SNECK-BANT; OR, THE OLD TOLL BAR.
At length his lonely cot appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an agèd
Th' expectant wee things, toddlin', stacher through
To meet their dad, wi' flichterin' noise an' glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinking bonnily,
His clean hearth-stave, his thrifty wifie's smile,
The lisping infant prattling on his knee,
Does a' his weary carking cares beguile,
And makes him quite forget his labours and his toil.
THE storm was over, and
the blue sky was beginning to smile upon the world again, as Ben the besom
maker left the village of Whitworth and took his way up the hill-side
towards his cottage at the edge of the wild moors. Ben chose the
shortest cuts,—blind, wandering sheep-tracks, that sometimes led through
patches of swampy moss, which trembled and splashed under foot, till, to
use his own words, he was "welly (well-nigh) slutched up to th' neck,"
with peat mire. Now and then his path was crossed by rugged
water-courses, swollen with torrents from the hills,—the moorland hills
that rose high and bleak to the eastward, rolling far away in billows of
lonely grandeur, with many a sweet secluded vale between. But Ben
held bravely on his way. Neither "mosses, waters, slaps, nor stiles"
could stay his foot, so eager was he to reach the shelter of his own
little fireside. There was not a sound to be heard but the voice of
rushing streams, which came from all parts of the hill-sides, in tones of
drowsy solemnity; for man and beast had scarcely recovered from the
terrors of the storm, and the moor-fowl was still trembling in its nest.
Betty had been sorely frightened, and her heart was anxious
for her husband. Many a time had she looked through the
quarrel-paned [diamond-paned; a pane shaped like the head of the quarrel;
the arrow used for the ancient cross-bow] window into the rain, and wished
that he was at home. Whilst the lightning flashed and the thunder
rattled upon the lonely moor, she held her children clipped in her arms,
and murmured, "Oh, I wish he would come! Surely he'll creep in
somewheer eawt o' this! I wish he would come!" And still she
clipped them to her arms and trembled, whilst the tempest raged around her
solitary dwelling . . . As the storm abated her spirits
revived, and when she had soothed her terrified children, she set about
making the place as comfortable as possible, in expectation of Ben's
arrival. She mended the fire, scoured the hearth, set on the kettle,
and hung up clothing to air, in readiness for him to change. In the
meantime the rain had ceased, the sky was slowly brightening, and the
flowers in Ben's garden had lifted their heads, and were smiling through
their tears to see the clouds sail away from the expanding blue once more.
A strange stillness lay upon the landscape, as if everything had been
struck dumb by the tempest. Betty threw open the door, and the first
thing that met her eyes was Dimple. There he stood, close to the
threshold, gazing into the house with patient eyes. Dimple had been
away on a browsing ramble, down towards the valley; but when the storm
began he had made the best of his way homeward again. Finding the
door of the shed closed, he crept under a spreading thorn-bush near the
garden; and there he stood, with his tail nipped in, and his ears laid
back,—indeed, his whole body twitched into as little compass as possible,
apparently as motionless as a statue, though trembling with terror, whilst
the storm raged all around him. But when the wild uproar died out,
and little birds began to twitter a timid welcome to the return of peace,
the donkey trickled forth from his shower-laden shelter, and crept as
close as he could to the cottage door. There he stood, whisking his
tail and pricking his ears at every stir he heard inside. When Betty
opened the door, Dimple's patient face was the first thing that met her
eyes. Leading him away by one ear to his wooden shed at the
house-end, she shook down a little hay, and, leaving him to enjoy himself
in peace, she began to saunter about the front of the cottage, gazing at
the scene, as if half expecting to find some mark of disastrous change
after such a tempest . . . It was a lovely evening!
Peaceful beauty was beginning to spread her wings over the storm-beaten
moors again. Betty looked along the bridle-path, but there was
nobody in sight. There was no visible living thing astir in all the
scene, except the few small birds that were beginning to twitter in the
garden and about the cottage eaves. But with nature's returning
smile the sounds of cheerful life were creeping back into glad expression
all around. The moor-fowl was cooing soft notes to its frightened
brood, as it fluttered its wet plumage for an evening flight across the
rain-spent heather; and there was a low buzz of awakening pleasure in all
the air. A soft wind, laden with the smell of flowers, was wandering
around; and on its wings there came floating up from the valley the low of
kine at milking-time, mingled with the faint-heard strain of a fiddler, on
his way home with a wedding party. And yet, contrasted with the wild
uproar which had so lately filled the air, the whole landscape seemed
strangely still. Betty hovered restlessly about the front of the
cottage, and she went to the house-end again and again, and gazed eagerly
along the moorside, like a low-roosted lark tooting out for its
minstrel-mate's return. At length she caught a glimpse of Ben's
figure brushing through the heather by a short cut, and the comely little
woman's warm heart leaped in her breast for joy. Ben shouted aloud,
and waved his hat round and round; and Betty fluttered away into the
house, to tell the children that their father was coming, The eyes
of the little things were scarcely dry; but they clapped their hands, and
crowed, "wi' flichterin' noise an' glee," at the news; and Billy would
fain have paddled out barefoot into the wet road to meet his dad.
Betty had much ado to keep him in. At last she, herself, with love
too impatient for the lessening distance that divided them, nipped the
chuckling lad into her arms, and hurried out to the house-end again.
There, with glowing heart and laughing eye, she met her husband, and
welcomed him with a burst of simple affection,—sweet as the odour of the
rose that greets the morning gale,—glad as the skylark's welcome to the
"Eh, Ben!" cried she, "I'm fain thae's getten whoam, lad!
Come thi ways in, an' get those weet things off!"
"Weet?" replied Ben. "Nought o'th sort, lass. I'm
as dry as a oon-shelf; an' as hearty as a hare! Let's ha' some
baggin'. I'm dry enough."
"Dry?" answered Betty. "Theaw never art. What, theaw'rt
slutch't up to th' shoolders, mon. An' look at thi breeches!
Go thi ways in, an' get thi things off!"
"Agreed on," replied Ben, moving towards the house.
"Agreed on, lass; for I'm dampish abeawt th' legs wi' wadin' through th'
weet moor; but o' tother's as dry as a bakin'-spittle" (baking-shovel).
"Eh," said Betty, feeling his shoulders, "I thought thae'd
ha' bin fair sipein' (trickling) at after this pasha."
"Sipein'?" replied Ben. "Ay, by th' mon, thae may weel say
sipein', lass. Eh, what a storm! But, as it happens, I crope
into a comfortable nook, wheer I geet my clooas dried, or else I've bin as
weet as a wayter-dog once to-day. Eh, heaw it did come deawn!
It's a good while sin I wur as primely borne't (swilled) as I've bin this
time. Th' world wur gettin' drufty (droughty), at after so mich sun;
but, by th' moon, they'n letten us sup at last,—beawt stint. Eh, it
would ha' stode (wearied) a clatch o' ducks! I could feel nine
different bits o' brucks (brooks) runnin' deawn th' inside o' my clooas;
an' mi shoon made a weet solch every time I planted a hoof. Talk
abeawt wayter! God bless thi life, lass, I've bin as weet as a
walkin' dish-cleawt once to-day! But, bother no more abeawt it.
I'm used to't. Thae never finds me ony war for a bit of a steepin',
doesto? Folk 'at's bin brought up o' yirth-bobs an' scaplins are
noan so soon kilt. Bother noan! It's clearin' up, nicely.
Let's go in. Heaw didto get on, lass, while it wur agate?"
"Eh, I did wish thae'd bin awhoam," said Betty.
"But come thi ways in, an' doff tho. An' get summat warm into tho,―for
thae'll do wi't."
"Howd thi din, lass, wilto," replied Ben. "I've had
fine times on't, mon, while th' thunner wur agate. Just when th'
storm wur at th' height,―hommer an' tungs,—an'
thunnerbowts flyin' up an' deawn like hailstones I geet croppen into a
grand owd chimbly-nook, wi' a pitcher o' warm ale an' rum at my elbow, an'
a nice lass dryin' my clooas, beside. What doesto think o' that?
Rare doin's I co' it!"
"Eh, Ben! Thae knows wheer to find a good shop, when
thae wants one."
"Howd thi din!" answered Ben. "I'd ten times rayther
ha' bin awhoam,—weet as I wur. Nay, mon, nay. Th' owd spot for
me, for ever an' ever, amen! I're playin' straight for this nook,
through thunner an' leetenin' an' rain,—when I geet stop't. I didn't
goo in o' mysel. They very near poo'd me in bith scuff o'th neck, or
else I'd ne'er ha' stopt theer, thae may depend. Wheer wur it,
"Nay, heaw con I tell? Theaw's so mony co'in (calling)
"What dost think o'th Red Lion, at Whit'oth?"
"What, th' owd woman's?"
"I towd to."
"Well, thae caps me! I thowt yo two would never ha' bin
thick as long as yo'd live't."
"We're noan so thick, yet, lass, I doubt. But it's
true, for o' that. I've bin theer."
"Well, I never yerd th' marrow! . . . Come
thi ways in! Here, tak that cheer, and let's be knowin' . .
. But afore thou gates (begins) a-talkin', goo an' don these dry
things. Here, off witho upstairs, while I lay th' baggin eawt."
