Edwin Waugh: Besom Ben (4)

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CHAPTER V.


Here we come a-wassailing!

OLD CAROL.


"THEER!" said Ben, wiping his mouth, and brushing the crumbs from his knees; "I've had a rare good dinner, mistress; an' I'm very mich obleeg't to yo."

    "Oh, thae'rt welcome, lad!" replied the landlady; "welcome as th' fleawrs i' May.  Sure thae art.  What; we're noan within a bite o' meight, mon,—not we!"

    "Nawe, I know yo are not," answered Ben.  "But yo know, one connot have a do like that every day eawt o' besom-makin'.  We thinken weel if we can get a bit o' butcher's meight of a Sunday.  But I guess it's a regilar thing wi' sich as yo."

    "Well, we gwon nought short i'th heightin' line,—thank God for that!" answered she.

    "Well, but we kilt a pig o' Thursday," said the landlord.  "Wilt have a link or two o' black puddin'?"

    "I've nought again that, 'at I know on," answered Ben.  "But yon never had no swillin's fro us; an' I dar say yo never win have."

    "Howd thi din abeawt swillin's," replied the landlord.  "It's noather here nor theer.  We'n swillin's enoo of our own.  Tak some puddin's whoam wi' tho."

    "Come, I'll lap him some up," said the landlady, walking towards the pantry.

    "I care nought abeawt 'em mysel'," said the landlord, turning round to look at somebody who was knocking in the lobby.

    It was a trimly-dressed servant lass, who stood playing with a shilling in her hand.

    "Well, Ellen," said the landlord.  "What is it?"

    "Han yo ony gill bottles o' porter, James?" said the lass.

    "Nawe," replied the landlord; "but we'n some pint bottles 'at doesn't howd so mich moor,—if that'll do."

    "Oh, it'll do very well," answered the girl.  "I want two bottles for th' mistress.  Hoo thinks a drop o' porter would agree with her th' best of aught to-night."

    "Heaw is th' owd lass?" said the landlord, walking into the bar to get the porter,

    "Oh, hoo's never right, never.  An' I don't think she ails anything but consate; for she can eat, an' drink, an talk well enough.  Talk!  Eh, yo should hear her talk!"

    "I don't think hoo does ail mich, lass, nobbut consate, as thae says.  An' a consate's as ill as a consumption, ony time.  Does th' doctor attend her yet?"

    "Th' doctor!  Eh, doctors an' parsons, it's all 'at keeps her alive.  Eh, ye should ha' heard her talkin' to th' doctor this mornin'.  She was tellin' him what sort of a night she'd had.  I heard every word.  I was sweepin' th' lobby eawt at th' time.  'Eh, doctor,' she said, 'I never was nearer my end than I was last night.  I dreamt I was gettin' to th' edge o' Jordan, an' I was goin' to cross over, when I bethought myself all at once that th' carpets wanted shakin', an' I thought that I'd better see 'em done afore I went, or else they never would be done.  So I turn't over, an' I called of Ellen, an' I gave her a right good talkin' to abeawt these carpets.  An' doctor,' she said, 'yo know what a contradictious little madam that girl is,—I thought she answered me back,—as she always does,—an' it vexed me so that I wakened up; an' I do believe, doctor, that it's done me good.'  Then th' doctor felt at her pulse, an' he said he shouldn't wonder if it had done her good; but he thought he'd better alter her physic a bit .  .  . She reckons to have no appetite; but it's always, 'Ellen, boil me some eggs; Ellen, fry me some ham.  I expect th' doctor here directly, Ellen."'

    "I think hoo's a bit canker't is th' owd besom," said the, landlord.

    "Canker't!  Eh, I think hoo is.  Yo should hear her when she's in a tantrum."

    "Then her ailment hasn't touched her tung, like?" continued the landlord.

    "Tung!  No!  I believe she'll talk in her coffin,—I do, for sure.  But, eh, I must be gooin'.  Good afternoon."

    "Good afternoon, Ellen," said the landlord.

    "Yon's noan beawt tung, noather," continued the landlord, walking into the kitchen, where the landlady and the servants and Ben had all been listening.

    "Nawe, hoo isn't," replied Ben.  "Who's hoo bin agate on?"

    "It's an owd maid 'at lives a bit aboon here.  Hoo's lots o' brass, an' hoo doesn't know what ails her.  Hoo's al'ays oather for deein' or for bein' poor, or some lumber."

    "If I're a woman," said Ben, rising and walking towards the door, "I'd get wed,—if I rued after it.  I couldn't do bi mysel at o' .  .  . But I'll goo into th' tother reawm, an' see how yon lads are gettin' on."

    "Well, thae'm mind what thae'rt doin', thae knows," said the landlord.  "Thae knows what mak they are."

    "Oh, I'm ready for 'em to-day," said Ben.  "Where's th' jackass?"

    "Th' jackass is o' reet," replied the landlord.  "I'll look after th' jackass, if thae'll look after thisel."

    "O' reet!" replied Ben, walking towards the door, just as Enoch was coming in for him again.

    "Ben," said Enoch "art thou for comin', or thae artn't?  Say the word.  'Cose we can do beawt thou, thae knows, if thae'rt aboon speighkin'."

    "Howd thi din!" replied Ben, who was getting as jovial and frolicsome as the rest.  "Howd thi din!  Thae'rt warse nor a sheep-sheawter.  I'm comin',—doesn'to see?  An' I'm ready for aught."

    "Come on, then, owd brid!" replied Enoch.  "Come on!  I'll back tho till thi yed flies off!"

    There was a curious company in the taproom of the Talbot's Head that summer afternoon, and they were, one and all, in different stages of inebriation.  Enoch and Twitchel had never been nearer to the mill that day than they were then.  The frolic of the night before had set them going; and in their launderings about during the forenoon they had beguiled three slack-minded haymakers from a neighbouring meadow to join their revels.  These, however, belonged to a class whose waking hours are mostly passed in drinking, or in looking round the world to see where the next "gill" is to come from.  With them sobriety had become a strange element, full of fearfulness.

    "Ginger for flirtin'!" cried Enoch, pushing Ben before him into the taproom.  "He's here again, see yo, lads.  Hutch up lower, some on yo!  Come here, Ben, an' sit at side o' me.  Thae's not be put on wi' nobody,not while I'm here, as heaw't be."

    "Who wants to put on him?" said Twitchel.  "If it's onybody, it's thisel, Enoch.  Thae helped to height his beef, didn'to?"

    "Ay, I did,—reet enough.  But then,—we'n made that up again; hannot we, Ben?"

    "Yigh, yo han," replied Ben.

    "Hasto getten th' brass, owd crayter?" continued Enoch.

    "Ay, th' lonlort's gan it me, just neaw."

    "Well, then, let's ha' no fratchin'.  Gi me thi hont, owd dog.  I dunnot want to do nought at's wrang, mon.  Nor thee, noather, doesto, Twitch?"

    "Do I hectum as like!  But, then, I'm noan again a bit of a spree, if it isn't carried to fur, thae knows."

    "How fur doesto like thi jokes carried, like, afore tho stops?  Thae likes 'em a good height up, judgin' bi th' jackass yesterday, Twitch, owd lad."

    "Eh, by th' mon, that wur a do!" cried Twitch.  "Ben, thae'rt gradely taen in that time .  .  .  But what, thae bears no malice, doesto, owd lad?  Gi me thi hont.  Thae'rt noan as ill-contrive't as Enoch, theer."

    "Does thae co' me ill-contrive't?" said Enoch, staring at Twitch with good-humoured surprise.

    "Eh, never name it moor.  It're my own doin' as mich as onybody else's," said Ben .  .  .  . "But what am I to do wi' yon sheep's yed an' stuff.  It's noan o' mine."

    "It's mine!" cried Enoch.  "It's mine.  Height it.  Thae'rt welcome to it, owd brid!"

    "Ay, but eawr Betty's for sendin' it back," replied Ben.

    "Hoo's a foo if hoo does," said Enoch.  "Give it th' cat!  By th' mon, I'll ha' noan on't!  If hoo sends it here I'll wuzz it into th' street.  So I've towd tho .  .  . Come, lads, burl eawt, some on yo, an' let Ben sup .  .  . Here," continued he, filling a gill pot, and offering it to Ben, "tak howd, my lad.  Thae'rt a top-sawer, if ever there wur one."

    "Come!" said Ben, by way of wishing the company good health.

    "Do!" replied three or four of the company in a breath.

    This was the usual laconic form of health-pledging among these country wassailers.

    As Enoch took the empty pot from Ben, he said, "Here, I's be like to send it reawnd .  .  . Come, Popple, owd lad; wakken, an' tak howd!"

    "What hasto?" said the half-stupified haymaker.

    "Rum an' ale.  It'll do tho no harm," replied Enoch.  "Get howd!" and he gave the drowsy haymaker a slap on the side of the head in a frolicsome way.

    "Neaw then! what arto for?  I'll set thee one on i' thou does that again," said the over-done haymaker, slowly opening his foggy eyes, and groping his way to a sight of the offender.

    "I' tho does," replied Enoch, "I'll warm thi ear-hole, owd mon."

    "Come, come," said Twitch, rising from his seat in the corner, " if there's ony fo'in' eawt i' this cote, I'll be amung it, an' soon too. As for thee, Popple, if thae wants a twothre wrang words wi' onybody, speighk to me, an' I'll see what I con do for tho. Thae'rt just abeawt th' size 'at I like to play wi'. I've had a good twothre sick like chaps as thee under hond i' my time. If thae's summat upo thi stomach 'at troubles the, I've some physic i' my shoon 'at'll help tho off wi't,—an' soon too."

    "Neaw then, Twitch," said Enoch, turning to his old friend.  "By th' mon, thae'rt war than him .  .  . Tak no notice o' Popple.  He's like a chip i' porritch,—he's noather one thing nor another.  Dall it, lads, sup, an' don't begin o' fratchin' wi' one another."

    "I want noan to fratch wi' nobody," said Popple, struggling to his feet, and holding his shaky hand out towards Twitchel.  "But thae knows, Twitch, I dunnot like to ha' my yed pown.  But, come, I want no bother.  Gi me thi hont, owd dog.  Thee an' me knows one another fro bein' choilt-little, dunnot we?"

    "Yigh, we dun," replied Twitchel, taking his hand; "but I don't like tho so d――d weel for o' that; an' I cannot tell what for, justly.  But I'll tell tho one thing, Popple; if thae starts o' bein' reawsty, I'm thy maister, ony minute.  Neaw, what have I towdto?  An' i' tho doesn't sit tho deawn, I's find my shoon a bit of a job somewheer abeawt latter-end o' thi breeches .  .  . Doesto yer nought?"

