LOVE IN WAR’S CLOTHING
A good dinner at a cheery old inn in the ancient village of
Ribchester sent me well pleased upon my way, I was exploring the
charming valley through which the Ribble winds and wanders. I had
done my best to become familiar with the people who lived upon the
banks of this beautiful stream. I ate of their daily food and drank
of their strong beer. I also exchanged news of the whirling world
from which I had come for the tales and legends that were on their
“How do, theer? Yo’re fast now!”
This was true. I had come to the mouth of a rivulet which fed the
broader stream. I could neither jump the swift waters of this
rivulet nor ford them. As I looked up the stream, wondering how far
I must go to ﬁnd a set of stepping-stones or a plank bridge, the
above words reached my ear. I looked across the stream, and found
that the speaker was a man, apparently a native of the place. His
shoulders were saddled
with a yoke like a small beam. From this depended two large cans,
and it was evident that he was coming for water to the rivulet.
“Yes, I am fast. How can I get across?”
“I’ll show yo. Bide yo’r time.”
The speaker slowly laid down his cans; then he motioned me to go a
few yards up stream. Then he pulled a large plank out of a clump of
grass, where it had been hidden. With the strength of a Hercules, he
threw the plank across the water, and steadied it with his foot
while I walked across. While the man was filling his cans with water
I improved the occasion by asking what the water-wheel, a little way
up the rivulet, was for and whose house was that on the other side
of the Ribble.
“Thad’s Mester Wingle’s heawse, sir. Isn’d id a ﬁne place?”
I admitted that it was a line home for a country gentleman.
“An’ thad wheel used to torn a circular saw an’ a lathe, an’ thad
sooart o’ craft, i’ owd John Roper’s time.”
“Was old Roper a joiner, then?”
“A wheelwreet — a wheelwreet. He thowt he were th’ best mon i’
these parts. Bud they soon cleared his owd shop away when
they’d getten ’im undergreawnd.”
“Was he an eccentric man, this John Roper?” I asked.
“Well, he were wod yo’d co a harbitrary sooart ov a chap.
Nubbudy never knowed nowt bud him. He were olez reet.”
I thought the late John Roper and my informant could not have been
very good friends. The rustic water-carrier was well
acquainted with the faults of the late Mr. Roper; and he delayed
upon his way to tell me an incident in which the distinguished
wheelwright had been clearly worsted.
The elder John had a son, whose name was also John, but whom all the
neighbours called Jack. The parents themselves did not care
for this familiar style of addressing their son and heir, and took
every opportunity of showing their disapproval of it.
One morning a stranger walked into the wheelwright’s shed and asked
if the father of Jack Roper was in.
“No,” said the wheelwright, turning and confronting the strange
gentleman. “I have a son, but his name is John Roper.
The register at the Parish Church at Ribchester yon will prove
The stranger took in the whole situation at a glance. He just
allowed Mr. Roper to see a large piece of silver before he slipped
it back into his pocket.
“Ah!” he said, “it was Jack Roper who opened a gate for me when I
was following the hounds yesterday. He told me his name was
Jack Roper from the Wheelwright’s. I must have got to the
wrong place. Good morning.”
John nearly choked with vexation. But before he could attempt
to explain, the gentleman had left the shop.
When Jack grew up, however, he was not so much his father’s pride.
The parent looked upon him as upon a prodigal. Both father and
son wanted to be “top sawyer”; and many a bitter quarrel marked the
period at which Jack began to forget that his father was an absolute
monarch in his own house.
Jack could whistle. Unfortunately he had learned to whistle
some very slow tunes; and, worse still, he kept time to them with
his plane or his saw. The father would bear the dallying for
some time, every now and then darting a glance, from his bench under
the window, at his errant son in the opposite corner.
“Dang thud whistle! Id moks mi heyd watch,” said the old man, when
he could stand it no longer.
“Why, yo used to whistle yorsel’ up to lately.”
“Aye, bud aw never whistled them snail-creepin’ tunes. Aw like
a good lively air, as’ll help tha through thi wark, an‘ nod send tha
to sleep o’er id.”
“Aw dorn’d wark accordin’ to th’ music. Aw wark accordin’ to
th’ pay,” said Jack, as he carefully glanced along the edge of his
saw, and resumed his whistling in a lower key.
“Pay be danged! Thi teeth‘ll olez run through moor then thi
honds will. Theaw owt to be ashamed o' bein’ a burden on thi
poor owd feyther — a strong young chap like thee.”
“Well, aw‘ll nod be i’ yer rooad no lunger. Gi’e me a
sovereign, an ’aw’ll be off to-neet, an’ ﬁnd wark for misel.
Then aw shall be no mooar eawt o’ yor pockut.”
“Aye, an hev o’ th’ country sayin’ as aw’ve torned tha eawt!
Id‘d set every lazy tung i’ th’ parish waggin’.”
Jack knew that he earned more than twice as much as he received.
The run of his teeth, a few necessary clothes and a little
ill-grudged spending-money, represented the wages of constant toil,
and on the whole he was a very good son, and gave way to his
father’s whims, excepting when they were carried into eccentricity.
These little tiffs soon arose, and were soon forgotten. Jack
worked away willingly at his father’s bench until he had attained
his legal majority. About that time, however, circumstance
arose which caused more disturbance in the wheelwright’s household
than anything which had preceded it.
John Roper, senior, came home one night with a ﬂush of anger on his
brow. It was noticed that he muttered to himself in accents of
wrath as he walked along. John had heard from an authentic
source that his son had actually commenced courting. This
would have been all very well if the girl in question had been
heiress-apparent to a good sum of ready money, or even to one of
those “weel plenished farms” which Burns considered so attractive in
matters of this kind.
The girl had all in her favour but one thing. She was poor. This one
crime blotted out all the good qualities she possessed, at least in
the elder John Roper’s eyes.
She poor; her father was poor; and she had been brought up in an
atmosphere notorious for its hopeless poverty.
Ruth Marsden's father was a handloom weaver. He, however, brought no
subtle hand to his craft. He preferred out-of-door employment when
he could get it, and
only took up the shuttle when the scythe and hoe were out of season.
The wheelwright had been home a little time when his son appeared
upon the threshold.
“Aw’d like to know iv aw’ve to stert waitin’ up on tha every neet
like this?” was the fatherly salutation.
“This is th’ fost time as no’ve done id," answered Jack.
“And id’s once too oft to my thinkin’.”
“Well, yo could ha’ gone to bed. There’s nowt for yo to stop
up for. Aw con god in varra weel misel, iv yo'll leove th’
“Aye, aw darsay. An’ hev th’ heawse full o’ thieves afoor aw‘d
getten upstairs. Nowe, nowe! Iv theaw conned pied hooam
bi nine o’clock theaw mon stop eawt.”
“Nine o’clock’s too soon. Ten o’clock’s soon enough for
onybody to be i’ bed.”
“Aye, when they’n getten agate o’ wastin’ their time on wimmin.
Aw’ve heeard as theaw spends a deol o’ thine wi' thad greyt
thriftless lass to’ Sam Mairsden’s. Bud let mo toll tha as
aw’ll hev no moor on’t; sooa tha con stop it.”
“Aw think aw should hev a word i’ thad,” said Jack, blushing.
He had never suspected that his father was acquainted with his love
“Nod iv tha stops here. Aw’m nooan beawn to toyl an’ slave to
keep a ne’er-do-weel rook as is just fastenin’ theirsels onto thee
for th’ little bit as they thinkin’ there’ll be when aw gooa.
But aw’ll tell tha, once for o, as there is nowt —”
“Yo’ve towd mo thad mony a time. An’ iv there is owt, aw
dorn’d want id. Aw dorn’d want nowt, nau’but wod aw work for.”
“Well. bud tha should do. Iv tha wants to suit thi owd feyther,
as hes browt tha up o’ these years, theaw’ll buckle to some lass as
hes a bit o’ brass ov her own; i’ stead o’ pikin’ one eawt o’ th’
poorest family as there is i’ Ribchester.”
“Aw think as yo an‘ me ‘ll never agree on thad poynt. Sooa
we’d better drop talkin’ abeawt id!” said Jack, emphatically.
“We’ll stop at this,” said the father, striking his hand upon the
table — “We‘ll stop at this, as iv ever theaw gooas near Ruth
Marsden ageon, or hes owvt to do wi’ her, i’ ony way, shape, or
form, thee an’ me ’ll hev to part.”
Having said these words, the wheelwright jumped from his chair and
went upstairs. Before he went to sleep he told his wife that
he had ﬁnally disposed of Jack’s foolish match. He felt
convinced in his own mind that there would be no more between his
son and Ruth Marsden.
But, of course, the old wheelwright was mistaken. There was no
interruption to the banned courtship; and the second scene between
the father and son was worse than the ﬁrst. It ended in the
son vowing that he would leave home and seek his fortune; while the
father, who didn‘t believe his son would leave the Ribble Valley,
emphatically bade him “go.”
Jack was absent all that night, and the night after; and the parents
began to get alarmed. Their idea of the repentant prodigal had
not been fulﬁlled; and they feared that some ill-luck had befallen
their only son.
On the sixth day after Jack’s departure, the quiet streets of
Ribchester were enlivened by the appearance therein of a scarlet
coat; and young Roper, attired in the uniform of a dragoon regiment,
walked proudly along. He was, of course, the admiration of all
the schoolboys; but their elders shook their heads, and wondered
what John Roper would say when he found that his only son had
enlisted for a soldier.
Jack did not stay long in Ribchester proper. His path led
through the ﬁelds, towards his father’s shop; and early in the
afternoon he found himself in his old home. Mrs. Roper was
busy baking; not so busy, however, but that her thoughts often
turned to her missing son, when the latch of the door was lifted,
and Jack walked into the cottage.
The mother looked up at the ﬁgure in uniform. Then, raising
her hands, gave vent to an exclamation of surprise.
“Eh, John! Thad’s never thee, is id?”
“Id is, mother. I've come to bid yo’ good-bye.”
“Lord help us! W'od’s th’ meanin’ o’ thad?”
“Aw’ve bin an’ listed.”
“Theaw hesnd, rayly; hes ta?”
“Yigh. Mi feyther said he couldn’d ged on wi’ me. Sooa he’ll nev a
chance o‘ tryin’ to ged on beawt me.”
“Eh! But theaw never should hev listed,” sobbed the old dame. “Thi
feyther were nau-but i’ one ov his tantrums. He were as reet as cud
be in an ’eawr’s time.”
At this point the door again opened, and the wheelwright came into
the house. He started at seeing the uniform; and was even more upset
when he found that the soldier was his own only son.
“Jack here’s bin an’ listed upo’ ceaunt o’ wod theaw said to him th’
other neet abeawt Ruth Marsden,” said the mother, by way of
introduction, as she wiped her eyes.
“The deuce! It’s nau’but lazy chaps as gooas for sowjers.
Tha doesn’d actually meon to say as tha’s tekken th’ Queen’s shillin’,”
said the father, anxiously.
“I have,” said Jack, decisively. At the same time he held
himself proudly erect, to show that he was not ashamed of his
“An’ id’ll tek a vast seet o‘ money to buy him off,” said the
“Id’s nod a matter o’ buyin’ off. Id’ too late for thad,” said the
“Nay, surely!” exclaimed the father, with a gasp.
“As I said afore yo coom in, I’ve come to bid yo’ booath good-bye.
We’re ordered off to India; an’ we sail next wick.”
Mr. Roper did not see the absurdity of saying that a recruit was
about to be sent upon foreign service. He only protested more
solemnly that he would buy his son off, whatever the cost might me.
Jack, however, said that he liked the service better than the
driving of nails and the sawing of wood; and affirmed that he should
never consent to purchase his discharge. It was bad enough to
have a son a soldier; but when that son was sent to waste his life
upon a foreign soil the very thought of such a catastrophe became
“Yo’ dorn’d need to mek sich a meawthful on id,” said Jack.
“Iv yo hedn’d driven mo away, aw should never hev listed.”
“Aw dudn’d drive tha away. Aw nau’but said as aw dudn’d think
Ruth Marsden were th’ sooant ov a lass for thee. Bud aw’d sooner hev
sin tha wed to hor a hundred times o’er, then theaw should hev gooan
an’ thrown thisel away i’ this fashion!”
“Then iv aw were eawt o’ th’ army ageon beawt id costin’ yo owt-would
yo let me hev mi own way abeawt id peaceably?” asked Jack.
“Aye, sure!” said the old man eagerly; and the mother wanted to know
if it could possibly be managed.
“Well, aw’m nod so sure,” said Jack, meditatively. “Aw’ll see
when aw ged back to Fulwood to-neet. Yo’ see, they dorn’d let
’em buy theirsel’ off when they’re ordered abroad. An’ then
they say’n as we’re gooin’ to hev war wi’ Russia, sooa they’ll want
o’ th’ men as they con ged.”
Before Jack left home he promised that he would consent to be bought
off from the army. But, he added, in a digniﬁed manner, that
the money of which his father was so fond should never do it.
He said he had friends elsewhere and should not stoop to touch a
farthing of his father’s money.
Jack had not gone far upon his way back to Preston when he met Ruth
“Jack, Jack, is id true as theaw’s listed?”
“Well, wod’s them things for, then?” she asked, pointing to the
scarlet coat and the round forage cap which the young man wore.
“Oh!” said he, with a laugh. “Them’s for mi feyther’s
“Wod does ta meon?”
“Look at ’em. Do they look like new uniform?”
“They are nasty,” answered Ruth.
“Of cooarse they are. Aw’ll tell thee th’ saycret, but theaw
mun keep id to thisel. Mi cousin Jack, as keeps th’ aleheawse
at Longridge, put me up to buyin’ these fro’ an owd clooas shop i’
Preston. They’re owd cast-offs. Aw changed ’em i’
Wilson’s barn yon, an’ aw’ve left mi owd un’s theer. But mi
feyther thinks as aw’ve listed, an’ he says as iv aw’ll be bowt off
he‘ll let me wed thee next week if aw like.”
“An’ tha will do, Jack!”
“Will aw?” — The remainder of the scene is not for publication; but
it was, without doubt, a “guarantee of good faith.”
There was a deep shadow in the woods round Waterﬁeld Hall. But
a deeper and more deadly shadow once lay across the life of the man
who is now its proprietor. The water carrier’s memory required
a lot of refreshing before he remembered the beginning and end of
the story; and he had to be helped out — with the story, not the
refreshment — by some of the oldest inhabitants of Ribchester.
Once upon a time — these old people are very shaky in the matter of
dates — Mr. Wingle’s gamekeeper smiled visibly as he left the hall.
It was the latter part of the year, and the leaves were falling fast
around him, while the early frost had browned the grass through
which he walked on his way to his home.
It was something wonderful to see a smile upon the features of this
stolid old servant. None of the Ribchester people had ever
observed such a phenomenon. Indeed, a farm labourer who happened to
catch a glimpse of Sam Ward’s countenance at once set out the report
that the keeper was going out of his mind, and should no longer be
trusted with a gun in his hand.
All the people of that part believed that Sam Ward was a sullen
tyrant. Sam himself had long believed that every male
inhabitant of Ribblesdale was a born poacher, and he treated them
About the time when the cotton famine was laying waste the
industries of our country, the game upon Mr. Wingle’s estate began
to grow less. It disappeared every night. Watchers were
set on in vain. Hares and pheasants were taken from under the
keeper’s eye almost; and this — when the shooting season was at its
height — couldn’t be tolerated for another day.
Sam Ward declared that he had tried every dodge — excepting one — to
defeat the designs of the depredators. This one remaining
resort was so repugnant to Mr. Wingle’s ideas that for a long time
he refused to listen to it. He reminded his keeper that
man-traps were illegal, and that any person caught in one could sue
for heavy damages for his injuries. Sam replied that no man
caught in such a manner would dare to make the fact public. He
remembered the time when the late Mr. Wingle was alive they always
had a trap set in the lower croft. One night a famous old
poacher from Samlesbury fell into it. It wasn’t a trap such as
Sam wanted to set now. Oh, no! It was a real, right down
“stunner” of a man-trap. It had teeth as sharp as knives, and
spikes three inches long!
Well, this Samlesbury man got into it, and his leg was caught in
such a position that he was lamed for life. And did he go
about complaining of this shocking treatment, and let everyone know
he’d been poaching? Oh, no! He just hobbled home, told
his friends and relations that he’d got a drop too much; that he had
fallen asleep in the road; and that a cart had run over him in the
At length Mr. Wingle agreed that such a contrivance should be placed
in the wood near to the hall. It was only a mild-looking
machine, compared with the old-fashioned traps; but contemplation of
the fate of any man who might drop into it was what caused the
keeper to smile as he went home to his tea.
Two men stood at the door of a small house in one of the suburbs of
Preston. One was bareheaded. The other had his hat on,
and was drawing on his gloves, for the afternoon was cold.
“Do you think there is hope—any at all?” asked the ﬁrst mentioned.
