Edwin Waugh: Besom Ben (5)

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CHAPTER II.


I've wandered through landscapes embroidered with flowers,
The richest, the rarest, in greenest of bowers;
Where the throstle's sweet vesper at summer day's close,
Shook the coronal dews on the rim of the rose;
But, oh! for the hills where the red grouse up-springs
From his nest in the bracken, with dew on his wings!
Where the heather-flower sweetens the lone moorland lea,
And the mountain winds whistle so fresh and so free!

THE MOORLANDS.


THE way Ben took lay out of the common track, but it led through many a charming nook of rural beauty.  Those who have only seen the wild hills from the highway in passing,—those who come whisking from the breezy downs of the south, and across the fertile plains of middle England, only to rush from one manufacturing town to another,—can hardly believe that there is anything like secluded loveliness in the scenery of that busy land,—where every river has to toil its way to the sea; and where all seems devoted to hard work, whirling wheels, and keen bargain-making.  But such people do not know the country.  They have never wandered away from the din of its towns, and basked in the lovely smile of the wilderness,for its wildernesses do smile.  Those moorland hills, that look so bleak, so cold, and leafless at a distance, are sprinkled with spots so sweetly fresh and simple, so neat-like and serene, that an angel might linger there with delight; green nooks that shine amid the sombre waste like emeralds on the forehead of an Ethiopian king.  Those heathery hills are full of wild beauty.  There, yet, is the native home of hardy, simple life; of the quaint manners of bygone times, and of a world of legends dim.  They are scattered, too, with sequestered cots, and a quaint hamlet here and there, over which centuries have rolled with little change; and lonely, substantial, stone-built farmhouses of the Cromwellian period,—sometimes, even of earlier date, but mostly dwellings of the sturdy yeomanry and Nonconformists and Puritans of that turbulent time.  There is no part of the country where so many houses of that date can now be found,—with their mullioned windows, and quaint bits of ornamental masonry; and porches, with engraved slabs above the entrance,—with their clear springs, and old flowing wells of excellent water; their cherished trees, rustling about the ancient gables,—and with their green lands about them, evincing long cultivation,—lands won ages ago, by patient labour, from the wastes around, and by patient labour still kept green and fertile.  How beautifully these scattered homesteads gem the wild hills!  They perch picturesquely about the summits, and upon the pleasant ledges of the mountain sides, or they nestle low down, in sheltered holms and dells, where the land is naturally richer, and where little streams go singing and shining along the shady hollow, each looking cheerfully up to its own patch of sky.  The blue smoke rising from their sequestered chimneys has all the stainless heavens to wander in; and, from the lonely moors around, the cry of the red grouse and the wild plover's plaintive fits of song come floating in at their open doors .  .  . To my own mind moorland scenery is singularly beautiful.  As a man leaves the haunts of life in the busy valley, and the last struggling patches of cultivated land disappear behind him, he feels that he is entering upon a region where everything around him yields a different tone to that in which men are clustered; and his mind prunes its wings in the quietude of the scene, and soars into loftier realms of thought than before.  There the wild-flower springs and sweetens the air of the wilderness, and there it dies, unseen by mortal eye.  There earth and heaven gaze upon each other with the silent dignity of ancient friendship; and storm and sunshine there have all the world to themselves.  Among the wild moors, man feels that he is in a primeval region, the aspect of which has probably changed very little in the lapse of thousands of years before ever the glance of man beheld its solemn beauty.  The forms of life are scanty and peculiar in those lonely pastoral hills.  The birds are few, and they are mostly those that love solitude.  The songs of the wilderness are lonely solos and plaintive strains,—the cry of the grouse, the scream of the hawk, and the wail of the plover,—these are the chief minstrelsies of the moorland air.  In summer time a few swallows may skim and twitter about the eaves of an old farmhouse, here and there, or a lark may, now and then, enchant the listening solitude with his matchless lay but the birds that make the fertile valleys ring with glee are rare upon the moors.  The very sounds there are in unison with the wildness of the scene, and every sound has a silent world for its audience.  The lonely sough of the wind, the slightest rustle of the rushes in the holm, they come with a strange, unbroken clearness upon the ear.  The voice of the tiniest brooklet may be heard distinctly there, like a fairy harper fingering silver strings.  Oh, if a man has any ear for those undertones of Nature's music, which are seldom heard, but never die, let him wander to the wild moors; let him sit down to rest by the side of some solitary rill; and, whilst he bathes his weary spirit in the impressive silence and grandeur around, let him listen to its lonely song.

    Through scenery such as this Ben took his way from the cottage on Lobden Moor towards Healey Hall, the residence of old Colonel Chadwick, a thoroughbred Lancashire man, descended from the Chadwicks of Chadwick Hall, in the same township, who are reckoned amongst the early Saxon settlers in the Vale of the Roch.  Ben went by wandering paths, for he sometimes left the bridle-road, and took a short cut across the wild moor, where the grouse sprang out of the heather, and frightened sheep started away from his track, and then turned and stared with wondering eyes as he went by.  Then, leaving the wild moor, he would take the bridle-road again, and follow its windings about the hillside, from one nook of pastoral life to another.  Sometimes, in a moorland ramble, after travelling through a lonely tract of heather, which drives the thoughts inward, we come suddenly upon some nest of exquisite verdure and cozy life, which startles with its unexpected beauty,—like a gleam of sunshine, on a cloudy day, which sets the birds a-singing again; and so it was with Ben that day.  The moods of Nature took him with them.  Now he stalked silently through the wild heath, thinking of his little troubles, or reckoning up his bosoms, or wondering what he was wanted for at the Hall.  Now he whistled thoughtlessly as he went, or chanted some favourite bit of country song, or shouted his cheerful salutation to folk at work in the fields of a lonely farm, or he stopped to chat at the door of some cottage by the wayside.  And now, after breasting the hillside for a good spell, he halted to wipe his moist forehead, and to look around upon the scene.  And it was a scene well worth looking at.

    The township of Spotland,—anciently "Spoddenlond" (the land of the river Spodden),—is full of picturesque hills and cloughs; and from the commanding height along which Ben came that day some of its most remarkable features lay under the eye.  It is remarkable, too, for other things as well as for its picturesque scenery.  The district is famous for its bracing air, and for great abundance of most excellent water, which helps to give the finest finish to the best flannel in the kingdom.  "Rochdale flannel" is well known all over the continent of Europe for its high quality.  Rochdale was one of the earliest seats of the woollen manufacture.  It is from these hills, too, that the famous flagstone known as the "Rochdale Flag" is obtained.  Lobden Moor was celebrated for its annual foot-races; and there "Owd Stump," of Milnrow, the fleetest footman in England in his day, has run many a hard heat with the Spotland lads.  Lancashire, especially this part of it, has long been famous for its foot-racers.  Here, too, in the ancient hamlet of Whitworth, dwelt generation after generation of that quaint race of country surgeons, known over all England by the name of "The Whitworth Doctors."  People from all parts of the kingdom came to this moorland village to undergo their treatment.  They were favourably known even in the court of the third George, to which "Owd Doctor James" was summoned, to attend one of the king's daughters.  There is many a quaint story connected with his visit to the king and his family.  They made large fortunes, and kept a pack of hounds; but still lived on in their own country nook, and in their own simple, old-fashioned way.

    From the hillside, where Ben stopped to rest, he could see all the windings of the woody ravine called "The Thrutch," through which the river Spodden forces its way from the moors towards the sea.  All the romantic track of Birtle-cum-Bamford and Ashworth was spread out before him on the opposite side of the valley.  Beyond that, the smoke of town after town arose from the undulated plain between him and the Irish Channel.  In the background, the dim outlines of far-off hills were visible, for the air was unusually clear, although the day was very sultry.  As his eye wandered over the steep slope, and over the irregular summit of green land on the opposite side of the valley, and thence up to the last lonely farms that dotted the desolate hills with life, he could tell over the names of many a farmhouse, and many a cottage, with its bit of green shade about it; and he knew the people who dwelt in them.  Many a pleasant reminiscence came into his mind as he gazed at those scattered dwellings, and thoughts of the life going on there,—the simple labours of the dairy-farm, the sheep-washings, the shearings, the hay-harvest, and the churn-supper; the rush-bearing, the wimberry-time, and the opening-day for grouse shooting; the foot-races, the "Pace-Egging" at Easter, the huntsman's horn, and the chiming voices of the harriers amongst the hills; the carols and festivities at Christmas, the "Thar-cake," or "Thor-cake," and the nightly fun of Hallowmass Eve.  He thought of the old fashioned spinning-wheel and the hand-loom for woollen weaving, for most of the woollen weaving of those days was done by the farmers and country-folk at their own homes among the hills.  He thought of these, and of all the simple round of work and pleasure that filled up the life of those lonely moorland nooks.  Many a delightful image crowded into Ben's mind as his eye wandered from this to that house, where he had so often sat by the fireside, hour after hour, chatting with neighbours who had dropped in from distant corners of the hills, or taking a part in some fine strain of sacred music, or listening to old songs and traditionary stories, whilst the wintry storm went by.  It was a beautiful and an interesting scene.  But, on a fine summer Sunday morning, this picturesque landscape was touched with another charm, that made it more delightful than at any other time.  When, in the Sabbath stillness that lay like a spell upon the scene, the bell of the old chapel at Whitworth called all the country-side to morning prayers, and from scattered farms upon the hills, and along the valley, families and knots of neighbours, and solitary stragglers,—from Brown Hill, Sandy Bed, Intack, Adam Green, and Prickshaw,—all were wending their way in one direction, towards the chapel in the old village,—the men in blue coats, and the women in long bright scarlet cloaks, that seemed to light up the scene with a new life and beauty,—then, indeed, this was a charming landscape.  Ben stopped upon the hillside a few minutes to rest, and to look at the country he loved so well; and then he rose, and went his way again.  Half an hour's walk brought him to the foot of the slope in the road which leads up to the Hall.

    Healey Hall was a modern building, erected on the site of an ancient house, one of the seats of the Chadwick family, who, as I have said before, are said to have descended from early Saxon settlers of that name, in the parish of Rochdale.  The modern residence was built by the worthy and eccentric Colonel Chadwick, who was his own architect.  He was a magistrate, highly respected all over the parish, and he was accounted a more learned man than common, even among persons of his own position, in those days.  The people of his immediate district, down to the humblest cottager, were almost all known to him, as one may say, "by head-mark."  He mingled with them in a free homely way; he liked to talk to them in their own quaint Doric speech, and he was well acquainted with their manners and ways of living, and their several worldly conditions.  The situation of the Hall is singularly picturesque, upon a green ledge, near the summit of the seep bank, on the south-eastern side of the Thrutch, and overlooking the wildest part of that ravine.

    As Ben went up the road, under the thick-leaved shade of Healey Hall, he began to speculate again, with some little apprehension, respecting the nature of the business upon which he was summoned to the Hall; for it was a place he had rarely visited.  But Ben had been well known there many years; and during the brief time since his freak with the donkey at Foot Mill his fame had spread afresh, like wildfire, all over the country-side.  The quaint old magistrate was a humourist, and fond of country fun.  He had a learnèd old friend from Shropshire on a visit with him at the Hall; and the frolic with the donkey had amused the two cronies so much, that Doctor Skelton had expressed a wish to see the hero of the story; and the colonel soon devised a plan by which the wish of his friend could be fully gratified.  During the Doctor's stay at the Hall he intended to inspect the Roman road which climbs the north side of Blackstone Edge, from the village of LittIeborough.  This trip was arranged for the next day, in company with a few archaeological brethren from Preston, and Manchester, and Warrington,—which last was reckoned a little Athens among the towns of Lancashire in those days.  If the weather was favourable, they intended to take provisions with them, and spend the greater part of the day upon the mountain, returning through the wild Clough called "Turvin," by way of St. John's in the Wilderness, to Mytholmroyd, and so home again.  The colonel had proposed that Ben should accompany his friend during the trip, as a kind of waiting-man; and Doctor Skelton was delighted with the idea.  This was the business Ben was wanted for at Healey Hall.

    Ben went to the front of the Hall; but after he had quietly surveyed that aspect of the house for a minute or so, he said to himself, "Nay, I mun go noan in at that side, as how."  Then he went to the back gate, and entered there.  And as he was walking timidly across the yard, walking towards the kitchen door, where the cook stood with arms a-kimbo, a dog sprang from its kennel.  At the sound of the chains, Ben sprang forward, right into the fat cook's arms.

    "By Guy!" said Ben, wiping his forehead, "I nobbut just clear't that!"

    "Thae's knock't th' breath eawt o' me, welly!" said the cook.  "Thae'd no need to come i' sich a ber!  Th' dog would ha' bitten noan on tho."

    "I'd rather not trust it," replied Ben.

    "Well, come in," said the cook.  "Thae'rt beheend time.  He's bin axin' for tho."

    "What time is't!" inquired Ben.

    "Ten minutes past twelve.  Thaell catch it!  He likes everythin' done bi clock-wark .  .  . There he is again," continued she, as the silvery tingle of a bell came from an inner room.

    One of the servants went to answer the bell, returning almost immediately.

    "Ben's to ha' summat to height (eat), an' then he's wanted i'th parlour."

    The cook laid such a spread before Ben as he rarely saw, and Ben did justice to it.

    In about a quarter of an hour the bell rang again, and Ben was summoned to the parlour.

    The very name of parlour frightened him; but he went in with his hat in his hand.