    "Dunnot thee say so mich abeawt that," said Popple, hobbling about on his legs, and giving his arm a feeble flourish.  "Dunnot thee say so mich abeawt that, or else—"

    "Or else what?" said Twitchel, struggling to his feet.

    "Come, come," said Enoch, rushing up to Twitched, "we'n ha' noan o' yor bother abeawt sich like wark as that .  .  . Twitch, thee sit deawn, an' dunnot be a foo.  I can manage yon tother weel enough if thae'll howd thi din .  .  . Popple, get thee into that cheer; an' if thae wants to say ought moor, sing it,—dall it, sing it!"

    "I'll sing yo a sung," said Popple, thumping the table.  "I'll sing a sung if Owd Twitch'll sing at after."

    "By Guy!" replied Twitch, "I dar sing after thee, as heaw't be."

    "Come, Popple," said Enoch, offering him another tot of ale and rum; "sup, an' then get agate."

    Popple emptied the tot; and then turning his stolid face towards the ceiling, he said, "Here goes!" and he began to howl, in a drawling nasal tone,


When aw wur bund apprentice,
    I' famous Lincolnshire,
Full weel I sarve't my maister,
    For more nor seven lung year;
Till I took up wi' poachin', lads,
    As you shall quickly hear.
        Oh, it's my delight of a shiny night,
            In the season of the year.


    "Eh, by th' mass, Popple," cried Twitch, "drop it a minute or two; thae's set my teeth agate o' poachin'."

    "Nawe, let him get it o'er," said Enoch.  "Here, sup; an' swill those hay-seeds eawt o' thi throttle; an' then start again!"

    "I'll sing thee for a stone of red cabbich," replied Popple.

    "Well, get agate," answered Enoch, "an' give o'er talkin'."

    Up went Popple's face again as he recommenced his nasal howl,


As me an' my two com-a-rades
    Wur settin' of a snare,
We chanced to see a gamekeeper,
    For him we did not care;
For we can wrostle an' fight, my boys,
    An jump o'er onywheer.
        Oh, it's my delight on a shiny night,
            In the season of the year.

As me an' my two com-a-rades
    Wur settin' four or five
――


    Popple stopped, and held out his hands.  "Here, Enoch," said he, "let's sup once again, an' then I'll do another verse."

    "I'll let thee sup twice i'tho'll give o'er.  It's unteein' my shoon.  By th' mon, drop it,—that's a good lad.  Thae'll have us o' laid up.  I never yerd sich a din sin I're wick.  What hasto had to thi dinner?"

    "I'll sing no moor," said Popple, rising to his feet again.  "An' I'm noan beawn to be put on bi nobry i' this cote, as cliver as yo reckon to be .  .  . I con buy o'th rook on yo up.  I guess yo thinken I'm beawt brass!  See yo! (clashing a handful of copper and silver on the table), there's five shillin' theer,—at owes nobry nought .  .  . An' I've a uncle 'at owns two mills i' Darbyshire,—my uncle Joe.  He's own brother to my feyther.  He's noather chick nor choilt.  Thoose two mills are mine when he dees.  Crack that nut."

    "The dule steawnd thee an' thi uncle Joe, too," said Twitch.  "I' thy uncle Joe owns ony mills i' Darbyshire, they're coffee mills .  .  . Thae desarves jollopin' for talkin' sich like foo-scutter as that.  Thae'rt o' keaw-slaver an' beggar-berm.  Sit tho deawn, thae gawmbles hag-a-knowe, or I'll kom thi yure for tho!"

    "I'll tak thee another day, Twitch," said Popple.  "I's happen be leetin' on tho up Whit'oth Road, on afore th' next fay-berry time."

    "I'm here neaw," replied Twitch, making a rush at him.  But Enoch met him in full career, and flinging his arms around him, said, "Now, then, Twitch, has thae no moor sense nor botherin' wi' sich a churn-yed as that?  Sit tho deawn, mon, an' let's ha' some gam."

    "Let him come, if he likes," replied Popple.  "I'm ready for him if he comes this gate on."

    Twitch was going to rush at him again, when the landlady came to the door.

    "Neaw then, I'll not have sich wark.  We'n ha' no feightin' here.  We'n had things enoo brokken, at's never bin paid for.  Popple, if thae cannot behave thisel thae'll ha' to goo eawt.  Twitch, I wonder 'at yo'n no moor sense."

    "Well, Betty," said Twitchel, "I cannot do to be hector't o'er wi' a sodden foo like that, at's made up o' nought but offal an' block-scrapin's,—an' put together cowd, too.  What's he bother me abeawt his brass, an' his uncle Joe, for?  He's nought no better nor porritch,—as wheer he is."

    "I never name't my uncle Joe," replied Popple, hiccupping in the corner.

    "Theaw'rt a lyin' mon!" cried Twitchel, jumping up again.

    "I'll not have it, I tell yo said the landlady, coming forward.  "I'll not have it.  If yo want's sich like wark as that, yo mun goo eawtside to it.  Eawr James is eawt, or else he'd sattle yo,—an' soon, too.  Popple, go thee whoam!"

    "I'll be quiet, if he will," said Popple, hiccupping drowsily in the corner again.

    "Well, keep thi tung between thi teeth, then," said Twitch.

    "Come, come!  Dall it an' sink it, lads, let's be thick while we are together.  Twitch, I never thought thou'd bin sich a rivven chap as thou art."

    "I cannot bide him, Enoch," replied Twitchel.

    "Well, an' who's to bide thee, thinksto?" replied Enoch.  "If I thought I're as ill as him, sitho Enoch, I'd height a shool-full o' red cinders, to put an end to mysel."

    "Husht, husht!  Th' furst man at says another wrang word, I'll rom my cap into his meawt.  Let him alone,—he's fo'in' asleep, sitho."

    "I dunnot like him, I tell thee, noather asleep nor wakken,—an' theer's an end on't."

    "Well, thae let him alone, then.  An' howd thin din, an' let somebry else talk.  Thae wants it o' thisel.  Let somebry else talk a bit.  By th' mass, thae makes my yed go reawnd."

    "Thae has nought of a yed to speighk on, Enoch."

    "Neaw, then," replied Enoch, "arto beawn to start o' me neaw? .  .  . It's time for thee to be goin' whoam, Twitch, thae gets so rivven.  Sup, an' straighten that yure o' thine .  .  .  Hello! th' pot's empty again! . .  . Come, I'll be th' next quart.  Here, Betty," continued he, handing the pitcher to the landlady, "bring another o'th same breed, an' chalk it up to me."

    "Nay, nay," said Twitch.  "Come here, Betty.  We'n ha' no ale-shots laft on.  I'll pay for't mysel first."

    "Well, pay fort thisel th' first, an' ha' done wi't.  Ony road for a quiet life, owd mon . .  .  . Hello!" continued he, looking round, "by th' mass, they're o' foin' asleep .  .  . Come, lads, let's be doin' summat.  This mak o' wark's noather good for king nor country.  Speighk, some on yo.  What! are we o' jaw-locked?  Or, are yo beheend i' yor rent, or summat?  It's like fuddlin' in a bwonheawse.  There must ha' bin a funeral i'th hole .  .  . Come, Ben, oppen that meawth o' thine.  I'll ston o' mi yed if some on yo doesn't do summate or another,—if I dunnot I'll go to th' crows!  .  .  . I've a good mind to sing a sung.  Mun I, Twitch?"

    "I don't care what thou does, i' thou'll give o'er wuzzin' up an' deawn th' floor.  Thae turns me mazy.  Thae'rt war nor a scopperil."

    "I'll sing, bigo!" said Enoch,—


Owd Fogey live't i' Turner Fowd,
    At th' side o' Wilson Schoo';
An' everybody knowed him theer,
    Becose he're sich a foo.


    "Come, wakken, chaps!  Ben, thee give us a sung!"

    "Ay, gi's a bit of a touch, Ben," said Twitchel, brighten-ing up.  "Thae's some music in thou, I know."

    "Well, I'm nought again it," said Ben, "if yo'n co' silence.

    "Silence!  Heaw mich silence dost want?  It's as still as a graveyort.  They're o' asleep nobbut me an' Twitch."

    "I meeon, wakken 'em," replied Ben.

    "Why, then," said Enoch, filling the glass, "take howd again afore tho starts."

    "Come, chaps, wakken!  Ben's beawn to sing!"

    "Heigh, Popple!  Come, Splutter, owd lad,— doesto yer?  Wakken!  Yor a breet-lookin' lot, by Guy!  Come, Ben's beawn to sing us a sung!  Get agate, Ben,—that'll wakken 'em up th' best of aught."

    "Here goes, then," said Ben,


'Twas on the morn of sweet May day,
When Nature painted all things gay,
Taught birds to sing and lambs to play,
    And gild the meadows fair,
Young Jockey, early in the dawn,
Arose and tripped it o'er the lawn,
His Sunday clothes the youth had on,
For Jenny had vowed away to run
    With Jockey to the fair.
For Jenny had vowed away to run
    With Jockey to the fair.

The cheerful parish bells had rung,
With eager steps he trudged along;
While flowery garlands reawnd him hung,
    Which shepherds used to wear.
He tapped the window: "Haste, my dear!"
Jenny, impatient, cried, "Who's there?"
"'Tis I, my love, and no one near.
Step gently down, you've nought to fear,
    With Jockey to the fair."
Step gently down. &c.

"My dad and mam are fast asleep,
My brother's up and with the sheep
And will you still your promise keep,
    Which I have heard you swear?
And will you ever constant prove?"
"I will by all the powers above,
And ne'er deceive my charming dove.
Dispel these doubts, and haste, my love,
    With Jockey to the fair."
Dispel these doubts, &c.


"Goo on, owd Layrock,—thae'rt doin' weel!" cried Enoch.


"Behold the ring!" the shepherd cried
"Will Jenny be my charming bride?
Let Cupid be our happy guide,
    And Hymen meet us there."
Then Jockey did his vows renew:
He would be constant, would be true,
His word was pledged.  Away she flew,
O'er cowslips tipped with balmy dew,
    With Jockey to the fair.
O'er cowslips, &c.

In raptures meet the jovial throng.
Their gay companions, blithe and young,
Each join the dance, each raise the song,
    To hail the happy pair:
In turns there's none so loud as they,
They blessed the kind propitious day,
The smiling morn of blooming May,
When lovely Jenny ran away
    With Jockey to the fair.
When lovely Jenny, &c.


    "Well done, Ben, owd lad!" cried the now awakened wassailers, and their loud applause was echoed in the kitchen, where the landlady and the servants were listening attentively.

    Enoch bustled about, handing the drink first to Ben and then to the rest, as far as it would go.  And when the pitcher was empty, he knocked upon the table with it and called for the landlord,

    "Jem!  Bring another in."