As he spoke his voice was almost choked by anguish and fear lest the
answer should break the thread of hope upon which he had depended.
“Well, of course, you’re a man and I don’t want to deceive you,”
said the doctor. “There always is hope as long as there is
life — the old proverb is a true one, and cases of this kind
sometimes last for years. But if there is anything at all that
can be depended upon to prolong her life, it is nourishment and
careful nursing. Our only hope now is in those.”
After the doctor had said these words, he bade the other man “good
afternoon” — as if it were not the worst afternoon he had ever
experienced — and went upon his way. The broken-hearted
husband swallowed the lump that had been rising in his throat and
returned to the side of the bed, upon which lay the frail form of
his dying wife.
If her life was to be saved, nourishment was to save it. But where
was that nourishment to be procured? Their very subsistence
depended upon the labour of the husband’s hands, and the scarcity of
cotton in the town had stopped the mills, and taken the very bread
from their mouths.
There was one resort still, but Robert Graham shrank from it.
Bad as had been his circumstances, and bitter his luck, he had
refrained from applying to any of the friends who had known him in
his earlier days. He would sooner have died than have accepted
from any of them the means to prolong his own life. But his
love for the woman whose wasted form lay before him was stronger
than his love of life — stronger even than that pride which was the
marrow of his bone and the surging life of his blood.
“What does the doctor say i?” asked the feeble voice from the
“Oh, he says that care and nourishment are all you require now.
We shall have you up and well again.”
“Oh, never! Never again,” said the wife feebly.
“Yes, again, and soon. Keep your heart up now; do for my
sake,” said the husband, in a hollow attempt to hide the despair
that wrung his heart.
All that night the husband sat by the bedside of his wife, watching
her as she lay; wondering whether by some miracle the blush of
health would ever return to her sunken cheek, and the blessing of
strength to her wasted form. Ever and anon, too, would recur
to his mind the words and sentences in a letter which he had written
that evening — words he could never have humbled himself
sufficiently to write had the situation been one of less emergency.
In the afternoon of the following day the husband, with his hat in
his hand, stood by his wife’s bedside.
“You are not going to leave me, are you?” the sufferer asked,
lifting her feeble hand as if it still had the power to detain him.
“Only for a little time. I shall be back to-night.”
“Don’t go to-day. Put off until to-morrow. I may be
better to-morrow,” pleaded the wife.
“I have appointed to-night. If I fail to go to-night it may be
worse for us. She may not care to come another evening; and
then where shall we be? But I will put it off if you really
wish me to do so.”
"No, Robert, perhaps you had better go after all. If I am better
to-morrow I shall want you to stay and talk with me. If I am
worse I cannot bear you to leave me.”
“Don’t say worse," said the husband, pressing the wasted hand of his
wife. “I cannot bear to think that you will be worse.
Besides, the doctor says that with a little nourishment you’ll
improve at once.”
“Well, go. It is selﬁsh of me to wish to detain you. You
are going for my sake. You are always making sacriﬁces for
“Not more than you have made for me,” said the husband. And as
he stooped to kiss the parched lips a tear fell upon her wasted
cheek, and told the story he had laboured to suppress.
By-and-by, the only nurse whom the sick woman could afford came
creeping slowly in. She was a neighbour; and had volunteered
to wait upon the patient in the intervals of her own household
duties. She had determined to sit up all this night with her
charge, in spite of the protestations of the anxious husband.
The latter, poor man, was quite worn out by constant vigils.
Only the fear that he might break down at some critical moment, when
his services were most required, induced him to consent to the
kindly neighbour's proposition.
“I won’t be long away,” said Robert Graham, as he took down his
overcoat from a peg behind the door. “I have a little business
to transact a few miles out of the town. I am bound to go, or
I should not. I will get back as soon as I can.”
“All right, Mr. Graham. Do come back early; for you need rest.
She seems to be a lot better, and we shall be able to spare you for
a little sleep to-night.”
“Do you really think that she is better?” asked the husband, with
dreadful earnestness, as he stood upon the threshold.
“Oh, yes, sir. I have my hopes that she is taking a turn for
the better now.”
This neighbour soon afterwards told another neighbour that she never
in all her life bit her tongue so hard as when she told that lie to
the despairing husband of her rapidly-failing patient.
Robert Graham saw no sign of friendly deceit on her kindly face.
He left his home with a lighter step; and walked briskly down the
street. The neighbour-nurse went back to the sick room.
There she drew down the blind, and then sat down in the worn
armchair that had its permanent place by the bedside.
The furniture in the room was scant. A common iron bedstead; a
chest of drawers topped by a closed work-box; and a row of medicine
bottles; a table with a few devotional books; a daily paper, and a
basin upon it. These, with three chairs, standing on the edge
of a strip of worn carpet, comprised the whole furniture of the
room. It was quite evident that its tenants had not lately
been in very good circumstances. An oil lamp stood upon the
low mantelshelf, but the untrimmed wick smoked; and the upper part
of the glass chimney was thus rendered black and opaque.
The dismal room grew more dismal as the night went on. One
hour followed another into the dreary night. The time passed
at which Robert Graham was to return home; but he did not come.
Eleven o‘clock struck from the tower of the Town Hall, and the
sufferer feebly called the name of her absent spouse. “He’s
nooan back yet. He hasn’t bin gone long. Try an’ sleep;
it’ll do you good,” said the nurse. Then she arranged the
bedclothes more comfortably around the wasted form, and sat down
again to endure the appointed vigil.
But there was no sleep for the sick woman — not yet.
The half hour chimed, and the anxious wife grew more restless.
The scarcely less anxious neighbour did all in her power to reassure
her; but all to no purpose. When the deep tones of midnight
sounded over the town, the alarmed nurse saw that a great and
fearful change had come over the face of her patient!
Oh, that the husband would come! The feeble voice incessantly
spoke his name, and the nurse’s ears were strained to catch the ﬁrst
sounds of his footsteps in the distance. Still he remained
away. There was no response to the cries of the wife, and the
persons in the street were all strangers, and passed by with hurried
footsteps to their several homes.
“Robert! He is waiting for me somewhere. I must go and ﬁnd
him,” said the sick woman, and she would have risen from the bed had
not the frightened neighbour held her down, and in trembling tones
assured her that her husband was coming, and would be presently a
“He is calling me,” said the sick woman; “I can hear him. He
is, in distress, and I will go to him,” and sitting up in bed, she
begged to be allowed to go in search of her absent husband.
While this paroxysm was on, however, the poor creature sank
exhausted upon the pillow.
Still her parted lips breathed the name of the husband who tarried
upon his journey while she seemed fast speeding upon her own.
Speeding without that tearful farewell that lingers in the memory
when the lips that have spoken it are crumbled into dust.
It was nearly dawn, and still there was no sign of the missing
“Well! Have you visited our man-trap this morning, Samuel?” asked
Mr. Wingle of his gamekeeper.
“I did so last night,” said Sam, hobbling up to his master with
“Oh! And did you catch anything?”
“Yes. I caught a ‘death of cold,’ and something more.”
“The deuce,” exclaimed the Squire; “why, whatever’s the matter with
“You may well ask, sir.”
“And you may as well tell me.”
“Well, sir, last night I was so suspicious that one of our oldest
poachers would be caught that I really couldn’t help waiting about
the trap a bit, just for the pleasure of seeing the ‘catch.’ I
had waited till I was nearly tired, when I heard a sharp step ahead
of me, and I knew that my man — whoever he was — was coming right
into the trap.”
“He strode off towards the hall; and I have just found out that he
went there by Miss Wingle’s invitation.”
“The devil he did!”
“Well, I know she’s a soft-hearted piece of business. Humph!
I’d ask him to dinner if I was her. I’ll see to this, Ward.”
When Mr. Wingle returned to the hall he met his only daughter, and
at once asked her if it was true that she had brought a poacher into
“Did you authorise Ward to set a man-trap?” asked the lady, sternly.
“Yes, I did. We've lost game enough. I was determined to
put a stop to it.”
“Don’t you know that such traps are illegal? You have made a
sad mistake this time. The man you would have caught is one
whom you have wronged before; and now when the law will help him he
will take his revenge upon you.”
“Oh, ho! And what about my revenge upon him? He was
stealing my game.”
“He was not. He is no poacher, and was not in search of game.”
“Then what on earth did he want there? Tut, tut, he may impose
on you with that tale; but he won’t impose on me.”
“He was there at my request.”
“At your request — what do you mean?”
“He wrote to me for relief; and as I didn’t want you to see him, I
had to arrange to see him at the conservatory door last night.
He was coming across to the conservatory when he almost fell into
“Who is it that dares to come begging in that clandestine manner?”
“I may as well tell you. It is your own son Robert, whom you
sent away from home for marrying beneath him, as you called it.”
“Good God! I thought he was in Australia.”
“He has been back two years. He says in his letter to me that
he has been cashier at a mill in Preston; but the famine has reduced
him to the point of starvation.”
“Is he badly hurt?”
“No. But he was furious against you last night. He said
he would set the law against you if it cost him his life. You
have disinherited him, and had it not been for his own foresight
your abominable trap would have kept him away from his dying wife.”
“His dying wife?”
“Yes, his dying wife. It was for her, and not for himself that he
wanted help. If it had depended on himself only, he’d have
gone to the workhouse before he’d have come here.”
“Why didn’t you tell me of all this?”
“Because he enjoined me not to do so.”
“Is he here now?”
“Then let him be found. Let him have everything he wants. Let
his wife be sent for — if she can be moved. I will see him
to-morrow — aye, to-day if possible.”
Back to the sick room again. The doctor and the frenzied
husband are bending over the wasted form. Is it too late?
Ah, yes! . . . Nay, not so. One feeble movement gives token of
the lingering life; and the doctor moistens the pallid lips with a
potent draught, which he keeps for such cases. The eyes open.
The sight of the lost husband gives them a new light. The
Angel of Death leaves the humble household; and the once-despised
wife of Robert Wingle lives, ﬁrst to be welcomed, and afterwards to
be mistress at Waterﬁeld Hall.
THE LEGEND OF “TUMBLEDOWN” HALL
There must be scores of ramblers in this picturesque old valley who
have seen this dark stretch of wood, and who have yet no idea that
it hides at building of any kind, much less a large hall.
Local guide books are silent about it. The people who live
near it take no interest in it; and you might pass within a stone’s
throw of its walls without knowing that such a place as “Tumbledown”
Hall was in existence.
I came upon the Hall quite suddenly. I was wandering — in deﬁance
of painted and printed notices — in the cool shade of the wood, when
the sun was too hot for walking to be enjoyable in the open ﬁeld.
I was pushing my way through tangled brier and matted brushwood, and
at I the same time concocting in my mind some excuse that I might
give if challenged by the guardian keeper. Suddenly I stumbled
across a broken wall. This caused me to look up; and a fresh
surprise was at hand; for in an open space, with the thick wood all
round, stood the ruins of a large-sized house.
They were ruins. There was no calling them by any other
name. The highest wall was not above eight feet high; yet it
was possible to identify every part of the house. The broken
door posts lay across the moss-grown steps. The walls were
crumbling into sand. The bits of woodwork still remaining were
so rotten that they fell into pieces at the touch of the hand, and
the whole place was a victim to the most relentless destruction.
Not only is the place unknown to most people, but it docs not appear
to have a name. The garrulous landlord at whose house I ate my
tea-dinner had never heard the name of the place. To my
surprise, however, he had known the place when it was inhabited.
It never had a name, he said. It was simply known as the big
house, and when the last tenant left it it had been demolished by
the landlord because it was situate right in the midst of his
preserved lands. This, I suppose, is the reason why so few
people are aware of its existence; and this is certainly why the
squire gave orders for its demolition.
Yet it is not unconnected with a story which once made the Ribble
Valley famous for the traditional period of nine days.
On the banks of the Ribble — so close, indeed, that the waters seem
to lick its walls when a few days’ rain has swollen them — stands a
neat, whitewashed cottage. It is quite a better-class house
when compared with the other cottages in the neighbourhood, and has
been tenanted at various times by retired grocers, bankers, and
cotton manufacturers. Still it is a cottage of no pretension,
and its rent is probably under twenty pounds a year.
A few years since, the house was empty throughout one winter.
In the early spring two strangers took possession of it. As no
one knew them, and they didn't tell why they came, nor where they
hailed from, public interest in them became at once aroused.
One of the new comers was an invalid man, who was seldom seen out of
doors. The other was a ﬁne young woman, who might be the
invalid’s wife or daughter, no one could guess which.
I can’t tell the exact date at which they came to the district.
Mine host of the “Flitch of Bacon” is not good at remembering dates.
He only remembers that it was in this year Dick Worston, of
Balderstone, won three ﬁrst prizes at the Whalley Show; and I am
left to ﬁnd further particulars in the records of the society.
The invalid gentleman and his lady attendant did not court the
society of their neighbours. Every ﬁne day the gentleman made
his appearance in a bath-chair. The lady found it trying
exercise to get the chair along the rugged roads; but she never had
any assistance, and, excepting a charwoman, the Darnells got on
without the help of servants.
The poor invalid had been at their Ribbleside home a few weeks, when
“Tumbledown” Hall got a new tenant. A van-load of furniture
came into the house; and upon the day following a tall, middle-aged
gentleman did the same.
This last addition to the population of the country was no recluse.
He didn’t mean to shut himself up away from society. He hadn’t
been in the place a week before all the neighbours knew him by
sight. They also knew that his name was Cumberstone, and most
of them had heard from his own lips that he had lately retired from
the hardware trade.
The geniality of this latter gentleman was a direct contrast to the
frigid demeanour of the invalid. The latter seemed to carry a
chilly air about with him, which completely enveloped himself and
the lady, and checked any familiarity which might ensue from the
civility of the country people.
But Mr. Cumberstone was not overawed by this unsociable demeanour.
About a fortnight after his arrival he met the bath-chair in one of
the roughest roads in the district. The wheels had become
encumbered by mud. The many holes in the road were full of
water. The surface of the way had been scattered over with
many-pointed limestone, and there were signs that the fair one’s
strength was fast giving way under the efforts required to propel
the chair and its occupant.
“Seems to me you’re in a ﬁx, miss,” said Mr. Cumberstone.
“Oh, no, I think I can manage,” said the lady, making a brave but
unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the wheel of the chair from a deep
“Give me the handle,” said Mr. Cumberstone, an without waiting for
the lady’s assent, he laid hold of the machine and pushed it forward
into the middle of the road.
“Thank you,” said the lady, faintly, as she came forward to re-take
her place at the back of the chair.
“Oh, I’ll shove it up to the top of the hill. It’s on my way,”
said Mr. Cumberstone, retaining his hold of the handle.
The lady blushed, and seemed to be much embarrassed. She
looked at the invalid as if for direction; but evidently reading
assent in his passive eyes, she allowed Mr. Cumberstone to push the
bath-chair to the top of the steep and rugged brow.
“I believe you live in that white cottage down at the waterside,”
said Mr. Cumberstone, addressing the lady.
“Yes,” she feebly answered, glancing again at the face of the
occupant of the bath-chair, who, however, made no sign or motion.
“Ah! I thought so. I’ve seen you go in there several
times. You see, we country people must take a little notice of
each other’s goings and comings, mustn’t we?”
The lady assented with the same feeble “Yes,” an didn’t seem at all
anxious to prolong the conversation.
“Been ill long?” asked Mr. Cumberstone, indicating the invalid, but
again addressing the lady.
“Yes, a long time.”
“Yes, complete lameness, and an incurable illness,” assented the
“Very bad job for him. He’s denied the pleasure of walking
about the beautiful country,” said Mr. Cumberstone.
The lady again feebly gave an assent.
“Beg pardon, is he your father?” asked Mr. Cumberstone.
“Yes,” said the lady; and as they had now reached the top of the
hill she advanced with evident relief to resume her labour of
propelling the bath-chair.
“Well, I’ll go across the ﬁelds here. It’s my nearest way
home,” said Mr. Cumberstone. “I’m the new tenant at the big
house, as they call it. I don’t propose to intrude on your
privacy, under the circumstances; but I should be glad to see you
any day up at the Hall. Be sure to call soon.”
The lady again feebly muttered her thanks. The invalid, who
had never opened his mouth during the interview, did not answer Mr.
Cumberstone’s cheery good day; and his lady companion seemed much
relieved when the talkative gentleman skipped over a stile and
The invalid and his daughter did not avail themselves of the
invitation to pay an early visit to “Tumbledown” Hall. It was
some time, indeed, before they were seen out again, and when they
did venture forth the Darnells seemed to avoid Mr. Cumberstone.
Possibly his manner was too hearty to suit an invalid. At any
rate, whenever he was spied in the distance the bath-chair was
turned into any ‘bye-path rather than that the Darnells should be
forced to renew their acquaintance with Mr. Cumberstone.
