Besom Ben and his Donkey.
Who'll buy my besoms?
Besoms, fine and new!
Fine heather besoms!
Better never grew!
IT was the rosy time of
the year, and the smell of the new hay came from the fields, cheering the
heart of man with suggestive sweetness. Nature was swinging her rich
censor over the green earth; whilst choral bursts of song gushed
heavenward from hill and dale. The fine incense floated upon the
sunny air, through little villages, and in at the ends of busy towns,
telling the pleasant tale of summer and its flowers, and of the
ever-returning bounty that laps the earth in blessings. The small
bird was beside himself with joy; and the wild flower laughed, and clapped
its hands with wonder, at the tipsy minstrel's lay. The brown mower
stood in the meadow, at the head of the new-fallen swathe, trolling quaint
fits of ballad-metre, and wiping the sweat from his forehead, and whetting
his scythe again; while the tall grass gave its last tremble in the lazy
wind before his coming stroke. Little children were gathering
buttercups and daisies in the fields. Poor women, in cottage homes,
chanted snatches of long-forgotten melody over their house-work, wondering
how they came to mind; and the infant, leaping in his mother's arms,
crowed pretty bits of inarticulate chicken-music, that woke up a burst of
loving diminutives from all around. The captive schoolboy fretted at
his task, as he watched golden bars of sunshine glide across the floor of
his prison-house, and heard the wild birds sing upon the window-sill
outside; and, fidgeting upon his hot seat, he whispered slyly to his mates
about nuts, and nests, and wicken-whistles, and little rivers, where
jack-sharps were at play in the cool water. The pale workman yawned
and stretched his arms; and, opening his dusty lattice, he gazed wistfully
into the sunny air; and as his mind wandered away over unseen landscapes,
he sighed for a free stroll through the leafy woods.
It had been market-day in the town of Rochdale, and the
central part was still busy with loitering crowds of folk. A few
loungers leaned upon the stone bridge, dreamily watching the river as it
shimmered goldenly away to westward, under the trees in front of the
"Orchard," where the ancient manor-house stands, retired from the
neighbouring bustle, in its embowered nook. But up in the old
quarter where the cow-fair was held, near the venerable parish church,
quietness was creeping over the scene, though a few cattle-dealers still
lingered upon the ground, at the alehouse doors, chaffering, and putting
the "God's penny" from hand to hand over some late bargain; and lowing
kine were wending slowly away from the streets, leaving behind them a
smell that told of "cribs where oxen lie." Evening was coming on,
and country-folk had begun to saunter away homewards. But down in
the heart of the town late wassailers were gathering round their ale, and
roaring fun rose higher as the day declined; whilst old folk in quiet
streets sat smoking at their cottage doors, with children about their
knees, enjoying the balmy summer evening.
The sun had just begun to dip his golden rim behind the
Birtle Moors as a jackass and its driver stopped in front of an old
alehouse, called the Beehive, on the north-western edge of the town.
The driver was a simple moorland fellow, well-known among the hills and
dales of Spotland by the name of "Besom Ben," from his occupation, which
was the manufacture of ling brooms for sale in the towns and villages
around. He was a short square-set man, about thirty-years old.
The first glance at him told that he was sound as a roach in constitution,
and hardened by habitual exposure to all sorts of weather. His
hazel-eye was bright as a ferret's; and he had a hungry look, as if he was
accustomed to clear his plate at dinner-time before he had eaten enough.
There were no symptoms of indigestion about Ben. He was as
keen-bitten as a starved ostrich. The curly flaxen hair that
thatched his bullet pate was covered with an old felt billycock, with a
short pipe stuck in the band of it. His coarse lin shirt was whole,
and clean enough to suggest that there was somebody at home who kept him
in tidy trim; and it was wide open at the neck, leaving his brown breast
bare to the skies. There was a wild, sweet, heathery freshness about
him from top to toe. The most remarkable part of his dress was a
slack, short jacket, or singlet, with sleeves. The front of it was
of undressed calfskin, with the hair outside. His feet were sheathed
in a pair of clinkered ankle-jacks, as heavy, and nearly as hard, as iron.
The rest of his outer clothing was of stout fustian, soundly patched here
and there. It was easy to be seen that he was a man who had plenty
to do to make both ends meet, but there was a cheerful expression upon his
tanned face that told a pleasant tale of good health and a contented mind.
"Wo, Dimple!" said Ben to his donkey, as they came in front
of the Beehive. "Wo, owd lad! just an odd jill wi' Billy, an' then
we'n be off whoam like red-shanks. . . . Here," continued he, lifting a
bucket of water which stood by the door, "sup, owd brid! It'll make
thi yure curl!" Then setting the bucket down again he walked slowly
towards the alehouse door. Hesitating upon the step, he scratched
his head thoughtfully, and turned back again. "Let's see," said he,
looking into the panniers, "I'd better reckon up afore we gwon ony fur.
There'll be wigs upo' th' green if there's aught wrang when aw get whoam."
And then, slowly turning over the things he had bought in the town, he
"A pair o' clogs, an' two eawnces o' 'bacco. That's
reet . . . . Five peawnd o' brisket, at fourpence hawp'ny, an' two peawnd
o' breawn soap . . . . Ay. . . . An' a bit o' nice beef, too, it is.
Owd Boswill's like one o'th better end o' butchers. Howd! aw'll put
th' soap into these clogs, or else eawr Betty 'll happen be slappin' it
into th' pon wi' th' beef, th' same as Mall o' Yebbers did when hoo stewed
a peawnd o' short-eights i'th inside o'th keaw-yed, for th' churn-supper .
. . . Th' owd lass had forgotten to tak 'em eawt o'th yed when hoo coom
fro' th' teawn . . . . Nea, then, let's see again. . . . A peawnd o'
fourpence-hawp'ny sugar . . . . Ay. . . . A peawnd o' tollo candles, fro'
owd Jewisson's, an' two blue pitchers. Tone on em's cracked, aw see,
. . . Well, come! . . . Hauve a gallon o' mussels, an' a quart of fayberry.
. . . Aw wonder what mak ov a pie fayberry an' mussels would make? . . .
It'd be summat like th' raisin puddin' 'at owd Mall made wi' bulljones in
it. 'Hello, mother!' says little Jerry, what dun yo' co' this?'
'Why, it's a raisin', said Mally,—'get it into tho.' 'Well,' said
Jerry, howdin' it upo' th' end of his fork, 'aw never see'd a raisin wi' a
tail on afore!' . . . Come, I think I've reckon't o' up, neaw . . . . Oh,
nay! There's two eawnces o' milk-an-wayter colour't yarn, an' a
pen'oth o' peawder blue, an' an eawnce o' snuff for my gronmother, an' two
hawpo'ths o' traycle-toffy for th' childer . . . . Ay. Aw have
thoose i' mi' pocket. O' reet! . . . Nea, then, let's reckon mi
brass up. Four shillin' for eggs, an' five an' thrippence for
besoms, an' a shillin' an' a pint o' ale fro' Missis Cherrick, at th'
bottom o'th Packer, for a burn o' nettles . . . . I'm al'ays sure of a
pint an' a bit o' cheese an' brade at that shop . . . . Then I geet
sixpence fro' th' lonlort o'th Amen Corner for a bundle o' sanctuary and
some meawntain flax, an' sixpence for stuffin' a moudiwarp for Dan at th'
Gowden Bo' . . . . Well. I've three an' ninepence hawp'ny laft i'
brass, beside stuff. Well, come. Fol der diddle ido!
That's noan sich an ill do for a besom-maker! . . . . I
think it'll ston a gill. Come, Dimple," said he, laying hold of the
donkey's bridle, "an odd tot, owd brid,—an' then, heigh-up for Lobden
He was drawing the donkey up under the window, where he could
see it from the inside, when an old acquaintance came up, wheeling an
"Hello, Ben! said he, dropping the barrow. "Heaw arto?"
"Crisp as a new poo'd lettice (lettuce), drippin' wi' well
wayter," replied Ben. "Wilt have a gill o' ale?"
"Eh, God bless thee, Ben!" answered he, wheer doesto go to
schoo' to? for thae talks like an angel! I'm as dry as
"Bring thi throttle this gate on, then!" said Ben. And
away the two cronies went into the Beehive.
In about a quarter of an hour Ben came trickling out at the
door again, singing to himself with an air of careless ease. And
well he might, for his conscience was free from all wilful offence.
His wants were simple and his cares were few, and the sunshine of peace
warmed his honest heart. It is true he lived near the ground like a
fieldmouse, but Ben was "contented wi' little, an' canty wi' mair."
A freeman of the mountain solitudes, he loved his native wild, and nothing
could tempt him from it to dwell among the bustle of great towns.
Lobden moorside and the quiet folds of Spotland were a heaven on earth to
him, and his main hope in this world was to live decently among his
neighbours in the nook where he was born, and be buried at last in the
graveyard of the old chapel at Whitworth, where his "fore-elders" lay.