    "Yore gettin' on, lads," said the landlord, taking up the pitcher and looking round.  "Ben," continued he, seeing that the poor besom-maker was beginning to look very pale and mazy, "isn't it time for thee to be goin' whoam?"

    "Nay, I think I's stop a bit lunger wi' these lads," replied Ben, with a hiccup.  "I may as well be in for a sheep as a lamb."

    "Make it a sheep, owd lad," cried Enoch, filling Ben another tot of the ale-and-rum, which had just come in.

    "Well, but I'll tell tho what, Ben," continued the landlord, "Joe's beawn within halve a mile o' yor heawse, an' he's tak th' jackass whoam for tho,—i'tho likes."

    "I'm willin'," replied Ben.  "I dar trust th' jackass wi Joe.  Let him take it whoam."

    "So be it, then," said the landlord, walking out.

    "Neaw then, Twitch," cried Enoch, "art thou for singin', or thou artn't?  Say the word."

    "Sing.  Ay!" answered Twitchel.

    "Well, get agate witho, then; an' give o'er pooin' sich a feaw face at folk."

    "Well, neaw for't," said Twitchel, clearing his throat,


'Twas in the prime of summer time,
    When pleasant was the weather,
At Stakehill Fold, as I've been told,
    The women met together;
Old Betty Jacques the chair bespeaks,
    And then came Sally Turner,
And Collinge wife wi' fun was rite,
    An' Mall sat up i'th corner.

The wife o' Dill would have her will,
    An' plumpt her deawn i'th middle;
Whilst Bet-at-Joe's nipt up her toes,
    And fot owd John wi'th fiddle.
When John began, up stepped Nan,
    An' doanced a heavy raddler,
An', without care, upset a chair,
    An' deawn hoo knocked owd Paddler.

Then came Mall Wilde, an' brought her child,
    An' put it into th' keyther;
Whilst John-at-Dick's good wife had six,
    But laft 'em wi' their feyther.
Of Mary Jos there was no loss,
    Nor yet o' youthful Nelly;
An' Sall wur fain to come deawn th' lane,
    An' doance wi' neighbour Dolly.

An' they had ale 'at towd a tale,
    'Tour cool, an' wick, an' foamin';
It did 'em good, it warmed their blood,
    An' set their thoughts a roamin'.
An' there wur eyes 'at looked as bright
    As ony star i'th welkin,
An' bosoms like the marble white,
    An' bosoms soft wi' milk in.

Till echo rang, so sweet they sang,
    Within that joyous-dwellin',
The chamber floor, an' buttery door,
    The music soft repelling.
Whilst up the stairs flew angel airs,
    Against the rafters ringin',
The looms below danced tip a toe,
    The lathes began a swingin'.


    "There," said Twitchel, as the applause rang in the room, "that's one o' Sam Bamford's sungs."

    "Ay, I know it is," replied Enoch.  "An' by th' hectum, owd lad, if thae'll sing another, I'll do 'Tim Bobbin Grave.'"

    "Well, I will, Enoch," said Twitch.

    "Here goes, then!"


I stoode beside Tim Bobbin grave,
    'At looks o'er Rachda' teawn;
An' th' owd lad woke within his yerth,
    An' said, "Wheer arto beawn?"

"I'm gooin' into th' Packer Street,
    As fur as th' Gowden Bell,
To taste o' Daniel Kesmass ale."
    Tim: "I could like a soup mysel."

"An' by this hont o' my reet arm,
    If fro that hole they'll reawk,
Theaw'st have a saup o'th best breawn ale
    'At ever lips did seawk."

The greawnd it sturr'd beneath my feet,
    An' then I yerd a groan;
He shook th' dust fro off his skull,
    An' rowlt away the stone.

I brought him up a deep brown jug,
    'At a gallon did contain;
An' he took it at one blessèd draught,
    An' laid him deawn again.


    "Bravo, owd moon-raker!" cried Twitchel, jumping up.  I've bin at Tim Bobbin grave mony a time, i' Rachda churchyard,


Rachda'! thou art a bonny,
    Thou'rt a gradely teawn to me:
I never let of ony
    To be compar't wi' thee.


    "Neaw then," said Twitch, sitting down, "what dost think o' that, Enoch?"

    "Has thae made that thisel, Twitch?" said Enoch, staring at Twitchel.

    "Ay, bith mass, have I!" replied Twitchel.

    "What! eawt o' thi own yed?"

    "Ay," replied Twitchel, "eawt o' my yed.  Does to think it come'd eawt o'th cauve o' my leg, or somewheer?"

    "Well, by th' mon!" said Enoch, gazing at him an instant.  "Gi' me thi bond, owd brid.  Thae's capt me this time reawnd.  I didn't know 'at thae had so mich in tho."

    "Didn't?" replied Twitchel.  "Thae knows nought, Enoch,—wheer a gradely chap comes."

    "Well, howd thi bother, an' let me get agate o' my sung," said Enoch.  "What mun I sing, Twitch?"

    "Sing 'Owd Enoch,'" replied Twitch.  "He's a namesake o' thine."

    "I will," said Enoch,


Owd Enoch o' Dan's laid his pipe deawn o'th hob,
An' his thin fingers played i'th white thatch of his nob,
"I'm getten done up," to their Betty he said,
"Dost thou think thae could doff me an' dad me to bed?"
                                                                                     Derry down, &c.

Then hoo geet him to bed, an' hoo happed him up weel,
An' hoo said to him, "Enoch, lad, heaw doesto feel?"
"These limbs o' mine, Betty,—they're cranky an' sore,—
It's time to shut up when one's getten fourscore."
                                                                                     Derry down.

As hoo potter't abeawt his poor winterly pate,
Th' owd fellow looked dreawsily up at his mate,—
"There's nought on me left, lass,—do o' at thou con,—
But th' cratchinly frame o' what once wur a mon."
                                                                                     Derry down.

Then he turn't hissel o'er, like a chylt tir't wi' play,
An' Betty crept reawnd, while he're dozin away.
As his ee-lids sank deawn, th' owd lad mutter't, "Well done!
I think there's a bit o' seawnd sleep comin' on."
                                                                                     Derry down.

Then hoo thought hood sit by till he'd had his nap o'er,
If hoo'd sit theer till then, hoo'd ha' risen no more;
For he doze't eawt o'th world, an' his een lost their leet,
Like a cinder i'th firegrate, o'th deeod time o'th neet.
                                                                                     Derry down.

As Betty sit rockin' bith side of his bed,
Hoo looked neaw an' then at Enoch's white yed,
An' hoo thought to hersel that hoo'd not lung to stay,
If ever th' owd prop of her life should give way.
                                                                                     Derry down.

Then, wond'rin to see him so seawnd an' so still,
Hoo touched Enoch's hond, an' hoo fund it wur chill,
Says Betty, "He's cowd,—I'll put summat moor on!"
But o' wur no use, for Owd Enoch wur gone.
                                                                                     Derry down.


    "Hasn'to done yet?" said Twitchel, rising to his feet.

    "Nawe, not quite," replied Enoch.  "There's another verse or two yet."

    "What! o'th same mak?"

    "Ay, o'th same mak.  What the hangment doesto want?  Thae axed me to sing it, didn'to?"

    "Well, get through wi't as fast as tho con.  It's makin' me ill o' my inside," answered Twitchel.

    "Ay, get done wi't," said Popple.  "My yed warches (aches).

    "Thae yed watches, does it?" said Enoch, looking indignant at the sodden piece of humanity in the corner.  "It's noan becose thae'rt o'erstock't wi' brains, owd lad.  But I'll finish this sung i'th spite o' yor teeth,—so howd yor din,—


An' when they put Enoch to bed deawn i'th greawnd,
A rook o' poor neighbours stoode bare-yedded reawnd,
They dropt sprigs o' rosemary; an' this war their text,
Th' owd crayter's laid by,—we may haply be th' next."
                                                                                     Derry down.

So Betty wur left to toar on bi hersel;
An' heaw hoo poo'd through it no mortal can tell;
But th' doctor dropt in to look at her one day,
When hoo're rockin' bith side of an odd cup o' tay
                                                                                     Derry down.

"Well, Betty," said th' doctor, "heaw dun yo get on?
I'm sorry to yer 'at yo'n lost yor owd mon.
What complaint had he, Betty?"  Says hoo, "I caunt tell.
We ne'er had no doctor,—he deed of hissel."
                                                                                     Derry down.

"Ah, Betty," said th' doctor, "there's one thing quite sure;
Owd age is a thing that no physic can cure,
Fate will have her way, lass; do o' that we con,—
When th' time's up we's ha' to sign o'er an' begone."
                                                                                     Derry down.

"Both winter an' summer th' owd mower's at wark,
Sidin' folk eawt o' seet, both by dayleet an' dark;
He's slavin' away while we're snoring i' bed,
An' he'd slash at a king, if it coom in his yed."
                                                                                     Derry down.

"These soldiurs, an' parsons, an' maisters o' lond,
He lays 'em i'th greawnd wi' their meawths full o' sond
Rags or riches, an owd greasy cap or a creawn,—
He serves o' alike, for he switches 'em deawn."
                                                                                     Down derry.

"The mon that's larn't up, an' th' moon that's a foo,
It makes little odds, for they'd both ha' to goo,
When they coma'n within th' swing o' his scythe they mun fo';
If yo'n root among th' swathe, yo'n find doctors an' o'."
                                                                                     Derry down.


    "Theighur!" said Enoch, filling a tot for himself.  "I'm fain 'at that's done!"

    "Ay, so am I, too," said Twitchel.  "Hello!" continued he, looking at the doorway.  "What's comin' neaw?"

    It was a wandering fiddler, poorly clad, and dusty with travel.  He was on his way to a fair in the northern part of the county.

    "Gentlemen," said he, speaking in a southern accent, "would you like a little harmony?"

    "Ay, bith maskins, owd mon!  Just the thing!  Let's have a doance.  Strike up, owd tweedler!"

    The appearance of the fiddler revived the sinking spirits of the company, and he struck up, "The Flowers of Edinburgh."  But before they had danced many minutes poor Ben became so done up that he crept gently out at the front door and round the house to the stable, where he laid himself down and fell sound asleep.  His companions missed him soon after; but, as hour after hour went by, and he did not return, they felt sure that he had gone home.  The fun grew fast and furious, as night came on, and afresh arrivals swelled the company in the taproom.