    It was the old Colonel.  He received Ben kindly, for he knew him well, and he liked him.  He explained to him the business he was wanted for, which was to accompany Doctor Skelton to Blackstone Edge the next day, and he gave Ben instructions to meet the Doctor and himself at twelve the next day.  "At twelve, mind," said he, pointing to his watch, by way of reminding Ben that he had not kept his time that day.  "Neaw, my lad," said the Colonel, as he followed Ben to the parlour door, "hie tho whoam, for there's gooin' to be a storm; an' mind an' be here i' time to morn."

    As Ben went out at the kitchen door, the cook laughed, as she told him to take care of the dog.  But she didn't need to say that, for Ben gave the dog a wide berth; and he replied to the cook by muttering as he went across the yard, "I'll tak care o' misel, as heaw th' dog gwos on."

    The Colonel was right about the weather.  There was a storm brewing.  For an hour past, the sky had been gradually over-glooming, and when Ben came out of Healey Hall, he was surprised to see the change which had come over the scene.  "There'll be some deawn-fo' afore lung!" said Ben as he hurried down the road under the shade of the trees.


 
CHAPTER III.


Various-tinctured trains of latent flame
Pollute the sky, and in yon baleful cloud,
A reddening gloom, a magazine of fate,
Ferment; till, by the touch ethereal roused,
The dash of clouds, or irritating war
Of fighting winds, while all is calm below,
They furious spring.

THOMSON.


THERE was not a breath of air stirring.  The wind seemed to have crept out of the way for fear, and a boding stillness was sinking upon the scene.  Overhead a slow-mustering mass of dusky wrath veiled all the summer sky.  The dense clouds, big with latent fury, clung round the hill-tops, and lay, low hung, a scowling incubus upon the lurid gloom below.  The still air was surcharged with sulphurous heat, and all Nature seemed smitten with fear, as "the dubious dusk" deepened upon the landscape.  The cattle left off grazing in the fields, and stood still, gazing vaguely into the dun air, their very tails motionless; and the wild birds, that an hour before made every hillside and green clough of Spoddenlond ring with joyful minstrelsy,—where were they?  Not a wing astir,—not a note to be heard in all the sultry air, except when some lonely straggled singer, as he flitted by in fearful haste, gave a terrified chirp, and then disappeared in the gloom, like a frightened child, stricken into silence by strange impending terrors, and hastening to the shelter of its mother's arms.  The terrified chirp of some stray bird broke the horrid silence, and then all was gloomily-still again.  The feathered songsters were trembling in their nests, and the air was left tenantless to the fury of the coming storm.  It was "sudden fear and dumb amazement all."  The trees in Healey Wood seemed paralysed, though, now and then, a subdued rustle crept through them, as if they shuddered, and the little leaves of the hedge-row shrank back into their native shade, and peeped out with frightened eyes through the protecting screen, wondering what was about to befall.  It was baleful expectation everywhere, "that shakes the forest leaf without a breath."  In this strange hush, the murmur of the stream in the shady Thrutch, the rindle of little rivers down the hillside, even the tinkling drip of springs falling into the wells by the wayside came ominously distinct upon Ben's ear, as he sped along, gazing from side to side, and hearkening to every solitary sound.  Men were leaving their work in the fields, and hastening homewards, or to the nearest shelter they could find.  The old highway leading from Rochdale into the forest of Rossendale was silent, except where a waggoner urged his trembling team along, or a lonely man, as he hurried by, made some hasty remark to Ben about the weather, then took to his heels, his pattering footsteps ringing clear in the stillness around.  Ben made haste to gain the shelter of the village, glancing about as he went, with fearful eye.  Cottagers by the wayside peeped out, now and then, with apprehensive looks, and briefly commenting upon the weather, and upon the stragglers going by they closed their doors, and huddled together again, as if for mutual protection from the approaching storm .  .  .  At length sullen rumblings began to stir the dark mass of sulphurous cloud,—nearer and louder the muttering thunders came.  Then a sudden flash cut the startled eye, and people whispered to one another, "That's lightning!"  Big drops of rain began to come down with a splash,—drops so big that one of them, falling on a large dockleaf, shook it, as if it had been struck by a pebble.  Flash after flash now lit the gloom with sudden glare; and man and beast shrank into the shade.  The storm was beginning.  Louder and nearer the thunder came, shaking heaven and earth.  In a few minutes the aerial combatants sprang furiously to work; and from Blackstone Edge to the Nab end of Pendle, every hill and valley resounded with the awful roar of elemental war.  In quicker succession now, the dark expanse was cleft with forked fire, or lit up with vast white sheets of livid glare; whilst the loud thunder roared and rattled overhead as if worlds on worlds were hurled in swift destructive crash.  The first great peal of thunder had scarcely died out in the distance before the heavy, windless, downpour of rain came rushing to the earth like a cataract.  Now and then, in the course of the storm, the rain slackened a little; and in the brief pauses between the peals of thunder, the voices of the gathering waters came upon the ear in quite different tones to those they yielded before.  The Spodden was roaring furiously down its rocky channel in the Thrutch, far too big for that pent-up bed, and every whispering rivulet upon the hillsides had suddenly become a shouting torrent of wild water.  The highway was now the bed of a river, and the eaves and spouts of every dwelling were choked and overgushed by the descending deluge.  It was a storm of unusual fury.

    Ben was overtaken long before he could reach the shelter of the village, and in a few minutes he was drenched to the skin.  So far as the rain went, he might as well have gone on, for he could not have been much worse wet.  But the lightning was so vivid that he darted towards the first house he came near.  It was an old-fashioned, stone-built cottage, divided from the roadside by a little trim-kept garden.  Ben ran through the open gateway.  The cottage door was shut, which was an unusual thing, for, like most country-folk in that quarter, they had a wholesome habit of making their humble dwelling as near akin to the open air as old age and the seasons would allow.  He lifted the "sneck" hastily, and went in without ceremony as usual.  Ben knew the people very well, and he had been so long accustomed to drop in to chat with them, that they would have wondered what was the matter if he had hesitated at the threshold, especially in such a storm.

    As Ben stood shaking the rain from his clothes, and swinging the drops from his hat into the garden, anther flash lit up the cottage with a ghastly glare, followed immediately by a terrible crash overhead, which rolled away to westward in mighty growls.  Ben closed the door, and covered his eyes for a minute, and then he went and looked through the window.  The rain was coming down so heavily that the flowers in the garden had not an instant's lapse in which to lift their battered heads.  The little sloping walks between the borders were flooded, and the water rushing out at the garden gate was washing away soil from the beds.  The high-road seemed to smoke with the fury of the shower, and the boughs of the trees on the opposite side of the way were steadily borne downward by the torrent of rain.

    Ben had been so absorbed in watching the progress of the storm that he had taken little heed who was in the house; but hearing something like a low moan behind him, he turned to see.  By the fireside sat the old grandmother, with her back to the window.  She had travelled nearly ninety years through the world, and was now entering upon the last scene of all that ends life's strange eventful history,—


Second childishness, and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


    The old woman was nearly ninety.  She was very deaf, and her eyesight was failing.  The daughters of music were brought low, and the grasshopper was a burden to her now.  Upon the hob at her right hand stood a cup and a pitcher containing hot balm tea, and by the side of the pitcher lay a tobacco-pipe.  Deaf as she was, the last terrible peal of thunder had roused her dying sense, and the vivid lightning had frightened her, too, with its unusual glare, and as she sat moaning and swaying her bent figure slowly to and fro, unable to lift her eyes, or to turn her old grey swathed head, she kept muttering to herself, in the plaintive tremulous treble of second childishness,—"What's to do? what's to do?"  Her granddaughter, a little rosy lass about ten years old, sat on a low stool by her side, with her hands over her eyes and her face laid upon the old woman's knees.  Her quick young senses were far more terrified by the storm than those of her grandmother.  The girl raised her head as Ben entered the cottage, and when the old woman saw her looking towards the doorway, she said to the child, "Is it thi faither?"  The lass shook her head in reply, and then the old woman rocked herself and moaned again.

    Ben turned round from the window, and addressing the girl, he said, "Wheer's thi faither?"

    "He's gone to Rachda', wi' his piece," replied the frightened lass.

    "An' wheer's thi mother?" continued Ben.

    "Hoo went to Shayforth abeawt eleven o'clock," replied the terrified girl.  "I wish hoo'd come!"

    "Thae munnot be freeten't," answered Ben.  Thi mother'll not be lung.  It's beginnin' o' clearin' up!  Then, laying his hand upon the old woman's shoulder, and bending down, he said to her, "Yo known me, Martha, dunnot yo?"

    "Eh?" said she, turning her faded face to see who had touched her.

    "Yo known me, dunnot yo?" repeated Ben, making an ear-trumpet of his hand.

    "The old woman answered faintly, "Nawe!  Who are yo?  What's to do?  Nawe!  Is it th' owd doctor?  I want a bit moor opium.  Who is it, Jenny?"

    "Yo known Ben th' besom-maker, at wed Betty o' Crapple's, dunnot yo?" replied Ben.

    "Eh, ay!  Sure I do!" said the old woman.  "Sure I do!  .  .  . Ben?  Ben, say's yo?  Ay, ay!  What, you're one o'th Whittam lot, fro th' Brown Heawse!"

    "Nay, nought o'th sort!" replied Ben; and he began to explain what generation he came from.  But it was no use.  The old woman's mind was lost in a maze of fading and bewildered fragments of remembrance.

    "O' drot it!" said she, as if a new light had broken in upon her.  "I have it neaw!  Yo're a Butter'oth, o'th mother's side!  They tell'n me yo're started o' makin' pieces.  What, yor Mary's be groon up rarely bi neaw!"  And so the poor old soul went groping and stumbling on among the ruins of an ancient memory.

    Ben turned to the window again, wondering whether he should stay with them till the storm was over or the child's mother returned.  But the rain had suddenly ceased; so, believing that the worst was over, he thought he would make his way shorter.

    The water from his clothes was beginning to swim on the cottage floor; and as there was another lull in the storm, he thought it best to make haste home whilst there was a fair chance.  So, after a few simple words of encouragement to the old woman and her granddaughter, he took the road again.  The old village of Whitworth was still about half a mile off.  The modern village lines the highway; but the ancient hamlet stands a little up the hillside, on the right-hand of the road as we go to Bacup.  And a very quaint and interesting nook it is,—made famous long ago by its primitive race of "Doctors."  Ben determined to take through "Old Whitworth," and thence, up the moorside, in the direction of a ravine ealled "Dule's Mouth," which was his shortest way home.  Just as he reached the centre of the village, the rain began to decend again as hard as ever; and Ben halted in front of the Red Lion, and glanced at the open doorway; but, being as wet as he could well be, and remembering the promise he had made to his wife, he was walking on, whien his attention was frustrated, as the sequel will show.

    The Red Lion is the cosiest public-house in the old village of Whitworth.  It stands immediately below the chapel-yard, and it is the house where, what my old friend Kirah Skewro calls "illustrious cripples" used to take up their quarters whilst under the care of the "Whitworth Doctors."  And, certainly, many wealthy people, and people of high station, came there from all parts of the kingdom, to benefit by the skill of those old country doctors, and sometimes they were astonished to find that they had to take their turn of attendance with the humblest patient in the place.  The whole village was often too small to accommodate the swarm of lame and sore people,—rich and poor,—who gathered there.  But the Red Lion was always head-quarters.  It was the house where the old doctors, after the labours of the day, used to chat and take their evening refreshment, in the snug parlour behind the bar.  The tap-room was the favourite resort of the poorer patients, and of the doctors' various assistants, among whom "Owd John o' Simons," the shoemaker, with his knee-breeches, his cobbler's apron, and inflamed eyes, was a very remarkable personage.  He manufactured the "leather spelks" used by the doctors for keeping broken limbs in their place after beings "set."  Old John was always looked upon by country-folk as a kind of oracle in the art of bone-setting,—a lesser light moving round the great Æsculapean luminaries of the village; and at last he left off shoemaking and took solely to the healing profession.  The old man once had a lame dog sent to him to cure, belonging to a famous firm at Cronkeysbaw, close to the town of Rochdale; and when the dog was cured, one of the items in the bill was: "To keeping an' leatherin' one dog three week,—nine shillin'."  Such was Owd John o' Simons, and such was the Red Lion Inn, at Whitworth, in those days.

    At a little window of the Red Lion sat the grey-haired landlady, knitting and chatting with Ailse Butterworth, an old neighbour who had been overtaken by the storm.  Ailse was a comely countrywoman, about middle age, and she was born not far from the village.  She was the widow of a soldier,—a stalwart Whitworth lad,—who had fallen at Salamanca, leaving her with several children, one of whom was hopelessly crippled.  There was a settled shade of sadness on her face, which told of a feeling heart that had known sorrow, and touched her features with a tone of interest that nothing else could give.  The old landlady also was a widow, with one handsome daughter, grown up to womanhood, the sole relic of her late husband, whom she loved with all the warmth and simple truth which were such strong elements in her nature.  During her husband's lifetime they had gone from Spotland to keep a respectable old inn, near the town of Manchester.  There they lived happily for many years; but when he was taken away from her, the old woman came back to this village, to end her days in the land of her forefathers.  It was washing day at the Red Lion, and the clothes which had been hung upon the hedges in the garden to dry, in the sunny morning, had all been taken in again when the storm came on.  The two old friends were talking about their household affairs, and about their mutual troubles, and looking through the window, now and then, at the pouring rain, when Ben came trickling by, like a man just escaped from drowning.  He was the only living thing astir out of doors, just then, in all the village; and, though he was hardy and cheerful enough, yet he looked a poor, lonely, drenched figure, in that mighty shower.  As soon as the landlady caught sight of him, she pointed through the window.

