Edwin Waugh: Besom Ben (2)

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CHAPTER VI.


Three blither lads, that lee-lang night,
        Ye wadna find in Christendie.

BURNS.


AFTER the donkey had upset the old woman at the end of the lane, and had given the farmer's dog a taste of his heels, sending it howling home again, with its tail between its legs, and a great pain in the jaw, it is ten to one that it would have got clear out of the hands of its enemies, and found its way home into the hills, but for Riprap.  The moment Rip saw the dog seize Enoch in the farmyard he leaped over the nearest hedge, and laid himself down upon his face.  But as soon as Dimple and the dog had swept by the hedge behind which he lay hid he sprang to his feet, and picking up the piece of beef which he had dropped into the gutter, he ran for his life, over hedge and ditch till he came out at a field gate, which opened upon the high road, low down in the village.  Here he was safe, and he turned up the road and went towards the old Tobe's Yed, trying to look as innocent as possible.  But before he had gone many yards he heard the clatter of Dimple's feet coming down the brow in the dark in full canter.  He was just in time to stop it.  Flinging the beef upon the hedge he rushed from one side of the road to the other, shouting and swinging his arms, till he ran the jackass into a corner, where he caught it by the bridle.

    "Come, owd mon," said Rip, "thae'll ha' to go wi' me!"  Then, popping the beef into one of the panniers, he led the frightened animal back up the brow to the door of the old alehouse.  Here he was joined by Twitchel, who had lain down in an old cart at the house-end, peeping out now and then to see how things went on.  In a few minutes Enoch came running down the road, and,—as we have seen in the last chapter,—the three schemed together until they got Dimple safely stabled in the custody of the landlord.  They had got the half-crown for it, too, and the rogues rejoiced at the success of their frolic after so many mischances, though they had not the slightest idea how it was to end.  As for Ben, why he had set the whole thing a-going himself, and he must abide by it, for they had made up their minds, as Enoch said, to "set th' owd lad a bit of a craddy."

    By this time it had got as dark as it was likely to be on that cloudless summer night.  The village mothers had long since called in their children from play.  Lights glimmered here and there in cottage windows, but quietness was stealing over the tired workman's humble household.  The wild birds had gone to roost in their green chambers, and all the little hamlet was still, except at the corner of the lane, where the donkey had upset old Mally.  A few neighbours were gathered there, gabbling, and staring down the road after the jackass.  They had picked up the old woman, and found that she was a good deal more frightened than hurt; in fact, she was quite able to hobble off home for another pitcher, declaring, in tones of tremulous anger, that she would "transport somebry or another to-morn if they didn't sattle for th' lumber 'at they'd done her."

    Twitchel and Enoch were reckless of all this rout at the lane end, and, after they had got the half-crown from the landlord, they followed him up to the alehouse door.  Twitchel halted on the doorstep, so as to let the landlord get out of hearing.

    "How soon will th' moon be up, thinksto?" said he to Enoch, looking out at the sky.

    "Abeawt an' hour-an'-a-hauve or so," replied Enoch.

    Then Twitchel peeped over his shoulder into the house.  The landlord was walking slowly up the lobby, looking at the floor, and jingling the money in his pocket, and casting up in his mind whether he had not been a fool in meddling with this jackass business.

    "Stop a minute," said Twitchel, laying his hand upon Enoch's shoulder.  "I want a word witho as soon as he's goon," and he looked slyly round again.  But, seeing that the landlord had entered the bar, he pointed towards him with his thumb, and whispered to Enoch, "Sowd again! "

    "Sowd again!" replied Enoch, rubbing his hands.  "Sowd again! an' th' money drawn!"

    "Now then, owd lad," said Twitchel, laying his hand upon Enoch's shoulder, and pointing with his forefinger in a monitory way, "we cannot cheep, or else he'll find us eawt.  So keep that bletherin' tung o' thine between thi teeth."

    "Bother noan abeawt my tung! " replied Enoch, in an indignant tone.  "Dost think I connot keep a saycret as weel as thee?"

    "Con a riddle howd wayter, thinksto?  Wheer's that beef?"

    "It's here!" replied Enoch sulkily, pulling the piece of brisket from under his coat.  "I took it eawt o'th pannier while Rip were rubbin' th' jackass's leg."

    "That's reet!" said Twitchel.  "Keep it eawt o' seet!  We'n have a supper off that, to-neet!"

    "Agreed on!" answered Enoch, whipping it under his coat again.  "I thought abeawt that a good bit sin!  But it'll want weshin'.  Thae knows Rip leet it fo' into th' dutch when th' dog geet howd o' me."

    "Let's tak it to th' pump, then!" said Twitchel.

    "Agreed on again!" replied Enoch.

    "Howd!" said Twitchel.  "Stop theer a minute!" and he went up to the door of the bar and told the landlord that they should be in again in a few minutes.  They were going "about a bit o' beef."

    They had just crept up to the pump in the backyard when Rip came out from the stable, where he had been foddering Dimple, and as soon as he saw the two figures gliding about in the dark he called out, "Hello!  Who's theer?"

    "Is that thee, Rip?" said Twitchel, in a low whisper.

    "It's nought else!" replied Rip.  "Is that yo, lads?  I say! th' beef's gwon eawt o' yon pannier!"

    "Howd thi din, wilco?  Th' beef's here!  We're beawn to wesh it!  Keep thi een upo' th' back dur!"

    "What are yo for wi't, lads?" whispered Rip.

    "We're beawn to height it if we'n luck, owd mon! replied Twitchel, working the pump-handle as quickly as possible while Enoch twisted the lump of brisket about in the stream.

    "Right tooral loo!" cried Rip, clapping his hands and twirling round like a morris-dancer.

    "I'll 'tooral loo' thee wi' my clog i' thae doesn't mak a less din!" said Twitchel, stopping the pump.  "Off witho into th' heawse, an' keep Jem i' talk till wen done, an' dunnot let on, neaw."

    "O' reet!" replied Rip, and he whisked out at the yard door, and then went round and walked in at the front, and up to th' bar, with his hands in his pockets, looking as innocent as if he had not been born above three-quarters of an hour.

    "Well, Rip," said the landlord, "hasto put th' jackass up?"

    "Ay, it's o' reet.  I gave it a bit o' summat to height.  Wheer's Enoch an' owd Twitch?"

    "They're gwon eawt for a bit o' beef," replied the landlord.  "They'd be back in a twothre minutes .  .  .  . Oh! they're here neaw, sitho!" continued he, pointing to the door as Enoch came whistling in, followed by Twitchel, with the beef in his hands.

    "Now then, lads!" cried Rip, turning round and winking at Enoch, "what are yo for neaw?"

    "We'n bin gettin' a bit o' beef," replied Twitchel.  Here, Jem!" continued he, turning to the landlord, and handing the brisket to him.  "Tell Betty to put that into th' pon,—first thing,—wilco?  An' we's want a twothre potitos, thae knows."

    "I'll see to it!" said Jem, taking the beef from him.

    "An', I say, Jem!"

    "Well?"

    "Let's have a leet i' that back reawm, wilto?"

    "Well!"

    "An' dunnot let nobry come in beawt we senden for 'em.  We'n a bit of a job to sattle amung ersels.  Dost yer?"

    "I yer!  In wi' yo!" replied the landlord, pushing them gently before him towards the room.  "In wi' yo!  It is let up!  In wi' yo!  I'll see to't! .  .  .  Here, Betty," said he, looking in at the kitchen door, and giving the beef to his wife, "pop that into th' pon for these chaps as soon asto con; and let 'em ha' plenty o' potitos to't! .  .  . Now, then," continued he, following them to the door of the room, "yon be as reet as a ribbin here if yo'n keep th' dur shut."

    "Snug as a meawse-neest!" said Enoch, looking round and chuckling as they went lounging in one after the other.  "Snug as a meawse-neest, bith mass!  Tak that tother cheer, Rip .  .  .  .  An',—aw say, Jem!"

    "Well?"

    "Bring a quart, to start wi'."

    "A quart!" cried Twitchel.  "What's a quart?  Let's have hauve-a gallon! .  .  .  An', dost yer?  Warm it, an' sweeten it,—an' put a shillin's 'oth o' rum into't!  I'll ston th' rum."

    "Well!"

    "An', I say, Jem!"

    "Now then?"

    "Dost think Owd Roddle 'll be awhoam?"

    "He's sure to be.  It's noan so mony minutes sin' he laft here."

    "Well.  Send in, an' tell him he's wanted."

    "I'll see to it," replied the landlord, as he went out, closing the door behind him.

    "I think we's do, neaw," said Twitchel, giving a side glance at the door, after the landlord had gone out.  "Let's draw up.  By Guy, lads! I'm fain to see yo'!  It's mony a week sin' we had a bit of a do together!"

    "Howd!" said Rip.  "Howd, till he's brought yon stuff in."

    In a minute or two the door was opened again, and the landlord re-entered with the ale and rum.

    "Now, lads!" said he, setting the pitcher down upon the table.  "Theer it is.  I've sent for Owd Roddle.  He'll come as soon as he's had his porritch.  .  .  . I've brought yo a gill pot to sup eawt on.  I guess it'll do?"

    "Do?  Ay!" answered Enoch.  "Fill up, an' let's have howd. I'm as dry as soot! .  .  .  I'll tell yo what, lads.  It'll be a bonny consarn if yon dog at's bitten me turns eawt to be mad, winnot it? .  .  . Well, come!  Here's luck apiece!"

    Standing upon his legs, he emptied the pot without taking breath, and then he broke into song, with his face turned towards the ceiling, and waving the empty pot to the tune,—


Come, landlord, fill the flowing bowl
    Until it does run over;
For this night we'll merry be,—
    To-morrow we'll be sober!


    Filling the pot again, and handing it to Twitchel, he said, "Here, Twitch! tak howd!  Thae'rt a good chap, when o's said an' done!  Gi' mo thi hont, owd dog!  There's mony a bigger foo nor thee, owd mon! .  .  .  I say, lads!  To order!  I propose 'at Owd Twitch taks th' cheer! .  .  .  Thoose at's nought again it, let 'em put their hont up!  Now, Rip!  Up witho! .  .  .  Tol-de-dol! .  .  .  There's nobry's nought again it, seeminly!  Get up, an' let him ha' that arm-cheer!  Now, owd brid!" continued he, turning to Twitchel, "thae'rt th' commander o' this meetin'.  Tak howd o' thi job; an' thae con do it like a mon, tho likes, too, beside! .  .  .  Get up, Rip, an' let him come!"