    It was deep twilight, when a hearse, on its way from Rochdale to Bacup, stopped in front of the inn; and the driver, in company with another man who had ridden with him on the box, entered the taproom, and sat down to drink with the rest, their funeral suits contrasting strangely with the appearance of the merry group around them.  A few minutes before the arrival of the hearse, Enoch, whilst wandering about the backyard, had discovered Ben, lying sound asleep among the straw in the stable, and he had tried to rouse him; but the poor fellow was so stupefied with the sickly swill which he had imbibed, that Enoch had left him there to sleep.  When Enoch entered the house, and informed the landlord where Ben was lying, the landlord begged of him not to mention the thing to the company in the taproom, but to let the poor fellow rest awhile where he was; and, for a wonder, Enoch had joined his companion, and held his tongue about the matter.  The appearance of the hearse at the door, however, woke up in his frolicsome mind a new scheme, which led to curious results.  But perhaps this would be better told in another chapter.


 
CHAPTER VI.


The man that makes his toe
    What he his heart should make,
Shall of a corn cry woe,
    And turn his sleep to wake.

KING LEAR.


There is some strange thing toward,
Edmund! pray you be careful.

KING LEAR.


TWILIGHT had melted away upon the landscape once again, and hill and dale were breathing perfumes into the air.  Another summer day had fleeted by with song and sunny toil, amidst the flush of Nature's loveliness, and the tired mower had wandered home to sleep till "cock-crow" woke him to "dip his scythe in morning's fragrant dew" once more.  The wind had dallied with evening's sweet odours so long that, growing that, growing drowsy with delight, it had closed its wings and gone to rest.  The daisy had shut its eye, and fallen asleep, with its dew-pearled head leaned under the shade of a buttercup's folded bell.  The wild bird was at roost in his green chamber, dreaming of the sunlit woods.  The very tree tops were hushed and still, and all the air seemed thick with dreams.  The harvest moon was rising over the edge of the hills, and her early radiance suffused the atmosphere with such a subtle splendour that the hermit leaves that live and die in cloistral recesses of the woods stirred with delight; and the little wild-flower slumbering in the open field, sighed a dreamy benison, and then slept on, lapped in the silver mantle of the queen of night.

    The village, too, was still, except that sounds of revelry in the old inn rang forth in fitful bursts upon the evening quietude outside.

    By this time Twitchel's discretion had drowned itself; and Enoch's latent love of mischief being in the ascendant, he was not long in winning over his more staid crony to lend him a hand in a new frolic.  Beckoning Twitchel out from the taproom, he led him to the front door, and pointing at the hearse standing by the footpath, he whispered into his ear, "Does thae see that berrin'-coach?"

    "Ay," replied Twitchel; "I see it weel enough; an' what bi that?"

    "Well, it's gooin' to Bacup, thae knows.  Th' driver's hauve fuddle's i'th tap-reawm yon, an' he's just order't a fresh glass.  Doesn't thae think at we could manage to find him an inside passenger or two afore it gets too moonleet?"

    "Eh, bith mass, ay!" said Twitch.  "But I'll go noan."

    "There's nobry wants thee to goo.  But put thi pipe deawn, an' nip reawnd to th' stable an' see heaw Ben is, while I get yon fiddler in.  He's goin' to Bacup, an' he'll be fain of a ride; for th' owd lad's quite stagged up .  .  . Off witho, neaw.  Thae'll find Ben asleep amoon some strae in a corner, as drunk as a wheel-yed.  Off witho.  I'll manage tother."

    Twitchel was delighted with the job, and, flinging his pipe into the road, he stole round the house to the stable in the backyard, to look for poor Ben.

    In the meantime, Enoch went lounging carelessly back to the taproom, and creeping slyly up to the fiddler, he whispered to him,

    "Which gate are yo beawn?"

    "I'm going to the town of Bacup."

    "Wilto have a chep ride?"

    "Well, sir,—thank ye, sir.  I'm sure I'm much obliged.  I've come a long way to-day, sir."

    "Then thae'll goo?"

    "Oh, yes, sir, and glad of the chance, sir.  Thank you."

    "But it's a berrin'-coach."

    "A what?"

    "A yerst" (a hearse).

    "What's that?"

    "One o' thoose coaches 'at they carry'n coffins in at funerals."

    The fiddler stared at Enoch, and gave a quiet low whistle, long drawn out.  "Well, now; upon my soul.  That's a new idea .  .  . But what's the odds?  I don't care a rap .  .  . It's better than padding the hoof to-night, anyhow."

    "Then yon go?"

    "Oh, yes," replied the fiddler.  "I suppose we shall have to ride in something of that kind some of these days; and I may as well get my hand in when there's a chance."

    "Well, then," said Enoch, "sup up, an' slip eawt as quietly as yo con.  I'll be after yo in a minute."

    As soon as the fiddler had gone out, Enoch crept up to the side of the driver, who sat drinking with the landlord, and slapping him jovially on the thigh, he asked him how he was getting on.

    "Oh," replied the driver, "all right."

    "Wilto have another gill wi' me?"

    "I've no objections," replied the driver.

    "Bring him another whisky," said Enoch to the landlord, handing him the money.  "I'll be wi' yo in a minute."

    The fiddler was leaning against the door when Enoch got to the end of the lobby.  He was looking very doubtfully at the sombre vehicle, and its black horses, standing by the kerbstone in the dusky light; for the moon was still low in the sky.

    "Come on," said Enoch.  "It's o' reet.  Yore beawn to Bacup, an' he's beawn to Bacup.  He gwos no fur.  So yon nought to do but let yorsel eawt snugly when he stops.   Creep in,—there's nobry eawt. Get up to th' fur corner, yon."

    "I don't much like this, my friend," said the fiddler, looking inside.  "But what's the odds?" continued he, putting his fiddle inside, and creeping after it.  "What's the odds, so long as you're happy?  Upon my soul it's a black-looking shandry though, my friend."

    " Well, it's noan of a leet-colour's breed, as yo say'n," replied Enoch; "but it'll may no difference i'th neet-lime.  It's better than walkin' .  .  . Neaw, yo mun creep up to yon top end; there's another chap comin'.  He's goin' th' same gate; but he doesn't go as fur as yo dun .  .  . Yo'n nought to be feeor't on.  He's fuddle't to-neet; but a quieter chap never broke brade.  Hutch up, an' give him a bit o' reawm, an' yo'n be o' reet.  He'll be nice company for yo, as far as he gwos .  .  . But if I're yo I'd never oppen my lips to him.  Dunnot let on at yor i'th inside, an' he'll drop asleep in a twothre minutes.  Neaw, are yo o' reet?"

    "Well, my friend," said the fiddler, as he settled himself down in the far end of the vehicle.  "I don't know.  But what's the odds?


Then what's the use of sighing,
    When time is――"


    "Husht!  By th' mon.  No singin'.  Keep still; I'll be back in a shift," said Enoch, closing the door of the hearse, and running round to the stable to look after the other passenger.

    He found Twitchel trying to get Ben upon his legs from amongst the straw.

    "Here, Enoch, thee get owd o'th tone arm," said Twitchel.  "He as wambly as a barrowful o' warp-sizin .  .  . Come, Ben, owd lad," continued he, lifting at the other arm, "get thisel together.  It's time to go whoam, mon.  Come, stir those legs.  Dost yer!"

    "He's as drunk as a wheel-yed," said Enoch.

    "Untee his hankitcher," replied Twitchel.  "He'll be better when he gets into th' air.  Come, Ben, my lad!"

    "We wanten noan o' yor sheep-yed, nor nought at belungs yo!"said Ben .  .  . "Give o'er, Betty!  Arto beawn to poo my shoolder eawt o'th joint?  Give o'er.  Thae'rt rivin' my clooas!"

    When they got him to his feet, he looked mazily round at the gloomy stable, as they held him up.

    "Wheer am I?" said he.  "This is noan of eawr heawse.  Wheer's eawr Betty?  I want to go whoam."

    "Thae'rt i'th Tobe's Yed stable," replied Twitch. "I want tho to ride whoam.  Come on, mon!"

    "Wheer's th' jackass?" said Ben, as he blundered out at the yard door, supported by Twitch and Enoch.  "Wheer's my jackass?"

    "Th' jackass is gwon whoam, lung sin," said Enoch.  Doesn't tho remember Joe takkin' it, many an hour sin?"

    "Nobry's no business wi' my jackass.  I'll ha' my jackass afore I stir another peg," said Ben, setting his feet doggedly before him to resist further progress.  But half by persuasion and half by force, they got him to the door of the hearse; and when, with considerable difficulty, they got him lifted in, Enoch said, "Theer, owd lad, thae'll be o reet, neaw."

    "Nawe, nawe," said Ben, as he lay at full length upon his back.  Bring that jackass here!  I'll not stir till I get my jackass!"

    "Drop asleep!" replied Enoch.  Thae'rt o' reet.  Thae'll find th' jackass when thou gets whoam;" and he closed the door of the hearse, and turned the handle upon the two inside passengers.

    "Gettin' dark," said Ben, turning over on his side; and as he settled down with his head upon his arm, muttering an incoherent monologue, in which demands for his donkey mingled with broken allusions to red herrings, and besoms, and quaint affectionate addresses to Betty and the children, sleep fell upon him again; and all was still inside but the deep breathing of the over-done besom-maker.

    The poor fiddler was crouched as quiet as a mouse in the far corner, and he began to feel so uncomfortable in that gloomy coffin-coach, that he was seriously contemplating an escape into the open air, when he heard the driver and his companion mounting the box-seat; and Enoch and the landlord joking with the driver, as he trimmed his reigns for a start.

    "Thae'll co' at th' Bull's Yed, I guess," shouted Enoch, from the doorway.

    "O, ay," replied the driver.  "I'll co' there, if I co' nowheer else.  Good neet to yo."

    "Good neet, owd mon!" shouted Enoch and the landlord, as the hearse started off.

    Away rolled the dusty chariot of the dead, with its black long-tailed horses, contrasting strangely with the broad moonlight which now flooded all the landscape.  Away down the village slope, with the driver and his crony chatting merrily together upon the box-seat.  Away it rattled through the glorious night,—up the lonely road beyond the village, through the thick-leaved grove of Healey Hall, and round by the head of the Thrutch,—that wild ravine, whose lonely shades and fantastic water-worn rocks, were peopled, by old Saxon superstition, with a world of weird beings.

    The sound of the stream running through the rocky defile called "The Fairies' Chapel," was faintly audible in the quietness of the night.  But as the hearse rattled on, the driver and his friend still chatted and chanted by turns, unconscious of all these things, and as merry as if they were returning from a wedding, for they were fairly lapped in bacchanalian thoughtlessness.

    Ben slept on, muttering now and then, as a greater jolt than usual shook him into half wakefulness, then lapsed into sleep again.  The poor fellow's incautious nature had been betrayed into potations stronger and deeper than he could bear, for Ben was naturally a temperate man.  But he must pay the penalty.  Dame Nature's laws are loaded with beneficence; and she never fails to burn the finger that touches the fire,—because she loves it.  But to our tale.