The tenant of Tumbledown Hall considered that the invalid was very
unsociable, even for an invalid, and he never dreamed of calling to
see him. But he could not help remarking that the lady was
both young and pretty, and he thought it a pity that she should
spend her time pushing a grumpy old invalid about a lonely country
One evening Mr. Cumberstone was standing near his garden gate
smoking an after-dinner cigar when he heard footsteps, and in
another moment Miss Darnell Came round the corner. She exhibited no
sign of either surprise or annoyance at seeing him, and answered his
good evening with a surprisingly calm “Good evening, Mr ― "
“Cumberstone,“ prompted the gentleman.
“Mr. Cumberstone. I did not know your name before.”
“Oh, no, cumbrous sort of a name, isn’t it?” said he, at which
feeble joke they both laughed aloud for half a minute.
“How is your father to-day?” asked Mr. Cumberstone.
“Much better to-day, thank you.”
“I thought so when I saw you in such good spirits.”
“Yes, but I have to be very careful when I am with him.
Invalids are so very queer sometimes, aren’t they?”
“Indeed they are,” assented Mr. Cumberstone. “I’d as lief be a
shoeblack as a hospital nurse. My patience won’t draw out
enough to make me a good attendant on the sick.”
“I confess that mine is almost exhausted sometimes.”
“I’m sure. And you are taking a walk now to get a breath of
fresh air, I suppose. No time during the daylight, eh?”
“I haven’t much time, and I must hurry home. Every minute I am
away will seem an hour to my poor father.”
“Well, I won’t keep you away from him unnecessarily. But don’t
go all round the road. Come through my garden and across the ﬁelds
on to the bank of the Ribble. You’ll be at home in half the
time it would take you to go round the road.”
“With pleasure, if you’ll allow me.”
“Only too delighted,” said Mr. Cumberstone, turning and opening the
garden gate. Miss Darnell walked inside, and was conducted by
the tenant through the garden, and to the path which still leads
down to the bank of the river. As they walked he was profuse
in his invitations to Tumbledown Hall. He pressed Miss Darnell
to come up anytime; and bring her father and she, on her part,
promised to try to persuade her parent to accompany her to the hall.
A few days after this Mr. Cumberstone and Miss Darnell met again at
the garden gate. Again Mr. Cumberstone conducted Miss Darnell
through the grounds, so that’ she should not be delayed upon her
When they came near the house Mr. Cumberstone stopped.
“Won’t you come inside, Miss Darnell," he said; persuasively.
“Oh, no; not to-night. I must hurry home.”
“It’s not much of a place outside, but I have made it as comfortable
as I can inside. You will be a welcome guest whenever you
come. Only,” he continued, with a laugh, “don’t come to-morrow
night or I shall mistake you for a burglar.”
“Why to-morrow night more than any other night?”
“Because to-morrow night I shall have three thousand pounds in gold
and notes in the house.”
“My word! what a rich man!”
“But it will be only for one night. I daresay I shall sleep as
soundly as ever I do — I sleep like a man with a clear conscience,
Miss Darnell, — though all that money will be locked up in the
bureau in my room.”
“Are you not afraid of robbers?”
“Not at all. There are no thieves in these parts; not such as
would deliberately break into a house, any way. And, of
course, I keep the possession of all this money a great secret.
No one but you and I know anything at all about it.”
Mr. Cumberstone bade Miss Darnell good evening at the head of the
steep bank at the bottom of which ran the murmuring waters.
“I won’t delay you any longer, as much as I enjoy your company,” he
said. “And then, I always make it a point to be in bed at ten
o’clock. There’s nothing to stay later for in these parts.”
The following night, when the boom of midnight from the Preston Town
Hall was wafted up the Valley, Tumbledown Hall lay in darkness and
repose. Not a light had been visible at any of the windows for
the last two hours, and there was no sign of life about the
Presently, however, there was a stir in the orchard at the back of
the house. Two ﬁgures then emerged from the shelter, and held
a short conference beneath the wall.
“This is the window here,” said one. “You get on this low
wall. It is broad at the top. Then that bend in the
spout will hold you until you get on the coping stone of the window.
You have your chisel — and the matches!”
The man who climbed the wall was an expert burglar. In two
minutes he was in the bedroom of Mr. Cumberstone, and in ﬁfty
seconds more his chisel was beneath the lid of the old bureau. He
worked without any light, the bureau containing the cash having been
easier to ﬁnd than he expected. The lock was, however, a stubborn
one, and it hadn’t quite yielded when —
A light suddenly shone in the face of the burglar; an at the same
moment both his arms were gripped by strong hands.
“Don’t swear, Mr. Darnell; don’t swear. I’m really very glad
you’re so far improved that you can visit me as I invited you to.”
“Who the — are you?” shouted the burglar, with frantic but
unavailing efforts to release his arms.
“I’m Mr. Cumberstone, of course. I’m your host, and I welcome
you to the hospitality of this ancient house.”
“Well, I came with very good intentions, as you will ﬁnd to your
cost if you insinuate to the contrary. You — a retired
business man — had no more sense than to tell my daughter — a girl
you haven’t spoken to above half a dozen times in your life — that
you had all this money on your hands. I was going to get it,
let you see your folly, then return it to you with a few words of
“Ah, ah! no doubt. But to make a long story short, I’m not Mr.
Cumberstone, and you are not Mr. Darnell. You are Meldin, and
I am Detective Sergeant Looksby.”
“Oh, no! not so bad as that. The fox, perhaps. After
that Liverpool aﬂair it was wise in you to bolt. It took me
quite a fortnight to ﬁnd out that you were an invalid down in
Ribblesdale here. Good dodge, that invalid! Better than
the Southport boatman you were after the Peel-street sweep.
You see, I removed to here specially, and I concocted this little
trap to defeat one of your favourite wiles. We have you for
this job until the evidence in the Liverpool affair is all complete.
See? Oh, you needn’t trouble about your daughter.
Daughter! Well, you’re a cute ’un. She won’t wait for
you to throw the cash to her. She won’t get a copper — but the
‘Copper’s’ got her!"
A NOBLE POACHER
“Joe Hardy. He never waur born at o’. He walked straight
out ov a Sunda’ skoo’ book dud Joe Hardy.”
This modiﬁcation of Topsy’s famous declaration was spoken within the
shadow, almost, of Mytton Church. The Joe Hardy referred to
was a young joiner who then adorned that part of the country.
His virtues were many, and his vices were unknown. He was a
singer in the church, and a teacher in the Sunday School. It
was even said that he had never been known to swear — not a real,
right down, earnest swear, such as an ordinary mortal resorts to
when his temper is too sorely tried.
Still, Joe Hardy was not altogether a hero of the story-book kind.
He was not one of the good-for-everything young men who are so
universally loved in ﬁction, and so universally despised in real
life. Joe was just comfortably good, and still not so saintly
that his neighbours couldn’t associate with him for fear they would
look black by comparison. But as he never fell into a drunken
brawl nor coveted his neighbour’s unprotected poultry, he was better
than some people are.
When Joe left school with many honours and more than one prize, he
was duly apprenticed to a wheelwright, who then did a ﬂourishing
trade in the locality. When his apprenticeship was over, he,
at the special request of his employer, re-engaged as a journeyman,
and every day, wet or ﬁne, found him at the bench.
At length, however, the time came when all the carts in the district
were mended, and all the farmers who wanted new ones had been
provided with them. Work was slack in the Ribble Valley, and
Joe, being unfortunately paid by the piece, found that his wages
were on the backsliding scale. He very soon tired of walking
about the village. The business-like rattle of the Ribble over
its stony bed seemed to mock his idleness, and he arose one morning
determined to seek fresh woods and masters new.
For some months Joe was absent from the village. Then, when
trade began to revive, he returned to the old bench; and while the
idle cronies gathered in the workshed, the tap of Joe’s hammer
punctuated his description of the wonderful places to which he had
About this time a certain gentleman had the audacity to remark that
he had known a great many people leave Mytton, and when they came
back they had all picked up a good deal that was bad, and never, by
any chance, an atom of anything that was good. The man who
spoke these words was no youthful chatterer who had as yet to learn
the weight of his words; but Ben Hudson, head gamekeeper to Colonel
Firmantle. To be sure, the Colonel’s land doesn’t come very
near to Mytton. But Ben is a native of the village, and when
he wants to hear about certain notorious game annexers he always
come with open ear and questioning tongue to this little border
Ben Hudson was out of temper just at this time. Lately his
master’s game preserves had suffered considerable depletion.
As the sporting season was on, and a large party was expected from
London in a few days, this was a serious matter; and it behoved Ben
to ﬁnd out the authors of this ill-timed mischief.
But Ben didn’t ﬁnd it out. He interviewed all the known
poachers in the village. He questioned, coaxed, and
threatened, but in no case could he extort a confession from the
suspected game plunderer.
There was one wily old poacher who had on former occasions made free
with the fur and feather on Colonel Firmantle’s estates. He
happened to hobble into the inn kitchen while Ben was there; and the
keeper, being persuaded that he had, at least, a hand in the job,
even went so far as to ask the old poacher what he would take to
leave the district for a time — to take a holiday for the beneﬁt of
his health until the shooting season was over.
“Eh, bless yo’, Ben,” said the old fellow, with tears of laughter in
his eyes, “aw wish aw were as bad as yo’ tek me for. But aw’ve
bin laid up wi’ rheumatic neaw for a six wick. Aw’ve never hed
nowt to do wi’ liftin’ yo’r brids.”
Further investigation conﬁrmed the truth of the old man’s assertion.
He was, for the time being, at least, a cripple, and thus his alibi
was easily proved.
Still the game kept going, and as voluntary migration is not common
among this species of the animal kingdom, it was clear that someone
was assisting in the transfer.
Ben Hudson stayed all night in the woods, and patrolled the highways
by day. The polieman — here, as in most country places, a sort
of deputy gamekeeper — went snifﬁng about the village street to
detect, if he could, the smell of game cooking in any of the
cottages. The roads out of Mytton were watched. Further
on by the colonels estate no tramp carrying a bundle was allowed to
pass without examination. Still no game was found, and still
it was disappearing.
The colonel was a man of ﬁery temper. He reversed the proverb
and usually spoke twice before he thought once. He never came
down, excepting in the shooting season. His estate, though
small, had long had the reputation of enclosing the best stocked
preserves on the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. Now that they
threatened to be empty before a gun was ﬁred over them, their owner
was furious beyond measure. He asserted that the keeper and
the policeman between them were disposing of the game. When
convinced that this couldn’t be, he maintained that they knew who
was taking it, and this circumstance caused the victims of the
imputation to redouble their exertions to trap the real criminal in
order that they might thus clear themselves from undeserved blame.
Still the poachers remained undetected, though the time for the
great shooting party was drawing very near. At length the
colonel, full of wrath, declared that he, himself, would ferret the
matter out, and night after night he went out into the woods.
On these excursions he was armed with a blundgeon, and was
accompanied by a big dog, while a force of police and game watchers
waited in ambush ready to rush out in a body the moment they heard
the colonel’s warning whistle.
The third night the colonel missed his dog, and, re-tracing his
steps, found it laid on the ground dead — poisoned. This proof
that the enemy was at hand ﬁlled him with frenzy rather than fear,
and he rushed madly in and out among the trees, running against more
than one trunk in the darkness of the night.
The voice was close to his oar. He could almost feel the
breath of the man who had uttered the word!
“Don’t you blow that whistle, sir, because if you do you’ll be a
dead man before the watchers hear it. You’re liable to go as
sudden as that dog did. You can’t see me, but I can see you,
and I can bring this gunstock down on your head before the whistle
gets to your mouth!”
“Why, you infernal scoundrel — it’s you that are taking my game?"
“I won’t say no to that. But I will say this — that I never
took a hare or a pheasant, or any other game, away from its rightful
owner in my life — and I never will.”
This sounded like a contradiction to the colonel, and he rejoined in
hot blood —
“I’m not going to parley with you. I don’t heed your threats.”
“Nowe, an’ I don’t heed yours, squire. But I’ve a bit of a
right to speak as I am speaking.”
“What right have you to steal my game?”
“Steal’s a harsh word, squire. Steal’s a harsh word. I’m
ready to prove to you that I aren’t steylin’.”
“Well, I'm waiting to hear you! But be sharp now!”
“Oh, well, you see it’s a longish tale. I can’t tell it all in
a minute, but if you’ll see me at your convenience to-morrow, sir,
I’ll promise that no game shall go in the meantime, an’ if any goes
after it’ll be your own fault.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Joe Hardy — I’m a wheelwright, an’ I live in Mytton. But
don’t set the police on me, or I shall have to tell my tale at the
court. You’ll be sorrier for it if I do.”
“What the devil does the fellow mean?” muttered the Colonel.
But the fellow had vanished —vanished almost without a sound.
“Mrs. Campbell, I believe.”
The woman had got up from her sewing to answer his knock. For
a moment the visitor stared at her pale haggard face. Then,
extending his hand, he continued.
“Mrs. Firmantle, you know me, don’t you. Fenley solicitor.
You surely know me?”
“Oh, Mr. Fenley. Why have you sought me out here!”
“For your own good. We never knew you were in Manchester until
a day or two since. Joe Hardy’s adventure revealed you.”
“Adventure. Surely, they have never caught him!”
“Then you knew what he was doing?”
“I knew that he was taking the Colonel’s game. He sold what he
got and sent me the money. It has kept me from starving.
He said the game was mine as much as the Colonel’s. Tell me
they haven’t caught the poor man?”
The imploring look upon the woman’s face induced the solicitor to
tell the remainder of his story in a few words.
“The Colonel hasn’t caught Hardy, but Hardy has caught the Colonel.
The young man had an interview with him, and proved to him in his
blunt fashion that you were his wife. He said that the
marriage may have been a youthful indiscretion, but so are most
marriages. The plea that he was married under a false name is
as bad in law as it is in honour. How Joe had got hold of his
story, you will be able to say better than I can. But he’s
made the Colonel afraid. He’s threatened to make the whole
affair public if the Colonel doesn’t do something.”
“But I could never bear to meet the Colonel again,” said the lady.
It seemed as if whole years of suffering were summoned up in the
look of anguish that passed across her face as she said these words.
“Oh, no. He sent me here — his own solicitor mustn’t know the
secret, it seems — to offer you a settlement of three hundred a year
to keep the secret.”
THE SERGEANT’S RIVAL
“Yonder house‘ wi’ o’ th’ roses in front on’t? Oh, yon’ where
Inspector Deeby lives. Yo’ll have heard of Inspector Deeby.”
I confessed that such was not the case. My informant leaning
on his crooked stick and looking straight into my face, said it was
strange if I had not heard of Inspect Deeby. I might, he said,
have forgotten it, but I must have heard of him, as all the
newspapers printed the wonderful story of Inspector Deeby.
There was a little country public-house at hand. It looked, to
my eye, like a big farm where drink was occasionally sold rather
than a regular public-house. The man with the crooked stick
said that if I would wait until eight o’clock at night I should ﬁnd
people from all parts of Samlesbury there. Not having any
especial desire to meet so many specimens of the natives of
Samlesbury, I did not stop until eight o’clock. I, however, took him
of the crooked stick into the public-house; and the refreshment I
put into him displaced the following story, for the accuracy of
which my informant would vouch if he was dying. As, however,
he was not dying, I have only to rely on his assertion that every
word of the tale is substantially true.
In his early days Mr. Deeby was a farm labourer. In his third
decade, however, he joined the police force. Making use of the
knowledge he possessed as to his companions’ habits, he secured some
very important convictions. He knew the ways of more than one
gang of amateur poachers, and his stringent application of the game
laws at once secured him the hatred of his neighbours and the favour
of the County Bench.
After a short experience as a common constable, Deeby was made a
sergeant. About the time that he took this ﬁrst step on the
ladder of promotion Deebv followed the lead of ordinary mortals by
falling very deeply in love. The object of his affections was
a girl named Alice Grey, the daughter of a small farmer who lived at
Balderstone. There is no doubt that his love was returned by
the young lady; and there was, to all appearances, every prospect of
the affair going on sweetly and smoothly to the desired end.
One evening the sergeant was returning from the residence of his
sweetheart when he met with a very suspicious-looking fellow.
This person was loitering in a dark part of the road in the lonely
hollow by Samlesbury Church. The sergeant was in plain
clothes, and the traveller came up and demanded to ‘know if he had
any money about him. The sergeant replied that he had, and,
moreover, he was going to keep it. The stranger required a few
coppers for a night’s lodgings, and when the sergeant declined to
supply them he grew insolent, and even threatening in his demeanour.
Then the tramp found out for the ﬁrst time that his intended victim
was a policeman, and that he himself was a prisoner.
It was a long time since the nearest magistrate had been bothered
with a case; and, after sleepily pretending to listen to the
sergeant’s evidence, he remanded the prisoner for a week. In
the meantime enquiries were to be made about his character. At
the end of the week the prisoner was brought up at the County Police
Court. Sergeant Deeby laid the complaint against him. He
described the encounter with the prisoner. He told how his
suspicions had been aroused by the man’s appearance; how he had
replied to the demand for assistance; and how he had ﬁnally been
compelled to take the prisoner into custody.