    "Eh, see yo, Ailse," said she to her friend "See yo at yon poor dreawn't craiter!  Wheerever's th' lad for?  What, it's noan fit to turn a dog eawt!  I'll knock on him in!  Who is it, thinken yo?  Look, Ailse,yo'n better ee-seet nor me!  I'll knock on him, as who he is!"

    And the old woman rose and tapped at the window, and when Ben turned round to look, she beckoned sharply for him to come in.

    Ben hesitated, for he began to have a wholesome fear of "pickter-shops," and his promise to Betty still lived in his mind.  Come what would he was determined to keep it.  But "pleasures are like poppies spread."  He knew the house very well, and he bethought him that it was one of the best regulated places in all that quarter, for the old landlady, though one of the kindest women breathing, would not allow any kind of disorder there.  And then, as he looked at the clean doorway, he thought to himself, "Hoo happen wants besoms or summat."  So ready is the mind to discover excuses for what it is inclined to.

    As Ben stood hesitating in the rain, Ailse rose, and looked through the window.

    "Eh, Hannah," said she.  "I know him!  It's Lobden Ben, th' besom-maker, 'at wed Betty o' Crapple's at th' Syke!"

    "It never is, sure!" replied the landlady.  "What, I know him weel enough.  His wife's as nice a lass as ever bote (did bite) off th' edge of a cake.  I don't know him as weel as I know hur.  But we mun have him in.  God bless mi life, whatever's th' lad stonnin' starin' i'th rain for, —like a stoop!  Come in witho!"  And she tapped at the window, and beckoned to him again.

    Ben came into the Red Lion doorway, shaking his clothes like a Newfoundland dog just come out of the water.  He was about to walk into the kitchen, but the landlady came to the door of the bar, and called him into her little parlour.

    "Come thi ways in here, lad," said she.  "Eawr lasses are sidin' th' kitchen, an' th' clooas are dryin' i'th tapreawm.  They'n ha' done in a twothre minutes.  Come thi ways hither.  There's a good fire i'th this reawm.  What, theaw'll be weet to th' skin."

    "Fine weather for young ducks," said Ben, as he sidled shyly forward into the snug parlour where the old widowed women were sitting.  "Fine weather for young ducks!  It's come'n wi' a gradely pash this time.  I'm wringin' weet"

    "Well," said the landlady, "ducks liken wayter, reet enough, an' they'n getten meeterly weel sarv't this time; but I dunnot think they're partial to thunner an' leetenin'.  But whatever arto doin' areawt (outside) sich a day as this?  What, its enough to borne (swill) th' buttons off thi clooas. Thae'rt fair sipein' (trickling) fro yed to fuut!  Whatever arto doin' areawt?"

    "A body's like to look after what they han to do, yo known," replied Ben.  "They're like to look after what they han to do,—as what mak o' weather it is,beawt (unless) they'n summit to tak to beside wark."

    "They're so like," answered the landlady.  "Sure they are, lad.  Come in, an' sit tho deawn while eawr lasses getten yon kitchen readied (made right) a bit."

    "I's deet (sully) this reawm o' yo'rs," said Ben, looking round the parlour.

    "Deet, be hanged!" replied she.  "Tak th' cheer at th' side o'th hob, an' sit tho deawn, lad.  A saup o' clen wayter 'ill deet nought; an' I'm sure thi clooas'll ail nought, if yor Betty's ought to do wi' 'em."

    "What, dun yo know my wife, then?" said Ben.

    "Know her?" replied the landlady.  "Ay; lung afore thae did, my lad!  I knowed her when hoo live't at th' Syke, mon, lung afore owd Crapple deed.  Bless thi life, lad! what, I knowed yor Betty when hoo weren't aboon th' height o' my knee!  An' a prattier little crayter never poo'd a daisy than hoo wur; an' hoo grew up as handsome a lass as ever scrap't a porritch dish; an' hoo're a good un, to, an' that's better.  Eh, th' little thing!  Th' times an' times 'at I've taen her a-wimberryin' wi' me,—up towards Mall's o' Rooley's, at th' top o'th moor, yon!  Ay, ay; hoo're th' fleawer o'th flock, wur Betty,—poor lass! .  .  . Eh, ay," continued she, thoughtfully.  "Betty thought to (too) little of hersel.  Hood ha' made a rare wife for onybody 'at had ony sense,—hoo would that!  I'd aim's (intended) her doin' weel,—an' hoo met (might) ha' done weel, too, poor lass."

    Ben began to fidget upon his seat, and he felt half inclined to get up and leave the house, for he thought the landlady's last remark was a depreciatory allusion to his own humble position in life.

    The old woman saw in an instant that she had thoughtlessly given offence, and it grieved her kindly heart to think so, for she knew that Ben was a decent lad, poor as he was.  But she secretly wished, nevertheless, that Betty had made a " better bargain of hersel."  Ben was so very poor, so poor, and so very simple.  If he had only been a "bonks-man" at a coalpit, even, it would have been something; but a besom-maker, trailing up and down the world with a jackass,—eh, dear!  She couldn't bide to think of it.  She had often told her neighbours what a pity it was that a lass like Betty should have "taen her pigs to sich a poverty-stricken market."  She liked to see folk get on in the world,—that was what she liked.  What, "when their James an' her started o' heawsekeepin' they hadn't a smite o' nought nobbut what they stoode in,—an' look neaw!  Hee'd bin gone a good while,—but hoo're noan ill left,—thank God for that.  Hoo liked to see folk get on; but hoo felt sure o' somehow, that Ben wur noan o'th reet mak (make) for that."  He was a kind-hearted lad enough,—quite.  But "he wur to soft,—he're to soft bith hauve;" an' he was honest an' true,—true as the north star, she durst say,—but what of that?  "He coom fro nought,—an' he had nought,—an' he could make nought, to no sense; an' it would end i' nought, nobbut a rook o' tatter't childer, hauve clammed, an' wi' noses as thin as a thwittle."  Folk said that he was a good worker.  "Ay.  Hoo shouldn't wonder that he'd wortch like a slave, an' grumbled noan; but then, it wur like wortchin' at th' wynt (wind),—it laft nought beheend it."  He was a good beast of burden, in her opinion, and nothing more; and he would wear his life out in hammering and thumping, and tugging and riveting, and grunting for other folks,—and never do aught for himself "worth a midge's wing."  And then, "God bless my life!" she would say, "he's as simple as a hawp'oth o' traycle in a ninepenny mug.  A woman that had ony wit at o' met (might) lap him reawnd her finger like a hank o' thread!  What, th' bits o' childer upo th' street can chet him!"  He had "too little weft in him for her brass.  Sich chaps as thoose wouldn't suit her, they wur to mich like women.  Hoo'd rayther ha' folk wi' a bit moor bwon in 'em, if it made 'em war (worse) to manage.  Neaw their James (her late husband) wur quite of a different turn.  He could howd his own, as wheer he went.  An' never a better men stepped shoe-leather nor he wur,—never."  And then she wiped her eyes .  .  . All this she had said to her neighbours, over and over again, at the time when Ben and Betty got married; and she had said it sincerely enough, too.  But she was no little influenced by the fact that she had previously chosen for her favourite lass quite a different match to the poor besom maker who sat before her that day, steeped with rain.  But Betty, though the flower of humble life in her country nook, was in many respects quite as simple and genuine-hearted as Ben himself, with a strain of self-will in her nature which seemed foreign to Ben, or at least that narrow circumstances had never developed in his character.  She had pith enough to decline the gaudy tulip which her officious patroness had taken such pains to select for her,—and which, by-the-by, had since then run awfully to seed,—and she often declared to her companions in private that "she wouldn't have him as fine as he wur,nawe, she wouldn't have him, not if hoo might wear red shoon."  And, as good luck would have it, her instincts were right, in his case, as her kind patroness tardily admitted afterwards.  But, in spite of all expostulation at the time, she steadily repelled his advances, and clung to the simple wild-flower that pleased her own fancy, and that she was now wearing in her breast with a truth and tenderness which nothing but death could destroy.  To her the little troubles in her lowly journey through this work-a-day world were lightened by the glow of genuine affection.  And Betty was content in her humble estate,—nay, she was happy as the low-roosted lark, "true to the kindred points of heaven and home."  But old Hannah, the landlady, had scarcely got over the disappointment and vexation the wedding of Ben and Betty had given her, even after all this lapse of time,—so fond is the human heart of its own devices and desires, sometimes even when they lead astray.  But she was a kind-hearted woman, after all,—when nothing crossed her.  And, as she sat there knitting, she glanced now and then at the poor besom-maker,—who was sitting in his wet clothes on the other side of the fireplace; and there was something in his comely, open countenance, and his decent clothing, for he had his best on that day,—there was something about the matter altogether,—that touched the tender part of her woman's heart, and she relented, and she began to feel quite sorry that she had said anything to offend his feelings.  Beside, the thing was all over now, and though the old woman was severe sometimes, she was not implacable.

    "What'll tho ha' to sup?" said she to Ben, in a mild, but patronising tone.  "What'll tho ha' to sup?  A saup o' summat warm would be th' best, I think,—wi' thoose weet things on."

    "Oh, ne'er mind me," replied Ben.  "I's tak no hurt.  I'm use't to bein' weet through.  But," continued he, still smarting under the old woman's remarks, "if I've ought at o', I'll have a gill o' cowd ale.  It's good enough for a besom-maker."  At this the old landlady's temper began to rise again in the opposite direction; and, shifting her spectacles, she replied sharply, "But theawst ha' nought o'th sort!  Dun yo yer what he says, Ailse?  Theaws ha' summat warm, I tell tho!  Yor Betty'll thank noan o' me if hoo gets tho laid up!  Doesto want to get the deeoth o' cowd?  They'll catch summit 'at thae connot get rid on,—an' then."

    "Not I," replied Ben.  "I know what it is to be weet through, as weel as onybody."

    "Wilt have a glass o' rum an' wayter?" continued she, taking no notice of what he said.

    "Yo'r for havin' yor own road, seemingly," answered Ben,— but I's ha' no rum.  If I've ought warm, I'll ha' some fettle't porter."

    "Well, well," replied she tartly,—"fettle't porter be it, then,—as thae'rt so yed-strung.  But rum would ha' bin a deeol moor sense, I think."  Then she rang a little handbell, and when the servant came she told her to "fettle" a pint of porter, and "make it good."

    "Neaw then, lad," said she, turning to Ben, with a patronising air, which he didn't much like, "thae mun ha' this wi' me, for th' sake of owd times."

    Ben remembered the "old times " well enough, and all the slights she had cast upon him then,—he remembered it all well enough to make him wonder what she meant by alluding to them; and he replied, "Nay, I'm noan come'd in here a-beggin', if I am a besom-maker!  When I connot pay for my own drink, I'll give o'er drinkin'.  Yo dunnot need to pay for me.  I'd nought to do wi' yor owd times, 'at I know on."

    This roused the old woman more than ever; and, pushing her spectacles up to her forehead, she answered him sharply, "But, I tell tho, theaw shall ha't wi' me!  God bless mi life! what arto botherin' abeawt?  I think th' owder folk getten an' th' less wit they han.  I'll be hanged if I dunnot!"

    "I'm beginnin' a-thinkin' so, too," replied Ben.

    "Poo that jacket off!" continued she, rising from her chair, and doffing her spectacles.

    "Hello," thought Ben, "is th' owd woman for feightin'?" and he stared at her with all his eyes, but never attempted to stir.

    "Poo that jacket o' thine off, I tell tho," repeated she, placing a chair with the back to the fire.  "Poo it off; an' hang it upo' this cheer to dry."

    Ben was slowly doing as he was bid, when the servant entered with the "fettle't porter," and, as she handed it to her mistress, she said, "Didn't yo say I wur to make it good?"

    "Yigh, I did,—plain as one can speighk," answered the landlady.

    "Well, I have done," replied the servant.  "Yo'd happen better taste, an' see if it's reet."

    The landlady sipped of the hot beverage, and she coughed; and turning to the servant, she said, "It'll do."

    "Making it good" meant putting "something short" into it, in addition to the usual spices.

    "It'll do!" said the landlady, coughing as she set it down upon the hob, with a glass tot beside it.  Then, tapping Ben on the shoulder, she said, "Neaw, get that into tho, while it's warm.  It's noan bad takkin'."

    "I'd raither pay for't," said Ben, holding out his solitary shilling.

    "But thae's do nought o'th sort, I tell tho again!  So, get it into tho, an' dunnot be so muleish!  Thae'rt war nor Owd Thrutch-Pig, 'at tupped th' wole (wall) wi' his yed, becose it wouldn't let him go through.  Get it into tho! "

    Ben pricked his ears at the name of Thrutch-Pig, for that was the very man who had brought him the message from the Hall in the morning.  But he said nothing about it, for he was so confounded by the curious mixture of kindness and crustiness which the old lady had displayed, that he hardly knew how to sort it yet.  So he sat still and stared, first at one thing and then at another, as if he was trying to find the matter out that way.

