CHRONICLES OF WAVERLOW.
THE HUNTSMAN'S FUNERAL.
COLLEY" was dead! and
the evening knell came mournfully upon the ear as the twilight
deepened. Old Colley was dead, and his remains were to be
interred on the morrow in the graveyard of the little church that
looked from its pine-surrounded eminence over Waverlow, and great
were the preparations for an event which concerned the whole
"The deceased was much and deservedly respected by all who
knew him." So his tombstone records, and as everybody, not
only in Waverlow, but in the adjoining hamlets, would think
themselves privileged to attend the funeral, it became a difficult
matter to determine who should or who should not be invited.
It was at length agreed upon by the relatives assembled, that a
general house-to-house "laithin" 
should be given out; and, accordingly, people were appointed to go
round the village and give verbal invitations to all who might be
regarded as eligible to attend a funeral. It used to be
considered a great privilege to be selected "as a fit and proper
person" to go on this errand, as a "pot'll o' drink" was always
expected of the "better eend o' folk," and it was nothing out of the
way if these parties, towards the finish of their rounds, got rather
irregular in their visits, or oblivious of their duties. "Yo'r
laitht to th' buryin o' So-and-so, tomorrow at one o'clock," might
be pronounced with very distinct articulation at the commencement of
the round, but the utterance would have a tendency to thicken as the
visiting progressed, especially if it happened to be near a pastime,
when everybody reckoned to "brew." Then it would be a matter
of the greatest difficulty to get through the work, or perform it
without scandalising the business by a not over-sedate exercise of
the lungs at some public-house, if the landlord's name happened to
be on the invitation list, and he was liberal with his hospitality.
On this occasion there were two visitors appointed to each of
the three districts embracing Waverlow, Hazelworth, and Langleyside.
The districts were again subdivided and each man went his round
alone. The bell had ceased tolling long before the "laithin"
was completed, and when the parties broke up at the "Wheel and
Barrels," which they agreed should be their rendezvous at the
finish, my informant says"th' floor wur slat o'er same as if it had
bin th' weshin day."
Those who have taken part in a "gradely Lancashire buryin"
(funeral), and know the shifts to which some of the people attending
have been put to get decent or suitable clothes for the purpose,
will have some idea of the difficulties to be encountered on an
occasion that was looked upon as out of the common waywhen
everybody meant or wished to be present. He would be deemed a
wealthy person who possessed two suits of good "Sunday going"
clothes; and as there were many who could not boast of one whole or
even part of a suit, the exigency had to be met when it came by
borrowing, wherever a tolerable fit of the particular garment
required could be obtained. Some would not care for either the
fit or fashion of the thing borrowed, if its texture was orthodox,
and if it could be made capable of admitting legs, arms, or body, by
any means short of re-tailoring. Indeed, the latter class of
people did not care for misfits at all, and would don a broad-lapped
"swinger" or a swallow-tailed coat with equal indifference, and
would not be over particular whether their calves were displayed
through a pair of broad-ribboned "smalls," or hidden betwixt the
seams of the more modern "stove pipes" (trousers). The women
were even more easily accommodated. If they could muster a
good cloak of any colour ― scarlet or crimson preferred a black
bonnet of any shape, from the old "coal box" to the degenerate thing
which latter times had introduced, they were "good buryin folk," and
few there were who did not possess one or more of these essentials
to a decent appearance behind a corpse. If they lacked
anything, they had recourse to the same expedient as the
menborrowingand the principle was no more made of by either
borrower or lender than wishing each other "good morning,'' or
asking "how are yo'?"
Judging from these preparations and the shifts attending
them, it were easy to conclude that a funeral was regarded in the
light of no ordinary occurrence, as it would generally involve the
cessation of work on the part of sixty or a hundred people for the
greatest portion of a day, to say nothing about the time lost on the
preceding evening, in hunting up and fitting on clothes, gossiping,
and the like. Then the starting of the procession, the
hundreds of women who must look on, and the comments they make upon
everybody's appearance; the wonder where So-and-so got his coat
from, the collar of which fits behind his head like a Dutch oven;
the marvel that somebody else's cloak looks so fresh after being
borrowed by the whole parish on similar occasions during the last
fifty years; the remarks, too, that are to be made on the other body
who, probably, stands in nothing of his own besides his garters, are
matters as much looked for as anything connected with the funeral,
and a stranger must not think the affair less serious or less
becoming on that account.
But old Colley was dead. His remains were to be buried
with unusual pomp, and the funeral was to be attended with unusual
numbers; so the affair made great stir in Waverlow, both on the day
of interment and the evening before.
The deceased had been a great sportsman in his time not after
the modern fashion, carrying a gun over a preserve or following a
pack of hounds just for the sake of a few leaps on horseback, but a
Nimrod of the primitive school, who reckoned not the loss of either
time or ease as a sacrifice, but would have hunted day and night in
a swampy clough with only a couple of dogs, his spade and jumping
staff as his accessories. No one ever suspected him of
poaching, for the game he most loved to hunt were "foumarts"
(polecats), and otters, and many a living trophy had he borne home,
both when pursuing his sport singly, and in company. He caught
cold the last time he was out, that threw him into a fever, of which
On the night before the funeral, which happened in that
season when it is remarked that days are getting shorter, there was
an unusual banging of doors in Waverlow, caused by people popping in
and out of each other's houses on borrowing business. Some
would go round the village before they could get a hat to fit them,
that article of dress being generally the most difficult to adapt to
the borrower's wear. A dwarfish person who had met with a good
coat that unfortunately would have fitted a giant, tried to exchange
it for a shorter, but, being of stout body, could not find one that
would allow his arms to lie in their proper places; so, after
wasting a couple of hours in a fruitless search for an eligible
substitute, he made up his mind to do the best he could with the one
he had got, and risk annihilation by wearing it. This he
resolved to do, notwithstanding that a tall, lean fellow, who was to
perform an important part at the funeral, and who had obtained a
coat that fitted him in the circumference, but was about half a yard
too short, tried to persuade him that an exchange would be all the
better, as his little neighbour might, at a pinch, walk with his
hands behind him; and, for himself, the overlapping caused by the
extra dimensions of the other's coat, would be obviated by an
additional waistcoat or two being worn under; and thus both
would be mutually accommodated. The little fellow would not,
however, hear of the proposal, so both went in for martyrdom, after
each other's peculiar fashion of it. Others of the neighbours
might be seen running about with a newly-ironed shirt front or "dicky"
the strings flying like streamers in the wind. Others were
wondering how a loose collar that had been made by an aspiring
seamstress after a pattern not to be found in any shop window
could be fastened to a shirt whose own collar, to use the wearer's
phrase, was "gettin into th' ragmon's honds." One fellow was
observed tinkering up a hat by means of a heated poker and a
dressing brush, giving it the appearance of having been japanned,
after getting wofully dinged in the process. Another was
engaged in blackening the lining of a pair of trousers, just
opposite to where an awkward hole had been made in the outer cloth,
and which could not be conveniently patched. A third was
taking in the skirts of a coat that were too long, by turning the
ends inside, giving him the appearance, when he tried it on, of a
game cock with its tail cut. All were busy in general
preparation until bedtime, when the village settled into its wonted
The morn arrived, and with it a few hunting friends who had
come from a distance. These quartered themselves at the "Wheel
and Barrels," where they sat talking over old times, and telling
stories of hunting adventures till the time drew near for the
funeral to start. They had called to have a last look at their
former companion shook his cold hand, a custom with the dead in
villages like Waverlow, and they were now smoking and drinking down
feelings which, in spite of their rough nature, would otherwise have
got the better of them. Five houses, of which the one where
the deceased lay formed the centre, were set out in "buryin"
fashion; each whitewashed and cleaned throughout, and each filled
with chairs borrowed from the neighbours round to accommodate with
seats those who were invited to attend. Many a family had, in
consequence of these arrangements, to stand at the table while they
ate their dinners, but such inconveniences were never regarded as of
any moment by those who were accustomed to them. A table stood
in the centre of each houseplace, upon which were placed a couple of
brass candlesticks, ornamented with paper cut in various devices, a
tray heaped up with tobacco, and a sheaf of new pipes. A pair
of large pitchers ― one of them distinguished by a ring of lemon
peel linked in the handle stood on another table at the head of
the house. These were to serve round the "warm and cold," a
customary libation over a funeral in Waverlow. In the middle
house, where the corpse lay, an additional table stood at the door.
This bore a tray laden with sprigs of rosemary, one of which was to
be served to each guest, and afterwards deposited on the coffin when
laid in the grave.
The bereaved family had just concluded an early dinner, and
were siding the remnants, when they were startled by a loud
"tally-ho!" given in a thoroughly huntsmanlike manner at the door;
and before they could recover from their surprise, the tall, wiry
form of "Long Yeb," accompanied by his dog, "Sounder," appeared at
the corner of the "speer."
"Yo' munno' think nowt about me givin th' music at th' dur,"
said the visitor, by way of apology for the noise he had been
making, "th' owd lad ordert me afore he deed for t' be here th' fust,
an' sound th' keynote for a muster; an' yo'n had it as loud as me
owd ballispipe ud give it."
He then seized a chair which stood near the door, and
motioning his dog to sit beside it, dropped with a loud grunt upon
"I reckon I'st ha' t' sarve, if things are t' be as
they'rn ordert," he said; and he took stock of the jugs which stood
on the long table, concluding his inspection with a smack of
"Ay, ay, Yeb," said the old dame, relict of the deceased
huntsman; "thou'rt likker than anybody else, for I think thou'rt th'
owd'st companion our felly had. Wilt goo up th' stairs an'
look at him?"
This invitation is usually extended to all who attend a
funeral, but more pressingly given to particular friends.
"Well, I'st belike t' just stroke him down a bit," and Yeb
stumbled upstairs and placed himself by the bedside where the
remains of his old comrade lay within their modest oaken coffin ―
his hunting whip lying close to the hand which could no longer wield
"Owd lad," said Yeb, taking hold of the cold hand, and gazing
very earnestly at the shrunken features of his friend, "we'n flooded
mony a otter hole, and smoort mony a tough owd dog of a foumart out
of his kennel in our time, but thou's lippn thy last bruck, an'
delvt thy last clod, beaut ther's varmint i'th' tother country, an'
good dogs an' huntin ground. Well; ta-ta, an' bless thee,
The visitor thus took leave of the dead; and as he descended
the stairs it might have been observed that his eyes were more moist
than they were when he went up.
The "cold" pitcher for the men, as they invariably arrived
before the women, was then filled with "home-brewed;" the door was
set open, the tablecloths were smoothed down, and Long Yeb took his
place as "sarver" to the guests.
The next arrivals were the friends from the "Wheel and
Barrels," who looked rather "toddyish" from the quantity of "smo'
weft" they had imbibed, and soon the house was filled with smoke
from their well-plied pipes. The next comer was "Little Sam,"
the short, thick-set person before mentioned; and notwithstanding
that he was about the most comical sight that could have been met
with in Waverlow, nobody laughed at his appearance. Yeb did
just hint at the ownership of the coat Sam wore, by observing, as
the latter crossed the floor, "Sam, just lift his cooat laps
up, or thou'll have 'em dagged i'th' sond."
