CHRISTMAS AT RINGWOOD HALL.
THE present year
was once young. Not long ago we had the christening, when we
gave it the name borne by a long line of forefathers, "Happy New
Year!" We welcomed the youngster at its birth with peals from
a thousand steeples. We shouted its name in the streets, and
wished it all kinds of good wishes. Notwithstanding that we
had been disappointed in others, we had faith in this, and
congratulated ourselves upon having lived to see its coming.
Wine flowed, and the roast ox sent up its incense from a million
mahogany altars. It was a right hearty, joyous welcome.
No one remembered ever seeing such a handsome "little stranger."
Its papa was an ugly brute in comparison. What
beautifully-rounded limbs; what sparkling eyes; what dimples
everywhere! How it laughed itself into fits when we poked its
tiny ribs! How it chuckled and crowed when we made donkeys'
heads for it on the wall, or squinted at it through the saddle of
its "dadins!" We felt "cock-sure" the little fellow would
never turn in his toes, or suck his thumbs like his naughty
predecessors. There was too much promise in those smiles which
made the cradle luminous for us to doubt his future. He would
never poke his fingers into his nurse's eyes. He would not
have "tricks of his own" by which to break up the harmony of the
playground. He would never filch marbles, nor spite his
playfellows' tops with wilful kicks. The necessity of flogging
him to school was out of all sane calculation. He would rush
to his letters as he would to his lollypop, and be too much engaged
with his tasks to find leisure for cutting buttons from other boys'
jackets, or smearing their faces with ink. When grown to
hobbledehoyhood, casting off his frills and breakfast bibs, he would
enter upon a more responsible career with every grace and promise
that could augur a bright and useful future.
Has he fulfilled our hopes? No, the scamp! He has
been as bad as the rest. Don't you think so, friends, standing
round his bed, listening for his last breath, and looking at the
array of empty physic bottles, sent by doctors of all degrees and
schools—Church doctors, State doctors, sanitary quacks, and
red-coated phlebotomists—is he worth a single tear? No; let
him die; there is another year waiting for his shoes; and if this
successor, now a-tiptoe on the threshold of his kingdom, be not more
worthy of our acclamations than the immediate past have been, it
will be quite time to lay by our drums and trumpets; give up our
bells to the colonisation of spiders; and let the "wastrels" come
and go as the uncared-for progeny of a disreputable race.
Well, we will so far task our patience as to give this old
reprobate "Christian burial." But his shroud must be snow, his
coffin the yule-log, and his funeral-chant "He is gone—let us
rejoice!" We will have holly and mistletoe in place of
rosemary. Our "serving cup" shall be wassail; and the reading
of the will shall not be a ceremony of mock tears and
disappointment-soured looks; for the rascal has left us nothing but
his debts, his broken promises, and his vile example to succeeding
years: but it shall be a merry and a festive time. Our groans
shall be caused by the weight of roast beef hidden beneath our
waistcoats; our tears shall be pearls of laughter; and our mourning
"vestments" the motliest that the wardrobe of "Old Daddy Christmas"
Go, fetch in whole groves of holly. Strip every oak you
meet with of his mistletoe garters. Make a very bower of both
hall and cottage; and light it so with yule-light that you will grow
sick of sunshine when the morrow comes. Make the
"kissing-bush" as wide as the ceiling itself; nay, let it extend to
the porch, that lips may meet on the threshold and never part more.
Whoever complains of cold, put them into a bath of wassail, and pour
the liquid down their throats till their very souls are thawed.
No slippers must be fit for anything after to-night; and if the
ragman does not turn up his nose at your muslin to-morrow, never
whisper to anyone that you have enjoyed a merry Christmas.
Come, no side-long glances! Let every look be frank and free.
Count us all brothers and sisters for this one night, and make the
bond last till Christmas comes again.
Where is that rascal of a fiddler? Drunk already; or
has someone greased his bow, that we hear not the music? Bring
him forth. If he has not in reserve some half-dozen elbows,
woe betide him! for "Sir Roger" alone would use up a joint; and look
what a wearing and tearing of cat-gut comes before it! Get
thee on thy perch, thou drunken old loon! Thy meerschaum of a
nose is coloured enough already; so that thou need'st not be forever
eyeing the seasoned lemon juice and smacking thy lips, as if
thou wert afflicted with perpetual thirst. Thou mayest expect
to be hanged in thine own cat-gut, if thou permittest one foot to be
still to-night. There, now; "off she goes!" Shake all
the worm-dust out of these crazy timbers. Let the windows
accompany with their tinkling castanets, and make the whole house
split its sides with rant, and roar, and revelry.
Who cares about to-morrow? Will that day ever come?
Who cares for the birth of the new year while the funeral of the old
one is so jolly? Is there not a whole eternity condensed into
a few hours of such delight, that it matters not what our sublunary
condition may be henceforth? Who can think of every-day duties
now? What are they? Who would sink himself so low as to
dream of hoarding up wealth, with so much around him that wealth
cannot buy? Who remembers an unkindness? Who thinks the
world a bad one? Who believes there is such a thing as misery
in existence that there are shoeless feet and unclad forms anywhere
that there are lips yearning to taste that which you cast aside,
when that smoking, brandy-faced monster of a pudding is taking the
very breath out of you?
Hush! there is a childish wail at the door. No; 'tis
the wind whistling among the naked trees that beat their branches
about the roof. Listen again! That matron there, helping
the young folks to heaps of dainties, with which they are already
surfeited, knows the sweetness of childhood's treble from any music
that the wind, playing upon its favourite summer harp, may utter,
and she pauses to listen.
Open the door, and let in those rags made holy by much
suffering. Clasp kindly those little blue hands that shrink to
feel your own soft, warm touch, as if they were familiar only with
hard, ungentle natures, and the scars with which the world's rude
pushings against such helpless reeds hath seamed them over.
Let not those chapped and frozen lips repel you from bestowing the
kiss your kind heart prompts; for had you listened to the prayer
which, last night, they uttered over a sick mother's wasting form,
begging that God would send what man denied, you would have deemed
them canonised by as pure a sainthood as ever claimed beatification
by acts of love and mercy done in this our Christian land!
Stir up the log. Make the sparks fly upwards like
messengers sent to heaven, to tell the angelic host that there are
two souls yearning to be with them. Make that couch so soft
and impressible to touch that a breath would raise it into billows,
and lay on it those bruised and prematurely hardened limbs, that
they may feel for once they might have been plump and round and
soft, if their path through life had been stripped of stones and
thorns, and gentle hands had been held out to help them. And
more than all—let those lips partake of food such as they have not
tasted since they drew from a mother's breast; and they shall bless
you through the long nights' weary watchings, when the rewarding
genius of kindly hearts bath shaken up your pillow, and infused the
breath of enchantment into your sleep, that your dreams may be of
the brightest things with which the enthusiast's world is peopled!
Now depart, little wanderer, on life's dark and devious way!
Thy tender feet will surely induce the stones to cast off their
roughness; and He who "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb," will as
surely look down with pity on thy unfleeced form, and lull the
buffeting winds, and take the sharpness from the pinching frost,
that thy burden may not be borne by cramped and aching limbs to that
last resting-place, where frost and snow, and the coldness of men's
hearts, avail not.
Not yet the dance. Dry not up the fountains of pity too
soon. Let their streams well forth till the heart, discharged
of its burden, lays down as upon a pillow; and its throbbings cease,
as the wild music of the storm dies in the bosom of the succeeding
Now, fiddler, chirp upon thy anxious strings. What,
hast thou been weeping, too? One would have thought thy old
dim eyes had had their springs dried up long, long ago; for nightly
thou hast kindled a fire beneath their sockets that would have made
ashes of Vesuvius ere this. Come, square thine elbow, and let
us be off in earnest this time, for the clock is getting
impertinent, and insists upon reminding us that Time waits for no
man, but jogs on and on in Sorrow's path, and flies with lightning
wings when Pleasure would have it stay.
We are off at last.
Oh, the feet that trip so lightly past, and whisper sweet
nonsense to the listening floor! Oh, the long silken tresses
that lash our flattered cheeks with gossamer touch, and leave a
wound where wounds are sweetest when they never heal! Oh, the
hands which press so softly, that you wonder whether they are hands
or lips, and grow giddy with the doubt! Oh, the whirling
clouds of mazy web, from out the folds of which are twinkling such
stars as the blue firmament above would place in choicest orbit,
were they translated thither! Oh, the smiles that make your
heart a liquid by gentlest fusion, and mould it into a feeling akin
to their own expression! Oh, those settings of lily-buds among
the scarcely-opened roses that met your lips beneath the magic bush!
Surely they will wake the slumbering hive, and make each bee a
truant to his bed, thinking the summer blossoms are here already!
Hush! Stop the dance! What sound was that,
filling the startled ear with its magic resonance? What, is
the New Year come before its time, that the madcap-steeple is
shaking its bells so merrily? The youngster might have waited
till we had poured enough wassail on his father's remains to have
enbalmed a century of dead years, and we would have welcomed him
most royally. But let him come in, that we may "wet his head,"
and place on it the olive crown, symbolical of his peaceful advent.
What old man thou who bring'st the stripling forth, swaddled
in snow, his cap the brightest blue, studded with gems from heaven's
own casket, and his robe a million worlds' enwoven rays, streaming
from an eternal east? This is no harvest time, that thou
shouldst bring a scythe wrapped in thy wintry cloak. No hour-glass
need we to tell us it is morn, when the bells are ringing so
merrily. Begone, old man, and leave us to our mirth; nor cast thy
shadow on the new-born year, that comest with such a princely smile
to tell us he is king!
Old Wap thought it was a dream, as he sat in the nook, wiping
his glistening forehead after the tenth dance, in which the pearl
buttons of his short kerseys had figured throughout. "Ringwood
Hall" had been a-blaze with light, and giddy with merriment for
"ever so many" hours pending the coming of the New Year's morn.
Nobody ever heard such music as Twiner Joe executed on his four bars
of cat-gut; now rosining his bow; now rosining his throat; his elbow
working as though it had been constructed on the principle of an
eight-days' clock, warranted not to stop till the weights had run
down. Nobody had ever calculated that Ringwood contained so
much holly and mistletoe as made the dining-room of the hall look
scarcely half its usual size. Nobody ever dreamt that Merriton
could have furnished such a bevy of damsels as made that winter
garden appear as if it grew flowers in ready-made bouquets.
Nobody believed the crazy old house would stand such a romp; but it
was built of oak cut from its native woods, and not of the flimsy
material imported from abroad. Nobody believed that old Wap's
bailiff could have compounded such a mixture of roasted apples and
savoury etceteras as smoked in that hissing caldron by the
hall fire. But "Jonas" had lived in smart families, and had
learnt a thing or two which he was not bound to impart to everybody
in Merriton. And, lastly, if ever it could have occurred to
anyone that "Nancy," the cook, could have appeared so fascinating as
she did, when bringing in that miracle of a pudding, it would have
been predicted by every gossip in the village that old Wap would
have made her something beside a servant before the New Year had
been a month old.
Well, it was no dream. It was a merry, unmistakable
reality, as the dampness of Wap's chocolate napkin could amply
testify. The old boy turned on the group before him a longing
eye, and wished he was young again as sincerely as ever he wished
for anything. There was Matty Charlesworth among the group—the
pink, the queen, or whatever you will, of the whole of that animated
flower-basket. What would he not have given to have been the
absent Bowley, returned from a brief sojourn abroad to claim the
girl as his bride? He would have braved all the boggarts of
Fairy Bridge for youth renewed in the form he wished it. Had
the dancing made him drunk, that he felt so drowsy? Or was it
the wassail, and the occasional sly drop of something else taken
with the fiddler? Strange! his eyelids would close, in spite
of all he could do to keep them open; and his chin (a double-barreled
one) would go down upon his breast, no matter how he tried to keep
his head on the balance. Why did he yawn, he wondered, and how
was it that the room grew dim, and the figures in it indistinct?
How was it that the whole scene appeared to change into a moonlit
grove, through which a silver stream meandered, and in which fairies
were holding their revels? He could see his own shadow in the
river, and behold—he was changed also. He was now a comely
youth, with a scarcely bearded chin, and limbs as light and supple
as the unsubstantial forms now dancing around him. He must
have become the favourite of fairy fun and frolic; for the elves
have taken the form of maidens, ripe and blooming, who beckon him
with their eyes to follow—follow in Pleasure's track, over golden
sands and velvet lawns, to arbours sweet of jasmine that only
fairydom can grow. Away, light of foot, light of heart, light
of head, old man young again, to where love has made his home in the
fairy bower! There taste the nectar that filters through the
leafy roof, and revel among the shadows which troop about, and leave
warm kisses, fragrant of the breath of roses a thousand times
distilled upon thy cheek; for "Mab" hath got thee in her airy train,
and shows thee pleasures which can but live in the enthusiast's
"What, what, what, a dozen pairs of gloves for as many
kisses? Out, you vixens! Don't tell me I've been asleep.