    "Come, Ailse," said the landlady, turning to her old friend.  "Come, Ailse.  Heaw are yo gettin' on?  Sup up, woman, an' have a saup moor."

    "Eh, Hannah, God bless yo!  I connot do wi' no moor," replied Ailse.

    "Nonsense!" said the landlady.  "It'll not do tho a smite o' harm, lass.  A saup o' elder-wine's nought, mon.  What, yo're o' alike.  Thae connot stir while this rain's agate,—so say not a word.  We'n ha' some tay in a bit.  Sup up, an' I'll bring yo a drop moor.  Neaw, howd yor tung.  I'll ha' my way this time."

    And it was just like her,—she would have her own way, whenever she could get it.

    "I'll tell yo what, Ailse," continued she, looking through the window, "this has been eawr weshin'-day, an' it'll be a weshin'-day for a good lot moor folk besides us if it howds on .  .  .  I wonder heave yon lasses are gettin' on wi' dryin' th' clooas.  I should like 'em to tak care o'th owd blanket, as what else .  .  . I think yo'n sin that owd yello rag of a blanket o' mine, wi' th' hole brunt in it, hadn't yo?"

    "Ay, sure.  I seed it i'th kitchen, yon.  It's done for, bith look on't," replied Ailse.

    "Done for!" said the landlady.  "Nought o'th sort, woman.  It's noan hauve done yet, mon .  .  .  Eh, Ailse,—that blanket, that owd blanket!  Eh, if that blanket could talk, Ailse, it could oather make folk laugh or cry!  What stirs o' one mak an' another!  Eh, dear o' me!  Yo known, Ailse, I've buried two husbands; an' I con say what very few women can say, oather i' Spotland teawnship, or ony wheer else.  I's be seventy-one come Kessmas morning at three minutes by five o'clock, an' see yo, Ailse, I'm sleepin' yet upo' th' same blanket 'at I slept on when I wur first wed.  What dun yo think o' that?  Eh, that owd blanket!  I've had six childer born,—five on 'em are gone, an' two husbands are gone, an' that owd blanket's sin it o', both th' beginnin' an' th' end.  It's sin moor nor I can tell.  Eh! an' it's sin a deeol that it makes my heart warche to think on .  .  . It's likely, yo known, Ailse, that one should set a bit o' store upo' th' bit o'th rag, for it is nobbut a rag, in a manner .  .  . I wouldn't part wi' it, Ailse, for ten times th' weight on it i' guinea-gowd,—I wouldn't, for sure!  Eawr Mary knows that it's my wish, when I'm done for i' this world,—I've al'ays said so,—it's my wish to be laid eawt at last upo' th' owd blanket.  An', to my thinkin', I could hardly rest if it wurn't so.  I should hardly feel awhoam if I're laid of aught else, after what we'n gone through together, I shouldn't, for sure.  Ay, Ailse, ay, lass,—that owd rag'll ha' to be my last hap, when th' time comes! .  .  . T'other day, when th' sarvant wur hangin' it upo' th' garden hedge to dry, eawr Mary said, 'Mother, th' owd blanket'll never see yo eawt.  It's givin' way terribly.'  'Never thee mind,' I said to her, 'never thee mind!  I'm givin' way mysel; so th' owd blanket an' me's givin' way together.  We'n live't together, an' we'n had th' best of er (our) days together, an' in a manner o' speighkin', we'n laughed an' cried together; an' if I mun ha' my mind Mary,' I said, 'if I mun ha' my mind, th' owd blanket an me must lie deawn to rest together, at th' end of o'.  It may be threedbare, an' an ill colour, an' natter't a bit, but I'm th' same mysel,I con feel it,—I'm th' same mysel.  It's done duty for thoose 'at's gone, an' it mun do duty, for me, too.  If there's nobbut a petch on't, I could like it ta'en care on; it'll ha' to be lapt round what bit there is left o' me, at th' end ov o',—an' that connot be lung.  It lapt thi feyther, Mary; an' it'll be like to lap me.'  .  .  . Eh, Ailse, noather th' owd blanket nor me owes nobry nowt.  We'n done eawr turn together, in a middlin' way; an' I dar say we can rest together, beawt fo'in eawt, if they'n let us alone.  When I talk to eawr Mary abeawt sich things, hoo says, 'Eh, mother, do husht! yo'n clog again, yet, mon!  But it's me that knows, Ails.  I've my own feelin's, yo known .  .  . An' I'll tell yo another thing abeawt th' owd blanket.  When eawr Edward's owd'st lad wur fun dreawn't after he'd bin lost mony a lung day,—th' owd blanket wur taen to bring him whoam in.  Poor lad!  Nipped i'th bud!  Nobbut fifteen!  He're stoppin' at eawr heawse at th' time.  His mother never looked up after it!  He're th' only son, Ailse,—an' his mother wur a widow.  Hoo're not lung wi' followin' him.  Poor George!  He wur brought whoam i' yon owd blanket .  .  . When eawr James wur alive, yo known, Ailse, we kept an owd public-house, code th' 'Griffin,' a bit beawt o' Manchester.  And a rare good heawse it wur; but after he wur gone, I could manage noan of a place like that,—beside, I like as if I couldn't sattle myself.  We live't at th' Griffin a lung while.  Eh, but we had some trouble wi' sarvants.  We'd an owd brewer,—a Middleton mon, code 'Plunge,'—he use's to brew for owd Mistress Taylior, that kept th' sign o'th Trumpeter, a bit aboon Middleton Church.  He're a very good brewer wur Plunge, an' he're a favourite wi' eawr James, too; but he're a terrible drunken chap .  .  . Well, one weshin'-day, this owd blanket wur missed off th' line, an' we couldn't yer noather top nor tail on't for mony a day.  I felt quite hurt abeawt it, Ailse, for I thought it wur clen gone for good, sure enough.  But, one day, I wur busy i'th kitchen, makin' some cakes for th' baggin', when in comers Owd Plunge, hauve-drunken, as usual.  An' a pratty seet he looked, for somebory'd bin blackin' his face, an' he'd a play-bill pinn'd on his back, an' his clooas wur rivven, an' daub'd wi' slutch, for he'd bin asleep in a breek-feelt.  He coom up to th' bar, an' axed for me; so they sent him into th' kitchen, an' theer he coom maunderin' in, an' starin',— sich a seet!  'Well,' I said, 'thae'rt a bonny baigle again!'  But he geet howd of a cheer-back to steady hissel, for he're nobbut wambly, an' he said, 'Mistress, dun yo remember me axin yo to land me a shillin' a twothre days sin?'  'Ay,' I said, 'I remember tho axin' me for that money a time beside then.'  'But, yo wouldn't lend me noan that day, would yo?' said Plunge.  'Nawe,' I said, 'nor I'll not lend tho noan to-day, i'th state thae'rt in; so thae doesn't need to ax.'  'Well,' said Plunge, 'I dunnot want noan to-day.  But, I'll tell yo what, when yo wouldn't lend me th' shillin' that day, I took th' owd blanket off th' line, an' I went an' popped it.  But theer it is,' said Plunge, pooin' th' blanket fro under his lap.  'Theer it is, see yo, safe an' seawnd,—at after o'.'  Well, I stood quite gloppen't a minute; but o' at once, see yo, Ailse,—I're so mad at him, 'at I up wi' th' rollin'-pin, an I took him straight atop o'th yed wi't,—sich a cleawt!  An' deawn went Owd Plunge like a lump o' wood.  Well, Ails, I're freeten't eawt o' my senses, for I thought I'd kilt th' felly; an' it're 'Heigh, lads, heigh!  Run for a doctor!  Heigh, lads, heigh!'  An' th' whole neighbourhood wur up.  Eh, I're i' sich a takkin'!  I'd ha' gin th' world to see him oppen his drunken een again, just then! .  .  .  Well, some tried one thing, some another; but as soon as they started a-teeming brandy into him, he began acomin' reawnd.  Eh, he met ha' had o'th brandy i'th heawse, jast then!  But he coom to at th' end of o'; an' when he geet sit of a cheer, he put his hond a-top of his yed, an' he said, 'Mistress, th' next time 'at yo hitten me wi' that rollin'-pin I'll ha' my hat padded, if yo'n gi' me a twothre minutes' notice.'  Eh, but didn't I give it him as soon as I seed that he're o' reet.  I left him nought short, I'll a-warnd yo .  .  . That's th' owd blanket again, yo seen, Ailse.  Eh, that bit o'th rag!  When I've gone to bed of a neet, sometimes, I've sit me down bith bedside, lookin' at it, an' cryin', cryin',an, bith hour together."

    The landlady's buxom daughter had crept in, and she stood looking through the window as her mother uttered the last words.

    "Neaw, mother," said she, turning sharply round, "I'll not have you gooin' on this way!  Yo known it makes yo quite ill.  Th' owd blanket's reet enough.  Bless my life, yo trouble'n yorsel moor eawt it than if it wur a little choilt!"

    "Thee howd thi bother," said the old woman, wiping her eyes.  "Thee howd thi bother, an' goo an' look after thi wark."

    Here Ailse, the soldier's widow, got up from her seat, and said that she really must be going home,—rain or fair; but the landlady's daughter took her by the shoulders, in her usual hearty way, and pushed her down into the chair again.

    "I'll tak good care that yo dunnot quit this heawse till yon had yor tay," said Mary.  "Yo sha'not stir a peg, Ailse, so it's no use.  We dunnot get a wap on yo so oft.  There's nought but thunner an' leetenin' can get yo into th' heawse, so yo'st stay a bit while yo are here.  Gi' me howd o' that basket, I'll get yo summat nice to yor tay, yo two owd cronies.  Gi' me howd o' that basket."

    Ailse smiled at the earnestness of the brisk damsel as she allowed her to take the basket from her.  As Mary set the basket down upon the window-sill, glancing outside, she clapped her hands and cried, "Eh, mother, there's Owd Tippy-Toe yon!  He's comin' in!  I'll goo an' see what he wants!" and away she ran.

    "Ay, go thi ways," said the old woman.  "Go thi ways, for thae likes a foo i' thi heart, I believe.  Eh, that lass has sich a spirit, Ailse.  I don't know whatever I should do witheawt her!"

    "I think hoo'll tak care, middlin'," replied the soldier's widow.

    "Care!  Ay, bless yo!  Eawr Mary's like me for that; an' I wur olez of a careful turn, Ailse .  .  .  An' I'll tell yo another thing, Ailse, that not so mony folk can say: When I wur a bit of a lass my gronfeyther made me a present of a printed muslin frock, of a bilberry pattern, th' prattiest thing that ever I set my een on, an' as good stuff too.  But muslin wur muslin at that time o'th day, not what it is neaw.  Well, I wore this frock for a holiday frock, till I grew clen eawt on't; an' one day, my mother comes to me wi' th' frock in her hond, an' hoo says, 'Hannah, if I're thee I'd give eawr Jane this frock,—it'll come in for one o'th childer.  It's getten too little for thee.'  Well, what dun yo think I said back to her?  'Eh, nay, mother,' I said; 'I dunnot part wi' that frock.  I may happen get wed mysel some day, an' it'll come in for my own childer, if ever I have ony.'  That wur summit for a little bit of a snicket like me.  Eh, haw my mother did stare!  I remember it to this day.  Yo know, it wur sich a thing to come out of a choilt's meawth; for I wur nobbut a choilt, in a manner .  .  .  But I wur al'ays of a careful turn .  .  . Well, I tell yo, that frock, at after that, I kept it till I geet wed; an' its wur a first frock for th' first choilt, an' th' second choilt, an' every one o'th six, both lads an' lasses.  An', see yo, Ailse, it is yon yet, not a bit war to look at; an' ready for eawr Mary's, if ever hoo gets wed.  But hoo says hoo never will do as lung as I'm alive.  An' raylee I don't know what I could do beawt her; for I'm nobbut a poor crayter when I'm left to myself."

    "Neaw then! haw arto gettin' on?" continued the landlady, addressing Ben, who sat looking into the fire, with his legs crossed, and his hands clasped over one knee.  "Heaw arto gettin' on?  Turn that jacket o' thine.  Here, we'n ha' some moor coal on.  Hasn'to done thi porter yet?"

    "Nawe," replied Ben, taking up his pitcher.  "I've plenty here, yet."

    "I think thae'rt nursin' it," answered the landlady, as she tingled the little hand-bell.

    "Sarah," continued she, when the servant entered, "put some naplins upo' th' fire.  Heaw's that kitchen gettin' on?"

    "We'n nearly done," replied the servant.

    "Well, be as sharp as yo con."

    As soon as the servant had closed the door, the landlady turned to her old friend again, and said, "Ailse, we'n had yon sarvant thirteen year.  Hoo belongs Blakeley, an' hoo live't wi' us i' Manchester."

    "It's a lung time," replied the soldier's widow.  "Hoo'll be like one o'th family."

    "Quite like one of er own.  Sarah," continued the land lady, turning to the servant as she came in again with the coals, "heaw lung hasto bin wi' us, neaw?"

    "Thirteen year come wakin-time," replied Sarah.  "I remember mi feather had bin feightin' wi' a bockin'-warp, an' he deawn't that very day."

    "Well, well, well," answered the old woman.  "Thae's bin thirteen year wi' us.  Neaw off witho an' get yon kitchen done up.  Thae knows what there is to do."