"Someb'dy's cooat 'll no' be dagged beaut thou tumbles
in it," Sam retorted, alluding to the other's coat, the tails of
which had much to do to conceal his waistband.
Further banter was checked by the wholesale arrival of a
party from Langleyside, who, after tasting of the "sarving drink,"
and selecting each a sprig of rosemary, put on their hats and
adjourned to the next house, where they could all be together and
joke without restraint; for joking and tale-telling was quite a
feature at a Waverlow funeral.
An individual now introduced himself who excited some
curiosity among the visitors, as he appeared to be a stranger to
every one present. This person commenced making free with
everything on the table, although uninvited to do so, and his
general behaviour seemed to imply that he felt as much at home there
as the rest. At length the old dame, whose proper sphere would
have been upstairs, but who chose rather to be tottering about the
houseplace, surveying the new comer with one hand shading her eyes,
exclaimed, "That's never thee, Tummy, is it?"
"Yigh; whoa else?" was the answer.
"Well, I didno' know thee. Whose clooas hast getten
on?" And the widow surveyed her guest from top to toe.
"That's what gets o'er me," said Tummy; for it was the person
guessed at, and who lived just across the green. "Aw'st be
puzzled i'th' mornin for t' know wheer t' tak 'em to, for I've nowt
on nobbut my shoon an' stockins ut's my own. I do know whooa's
th' hat is, for there's nobbut one yead i' o Waverlow ut taks a hat
as big as that, an' mine's one o'th least ther is. Mind how yo'
knocken it about, for ther's a pack o' cards inside ut I've had to
stuff it wi', an I'm feart on 'em bein shaked out o'th' linin;" and
"Tummy o Tums" chuckled over what he considered was a very ingenious
Now began a gradual dropping in of people of all ages. Old men with
deep, dry lines in their faces, and heads so closely cropped that
they looked like paving stones when uncovered. Some wore the
primitive blue coat of perhaps half a century's wear. Others
appeared in newly-washed woollen-cord breeches, the buttons at the
knees shining like pearls; and the red plush singlet, the pride of
huntsmen, adorned the chest of several who were known to be enthusiasts in the profession. Most of them wore very strong shoes which
had been polished with a candle, and hats that had defied storm and
flood through many a gallant hunt. Old women tottering and
toothless wearing red cloaks, and leaning on crutches that gave
them quite a weird-like appearance, came; and these were
accommodated with armchairs, in the chimney-corner, where they
smoked their pipes and carried on a conversation more remarkable for
its volubility than its intelligence, seeming to live, as it were,
in a world of their own. Younger women "fat, fair, and forty" bearing with them all the pride of mother-hood, bustled about,
upstairs and down, and seeming all importance the while, as if
funeral preparations belonged more exclusively to that age than to
any other. And more youthful still in the persons of grandchildren
were present, whose blooming faces looked ill-assorted with grief,
as they peeped from behind the folds of their white pocket handkerchiefs. Each wore a neat white cap, with a kerchief of
material covering their shoulders, and all took places in the
chamber of mourning, where everything strangely contrasted with
what was passing downstairs.
The house was now getting crowded, as were also the other four. Joke, and scarcely repressed laughter, with how and then a loud "guffaw," which, however unseemly might be, it was hardly possible to
restrain, made the time slip over much more pleasantly than what
might be expected at a funeral. There sat "Tummy o' Tum's," the
"observed of all observers" and looking so "fine" in his borrowed
suit of clothes as scarcely to be recognised by even his wife. He
would eye the heap of hats on the drawers with a look of interest,
if not of pride, and whenever a new corner tried to place his own
head covering on the crowded receptacle, Tummy would become fidgety,
and rising from his seat his invariable exclamation would be, "Mind
his hat!" In the corner, close to the clock case, perched "Little
Sam," his feet scarcely touching the floor, from the height of the
chair on which he sat. But his coat tails swept the sand at every
twist he gave his body, and, from his hands being buried in the
sleeves, it became a wonder to "Lung Yeb" how he held his pipe. Once his elbow neighbour innocently observed that, as the day was
windy and cold, Sam had better pull his "top cooat" off, and he
would feel the benefit of it when the "buryin" went. The little
fellow riled up at this, and twisted his countenance into a very
severe look; but he kept on with his pipe and said nothing. Leaning
his chair against the "speer," sat "James o' Joe's," with his ears
buried in a shirt-collar almost large enough for a winding-sheet. This individual rather enjoyed the comments that were being made,
not only about other people, but upon himself also. He protested
against being spoken to, as it could not be expected that, with his
head fixed in the stocks, he could take any part in the
conversation. "Jone o' Pee's" said "if they would
fnd a pair o'
scissors he'd dub him as mich off his shirt-neck as ud mak a 'dicky.'"
James begged they would be cautious what they said while there was a
"stranger i'th' house," and he cast his eyes on the superb-looking "Tummy o' Tums," when there was
a general laugh round the company at Tummy's expense. "Little Sam" intimated that if anybody said "owt
any moore about him" he should "feight," at which there was a murmur
of disapprobation; not that it was unusual for a battle to take
place at a funeral, but as "Long Yeb" observed, "it wur a shawm t'
feight wi' other folk's clooas on." While this was going on the
pitchers went their rounds with never-tiring regularity. "Old
Boxer," being deaf, and therefore unable to enjoy the conversation,
went to sleep in good time. But he never missed his turn at the
drink. He always wakened up when the pitcher was about being handed
past him, and he would seize the handle, and resting the rim upon
his broad slouching lip, give a deep pull, and go to sleep again. He
did once remark to the person who sat next to him that he "thowt owd
Colley hadno' bin quite so owd."
"How owd is he?" asked "James o' Joe's."
"Seventy-five it says upo' th' coffin," replied "Boxer."
coed a year yunker than me, an' I thowt I're nobbut seventy-five
"Yo'n bin that age mony a year," remarked "Little Sam," rather
"What does he say?" inquired "Boxer," leaning from his seat.
"He says yo' con o'er-lie Stump," said "Long Yeb," with a peevish
"Boxer made a clumsy spring upon his feet, and shaking his fist at
"Little Sam," said "If it wurno' for spoilin someb'dys clooas, I'd
thresh thee wurr than ever thy mother did; thou little ottymotty!"
The appearance of the coffin-maker, with a
screw-driver in his hand, and pulling as long a face as he well
could from lack of emotion, put off further quarrel, and intimated
to the company that it was time to prepare for starting. When
it was announced that the coffin was being brought downstairs a
general scramble for hats took place; several got wrong ones at
first, and it was not the least amusing of the many uncouth
incidents that occurred to see the puzzled countenances of such as
could not own the hats they had borrowed, and were continually
getting hold of wrong ones. Some were marching about with
their eyes nearly hidden by an overfit, whilst others had scarcely
more than their crowns covered by the other side of the exchange.
"Tummy o' Tum's," however, had not allowed himself to lose sight of
the hat he had charge of, so, before the others were on their feet,
he had it singled out and placed upon his head, where it fitted like
a churn. With a little trouble and wrangling, the hats were at
last assorted; the coffin was brought down, and placed in the
hearse, which had been waiting until the one horse was nearly
asleep, and the signal was given for starting. 
Then occurred a scene that would have defied the pencil of
Cruikshank to picture. Most of the hunters had brought their
dogs with them, and these when they were mustered on Waverlow Green
made a demonstration that would have led a stranger to believe some
notable hunt was afoot, whilst the owners whooped and "tallyho'd"
until all echoed again. At last they were got into some kind
of order, and the procession moved off, some of the followers taking
a very zig-zag route as though the road had been a crooked one.
All looked as serious as they well could under the circumstances;
but a disposition to be chatty and demonstrative would sometimes
cause confusion in the line, and a section would become severed from
the rest by a very wide gap. Others would take a course of
their own and walk anywhere; sometimes before the hearse, at others
behind it; and an instance or two occurred where parties seemed to
forget the business they were upon, and after dropping behind,
"sidled" into a public-house to be seen no more.
The route of the procession, which lay through the heart of
the village, was lined all the way by spectators; but these were
chiefly women, with here and there an exceptional sprinkling of the
more curious of the other sex; and all were orderly in their
observations, until the occurrence of a remarkable and ludicrous
incident which upset the gravity of the whole affair for a time.
The day was windy; and though it might appear to blow a
steady gale in the open country, it came in sudden and violent gusts
about the nooks and corners of Waverlow, making old people stagger
and young ones look anxiously about the safety of their hats.
The hearse, which had the resemblance of a servant's trunk covered
with faded crape, rolled about like an old tub on the uneven
pavement, and that, together with the wind, made the old ragged
"bobs" on the top dance and toss about in a wild and scarecrow
manner. The funeral had just got to the "Four Ways," and was
making a turn to ascend the hill leading to the church, when a shout
came from the crowd of lockers-on that caused all in the forepart of
the procession to turn suddenly round to see what was the matter.
A hat was seen spinning up the road at a speed which distanced for a
time the swiftest of those who were in pursuit. On it went,
distributing as it rolled quite a shower of square pieces of
pasteboard, that might have been placed there by a conjurer, and
were performing some feat of necromancy. Some of the cards
were blown about like waifs flying over garden fences, spinning
round and round in areas, perching on window sills, and all getting
so scattered, that an old sinner remarked, "they'rn never better
shufflt at a main brew!" Away the hat still rolled, everybody
that could lend a leg pursuing, and all intent upon picking up the
cards as they were blown in their way. A "Jack" was caught by
one of the ragged "bobs" on the top of the hearse, where it stuck
like an escutcheon, defying both the wind and the driver's whip to
dislodge it. Some were carried quite out of the way, and
nearly every person at the funeral was engaged in collecting what
had been the stuffing of "Tummy o' Tum's" hat.
The driver, seeing the procession almost dispersed, stopped
his vehicle, and enjoyed the scene from his solitary box, perhaps
the most indifferent spectator of the strange scene that was being
enacted around him. One fellow, who had made several
unsuccessful dives after the hat, which the wind would carry away
just as he was in the act of clutching at it, had somehow worked his
"dicky" loose at the bottom, and the whole front tape and all
was streaming behind his neck like a flag of truce, to the intense
delight of a crowd of boys to whom both mishaps were a godsend of
fun. The owner, or rather the person who had charge of the
hat, which the reader already knows was a borrowed one, appeared so
overwhelmed by the disaster that he stood like somebody crazed
irresolute as to what part he should play in the affair his short
hair blowing up from his forehead, and his eyes wandering after the
hat and cards, which he calculated just then were entirely lost.
At length the runaway was caught; the cards, with but few
exceptions, were picked up, but this time, instead of the latter
being made into padding for the hat, they were deposited in the
owner's pocket himself content to walk bareheaded the remainder of
The procession was then re-formed; the hearse drove on and
reached the church gates just as the rector, with his surplice under
his arm, was shambling down from the rectory. The reverend
gentleman, who was one of your model country parsons easy and
jolly paused as his eye lighted on "Jack of Clubs," whose squat
form was sporting itself among the "moulting" plumes of one of the
hearse's "bobs." Scarcely believing his naked vision, he took
out his spectacles and gazed a moment at the strange exhibition
which the dancing "bobs" presented. Directly he turned round
to one of the conductors, who happened to be a sort of a wag, and
asked him what was the meaning of that "sinful piece of pasteboard
The person interrogated replied he did not know; but he had
heard that "th' saxon (sexton) had fund it i'th' vestry and put it
up theere for t' show what sort o' company th' pa'son kept."