"Just as thou likes, lass," said Ben. "I need no dry
things. Thae may gi me a pair o' stockin's i' thae's a mind. I
con do for tother.
"Go thi ways," replied Betty. "Thi legs are wringin' weet;
an' thae'rt war slutch't nor an owd stone-cart. There, tak these
things, an' off witho."
"O' reet!" answered Ben, as he went upstairs, with the
clothes on his arm.
"Well," said Betty, as she stirred the fire, after Ben had
disappeared, "that's a capper of a tale, as heaw! . . .
But I'll get th' baggin' ready."
By this time there was not a cloud upon the sky. The
evening was deliciously cool, and the smell of the flowering heather
filled the air with delicate delight. The rain had covered the
lonely hills with twinkling beauty. Every sprig of heather and blade
of grass had "kepped its ain drag o' sweet." The patches of bright
moss by the sides of the water-courses were all sprinkled with liquid
gems; and the big drops on the thorn-bush in front of the cottage danced
with changeful gleams of brilliance to the slightest stir of the evening
wind. The sun had just gone down behind Holcombe Hill, but his
lingering splendour still lay upon the upper slopes of the eastward hills,
tinging every little rain-star with a glow of molten gold; and where the
moorside was in shadow, the purple heather, blent with varying tints of
green, shone out in its richest tones. It was a glorious evening.
The sandstone pavement between the cottage and the garden was as clean as
a new plate, and everything looked sweet and fresh. The well was
tinkling its old melody to the poor man's rest. The murmurs of
distant waters came from the hill-sides, and the voice of the swollen
stream behind the house, rushing to the valley, rose with a dreamy sound
upon the evening air.
In a few minutes, Ben had come downstairs again, comfortably
clad, and he was seated in the arm-chair by the hob, with little Billy on
his knee, croodling to the happy lad, whilst Betty scattered little bits
of endearing chatterment upon them as she cluttered to and fro at her
housework . . . The youngest child was asleep in the
cradle, and Ben, forgetful of all the storms that ever blew, was up to the
eyes in pleasant business with Billy,—now clipping him to his breast, now
dancing him upon his knee, to the measure of some old song, now rocking
him upon one foot for a cock-horse, now tossing him aloft till his curly
hair brushed the herbs that hung from the ceiling, and the little fellow
screamed with delight, and cried out for his dad to do it again, and
again. Betty watched them with glowing eyes, as she went to and fro,
and she hardly knew what to say, she was so pleased with the picture .
. . They were as fain to see one another as if half a lifetime
had intervened since their last meeting; and as they sat around their
simple board that evening, heaven saw with a smile the unconscious play of
unaffected tenderness that marked their little attentions to one another.
There was the essential element of all true politeness, gushing from the
fountain heart in these untrained children of nature . . .
Meanwhile, the blue heavens, suffused with the hues of sunset, looked in
at the rain-dropped lattice, filling the cottage with a quiet grandeur,
which touched the hearts of those within till they unconsciously subdued
their voices, as if there was something too sacred in its solemn charm to
be disturbed by a too boisterous joy. Pleasant odours came in with
the evening wind, and the bundles of herbs hanging about the ceiling made
the place "as sweet as Bucklersbury at simple time."
"Ben," said Betty, as she filled up the tea-pot, "wilto ha'
loaf-trade, or that'll have oon-cake?"
"Oon-cake for me," replied Ben, clipping Billy again. "Oon-cake
"I thought so," answered she, glancing at Ben and Billy.
"I thought so. Eh, yo are some thick, yo two."
"Thick! We're as thick as a pair o' owd reawsty
inkleweyvers! Aren't we, Billy? I say, lass, thae'd better do
a bit o' bacon."
"Sitho, mon," replied Betty, opening the oven door, and
showing him a plateful of fried collops. "I thought thae'd ha'
smelled 'em afore neaw."
"I've bin too busy wi' this little pouse to smell aught at
o'. Thae likes thi dad, doesn't thou, Billy?"
"Yigh," lisped the little fellow, "an' my mam an' o'."
"God bless that little face!" cried Betty, setting the teapot
down, and seizing the child round the neck. "It's worth a million,
just this minute, it is! I'll have a kussin', if I live! .
. . Neaw, then, kiss thi dad, love, while I teem th' ray eawt."
Billy cocked up his rosy neb for a kiss, and then Ben gently
tickled the lad's soft chin with his beard, till it made him scream with
delight. Then setting him astride his foot again, he swung him up
and down, singing, "Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross;" and Billy laughed
and crowed till the tears came to his eyes. After that, Ben had to
sing Baa-lamb Black Sheep," and " Little Johnny Lingo," and
High diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle;
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see the fine sport,
While the dish ran after the spoon.
and "Humpty-dumpty," and "Goosey, goosey, gander," and "One, two, buckle
my shoe;" and such like chicken-rhymes, whilst Betty arranged the table.
"It's baum tay" (balm tea), said Betty. "I'm eawt o'th
"Never mind," replied Ben. "It's as good as ony mak
(any sort). I could ha' brought thou some gradely tay if thae'd
"I never gav it a thought," said Betty, filling up his cup.
"My gronmother uses no mak else," answered Ben. An' I'd
as soon have it mysel."
"Neaw then," said Betty, pulling her chair up. "O's
ready. Draw to. Get some o' that bacon. I'm sure thae'll
"I'm rayther sharp set, for sure, lass," replied he.
"It smells nice."
"It is nice," answered Betty, shifting the pots to make room
for his plate . . . "I'll tell thou what, Ben,—we's want
a bigger table in a bit."
"Never mind," replied Ben; "'God never sends mouths but he
sends meight,' as th' sayin' is."
"Nawe," said Betty, "He doesn't. But sometimes th'
mouths are at one place, an' th' meight at another."
"Well," replied Ben, with a quiet sigh, "it leets so,
sometimes, for sure, lass. But let's do as weel as we con, an' try
to make th' best o' what comes . . . Artn'to beawn to
ha' some bacon?"
"It's rayther too rich."
"Couldn't manage a bit o' sallet?"
"I think I could."
"Here," said Ben, handing Billy to his mother, "stick to this
lad while I go to th' garden."
"Come, my lad," said Betty, taking Billy upon her knee,
whilst Ben went out to the garden, with his pocket-knife in his hand.
In a minute or two Ben looked over the garden-hedge, and
cried out, "Heigh! doesto yer, lass?"
"Mun I bring two-three chives?"
"Ay," shouted Betty, "if thae'll ha' some thisel."
Ben returned with both hands full. In one he held a lot
of crisp salad, and in the other a bunch of flowers. Betty set the
lad down upon a chair, and began to wash the salad, whilst Ben arranged
the posies in a pot upon the windowsill.
"Eh, it is a bonny neet!" said he, glancing through the
window as he arranged the flowers. "These wall-fleawers are
first-rate this time. An' th' roses are i' good heart, too. I
never seed th' garden look as weel i' my life, I think . . .
Theer!" continued he, giving a finishing touch to the bouquet. "Theer,
lass,—that's pratty, isn't it?"
"It is pratty!" replied she, shaking the water from the salad
in her hand, as she looked at the flower-pot. "It is pratty!
Thae knows heaw to trim a posy up, Ben."
"Thae'rt my posy, lass," answered Ben, putting his arm round
her waist, as she brushed by him with the salad in her hand. "Thae'rt
my posy! Come, I's be like to smell."
"Nay, do be quiet," replied she, turning her lips with
a smile towards his. "Do be quiet, an' let me set these things.
Thae'll make me slatter 'em. Look at that lad, mon. He wonders
what thae'rt after. Th' little thing's noan use't to seein' groon-up
folk makin' fool's o' theirsels."
When Ben had heartily saluted the rosy petals of his own
sweet posy, he let her go; and rubbing his hands as he took his seat at
the table again, he gave another glance at the window, and said, "Ay, it
is a bonny neet, for sure,—after this storm."
"It is," replied Betty, drawing her chair up, and taking
Billy upon her knee. "It al'ays clears up again, doesn't it?"
"It does," answered Ben, giving her a gentle slap on theback.
"It does, an' I hope it al'ays will do! . . . Come,
let's get this baggin'!"
And thus they sat, mingling their simple evening meal with
pleasant chat together.
When they had finished, Betty fed the youngest child, sang it
to sleep, and took it up to bed. Billy cried to "stop up," and, as
Ben pleaded for him, his mother consented for him to stay "a bit longer."
When she began to clear away the table-things, Ben put the lad's hat on,
and went to the door with him; and everything looked so sweet and still
that he turned back for a chair, and planting it under the window, he sat
down, and crossed his legs.
In a few minutes he turned his head, and cried out, "Betty!"
"When thae's done, come an' sit here a bit. Eh, it is
nice, eawtside! "
"As soon as ever I've sided up!" replied she.
And the jingle of the tea-things, as she put them away in her
corner cupboard, came with a pleasant sound into the quiet air outside.
"Mun I bring th' 'bacco?" said she, looking through the open
window, when she had cleared the table.
"Ay, do," replied Ben, knocking the ashes from his short
pipe. "Let's have a smooke."
"Here," said she, bringing the tobacco-pot, and a chair,
"fill up, an' I'll leet it for tho."