Ben came singing out at the door of the Beehive, and, giving
Dimple a quiet switch on the crupper, they toddled away together up the
road towards Spotland Bridge. About half a mile on he had to pass
another alehouse, and as he drew near the place the sound of a fiddle
greeted his ears. Now Ben was of a musical turn, and when he heard
the strains of the trembling string it stirred his nature with delight,
and he stopped his donkey.
"Woigh, Dimple!" said he. "Does yer nought? God
bless that merry bit o' timber! I've a good mind to have another
gill,—just for a finisher!"
But whilst he stood looking up at the sign a woman at a
cottage door behind him screamed to her child, which was playing in the
"Ay, wilto? Do if thae dar!"
The voice startled Ben. He whisked round, and stared at
"By Guy" said he, wiping his forehead with his sleeve, "I
though that were eawr Betty! Just same seawnd! It made my yure
ston straight up! . . . Come, Dimple, let's be hutchin' a bit nar whoam!"
and away they paddled down the brow towards the bridge which crosses the
river Spodden, in the hollow.
Near the bridge Ben left the main road, and turned up a green
lane. It was hemmed in by old sprawling hedges, thickly clothed in
the wild luxuriance of the season; a rambling fretwork of many-patterned
foliage, pranked all over with floral prettiness,—the rich overflow of
nature's festal cup of beauty. A posied crowd of hedge-plants were
gathered there at the year's great holiday. Thyme, and mint, and
mugwort; docks, and sorrel, and nettles, and cotton-flowered thistles; the
purple privet; the tall, proud foxglove, with its gaudy bell; the wilding
rose, and yellow agrimony; the solemn, dark crimson-tinted hound's-tongue;
and the little blue forget-me-not; burdock, and the lilac-flowered mallow,
and the pretty harebell, with its trembling pendant cup; the
golden-flowered broom,—beautiful crest of old Plantangenet kings; and the
scarlet pimpernel, that shuts its flower at noon, and tells the watchful
farmer what sort of weather's in the wind. Trailing honeysuckles,
with their creamy, sweet-scented flowers; and the rambling bramble, with
its small white rose and "gauzy satin frill,"—the fairy's
night-cap,—peeping out prettily upon long, flexile sprays; and here and
there a thick-leaved tree, growing by the lane side, hung over all its
friendly robe of green.
Twilight,—that dreamy charm of our English summer,—had almost
imperceptibly begun, though the sky was still grand with the splendour of
the sunken sun, and a lingering tinge of golden light suffused the evening
air. Midges were dancing in mazy swarms above the pathway, those
gauzy tribes of winged dust that fan their little patch of sunshine for an
hour or two, and die. They seemed wild with delight,—now rising and
falling in spiral whirls, now swayed to and fro by the sighing wind.
Poor flutterers on the skirts of life! One cold breath,—and all your
dainty world of aerial glee lies low! Oh, inexhaustible nature!
whose remotest bounds throb with being's ceaseless flow, and with "beauty,
whose world-wide empire never wanes," how mysterious thou art! . . . The
throstle was singing his loud carol with unfired glee. Dusky bats
darted to and fro in vivid angular flight; and the honey-loaded bee was
buzzing homeward, pleased with his day's work,—like poor Ben, as he
sauntered down the lane, in the wake of Dimple, easy at heart, and lightly
touched with the finger of fatigue . . . . Ben felt more
at home as he got farther away from the town. He had been born "in
the eye of nature," and he loved her truly, though he hardly dreamt that
he did so. As he went along the quiet lane a child-like sense of
gladness grew stronger and stronger in his simple heart, and he drew his
breath more freely as the buzz of the village in the hollow died upon his
ear. Before he had got many yards into this green cloister he took a
match from his pocket, and, striking it upon a ragged stone, he lit his
little pipe, and then meandered on after the donkey again. Dimple
paced lazily from one side of the path to the other, tasting first one,
then another patch of grass that cushioned shady spots of the old lane
with rich emerald. Ben brought up the rear, with wandering steps and
slow; easy and idle as a schoolboy dreaming in the summer woods, switching
at the dogberry bushes on the hedge, and crooning scraps of old
minstrelsy, in fitful gushes, like a bird, that must either ease its heart
by song or die of pent-up pleasure. He stopped at the hedge-side,
plucking the wild roses for the children at home, and singing,—
"Th' chylt cries i'th keyther;
Th' cake bruns i'th oon;
Th' keaw moos i'th milkin'-gap,
Bith leet o'th moon.
"Come up, Dimple! " said Ben, tapping the donkey with his whip-handle.
He said this more from habit than from any desire to hurry the poor brute,
for they were good friends,—in fact, Ben, rough as he looked, had a warm
side for almost everything that lived,—and his donkey understood him very
well. Dimple knew that the day's work was done; and somehow guessed,
from Ben's way of going on, that it had been satisfactory. So when
Ben said "Come up!" it merely answered by an extra frisk of the tail, and
two or three rather livelier steps forward; but the instant that he
stopped at the hedge again, and began to sing about hearing "the drums and
the trumpets sound in the wars of High Jarmanie," Dimple turned aside, and
began to crop the grass as before. And when Ben turned round and saw
the donkey thus engaged he went and patted him on the neck, and said,
"That's reet, owd brid! Get a bit o' green meight into tho, while I
have a reech o' 'bacco;" and Dimple pricked his ears and whisked his tail,
and gave a playful snap at the leg of Ben's trousers, by way of
acknowledging his kindness. "Stop," said Ben, looking into the
panniers; "let's be sure at o's reet again. Iv eawr Betty finds
aught wrang hoo'll be for powin' mi wi' a rollin'-pin o' some lumber . . .
. Let's see." . . . And, once more, he turned over the things he had
bought that day. . . . "Clogs, an' swop. Breawn sugar, and 'bacco,
an' beef. Reet again. . . . Two blue pitchers. Ay, wee's catch
it abeawt one on 'em being crack's, owd lad. . . . I've a good mind
to lay that o' thee, Dimple . . . . An' then there's fayberry, an' peawder
blue, an' yorn, and two hawpo'ths o' toffy, an' candles, an' mussels.
Ay. . . . Oh, an' there's snuff. . . . Nan o' Dolly's takes snuff, too. .
. . 'What's an eawnce o' snuff a week,' said Nan, 'for a woman at's givin'
seawk?' . . . Come, aw think o's reet an' square. Reet as a'
hatch-horn! (acorn). Fol der diddle ido! Nea, then; I dar face
aught there is upo' Lobden moor this neet! That is, if it'll come
i'th daytime,—and it belungs this world.
"So red and rosy was her lips,
So curly wur her hair;
An' sparklin' was those robes of gowld,
Which my true love did wear.
"Get some o' that graice (grass) into thou, Dimple!" Then he sat
down upon the hedge, and charged his pipe again. "Come," said he,
leaning his elbows on his knees, and looking dreamily at Dimple's
panniers, "that's bin a fair do to-day . . . . Eawr Betty's laid in for a
week or so. We han meighl,―and
potitos, too. My feyther use't to co' 'em Irish grapes . . . . That
bit o' brisket looks nice . . . . I'm partial to butcher's chips, but
they're rayther aboon my cut for regilar heightin . . . . I wish they wur
abeawt twopence a peawnd. We'd oather ha' lobscouse or a beef-bo'
every day! . . . Come, never mind. . . . There'll be broth to-morn,—weel
lithe't,—an' plenty o' pot-yarbs in 'em,—an' stars at top, winking at one
another like fun, an' as close together as herrin' in a barrel. I
don't like to see 'em when they're so far asunder 'at they han to sheawt
to one another, like folk at's lost on a wild moor in a dark neet. . . .
An' then we'n have a suet-dumplin', too, beside. . . . Aw co' that a
gradely good do. . . . Right tooral looral laddie oh! right tooral looral
ido!" And then he began to sing again,—
"They brought me up a mutton pie,
Aw like't it weel, aw like's it weel;
They brought me up a mutton pie,
Aw con both sing and say:
They brought me up a mutton pie,
Wi' th inside weet, an' th' eawtside dry;
An' it's nay, nawe, never while aw live,
Win they ony moor bring it me, oh!
Come, Dimple, hasn'to had enough o' that sallet? Nea, then, come up!
Thae'll have it dark afore we getten whoam . . . Howd a minute," continued
Ben, sticking a wild rose into his button-hole, and fastening another at
the head of the donkey's bridle. "Let's put a bit of a haliday-tuft
into thi clooas . . . . Theighur!" cried Ben, retiring a yard or two to
get a better look. "Theighur, owd lad! thae looks as fine as a foo
at a fair wi' that o' thi yed! . . . 'Bonny all o'er, like
Marlan' banner!' said Mall o' Thatcher's . . . . I'll get thee in for a
poo er when Whit'oth rushbearin' comes! . . . Nea then; let's be gooin'.
Stir thoose legs! Play for Lobden as well as tho con! . .