Had not the old gentleman seen through the joke, he might
have flown into a rage at this explanation; instead of that he
laughed, and, afterwards getting a more correct version of the
affair, he observed, with as much gravity in his demeanour as he
could muster, "The wicked shall be scattered as with a whirlwind,"
and then walked into the church, the funeral people following.
The whole being comfortably settled in the old-fashioned
pews, which probably had never before seated such a
picturesque-looking congregation, the rector mounted his pulpit and
commenced reading the funeral service. This duty he performed
in such a drowsy, monotonous tone of voice, and with such slow
articulation, that the eyelids of several of his hearers were
observed to close, and the heads reel forward and sideways as though
an inclination to sleep had overcome them. "Long Yeb" had
tumbled his chin upon his breast after the first few sentences had
been gone over, and his body was see-sawing to and fro, and coming
down with such jerks, that those about him felt alarmed lest he
should knock his head against the back of the next pew, and cause an
interruption to the service. Directly he gave a snore not
that low, droning sound with which snoring is apt to commence but
a loud, sharp snort, as though it had been a blast on the lowest
octave of the organ. The shock and the sound together wakened
up the sleeper, and, as if he imagined he had been present at a
hunt, he placed his hand to his mouth and gave the "view halloo!" in
a voice that was a credit to his lungs. Immediately there was
such a yow-yow-yow! in the church, and such a steeple-chase of dogs
over pew backs, as to frighten the spectacles from the clerk's nose,
and cause the rector to bring the service to an abrupt pause.
There was consternation throughout the place, and all faces were
turned towards "Long Yeb," who sat rubbing his eyes as if just
awakening to a sense of the breach he had made in the solemnity of
the proceedings. The offender was immediately collared by an
indignant churchwarden, and hauled out of his quarters, although he
protested, in explanation, that he had "bin dreeamin ut he see'd a
fine bitch foumart start out of a backin, an' he couldno' help givin
mouth when he wakkent an' see'd th' dogs about him."
After the hounds had been silenced and all alarm had
subsided, the rector resumed the service, and proceeded with it in a
more lively manner than at the commencement. The book at last
closed; the prayers were concluded, and the people dismissed to
assemble again round the grave of the deceased huntsman. The
corpse was borne from the church porch by four of the "next of kin,"
and as it was lowered to its last resting-place the scene changed
from the grotesque and ludicrous to one of imposing solemnity.
The old huntsmen gathered round the grave in a solid ring, each
holding his dog by the slip, and when the final "Ashes to ashes
dust to dust" was pronounced, the whole strewed their sprigs
of rosemary over the coffin, then raising their heads, gave a
simultaneous "Yoho! tally-ho!" the sound of which became heightened
by the dogs joining their voices as they rung the last cry over
their "earthed" companion.
There is little more to tell of this notable funeral.
Most of the company on leaving the church called at the "Wheel and
Barrels," where they washed old Colley down in "warm and cold; wi' a
sope o' summat else in," and told hunting and other tales till late,
when they dispersed rather in a damaged state to their several
Just as the late moon rose over Waverlow a white figure was
seen standing in the middle of the green. It was "Tummy o'
Tum's," stripped to his shirt; and as he held up one article of
clothing after another, gave out in unmistakable accents his desire
that any person who had lent him anything should come there and own
it, as he did not remember who the clothes belonged to. This
was the last of "old Colley's funeral."
[WRITTEN DURING THE COTTON FAMINE.]
shambled to his desk, and opening it, took out a roll of manuscript
which had the appearance of being recently penned. "This,"
said he, "I wrote merely to remind myself of what I have been what
I am never intending it for publication. If it is worth
anything to you take it and welcome."
I unrolled the MS., and read as follows:
"I was born at the very antipodes of 'Silverspoonia,' the
denizen of a tumbledown 'barrack' situated in an obscure corner of
that poor devil county which is now driven to showing its hat-lining
to the world. I am what a Yorkshireman would call a 'Lanky,'
and perhaps as poor a specimen of the cotton county's human produce
as ever trounced barefoot through its lanes, or shuddered at the
sound of its factory bells. I was born a mistake, I have lived
a mistake, and the probability is that I shall end my days in the
position of one whose existence has been without a purpose.
"Friend, if thou knowest not the meaning of the term 'dragged
up,' I will explain it to thee. It is to be educated by a
kick, fed upon the tender mercies of a stepfather, and clothed by
the rightful inheritance of the 'parish mop.'
Thou hast it now ― the outline of my history ―
the life of a ' White-toppin,' for by such a name was the little
colony I belonged to known.
"I have often heard it boasted by my foster-parent
that I was born in the largest house in Birchwood, an assertion that
once had its truth disputed by a squire farmer, heir to fifty acres
and a big whitewashed hall, but who was, notwithstanding his wealth,
a lout of the greenest furrow. The fellow, however, became
convinced, when, after receiving a benediction from my father's
fist, I was forced to proclaim from the elevation of a taproom form,
that I drew my first breath in the parish workhouse. I was
indeed a pauper born, and I believe the distinction which my station
conferred upon me at birth will stick to me until this 'mortal coil'
be 'shuffled off.'
"It would be an injustice to my mother, who showed as
much kindness for me as her means would allow, were I not to say
that it was through the most pardonable of a thousand faults that I
thus became 'monarch of nothing I surveyed,' and heir to the
spoon and can of a 'White-toppin.' The poor woman who
committed the sin of bringing me into the world a squealing burden
on a one-and-fourpenny rate was a widow when she bore me. My
father died of a diabetes after about four months' illness; and my
mother, who had to support both, besides four children, by weaving,
had no means of keeping her own bed when her turn came to need it.
She was of well-to-do parents, but disobeying them by marrying my
father (the 'old, old story'), they would not look at her in her
travail, nor give a sixpence to help her. I consequently
became one of the family of 'White-toppins,' called the governor
'daddy,' and shared with six other unfortunate 'babbies' the oaken
cradle of the 'big heause ' at Birchwood. I was thus cast at
the foot of life, with no higher aspiration possessing my youthful
breast than what is expressed in the hungry sentiment, 'Thick
porridge and plenty of 'em!'
" As I have no remembrance of the 'dadin' (leading String) period, I
must commence my history at the event of my departure into the wide
world, when I left the many-familied home of the ' White-toppins '
to assist my mother in keeping herself poor, and run about in almost
the nakedness of a little savage on the village common. With the
blessing of the governor (he was a kind man, only he had a mania for
stroking my shorthaired sconce the wrong way about, which sometimes
made me wince), we turned our heels on the workhouse, and planted
our imaginary vine and fig tree at a poor tenement that held the
lease of its existence at the mercy of the brook that flowed past
it. Here my mother set up her loom and her cap at the same time, for
she had not the least notion of remaining a widow so long as there
was a marriageable fellow in Highfield, and 'Tummy Turndeawn,' it
was known, had cast an eye upon her. "Tummy Turndeawn!' how I
remember his first stalking into our cottage, and asking my mother
if she would allow him to hang up his hat on the empty peg; and how
my mother blushed, and said he met if he would!"
"In her second edition of housekeeping my parent had to economise
most rigidly. Butter to our bread was out of the question, and
treacle was only allowed on Sundays. But the porridge-dish was as
constantly before our vision as the trough to hungry pigs. The cry
was 'porridge at morn, porridge at noon, porridge at night, porridge
again, mam?' for we lived a life of spoonwork, and right glad we
were of a constant supply of even such humble fare. It was a picture
to see us assembled round the table as eager to commence our meal as
if it had been 'Kesmas bo,' (Christmas pudding) or the glorious
Lancashire potato-pie; and woe to the one who lost the start. My
brother Bill once let his spoon fall on the floor, and the yell he
set up through this mishap made my mother think he had scalded
himself, which was a frequent occurrence with us. Generally speaking
we had milk to our porridge, but there were times when such a dainty
could not be afforded. Then we had to fall back upon the less costly
edible of a farthing 'humbug' stuck in the middle of the dish, at
which we all dipped in turns, and being hard to melt, it was amusing
to hear our spoons rattle against it.
"One blessed trait of my mother's character was the desire to see
her progeny endowed with some kind of education. In accordance with
this wish I was put to school as soon as I could 'toddle' and
received both nursing and instruction for the fee of two pence
weekly, and monthly fire penny. It may be a matter of wonder that
our schooling cost so little; but it is accounted for by the fact
that our pedagogue was a gingham weaver, and taught us our lessons
whilst occupied at his loom. Our A. B. C. was pasted on the loomhouse wall, and was printed in such large characters that we
could easily have discerned them across the lane. We stood in rows
between the loom and the wall, and whenever we stuck fast in our
lesson old Wardley would call out any letter that occurred to him,
and we went through the alphabet rightly or wrongly, just as might
happen. We were a picturesque group as I well remember; I in my
blue pinafore, fustian frock, and linsey petticoat, and the rest
with costumes as varied in fashion and quality as any Lancashire
lane will present during the period of the cotton famine. It may
easily be guessed what character of instruction I received whilst
being trained at this establishment, and how qualified I was after a
twelve-months' probation, to be called 'learned up' and put to the
nursery stool to tease into fits the first instalment of my mother's
second family batch.'
"My stepfather, or as we always called him 'Tummy Turndeawn,' had
his own peculiar notions of household economy. He went upon the
principle that the same outlay should serve for any number of family; consequently the porridge dish grew no bigger, though additions
were made to the consumers, and if the number of treacle cakes
increased, the thickness diminished in proportion. Beside, the same
clothing had to do for six of us as had previously been required for
only four; each description of garment being handed down from the
eldest to the next younger, and so on, as the wearer outgrew it,
until it descended to the youngest born, who was, as a matter of
course, the raggedest fellow of the lot.
"After the seventh offspring, viz., five 'Toottys' and two 'Turndeawns,'
my mother ceased to have children, and we had no longer the dismal
tidings of a 'new babby' to put us in dread of shorter fare. By this
time my brother Joe had begun to earn four shillings per week at the
factory; being employed as a 'middle piecer,' because his legs were
too long for a 'scavenger.' In addition to his ordinary wages he had
a penny per week for himself, which at first he said he would save
up until he could buy England with the accumulated stock. The
prodigal fellow looked grand in our eyes, and the prospect of
becoming at some time the possessors of so much wealth, spread
visions of finery and loads of porridge before us that made our
future look like 'promise land! Then my brother Bill had got put to
the 'rope-walk.' He had to turn a handle from six in the morning
till seven at night, with two hours off for meals, and a good
larruping if he fell asleep over his work. For this employment he
received the magnificent weekly salary of eighteenpence, and nothing
for himself. The stinginess implied in the latter condition nearly
broke the poor fellow's heart. A penny for his own pocket would have
made him so proud that he would hardly have known whose handle he
turned; but it was refused him; so he ran away from his place, and
after absenting himself from home for several days, he returned
got his licking over, and went to seek more congenial employment at
the bottom of a coalpit.
"In the order of family events it came to my turn to be put to work.