    The fiddler had partly reconciled himself to his strange ride, and he lay huddled silently in the far corner of the hearse, listening to the deep breathing and broken exclamations of his mysterious fellow-traveller, and longing for the end of the journey.  He was tired of the wanderings of the day, and he was glad to rest; but in all his life of strange adventure he had never ridden in such a coach before.  It woke uncomfortable thoughts within him, and he heartily wished that his ride was over; and stretching his weary limbs out, he lay along the bottom of the hearse, listening to the steady roll of the wheels.

    When the hearse had got within a mile or so of the old Bull's Head, Ben, troubled with "thick-coming fancies," began to groan and sprawl his limbs abroad.

    In his tumbling restlessness he lifted up his foot, and letting it fall again, the heel of his hard shoe came down with full weight upon the sensitive shin of the recumbent fiddler.  The poor minstrel uttered a wild howl as he sprang up and rubbed his shin.  The strange cry startled Ben thoroughly, and half sobered him.  "Hello!" cried he, rising to his knees, and staring in the black gloom with wild affright.  "Hello!  Who's theer?"  The excited fiddler let go his aching shin; and, striking out in the direction of Ben's voice, he caught the terrified besom-maker bang on the nose.  Ben's eyes flashed ten thousand lights; and, roused into a fury of mingled fear and pain, he struck back and kicked vigorously at his invisible foe.  In their tumbles to and fro the fiddler and the besom-maker grappled.  Ben struggled and shouted with all the desperation of horror, for his superstitions were roused to the highest pitch, and the uproar and clatter of the fray inside the hearse was such that it instantly caught the ears of the driver and his companion.  They were just relating some of the doings of the man whose body had been carried to its last resting-place in Rochdale Churchyard that day.  He had led an unusually wild and reckless life, and had been a terror to the hole country-side whilst living.

    "Hello!" said the driver, pulling the horses up suddenly, "what's that din?" .  .  .  His hair bristled on his head as he listened to the noise.  "By――!" cried he, letting the reins go.  "It's i'th inside!  I'm off!" and he leaped down from his seat and ran up the road towards the Bull's Head.

    "So am I, too!" said his terrified companion, jumping down at the opposite side and running after him; and there the roach was left standing in the middle of the moonlight road with the fight raging inside.

    At length, panting with fear and want of breath, they got into opposite corners to recover their wind.  Ben, perspiring with terror, kicked at the door and cried out, "Open that dur!  Let me eawt!  Murder!  Oppen this dur!"  Whilst the poor fiddler swelled the uproar with curses loud and deep against his drunken foe.

    As it chanced, a company of haymakers, on their way home from a "churn-gettin',"—as the hay-harvest supper is called,—came up the road, and seeing the hearse standing in the middle of the highway, without driver, they stopped and listened to the extraordinary noises which came from the inside.

    They stared at the dark hearse, but none of them durst go near the mysterious vehicle,—in fact, it is very likely they would all have taken to their heels if any one of them had set the example.

    Ben, hearing a buzz of voices on the road, kicked and cried out louder than ever.  "Let me eawt!  Oppen this dur, I tell yo!  Murder!  Let me eawt!"

    "By th' mon," said one of the haymakers, bolder than the rest, "I should know that voice!"  And he went nearer and listened.

    "Oppen this dur," cried Ben.

    "Who's theer?" said the haymaker.

    "It's me!  Ben, fro Lobden!  Oppen this dur!"

    "By Guy!  I thought so," said the haymaker, "Heigh, lads, it's Besom Ben!"  And the whole company ran up to the door of the hearse.

    "Do let me eawt o' this hole!" cried Ben, still kicking at the door.

    "Bide a minute," said the haymaker, as he turned the handle of the door.  "We'n ha' tho eawt, thae's see.  Whatever arto doin' in a berrin-coach, owd mon?  Is thi jackass deeod?"

    "Let me eawt, I tell yo!" still cried Ben.

    As soon as the door was loose, it flew wide open, and out rolled the poor besom-maker down upon the moonlit road.  Getting upon his feet as quickly as he could, he cried out, "Howd!  Ston fur!  There's some moor in yet!"

    "Who the hangment are they?" said the haymaker, staring into the gloomy interior of the hearse, where the fiddler sat wiping his face, and sputtering out fierce anathemas with great volubility.

    "Who are they?" said the astonished haymaker.

    "Nay," replied Ben, drawing his jacket-sleeve across his bleeding face.  "I dunnot know what it is.  But I've had enough on't.  It's brawsen my nose .  .  . Look eawt!" continued he, retiring from the front of the hearse.  "Look eawt!  It's comin'! "

    The wondering rustics cleared away from the door of the hearse, and out scrambled the wandering fiddler, holding in one hand a lap torn from his coat, and in the other his instrument, which had escaped in a wonderful way with no other damage than a split bridge and two broken strings.  But his eyes and his swollen lips bore unmistakable marks of the recent conflicts; and the old hat upon his head was flattened into acute creases, as if the combatants had rolled over it.

    A burst of mingled laughter and surprise from the haymakers greeted this battered apparition.  Ben, who had still some difficulty in keeping his feet, stood gazing an instant at the strange figure, wondering where he had seen it before, when all at once a gleam of clear recollection broke through the haze of his foggy mind, and he recognised the fiddler

    "Hello!" cried he, staggering forward.  "By th' maskins, owd mon!  I think I've sin thee afore .  .  . I've oather lost my senses, or I've fund a fiddler!  Weren't it thee at're tweedling an' doin' at th' Tobe's Yed?"

    "Don't you come the old soldier over me, my fine fellow," replied the enraged fiddler, putting Ben's hand aside.  "I'm as good a man as you, any day.  You're no gentleman, sir.  I'm not the man to be made game of by a yokel like you.  Look here, if you think so, you'll find yourself pretty considerably mistaken.  I've seen too many Christmas Days to be afraid of frogs, I can tell you."

    "I knowed nought who it war, owd brid," replied Ben, still offering his hand.  "By th' mon, thae did gi' me sick a wusk o'er th' nose.  God bless tho! owd lad, it leet like a thunner-bowt again this bit o'th lump, o' mine.  Gi' me thi hont."

    "Oh, you be blowed!" said the fiddler, still refusing Ben's offered hand, and becoming all the more nettled on account of the merriment of the haymakers, who stood around enjoying the scene amazingly.

    Ben still persisted in swaggering fondlingly about the indignant fiddler, holding out his right hand towards him, and now and then feeling at his own swollen nose with the other.

    "Eh, thae has pown my yed up an' deawn that hole, owd lad," said Ben.  "My nose keeps steawngin' an' lutchin', like boighlin' porritch.  God bless thi heart, owd Tweedler!  Gi me thi hont!  I bear no malice, mon.  I didn't know 'at there wur onybody i'th inside, nobbut mysel.  It met ha' bin Pontius Pilate, or the dule hissel, for ought I could tell.  If we'd had a shoolful o' dayleet in, we could ha' sin one another.  Gi' me thi hont!  I bear no malice!

    "Malice be blowed!" replied the fiddler.  "You began the game yourself, old fellow; and I'm not a-going put up with none o' your hanky-panky tricks.  You're not going to come Lanky over me, I can tell you.  If I am a stranger, you'll find you've a rem customer to deal with, when you've a-got to deal with me .  .  .  Malice, did you say?  I don't care――for your malice.  Lookee here," continued he, holding up the lap torn from his coat.  "Dye see that 'ere?  I'm a man o' business, I can tell ye, an' I means business.  The law shall have its course!"

    "Well," answered Ben, "thae'll be like to plez thisel, owd mon.  I want to do nought 'at's wrang to nobry, 'at I know on.  I didn't know who it wur at're hommerin' at me,—not I."

    Here some of the haymakers interfered, and by dint of friendly persuasion and fair promises of compensation for the damage he had sustained, they succeeded so far in soothing the wounded feelings of the furious fiddler that at last he took Ben's offered hand, protesting that he was not the man to bear ill-will,—if the gentleman and his friends were disposed to do the handsome.

    "Wheer's th' driver?" said one of the haymakers, staring up at the empty seat.

    "Nay," replied Ben, staggering to the front of the vehicle, "I know nought abeawt it.  I've never sin no drivers."

    "Whau, hand th' horses come'd o' theirseles?"

    "Ay, for aught I know," replied Ben.

    "Wheer didto get in at?"

    "I'll be sunken if I know aught abeawt it.  Ax him," said Ben, pointing to the fiddler.

    The fiddler explained the whole thing, except that he could not account for the disappearance of the driver and his friend.

    Whilst they were considering amongst themselves whether to drive the hearse forward to the Bull's Head, or leave it standing there in the road, a little party of people were seen approaching from the direction of the inn.

    When the affrighted driver and his friend leaped down from their seat, they had fled straight to the Bull's Head, and told their strange story to the astonished landlord and his company.  Some of them looked very grave, and shook their heads; others, less superstitious, laughed heartily at the terrified fugitives, secretly apprehensive that it was some new frolic which would yield them merriment for many an after day; but nothing could induce the driver to return alone for the deserted hearse, after the mysterious noises he had heard inside.  But when the landlord and four or five of the bolder of the company volunteered to accompany him to the hearse, he consented to return with them, walking timidly in the rearward of his companions, so as to have free room for running again, if necessary.

    "What's up?" said the landlord, walking straight up to the haymakers, who were still clustered about the hearse in the middle of the road.

    Ben's account of the thing was quite vague and confused, and he threw no light upon the mystery.  In fact, he hardly remembered where or how he had got inside.  But the fiddler told the whole tale, mingling with it such a curiously graphic description of the fight inside, that, heightened as it was by the comical appearance of the two battered combatants, the effect was irresistible.  The driver was a merry fellow, who could stand a joke, and he joined in the boisterous laughter which greeted every quaint turn of the fiddler's story.

    "I'll tell yo what," said he, now coming boldly to the front when the mystery was cleared up, "this favvours one of Owd Enoch's tricks at Shay-cloof."

    "By th' hectum!  I believe thae'rt reet," said Ben, suddenly remembering something about Enoch helping him into the coach.

    "I thought it wur," replied the driver.

    "Well, come," said the landlord, turning to the driver, "jump up, an' drive on to eawr heawse.  We mun wesh this marlock deawn wi' summat .  .  . Here," continued he, addressing Ben and the fiddler, "yo two may as weel ride to th' fur-end neaw, if yo con agree."

    "I'm willin'," said Ben; but the fiddler refused, declaring that he would never ride in a coach like that again till he could not help it.

    When they had helped Ben inside again, he insisted upon the door being left open, and away they went slowly towards the inn,—the sombre vehicle contrasting curiously with the merry party which accompanied it.

