involved waste of material.  Wind and water power might, in some degree, be allowed to supersede manual labour, because their sources were inexhaustible; but steam could not be produced without wasting coal; therefore, what was gained at one point would be lost at another.  Had Gallithumpians ever dreamt of the coming of a time when rivers would be polluted with substances that were required by the land, and that corporations would quarrel about which town should be made the cesspool of the other, they would have calculated that, in a few generations hence, the whole human race would have degenerated into a breed of maggots, thriving only on corruption—moral as well as physical.

    This society held its meetings weekly, in the clubroom of the "Jolly Carter."  It had neither secretary nor chairman at the outset; requiring no funds on the one hand, nor government on the other.  All might be speaking at once if they thought proper; for it was one of the established axioms of the society, that no man's opinion was worth more than a single listener; and that it was only the privilege of boredom to attack prejudices in a mass.  Consequently, the noise generally grew louder as the ale circulated; and so demonstrative did each member usually become, either in maintaining or resisting a proposition, that the dispute was not unfrequently referred to the conciliatory arbitrament of a battle, fought in true Lancashire style.  Indeed, I have heard my grandfather, who was a member, declare, that he had seen as many as a dozen appeals to clogs during one night's session: each conducted on the brotherly principle of "fair up an' down, an' shake honds at th' finish."

    On one occasion, during the most prosperous period of this society's existence, an idea got abroad that so took the attention of every Gallithumpian as to require an extra pint, as an ingratiatory potation, or in order to wash it fairly into the system.  By whom the idea was propounded no one knew, or cared to know, so long as it was common property.  I suppose, like "Topsy's paternity," it was spontaneous—it "growed."  The idea was "communion of property," on a small scale.  It would be a grand thing, thought everyone, to live in common; have a general repository for the produce of each other's labour; all feast at the same table; be clad by the same tailor; and spend their evenings together, over a tap that flowed in equal quantities for all; singing, tale-telling, and marlocking to their heart's content.  Their bond of brotherhood would be a patriotism that involved no personal sacrifice, as not one of them was in possession of a penny that, to use a Gallithumpian phrase, had not "as mony legs as an earwig."  The greatest difficulty they had in their way was the start.  Anybody, it was contended, could go on after a beginning, whether in manufacture, commerce, or agriculture.  Let them turn their first sod, "gait" their first loom; sow their first seed, and the thing would go on, to give an enthusiastic member's illustration, "like slurrin down a plank."  But how was a beginning to be effected?

    It transpired during a very noisy session, some time after the fifth battle had added its cementing qualities to the bond of union, that there was a farm to be let in the immediate neighbourhood; a farm of sufficient dimensions to locate and afford sustenance to the whole Gallithumpian brotherhood, sisterhood, babyhood, and such stocks of cattle, pigs, poultry, and beasts of burden as might, in the prosperous future, become the property of the community.  This farm might be secured for any term of lease, if a couple of trustworthy and substantial Gallithumpians would become the leaseholders.  This difficulty was, after much canvassing and disappointment, at length overcome.  Two shopkeepers, whose books were inconveniently full, and whose perceptive faculties could discern in the scheme a probable chance of liquidation, became the necessary sponsors; and the society's flag, a weaver's apron attached to a hay-stang, was one morning seen floating over the chimney of the "Gallithumpian Home of Industry," announcing the inauguration of an order of things that should reform Merriton first, and the whole world in time.

    So far, everything had gone on prosperously.  Merriton was in ecstasies.  The "Jolly Carter" never did such a trade; never made such long chalks behind the bar door, nor ever speculated in such sanguine purchases of malt and hops as then loaded the floor of the little chamber over the buttery.  If the house had been commissioned to fuddle the whole Gallithumpian estate for a series of prosperous years, it could not have gone into more extensive preparations.  Nightly the taproom was crowded with eager commentators; and weekly the clubroom discharged its patriotic duties, by giving audience to the debates that went round in noisy succession; yet no barrel refused to yield its moiety of ambrosial liquid when required.  The brewing and the fermenting kept up the supply, and the bar door grew considerably whiter after each night's debating, fighting, and carousing.  The time, however, for more earnest action had arrived; and the ultimate triumph of Gallithumpianism must be secured by each member doing his utmost to further that end.

    The "home," at present, could not be made to accommodate more than four families; and they must all be workers; so that to make a selection became a matter of some difficulty.  In this exigency they were driven to the necessity of appointing a chairman and secretary, and to the making of a considerable pecuniary sacrifice in the purchase of an old sick-club pence-book, in which to enter the proceedings of the society.  It fell to the lot of the village schoolmaster, "Fause Juddie," * as he was mostly called, to be chosen as secretary; and as this wonderfully erudite pedagogue wrote everything he undertook in a bold round hand, taking off his pen at each up and down stroke in the formation of a single letter, he was generally a day or two behind in his entries.  "Limpin Joe," an old bachelor, whose ideas, like his person, never could get along without the aid of crutches, was unanimously elected chairman; and of such importance did this individual estimate his office, that he insisted on being allowed to wear an old and much-battered Masonic "star," the legacy of a deceased relative, and which had shone lustrously from all points of the compass during many years' toasting of the "mystic tie," as the badge of his authority.  He announced, in very peremptory terms, on his induction to the chair, that he would not listen to more than one speaker at a time; but reserved to himself the privilege of talking to anyone who might sit near him whenever he chose, and of interpolating such observations as might occur to him during the delivery of any member's speech.  He, moreover, would not submit a motion to the meeting without an amendment had been previously moved; insisting that the merits of a proposition could not be satisfactorily tested unless a counter-motion "divided the house" with it.  He would then have a "rider" moved, to the effect that the motion or amendment carried "was so;" which, he argued, was tantamount to the sanction by the "lords" of a Bill submitted by the "Commons at Lunnon fowt."