    "Well," replied Twitchel, rising slowly from his seat, and scratching his head, "I'm nought mich at this mak o' wark; but, as yo'n chozzen mo, I reckon, I's ha' to do as weel as I con."  And as he went and sat down in the armchair, the landlord peeped in, and said, "Wur'n yo co'in?"

    "Nawe," said Enoch.  "Here, Jem," continued he, pointing to Twitchel, "we'n made th' owd lad into th' cheerman!"

    "Han yo?" replied the landlord.

    "Ay, bith mass, han we," continued Enoch, springing to his legs, with the gill pot in his hand, and crying out, "Tune up, lads!


Fo-or he's a jolly good fel-low!
For he's a jolly good fel-low!
For he's a jolly good fe-el-low!
          Which,—nobry can deny!


Hip, hip, hip!  Hurrah!  Again,—Hurrah!  Again, Hurrah!  Another for th' wife!Hurrah!  Another for th' childer!—Hurrah!  Another for that 'at they're beawn to have!Hurrah!

    Twitchel got up and sang and cheered with the rest seemingly quite unconscious that he was the subject of the uproar.  And as they sat down again he clapped his hands with the rest, and cried out, "Hear! hear! hear!"

    "Now, Twitch, owd lad" cried Enoch.  "Get up!"

    "Well, lads," said Twitchel, rising slowly from his seat, and fondling the gill potful of ale and rum which he held in his hand, "as yon put me in for't chair, I guess I's be like to do summat or another, o' some mak.  But, yo'n take it as it leets, yo known, for I'm nought at this job."

    "Hear him!" said Enoch, slapping the table.

    "Order!" cried Rip, jumping to his feet.  "To order! whol he's done speighkin'!"

    "Well," replied Enoch, "what I have to say is, as thus .  .  .  ."

    "Howd thi din, aw tell tho!" cried Rip, jumping up.  "Doesn't see th' cheerman stonnin' on his legs, theer?"

    "O' reet!" replied Enoch, sitting down again.  "O' reet!  I'll be to order ony minute!  Hear him! hear him! hear him!  Blaze away, owd lad,—an' get it o'er!"

    "Well, now then!" said Twitchel, still standing upon his legs, "are yo getten sattle't?"

    The meeting unanimously cried out, "Goo on, owd dog!"

    "Well, then," said Twitched, "afore we gwon ony fur—let's buttle!"

    "Hear! hear!" replied the meeting.

    "Well, come, lads," said Twitchel, raising his glass, "as it's a bit of an eawtside do wi' us, I'll gi' yo a toast.

    "Hear! hear! hear!"

    "Here's wishin' 'at good may leet on us o', an' everybody else, an' me an' o' amung th' rook!  Come!" continued he, lifting the pot to his lips.

    "Do!" replied the meeting, following his example.

    "Thae'rt beawn to do good wark, Twitch!" cried Enoch, slapping the table again.  "Goo on, owd mon!"

    "Well," continued Twitchel, "bein' as we're .  .  .  put that dur to, Enoch!"

    "I will, owd lad!" said Enoch, jumping up and closing the door.

    And then the chairman went on,

    "Well, lads!  Bein' as we're nobbut three on us, what I have to say is as this,—let's be comfortable! .  .  .  I see no 'casion for nobry puttin' theirsel abeawt o'er nought, as lung as they're doin' weel!  Yon beef 'll be ready afore lung.  An' as fur as that pitcher gwos,—why,—as soon as it's empty, we'n get th' lonlort to put a saup moor into't.  But as for th' beef, yo known, it belungs noan of us, if everybody had their reets. But we'n see fur on abeawt that! . . . Enoch, let's sup!"

    "Hear him!" cried Enoch, filling the gill pot.  The chairman drank it off, and then went on,

    "Well, lads, as yo'n made me th' cheerman o' this do, o' 'at I have to say is 'at I've nought mich again nobry, nobbut mysel, an' four o' five moor o'th same mak.   An' Iv'e bin thinkin' o' lettin' thoose off an' o', in a bit.  But when done, one connot like everybody i'th world same as they liken onybody else,—con they hectum as like! .  .  .  Well, but, as I said afore, I dunnot want to hurt nobry,nor yon poor divvle 'at we'n laft i'tho cloof, noather,—not I!  What, we're o' Billy Butter'oth childer,—aren't we?"

    "Yigh we are!  Hear! hear!" cried the meeting.

    "Well, then," continued the chairman, "bein' as sich, I dunnot like puttin' upo' nobry; for, if I mun tell yo th' truth, lads, I'm noan partial to bein' put on mysel,—an' that's wheer it is! .  .  .  But, ne'er mind!  'All things has but a time,' as th' sayin' is.  An', do as we win, we's noather be here, nor theer, nor nowheer else,—not so divvlish lung.  So, let's be comfortable, an' do as weel as we con amoon it .  .  .  .  An' then, I'll tell yo what!  As fur as a foo gwos, I could fit yo up to a yure!  What saysto, Rip?"

    "Nay, speighk for thisel!" replied Rip.  "Speighk for thisel!"

    "Nay, I'm noan talkin' abeawt thee, owd mon!" continued the chairman.  "But, as for that,—foos are noan o'th warst mak o' folk i' this world,—are they hectum as like!"

    "Hear! hear!" cried Rip, clapping his hands.  "Go it, Twitch!  Eh, thae'd ha' made a rare 'torney, owd dog!  Get forrad witho! .  .  . I'll ston godfayther for th' next chylt,—if I dunnot, I'll go to't say!"

    "To order!" cried Enoch, slapping the table.  "To order!"

    "To order thisel!" replied Rip, sitting down again.  Thae makes moor din nor o'th rook!  Goo on, Twitch! "

    "Well, as I were sayin' abeawt foos.  Wheer's th' mon 'at can lay his hont on his singlet, an' say that he never wur a foo?  Why, if he does say so, I say 'at he knows nought what things belongs! .  .  .  An' so, bein' as that, what I propose is, 'at we letten yon lad off as yezzy as we con, at' after we'n had a bit o' supper, an' sich like."

    "Now, then, Twitch! " said Enoch.  "Thae'rt runnin' soft again!"

    "To order!" replied Rip.  "I'll tak thee a-top o'th yed, i'tho speighk another word!"

    "Well," continued the chairman, "I say, dunnot let's be hard upo' nobry!  'Life's nobbut like th' snuft of a candle,' as th' sayin' is.  .  .  . Oh, Enoch, hasto yerd abeawt Owd Wisp?"

    "Nawe."

    "Th' owd lad type't o'er abeawt ten o'clock this forenoon."

    "Nay, sure!  Is he gwon? .  .  .  What did he dee on?"

    "Oh, he dee'd quite natural.  They never had no doctor to him.  Thae knows, he's very nee ninety.  He went off, at th' end of o', just like a choilt foin' asleep in it keyther."

    "Ay, ay,—an' is th' owd lad off whoam, then, at last?"

    "Ay.  His daughter towd mo at dinner-time, hoo sit bith bedside, tentin' him, abeawt nine o'clock this forenoon.  An' hoo sattle't his pillow for him, an' axed him how he felt.  An' he towd her 'at he ail't nought but want o' rest.  An' then he turn'd his yed quietly o' one side, wi' his bit o'th hont under his cheek, an' he said, 'I feel as if I could sleep now, Mary!'  So hoo ill'd him up, an' hoo crope eawt, an' made him some gruel.  An' when hoo coom back wi't hoo looked to see how he wur gettin' on.  His cheek lee on his hont,—just same.  An' his een wur shut, like a Bible, when th' sarvice is o'er.  Mary thought it a good sign, so hoo sit her quietly deawn again bith bedside to wait till he wakkent.  But hoo met ha' waited lung.  The owd lad had doze't off into another world;—like a cinder coolin' i'th bottom o'th fire-grate i'th neet-time."

    "Poor Owd Wisp!" said Rip, blowing his nose.  "We'n sin th' end on him, then. He're one oath better end o' chaps,—as owd as he wur "

    "Well, then," continued Twitch, "seein' 'at sich like things as these are turnin' up every day,—an' there's no mon livin' knows wheer he may be by to-morn at noon,—I'll be a shillin' toward th' beef 'at we'n taen off yon lad!"

    "Thae will? " cried Enoch.  "Gi' mo thi hont!  I'll be another!"

    "Well, come, lads!" said Rip, jumping to his feet.  "I'm noan beawn to be licked in a reet thing!  Ninepence hawpn'y's o'th brass 'at I have abeawt mi rags,—but yor welcome to't!"

    "Well done, Rip, owd brid!" cried Enoch.  "Come, tune up, lads!"


Bravo! bravo! very well sung!
Jolly companions every one!


But, I say, lads," continued Enoch, "we'n not give him th' brass to-neet!  Let's ha' th' spree eawt first!  I can send it up to his wife by little Billy Crowsha' i'th mornin'.  He has to go to Whit'oth for some rubbin'-bottle!"

    "I'm willin'!" said Rip.

    "Agreed on, then!" said the chairman, who was still on his legs.  "An' now, lads, as we're o' mates together, here's wishin' 'at we may every one on us poo through to th' end, as weel as we con.  An' wi' that, if yo'n a mind, I'll drop it, an' sit deawn, for Iv'e nought no moor to say 'at I know on."

    "Hear! hear! hear!" cried Enoch.  "O' reef up to neaw!  Sit tho deawn! .  .  .  I guess we mun ha' this thing full again, munnot we?"

    "Agreed on!" said Rip.

    Enoch knocked upon the table, and when the landlord came in he handed the pitcher to him, and said, "Jem, bring us another hauve-gallon o'th same mak!  Wer'e noan at concert pitch yet!"

    "Well, come, lads!" said Twitchel.  "Draw up, an' give us a sung."

    "Sing one thisel!" replied Enoch.  "There isn't a man i' Lancashire can sing 'Jockey to the Fair' better nor thee!"

    "Ay, but I hannot getten my breath yet, man," answered Twitchel.

    "Come," said Enoch, "I'll sing yo one."

    "Hear! hear!" replied Rip.  What arto beawn to sing, Enoch?"

    "A bran new un!  Never wur sung afore!  It's code 'Tum Rindle.'"