    Ben's wife was in the kitchen, talking with the landlady, when the hearse came to the door of the inn.  When the donkey arrived at home in the care of a stranger, Betty had made many inquiries about her husband, but Joe's answers to her questions were so vague that her heart was filled with apprehensions of mischance, and she had come down to the inn to seek her husband.

    "Betty," said the landlord, looking into the kitchen, "there's a parcel at th' dur yonder for yo.  Be sharp."

    "Parcel for me?" said Betty, walking to the door.  "Whatever is it?" and seeing Ben creeping out at the door of the hearse, she cried, "Eh, dear o' me!  Whatever's to do? .  .  . Whatever hasto bin ridin' i' that for?  .  .  . Eh, Ben, heaw drunk theaw art! .  .  . What's to do wi' thi nose?  Theaw hasn't bin feightin', sure?"

    "Ax me no questions, lass, an' I'll tell tho no lies," said Ben.

    "Well if ever!" replied Betty, looking round in helpless astonishment, as if she did not know where in the world to turn for comfort.  "Well, the Lord help me!  What'll be th' next?"

    "Where's th' jackass?" inquired Ben.

    "It's awhoam," answered Betty, in a plaintive, heartstricken tone.

    "Come in, Ben," said one of the haymakers.  "Come in an' have a gill."

    "Nawe, he'll not!" said Betty.  "Drink your own drink, an' let him a be."

    "Nawe, he shannot," said the landlady.  "Go thi ways whoam, Ben, lad .  .  . Betty, dun yo think yo con manage to get him up th' broo yorsel?"

    "I's be like to try, I guess.  I con manage weel enough, thank yo .  .  . Come thi ways."

    Ben was painfully recovering his senses now, and few words passed him and his wife until they reached the little grove of firs through which the bridle-path led up homewards.  As they were entering the grove, Ben said, as he went staggering on, "I guess thae'll not be for livin' wi' me no longer, neaw?"

    Betty made no answer, but she burst into tears.  This sobered Ben more than all else, and they wandered up the moorside in silence towards the solitary cottage.
                      *                                 *                                 *                                 *

Before the clock of St. Chad's old church, at Rochdale, had tolled the hour of ten, the cottage on Lobden Moor was still; and all its inmates were at rest.  The day had closed sadly upon the simple pair; but kind sleep had folded them in his soft arms once more.

_________________________

 
The Old Blanket.


CHAPTER I.


Oh, sleep, it is a gentle thing,
    Beloved from pole to pole.

THE ANCIENT MARINER.


WHAT a mysterious thing is sleep, "that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, and steeps the senses in forgetfulness."  Men in all times have dreamed upon the subject, and have even carefully written their dreams; but that counterfeit presentment of death is inexplicable still.  That beautiful half-way house between the two worlds, where we nightly stop to rest upon life's journey, seems too subtle for the skill of mortal man to comprehend.  The existence of a bodily state in which, though not dead, yet our consciousness and volition are so far suspended that, if some stray, unwearied, or over-excited elements of the mind seem to be left at work, and even the body itself retains some power of motion, yet, in this involuntary trance of partial rest, they seem to work in a pantomimic and irregular way, apart from all known rule of action,—like children at school, who begin to play as soon as the master's back is turned, and resume their tasks the moment he reappears.  The existence of such a bodily state as this is crowded with strange suggestiveness.  The ancient problem of the connection between mind and matter is there.  "In the midst of life we are in death."  The boldest and most acute minds have speculated till they have fallen asleep upon the subject.  Age after age has reasoned and wrangled, and grown weary of conjecture; and age after age has travelled the same path of conjecture over again; ending its journey by halting, once more, upon the giddy edge of human possibility, and gazing thence into the misty unknown.  "We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."

    The little finger of the clock was creeping slyly up to the stroke of eight.  The haymakers in the valley had got their breakfasts, after many an hour's work; and they were hard at it in the meadows again.  They were hard at it, "housing" as fast as possible, for several old-fashioned folk, who had more weather-wit than common, had been saying that there would be rain before long.  It was a glorious summer morning again, but there was not a breath of wind astir.  The tiniest leaf of the topmost twig, the flossy down of the "clock-posy," stood still.  It was very sultry, but the air was transparent, and the outlines of the hills unusually clear.  It was nearing the stroke of eight, and yet the door of Ben's cottage was closed; and all was still inside, except the ticking of the clock, which sounded as if it was astonished to find nobody stirring in the house but itself at that time of the morning.  Two or three stragglers from the valley, as they had passed by the cottage on their way to the moors to gather "wimberry," had wondered to see all so quiet, for Betty was usually bustling in and out by five in the morning, as brisk as a bee, and generally singing, in a low tone, for fear of wakening the children, whilst Ben busied himself in preparing his load for the day, or in trimming besoms, or working in the little garden at the other side of the road, with a friendly chirrup and a chat for any wanderer that happened to take that lonely way at such an early hour.  The sun had long since glided by the angle where it could peep into the besom-maker's nest, and it was now aloft in the sky, leaving the front of the cottage pleasantly in shade.  The hens had been down from their roost many an hour, crawking, and strutting, and listening about the door-way; and pecking and scratching upon the road; and then stretching their necks, and staring up at the windows.  They wanted their breakfasts.  Even Dimple had left off grazing upon the green plot by the side of the stream behind the house, and he had been standing an hour or so by the side of the well in front of the cottage, pricking first one ear then the other, and whisking the flies away with his rusty tail, and gazing at the ground all the while with a patient, dreamy eye.  And yet, all was still inside.  Sorrow and stupidity are sometimes heavy sleepers, and though neither sorrow nor stupidity were familiar in this moorland cottage, lowly as it was, yet Betty had sat up with a sad heart many an hour after the rest had gone to bed on the previous night; and as for Ben, he had sunk into a deep but troubled sleep, being more stupefied than his nature and habit were accustomed to; and so they all slept on, whilst the summer smiled outside, and the wild birds twittered and flitted about the eaves of their chamber, looking for the smoke of the cottage chimney in vain.

    Three of the hens were perched upon the window-sill, each with an eye turned towards the inside of the silent cottage, when a sturdy country fellow came whistling up the bridle-road.  It was Timmy Witham, better known by the name of "Thrutch-Pig," or "Tim o'th Ginnel," a "wortcher-eawt," or day-labourer, a humorous, careless, hare-brained fellow, who would rather be "at a loose end" in poverty than settle down to any regular labour, however well paid.  He was fond of running odd errands for anybody, especially if they led in a damp direction.  "Come day, go day, God send Sunday," said Tim o'th Ginnel, every time he got a sixpence under his thumb; and so his life was trickling away towards the edge of the great forest from whose shades we never return.  Tim stopped at the cottage door, and the hens flew down from the window-sill.  He tried the "sneck," and listened.  The door was fast, and all silent. 

    "They're never i' bed, sure," said Tim, looking through the window.  "They mun be off somewheer.  Th' fire's eawt, as heaw."  Then he shook at the door, and shouted "Hello!"

    The noise awoke Betty.  Gazing dreamily around, she muttered, "Eh, dear, whatever time is it?"  Then hearing Tim shake the door, she arose daintily out of bed, and went to the window.  Lifting it up as gently as possible, she called out, softly, "Who's theer?" for she was afraid of waking the sleepers in her little chamber.

    "Neaw, then," replied Thrutch-Pig, "are yo beawn to lie i' bed till th' sun bruns th' slates off th' top o'th heawse?  Wheer is he?  By th' mon, get up, an' come deawn."

    The loud tone of Tim's voice, and his rollicking manner, nettled Betty, and his appearance filled her mind with vague fears and dislikes; but she answered quietly, "Stop a minute!  I'm comin'."  Then, carefully closing the window again, she hurried on her clothes, muttering to herself, as she gazed at Ben, who was sleeping on as sound as a top, "Whatever's to do now?" and then she crept downstairs, carefully shutting the door at the foot, like a man closing his jewel-case before admitting doubtful strangers to his closet.  Hastily switching into their places a few things which she had left lying about the night before, she opened the door with a doubtful heart, for Tim was unknown to her; but before she had time to open her lips he began,

    "Neaw, then! wheer is he?"

    "Wherr's who?"

    "Where's that besom-maker?"

    Betty did not like to hear Ben called a besom-maker and that, together with Tim's rough manner, began to stir the nettles in her temper again.

    "Besom-maker?" replied she.  "Who dun ye meeon?  Is it eawr Ben?"

    "Ay.  Thae knows that weel enough," answered Tim.  Wheer is he?"

    Betty began to be afraid that the racketty-looking figure before her was some way connected with the mischief of the previous night; and she felt determined that Ben should not be led into any further trouble that day if she could prevent it.

    "Well, he's noan so weel this mornin'," replied she.  "I'd rayther he didn't get up yet.  What dun yo want?"

    "Never thee mind what I want," answered Tim, in his rough off-hand way.  "He ails nought, not he.  Go poo him eawt."

    "I'll tell yo what," replied Betty, in a tart, quick manner.  You're a ready-meawth't un,—as who yo are!  I may no 'ceawnt o' bein' theaw'd so mich wi' folk 'at I never seed wi" my een afore.  Connot yo tell what yo wanten,—an' ha' done wi't?"

    Tim saw how the wind blew, and in his rough humour he felt inclined to encourage it; so, with a rude laugh, he said, "I's tell noan o' thee, owd lass,—as heaw.  I mun see yon jackass driver o' thine afore I quit this cote, that's o'."

    "Jackass driver o' mine?" replied Betty, reddening to the roots of her ears.  "It'd seem yo better if yo were'n to co' folk by their gradely names.  Who are yo?  For you're not mich to look at."

    "Reet again, owd crayter," answered Tim.  "Reef again!—jow thi yed!"

    "What mun I jow my yed for, yo greight starin' rack-anhook?" replied Betty.  "Jow yor own yed!  It's o' 'at it's good to.  I'll let yo see whether he's a jackass driver or not!"

    "Well, but he is a jackass driver, isn't he?" continued Tim.  "An' a good un, too, if o' be true 'at I've yerd.  They tell'n me 'at he drove one to th' top of a five-storey mill, tother day."

    "It matters nought to yo wheer he drives to, does it?  He doesn't drive for yo!  Yo driven for yorsel, if I mun tell yo what I think!  They'n never be nought short i'th jackass-line at yor hawse, as lung as yo're alive.  Crack that nut!  What dun yo want wi' him?  Does he owe yo aught?"

    "It matters nought to thee whether he does or not, I tell tho.  I think thae'rt a bit thrutchin i' thi mind this mornin' abeawt summat, artn'to?"