    It was not uncommon during the progress of a lengthy debate, often rendered more protracted by his meddlesome interruptions, for this model chairman to find his hat rather nearer to his chin than they could be worn with comfort to the wearer; invariably driven in that direction by the momentum applied by a heavy fist operating in his rear.  These indignities he would sometimes resent with his crutch, striking right and left at guilty and innocent indiscriminately, which he declared to be the only means of coming at the right party.  The secretary and he worked well together; for as it generally took a whole night to get through one proposition, the former could manage to pen it during the succeeding week, and present it in its laboured completeness at the next meeting, to be so altered in its texts by captious meddlers as never to be intelligible afterwards.

    The evening appointed for the selection of the four families to be first located on the Gallithumpian estate arrived.  The members were in full session, noisy, pugnacious, and speculative.  The chairman had his star furbished up in grand style, and the secretary's spectacles glistened in the candlelight as if some extraordinary intelligence had been imparted to them.  There were eight families represented, who were all workers, and so could conform to the conditions of candidature.  It was at first suggested that the representatives of these families should not have the privilege of voting; but as "Lunger," one of privilege candidates put in nomination, and who had on several occasions been instrumental in damaging the chairman's hat, declared it his intention to either vote or "feight," the suggestion fell to the ground.  "Drawin cuts" (casting lots) was next mentioned as the fairest method of deciding the election; but even this method did not meet the approval of such members as stuck for everything going upon its merits, and standing or falling by the same.  It was ultimately agreed, after much noise, plenty of drink, and no little brotherly ill-will, that a "show ov honds," should be the means of deciding the choice of candidates, and business was gone into with commendable earnestness.

    "I'll mak a motion ut Lunger an' his wife an' lads is a fit and proper person to be a fust mon upo' th' lond," said a little fellow whom Lunger had been plying with pints of persuasive "fourpenny."

    "I'll second it," said another imbiber, from the same corner.

    "An' I'll third it," said Lunger himself.

    "Yo' o yern that," said the chairman, rising, and making a pompous display of his battered bauble.  "Is there any 'mendment?"

    "Ay; I mak a 'mendment ut he isno'," said a fourth, rising in an opposite corner to that in which Lunger and his supporters were sitting.

    "What for?" demanded the chairman.

    "Becose he's spavined, for t' begin with, an' as brokken wynded as an owd coach hoss," was the objection urged.

    "Come into th' fowt, an' try me," said Lunger, making a feint at pulling off his jacket.

    "My clogs are ready," responded the objecting party; and immediately the two went downstairs to settle their differences while the business proceeded.

    "Does anybody second th' amendment?" asked the chairman.

    "Ay, I do," was shouted in the candidate's absence.

    "Then," said the chairman, "I'll put 'em.  Thoose ut thinken Lunger an' his family is a fit and proper person to be th' fust at gooin on th' lond, put up booath honds."

    A number of hands were raised, which the chairman counted, and recorded in hieroglyphical characters sketched with a piece of chalk, upon the table.

    "Now then for th' 'mendment."

    Fewer hands were held up for the amendment, and, consequently, Lunger was declared to be duly elected as one of the pioneers of the Gallithumpian Society, in its new and important undertaking.

    "Now, then," said the successful candidate, wiping a swollen and ensanguined nose, on returning from the vindication of his physical capacities in the "fowt," "I'll mak a motion ut Mudge is a fit and proper, an' yo' known what;" intending, by virtue of the motion, to return the compliment to the brother who had proposed him.  This was immediately seconded, and had the merit of being carried without an appeal to the arbitrament of the "fowt."

    A third candidate was put up in the person of "Joe Jinks," the father of four stout lads, who were familiar with gardening and other operations on the land, but were "limbs" at mischief.  It was a question for some time whether the marlocking propensities of these youths would be compensated for by their industrial services; and as each was known to be an adept at clog exercise, to the proof of which many a Merritonian's ribs could testify, it was feared they might indulge their "puncing" inclinations so far as to endanger the peace of the community, and interfere with its endeavours to raise mankind to their proper sphere in the Creative policy.

    It was ultimately agreed, to the disappointment of several, that Jinks and his family were "fit and proper," and the further election of pioneers was proceeded with.

    The fourth candidate was proposed, seconded, and carried without a word of dissent.  The fifth was equally successful.  The sixth, through some oversight on the part of the chairman, who was getting rather damaged in his upper story, was elected without his candidature being seconded.  The seventh very nearly escaped being rejected; and the eighth was only a winner by a vote.

    The election thus far accomplished, and the several manifestations of ill blood having been appeased, the chairman requested the secretary to read over the names of the successful candidates.

    "Stop till I've getten 'em o set down," said the functionary appealed to, his tongue following the pen as the latter took its slow meanderings over the field of virgin paper.

    "How long wilt' be?" was demanded by his superior.

    "About hauve an hour, if th' pen doesno' want mendin; about an hour if it does," was the reply, given during the several pauses made in the formation of a word.

    "Then we'n have a sung, an' a buttle round," said the chairman, filling his pipe, and coughing an important and official-sounding cough.  "Bowzer," he continued, holding the stem of his pipe over the candle, with the intention of lighting it, and glancing at the half-obscured form of the fourth candidate, "give us summat, an' dunno' be partikilar about puttin some mouth into it, an' we'n join chorus if it's fol-lol-der-dey, or owt o' that sort.  Thou'rt scrattin thy knowledge-box, I see; thou'll do e'ennow.  Silence for Bowzer's sung!"