He charged his pipe, and when she had lit it for him at the
fire, she sat down by his side, and they looked silently about them for
two or three minutes, at the sweet evening scene. Twilight was
sinking upon the hills, and there was not a sound to be heard in the nook
where they sat, but the tinkle of the well, the murmur of the stream
behind the house, and Billy's fitful prattle, mingling now and then with
the silver solo of some little bird lingering late in the garden.
"Heaw quiet everything is," said Betty, drawing her chair
nearer to Ben's.
"Very," replied he. I al'ays think there's summit fine
abeawt th' eawl-leet. Everything looks so nice, as if th' world wur
fo'in asleep after a good day's wark. Beside, it reminds one o'th
owd cwortin'-time. But thae forgets sich like things neaw, I
"Eh, nay, not I. Never shall, while I'm livin'.
But one's other things to think at, neaw, thae knows . . .
Hardly a brids stirrin', is there?"
"Yigh," replied Ben, " there's one. I yerd it cheep
"What is it?" answered Betty, looking round. "I yer nought."
"Theer it is again!" said Ben.
"Whatever is it?"
"It's thee, mon,—it's thee!" replied Ben, putting his arm
round her. "What, thae hasn't hauve th' ear for music that I have.
Unbutton thi ears!"
"Neaw then," replied Betty, leaning towards him, "thae'rt
beginnin' again . . . But sometimes, when I'm by mysel,
I get it into my yed that thae doesn't like me as weel as thae use't to
"What!" replied Ben, clipping her closer, and staring into
her eyes. "Thae never does?"
"I do, for sure," replied she, with a slight tremble in her
"Oh, Ben!" cried Betty, half starting from his warm embrace,
"theaw's never towd me abeawt th' Red Lion."
"No moor I have," he replied, clearing the ashes from his
pipe again. "But I will do."
When Ben had charged his pipe, and lighted it again, he gave
his wife a full and particular account of all that had befallen him during
the day. He told his story frank and free, and in a merry way; for,
simple-hearted as he was, there was a rich vein of humour in his nature.
He told her how the dog had startled him as he crossed the yard at Healey
Hall; how he was behind his time; and what reception he had met with from
the old colonel. He gave her a glowing account of the storm, and how
he was making the best of his way through it, drenched to the skin, when,
to his great surprise, he was almost pulled into shelter by the landlady
and her daughter at the Red Lion. Betty was delighted to hear of her
old friend, for she knew full well the genuine worth and the tenderness
that underlay her curious manners; and it had often grieved her heart to
think that they should be so long estranged. Ben was a rare mimic,
too; and, as he imitated the old woman's quaint manner and tone of voice.
Betty laughed at the truth of the picture till the water stood glittering
in her eyes; but when he told of the tender allusions the old woman had
made to herself, and how earnestly she had pressed him to let her come and
see her before she died, the kindliest sluices of her heart gave way, and
the tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
"Eh," said Betty, wiping her eyes, "I could dearly like to
goo an' see th' owd body. Thae knows, Ben, as quire as hoo is, hoo
wur al'ays very good to me."
"I know that, lass," replied Ben.
"I could like to see her, for sure," continued Betty.
"What dost think if I goo while thae'rt off at Yelley Ho', to-morn?"
"Well, do, lass," replied he, giving her a slap on the
shoulder. "Do. We'n goo deawn together i'th mornin'. So
get thisel ready, an' th' childer, an' I con co' for yo as I come back."
"Eh, I will, Ben, if that's a mind."
"Well, I've towd tho! An' thae's ride, too! Thank
God we han a jackass of our own, if we'n nought else. Thae's
ride! An' off we'n goo,—like Darby an' Joan! So get thisel
ready,—th' childer an' o'!"
"I'll not be so lung abeawt that, that may depend . .
. But come, let's goo in! It's gettin' cowd; an' this little thing's
quite done o'er. I'll put him to bed. Let's goo in!"
They went inside, and the door was closed for the night.
In a few minutes Betty had stripped her sleepy lad. His little
things lay strewn around; and he knelt at her knee saying his prayers,
repeating each sentence after her with all the lisping prettiness of an
inarticulate child. But when she came to "Give us this day our daily
bread," the little fellow paused for an instant, and, lifting his face
from his hands, he said, as he looked sleepily up, "Ay, an' butter to't
an' o', mother!" And then, ending his simple orisons by scattering
child-like blessings on everything that had twined around his little
heart,—his dad, his mam, his brother, his uncle Joe, an' little Doe o'
Billy's, an' Rover, an' Dimple,—his drowsy eyes were almost shut before
his prayers were done; and when Ben had gently kissed his sleepy face
again, she took him up to bed, and long before the stroke of ten had
boomed from the grey tower of St. Chad's they were all sound asleep, and
the moon had flooded the silent landscape with her silvery light once
"This is a mery mornyge," said little John,
'Be hym that dyed on tre;
A more mery man than I am one
Lyves not in Christiante."
AND THE MONK.
THE storm of the
previous day had swept the heavens of every baleful thing, and when
morning touched the hills again with its cheerful light the heathery moors
began to throb with a quickened sense of joy and beauty. The sky
seemed vaster than before, and the soft witchery that dwells in that
wondrous dome of blue, o'er-canopied the scene with its beneficent smile,
as if to assure this world that the commotions of Nature are governed by
blending law and love,—law infallible in its justice, and love too deep
for the heart of man to know. All things in heaven and earth seemed
glad. The birds sang with renovated glee, the rivers danced and
shimmered as they ran, tinged with morning's orient glow, and the nimble
air like a young colt set free from its load, was full of jocund
freshness. Lapping the green earth in its blithe embrace, it seemed
to steep all things in a cheerful spell, as if it was fondling a
new-created world. It seemed to whisper gladness to every lonely
lichen clinging to its cleft of rock,—to the bluebell swinging its incense
in the woods, and the soft mosses that cushion weather-stained walls with
beauty,—to the small white rose on the bramble,—to the golden celandine,
to the "crimson-tippit" daisy, and to the kindly herbage that takes the
graves of the forgotten into the sweet embrace of Nature,—to the medicinal
plant teeming with friendliness for man "when sickness makes him pale,"—to
the lowly dock, spreading its patient leaves by marsh and pool, and
murmuring river's marge,—and to the delicate meadow grasses, by the side
of which old Linnæus knelt, praising the
Lord for their wondrous beauty,—to all things, great and small, the blithe
air seemed to whisper the story of the old kindliness that dwells in the
highest heavens in silence. And all the earth was glad . .
. The little bud, which during the storm had shrunk affrighted to the
shelter of the mother-flower, now struggled to unfold its leaves into a
smile, and everything that had sweetness gushed forth its odour to the
caressing air, like a chastened child rushing to its relenting mother's
arms, laden with the rich aroma of a passionate responsive joy. The
gauzy inhabitants of the sunbeam, that are born with the morning's smile,
and die with the fading glow of day, were beginning to flutter out their
little hour of life in wild gyrations between the eye and the sky; and the
joyous lark "high-poised" in sunny air, where neither bird nor gaze of man
could reach him, was singing like some stray minstrel from the groves of
Paradise, sent down to teach the dwellers upon earth how glad the blest
can be. Affrighted Nature had recovered calmness; and where some
tears still lingered in her eyes, they were now lighted with the radiance
of a new-born joy . . . Such was the bright morning that
dawned upon the moors after the day when Ben had taken shelter from the
storm at the Red Lion, in the old village of Whitworth.
It was within a few minutes of eight o'clock, and the strong
sun was fast exhaling the moisture from the moors. Ben had been
working in his garden since five, whilst Betty cleaned up the house, and
got things ready for the morning's journey, and she was so pleased with
the idea of the coming trip, that, as she went about her work, she trilled
out many a pretty snatch of country song, for, like Ben, she was gifted
with a notable voice, and good natural taste for music. Many a time
during the course of the morning she had run outside in the fulness of her
glee, to have a bit of chat with Ben, and ask him simple questions,
through the garden hedge. The door and the windows were wide open,
and a few yards down the lane Dimple stood browsing by the wayside, ready
graithed for his journey. And there was a general air of preparation
for something new about the little cottage.
The lonely slope of Lobden was one wide scene of wild beauty.
Lonely it seemed, for there was no human being in sight, and the only
sounds that stirred the air were such as made the solitude more evident.
Now and then the crack of a gun re-echoed among the hills. Some
indistinct sounds of life came from the distant valley, and here and there
the moor cock sprang from his heathery cover, and his wild cry rang clear
across the scene,—"Co-back! Co-back! Co-back! Keb-oweigh!"—followed
by the croodling notes of the hen bird, "Cooterty-coo! Cooterty-coo!
Coo! Coo! Cooterty-coo!" and then all was silent for awhile,
but the ripple of the skylark's lay, the clear twitter of a few small
birds, close at hand, or the wail of a plover sailing by at a little
It was nearly eight o'clock, and by this time the cottage was
on the shady side of the sun. The space between the house and the
garden was cool and pleasant, and the pavement of sandstone blocks, worn
smooth by long footing, was even cleaner than usual after the heavy rain.