    "Thrutch't or not thrutch't, I'll thank yo to be thrutchin' off this durstone!  I've naught agoin yo gettin eawt o' mi seet as soon as ever yo'n a mind.  Shap (shape) off! an' let me clap th' dur to."

    "Dunnot fly up i' sich a frap, lass,—what, I dunnot want a bit of a word wi' him."

    "Well, what's yor arran' (errand), then?  I'm as fit to know as yo are, I think."

    "Bridle a bit, owd lass!  Bridle a bit!  Thae'rt too rivven bith hauve.  Thae'll never have a smite o' plezzur o' thi life i' tho gwos on o' that road.  Thae doesn't need to be freeten't.  It's naught abeawt women."

    "Women!  Get off my dur-stone, I tell yo!  Yor a pouse-dirt o' somebody's!  I'll not have him lad off wi' noan sich like wastrels!  Mak a hal o' somebory else; for yo shan't make one o' him no moor.  Come, be shapin'!  You're rayther to (too) ready wi' yor owd lass, for me.  Goo an' 'owd lass' some o' yor own, if yo han ony!  It'll be a poor crayter 'at's yor howd lass, I'll uphowd.  Hoo's to be pitied, as wheer hoo is.  Come, I could like yo to skift, afore I slat th' dur i' yor face."

    "Thae'll to whot, mon," replied Tim, laughing.  "Thae'rt to whot!"

    "Never mind whether I'm whot or cowd.  I's cool, if yo'n goo, I dar say.  Come, shap off, afore I fling a shoolful o' red cinders at yo! "

    "Nay, I'm like to see him," answered Tim, pretending to push into the house.

    "Noan so," said Betty, giving him a furious push back from the doorway.  "Noan so!  Yo come'n noan in here!  Impident grout!  Yo come'n noan in here, I tell yo!  So, be sharp, an' pike off, while yo're weel.  An' mind to keep yor heels this gate on for th' futur'.  Neaw, what have I towd yo?"

    Tim was enjoying the thing, for he was full of mischievous humour.  But, being quick enough to see that he had driven her temper to the edge of danger, he was beginning in a pacific tone,—"Come, come,"—when Betty banged the door to, and bolted it inside.  Then, as she whisked the things about the house, and scaled the fire furiously with the poker, she went on, glancing through the window at Tim.

    "Well, yon is a sir, o' somebody's!  Impident whelp!  Some folks like as if they're born beawt shame.  He may grin an' cample wheer he is, till he's weary,—but he comes noan here!  I'll not ha' th' heawse deeted (sullied) wi' sich like rubbish!"

    Tim stood laughing, and staring, now at the door and now at the windows; and, as he looked up at the chamber where Ben lay asleep, he said to himself, "By th' mon, Ben, owd lad, thou's a warm hondful theer.  I stirred th' owd lass up for once, as heaw.  Come," continued he, taking a crumpled paper from his pocket, "I'll try her another gate on."  Then, tapping at the window, he held the paper up, and cried out, "Heigh!  Dun yo yer, mistress?  It's a letter!"

    Betty, not seeing the letter at first, replied, "Neaw, I towed yo!  Yor o'th reet side for runnin'!  An' yo connot run to soon."

    But Tim tapped at the window again, and holding the paper close to it, he continued, "Dun yo yer, mistress?  Dunnot be a foo!  It's a letter fro Yelley-Ho' (Healey Hall).  Oppen th' dur.  I want an onswer."

    Betty saw the paper this time, and the sight of it cowed her temper at once.  Written documents are laden with the terrors of the unknown to people who cannot read them.  She gazed at the letter, and muttered to herself, "Eh, dear!  What's to do, neaw?" and fears for poor Ben crowded into her mind, for she could not tell what mishaps he might have been led into by the rude mischief-lovers he had to meet with.

    In the meantime, the noise outside had roused Ben from his heavy sleep.  At the first glance he knew also that it was farther on than usual.

    "By th' mon!" said he, rubbing his eyes, "what time is't?  Eh, haw my yed does steawnge!"  And he sighed, with a miserable heart, as the events of the previous day came flush into his mind.  Then, hearing a man talking at the window below, he got hastily out of bed, and went to the head of the stairs.

    "Betty," said he, calling to his wife, in a timid tone.  "Betty, what's to do?"

    "There's a chap here, wi' a papper o' some make," replied Betty.  "Keep thisel quiet."

    "A papper! " answered Ben, in a voice full of anxious apprehension.  "What mak of a chap is he?"

    "He's a very impident, dirty-lookin' heawnt, o' somebody's," replied Betty, in a whisper.  "Howd thi din, an' lie still a bit, till I get shut on him."  And then she quietly closed the door at the foot of the stairs again.

    Ben crept back into bed; and, as he lay, with his hand upon his forehead, gazing at the ceiling, he muttered tremulously, "Whatever's to do again?  Eh, what a foo!  Eh, what a foo!  It'll be summat abeawt that fiddler, I'll be bund."  And he lay still, sighing and listening; for he felt full of trouble and vague fears.  But the moment Tim spoke again, Ben thought he knew the voice, and, jumping out of bed, he went to the window, and lifting it cautiously, he listened.

    "By th' mon," said Ben.  "It's Thrutch-Pig, I believe!  What the hangment's he after? . . . Ay, it is him! and putting his head out, he saw that it was so.

    "Hello, Tim!" cried Ben.  "What's up?"

    "Neaw then," replied Tim.  "What arto doin' snoorin' i' bed at this time o'th day?  Thae'rt wanted at Yelley-Ho', directly!  Get thisel donned, an' come deawn!  I mun be gooin'."

    "What dun they want me for?

    "I know nought abeawt it.  They'n a rook o' folk fro Lunnon, or somewhere, com'd to see 'em.  It's th' owd Kurnul 'at wants tho.  Be sharp!"

    "Lunnon!" replied Ben, scratching his head thoughtfully.  "Stop a minute," continued he.  "I'll be deawn in a sniff.  What time is't?"

    "Time?" replied Tim.  "It's just upo eight."

    "Nay."

    "Nay!  Come deawn, an' thae'll see."

    Ben began to hurry his clothes on, and before he was half dressed, he went to the head of the stairs again, and calling to his wife, he said, "Betty, dost yer!  Its o' reet!  It's a chap from Yelley-Ho'.  Oppen th' dur."

    Betty laid hold of the bolt to withdraw it, but remembering the burst of tart temper she had just displayed, she hesitated.  Her cheeks flushed with colour.  Letting go the bolt she wiped her face with her apron, as she went to the foot of the stairs.  "I dunnot like to let him in till thae comes deawn," said she, whispering up to Ben.  "Be sharp I'm sidin' th' heawse up."

    Betty liked to have her house, and everything belonging to it, clean, and in nice order; and although so unpretending in appearance, it was a sweet spot both inside and out,—sweet as a cowslip bell,—a little paradise of humble life,—poverty it could scarcely be called; for, though constant labours and simple fare were part of its daily experience, yet want and dependence were almost unknown to it.  There was a spell of peaceful, wholesome, rustic beauty upon all that belonged to it.  There was something touching even in its loneliness and simplicity.  It would, indeed, be a careless eye that could pass by the place without being arrested by its unobtrusive charms.  That little bright-windowed cot, with everything so clean about it,—with its bit of trim garden, its tinkling well, its patches of green herbage won from the waste, and all the nameless prettinesses and simple conveniences with which industrious care and Nature together had adorned it, that little bright-windowed cot shone amid the sombre moors like a lonely star peeping through the clouds of a dusky sky.  Nature had fallen in love with it, and she was quietly drawing it into exquisite harmony with the surrounding scene.  The rich hues of the moorland seemed to have crept over it in subtle tones, deepened and mellowed by stains of the weather.  The lower part of the walls was cushioned with bright, mossy emerald, and little lichens and tufts of grass sprouted prettily all round the foundation line, and tiny flowerets peeped out here and there, even from between the grey stones of those humble walls,like angels encamped about the besom maker's lonely dwelling.  Tim felt something of the beauty of the place as he stood waiting for the opening of the door.  He had stepped upon the edge of the well-trough to look over into the garden, and when he turned round, with the whole front of the place under his eye, he said,—

    "Bith mon, it's noan sich a feaw-lookin' cote for a chap like Ben."

    In a few minutes Ben came down and opened the door.  As Tim walked into the cosy house, he said, "I'll tell thou what, Ben, you're very snug here.  I never thought thae'd as nice a nook as this."

    "It's her 'at does it," said Ben, pointing to his wife, who stood with her back to them, stirring the fire.

    "That's her at's bin saucin' me so," replied Tim.  Then, addressing Betty, he said, "Yo'n gan me some lap this mornin', mistress."

    "Well," said Betty, blushing, and turning round, "heaw could I tell?  I know'd nought who it wur; an' yo wouldn't leeten me abeawt it."

    "Never mind, mistress," replied Tim.  "It's o' reet.  I's go to heaven when I dee, I believe.  I get code (abused) so."

    "Yon nobbut mak a rough angel, noather," said Betty.

    "Thae'rt reet, lass," said Ben.  "Tim'll want a deeol o' touchin' up afore he's fit to show hissel i' that shop."

    "Thae'll want noan, Ben," replied Tim.  "I'tho doesn't mind thae'll ha' to go where theer's a deeol o' brimstone,—an' not so mich traycle to't noather,—bi what they, say's."

    In the meantime Betty had crept outside, and was feeding the hens, glad of anything by which she could escape from further allusion to the fit of temper she had shown.

    "Come, Tim," said Ben, "where's th' letter?"

    "Letter," replied Tim.  "I'd no letter, mon.  I nobbut showed her a piece o' papper, to get her to oppen th' dur.  But thae'rt wanted at Yelley-Ho'; an' thae mun be theer by twelve o' clock.  They'n sent me up for tho.  They'n a rook o' company at th' ho'.  They're noan o' this country-folk.  I believe they're for gooin' upo Blacks'n'edge; but I dunnot know.  I guess thae'rt noan ready to start neaw, arto?"

    "Nawe.  I've had no breighkfast yet.  But I'll be deawn i' time."

    "Well," replied Tim.  "I've 'liver't my tale, so I'll be off!  Good mornin', owd brid!  Good mornin', mistress!  Yo'n know me th' next time!"

    "Good mornin'!" answered Betty, as she filled her kettle at the well, without lifting her head to look at Tim.

    "He's off!" said Ben, watching Tim as he went down the road.  "I wonder what they wanted wi' me at Yelley Ho'.  Th' owd Kurnul's up to summat fresh."

    "Thae'rt noan fit to go nowheer bi thisel," said Betty, as they went into the house together.  "I couldn't for shame goo into a hayfeelt sich a figure as thae art.  They'n find tho eawt.  Look at thi nose!"  And she handed him the looking-glass, or "seemin'-glass," as country-folk call it sometimes.  "Look at thi nose!  Thae looks nice an' respectable, doesn'to?  If ever thae wants to see a foo, Ben, thae's nought to do but peep into that glass; for thae's less wit than Batterlash, 'at beat th' wayter for runnin'."