Look at the clock. It isn't two minutes since we were
Thus reasoned old Wap, rubbing his eyes and blinking at a
crowd of claimants for gloves he had forfeited during his brief
sojourn in dreamland. He could not believe that he had been
asleep, and appealed to the fiddler for his testimony.
"Have I been nodding, Joe?" he said, looking up at the
half-somnolent "tweedledee," as the latter was in the act of
rosining his throat.
"I dunno' know whether yo'n bin noddin or not,"
replied Joe, smacking his lips and winking; "but yo'n bin
snooarinlike a cote full o' Kesmas pigs. I thowt yo'rn happen
tryin to do th' bass to my fiddlin. But yo' kept sich bad
"And what have these girls been doing?"
"They'n bin bussin yo' like house-o'-fire. I tried for
t' go t' sleep mysel; but nob'dy ud ha' takken any notice o' me if
I'd slept till dayleet, beaut they'd wanted some moore music."
"Joe, Joe, you're in league with these minxes. I'll ask
someone else." And old Wap got up from his chair, and crossed
the room to where sat a young, handsome cobbler, who could not take
his eyes off Olive Makapenny, whether she was dancing or waylaying
some swain who was unconsciously making straight for the
kissing-bush. The cobbler's testimony accorded with the
fiddler's, with this difference, that he closed one eye when it came
to Olive's turn, and could not exactly say whether the other had not
deceived him. But yonder sits Dame Charlesworth, fidgety and
flushed from having been so mauled beneath the mistletoe by that
"rapscallion" of a Sam Briggs, who has, on several occasions, given
out hints that he has notions of sometime being landlord of the
"Jolly Carter." Old Wap would appeal to her as a last witness,
when, if her testimony agreed with the rest, the gloves should be
bought, and awarded to the fair claimants.
"Ay," replied the dame to the question put; "an' if I'd ever
worn glooves i' my life, I'd ha' won a pair mysel afore yo'd wakkent."
The dame was buxom for her age, and of a fair, fresh
complexion; and, as he looked at her, Wap could not help expressing
a wish that the thirteenth pair had been forfeited like the
"But come," he says, with a gleeful chuckle, "I see I've
lost. The gloves shall be yours, lasses; only I wish I'd been
awake when they were won. And so you've been playing at 'two's
and three's,' and 'shy widow,' while I've been snoring! What,
and 'silly old man,' too? I'm a silly old man to have missed
all that fun. I hope the night has not been a dream
altogether. You're not fairies, are you, lasses?"
No; for as old Wap in his half-bewildered manner went round
from guest to guest, bestowing such greetings as were fitted to the
receivers, he, somehow, got within the radius of the magic circle
described by the shadow of the mistletoe; and next moment a dozen
very substantial arms were struggling with each other about his
neck; and as many kisses were so dotted about his face, that he
declared it was like being in a snowstorm, where the flakes were
warm and velvety, and melted as they fell.
Oh, to have seen the old man's face all glow in the midst of
that caressing, smothering group—the loved, the revered, the
benefactor of Merriton! Who would not, had they been pretty
girls, have saluted his cheek till it had been blistered, for
kindness dispensed among the suffering poor? Ringwood Hall was
everybody's home that chose to make it such. Its doors were
ever open; and its owner's hand was never closed but when it had a
friendly palm within its grasp. And how such a little body
could contain such a big heart was a puzzle to all who understood
not the anatomy of goodness. A bachelor, looking beyond his
sixtieth year towards a peaceful twilight not far in the distance,
it had been his life-long care that there should be no clouds about
his sunset; but that he might sink into the grave as serenely as the
orb of day drops into the bosom of the west. His very chin
seemed to shake a purse at you as he passed, and bid you take as
much as you might want. And bless those legs, that could
scarcely move along from children clasping them; and the coat that
was never whole two days together, from urchins pulling and swinging
at its tails, as they greeted him with their boisterous endearments
Every Christmas, Wap assembled his neighbours at Ringwood
Hall; and the butcher, and the grocer, and the farmer, the latter
with his consignments of poultry, made louder noises at the "Jolly
Carter" a day or two before, than anybody made during the rest of
the year. He had assembled them on this occasion; and the
dinner never had been surpassed, nor ever would be; that was the
conclusion everybody came to ere they had fairly tasted. The
wassail made their eyes wink and their ears tingle when they drank;
and the dancing, nobody knew what it was like; only Sogger remarked,
that "flyin wur a foo' to it." Matty Charlesworth was one of
the guests, as you know already, and so was Olive Makapenny.
And bustling among the juveniles might be seen she who was once
Patience Armitage, the Jacobin's daughter, matronly and painstaking
with her youthful clients. And Jammie o' Tum's was there in
pumps. And Pincher, now left off blushing, had several times
led Matty through the dance; and a whole forum of others were
present, including the young "tachin-waxer," who had tricked old
Makapenny; and Sam Briggs, otherwise Sogger, dancing a very quaint
step with Dame Charlesworth, in a retired corner of the room.
And all "went merry as a marriage bell" from the first blink of the
yule log to the first peep of dawn.
But old Wap feared it was all a dream. He had been too
deep in the wassail cup to be thoroughly conscious of everything;
and, as his eyes would sometimes close on the shortest notice, and
his fancies wander to fairyland, he was puzzled to define which was
the real and which the imaginary.
"It is Christmas, isn't it?" he would ask between his nods.
To be sure. Look at the walls so hung with evergreens
that not a spot of paint can be discovered anywhere.
"We've had dinner; have we not?"
Such a dinner that, were it to occur every day, not a
waistcoat in the room would fit its owner.
"And did not a poor, starved child call, begging?" It
"And did we turn it away without having fed it?"
Did they? No! Was it not laid upon a sofa, before
a bright, sputtering fire? Did they not feed it with such
dainties as the table contained? Did they not wrap it in a
warm woollen cloak, encase its shoeless feet in ample clogs, and
dismiss it to its home with a blessing and something beside?
To be sure they did; many a tear attested the fact; but Wap's memory
was not vivid upon the point. He still fancied he was
"But I have lost a dozen pair of gloves; have I not?"
As many pairs of lips said he had.
"Oh, that isn't a dream, at all events! Talking of
dreams reminds me of one I dreamt some years ago. Such a funny
dream it was! Shall I describe it to you?"
Everybody wanted to hear it.
"Gather round, then, lads and lasses. It wants just
half an hour to morning. When I have finished my story, we
shall be ready to salute the Happy New Year. Come, bring your
chairs this way."
The company gathered round their host, and taking pull at the
fiddler's rosin cup, old Wap commenced his story.
"I'M a great
dreamer," said old Wap, as the company gathered round to listen. "I'm sometimes puzzled to say which is reality and which is fancy. But fortunately I'm not much afflicted with dreams of the horrible
kind. I sometimes find myself flying, sometimes swimming; and I've
even experienced the sensation of having my head whipped off my
shoulders by the sudden jerking of a noose made of horse-hair. But
such dreams have been exceptional, and have invariably occurred when
I have neglected my pipe, or been eating roast pork. The dream which
I'm about to relate is one of so rare an order, and so utterly
absurd in all its details, as to have impressed itself on my mind
with the vividness of actual fact. It occurred this way.
"I had been down to Hazelworth one afternoon, and was returning home
a little lively, when I met the parson, looking as hot and as
thirsty as a haymaker. It was summer time, and a very sultry day, I
remember. I could see he wanted an excuse for getting into the 'Bell
and Corkscrew,' so I said—
"'Parson, you're very fond of bacon, I believe.'
He owned he was, especially when it came in the shape of tithe.
"'Well,' I said, 'they've as pretty a pig hung up in the old "Bell"
as ever you saw.'
"He was delighted to hear that, and became thirstier than ever.
"'If you're not in a hurry,' I said, 'we'll just step in and look at
"He took out his watch, and by very close reckoning made out that he
could just spare ten minutes; but I must not press him to stay
"I knew his ten minutes meant about two hours, so we turned into the
house, and got snugly seated in the bar, with the window open, and
before us a tankard each of ale, as cold and as frothy as you could
expect to find at that time of the year. The pig was forgotten
directly, and I began to have my doubts whether the parson would
have cared to leave the 'nut brown' for the sight of a whole
Smithfield of 'bacon trees,' he looked so happy after his second
pull at the tankard.
"An hour passed over with pipes and stories, and freshly filled
tankards, and we had not yet seen the pig. I hinted this fact to the
parson, but he only gave a grunt, and said he could call another
time. The chair was so easy and the ale so good, and there was such
a smell of wallflowers and honeysuckle coming in at the window. He
wouldn't mind about an ounce of a steak done on the gridiron, just
to see what the flavour was like. What did I think about it?
"The very thing I could relish, even if the day was so hot, and I
rung for the landlady. As it happened, they had commenced cutting up
the pig, so that we could be accommodated to our hearts' content. Directly we had each a luscious lump of pork before us, more like a
pound than an ounce; and the parson's knife and fork went at his
portion like a pair of eccentric drumsticks, till the whole had
disappeared. After this, fresh tankards, fresh pipes, and the window
opened a little wider. What a blessing is ease after repletion! so
the parson seemed to feel, for he had scarcely given a dozen puffs
at his pipe ere his greasy chin fell on his breast, and his tobacco-ashes
were powdering his gaiters.
"Whether it was the heat of the weather, or the smell from the
garden, or the strength of the ale that had such a soporific effect,
I cannot say, but I no sooner saw the parson's head go down than I
began to be oblivious of everything about me. The last thing I
remembered was fixing my eyes upon the tankard from which I had been
drinking, and which, from its peculiar shape, reflected everything
about it in an inverted position. I appeared to be standing upon my
head, and the trees in the garden behind me were growing with their
roots uppermost. The reason I give these particulars is, that I have
since thought the strangeness of my dream may be accounted for by
this topsy-turvy state of things; for the whole order of natural
objects that presented themselves to my fancy after I had closed my
eyes were changed in their relation to each other, as well as in
their individual characteristics. Thus a man played the part of a
woman, a woman that of a man. Birds ran upon the ground, while cats
and dogs, cows and horses, sheep and pigs, flew. Although the houses
stood on their foundations, yet Merriton was as much changed in
appearance as one might have expected had it been rebuilt centuries
after its demolition. Not a single dwelling was in its original
place; and from the peculiar construction of every one, it seemed
impossible that either access or egress could be effected without
great inconvenience and difficulty. The street doors were placed so
as to communicate directly with the upper story, the occupants
having to go downstairs to bed, and upstairs to their work. The
church had turned its back upon the west, and appeared to have
dissolved partnership with the graveyard, the latter place being
situated at the extreme end of the village. The gravestones were
turned upside down, so that anyone reading an epitaph would have to
stand upon his head. It struck me, I remember, that the dead, unless
they were partial to lying, would not care much about that; for how
few epitaphs reflect the real character of those about whom they are
"It was Merriton wakes; the time—well, say forty years ago, for I
was a young man of some five and twenty, with no disposition
whatever to yoke myself to the matrimonial cart. You may laugh,
girls; but if you had known me at that age, you'd have seen in me a
very modest fellow, so cold and indifferent towards minxes like you,
that I avoided their society, rather than sought it. Well, it was Merriton wakes. The rushcart was drawn by flying horses; and a
strange sight it looked, as you may imagine. The morris-dancers were
all girls; and it was amusing to see young men following, fastening
their ribbons when they were loose, and blushing like one of you
upon receiving the reward of a kiss. Now comes the fun of it.
"I, among the rest, was as shy as a love-struck dairy-wench. My
feelings were changed, as I supposed, to those of your own sex. If a
lass ogled me, I could not look her in the face. If she winked, I
was floored; and however much I might wish her to speak to me, I
felt as though I would sooner have run round Merriton than listened
to a word. I began to sigh, and didn't know what for. I looked in
the glass to see if my cheek was pale. I drank coffee grains to make
my skin fair; and, upon an average, did one half I was set to do
wrong. I was in love; that is the long and short of it; but, as
customs were reversed, I could not with propriety unburden my heart
to the object of my affections. I grew melancholy that very wakes
day. I got tired of the fun, and wandered out of the village for the
purpose of sighing my heart away. I am right, I suppose, when I say
that lovers naturally select the prettiest spots in which to spend
their languishing moments? I chose the Fairy Bridge. Don't blush, Matty Charlesworth—it was not night, but the hour just before
sunset, when everything you see is so pretty.