. . 'Forrad, Tummus!' said Johnny, 'th' bull's comin'!'"
Dimple began to move slowly along the lane again, and Ben
followed, arranging the flowers in his button-hole, chanting,
"As I was walkin' deawn by yon green gardens,
All on a summer's evening clear,
It's there I met with a beautiful damsel,
Lamentin' for her shepherd dear.
An' it's never more with my love I'll wander,
With pleasure for to rest myself, and view the land;
An' it's never more—"
Here a turn in the lane brought Ben in sight of an old
woollen mill, at the foot of a wooded steep, on the top of which the
quaint gables of a little hamlet peeped through the trees. The mill
stood in a secluded spot by the lane side. All the workmen had gone
home except "Twitchel," and "Owd Riprap," and little "Enoch o' Yem's o'
Swivers at th' Lung Rindle." The last bag of a load of wool
lay at the front door, and Enoch was preparing to fasten the hooks to it.
The other two were in the top room, winding up. When Ben came in
sight of the mill he stopped, and said, Hello! What han they agate
at th' owd mill? Oh, aw see. They're gettin' wool in . . . .
Little Enoch's rooting abeawt th' dur, yon . . . . Come,
I'll have a bit of a do wi' thoose lads . . . They're allays playin'
me some mak o' marlocks,—prodigal divvles! . . . . But
I'll serve 'em eawt an odd time! . . . Come up." And on he went,
pretending to fettle his whip-lash, and singing louder than before,—
"And she did laurel wear,
And shee-ee did a laurel wear!
Come up, Dimple! He hasn't sin us yet." And he
chanted still louder,—
"Sing, blow the winds, I-ho!
Sing, blow the winds, I-ho!
Clear away the mountain dew!
And, blow the winds, I-ho!"
As he drew nearer the mill, Enoch caught the sound of his
voice, and, whisking round, he cried out,
"Hello, Ben! Is that thee? Wheerto for?"
"Wheer should I be for but whoam at this time o'th neet?
I've a good way to go, thae knows."
"What's o' thi' hurry? If thae'll wait abeawt ten
minutes while we'n done, I'll go wi' tho as fur as Yelly Ho."
"Well, I don't care. But I'm dry. Conto get a
saup o' ale, thinksto?"
"Ay, con I,—an' soon, too."
"Th' Tobe's Yed." (Talbot's Head.)
"Eh, it's a greight way."
"Not it. I con be theer an' back i' under ten minutes."
"Well, nip up for a quart. They'n lend thee a pitcher.
. . . An' dunnot thee go an' sup it upo' th' road, now. I know
what a drunken throttle is. It's no conscience. . . . Nea, be slippy.
I'll hook this bag up whol thae'rt off."
"Honour bright, owd lad!" said Enoch. "Nea, mind thae
fastens th' hooks weel; an' then, thae's nought to do but gi' th' rope a
bit of a wag, an' co' eawt, 'Wind up!' an' away it'll goo."
"Get off witho!" said Ben. Doesto think I've no wit?"
"Well, I've nobbut spokken, thae knows," as he ran oft for
the ale, with his teeth shooting water.
Twopence more, ladies and gentlemen, and up goes the
BY this time, the
sunken sun had drawn his gorgeous train into the west, where it seemed to
linger, looking back upon the landscape, with a sad, intense splendour,
that showed the dark outlines of the hills in grand relief. The wild
flowers were closing their petals; and, in the deepening stillness, the
sound of the little river in the clough rose clearer, singing its drowsy
night-song to the sleepy woods. In the blue east, a few pale stars
were struggling to outshine the light that never wholly fades from the
midsummer sky. A delicious coolness was creeping into the air; and
twilight had touched the eyelids of day with her soft finger. Nature
was at evening prayer; and there was a holy hush upon all the scene.
Poor Ben was a simple, uncultivated man, and his mind was busy with the
frolic he had on hand at the moment; but he was not insensible to the fine
enchantment of that twilight hour. And yet it wrought upon him so
unconsciously to himself that he would have been at a loss to tell what it
was that touched his heart to a softer tone as he looked slowly round, and
heaved a deep sigh. But that sigh was the inarticulate testimony of
his spirit to the influence of nature, who woos us with blessings all our
way from the cradle to the grave.
But this delicate mood was fitful with Ben,—fitful just then
"as the snowfall on the river," for his thoughts hurried back to the prank
he was about to play. Running to the end of the building, he watched
till Enoch had got out of sight, and then he looked carefully round.
There was nobody about; and all was still but the murmur of the stream in
the clough, the carols of a few late birds on the wooded steep, and the
sounds of Twitchel and Riprap, in the top room of the mill, shifting bags
of wool, and singing an old poaching song,―
In Thorney-moor woods, in Nottinghamshire,
Right fol der dol layrol, right fol laddadie!
In Robin Hood's bold Nottinghamsheer,
Right fol der lol layrol leigh!
Three keepers' heawses stood three-square,
An' abeawt a mile from each other they were,
Their orders were to look after the deer,
Right fol der lol layrol lib deigh!
Ben would fain have chimed in with them, but he durst not,
for fear of spoiling the sport; so he subdued the gleeful impulse, and
listened. He looked up at the doors of the top room, to make sure
that the coast was clear, and as there was nobody in sight, he chuckled
and rubbed his hands with childish glee.
"O' reet! . . . Neaw for a mank!" said Ben, as he drew the
patient companion of his wanderings under the rope.
"Nea then, owd brid," continued Ben, patting Dimple's neck; "thae's
bin put on a good while, but aw'll gi' thee a lift i'th world for once! .
. . If thou'd bin reet done to thou met (might) ha' bin a carriage horse
long sin'! . . . But never mind," said he, as he tightened the bellyband;
"never mind, Dimple. Put thi best fuut for-most, just neaw, iv
thae'rt ony hand at flyin'; for thae's beawn a-seein' some o' thi
relations i' hee life,—so behave thisel as weel as tho con . . . . An' iv
ever thae see'd two bigger jackcasses nor yon two that thou'll find i'th
top reawm o' this mill thou may tell me when thou comes down again,—if
ever thou does come down again . . . Neaw for't! Look eawt!
Thae'll be on a different fuutin' in a minute, owd brid!"
The unsuspecting animal pricked his ears, and whisked his
tail, and gazed at the ground with vague, contented eye, thinking no ill.
Its heart was far away on Lobden moor, among thistles and liberty, and it
stood still. When Ben had secured the bellyband he looked aloft
again. All was clear. The two in the top room were still
singing and shifting the wool bags, so Ben fastened the hooks firmly to
the jackass-gear, and, giving the rope a shake, he cried, "Wind up!"
Twitchel and Riprap began to work the windlass. The rope gradually
tightened, and as soon as the donkey felt itself being lifted, it started
from its peaceful dream. Its eyes glistened with fear, and it gave
unmistakable evidence of a strong dislike to "take a flight to heaven that
night, and leave dull earth behind it." The poor brute struggled to
lay hold of the ground with its feet. But fate was too strong for
Dimple. First the forelegs rose,—and he stood pawing the air like
the rampant supporter of a costermonger's coat of arms,—then the hind legs
left the ground, and the entire animal was a-swing, and slowly rising in
the world, to its great dismay. The earth itself seemed to stare
with astonishment to see a jackass,—of all things in the world,—take leave
of it in such a way as this. As Dimple rose higher and higher, he
rocked up and down, fore and aft; and every time his head came lowmost he
looked at his master with doleful eyes.
Before Dimple had risen three yards into the air, Ben began
to repent what he had done; and for an instant he felt half inclined to
cry out for them to let the jackass down again. But the fear of
ridicule kept him silent; and his heart grew more and more troubled as his
old friend rose farther out of reach. When Dimple looked down at
him, he shook his head, and said, "Nay, thou doesn't need to stare at me!
. . . I cannot help tho neaw! . . . Thae'rt eawt o' my honds o'together
this time!" And he tried to laugh, but it was no use. Pleasure
was fast oozing out of him; and the one feeling that moved him most of all
now was fear for the fate of his poor jackass.
"Howd fast, good bally-bant!" cried Ben, gazing up and
clasping his hands. "Howd fast! If thou gi's way, that poor
crayter's done for! . . . Eh, Dimple! Aw wish thee an' me wur safe
awhoam this neet! . . . What a stark, starin', jumped-up foo I wur to send
tho up theer! . . . If that bally-bant breighks, aw'll jow my yed oft
again this stone wole! . . . Woigh! Gently! Tak care, owd brid!
. . . I'll never face Lobden again if aught happens thee,—never while I've
teeth an' een i' my yed!"
In its helpless plunges the donkey came slightly against the
mill, and the instant it felt the touch it shot out its hind feet.
The kick sent Dimple forth into the air with a great swing, which brought
him back, sideway, against the wall, crushing one of the panniers, which
contained, among other things, the two pitchers that Ben had bought for
his wife that day. Ben trembled at the sight; and when he heard the
crash, he cried out, "Woigh, my lad! . . . Gently does it, Dimple,—gently
does it! By th' mon, thou's brokken my pots! . . . Keep off that
wole as weel as ever tho con! Thae's a tickle job bi' th' hond.