    When Sarah had closed the door again the landlady continued,

    "Hoo's off.  I towd yo.  Thirteen year hoo's bin wi' us.  Hoo'd talk for ever, bless yo, if I'd let her; an' I do let her, sometimes.  But hoo's as honest as dayleet, an' as hard-wortchin' a lass as ever broke brade.  Her feyther an' mother deed within six weeks o' one and another, abeawt ten year sin; an' th' lass sem'd (seemed) quite lost, for a while.  Well, I took to her, an' hoo like as if hoo took to me, so hoo's poo'd on together wi' us, thus far, just like one of our own family,—as yo say'n.  Sarah's had her own troubles, too.  Sometimes I tell her to get wed, if hoo could leet of a daycent chap; but hoo sticks too't that hoo never will till her sister Martha gets sattle't, if ever hoo does at o'.  But I tak no notice to that mak o' talk.  Yo known hoo'll need a whoam when I'm done, an' hoo'd make a good wife,hoo would so .  .  .  Her sister Martha wurn't aboon thirteen when her feyther deed,—an' th' lass had to turn eawt when th' heawse wur brokken up,—an' hoo wur fain to creep in onywheer, wheer hoo could get a bit of a livin', as a sarvant; an' a nice, tidy, thoughtful lass hoo wur.  But th' poor thing geet into a hard shop at first, I con tell yo .  .  .  Eh, dear! if folk had nobbut sense to think, when they takken childer into their heawses as sarvants, that they'n a chance o' helpin' to mak 'em into serviceable women o'th after-time, they wouldn't be so hard wi' 'em as they are.  Bless yo! some folks thinks if they can get howd of a bit of a lass 'at's deawn o'th world, they can do as they'n a mind wi' 'em.  They'n get 'em for nought, if they con, an' they'n keep 'em scrubbin' floors, an' runnin' arrands, an' swillin', an' scutterin' up an' deawn th' stairs, an' doin' wark that would knock a strong body up,—ay, an' some on 'em would mak 'em sweep th' chimbleys, if they could,—as if they wurn never intended to do ought but sich like as that as lung as they lived.  Hard wark, an' pitiful pay, an poor scranny livin', an' code an' powler't abeawt like mangy dogs 'at's no owners.  It's very unfeelin', very, especially wi' a bit of a thing like Martha, that had noather feyther nor mother, nor whoam to go to.  An' they'rn ha' to onswer for't 'at does sich like.  I consider it's noan a reet thing to ha' yung crayters abeawt yo,—as who they belong to,—beawt tryin' to train 'em in a way that'll be useful to theirsel when they groon up.  Eawr Sarah's larnt to read an' write, an' sew, an' cook, sin hoo come to us.  Hoo's th' best cook 'at ever we had yet.  An' hoo con mak her own dresses, if eawr Mary cuts 'em eawt for her .  .  .  Well, but, as I wur tellin' yo abeawt Martha,—this little sister o' Sarales,hoo geet into sich a hard shop that hoo fell ill,—an' then they couldn't do with her a minute lunger; an' th' choilt wur thrut upo' th' wide world,—quite knock's up; an' frettin' terrible abeawt her feyther an' mother.  So I towd, Sarah to bring her to eawr heawse.  An' hoo stops wi' us till hoo geet weel.  An' hoo wur ill, wur th' choilt.  Hoo're laid up of a fayver; an' it wur twelve week afore hoo're fit to go to a place of ony sort.  At last hoo geet weel .  .  . Well, I thought we'd gi' th' lass a gradely good rig eawt, for a fresh start.  So I geet her three shifts, and three neet-geawns, o'th best grey calico, an' they wur eawt i' eawr yard bleachin', nearly a fortnit, till they wur as white as a moss-crop.  An' hoo wur weel stockt wi' everything, bless yo.  Hoo'd three petty-cowts, an' six haprons, an' two wortchin' frocks, an' a afternoon frock, an' a Sunday frock, an' o' i' good fettle,—noather rip nor stitch wiang, fro yed to fuut;  for, yo known, I leet eawr Sarah help to geet her things ready; an' eawr Mary did a deeol for her, for hoo taks a pride in a job o' that sort .  .  . Well, when hoo'd gotten o' reet, hoo set off after a place; an' when hoo geet theer, th' mistreses said hoo thought hoo'd suit 'em, but hoo wur to co' again at six o'clock, as th' maister wur eawt, an' he al'ays engage't th' savants.  When hoo towd me what th' missis had said, I never spoke, but I set it deawn i' my own mind that it couldn't be a reet sort of a shop if th' missies couldn't engage a bit of a sarvant beawt th' maister interferin'.  An' it turn's eawt just as I expected.  They slave't her, an' drove her, an' powler't her abeawt to that degree that, afore hoo'd bin theer eight week hoo're taen ill again.  They'd never gan her a minute to look after her clooas, nor a minute to goo eawt nowheer, an' they'd wortch't her o' hours, an' fretted th' lass's heart eawt wi' their unfeelin' ways.  Hoo wur taen ill; an' hoo wanted to come away.  But they wouldn't let her come till hoo'd gan 'em a month's notice.  So I sent Sarah up to offer 'em a week's wage, if they'd let her off.  But they wouldn't.  Then I sent her wi' a fortnit's wage.  But that wouldn't do.  At last, I sent her wi' a month's wage; an' after a good bit o' bother hoo brought th' lass away with her.  An' eh, hoo wur sich a seet when hoo londed!  Hoo're as thin as a lat (lath),—an' her clooas, they'rn as tatter't an' dirty as if hoo'd bin wortchin' in a brook-croft.  It took a whole week's sceawrin' an' bleachin' to get 'em a gradely colour again .  .  . But hoo geet another bit of a rest wi' us; an' we put her to reets again; an' then I geet her a place wi' some relations o' mine at Todmorden.  Hoo's bin theer ever sin; an' I believe they wouldn't part wi' her for a keaw-price (the price of a cow).  But hoo'll be wed afore lung, bi what I yer.  An' I wish her weel, wi' o' my heart; for hoo's of a very good sort .  .  . Neaw, hasn'to finished that porter?" continued she, turning to Ben.

    "Nawe," replied Ben.  "I've nearly th' hauve on't laft yet."

    The door opened, and the landlady's daughter came whisking into the room.

    "Nea then, yo two chatterin' owd folk," said she, as she plunged the poker into the fire, "heaw are yo gettin' on i' this nook?"

    "Mary," replied the landlady, "I wish thae'd mind what thae'rt doin' wi' thoose hoops o' thine, an' let's ha' noan o' thy chatter, as heaw.  Thae'd like't to knock that glass off!  Thae'rt war (worse) nor a barrel o' seawr ale wi' thoose things reawnd thi shanks!"

    "Mother, do howd yor tung," said Mary.  "I dar say yo'n worn sich things when yo wur yung.  It'd mend yor shape if yo wore 'em neaw."

    "Shape!" replied the old woman.  "Heaw thae talks!  Shape noan o' me!  I've no moor shape in me neaw nor a pack sheet full o' churn-milk badly teed (tied) up.  But I use't to have, when I're th' age o' thee ! .  .  . Ben, I guess thy wife wears no hoops, does hoo?"

    "Nawe," said Ben.  "Hoo needs noan.  Hoo'll do for me as hoo is.  But hood's never i' one shape so lung together."

    "Nawe, I dar say hoo isn't," replied the landlady.  "I dar say hoo isn't, lad.  Thae should be gettin' on a bit Ben.  What, I guess thae'll ha' brass i'th bank, lung sin?"

    "If I have," answered Ben, "it's unknown to me.  An' I don't know onybody that would put ony in for me, unless yo han done.  But I can pay mi road; an' a bit beside."

    "Well, well," said the landlady, "I could like to see tho get on, lad.  But no mon o'th world con whistle beawt top lip.  Thae'll ha' nought to buy hoops wi', be't as't will."

    "I wouldn't buy 'em if I had," replied Ben.

    "Thae'rt i'th reef on't sheer, as haw," answered she. Then turning to the soldier's widow, she said, "I'll tell yo what, Ailse, aboon o' things, I do hate to see sarvant lasses goin' abeawt their wark wi' sich like lumber abeawt their legs .  .  .  Th' last time I wur at Rachda', I code to see owd Mistress Cherrick, at th' bottom o'th Packer.  An' while I stood lookin' through th' parlour window there wur a strappin' lass coom eawt of a heawse at tother side, wi' a mug-ful o' wayter in her honds, an' hoo begun a-weshin' th' steps.  An' as hoo splash't, an' clatter't, an' flirted hersel reawnd,—wi' a deeol moor marlock than wark,—her hoops cock't up finely, I con tell yo.  'Well,' thinks I, 'yon's noan freeten't o' folk seein' her legs, as heaw.'  At last, as hoo wur twirlin' hersel reawnd, hoo geet her fuut fast i' one o'th hoops, an' deawn hoo roll's fro' th' top o'th steps to th' bottom, an' poo'd th' mug-ful o' wayter bang a-top on her.  Th' mug wur broken, an' I skriked beawt, for I thought th' lass wur hurt.  But hoo jump't up as weel as a wayter-dog, an' hoo ran laughin' into th' heawse.  An' that's th' last I seed on her."  Then turning to her daughter, who stood at the window, looking out, she said, "Well, what's good wi' Owd Tippy-Toe?

    "Good!" replied Mary.  "Eh, he has bin gooin' on!  He's getten a modiwarp in his pocket, yon.  He's for startin' in a new trade, he says.  He's for sellin' butcher's skewers and perches for brid-cages.  He wants to know if we'n an owd cheer, or a pair o' owd bedstocks to give him, just to set him up wi' timber; for he's nobbut fourpence-hawpenny to start wi'.  I towd him to use his yed up th' first, an' then we'd see .  .  .  It seems he's just come'd back fro' Rachda'; an' he's bin tellin' us what he seed .  .  .  He says he seed owd Toppin', th' chimbley-sweep, gooin' deawn th' Blackwayter wi' a curly dog under his arm.  An' it seems there wur a chap stonnin' at a shop dur, at th' side of a mug-ful o' churn-milk; an' as Toppin' wur gooin' by, this chap said summat to him that he didn't like, so Toppin' dipt th' dog into th' chap's churn-milk, an' then hit him o'th face wi th' weet dog.  Then th' chap flang a ladin'-can full o' milk at Toppin', an' Toppin' dipt th' dog, an' th' dog yeawlt like mad,—an' th' churn-milk an' th' dog flew about till they'rn weet fro top to toe.  He says Toppin' looked like a white-limer wortchin' wi' a four-legged brush .  .  .  An' what wi' that greight feaw chimbley-sweep, an' th' soot, an' th' dog, an' th' churn-milk, an' one thing an' another, it mun ha' bin a prime do .  .  .  He is yon yet.  I'll go an' see what he's doin'."

    "Ay, go thi ways," said the landlady, smiling.  "Go thi ways.  If there be ought wi' less wit nor common stirrin', thae'll be among it, or else thae'll see!"


 
CHAPTER IV.


In winter's tedious nights, sit by the fire,
With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales.

SHAKSPERE.


IN conversation it is reckoned a mark of good manners not only to be silent, but to give due attention to the language of the speaker who happens to have gained the ear of the company for the time; as it is also accounted ill-breeding so far to monopolise the talk in a company as to weary the patience of the listeners.  And the rule is good, though circumstances of a rare kind sometimes arise which seem to modify its application; as, for instance, when some specially-learnèd, or otherwise unusually-interesting, talker is in the company, to whom all the rest would rather listen than speak themselves.  And yet the rule is good, for in their case the listening does not lead to weariness.

    Now, our old landlady was what is called "a terrible talker," when she had a chance of being listened to with patience, which was not often.  But this was a red-letter day with the garrulous old soul, and she made the most of it.  Her friend Ailse, the soldier's widow, was not only not much of a talker,—a rare thing, of course,—but she was also a most excellent listener, which was better still.  This unconsciously delighted the old landlady; and in this, as in many other respects, the two friends were well suited to each other.  But Ailse had been sitting quiet so long that the landlady began to notice it.

    "Ailse," said she, "thae never says a word.  Heaw's Billy?"

    "Eh, poor lad!" replied Ailse, "he'll never be no better, Hannah.  He's a cripple for life, yo known."

    "Eh, poor lad!" said Hannah, laying her knitting down, and listening.

    "I don't know whatever he mun do," continued the soldier's widow.  I don't know whatever he mun do if I happen to be taen (to die).  I should like to live as lung as that lad does, Hannah, if I mun be alleawed.  Whether I mun or not, the Lord only knows.  I like as if I tak to that lad moor than ony o'th tother, an' I connot help it.  Yo known, Hannah, th' tother are o' strung an' hearty, an' likely enough to fend for theirsels, if I can get 'em trail't up a bit; but he'll never be able to do a hond's turn for hissel, as lung as he's alive,—never."

    "Eh, dear," replied the old woman, sighing.  "There's no tellin' what folk han to go through.  When folk are young they thinken they han o'th world in a bant.  But time turns things o'er strangely .  .  . Dunnot fret, Ailse, lass,—dunnot fret.  There's al'ays some gate done.  Thae's thi hond full, I know.  But dunnot fret."

    "I have my hond full," said Ailse.  "But it's my own hond full, Hannah,—it's my own!  Eh, poor lad!  When he sits at th' side o'th fire, so pale, and patient, and speechless, wi' his great glowin' een,—he's as like his feather as he can stare.  I sometimes think that he's wit in him that doesn't belung this world."