I was made a 'little piecer' and worked at 'Pie Johnny's' mill. They
called my employer by that deliciously sounding nickname because his
father used to hawk mutton pies from alehouse to alehouse round the
villages, by which vocation he made a small fortune that enabled him
to put his son into the cotton trade. Johnny was a stingy fellow,
and a tyrant in his way; always walked about the mill with a strap
under his coat, and if he caught any of us playing, although our
'ends were up,' he made us feel the weight of it. He had, beside,
the reputation of reducing wages to more than a justifiable extent,
by making 'abatements' on what he called 'spoiled work.' These
practices caused him to have the worst class of workpeople, who were
little tyrants themselves, which I found out to the cost of many a
good bruising. The spinner I worked for was fond of his drink, and
when he had been on the 'batter' a day or two, and was getting
round, he made such fearful noises at us, and swore such dreadful
oaths, that we were in constant fear of his some day going further
than a mere 'treawncing,' and killing us outright. Once I happened
to stumble over a 'slip' and knock the 'faller' down just as the
'jenny' was getting at the 'stretch.' Every thread of the many
hundreds snapped in an instant, and the next moment I found myself
descending the steps at a greater speed than I had ever done before,
being, as I believe, materially assisted in my descent by the
momentum of a kick, given by I know not who, but whom I have cause
to suspect. My stepfather said I must not go to the factory again,
which I thought was very kind of him for once; but discovered
afterwards that it was not from any good feeling towards me that I
was thus to be rid of mill life, but that he had found out I should
be of greater use at home. A bobbin-winder was wanted, consequent
upon my sister, the next older, going to live with Farmer 'Stubble'
as his little milkmaid. To the service of the 'twelve apostles' for
such an appellation had been given by a facetious neighbour to the
twelve-spoked wheel I was accordingly put, and I believe it
would be impossible to invent an occupation that I should detest so
much as I did the turning of that humdrum wheel. I could not pick
the knots out of the silk to give satisfaction, which led to the
continued utterance of threats on the part of 'Tummy Turndeawn' that
I should have the 'knots' taken out of me. Then if the bobbin I
wound was in other respects so bad that the thread would not keep
whole, it was sure to be stripped from the shuttle and flung at my
head, so that I became a target for a sort of 'cloddin' gallery, and
had the privilege of having my hair dressed by this novel process
several times a day. Then I was always driven to a stretch for
bobbins, which was another source of torment to me. I would do
anything rather than turn the obnoxious wheel carve letters on the
stool, stand upon my head in the corner, or upset the machine and
wheel it about like one side of a handcart. I was once I caught at
the latter practice, and just as I was trundling my vehicle into the
'fowt,' and had sung out 'Stond furr, childer, this is eaur cart,' I
felt something clutch at my hair, and the next moment a strong
'batting rod' fell foul of my back, being wielded by the merciless
hand of 'Tummy Turndeawn,' who knew how to administer such doses to
"After continuing at this occupation until my knees got too high for
the spindle, I was taken away to assist my mother at the loom; and
thus became placed more under the surveillance of my stepfather. I
should not have made a weaver if I had kept at the occupation until
this day. I do not know exactly why. It was not that I altogether disliked the business, but somehow I was unlucky with it. I could
not make good cloth. I could not strike an even 'blow,' and if I
whistled whilst throwing the shuttle, I was sure to forget the
pattern. At last our folks were threatened to be turned without work
if they ever again allowed me to get upon the loom. This looked like
a finisher for me, and a life of vagabondage appeared to be my
"To give me another trial, and see if a coarser and more laborious
kind of employment would suit me better, I was sent to work upon a
farm; but caught a fever through having no more sense than stand in
a ditch all day, emptying water that flowed in as fast as I could
scoop it out. What a mercy it would have been to the rising
generation if it had pleased fate to have given me my quietus at
that time! It would beside have spared me many a long day's misery;
for, in spite of my blundering and ill-luck, I still thought it
possible that I might have been of use in some sphere if I had only
been taken-kindly to at the outset. But it was to be otherwise, and
when every other source of employment failed, I was engaged to
thrash small boys at the village school, the master of which was
afflicted with palsy. This gave me an opportunity of picking up a
smattering of education, so that when the old pedagogue gave up his
ruler and nightcap I took his place, and assumed duties that had
been successively discharged by cripples and unfortunates for many
generations before me. I had at length found an occupation that in
some respects suited my temperament. There was no one to give or
scold me, nobody to find fault with my work, for the parents of my
pupils were too ignorant themselves to know whether their children
made any progress or not under my tuition. The former were satisfied
if the youngsters were kept out of mischief, and the latter lived in
wholesome fear of the rod, so that I had a moderately comfortable
time of it when compared to the dog's life I had led before.
"Well, I occupy the old oaken chair still, and wield the inevitable
'switch.' I open my school shutters at nine in the morning and close
them at five in the afternoon. I have a reputation for being regular
and somewhat austere in my habits, which gives me an importance in
the eyes of my neighbours that greatly smooths my way. But it sometimes gives me a pang when I reflect how much more learning they
give me credit for than I really possess, and how prevalent the
notion is among country people that when a man is fit for nothing
else they ought to make a schoolmaster of him. Alas! they take
little into account how some of us have been 'dragged up.'"
THE BATTLE OF LANGLEY HEIGHTS.
my firm belief we'st do th' job this time, Brayley, if we are no' a
pack o' keawards," observed "Jim-i'th'-broo," pausing over
his work, and looking very earnestly and confidently at his friend. "Our
folk i' Lunnun han' ne'er had sich a blow sin' owd Noll punst 'em
out o' th' Parlyment, and shortent King Charley by his toppin. But
if Waverlow an' Langleyside, an' th' tother places round about, 'll
nobbut be true to th' cause, we'st knock someb'dy their feet fro'
under 'em afore we'n done."
"Ther news coome yesterneet fro' Ash'n an' Stalybridge ut they'rn
quite ripe theere an' ready for th' word o' command. A great mon
had bin offerin t' bet his spectacles to nowt ut th' Irk an' th owd
Tome  wur a different colour
afore he're three days owder; an' th' Owdham lads had buckled their
clogs i'th' furmost hole ready for marchin down. They'n come i' ther
thousands fro' theere when th' finger's put up."
"That's th' mak turn, Brayley."
The two were engaged in sharpening a rusty piece of steel that was
once a turnip-cutter, had been a "hedging- bill," and was shortly to
do duty somewhere in the ranks of the "Waverlow Hardheads," on the
occasion of upsetting the Government of Victoria the First, Anno
Domini 1842, the year of the great strike in Lancashire.
Round flew the "grindlestone," whir whir
whir, in rapid motion; grunt grunt grunt, went Brayley, in
accompaniment, and if Jim-i'th'-broo could have faced the enemy's
fire as unflinchingly as he received the spray which flew from the
stone and splashed over him, a braver man than he would not have
occupied Langley Heights during the engagements of that memorable
August. The weapon, from a blunt, round face, was now getting
tapered to a thin edge as the two conspirators plied themselves at a
task in which they had been engaged most of an hour. The grinder
drew his hand over the blade, to wipe off the dirty water, then
casting his eye along the shining surface, said
"A turn or two moore, Brayley, an' it'll split
"That's reet," said the other, "for I'm as nee
done as a toucher." And he drew his shirt sleeve across his
forehead, where the perspiration hung in drops, and whence a stream
trickled down each side of his face.
"If wayvin wur as hard wark as this, Jim,
ther'd be less on't done. I've segs o' my hont now as big as
"If't' grumbles at turnin a hondle, how wilt be when it
comes to feightin?" said Jim, laying his blade again on the stone.
"Oh, that's quite another thing keawerin at
th' back of a hedge, an' poppin a gun through it now an again,"
replied Brayley, resuming his turning and grunting. "Beside, feightin's noane co'ed wark, thou knows. I tried a shot out o' yon
little bull-dog o' mine th' tether day, an' split a apple i' two i' owd Smithie's orchut. If Kurnel Wems ud bin i'th' same pleck, his
toppin ud ha' bin i'th' road ― whorr?"
The report of a gun was heard.
"Husht!" exclaimed Jim-i'th'-broo, taking his
steel from the stone and listening. "Yon's someb'dy else dustin
their barrel out, I yer."
A second shot was heard.
"Theer again," said Brayley. "An' that's a
different bark to th' tother. A rifle, by th' mass."
Crack went a third shot, louder than its
predecessors. "Yer thee, another!" exclaimed Jim. "That's a wapper. If they'n yerd that at th' barricks someb'dy doesno' feel so
comfortable by this."
"I da'say they'n be thinkin about Peterloo, an'
how we'st tak it out on 'em for droppin onto us when we'd no moore
thowts about feightin than if we'd bin at a ranter's camp meetin,"
observed Brayley, seeming by his manner to have no doubts in his
mind regarding the issue of the contemplated fight.
"Plunger winno' be for givin quarter if he's
our captain," said Jim. "If anybody mentions his feyther bein
killed i' nineteen, he shows his teeth like a yorn-croft dog, an'
says th' day o' reckonin will come, an' afore long. I think sometimes he's noane gradely reet, he looks so savage."
"They shouldno' be above hauve rocked if they
mun put thersels at th' front of an army," observed Brayley, "for
when I think sollitly about feightin it looks moore like foo's wark
than owt else."
start o' thinkin that road," said
the other. "Ift' does we'n be findin thee in a soof when the day
comes. Whoa leeads th' Langleyside poots up."
"Well, he's a yallow-legged un, if there's one i'th' cote," observed Jim. "An' if his squad are as gam as he is,
they'n mak someb'dy t' stond furr."
"He punst a whul reawm full o' Whig skeawbankers out o'th' "Pig an' Fork" tother neet, they'rn sayin
upo' th' green this mornin."
"Ay, if it coome to clognoses we could clear
th' ground of a thousant afore owd Sam Kunstable could lotch o'er
th' Hauve Acre. I'd rayther we'd stick to th' owd motty 'A fair
day's wage for a fair day's wark,' an' letten th' charter do its
own. But now we'n couplt 'em we'st ha' t' run 'em t'gether, I
reckon. Has ther any news come'n fro' Ratchda or Bury, as thou knows
"Nawe; but I seed
a felly fro' Yeawood
yesterday, an' he said ther a looad o' pikes went through th' town
as he coome away. He knew theyrn pikes by th' rick they made i' th'
"That's a sign o' summat.
things quietly theer, no doubt. I da'say o th' grindlestones i'th'
country are whizzin away this minit."
"Ay; an' if they'n as hard stuff as that for t'
grind, ther'll be some cussin gooin on. Theer, now not another turn
round if th' war depends on't." And Brayley threw up the handle,
with a determination not to resume turning at any price.
"It's done to a breeath," said his companion,
wiping the blade, and holding it up in admiration. "They'n ne'er
want a second blow fro' this, beaut they'n skins as thick as a
cobbler's knees. Now for fixin it firmly i'th' pow, an' tryin it
again a loom-pawst! If it turns up its nose at that, I'll have my yead shaved wi't."
The two, having finished their occupation at
the grindstone, turned into Jim's house, where the day was spent
in further preparations for the coming morrow, when it was expected
the whole country would be in a blaze of insurrection.