    "Brast off, then!" cried Twitchel.

    And Enoch struck up a new ditty to the tune of "Robin Tamson's Smithy:"


Tum Rindle lope fro' th' chimbley nook,
    As th' winter sun wur sinkin':
"I'm tire't o' keawrin' here i'th smooke,
    An' wastin' time i' thinkin':
It frets my fat, an' racks my broo,
    It sets my yed a-stewin',—
A mon that wouldn't dee a foo
    Mun up, an' start a-doin'!

Then, Mally, reitch my Sunday shoon,
    To rom mi bits o' toes in;
An' hond mo th' jug fro' th' top o'th oon,
    An' let mo dip mi nose in;
An' come an' fill it up again,
    An' dunnot look so deawldy,—
There's nought can lick a marlock when
    One's brains are gettin' meawldy!

I'll laithe a rook o' neighbour lads,
    Frisky cowts, an' bowd uns;
An' let 'em bring their mams an' dads
    We'n have it pranked wi' owd uns!
An' th' lads an' lasses, they sha'n sing,
    An' fuut it, leet an' limber;
An' Robin Lilter, he shall bring
    His merry bit o' timber.

An' Joe shall come, an' Jone, an' Ben,
    An' poor owd limpin' Lijah;
An' Mall, an' Sall, an' Fan, an' Nan,
    An' curly-pated 'Bijah;
An' gentle Charlie shall be theer,
    An' little Dick the ringer,
An' Moston Sam,—I like to yer
    A snowy-yedded singer!

I'll goo mi granny eawt o'th nook,
    An' send for Dolly Maybo;
For when hoo's gradely donned, hoo'll look
    As grand as th' queen o' Shayba;
An' little Nell shall doance wi' me,—
    Eawr Nelly's young an' bonny;
An' when I've had a doance wi' thee,
    I'll caper wi' my gronny!

Then, Mally, fill it up, again,
    An' dunnot look so meawldy;
There's nought can lick a marlock when
    One's brains are gettin' meawldy!
We're young an' hearty: dunnot croak;
    But frisk it now or never;
So here's good luck to country-folk,
    An' country fun for ever!"


    "Well done, Enoch, owd lad!" said Rip, handing the gill pot to him.  "Here, weet thi whistle!


Bravo! bravo! very well sung!
Jolly companions every one!


    "Hear! hear! hear!" cried Rip and Enoch, thumping the table.

    "Come," said Enoch, taking up the pitcher, "we'n buttle once reawnd again, an' then I'll gi' yo a bit of a ditty .  .  .  Husht!  Bith th' mass, yon's Owd Roddle comin'!  Draw up!"

    The clank and trail of a pair of slack clogs in the lobby told the approach of Owd Roddle, the weaver.  His tall figure was bending under a load of years.  He was now only the shrunken relic of a very strong man, and his well-worn fustian clothing had far out-thriven his body.  He had long begun to grow "deawn-broo, like a keaw-tail."  But the winter of life had found him sound at the core.  Many a long year had passed away since he used to leap from his looms at the sound of the hunting-horn and follow the dogs all day over the hills of Spotland, but fire enough smouldered at the centre of that old compound of bone and whipcord to make his ten toes tingle when he heard the huntsman's horn.  The "snowfall of time" lay white upon his head, but the quiet glow of a cheerful sunset lingered upon the furrowed slopes of that fine old aquiline face.  Roddle was a great favourite in the village.  In fact, he was a kind of horn-lantern to the whole hamlet; for, from his youth up, he had read with avidity the few books that had fallen into his way, and his stores of information were the subject of much mysterious comment among his simple neighbours.  He was the soul of fireside fun withal, and it made him "hutchin-fain" to join in the merry makings of the village.  No wonder that he was popular.  The old man's cottage was near the alehouse, and he came in bareheaded, with his apron on, and a long pipe in his mouth.

    "Now then, Jem," said he, looking in at the bar, "what hasto agate?"

    "In theer," replied the landlord, pointing to the back room.  "Go forrad!  Some owd mates!"

    The moment he showed himself in the doorway Enoch sprang to his feet, and cried, "He's here!  Come in, owd lad!"

    The old man stood in the doorway a minute, looking quietly around.  "Ay, ay," said he, "there's a smart lot here!  Toe-biters,—I co' these! .  .  . Well, an' what han yo afoot, lads?" continued he, walking slowly forward.

    "Eh, Roddle!" said Enoch, "thae'rt as welcome as two fiddlers!  Come in, an' keawer tho down!  Rip, get up, an' let him ha' that cheer!  Here, tak howd, an' swill th' dust eawt o' thi neck!"

    "Well," replied Roddle, "I'll just taste wi' yo! .  .  . Come!"

    "Do!" replied the company.

    The old man emptied the pot at three drinks, and then, setting it down upon the table, he said, "Well, what han yo agate?  Come, eawt wi't!"

    "Husht!" said Twitchel, looking round.  "Put that dur to!"

    Enoch closed the door, and then they drew their chairs together; and he told Roddle the whole story about Ben sending the jackass up to the mill chamber, and how they had let it down again at the back, and driven it up into the village, and pawned it with the landlord for half-a-crown.  The room rang with merriment, and the old man threw himself back in his chair and laughed till the farthest tooth in his head was visible.

    But as the fun subsided Roddle gradually grew thoughtful; and, pushing the tobacco into his pipe with his little finger, he said, "I'll tell yo what, lads!  Yo munnot do to hard at him.  He's nought mich to stir on, hasn't Ben.  An' he comes of a daycent breed.  .  .  . Besides, yon wife of his has fund him a lot o' little childer.  So let him leet as softly as yo con."

    "Hear! hear!" replied Twitchel.  "That's what I say.  We wanten nought but a bit of marlock eawt on him.  He'll be no war for what we's do at him, thae'll see! .  .  . But I'll tell tho what, Roddle!  Thae met slip deawn to th, mill an' bring him up here: I dar say th' poor divvle's powlerin' abeawt yon i't dark, yet .  .  .  . He'll not know thee .  .  .  . Th' moon 'llbe up in abeawt an hour, or so .  .  .  . Dunnot bring him in here.  Tak him into th' tap-reawm, an' dunnot let on 'at thae knows abeawt th' job, neaw .  .  .  . We mun let th' owd lad have a bite o' yon beef of his .  .  .  . What say'n yo, lads?  Is he to go?"

    "Ay!" replied Enoch.  "Off witho, Roddle, owd lad!  An' dunnot be lung!  Th' beef 'll he ready in abeawt hauve-an-hour!"

    "Come, I'll shap it," said the old weaver, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, and walking towards the door.

    "Bith mass, Roddle!" said Enoch, "thae'rt as cant as a kitlin' yet!"

    "Cant or not cant, I'll shap this job for yo, yon see!" replied Roddle, as he closed the door upon the merry prial of conspirators.

    As the old man went thoughtfully down the lobby, a little lad came in at the front door with a basket on his arm.

    "Is Enoch o' Swivers here?" inquired the lad.

    "Ay," replied Roddle; "what hasto getten?"

    "My feyther's sent me wi' a sheep's yed an' a pluck-an-liver 'at he bought at dinner-time.  He said they were to be laft here for him."

    "O' reet!" said Roddle, taking them out of the basket.  "Off witho!  I'll look after it!"

    As soon as the lad was gone, Roddle walked quietly out at the front door, and then round to the stable in the backyard, and putting the meat into Dimple's pannier, he said, "Now, then, Ben, owd lad!  Thou's ha' summat to th' dinner to-morn, if that's no beef!"  And then off he went, to find poor Ben in the clough, chuckling with delight at the lucky turn the frolic had taken.


 
CHAPTER VII.


Shepherd, thou art in a parlous state.

"AS YOU LIKE IT."


BEFORE Roddle came away from the back-yard of the alehouse, after putting the butcher's meat into Dimple's pannier, he peeped in at the window of the room in which he had left the three comrades carousing.  Twitchel sat by the fire, with the pot in his hand, singing "Jockey to the Fair."  The other two were waving their hands in the air, and joining jovially in the chorus,


            With jockey to the fair!
Step gently deawn, you've nought to fear,
            With jockey to the fair!


    "Ay, ay," said the old weaver, smiling.  "They're at it, I see,ding, dong!  Come, I'll put 'em to reets in a bit! .  .  . Enoch 'll find hissel bitten i'th end! .  .  .  A good sheep's yed an' a pluck-an-liver's noan an ill swap for yon poor hondful o' tough brisket o' Ben's!  .  .  .  Well," continued he, creeping quietly out at the yard door, "I'll goo an' look after yon tother poor divvle, neaw!  .  .  . Mischievous little twod, that Enoch is!  An' he's noan an ill-bottom't un, noather,—when o's said an' done.  Needs rootin' under th' crust a bit, to find it eawt,—that's o'.  .  . .  But some folk are like fiddles,—it takes a player to get ony music eawt on 'em .  .  .  . Well, well!  One never knows a mon by nobbut meetin' him i' smooth wayter a time or two.  Yo mun see 'em tried o' gates afore yo known 'em! .  .  . Yon lad i'th cloof 'll be lat whoam.  But it's a fine neet,—very!"  And he stopped, and looked round.  "It is,—a grand neet!  I never seed a finer haytime i' my life!" and then he rolled his apron round his waist, and went his way towards the clough.

    Peace breathed on hill and dale.  The wild flowers had shut their eyes many an hour ago, and the stream in the clough, as it crooned its ancient lullaby to the somnolent woods, seemed, like a drowsy nurse, half inclined to fall asleep to its own singing.  And, now and then, the dusky woodland heaved, with a quiet stir, and with a sound as soft as a sleeping woman's sigh.  Then all was still again, till the love-sick night-wind, wandering in search of rest, stirred the wild-flowers that guard the portal of the "low-roosted lark's" tiny mansion, and that winged soul of song trilled out a little lyrical prelude, as he dreamt of the sunlit heavens, and then went to sleep again with half-shut eye.  The rising moon was yet low in the sky, but a faint tinge of her coming radiance was robing the hill-tops in silvery gauze, and "night's candles" still twinkled in the blue lift, not yet subdued by her too distant splendour.