Asked if he had any questions to put to the witness, the prisoner
addressed himself to Sergeant Deeby.
“Do you say I asked you for money? ”
“Will you swear it?”
“Tell the Bench what words I used when I asked you.”
“Well you said you wanted money for lodgings.”
“That wasn’t asking for it. What else did I say?”
“You said you must get it from somebody.”
“Well, I said I wouldn’t give it you, and you wanted to know if I’d
wrastle you for a shilling, and such like talk as that.”
“Did I ask you straight out for money?”
“Well, not straight-out. But you meant it!”
“How can you tell what I meant?” demanded the prisoner.
Receiving no answer, he addressed himself to the Bench. He
pointed out the weakness of the constable’s evidence. He
denied that he had either begged or threatened. He gave a
version of the occurrence entirely different from that supplied by
the sergeant. He declared that he was simply asking the way,
when the officer commenced to abuse him. When he replied to
the policeman’s taunts the officer locked him up, and all he could
say was that the sergeant was hard up for a case, and that he never
had hold of a more innocent man in his life.
The superintendent said that nothing had, as yet, been heard of the
prisoner’s antecedents. But if the magistrates decided to send
the prisoner to gaol on a charge of vagrancy, something might
transpire before he came out again.
The Bench consisted of two magistrates. They conferred in
solemn silence for some minutes. Then the chairman announced
that they had decided to extend the greatest possible leniency to
the prisoner, and with the object of giving him a chance to make a
fresh start in life they would discharge him.
The clerk smiled, and the superintendent looked grave.
Sergeant Deeby rushed out of court and went through some terrible
manoeuvres in an adjacent corridor; and the public in court agreed
amongst themselves that Justice was still blind.
It certainly appeared to the sergeant that his ambition had received
a check. The ﬂowery prospects pictured by his fancy were
falling victims to the frosts of ofﬁcial callousness.
But Sergeant Deeby went on with his courting all the same. The
magistrates couldn’t stop that, and the sergeant was certain that
nobody else could. The sun always shone in one place, and one
hour of its rays dispelled all the snows that chilled the sergeant’s
A few days after that prisoner had been set free there came a
telegram from Lincoln stating that he was an ex-convict, and was
wanted there on three charges of house breaking. Sergeant
Deeby felt that that was his revenge.
Farming in the Ribble Valley is not the easiest way of becoming a
millionaire. Mr. Grey had long since found that it was not.
He was one Saturday evening reading the Preston Guardian to
gather as many hints concerning farming as he could. When he had
exhausted the agricrultural news he returned to the items of locall
news. From this to the advertisements was but a step. He read over
the lists of farms to be let, and wondered that there weren’t more
of them. At length his eye alighted on an advertisement stating the
requirement of a gentleman who a wanted country lodgings for the
summer. He invited replies from farmers, and simply stated that the
terms were to be moderate.
Mr. Grey thought that a few shillings a week would be a very nice
addition to his somewhat limited income. He replied to the
advertisement of “F.W.” He stated as low terms as he could afford,
and in a fortnight Mr. Francis Hardwin was installed as a temporary
inmate of Mr. Grey’s home.
Mr. Hardwin was a London gentleman, who wanted country air.
His health was not so good. Mr. Grey thought it must be very
bad to cause him to leave London and come to a place like
Balderstone. But Mr. Grey had never lived out of Balderstone,
and was discontented with its dullness.
When Sergeant Deeby came again he was introduced to Mr. Hardwin.
He afterwards conﬁded to Alice that he didn’t like the newcomer.
This was not at all likely. The sergeant had always posed as
an oracle wherever he went. He was an authority on all
subjects from the habits of moles to the policy of empires, and
hitherto there had been none to contradict him.
At their ﬁrst interview, however, Mr. Hardwin ventured to correct
the sergeant several times. The points were unimportant, but
the ofﬁcer’s reputation was at stake. He burned with just
indignation at the stranger’s uncalled-for interference, and
privately told Alice what a pleasure it would have been to give the
newcomer a good licking.
Alice sympathised with her lover, of course. But when she
found that as time went on the sergeant’s dislike of her father’s
loger grew more violent, she felt herself justified in questioning
the necessity of his objection.
“Well, I don’t like him,” said the sergeant.
“He’s a very nice man,” said Alice.
“Maybe you think so. But he’s all talk.”
“It’s all he has to do. And he’s been in so many places where
we haven’t. My father likes to hear his tales.”
“Then your father’s got a different taste from mine.”
“Perhaps so. But I can’t see anything wrong with the man.”
“ No. I daresay you like to ﬂirt with him.”
“I never ﬂirt with anybody. But I can’t dislike the man
without cause. He has been very nice to me.”
“Yes. I understand his smirking and his smiles. And
you’ll understand them, to your sorrow, some day, if you don’t
“I think I am capable of looking after myself. If you think
that his smiles would have any effect on me you are mistaken.”
There was a show of temper on both sides. While the sergeant
wanted his own way, Alice didn’t like to be dictated to. To
tell the truth she didn’t altogether object to the attentions which
the stranger had, undoubtedly, paid to her. She thought that a
little rivalry would rid the sergeant of his supercilious airs, and
she didn’t mind his knowing that he was not the only Richmond in the
“So,” said the sergeant, when they met one Sunday evening, “You’ve
been seen walking out with that London chap.”
“I walked down to church with him this morning.”
“I had rather you wouldn’t walk out with him at all.”
“And I would rather please myself about it.”
“I think I ought to have a say in the matter.”
“I don’t think so. I’m not tied to you yet.”
“And you never will be if you ﬂirt too much with the lodger.”
“Well, I can please myself. If you don’t like it you can say
so. I don’t feel particularly anxious to bind myself to
“You’ll repent those words before long,” said the sergeant.
But Alice only tossed her head, and with one of those smiles which
Mr. Hardwin had told her were so enchanting, she bade the sergeant a
haughty good evening.
There is no doubt that she was affected, if not entranced, by the
polished mien of Mr. Hardwin. He had addressed her in a manner
more polite than she was accustomed to. He had gratiﬁed her
ears with lavish praises of her personal beauty, and he had even
gone so far as to advise her never to throw herself away upon a
“rustic hind” or a “country bred lout.” For some time the
sergeant did not meet his sweetheart. He was waiting for her
to “come to his way of thinking.” Alice was waiting for the
officer to soften his views towards Mr. Hardwin. So it will be
seen that instead of coming nearer to each other they were, in
reality, drifting apart; and before long it seemed as if their
engagement was at an end.
Alice was seen out, more than once, with Mr. Hardwin. He had
met her in odd corners and turns of the lanes when she was going
errands for her parents. He offered to accompany her in her
farm duties. He acted the cavalier in a hundred different
ways; and yet no one was more surprised than Alice when the rumour
got abroad that she had transferred her affections from Sergeant
Deeby to Francis Hardwin.
The sergeant went on his daily round of duty as usual. If he
had any feelings he did not let them master him. He took no
one into his conﬁdence, and what he thought and felt was locked as a
secret in his innermost heart.
He heard that Alice Grey had been seen out walking with Mr. Hardwin.
He was not overcome by surprise at this news, and the person who had
told it to him went away disappointed.
He was informed that Alice and Mr. Hardwin were engaged, or, at
least, their bearing towards each other was that of an engaged
couple. At hearing this news he actually grinned, and it was
even said that he made an abortive attempt to laugh. Truly,
Sergeant Deeby had his feelings well under control.
At length the church bore witness of Alice’s instability. The
banns between Francis Hardwin and Alice Grey were duly published,
and preparations were being made for their speedy marriage.
The ceremony was to take place in an adjoining parish, where a
distant relative of the Greys’ was curate. People said that it
was going to be a quiet affair, and that the happy couple were going
at once upon a Continental honeymoon. Someone told this to
Sergeant Deeby. He only smiled, asked if that was quite
certain, and then changed the subject of the conversation.
The bells rang out right merrily upon the morning of the wedding.
The sun shone in all his splendour, making bright the path of the
beautiful bride. A crowd of country gossips and inquisitive
idlers hung round the door of the church from an early hour, and the
story of the bride’s chequered courtship was freely circulated
At length a murmur of surprise ran through the crowd. Every
eye was turned in the direction of the gate; and more than one heart
was chilled with unwelcome presentiment as Sergeant Deeby, in plain
clothing, with another gentleman, walked up the yard and into the
church. There they sought a dark and retired corner, removed
from the gaze of the inquisitive members of the crowd. The
latter, were, however, every now and then to be detected peeping in
at the door, anxious to catch a glimpse of the unexpected guests.
The bells pealed forth a joyous note as the bride and her party
appeared. Alice’s unrivalled beauty rather seemed to adorn
than be adorned by the tasteful raiment in which she was dressed;
Mr. Hardwin looked haughty and proud, and the eyes that fell in
admiration upon the bride assumed a look of incisive enquiry as they
turned upon the statelier ﬁgure of the bridegroom.
The ceremony was got through in the usual fashion. If the
bride was nervous, it was only what brides usually are. The
bridegroom certainly showed no signs of trepidation. To judge
by his coolness, as he led his new partner away from the altar,
wedding might have been an every day affair with him. He was
even well prepared for the shower of rice that greeted the exit of
the party from the church; and, throwing a quantity of small silver
amongst the youngsters assembled, he nimbly piloted the bride to the
carriage that was waiting for them.
Mr. Hardwin handed his bride into the vehicle. He had his foot
upon the step, and was about to enter, when a hand was laid upon his
“The other carriage, please,” said the owner of the hand.
Mr. Hardwin looked round. It was Mr. Deeby who had spoken, and
Mr. Deeby’s ﬁnger was indicating a cab that stood in the rear.
“No thanks,” smiled Mr. Hardwin. “I’ll go in here.”
“No, just come to the rear one moment,” said Mr. Deeby.
“No. Don’t bother me now,” said Mr. Hardwin to his rival.
“What is it you want with me?”
“I could have told you in private, but here will do as well for me
if you prefer it. I arrest you for bigamy, that is, for
marrying Alice Grey while your former wife is still alive.”
Had a cannon ball dropped in the coach Mr. Hardwin could not have
changed colour more quickly. But by a powerful effort he
regained his composure, and affected to believe that the matter was
a jest. He told the driver to drive on, and was jumping into
the coach when the sergeant pulled him back.
“Here’s my authority,” he said, pulling out a paper.
“It’s a warrant for deserting your wife, and the charge of bigamy
will go on top of that.”
There was great commotion among the assembled sightseers. Mr.
Hardwin swore that it was a case of mistaken identity, and that he
would resort to the law for his revenge. But, ultimately, he
was got into the cab, and driven off from the presence of the
At the assizes, the judge wanted to know why the sergeant had not
executed the warrant sooner, and so prevented bigamy. In
reply, the sergeant related the story of the tramp from
Lincolnshire, and said he meant to be sure of his game this time.
Therefore he contrived a second string to his bow.
The prisoner was found guilty. He had a long list of previous
convictions against him, and it was some time before he was restored
to his wife and family.
It may surprise young readers, but it will not surprise older ones,
to learn that the ﬁre of love, surviving the deluge of mischance,
burned up into a brighter ﬂame. The officer and Alice were
ultimately united, and together now enjoy the retirement that
follows a life of faithful labour.
THE ROMANCE OF PEBBLE BANK
When the man with the Crooked Stick had ﬁnished his story it was
nearly closing time. As I didn’t like to walk to Preston that
night I arranged for a night’s lodging at the farm-like hotel.
When the house was closed I remarked that the story we had just
heard was a very romantic one. The landlord answered that it
reminded him of one that was even more romantic. It occurred
in the place where he was brought up. Where that place is I
cannot with any certainty determine. The landlord called it
“Pebble Bank”, so I suppose that is its name. The landlord is
poor at his geography, and I can only conclude that Pebble Bank is
near the Ribble, and that Clitheroe is the nearest town to it.
Pebble Bank does not appear to have been a very large place. I
gathered that two handloom weavers and a thatcher lived there, and
that a number of agricultural labourers were their neighbours.
The policeman who ﬁgures in this story was a native of the district.
He was one of a family of seven. When he got on the police
force people said it would be his work to keep his brothers in
order. This was not said by friends of the family but by
persons who pretended to be solicitous for the welfare of the whole
When Andrew Tumbrill was appointed to the district in which Pebble
Bank was situate, there was much dissatisfaction amongst the
inhabitants, especially the lawless sort. He had been their
companion in many an escapade, and his knowledge of their habits
would help him to make them his victims. Now that Andrew
Tumbrill was placed in authority (neither little nor brief), he made
up his mind to use it as much as possible to his own advantage.
He knew that the ﬁrst requisite for promotion was the favour of his
superiors. Accordingly he never saw anything wrong in the
conduct of those upon whom his superintendent looked with favour
while the common Jack, Tom, and Harry, who never had a sovereign to
drop into the ready palm of the district inspector, found that they
must walk both strictly and straightly if they would keep at peace
with the law.
Observation taught Andrew Tumbrill that married men got the best
places in the force. Therefore, he resolved to marry.
The woman upon whom he had set his heart, or rather his eye, was the
daughter of a cottager at Pebble Bank. Lucy was her father’s
only child, and Andrew didn’t fall in love with her until he had
ascertained that her careful father had a good sum of money which he
would one day leave to Lucy.
The girl had a lover, but she cast him off at the bidding of the
promising young constable. The rival did not care to take his
dismissal very quietly, and hence an incident happened which made a
dark blot on the hitherto untarnished history of Pebble Bank.
The farmer at Glebe Hall had for some time been missing quantities
of his poultry. A strict watch had been set, but no trace of
the thieves could be found. Andrew looked upon their capture
as an important necessity, and spared no pains in his endeavours to
discover the marauders. Night after night he prowled about the
house. Hour after hour he lay concealed behind the fence.
Day after day he diligently traced the prints of the raiders’ feet.
For some weeks all these labours were in vain, but at length his
patience met its reward.
The man who had courted Lucy Portland before she knew the policeman
was named William Rye. He was the son of a farmer, and his
prospects were good. Still, the constable succeeded in
persuading Lucy that she would do better by marrying him, and then
induced her to cast off her old and tried lover.
Lucy’s father did not altogether approve of the change in his
daughter’s affections. Indeed, after a while, Lucy began to
show signs of repentance; and as Rye had not ceased to call at her
father’s house there was a probability that he would soon oust his
Great was the surprise of all in Pebble Bank to ﬁnd that it was
William Rye who had taken the poultry from Glebe Hall. No one
could suspect him of felony. It was the very last thing in the
world of which he could possibly be guilty; and if Andrew Turnbrill
hadn’t met him with a brace of newly-killed fowls in his possession
it would never have been believed that he was the thief.
Of course, Rye was sent to gaol. When he came out again he
renewed his protestations of innocence. He declared, as he had
declared in court, that when the policeman met him and arrested him,
he had no poultry in his possession; and that when the fowls were
produced in court he saw them for the ﬁrst time.
Even the culprit’s own father did not believe him, Mr. Rye senior at
once packed his son off to America, there to begin life afresh.
Andrew Tumbrill was soon promoted to another district. He
married Lucy Portland, and took her away to a home in the Fylde.
Pebble Bank people seldom heard of them. Correspondence with
friends is not one of the arts that has been much cultivated amongst
the poorer people of the Ribble Valley. Once or twice Mrs.
Tumbrill came over to see her father. Once she had a baby with
her — a beautiful child, of whom its grandfather felt very proud.
But in time Mr. Portland died and the memory of Andrew Tumbrill
almost faded away from his old home.
At length, however, one spring morning, a new tenant came and took
up her residence in Mr. Portland’s old cottage. No one had
heard that she was coming; and she endeavoured to make as little
stir as possible, now that she had come.
However, it soon became known that Mrs. Tumbrill had come back to
Pebble Bank again. She had two ﬁne children, but she was a
widow, and she had her livelihood to earn. She was quick with
the needle, and willing at charing and washing. She managed,
by working late and early, to earn enough to keep body and soul
together. She had few visitors, and none of the neighbours
seemed to gain her conﬁdence. The local clergyman called
regularly upon her, but even his efforts to relieve her did not for
some time meet with the success they deserved.
“It appears to me that if you go on like this you will soon work
yourself to death,” said the parson to Mrs. Tumbrill.
“Ah, well! it can’t be helped.”
“But you must try to help it. Think of the children.
What will become of them if you die before they are upgrown?”
“Ah! I don’t know,” said the widow, with a sigh. For some
moments nothing was heard but the sharp click of her needle and
thimble. Then the parson broke the silence.
“Well, Mrs. Tumbrill, if you’ll allow me to suggest, as one who
wishes to do good for you and your children, you are not too old to
A sharp cry from the widow’s lips. She shook her head
mournfully and said, “Never again. My married experience has
been too bitter.”