    Bowzer looked into his pot, the bottom of which was scarcely covered with liquid, and appealed to the good sense of the company as to whether it could be thought possible for anyone to sing with the "seed box" so near being empty.

    "Sup wi' me," said the chairman; and Bowzer, intimating with a nod that it was just the thing he wanted, took hold of the proffered pot, and, to use his own expression, "made holes in it."

    "Mun I sing about huntin, or love, or feightin?" he inquired, running over a mental catalogue, and expressing fears that his "wynt ud fo short."

    "Give us a touch o' war, Bowzer, an' leeave love to wimmen; it suits 'em better," suggested the chairman."

    "Then I'll sing yo' 'Th' Little Drummer Boy;" and Bowzer threw back his head, and screwing up his eyes and mouth preparatory to giving his lungs a little wholesome exercise, waited for the necessary silence to begin.

    "Art ready?" said the chairman.

    "Ay, if yo' are," was the reply.

    "Then fire away."

    Bowzer did so; singing to a rude and uncouth strain the pathetic ballad of—

 
THE FAIR DRUMMER BOY.


I'm off to the wars, love, to fight for Old England;
    Oh weep not, dear Mary, that now we must part!
Though torn from thy presence to cross the wide billow,
    Thine image shall leave not this fond loving heart."

Thus spoke a brave guardsman, his foot on the gangway
    The sails of the transport unfurled to the wind.
It was not faint-heart wrung the sigh from his bosom
    But leaving his Albion and Mary behind.

Up went the anchor, away sped each vessel
    That bore a brave army to Spain's rocky coast;
And soon in the smoke and the tumult of battle,
    The image of love to our hero was lost.

One night, as he lay by the camp-fire reposing,
    A sweet, gentle voice whispered thus in his ear:
"Oh let not the sigh break thy wound-soothing slumber,
    But rest, dearest rest, for thy Mary is near."

He starts!   Hark! the trumpet to battle is calling
    The drum rolls its thunder; the sword flashes bare;
Up, up, ye brave guardsmen, the eagle is screeching,
    And flapping its wings in the dull morning air!

The sun gazed once more on that field red with carnage;
    The dead and the dying lay thick on the ground;
When a drummer boy knelt by a wounded young guardsman,
    And whisperd'd of love while he bound up the wound.

"Who art thou, my youngster, that com'st with such tidings,
    To cheer me in sorrow?" the soldier he cried;
But the boy answer'd not, for a stray shot came flying,
    And Mary fell dead by her true lover's side.


    "I'll tell thee, what, Bowzer," said one of the company, when the compliments to the singer's musical abilities had subsided, "ther's no woman ud follow thee to th' war, if thou're a so'dier.  I've wondered mony a time how it wur ut thou geet yo'r Sally i'th' humour for t' go through th' church gates that mornin hoo're teed to thee.  I conno' see but thou mit as weel give someb'dy else a chance o' gooin upo' th' lond, for thou mit get thy livin by fearin nowty childer."

    "Thou'rt noane so very hondsome thysel, Swankey," replied Bowzer, good-humouredly, and drawing a further account on the chairman's pot.  "Thou'rt one o' thoose ut looks th' best at th' back of a table; for thou's letten lads punce thy legs till they're like a pair o' scythe-pows, in an' out, as if they'd bin groon in a hedge."

    Whether this slight indulgence in banter would have led to more serious business, had it been allowed to proceed, is hardly certain; but, being cut short by the secretary's announcing the stupendous fact that he was ready to read over the names of the newly-elected communists, the two curs retired to their imaginary kennels, and allowed the business to proceed without further interruption on their part.

    "Silence, while those names are read o'er, an' then we'n ha' some moore singin!" commanded the chairman, knocking on the table with his pot.

    "Lunger!" shouted the secretary, looking over his spectacles in the direction of where the amiable owner of that name was sitting.

    "That's reet," said Lunger, "goo on."

    "Mudge!" again shouted the scribe, with another glance over his "barnacles."

    "Ay, that'll do," said Mudge, winking at Lunger.

    "Joe Jinks, Bowzer, Swankey, Toppin, Lobber, Snuffle," the secretary called out in succession, without pausing at each name, as if the list only embraced the lesser lights of the Gallithumpian brotherhood.

    "How mony hast' put down?" demanded the chairman, rising upon his feet and leaning over towards his colleague.

    "Eight," was the reply, given amidst a roar of laughter, in which the whole meeting joined.

    "Eight? we nobbut wanted four."

    "Well, I dunno' care; yo' voted o on 'em in."

    "Nowt o'th' sort; how could we do that?"

    "Wheay, which are not elected; con onybody tell me?"

    No; nobody could say which were not elected.  The whole eight stuck up to a man, and insisted individually that they were all "fit and proper" persons; and challenged the whole meeting to prove they were not.

    The chairman found himself in a dilemma, from which he could discover no means of escape.  The last four would not give way to the first four; and the first would not consent to any kind of exchange or amalgamation with the last.  All were legally chosen, according to their notions of public choice, and insisted upon their rights being respected.

    Joe Jinks rose to offer a suggestion.  He proposed that they should "feight" for it.

    No, no; Lunger and Swankey had had enough of fighting already.  Some other mode of settlement must be resorted to.