The gloaming descended upon Waverlow without
any additional note of warlike preparation being heard than the
three shots which our friends had remarked over their occupation in
the backyard. But there seemed to be a turbulent spirit abroad,
keeping people's minds awake to an event which was to bring weal or
woe to the hearths of that countryside, if the predictions of its
oracles were to be believed. Not a shuttle had been heard for weeks,
and if an observer had stood upon Langley Heights, and taken a daily
survey of the miles of country spiked here and there with factory
chimneys, not a wreath of smoke could he have seen ascending from
any one of them. The cessation of employment for so long a period,
when benevolence was shut out by the very cause which had brought
such a state of things about, had engendered a clamorous discontent
amongst the people, and a disposition to riot had manifested itself
at several places. Bands of half-armed men had formed themselves
into training companies which were scattered in sections over the
hillside, so that the martial shout, accompanied by the din of
muster, might be heard in the twilight of each evening and in the
early dawn, both in Waverlow and the neighbouring villages. A
rumour had got abroad that the authorities were determined to put an
end to the "strike" by force of arms; yet no one had the slightest
idea how such a feat could be accomplished. But the
sword was regarded as all-subduing when unopposed by a similar
power, and people might be driven to work, or to do anything the
Government pleased; hence the preparation for armed opposition by
the inhabitants of these semi-rural districts. Bodies of
police, aiding the local constabulary, had on several occasions
endeavoured to put a stop to the drilling and training of these rude
bands, but they had as often been put to flight by over-powering
numbers, who, better acquainted with the country, could surprise the
enemy from many points at once, and make it appear as if the whole
populace of the hillside were sweeping down upon them. The
many failures on the part of the civil power to repress these
lawless gatherings led the authorities to
determine upon their dispersion by military force, and a company of
infantry, to be accompanied by a detachment of cavalry, were
ordered to appear on Langley Heights some time about the 24th, and
if the "plugites" mustered they were to be dispersed at all hazards. Notwithstanding that the strictest secrecy was enjoined by the
magistrates regarding their decision, it somehow transpired that the
soldiers were to "invest" Waverlow on the day named, and greatly
exaggerated accounts were given of their intentions. It was,
however, all but generally inferred that a battle was to be fought
on Langley Heights, and this was to be the signal for the uprising
of the whole of the northern counties, under the banner of "A fair
day's wage for a fair day's work," and the "Charter" into the
There was a gleeful "rush to arms" when these
announcements were made, and Waverlow was all astir for three or
four days with the tumult of preparation. All sorts of weapons, from
the scythe to a fowling-piece, were looked up and got in readiness
for work. Jim-i'th'-broo's grindstone squeaked and whirred from
morning till night, and the anvil of "owd Jimmy's" forge rang as
incessantly as if it had been "sharpening time" in a slippery
frost. Weavers' "leads" were melted down into bullets, and blasting
powder from neighbouring coal pits was ground into the required
fineness for musket use. A fabulous number of pikes, if rumour
was to be credited, were continually finding their way into the
village, and judging from the disappearance of fence rails from the
farms round about, these pikes were as rapidly finding shafts and
people to use them. It was even said that earthworks were being
thrown up above Langleyside, but these turned out to be only repairs
of fences that had been trampled down by marauding cattle. So the
rumour, like many others, went for nothing. It was quite evident,
however, that a formidable stand was intended; and, though by some
the affair was looked upon in the light of a joke, the seriousness
with which each man went about his warlike business convinced the
most incredulous that mischief was meant. Nobody laughed at the
"Wheel and Barrels," when Tootty said an old woman with a red cloak
would put to flight the whole body of insurgents. He was denounced
as a "spy," and treated as such, his head being stuck beneath the
firegrate, and several wholesome "thwacks" being administered
to sundry projecting parts of the body. A gloom spread itself
over that portion of the public mind that did not rank itself in
partisanship on either side. This was succeeded by
terror, and flight was contemplated by many, though few actually
left the country. The excitement continued to increase up to the eve of the 24th, and
when that day's sun dipped behind the Horwich moors, the "Hardheads" of Waverlow, and the "Poots" of Langleysidei began their
They were to encamp that night on the heights,
to be in readiness for morning; and the person who first crossed the
river in arms was to be regarded as a hero, if he fought no better
than another. Accordingly, many anxious eyes were bent towards the
bridge to see on whom this distinction would light, when a youth,
nicknamed "Plucktun," with a pike mounted on a bran new pole,
jumped the brook opposite Jim-i'th'-broo's door, and now he stood like a
commander, waving his weapon, and encouraging the more tardy to
follow. He was immediately joined by a companion in arms. A third
leaped the brook, and each gave a shout of encouragement as he took
up a position on the other side. Numbers now made their appearance
from different quarters, and soon the bridge was crowded by troops
of these modern "Covenanters" armed, and apparently eager for the
Just as the main body, with "Plunger" at their
head, were making towards the bridge, they were arrested by a voice
calling to them from a short distance up the brookside. Looking in
that direction, the mob saw the tall and still unbent form of "old Dicky Bairnfoot," a veteran of "19," approaching. The old man's
head was erect, with that conscious integrity which had borne him
through the many trials of his time, and his white hair, falling
upon his shoulders, from beneath his primitive-looking hat, inspired a momentary feeling of respect, if not of veneration, in those who beheld him.
"Is owd Dicky for joinin us, I wonder?"
observed one of the "Hardheads."
"He's noane quite so swipper as he wur when he
slipped Nadin an' his 'runners,' i'th' Hazelcloof," remarked
"He's getten his 'twig' with him, too," said a
third, alluding to a stout iron-shod stick which the old man
The party were just footing the bridge when
Dicky made up to them. Placing himself in front, and throwing out
his stick, the veteran sung "Halt!" in a firm and commanding
"I'm th' captain here," said Plunger, "so march
"Halt! I say," repeated Dicky.
"Tumble him i'th' bruck," said a voice from
"No' while I'm here, for my feyther's sake,"
said Plunger, a gleam of better feeling shining out of his rough
"Leatheryeads!" vociferated Dicky, "what dun yo' meean?"
"We meean t' have a fair day's wage for a fair
day's Wark," shouted several at once.
"Ay, an' th' Charter, too," said others.
"But this isno' th' road t' goo about it,"
exclaimed the veteran. "Physickil foorce 'll never do at
never did yet. Ther isno' twenty on yo' now ut ud stond yo'r ground
if a hoss-so'dier wur to show hissel."
"We are no' woven eaut o' th' same piece as th'
White Moss Brigade," observed a fellow who had scarcely strength
sufficient to carry his weapon.
"Nawe, yo' ha'
no' th' hauve o'th' weft in yo' ut they had. An' if yo'd ten times moore, what could yo' do wi' thoose treddlepins
an' yeald-hooks again sooards an' baginets? Wheay, they'd chop
yo' into potato-pie mayte afore yo'd time t' say yo'r prayers, if yo'r heels didno' save yo'. Beside, if yo' thresht
'em, what'n so'diers t' do wi' wages, or how would killin 'em put a
penny a yard on t' plain sarcenet? Goo to yo'r looms like good
husbants an' feythers, an' think about yo'r wives an' childer ut
yo'n laft skrikin awhoam."
One man did think of his children, among whom
he had just divided the last loaf, an' he dropped his chin upon his
breast an' wept. He was fightin his share of the battle then. Others
felt ashamed of having taken such a rash step, and a murmur went
through the crowd.
"I've said my say now," concluded Dicky, "an'
if yo'n tak my advice yo'n think better o' booath yorsels an' me i'th' mornin. So drop yo'r mad wark, and goo whoam while yo'r booans
are whul." So saying, he stumped down his stick, and marched off
with the same consciousness of rectitude as he had brought with him.
A grim smile sat on Plunger's face as he
watched the veteran's form recede among the shadows, and he felt a
moment's wavering from that vague purpose which had brought him and
his companions thither.
"But," he exclaimed, rousing up his passions,
"my feyther wur kilt at Peterloo, an' I'st never be satisfied till
I've had blood for blood. Now, then, thoose ut are keawards goo
whoam; an' thoose ut are ready to dee for liberty follow me!"
About a dozen fell back from the crowd, and the
rest, with a shout that made the hillside ring, flourished their
weapons, and dashed over the bridge.
There was a sort of reckless jubilance among
the leading parties at the outset, but this light spirit gave way to
a more serious deportment as night fell, and saw them wending their
way slowly towards the Heights. Now the van could be seen forming a
dusky crown on the summit, and straggling bodies, toiling up the
ascent from both sides, swelled the numbers rapidly, and the crown
grew larger, but less defined, as the darkness increased.
The Waverlow "Hardheads" were the first to
reach the Heights, and now the last of the Langleyside "Poots" had
joined the main body. Preparations were made for spending the night
in camp, as the military were not expected before the morrow, and as
soon as the first uniform showed itself in Waverlow they would be
ready for the attack. The warmness of the season favoured this tentless encampment. The day had been sultry, and the night air had
nothing but a refreshing coolness about it ― being far from chill. A
light mist sprang up as the breeze fell, and ere night could have
fairly set in, the last twinkle of the village lights was hidden
from the many loving eyes that looked in their direction down from
the hill top. A feeling of sadness came over some of the less daring
spirits who had probably more to risk than their own persons in the affray, and many a sigh was heaved as the chances of success faded
before their better reflections. But others made merry at the
prospect of bloodshed, and talked of dancing at the cannon's mouth,
as if death was nothing to the slavery they spoke of. These
reproached the others with cowardice, and even offered to stand
before them in battle to prevent their taking harm.
Plunger stepped forth as if summoning a council
of war, and striking his pike shaft firmly in the turf, said: "Gether
reaund, lads, an' we'n sing th' Arms o' Deeath Hymn afore wi' lyen
deawn; it'll put us i' pluck for th' morn."
The mob bared their heads; and raising their
voices in varied tones, which reached Waverlow and Langleyside in
solemn and scarcely distinct murmurs, these would-be Covenanters
sang their "war song":
Arise ye brave sons of freedom through the
Snap the chain that binds you to the dust;
Let the Charter be the cry
For which we swear to die,
And our watchwords be, "We will, we must!"
Then your drums so loudly beat,
Let their voice the mountains greet,
And give the bugle-horn its breath;
Ere the evening mist again
Shall whiten o'er the plain,
We may sleep in the arms of death.
Bold Langleyside shall send up its legions of
And Waverlow its "Hardheads" so brave;
And before the day hath waned,
Our victory shall be gained,
Or we'll have made Langley Heights our grave.
Then your drums, &c.
So up with the standard unfurl it to the
Let it give back the glances of the sun;
Though our numbers are but few,
Let each man his duty do,
And our closing shout shall be, "We've won!"
Then your drums so loudly beat,
Let their voice the mountains greet,
And give the bugle-horn its breath;
Ere the evening mist again
Shall whiten o'er the plain.
Our foes shall meet the arms of death.
The last breath of the chorus was just dying
away when a voice was heard calling from below
now booath hoss and foot they'n
be on yo' i' two minits!"
Consternation buzzed through the camp at this
unexpected announcement, and each man stood in what he supposed to
be the attitude of battle.