"I remember, I was leaning against the railings of the bridge, with
my finger to my lips, sighing to the river, and the fishes, and the
trees, and the birds just going to rest, when I heard someone
approaching. My heart went pit-pat; for the footstep was a light
one; and I thought I must have sunk through the bridge, or have gone
over the railing, when I saw the very girl I had set my heart upon
coming tripping down the lane. I turned my back towards her, and, in
my confusion, tried to notch something—I don't know what—with my
thumb-nail in the railing. I never could call to mind anyone in the
flesh that the lass resembled. She was an 'airy nothing,' and had no
paragon in Merriton. She was nameless as well; but for the sake of
identity I will call her 'Rose;' because she wore that flower in
her bosom; and the evening, and everything about was rosy.
"From the position in which I stood I could no longer observe
Rose's movements; but, somehow, I felt that she must be loitering
near me. She coughed; but it was not a cough that proceeded from any
affection of the lungs. It was a made cough, got up on purpose, as I
supposed, to call my attention to her presence. Would she speak, I
wondered? I did not wonder long. I felt her dress touch me. She
passed, and, turning round, observed, in a voice tremulous with
"'It's a fine neet.'
"I did not respond, for my heart was in my mouth, and the maiden
passed on, but, as I thought, unwillingly. Oh that she would speak
again! and yet I was afraid that she would. She didn't, however. She
went clean out of sight, leaving me so full of wild emotion that I
felt as though I'd rather have thrown myself into the river than
have gone home that night.
"But the next evening came, and it found my heart inclining towards
Fairy Bridge again—if ever it had been turned away. I was notching
the railing with my thumbnail, and waiting anxiously for Rose to
make her appearance; for though no appointment had been made, I
somehow felt she would come, and again salute me with that sweet
"I was resolving in my mind to give her some slight show of
encouragement, if she allowed me the opportunity, when I observed
her coming down the lane, as jauntily as if she was thinking over
the dance of the day before. I was all of a flutter in a moment. Again she coughed; again she loitered; again I felt her dress
touching my elbow; and again she observed—
"'It's a fine neet.'
"I was in two minds to have said it wasn't, for the sake of
contradiction, as women sometimes do; but thought better of the
proceeding afterwards, and replied in the affirmative.
"'Hast' bin here ever sin' yesterneet?' she inquired, turning round
and laying her hand on the railing.
"I wondered if men put such silly questions to women when they were
in the act of breaking similar ground. Of course I said 'no' for
the shortest; and the attempt at conversation languished for some
time. However, not to be balked of her purpose, Rose made another
observation about the weather, which I did not clearly understand,
only that it had reference to some extra demand for candles, when
days got shorter. Now, don't laugh, girls; I know it is very silly.
"Feeling a desire to promote conversation, now that the ice had been
fairly broken, I remarked that coals would be in greater need when
the weather was colder.
"'Ay,' she said, 'we brun a good deeal at our house when winter
comes. We dunno' brun mony now, it's so wot. Feel at my hont, how
it sweeats;' and she held out her hand, which I could not touch on
the first attempt, both were trembling so.
"I don't know whether her hand or mine was dampest; but our pulses
were beating like a watch gone mad. I was expecting the momentous
question to follow close upon this advance, but it came not as yet.
"'Thy hont's bigger nor mine,' she said, 'an' harder.'
"It was, both.
"'It ud tak a bigger ring for t' fit thy finger nor it would mine.'
"I think she had hold of the fourth finger of my left hand.
"It would; a much larger ring.
"'How mich would they ha' to give for one ut would fit thine?'
"I could not say; probably a guinea. But why the question? I
suspected she was beating round, and would close in, shortly, with
something more direct to the purpose. As an advance upon her
hitherto skirmishing tactics, she said—
"I should like to buy thee one.'
"The murder was out at last; but somehow I would not
understand her until she had made further confession.
"She stood for some time with my hand enclosed in hers, trying to
look in my face; but I wouldn't let her. I daresay I was blushing
like the sunset. She asked me would I accept the ring if she bought
one. I think I said I would, but am not certain. Well, I must have
given consent, from what followed. She squeezed my hand till I must
have screamed, could anyone have heard me. But what is the use of
screaming when no one is near? Oh, girls! I see by the glances you
are exchanging, that you know it is of no use.
"'It's nice stondin here, is nor it?' said Rose, after a prolonged
attempt to extract a glance from me---a glance which I felt I should
like to have given, but somehow dared not.
"I acknowledged it was nice, very nice; but said something about
the beauty of the evening having all to do with it.
"'Ay, but I meean standing here by our two sel's,' she said, placing
her cheek against mine—a liberty which I would have resented with a
smack, only one hand was fast and the other reluctant.
"I said nothing in return, preferring to wait to hear what other
observations she would make.
"Brushing her eyelashes against mine, and causing
a thrill to go through me that I had never experienced before, Rose
"'Eh, Wap!—I do like thee!'
"I had the courage to say, 'Do you, Rose?' and yielded myself up to
an embrace which I thought afterwards was very improper on my part
on so short an acquaintance, yet had no wish to recall it.
"'Ay, I do like thee,' she repeated, 'better than a choilt likes
towfy. Does thou like me?'
"An instinctive prudence told me that I ought not to give expression
to all I felt, without a great deal of urging. Ha! I see by your
laughing, hussies, you quite understand that. Instead of replying at
once, I began to play with my—I was going to say bonnet-strings—forgetting that I was a man all the time. Well, I
began to toy with my waistcoat buttons until such times as I might,
with credit to my sex, acknowledge in words what my feelings already
"I counted forty—five buttons eight times over, you see—and
thinking by that time my answer might be fairly reckoned due, I
ventured to close my teeth with a loud snap; a sound which was
understood by Rose to be an equivalent for yes.
"It was all over. I had yielded to my maiden lover's eloquent
importunities, and I was hers from that moment. I felt her arm creep
gently round me. Her lips touched mine; and during a minute, or an
hour—I don't know which—I was revelling in a dream within a, dream,
in which I thought how convenient was that ordinance which had
changed the customs of life, and had made man the weaker instead of
the stronger sex.
"'Eh, whoa would ha' thowt it?' exclaimed Rose, after a round of
tender demonstrations, in which she always led—' 'ut ever thou'd ha'
had me, an' I should ha' had thee?'
"I'm sure I had never thought it; and expressed myself as much. But
who can foresee what an accidental meeting may lead to—especially in
a very pretty spot, on a beautiful summer evening?'
"'Dost remember seein me among th' doancers at th' rushcart?' she
"I did remember seeing her among the dancers, and thought she threw
up as pretty a foot as any one in the troop.
"'I could hardly doance for thinkin about thee, when I see'd thy een
catch mine,' she said; and I looked up, or rather down, into her
face, and saw a smile upon it, which I thought would have been very
amusing under any other circumstance.
"'What didst think about my ribbins? Wurno' they grand?'
"Of course they were; quite a peacock's tail of fancy frippery. But
I thought otherwise then; that they were as chaste as Dian's
"'But they were nothin to what my weddin dress shall be,' said the
maid, with another smile, and another hugging of my shoulder. 'When
shall I need it?'
"I sighed to think that a day would ever come when such a garment
would be required.
"'Come,' said she, urging the question in a more pressing
manner—'When shall th' weddin be?'
"I had fully made up my mind to say 'never;' but checked myself, and
said—'you're in such a hurry.'
"'Hurry!' she exclaimed; and again I felt her eyelashes against
mine—'why nobbut a month fro' now looks twenty year off, an' that's
as soon as it could be.'
"Say six months," I replied.
"'A month,' she urged.
"'Nawe, a month.'
"'Two would be quite soon enough.'
"'A month, or ――'
"I was afraid she was going to add 'never;' so I said, before she
had time to utter the fatal word—
"'Any time you choose.'
"Wasn't I foolish for giving in so soon? I know you will say I was;
but have some doubts as to your thinking so. Oh, the insincerity of
"Well, the wedding-day was fixed for that day month and we talked
over the preparations like two lovers who had kept each other's
company as many years as we had hours. We were to have a grand
house, grand furniture, grand everything. We were going to show the
thousands who had missed their way, that there were at least one
couple who could successfully unravel the mysteries of the
matrimonial knot. But the ring was the great cornerstone of our
castle-building. Rose produced one from her pocket—a toy ring it
was—bought at the wakes the day before. This ring she insisted upon
trying on my finger, to get the exact measurement; and she took hold
of my hand for that purpose. Oh, what a sensation came over me as I
felt the magic bauble encircling the end of my finger! I was near
fainting. No kind of human effort could have got that ring over my
knuckle. My finger began to swell. The pain it produced shot up my
arm to my shoulder. I was about to scream with agony, when—there
goes the clock. It is just three minutes in advance of the church;
and my story is as near its end as is the year."
One, two, went the clock, all the hours up to twelve and Wap sat
listening for the bells.
"Yo' ha' no' finished yo'r tale," said Matty Charlesworth, rousing
the old gentleman from an apparent reverie. How did yo' goo on? Did yo' get wed?"
"Wed!" he exclaimed, in a startled manner. "Do you think I slept
for a whole month? No, no; the pain produced by trying on the ring
broke my dream. I awoke, and found I had been squeezing my finger
into the ring of my watch seal; and the joint was so swollen by the
pressure, that I had some difficulty in withdrawing it. The parson
was snoring like a whole family of pigs; but whether, like me, he
was dreaming of things being turned topsy-turvy, I could not tell. But I shall remember as long as I live, eating pork steaks, and
drinking tankards of ale on a hot summer's day. You may think my
dream absurd; but you have only to change the positions of the two
principal actors in it to make the picture real."
"It looks very queer, a woman makkin love to a mon," said Olive
"It certainly does," replied Wap but there is this to be said, my
dream serves to show by what silly nonsense young women's hearts are
won. Oh, I have sometimes thought, if there had been some other
method than this, some rational standard of question-popping
etiquette, I might not now have been a bachelor. But there go the
Swinging, at first drowsily, as if they were not quite roused from
sleep, but growing louder and quicker as they opened their eyes, the
bells began their welcome to the New-born Year. How they chased each
other in the race of harmony! The little ones sometimes tumbling
over the big ones, the latter growling good-humouredly betimes at
the eagerness of their forward companions, and putting in their
ding-dongs like veterans who had rung-in many a New Year, and knew
what it was to go about their work soberly. But merrier still the
young ones grew, and got so frolicsome in their madcap glee, that
the old ones, as if resolving not to be outdone by their juniors,
fling away discipline altogether, and lumber away in the race like
giants at child-play. Away they go, helter-skelter, little and big,
old and young, light tones and deep, making such a row in that
bedlam of a steeple, that the spiders, frightened out of their wits,
retreat to the farthest nooks of their several lairs, and ponder
over the remains of murdered flies that strew the floors of their
airy charnel-houses. The sparrows, thinking some supernatural
invader hath come to drive them from their homes, pack up their bits
of straw for a general flitting; but remembering that twelve months
ago there was just such a noisy visitation, rearrange their
mattresses, and, over an imaginary wassail-cup, chirp a peal of
their own in honour of the year that is to bring them fresh harvest
fields, groves of berries, and the warm summer sunshine.
And what is going on at Ringwood Hall during this fussy time? Nothing? Are the revellers grown tired of their work? No; they are
toasting the New Year in right "Jone Bardsley" fashion; many other
things coming in for their share of good wishes as the wassail goes
round. Old Wap drinks "The youngster's health; and may his coming of
age be as auspicious as his birthday!" Sogger wishes they might have
a New Year every week. Jammie o' Tum's, as if not wishing to appear
too selfish, drinks his own health and Pincher, at a loss for any
other form of toast, drinks "Success to Prosperity;" and fancies he
has done the thing grandly. The cobbler pledges "The lasses," and
gets so hugged for his gallantry, that he wishes it were to do over
again. And the fiddler rings in his New Year's peal upon his fiddle,
and feet begin to move again; and skirts begin to flutter; and hands
take hold of each other; till the whirling, skipping, fluttering,
and squeezing is going on as briskly as ever. Nobody minds the
clock. It may wag unnoticed for ever, if the fun will only keep up
so long. Nobody cares for summer coming, unless it will be so
prolific of mistletoe that the magic bush may hang from every
ceiling all the year round. Nobody cares for any other drink than
wassail; and if ever music could be sweeter than that in which Twiner Joe and the church bells are striving to be merriest, old Wap
would like to hear it—that's all.