    "I dunno' think," said the secretary, an idea occurring to him that promised to settle the dispute to the satisfaction of all parties, "ut yo' any on yo' needn be so keen o'th' job.  Yo' happen dunno' know what I know."

    "What was that?" was eagerly demanded; no one presuming to possess as much knowledge as a schoolmaster.

    "Wheay, ut ther's bin a boggart yerd i' yon house," replied the scribe, peevishly.

    "A boggart!"

    "Ay, it goes to th' bottom o'th' stairs every neet, an' wants to know if they wanten any blood for t' mak black puddins on.  If they say nawe, it keeps knockin an' shoutin o neet; an' if they say ay, it whets a knife, an' then ther's a grooan, an' a sound like wayther tricklin into a can, ut lasts till th' cocks begin a crowin."

    This boggart might have been indulging its butchering propensities then, in that very clubroom; for the fear that was depicted in the looks of most present was no slight tribute to the belief in supernatural visitations.

    "Anybody may have my chance," said Lunger, feeling at his nose, as if he fancied the reputed boggart had secretly made a chop at it.

    "An' mine, too," said Bowzer.

    "I'll be bowt off wi' a pint," said Swankey; but as no one bid even so humble a price, he agreed to accept any terms that might be offered; preferring to let his chance go for nothing to risking a night's experience in the boggart's slaughter-house.

    Such an effect had the secretary's disclosure made on the nerves of the pioneer Gallithumpians, that the difficulties which stood in the way of settling the election vanished in a moment.  Four of the elect withdrew their claims at once; but the rest declared it to be their unalterable intention of facing a whole churchyard of hobgoblins, in preference to giving up such a glorious chance of making Gallithumpianism a beacon that should guide the benighted of the world's wayfarers into a safe and prosperous path.  The four who thus agreed to venture upon the experiment were Joe Jinks, Toppin, Lobber, and Snuffle—all more or less emboldened by drink, and incited to emulation by the distinction their lot had accorded to them.

    The election concluded, and each pioneer having a host of congratulations showered upon him, most of which had reference to mysterious noises, and the presence of unearthly smells in old, deserted rooms, the chairman declared the night to be too far spent for any further business to be transacted; at the same time expressing his willingness to remain in the chair and listen to as many songs as the meeting might be favoured with, in order to dissipate the fear which the allusion to boggarts had created.

    The meeting accordingly held together till a late hour.  Song followed song in merry succession; and when at last it was announced that the time for breaking up had arrived, the company rose and gave three lusty cheers for the success of the "Merriton Gallithumpian Home of Industry."



CHAPTER II.

THE D――L IN THE KITCHEN.


EVERYBODY has a knowledge of an Englishman's love for public feasting and celebration; and of the importance he would give to very trifling events.  No matter what the occasion, whether it be a county election, or the appointment of a parish beadle, it must be commended to the public by a "feed" of some kind or other.  He cannot even build a house, but there must be the "rearing" supper, and its proceedings reported in the Weekly Twaddler, or what other name the local newspaper of the time may be distinguished by.  He cannot succeed to the office left vacant by the demise of "the late and much lamented" Mr. Numskull, parish clerk and collector of dog tax, but he must gather his friends around his board, hold down his head whilst his virtues are being enumerated, and in response to a musical burst of "jolly good fellowship," declare it to be the "proudest and happiest moment of his life."

    You must not suppose that Merriton would be behind hand in these gastronomical celebrations; although their being reproduced in the columns of a public journal would have been regarded in the light of an event supplementary to the "seven wonders," as no broadsheet had, up to the time of which I speak, ever found its way over the wooden bridge, except in the form of a wrapper, or as supplying the driving medium to a toy windmill.  The annual "rent neet" supper was the chief event looked forward to by convivially-disposed Merritonians; when a huge potato pie, made on the principle of one pound of meat to five pounds of potatoes, would be furnished to appease the cravings of unpampered appetites, and supply soaking matter to the copious "droits" of home-brewed that would follow.

    Not to underrate the importance of their scheme, the Gallithumpians must celebrate their first location on the "Home" estate by a public banquet.  Pray do not allow the term to take the wind out of you; for if the feast was not served by waiters in white "chokers," and though no champagne was uncorked (it would have been "good for sore eyes" to have seen a bottle of "Madame Cliquot" in Merriton at that time), it had, nevertheless, all the importance of a banquet.  It is true there was no toasting, nor speech making; yet the partakers felt drowsy after they had fed; admired the rotundity of their waistcoats, as aldermen are supposed to do, and either slunk down stairs or went to sleep while the table was being cleared.  (I ought to have said while the cloth was being removed, only table-cloths were not then known in Merriton.)  Some singing and jesting went round after the company had reassembled; but every one was in too good humour with himself to fall out with his neighbour; consequently clog noses went home, for once, innocent of any unpleasant contact with tender shins.