“May I ask in what regard?” said the clergyman, whose apparent
curiosity was merely the effect of anxiety to alleviate, if
possible, the sorrow of the friendless widow.
“I’ve never told the secret to anybody. But somebody will have
to know some day.”
Here the widow paused for a while. Her friend did not know
what was the right thing to say, so he held his peace. The
widow at length repeated her last remark.
“Somebody will have to know some day. Still I dare not tell it
now; I dare not tell it now!”
The parson felt that his interest in the widow was greatly
increased. He believed in striking whilst the iron was hot.
Accordingly he used his clerical influence to persuade Mrs.
Turnbrill that if she had anything upon her mind which it would be a
relief to communicate, he was ready and willing to advise her; and
she might be satisﬁed that her story, if told to him, would be kept
under the seal of the strictest secrecy.
“I don’t know but that the world ought to know it. There’s
been an innocent man sent to prison and looked on as a thief.”
“Oh, indeed! in what part of the country did that happen?”
“Here, in Pebble Bank.”
“Here, in Pebble Bank!” repeated the mystiﬁed parson. He did
not remember that anyone from Pebble Bank had ever been convicted of
“Yes, sir,” answered Mrs. Tumbrill feebly. “It was Will Rye.
He was convicted of stealin’ the hens from Glebe Hall. Well,
he never stole those hens. The man who was afterwards married
to me got him convicted. Tumbrill was jealous of him. He
knew that he wanted me, and he had a spite against him. But it
was Tumbrill’s own brother that took the fowl. Tumbrill caught
him at it, and took them off him. Then he didn’t know what to
do with them, so he laid the robbery on Will Rye. He told me
that before he died.”
The widow afterwards conﬁded to the parson that they were in great
poverty when her husband died. He had been struck off the
police force for some time, having ﬁnally over-reached himself, and
been detected in some act of villainy.
The parson inquired if Mrs. Tumbrill had any relative alive.
She had only one — an uncle who went to America a quarter of a
century before, and was supposed to have made a fortune. His
last known address was in Chicago, and to this the good clergyman at
once wrote, explaining the circumstances in which Mrs. Tumbrill was
placed. Within the month came a remittance for 50 dollars.
After this various sums of money were sent from the same source;
but, strange to say, not a word — not a scrap of writing —
accompanied any of the remittances.
At length, when the widow had received about a dozen different sums
of money from the golden continent, she asked the clergyman to write
to her uncle and tell him how grateful she was for all his kindness,
and how the money sent had been a fortune to her, although it was
probably only a drop out of the ocean of the uncle’s reputed riches.
No reply came to Mrs. Tumbrill, but the parson got a letter, with
the Chicago postmark upon the envelope. The communication
written was as follows :—
“231, Ninety-Second Avenue, Chicago.
“Reverend Sir, — Your ﬁrst letter addressed to Abraham Portland duly
reached me — his executor. Abraham Portland died without a cent.
over ﬁve years ago. The money I sent to Lucy was in memory of old
‘times. I have out-grown their cursed trick, whichever of them it
was that planned it. Never let Lucy know but that her uncle is
sending the money, and as long as I have an arm to earn it she shall
have it. I rely on you to keep this letter a secret, and to let no
one in Lancashire know where I am.—Yours sincerely,
Lucy wonders why her uncle never writes. She tells the parson
that perhaps a millionaire is too proud to write to a poor widow.
But his money comes regularly, and is always acceptable.
A LEGAL ADVENTURE
Readers of any experience will need no introduction to Mr. Brittle.
He is known to all his admirers as the smartest and cleverest lawyer
in the district.
If you are in trouble with the law, go to Mr. Brittle. If you
have an enemy upon whom you wish to take a public revenge, go to Mr.
Brittle, and be sure to go soon. If you delay, your opponent
will be certain to engage him, and then you case is as good as lost.
No humbug about Mr. Brittle! No beating about the bush.
No asking of foolish and unnecessary questions. Mr. Brittle
commences the business with —
“Now, you tell me all th’ truth about it an’ I’ll put th’ rest in.”
Still Mr. Brittle is a lawyer with great respect for the immense
power and importance of the law.
One morning he was sitting in his usual chair at the office, and
opposite to him, in the client’s chair, sat a woman, whose dress and
appearance plainly showed that she came from the country.
“Yes,” said the lawyer, commenting upon some information that had
been given to him, “his name is Walmsley, and he — what did he do to
“He took a keaw — an’ stuck to ’t. Id were one as olez hed a
trick o’ geddin’ wrang. Last Tuesda’ mornin’ id geet into his
ﬁeld, an’ he drooave id into his own shippon.”
“Whew! That’s felony. What excuse does he give for this
kind of proceeding?”
“Why. He says as we ow’n him for some hay. We never owed
him for nooan. My gaffer’s brother owed him for some, an’ went
off to America beawt payin’ him; an ’now he wants to mek us th’
“Did yor husband promise to be responsible for the debt?”
“Never i’ this world!”
“Then Walmsley is in the wrong. And even if he were in the
right, he can’t take the law into his own hands, and seize cattle in
“Oh! Bud he dud do!”
“But he couldn’t do!”
“But he dud do. He owns to’t,” said the lady, emphatically
striking her fat ﬁst upon the lawyer’s table.
“Well,” said Mr. Brittle, “I’ll see what we can make out of it;
that’s all. Where’s your husband? The action will have
to be brought by him.”
“Aw couldn’d persuade him to come; he doesn’d like law.”
“Sensible fellow,” muttered Mr. Brittle under his breath. Then
he drew himself to the table and remarked aloud, “Well, I’ll send a
clerk down this afternoon to take his instructions. Let your
husband tell all the facts to him.”
The clerk went down. For a long time the old farmer was
obdurate, and ﬁrmly persisted that he “didn’t like law.” At
last, however, the clerk got all the information he required, every
sentence of Mr. Warner’s statement being marked with a declaration
that he “didn’t like law.” Mr. Brittle’s clerk went down to
try and persuade Mr. Warner to attend the court on the day of trial.
In this he was entirely unsuccessful. Mrs. Warner, however,
knew more of the facts than her husband did, and she was only too
willing to be present at the trial to give the court the beneﬁt of
her evidence, and as much of her opinions as the court would listen
Such an event as a “law do” caused great excitement in the district
in which the plaintiff and defendant resided. It seemed as if
everyone between Walton and Ribchester had a personal interest in
the matter. Farmer and ploughman, woodman and peasant,
publican and sinner, exchanged opinions about the great dispute that
was to be fought out in the Preston County Court.
A few persons sided with the defendant, and said that the debt for
which he had seized the cow was a just one. Most of them,
however, agreed with Mrs. Warner that the seizure of the beast was
nothing but a robbery. They hoped that she would come off
triumphant with the thirty pounds and all costs, and they expressed
their wonder that the claim was not for sixty.
To be sure, the leaders of the society of the district lay still
awhile until they heard on every hand that Warner was sure to win.
Then they became his best friends, and in many cases proffered
pecuniary assistance. Farmer Grey, for instance, deeply
regretted that he hadn’t seen the occurrence, and therefore he could
not be called as a witness. But he would lend his shandry and
horse to carry the Warners to Preston and back. Being of a
most enthusiastic turn of mind, Grey secreted a long-poled banner
under the seat, resolving that the victorious Warners should
literally come home with ﬂying colours after the trial.
The day of trial came. Mrs. Warner and her witnesses were up
early in the morning. They rode gaily off to town in Farmer
Grey’s cart, while Isaac Walmsley performed the same journey on
Why they started at such an early hour neither themselves nor anyone
else can tell. Like the bird who got up while it was yet too
dark to see the worm, they found that they had made undue haste, and
that the doors of the court would not open until fully a couple of
hours after they got into town.
The case of Warner against Walmsley was to be tried by a jury, like
all the great law cases that the papers tell us about. It was
afternoon before it was reached, and Mrs. Warner’s patience was well
nigh exhausted when at last the high bailiff called the case.
The attorney for the other side, too, here for the ﬁrst time put in
He was a thin, spare man, with a weak voice. He did not seem
to be very well known in court; and his talent, like his body, was a
midget in comparison with that of Mr. Brittle.
When the jury had been fully sworn to well and truly try the case,
and had settled themselves as well as they could in the pen provided
for them, Mr. Brittle rose to address the court.
In opening the case this popular lawyer reminded the court that he
had practised there for very many years; before, indeed, some of his
fellow-advocates had been born. He ventured to assert,
however, on the security of his own untarnished reputation, that
never before had he been engaged in a case in which so little of the
advocate’s skill was required. He pledged his credit with the
court and the jury that the case he should present would be
unanswerable. For the testimony of a person whose appearance
would sustain the truth of her narrative he should call Mrs. Warner.
On being called forward, Mrs. Warner manifested a great desire to go
backward. It required all the efforts of the official in
attendance to push her into the witness box. Having at length,
however, got her into the box, he stood on the step behind her, thus
effectually preventing her untimely retreat.
Mrs. Warner bore out Mr. Brittle’s statement that she was the wife
of the plaintiff, and that her husband was absent through
indisposition. She answered all Mr. Brittle’s questions about
the capture of the cow in dispute. She felt annoyed at her
lawyer's persistently preventing her addressing the Court on the
wrong that had been done by the defendant. She emphatically
denied that her husband owed a penny, or any greater or smaller sum
of money, to the defendant; and emphatically denied that either the
defendant or any other person had any right to take possession of
Mrs. Warner, having been got out of the box without having imparted
to the Court the fragment of personal history which she was burning
to disclose, was followed by a neighbour who had seen Walmsley seize
the cow, and drive it into his own shippon. He testified that
he had expressed his surprise to Walmsley, and that the latter had
sworn two oaths at him, and tersely directed him to attend to his
As this witness went down, the defendant’s solicitor popped up.
He said he had declined to cross-examine Mrs. Warner, as he did not
want to be the means of inducing anyone to commit perjury. He
admitted that the course adopted by his client in order to procure
payment of the sum due to him was an irregular one. Still,
such a proceeding was not unusual in country places, and he trusted
that the jury, when giving their decision, would weigh carefully the
evidence he was about to evoke from his most respectable,
conscientious, and truth-loving client. In defence of Mr.
Walmsley’s impetuous conduct, the lawyer maintained that some years
ago his client sold a quantity of hay to the brother of the
plaintiff. The plaintiff became surety for the price of this
hay; but when his brother ran off to America without liquidating the
debt, he, the plaintiff, refused to fulﬁl his engagement, and the
defendant had never been paid for his hay from that day to this.
After the defendant had backed up his advocate’s statements, Mrs.
Warner was recalled by Mr. Brittle. She denied that her
husband had ever been surety for his brother’s debts, or any part of
them; and declared that the statement to this effect made by the
defendant was entirely destitute of foundation.
The Judge pointed out that in any case the defendant had no right to
take the cow by force. He remarked that such a proceeding was
nothing if it was not cattle-stealing. He summed up in a
manner favourable to the plaintiff, and in conclusion directed the
jury to put their heads together and ﬁnd their verdict.
Whether this verdict was to be found in their heads or not, his
Honour did not say; and the jury, not being used to the duty, were
plainly puzzled. But they forthwith put those same heads
together — black, brown, grey, red, and bald, — while the Judge fell
to polishing his eyeglasses, and the Registrar began the work of
making a few cigarettes.
Black Head was foreman. He at once suggested that they should
ﬁnd for the plaintiff. The others agreed, with the exception
of Bald Head, who proposed to ﬁnd for the defendant.
“The law is on the side of the plaintiff,” said the venerable Grey
“An’ justice on the side of the defendant!”
“If we ﬁnd for the defendant the judge will overrule our decision”
added the foreman.
“Then he can do his juryin’ hissel.’ What’s th’ good ov a jury
if their word isn'd to be taken?” said Bald Head.
"Well said another, “I must be at a sale at Walton at four o'clock,
so who wins. The majority is for the plaintiff.”
“An’ th’ minority’s for stickin’ eawt for defendant,” said Bald
“This is a — herd seeot,” said Red Head.
“Well, let’s give in a verdict of some sort,” said the foreman.
“Or I shall miss that sale,” said Red Head, pulling out his watch.
“It’s three o’clock now!”
Eventually a wrangle ensued. The jury debated the situation
for a few minutes, and at length the foreman arose and Bald Head sat
back with a smile.
The Registrar laid his cigarettes on the seat beside him, and
enquired whether the jury found for the plaintiff or for the
“For the defendant!”
“For the defendant!” echoed the judge with a gasp.
“For the defendant,” persisted the foreman — and he was about to add
that four-ﬁfths of the jury heartily desired that his Honour would
refuse to entertain the verdict, when a dangerous gleam in the
judge’s eye paralysed his tongue.
His Honour muttered something about an intelligent jury. Mr.
Brittle said that he would be hanged, and added that if he wasn’t
the jury ought to be.
Mrs. Warner rode home with the banner still under the seat, and the
condolences of Farmer Grey fell upon dumb ears.
That same evening the bald-headed juryman sat in a certain bar
parlour near to the Cemetery. Calling the landlord, he said,
in a voice thick with emotion and other liquors,
“John, theaw remembers thad sale at Samlesbury Dingle th’ tother
“Theaw remembers them pigs as aw wanted.”
“Theaw remembers thad chap as kept biddin’ ageon mo an’ bowt ’em
under mi nooas.”
“Aw’ve played him his trick back to-day. Aw were on th’ jury
ageon him at the Ceawnty Cooart to-day. Aw lost him th’ day.”
The landlord privately expressed his surprise that a scoundrel like
Bill Winks should have been allowed upon the jury. His fellow
jurymen regretted, when it was too late, their part in the
proceeding. The only satisﬁed person is Mr. Walmsley, and Mr.
Brittle says he’ll be brought to justice yet.
But not through Mr. Warner. He asserts — more sincerely than
ever — that “he doesn’t like the law,” and will have “nowt to do
THE MYSTERY OF RUTH BECKETT
In a roomy old house at Sawley, surrounded by a guard of clustering
elms, Gabriel Grant lived the pleasant life of a gentleman farmer.
Omitting servants, Mr. Grant’s family consisted of only two persons,
himself and his niece; the latter being about eighteen years of age
at the time of the commencement of our story. Pleasant in
countenance, as well as tall and shapely, Ruth Beckett still seemed
unconscious either of the comeliness of her face or the symmetry of
her ﬁgure. Though by no means haughty, she was somewhat shy
and reserved; and seldom sought the company of her neighbours.
Her manner, when once known, charmed the few who came in contact
with her. One reason for her comparative isolation was that
Lonely Crags justiﬁed the name given it by standing at a distance of
a couple of miles from its nearest neighbour, another farm, which
shall be known as Heath Edge, and which was occupied by a farmer
named Henry Barton.
It may be guessed that in her comparative loneliness Ruth’s thoughts
often led her into realms of dreaming land surmise. Among
other things, she wondered where she had been born; for though her
recollection carried her back to an ivy-clad house, close by the
bank of a river, she did not know the name of the place, nor where
it was situate, nor why she had been taken away from it. Once
or twice she made inquiry from her uncle, but the only reply she
received was that it did girls harm to know too much, and that she
had been carried away from home and brought out to Sawley in
consequence of the loss of her father. That her mother had
died in giving her birth, and that her father had two years
afterwards followed her to the grave, were all the particulars that
Ruth could glean as to her past history; and her curiosity would
certainly have prompted her to seek further information but that her
uncle was invariably displeased at any reference to these matters.
Darkness had set in upon a late autumn evening. The ﬁres were
made up, the blinds were drawn down; Ruth took her knitting, and her
uncle carefully ﬁlled his long “churchwarden” pipe and settled
himself comfortably in his arm-chair. Thus the repose of the
evening had commenced when the yard dog outside broke the silence
with its bark, and a moment afterwards a knock was heard at the
heavy oaken door.
“Whoever can it be at this time of night?” asked Gabriel, straining
his ears in a vain attempt to catch the conversation in the porch.
In a minute the maid-servant came to say that a gentleman wished to
see Mr. Grant. From the emphasis which the girl laid on the
word “gentleman,” it was plain that she regarded the visitor as
somebody entirely out of the common; and it was with some surprise
that Gabriel rose from his seat and went to confer with the
Ruth shared her uncle’s surprise; and her curiosity was aroused when
she heard her uncle ask the stranger to come inside. Gabriel
led the visitor into the best parlour — the apartment where the old
oaken chests, the uncomfortable, high-backed chairs, and the cold
portraits of unknown and uninteresting gentlemen were displayed to
the best advantage.
Half-an-hour passed, and at the end of that time foot-steps were
heard in the wide lobby, the door opened, and Gabriel Grant entered,
followed by a gentleman whom he introduced to his niece as Mr.
Leigh, an old friend who had come to stay a few days with him.
The new comer was tall and manly. He was not in appearance
much above forty; but in a man of athletic training appearances are
deceitful, and he might possibly have reached his fiftieth year.