    Roddle took his way down the brow to the low end of the village, where he turned off to the left hand, passing through a narrow stile, and then on along a wandering by-path that led, by a short cut, down to the mill in the clough.  The old man had been wild and adventurous in his youth,—a great roamer of the lonely country.  He knew "each lane, and every alley, green dingle, or bosky dell," and all "the mazes of the tangled woods" around the old man knew right well.  The footpath led first along the hedge-side of a great-meadow, in which the grass was more than half cut down.  He lingered there two or three minutes, and looked about him.  And well he might linger there.  For, in the cool night, the smell of the new-mown hay, mingling with the delicate odours of wild flowers, breathing sweetness in their sleep upon the hedges around, filled the air with delight.

    "Ay, ay," said he, looking round upon the meadow. "Jamie 'll have a good crop, this time!  .  .  .  An' a rare yarb it is, too!" continued he, taking up a handful of the hay and smelling at it.  "A grand yarb,very!  I could find i' mi heeart to lie deawn an' height it!  .  .  .  Eh, what a neet it is!  Th' moon's risin'!"  And then he started towards the clough again, muttering to himself, "I wonder whether yon poor besom-maker's rootin' abeawt th' mill yet?"

    As the old man got deeper into the gloom he cast many a timid glance aside, for, in spite of his strong commonsense, there was a touch of superstition in his nature, though he hardly dreamt of it.  Scratch deep enough, and you will find something of this kind in every man.  Roddle had often laughed at the fearful tales told by village gossips at his own fireside.  But this clough had an ill repute in the traditions of the country side; and now that he was fairly in it by night, and all alone, he found once more that he was made of the same stuff as simpler folk.


                           A thousand fantasies
Began to throng into his memory,
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues, that syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.


But the feeling was not strong enough in the tough old weaver to scare him from the thing he had undertaken to do.  As soon as he came in sight of the mill he stopped and listened; and, hearing nothing, he began to think that Ben had gone away.  But as he drew near he heard him trying the door latch and begging of Enoch to let him have his jackass out of the mill, and he cried out in a loud voice, "Who's theer?"

    "Hello!" said Ben, starting at the sound of Riddle's voice.  "Is that thee, Enoch?"

    "Who's theer, I say?" continued Roddle, assuming an angry tone, as he walked boldly up to him.

    "Me!  It's Ben!"

    "Ben?  What Ben?"

    "Ben o' Yem's o' Thrutcher's, fro' Lobden moorside.  Besom Ben, some folk co's me."

    "This is my mon," said Roddle to himself.  "An' what arto hanging abeawt here for at this time 'oth neet?"

    "I'm after nought wrang, maister," replied Ben,—"I'm not, for sure!  I want nought o' nobry's, nobbut my own!  They'n getten a jackass o' mine i' here, an' they winnot let it eawt!"

    "A jackass o' thine?  Thae'rt lyin', I deawt."

    "They han, for sure!  It's up i'th top reawm!"

    "Top reawm!  Heaw has it getten up theer?"

    "They wund it up."

    "Wund it up!  Thae tells a lame tale, lad.  I mun see fur into this!  Thae'll ha' to go wi' me.  It's an ill look wi't, this has .  .  .  .  Theer's bin a deeol o' stuff stown fro' abeawt here latly.  Thae's a bit of a favvour o' one at's bin hangin' abeawt.  Thae 'ill ha' to go wi' me!"

    "Eh, maister!" replied Ben, "I ha'not towd yo a word of a lie!I ha'not, for sure!  If it wur dayleet, yo'd see 'at I'm noan o'th mon 'at yor after!  .  .  . I should ha' bin awhoam lung sin, if I could ha' getten mi jackass."

    "Oh, I'm up to that mak o' talk!" answered Roddle.  I've sin sich like as thee afore! .  .  .  . Thae 'll ha' to go wi' me, my lad!"

    "Stop a minute" replied Ben, in an earnest tone.  "Ax these chaps i'th mill!  They known me!" and he shouted through the broken window-pane, "Heigh, Enoch! .  .  .   I'm beawn to be taen up!"  But there was no reply.  "Come, lads!" continued he, "will noan on yo speighk for me, afore I'm walked off?"

    "There's nobry theer 'at wants aught wi' thee, thae sees," said Roddle, laying hold of Ben's collar.  "Now, arto for gooin' quietly, or heaw?"

    "Oh, ay, I'll goo," replied Ben, in a mournful voice.  "But yo'n getten th' wrang chap, I tell yo!" and away they went towards the village, Roddle still holding Ben by the collar, for he began to be afraid that the poor fellow would take to his heels if he had a chance.

    "An' where doesto live, saysto?" said Roddle, as he led Ben along the by-path, through the hay-meadow.

    "I live a bit aboon Whit'oth," replied Ben, "up Lobden gate on, at a place they co'n 'Th' Ricklin's.'  It's an eawtside spot, wheer there is nobry.  I've a wife an five childer,—o' little uns.  We'n had twins once't .  .  .  . An there 'll be moor afore aught's lung, too."

    "Oh!" said Roddle.  "An' what arto code, saysto?"

    "My feyther's name wur Yem o' Thrutchers," answered Ben.  "He coom fro' Birtle gate on.  I'm code 'Besom Ben' by some folk, an' there is othersome 'at co's me 'Lump Yed' for a by-name .  .  .  . Our folk kessunt me 'Twitter' when I're a lad, becose I're al'ays agate o' singin' .  .  .  . Wheer are yo beawn to tak me to?"

    "Thae 'll see in a bit," replied Roddle.  "Lump Yed!  Lump Yed!  I like as if I've yerd that name afore.  There's a good deeol o' thy breed abeawt this country, my lad!"

    "Ay, there is," answered Ben.  "I dar say yo known some o' mi wife's relations .  .  .  . I wed one o' Owd Crapple lasses, fro' a place they code 'Th' Pot Heawse.'  It's abit aboon th' Syke.  Owd Neck-hole, th' brid-stuffer, wur uncle to her, afore he deed .  .  .  . Our Betty's two year yunger nor me.  An' we'n hard wark to make a bit of a puttin' on of ony shap .  .  .  . Han we fur to goo, maister?"

    "Thea'll see afore lung," said Roddle.  "An' what wur thi feyther code saysto?"

    "Yem o' Thrutcher's.  Onybody knowed him when he're livin'.  He're a bit gan to neet-huntin', when he're a yung chap."

    "Ay, I dar say he wur.  An' thae taks on him, too, I deawt."

    "Nay, I never did sich a thing i' my life," replied Ben.  "Well, yigh, I did one time set a bit of a clewkin' grin (gin) i'th hedge, an' my gronmother cat geet hanged in it.  But I've never meddle't wi' nought o'th sort sin then.  For I're put abeawt o'er th' owd cat."

    "That tale 'll do noan for me, Lump Yed, my lad.  I mun ha' thee looked up a bit."

    "Yo may look as yo'n a mind, for aught I care," said Ben.  "My feyther wove for Owd John Cherrick, at th' bothom o'th Packer, at one time o'th day.  I dar say yo'n yerd o' mi feyther.  He beat Ab o' Pinder's i'th Brode Wayter, one Rachda' Rushbearin'.  An' he went to that greight do at Peterloo, an' he coom whoam again wi' a collop taen off one side of his chops."

    "Had he a hair-shorn lip?"

    "Ay, he had!  An' he wur keigh-neighvt!"

    "Oh, I knowed him! .  .  .  Well, come on!" said Roddle, leading Ben up the high-road towards the alehouse.

    "Are yo beawn to tay me to Rachda'?" said Ben.

    "We'n see in a bit," replied Roddle.  "We mun co' at Th' Tobe's Yed th' first.  I lippen o' leetin' o' some o'th same gang theer."


 
CHAPTER VIII.


The odd trick, and two by honours.

CARD PARTY.


BY this time the mild moon had climbed to the top of the blue heavens.  As the radiant lady glided aloft, in queenly dignity, darkness gathered up his dusky robes and fled into the far west, and the twinkling stars "paled their ineffectual fire" before her regal light.  Hill and dale smiled as she cast her silver veil across the sleeping scene, and the little rivers trembled with delight in the quiet witchery of her lovely ray.  There are few things in the world more beautiful than sleep, especially to the weary, but this was one of those nights which are almost too beautiful to be spent in sleep.

    As Ben walked quietly up the brow with Roddle towards the old alehouse at the top end of the village he was sadly troubled at heart, for he neither knew where he was going nor how the thing was to end, and thoughts of home were playing painfully about his mind.  He cast many a glance aside at the old man who was leading him by the collar.  He could see him now in the open moonlight, and Roddle's quaint dress puzzled him not a little, for he wondered that such a man should have the authority to take him into custody.  He felt half-inclined, once or twice, to try to trip up the old man's heels, and then make a run of it.  But the bold thought only flickered an instant in his mind, and then went out again, and in a few minutes he found himself in front of the alehouse in which Enoch, and Rip, and Twitchel were making merry at his expense.

    "Come," said Roddle, as he led Ben up to the door of the Talbot's Head, "we mun co' here th' first."  And he took Ben with him into the taproom, which they found empty.

    "Now, then," continued Roddle, knocking upon the table, "afore we gwon ony fur thae's have a droight o' ale an' a bite o' supper.  Thae'll need it afore mornin'."

    Ben was just going to ask Roddle once more how far they had to go that night, when the landlord looked in.  "Wur yo' knockin'?" said he, staring first at Roddle, and then at Ben's doleful face.

    "Ay," replied Roddle, pointing at Ben.  "Bring this lad a pint, wilco?"

    "Directly," said the landlord, as he walked out.

    Roddle followed him into the lobby, and whispered to him, "I say, Jem! how's that beef gettin' on?"

    "They're just beawn to tak it in," replied the landlord.

    "Oh, well," continued Roddle, "I'll tell tho what do."

    "Well."

    "Cut a good-size plateful off it, an' bring it in here for this lad.  Don't let thoose chaps i'th back reawm know abeawt it.  I'll tell tho when they're gwon."

    "O' reet," replied the landlord to Roddle.  "Art thou beawn to have a bit, too?"

    "Nawe, nawe," answered Roddle.  "Bring some for this lad, an' be sharp wi't."

    "I see," replied the landlord, winking at Roddle.  "I'll look after it."

    In two or three minutes a girl came in with the ale and with a steaming plateful of boiled beef and potatoes, which she set down in front of Ben, directed by Roddle, who silently pointed towards him.

    "Now," said Roddle to the girl, "he wants a knife an' fork, thae knows.  An' bring him some brade, an' th' mustart, an' sich like, an' be sharp.  We'n no time to stop here!"