The Lord send tho safe through it,— for I connot help tho, now! . . . What
a bowster-yed I wur to make sich a foo on tho as this! Thae never
did me no harm,—never i' thi life, nobbut bi trailin' up an' deawn wi' o'
maks o' things o' thi back, an' helpin' one to get a bit of a livin'! . .
. It's a d――d shame! But mind that
wole, owd crayter,—whatever thae does, keep off that wole!"
The fright and the unusual motion had sadly disturbed the
donkey. "Poor Dimple!" said Ben, staring up. "Poor Dimple!
This mak o' wark doesn't agree witho,―I
can see that, plain." The donkey was twirling round, and swaying up
and down, like a rocking-horse; and Ben watched every movement with a
distressed heart, speaking to his jackass in terms of simple endearment,
and blaming himself as "a foo, full-measur, for playing sich a trick on a
poor thing that had groon up wi' th' childer awhoam—like peighs i' one
swad." He declared that if the bellyband would only hold good
through this trial, he would have it framed and hung up for a picture.
In the meantime, the strange situation so affected Dimple that he broke
out into a loud bray. This made Ben worse than ever, and he sat down
upon a stone at the end of the mill, and covered his face with his hands.
"Eh, what a waistril I am!" said he; "what a waistril I am, to get that
poor crayter into such a hobble as this!" All this while, the two in
the top room were singing and winding away, quite unconscious of what was
coming up outside, and when they heard the jackass bray, one of them said
to the other, "Yer tho, Twitchel; there's another weighver deeod!"*
When they had wound to the top Twitchel locked the wheel, and went
whistling towards the warehouse door, expecting to see a bag of wool.
But when he saw Balaam twirling in front of the warehouse door he started
back and cried out,―
"Hey! Hello! Sitho, Rip! . . . It's a jackass!"
and he started back, and rolled over a bag of wool.
"A what? said Riprap, whisking round, and looking at the
"A jackass! . . . Iv it isn't, aw'll go to the crows!"
replied Twitchel, gathering himself up, and staring with all his eyes from
the back of the bag of wool.
"It is a jackass!" said Riprap, rubbing his eyes, and going
nearer, to make sure of the thing. "It's a jackass, bigo! . .
. . Heaw's th' moon, Twitch?"
"Moon or no moon, that's a jackass! An' aw've sin it
afore somewheer, or else aw'm swapped," replied Twitchel. "But haw
has it getten up theer, thinksto?"
"Nay," answered Riprap, scratching his pate, "aw'm just
wonderin'. . . . Aw'll tell thou what. Aw'll be bund 'at Enoch's
hooked it on in a mistake. Th' berm-yed doesn't know th' difference
between a jackass an' a bag o' wool. But it's happen come'd i'th
cart wi' tother stuff. . . . Tak it in! . . . I dar say th'
maister's bought it for th' childer when he's bin upo' th' fuddle. . . .
Let's tak it in, as heaw! . . . We winnot let it hang twellin' theer like
a lump o' beef afore a kitchen fire."
"Well," said Twitchel, walking towards the door, "it caps o',
iv our maister's taen it into his yed to goo into the jackass-line!
He's never gooin' to fill th' warehouse wi' crayters o' that mak, is he?
He'll be wantin' me to go a-gettin' orders for 'em next,—wi' a sampled
under mi arm. . . . Aw should as soon ha' thought ov a skipful o' whelps
comm' up as this! . . . Come, aw'll tak thou in. . . . Thae'rt in a weary
pickle, owd crayter! Let's see,―heaw
mun aw get howd on tho? . . . Oh, th' tail end! . . . Wo,
Smiler! . . . Woigh, my lad!"
When the tail came round, Twitchel tried to lay hold of it;
but the instant Dimple felt his touch he shot out his hind-feet like
lightning, catching Twitchel a little below his dinner, and sending him
flat back upon the warehouse floor.
"O――oh!" cried Twitchel,
laying his hands upon his belly, and jerking up his knees. "Oh, my!
E—eh! . . . By th' mass, Rip! . . . That's
skifted my baggin above a bit! . . . Heighve mo up! Aw feel as if
awed swallowed a dog-battle! . . . O—oh! Peterloo! . . .
Eh! that's a crumper!"
"Arto hurt?" inquired Riprap, running up to his comrade.
"Am aw hurt?" replied Twitchel, looking up indignantly.
"Try a barrowful thisel, an' see heaw thae likes it! Eh, Rip if
thae'd bin i' my inside just then thae'd ha' been kilt stone-deeod! . . .
Oh! Aw's carry th' shap o' jackass shoon to my grave, neaw! .
. . Heighve me up! Gently!"
"Thae should ha' getten howd of it toppin', mon," said
Riprap, as he helped him up.
"Who? Me?" replied Twitchel, staring at Rip with a
"Ay," said Riprap. "Get howd o' th toppin' next time.
It's th' safer end, mon."
"Ay," replied Twitchel, as he sat upon the floor, rubbing his
belly. "Ay, aw dar say it is th' safer end. There is nobbut
two ends to a jackass, an' tother end's noan safe,—I've fund that out. . .
. But I'm noan greedy. I'll let thee ha' th' next go. . . . I con
stop sheep-trotters, but jackass' heels dunnot agree wi' my stomach.
Thae's ha' th' next go, Rip! Heighve mo up! . . . Oh, by
th' mon! aw shan't be reet ov a month!"
"Arto ony better?" inquired Riprap, as he lifted him to his
"Nawe, I am not no better,—an' thou knows that, too!" replied
Twitchel, hobbling slowly away, with his body bent. "Get that
jackass in, aw tell tho."
"Mun aw rub tho a bit?" said Riprap.
"Nawe,—not just neaw. . . . Get that jackass in!"
"Wilto sup a saup o' sweet oil, or summat ?"said Riprap.
"Gullook!" replied Twitchel, as he caught a glimpse of
Riprap's grinning face. "Thou wouldn't ha' care't if it had sent it
feet straight through me! Goo an' get that jackass in, aw tell tho,—an'
then come and unbutton my singlet!"
Riprap stood a minute, looking at the poor brute twirling in
front of the doorway, and considering which would be the best way of
getting it in. "Oh," said he, "aw have it." And he went and
took a long brush from a corner, and he turned the donkey round with it,
until its head looked in at the door. "Wo, Smiler!" said he, laying
hold of the bridle. "Woigh! . . . Kick th' tother gate
on, an' aw con do witho." And then, as Twitchel lowered at the
wheel, he drew the donkey in, till its feet were safe upon the warehouse
floor. The poor animal trembled with fright as he led it to the back
part of the mill chamber.
"Here, Twitch," said Riprap, "tee this crayter up while aw
see after Enoch." And he went to the front door, and, looking down,
he cried out, "Hello, Enoch! Nea then wheer arto? . . . I see nought
on him," continued he, looking carefully about. "Howd! Stop!
By th' mass, Twitch, that jackass belongs Besom Ben! I've just sin a
wap on him, peepin' off at th' end o'th mill! I'll bet tho' a
hawpenny he's done it for a marlock!"
"Arto sure it's him?" said Twitchel, brightening up at the
"Am I here, thinks to?" replied Riprap, turning sharply
round, and stretching out his arm like an indignant orator.
"Well, then, come away fro that dur," said Twitchel. "We'n
a rare gam afore us, if thou'll mind what thou'rt dooin'!"
* In the manufacturing districts of
Lancashire it used to be a common saying that every time a jackass brayed
a hand-loom weaver had just died.
BEN was fain to see
Dimple safely taken into the chamber of the mill after that dangerous
ascent; but, when he sat down, off at the corner, wondering how the freak
would end, his heart began to be troubled in another way. A swarm of
dim fears arose in his mind, for he felt that he had foolishly thrown
himself at the mercy of those who were, at the best, only mischievous
friends; and, as he had so clumsily tried to plague them, it was hardly
likely that they would lose the chance of paying him back in his own coin.
He knew that he had made a blunder; and yet, after all, he thought, in the
simplicity of his heart, that it was just possible they might not see the
advantage they had over him. He peeped up every two or three
minutes, half expecting to see them let the jackass down again, and hoping
that, at all events, they would give him some sign that they had taken the
joke in a good-natured way, and did not intend to carry it any further for
the sake of tormenting him. Night was coming on, too; and he wanted
to be going home. But he could not think of leaving his jackass; and
in tethering it he had tethered himself; so there was nothing for it but
to wait and see the thing out as patiently as possible. He sat down,
and thing he tried to be comfortable; but it was of no use. He
looked up again and again, and he listened, but the sounds in the chamber
had ceased almost as soon as the donkey had been taken in. Ben
couldn't tell what to make of this. He was afraid it meant mischief.