    "Poor Billy!" said the landlady.  "Let's see,—his feyther deed at Salamanca, didn't he?

    "He did, Hannah."

    "Eh, Ailse," continued the landlady, "I know what it is to lose my own.  Five of eawrs were laid by,—afore James deed.  Eawr Mary's o' that I have i'th world neaw,th' last leaf upo' th' owd tree!  An' when th' heawse is still, an' I'm sit bi mysel, sometimes I look reawnd at th' woles, an' hearken for seawnds that I shall never yer again; an' I sit, an' think .  .  . Eh, Ailse, there's nobody knows."

    Ben had been listening quietly all the while, but this was too much for him.  First he coughed; then he fidgeted upon his seat, and stirred the fire; then he rose to his feet, and felt at his coat, which was drying at the fire.

    Ben had been so still that the landlady had hardly noticed him.  Besides, her nature was so frank, and, in addition to that, she had got it into her head that he was such a negative piece of humanity that it didn't matter.  But the old woman little knew what slumbering sensibilities there were in that silent besom-maker's heart.  She lifted her spectacles, and looked at Ben, as he stood turning his wet coat on the chair back in front of the fire.

    "Ben," said she, "thi clooas are steeomin' like a wesh-heawse.  They'n never dry to no sense at this potterin' bit of a fire,—nought o'th kind.  Stop, I'll goo an' see heaw they are i'th kitchen.  Sit yo still, Ailse.  We'n ha' some tay directly."

    As the landlady went out, Ailse turned to Ben, and inquired how his wife was getting on.

    "I laft her o' reet this mornin'," replied Ben.

    "Let's see," continued Ailse,—"heaw mony han yo neaw?"

    "Three,—nearly four," answered Ben,

    She paused, and looked into the fire; and then, turning round again, she replied, "Yo'n lost no time, then."

    Ben took up his pitcher and drank; and, wiping his lips on his sleeve, he said, "Nawe."

    And then they both looked into the fire again.

    The landlady returned as they sat silent in this dreamy condition.

    "Th' kitchen's o' reet, neaw, Ben," said she, "an' they'n a fire yon that would roast a bull.  Go thi ways to it, an' get thi things dried.  God bless my life!  Go thi ways!  There's two or three yon agate o' their marlocks."

    Ben took his wet coat off the chair back, and as he went out the old woman said again, "I say, Ben, I want to see tho a minute afore tho starts off whoam.  Doesto yer?"

    "Ay, I yen," replied Ben, as he went towards the kitchen.

    And the two lone women were left in the little parlour to mingle their sorrows in peaceful seclusion.

    The kitchen of the Red Lion was as clean as a new pin, and the clothes which had been drying there were all taken away.  There was a roaring fire, as if had been the depth of winter instead of a sultry summer day.  But it was gloomy enough outside, and the rain was still pouring down.  And, hot as it was, the fire was welcome, on account of the genial contrast it presented to the damp and gloom outside.  There were only two persons in the kitchen when Ben entered.  One was a strong, short, square-built man, between fifty and sixty, but sound as an acorn.  He was a stone-getter, or quarryman, and a native of the village; and he was best known by the name of "Gablock."  The other was "Amos o'th Hornblower's," the eldest son of a moorland farmer and woollen weaver in the neighbourhood of Brown Wardle Hill.  Amos was better known by the name of "Kempy," on account of his combative disposition.  Kempy was a fine stalwart fellow, about thirty-five.  He was a famous "sprint-runner," and a humorous fellow, well known all over the country-side.  Kempy sat on one side of the fire, smoking, whilst Gablock, in his quarry dress, sat opposite, drying a dirty piece of wet paper at the fire.

    "Hello, Ben," said Kempy, "wheer's thae sprung fro?"

    "I've bin sit i'th parlour wi' th' owd mistress, a twothre minutes, while they geet this place done up."

    "Conto read writin'?"

    "Nay," replied Ben, scratching his pate, "I'm nought mich at that job."

    "Thae's try thi hond in a minute," said Gablock.  "I fund some mak of a letter bith roadside yon, an' we connot make it eawt.  It wur o' slutch an' dirt, so we'n wesh't it.  I'll let thou look as soon as its dry."

    "Yo'n no 'casion," replied Ben, blushing like a girl.  There's Mary,—let her try.  "Hoop'll read it in a minute."

    When they had dried the scrap of paper, they took it to the window; and the three stood there together, looking at the strange scrawl, when the landlady's daughter came in.

    "Nea, then, Mary," said Gablock, there's a job for tho here.  Thae's bin to a boardin'-schoo'.

    "What han yo getten?" replied Mary, laying a pot on the table, and coming up to the window.

    "A love-letter, or summat.  Conto make it eawt for us?"

    "Wheer did yo find it?"

    "Gablock here's picked it eawt o'th slutch upo' th' road, yon," said Kempy.  "Try if thae con make aught on it.  I'm like Ben, here,—I con read nought nobbut ale-heawse signs."

    "Well, thae should know heaw to read thoose," replied Gablock; "for thae's bin to schoo' theer, as mieh as some folk."

    "Here," said Mary, wiping her hands, and pushing Kempy aside, "let's look at it."

    Gablock handed the letter to her, and then they all stood waiting, with their mouths open.

    Mary conned it over again and again, and then she read out the following, which is a true copy in every respect of the original:


August 6th, 18――
H.M.S. Implacable Devonport Plymouth


Dear mother,—I wish you would rite to me for I feel very unesey because you dont rite to me.  Dear mother you make me think that you have for got me all to gather.  You are a long wile a riteing to me.  I think if I was to not rite for a week after I got your leter you would think it quere—because I always rite has sone has I got your letter back again—but you have for got me all to gather—Dear mother there has been some sad accidents on our ship for last week there was a boy got his arme shot of and there was another boy got his fingers took of with a rope in a block—Dear mother I hope you will rite to me and dont for get—So no more at present from your honly son G— T


    It was soiled, and greasy, and crumpled, as if it had been worn in the pocket a long while.  On the back of it were scraps of scratchy writing, which looked as if the lad had been trying to write, or copy, a love song: " Mary, I am brekeing my hart aboot you―O dere."

    "Ay," said Mary, turning it over, "some poor soul's cried o'er that, above a bit.  I wonder who's it is.  It's some poor sailor lad writing to his mother.  Her only son, too.  Hoo'll fret her heart about losin' that letter.  I wish I knew where hoo live't .  .  .  Here, I'll let my mother look at it!  Stop,—I'd happen better not .  .  . Tak care on it, Gablock.  Yo may chance to find eawt who it belongs to."

    "Thae'd better keep it thisel, Mary," replied Gablock.  "I's happen be leetin' my pipe wi't,—or some lumber."

    "Well, I will," said Mary, folding it tenderly up.  "Did'nt some on yo knock?"

    "Yigh," replied Gablock, as he lighted his pipe at the fire.  "Thae may bring me another pint.  There'll be no moor wark this day, as haw.  Eh, haw it is comin' deawn yet!"

    "Ay," said Kempy.  "I don't remember sich a thunner storm as this i' my time, afore."

    "Nor me noather," replied Gablock.  "We's yer o' some damage after this."

    "Damage!" said Kempy.  "I've yerd o' some already.  They say'n there's four keaws lyin' kilt i'th White Rill pastur; an' it's knock's th' gable-eend o'th Bull's Yed in, up at Facit, yon."

    "Ay, ay," replied Gablock, "we's yer moor afore lung .  .  . I wonder wheer owd Tippy-Toe's gone.  He said he'd be back in a twothre minutes."

    "He's a crumper, is Tip," said Kempy.  "Didto ever yer th' owd doctor tell abeawt meetin' Tip one day at Rachda' rush-bearin'?"

    "I dunnot remember."

    "He met th' doctor i'th street one day, an' he said, Doctor, hea mich win yo charge for killin' me?  'Nay,' said th' doctor, 'I'd rayther keep thee alive, Tip.  Thae'll do to laugh at.'  'By th' mon, doctor,' said Tip, 'gi' me summat at'll tak me off!'  'I could like to gi' tho summat that would tak tho off whoam,' said th' doctor.  'I'm as hard as brazill,—kill me!  Tell me when yor short o' wark, doctor,' said Tip, 'an' I'll mak mysel ill a-purpose to keep yo gooin'.  'Thae'rt past my mendin', neaw,' said th' doctor.  'I've plenty o' brass, mon,' said Tip, rickin' abeawt fourpen'oth o' copper in his pocket.  'Yo doctor't Owd Moreover till he deed; an' yo wouldn't ha' nought for't noather.  Gi' me yor hont!  I'm gettin' another job ready for yo at eawr heawse.  Co some day, an' eawr Betty'll tell yo what it is.'"

    "He's as hard as iron," said Gablock; "but he leets of his maister neaw an' then.  He coom into this kitchen one neet when there were a curly-yedded chap in, 'at had bin hawkin' pots in a basket.  Tip made no moor do, but geet howd of a hondful o' this chap's toppin', an' givin' a greight rive at it, he says, 'Is this thi own yure, or a wig, owd men?'  But th' pot chap had him deawn i'th nook theer in a shift, an' he beat him till he put his bond up .  .  .  He's rayther awkert sometimes, but he's noan a bad chap i'th bottom."

    "Not he," replied Kempy.  "But here a bit quare when he're a lad.  One day he said to his feyther, 'Eh, feyther, I do like th' bally-warche!'  'Thae does?' said his feyther.  'Why, what for?'  'Becose it's so nice when it gi's o'er,' said Tip.  I know a chap 'at went to th' same schoo' as Tip did.  Tip wur al'ays hungry, for their folk wur as poor as crows; an' I dar say th' lad wur clammed like wedgewood.  Well, one day this tother lad wur heightin' a curran' cake at he'd brought for his dinner.  Poor little Tip watched him a bit.  At last he could stop' it no lunger, so he coom up to th' lad, an' he said, 'Bobby, if thae'll let me bite o' thy curran' cake, I'll let thee look at my sore toe."'

    "Ay, he're ill clemmed when he're young, I believe," said Gablock.

    "I've yerd him tell about going to Owd Bolloll a-borrowin' a hauve-a-creawn .  .  . Bolloll wur a bit deaf,—when he'd a mind.  Tip went to him, an' he said, 'Boll, con yo lend me hauve-a-creawn?'  Boll reckoned he couldn't yer him, so he said, 'What saysto?'  'Con yo lend me five shillin'?' said Tip.  'Thae said hauve-a-creawn at th' first,' said Bolloll."

    "What are yo talking abeawt?" inquired the landlady's daughter.

    "Owd Tippy-Toe," replied Gablock.

    "Talk abeawt him being clemm'd!  I think he's fot (fetched) up for lost time sin he wur a lad.  I've sin him height (eat) a barrowful o' lobscouse very near,—an' he ran a race three hundred yards, abeawt an' hour after, an' won it.  Joe Whittarn al'ays sends for him to level their cheese, after th' churn-supper .  .  .  Yo wurn't in when he coom back fro Rachda' to-day.  He's al'ays sin some grand dooment when he's bin theer.  It seems he code at th' Hare an' Heawnds, an' while he sat i'th tap-reawm, there wur a hullabaloo started under th' window eawtside.  Tip an' th' tother thrut th' window up, an' looked eawt.  There wur a dog-battle agate; an' a great rook o' leather-yeds reawnd it, o' i' full cry.  Well, th' mistress at th' Hare an' Heawnds coom in th' tap-reawm.  'What han yo agate, neaw?' says hoo.  'There's a dog-battle here,' said Tip, 'and they connot get 'em sunder't.'  Weel, hoo nips up a fireshool, an' hoo geet it pile't full o' red-whot cinders.  'Stone fur!' hoo says, 'an' let's see what I can do!'  An' hoo whips th' red cinders bang amung th' lot.  'Theer!' hoo says, 'there's a bit o' summat warm for yo to be goin' on wi'.  Neaw, dunnot spare it.  There's plenty moor!'  But never mind if it didn't skift 'em."

    "Hello!" continued Mary, "who's that 'at's goin' by i'th rain?"

    They all jumped up, and looked through the window.  It was a short, bloated man, with a pale, puffed face,—as if he habitually fed on buttered muffins and tea, and took very little exercise.  He had a big coarse mouth, and a very little retiring chin; and as he glanced at the window as he went pompously by, his eyes looked like two pools of boiled oil.  He was dressed in faded black, and he carried a large blue umbrella.

    "Who is it?" said Gablock.  "He favvours a brokken-yure't doctor, or summat."

    "By th' mon!" cried Kempy, "it's owd Flipflop.  Yon's getten aboon speighkin' to sich as me, neaw.  Abeawt two yer sin he're as poor as a church meawse; an' he're as idle as Ludlam dog, that rear't itsel again a wole to bark; an' as ill a cowt he wur as ever drew breath.  Owd Tip's th' better chap i'th bottom, if he be a bit rackle."

    "Owd Tip's worth five hundred on him!" cried Gablock.  What's he doin' neaw?"

    "He did start o' pill-sellin' at th' first," replied Kempy; "then he geet convarted, o' in a sniff, an' he geet a shop as a local-preitcher.  But they turn't him eawt o' that."

    "He'd tak a deeol o' convartin'," said Gablock, "afore they could mak a daycent chap o' Flipflop."