"Be ready!" shouted Plunger, rushing to the
front. "Shooters th' fust, an' pikemen beheend! Now, then liberty or deeath!"
The cry rang through the camp, and as the
commander looked towards his left he fancied he saw a dark mass
rushing up the hillside to join them.
"Surrender!" shouted a voice from behind a
small thicket at a short distance.
"Never!" returned Plunger. "We'n dee upo' th'
clod th' fust."
"Then take that!" And bang went a musket; the
shot evidently being aimed at the leader, but without taking effect.
"Now, lads-at 'em!" sang out Plunger fiercely;
but turning round to direct the charge, not a follower could be
seen. The insurgent army of Langley Heights had disappeared as
suddenly as if they'd been let simultaneously through a trap-door,
and the only hero of that bloodless fight was left to meet death or
"Wheer th' dl are they gone to?" exclaimed
the astonished captain, bending down and casting his eyes along the
horizon to see if the melted host had assumed the attitude of
sharpshooters, and lain down.
No one answering his call, he threw down his
pike, and, thrusting his hands into his pockets, said
"Owd Dicky Bairnfoot wur a fortin-teller, by"
But the oath was cut short by a rude hand
clutching hold of his collar, and Plunger gave himself up to the
redcoats and twelve months! imprisonment, without a single blow
being struck on behalf of that cause which was to have secured "a
fair day's wages for a fair day's work" and made the "people's
charter" the law of the land.
The battle of Langley Heights was won and lost
in two minutes.
Leaving the crestfallen hero of the "Hardheads" to his fate, let us follow the vanquished army in its glorious and
successful retreat. Never did forces without a general manage to
save themselves so completely as did these undisciplined warriors. Had it been moonlight, both "Poots" and "Hardheads" might
have been seen descending the hill on the Waverlow side at a much
quicker pace than they went up, and few cared to carry their arms
along with them, but plied their heels as industriously as they had
previously done their tongues. Even the brave "Steelribs"
discovered that "discretion was the better part of valour," and
took the river like a hound keen on the scent. Jim-i'th'-broo
stumbled over a fellow who was groping his way under cover of a
fence, and neither of them discovered till after a good wrestle and
many protestations of loyalty to queen and country, that they were
companions in retreat.
"I da'say ther's one hauve on us kilt by th' firin ther's bin," said Jim; "I seed Plunger drop th' fust shot.
But he's noather choilt nor chicken t' fret o'er him, an' we'st
happen be a bit quieter now he's done for. So here goes for th' 'Wheel an' Barrels'; we mun know nowt about this when we getten in." And the two leaped a narrow part of the brook, and were soon, with
apparent unconcern, snugly seated in the quietest nook of their
favourite rendezvous. Others began to drop in, and soon the house
was full of insurgents, who had taken their discipline in their
own hands and disbanded themselves. Some were dripping with wet,
having taken the river nolens volens, and all were out of breath
with running and tumbling. No one ventured any remarks till Jim-i'th'-broo, who was smoking with the ease of one who had been at
a similar occupation all the evening, said he "thowt you chaps upo' th' Heights wurno' gettin on so weel," as if he wished it to be
understood that he had taken no part in the movement.
"It's a bad job," said a newcomer, ringing his
trousers-bottoms, and pulling off his shoes to let out the water. "An' I think if it hadno' bin for one or two fause folk like thee, we
shouldno' ha' bin made sich foos on."
"I've had nowt to do wi't," said Jim.
"Thou lies!" exclaimed a dozen of the company at once. "Thou're fust mon ut run off th' Heights, thee an' Laggin-back, theere.'
"Beside, thou's bin
pickin warps o th' time we'n bin on th' strike, thou two-faced skeaundril!"
"He's a spy!" rang through the room.
"Dip him i'th' bruck," was suggested. And
before the hero of the "grindlestone" had time to expostulate,
he was carried shoulder-height out of the house, and well soused in
the yet stainless water of the river, much as he protested that he
"should ha' fowten if anybody else had done."
Similar visitations were made upon several
treacherous leaders during the early part of the night, which had a
very wholesome effect, as subsequent events showed; and, had it not
been for the capture of Plungerwho, after all, was deemed a "good shuttance" no one would have regretted the price at which the day's
lesson had been bought.
At midnight "peace reigned in Waverlow." Fathers were at home, comforting their fretful children, and many an
eye that had been tearful during that dreaded sunset, now sparkled
brightly over the hearth, which, but for an instinctive prudence
that some people would term cowardice, might have had many a
When the morrow came things had resumed their
ordinary course. The village was early astir, but it was with
preparations for a more peaceful solution of the problem, "A fair
day's wage for a fair day's work," in the breaking up of the strike. Shirtsleeves were rolled up, and ere noon shuttles were rattling as
merrily throughout Waverlow as if the "Great Battle of Langley
Heights" had not been fought the night before.
OLD THATCHED HOUSE.
THREE years ago (1860) there stood a
dilapidated dwelling at the corner of the lane leading from Waverlow
to Welbrook. It has since gone to ruin. A heap of rubbishy bricks,
blackened by dust and rain, a broken pig-trough, a rotten stump,
with a rusty chain attached, and a solitary currant tree still
growing in a waste of garden, are the only evidences that remain of
the place being once a homestead. Middle-aged people may remember
the cottage being as snug a dwelling as any in Waverlow; and if the
cheerful song of its proprietor and principal occupant might be
taken as an indication of the social temperament within, no happier
home need be wished for. The house had a thatched roof; and though
its back was much bent through its timbers being weakened by decay,
it preserved, until within late years, an appearance of being sound
and weatherproof, by the scrupulous repair in which it was kept.
Martins pitched their nests beneath the eaves; starlings found a
shelter within the perforations which design or inadvertence had
formed or left between the rafters; and the possession of these
retreats was often disputed and shared by a colony of sparrows,
whose occupation was encouraged by daily offerings of porridge and
crumbs of bread from the family table. These latter would congregate in the cherry tree, or about the chimney, which looked like a
nipple on the housetop; and their chirping and "flustering" would
form a chorus to the song of their entertainer, which might be heard
on a summer morning before the sun had fairly roused the flowers
from their sleep. Mingling with these lively sounds would be the
grunting of a couple or more of pigs, the cackling of hens, and the
lusty crowing of a game cock. Sometimes the salutation of a
predatory jackass, that preferred cabbages to thistles, would
startle the denizens of the cottage "fowt," and awaken a shrill,
admonitory shout from behind the window, much to the annoyance of
the long-eared trespasser, who would jingle his one shoe in
But the cottage! Nobody ever saw one like it; for the owner built it
with his own hands all but the roof, which a neighbour timbered
and thatched for him; the rooftree and rafters being the relics of a
past generation of cottages. No plummet had ever been applied to the
walls, which here bellied out in jolly rotundity, and there appeared
to have undergone a starving operation that had drawn them inwards.
The porch, from its peculiar construction, led strangers to hesitate
upon entering, for two contrary twistings had to be performed before
the interior could be reached, the entrance inclining towards the
"coal rook," and the inner door having an apparent disposition to
throw itself on the opposite gable. The windows, which in these
highly-glazed times would probably have been termed "eylet-holes,"
were in quaint harmony with the rest of the structure; and were so
small, that if the ivy which grew about them had been allowed to
have its own way, the interior, which never could boast of more than
a decent twilight, would have been consigned to a perpetual gloom.
In this cot, "Little Jack Dooley" and his helpmate commenced
housekeeping; the latter, a good-looking cheerfully disposed person,
whose body and spirit an accumulation of years and sorrows could
hardly bend. Jack was frail from his cradle, having had to do a good
share of his own nursing while his mother toiled at the loom. His
ancestors, traceable beyond the age of his rooftree, were weavers,
and Jack was put to the trade when he was so small that the treadles
looked like stilts to his feet. But he was clever at his work for
all that, and when the "fly lathe" came in vogue, none threw the
shuttle quicker, or with greater apparent ease, than our little
friend. When he had finished his "biggin," and taken his sweetheart
Mary "for better for worse," he set up the loom which his father
gave him, along with the compliment of "thou little foo," and looked
forward to prosperous and happy days.
They came, and with them children. Ivy and honeysuckle ornamented
the most unseemly portions of the cottage exterior, creeping
lovingly over rough joints and rugged excrescences; and, within, two
lovely girls and a rosy, chubby-faced boy, his father's darling and
hope, were more than the brightest mahogany or the costliest
pictures in setting off the household.
Years rolled on, and the girls and boy grew up taller than their
father. But sickness came, and they drooped as if they were not
plants of this world, and in three successive falls, when the leaves
rustled in the pathways, and the martins migrated to a warmer clime,
the flowers which had clustered about little Dooley's fireside were
taken from their earthly garden, and transplanted to another and
more genial region. But with their bereavement came strength to the
parents. The cottage exterior preserved its quaint charm, with its
patches of ivy and honeysuckle, the cherries ripened each summer,
the martins came and went, and the sparrows and starlings were as
noisy as ever. The hens cackled and brooded, and led with motherly
pride their families of chickens, and the old cock still looked from
his perch in the alder tree contemptuously down upon the pigs. In
the interior, however, there was a change, though not to that moping
melancholy which eats its heart out. Ere a summer's herbage had
withered on the grave of the last departed, little Jack trolled out
a song at his loom; Mary carried her pipe to the "fowt yate," and
laughed and chatted with her neighbours. It was when only two chairs
drew up to the evening fireside that they felt their loneliness
most; but their sorrows were tempered by a quiet resignation, and
the assurance from the daily Scripture lesson that they should again
meet their children when life's journey, which every sunset
shortened, would be finished. And happy days came again; the loom
rattled as merrily as when a little cherub rode on the seatboard,
and crowed at the "hanger-string;" and, though the looking-glass
had ceased to reflect two wavy bunches of auburn tresses, it still
gave back old Mary's cap and smile, with the few thin grey locks
that did not make the face grow old.
Who knows how long this happiness might have lasted had not another
grief assailed the lonely pair. Work grew bad; from bad to worse it
went, and the little hoard the savings of better days went with it. Do what he would the little fellow could not make both ends meet. Wages fell. Oh, to what a pittance his earnings dwindled! One by one
the long cherished coins were drawn from the "old stocking," till
the last came out, and the hand that earned it trembled, and the
eyes that had watched with pleasure the crossing threads form the
smooth and even cloth, were bright and strong no longer, but dim
with age, and tears would come forth now in spite of all his
fortitude. The little merry face, that almost twinkled beneath the
short fringe of hair which hung like a valance over his forehead,
now fell into deep furrows, that made his neglected beard seem
longer than it really was. The cottage, too, shrank like its owner. Not firmly built, it needed much repairing; and, now that he had
little work, he had less time to attend to what repairs were
necessary; for, when his loom was empty, what could the poor fellow
do but stare moodily at it, pace backwards and forwards, rub his
hands and spectacles, and sigh over the remembrance of happier days? The birds deserted the dwelling; for the porridge dish no longer
met their morning hunger. It could ill be spared from the table. The
pigs were swept away for chief and garden rent the arrears of which
had been allowed to accumulate over several years; and the poultry,
all but a solitary old black hen, that would stand under the hedge
all day with its head, inserted beneath its feathers, had been
conveyed in a netted hamper to the Birchwood market for sale. The
wind, one stormy night, carried away a portion of the thatch, and
the straw lay about as if the dwelling had been in its autumn. This
covering was never replaced, and the rain beat through the roof, and
poured down the walls into the loomhouse, even when the weaver was
groping by his dim candle at his thriftless work. Cracks opened in
the gable one of them so wide as to admit almost as much light as
any of the windows, and the wind sported with the cobwebs, and
whistled dismal music in the chinks.