His heart was fast failing him, and he began to build his last hope upon a
thin chance of making all right with the help of Enoch when he came back
with the ale; and there he sat, at the corner of the mill, nursing this
flickering spark of consolation, and looking out for the old man's return.
In a few minutes Enoch came paddling into sight, with a
pitcher in his hands, and a cheerful grin upon his flushed face.
"What a while thou's bin," said Ben.
"Nay," replied Enoch, wiping his forehead, "it's a good way
up yon an' back, mon. Tak howd an' sup! . . . Thou'll need no tot.
Aw think it tastes better eawt o'th pitcher. Tak owd, an' oppen thi
shoolders ! "
"Well," said Ben, taking the pitcher, "I'll just taste wi'
tho,—or else I care nought mich abeawt it. . . . Hello!
there's no quart here, Enoch!"
"Well, I nobbut had one poo at it,—an' that's o, —but it wur
a pummer, owd lad; for I wur dry as soot . . . . But what's up witho?
Thou looks very slamp abeawt th' face! Wheer's th' jackass?"
"What dost think I've done wi't?" said Ben, making a
miserable attempt at looking merry upon a sad stomach.
"Thou's sent it whoam?"
"Thou hasn't etten it?"
"Well, wheer is it?"
"I've sent it up."
"To th' top reawm."
"What! th' top reawm o'th mill?"
"Aye," said Ben, pointing aloft with his finger, and trying
once more to smile against the grain.
"Thae lies, belike!" replied Enoch, changing the pitcher from
one hand to the other, and staring at Ben.
"Aw have, for sure," said Ben, blushing at the sense of his
"Why, what's thae done that for?"
"Aw can hardly tell. Fun, aw guess," replied Ben.
And then he looked down at the ground, and kicked a little stone at his
foot, and he looked round in a wandering way, and tried to whistle.
"Oh, aw see," said Enoch; and then he paused, and his old
eyes twinkled with mischievous glee. "Well, come, sup up, Ben," said he.
"Aw'll tak th' pitcher into the mill till mornin'."
"Well, thou'll get it deawn again as soon as thae con, winnot
tho?" replied Ben, laying hold of Enoch's sleeve as he was starting.
"Be as sharp asto con. I want to be off whoam."
"I'll make it reet, thou's see," said Enoch, running into the
mill by the back way. Closing the door behind him, he bolted it with
as little noise as possible, and then he ran upstairs.
"Where's that jackass?'' cried he, almost out of breath.
"It's i'th nook, here," said Twitchel. "What the
hangmen' hasto sent it up here for?"
"Nay, it's noan o' me," answered Enoch. "It belungs
Lobden Ben. He did it while I're off for th' ale."
"What ale?" asked Riprap.
"We'n had a quart fro' th' Tobe's Yed," replied Enoch.
"An' where is it?" continued Riprap.
Enoch turned the pitcher upside down, and, pointing to his
mouth, he whispered, "Th' Red Lone."
"Oh. I see," said Twitchel, in a sarcastic tone.
"I guess thou doesn't know there's onybody i'th world has a throttle but
"Throttle cried Enoch. "What's a quart among two?
I could ha' supped it o' mysel, aw're so dry . . . .
What's th' use o' takin' ale in i' numbers, this weather? . .
. . But, here, I say, lads! We'n sarve yon mon eawt for sendin'
his jackass up here! . . . Let's lower it deawn at th' back,
an' pop it somewheer."
Twitchel and Riprap were delighted with the scheme. "By
th' mon, Enoch!" cried Riprap, snapping his fingers, "thae has it, owd
lad! thae has it ! . . . Go thi ways an' talk to him
eawt at th' front while we getten it down at th' back, or else he'll see
"Well, get ready," said Enoch. "Get ready, lads!
By mon, this is a do!"
As soon as they had rigged all ready for lowering the donkey,
Twitchel quietly opened the back doors and peeped cautiously out to see if
the coast was clear.
"O' reet!" said he, chuckling. "Neaw, Enoch, go thee
an' talk to him at th' front while we getten it deawn."
"Well, but wheer are yo gooin' to tak it to? becose I'm noan beawn to be
done eawt o' my share o' this marlock."
"We'n tak it up to Jem's at the Tobe's Yed. So, when
we'n getten fairly off, thou mun lock th' durs, an' pike eawt at th' back
after us as nicely as thou con."
"Well, are yo ready?"
"Ay; get agate," said Twitchel.
Enoch looked out at the front, and seeing Ben still sitting,
lost in thought, upon the stone at the corner of the mill, he cried out,―
"Hello, Ben! come under here. I want to speighk to tho."
"Nea, then," said Ben, jumping up and coming to the front, in
expectation of a comfortable finish to his troubles. What saysto,
"Which gate 'ud be th' best to get this thing deawn again?
I've bin thinkin', like, 'at if we could get a greight skip or summat,—what
thinksto? . . . Or if we could make it up nicely in a strong pack-sheet,
it'd happen be safer."
"Nawe, nawe!" said Ben anxiously. "No pack-sheet no
pack-sheet! It'd never howd, mon! But if yo'n a good strong
While Ben was talking in this way, Enoch, pretending to
listen, glanced slyly inside to see how his mates were getting on with
lowering the donkey. They had already got it down to the ground at
the back of the mill, and were hurrying downstairs as gently as possible
to drive it off to the village. Enoch watched them from the corner
of his eye with mischievous glee, and still pretended to listen to Ben's
earnest request that he'd "be sure an' make o' reet, so as it'd come deawn
"It'll get deawn, thou'll see," said Enoch, "safe an' seawnd!
. . . But thae'd rayther have it in a skip, thae says."
"Well, i'tho con find one big enough an' strung enough."
"Well, stop theer a bit, while I look for one."
Enoch ran to the window at the back of the chamber, from
which he saw his two mates hurrying the donkey in the direction of the
village. As soon as they were out of sight he quietly closed the
front doors of the chamber and crept downstairs and out at the back,
locking the door behind him as stealthily as possible; and then he took to
his heels after the other two, leaving poor Ben all alone, with night
closing around him, gazing up anxiously at the top room of the mill, and
wondering what was keeping Enoch so long.
Now with religious awe, the farewell light Blends
with the solemn colouring of the night.
AS Ben walked slowly to
and fro in front of the mill, expecting every minute to see Enoch show
himself at the top doors again with some news of Dimple, he began to be
aware that there was a deeper silence around him than before, and it sent
a cold chill all over him. A fearful sense of isolation was
beginning to lay hold of him. He tried to sing a song by way of
keeping his courage up. But it would not do. The sound came
back upon his ear with such weird loneliness that it frightened him, and
he stopped at the end of the first line. There was something so
mysterious in the stillness that was settling down around him that he
durst not disturb it; and yet he would have been glad to hear any sound
that told of human life, for he felt like a man locked up alone in an old
church at midnight. Poor Ben was a solitary pool left trembling upon
the shores of darkness after the tide of life had gone down. He
paused, and looked wistfully around. All was still, and night was
silently winding her dusky arms about him. The hollows of the clough
were already shrouded in thick gloom, and vague terrors began to
overshadow the benighted besom-maker; for he was a simple, superstitious
man, and his mind had been early stored with the goblin tales of "Spoddenlond."
He had sat by the fire on winter nights, when a lad, in his father's
cottage on Lobden moor, listening in eager excitement to many a wild "boggart"
story, the scene of which was laid in the solemn clough where he was then
wandering to and fro so lonely in the dark. He could have kept his
heart up better if he had even had his poor jackass by his side; but,
bereft of Dimple, he felt strangely cut off from human society, and left
entirely at the mercy of those fearful beings who are said to wander back
to us from the confines of the invisible world. He tried to get the
better of his fears, but he could not; for, in spite of himself, the awful
stillness and the deepening gloom sank every moment more heavily upon his
spirits. He began to be afraid of his own footsteps; for his senses
were so unnaturally quickened by a morbid imagination, that those thin
undersounds which creep about lonely corners of the world all through the
night-time came now with strange distinctness upon his ears and loaded
with undefinable horrors. He pulled his hat down upon his brow, and
he turned up the collar of his coat, to shut out things he dreaded seeing;
and he trod the ground with softer footfall than before, lest he should
awake the anger of some lurking wanderer from the land of shade. The
unhealthy activity of his senses left him no rest. Now, a
leather-winged bat, flitting athwart the gloom, made his heart leap with
sudden terror, and he glared aloft, and muttered tremulously, "What's
that?" Sometimes he fancied he heard strange whisperings a few yards
off; but, too terrified to look, he hutched closer into his clothing,—the
last poor citadel left to protect him from the powers of darkness.