The door and the windows were wide open, and there was a kind of holiday
smile upon the very walls of the little house, and upon everything about
it. The flowers in the pots upon the window-sill, inside, seemed
quite contented to smile out their little remnant of life in that pleasant
prison-house, whilst those which were peeping over the garden wall looked
as if they were beckoning to their captive comrades to come back to the
garden again, and enjoy the sweetness of the morning,—as schoolboys, who
have been let loose, linger about outside, whistling to those who are kept
in at late tasks. Ben sat on the edge of the well-trough, leaning
upon an old spade, and on the ground beside him lay a crushed billycock
hat, which had been his close companion through storm and sunshine for
many a long day. It was sadly battered, and he only wore it about
the house and in the garden, now. Ben's countenance glowed with good
humour and the flush of healthy exercise, and his large hands were baked
over with the soil in which he had been working some three hours. By
his side sat a tall, square-built man, in the dress of a gamekeeper, and
seemingly about thirty-five years of age. He was a strong, hardy
man, well seasoned by habitual exposure to changes of weather that would
have extinguished a less massive vitality, and on his large aquiline
features there was a settled leonine calm, indicative of great
determination of character. And yet, there was a quiet twinkle in
his hazel eye, and something about the lines of that well-cut mouth, which
bespoke a touch of the humourist. This was "Randle o' Rough Cap's,"
one of the lord of the manor's moorland gamekeepers. Ben and he were
born within half a mile of each other, on the Lobden side of the hills.
They had been great cronies when lads together, and the same attachment
held them still, though quite in an undemonstrative way.
Circumstances had thrown them a few miles asunder, and to Ben's simple
mind his friend was a man, now, eminently successful in life; but nothing
except death itself could break the bond of instinctive attraction which
first united them. They were natural friends, though they said very
little about it; for, with them, there was no need for any anxiety about
the matter,—no need for a constant succession of outward and visible signs
to prove that the sign that twined around their hearts were not giving
way. Most of the so-called friendships in this world of "greetings
where no kindness is" are but painful mockeries of that noble
name,—cowardly concessions to the general mush of hypocritical
complacency, trembling in the balance with every mutation of life, because
they are founded more upon fleeting fancies and merely worldly interests
than upon affinity of character. Compared with these the friendship
of Ben and Randal was as the light of a fixed star to the flame of a
candle flickering in the veering gusts of an uncertain wind. They
were sure of one another,—whatever changes fortune might bring,—and
therefore their friendship yielded a life-long quiet joy.
Randal had been a ranger of the Wardle moors, about three
miles eastward, for nearly ten years; and something of their stern
solemnity and silent loneliness seemed to have suffused his nature.
He had broken his left arm about a fortnight before. It hung in a
sling from his shoulder, and having been on a visit to the famous
bone-setters, at the village of Whitworth, he had come a mile or so out of
his way to call upon Ben, and to have a chat with him. They sat
together upon the edge of the stone well-trough, and the keeper held a
pitcher of Betty's home-brewed in his right hand. Randal was a man
of few words. Ben was naturally the more garrulous of the two,
though neither of them was much at talking. But this unexpected
meeting had thawed them both a little, and they were quite "throng,"
talking of old times, and telling one another the "uncuths" (bits of
strange news) of their separate neighbourhoods.
"Middlin' o' brids upo' th' moor this time, I think," said
"Ay," replied Randal, "but they're terrible wild upo' th'
"I guess thae'll not ha' sin mich on 'em this time,"
"Yigh," replied Randal. "I've bin upo' th' moor nearly
every day; but, thae knows, one's nought good to wi' a brokken arm. They'n
had to get Turvin Ben i' my place. Good keeper, is Ben."
"Han yo had ony fresh shooters upo' yon side?" said Ben.
"Ay," replied Randal; "to mony, for my likin'. Eawr
maister's doin' to mich at it this time. He brought welly twice as
mony guns this time as there wur last oppenin' day. There'll hardly
be a fither to fire at when they'd done. They'n clear yon clod,
stump and rump, if they gwon on as they are doin'."
"Oh, ay! Who are they?"
"Well, I connot tell, justly. They coom fro' o' sides.
Strangers to me. Some on 'em are friends o' Dearden's, fro'
Gloucester road on. One on 'em's th' best shot 'at ever trode yon
greawnd, an' th' merriest little scopperil, too."
"I guess Dick 'ud be among 'em ?"
"What Dick?" inquired Randal.
"Th' 'tourney," replied Ben.
"Dick! Oh, ay! Say little!" answered Randal.
"Dick the Divel," I co' him. Oh, ay, he wur theer. Him an'
this tother wur as thick as inkle-weighvers. Eh, dear! They
wur as thrunk (throng, busy) as Throp wife together. They wur as
wild as two scoaded rattons every time they met one another. I could
make nought o' their talk; but they went through some marlocks, those two
"I know Dick," replied Ben. "We'n had him o' this side
mony a time. He's a quare un, is Dick. Terrible nattle
betimes; but noan o'th warst mak for o' that. I think I never
laughed as mich i' my time as when he're upo' Rooley Moor, one oppenin'
day. Eh, th' pranks 'at that mon did play at owd Mall's aleheawse,
at th' top o'th moor! An' th' talk! Eh, by th' mon!"
"Oh, say little," said Randal. "He's a merry
chap,—very. He ails nought 'at I know on, nobbut he talks to mich
off at th' side, neaw an' then; an' he's foo'-hard."
"Th' best jumper 'at ever live't! " said Ben.
"Good wrostler, too," continued Randal.
"Ay, an' one o'th bowd'st riders 'at ever crossed a tit,"
"Ay, he is," answered Randal. "I lippen on him
breighkin' his neck some o' these days."
"He should ha' bin a sodiur," continued Ben.
"Well," said Randal, "he'd ha' fougbten like a lion, as fur
as that gwos; but he're to short-temper't for a good sodiur."
"Well, ay,—as thae says," replied Ben. "Come, Rondle,
thae gets noan on wi' that ale."
"It's soon on i'th day yet, mon," said Randal. Then,
raising the pitcher to his mouth, he nodded quietly at Ben, and said,
"Ay, do," replied Ben, acknowledging the toast with
"Oh, Randle," said Ben, "I wish thae could send me two or
three moss-roses fro yon side. Thae's better chances o' gettin'
sichk like things nor I have."
"What, for th' garden?" inquired Randal. Ad.
"Well," replied Randal, with a kind of grunt, "we'n see.
Heaw arto for gooseberries?"
"Eh," said Ben, "I ha'not a fayberry tree i'th garden.
Conto get me one or two?"
"Say little!" answered Randle. "I'll try to bring a
twothre bits o' things th' next week, when I come to th' doctor's.
We can happen manage to fill ony bare greawnd 'at thae's getten."
"Well, thae knows," began Ben.
"Enough said!" replied Randal, interrupting him. "I'll
bring 'em . . . Hasto ony black currant?"
"But, here," said Ben, rising to his feet, "thae'd better
come an' have a look at th' garden."
"Agreed on," replied Randal.
Away they went into the garden, where they spent about a
quarter of an hour in discussing the nature of the soil, and the plants
that grew in it.
"I tell tho what, Rondle," said Ben, closing the little gate,
as they came back to sit upon the well-trough again, "I like this garden.
It does for one to play wi' if its nought else."
"Well, ay," answered Randal. "An' it cheerfuls th' nook
a bit too! I like a garden, mysel. Thae's two or three nice
things in it; but thae'rt noan o'erstock't, Ben . . .
Well; we mun see what we can do."
"I'll tell tho what, Rondle," said Ben. "There's a deal
o'th owd set gwon sin thae lift this side."
"I dar say," said Randal, quietly.
"Eh, ay," continued Ben. "Owd Billy Cryer,—an' Johnny
Baa-Lamb,—an' Thunge,—an' Yeawler,—an' Robin o' Blotcher's,—an' Owd Israel
Grindrod,—an' a greight lot moor than I can reckon up."
"Oh, ay,―I dar say!" replied
Randal. "Thae knows, Ben, it's a job 'at everybody has to do,—once
apiece. We're o', like, under sentence. It's nobbut 'at some
are code on a twothre days afore th' tother. They're weel off 'at's
ready for't, come when it will. Heaw's Owd Grime gettin' on?"
"What, th' schoomaister?"
"Oh, he's gwon! Th' owd lad type't o'er abeawt a
fortnit sin. But what, he'd be close upo' ninety."
"He'd be that, good measur," replied Randal.
"He would," continued Ben; "an' he wore like pin-wire, up to
th' last bit."
"I dar say," answered Randall. "An' so th' owd lad's
gwon, is he?"
"I tell tho he're laid by th' last Thursday," said Ben.
He're laid by i' Rachda' churchyard. An' there wur aboon fifty folk
followed him whoam . . . Thae remembers thee an' me
goon' to schoo to him, Rondle?"
"Oh, say little!" answered Randal. "Doesto think I've
"Owd Grime wur a fine chap," said Ben.
"He wur," replied Randal.
"An' a good schoomaister, too," continued Ben.
"Very," said Randal.
"An' he're meeterly strict, too, beside," said Ben, in a
dreamy tone, as if his thoughts were wandering among the grass-grown
pathways of days gone by.
"Oh, say little!" said Randal. "I remember."
"Eh!" continued Ben, "I can tell on him makin' me ston o' one
leg upo' th' window-bottom, two hours, wi' a Testament under my arm, for
sendin' my clog into Mally Potter's weshin' mug. An' every five
minutes I had to swap legs, an' sheawt out, "Do unto others as ye would
they should do unto you."