    The girl brought them in.

    "Now, then," said Roddle to Ben, "get that into thou as soon asto con, an' let's be goon'."

    Ben was brooding silently over the strange troubles that had befallen him so unexpectedly, yet misfortune had not taken away his appetite, so he fell to without loss of time.  But ever since he had entered the room he had been staring hard at Roddle, and thinking within himself that the old weaver, with his apron rolled up about his waist, was very unlike a constable, and as he turned the thing over in his mind a vague idea began to grow upon him that he was being played upon in some way or another that he could not well make out.

    "I think I've sin yo afore somewbeer," said Ben, speaking to Roddle, with his mouth half full of meat.

    "I dar say thae has," replied Roddle, smiling.  "But get that bit o' stuff into thou,—an' then .  .  .  .  Let's see.  What hadto i' thi panniers, saysto?"

    "Well," answered Ben, still eating as he spoke, "I'd a good lot o' stuff o' one mak an' another.  Swop, an' candles, an' a new pair o' clogs, an' a lot moor things, an' some beef, too, 'at should last us o' week."  And then, after he had gone on eating in silence for a minute or two, he held his knife up, and said, "An' I'll tell yo what!  I'll mak somebry sken abeawt that jackass o' mine afore I've done wi't, too!"

    "Well, well," replied Roddle, "get forrad wi' what thae'rt agate on just now, an' dunnot be a foo!"

    "I'll ston to what I've said!" continued Ben, falling to his supper again.

    The door of the taproom was left half open by the girl when she went out, and the sound of Twitchel and the other two carousing in high glee came faintly upon Ben's ears, and he kept fancying, as he went on with his supper, that he knew the voices.  But when the door of the back room was thrown open by the landlord, and the full tide of jollity gushed forth, with Enoch's voice singing loudest of the three,—


Frisk it, frisk it, frisk it, lads;
    Frisk it, while you're able!
Cheepin' layrocks reawnd the board,
    An' plenty upo' th' table!
Crack yor jokes, an' let 'em leet
    Sly deception scornin';
Prank it eawt wi' glee to-neet,
    An' strike to wark i'th mornin'.


    "By th' mass!" cried Ben, flinging down his knife and fork, and springing up from his seat, "yon's Enoch!" and he was making for the door, till Roddle stopped him.

    "Howd!" said Roddle, pushing Ben gently back into a seat, and then closing the door.  "Now, then.  Will thae do what I tell tho, mi lad, if I'll get tho thi jackass an' set tho off whoam safe an' seawnd."

    "Will I?  Ay!" replied Ben indignantly.  "I want nought nobbut my own, I tell yo!  An' I'm noan to be put on so mich longer, wi' nobry,—as who they are!  What han yo to do wi' me?  I want my jackass!  That's wheer it is."

    "Well, well," said Roddle, laying his hand upon Ben's shoulder, "howd thi din!  I'll tell tho what do, mid lad?  Pike eawt at th' front theer, an' go reawnd to th' yard-dur.  I'll go through th' heawse to th' yard, an' let tho in.  Thy jackass is i'th stable here!

    "It's the dule!"

    "I've towd tho!" continued Roddle.  So howd thi din, or else thae'll upset th' whole cosarn!  I'll see tho reet i' thou'll do as I tell tho!  Off witho quietly eawt at th' front, now!  I'll go tother gate, an' let tho in!"

    Ben went out at the front, and round the corner.  It was broad moonlight.  He crept along in the shadow of the house-end, close up to the yard door, and, finding it fast, he leaned himself against the wall, and waited anxiously, for he was not quite sure in his mind that this was not some new trick devised for his discomfort.  But he had not waited more than three minutes before he heard Roddle trailing his clogs slyly through the back-yard, and then he tried the latch again.

    "Who's theer?" whispered Roddle from the inside.

    "It's me!" replied Ben, in a low voice.  "I'm come'd for th' jackass!"

    "O' reet!" replied Roddle, quietly unbarring the door.  "Now, then," continued he, laying his hand upon Ben's shoulder, and then peeping through the window of the back room, "make as little din as tho con!  They're at their suppers!  An' they liken it, too, bith look on 'em .  .  .  . Thae'd better stop wheer thou art!  I'll bring th' jackass eawt!  Stop theer!"  And then Roddle went and brought Dimple out of the stable, and led him through the yard and into the lane with as little noise as possible.

    "Now, then!" said Roddle, "is that thy jackass, my lad?"

    "Eh, Dimple!" replied Ben, beginning to whimper, as he threw his arms round the neck of the jackass.

    "Come, come!" said Roddle, "there's no time for that mak o' wark!  Think weel 'at thae's getter howd on't, an' be off whoam as fast asto con!"

    "Maister!" replied Ben, looking into the panniers, "awm mich—"

    "Thirst the dule!" said Roddle, in a hasty tone.  "What arto rootin' abeawt, now?"

    "I want to look mi stuff o'er!" replied Ben.

    "The dule tak thee, an' thi stuff, too!" answered Roddle.  Off witho whoam in a minute, if thou doesn't want to be taen!"

    "I will," said Ben, jumping up behind the panniers.

    "Take up this lone!" said Roddle.

    "Nay," replied Ben, "I'll go deawn th' broo, an' I'll strike into a fuut-gate at th' bottom."

    "Off witho, then," replied Roddle.

    And away went Ben and Dimple down the brow at full canter towards home in the cloudless light of the full moon.


 
CHAPTER IX.


Where have ye been a' the day, my boy Tammy?

MACNEIL.


DARE say the reader has many a time seen one of those flies called "blue-bottles" bassooning about a room in summer, and drumming itself against the panes, in vain attempts to fly through, no doubt a little puzzled to know what the hard transparency was that kept it in.  I dare say he has seen this many a time, and I shouldn't wonder if he has opened the window sometimes and let the bewildered captive free.  He might as well.  But if he has not, he may have seen the poor wretch, after beating a weary tattoo upon the glass for a while, turn away in despair from that mysterious barrier, and go buzzing about the room again in search of an outlet to the open air.  And if he happened to be in an old workshop, or some such place, where people are not nice about a cobweb or two, he may have seen the wandering insect at last get entangled in the sly meshes of a spider's net, and then begin to struggle, in a frenzy of terror, to shake itself out of the snare, before the long-legged villain, in the flossy cave at the corner, rushed forth to drink his blood.  I have no doubt the reader has seen all this many a time, and it is a thousand to one that, in such a dire extremity, he has set the terrified flutterer free before his enemy fell upon him, and then has been glad to see him fly away, delighted to find himself delivered from the jaws of an untimely death by an unknown friend, and roving at will once more in the open air.  So did old Roddle set the poor besom-maker free that night, and so fled Ben towards his breezy little nest in the hills.

    As Roddle stood at the end of the lane, watching Ben canter down the brow, he laughed to see him speed away into the distance so briskly, with Enoch's butcher-meat in his panniers, for, though he was as fond of a joke as his neighbours, yet he had some tender corners in his nature, and he had somehow taken a liking to Ben.  Besides, it did the old man's heart good to think how nicely he had turned the tables upon the three rogues in the back boom of the alehouse, who were eating Ben's beef, and rejoicing in the expectation of the poor fellow coming to beg and pray for them to let him have his jackass again.  And Roddle was not afraid of them finding out how he had tricked them, for he knew that they were not ill-conditioned lads at bottom, and he knew also that they were sure to enjoy the thing, even though it had been turned against them.  But he thought it best to wait a few minutes, so as to let Ben get well out of reach; so he went into the alehouse again, and sat down in the taproom, by himself, listening to the merriment of the noisy three, who were at their stolen supper in the back room.

    As Ben cantered down the brow he looked back two or three times, half suspecting that he should be pursued.  But he lost no time till he had got a good way from the village.  The way was lonely, but it was a glorious night, and the scenery was fine.  The road led by Healey Hall, an ancient seat of the Chadwick family.  It stands on the brink of a picturesque clough, called "The Thrutch," the scene of many a superstitious story. The moon, shining through the trees at Healey Hall, streaked the road with silver bars, but Ben did not slacken his pace till he came out from the shade of the woods into the open moonlight.  There he began to take his time, for he was in sight of his native moors, and he felt safe.

    Seeing that there was nobody on the road he looked out for a quiet place, where he could examine the contents of the panniers again before he got home.

    "Woigh!" said he, jumping down from the back of the donkey, and leading it by the bridle into a snug nook, where there was a pile of stones, broken for the mending of the road. "Woigh!" said Ben.  "Let's look these things o'er again afore we getten whoam!"  And he began to rummage in the pannier that Dimple had crushed against the wall in his perilous ascent to the mill chamber.