His hair was of a rich brown colour, with only here and there an
occasional streak of grey; but he looked a soldier all over, and
Ruth felt from the ﬁrst an uncommon interest in her uncle’s
Mr. Leigh, too, seemed interested in Ruth; for as surely as ever she
allowed her eyes to wander in the direction in which he was sitting
so surely was he looking at her. But the moment she caught
sight of him he would withdraw his eyes, only, however, to let them
again rest on her the moment she turned to her work again. Mr.
Leigh and her uncle now and then spoke; but the conversation was of
short duration, and concerned matters of which Ruth knew
nothing; consequently her own thoughts were her chief companions
until supper time.
At supper Ruth ministered to the wants of her uncle and his guest,
and the latter’s glances betrayed his admiration of the young lady’s
dexterity. Mr. Leigh had excuse for this apparently intrusive
appreciation of Miss Beckett’s merits, for her uncle continually
mentioned her domestic efficiency, praising her cooking, her
economy, her method and her general worth, in a manner that brought
blushes to Ruth’s cheek. All retired to rest at an early hour;
but to the maiden sleep did not come as quickly nor as easily as it
was accustomed to do. Whether it was because she saw few
visitors, or because the erect carriage and bold, manly appearance
of Mr. Leigh came up to her ideal of what a man should be, it was
certain his presence affected her in a different manner from that of
any other of her uncle’s friends.
The following morning Ruth was up early, as was her wont. When
her uncle came down he explained to her that the visitor was a
gentleman whom he (Mr. Grant) had known years before he came to
Sawley. Mr. Leigh would, he said, spend a few days with them;
but was not anxious to leave the precincts of the farmhouse: indeed,
it was desirable that his presence there should be known to as few
persons as possible.
Ruth was busied with her household duties during the day, while her
uncle and Mr. Leigh walked about the orchard together.
Whenever Ruth caught sight of her uncle she saw by the expression on
his face that the conversation was more like serious discussion than
friendly chat. Indeed, so moody and pensive did her uncle
become that in the course of a week Ruth resolved to inquire from
aim the cause of this unusual depression of spirit.
Ruth could not think that the stranger was the real cause of this
unwelcome change in Mr. Grant’s demeanour. He seemed to be
such a gentleman that she would not, willingly, have heard a single
word in his disfavour. In truth, the longer Mr. Leigh stayed
the more Miss Beckett saw to admire in him; though when she boldly
asked herself the reason for all this her mind would suggest no
answer to the inquiry.
Pure, gentle maiden! In the sweet simplicity of her rustic
nature she had never experienced love. She was but a girl, and
had but heard of love as the wondering child hears of the Indies or
the Poles. That it exercised a potent inﬂuence for good or
evil she was aware; and when she felt the difference which Mr.
Leigh’s presence in her home had already made, she asked herself if
this curious and unfathomable attraction was in reality the thing
they call love.
The days passed as slowly and uneventfully as they always had done
at Lonely Crags. Ruth’s duties occupied her so much during the
day that she had little time for indulgence in vagaries of the
“Eh, lass,” said her uncle one morning, having come silently behind
her as she was laying the cloth for breakfast. “Eh, lass.
You’ve seemed to be lost in your thoughts a deal lately.
What’s the matter with you?”
“Nay. What’s the matter with you? I’ve noticed that ever
since Mr. Leigh came into the house your manner has changed; and I
have been wondering whatever the matter could be.”
“Would you like to know?” asked her uncle, seating himself in an arm
chair and turning it towards her.
“Yes. I should very much like to know,” she answered eagerly.
“Well, if I tell you, you mustn’t ever breathe a word of it to
anybody else now, lass. For ﬁfteen years I’ve kept the secret
myself, and told nobody. It won’t do you any good to know; but
as you are curious, and I think I can depend on you, I don’t mind
The niece promised that she would faithfully observe the condition
of silence; and drawing near to her uncle listened as he told her in
low tones the reason why he was so downcast at Mr. Leigh’s
“Mr. Leigh was one of my best friends, but he had stroke of very bad
luck — very bad luck, indeed. Mr. Leigh was an officer in the
army — you can almost guess that by his looks — and a ﬁner man never
tasted bread. But misfortune will come to us sometimes,
however good we may be. Mr. Leigh lost his wife, and before he
had got over the shock that her death had caused him, he had to
leave the country — to leave home and friends and everything.
It will be of no use to tell you why. It was for an offence he
did not commit. It was because he had been too anxious to save
a young man from the consequence of a very foolish — of a very
dishonourable act. It was to save a good family from disgrace
that he went. It was a mad act. He should have stopped
and faced the inquiry hat was made. Certainly the real culprit
would then have been brought to book, but that’s how it should have
been. If Mr. Leigh hadn’t been driven out of his mind by his
wife's death he would never have gone off in the way he did.
And not to think too hardly of the man who really was guilty, I
believe he would have refused to be shielded at Mr. Leigh’s expense;
but that, almost straightway, word came that Mr. Leigh had died at
Brussels, and until a very short time ago I really believed that was
“Now,” continued Gabriel after a pause, “he has turned up in this
country like a hiding culprit. But it is too late to seek to
justify himself, and Mr. Leigh must abide a lifetime by his rash
act, though he did it out of the purest charity.”
This was all Mr. Grant had to say concerning the visitor, and from
his manner when he told the story, Ruth easily understood how it was
that the presence of his unfortunate friend had proved so depressing
to her uncle’s spirits. But Gabriel cautioned his niece again
and again against ever allowing Mr. Leigh to suspect that she was
aware of the mystery that shrouded his life, and Ruth was ﬁrm and
faithful to her promise of silence.
After staying at Lonely Crags for three weeks, Mr. Leigh announced
his intention of leaving. The departure was carried out upon a
Tuesday night, Mr. Grant driving his visitor to Chatburn to catch a
The farewell between Gabriel and Mr. Leigh was private, and occupied
all the afternoon; and the goodbye to Ruth was delayed until the
The vehicle that was to carry Mr. Leigh away from Lonely Crags stood
at the door. Uncle Gabriel, with heavy great coat and thick
riding hat that folded down over the ears, paced the hall, whip in
hand. From time to time his eyes consulted the old case clock
that ticked so regularly and monotonously in the corner opposite to
the door. By-and-bye Mr. Leigh came down the passage as Miss
Beckett emerged from the silent precincts of the best parlour.
The stranger seized her hand, and, holding it, looked into her face
with an earnest, wistful gaze, and, as he did so, two big tears
coursed slowly down his cheek.
“Good-bye, Miss — good-bye, Ruth,” he said, and then, with an effort
to hide his emotion, he quickly darted down the hall and jumped into
the gig; and with another half-choked “good-bye” as they drove off,
the stranger passed away into the darkness.
“Never mind, you’ll come again before long,” were Gabriel’s consoling
words, but the other seemed to heed them not; keeping sorrowfully
silent until they were far on their way towards Chatburn.
And all this time Ruth sat in the small sitting-room, where the
ﬁrelight and the shadows played with fantastic forms in the shady
corners; and the silence was unbroken save for the distant, dull,
methodical ticking of the clock in the hall beyond. She was
crouching on a low stool by the fender. She was wondering what
the meaning of Mr. Leigh’s short, but touching, farewell might be;
and by no fanciful contortion of possibilities could she conceive
that the misfortunes of Mr. Leigh, as related by her uncle, had
inspired her feelings towards the visitor or the latter’s
inexplicably affecting good-bye.
We have mentioned Heath Edge Farm as the nearest dwelling to Lonely
Crags. The owner, Henry Barton, had a son named John, for whom
he had done his best to provide an education superior to that
usually given to young men of his class. When John returned
from the Agricultural Technical School, where he had passed four
years, he came determined to put his acquired theories to practice
upon his father’s farm. There was a party to celebrate the
home-coming of the son and heir. All the neighbours — that is,
everyone who lived within half a dozen miles, were there; and the
pranks that were played by the young folks, as well as the tales
that were told by the old, made the occasion one to be remembered by
all who were present.
Uncle Gabriel and Ruth were among the ﬁrst to arrive, because anyone
so popular as Uncle Gabriel was had to go through a long course of
preliminary handshaking before even looking at the more essential
enjoyments. Ruth was the belle of the evening; acknowledged by
young and old of both sexes, though the girls attributed her
superior attractions to her boarding school education, a supposed
beneﬁt which they had never been allowed to acquire. And so
the old folks wagged their heads and told their tales, while the
young ones essayed the bewildering motions of the mazy dance — so
different, their elders said, from the staid, sensible dances of
forty years before. Without entering into particulars, we may
say that several lifelong engagements dated from that night.
But it behoves us to confess that Ruth returned from the party with
a feeling that love was not what she had suspected, and that Mr.
Leigh, however much she might esteem and pity him, did not occupy
her heart of hearts.
Jack Barton, the bluff, well-built, hearty fellow, persistently woed
at Lonely Crags from that date; and before the spring time came he
was engaged to Ruth Beckett.
The summer passed pleasantly and quickly; for the autumn was to see
the realisation of their hopes. The bachelor uncle was
extremely anxious to further the happiness of his niece in even the
most trivial details; and on the same principle Mr. Barton the elder
decided before the ﬁxed day of happiness arrived that the active
days of his life were passed, and an arrangement was come to by
which the newly wedded pair were to have and to occupy Heath Edge
And so when the harvest was over and the leaves were turning brown,
the bells of the old Parish Church rang out their merriest welcome,
and the neighbouring woods and hills re-echoed and resounded with
the bridal melody. Another happy home was established in our
beautiful valley; and in less than two years time the birth of a boy
conﬁrmed the happiness of the affectionate pair. The course of
events, the love of a devoted husband, and the unceasing though
light cares of her small household, had almost driven from Mrs.
Barton’s mind all thoughts of Mr. Leigh; and when any recollection
of him occurred to her she was too loyal to allow it to remain a
moment in her breast.
The marriage was three years past when one morning John Barton
entered and told his wife that she and he were bidden to Lonely
Crags to spend that evening; and by way of averting any possible
refusal on Ruth’s part, John added that a very old friend of her
uncle was on a visit there.
Need it be said that this friend was Mr. Leigh, and that when she
met his warm congratulations Ruth felt that though she had never
loved him, yet to her he was not as other men were. Her high
sense of honour and of what was due to herself and her husband,
caused Ruth to withdraw as much as possible from Mr. Leigh’s
company. During the succeeding fortnight they frequently met;
chieﬂy at her uncle’s house, for when John Barton insisted upon his
wife’s accompanying him thither, shehesitated to follow her own
inclination, which was to refuse her presence while Mr. Leigh
remained. Why should she fear to accompany her husband?
Mr. Leigh had never spoken to her of love; not even in her maiden
days, and now the news of her marriage was regarded by him as a
matter for copious congratulation.
On a sweet summer morning Ruth opened the small latticed window of
the little parlour to admit the scented air that came, with
treasures of balm, from the incense-yielding meadows where the
mowers were at work. Before the house was an orchard, within
the quiet shadow of which the birds were unsilenced by the sun, but
for ever sang their hymn of praise.
Ruth was absorbed in contemplation of this scene until startled by
the voice of her uncle, who had entered unobserved, and who said, in
a breath, that it was a very warm day, that the walk had made him
sweat, and that he had just-brought Mr. Leigh to say “good-bye”
before he went away again.
Gabriel wanted to know where Jack was; and, being told that he was
in the hayﬁeld, at once went to fetch him home. Mr. Leigh and
Ruth were left alone; he sitting by the door, she standing before
the opened window.
“I have put off saying ‘good-bye’ to you all until the very last
moment, because this will probably be the last time I shall see
you,” said Mr. Leigh. “I don’t think I shall ever come again.”
In the innermost recesses of her heart Mrs. Barton felt an
uncontrollable sorrow at this news. With an attempt to stiﬂe
any external appearance of regret, she muttered a commonplace
expression as to her uncle’s sorrow at his going away.
“He has not told you? — he should perhaps have told you — nay,
better not to load your heart with the news,” said Mr. Leigh, with
rising emotion. “But enough. I am going away, and never
again shall I set eyes upon you, Ruth — my dearest Ruth!”
He had risen from his chair; and before she could discern his
intention, he had taken her in his arms and printed a kiss upon her
brow! Then in an instant he was gone.
She felt a blush of anger and dismay as he set her down; and at that
moment her bewildered eye caught sight of her husband standing just
outside the window.
With a cry she fell fainting upon the ﬂoor; and unconscious of all
that passed, she lay there until her husband and her uncle rushed
into the room, when assistance was called for and the senseless wife
carried off to her own room.
Ruth awoke in a high fever. The attendant informed her that
her husband had told them to call him in when she became conscious,
but she wildly refused to see him. She felt that no excuse
would avail her in sight of her injured husband, and she dared not
meet him. She almost wished that she might die before the time
when she should he compelled to face his just anger. Day by
day, as she lay weak and white, she pleaded one excuse and another
in order to delay the inevitable hour of explanation; though she
felt that every evasion served to strengthen the case against her.
At last one morning her uncle, whom she had feared would never have
come near her again, walked into the room, and said in his good old
“Now, Ruth, what’s th’ matter with you, lass?”
Ruth, turning her inﬂamed eyes towards him, asked if there were any
other persons in the room. Upon receiving his assurance that
there were not, she told him the story, omitting no detail, and
making of the whole an elaborate self-accusation that touched the
old man deeply.
“Why, Ruth, lass! I never thought it could be that! It
was my fault — my fault that I have never told you the truth.”
It was Mrs. Barton’s turn to look surprised now. “The news
will do you more harm than good; but there is no help for that now,”
resumed Uncle Gabriel. “You remember the tale I told you about
Mr. Leigh’s misfortune?”
“I remember it well!” said Ruth, gazing up at her uncle as he stood
by her bedside.
“And how he was once reported dead. I believed it to be really
the case. But, as you know, he returned, though compelled to
travel about in secret and under a false name. Ruth, the man
you call Mr. Leigh is your father! This fact I was to keep
secret from you, but under the circumstances I cannot. It is,
then, the kiss of a father, parting for ever from his child, that
has brought all this trouble about!”
“And John — does he know?”
“Knows, yes! Knows well enough! And he has wondered how
your father could be so cold to you as he thought he was.”
And now Ruth knows well the difference between the affection of a
child and the love of a wife.
Our way lies where a turbulent stream, after turning a large and
heavy wheel, rushes madly to disturb the more placid waters of the
Ribble. The water-wheel is old and green, and the waters
career noisily over it, as if grudging the labour required to turn
such an antique and cumbrous piece of machinery.
The shed that stands by the side of the waters is by day the scene
of busy work. Its owner combines the trades of a wheelwright
and a carpenter. He alleges that every wooden article required
by man, from his cradle to his cofﬁn can be made at this
establishment. The carts built here can traverse intact the
rough roads that lie between here and Preston, can mount the
Longridge Fells, or cross the treacherous fords in the higher
reaches of the Ribble.
Nothing more could be said in their favour; and when we say that
this good workmanship is only one sample of the thoroughness of Dan
Wilding’s work, we shall readily be believed when we add that to his
workshop come all the orders for anything made of wood required by
anyone in the district.
At night, however, the scene is changed. Business gives place
to pleasure. Dan Wilding’s workmen, with one or two of the
village cronies, meet together in the spacious shed, and talk or
sing or argue the evening away.
Many a grave political or social dispute, such as will occur in
important districts like this, has been settled within the wooden
walls of Dan’s shop; and the steps of many an accomplished rustic
dancer have ﬁrst moved to musical motion here amongst the shavings.
“Aw’ll tell yo wod, chaps: Aw’m noan so fond o’ yon keeper as they’n
getten at th’ Ho,” said Dick Drawford.
“Nor me, nayther,” remarked another young man, seating himself upon
the low bench. “He looks at yo — when he meets yo — as if he
wondered whether yo were gooin‘ a pooachin’ or comin’ back fro’ id.”
“He’s a surly-lookin‘ chap. He’ll never be weel thowt on while
he stops,” said Dick.
The other members of the company agreed with these conclusions.
None of them liked the new gamekeeper, who was such a different man,
in disposition, from his jovial and neighbourly predecessor.
The little gathering had lacked a subject for conversation upon this
particular evening. The desultory remark in which Dick
Drawford expressed his disapproval of their neighbour the gamekeeper
supplied the deﬁciency; and if the keeper had only been listening in
the vicinity of the shed he would have shared the proverbial fate of
all listeners, for he would have heard nothing good of himself.
“Aw tell yo wod,” said Dick. “Aw wish we could hev a bit o’
fun eawt o’ th’ keeper. Could we nod freeten him some rooad?
He brags as nowt’ll freeten him.”
“Iv mi feyther hed been livin’ there’d hev bin some game,” remarked
another. “He once med up a ghost, an’ put id i’ th’ nook o’ th’
owd looan aside o’ Ribchester; an’ for a full week nobody dar pass
id. Id were th’ talk o’ th’ parish for mony a month.”
