Two long stories — "Snowed-up" and "The Hermit Cobbler" — open
this Second Series of "Tufts of Heather." These are followed
by a number of shorter, anecdotal sketches, similar in style to the
papers which are included under the title of "The Chimney Corner."
Although fragmentary in character, they are full of pith and humour.
"Snowed-up" was published with some other pieces in 1873; and again,
as a separate volume of 115 pages, in 1874. It is a Christmas
story, or rather a "Round of Stories," and shows traces of the
influence of Dickens in its overflowing love of fun, its delineation
of odd and exceptional forms of life, and its general tone of
kindliness and heartiness. The wild, moorland snowstorm (which
the late George Sheffield rendered with great power in the drawing
reproduced as a frontispiece to this volume) makes an admirable
setting, and is in fine contrast with the warmth and cosiness and
cheeriness of the inn-kitchen where the stories are told. The
kind-hearted landlady, the rough hostler, the timid and half-starved
pedlar, and the pedantic sexton are all types of character of which
Waugh was fond, and which he knew well how to handle. Joe's
soliloquy in the open grave, which occurs in the "Sexton's Story,"
is a good specimen of Waugh's peculiar humour.
"The Hermit Cobbler" deserves more attention than it has
hitherto received. Waugh has done no better work than is to be
found in this piece. While "Snowed-up" gives us the aspect of
the moorland in mid-winter under a death-like shroud of snow, the
"Hermit Cobbler" shows us the same scenery in late autumn after a "weet
back-end," when all the streams are swollen and the air is filled
with the sound of rushing water, and the sough of a rainy wind.
Mary Buckley, the farmer's widow, who sends elder-wine and black
currants to ailing people, and watches over the dying hours of the
Hermit Cobbler, is drawn from the life, and with a loving hand.
In her tenderness, as well as in her use of diminutive oaths, she
reminds us of Chaucer's Prioress. Such expletives as these are
frequent in her speech, — "Bi lakin " (By our ladykin). "I'
godsnam " (I' God's name). "Bi lady" (By our Lady).
"Belike!" and "By my song." Attention may also be drawn to a
fine passage in praise of the moorlands, put into the mouth of an
old farmer named Abram, which will be found at pages 151 and 152;
and to the same man's charming description of his wife Sally, and of
the simple, wholesome happiness of their wedded life.
The dialectal work in this volume is of the best kind, and
its excellence is seen not in single words only, but also in those
phrases and proverbs of the County which Waugh had at his finger's
end as completely as Cervantes had those of Spain. A few
specimens of these may be given :— "Wherever there's idlement
there's devilment noan so far off." "The Dule had thrut
(thrown) his club o'er him" (Had bewitched him). "As swipper
as a kitlin' (nimble as a kitten), an' as peeort (pert) as a pynot
(magpie). "A better-hearted craiter never nipped th' edge of a
cake o' tirade." "Anybody can manage th' bull better than
thoose that han it bi th' horns." "His faither begun a
wrostlin 'the' champion' when he were a young chap" (Began taking
strong drink in youth). "The whole seed, breed, and generation
on 'em" (All the family from the beginning).
It may be added that many of the shorter stories, like the
longer one which opens the volume, are suitable for Christmas
reading, and are full of the cheery spirit of what is called an
"old-fashioned winter." Of these there may be mentioned "Cock
Robin," "Owd Mally's Cart," and "Th' Dule's i'th Buttery."