    "Clogs!" said Ben, taking the clogs out of the pannier, and looking at them all round, before he laid them down upon the stone-heap.  "Th' clogs are reet to begin wi'!  Now, then, let's see.  Oh, th' swop!" continued he, taking th' clogs up again, and groping inside of them.  "Ay, it's theer.  That's safe, too .  .  .  . Now then," continued he, dipping his hand into the pannier again, and feeling the butcher-meat.  "Beef th' next!" and he pulled it out, and stared with all the eyes in his head.  "Hello!" cried he, turning it over.  "This is no beef!  It's a pluck an' liver, bi th mass!  How's that shapped?  Let's see!  Nay!  I'll swear it wur beef when I left Rachda' teawn!  It runs i' mi yed so, as how 'tis!  Well, now, that caps mi trash!" continued he, laying the pluck and liver down upon the stone heap, beside the clogs, and staring at it.  "It's no use!" said he, scratching his head.  "I connot mak it eawt .  .  .  . Well, come.  Let's look at th' tother stuff!" and he dipped his hand into the pannier again, but feeling something hard and hairy, like a cold terrier dog, he plucked his hand back, and opened the pannier.  "Hello!" cried he, staring inside.  "What the divvle's th' next?"  The moonlight fell full into the pannier.  "By Guy!" said Ben, "it favvours a  .  .  .  Ay, it is!  It's a sheep's yed, bigo!" cried he, lifting it out.  "Now, how's that getten theer, I want to know?" continued he, holding it out at arm's-length in the moonlight.  "That's noan o' my sheep's yed.  If it is, I'll go to't say!" and he sat down upon the stone-heap, and stared and scratched his head again for a minute or two.  "It's no use," said he, rising to his feet again.  "I connot make it eawt! .  .  .  What'll turn up th' next, I wonder?  Let's look for th' beef now!" and he rooted in the pannier again.  "It's noan theer!" said he, going round.  "Let's try this tother pannier! .  .  . Nawe.  It's noan theer, noather!  There's plenty o' brokken pots, but no beef! .  .  .  Th' candles are here, I see.  But they're mashed to ribbins!  I munnot let our Betty see thoose,—not to-neet, as how 'tis!  Howd!  I'll put th' candles into my pocket! .  .  .  Eh! if eawr Betty finds me eawt, hoo'll ring sich a peal o' treble bob majors i' yon cote as never wur yerd bi mortal mon! .  .  .  Stop!  I mun clear these brokken pots eawt afore we gwon ony fur!" and he picked the pieces of pot out of the pannier, and flung them, one after another, into the ditch by the wayside.  "Now, then," continued he, "let's straighten this thing a bit, an' then nobry can tell;" and he pulled the crushed pannier into shape again as well as he could, and then sat down upon the stones again, and began to rummage in his pockets.  "Now, then," said he, "let's see if these tother things are reet!  Snuff.  Ay.  An' 'bacco, an' peawder blue, an' milk-an'-wayter-colour't yorn.  Ay.  An' toffy for th' childer .  .  .  . O' reet! .  .  . An' mi brass is o' reet, too," said he, counting it over.  "Come, it's better nor likely, when o's said an' done!  I think I dar face up!" continued he, jumping on behind again.  "Come, Dimple, owd lad!  We may as weel go soon as lat, an' try to poo through as weel as we con.  Come up! .  .  . But, by th' mass!" said he, as they paddled away, "that pluck an' liver gets o'er me! .  .  .  An' a sheep's yed, too!  I can mak noather top nor tail o' this! .  .  . An' then, wheer's th' beef? .  .  . I'll swear I bought some brisket off Owd Boswell!  Fourpence-hawp'ny a peawnd, it wur.  An' wheer is it gwon to?  That's what I want to know!  Come up, Dimple!  We's be whoam in a twothre minutes, now!"

    Ben turned off at the right-hand side of the highway, and went up an old wandering pack-horse track that led by his lonely cottage.  This cottage stood in a nook of the hills, about a mile and a half up the moor-side.

    When he got within a hundred yards or so of home he saw his wife standing, with her hands folded in her apron, upon a green knowle, which commanded a view of the pathway far down the hill-side.

    "Now for't!" said Ben.  "Th' owd lass is yon!  Come up, Dimple!"  And, assuming a careless air, he began to whistle.

    As soon as Betty saw him she came down the footpath to meet him.

    "Hello!" said Ben.  "Is that thee, mi lass?"

    "Why, who should it be, thinksto?" replied Betty.  "Neet brings 'th crows whoam!  What a time thae has bin!  Wheerever hasto stopped at till neaw? an' knows one's nought nobbut theirsel an' th' childer!  An' sich a one-ly place as this is!  I wonder how thae con think!  Whatever hasto bin shammockin' an' doin' till this time o'th neet?  If thae gets thi back turn't thae doesn't care a smite for noather me nor th' childer!  Not a hep, thae doesn't!  Wheerever hasto bin?"

    "I couldn't come no sooner!" replied Ben, in a timid tone.

    "Thae could ha' come'd sooner if thae'd wanted," answered Betty; "but thae didn't want!  Didto co' at top o'th Blackwayter?"

    "Wheer theer?"

    "At th' Hark up to Glory?"

    "Nawe, I didn't."

    "Then thae's bin at th' Hauve Moon?"

    "Nawe, I hannot."

    "Well, thae's bin somewheer wheer thae's no business to be till now.  There's no daycent folk at needs to stop eawt o' their own heawse till sich times as this!  Never tell me!  I wonder how thae con think! an' knows how ill I've bin.  Hasto brought thoose things?"

    "Ay, sure I have!" replied Ben, pottering about the jackass.  "Th' things are o' reet!  Thae'rt al'ays agate o' makin' a bother abeawt nought!  In witho!  I'll bring 'em directly!"

    "Go thi ways in thisel! " said Betty.  I'll look after 'em! .  .  . Thi supper's a-top o'th oon!

    "What is it?" inquired Ben, scratching his head.

    "I've warmed thou some o' that lobscouse 'at wur laft yesterday," replied Betty.

    "Is there nought else?"

    "Nought else!" answered Betty.  "What wouldto have?  Doesto think I can make stuff?  I guess thae's bin wearin' thi brass o' bits o' dainty nifles i'th teawn, makes thou so tickle abeawt th' stomach to-neet?  It is theer. An' if thae connot height it, thae con leeov it.  I can height it.  But aught's good enough for me, I guess."

    Ben saw that it was no use contending with her; so he went in and sat down to his supper, leaving her to look after the things in the panniers.  But his ears were alive with anxiety to hear how she went on when she came to look up his cargo, and as he went on eating slowly he was very wretched, for he felt as if every word that she had said to him was true.

    In a minute or two Betty looked in at the doorway, and said, "Thae's gwon an' forgotten thoose pots, neaw!"

    "Eh, ay," replied Ben, looking up from his supper; "so I have!"

    "Eh," said Betty, "thou has a yed; an' so has a pin! .  .  . Wheer's th' candles?"

    "They're here!" replied Ben.  "They're here i' mi pocket!" and as soon as she turned herself away he slipped the broken candles upon a shelf in the corner.  "Th' candles are o' reet!" continued Ben.  "I've put 'em upo th' shelf!"

    "An' wheer are tother things?"

    "What tother things?"

    "Th' yorn an' stuff!"

    "I have 'em o' reet" answered Ben.  "Th' 'bacco an' o'!"

    "I dar say.  Catch thee forgetten' th' bacco!" replied Betty.

    "Well, but I've brought some snuff for thi gronmother, haven't I?" said Ben.  "An' a bit o' toffy for th' childer.  .  .  . Are they gone to bed?"

    "Are they gone to bed?" said Betty.  "Wheer dosto think they'd be at this time o'th neet?" and then she felt in the panniers again.  "Hello!" said she, lifting out the pluck and liver.  "I towd tho to bring a bit o' beef!"

    "Well," replied Ben, "I did not think on't.  But that'll do as weel, winnot it?"

    "What hasto gan for it?" inquired Betty, turning it over.  "There's a sheep's yed, an' o', I see.  Heaw mich wur they?"

    "I con hardly tell till I reckon up," replied Ben.  "But thae's know o' abeawt it o'th mornin'.  They're chep enough.  That's o' 'at I can tell!"

    "Well, it looks nought amiss," said Betty.  "But what's this?" continued she, taking out some pieces of pot which Ben had missed in the bottom of the pannier.  "Brokken pots!" and, bringing them in her hand, she came up to the table where Ben sat at supper, and staring at him as she held them out before his eyes, she said, "Ben! whatever i'th name o' fortin' hasto bin doin'?"

    Ben's face suddenly flushed with shame, and, flinging down his knife and fork, he replied, "I'll tell tho what I've bin doin', lass!  I've bin tellin' tho a lot o' sunbrunt lies!  An' I'll not have it upo' my mind a minute lunger!  So sit tho deawn i' that cheer, an' thae's yer o' abeawt it,both th' hare an' th' hare gate!  An' then thae may do as thae's a mind!"

    "Eh, Lord o' me!" said Betty, taking a chair by the fireside.  "I wonder whatever thae'll come to i'th end of o'?"

    Pushing the table and the supper aside, and blushing at the thought of his ridiculous situation, Ben set to, and told his astonished dame the whole story of the jackass adventure, from beginning to end.  He told it freely, too, not screening himself from his own foolish share of the thing for the floodgates of his frank and truthful nature were thrown open, and he was determined to make a clean breast of it at once, let the consequence be what it might.  "Nea then!" said he, when he had finished, "thae has it as I have it!  An' if thae con mak ony better on it than it is, well an' good!"

    "Well, if ever!" said Betty.  And then they both sat silent for a minute or so, and then she broke out,

    "Eh, Ben!" said she, "I never thought thae'd bin sich a foo as this comes to!  Thae's less wit than Batterlash, that beat th' wayter for runnin'! .  .  . An' as for that sheep's yed, thane may tak it bak wheer it coom fro!  I'll ha' noan on it!  Nor nobry else i' this heawse shall taste on it!  Nor th' pluck an' liver noather!  So thae may tak 'em back!

    "Well," replied Ben, very quietly, "I want noan on't."

    "What doesto bring other folk's stuff here for, then?" said Betty.

    "I didn't know 'at I had it, I tell tho!" replied Ben.

    "Thae didn't know 'at thae had it!" continued Betty, sneeringly.  "I think thae hardly knows 'at thi yed's on tone hauve o' thi time.  Thae'rt war nor a bit of a choilt 'at connot goo eawt o'th heawse beawt lettin' th' tother childer pike th' pins eawt of it clooas!  If thae gets thi toes turn't away from whoam, ony mak o' waistrils con mak a hal on tho!  Thae'll ha' folk sheawtin' tho i'th lone, an' sayin', 'See yo!  That's him 'at sent his jackass up into th' Fuut Mill camber!'  I wonder whatever thou thinks on! .  .  . Hasto done thi supper?"

    "Ay," replied Ben very patiently.  "I've had as mich as I will have to-neet!"

    "Why.  Connot thou finish that bit?"

    "Nawe.  I'll ha' no moor!" said Ben, in a plaintive tone.

   "Thae'rt noan takin' th' sulk at thi supper becose I've spokken a word or two, sure?"

    "Thae cares nought whether I am or not," replied Ben.

    "Go thi ways to bed, then, —do," said Betty; "for thae needs as mich care takin' on as one o' yon bits o' childer 'at's asleep!"

    Ben bent down, and began to untie his shoes without a word; and in the stillness, that lasted a minute or two, a faint pid-padding sound was heard upon the floor above, as if somebody was playing upon the boards with two bits of fat.  Betty knew what it was in a second, and she said, "Eh, I declare, thae's wakken't th' childer!"—and she wiped her hands on her apron, and went to the foot of the stairs.  "It's our Billy!" continued she.  "Eh, thae little rebel!  I'll warm thee!"  But the little fat-legged cupid came paddling down, with sleepy face, muttering now and then, "I want my dad!"  And then Ben went in his stocking feet to the bottom of the stairs to meet his flaxen-haired darling, and the little thing sprang round his neck, and he hugged him close.  Hiding his face in the child's breast, he said, "Eh, my lad!" and then he burst into tears.