    "Ay, I think it'd find wark for a twothre first-rate honds, owd lad .  .  .  But as soon as ever he geet convarted he begun a-talkin' fine, an' swaggerin' up an' deawn, like a dog wi' a tin tail; an' he blether't abeawt religon as if he'd bin i' full trainin' for heaven o' his days .  .  . Well, abeawt a fortnit after, Tip met him i' Rachda'; an' he slapped him o'th back i'th owd style, an' axed him heae he wur; an' I dar say he'd let some of his rough talk off, th' same as ever.  But Flipflop drew his pudgy carcase up, an' he looked at Tip with thoose foggy eon of his as if Tip had bin a sarpint.  Then he began a coin' Tip a lost crayter, an' he as much as hinted that he wur gooin' straight to th' lower shop; an' he pitied Tip, an' he hoped he'd turn i' time, an' goo wi' him, an' sich like .  .  . Well, Tip stare't at him fro top to toe, an' he said, 'Flop, owd lad, what's to do wi' tho?  Thae'rt strangely awter't sin th' last Thursday but one, when thae swarm't that pow for a cauveskin singlet.  What's to do?  Thae'rt o' lamb an'-sallet, an' hawp'ny books, neaw.  Hasto had some brass left tho?'  But Flop said he care't nought for th' lucre o' this world, for he're quite a new crayter.  'Why, what sort of a crayter arto neaw?' said Tip, an' Flop towd him that he wur a follower o' John Wesley.  'Well,' said Tip, I'll tell tho what, Flop, if I wur John Wesley, an' I wur to catch thee followin' me, I'd turn reawnd an' punch thi shins for thou."'

    "Ay," said Gablock, "he'd say that in a minute.  As rough as Tip is, he hates ony mak o' sham, an' I dar say he thought John Wesley too good to ha' sich chaps as Flipflop after him."

    When they had sat thinking a minute or two, Kempy knocked the ashes out of his pipe upon the top bar, and as he cleared the bowl with his little finger, he asked Gahlock if he had "ony 'bacco."

    "Plenty," said Gablock, handing his brass box to him.

    Kempy filled his pipe and lighted it, and then they sat silent again for a minute or two.

    Gablock was the first to break the silence.  Looking up at the window, he said, "It rains yet."  And then he took up his pitcher and knocked upon the table.

    "Mary," said he, as the landlady's daughter entered, "bring another."

    "Bring me one, too," said Ben, as he turned his jacket again, which was drying at the fire.

    "Ay," said Gablock, charging his pipe again, "I think Flipflop's religion wur o'th frog-stoop sort,—it sprang up too soon to last long .  .  .  But it is so sometimes .  .  .  Thae's sin a peigh (pea) hasn'to?" continued he, appealing to Kempy.

    "Yigh."

    "Well, thae knows, a peigh is nobbut a peigh, to start wi', is it?"

    "Nawe, it isn't."

    "Well, but if thae'll put a peigh into wayter an' let it stop sheer a bit, it'll swell thae knows, an' then it begins a-thinkin' it's a bhyen (a bean.)"

    "It does sometimes," replied Kempy.

    "I know it does," continued Gablock.  "I know it of a truth.  But then it's nobbut a peigh at after o'."

    "No moor it is," replied Kempy.  "Nobbut it's softer."

    "Ay, but dry it i'th oon (oven).  A twothre minutes' dryin' brings it to itsel again; an it's poorer than it wur afore."

    "Thae'rt reet, owd lad," said Kempy, just as the landlady's daughter came in with a fine piece of cheese on a large platter.

    "Yo'r as quiet as mice," said she, drawing a table into the middle of the floor.  "If Tippy-Toe had bin here there'd ha' bin moor din nor this."

    When she had laid the cloth, and set the plates and other things upon it, she said, "Nea then.  Draw up.  My mother says your to get a bite o' summate into yo."

    Kempy and Gablock laid down their pipes instantly, and showed no reluctance; but Ben turned his damp coat again, and hung back.

    "Come, Ben," said Mary, "poo up!"

    "Nay, I've had my dinner, thank yo," replied Ben.

    "Come, get into thi looms," said Mary, pushing him towards the table.

    "They say'n they're good childer when they dun what they're towd," replied Ben, pulling a chair up to the table.

    "Neaw, win yo have a onion?" quoth Mary.

    "I'll tell yo what, lads," said Gablock, "my een are bigger than my appetite.  I feel as if I could clear th' table."

    "Well, it is theer for yo to goo at," said Mary, as she set a jar of pickled onions on the table.  "It is theer.  Divide it amung yo!"

    "Divide that amung yo?" cried Kempy, speaking with his mouth half full of bread and cheese.  "That reminds me o'th singers gooin' to Jerry Winter's, o' Kesmass mornin'."

    "Heaw wur that, Kempy," inquired Mary, stopping on the floor to listen.

    "Well," replied Kempy, "Jerry wur a miserly chap."

    "I know that," said Mary.  "He wouldn't part wi' th' smooke of his porritch if he could help it.  An' he're a very ill-temper's chap, beside."

    "Mary, be quiet," exclaimed Kempy.  "That's part o' my tale .  .  .  Well, one Kesmass mornin', when Shay-forth singers had bin eawt two or three hours amung folk that made 'em welcome, they agreed to goo an' sing under Jerry Winter's window, just to plague him, for they knew he hated to be disturbed in his sleep, an' they never expected him givin' 'em aught.  He're th' wrang chap for that.  But they went, an' drew theirisels up under th' window, wheer Jerry an' th' wife wur asleep, abeawt three o'clock i'th mornin'.  'Neaw, then,' said Tum o' Nancy's to th' singers, 'pipe up, an' then brast off!  Let's give him a gradely good crashin', do!'  An' they struck up,


Christians, awake, salute the happy morn,


an' yo may guess what a din they made under that window, when they'd a trombone, an' a sarpint, an' a bazoon, an' a hautboy, an' a triangle, an' a piccilo, an' a bass fiddle, an two little uns,—besides th' singers.  An' they gan' mouth,—to some tune,—like a lot o' huntin'-dogs i' full cry.  An' heaw it did freeze that mornin'! .  .  . Well, they hadn't getten through th' first verse, afore owd Jerry an' th' wife wur as wakken as noontide, an' rollin' abeaw fro side to side, wishin' th' singers o' mak o' feaw luck.  Jerry cover't his yed, an' he swore like a horse-swapper, under th' clooas.  But it did no good.  They kept blazin' away, for they'rn determine to gi' th' owd lad a full sarvice while they wur agate,—as keen as it froze .  .  .  At last, Jerry hit of a plan for sidin' 'em, an' he nudge't his wife, an' he said, 'Betty, I think yon chaps'll be dry bi neaw.'

    "'Sure they win,' said Betty. 'If I wur thee, I'd give 'em a trifle, to get shut on 'em.'

    "'I think I will,' said Jerry.  'I'll get 'em a saup o' summat, or else they'rn think I'm greedy.  So I'll let 'em sup, once reawnd, an' then they'n,—happen goo.'

    "So he crope down th' stairs, an' filled an eight-gallon canful o' wayter, an' he brought it up again, an' set it quietly upo' th' table, close to th' window.

    "'Nea, then, Betty,' said Jerry in a whisper, 'come here.  Be ready to hond me that can when I tell tho.'

    "So Betty geet eawt o' bed, and stood ready bith edge o'th window.

    "As soon as Jerry began a-pushin' th' window up, th' singers said, 'Look eawt!  He's comin'!'

    "'Good mornin', lads,' said Jerry, poppin' his yed eawt.  'Merry Kesmass to yo!'

    "Tum o' Nancy's, th' fiddler, wur th' spokesman for tother, so he cried eawt, 'Same to yo, Jerry!  Merry Kesmass an' a Happy New Year to yo!"

    "'Thank yo, lads!' said Jerry, rubbin' his honds.

    "'By th' mon!' said th' singers, in a whisper, 'it's o' reet!  He's better nor expectation!' an' they begun a-drawin' nar to th' heawse.

    "But Bill o' mi Darlin's put his fiddle under his lap, an' as he crope farther away, he mutter's to hissel, 'Howd off!  I'll ha' noan!'

    "Owd Jerry wur quite in a good temper; an' as he stoode rubbin' his bonds at th' window, he said, 'I tell yo what, lads, yo'n a cowd job!  But yo'n some rare music wi' yo!  I could like yo to play "When shepherds watched their flocks" o'er again.  My wife's partial to that tune.'

    "'Wi' o'th pleasure i'th world, Jerry!' cried Tum o' Nancy's.

    "'By th' mon!' said th' singers to one another, 'th' owd lad's a trump, after o'.'

    "'Stop lads,' said Jerry, puttin' his yed eawt again.  'I dar say you're dry,aren't you?'

    "'Rayther,' said Tum o' Nancy's.

    "'Well,' said Jerry, I'll see what I con do for yo.  If it had bin a bit sooner on, I'd ha' had summat warm ready; but yo'n be like to take it cowd neaw; th' fire's eawt .  .  .  It'll just be a toothful, to be gooin' on wi .  .  . I connot come deawn.  I guess it'll do if I lower it to yo?'

    "'O' reet, Jerry, an' thank yo!' cried Tum o' Nancy's.

    "'Let's see,' cried Jerry, rickin' a bit o' silver in his hood, heaw mony is there on yo?'

    "'Fourteen, wi' little Joe Bandy,' cried Tum o' Nancy's.  An' then he whisper's into th' bazoon-player's earhole, 'By th' mon, he's a topper!'

    "Jerry went into th' chamber a minute, as if he wur gooin' for some moor brass, an' then he coom to th' window again, an' as he stoode countin' his silver o'er, he cried out, 'Neaw, lads! come nar!'

    "An' they o' crept close under th' window, except Bill o' mi Darlin's.  He kept hangin' back, wi' his fiddle under his arm.

    "Jerry watched 'em, like a shooter watchin' a lot o' brids sattle; an' when he'd getten 'em o' reet, he whisper't to th' wife, 'Neaw, Betty!  That can!'  So Betty honded him th' can.

    "When Jerry had getten a fair grip, he said, 'Neaw, lads!  This'll just be a meawthful apiece for yo, afore yo gone whoam!  But yo'n play me that tune after yo'n had this,— winnot yo?'

    "'Yigh, we win, Jerry!' said Tum o' Nancy's, as oft as yo'n a mind;' an' Tummy gav' a twirl reawnd, an' rubbed his honds.

    "'Then――divide that among yo!' cried Jerry, an' deawn went th' eight-gallon o' wayter,—slap o'th middle on 'em,—for Jerry had measure't his fling so nicely that it just catch't 'em as they tried to spring eawt o'th road.

    "'Win yo have enough, thinken yo?' said Jerry.

    "'Go to――!' said Tum o' Nancy's, wipin' his face wi' his handkitcher.

    "'An', by Guy!' said Jerry, as he put th' window deawn, 'I'd ha' sent th' can an' o',—but they'd ha' taen it wi' 'em!'

    "Well, they every one geet their fair share, I think,—except Bill o' mi Darlin's,—an' when Bill seed th' wayter flyin' deawn, like melted lead, he lope (leaped) shoolder height, an' he skriked eawt, 'By the mass!  I thought so!'  But Bill wur th' only one i'th lot as didn't get a saup o' summit that time.

    "Well, they'd done singin',—for that neet,so they went whoam an' dried their things."

    "Oh, do give o'er!" said Mary, holding her sides, "thae'rt makin' me ill."

    "He's nearly chaulkt (choked) me!" said Gablock.  "I'd a lump o' cheese i' my throttle when I begun a-laughin'."

    "Get forrad wi' that stuff," said Mary,—"yo're doin' nought,—an' give o'er talkin' till yon finish't!"

    "It's rare good cheese," said Ben.

    "Ay," answered Gablock, "it's rather different to that 'at Robin o' Tooter's order't fro Owd —Jem —.  What's his name?  Th' owd cheesemonger, at Rachda'.  Never mind what th' name is.  But Robin order't him to send a good strung cheese up to their heawse.  An' Jem sent 'em one.  But when it londed they could hardly get their teeth into't.  So th' next time Robin let of Owd Jem, he said, 'Thae's sent me a smart cheese, yon, owd lad.'

    "'Why, what ails it?' said Jem.

    "'Ails it,' said Robin.  'It is yon, just as it wur, for a lion couldn't get his teeth into yon cheese.  It may come in for a grindlestone, but it's fit for nought else.'

    "'Steep it a bit,—it'll come to,' said Jem.

    "'Steep the devil!  Thae met as well steep a flat-iron as yon cheese!  Send for it back, an' get it made into snuff boxes.'

    "'Why, what sort of a cheese didto want?' said Jem.  Thae towd me to send tho a strung un.'

    "'Strung un!' cried Robin.  I wanted a strung-tasted un, for toastin', thae leather-yed!'

    "'Oh!' said Jem, 'I thought thae wanted a boighler!'

    "He mun ha' bin a greight chap for hard cheeses," said Kempy.  "I yerd a tale eawt him an' th' wife lookin' th' stock o'er once, an' as they went reawnd, owd Jem pointed to a dirty-lookin' cheese up in a corner, an' he said, 'Sitho, lass,—that's bin yon seven year.  I think I's fling it away.'

    "'Nay,' said th' wife, 'I wouldn't fling it away.  There's lots o' poor folk that would be fain on't .  .  . I'll tell tho what do .  .  . Lev it upo' th' shop dur step when we shutten up an' I'll be bund there'll find it gwon i'th morning.'