And now and then, even when the wind was still, a stealthy rustle crept
through the trees behind the mill, as if the dusky wood swarmed with
goblin wings. He began to keep nearer to the building, for there was
more of human association in that than in the gloomy clough. But
even there he was haunted by the terrors of the night; for as he paced by
the door it gave a drowsy jolt that made him start aside. There was
something in the sound that told him it had not been stirred by the wind,
nor yet by earthly hands, and the poor fellow's flesh crept upon his
bones. And then, when the wind came moaning up from the dark, like a
thing in pain, it seemed to pause where he stood, and coil itself about
him maliciously; and he felt as if it had left its hollow cell solely to
wail an inarticulate warning against his intrusion upon the mysteries of
the night. Everything around him seemed to be waiting to go on with
some weird business as soon as he should go away. And, heaven knows,
poor Ben had no desire to make or meddle with such things. He would
have been glad to go, if he could only have got hold of his jackass; for
he was terrified, and even the faint sounds of life which came, by fits,
from little folds upon the heights in the distance, only served to deepen
his sense of the solitude around him.
But Ben began to think of the little cottage on Lobden moor,
where Betty and the children were waiting for him; and the thought made
him desperate. He could see his wife looking out at the door, and
wondering what kept him so late. He could see her walking into the
lonely packhorse track that led by his cottage door, and hearkening down
towards the valley for his footsteps. And he could hear his children
playing about the hearth, and prattling over their "porritch," and then
crying for their "mam" to let them stop up till their "dad" came home.
Ben could not stand this any longer. It woke up new mettle within
him, and for a few minutes broke the spell that had begun to paralyse his
spirits. It was high time to get his jackass out of the mill,
for,—goblins or no goblins,—he durst not go home without it. And
once more he bitterly blamed himself for the foolish prank he had played
with poor Dimple.
It struck him, too, now, that Enoch was a long time in coming
with the promised skip, and Ben began to wonder what was keeping him so
long. He went and knocked at the door, but the mill sounded awfully
hollow, and his knocking woke up wild echoes, that shouted to one another
from dark corners down the clough, and he looked fearfully round, as if he
expected every moment to see something unearthly come forth from the gloom
behind him. Then all sank into a tomb-like stillness again, and the
poor fellow was nearly at his wits' end.
Retiring a few yards from the front, so as to get a better
view of the upper part of the building, he cried out,―
"Heigh! now then, Enoch! Wheer arto? Come, owd
brid! I want to go whoam!"
But when he saw that the top doors were closed, his heart
began to be troubled with new misgivings.
"Hello!" said he, staring up. "How neaw? They're
noan gwon, belike!"
He could hardly believe it—so he tried again.
"Enoch! Dosto yer? What arto botherin' abeawt so
lung? . . . Heigh, Twitch, owd dog! Come, lads, I want
to be off Lobden gate on!"
There was no reply. A pin-drop silence pervaded the old
mill; and when the night wind came soughing up from the dark again, Ben's
heart sank into his shoes. He looked through the window. All
was gloomy and still, and in the solemn tinge of light that lingered there
the machinery had assumed vague and spectral shapes, and he was glad to
turn his eyes away, for he could not endure the spell-bound appearance of
that lonely mill. But, believing that Enoch and the other two were
still lurking inside, and merely trying to frighten him, he went and shook
the door again, and shouted. And then he began to appeal to them in
imploring accents: speaking sometimes through the lock-hole, and sometimes
through a broken pane in the window.
"Twitchel, owd brid! Heigh! I say! Is Enoch
theer? Come, lads. Dall it, an' sink it! A joke's a
joke, an' I can ston one as weel as onybody,—When it's dayleet, an'
there's folk abeawt. But, it's gettin' th' deeod time o'th neet, an'
I want to be pikein' off. Come, lads! . . . I say,
Enoch! I'tho'll send that jackass eawt, I'll stan an odd gallon,—I
will, for sure? . . . Come, lads, do! I've th' brass i' my hond,
here! . . . Neaw, Enoch, come. I've a greight way to go yet, an'
thae knows what mak o' one our Betty is when hoo starts . . .
. Heigh, Rip, owd brid? Arto theer? Dost yer? Oppen th'
dur, owd lad! . . . Doesn't to remember thee an' me
gooin' a wimberryin' together when we'rn bits o' lads? . .
. Come, owd dog! Fair do's amung mates!"
He listened again, but all was still. "Eh, this is a
do!" said he to himself, looking despairingly round. "This is a do!"
And then he went and tried the key-hole.
"Now then, come! I yer yo' snurchin' an' laughin' theer!
. . . Come, lads; let's ha' that jackass! . .
. I say, Rip! Dost yer? Hasto forgotten me pooin' tho
eawt o' that greight tub i' Bull Robin back-yard when thae'r abeawt th'
bugth of our Billy? Why, thae'd happen be five year owd or so .
. . . Thae'd ha' bin dreawnt that time, owd brid, but for me.
Eh, thae wur a seet when thou coom eawt o' that tub! It wur noan
sich nice stuff to fo' into, noather. Aw remember thi mother ga' me
a trayclebutter-cake an' a hawp'ny when aw geet tho whoam . .
. . Our folk had nought mich to tak to at that time o'th day .
. . . Come, owd dog! Have a bit o' wit! Let's have
owd o' that jackass! Dost yer?"
Ben held his tongue, and hearkened again; but the only sound
he heard was made by the wind, which whistled a little razory note through
the lock-hole into his ear, as if in mockery of his simple arts of
persuasion. Ben turned away despondingly, and he walked about
staring at the ground, and muttering to himself, "Well, by th' mass!
I've brought my pigs to a bonny market this time! Whatever mun I do?
Eh, whatever mun I do?" and then he sat down upon the stone at the corner
of the mill again. "Eh," continued he, "if ought happens that
jackass, I'se never do no moor good i' this world,—never no moor,—never no
moor! . . . It mother belunged our folk . . . . I reckilect it bein'
foal't as weel as con be. An' a prattier little thing never bote of
a thistle! Bonny Dimple! It's been brought up like one o'th
family, in a manner o' speighkin'. . . . Aw like as if
aw con see it paddlin' up an' deawn th' lone amung th' childer, just th'
same as if they wur o' childer together,—stickin' honds wi' one another.
Ay, an' th' little things use't to cample an' talk to't, as if they wur
own cousin to't; an' it hearkened an' prick't its ears, an' then marlock't
up an' deawn, as if it knowed every word 'at they said . . . . Eh, Dimple,
owd lad! . . . . Aw've watched 'em through th' window mony a toime, while
it's made my belly warche wi' laughin'! . . . Ay, an' it
use't to height bits o' brade an' sich like eawt o' their honds,―just
th' same as a gradely Christian. . . . Eh dear o' me!
Our Billy bought it a hawpoth o' toffy ounce't, an' he kept comin' to me
an' sayin', 'Here, dad, make it height it! It winnot bite.
Make it height it, dad!' . . . Eh dear! eh dear! . .
. An' I remember him cryin' his een up one neet, becose his mother
wouldn't let him have it i' bed wi' him. . . . .
It knocked him into th' well-trough one day wi' pushin' its nose into his
porritch-dish. . . . Ay, an' another time it followed
him o' th' road to schoo' to Owd Maily's, at 'Th' Swine Routin's,' as if
it wanted to larn th' a—b, ab,' like him. And when they geet to th'
dur Owd Mally wouldn't have it i'th heawse. An' our Billy cried for
her to tak it in, an' he towd her he're goon' to save his Sunday hawp'nys
to pay for th' schoo' wage for it. But while th' owd woman wur tryin'
to drive it off wi' th' hond-brush he pike't eawt at th' back dur and ran
off a playin' truan' wi' th' jackass. Hoo'd a regular battle wi't,
an' it sent it fuut through a mug 'at stoode at th' schoo' dur afore hoo
could get it to goo away. But when our Billy code eawt on't fro th'
end o'th lone it set off after him at full gallop, an they took straight
deawn Velly-Ho' Cloof together,—like red-shanks. As Owd Mally stoode
i'th dur hole watchin' 'em, hoo shaked th' brush at our Billy, an' hoo
said, 'I'll warm thee, gentleman, for bringing jackasses to't schoo' witho!'
But our Billy didn't care a hep for th' brush, nor for hur noather, so as
Dimple wur wi' him . . . . I thought they'd bin lost
that time. An' our Betty flote me as I'd bin th' instigation o'th
whole consarn. But they turn't up at th' edge o' dark as hungry as
two foomart-dogs. . . . Eh, there'll be some frettin' i' yon hole abeawt
that jackass! . . . Dimple, Dimple, owd lad! Thae's done
nought to desarve sich usuage as this! Thae's been one o'th main
props o' my life sin thou boom to ony sense! . . . . By
Guy! aw'll face noan o' Lobden moorside again beawt that jackass! If
I do I'll ―― . . . Hello! What's
It was the mill door that rattled in the wind. But Ben
sprang to his feet, and ran to the lock-hole again, thinking it might be
some sign of life inside.
"Heigh, lads!" cried he. "Are yo theer? Nea then!
I say! Oppen dur! . . . Come, do some bit like as yo
would'n be done by! Turn that jackass up, an' let's be gooin'! .