"I remember," said Randal. "But thae rested both legs
at once mony a time that afternoon, Ben. Th' owd lad kept goin' eawt
a-lookin' at his hen-cote, an' as soon as he darken't th' dur-hole, deawn
went thi leg."
"He went eawt a purpose, mon," said Ben.
"Ay, I dar say he did," replied Randal. "He seed
thae're gettin' done up."
"Sure he did," said Ben. "An' doesn'to remember, one
time, when he coom in, little Dody o' Rappers jumped up, an' said, 'He
keeps puttin' his leg deawn!' But th' owd lad stretched his hond
eawt as he stood i'th durhole, an' he sheawted 'Silence! Th' first
'at oppens his meawth again mun stone of his yed, wi' a fire-pote between
his teeth.' But they leet my legs alone 'at after that."
"I like as if I con mind summat on't," said Randal.
"But thae con think on better than me, Ben."
"Some folk reckon't he're crack't," continued Ben.
"Well," replied Randal, "he happen wur, a bit. Mon, he
coom of a crack't mak, an' here like to keep up th' owd system, as weel as
he could. There wur summat uncuth (strange) abeawt th' whole seed,
breed, an generation on 'em. They were'n o' on 'em oather yarb
doctors, or planet-rulers, or music mad, or terrible religious,—or summat
eawt o'th common line,—Jacobins an' Ranters, an' sich like. One or
two on 'em were aboon crack't; they'n devilish ill brokken! But say
little. He're a good schoomaister,―an'
a good chap, too, when done."
"He're a different schoomaister to owd Blotch," said Ben.
"Eh, dear!" replied Randal. "Say little! There
wur nobbut a thin papper-wole between owd Blotch an' a sun-brunt foo."
"I went to his schoo' th' first," continued Ben. "He'd
nobbut one arm."
"He'd as mony arms as brains," said Randal.
"Well," continued Ben, "we never larn't nought at that schoo',
nobbut heaw to hommer one another. An' every time at th' scholars
oppen't their meawths o'th wrang side, th' owd chap flang a rollin' pin at
their yeds. An' he use't to send 'em eawtside a-feightin' one
another, —regilar. Eh, I did get pown at that shop! But it wur
his way o' teitchin'. He thought 'at th' best way o' bringin' a lad
on wur bi raisin' knobs at th' top of his yed wi' an' owd pickin'-peg, 'at
he kept i'th corner. An' I mun ha' bin a favourite wi' him, for he
took more pains wi' me nor some on 'em. Eh, it makes me dother
(shake, tremble) neaw, when I think o' that pickin'-peg! I may weel
be a good scholar, Rondle. Put thi hond oath top o' mi yed.
Full o' stumps,—like a new pair o' carter's shoon . . .
Doesto feel nought?
"Some lumps," said Randal.
"Lumps! " replied Ben. "Ay, by th' mon! an' bummers
too, some on 'em. They ston, here an' theer, up an' deawn my yed
like hay-cocks in a meadow, just afore heawsin'- time. Haste fund 'em?"
"I keep leetin' on 'em," said Randal.
"Ceawnt 'em," continued Ben. "I think they'n come to
seven,―gradely dobbers,—an' thae'll find
two of a less mak, just at th' back o' my reet ear-hole. If they
wur'n o' of a level size, there'd be a good reawnt dozen on 'em, an' a bit
o'er . . . Hasto fund 'em?"
"Ay," replied Randal, "I've getten 'em."
"So have I, too. They're owd comrades o' mine, are
thoose lumps," said Ben. "An' they'n stick by me as lung as I live,
thae may depend."
"I dar say they wi'n," replied Randal. "An' I'll tell
tho what, Ben," continued he, "this yed o' thine's as ill as an owd church
dur, for knobs."
"Ay," said Ben, "it is. Thae didn't know o' thoose,
"Nawe, I didn't," replied Randal.
"Well," continued Ben, "an' neaw 'at thae's fund 'em, what
doesto think on 'em?"
"Well," answered Randal, "if thae happens to get a hat 'at's
too big, they'n help to fill up, like. But for aught big they're a
mak o' things 'at I make no 'ceawnt on. To tell else, tho truth,
Ben, I'd as lief ha' their reawm as their company. But, then, I know
thae's partial to bits o' orniments."
"Orniments!" cried Ben. "Th' dule steawnd sich
orniments! They're noather orniment nor use! . . .
I'll tell tho what they are, Rondle. They're larnin',—lapt up i'
little hard parcels. They're lessons, thoose knobs are. O' th'
lessons 'at I brought away fro' owd Blotch schoo', as haw. Mon, th'
owd lad begun o' teitchin' o'th wrang side o'th yed,—like Joe Buckley,
when he punce't their Jem three times reawnd th' back-yard wi' a pair o'
iron clogs, to mak him change his religion fro' th' Methodys to th'
Independents. Larnin'! He met as weel ha' bore't a hole i' my
yed' an' rommed an owd book in,—or else a lot o' shavin's! Eh, mon!
Talk abeawt memory! I's al'ays remember owd Blotch! There's
nought like drivin' nails into folk for makin' 'em think on."
"They'd ne'er ha' made Blotch into a schoomaister if he'd had
two arms," said Randal.
"Schoomaister!" cried Ben. "Didto ever see a chap wi'
two wooden legs doance a three-hond reel? Thae met as weel ha' tried
to make a smoothin'-iron into a ceawnter-singer as owd Blotch into a
schoomaister. I use's to think they sent us to that schoo' to larn
us heaw to be hard; an' nought else. An' I think so yet."
"Well, thae knows, Ben," said Randal, "a chap 'at knows
nought can teitch nought."
"Nut he," replied Ben. "Heaw con he?"
"Owd Grime wur worth a theawsan' o Blotch for bringin'
childer on," said Randal.
"Eh, Rondle," continued Ben, in a dreamy tone, "I like as if
I con see Blotch just neaw, as he use't to goo trailin' abeawt th' fowd wi'
a drop at his nose-end; an' as wambly an' slamp as a pack-sheet full o'
tripe badly teed up. Eh, what a seet! Poor owd crayter!
When it geet toward Setterday, he wur some dirty an' tatter't. A
gradely blash-boggart! I use's to think he slept among th' coals, or
else on a shelf somewheer. He'd no bed,—nobbut a lot o' owd seckin'.
An' when he wanted to look daycent, he use't to dip his face in a
rain-tub, an' dry it wi' his jacket-sleeve. He never use't no soap.
He're to greedy for that."
"Howd, Ben,—howd!" said Randal. "Thae'rt doin' to hard
at th' owd lad. Say little, mon,—say little."
"Well, I want noan to harm th' owd lad," said Ben. "Not
I. He'd nobbut a feaw life on't,—poor owd dog! . . .
Eh, but he wur a greedy chap, Rondle. If ever he geet howd of a
penny, it wur takken prisoner for life,—for it wur never sin no moor.
An, eh,—what a wild stare he had! Doesto remember his een?"
"Yigh," replied Randal. "He al'ays looked, to me, as if
he wur lookin' for a cat wi' three legs. An' as fur as I con
remember, he'd generally three or four buttons off, i' different places;
for his bits o' clooas hanged o' in a ropy wriggle, as if they wanted to
get away fro' him as soon as ever they'd a chance. They met (might)
weel co' him a wizzart."
"Stop, stop, Rondle!" said Ben. "Who's doin' to hard at
him neaw, I wonder?
"Well," answered Randal, "thae knows what he wur; an' as for
gettin' ony sense eawt of his talk, thae met as weel ha' tried to catch a
hare wi' thumpin' a drum . . . But, come, let's drop it.
He'd noather feyther nor mother, nor sister nor brother, nor wife, nor
chick, nor choilt, nor nought o'th world to look after him. An'
they're weel kept that God keeps. So, let's e'en drop it."
" I think we may safely drop it, neaw, Rondle," said Ben,
"for we'n done as mich as we con at th' owd lad."
"Neaw, then!" cried Betty, looking through the window "heaw
are yo gettin' on, yo two?"
"Oh, we're as reet as a ribbin," answered Randal.
"We're havin' a bit o' owd times,—aren't we, Ben?"
"Yigh, we are, owd lad," replied Ben.
"That's reet," said Betty. "Come, Rondle, hadn't yo
emptied that pot, yet? Here, I'll bring yo another."
"Nawe, nawe, Betty!" cried Randal. "Not a drop moor.
I mun be gooin' o'er these tops!"
But Betty came out of the house with another pitcherful; and,
as she set it down upon the well, she said, "Yo dunnot need to be
freeten't on't. It's noan so strung; an' yo'n a stiffish walk afore
yo . . . Ben, what a seet thae's made o' thi clooas . .
. Neaw, Rondle, win yo have a bit moor cheese an' brade?"
"Not a bit, Betty,—not a bit moor. I've had theawsan's,
an' thank yo."
"Well, I'll lev yo to it, then, an' get forrad wi' my job,"
said Betty. "So, mind 'at yo dunnot fo' eawt."
"Oh, we'n manage, Betty, yo's see," replied Randal.
"I'll tell tho what, Ben," said Randal, "this bit o'th place
o' thine looks very snug."