But the yule-log is burnt out. The wassail-bowl is empty. Daylight
is peeping through the nicks of the window shutters; and faces begin
to look as if they had been caught in a cloud of dust. Nothing
lighter than a sledge-hammer could waken the fiddler; and old Wap,
over the last drop of Joe's "rosin," is wishing happiness to a
century of New Years, and that everybody may live to see them.
It is all over. The young year is on his trial. May his life be
such, that when the time comes that he shall be gathered to his
fathers, old Wap, and his friends may again meet in Ringwood flail,
and congratulate each other that they welcomed him so heartily!
RED WINDOWS HALL.
And the day was dying too; but the latter closed its eyes with a
serenity that, had it made its peace with all the world, and left
the world in peace, could not have been more tranquil. Not so the
last moments of a being who had watched the shadows of the
window-pane creep over the reddened wainscoting, that caught the
sunset's richest tints, and threw them on his shrivelled face. No!
his leaving this world was a struggle to remain—if but for a
moment—to utter one word; for his last breath had stricken down a
fond and duty-loving child, and he wished for power to revoke the
sentence it had conveyed. But the hour-glass had spent its last
grain of sand, and the grim reaper was ready. Swift as
lightning-flash went the scythe, and the harvest of mortality, that
had sprung in pride and ripened in avarice, was at his feet.
Why bent not the heir of this wretched old man to listen to the
faint articulation to which the last breath of his dying kinsman
had given more shape than utterance? Because the word would have
dispossessed him, and the rich estates, that extended from the Black
Moss to the Haunted Clough, would have passed from the testator to
the next of kin—the only son of the proudest yeoman in Lancashire.
The will was cancelled before Heaven, but man heard it not; and the
lips that at the last moment would have righted a great wrong were
closed for ever.
The scene was "Red Windows Hall," the death that of Squire
Winwood, its owner, the eldest representative of a haughty and
hard-fisted race. This man had lived for himself alone.
A morbid fear that he should end his days in the workhouse had
induced him to employ means, unsanctified of right, by which to
acquire wealth, and his two children, Geoffrey and Alice Winwood,
were little more to him than the blue-petticoated, corduroy-breeched
dependants upon the scanty munificence of a parochial rate. He
was not a father in that sense of the word which implies more than
mere progenitor. He was anything but that in its most sacred
bearings. His nearest approaches to parental kindness were
stiff, formal, rigid, to a semblance of indifference. Early
neglect had begotten estrangement, and the poor children were more
frequently in the society of the stranger than in that of their
There is a tear for all that die
A mourner o'er the meanest grave,
Squire Winwood might have departed unwept. His neglect,
however, could not more than chill the love it was his duty to have
cherished. A breath of real kindness would have made it
glowing as the noontide of that summer's sun which had now set on
him for ever. But this was not to be. There was a
barrier opposed to such a flood of tenderness, in the person of
Richard Holmroyd, the nephew and cousin of the Winwoods.
This aspirant to the fortunes of Red Windows Hall was the
"Dead Sea apple," so to speak, of that family tree—fair on the
outside, but ashes at the core. His smiles, his suave manners,
the craft to which his penniless condition had given the force of
instinct, had made him such a favourite with his uncle, that it
absorbed in the latter all the regard he possessed for that
worthless claimant of his consideration—human nature. He
entered with him into all his schemes of money-getting; flattered
every meaner purpose of his life; saved him once from what would
have been a rash speculation, involving the loss of many thousands;
and had intimated that when his devotion to his uncle's interests
had rendered him worthy of such a distinction, he should be proud to
become more than nephew, if the hand of his fair cousin was not
hopelessly out of his reach. As for his cousin Geoffrey—the
Winwood estates would be nothing to him. His presumed easy
nature was not fitted to such an important trust as their possession
implied. They would be frittered away, or rendered valueless,
in a few years' time, if left to him, and the family-tree would be
denuded of its brightest foliage, and the promise of after
fruitfulness. It was represented that the young fellow cared
for nothing but a moderate independency, to give him ease and
comfort, untrammelled by schemes for further augmentation; and in
this belief, and in the faith that his nephew would be the most
eligible successor to fortunes it was presumed he had helped to
make, Squire Winwood made his will.
But Geoffrey stood at the bedside, a noble looking young
fellow the last rays of the sun lighting up his fair forehead, that
had traces upon it of one the old man had seen with other eyes than
those which were fast losing their brightness and this presence
caused a tumult in a breast that was thought to be rapidly sinking
into repose. Had the youth's hair been parted like his
mother's once was, and his tears aught but manhood's tears, they
would have given vividness to a remembrance that was haunting the
dying man's memory like the faint resuscitation of a long-faded
dream. Whereas his eyes strained as if death was snatching
from their gaze something too dear to be relinquished. His
features worked convulsively. His lips moved as if with an
effort to speak; but no sound issued therefrom. A shadow
passed into the light. It was that of the weeping Alice.
Why had the sun sunk so low that only her face had distinctness?
It was a face that was all her brother's was not: yet the two made
one, the sight of which caused the dying man's eyes to light up with
unearthly brightness, and his lips to quiver with a stronger effort
to speak. It was a last struggle. The lips closed, and
the arms, held out, it was thought, to embrace the shadow conjured
up by the presence of the two forms he had last gazed upon, fell,
unrequited, by his side.
"He's dying!" sobbed Alice Winwood.
"He's dead!" said Richard Holmroyd, with an air of
satisfaction in his manner that belonged not to the solemnity of the
Geoffrey made no observation, but placed his fingers on his
dead father's eyelids, and closed them.
It was a painful moment; for both Geoffrey and his sister
felt that, from the last gasp of their parent, they were in the
house of the stranger,—that even the dusky form of the notary,
sitting in a darkened corner of the room, appeared more at home than
"It is all over, Mr. Tact," observed Richard Holmroyd, going
up to the notary with even a jaunty step.
"Then I'm no longer required," said Mr. Tact, rising, and
folding up the document that custom sometimes errs in calling will.
"Very," was the response, given in a tone somewhat out of
harmony with the import of the observation.
"You will call at my office on Monday morning," said Mr.
"I shall not fail," said his client, blandly. "In the
meantime I must consult with my cousins about the funeral."
"He leaves you all his possessions," said Mr. Tact in an
"Everything; I am quite aware of that."
"Of course, you will see your cousins provided for?"
"Very kind of you. They take it hardly, poor things.
Then you'll call upon me on Monday?"
"Expect me about eleven."
"Very well. Good-bye!"
The notary shook Richard by the hand, but felt he could not
approach Geoffrey and Alice. He was conscious that the two,
suffering from bereavement and wrong, were in too deep grief to be
disturbed by civilities that under such circumstances are mere
forms, repulsive as they are hollow. So he bowed and retired.
The notary gone, Richard approached Geoffrey, and whispered
something to him. The latter started, as if waking up from a
troubled dream. He looked at his cousin a moment, and
whispered something in reply; then folding the sheet over his dead
father's already shrinking face, withdrew from the bedside.
Alice followed abstractedly, still weeping; and as the last gleam of
sunlight faded from the wainscoting, the heir to Red Windows Hall
first opened the door that was to cast forth his bereaved and
disinherited kindred upon the world.
SEATED upon an
eminence that commanded a front view of the hall, and watching the
sun's last rays flicker over the windows, which a few minutes before
they had lighted up with a red glare, was a man who had not only
watched, but wondered at the same phenomenon many years before.
He appeared to be about the middle time of life, of fresh
complexion, and prepossessing features that at one time had
been—nay, still were—handsome. His form was rather stooping
for his years, as if from the effects of excessive toil, though his
dress, from its quality and texture, bespoke him to be one who had
long abandoned the grosser labours of life, and taken an easier road
to fortune. Merriton was his native village, which he had left
poor and, as he thought, friendless many years before. But he
was not to be alienated from his early home. He loved to
listen to its bells, to scent the fragrance of its new-mown hay, and
linger about the stiles he had climbed when a boy.
Every summer Dolmey Turtingtower visited Merriton, but
without making himself known to his old associates. At first
he came meanly clad, for Dame Fortune had not yet smiled upon him.
As years went on, however, his dress improved, and to such a degree
that, had he made his appearance in the taproom of the "Jolly
Carter" at a time when the house was most crowded, no one would have
recognised him. From a weaver he had risen to be a master
manufacturer, and had made his thousands. His name was as good
on the Manchester Exchange as were the Watts's, the Philips's or the
Mendel's—names implying princes of the mercantile community; and his
hopes ran upon a time when he might close his ledger, hand over his
business to a successor, and, in the calm retirement of his native
village, do good to the end of his days.
The sunset glow had scarcely left the hall windows, when
Dolmey Turtingtower rose to depart. He gave a last look at the
venerable mansion, and sighed over a reminiscence that one might
have thought time had obliterated from his memory. But he
remembered how hopelessly he had loved; and that there was still
beneath that roof a being upon whose image the inner light of his
soul would set only in death. That being was Alice Winwood.
Though younger by several years than Dolmey, she had occupied a
place in his affections from his earliest manhood. But he a
poor weaver, and she the daughter of a wealthy squire, how could he
hope that his love would ever be reciprocated under such
disadvantages? Whenever he contemplated the extent of the gulf
which the conventionalities of life had interposed between them, and
the possibility that, bridging over all this, the love might be all
on one side, Dolmey's heart would sink within him, and he would feel
like a self-convicted criminal, whose sins the world was on the
point of finding out. But he could love in secret, and with
the consolation that, though his passion might never be requited, it
was not fixed upon an unworthy object. He might worship
without approaching the altar; and, if not permitted to take orders
in love's priesthood, could be a humble and an earnest adorer
outside the temple. He had been this for many years.
Just as Dolmey was taking his last look at the hall, the
blinds went down over every visible window. He paused, and
looked again. What was the matter, he wondered, with a fearful
foreboding. Someone dead? Not Alice, no; yet it might
be. Notwithstanding that he had heard of her not many days
before, and that she was then in blooming health, and as beautiful
as ever, yet some frightful malady might have seized her, and—but he
stayed not to indulge in such gloomy speculations.
Taking the path which led direct to the village, Dolmey
Turtingtower made the best of his way to the nearest point of
inquiry. This happened to be the "Jolly Carter" alehouse,
which, being Saturday, had been put in its neatest trim. Our
friend glanced at the familiar signboard—the ivy and honeysuckle
surrounding it; and for a moment youthful reminiscences shared his
thoughts with the hopes and fears that were in alternate occupation.
Dame Charlesworth, the landlady—no jollier ever polished a
tankard—was just finishing baking; and it being summer time, the
usual company had not yet begun to drop in. There was the
tranquillity so characteristic of a village alehouse when the forms
are empty, and the clock is going on its humdrum business
unobserved. In fact, so quiet did the place seem, that the
clank of the oven door made Dolmey start; and when the landlady
raised her head, and confronted him with her spectacles, the
temporary confusion which the circumstance created appeared to be
"Yo're someb'dy, I reckon?" said the dame, dusting her hands,
which were whitened over with flour, and giving her visitor a keen
"I suppose I am," replied Dolmey, anxious to put the inquiry
as to what had taken place at Red Windows Hall.
"Well, if yo' wanten owt to sup," said the old woman,
apologetically, "win yo' just wait till our Matty comes in?
Hoo's nobbut just gone across th' lone to th' well, an' hoo conno'
be aboon a minit. Yo' seen I'm fast wi' my bakin, an' I'm
late; for I've had to go up to th' Ho yonder, wi' some sweet yarbs
fort' put in a sick chamber, an' it's backent me."
"Is there someone dead at the hall?" Dolmey asked, with an
eagerness that startled the landlady.
"Well," she replied, with a hesitancy in her manner that drew
considerably on the patience of her listener, "it's not for me to
say what is, nor what is not, beaut I know for
sartinty. But I should say, fro' what I have to judge by, ut
if th' owd Squire's alive now, it's as mich as may be expected, an'
moore nor I do expect."
"Thank you," said Dolmey, feeling greatly relieved feeling by
the information. "Has the old gentleman been ailing long?"
"Well, he's ne'er bin gradely sin' he fell off his hoss i'
Whissun-week. He hurt his inside, an' at his time o' life, if
they getten out o' flunter, they're no so soon getten reet again.
But yo' thanked me same as if yo're fain he're deead. Are yo'
"Not I, indeed; why should I be?"
"Well, I dunno' know, but o' somehow ther's never mich
gradely frettin when someb'dy like th' Squire dees."
"How like the Squire?"
"Wheay, ut's plenty o' brass, an' has not enoogh."
"I suppose you think people are too anxious to get into his
"What dun yo' meean by that?"