"Your house is falling!" observed a neighbour one day, as he
surveyed the crumbling walls and widening cracks. "Nay, nay; no'
yet. We'st fo t'gether," the weaver replied, shaking his head, and
laying his trembling hand against the almost dismantled doorway. "An' why shouldno' it be so?" he continued, "when ther's nob'dy t'
live i'th' house after we're gone? Nay, nay; we'st fo t'gether; we'st fo t'gether."
But the cracks widened still; the house top became bald in several
places the thatch being substituted in some instances by pieces of
old grey slate. The windows grew less transparent, from rags and
pieces of rusty tin taking the place of glass; shreds of paper,
fruitlessly pasted over the chinks in the wall, fluttered and
flapped at each breath of wind; the door opened with difficulty,
from one "angle" being broken, and when closed it looked only a
makeshift barrier against the wind and rain. Little Jack was seldom
seen outside of it; and when he did stir abroad, he looked like a
portion of his household wreck-going to pieces.
One winter night, when the snow lay thick upon the ground, and soft
flakes were gently falling through the still air, as if mercy was
tempering the season's severity by infusing an agreeable mildness in
the atmosphere, a solitary wayfarer took the road from Welbrook to
Waverlow. He was wrapped in a thick fur coat, and a cap of the same
material was tied over his ears, leaving a rough, weather-beaten
face peering from beneath; a pair of strong boots, reaching to his
knees, crackled in the snow as he paced leisurely on, and a dog,
with a coat almost as white as the road, trotted silently by his
The traveller paused as a faint pattering noise caught his ear; and
wondering what the sound could be, or whence it came, he removed the
flaps from his ears and listened more attentively. It was the sound
of old Dooley's shuttle that he heard; for the cottage, half buried
in snow, which lay thick on the fence around it, was close at hand.
Now he saw a feeble ray of light shining through a small aperture in
the wall, and curious to know what was passing within, he made a
venture to knock at the door. It was opened by an old woman, who,
with a look of mistrust at the visitor, said, in a voice which
harmonised with the loneliness of the scene around,
"Yo'r mista'en, rnesthur; Nob'dy ever comes here."
"I'm a stranger in this part," said the other, "and knowing nothing
of the road, merely called to inquire my way to Birchwood."
This he spoke in such a gentle tone, that old Mary pushed the door
wider, and looking at the fire, which had burnt low, said
"If yo' han to go to Birchwood to-neet, God help yo'! for it's a dree road, an' hard to tak when th' snow's so deep. We're poor an'
lone our felly an' me; but yo'r welcome to th' bit o' mayte
an' th' coverin we han, if yo'n stop an' have it. Yo'r someb'dy's poor
choilt; so shake th' snow off yo', an' come in."
"Thank you, my good woman," replied the stranger; "but I cannot
avail myself of your hospitable invitation, as I must reach
Birchwood to-night by all means. I will just step in, however, and
take a pipe with you, if it be agreeable?"
"Wi' o th' welcome i'th' wo'ld!" exclaimed the old dame, leading the
way into the house, and setting her guest a chair. "Jone! Does thou yer?" she called out, as the shuttle paused in its career.
"In a minnit, Mally," responded Jone, from the loom-house.
"What is your old man doing?" inquired the stranger, his curiosity
"He's toilin at his loom. They mun wortch soon an' late neaw, if
they mun have a livin, an' if they'n any wark to do."
"I have heard, where I come from, of you Lancashire weavers, the
visitor said; "and am glad that I have fallen in with one. May I see
your master at his work?"
"If it wouldno' be a trouble to yo'. Goo in, an' mind o' jowin yer
yead again th' loomstays."
"Thank you! 'I would I were a weaver; I could sing psalms or
anything;'" and muttering this quotation from Shakspere, and
gathering from its tone that a weaver's life was a merry one, he
entered the loomhouse.
It was not quite the lively scene he had anticipated finding. A thin
candle, hanging over the worn and damp-looking harness, showed a
figure beyond it that was far from being the impersonation of mirth
and jollity. The weaver had paused over his work, and was taking as
distinct a survey of his visitor's person as the napkin which was
bound over his head would permit. An old velveteen jacket was
buttoned closely round him, and up to his throat. Over this was tied
a blue apron;worn and with the colour much faded. Round his ragged
sleeves strings were fastened to keep them close to his arms. A
stocking was pinned round his neck, and tops of similar articles
encircled his wrists. A beard that resembled the mould on a wall was
the most conspicuous portion of his face, for by the elevation of
his head, so as to level his spectacles at the stranger, the light
of the candle seemed to centre itself on his projecting chin. Altogether he was as winterly an object as ever a Christmas
presented, and a most fitting one for a believer in the vanity of
all things to moralise over. As the weaver's face was the only thing
that the candle could be said to illuminate, a corresponding gloom
would most naturally surround him, and which would render it
difficult for him to make out the appearance of his visitor.
"You are quite busy, I see," said the latter, approaching the end of
Old Dooley again elevated his glasses, and surveying the other's
face, with a mixture of curiosity and astonishment expressed on his
"No' so busy, mesthur; no' so busy. Winterly, is it no'?"
"I was thinking it was a remarkably mild evening," said the
"Ay, it will be to some folk. When I're yo'r age, I thowt nowt of a
good rowl i'th' snow, or stondin at a house eend wi' th' wenches for
an hour or so i' my shirt-sleeves," and a gleam of humour flitted
over his face, leaving a warmer and more lively expression there as
The visitor smiled.
"That day's gone by now," continued the weaver, "an' I'm i' deep
winter mony a road. My leeaves han fo'n long sin', my house is fo'in
now my livin's gooin away, an' th' snow's deep upo' th' ground. If
that isno' winter, what is?"
"But you are still capable of following your work, and that must be
a comfort to you."
"A comfort to me! It has bin i' my time; but what comfort con ther
be now, sittin here fro' dark i'th' mornin till late o'th' neet, wi'
fingers stiff an' body shiverin, an' hardly enoogh o' mayte i' one's
inside fort' keep bally an' back fro' grooin t'gether?"
"You are speaking of exceptional circumstances, I hope."
"You are giving me the worst side of the picture."
"Ther's no two sides now. Ther wur a breet side onc't, but times han
rubbed it out," said Dooley, shaking his head and sighing. "Ay, ay,
I've seen a better day."
"I have often heard it said that weavers were the most well-to-do
and independent of any class of working people in this country,"
observed the stranger, surveying with a shudder the fearful gloom
"I tell yo' they wur onc't; but it's long sin'. This loomhouse wur a
little paradise to me at one time." And the weaver took off his
spectacles and commenced rubbing them on a shred of his tattered
sleeve; whilst a big tear gushed out of the corner of his eye, and
rolled down his cheek.
"Bobbins, Mary!" he called out in a husky voice to his partner, who
was winding by the fireside. "I thowt I'd had one i' my pin-box." And he groped among the empties till the emotion which had been
caused by his recurrence to better days had somewhat subsided; then
turning to the visitor, he said, "I've getten a bit of a cowd, I
think. It's this damp, woisty [chill] place, I da'say." And he
fetched up such a sob that the picking-peg which he held fell from
his grasp, and the spectacles required wiping and adjusting again.
The old woman tottered in with the bobbins, and as she placed them
in her husband's hand, the visitor could see that she, too, had been
"Our Joe ud ha' bin summat like him, if he'd lived," she muttered to
herself as she retired; but the remark did not strike the visitor
with the force it might have done had he fully understood its
The weaver commenced throwing his shuttle. Slowly it went from side
to side, as if it had only momentum sufficient to escape being
"trapped" in the "shed." After a few "picks o'er," however, the loom
stopped; the candle was burnt to the "save-all," and the weaver,
laying down his picking-peg, said
"Booath me an' th' candle are done. I started this mornin afore six
o'clock, an' nagurt at it o day, an' how mich dun yo' think I've getten?"
The stranger could not guess.
"Barely tenpence. Eh, mon what we han to do now for little or nowt!"
"Tenpence!" echoed the other.
"Hardly that, I say. Happen I mit ha'
done a shillin's wo'th, but th' frost nips my yarn, an' my fingers
are stiff wi' cowd, so ut I conno' get through it as I should; an'
then I've had to wait a week o' my piece; an' when it's finisht, an' waitin time comes again, I'st nobbut
ha' getten eleven shillin."
As he said this his eye fell (it might have been from long habit) on
one of the cracks in the wall. Possibly it might have widened even
perceptibly, then; or the old man's imagination might have conjured
up a vision of the past; when four looms went merrily there, and
the walls shone in whitewash, and the father would look round with
pride on bright, cheerful faces, and the "psalms" the poet wrote of
"Come, let's goo i'th' house. Yo'r travellin this road, I reckon;
an' I dar'say yo' con do wi' a bit o' summat to help yo' on," and
pushing back the seatboard, old Dooley led the way to the fireside,
which had brightened up a little, through preparations for the
"I cannot accept of anything where there is so little to spare,"
said the traveller; "but I have a well-stocked tobacco pouch, and
you are welcome to smoke from it as long as you like. I will take a
pipe with you, and then resume my journey."
"I've had it i'stead o' mayte, mony a time," said the weaver,
producing pipes; "when I're bringin up my little ones, an' wark
"You've had a family, then?"
"Ay, two wenches, as bonny as ever a mother fretted o'er, an' a lad,
so like yo' he would ha' bin if he'd lived," said the old woman. "But God took
'em o one after another when they'rn i' full flower he
did. I think, sometimes, he shouldno' ha' done. For we
are no' aulus
as good as we should be, nor thowtful about everythin, an' we will
meddle wi' God's ways, as if He did no' know what wur reet, an' th'
best for us."
"Theyr're better wheere they are, Mally," said her spouse; "better
nor frabbin through this wo'ld; for it's roough on' weary, an' we're
hard wi' one another upo' th' road; so God's will be done!"
Presently a cloud of smoke was hovering over the hearth, and curling
itself about the chimney-place; the fire blazed up, and sent its
cheerful glow about the house; shadows danced upon the walls, and
the few pictures and ornaments which hung around seemed to catch
life from the light which fell upon them. The stranger, not unwilling that the tone of the conversation should be changed to one
more cheerful, took advantage of the agreeable glow which the fire
emitted, and fixed his eyes upon an old and much spotted portrait
which hung at the head of the house.
"Not your likeness, I think," he observed.
"Nawe; it's my feyther's," replied Dooley; "deead long sin'."
"I could almost fancy that I had seen the face somewhere before,"
said the visitor, and with apparently increasing interest.
"Nay, nay I dunno' think yo' han. My brother, ut wur dooin weel i'
Australia, sent for him. He went, an' laft that portrait as a
keepsake for me."
"What was his name?" said the stranger, suddenly twisting round from
his contemplation of the painting.
"Dooley, same as mine Owd Jack Dooley."