. . Heigh! I say! I care nought abeawt that bit o'
beef,—nor th' clogs noather. . . . Twitch, owd lad!
Doesto yer? Thae may tak that beef whoam witho. It'll come in
for th' childer,—and thae'rt welcome, owd mon! An' thae may gi' Rip
thoose clogs. They'n just fit him. . . . Come,
lads, let's ha' mi jackass! . . . An' I say, Enoch, thae knows that cauve-skin
singlet 'at I won at th' seck-race th' last Whit'oth rushbearin'.
Aw'll gi' tho that, an' a brass bacco-box o' mi gronfeyther's, an'
thrippence, i' tho'll let mi jackass off! . . . Come,
lads, for God's sake! It's getten dark, an' I don't like bein' so
lat whoam of a neet ! . . . Come? Dun yo yer?"
It was no use. Ben's appeal was lost upon the dead
mill. And in the depth of his despair it struck him that he had
better try another tack. So, after he had listened a minute or two,
he cried out again in a tone of half-assumed anger, "Come, I say!
Yor gooin' rathur too fur for me, neaw! I'm noan to ston this much
lunger! If yo dunnot send my jackass eawt o' that hole i' under two
minutes I'll wuzz a twothre stones through these windows. Neaw, I've
towed you! . . . An' as for thee, Enoch. Th' next time I leet o'
thee, owd mon, I'll fot thee a wusk i'th' earhole! So, look out!
Thae'll ha' to go through St. Peter's needle, i' my shoon stops on!
I've towd to!"
But this tone was so foreign to Ben's gentle nature that he
could not keep it up, and feeling painfully aware of the fact, he gave way
at once, and leaning himself against the wall of the mill, he covered his
face with his hands, and said, in a trembling voice, "Eh, I's ha' to dee
upo this clod, to-neet! I's ha' to dee upo this clod!" Then he
crept into the doorway for shelter, and there he stood, downhearted and
silent, and still as a statue, pricking his ears at every little sound.
The poor fellow little dreamt that Dimple had been let down at the back of
the mill, and driven up into the village nearly an hour before; and
therefore, believing that the jackass was still inside, he clung to the
building with a heart full of melancholy anxiety.
The last gleam of sunset had burnt out in the west, and
darkness had fairly settled down upon the scene. But, as the dreamy
fringe of the day was drawn off from the landscape, a cold, chaste tinge
of still more solemn light began to suffuse the gloom, for the stars were
silently mustering to their nightly sessions in the cloudless sky.
Gentle sleep had begun to weigh down the eyelids of the tired world; but
"Nature's soft nurse," who "knits up the ravelled sleeve of care," had no
power over fretful Ben as he stood there, weary, yet unnatural wakeful, in
the doorway of the old mill that night. And there, for the present,
we must leave the poor besom-maker, moaning in the solitary clough, whilst
we follow his unfortunate donkey up into the neighbouring village.
But, is this true? or is it else your pleasure,
Like pleasant travellers, to break a jest
Upon the company you overtake?
"TAMING OF THE
WHEN we last left Enoch
he had closed the doors of the mill chamber, and he had crept downstairs
and out at the back, locking the door quietly behind. 'Twitchel and
Riprap were hurrying Dimple across the fields. They durst not take
the high-road for fear of their footsteps being heard. Enoch
followed them as fast as he could go, and soon as he had crossed the first
field he stopped and looked back from behind the hedge. All was
dusky and still, and there was nobody in sight. No doubt poor Ben
was innocently pacing about the other side of the building still, waiting
for Enoch to show himself at the top doors again, as he had promised.
Enoch chuckled at the thought, and ran on after the jackass and its
drivers. He was nearly out of breath when he overtook them, but he
blurted out, in earnest tones, "Forrad, lads! forrad! We're noan
eawt o' seet yet!"
They were getting near a hillock which would hide them from
view in the direction of the mill. Once behind that, they would be
"Come up, yo slow-motion't leather-yed!" said Enoch, flinging
his cap at the jackass. "Come-up! Nip reawnd that nook, lads,
an' we's be as reet as a ribbin! Eh, this is a marlock!"
It was easy to say "Come up," but Dimple was bad to drive.
The poor brute was quite bewildered. He neither liked the road nor
those who drove him along it, and every foot he went was against the
grain. But by dint of pulling and hauling, and sundry ingenious
modes of torment in the rearward, they managed to get the frightened
animal slowly along. As soon as they had got over the hillock, Enoch
peeped back again.
"O' reet!" said he. "Tak that feelt-road, an' o'er
Tummy Glen's meadow―he'll never see
us,—an' then through th' farmyard an' deawn th' keaw-lone! Go
quietly through th' yard, or else they'n yer us. Off wi' yo, neaw!
Here, I'll make that jackass stir better nor this!" and he picked up a
thorn branch from the ditch and tickled the donkey behind with it.
Dimple had not been used to such treatment as that, and at the first touch
of the thorns he darted his heels out.
"Hello!" said Enoch, starting aside. "Look out!
It's kickin' again!"
"By th' mon!" said Twitchel, running up to the bridle, "thoose
heels weren't aboon th' thickness of a shillin' off my shins! Thee
look after that end, Enoch. I'll tent this front quarter! Come
up, Balaam! Tickle it again, Enoch!"
And away they went, tugging and tormenting the poor jackass
along the field-path till they came in sight of a turnstile which led into
the next field.
"Howd!" cried Enoch. I'd forgotten that steel-hole!
How mun we manage this?"
"Let's heighve it o'er!" said Rip.
"Nay," replied Twitchel,—"noan o' me! I matter havin'
nought to do with that job! Yo two heighve it, an' I'll go to th'
tother side an' 'tice it wi' a bit o' brade."
"Well, then," said Rip, "let's drive it up th' wayterstid."
"Nay," answered Enoch, "that'll do noan. We's be
dreawnt, or some lumber. Beside, it's a mile of a reawnd . . . . But
howd," continued he, running down the hedge-side, "aw'll shap it!
Come here. Let's widen this hole a bit!" And he pulled down a
bush of thorns which had been put into a gap in the hedge made by the
"Nea then," cried Enoch, "o'er wi' it! Be sharp!
By th' mon, lads, this licks cock-feightin'! O'er wi' it!"
"Cock-feightin'!" replied Twitchel, pulling at the bridle.
It's as good as a steeple-chase, bigo! Tickle it beheend again,
"Here, I'll make thee skift! " said Enoch, taking aim at
Dimple with a rotten gate-bar which had helped to fill the gap. But
Twitchel cried out, "Howd! No peighlin'! Thae may tickle it i''
thou likes, but no peighlin' while I'm here!"
At last, with a great deal more tickling and tugging, they
got Dimple through the gap.
"Theighur!" said Twitchel, as they stood on the other side,
taking breath, "Theighur! That job's done! Which gate now?"
"Tak through th' turmit-feelt!" replied Enoch. "It'll
not do to stop here!"
"Who's is it?" inquired Rip
"It belungs Tummy Glen," answered Enoch.
"Eh!" said Rip; "he'll have us up! He's a rivven chap,
is Tummy! He'll have us afore Owd Clement, as sure as pie!"
"Never thee mind him!" cried Enoch, "Tummy's as drunk as a
wheel-yed bi neaw! He's off at a churn-supper at Prickshaw.
Forrad, I tell yo!"
"Forrad, then!" replied Twitchel. "I'll be as hard as
And away they went, kneading through the soft soil, towards a
gate which led into Tummy's farmyard. As they drew near to the gate
Enoch whispered to the other two―
"Nea then, yo mun be as whist as mice! Be ginger wi'
that yate, Twitch! Owd Sall's i'th kitchen yon, aw see! . .
. Dunnot cheep till we getten through th' yard! Hoo's a thin-eart
un, is Sall!"
Twitchel managed the gate as noiselessly as if it had been
made of moonshine, but the moment he had set it back he tript forward
through the yard, staring at the kitchen door as he went by. When he
got off at the corner of the house he stopped and peeped back to see how
the others came on.
"Sitho, Rip," whispered Enoch, pointing to Twitchel as he ran
off; "sitho at yon―― turmit-yed!
He'll have us taen!"
Enoch and Rip had scarcely got half way across the yard with
Dimple when the door of the house was opened, and out rushed a great dog,
followed by the farmer's wife. The light from the inside fell full
upon Enoch and Rip driving the jackass. Enoch was nearest the door,
and the dog flew straight at him, seizing him by the leg. Enoch
screamed out, "Take it off! Oh, tak it off!" and he fell back into a
trough full of swillings, splitting the trough in his fall. The
instant Twitchel saw the door open he took to his heels "full pelt" down
the cow-lane, and at the same moment Riprap disappeared in a mysterious
way. As soon as Enoch fell into the trough the dog let go his leg
and rushed at Dimple, and away went the poor jackass kicking and prancing
down the lane with the dog at his heels.
Old Sally was alone, but she was a dauntless dame, and as
soon as she saw that the dog had disposed of the others she ran up to
Enoch, who sat among the swillings, rubbing his leg.