"Eager to get possession of his property."
"That they are; that they are. Yo'n said it now.
See yo', I wouldno' be weel off if I could ha' brass for wishin for.
I should never ha' no comfort with it if I had, for folk 'ud be
pooin at me fro' o sides, an' happen wishin I're deead."
"There may be some truth in that."
"Truth? Eh dear, mesther! One sees it welly every
day, oather i' one shap' or another. It is no' mony weeks sin'
an owd felly dee'd i' this lone; an' it wur thowt by everybody ut
he're very poor, an' nob'dy nobbut one or two neighbours cared owt
about him; but when ther a lot o' suvverins fund lapt up i' owd
rags, relations flocked fro' o parts; an' ther sich fo'in out an'
feightin as wur a shawm to be seen. If it hadno' bin ut he'd
laft this brass, th' parish would ha' buried him, an' we should ha'
yerd nowt about any relations."
"What was the old man's name?"
"Well, fort' tell yo' th' truth, I dunno' think he ever had a
gradely name; but we coed him Tummy Trotter."
"Indeed! is old Tommy dead?"
"Why, did yo' know him?"
"I did. He was a good friend to me at one time."
"An' so he's bin to mony a one, in a little sort of a way.
He used to write letters for young folk ut couldno' write thersels,
an' charged thrippence apiece, an' fund his own papper. They
sayn ther summat between him an' th' owd Squire ut never wur cleared
up. An' now they're booath deead, I reckon it never will be."
"Let me see, Mr. Winwood leaves behind him a son and a
daughter, does he not?"
"Ay; Geoffrey, at wur kessunt after his gronfeyther, an'
Alice, ut wur kessunt after her mother. I dunno' think they're
oather on 'em ony better off for bein akin to their feyther."
"Well, if o be true one yers—but gospel's a very scarce
thing, if we look for it anywheere but i'th' Owd Book—but if o be
true one yers, he's never done to 'em as if they'rn his own chiller.
An' how he should be owt different for a feyther I dunno' know, for
Geoffrey's as gradely a lad as ever stepped i' shoe leather; an' if
ther's any better hearted, or prattier lass i' this country nor
Alice is, I should like to see her. It ud be good for sore een,
Had Dame Charlesworth been as curious as the generality of
her sex are reputed to be, she might have observed her visitor's
countenance change at the mention of Alice Winwood's name. And
she might have wondered at the colour that came and went, and at the
nervous working of his lips and hands. She, however, did not
notice these indications of an agitated mind, but went on with her
gossip, like one who fully values its importance in the business of
"I dunno' know how it is," she continued, "but it does look
strange ut a lady like her, ut ud be fit for a king's wife, has
never made it up wi' no young gentleman afore now. But ther's
one thing to be said—hoo's never made a buzzert of hersel', but
aulus bin plain an' whoamly, an' fine folk dunno' catch at sich
like. An' then they sayn hoo'd a sort of a disappointment, if
yo' known what that is—when hoo're very young, an' ut hoo's never
looked up fro' it."
"A cross in love," observed Dolmey, with as much calmness in
his manner as the racking of a thousand jealous fears would allow.
"Just so," replied the dame. "Poor folk hardly known
sich like things. They are no' fine bred enoogh. Somehow
they sidle'n t'gether in a soft sort of a way, un coorten a year or
two, by th' way of a trial. If o's reet, they getten wed, an'
makken an eend on't. If it isno' reet, they part'n, an' go'n
oitch ther own way, as if ther never had bin nowt between 'em."
"A very philosophical method of disposing of their love
affairs," remarked Dolmey; "but the other is certainly more
romantic. Did you ever hear who it was that Miss Winwood
had—had—set her mind on?"
"Nawe, for th' good reeason ut hoo never towd nob'dy whoa it
wur. An' however it is ut a woman con ha' summat on her mind
so long, an' never tell it, caps me; that it does. Hoo must
ha' bin closer nor anybody else I know. Here's our Matty comin
at last. If anybody wur t' spake to her in a coortin way, o th'
country ud know about it afore th' middle o next week."
The entrance of the girl in question, whom the reader must
understand was the granddaughter of the landlady, and a pretty,
saucy jade into the bargain, put a check to the conversation, and
reminded the elder damsel that there was something burning in the
"Matty," said the latter, as she turned over the cakes in the
oven, "that gentleman wants—eh, but I'd forgotten, he hasno' co'ed
for nowt yet."
"A glass of ale," said Dolmey, amused at the old lady's
"Ay; yo' mun think nowt at it," she enjoined, with a forcible
apology in her manner. "I wurno' just thinkin mysel, an' I'd
quite forgotten whether yo'd coed for owt or not. I am sich an
owd niddyhommer betimes; but when a body's browt up two or three
families, an' lived to see 'em scattert about like clock-flowers
blown wi' th' wynt, they winnot ha' mich yead tackle laft ut's good
for owt. Matty (turning to the girl), dunno' stond theere
starin at th' felly as if here a fayberry show. Goo thy ways
an' fetch him his drink."
To Matty Charlesworth there must have been a strange
fascination about the visitor's person, for she had no sooner
relieved her head of the water-can, than she fixed her eyes upon him
with a stare that might have been deemed rude, had it been given
anywhere else than in a country alehouse.
The girl withdrew her eyes, and blushing with evident
confusion, turned, and left the room to attend upon the customer.
"You've been a fine woman in your time, Mrs. Charlesworth,"
observed Dolmey, to the landlady, as her granddaughter quitted their
"Well, I may ha' bin meeterly," was the response, given not
without a little show of modest pride. "When I're th' age o'
yon lass, I're as straight as a pickin-peg. But now, yo' seen,
I'm as croot as a huzzet (Z). I could o'erjump mony a
lad o'th' same age then, an' could a' thrown my stockins up wi' th'
best cow wench i'th' country in a race across a fielt. I've
known th' owd Squire, ut may now be deead an' gone, stop at our gate
when I've bin hangin th' clooas out ov a weshin day, an' say if he'd
a pair o' arms like mine he wouldno' hoide 'em in a tub as mich as I
"You once put a rough fellow through the window, didn't you?"
"I did,—I did. But how come yo' to know about it
How did yo' know my name?"
"Why, isn't your name over the door?"
"Ay, but yo' couldno' see it; for it's groon o'er wi' ivin
(ivy), an' has bin mony a year. Set it down, Matty, beaut any
moore starin, an' give him change out o' that shillin. Thou'll
find some copper in a pint pot on th' shelf i' th' bar."
The latter sentences were addressed to the granddaughter, who
had returned with the stranger's beer.
"This wench's feyther," continued the dame, "wur my owdest
lad. He deed after a week's illness, through gettin cowd wi'
mowin weet graiss."
"I knew him," said Dolmey.
"Wheay, we'st be knowin yo' e'ennow. If it wurno'
for bein thowt brazent, I'd ax yo' whoa yo' are. Not ut I want
to know; but women, yo' known, han their bits o' queer ways.
Here's someb'dy comin now ut'll know yo', if anybody about here
Dolmey turned towards the door, which was open to admit as
much light into the apartment as the spent day could afford.
This light, he saw, was temporarily shut out by the shadow of an old
acquaintance, whom he remembered so well that his hand was
involuntarily held out to the other's grasp. Without noticing
this movement, the new-comer "sidled" across the room, and sat
himself down close to the oven.
HE is an old man
whom the reader is now introduced to; very grey, very crooked, but
very jolly for his years. No one, excepting himself,
remembered the hat he wore being a new one, and the face its
slouching brim partly obscured was a model of tan and wrinkles.
From his chin to the topmost button of his waistcoat was a frontage
of bold red lines, with deep indentations between, that gave his
neck and breast the appearance of having been carved out of a block
of mahogany. He wore what were supposed to be knee-smalls, but
which were getting so near to his ankles that they might have been
mistaken for trousers, had not the buttons and ribbons at the
extremities prevented their identification with the contemptible
substitutes that the degeneracy of modern taste had introduced.
His coat was as old as himself, having been worn by his father
during the latter's declining years, and was a sort of cross between
the one worn by a Chelsea pensioner and the "swallow-tail" of the
Regency. There was but one patch on its whole surface, and
that was where a hind button had been torn away during a taproom
scuffle, many of which the old man bad been a prominent actor in.
He had a way of disposing himself on the chair he occupied that
brought his head in close proximity to the top bar of the firegrate;
and as he held his hands to the fire, as if the chill night air was
too raw for them, he grunted out a salute to the company.
"It's bin a niceish sort of a day," he observed, raising his
head a little, and giving a glance at Dolmey.
The prevailing darkness, however, prevented any recognition
of the latter's person, and the old man's head subsided to its
former position, and the hand-warming was resumed with determined
Dolmey agreed that it had been a "niceish" day, and paid a
compliment to the evening that was somewhat flattering to an English
"Yon's th' owd squire has shut his book," said the old man.
This time he spoke without raising himself, as if he did not think
the event communicated was of as much importance as the condition of
"What dun yo' meean by that?" asked the landlady.
"Gan up his spoon," was the reply. "Takken his wark
whoam," was added, to give lucidity to the speaker's meaning.
"Dun yo' meean he's deead?"
"Deead as a hommer."
"Lord bless us!" exclaimed the landlady.
"It's one narr our turn, Tabby," observed the other, with a
chuckle, as if the approach of death was something to be hailed with
"Lord bless us!" the landlady repeated.
"He's takken middlin care o' thee, or else thou'd ha' had thy
nose to a daisy root afore now, owd crayther." And again the
old man chuckled, at the same time raising his head, and looking
from under his hat at the person he was addressing. "They
say'n th' owd squire has deed o'th' heart disorder," he continued;
"but I've some deauts about that."
"Becose I think they'd ha' to turn him inside out a time or
two afore they'd find owt o'th' sort as a heart. He're an
arrant owd rascal, deead an' gone as he is. I reckon they'n be
boxin him off in a day or two, an' then we'st be gradely shut o'th'
owd lad, if th' worms dunno' turn uptheir noses at him, an' say they
winnot ha' sich a wastrel i' their kitchen. Eh, this rheumatis!"
he exclaimed, rubbing his legs and grunting. "I reckon I'st
ne'er be cured on't till they putten me in a pair o' wooden stockins,
same as thoose th' owd squire 'll be doancin in next week.
What say'n yo', mesther?" Again turning to Dolmey, and again
indulging in a series of chuckles.
"With respect to the rheumatism or the old squire?" Dolmey
"That's a voice I've yerd afore, somewheere, but I con hardly
tell wheere," the old man remarked, with eager curiosity expressed
in his manner. "I reckon," he said, turning to the landlady,
"thou doesno' think we're wo'th a bit o' candleleet, as I've coed
for nowt to sup yet. Fotch me a drill o' jink, an' dunno'
froth it up till ther's moore soul nor body in it."
"I wish yo'd talk gradely, an' say a gill o' drink, same as
other folk, yo' owd oddity" said the landlady, getting up from her
chair, and hauling the old man away from the oven, as though he had
been a sack that she had temporarily placed in front of it.
"I'll tak these moughfins out o'th' oon, an' then I'll fotch yo'r 'leawance,
an' a candle, too. Sit yo' furr, Sam, if yo' dunno' want
"Thou should ha' said so before thou knocked me into th'
nook, owd crayther," said Sam, apparently delighted with his
situation. "When we getten owd, yo' seen," he said, addressing
Dolmey, "they knocken one about like a piece o' lumber, ut wants
oather brunnin or drownin. Well, well—I've seen th' day, ha'
not I, Tabby?"
"Ay, an' yo'n see another day afore long," was the landlady's
rejoinder, as she took the muffins out of the oven, and commenced
placing them edgeways on a corner table. "It'll be bad times
wi' th' worms when they getten howd o' yo', beaut they can mak a
dinner off booans an' ballisleather." After uttering these
depreciatory comments she waddled out of the room, but was not long
ere she returned, bringing with her a lighted candle and Sam's
"drill o' jink," as he called it.
No sooner was the candle placed upon the table than the old
man commenced a close examination of Dolmey's face and person.
Sometimes he "humphed," as if in doubt; then his face would brighten
up, and the hat would seem to raise itself on his forehead. At
last he said, after having made a desperate lunge at the contents of
the "gill" pot, which must have acted as a polisher to his memory—
"It isno', is it?"
"Who?" said Dolmey, smiling.
"You don't suppose my name's Dorothy, do you?"
"Nawe, nawe, nowt o'th' sort. I meean Dolmey—Dolmey
Thruttinteawer, ut used to live o'th' tother side o'th' green
yonder, an' ut went off out o'th' country, an' made a men o' hissel."