"Ay," replied Ben, "I like th' owd nook. I couldn't do
to live in a teawn."
"Nawe, nor me noather," said Randal. "I al'ays feel
smoor't when I get into Rachda', between so mony breek woles. I
never feel reet till I'm upo' th' moorside again."
"I'd rather be hanged here than live in a teawn an' wear red
shoon," continued Ben.
"I'm noather partial to th' teawn nor th' teawnsfolk, to tell
tho truth," said Randal.
"Nor me noather," replied Ben. "They'n to mony meemaws
abeawt 'em for me."
After a pause of a minute or two, Randal turned and said, "Heaw's
Billy Kettle gettin' on, Ben?"
"What, th' tow-bar chap?"
"Oh, abeawt th' owd bat. As greedy as ever. He'll
lend onybody a shillin' if they'd give him fourteen-pence to stick to."
"Fond o' Brass, is Billy, I know," replied Randal.
"Ay, but Sneck-bant, o'th Nab, sowd him, too, didn't he?"
"I forgetten," said Randal.
"Doesn'to remember him seechin' th' five-peawnd note in a
shower o' rain one neet?" said Ben.
"Nay, it's slips my mind."
"Why, Rondle," said Ben, "thae met be gettin' an owd chap."
"Heaw wur it?" inquired Randal.
"Well, it fell eawt o' thisens, to th' best o' my knowledge,"
said Ben. "Sneck-bant had bin off one November day, keaw-jobbin', i'
Rossenda' Forest, an' as he wur trailin' whoam, wi his cauve-stick in his
hond, abeawt one o'clock i'th mornin', a dree sheawer o' rain began o'
comin' deawn, as straight as a pickin'-rod, an' i' great lumps, till it
made th' road smooke like a wesh-house, just as he'd getten within forty
yards o' Billy Kettle tow-bar. He'd aboon a mile an' a hauve to goo
afore he get whoam, an' if he travel't on i' that rain, he'd ha' bin
soak's to th' skin in a minute; an' it wur as dark as if th' world wur
made o' blackin', an' slated wi' cob coals. But Sneck crope into a
shady nook at th' hedge-side, thinkin' o' waitin' till th' sheawer bated.
But it kept at it, as dree as a lung sarmon; as if it'd a lot o' lost time
to fotch up. 'By th' mon,' said he, as he turn's his collar up, an'
cruttle't into th' nook, like a freetn't hedgehog, 'it's comin' dawn, full
bat! They mun be flingin' their suds eawt aboon yon! It's just
hauve an hour to soon for me. I could ha' bin heawse't by then.
Eh, how dark it is! I wish I could borrow a whitewesh-brush for a
lantron!' Then he hutch't fur into th' nook, an' began o'
unbethinkin' hissel, as th' rain coom splashin' deawn i' gill drops; an'
he wur just beginnin' o' considerin' that he met (might) as weel dart
forrad an' tak what coom as ston shiverin' theer, when his een let
(alighted) upo' th' tow-bar. 'Eh, by Guy!' said Sneck, 'that's Billy
Kettle's! Little pousey monkey! . . . I
wonder if he's an umbrell' i'th hawse? . . . But it's no
use . . . If he'd a theawsan' he wouldn't lend one to
his own feyther,―nawe, not to save life.
He wouldn't lend a dog to catch a ratton wi' . . . There's
nought to be getten eawt of a chap 'at runs after th' smooke of his
porritch to warm his honds at it, afore it gets cowd an' clips th' yure
off folk's cats to stuff cushins wi' . . . They're gwon
to bed seeminly, for o's dark . . . I could like to
roose th' little waistrel, if it's for nought but mischief. If I
could mak a din like a waggin (wagon) neaw, he'd come. But I connot
shap that.' Then he began o' thinkin' it o'er, and in a minute he
clapt his honds, an' cried 'Howd! I have it! Here goes!' an'
he went up to th' dur, an' began o' thungin' an' skrikin' like mad.
An' it did seawnd some wild i' that nook, at th' deeod time o'th neet.
'Hello! Billy! Be sharp! Murder!' cried he.
'Murder!' Th' fire wur rake't, an' there wur some bits o' supper
things upo' th' table. Billy an' th' wife wur seawnd asleep; for it
wur seldom aught coom through th' bar at that time o'th neet, bein' an
eawtside place; but th' first time he skrike't eawt, they both jumpt up at
once, an' as Billy sat on his hinder-end, starin' at th' dur, wi' his yure
bristlin' up like a frozen yard-brush, he mutter't to hissel, 'What the
hectum's agate, neaw?' 'Mur-der!' cried Sneck, puncin' at th' dur
again. 'Be sharp!' 'Eh, do get up!' said th' wife.
'There's somebry kilt, I'm sure. Heaw lung arto beawn to sit starin'
theer like a foo; an' th' din agate at th' dur?' 'Mur-der!' cried
Sneck again. 'Murder!' 'Comin',' cried Billy, beawncin' out o'
bed; wi' th' wife after him. Th' first thing Billy did, he
popped his fuut into some mak of a thing, an' swish it went amung th'
clooas upo' th' floor. Then, th' wife an' him jowed their yeds
together, as they wur bendin' deawn to reitch their stockin's up.
An' they swore at one another like two horse-swappers. Then Mally
trode upo' th' cat, an' away it shot on to th' top o'th drawers, eawt o'th
gate o'th row. An' thus they went jowtin' abeawt i'th dark, first
again one thing, then again another, for they wur flayed eawt o' their
wits. Sneck wur hearkenin' at th' lock-hole; an' as Billy flounder't
up an' deawn i'th inside, like a bloint bull in a wasp-neest――"
"Stop, Ben!" said Randal. "Not a bull in a wasp-neest.
It would'nt howd it, mon."
"Well, never mind it, just neaw," replied Ben. "Let me
get forrad . . . Well," continued Ben, "th' next thing 'at
happen't wur this. As they went powlerin' abeawt i'th dark, like two
rattons in a pepper-box――'
"Theer thae art again," said Randal. "Who ever yerd o'
rattons in a pepper-box?"
"Bother noan!" cried Ben. "Thae con talk abeawt it at
after. Let me get done wi' my tale, for God's sake!"
"Well, on witho, then," said Randal, "an' blunder at it thi
"Well," said Ben, taking up the story again, "as Billy an' th'
wife wur powlerin' abeawt o'th dark, Mally dabbed her hond slap into th'
traycle-pot. 'Theighur!' said Mally, howdin' her hond eawt, to keep
it off her clooas, 'that's a marlock, as heaw!' 'What hasto agate
neaw?' said Billy, bobbin' his face again her hond i'th dark.
'Hello! What the dule hasto getten upo' thi hond?' 'It's
traycle,' said Mally. 'Traycle! Thae――
foo! What arto walkin' up an' deawn i'th dark, wi' a hondful o'
traycle for? Thae's bunged mi een up. The dule steawnd thee,
an' thi traycle, too. I want noan o' my face sweetenin', if thae
does.' 'An' th' dule steawnd thee for a foo',' said Mally. 'I
wish thaed strike a leet, so as one could see what they're doin'.'
An' at it they went again, co'in one another to ill to brun.
'Murder!' cried Sneck again at th' eawtside, roggin' at th' dur, an'
scufflin' his feet. 'Murder!' That set Billy an' th' wife
agate o' scutterin' up an' deawn again; an' th' first go-to Billy ran his
yed again th' bed post, an' he code it as if it had bin some'at 'at should
ha' getten out of his road. Then, as he wur drawin' his breeches on,
th' wife happen't to be bendin' deawn o'th other side, an' hoo jowed again
him beheend, an' away Billy flew o'er a cheer, an' he let wi' his yed
amung th' cinders under th' firegrate. It freeten't Mally so 'at hoo
ran to him, i'th dark, wi' a candlestick in her bond. 'Whatever arto
doin', lad?' said Mally; an' as hoo bent deawn to help him up, bang went
th' candlestick into his face. 'Theighur!' said Mally. 'Oh, by
――!' cried Billy, 'thae's made my een
strike fire! I'd rather ha' traycle nor that. What the dule is
it?' 'It's a candlestick,' said Mally. 'Candlestick!' cried Billy.
'I thought it wur hardware, this time. Get a poker, an' kill me at
once.' Sneck-bant yerd every word through th' lock-hole; an' just as
Billy had getten to his feet, an' wur beginnin' to wipe th' cinders an'
traycle eawt of his een with his shirt sleeve, he ga' that dur another
punce, an' he sheawted, 'Are yo noan for comin'? If I'd bin a cart
yo'd ha' bin here lung sin! Murder!' 'Ston fur,' cried Billy,
pushin' th' wife o' one side. 'Ston fur, an' let's oppen that dur!