    The morning after the feast, Merriton presented a busy scene.  Some dozen Gallithumpians were engaged in "flitting" the families and chattels of the four successful candidates for communistic honours; and a merry time they had of it.  A broker, in this age of uniformity, would have been puzzled to discover the uses to which a considerable portion of the furniture had been put, or whether it really was furniture at all.  That which belonged to Joe Jinks had once been elegant, and well housewived, because it was the property of a substantial yeoman; but in its descent from one generation to another, it had not met with that careful treatment which its first owners might have desired.  The clock had been denuded of its case to supply material for the construction of a home-made cradle; and this cradle, in its turn, when the latest comer of the little Jinkses no longer required rocking, had been transformed into a repository for old shoes, potatoes, rubbing brick, floor sand, and marbles.  Artificers in wood might have gleaned fresh ideas in the art of carving from sundry specimens of improvements on old masters of which the chest of drawers had been made the medium.  A carved imitation of a rose had been artistically embellished with those distinguishing properties of the animal kingdom, eyes, nose, and mouth, evidently burnt into the wood by a "wotyel" (hot awl).  A griffin had been converted into a pig; and a foliated border-piece had been dexterously transformed into a brood of chickens, being led by a matronly hen towards the confines of an imaginary farmyard situated somewhere about the lid.  Several panel-backed oaken chairs had been notched and burnt into imitations of dwarfish New Zealanders; and one in particular had supplied the material for a "merril" board, upon which the cunning artificers played nightly games, by the uncertain light of a winter fire.

    Lobber, to whom no heirlooms had descended, and whose married life had been a constant "flasker" with poverty, might easily have obeyed the injunction—"take up thy bed and walk;" inasmuch as an oaken frame, supported by four rickety legs that refused to stand after the cord had been removed, was the only article of chamber furniture mentioned in the rude inventory.  Add to this a bobbin-wheel, four spokes of which had been abstracted to do duty as porridge "slices;" a round table that was held in its integrity by a mop-nail; three chairs, with list bottoms; a stool, half of which had been burnt away through having to support a wreck of a Dutch oven during the roasting of the family collop; and a pair of looms that, like "Paddy's coat," had been fashioned out of a dozen others and you have got nearly the whole household effects, as well as the working plant, of one of the most thoroughgoing of the Gallithumpian fraternity.  The worldly possessions of the other two pioneers were a sort of compromise between the useful and the ornamental; and not sufficiently peculiar in their character or construction to be particularised here.  They each knew their own, and found no difficulty either in the taking down or setting up; whilst the latter operation proved to be a somewhat perplexing task to both Joe Jinks and his fellow-worker Lobber.

    The only females connected with the establishment were the wives of Toppin and Lobber, a full-grown hoiden that claimed paternity of Snuffle, and a cat that remembered so many generations of mice as to become visibly affected whenever the days of her kittenhood were referred to.

    It required a couple of days or more to get things into some kind of working shape; the preparations being delayed by the absence, in most instances, of the tools necessary for the fitting up of their looms, and the construction of certain accessories required for their working.  The only saw belonging to the establishment had not been operated upon by the joiner's dentist within the memory of its rightful owner; consequently, instead of making short work of anything it was set upon, it only mumbled at it, as if its teeth were only fit for the mastication of sops.  The only hammer had a most insane way of losing its head when applied to a stubborn nail; and a small hand-plane that had often been deprived of its "bit," in order that it might do duty as a boat on the river, was so shy at harder work that, instead of turning up a long ringlet of shaving, it only whistled, as if in contempt of its legitimate occupation.  Their most useful implements were an axe and a pocket-knife; the former never flinched even when in contact with a fourpenny nail, and the latter was at home with anything, from a piece of bread and cheese to a rusty barn door.  It may be inferred from this description that those two public servants were much in request during the execution of such arrangements as were necessary to ensure the comfort and convenience of the pioneer Gallithumpians.

    The division of labour, and the equal appropriation of produce were questions that had not yet come under consideration; as there was plenty of work for the whole family on the one hand, while on the other there was nothing as yet to appropriate, except what was yielded through the instrumentality of the shop-book.  The first intimation that such a question would require an early consideration suggested itself to Lobber while engaged, along with his wife, in setting up a bed, whose erection depended more upon the aid of four-inch nails than it did upon the presence of the conventional bed-screw.

    "I'll tell thee what, owd crayther," observed Lobber to the companion of his bosom, after a prolonged attempt to force a nail through a piece of oak that had not previously been bored, "it's a poor look-out when we conno' muster a gimlet amung th' lot ov us.  It doesno' favvor raisin cows, an' pigs, an' hosses yet awhile.  What dost' think about th' atin ut's bin gooin on these two days?"

    "I dunno' know what to think," replied the wife, drawing out the last word so as to give it a peculiar kind of emphasis.  "But this I know, ut th' meal-box is empty o'ready, an' yon's Joe Jinks's lads i'th' kitchen now, agate o' roastin th' potatoes ut wur bowt for sets."

    "An' what does their feyther say about sich like?"

    "Oh, he said, 'lads would be lads, an' his wur aulus fond o' marlockin.'  That wur nowt to'art what they would do, if o wur true folk said about 'em."

    "What wur it, they'rn makkin sich a racket about i'th' barn this mornin?"

    "Well, owd Jone, at th' next farm yonder, had missed two ducks, an' he traced some clog marks about th' duck-cote, ut he thowt he knew th' shap' on.  So he coome o'er here, an' fund two duck yeads lyin upo' th' midden.  He's bin makkin a bother about 'em, but th' lads takken no moore notice on him than if he'd bin th' left-hond spoke ov a cart-wheel."

    "But how does owd Jone know they'rn his ducks?"

    "Wheay, becose one ov 'em had th' bottom part of its bill brokken, an' he'd lindered it t'gether wi' a bant.  That's heaw he knew th' ducks were his."

    "Well, an' what had they done wi' th' carcasses, then?"

    "Nay, whoa knows beside thersels?  Folk sayn ther a good smell at the 'Jolly Carter' yesterneet; an' a bigger noise, too, nor ther's bin for some time.  I shouldno' wonder at o if th' ducks fund ther road theere."