"Good God! you're the very man I'm in search of: you're my uncle."
"What!" exclaimed the weaver; "Yo'r not Little Tummy, ut wur as
like our Joe as a pin?"
"But I am, though."
"Yo' never are are yo'?"
"My name is Thomas Dooley, I believe."
"Stond furr, Mary; I'll punce th' top bar off, or else th' table
top." And the old man bounced upon his feet, and actually did
flourish his clog about the firegrate, as if it really was his
intention to kick something up the chimney, or about the house. The
first essay in his demonstrations of joy having been performed, he
seized his nephew by both hands, and making a very abortive effort
to dance round him, said, "Bless thee, lad how fain I am to see thee!"
Old Mary, in sharing her husband's astonishment and ecstasy, let the
porridge boil over, and all three tobacco pipes went clean out from
want of smoking; and heads were nodding at each other, and
performing such singular movements, that for a time it resembled a
dumb show, with plenty of incident in it.
"Well!" exclaimed Little Jack, after taking a long look at his
newly-found relative. "Well!" he repeated, "An' thou comes fro'
"O'er th' sae?"
"Over the sea."
"Well," again. "An' what hast laft beheend thee?"
"Thy feyther's deead, I know, an' so is thy gronfeyther. But art
thou o ut's livin?"
"The only one."
The traveller smiled and shook his head.
"No' bin sich a foo' as that whorr?"
"Now, now, Jone," interposed Mary, "thou desarves this wot porritch-slice
battin about thy mouth talkin o' that road," though she laughed as
she said it.
"Well, well; it's nobbut my spoort," said Dooley the elder. "It's so
long sin' I'd any gam in me, ut thou munno' be supprist if I boil
o'er, same as th' porritch. Well, but thou'rt a fine lad, too! Thou winno' recollect novvt about th' ovvd pleck; thou'd be too yunk
when yo' flittud."
"I was but a child, I believe
"Ay," said the old man; "a little curly-yeaded puddin, ut could
nobbut just toddle an' walk. So wur our Joe, ut's now i' heaven,
"My father often spoke of you as a very dear brother, and regretted
any unkindness that he had ever shown you," said the visitor,
addressing his uncle.
"Ay, he's byetten me monny a time when wer'n childer, for spoilin
his rappit-runs, an' turnin his buzzarts (butterflies) out. But
I've forgan him; I've forgan him an' could ha' done if he'd byetten
me fifty times moore."
"Did we live in this neighbourhood?"
"Nawe; yo' peearcht upo' Langleyside, in a stone house about th' hawve road up th' brow. We coed it th' owd castle."
"I must see the old place to-morrow. If possible, I shall make it my
home, and shall wish often to see you there. And now, uncle," said
the young man, "tell me how I can serve you."
"Eh, dunno' mention that, lad, we hanno' lung t' live, an' con
hobble on o' any plan. Think about thysel. What ar't for dooin, like; if I may be so bowd as to ax thee?"
"Settling in my native place," said the younger Dooley. The old man
shook his head.
"There's nowt t' be getten here," he observed. "We're o on us wayvin oursels to deeath just for t' keep oursels wick. Things hanno'
bin so bad sin' th' embargo wur on."
"But I have sufficient for both myself and you, uncle. Come, direct
me to the nearest inn; I will go no farther now that I have found
you. To-morrow morning, if God spares us, I will gladden your old
eyes by the sight of something that will do your hearts good."
"Have a taste o' porritch th' fust," entreated Mary, "they'n
happen keep a bit o' cowd out."
"No, thank you, aunt, you've none to spare; but rest assured that
after to-night you shall not want for anything."
"If thou winno' stop wi' us, I'll goo wi' thee as far as th' 'Wheel
an' Barrels.' I hanno' bin i'th' house for mony a year," said the old
man, gathering himself up, and trying to look hale and strong.
"No, no," remonstrated the nephew; "you are not fit to go out on
such a night as this."
"I'm as strong as a little jackass, now," returned the other; "an
I'll goo wi' thee if thou pleeases."
"Now, I know you're not; you're excited."
"Ay, ay; I feel it's o fluss an' flasker;" and the little fellow
dropped again into his chair. "I'm same as owd Jone o' Grinfilt, I've wovven mysel to th' fur eend. Well, well, I'll tell thee as weel as
The "Wheel and Barrels" was not more than a quarter of a mile
distant from the cottage, so the direction was easily given. Buttoning his coat closely round him, and again tying his cap over
his ears, the traveller prepared to depart.
"I shall be with you again early to-morrow morning, and in the
meantime accept this to provide against accidents?"
He took a purse from an inner pocket as he said this, and emptied a
portion of its contents upon the table.
"Come, come; never mind that now, uncle; some other time."
This remark was elicited by the old weaver's falling upon his knees
by the chair on which he had been sitting, and uttering a prayer of
three short words so fervently that it thrilled in the heart of
their benefactor, and brought tears upon his rough cheek.
"God bless thee!"
The snow was falling still as the traveller left the cottage. It was
thick on the roof, thick in the hedges, thick on the road. Early
footmarks were lost, or hardly denned beneath the fresh covering,
and the wayfarer's boots sank deep as he stepped out at the wicket. All night the snow continued to fall, and through the calm it
everywhere grew deeper. It was a lovely winter scene when the sun
rose upon it; and no sooner had the morn fairly asserted its reign
than our stranger friend made his difficult way to his uncle's
dwelling. How was it, he wondered, that no smoke rose from the
chimney, which was the first object that caught his eye. And why
were there so many people in the lane?
This exclamation was called forth by the strange appearance the
cottage presented on a nearer view. A catastrophe had taken place. The roof over the loomhouse, unable to bear the weight of the
accumulated snow, had fallen in during the night, and loomposts and
rafters, wisps of straw and little avalanches of snow, heaped
together, formed a scene of ruin and desolation that made many a
heart ache as the eye beheld it. The inmates, bruised and sorrow-crushed, had been conveyed to a neighbouring cottage, and willing
hands were busy removing the dιbris, and rescuing the little
household gods from their entombment. As for the house itself, the
walls were following the example of the roof, and were giving way on
every side. A solitary robin fit spectator of such a scene perched
on a naked rafter, and twittered mournfully as it seemed to
contemplate the spreading ruin. And the walls came down with a loud
crash, just as the last piece of furniture a baby-chair that had
never before left its corner was being brought out, and the last
chapter in the history of that once happy home closed like the last
scene of a tragic play, where the funeral pile is about to be
There was not a heart in all Waverlow that did not yield a throb of
sympathy for the misfortunes of little Dooley and his wife, now
without their home or anything upon which to fix an earthly
affection. What little of their furniture could be saved from the
household wreck was conveyed to the "Wheel and Barrels," where a
room was made as much like a home as it could be for the aged couple
to live in till such times as the "Old Castle" up at Langleyside
could be got ready for their reception. Their nephew spent as much
of his time with them as he could spare from the many visits he had
to make the country round; and kind neighbours came and chatted with
old Mary in the little nest she had made; and Jack smoked his pipe
at the kitchen hob, where "Owd Snapper-spring" and "Planker" would
sometimes come and make a "roosin neet on't," before the jolly
winter fire. What heart could hug its sorrows long in such company;
especially when want no longer obtruded its ghastly presence in the
cupboard, and the fear of it was for ever banished from the prospect
that lay betwixt them and the grave?
In a few weeks after the catastrophe at the old thatch, there was a
"sound of revelry" heard up at Langleyside. "Thomas Dooley, Esq.,"
had previously notified to all good and fun-enjoying villagers that
his "hearthstone warming" would receive an additional glow from
their presence; and that the "Old Castle" had never been so shaken
with merriment as he intended it should be on that occasion. And
what a feast was provided! Not your roast and boiled, your
"stuffing" and sauces fish, fowl, and foolery, but a noisy,
fragrant, crisp-pasted, rib-shifting, mountain of a potato-pie. Potato-pie? Who does not love it that hath ever rung his clogs on a
Lancashire "fowt." Who has not stealthily peeped into the oven and
watched the gravy bubble up the chimney-hole in the centre of the
crust until his mouth has watered, and hath impatiently fancied the
dinner-hour was as far distant as the millennium? Who has not blown
at his plate till his head has felt dizzy in his eagerness for the
first mouthful of the steaming mess, and patted his wedge of crust
as if it were a much-loved pet, that was to lie on the plate to be
fondled instead of eaten? It is a glorious Lancashire dish, that
potato-pie an institution as imperishable as its "whoam-brewed"
and the native love of a bright-glowing fireside, with its rant, and
roar, and hearty glee!
Dooley the younger had thus provided what he knew would be relished
by all the guests; and old Mary looked like a gleam of her former
self as she superintended the brewing and the baking, whilst little
Jack, who had had the mould swept from his chin, and had allowed a
warmer hue to gather about his whole person, quietly blinked his
eyes and his pipe head in the nook, watching miniature fire-grates
dance upon the window, and the sparrows and robins come fluttering
about as if they were old acquaintances, and wanted to come in and
warm themselves. By the kind permission of his dame he had dipped
rather freely into the drink mug; fetching the liquor from under the barm and mellowing himself over the beverage until his face had
quite a summer-time of it. And when the night came, and neighbours
gathered round the hearth, and the potato-pie had vanished, and the
hot posset went round and round, who would have thought that the two
old people who rested their feet on each end of the fender were the
same as were taken helpless and bleeding out of the ruins of the
"Old Thatched House?" Yet they were; and Mary sang one song a love
ditty it was that she had kept in her memory over fifty years, and
little Jack told droll stories, that were droller from his manner of
telling them, for it had been so long since he told a story that he
had nearly forgotten all he knew; but with the drink and the fire
and the merriment, his memory seemed to come back by flashes, which
would so startle him that he danced in his seat, and indulged in
such a mixture of quaint fun and simple pathos as to make him look
almost beside himself.
The "Castle" was one of those habitations still to be found in
out-of-the-way country places, that appear too large for ordinary
dwellings, and too small to have any pretensions to the
aristocratic. It was once the residence of a native squire, whose
property got absorbed into that of some other proprietor, and the
house was empty for years. The grandfather of the younger Dooley,
however, made it the home of a numerous and thriving family, who
required plenty of room; but most of the children dying, the house
was again abandoned, and left for owls and bats to sleep away their
daylight in. The new tenant at once set himself the task of
renovating it; and the mouldy, crumbling walls were cleaned and
repaired; old woodwork replaced by new, broken windows made whole,
whitewash and paint freely used wherever required, so that the
dwelling, when its fires were kindled and the furniture placed, and
the warm curtains folded against the windows, looked a home in which
those who loved quietude and sweet country air, with the pleasant
prospect of meadow, wood, and brown hill slope, would wish to pass
the evening of their life.
Here the elder Dooleys sat in the sunshine again of a glorious
summertime watched the autumn approach without fear of the winter
behind it, and at last fell, like two leaves which the gentlest
autumnal wind hath scattered, in that mortal pathway which leads
into the vista of futurity. They sleep now with their children in
the Waverlow churchyard, close beside the grave where "Old Colley"
the huntsman rests; their latter days being passed in that state of
calm and holy happiness which brings with it the hope of a blessed
hereafter. Peace be with them!