"I believe I'm the person you mean," said Dolmey; "and you
are Sam o' Ducky's, if I mistake not."
"Th' same owd porrito," said Sam, rising to a full display of
hat, coat, smalls, and even his face. "Eh, owd lad! how arta?
I'm fain t' see thee,—that I am," he said, extending his hand to
receive the other's grasp.
"I'm quite well, thank you," replied Dolmey.
"Ay, thou looks so,—thou looks so. I should hardly ha'
known thee if thou hadno' spokken; thou'rt so awtert;" and the old
man gave Dolmey's hand a shake that was not the genteelest possible.
"Am I much changed, do you think?" said Dolmey.
"Well, thou'rt a bit owder than thou wur th' last time I
see'd thee; an' if spiders ha' no' begun o' buildin i' thy yure,
same as they han i' mine, thou'rt no' quite as limber as thou wur
when thou used to beg cockle-broth for thy supper. An' ther's
another thing, too, ut it doesno' tak long fort' find out, thou'rt
noane sich a ragged cowt as thou used to be."
Had Dolmey been a stranger to the old man's peculiarities, he
might have been offended at the latter remark; but knowing there was
no offence intended, he passed it off with a smile.
The landlady had gone to the door for the purpose of closing
it; but stayed outside a short time to look about her.
Presently she returned, leaving the door still open, and towards
which she gazed, as if fascinated by some object in the immediate
distance. A footstep was heard on the pavement. The
doorway was again darkened—not this time by the stooping figure of
"Sam o' Ducky's," but by the erect and handsome form of Geoffrey
The young squire was never regarded as other than a boy when
he was a boy, and as a man when he was a man. Class
distinctions, somehow, could not attach themselves to him. His
instincts, capacities, and aspirations were common to the rest of
mankind, as represented in the little world of Merriton. He
was a fine-looking fellow, but not the only one in the village.
He would run and wrestle, but had many competitors; and at
"book-learning," many a pupil of "Tummy Trotter's" could beat him.
Of pedigree he had nothing to boast that was worth boasting of, for
the squiredom of Red Windows Hall had never been celebrated for the
brilliancy or exemplariness of its offshoots.
And yet Geoffrey Winwood had, by some quality or other, so
endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact, that there was
not an urchin in Merriton who would not have run an errand, or done
other menial work, for the pure love of serving him, and not at all
because he was the young squire, and entitled to service on that
account. It was not his being over-munificent in his rewards
for personal service that encouraged these attentions, because his
allowances from the paternal purse were too small to permit of even
a limited display of patronage. But he had ways of thinking
and speaking, so charming in their originality, and so
recommendatory to minds untrammelled by received notions of
political economy, that must have made him a favourite with all
democratic societies. He held ideas of right and wrong that
are seldom, if ever, attributed to aristocratic intellect. He
could not see why everybody did not possess large estates like his
father; or that the least deference should be paid to a man on
account of his superior social position. What was wealth for
but to bless mankind? Why should money be hoarded when so many
pockets were empty? Why were people hostile and cruel towards
each other, when the face of heaven and earth taught such lessons of
peace and loving kindness? These were questions that often
suggested themselves to the young man's mind, when he saw how people
were being worried, and ground, and despoiled by the old squire and
his less merciful agent. Thrift, if it meant the pushing
against and elbowing of men, was a word not to be found in his
vocabulary; hence the shorter roads to wealth, if he cared about
wealth at all, were closed against him; and probably it was a
knowledge of these scruples, and the loose philosophy of which they
were the fruit, that led Squire Winwood at his death to consign his
property to firmer hands than those of the rightful heir. But
the latter did not lose everything by this unnatural proceeding.
When a boy, Geoffrey Winwood was the idol of the village
green. He did not play as young squires played in old
story-books. He was thoroughly of boyhood's commonwealth;
assumed no airs; nor arrogated to himself privileges that one might
suppose to be sanctioned by our social conventionalities. He
was a right down good-hearted, open-handed follow, above any
meanness, and, withal, so humble in the display of any particular
virtue or qualification with which he might be endowed, that not the
slightest shadow of envy ever darkened the countenance of the most
intractable of his associates. There was no one to bully him
into fighting; so that his play-life was peace. He had a way
of disarming his antagonists before they could get properly into
choler; and boyish resentment is never too sound a sleeper. On
one occasion, however, he narrowly escaped getting into trouble.
He had accidentally splashed a boy's pinafore, and the atmosphere of
the playground was getting sultry and threatening in consequence.
But he dispelled the warlike elements at once, by submitting his own
person to be splashed in return, after which the sunshine of the
green came out as resplendent as ever.
A youth possessing these instinctive ideas of equity is sure
to be beloved by the many. But there are natures that cling to
such with a feeling even more devoted than love. They worship.
One of these devotees had Geoffrey Winwood. A poor,
half-starved rat of a fellow he was, who would almost have skinned
himself to save his friend. Whenever the young squire "set a
back" Dolmey Turtingtower was sure to be first over it; and if the
little fellow had come to grief, as he often did—bear witness his
scarred nose and forehead—his comrade's handkerchief was more potent
to heal the wounds than all the salve the village Esculapius ever
Dolmey was the elder of the two, but had a sort of ancient
boyish look with him, even when his beard was getting too strong for
the scissors, that made him look younger. This old-fashioned
juvenility was attributed to starvation, a remedy against the
encroachments of time that would hardly be understood in these days
of good eating and drinking—when boys have a shilling for
pocket-money where it used to be a penny, and the smell of tobacco
is strong in clothes that at one time would have been redolent of
mint lozenges and lavender. Whenever Geoffrey Winwood received
the weekly shilling allowed him by a maiden aunt, Dolmey
Turtingtower was certain to come in for a good share of it, which he
would spend, not as other boys spent it, in fruit or sweetmeats, but
in something that would give unction to the meagre slice of dry
brown bread that sometimes had to serve him for a dinner. It
was what would then have been termed "hard cheese" with the poor
fellow at the best of times; and his gratitude toward the young
squire for favours that would now be sneered at by the youngest
errand-boy out of livery, mounted to such a feeling that, if
Geoffrey had set himself up as a live "Juggernaut," Dolmey would
have been first to throw himself under his wheels.
But a day came when there was a reserve between the two
companions. Geoffrey often wondered at, but could in no way
account for Dolmey's shyness; and it often pained him to meet the
other, and observe his awkward manner, and his evident desire to
avoid him. This apparent coldness grew upon Dolmey, until at
length he became estranged altogether, and his friend sighed to
think that there might have been some little inadvertence on his own
part that had given offence; but so long as he knew not its
character, there could be no explanation offered. Dolmey
seldom showed himself on the green, and when he did chance to make
one of a party to "hunt the hare," or play at "knock up," he never
went heartily into the sport, or seemed to care about playing at
all. He might sometimes be found strolling in the quiet lanes
by himself, or seated upon the eminence where we found him at the
commencement of the preceding chapter, and which commanded a front
prospect of Red Windows Hall. But he was never seen near the
hall, where his merry laugh used to be heard in the woods, or among
the farm offices attached to the estate. He no longer looked
like a very boyish knight receiving the reward of his chivalry at
the hands of the "Queen of Beauty," when little Alice gave him an
apple or a plum, and smiled with such an angelic expression, that
for the moment he felt himself too near heaven ever to be drawn back
to earth, or be again associated with mundane things. For
years he was all but solitary, during which he grew up to be a
man—pensive, thoughtful, and timid to the very cowering under the
least searching glance; and we need not wonder that, taking these
circumstances into account, it should get whispered abroad, and the
rumour confirmed at the "Jolly Carter," that "Dol Thruttinteawer,"
as he was mostly called, was "off at a side"—clean gone mad.
From being rarely seen, our young friend disappeared
altogether; and it was a long time supposed that an old coalpit in
the neighbourhood contained the secret of his disappearance.
But his mother's face was one morning seen to brighten after the
postman had gone his rounds; for that messenger of weal and woe had
left her something that, from the little she could make out without
the assistance of Tummy Trotter, assured her that her son was still
in the land of the living. Tummy said, when he came to read
the letter, that he could have told as much before; and laughed till
his wicked old waistcoat was all over a dance of buttons. But
Dolmey was mad, after all, so that the "Jolly Carter" was right, as
it always must be—he was mad—mad with the hopeless, never-to-be
extinguished love of Alice Winwood. And now we are brought to
that link in the narrative dropped at the commencement of this
said Geoffrey Winwood, taking off his hat, and looking alternately
at the landlady and Sam o' Ducky's. He had not yet noticed
No one made any observation in response. They were so
taken with Geoffrey's sudden and unexpected appearance, that they
could do nothing but stare in return.
The young squire seated himself, still retaining his hat in
his hand, and looked dejectedly at the floor.
"You've heard what has happened, I suppose?" he observed,
addressing no one in particular.
"Ay, we han," said Dame Charlesworth, shaking her head, and
disengaging a white cloud of dust from her flour-besmeared arms.
"Bad news doesno' goo on crutches, an' nob'dy stops it on th' road.
Sam, here, towd us yo'r feyther wur deead. I reckon yo'r
sister tales it hardly?"
"She does, poor girl!—almost broken-hearted," said Geoffrey,
afraid of saying more, lest his emotion should prove too
"Well, it's what we'st o ha' to come to sometime," observed
the dame reflectively; "an' I dunno' see ut ther's so mich good i'
this wo'ld ut we needn fret o'er leeavin it."
"I'd as lief live my time out, too, owd crayther," said Sam
o' Ducky's, with a grunt, expressive of a great amount of
satisfaction with things as they were.
"I daresay you can guess what my errand is, Mrs.
Charlesworth," said Geoffrey to the landlady.
"Nay, no' beaut it's a layin away," was the reply, given not
without a thought that she had hit the mark.
"You have guessed already," said Geoffrey. "You
attended upon my dead grandfather, and it is my wish—I may say
ours—that you should lay out my father."
"I'm gettin welly too owd for a job o' that sort; but as long
as folk are satisfied wi' me, I'm willin to be at their sarvice,"
said the dame, surveying herself as if she thought a little more
tidiness in dress would be essential to her propitiation in the good
opinion of the squire's friends.
"You consent to go, then?"
"Ay, if yo'n wait till I've getten shut o' this batch o'
bread, an' put on summat dacent, I'll go with yo'. Our Matty
can mind th' house, I dar say, for we shanno be so thrung while th'
weather's so fine. Ther's a gentleman at th' back on yo'
theere, ut I dar say yo' known; so I'll leeave yo' to lait up owd
acquaintance a bit while I get ready." The old girl looked
important as she said this, and raising her hand towards her
shoulder, as if the movement was intended to point out Dolmey
Turtingtower, she turned round, and waddled out of the room, taking
along with her as many loaves as she could conveniently carry in her
Geoffrey rose from his chair, and, looking towards the person
indicated by the hostess, and who was sitting in the shadow of the "speer,"
uttered an exclamation of surprise at the sudden recognition, in the
stranger, of an old friend.
"Dolmey Turtingtower—if I'm not mistaken!"
"It is, Geoffrey Winwood," replied Dolmey, rising and
extending his hand, which the other warmly grasped.
"At another time I might have said how glad I was to see
you," said Geoffrey, still holding his friend's hand; "but this
trouble, my father's death, and my—but we'll talk of that when it
will be more in season. Are you well?"
"Never in better health," replied Dolmey. "I hope you
are the same; though I fancy I've seen you looking better."
"Oh, Dolmey! you know not what I've suffered since I saw you
last; and I cannot tell you here. Some other time." And
Geoffrey turned his face from the light, and allowed a sigh to
escape him. "After all, Dolmey, I must own I am glad to see
you. It is a relief in my troubles to meet with an old
companion; and I think I may claim you as one, though you will
pardon me when I say that I never could account for your leaving
Merriton, and the coldness you showed me before you left. I
have had more uneasiness about that than you may suppose. But
I have no doubt you had a motive."
"I had certainly a motive for leaving," replied Dolmey,
looking considerably embarrassed, "and a cause for seeming distant
towards you. But if it can be any satisfaction to you, my dear
friend, believe me—you were not that cause."
"I do not understand you."
"You will when the time comes that I can explain all, and if
there then be any unworthiness apparent, it will prove to be on my
part. Let that suffice you for the present."