    "I'll tell thee what, wench, we'st ha' to look as wakken as a cat on a wot backstone if we keepn things straight here.  Dost think Joe an' his lads wantn th' place to thersels so soon."

    "It welly favvors it.  I begin o' wishin' we'd had nowt to do with this new-fangled sort o' livin."

    "By th' mass, 'Ria! thou munno' talk that road yet.  Let's try things fairly afore we gin 'em up.  Thou sees I've bin hommerin at this nail about a hauve an' hour, an' I mit as weel strike wi' a carrit, as wi' an owd rip of a hommer like this.  Pike me th' yead up again, 'Ria; that's about th' fiftieth time it's takken leeave o'th' stail while I've bin dooin this job; but I shanno' give it up if it lasts till mornin."

    Lobber re-adjusted the hammer head, which had flown off, as he remarked, about the fiftieth time during his struggle with the obstinate nail; whilst "Maria," whose name, for domestic convenience, was reduced to "Ria," seated on the floor, placed her back against the bed's side, to act as a sort of "buffer," in resisting the pressure upon the whole frame given by the force of her husband's hammering.

    At length the nail was found to be so far buried in the oak as to be within half an inch of being fairly driven up; which, under the circumstances, Lobber regarded as a great achievement.

    "It'll do now, wi' a bit ov a hat on," he observed; by which he meant the nail-head should be covered with a wrapper of some kind; "an' now thou may get up an' shake thysel," he said to his wife, whose limbs were cramped with sitting in one posture for so long a time.  "Th' neest-box is ready for th' neest, owd crayther; an' now I'll go down th' stairs, an' see what's gooin on theere."

    Leaving 'Ria to pile on the bed-clothes, which, for the two previous nights, had lain upon the floor, waiting for the "frame" to be got in readiness, Lobber went downstairs, and joined his companions in the loomhouse.

    Things were not getting on much more satisfactorily in their model workshop than they had been in one of the dormitories.  Snuffle was making sawdust so fine that Toppin declared "it would do to mix wi' th' porritch stuff;" while Toppin himself was so intent upon decapitating a nail with the axe, that he made sparks fly as if struck from the face of an anvil.  Joe Jink was engaged with the plane, endeavouring to smooth the surface of an old tub-bottom, with which he meant to prevent the wind from blowing through a space in the window that was once occupied by four squares of taxed glass.

    "I'll tell yo' what, chaps," said the latter, laying down the plane, and wiping his face with his shirt sleeve, "I should ha' to live a long time if I're teed to mak my own coffin wi' sich tools as this.  It's as bad as fishin in a bruck; for I nobbut get a bite for about twenty nibbles.  Wheere didt leet o' this presshus piece o' joiner's furnityer, Toppin?"

    "It's one ut my feyther had when he used to do a bit o' loom crappin," replied the owner of the plane, pausing over the savage work he was making with the axe.  "I dunno' think it's smelt at a grindlestone for this last twenty year; an' I know that lad o' mine, afore he deed, used to goo about with it, planin fence rails an' stone walls.  I dunno' think thou'll turn up a shavin strong enough fort' hang a dog with."

    "Nawe, nor as mich as 'ud fither a hummabee's back," replied Joe, again taking up the plane, and making most abortive attempts to get it to more than nibble at the uninviting tub-bottom.  "I think I should get on better wi' th' knife.  Dost know wheere it is, Snuffle?"

    "Ay," replied that worthy Gallithumpian, who had paused over his sawdust making in order to measure, if such a thing was possible, the progress he had made during the last half-hour; "I seed yo'r Ned with it this mornin, tryin to cut a mopstail i' two, for t' mak trap-sticks on."

    "The dickens thou did!" Joe said, chuckling in a most appreciative style.  "That lad's a janius, thou may depend on't.  He'll never work for his livin, that thou'll see.  It wur but th' tother day ut he nailed a donkey's ear to a gate stump, an' then set fire to its tail, becose it had hovven him o'er its yead when here ridin it round th' barley fielt.  An' then, again, it's nobbut about a fortnit sin' ut he geet two cats an' teed their tails together, an' they fowten till nob'dy could tell whether they'rn cats or skinned rottens.  If those are no' signs o' janius, what is?"

    "Dost think he's any ways boggart feart?" put in Lobber, approaching the subject as if afraid to touch it.

    "Him boggart feart!" exclaimed Joe, with a most determined sweep of the plane.  "Nowt o'th' sort.  If I thowt then one o' my lads ut wouldno' face a fielt full on 'em, I'd raise him by th' ears till he could see into another country.  They'd not ha' done as they did yesterneet if they'd bin feart o' owt short o'th' owd lad."

    "Wheay, what did they do?" asked Snuffle, his saw stopping half way in its passage downwards.

    "What did they do?" echoed Toppin, flinging down his axe, and looking as scared as if he had seen the marks of suspicious hoofs on the easily impressed floor.

    Joe Jinks laid down his plane, and again wiping his face with his shirt-sleeve, and making an observation that reflected upon the sleeping propensities of his companions, said—

    "Dun yo' meean t' say yo' yerd nowt yesterneet?"

    "I yerd nowt," said Toppin.

    "Nor I noather," said Snuffle.

    "An' I yerd nowt nobbut th' wynt makkin a flute o'th chimdy," said Lobber.  And the four pioneer communists formed a group, in which Joe Jinks was the centre figure.  Joe was about to relate what we must suppose were his experiences of the previous night, when he was interrupted by a most unaccountable noise coming from the kitchen.