    "Eh, Ben!" said Betty, " thae'rt as soft as my pocket!  I wonder whatever aw mun do wi' yo!  Tak him upstairs witho!"

    When Ben had got three or four steps up the stairs, he stopped, and said, "Mun aw tak him into eawr bed?"

    "Ay," replied Betty, wiping her eyes with her apron.  "Thae may if thae likes.  I'll be up directly."

    "Thae'll not be lung?" said Ben.

    "Nawe.  I'll nobbut put th' clen things to th' fire, an' then."

    In another hour all was still in the lonely cottage, and the kind moon smiled upon the poor besom-maker's sleeping household.  The cat was curled up asleep upon Ben's jacket, which lay upon the rocking chair, by the hearth, and the fire was dying out in the lowermost bars of the grate.  Dimple was at rest in his wooden shed, at the house-end, after all the troubles of the day, and the clear water, falling from a spring in the moorland side into the old stone well-trough in front of the cottage, played a sweet little tinkling tune to the listening night.  The cottage itself seemed sleepy in the moonlight, and peace breathed all around this little mountain nest.

    Sleep on, poor Ben! with thy kind dame by thy side, and thy little brood of moorland fairies about thee.  Sleep on, in thy lonely cot, and rest thee for the coming day.  The tiny wild-flower fears not the storm that roars amongst the forest trees.  Sleep on, and wake refreshed to travel forward in thy simple way, till evening brings thee home.  And, when thy little day of life is over, may thou fall asleep with a smile, like a tired child in its mother's arms, and be gathered to thy fathers, in the old chapel-yard down the hill.  And thy last long rest shall be as sweet as if thy pilgrimage on earth had been amongst the courts of kings.

__________________________


 
Ben an' th' Bantam.

CHAPTER I.


How beautiful upon the mountains.

ISAIAH.


WHEN the sun has gone down behind the hills on a cloudless summer evening, how the splendid hues that trail upon his skirts deepen in magnificence as they melt away. As the gorgeous pageant fades away in the west, the landscape it is leaving seems to stand still and gaze upon its departing glory, whilst "all the air a solemn shrillness holds." The voices of the water sink to a softer tone; the wind glides through the woods with its finger on its lip; and the stars restrain their waiting fires till the king of day has left the scene to their milder influence. All Nature seems at pause; and "the holy time is quiet as a nun." And by the time these solemn splendours have passed the outward portals of day, what a chastely-glorious change has come over the scene. The aisles of earth are wrapt in shade, but the sky is robed in its nightly glory, and the blue fields of heaven are strewn with flowers of twinkling gold.  Those ancient lights,—which are "but dust in the footsteps of God,"—look down in benign comment, steeping the drowsy world in a mysterious spell.  The sapphire vault is filled with awful beauty; for where the stars are not the witchery of the blue sky is there; and wondering man looks up in speechless awe to that "brave, o'erhanging firmament, fretted with golden fires" all through the silent night .  .  . But night is not silent.  The tone alone is changed,—for Nature's music never dies.  As darkness draws her curtains in the wake of retiring day, viewless minstrels take up the hymn of adoration, filling the hours of shade with under-songs too fine for the ear of sunny noon.  Strange low melodies, and plaintive creeping sounds, come upon every sough of the wind.  Soft-footed pipers wander about the night-deserted paths of life, trailing through the listening air delicate strains of unworldly tenderness, that fondle the silent haunts of man, then float away to die out upon bleak wilds where his footing is a wonder.  Anon comes that most mysterious hour of all the night, just before the dawn begins to touch the eyelids of the stars with drowsiness,—that still hour, when "the sightless couriers of the air" begin to whisper that day is advancing; and the dusky legions of night wake up to take their westward way, leaving the world still wrapt in sleep behind.  "The charm dissolves apace;" and as grey dawn creeps over the eastern hills,—oh, the wrapt stillness,—the fresh, the lonely, lovely charm of that enchanted hour! .  .  . The light-slumbering flowers begin to feel the glow of the coming sun; and the wild rose stirs her scented leaves, and whispers to her little buds that it will soon be day.  The dewdrop, which has been sleeping all night in a cowslip-bell, with a star upon its breast, begins to twinkle anew in its scented bed; and the pale gold lappets of its sweet companion rustle with delight as they unfold to meet the sunny ray.  The wind turns over in its sleep, and sighs; then prunes its viewless wings, and takes a matin flight o'er hill and dale, waking the dew-pearled heather from its nightly spell.  And as it wanders among the dreaming wild-flowers, it whistles a tiny call through the grassy portals of the skylark's cot; and the blithe minstrel springing aloft, begins to rain his gladness down upon the new-awakening world.  And now, "night's candles are burnt out; and jocund day stands tip-toe on the mountain top;" and all the dewy hills and dales are dancing once more in rosy light! .  .  .  There is more of heaven than of earth in these fine transitions of night and day.  How long has this grand procession been going by?  Through how many cycles of strange mutation has this little orb of ours watched the waning and returning of the stars that stud yon sapphire dome?  How long have the trackless shores of an unpeopled world listened to the "washing of the lonely seas, and piping of the salted breeze?"

    Through such a summer night as this, poor Ben, the besom-maker and herb-gatherer of Lobden moor, slept soundly in the rude sweet chamber of his lonely cottage, with his blooming young wife by his side, and his rosy children laid at rest about him.  And on such a cloudless summer morning he awoke at cock-crow, to fill another page of the simple annals of life.  He awoke refreshed, for his slumbers were sweet, "from pure digestion bred."  The sun's glowing disc had risen above the summit of the hills; and the landscape was bathing with delight in the splendour of the morning.  A slant gleam of sunshine crossed Ben's chamber window like a bar of gold; and the blue sky was in view from the place where he lay.  Birds were twittering blithely about the eaves of the cottage, and on the sill of the chamber window, and the chuckling cry of the red grouse rose wildly from the moorlands around.  The distant "moo" of large-uddered kine came up from the valley in the stillness of the morning, blending with the fainter sound of the early mower's song, as he sauntered towards the meadows "to dip his scythe in fragrant dew."

    As Ben lay gazing around, the fresh beauty of the morning touched his heart with pleasure, although the first thing that crossed his mind on awaking was a painful recollection of the folly of the previous day.  He looked round the little chamber where his youngsters lay; and he looked at his sleeping wife, and sighed, and felt ashamed of himself; and as he simmered over the business of the new day he resolved to be more careful in the future.  Gently unwinding the round arm of his sweet young dame, he softly raised himself up, and, shading away a flaxen tress, that had straggled down upon her brow, he gazed into her face with quiet joy; for sleep had laid a strange spell of placid beauty upon her comely countenance.  Her rosy lips were slightly parted, and her sweet breath came and went in well-timed play between those tempting portals, as Ben gazed on her delighted, though he dreamt not why.  Rising carefully from bed, for fear of waking his little household before their time, he happed the clothes about his sleeping wife, and went towards the chamber window with noiseless tread.

    The furniture of the chamber was rude and scanty; but all was clean, and sweet as a country garden "in simple time;" and the walls were spotless with new whitewash, the work of Ben's own hands, about a month before.  Above the little mantelpiece hung a rude coloured picture of "Joseph and his Brethren."  Ben and his wife set great store upon this picture.  It was the gift of Betty's grandmother, when Betty and Ben began to "set up house together;" and it was the only ornament upon the walls of their bedchamber.  In one corner stood the "kist," which contained all the family's stock of clean clothing, well scented with sprigs of lavender.  In another corner was the little bed on which the children slept.  Ben stopped to look at them .  .  .  The bedclothes had fallen to the floor; and there the rosy cupids lay, like breathing statues, in their "cutty larks," their soft round limbs thrown carelessly at ease, and the pearly moisture of sleep glittering on their faces, like morning dew on wild-flowers.  The youngest had two crushed buttercups still clasped in his dimpled hand; and his little button-hole of a mouth was "sticky" with the toffy which his mother had given to him at bedtime.  The other lay aslant the bed, with one leg across his brother's breast and a small wooden horse, which had fallen from his grasp, lay by the bedside, wheels uppermost.  Moving the lads carefully into their places, Ben lifted the horse from the floor, and stabled it by the side of its sleepy little owner again; and then he laid the fallen clothes softly down upon them.  As he stood by the bed, looking at them as they lay locked in sleep, like two shut daisies waiting for the morning sun, he felt inclined to kiss the lads, but he was afraid that the prickly stubble upon his chin might disturb their slumbers.  Ben's eyes wandered with delight over their features; and as he turned away, to open the chamber window, he muttered to himself, "God bless 'em!  They're bonny 'uuns!"

    Ben opened the window softly, and looked out.  The cottage stood by the side of a rough bridle-path, which led up from the green valley, and away, in wild meanderings, far northwards through the lonely hills.  It was a solitary spot, about half a mile above the place to which the last faint evidence of agriculture had crept up the mountain side.  The flowering heather waved all around, except upon a small plot in front of the house, which Ben had laboured into a garden, and which he had enclosed with rude low walls of stone, piled up without mortar.  A little moorland stream ran down a green crease behind the house, along a well-worn bed of rock; and on a Sunday, when the besom-maker's humble household was stiller even than usual, the lonely plover's plaintive cry, and the wild "heck-heck-heck" of distant moorfowl, mingling with the low murmur of the stream, were almost the only sounds astir, except the tinkling of the spring which trickled down into the well-trough in front of the cottage window.

    The wild heath was all sprinkled with pearls of sunlit dew; and a still rapture lay upon the lonely moorland, where the summer "like a hermit dwelt."  The blooming heather filled the morning air with sweetness.  Wild birds were twittering all round the cottage; and the lark had gone up towards the fountain of day with his thrilling song.  Ben's eyes wandered over the scene with delight, settling at last upon his own little garden, where a few pet flowers and aromatic herbs were mingling their sweets with the "goodly smells" of a bush of sweetbrier and a bed of flowering mignonette.

    "Ay!" said Ben, slowly sniffing the perfumed gale, and rubbing his hands.  "Eh, it is a bonny mornin'!  It is,—a grand mornin'!"  Then closing the window, he quietly dressed himself, and crept downstairs in his stocking feet, muttering to himself, "By th' mon, I've rivven my breeches again; an' there's a hole I' one o' my stockin's; but I darn't ax her to mend 'em to-day, after makin' such a foo' o' myself.  I'll pin my breeches up, till I can see how hoo is when hoo gets eawt o' bed."