    "'Well,' said Jem, 'I'll try it.'  So they laft it eawtside, an' went to bed.  They slept o'er th' top o'th shop then.  When they wakken't i'th mornin', owd Jem yawn's, an' rubbed his een, an' as soon as he began to unbethink him he said, 'Oh, that cheese!'

    "So he wakken't th' owd woman, an' he said, 'I wonder i' that cheese is gwon.'

    "'Get up an' look,' said hoo.  So Jem geet up an' looked eawt.

    "'Well,' hoo said, it's off, I guess?'

    "'Nay, it isn't,' said Jem.  'It's here yet,—an' there's a rook o' brokken teeth reawnd it.'

    "Well, they didn't know what to do wi't; but hoo persuaded him to try it again.  'Try it again,' hoo said, 'an' put a quart of ale, an' two or three cakes o' hard brade at th' side on't.  Thae'll find it'll goo.'

    "'I'll lev it nought short this time,' said Jem.  'I'll give 'em trimmin's enoo.  An' they're welcome to 'em, if they'n nobbut tak th' cheese.  An' I'll tell tho what, lass,' said Jem, turning to his wife,—

    "'What ?'

    "'The Lord deliver 'em if ever they getten ony o' that cheese into their insides!'

    "So they left this cheese eawt o' neet again, an' they put a clen plate, an' a knife, an' some saut, an' some mustart, an' three cakes o' hard brade, an' some onions, an' a quart of ale at th' side, an' hoo said, hoo're sure it would go neaw.  But owd Jem shak't his yed as he looked at this stuff upo' th' dur-step.

    "But he locked th' shop up, an' left 'em; an' they went to bed again.

    "Hoo wakken't th' first th' next mornin', an', as soon as hoo coom to hersel, hoo said, Jem!  Doesto yer?  That cheese!  See if it's gwon!'  So he geet up, an' looked eawt.

    "'It's gwon, isn't it?'

    "'Well,' he said, 'th' ale's gwon.'

    "'I towd tho it'd goo!' said Betty.

    "'An' th' brade is gwon.'

    "'I know it'd carry it off,' said hoo.

    "'An' th' plate,—an' th' knife,—an' th' saut,—an' th' mustart,—an' th' onions,—they're o' gwon.'

    "'Well, come to bed, then,' said hoo.  'A towd tho heaw it'd be.'

    "'Ay, but,' said Jem, 'th' cheese is here yet, owd lass an' there's a lot more brokken teeth abeawt it.'

    "'Is there nobody lookin' at it?' said th' wife.

    "'Nawe,—they'n fund it eawt .  .  . There's a dog smellin' at it .  .  . Ay, th' same as ever .  .  . I dunnot know what we mun do wi't,' said Jem, as he crope into bed again."

    "Well, what becoom o'th cheese at th' end of o'?" inquired Gablock.

    "Why," answered Kempy, "I believe they broke hammers, an' chisels, an' axes beawt end, wi' tryin' to get into't.  At last they did manage to make a hole in it with a joiner's augur; an' it ended in 'em blowin' th' cheese up wi' gunpeawder, an' mendin' th' garden walk wi't."

    "Neaw then," cried Mary, "it's time to drop it, when yo getten agate o' lyin' o' that shap.  What does thae think, Ben?"

    "I think they're at th' fur end, nearly," said Ben.

    "I think they are," replied Mary.  Kempy's gettin' as bad as Dolly o' Cruttle's for lyin'."

    "An' Doll wur a steawnger," said Gablock.  "Hoo led poor Owd Cruttle sich a life.  He'd no quietness at after he geet wed to Dolly."

    "Yigh, he had once," replied Kempy.

    "When wur that?" inquired Gablock.

    "Why, it wur when hoo wur laid up o'th rheumatic fayver abeawt six week," replied Kempy.  "Cruttle towd me that wur th' only time th' heawse wur quiet an' comfortable 'at after he geet wed."

    "To mi' thinkin', I'd as soon have a wild dromedary to manage as Doll," said Gablock.

    "Cruttle waited on her hand an' fuut o'th time 'at hoo wur ill, just th' same as if hoo'd bin an angel fro heaven," said Kempy.

    "Well," said Gablock, "it would look very hard if th' devil hissel wur taen ill an' there wur nobody to do a hond's turn for th' owd crayter, till sich times as he could get to his wark again.  I would do!  Wouldn't thae, Mary?"

    "I don't know," replied Mary.  "It's an awkert sort of a job.  I think I'd rayther pay somebory else to nurse him than do it myself."

    "Ben, here, would do it for a trifle,—wouldn't tho, Ben?" said Kempy.

    "Nay," replied Ben, " I'd rayther ha' no truck.  I've nought again him; but I'll try to keep as fur from him as ever I con,if he'll nobbut keep off me."

    "Th' same here, Ben," said Kempy.  "He's done some lumber, has that lad, in his time.  I could like him to keep an' odd feelt-bradth or two between us, as lung as I'm livin'.  If he's taen ill, he'll after look after hissel, for me,—or else he mun get a recommend .  .  . But we'n let him alone, if yon' a mind .  .  . I didn't tell yo abeawt Cruttle's wife bein' ill."

    "Yigh, thae did," said Gablock.

    "Ay, but I didn't tell yo abeawt th' doctor gooin."

    "Nawe.  Heaw wur it?"

    "Well, th' doctor went a-seein' her one day, when hoo're ill.  Cruttle had bin up o' neet wi' her, an' he wur sit i'th kitchen gettin' his breakfast quietly by hissel.  'Is there onybody with her?' said th' doctor.  'Ay,' said Cruttle, 'there's eawr Sarah, an' one or two moor.  Yo may goo up.'  An' up th' doctor went.  In a twothre minutes he coom deawn again.  'Well, doctor,' said Cruttle, 'what dun yo think?'  'Cruttle,' said th' doctor, layin' his hond on his shoolder, ' yo mun prepare for th' worst!'  'By th' mon,' said Cruttle, droppin' his spoon, 'is hoo gettin' better?'  .  .  . But hoo coom reawnd at after o',—an' Cruttle had mony a weary day wi' her afore he deed.  Poor owd lad!  He fell off th' edge o'th stone-delph."

    "He did," said Mary.  "I remember th' day .  .  . An' abeawt three week after he was buried, James Butter'oth met Dolly i'th road yon, an' he towd Dolly that he wur sorry to yer abeawt her husband bein' kilt."

    "'Eh, master,' said Dolly, 'it met ha' bin war (worse.)'

    "'I don't see how,' said James.

    "'Eh, yigh,' said Dolly.  'He met ha' bin lame't for life,—an' wheer should I ha' bin, then?'

    "Just like her," said Mary.

    Gablock and Ben rose from the table together.

    "Thank God for that!" said Gablock, stroking his hand down his waistcoat, by way of grace after meat.

    "Th' same here!" said Ben.

    As they stood stretching themselves in the middle of the floor, Gablock's eyes lighted upon a portrait hung against the wall.

    "Hello, Mary, this is a new un, isn't it?"

    "Nay, it's an owd un," replied Mary.  "Who is it like, thinken yo?"

    "I're just thinkin' it wur th' Queen o' Shayba, bith shap of her bonnet," said Gablock.

    "It's moor like one o' Don Paydro lasses, o' Portingale," said Kempy, rising from the table, and going to the picture, "It favvurs that breed abeawt th' nose.  Who is it, Mary?"

    "It's my gronmother!" replied Mary.  "My Uncle Charles sent it us as a present.  It wur takken when hoo wur yung.  I believe hoo wur thought a great beauty at that time."

    "I cannot see it i'th pickter, as heaw," said Gablock.  "But that's nought to go by.  If everybody i'th world wur as they're pickter't, there'd be sich a swappin' o' shops as never wur known."

    "Ay, but," replied Mary, "I believe hoo wur a very hondsome woman.  I've yerd my mother say hoo wur quite made a god on for a while; an' then hoo geet use't as ill at after."

    "Ay," said Gablock, "that's same as these blacks dun abrode (abroad).  If they can get howd of an owd table-leg, or a good-size't chip eawt of a joiner's shop, they can make a god o' their own in a twothre minutes.  But they dun knock their gods abeawt aboon a bit, dun thoose lads.  If yon co' a-seein' 'em abeawt nine o'clock in a forenoon, they're mee-mawin' an' prayin' to these bits o' wood 'at they'd thwittle't up, an' buyin' 'em hawp'oths o' toffy to keep em i' good temper, as if o'th world wur rule's by shavin's.  But, goo again, abeawt three o'clock i'th afternoon, an' yo'n find 'em punkin' this god o' theirs up an' deawn th' heawse like a fuut-bo, becose he hasn't done summat 'at they towdl him .  .  . But then I don't wonder at it.  Their gods are of a mak that'll stop swappin',—they wear'n eawt so fast.  They beeten th' fire wi' 'em sometimes.  An' if ever they're short of a 'spigget-an'-forcet,' they'n thwite a bit off th' end o' one o' their gods, an' rom him in!  Their gods doesn't last aboon a fortnit, if there's ony childer abeawt.  But it matters nought, they're chep enough.  They dunnot run aboon two-an'-eightpence a dozen,—th' little uns.  It depends upo' th' carvin'."

    "There is a deeol o' that mak o' wark gooin' on among leet-colour't folk, as weel as black uns," said Kempy.  "Isn't there, Ben?"

    "I dar say there is,—a bit,—here an' there," replied Ben.

    "Oh, what's this smell?" said Gablock, snuffing and looking round.  "There's summat brunnin', somewheer.  Hasto a pair o' leather breeches cookin' i'th oon, Mary?"

    "Nay," said Mary, opening the oven-door.  "There's nought at o' i'th oon.  But it smells strung, an' its wool, too, as wheer it is.  Eh, Ben, it's this jacket o' thine!"

    Ben had spread his coat out upon the fender, and a red cinder had fallen upon it.  The landlady's daughter nipt it up, and shook the cinder out.  There was a hole in it, certainly, but it was not very much worse.

    "Ben," said Mary, "there's a bit of a job for yor Betty, here.  Sitho, hoo mun cut a bit fro th' inside, an' then hoo can let it in wheer it's bin brunt, as nice as nip .  .  .  This jacket's quite dry, neaw," continued she, feeling at the lining.  "Here, I'll help thi with it on."

    Mary had, with a woman's quickness, instinctively taken a liking to Ben.

    "Ay," said Ben, as he donned his burnt coat with her assistance.  "Ay, I mun put it on, an' I mun be off, too, rain or fair."

    Kempy got up, and looked through the window.  "By th' mon, lads," said he, "it's clearin' up, grandly! .  .  Stop, I'll see and he went out at the kitchen door.  "It's clearin' up," repeated Kempy, shouting back into the kitchen.  "There's as much blue sky yonder as would make a pair o' breeches apiece for everybody there is i' this hole."

    "Then I'll be goon'," said Ben.  "It's been a lung storm."

    "Ay, an' a strung un, too," said Gablock.  "I never seed as mich thunner an' leetenin' i'th same time i' my life."

    "Well, I never yerd of onybody seein' th' thunner afore!" said Mary.

    "Well, but I can see it when it maks my hond shake,—connot I? " replied Gablock.

    "I'll drop it," answered Mary.

    "Is there aught in the almanack abeawt this storm?" asked Kempy.

    "I believe Owd Moore's forespokken this dooment," answered Gablock.

    "I noather care for Owd Moore nor noan on 'em," replied Kempy.  "If ever I buy another almanack, I'll buy one that hasn't so mich thunner in it as we'n had to-day."

    In the meantime the rain had stopped, and the sky was clearing fast.

    "What have I to pay?" said Ben, pulling out his nine-pence.

    "If thae mentions that again," said Mary, "I'll knock thi yed off! . .  .  Oh, stop, my mother wants to see tho afore tho gwos."  And she ran to tell her mother that Ben was going home.

    The old landlady called Ben into the bar, where she could speak to him quietly; and after she had given him orders for besoms, and herbs, and eggs, she sent kind messages to Ben's wife, and she told Ben to be sure and bring them all down to see her before the week was over.  In fact, the old woman had quietly made up her mind to do them a good turn; but she could not exactly tell what shape to put it in yet.  But she shook hands with Ben, and bade him "Good day!" with a moist eye; for she was thinking of her old favourite,—Ben's wife,—and, in addition to that, she, like Mary, had begun to take a liking to Ben.

    "Well, good afternoon, lads," said Ben, as he went to the kitchen door.

    "Thae'rt noan beawn off o' that road, arto?" said Kempy.  " Come, sit tho deawn, an' give us a sung.  I know thae's some notes in tho, if thae says nought."

    "Ay, come, sit tho deawn a bit," cried Gablock.  "It's to late to mend a day's wark.  Thae'll not goo an' lev us o' that shap, wilco?  Come, dunnot be shabby.  Thae's nought particular to do."

    "Yo known nought what he has to do," said Mary.

    "I'll be goon'," said Ben.  And he walked out, and closed the door behind him.

    By this time the sky was clear again.  A gentle wind had sprung up, and the cool air was filled with sweet smells.  The birds were singing with redoubled glee, the thick-leaved trees were waving and rustling in the balmy gale, and, now that the storm was over, the rain-pearled hedges and every green thing rejoiced in the sun's returning smile.  And Ben rejoiced, too, as he took his way out at the top end of the village towards his cottage on the sweet wild moors, for his heart was filled with "peace and goodwill towards all mankind."



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