Hond me that poker; an' keep thee back!' Th' rain wur comin' deawn
as hard as ever, but Sneck-bant were weel-sheltered i'th dur-hole. 'Hond
me that poker!' cried Billy. They'd getten a leet by this time, an'
theer Billy stoode, wi' th' poker i' one hond an' th' bowt o'th dur o'th
tother. His breeches wur nobbut slung bi one gallace; tother hanged
down beheend, like a razzor-strap in a barber's shop; an' a bonny seet he
wur! Th' candlestick had gin him a black e'e; an' his face wur
daub't wi' a mixture o' cinder-dust an' traycle, like a wild Indian, or
summat. 'Ston fur,' cried Billy to th' wife. Then grippin' th'
poker tight in his reet hond, he shot th' bowt wi' his left, an flang th'
dur wide oppen. Th' owd lad had gather't hissel together, like a
greyheawnt wi' a hare i'th seet, ready to dart at 'em. He'd ha' bin
eawt into th' road in a snift, but――theer
stoode Sneck-bant i'th dur-hole, as quiet as a dreawnt meawse, wi' th'
rain drippin' off his hat brewits. Billy stare't as if he're lookin'
at summat 'at had come'd fro another world; but he said nought, for he'd
hardly come'd to hissel. 'Neaw, Billy,' said Sneck-bant, switchin'
th' rain off his hat, 'heaw arto gettin' on?' Billy stare't, an' he
rested the end o'th poker upo' th' floor; an' as soon as he'd come'd-to a
bit he said, 'Oh, just middlin'! . . . Wur it thee 'at
knock't?' . . . 'Ay, it wur,' said Sneck-bant. 'Conto
lend me a umbrell' an' a lantron?' 'What's up?' said Billy. I
thought there wur somebry kilt.' 'Nay,' said Sneck, I want tho to
help me to look for a five-peawnd note, between here and eawr heawse.
We'n divide it between us. It'll be two peawnd ten apiece, thae
knows.' He just geet that out i' time, for Billy wur very near
brastin' off, but as soon as th' money wur mention't he pricked his ears
in a minute . . . Th' wife stoode wi' th' candle in her
hond, hearkenin'; an' hoo cried eawt, 'Well, I never yerd sich a tale i'
my life! Come thi ways to bed, an' let him seech his five-peawnd
notes hissel,—if he con find ony. What does he come makin' his
hullabaloos at folk's durs at this time o'th neet for? He's ha' no
umbrells at this heawse,—nor lantrons noather! I know what he'd have
if I'd some whot wayter! Who is he?' 'Howd thin din,
bowster-yed,' whispered Billy, 'it's Sneck-bant, mon!' 'Well, let
him get his wife to help him to look for his five-peawnd notes!' cried
Mally. 'Thee keep thi tung between thi teeth!' whisper't Billy to
his wife. 'Doesn'to yer what he says, thae gosterin' foo'? He
says we're to divide th' brass between us! If I can mak two peawnd
ten wi' walkin' between here an' their heawse, thae's nought again it,
hasto, guinea-pig? It'll tak thee a greight while to gether fifty
shillin' i' tow-brass, at th' rate we're gooin' at,—a keaw i'th forenoon,
a wheelbarrow i'th afternoon, an' happen a jackass at th' edge o' dark;
an' then two or three carts of a Setterday mornin', when we're at th'
busiest. That'll do nought for a livin', will it, berm yed?
Here, hond me that lantron. Let's try to mak a penny while one's a
chance. Thae connot find two peawnd ten i' every gutter, conto,
goslin'-chops?' 'Nawe, nor thee noather, I think,' said Mally,
hondin' him th' lantron. 'I never seed no gutters o' that mak i'
this country. If thae con leet of ony, off witho,—for thae'rt a foo',—dee
when thou will!' 'Here, here,' said Sneck-bant, 'lend me th' lantron
an' th' umbrell', an' I'll look for it mysel, as hoo's so rivven.
Thee stop wheer thae art, Billy,—I con manage.' ' Nay, nay,' cried
Billy, 'thae's noan beawn to run off thi bargain becose o' this fuzzock
makin' her din, arto? Nay, I'll go witho, owd lad. I'm noan
fleyed of a saup o' rain, if it's to obleege a neighbour! Come on,
an' let her cample to hersel till hoo's weary,—th' owd foo! Hoo's
al'ays studden i' my leet, when I'd aught agate 'at had ony sense in it .
. . Neaw then!' said he, sheawtin' to th' wife, 'put this dur
to! An' tak care o'th tow-bar while I'm off makin' a bit o' summit.
Doesto yer?' 'Get eawr o' my seet,' said Mally; 'for thae hasn't th'
wit of a seawkin' foomart!' An' hoo banged th' dur to. 'Come
on,' said Billy. 'Let's get a bit fur off!' 'Ay, come on,'
said Sneck-bant.' 'Here, Billy, tak howd o'th lantron. I'll
carry th' umbrell'. I'm strunger i'th wrist than thee!' Billy
took howd o'th lantron, as innocent as a flea; an' every time he seed
aught upo' th' road that looked white, he ran to see if it wur a five-peawnd
note. 'Come on, come on!' cried Sneck-bant. 'It's nar eawr
heawse!' When they had getten abeawt thirty yards off, Mally oppened
th' dur again, an' hoo sheawted after 'em,—'Heigh, Billy! Doesto yer?'
Billy twirl't reawnd, as nattle as a wasp, an' he cried eawt, 'Well, what
doesto want, neaw?' 'Han yo fund it?' said Mally. 'Nawe,— not
yet,' said Billy. 'Well,' cried Mally, 'wilto buy me a dress eawt
oath brass?' Billy stepped back into th' rain, an', stretchin' eawt
his arm, he sheawted, 'Ay, I will, owd lass,—a good un! Thae's go to
Racbda' o' Setterday mornin,' an' pike it eawt for thisel; an' thae
doesn't need to be to a shillin' or two, if th' pattern fits, Bumbazeen,
or aught thae's a mind. Summit wi' brids on! An' thae met as
weel bring a bit o' brisket at th' same time, for th' dinner o' Sunday!
I think it'll afford it, for once, will this bit o'th wind-fo!'
'Well, off witho then,' said Mally, 'an' be sharp back; for thae'rt a foo,—if
ever there wur one.' Hoo said th' last words to hersel, as hoo put
th' dur to. But away they went up th' road. It wur rainin'
harder nor ever. Sneck-bant kept fast howd o'th umbrell,' an' strode
straight forrad; but Billy kept runnin' into th' rain, an' lookin' up an'
deawn for this five-peawnd note, an' in abeawt three minutes he're as weel
soaked as if he'd bin asleep in a duck-poand. 'Come under th'
umbrell',' said Sneck. Thi clooas'll be gettin' damp.' 'Damp!'
cried Billy. 'I'm weet to th' skin! ' 'Well, come on,—it's no use
lookin' for th' note till we getten nar Mawr heawse,' said Sneck-bant.
'Thae should ha' towd me that afore,' said Billy, feelin' at his jacket.
'A haven't a dry threed on me, neaw . . . But, never
mind. Th' less road there is to look o'er, an' th' moor chance there
is o' findin' it . . . Eh, heaw it does come deawn,
doesn't it?' 'Yigh, it does, owd lad,' said Sneck-bant, stridin' on,
wi' Billy trottin' at his side, like a dish-cleawt runnin' a race wi' a
"A what?" cried Randal.
"Never mind it," replied Ben. "I've nearly done.
Well," continued Ben, "as I wur tellin' tho, on went Sneck-bant, wi' Billy
stickin' to his jacket lap,—for, thae knows, Sneck-bant stood aboon six
feet, an' Billy'd be happen five feet an' a penny-moufln', an' nearly as
broad as lung. 'I'll tell tho what, Billy,' said Sneck, 'if I wur
thee, I wouldn't goo an' wear so mich o' this bit o' brass upo' yon wife
o' thine. Thae knows, women's clooas are a heightin' (eating,
devouring) thing; an' when they once getten agate, there's no stoppin' 'em.
Beside, what is two peawnd ten? It's nought, mon!' 'Not it,'
said Billy; 'it's nobbut abeawt fifty shillin' or so.' 'No moor it
is,' said he. 'Beside, thae sees, Billy, thae'rt gettin' into years,
an' it's time to begin o' layin' summit by for a rainy day. There's
nought like a bit o' brass i'th bank, mon. It'll be makin' summat
when thae'rt asleep. It's like th' owd chap's horse that geet fat wi'
heightin' (eating) i'th neet time. If I wur thee, I wouldn't wear so
mich o' new dresses. If thae's ony wit thae'll lay abeawt forty
shillin' o' this brass by,—for a neest-egg!' 'Howd off!' said Billy.
Eawr Mally'll not get as mich eawt o' this brass as hoo thinks on.
I've bin reckonin' up as we coom on; an' I'll drive a nail through this
two peawn ten afore to-morn at noon. Hoo needs no new dresses, 'at I
know on. Yon 'at hoo has 'll do weel enough, if hoo'll get it
turnout.' 'That's reet, owd lad,' said Sneck-bant, slappin' him on
the shoulder. 'Thae talks to some sense, neaw' . . . 'Neaw,
then, Jone,' said Billy, wipin' his face wi' his weet sleeve, 'heaw soon
mun we begin o' lookin' for this note? 'Oh, abeawt a hundred yards
fur on,' said Sneck bant. 'That's abeawt th' place, as near as I con
tell . . . Keep under th' umbrell' Billy. Thae'll be
dreawn't.' Well, when they had getten within abeawt fifty yards o'th
heawse, Sneck-bant said, 'Neaw, Billy, it's abeawt here wheer I missed it.