"Yon turmits i'th' Hawve Acre looken very weel, Geff,"
grunted Sam o' Ducky's, as if wishful to join in, or give a turn to
"I could not think what I had done to you, Dolmey," said
Geoffrey, without bestowing the slightest attention to the remark
with which the old weaver had sought to interlard the discourse;
"and when I named it to my sister"―
"Ay, well, well—but I've seen th' time yo'r teeth would ha'
itched at th' seet of a good white turmit," put in the old fellow,
as if with a pertinacious desire to introduce his observations
"Be quiet, Sam," said Dolmey, giving an impatient glance at
the interrupting party. Then—"You were speaking of your
sister," he said, turning to Geoffrey.
"Well, when I named the matter to Alice," the young squire
resumed, "she said she was afraid she had given you offence by once
making a thoughtless allusion to your poverty."
Dolmey Turtingtower blushed a deep scarlet.
"But she assured me," continued Geoffrey, "that the remark
was not intended to wound you, and would have apologised, but she
never saw you from that time. You remember the verses you once
wrote to her? Of course you meant nothing by it."
"She surely did not think them worth preserving."
"But she did. She set them to music—an old tune that my
mother used to sing. I've heard her hum them over many a time.
But, of course, as I said, the sentiment went for nothing."
"To be sure. A boyish tribute only to what he regards
as perfection," said Dolmey, with a nervous utterance. "Does
she know that I am still living?"
"She does. Some weeks since she saw your name in the
newspaper; and remarked that it was strange to see esquire at
the end of it."
"Did she make any other remark?"
"Well, she did just say you must have got on in the world."
"It would be too much to ask if she seemed glad of it."
"Well, it is more than I can say. If she felt glad, she
had a strange way of showing it; for either that or something else
made her quite melancholy. I think that love affair upset
"I never heard of it," said Dolmey, starting, and almost
choking with emotion.
"Ah, you have been away so long, you see. You can't
wonder at not hearing of our little bits of affairs down here.
You know my cousin, Dick Holmroyd?" said Geoffrey.
"Yes; but it couldn't be he."
"I didn't say it was; but it was he who caused all the
bother. He stepped between them, you see—put in his own
"Who was the other?"
"We never knew—never could get to know. It was a
mystery to everybody. I have sometimes suspected that it must
have been no real person, but the hero of some romance she had read
when at school. At all events, we hear nothing of him now.
She must have forgotten him."
"Hoo wouldno' ha' forgotten him if he'd gone th' reet road
about it," commented the weaver, supplementing his remarks with a
chuckle. "When I framed up to our Sal at th' fust, hoo drew
her nails down th' side o' my face, like harrowin a curn fielt; so I
up wi' my fist an' gan her a bat between th' e'en, an' towd her I
should leeave her nowt owin o' that sort. Hoo whimpert and
cried at this like a hauve-weeant babby. But when I geet my
arm round her an' towd her we'd seen one another th' wust side out,
an' should booath mend as we geet better, hoo gan me a smack of a
buss yo' met ha' yerd across a fielt."
"Eh, how thour't lyin!" exclaimed the landlady, who had just
made her reappearance, "donned up," as she said, and ready to
accompany the young squire.
Sam chuckled with such an evident determination to choke
himself, that Dolmey Turtingtower was within an ace of slapping him
on the back to give him relief. But he persisted in advising
all love affairs to be conducted on the principle he had just laid
"Are you ready?" said Geoffrey Winwood to the landlady, at
the same time rising and putting on his hat.
"I shall be as soon as our Matty has gotten th' lantern
ready. I couldno' find th' road back again so weel beaut a
leet." And the dame proceeded to pin up her dress, to prevent
its being "dagged," as she expressed herself, in the dew.
"You've not been long," said Geoffrey.
"Eh, dear, lad! folk han to be wakken now-a-days, or else
they're be laft beheend. I tell our Matty, sometimes, ut if
hoo stonds so long starin i'th' looking-glass when hoo's donnin
hersel, hoo'll find hoo's gettin int' an owd maid afore hoo knows
gradely where hoo is." And the dame laughed, as if she had
forgotten the errand she was going upon.
"I am sorry to leave you, Dolmey, so soon after our meeting,"
said Geoffrey, holding out his hand. "But you must know I
cannot stay any longer."
"Make no apology, Geoffrey," said the other; "I shall be
going myself shortly. The night's getting on, and I've a long
walk before me."
"Does your way lead past our place?"
"I could go that way if you"—
"I should be glad of your company, if it would not be too
much to ask. I've not told you all I could wish. You
might cross by the corner of the orchard. There's no one to
prevent you. What do you say?"
"Thank you. I'm ready when you are." And Dolmey
rose to rejoin his friend.
"Didt' ever know sick dry weather as this, Tabby?"
said Sam o' Ducky's to the landlady, at the same time looking down
into the empty pot at his elbow.
"It's very dry, sartinly," Tabby replied, but without seeming
to take the hint the old man had thrown out.
"Hum! an' it's as dusty as th' Desert o' Jerusalum, if t'
knows wheere that is."
Tabby had heard of deserts, but thought there were none near
"Blows clouds o' sond up theere, ut makes a chap's een favvor
two stone marbles afore he con wink."
"Ay; an if he doesno' shut his mouth, it make him int' an
egg-timer straight forrad."
"Well, I never!"
"Just so; an' if he's sweeatin at th' time, he gets so
peppered o'er, ut, if th' Indians catchers him, they strippen his
skin, an' makken sond-papper on't for t' polish theer bows and
arrows, an' sharpen their teeth wi'."
"Thou never says! "
"How wouldt' like to be theere, owd crayther, an' no alehouse
"I shouldno', Sam."
"Nawe; nor thou wouldno' like to see me made int' an
"Not I, marry!"
"Nor sond-papper, noather."
"Eh, dear me! nawe."
"Well, I'm feeart I'st be oather one or th' tother, if I ha'
not another potful." And Sam gasped, and blowed, and
sputtered, as if his mouth was already filling with desert sand.
"An' has thou gone o round by Jerusalum for th' sake of a
pot'l o' drink?" said the landlady.
"Ay, an' quite far enoogh, too," was the reply.
"Well, thou'st have a gill, then, chus how 'tis."
"Let him have a quart," said Dolmey Turtingtower, putting
down payment for the quantity ordered.
"Eh, Dolly, owd lad!" said Sam, looking as thirsty as a
lime-kiln—"thou'lt ha' me dreawnt."
"Nay, thou'll noane be dreawnt wi' ale, beaut thou tumbles in
a cooler," observed Dame Charlesworth, in a fit of antiquated
"I should ha' to tumble in a bigger nor thine, if I did
then," was Sam's rejoinder.
"Had thou ever i' thy life a pint too mich?"
"Ay, when I've bin at a club dinner."
"However could that happen?"
"I've had nowheere to put it, beaut I'd temd it int my clogs,
I've been so full o' summat else."
"An' when thou'rt witchert* wi' summat ut
should ha' gone down thy throat, it'll be when thou's mistakken thy
clogs for thy mouth, an' that's no' likely to happen for a bakin-day
"True, O king! Second chapter i'th' third book o'
Isseral, five hundert an' fifty-first verse, short metre. I've
bin made to stond o' my yead while I've read that, an' counted forty
beside, for playin th' truint i' haytime, when I went to Little
Napper Skoo i' Hazelwo'th."
Sam's quart and the lantern were brought in at the same time.
The latter was to be lighted, although it was scarcely dark: and the
old weaver set about drinking the former in a manner so systematic
that one might have safely calculated that the last drop would be
descending his throat as the hour of eleven was being struck,
provided there were no sign of the jug being refilled.
"May yo' have a cow-gate to heaven!" he exclaimed, putting
the vessel to his lips, and setting the mahogany carving about his
neck in motion, as if the whole had been put together in sections,
like the "Florentine Venus."
"Amen!" someone responded. And the little party
prepared to set out upon their journey.
"We shall have no occasion for the light, going, Mrs.
Charlesworth," said Geoffrey Winwood, as the landlady proceeded to
ignite the candle in the lantern. "It won't be dark for an
hour or so."
"But we'd better ha' too much leet than noane at o," replied
the dame, with a cautious shake of the head. "Th' mists may
rise, an' th' neet thicken before we getten far; an' o' what use are
an' owd woman's e'en then, beaut hoo's a leet fort' guide her?"
The candle was lighted, and the shadows that the lantern
threw upon the walls might have been the forerunners of deeper
shadows that lay across the path of Geoffrey Winwood.
* Witchert (wet-shod), a local term
for being wet on the feet.
THE party, after
leaving the "Jolly Carter," struck into the road that had so
recently been traversed alone by Dolmey Turtingtower.
It was that most hallowed time when the day yields up its
sceptre to the queen of night. There was a soft grey glimmer
in the western sky, pierced at one point by the sharp outline of Red
Windows Hall, and the rooks in the clump of wood by the wayside had
"cawed" the last story of their day's adventure, "Eve's one star"
had mounted its watch-tower, and the haze of retreating twilight was
dimly revealing the outposts of heaven's cherubic hosts as they
threw themselves over the azure field. No sigh of the
departing hour shook the most sensitive leaf on the sky-pointing
poplars, and the spirit of Sound seemed to have sought its airy
chamber, and laid itself down to sleep. Everything around,
with the silent tongue of night's priesthood, preached sleep; from
the vaulted roof of nature's grand cathedral, to the lowly,
trembling mist, which rose like a timid spirit to woo
tranquillity—ay, to that dark chamber where Death had stamped his
lesson of mortality on the blanched and shrivelled corpse that lay
therein—the still, solemn voice of Time whispered—sleep, sleep,
evermore! Oh, that the shriek of distress should ever have
disturbed such tranquil slumber!
"How beautiful, and how quiet!" exclaimed Dolmey
Turtingtower, looking around on the dim landscape.
Geoffrey Winwood was silent, and the lantern-bearer was too
busy minding her steps to notice anything that
was said by her two attendants; for now and then a frog would
startle her, as it took a curved leap in the dancing light, and she
would give a faint scream at the sight of such an ugly apparition.
Dolmey turned to his friend. If tears were not streaming down the
latter's face, the faint light, which was rapidly becoming fainter,
must have been deceitful.
"Come, my dear friend," said Dolmey, in a tone of voice that was
meant to afford consolation, "bear up. Your father could not have
lived long, if he had been allowed the allotted time of life."
"If I could feel sure that he had died happily
there would be some comfort left for me. But I cannot,"
Geoffrey said, putting his handkerchief to his eyes. "Do not
think that because he has disinherited me"—
"What, disinherited you!" Dolmey exclaimed, pausing in his step,
and looking earnestly at his friend.
"I had forgot I had not told you that; but all the property is
willed to my cousin, Dick Holmroyd. But I don't care so much as you
may suppose—not for the loss of it, as for the loss of my father,
and the breaking up of a home which, if it has not been one of the
happiest, was always dear to me."
Dolmey Turtingtower had fallen into a thoughtful mood, and the two
paced on in silence. Dame Charlesworth by this time had come up with
them, and the rays of the lantern were making long shadows of their
Suddenly Dolmey stopped, and put himself in a listening attitude.
"What was that?" he exclaimed, laying his hand upon his companion's
"I heard nothing," Geoffrey replied and he, too, paused to listen.
"Eh, bless yo'! it's nobbut me," said the old woman, who had just
given one of her faint screams, which the sight of a peregrinating
frog occasionally drew forth.
"I thought I heard a cry of some kind coming from a distance," said
Dolmey. "I might have been mistaken."
"Perhaps a hare caught in a poacher's gin," Geoffrey suggested.
"Perhaps." And they again strode on.
"You were speaking of your disinheritance," said Dolmey, taking up
the thread of the discourse where it had been so suddenly dropped.
"Yes; but I was not complaining," replied Geoffrey.
"I shall now have an opportunity of being, what I have often wished
it had been my lot to be, self-dependent."
"You will have an opportunity—with a vengeance!" said Dolmey, in a
tone expressive of deep commiseration.
"Well, I know it is late for me to make a start; but when I reflect
what an idle fellow I've been all my life, it makes me sad to find I
have been so useless. If I could by hard struggling obtain a little
above bare living, I should be satisfied; and surely I may hope for
Geoffrey said this with an earnest belief that the rougher roads of
life were not so hard to travel but that tender feet might tread
"Poor fellow!" sighed Dolmey, "you are a child even yet. You little
know the world you are going into."
"True, I don't know much of it, but if it was not for my sister I
would know more."
"Of course she is provided for?"
"She is not."
They had now reached the corner of the orchard, whence the sound of
retreating wheels could be distinctly heard; but as Geoffrey said
they might belong to the doctor's carriage, only a momentary alarm
was created by the circumstance.
"Do you mean to say your sister is left unprovided for said Dolmey,
when the sound of the wheels had died away.
"Almost," was the sorrowful reply.