    "That's noane o'th' boggart," said Toppin, listening.  "It sounds moore like a women's club when o th' drink's come'n in.  What's up, I wonder?  Our Nell an' yo're Madge," he said, turning to Snuffle, "are makin th' biggst noise, I con yer."

    "They shouldno' start o' fo'in out so soon," observed Lobber, listening if he could detect his own wife's tongue engaged in the mêlée.

    "Let's goo an' see what's puttin 'em so out o' flunter," suggested Snuffle, feeling anxious about the issue.

    "Nowt o'th' sort," said Joe Jinks, shaking his head, as if he dreaded the consequence of meddling.  "Aulus let women feight their own battles, or else they'n be at it otogether.  They liken it so mich better when they thinken someb'dy's takkin notice on 'em; but let 'em a-be, an they'n give o'er o' theirsels."

    He had scarcely finished the sentence when the door opened, and in rushed Toppin's wife, making such havoc of her capstrings, which she pulled and twisted in her excitement, that one might have been induced to suppose they were anything but minor objects of her wrath.

    "Sithi," exclaimed the infuriated woman, fixing her eyes on Snuffle, and giving another pluck at her capstrings, "Yon's yo're Madge an' me han mopt th' kitchen an' th' buttery, an' cleeant th' stairs, while Lobber's wife's done nowt nobbut nuss her elbows upo' th' hearthstone.  Dun yo' co that fair?"

    Nobody spoke.

    "If hoo'd nobbut ha' wesht up, or getten th' hess out, or swept th' fowt, we shouldno' ha' cared; but sittin ov a rook, an' roastin her stockins at th' fire while we're slavin an' moppin, we conno' stond at o; nor we winno'.  I'll goo back to th' owd house fust."

    The division of labour, so far as women's work was concerned, had not been considered by the Gallithumpians; and to find two of the weaker sex agreeing upon even so trivial a point, would be next to discovering the sources of perpetual motion, or the geographical position of that much-sought-for quarry which is to yield the "philosopher's stone."  It therefore struck the pioneer communists that this disagreement between their wives would be the rock upon which their project would become wrecked, should it escape every other danger; and though each returned to his work without making any kind of remark, or seeming to pay the least attention to the accusations set forth by Madam Toppin, it was not the less evident that their speculations were not of the most sanguine character.  The boggart was for the moment forgotten, or its interest absorbed in the graver events of the morning.  Joe Jinks's plane went more merrily than ever; but Snuffle's saw seemed to go dejectedly up and down, and Toppin's axe had ceased to strike fire, while poor Lobber stood like an animated cipher, inwardly wishing the "community" was at—Jericho.  (He would have said something harsher had his feelings found utterance.)

    Toppin's wife, finding she could make no apparent impression upon the four stupid specimens of the harder sex, gave them each a salute in turn, as a sort of parting benediction, and returned to exercise her wordy artillery in the fight that was still going on in the kitchen.

    "They're throwin stones at one another hard enoogh now," observed Joe Jinks, again laying down his plane; "but they'n be as thick as inkle wayvers afore mornin, mind if they are no."

    Night came.  It was the third night after the flitting and the several sections of the united families had retired to their beds, some to think about boggarts, and others to plot mischief; but all more or less impressed with the futility of their present attempt to illustrate the practicability of establishing universal brotherhood upon earth.

    About midnight, and when the wind was roaring in the chimneys, and uttering plaintive music among the thatch, a loud banging noise startled the whole house.  Those who were asleep opened their eyes and ears, and wondered if the upper story was tumbling downstairs.  Those who lay awake concluded at once that it was the boggart commencing its antics, and prepared themselves for hearing further evidences of its liking for mischief.  The bang was repeated—louder than at first—and the rattling of a chain followed, and such a chain, too, as only the "old boy" himself could have dragged over the floor.  The wind might have made a kite of the whole thatch, or played at ninepins with the chimneys, without anyone having his or her attention called to the fact; of so much greater moment was the noise that was going on below.  A sound as of hard breathing, which grew to a shrill whining whistle, and deepened into a howl so terrible that the ear tingled as it listened, succeeded these other noises; and by this time there was not a pioneer, or a pioneeress, Gallithumpian who was not wide awake, and either frightened at, or concerned about the disturbances that were going on in the house.

    Joe Jinks was, if possible, a trifle less terrified than were his companions; for he ventured to jump out of bed, and summon the others to an inspection of the premises to see if they could discover the whereabouts of the "boggart," or any traces of its visit.

    "Now Lobber, Toppin, Snuffle!" he sang out on the landing of the stairs, "get up, an' bring summat as heavy as yo' con carry, an' follow me, an' we'n soon find out what this boggart is."

    "I shanno' stir an inch, if it poos th' house down," said a voice from deep down under the bedclothes.

    It was Toppin, sweating with fear, and expecting every moment to hear all the doors in the house fly open, and the shrill call of the supernatural pork-butcher, demanding to know if they required any material for the manufacturing of black-puddings.

    Lobber, a trifle more courageous than Toppin, appeared, shivering, at his bedroom door, armed with something which afterwards proved to be a weaver's beam, that had a sharp toothed scotch-wheel fastened to the end.  With this weapon, he was within an ace of making such a demonstration about the bob of Joe Jinks's nightcap as would have interfered with the rotundity of that individual's skull, had not the latter stepped aside, and placed himself in immediate danger of going head foremost down the stairs.

    "Howd on, Lobber!" sung out Joe, recovering his balance by grasping at the oaken banister; "thou'll want thy strength for summat else afore long, than makkin a nail o' my carcass.  Husht! con thou yer out?"