An',—if it's onywheer,—it mun be between here an' whoam, for it's noan
i'th heawse, an' it's noan i' my pockets. I've looked 'em o'er, 'an'
there isn't a note to be fund i' my rags.' 'Well, then, it's like to
be here,' said Billy, bendin' deawn wi' th' lantron. 'Sure it is,'
said Sneck-bant, stridin' on, wi' th' umbrell' o'er him. 'Haw lung
is it sin thae left whoam?' said Billy. 'Oh, happen three heawrs
sin.' 'Come, that'll do,' said Billy. There's bin nobry upo'
th' road. An' if there had bin, they couldn't ha' fund it i'th dark
. . . Let's see,' said he, stretchin' his arm eawt, 'thae's
walk somwheer abeawt i' this line.' 'Ay, that's abeawt it,' onswer't
Sneck-bant. 'Well, then,' said Billy, hondin' th' lantron deawn,
'let's begin here!' An' they both began o' lookin' o'er. Billy
took no notice o'th umbrell'; but went to an' fro i'th rain, wi' th'
lantron in his bond an' his nose deawn, like a huntin' dog, seechin' a
lost scent. But Sneck-bant crept nar to his own heawse at every
stride. 'I see nought on it,' said Sneck-bant. 'Does thou,
Billy?' 'Not yet,' said Billy, shakin' th' wayter off his hat.
'Howd! . . . Oh, it's a bit o' 'bacco papper . . .
Look, heaw th' wayter's runnin'! It'll happen ha' weshed deawn th'
gutter.' 'I'll tell tho what, Billy,' said Sneck-bant, when he geet
up to his own dur. 'Well,' said Billy, turnin' his weet face up.
'I'm just thinkin' it would be th' best to look for it th' first thing
i'th mornin', as soon as it comes leet.' 'It happen would,' said
Billy, wipin' th' wayter off his face. 'Well, then,' said he, hondin'
Billy th' umbrell' as he oppen't th' dur, thee get up an' look for it i'th
mornin,' afore there's aught stirrin'. Thae'll be sure to find it.
They'n gi' tho change deawn at th' Hare an' Heawnds aleheawse yon; an'
thae con bring my share in ony time between morn an' th' edge o' dark.
Good neet to tho, owd lad! I's be like to shut th' dur,—I'm freetn't
o' catchin' cowd. Good neet!' 'Good neet!' said Billy, givin'
his face another wipe. 'Good neet! I'll see to't.' Then
bang went th' dur, an' Billy wur left stonin' by hissel i'th teemin' rain.
He set th' leet deawn upo' th' floor, an' as he stoode thinkin' a minute
or two, he groped at his weet clooas; then he looked at th' umbrell', an'
then he looked at th' lantron, an' then he began o' lookin' a bit o'th
road o'er again, mutterin' to hissel, 'I wish I could find it. I
think I's desarve an extra five shillin' for gettin' up i'th mornin'.
He looks very carless abeawt it . . . Let's see, I
promised my wife a dress eawt o'th brass' . . . Then he
went quietly on, thinkin' to hissel. Summat new seemed to be agate
in his yed. But he said nought till he'd getten abeawt th' hauve
gate whoam, when he stopt short i'th middle o'th road, an' flingin' his
weet hat deawn into th' slutch, he punce't it afore him, an' cried eawt, 'Sowd
again! I've a good mind to go back an' fling a stone through th'
chamber window!' But he thought better on't, an' went forrad whoam,
quite terrified at th' thought's o' facin' th' wife. When he geet
near th' dur, he said, 'Neaw for't! That dress! I's never yer
th' end o' this! But I'm like to face up.' 'Well,' said Mally,
as hoo oppen't th' dur, 'thae's getten back, I see.' 'Ay,' said
Billy, as he set th' lantron deawn upo' th' table, 'I've getten
back.' 'Well,—an' han yo fund it?' 'Fund what?' said Billy.
'Th' brass.' 'What brass?' 'Th' five-peawnd note.' 'Han
we h―――!' said Billy, puncin' th'
table-leg. 'I towd tho, didn't I?' said Mally. 'What didto
tell me?' 'I towd tho thae wur a foo, didn't I?' 'I think I
remember tho mentionin' summat abeawt that,' said Billy; 'but thae'd
happen better tell me again, once or twice,—it'll help me to think on.'
'Poo thoose weet clooas off,' said Mally, 'an' soon, too.' 'Doesto
know what I've bin doin' while thae's bin off?' said Mlly. 'Nawe.'
'Well,' said Mally, 'I made th' fire up, th' first thing, becose I thought
thae'd happen be a bit damp abeawt th' shoolders when thae geet back,—as
it looked likely for rain.' 'Well, I am a bit damp, as thae
says, abeawt th' shoolders. But, here, tak howd o' that,' said
Billy, hondin' her his jacket, wringin'-weet. 'Take howd o' that,
an' thae'll see. I'll gi' tho these tother in a minute. They're o'
alike,—a bit damp,―as thae says.'
'They dun feel so, for sure,' said Mally. 'Whey, thae'd ha'
bin weet through if thae'd stopped eawt an heawr or two longer.' 'I
dar say I should,' said Billy, wringin' his stockin' into a weshin'-mug.
'Well, an' what doesto think I did at after I'd made th' fire up?' said
Mally. 'Nay,' said Billy, as he twisted another gill eawt of his
stockin', 'I know not. Thae jowed thi yed, happen.' 'Nay,'
said Mally, 'there's bin enough o' that mak to-neet, I think. But,
I'll tell tho what I did.' 'Well!' 'I look's up some patterns
for this new dress!' 'Oh, didto?' said Billy, tuggin' at his tother
stockin'. 'Ay, I did,' said Mally. 'Then thae wur for bein'
ready again this two peawnd ten o' mine coom,' said Billy, wipin' his weet
legs. 'I thought it would happen save time, thae knows,' said Mally.
But I guess I may as weel put these patterns by again, neaw?' 'Oh,
brun 'em,—brun 'em!' cried Billy. 'Thae'll never ha' no moor new
dresses as lung as thae lives,—not o' my buyin', as heaw.' 'Well,
we'n seen,' said Mally. 'But wesh that traycle an' stuff off thi
face, an' get to bed,―we con talk abeawt
that i'th mornin'.' 'I dar say,' said Billy; 'but I'd rather thae'd
finish to-neet.' 'I've done o' 'at I shall, neaw,' said Mally.
'That'll do,' said Billy. An' he turn't hissel o'er, an' drops
asleep. An' when Mally had hung th' clooas to th' fire, hoo crope in
at th' back o'th owd lad, an' in a twothre minutes o' wur satt'lt,—there
wur nought stirrin' i'th heawse but th' clock, an' two or three crickets .
. . An' neaw," said Ben, "my tale's ended."
"I've yerd summat on't afore," replied Randal; "but I think
thae's put a good deal to't, Ben."
"Not so mich," said Ben.
"Well, somebry has," answered Randal.
In the pause which followed the story, Betty's voice was
heard, singing, to a fine old tune, the words of the psalm,—
The Lord's my shepherd,—I'll not want;
He doth my needs supply,
An' leadeth me through pastures green,
The quiet waters by.
"Yor Betty's i' rare tune this mornin'," said Randal.
"Ay, middlin'," replied Ben.
"Thae let on weel, theer, Ben," continued Randal.
"I did," replied Ben. "Hoo's o' reet, is eawr Betty.
Wheer there's one as good, there's a theawsan' noan fit to howd a candle
to her. Besides, hoo's my own, thae knows. An' to tell truth,
I don't know what I could do witheawt her, neaw."
"A better lass never broke brade," said Randal. "Hoo
comes of a good breed."
"Hoo does," said Ben; "an' hoo's th' best o'th lot. Oh,
ay, hoo'lt do for me nicely, will eawr Betty."
"Yer tho, heaw hoo pipes up," said Randal. "Well done,
"Husht!" said Ben. "If hoo thinks we're hearkenin',
hoo'll drop it."
"I say, Rondal," said Ben, "doesto remember us singin' 'Th'
Ringers' Glee' at owd Joss Brello's farm-heawse, at th' Siss Hill?"
"Oh, ay," replied Randal, "I've had mony a good do at th' owd
lad's. They wur of a singin' breed, o' both sides."
"Let's try an odd verse," said Ben.
"It wants four parts, mon," said Randal.
"Never mind," continued Ben. "Let's try it wi' two.
Thee tak th' bass; I'll try treble. Brast off."
We're country clod-hoppers, as you may well know;
We're ringers, an' singers, an' fiddlers also;
At weddin's an' wakes we'n a merry peal, then,—
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
"O'er again," cried Ben. "Pipe up!"
One, two, three, &c.
Betty had joined them in the refrain and when it was ended,
she came to the door, and said, "Come, yo'n done that very fair."
"Just middlin', Betty," replied Randal. Then, rising
from his seat, he said, "Well, neaw, I mun he goin', Ben. I'm fain
to find yo o' reet an' straight. So good day! . . .
Betty, good day to yo!"
"Good day to yo!" answered Betty.
"Well, Rondal," said Ben, following the keeper a little up
the road, "thae'll be sure to co' when tho comes this gate on again, an'
let's have another look at tho?"
"Oh, ay," replied Randal, "I'll co', thae may depend.
We'n tup an' lamb together, as lung as it lasts, Ben. An' so, good
day to tho once more, owd lad!"