"What! nothing left her?"
"Nothing worth naming. That is my greatest trouble. She is such a
gentle, loving spirit," said Geoffrey, tears breaking forth afresh. "If I could only conjure up a father for her, it would take a great
load off my heart."
"Thank God!" Dolmey exclaimed, raising his hands and face to the
"How—why—what do you mean?" demanded Geoffrey, confounded by the
"Thank God!" Dolmey repeated, as earnestly as before. "Something
tells me your sister will find a father; and the voice of that
oracle never yet deceived me. Good night, my dear friend! Good
night, Mrs. Charlesworth! When the funeral is over I will see you
again. Good night!" With that he took a hurried shake of Geoffrey's
hand, and disappeared in the copse.
"He met ha' shaked honds wi' me," said the landlady; breathless from
her extraordinary pedestrian efforts. "If I'd bin a young woman, I dar'say he would ha' done, an' happen bin a bit impident. Well,
well, he'll be owd hissel some day, if he lives long enoogh."
Tabby held out her lantern to the young squire, who was fastened to
the spot where he stood by other chains than those which the
surrounding darkness had furnished.
"Thanking God for our misfortunes!" Geoffrey muttered as he turned
away. "A friend, too! It is inexplicable! And how suddenly he
vanished! There is something so strange about this, that I must see
further into it before I can rest. Is he really mad, as was
supposed? It would almost seem so. Never mind the dog, Mrs.
Charlesworth. He won't harm you so long as I'm with you. It's only
the light that scares him. Down, Baron! Down, old fellow!"
This was said as the party approached the back entrance to the Hall,
which was guarded by a stout mastiff, that leaped up, and whined to
its master, as if it, too, was in trouble.
THE old clock at the "Jolly Carter" had, with much groaning and
wheezing and stammering, growled out the hour of ten, and still Sam
o' Ducky's sat alone in the chimney-corner. No man in the world
could have been such company as Sam was to himself. Set before him a
"pot'l" of his favourite beverage; make him a fire up in the
chimney, even if it be midsummer, and the sun-heat blistering; give
him to understand that he may entertain himself as
he likes, and who so merry as he? Let the candle blink and sputter;
let Matty Charlesworth go to sleep over her needle; let the world
outside go mad with care; but so long as Sam o' Ducky's can polish
his mahagony by applications from the "Jolly Carter's" pint pot,
there will be a bright place, a lively company, and a happy soul
somewhere. Sam could talk for himself, and at one time could dance
for himself; but as his "yard-wide" days were over, and his
capering machinery anything but limber, he had now to confine
himself to the other two sources of amusement.
"Come, good health, Sam!" he would say to himself, raising the
quart jug and hiding one half of his face in the interior, by which
process the handle and spout would be brought to within an inch of
"Do, owd crayther!" he would respond; and his hat, which by some
mysterious agency always raised itself as the jug approached his
lips, would fall to its accustomed resting-place on his nose.
"Thou could do wi' another quart, couldtno', Sam?"
"Ay, I could, owd brid!"
"Well, knock, then."
"That I will, lad."
He would then give a series of the faintest possible raps upon the
table; but as no one attended to such a summons, he would console
himself by the remark, "I con aulus do beaut that I conno' get howd
Our old friend, on this occasion, had, by a protracted process of
self-flattery, got into such good humour with himself, that there
was nothing in this world he would not have done to oblige that
person. Let him ask for a song, he would sing it—a tale, he would
tell it, only just wait until he had "wet his whistle" another
"What mun it be? a sunk?" (song) he would say.
"Ay, let's have a sunk," he would reply.
"Hem!—hem!—hem!—Rowdy, dowdy, dow."
"Brast off! Thou's a pipe like a nightingell yet, owd crayther!"
"Well, what mun I sing?"
"Let's ha' that sunk thou used to sing at th' haymakkin suppers,—'Fotchin
th' keaws up.'"
"Ay, I've sung that for owd Tabby mony a time till hoo's uncorked an extry
bottle. Let's try what it'll do now," and without further
self-coaxing, and as if the room bad been full of company, instead
of his being the solitary listener to his own music, Sam o' Ducky's
FOTCHIN TH' KEAWS UP.
One summer e'enin
When the screenin
Cleauds drew o'er the settin sun.
Madge went trippin
Eaut o'th' shipp'n, —
Fotchin th' keaws, as oft hood done.
In th' owd lane
Hoo met a swain,
Pluckin blossoms from the spray.
"Madge," said he,—
"It's strange to see
Thee fotchin th' keaws so late i'th' day."
Madge said nowt,
Yet truly thowt
Ther summat wicked in his e'e,
But when her waist
He tightly pressed
Heaw could hoo longer silent be?
Hoo said—"Jim Dawson,
Eh, theau fause un,
What dost' think my mam'll say,
If hoo sees thee
Offer t' squeeze me—
Fotchin th' keaws up late i'th' day?
"Let me goo, Jim;
Neaw, then, do, Jim—
Aw've no time for stoppin here."
But the youth,
To tell the truth,
Wi' cobweb could ha' held her theere;
Then the gate
Was not too strait
For two to pass, an' goo ther way;
But who could pass
A bonny lass,
When fotchin th' keaws up late i'th' day?
"Madge," said Jim—
Whilst hoo to him
As closely clung as he to her—
"It's strange if time,
I'th' summer's prime,
An heaur to lovers conno' spare.
If th' owd sun's gone,
Ther's th' young moon yon,
Stringin silver beads on th' hay;
An' thoose bits o'
Leet that flit so,
Are keaws hoo's fotchin late i'th' day.
"Two cleauds, meetin,
Neaw are greetin;
See 'em kissin as they pass!"
Madge, not thinkin
Ill, said, shrinkin,
"Which is th' lad, an' which is th' lass?"
"That," said Jim.
"Ut's greet and slim,
Must be the lass, neaw on her way,
O'er heaven's farms,
Whilst fotchin th' keaws up late i'th' day."
' T' had been a wonder,
An' a blunder,
Had the skies their lessons lost;
If two cleauds, meetin,
Did o th' greetin,
Why did Jim the maid accost?
But oh! the kisses,
And the blisses,
That took Madge's heart away!
Neaw hoo's fain
Hoo met a swain
When fotchin th' keaws up late i'th' day.
Sam was about to repeat the last stanza, in response to a flattering
encore given by himself, when the landlady hurried down the fold,
and burst upon the singer in a most abrupt and unaccountable manner.
"What's up now, Tabby?" said the latter, somewhat scared at the
other's appearance. "Hast blundered upo' th' neetmare i' thy
travels, or what?"
"Eh, Sam!" was all the old woman could yet utter by way of reply.
"It is behanged as like!" said Sam, with mock surprise expressed in
voice and manner. "Thou never says, surely?"
"Eh, Sam!" the dame repeated, "that ever I should ha' lived to see
"Wheay, it's bin a nice un; raytherish dry if it mattered owt."
"But what dun yo' think, Sam?" said the landlady, placing the
lantern upon the table and dropping herself on the nearest chair.
"Ay, thou says summat now. I mit ha' gone whoam, thou sees, an'
never known nowt about it, if thou hadno' towd me straight forrad." And Sam chuckled in his quiet manner, and retired behind the shadow
of his hat brim.
"I've towd yo' nowt yet, yo' seely owd foo'," said the landlady,
snappishly. "I axt yo' what yo' thowt. Did not I?"
"Ay, ay—an' a good thing, too, noather. What does it matter what I
think? Just empty thy crop, if ther's owt in it, an' let's yer what
uncos there is stirrin."
"Well, for one thing, Alice Winwood's lost."
"What has hoo lost."
"I say hoo is lost. Hoo went down th' stairs after her feyther
dee'd, an' nowt's bin seen or yerd on her sin', tho' they'n sowt her
everywhere, hee an' low."
"Hoo hadno' wings, had hoo?"
"Han' yo' wings, yo' owd ferret?"
"Nawe, if I had I'd goo an' polish th' moon up a bit, an' put her a
new pair o' spectacles on again th' next wakes-time. But I meean to
say ut if Alice Winwood hadno' wings, an' flown away, hoo mun be somewheere or somewheere else. That's as plain as thirteen let-downs makken one swig, three swigs one bally-droight, fifteen bally-droights
one fuddle; or else Little Nopper towt me wrong 'rithmetic, an' I
paid him a penny a neet, an' fund my own candles. Goo on wi' thy
news, owd crayther."
"Well, I say, Alice Winwood's lost."
"Ay, so thou's towd me afore."
"Ay, they'n sowt for her hee an' low."
"Th' second time o' axin. If anybody's owt to say why these two
leatheryeads should spoil another couple, let 'em say it now, or for
ever after howl their peeace, an' keep their mouths shut till they
conno' oppen 'em! Weddin axins. Goo on, Tabby."
"Geoffrey's welly crackt about it, poor lad!
"That belongs to th' breed. His feyther never wur so sound about th'
"An' his cousin Richart's rennin about th' place like summat ut wur
off at a side."
"Ay, is Dicky a bit gan that way? But I reckon he's moore put about
wi' his uncle deein nor owt else. He'll ha' played his gam' up, I
"Well, yo' thinken wrong, for th' owd squire has laft him o ut he
The old weaver's hat rose upon his forehead; and the jug, which he
was in the act of raising to his lips, was put down untasted.
"What," he said, "has th' owd sinner sent his soul to wheere ther's
no frosty weather by sich an unnatural doment as that?"
"Yo'n find it's true what I've towd yo'. Geoffrey knew when he coome
"Well, may his owd stockins"—Sam checked himself at this point of
what would appear to be the introduction to a savage imprecation,
and became thoughtful. The hat, which by this time had returned to
its accustomed resting-place, again rose; and the countenance of the
old weaver emitted a gleam of mental sunshine.
"I'll tell thee what, Tabby," he said, becoming all at once
unusually sedate in his manner, "it ud be an awkwardish sort of a
thing, if it should turn out ut th' owd squire had nowt to leeave ut
wur his own; would nor it?"
"Ay, it would. But how could that be?" said Tabby, who had as much
faith in the stability of the Winwoods as in the solvency of the
Bank of England.
"Look thee here," said Sam, leaning over, and making a hook of his
forefinger, "thou knew owd Tummy Trotter?"
"Well, thou'll never know him again; that's as sartin. But if he
could rise up out o' yon bit o'th' sod-hole i'th' churchyard, an'
come an' have an' odd gill or two here, we should happen get summat
out on him ut he hasno' towd everybody; speshly if he'd yerd how th'
squire had misbehaved hissel."
"Why, dun yo' know summat?" asked the dame, with a very inquiring
and eager glance.
"Does thou know what Little Nopper used to tell us at th' skoo?"
"Not I, marry!"
"Well, but he used to say, ut if a mon ud keep his mouth shut, an'
his ears oppen, nob'dy ud be th' wiser for owt he had to say.
"Ay; if yo' meean to say if yo' known owt yo' winno' tell. Is no'
"That's just th' length an' bradth on't to th' mickleth of a yure. Thou couldno' ha' come
nar it if thou'd shaved it wi' a two-edged
razzor. An' now, then, as th' owd grunter i'th nook says it's
bedtime, I'll be creepin toart yon cote o' mine. It's very lonely,
too," he said with a sigh. "Sometimes I think I see owd Tummy
Trotter creepin about th' pleck, wi' a rowl o' summat in his hont ut
looks like thin bacon wi' writin on it. But thou doesno' believe i'
boggarts, I reckon?"
"Eh, yigh I do."
"Well, I shouldno' wonder if ther's one seen up at th' Ho afore
long, an' ut winno' be laid wi' noather charms nor speeals, nor no
sort o' bibbery-bobbery. Good neet, owd wench. Never pray for thysel
beaut prayin for other folk; so ut when thou goes up th' long
cow-lone to th' better place, thou may have a chance o' gettin an
odd gill wi' someb'dy thou's helped on th' road."
Sam o' Ducky's had risen from his seat; and having assured himself
that he had left nothing in the jug for fairies and elves to dip
their thirsty lips into, grasped firmly his stick, and took a
reluctant leave of the "Jolly Carter" and its amiable hostess.
Night had now fairly hung its sable drapery; and the dim shadow of
Red Windows Hall in the distance presented to the old weaver the
appearance of a huge bier over which the pall of a darker darkness
was descending. He paused for a moment to contemplate the silent and
dim world around him, in which the stately mansion and its dusky
woods were objects of absorbing but melancholy interest. He shook
his head as he turned away, and, conjuring up in his fancy a vision
which the scene had suggested, walked on—with the ghosts of "Tummy
Trotter" and Roger Winwood stalking by his side.