    No; not a sound, save the roaring of the wind.

    "Just send one eend o' that beeam through Toppin's dur while I rooze Snuffle," said Jinks, after listening some time to hear if the visitor was doing anything in the phlebotomising line.

    Lobber was near obeying literally the injunction of his companion; for, aiming a blow at the door pointed out, his weapon fell with such force against the shaky timbers as to render several nails inconstant to their trust.

    "Eh, Mesther Boggart, dunno' tak me!" shouted Toppin, in a tone of voice that appeared to be coming out of the ceiling.  "Tak our Nell, if yo' wanten anybody.  Hoo'll be leeter for t' carry; an' hoo knows how to mak blackpuddins better nor me."

    "It's me, Toppin," said Lobber, applying his mouth to the keyhole of the door.  "Come, get up, an' don thisel."

    "Han yo' kilt th' boggart?" demanded Toppin.

    "Ay; an' we wanten thee for t' help to bury it," was the reply, given in a hoarse whisper, as if the speaker was afraid it might be heard downstairs.

    "Well, I're comin like a roarin lion for t' ha' kilt it mysel, but our Nell laid howd on me, an' pood me back," said Toppin, growing valiant all at once.  "Wait a minit while I find my clogs.  It looks th' best when ther's two or three together o'er a job o' that sort.  I'd better bring a bit o' summat for t' keep th' rottens fro' natterin at one's feet; hadno' I, Lobber?"

    "Ay; thou may bring a bit of a stick for t' dust th' carpet with, if owt stirs."

    "I feel vexed ut I wurno' in at th' killin," said Toppin, opening the door, and pushing forward a heavy bar of wood, almost as much as he could carry.  "Wheere are Joe Jinks an' Snuffle?"

    "They are down th' stairs readin th' buryin sarvice.  If we areno' sharp we'st be too late for t' see it."

    "I conno' say ut I'm fond o' seein a deead carcass o' any sort," said Toppin, hesitating.  "I'd rayther see 'em when they're wick, chus heaw dangerous they are.  Yo' con bury it beaut me, an' I'll stop here for t' keep th' women fro' comin down."

    "Come on, mon," said Lobber.  And he seized hold of Toppin by the waistcoat, and both went rolling down the stairs in a more precipitate manner than was intended, and was shortly at the heels of Joe Jinks and Snuffle, who were groping their way through the lobby.

    "Wheere is it?" said Toppin, casting his eyes about in the gloom.

    "Husht! it may wakken again," entreated Lobber, in a whisper to Toppin.  And the whole party held their breath and listened.

    Suddenly Toppin found himself seized round the waist by something that held him as tight as if he had been screwed up in a vice.  The fellow, finding himself a prisoner, roared loud enough to drown the growlings of the monster that held him in its embrace, and his weapon dropped useless on the floor.  His companions, instead of rendering any assistance, tumbled over each other in their eagerness to reach the stairs, and the weapons they carried were strewn about the lobby as if that passage had been purposely converted into a lumber-room.  In the meantime Toppin struggled with his assailant, and yelled for the assistance of the whole human race, as many saints as he knew the names of, and all the powers that were supposed to interfere in the destinies of his kind.  Before, however, his breath was exhausted, as soon it must have been, the boggart relaxed its grasp, gave a growl of satisfaction, and dragging the portentous chain along the floor, made its exit from the lobby.

    Toppin had just sufficient strength left to enable him to crawl upstairs; and when at last he reached the landing, he found his companions huddled together in a state of the most abject fear, anxiously awaiting the issue of his encounter with the boggart.

    The women, forgetful of the day's differences, left their beds, and grouped themselves together in one room, which they strongly barricaded, and found such sweet satisfaction in each other's society, that they vowed they would never quarrel again, no matter whatever kind of grievance one might conceive against another.

    Morning dawned, and found the four valiant boggart hunters making such uses of one bed as the length of their limbs and the width of their bodies would permit.  They lay higgledy-piggledy till the sun woke up; and more than one feigned sleep, for fear of being challenged by the rest to join in another excursion downstairs.  At length it could be heard that the younger branches of the Gallithumpian family were stirring.  One of Joe Jinks's sons was whistling about the house as if nothing had happened the night before; and encouraged by these signs of the boggart's absence, the elder branches at last ventured to accompany each other on a second tour of investigation; and accordingly descended to the lower story.  Strange! there were no signs to be found of a supernatural visitation; and when the boys were questioned as to their having heard anything, they one and all declared they had not; so the matter remained a mystery for several months.

    In the meantime the "Home" was broken up.  Toppin, Lobber, and Snuffle returned to their former state of life; leaving Joe Jinks and his sons as the only occupants of the haunted house, where they lived in a sort of semi-barbarous state for many years.

    Ned Jinks cleared up the mystery one night when carousing at the "Jolly Carter."  He said he and his brothers one night stole a dancing bear out of an outhouse in Merriton, and which they intended baiting the morning following.  Not being able to force an entrance into the barn, they had led the beast into the kitchen, and fastened his chain to a staple in the wall.  This, however, Bruin had dislodged, and found himself at liberty to roam about the house as he liked.  The rest you may guess, except that the ugly brute found means of escape before morning, and so frustrated the designs of his would-be persecutors.  The boys had pledged themselves to each other not to tell anyone else about their rather dangerous marlock; and thus, through their reticence, the "Gallithumpian Home of Industry," like many other schemes of short-sighted men, came to a sudden and inglorious end.

* This took place a few years previous to the "philosopher's" identification with "Walmsley Fowt."


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