“Aye. Aw recollect id,” said another. “Id were just
after thad owd woman were mordered — owd Ann Walne — an’ fooak’s
nerves were a bit upset.”
It was unanimously decided that a “lark” at the expense of the
unpopular gamekeeper would be a desirable variation of the
colourless life of a country village. The house, therefore,
resolved itself into a committee of ways and means to decide in what
manner the resolution was to be practically carried out.
To report the debate, with its numerous interjections and frequent
personalities, would be nearly impossible and entirely useless.
In the end a logical decision was arrived at. Dick Drawford,
being a noted scarecrow builder — for he possessed a reputation as a
constructor of those hideous guardians of the orchard and cornﬁeld —
was deputed to make the projected “boggart.”
“Aw dorn’d know as aw con,” said Dick. “Aw’m nau’but used to
them sooart as freetens throstles an’ crows.”
“Wod’ll freeten a crow ’ll freeten a keeper,” said another of the
“Well, this keeper’s nooan so unlike a crow, roostin’ yon i’ th’
middle o’ th’ wood,” added Dick.
Various suggestions were made by other members of the company.
Some wanted ﬁreworks, to add piquancy to the infernal nature of the
“boggart”; and all were highly elated at the prospect of such a
great practical joke.
Of course, every member of the committee was pledged to secrecy.
Amongst young men of their age a high code of honour frequently
exists, and to break a solemn promise of this sort is to bring down
upon one’s self a lasting disgrace. Anyhow the boggart was ﬁnished.
Night had fallen and the moon was struggling to peep through a mass
of inky clouds when four village youths, carrying a cumbrous parcel,
left the highroad and struck across into the wood. Walking in
Indian ﬁle, they passed down to the bank of the Ribble. The
water was very low, and thus the party were enabled to walk along
the shingles below the bank of the stream. Had this not been
possible it is doubtful whether they could have found their way to
that thickness of the forest in which was the keeper’s lonely home.
We confess our inability to see why all this trouble was taken.
The village lads, however, with the spirit of mischief strong in
them, looked at the affair in a different light. They
evidently were quite sure that this midnight game was worth the
candle. They found the path rough and the burden heavy, no
doubt, but the spectacle of the horror of the keeper, when he
emerged from his lonely hut and met his terrible visitor, would
amply repay them for all their trouble.
They were all quite sure that the gamekeeper was superstitious.
They did not take his double-barrelled gun into the reckoning, nor
did they suppose that a charge of small shot might possibly put an
end to the evening’s amusement.
When the keeper’s cottage was reached, the real “lark” was only just
begun. The great requirement now was absence of noise. A
cough, a whisper, or the cracking of a twig under the foot might
have ruined the whole affair.
We will spare our readers’ nerves, and will not inﬂict upon them a
description of the “boggart” as it stood. Sufﬁce it to say
that it reﬂected all the ideas of the horrible which were possessed
by these four young men combined. Set up in that lonely place,
it would have startled the coolest sceptic; and gamekeepers as a
class are not always cool and not often sceptical.
Dick Drawford was beginning to drape the ghastly ﬁgure when his arm
was violently seized, and “Now, chaps, what’s your business here?”
rang through the cool night air.
In a moment Dick’s three companions were likewise seized from
behind, and then the rough voice of the keeper inquired:
“What are doing here, I asked you?”
“We’re — we’re nau’but hevin’ a bit o’ gain,” faltered Dick.
“A bit o’ game. I’m glad you’ll own it. Is it
ground game or birds you’re after to-night?”
“Nowe, nowe! Id’s only id’s only a lark,” said Dick.
“A lark! Poachers don’t go after larks. I suppose it’s a
pheasant you mean,” said the keeper, with a laugh.
“We’re not pooachin’, aw’ll assure yo,” said another of the
“Oh, dear! A likely tale! What else could bring you here
at this time o’ night?”
“We — we’re just puttin’ a bit ov a boggant up. Id’s here!”
said Dick, holding up the scarecrow.
“Oh, yes; I understand you. You just match a man I once knew
that was always taking important letters to the Hall, and another
that had a habit of losing his way — accidentally, of course — every
time he went out for a walk. He was a ‘stranger’ after he’d
been ﬁve years in the district. But they were all your sort.
They were all poachers!”
“We’re nod poachers, aw con assure yo, gaffer. We o’ work at
Dan Wilding’s, th’ wheelwreet’s!”
“That may be. If you try to make a magistrate believe that,
I’m afraid it’ll go harder than ever with you. Have you chaps
there got hold of his accomplices?”
The three watchers who had Dick’s companions in custody brought
their prisoners up, and all listened to what the gamekeeper and his
assistants had to say.
“Neaw, we’ve catched yo fairly this time. We’n bin watchin’ yo
ever sin’ thoose traps were set theer, between thad little
plantation an’ th’ river,” said one of the watchers.
“Aye,” said the gamekeeper, “I daresay you thought you would have me
fast in the house here while you took up your spoil. I’m not a
bragging chap, but I think that the diamond has cut the diamond this
“We’n fairly letten eawrsels in this time,” said Dick.
“Well, you’ve had a long run. Several thousand head of game of
one kind and another have been taken lately.”
“But we’n nod tekken ’em. We’n no need. We’re o’ i’
regular work at joynerin’,” said Dick.
“Aye, of course. I know you’re all innocent. I think
we’ve summoned nearly all the innocent people there are in the
country. If I were to let you chaps go home now, you would
soon bring evidence to prove that you were never in this wood at all
tonight. You would get half a dozen of your friends to swear
at court that you were all sound asleep in your beds before nine
“We should never try nowt o’ th’ sooart on. We own to bein’
here, bud we’re here for an innocent purpose.”
“Oh, aye. When I was at my last situation in the South, we
found a man hidden in the plate closet one night. Of course,
he was there for an innocent purpose. He said so
himself. I think the judge didn’t hear him, though, or, of
course, he would have let him go instead of giving him ﬁve years.”
“Yo’ll nod summons us, will yo’?” Dick asked tremulously.
“No. I’ll just keep you while I’ve got you. I’ll not let
you go to collect false evidence. There’s a magistrate just
now staying at the Hall, and I’ll bring you all before him this very
night. If you can persuade him to let you off, well and good.
You had better bring that ‘boggart’ with you. Maybe his
worship will believe that you came into the wood at dead of night
just to put that up.”
The gamekeeper said these last words in such a sarcastic manner that
the four prisoners at once saw that this piece of evidence would go
against them rather than in favour of them. But off to the
Hall they had to go, and they did not take with them out of the wood
the same high spirits they had brought into it.
The gamekeeper avoided the main avenue, and led his captives round
to the back of the house. There they were admitted by a side
door. Dick and his companions were surprised to ﬁnd the house
so much alive at this time of night. They had certainly hoped
that the magistrate would be in bed, and that they would have
escaped, for this night at least.
“Is Mr. Clarke in his room?” asked the keeper.
“Yes,” answered one of the servants; “shall I call him?”
Mr. Clarke was not the master of the house. He was a visitor —
the J.P. of whom the gamekeeper had spoken. The owner of the
hall seldom comes there, excepting just in the shooting season.
Then he comes and goes at irregular intervals, and no one in the
district ever knows for certain whether the squire is at home or
not. He comes without notice; brings perhaps one or two
friends from town; stays a few days, and then as suddenly
disappears, to return, perhaps, at the end of six or seven months.
“What’s the charge against these men?” asked Mr. Clarke.
“Night poaching, sir. I caught them at it in the wood, about a
quarter of a mile away from here.”
Mr. Clarke sat in an easy chair at the head of a long table.
At the right of this table the keeper stood while giving his
evidence, and at the lower end, opposite to the magisterial chair,
stood the prisoners. One of the game watchers kept the door of
the room. On the table were some books very likely various
useful books of law, to which Mr. Clarke made reference during the
hearing of the case.
“What is the evidence?” asked Mr. Clarke.
“Well, your worship, there’s been a deal of game taken lately.
I suspected these men, but haven’t been able to get at them till
to-night. About half an hour ago I saw them leave the high
road, cross preserved lands, and go in the direction of some snares
that were set during last night. On the way they stopped
opposite the door of my hut. They appeared to be holding a
consultation about me. I had no doubt that they intended to
employ violence against me if they could ﬁnd me. So I got
those watchers together, and pounced on the prisoners. I
arrested them and brought them right up here. If your worship
will order a remand, we can have the prisoners searched, as they may
have some poaching implements about them.”
“Yo con search us neaw!” said Dick Drawford.
“Hold your tongue!” peremptorily commanded Mr. Clarke, who had
evidently not been a magistrate long, and was burning to vindicate
the majesty of the law. “If the facts are as this witness
says, no remand is necessary. The case is clear enough without
any further proof. What have you to say to clear yourself from
Being now permitted to speak, Dick commenced to tell the story of
the boggart. At its recital the gamekeeper smiled
incredulously. Dick had got far enough to deny any knowledge
of the snares or of the person who set them, and to assert that he
and his companions were simply bent upon a practical joke, when Mr.
Clarke interrupted him —
“That’s an old tale. We’ve heard it scores and scores of
times. Have you nothing but that to tell us?”
“It’s gospel truth. Thad’s o’ as aw con say.”
“Have any of you other prisoners anything to say for yourselves?”
The other prisoners, thus addressed, muttered their inability to
vary the statement of their spokesman, Dick Drawford.
Mr. Clarke closed his book with a bang. “I believe you to be a
most dangerous gang of ruffians,” he said. “This part of the
country is infested with poachers; and I feel it to be my duty to
make an example of you. I, therefore, sentence every one of
you to be imprisoned in Preston Gaol for six months!”
“But, sir,” Dick was beginning.
“Silence!” exclaimed Mr. Clarke. Then, turning to the
gamekeeper, he told him to keep the men in safe custody all night.
Then he was to get sufficient assistance from the county police to
remove the prisoners to Preston, there to serve the term of
imprisonment to which they had been sentenced.
Grumbling at this hole and corner manner of administering injustice,
the unfortunate men were led off down a long passage. At the
end of this passage was an open door. Through this door blew
the cool air of heaven, — an air that surely never seemed so sweet
to Dick and his friends as now, when they were likely to lose it for
“You needn’t grumble, chaps. You’ve browt o’ this on yorsels,”
said one of the game-watchers to the prisoners.
“We’re as innocent as lambs,” said Dick.
“Are you sure?” the gamekeeper asked, smiling.
“We are for sure!” exclaimed Dick, energetically but mournfully.
“Well, how do you fancy your six months?”
“It’s too bad!” said Dick.
“Well, but you see how it might have been. You were caught in
the wood. Your story wasn’t believed; and if Mr. Clarke had
been a real magistrate, you would have been off to Preston in the
“What dun yo meean?” asked Dick eagerly.
“I mean just this,” said the keeper, taking Dick by the buttonhole
of his coat, and earnestly addressing him, — “There’s an old saying
that the frighteners generally get frightened. Next time you
construct a boggart to terrify a sulky keeper, just you take care
that the sulky keeper is not behind the wall, listening to all you
say. I have as good a right to play a joke as you have.
I am not afraid of ghosts. If I had met a hideous thing like
that you were setting up, I should have sent a charge of shot
through it, and another into the bushes where its owner was hiding —
waiting to see the fun.”
“Bud six months is too bad,” began Dick.
“Don’t I tell you there’s no six months about it. Mr. Clarke
is no magistrate; and if you hadn’t been fools you would have seen
it. He is the butler from the master’s London house.
This beautiful joke is of his own inventing, not mine. But if
you don’t mind your own business, and leave me alone, I may joke
with you yet.”
As he said these words the keeper shifted his gun from one hand into
the other in a menacing manner. Then he continued: —
“Now, you see that door. Well, good night, the four of you.
I’ll see you down the avenue, though; and his worship will no doubt
wave his handkerchief from the front steps. Now, if I were
you, I would remember — every one of you that a joke is a joke when
both sides enjoy it.
“You enjoyed it ﬁrst. I am enjoying it now, and, if it were
not so late at night, I would ask you to a bite and sup just to keep
the fun going.”
If the departing guests heard a loud laugh behind them as they left
the house, perhaps they also enjoyed it, and inwardly blessed the
“Well, aw dornd know wod things is comin’ to i’ this waurld, aw
dornd for sure! We’s be at a bonny pass iv we gooan on at this
The speaker was a stout farmer, the clear, healthy bloom on whose
cheek was marred by the same ill-tempered look that spoiled his
expression. As he said the words quoted above, he was entering
the snug at the Borough Arms, Blackburn, to warm himself with a
special Scotch, while the ostler put his horse up in the stable.
The old man drives to Blackburn from Samlesbury every Wednesday
morning; and if you have often been in Preston New-road about nine
in the morning, you are sure to have seen his quaint little
“turnout” and his unmistakable ﬁgure.
“What’s up, William?” asked the only other occupant of the snug.
This latter gentleman was a festive traveller for a local tailor;
and when William Skipson entered, he was busy placing a few of his
master’s circulars on the mantelpiece and the still vacant tables.
“What’s up, William?” the commercial gentleman asked, again
interrogating his agricultural friend.”
“Why, aw’m in a gradely bad humour this mornin’.”
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Aw fun’ eawt as there’s one o’ these hanky-panky cawnter jumpers
after eawr Polly.”
“Well. An’ what does Polly say?”
“Hoo’s foo’ enough to bother wi’ him, id seems.”
“Well, if they’ve made up their minds to have one another, I’m
afraid you can’t do anything.”
“Corn’d be ﬁddled! Aw’ve put a stop to it o’ready — or at
least aw will do to-morn at neet.”
“Not going to commit a murder, I hope.”
“Aw dunno yet. Aw’m beawn to do a bit o’ nut crackin’ — aw’m
beawn to let th’ new year in for sumbry wi’ a wallop!”
“See yo’. Read this, an’ id’ll tell yo’.”
Mr. Skipson took a letter from his pocket, and handed it to the
other gentleman. The latter perused it, and then handed it
back to the farmer.
“Well, wod does id say? ”
“It just says that the writer never could persuade her father to let
her be married, but she’ll not delay the ceremony on that account.
It says also that she’ll meet someone — as that someone has
requested — on the footpath that leads near Samlesbury Old Hall at
seven o’clock tomorrow night, to talk this important matter over!”
“Oh! well, thad ‘someone’s’ beawn to ged his nut cracked, an id’s to
be done on thad same footpad at seven o’clock to-morn at neet.”
There was silence broken only by the click of a sugar crusher
against the side of Mr. Skipson’s glass, and then Mr. Skipson
proceeded with his explanation.
“Yo’ sin, aw thowt there were some’at o’ this sooart afoot; an’ aw
set eawr Bill to watch — he’s a cute youngster for his age, is Bill
— there isn’d a dog i’ th’ country bud wod knows him, an’ he knows
id. Well, last neet he coom to me, an’ he says, ‘ Feyther,’
says he, ‘Eawr Polly’s gi’en mo this letter to pooast. Hoo’s
towd mo nod to tell yo’ upo’ no acceawnt. See yo’, id’s
directed to a chap?”
“Aw’m nowt of a scholar misel’, sooa aw rent th' letter oppen, an’
med eawr Bill read id — he’s a rare scholar is that lad. He
read id just as yo’ read id. Aw dar’say he’ll meet her, but
id’ll be th’ last time. He’ll want a cure for a sooar heyd o’
A distinguished local poet, who is, however, accused of “cribbing”
from Burns, says: —
“Oh, would some power the giftie ﬁnd us,
To squint one e’e an’ see behind us.”
Had Mr. Skipson possessed that power he would have looked through
the window, and would most certainly have seen a young man making
towards the busy yard of the hotel. This young man was no
other than the maligned lover of Polly Skipson.
The young fellow walked in and out amongst the resting traps and
gigs, until he came to the one owned by Mr. Skipson. Waiting,
then, until there was no one at hand, he took up the loose seat and
turned it over; ﬁnding, as he evidently expected, that there was an
inscription in chalk on the underside. He read the writing
over several times, and then obliterated it with his pocket
Those persons whose business or pleasure takes them frequently to
Samlesbury will know “Crooked Oak” Farm very well. They will
have noticed that a little further on than the farm a narrow road
runs between two arboreal nurseries. In this lane Polly
Skipson and her lover met on the ﬁrst Thursday evening in the year.
“Is your father at home?” asked the young man.
“No. I’ve sent him an errand!”
“I have. You’ll smile when you hear it.”
“Let me hear it now, then.”
“Well, I told you that my father was having us watched, didn’t I?”
“You said that your youngest brother was playing the spy on us.”
“Yes. Well, I wrote a letter, and gave it to him to post.
It was addressed to you, and promised that I would meet you near the
Old Hall at seven to-night. I knew my brother would take it
straight to my father, and he did so. While they were reading
it, I was chalking that message under the seat of the gig, where you
said you’d look for it.”
“So that your father brought the message, and yet he thinks that we
shall meet up near the Hall?”