    As he crept down, the stairs creaked.  He stopped and listened; but the sleepers slept on; so he crept end-way.  When he had got down he softly opened the house door, to let in the morning air.  And then he stood in the middle of the floor a minute, yawning, and stretching his arms, and looking around him .  .  . His shoes were in a corner, near the fireplace, under a small shelf, which held his clay pipes, and tobacco in a brown pot with a lid on it.  Above the shelf a little old-fashioned Dutch clock hung against the wall; and its ticking sounded unusually clear in the stillness of the house.  Ben's jacket lay on the old couch-chair; and the cat was asleep upon it as usual; but, aroused by the opening of the door, puss raised her head, and yawned, and stretched herself; and then she jumped down, and began to scratch the leg of the table.  When she had satisfied herself with this exercise, she walked with a slow contemplative air to the doorstep, where she sat down, with her tail folded about her, looking around.  On a small wooden "winter-hedge," in front of the fireplace, a few clean clothes hung, which had been airing all night.  Upon a "brade-fleigh," or bread-rack, which was suspended from the ceiling like a great square harp, a few oat-cakes were spread, with their ends curled up about the strings.  The pots and other eating utensils were all in their places in the old wooden rack against the wall; for Betty was a tidy body, and she had washed and "sided" the supper things, and put the things to rights, after Ben had gone to bed on the previous night.  On the window-sill stood two fine balsams and a myrtle, in pots.  There lay Ben's tobacco-box, too, which he had left on the table the night before.  In a corner of the same window there was a little pile of books,—an old Bible, a Prayer-Book, "Culpepper's Herbal," "Baxter's Saints' Rest," and "Boston's Four-fold State."  Ben's whip lay by the side of his jacket; and a pile of ling besoms stood behind the door, ready for sale.  The floor was swept clean; and bundles of dried herbs hung, here and there, from hooks in the ceiling; and they filled all the house with a goodly smell.

    Ben drew up a chair, and sat down to put his shoes on.  Then he rose and walked to the doorway; and, leaning himself against the lintel, he looked quietly around.

    The water of the spring in front of the cottage was running over the lip of a green dock-leaf which Betty had placed in the stone spout the day before.  The slant sunshine caught the pearly rindle as it fell into the trough, tingeing it with rosy beauty; and golden ripples shimmered on the surface of the well, for a little wind had got up; and all the dewdrops on the blooming moorland were trembling with delight in morning's sunny smile.  It was a sweet nook of solitary life, that rough cottage among the wild heather; and the fresh elements of Nature played about it lovingly.

    The things that lay, here and there, about the outside of the house, showed the lonely security of the spot; and they told, also, something of the simple life of the dwellers therein .  .  .  .  Dimple's panniers were reared against the green bank in front of the cottage, close by a small heap of coals, which Ben had bought at the pit-mouth in the valley, and brought up the moorside on Dimple's back.  These were burnt very sparingly, with dried roots, brushwood, and other bits of wild "eilding," and kept sheltered from the weather in the low part of a rough wooden shed, which Ben had put up at the house-end.  In the upper part of this shed there was a strong shelf, upon which were nests of hay, and above that roosting-rails for the hens.  Ben had seven hens, of prime breeds; and he was very proud of them.  A mop was leaned, handle downwards, against the door of the shed.  A few new-washed children's clothes were bleaching in the moorland air, upon a low thorn edge close by; and a large iron porridge-pan, quite clean, was laid upon its side, near the stone well trough .  .  .  Ben's Donkey was grazing upon a little plot of green ground near the house-end.  Dimple had free range of the wild moors, and of all the scanty herbage that grew upon the margin of the mountain stream.  Sometimes, at close of day, he wandered down towards the valley, to crop a mouthful of richer grass from the edgesides of cultivated grounds; but as morning returned, he wandered up the bridle-path again towards the place where he was born .  .  .  The donkey pricked his ears when he heard the door open, and he stood, with lifted head, chewing, and gazing quietly at his master.

    "Well, Dimple," said Ben, sauntering up to his donkey, and scratching his ears, "heaw arto gettin' on?  Thae looks as if thae'd bin chewing' moonleet, owd lad.  Here," continued he, taking a handful of wiry hay from the shed at the end of the house, and flinging it down before Dimple, "get that into tho, while aw goo an' look after yon fire."  Dimple gave his tail a delighted whisk, and bent down to the sweet rough fare that lay under his nose; whilst Ben went to the shed for some dry eilding, and then turned into the house to make the fire.  As he was shifting the winter-edge away from the hearth, the cat came and rubbed herself against his leg.  "Now puss," said Ben, bending down and stroking her, "thae mun ston fur, till I get this fire made.  I'll gi' tho a saup o' milk or summate, directly."  And puss went and sat down at one side of the cold hearthstone, watching his operations with a thoughtful look.  As Ben took up the poker to scale the ashes out of the fire-grate, he upset the tongs, which were reared against the hob.  "Now then, clumsy!" said Ben, looking at the poker.  "Doesn't thae know yon childer are asleep?  Thae desarves puncin'."  But the din had awakened Betty; and, creeping to the head of the stairs, she said, "Is that thee, Ben?"

    "Ay."

    "What's o' that din?"

    "It's th' tongs 'at's fo'n."

    "Hasto made th' fire?"

    "Nave; but I'm beawn to do.  Wheer's th' tinderbox?"

    "Thae'll find it upo' th' pot shelf.  Dunnot make such a din.  What time is't?"

    "Ten minutes past five.  Arto beawn to ha' porritch, or thae'll ha' tay?"

    "I think I'll have a saup o' tay this mornin'," replied Betty.  "I dunnot feel so weel.  But I'll get up."

    "Where's th' hen-meight?" continued Ben.

    "I'll be deawn directly," replied Betty.  "An' doesto yer, Ben!"

    "What?"

    "Mind tho doesn't deet (sully) thoose clen clooas."

    "O' reet," replied Ben.

    As Ben laid the firing together, he muttered to himself, "Th' owd lass seawnds as if hoo wur th' better side eawt this mornin'.  It's moor nor I expected, too.  But,—howd off,—I's ha' to catch it, yet.  I'm flayed hoo's savin' it up for a gradely brast-off."  When he had lit the fire, he filled the kettle from the well, and set it on; and then, taking several besoms from the pile behind the door, he laid them together outside, so as to be ready for his journey.  Then getting upon a chair, he reached down from the ceiling four bunches of hyssop and a bunch of mountain flax, and laid them upon the table under the window.  Then he went and stirred the fire, and looked into the kettle.  "It's just startin' a-singin'," said he, sitting down and stroking the cat, which had come to rub itself against his leg again.

    In a few minutes Betty came downstairs.  "Does it boighl?" said she, looking at the kettle, as she stood in the middle of the floor tying a check lin apron on.

    "It's just beginnin', sitho," replied Ben, pointing at the steaming spout.

    As she bustled about, laying the breakfast things on the little white-topped round table, she said, "Let's see.  Thae's some eggs to tak this mornin', hasn'to?"

    "Yigh," replied Ben.  "A shillin's-'oth ; and four besoms; an' thoose yarbs 'at's upo' th' table.  They're o' for th' Bull's Yed.  An' then I've six for th' Tobe's Yed; an' six for Clements, at th' Failinge; and six for Owd Jacob's, at Cronkyshay.

    "Well," answered Betty, "come an 'get thi breigkfast.  Will thou ha' tay, too ?"

    "I think I'll have a cup o' tay," replied Ben, sitting quietly down at the far side of the table.

    The meal was sweet and simple.  Home-baked cakes, fresh moorland butter, and a plateful of crisp salad, new from the garden, and dripping with well-water.  Very few words passed between Ben and Betty as they sat at their morning meal.

    "Wilt have another cup?" said Betty, holding up the tea-pot.

    "Nawe," replied Ben, "it tastes too strung o'th wayter for my likin'."

    "It happen hasn't studden lung enough," continued Betty.  "I'll make a saup o' fresh."

    "Nay," replied Ben, "it doesn't matter.  I'll have a saup o' churn-milk.  Ne'er mind makin' fresh for me."

    And he rose from the table to prepare for his journey.

    "Here," said Betty, setting down her cup, "I'll get th' eggs ready for tho;" and whilst Ben went and bridled Dimple, and put his panniers on, she counted out the eggs; and taking down a little basket which hung from the ceiling, she filled the bottom of it with hay, and laid the eggs carefully inside.

    Ben stood with Dimple at the door, arranging his load in the panniers.

    "Let's see," said he, "there's four besoms for Jem at th' Bull,an' thoose yarbs,—an' a shillin's-'oth o' eggs; an' haute a dozen besoms for Owd Clement's; an' haute a dozen for th' Tobe's Yed .  .  .  Betty, bring thoose eggs!"

    "Neaw," said Betty, bringing the basket to the door, "thane mun mind how thou carries 'em."

    "They'n sit nicely o'th top here," replied Ben, putting the basket into the pannier.

    "Neaw, hasto getten o' reet?" said Betty, sidling up towards the donkey.

    "As soon as I've tightened this bally-bant a bit," replied Ben, tugging at the strap.  "Now, doesto want aught bringin' back,—afore I start?"

    "Well, I don't know that we wanten aught," answered Betty.  "But I'll tell tho what,—thae may bring a twothre red yerrin', if thae can get 'em good uns."

    "Red yerrin'!" said Ben.  "What's put red yerrin' into thi yed?  Thae'll be like to have 'em, if thae's taen a fancy to 'em .  .  . I'll bring thou some thae's see .  .  . My fayther use't to co' 'em Lent chickens.'  I co' 'em one-eed askards.  But, if thae wants 'em, thae'st have em."

    "Eh, Ben," said Betty, "dunnot begin a-makin' no mak o' nonsense.  Thae'll be gettin' wrang again.  I never like o' to see tho o' thissens.  Thae knows what a foo thae made o' thisel yesterday.  Do mind what thae'st doin', pritho.  I'd sooner see tho deawn-hearted than foolish ony time,for then thae con tak care o' thisel some bit like .  .  .   Come, I'll goo a bit of a gate witho."

    And away they went together, slowly down the old bridle-path.



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