    "Well, howd thi din, lass," replied Ben, in a mild tone.  "Thae makes me war nor I am, wi' thi talk."

    "Nay, Ben, nay," answered Betty.  "I connot do that.  If ever thae swaps, thae'll ha' to mend; for thae'rt as ill as tho con be neaw."

    "Husht, lass,—do husht!" said Ben, writhing under the keen flagellation.  "Should I put mi haliday clooas on, thinks?"

    "Ay," replied Betty, sarcastically.  "Ay,—thae'd happen better put 'em on.  Thae'll look well wi' thi haliday clooas on,—to a nose like that!  Off witho,—an' get wesh't,—while I get 'em ready.  Heaw ditto shap to get that nose?"

   "It're yon fiddler 'at did it."

     "Yon fiddler 'at did it!  Eh, Ben!  Foos an' fiddlers!  Smart gooin's on!  I guess thae lent him thi nose to play wi'."

    "Thae knows better.  Do howd thi din.  Thae makes mi yed warche" (ache).

    "Knows better!  It is theer to look at!  An' it's bin a hard mak of a tune 'at he's played on't, too,—for it's awter't (altered) th' bridge rarely.  Thae art cumin' to summat, Ben!  I think I'd keep that nose to goo a fuddlin' in, if I're thee,—it's a gradely aleheawse pattern,—an' order a new un for Sundays; an' if thae did, I should ha' to lock it up in a drawer o'th Monday mornin', an' tak care on't for tho, or else thae'd spoil it, wi' takin' it to rush-bearin's an' churn-suppers.  Eh, Ben! o'ther fiddlers or onybody can play upon thee, nobbut thoose 'at wishes thee weel."

    "Betty, be quiet, lass," replied Ben.  "I know there's no sense i' sich wark; but talk'll mend noan on't."

    "Eh, Ben!" answered she.  "I wish I knew what'd help tho to mend it, an' I'd buy it for tho,—if I had to sell up dish an' spoon to find th' brass."

    "I know thae would, Betty; but I'll try again, mon."

    "Eh, I wish thae would, lad,—I wish thae would!  It'd leeten my heart to some tune!  I'd rayther see it than a bratful o' guinea-gowd!"

    "Thae talks as if I're some mak of a drunken slotch 'at did nought nobbut trail up an' deawn o' rags an' slutch, makin' a foo of hissel for saups o' ale."

    "I never said thae're aught o'th sort, Ben," replied Betty.  "I'd rayther ha' mi yed lapped, nor ever see tho come to that.  But then, thae knows, its sich like wark as this 'at brings folk to it, mon."

    "Well," said Ben, "tho'll say no moor abeawt it, lass, I will try,—an' I'll gi' my mind to't.  I'm noan partial to sich like wark, no moor nor thee.  An' if I once get gradely howd o'th reet end o'th stick, I's never look behind me no moor,—thae'll see.  So, do drop it, this time; an' I'll try again,—if its nobbut for thy sake."

    "Well, I allays fund tho a mon o' thi word, Ben,—I will say that for tho.  But thae'rt so yezzy lad, mon; thae'rt so yezzy lad (easily led)."

    "I'll tell tho what, Betty," replied Ben.  "If onybody wants to leeod me at after this,—nobbut thee,—I'll poo tother gate on, like a scoaded chen-horse,—if I don't I'll go to th' crows.  Thae may tak me just wheer thae's a' mind, lass.  I know thae wishes me weel."

    "Wishes tho weel!  Eh, Ben!  Do I wish mysel an' th' childer weel, thinskto?"  And then her apron went to her eyes, and they were both silent for a minute or two.
                               .                               .                               .                               .

    "I wonder what they wanten wi' me at Yelley-Ho'," said Ben, by way of breaking the silence.  "Are they beawn o' wimberryin', thinksto?"

    "Not they!  Th' owd folk's go noan a wimberryin',—its noan likely.  Th' yung uns happen may, just for a marlock.  But I don't know."

    "It's happen somebody 'at's gooin' a-measurin' for a can-el, or summat," continued Ben.

    "Can-el!" replied Betty.  "They'd never make a can-el at th' top o' Blacks'n'edge.  Heave thae talks, Ben!  Goo thi ways an' get wesh't, while I get thi clooas eawt."

    Ben stripped to the waist, and taking a mugful of water and a rough towel to the lane side, he washed himself in the open air, under a spreading thorn that hung over the garden wall.  Meanwhile Betty went to the old oak kist, which her grandmother had left to her when she died, and she took out his Sunday clothes, and clean things, all so scented with lavender and sweet herbs, that, as soon as she lifted the lid, a pleasant aroma filled the little chamber.

    "Wheer's my shirt?" shouted Ben, as he stood in the middle of the lane, puffing and rubbing himself with the rough towel.  "Wheer's my shirt?"

    "Stop a minute," replied Betty, through the chamber window.  "There's a button off.  Thae mays sich wark wi' thi things as nobody else.  I'll not be a minute."

    In a quarter of an hour or so Ben was dressed, all but his coat and kerchief; and the two sweethearts were sitting peaceably together at their morning meal.  When breakfast was over, Ben brushed the crumbs from his knees, and giving his neckerchief to Betty, he said, "Here, lass.  Tee this on for me.  It looks like a hay-bant, when I tee it mysel.  Here; take howd; it's thy job."

    "Thae does find me some quare jobs, Ben," replied Betty, as she took the kerchief from him.

    "Shall I do, thinksto?" said Ben, wriggling his head as Betty tied the kerchief on.

    "Thae looks very weel," replied Betty,—"if it weren't for thi nose."

    "Neaw then," answered he, "thae'rt beginnin' again!  I's be like to stop that meawth o' thine!"  And he seized her round the neck, and kissed her so heartily that she cried out,

    "Oh, Ben! thae'll smoor me!  Give o'er, do!"

    But the happy woman made but a faint resistance.  When Ben let go, and Betty took hold of the kerchief again, to tie it, she tugged at the ends, and said, with a smile, "I've a good mind to throttle tho!"

    "Well," replied Ben, cocking his chin up, "help thisel; it is theer!"

    "Thae'rt nought short but a posy, neaw," said Betty, handing to him a little bouquet, consisting of a wall-flower, two white daisies, and a sprig of sweetbrier; and she felt delighted, as she eyed him slyly from top to toe; for, in spite of his nose, Ben was a comely fellow, and the darling of her heart; and she knew full well the genuine goodness of his nature.

    "Dost want any brass?" said she, as she stood in the middle of the floor, pinning the posy in his button-hole.  "Well," replied Ben.  "Ay.  Thae may gi' me sixpence."

    "Thae'd happen better tak a shillin'.  I'tho doesn't wear it, thae'll have it, I guess."

    "Well, ay," answered Ben.  "If I don't wear (spend) it, I's have it."

    Betty went to the corner cupboard, and took a shilling out of the inside of a little pot man who was the treasurer of the household.  As she handed the shilling to Ben, she said,

    "Neaw, thae knows, I promised I wouldn't say no moor to tho, an' I winnot."

    "Thae could like to do, I see," replied Ben.  "But thae's no need this time."

    "Well, we's see," said Betty, as she followed him to the end of the cottage, where Dimple stood grinding his wiry breakfast of dry hay.  Ben scratched his donkey's head, and looked thoughtful, for they had been companions so long that it seemed hard to go away, and leave Dimple behind.

    "Should I tak th' jackass?" said Ben, as he flung another handful of hay to Dimple.

    "Nought o'th sort," replied Betty.  "See what they wanten tho for th' first; an' then come back.  It's noan so far."

    "Well, as thae says, I will," said Ben, as he stood looking round at the hens; and the bright, full well; and the garden wall, over-gushed with summer greenery; and at the sweet little rustic sheiling where the jewels of his heart were nestled.  He looked round at the wild moors, where the flowering heather was filling the air with its delicate perfume.  He heard the tinkling music of the well, and the dreamy murmur of the stream, and the twitter of birds about the roof of his own lonely moorland nest; and, though he uttered not a word, his heart was glad.

    "Well, good mornin', lass," said he, turning to his wife.  I think I'll tak th' moor gate.  It's shorter."

    "I would," replied Betty, going up to him again.  "I would.  Thae'll be nabbed i' tho goes th' heeroad.  Here, let's look at thi neck.  That 'ankitcher's noan reet." And, as she re-tied his kerchief, Ben flung his arms round her, and kissed her again.

    "Eh, Ben," said she, "do give o'er!  It's a good job there's nobody abeawt.  Thae met (might) be sweetheartin'."

    "Eh, Betty," replied he, "I believe I's be sweetheartin' as lung as ever thae lives, lass.  I could find i' my heart to squeeze tho again, reet weel! .  .  .  I will do, too!"  And he clipped her again.  And well he might; for she was as sweet as a posy.

    "Drop it, lad, do!" said Betty, "We're owd wed folk, neaw, mon; an' we'n summat else to think on."

    "Wed folk be hanged!" answered Ben.  "I'm fain 'at we are wed, lass; an' that's moor nor some can say.  Weddin's worth nought if they cannot find time for a bit o' sich wark as that neaw an' then.  It helps folk to wrostle their bits o' troubles, mon."

    "Get off witho,—do!" replied Betty.  "Thae'll ston here o' day, camplin' an' talkin' thi stuff!"

    "Well, good mornin'," said Ben, as he walked away with his whip under his arm.

    "Good mornin'," replied Betty.  "Here; what arto for wi' th' whip?  Thae'll want noan o' that if thae doesn't tak th' jackass."

    "No moor I shall," said Ben, flinging his whip back.  "No moor I shall!  Thae'rt drivin' me gawniless (senseless)!  Good mornin'!  I'll come back th' moor gate!"

    "I would, if I're thee!" shouted Betty.  "Good mornin'!  And away he went up the blooming moorside, as happy as the lark that carolled overhead,—that fluttering lyric speck that, far aloft, was making the silent sky tremble with delight, for he had all the blooming earth and all the sunny air to sing to.

    As Ben went his way, Betty stood gazing after him; and Dimple lifted his placid face, and, as he chewed his hay, he looked up the road, and thought it must be Sunday, as Ben had his best clothes on, and was going away without him.  The very birds in the garden, and about the eaves of the cottage, gave a great gush of song as Ben went up the moorside, as if, in their way, they were flinging old shoes after him, for good luck.  If ever man was blessed with the love of everything about him, it was the poor besom-maker, who went whistling up the wild hillside that summer forenoon.



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