“Yes. He’s gone there half an hour ago.”
“I wonder how long he’ll wait for you. You’d better not go
near that footpath to-night.”
“I don’t see how he can recognise me. I’m not aware that he
ever knew me. Shall we walk in that direction, and see if he
is really waiting? It may all be a threat meant to frighten
“My father isn’t a man of that kind. He’s usually more bite
than bark. But we’ll go towards the Hall, and see if we can
catch sight of him at a distance.”
The young couple walked arm-in-arm down the road, and then along the
footpath that led towards the place where the vengeful father was
waiting for the expected suitor.
Before they got in sight of the place where Mr. Skipson had
stationed himself, the girl and her lover became aware that some
unusual commotion was going on at that point of the footpath which
lies nearest to the Hall. Someone was shouting for help; and
then there arose the sound of mingled angry voices.
“There’s somebody having a row, yonder,” said the young man.
“Yes; I hope my father isn’t in it.”
“Perhaps the gamekeeper’s mistaken him for a poacher.”
“Nay, he knows my father too well for that.”
“They’re getting more furious. Let’s push on and see what the
The two young people hurried on, and soon found that the noise came
from the next ﬁeld, in which two men were struggling in a ﬁerce
“I think it’s a‘ poacher who has attacked the keeper,” said the
young man. “You walk back a little, while I go and give the
keeper a hand.”
“No, don’t. He may attack you.”
“It’ll be two of us to one if he does,” was the reply, as the
speaker hurried off towards the scene of strife.
When he got there, the young fellow found, to his surprise, that the
man upon the ground was Mr. Skipson, and that he was being
belaboured by a tall lump of a man, around whom the despised
counter-jumper at once threw his arms.
“Hold! What are you hitting him for?”
“He hit me ﬁrst! He jumped out on me as I was walking along.”
“Aye. He coam after eawr Polly after aw’d forbidden her to hev
owt do wi’ him.”
“I don’t know your Polly. And if she’s anything like her
father, by jingo, I hope I never shall!”
“You’ve got the wrong man,” said Mr. Skipson’s rescuer. “I’m
the man you expected to meet here.”
“You are? Yo?” — And here there was a very long pause.
“Yes, I am; and if I hadn’t come just now, you’d have been in for
“I thought he was a garrotter,” said Mr. Skipson’s adversary.
“Bi gum! but tha’s sorm’at abeawt tha, seem’ly,” said the farmer,
ignoring the previous remark, and extending his hand to Polly’s
lover. “Aw mut as weel be ‘thick’ to tha. An yo, too,
mayster. Come on an’ hev a bit o’ supper, an’ we’ll o’ be
The Wedding is ﬁxed for Whitsuntide.
WEDDING OF DOROTHY DILWORTH
The man with the crooked stick will probably stare very hard when he
sees this story in print for the ﬁrst time. For it is, we
believe, his strong impression that he has told us every interesting
tale of which his village can boast. He has, however, not told
us the following little gem of sylvan Samlesbury, for which we are
indebted to an old lady who now resides at Hoghton, but whose mother
was a native of the former village. Our informant is now in
her seventieth year, and she was only quite a girl when she ﬁrst
heard the tale told by her mother, and then it was told in an
undertone, and prefaced by the remark — often heard in those days,
but seldom in these — that “little pigs have big ears.” The
reader will thus see that the story is sufficiently venerable,
whilst the fact that our friend of the crooked stick has never heard
of it will be, on the other hand, a guarantee that it is not also
In the second decade of the present century, there dwelt in the vale
of Samlesbury a maiden, who, for our present purpose shall be called
Dorothy Dilworth. She was admitted to be one of the ﬁnest
young women in the district at that time, for she possessed not only
a full share of the beauty which usually belongs to her sex, but a
goodly share of the two qualities which are supposed to belong in a
more especial manner to the male species — to wit, strength, and
courage. Dorothy also possessed a further recommendation in
the eyes of most of her admirers, and this consisted of the fact
that she was well provided with this World’s goods. She had
inherited money from her maternal grandfather, whose favourite
grandchild she had been, and she was the only child of her
long-widowed and independent father, over whose home she presided.
Thus situated, Dorothy had plenty of suitors, and whilst she had far
too much common sense to be easily deceived by an ordinary money
grabber, she had still experienced great difﬁculty in classifying
and analysing, as it were, the affections of her numerous lovers.
At twenty-four years of age, however, she made up her mind that it
was time to weed out these rustic swains, whose attentions had so
long been troublesome; and after long and thoughtful consideration,
for she was a young woman whom over attention had not by any means
turned into a ﬂirt, Dorothy cut down the number of her “recognised”
lovers to two. Arrived at this stage, she experienced almost
as much difficulty in her own mind as ever; for whilst she was
captivated by the quaint but hearty gallantry of Harry Hetherington,
she was deeply impressed with the shrewdness and worldly-wisdom of
Peter Calvert, whose administration of a neighbouring farm was
praised by nearly everybody in Samlesbury. In giving attention
to Peter’s carefulness, it must not be supposed that Dorothy was
looking to that alone, for she had the kindest feelings for him, as
well as for Harry, and could hardly make up her mind, even at the
last moment, which of them should claim her love, and which her
Eventually, however, she decided in favour of Peter Calvert, leaving
poor Harry Hetherington to a state of loneliness, which was
apparently too much for him; for having no near relatives left in
Samlesbury, he, on the failure of his suit, took himself off to the
Fylde, where he remained for several years, trying to live down his
“Eh, Dorothy, mi bonny lass! aw could welly jump o’er th’ moon.”
“Howd thi din, tha silly thing; there is no moon to-neet.”
“It’s no waur for thad, noather,” said Peter Calvert, as his
arm stole round the waist of the charming damsel whom the following
morning was to make his wife.
“Tha’rt ter’ble cracked to-neet,” she said, taking his embrace with
composure. “Aw’ve ne’er bin use’ to tha bein’ so silly.”
“Aw’m silly because aw’m fain. Just fancy! Afoor to-morn
tha’ll hev getten kessend o’er ageeon, an’ aw s’ hev getten tha for
mi own for ever.”
“Tha’ll happen wish tha’d ne’er sin mo some day.”
“Nay indeed aw!”
“Tha corn’d tell. There’s quare things ihappens i’ this waurld,
but’ dornd swagger. Tha’s nooan getten mo yet. There‘s
mony a slip between t’ cup an’ t’ lip.”
“Ah! but aw’s nod let thee slip, lass.”
“Aw dornd think tha will, Peter. Aw dornd keer iv tha’rt olez
as fain to be wi’ mo as tha art to-neet.”
“Never fear, lass! Aw like tha to’ weel to leeave tha for a
“An’ tha olez will do?”
Peter’s reply to this question was not expressed in words, and we
will not trouble the reader with further details of a conversation
which, however interesting it may have been to the two individuals
who took part in it, may seem trivial and even foolish to others.
It was the eve of the wedding, and Dorothy and her intended husband
were on their way home from Preston, where they had been buying the
ring for the great event. Dorothy had been surprised to see
Peter so elated, for he had not been hitherto very demonstrative in
his affection, though he had bought her more than the usual number
of the plain and simple lovers’ presents which were in vogue in
The couple parted at Dorothy’s home, and as she closed the door
after her lover’s departure, she fully intended to betake herself in
the course of half an hour to that rest which the toil and
excitement of that eventful day had rendered doubly necessary.
The fates, however, were against her, for her father, having been
busy in her absence, had been unable to go down to the house of his
friend the village tailor for the bran-new suit he was to wear upon
the morrow. He would have gone himself, but Dorothy, seeing
him apparently more tired than herself, insisted on going,
especially as she could have the company of her bosom friend, Mary
Allinson, who had been assisting in the preparations for the
wedding, and who lived near the tailor.
So the two young women set out together full of conversation about
the arrangements for the morrow. As often happens with friends
of their sex, the two damsels took each other almost home several
times after leaving the tailor’s establishment, chatting away all
the time and ﬁnding something fresh to say as often as they were on
the point of parting.
“Husht!” exclaimed Dorothy. “There’s somebody hearkenin’.”
“Aye. They’re laughin’, hear tha,” said Mary quietly.
“Let’s be quate a bit, an’ see whooa they are. Aw could’nt
like ’em to hev heeard o’ as we’ve bin sayin’.”
“Nowe. Whisht a bit.”
The two young Women had stopped talking at a wayside stile which
gave entrance from the main road to a footpath across some ﬁelds,
and as they stood listening, after uttering the above sentences,
they found that the laughter of the supposed listeners came from the
other side of the high hedge where ran the footpath across the ﬁeld.
The damsels soon satisﬁed themselves that the mirthful people behind
the hedge were not listening to them, but were apparently quite
ignorant of their presence. Thus assured, they would probably
have left the stile without a moment’s delay had not Dorothy’s quick
ear recognised, ﬁrst, the voice of her afﬁanced husband, and
secondly, that of his brother, Thurston Calvert. Thurston was
a “ne’er-do-weel” of the most unsatisfactory sort, and she had
supposed him to be absent from England, he having had to quit the
country some years previously for a serious offence which it is not
worth our while to detail. Here, however, he was, and in
apparently friendly converse with the brother who had sworn never to
speak to him again on account of the disgrace which he had brought
upon his name. Under these circumstances who could help
listening? Certainly not Dorothy Dilworth.
“Hear tha bod, Mary,” she whispered. “It’s Peter an’ their
“Their Thurston! Wodever con thad good for nowt be doin’
“Whisht! That’s wod aw want to know. Dorn’d stor, for
Thus adjured, Mary, like her friend, almost held her breath to
To their mutual horror, they were repaid for their curiosity by the
‘An’ is id really true as tha’s to be wed to her to-morn?”
“It is thad.”
“Tha’s played thi cards better than me, owd lad.”
“Dudn’d aw olez say aw would? Aw wer never as simple as thee.
Theaw’s tried to better thisel’ bi unlawful means, an’ tha sees wod
it’s browt tha to. But aw’ve worked in a different fashion.
There’s nobody but thee an’ me an’ th’ lawyer knows abeawt th’
mortgage on th’ farm; but hoo will hev to know ’at after. Hoo
thinks just this minut — and sooa does her fayther an’ everybody
abeawt — as aw’m one o’ th’ steadiest an mooast weel-to-do chaps i’
Lancashire.” And Peter laughed the same low laugh that the two
girls had heard before.
“An’ wod,” asked Thurston, “will hoo say when hoo does ﬁnd id eawt
“Hoo can say wod hoo likes. Id’ll be to’ late for th’ brid to
think o’ ﬂyin’ when aw’ve getten her i’ th’ cage.”
“An’does ta meean to say as tha’rt geddin’ wed on them terms?”
“To be sure aw am. Aw’m not weddin’ hor; aw’m just weddin’ her
brass, thad’s wod aw’m dooin’.”
“Well,” said Thurston, “aw’ve bin a bonny dule i my time, but tha’ll
lick me yet. Come on here; let’s be off.”
The feelings of Dorothy and her companion may be better imagined
than described. Both felt for some moments too much stunned to
utter a word. Mary, indeed, though not immediately affected by
the base scheme of which both had just heard, seemed ready to drop
to the ground as the two men walked away in the darkness; whilst
Dorothy, the bride-expectant, of a few moments ago, felt as if the
darkness of the night were as nothing compared with the darkness
that had fallen upon her own hopes and affections.
“Come on,” said Mary, at length, as she dried the tears that had
risen to her eyes, “aw’ll gooa hooam wi’ tha an’ tell thi father.
Tha mun go nooan to Samlesbury Church i’ th’ mornin’.”
“Thad’ll just depend,” replied Dorothy, in a strange voice.
“Aw know wod tha’rt beawn to say, Mary, but aw’ll save tha th’
trouble. Aw think tha’s known mo long enough to be able to trust mo
to look after misel’.”
“Aye, aw know tha’s a good pluck in tha; but for goodness sake dornd
clod thisel’ away.”
“There’s mony a one would goo an’ dreawn theirsel’ for less than
this, but tha sees, Mary, aw’m nod beawn to shorten mi days for sake
ov a wastrel.”
“A’m gradely fain to hear tha say sooa. But dornd change thi
mind after aw’ve left tha. Tha’rt happen disavin’ mo.”
“Nay, nay, Mary. But aw’s disave yon af-oor aw’m mich owder,
iv tha’ll help mo.”
“Help tha! Aye, will aw, iv aw con oather do or say owt to
keep tha eawt o’ danger.”
“Tha’ll nayther hev to do nor say. Tha con help mo th’ best wi’
sayin’ nod one word abeawt wod tha’s heeard to-neet.” "
“Aw’s nooan keep quate unless aw know wod tha’rt beawn to do.”
“O, aw’ll tell tha neaw. Aw con trust thee, heaw’t be.”
The wedding morning rose bright and sunny, and Mary Allinson almost
wondered, as she looked upon the radiant face of her friend, whether
the discovery of the previous night was a dream or a reality, but as
she saw Dorothy come up the church attired in the spotless but plain
dress which in those days was considered good enough for a wedding,
one little peculiarity settled her doubts. After the fashion
of the time, Dorothy wore over her dress a white apron, and this
apron she carried, though with much grace, in a way which showed a
careful observer that something was concealed in it. Up to the
rails went the bride-elect, accompanied by Peter Calvert, whose face
betokened the satisfaction with which he regarded the ceremony which
was to bind him and Dorothy together for life.
The service began; the parson commenced the asking of the usual
questions. When asked if he would take “this woman” for his
wedded wife, Peter answered “I will” with a voice that rang through
the church, and gave token that he was more than well satisﬁed with
his bargain. But when the question was put to Dorothy, the
parson did not catch her answer, though he was considerably annoyed
and perhaps shocked at the peculiar manner in which she tossed up
her dainty apron, and thereby caused a jingling sound which did not
by any means accord with his ideas of the solemnity of the ceremony.
However, thinking she had not understood the question, he repeated
it, with great emphasis, “Wilt thou have this man to be thy
wedded husband,” and so on to the end. Again was observed the
strange act of tossing up the apron, and again was heard the
jingling sound that seemed, curiously enough, to be caused by it.
Still more annoyed and shocked, as well as bewildered, the parson
said, “My good woman, why do you not answer the question; how can I
proceed with the marriage if you do not answer?”
“Nay,” said Dorothy, “It’s nod for me to answer; it’s for
mi ‘brass” to answer, an’ id hes answered, twice o’er.”
“What do you mean?”
“Aw meean,” replied the blushing damsel, “that this mon’s nod weddin’
me, he’s weddin’ mi brass; for he said sooa his-sel’ last neet, an’
aw heeard him wi’ mi own ears. So iv th’ brass is o as he
wants, let him wed id, an’ let th’ brass speyk for idsel’.”
If these words had been the signals of an approaching earthquake,
they could not have had a more instantaneous effect upon Mr. Peter
Calvert. He gave one wild look at Dorothy, whose face glowed
with a strangely mingled light of humour and revenge, and another at
the parson, who was looking round the corner of his left spectacle
glass to try and hide his own bewildered feelings; and then, like a
hunted hare, he, the bridegroom that should have been, ﬂed from the
church. He was followed by the crowd of sightseers who had
come to witness the wedding, and who now longed to get out of the
sacred ediﬁce in order to give free scope to their feelings.
Off Peter ﬂew, and off the crowd followed; and never did hunters
follow the chase with greater zeal than those men, women, and
children followed the unlucky Peter. But the pursuers were not
so ﬂeet of foot as the pursued; and with a desperate bound he gained
the little boat that lay at the ferry, crossed the Ribble before the
crowd reached its bank, and was soon lost in the recesses of the
neighbouring woods. The indignation of the crowd that watched
his escape was tempered with jubilant satisfaction at the way in
which the plucky girl had exposed the treachery of the scheming
adventurer; and she was now, more than ever, the favourite of the
village. It is related that, far from being heart-broken by
the treatment she had experienced at Peter’s hands, Dorothy
preferred to look upon the matter in the light of a Providential
escape, and was heard to express mock sympathy for her “brat full o’
brass,” which she laughingly remarked was now in the sorrowful
position of a “widow-bewitched.”
So greatly was the story talked about that, without either
telephone, telegraph, or railway to spread it far and wide, it
speedily reached the Fylde, where Harry Hetherington was toiling as
Adam toiled before Eve came to relieve his loneliness. He
waited what seemed to him to be a respectable length of time after
the “bereavement,” and then contrived to meet Dorothy in Preston,
and to accompany her home, one glorious Saturday evening when the
moon was shining, and the stars looked down upon his peaceful native
village. Need we say that he asked Dorothy to be his wife,
that she consented, and that in less than a year after Peter
Calvert’s ﬂight, Harry leased the deserted farm from the
mortgagee-in-possession and took Dorothy there, after all, as its
proud and plucky mistress? The parson must have felt greatly
obliged to Mr. Hetherington for thus enabling him to complete that
strangely-interrupted task — the Wedding of Dorothy Dilworth.