"Nea then!" cried Sally. "What dun yo want here?"
"I want to be off eawt o' this cote as soon as I con!"
replied Enoch, gathering himself up from among the swillings. "That
dog o' yours has taen a lump eawt o'th cauve o' my leg!"
"Th' dog would ha' touched noan o' thee if thae'd bin upo'
thi own clod," said Sally. "Who arto?"
"Who am I? I'm Enoch. Enoch o' Swivers.
That dog's played――"
"Oh, is it thee, Enoch?"
"Ay, it's me."
"Well, an' what are yo after?"
"We'n fund a jackass deawn i'th cloof."
"Well, an' what are yo doin' wi' it here?"
"I'll tell yo sometime else," said Enoch, taking to his heels
over a hedge close by. "Yon dog's comin' back, I yer!"
"Well, but who's to make this trough good?" shouted Sally.
"Who's to make my leg good?" replied Enoch, from behind the
hedge. And then he struck across the fields.
Enoch durst not take the cow-lane for fear of meeting the
dog; so he went helter-skelter over hedge and ditch in the dark, and in
about ten minutes he came out upon the high-road at the top end of the
village of Shawclough. The first person he met was a mower going
home with his scythe upon his shoulder, and singing―
Thae'm get him bi th' leg, an' give him a twell,
An' say, Boney, owd crayter, tak care o thisel!
I'tho doesn't, bi th' maskins, he'll potter thi wynt;
An' he'll ding up thi een, and send tho whoam bloint.
"Nea then!" said Enoch. "Is that thee, Jem?"
"Nawe, it isn't, me Jem! Who art thou?"
"I'm Enoch. Enoch o' Swivers."
"Well. An' what does Enoch o' Swivers want wi' me,
"Hasto let o' two chaps wi' a jackass?"
"I con leet o' nought else but jackasses to-neet, o' somehow
. . . . What mak o' chaps are they?"
"Tone on em's a wart at th' end of his nose," replied Enoch.
"How could I see a wart at th' end of his nose i'th dark,
thae――tup? . . .There's
two churn yeds o' some mak nursin' a jackass at front o'th Tobe's Yed,
yon. Off witho to 'em! Thae favvurs one o'th same breed!"
Enoch made no further parley, but ran down the road towards
his comrades. As soon as he came within hail he shouted at the top
of his voice,―
"Nea then! Is that thee, Enoch?"
"It's nought else. Whereas th' jackass?"
"It's here," answered Rip. "How did to get off, owd
"Off! Yon dog's taen a great meawthful eawt o'th cauve
o' mi leg!"
"An' what said owd Sally?"
"Why, hoo reckons hoo'll have us up."
"By th' mon!" said Twitchel, "I wish I'd had nought to do wi'
this job! If our maister gets to yer on it he'll seck us o'! .
. . An' sitho what a seet I am!"
"Eh, ay!" said Enoch. "Wheer hasto bin?"
"Bin! I ran up to th' middle in a sink-hole, eawt o'th
gate o'th dog!"
"Well, thae'rt a bonny baigle, owd mon," said Enoch,
"Baigle!" replied Twitchel; "Feel at mo! Aw met ha bin
in a traycle-tub!"
"An' how did th' jackass goo on?" continued Enoch.
"Th' jackass replied Twitchel. "Why, it needed no
drivin', aw con tell tho, wi' that dog beheend it . . .
. It took slap through a potito-feelt, an' eawt at th' back of
Johnny Baa-lamb pig-cotes, wi' th' dog snappin' at it every stride.
Off it went deawn the keaw-lone, like a wild unicorn or summat, wi' it
tail up, an' it heels dartin' eawt like leetenin' . . .
. I made reawm for 'em as they went by, thae may depend . . .
. Just at th' turn o'th lone it met owd Mall o' Flazer's wi' a pitcherful
o' churn-milk in her honds. Down hoo went, milk an' o'. Hoo
skrike't eawt 'Murder!' an' th' jackass sprang straight o'er th' top on
her, just same as if hoo'd bin a bruck, or a fire-hole, or summat.
An' then it catch't th' dog a welt o'th jowl wi' it heel, an' sent it
yeawlin' whoam again, wi' th' part of it jawbwon skifted,—or else aw'm
chetted . . . . Aw're wipin' mysel wi' some hay when th'
dog coom back, but I crope beheend a stack till it had getten by, an' then
I coom forrad whistlin'—as sly as a meawse. When I geet to the turn
o'th lone folk began o' axin' if that wur my jackass. But I'd ha'
noan. I reckon't to be as gawmless as a tup. I began a-thinkin'
it had jumped through a window, or some lumber . . . .
How did thae go on, Rip?"
"Goo on!" replied Rip. "Thae knows awed that bit o'
beef o' Ben's i' my hond, 'at I'd taen eawt o'th pannier. As soon as
I see'd th' dog get howd o' Enoch leg, aw lees th' beef fo' into a gutter,
an' I lope straight o'er th' hedge. Look heaw I ruvven mi breeches
amung th' thorns! An' I'll be bund my skin's rule't like a copy-book
just neaw. Well, as soon as I'd getten o'er th' hedge aw lee me down
flat o' mi face i'th feelt, till things geet sattle't a bit. An'
when I coom to pike mysel up―― . .
. Sitho at my breast! Talk abeawt mustard-plaisters!"
"Slutch, bi' th' mon!" said Enoch, feeling at it.
"Slutch! Ay, keaw-slutch!" replied Rip.
"Ay, it is, bigo!" said Enoch, examining it more carefully.
"Well, come," cried Rip, cheerfully, "ne'er mind. It'll
wesh off. I'm fain we'n getten th' jackass. But what mun we do
wi't, lads? What the devil mun we do wi't?
"Pop it, I tell you!" cried Enoch.
"Pop it, saysto?" answered Twitchel. "There's no
pop-shops abeawt here, and if one wur to drive it to Rachda' it's ten to
one if ony o'th pone-brokers would tak it in. Here, Enoch, look
after it thisel . . . . I'm noan beawn to ston here so
mich longer. We's be taen up, or some lumber."
"Come, thae'rt not gooin' to run soft again, arto?" said
"Soft or hard," replied Twitchel, "I'm noan beawn to be taen
up for jackass-steighlin', I tell yo! So if ony on yo knows a
pop-shop wheer they taen jackasses in, get agate o' truckin, or else I'm
off at th' nook,—like a red-shank!"
"Try th' lonlort here, aw tell yo!" cried Enoch. "He's
a daycent chap, is Jem! Let's give him th' first chance!"
"Well, go thee in an' ax him then, as thae'rt so cliver!"
replied Twitchel. "He stons i'th bar yon."
"Come, I'll goo!" said Enoch. And he ran up the steps,
and shouted in at the doorway,―
"Heigh, Jem! Thae'rt wanted a minute."
"Comin'!" replied Jem, setting down a pitcher which he was
filling at the bar. When he got to the front he set one hand against
the door-cheek, and looked out into the starlit road. "Well, what's
wanted?" said he.
"Come here!" replied Enoch, beckoning him to the causeway
side, where they stood with the donkey.
"Sitho, Jem!" continued Enoch, "Con to lend us hauve-a-creawn
upo' this jackass?"
"A jackass!" cried Jem. "What the devil wi'n yo bring
next? Wheer han yo let o' this?"
"We'n fund it powlerin' abeawt i'th cloof, yon," replied
Enoch, "an' we'n had aboon hauve-a-creawn's 'oth o' bother wi't. It
caps me heaw it geet yon. It belungs somebry 'at's oather drunken or
dreawnt. But as who's it is, they'd be fain to pay for't when they
turn's up . . . . Thae'll be sure o' this brass back, or
else thae con stick to th' jackass, thae knows . . . .
It's a nice little thing o' somebry's."
"Ay, it is!" said Rip, pretending to examine Dimple's points.
"It's a pratty-legged un,—very . . . . Feel here, Jem!
. . . . There's a bit o' breed abeawt that jackass, or
else aw'm chetted."
"Well," replied Jem, eyeing the rogues with doubtful glance,
and then groping at the donkey's legs, as if he was beginning to be
satisfied in his mind about the matter,―"well,
I guess I's be like to do it. Here!" and he handed the money to
"It's worth hauve-a-creawn, as how 'tis," continued Jem,
"I'll put it i'th stable a day or two, an' if nobody owns it it'll come in
for th' childer . . . . Here, Rip, tak it in, and
give it a bit o' some'at to height . . . . Thae may
leeav thoose things i'th panniers . . . . I'll see
to 'em afore I go to bed."
"That's reet," said Twitchel, pocketing the half-crown, as
Rip and Dimple went round to the stable; "we'n getten it into good honds
at last. Come, owd brid," continued he, turning to Enoch, "we mun
goo in, I guess?"
"Ay," replied Enoch, "in witho."
And away they went into the alehouse, at the heels of the