Edwin Waugh: Besom Ben (7)

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CHAPTER III.


"Come, bring the dapple grey," he cried,
    "And my good steed bring me,—
My love and I away will ride,
    Some countries for to see."

ANON.


"SCRAPE thi shoo," said Betty, when Ben came to the threshold.  "Scrape th' dirt off thi shoon!  I could like to leave th' heawse some bit like tidy; an' then one can come back to't wi' comfort.  Here, wipe thi feet o' that!"  And she flung a piece of old sacking to him in the doorway.

    "I think I'd better get weshed," said Ben, as he scraped the garden soil from his shoes.  "Heaw soon wilto be ready, Betty?  It's time to be shappin'.  Look at th' clock.  It's gwon nine."

    "I'm donnin' this lad as fast as I con," replied Betty.  Be still, thae little urchin, do!" said she, addressing Billy.  "Ben, thae's marred him till he connot abide.  He wants this, an' he wants that, an' he doesn't know what he wants.  I declare it's enough to moighder (to confuse) a stoo'-fuut (the leg of a stool), what wi' one thing, an' what wi' another.  Be still, I tell tho, thae little pousement!  I's be like to get yon birch-rod, in neaw."

    This unusual tone of severity was too much for Billy's sensitive nature, and, hiding his face in his mother's breast, he began to cry.

    "Dunnot be so sharp wi' him, mon," whispered Ben.  "Th' lad connot ston' it."

    "Well, come then," said Betty, clipping him to her breast and kissing him.  "Come, be a good lad, an' his mam wouldn't hurt him for the wide world.  Come, neaw!  Kiss me, an' let's be friends!  That's a good lad.  Let's don him, an' then we'n goo a ta-ta wi' Dimple, munnot we? .  .  .  What doesto think, Ben?  He wants to tak th' cat wi' him."

    "Well, let th' lad tak th' cat, if he wants it," said Ben.  Let him tak it, an' then we's be o' together.  It'll be a bit of a eawt for th' cat, too."

    "Neaw then!" replied Betty, "thae'll have him agate again.  Go thi ways back into th' garden again, or else get thisel weshed.  I con manage yo one at a time; but when you're both agate at once, it's rayther to mony for me.  Come, my lad," continued she, clipping Billy to her breast once more, "wipe his face, an' let's get him donned."  Then turning to Ben, she said, "He wants to have his fither-hat on; an' he says he'll have a posy in it, same as his dad .  .  .  Eh, Ben! onybody may know who's choilt this is.  He's just thy marrow to nought,—temper an' o'."

    "I thought thae wouldn't lev (leave) that eawt!" said Ben.  "But let th' choilt have a posy, if he wants one."

    "Oh, ay.  Thae'd let him wear a red cabbich (cabbage) in his hat, if he'd cry.  Reitch him th' clock deawn, an' let him tak that .  .  . But go thi ways into th' garden, an' get him a posy,—or else there'll be no quietness."

    "I'll get him one, thae's see," said Ben, as he went out to the garden.

    "Come, my lad," said Betty, "thi dad's gone for a posy.  We's be like to make him look pratty,—shan't we?"

    "Mam," said the little fellow, "I want a posy 'at's asleep."

    "Thae wants what?"

    "I want one 'at's asleep, same as yon upstairs."

    "Eh, Billy," said his mother, "thae art a quare lad!  Here, come thi ways, an' let's see what we can do."

    Then, taking him up in her arms, she went to the doorway, and shouted to Ben in the garden,

    "Heigh, Ben!  Doesto yer!"

    "Well," said Ben, looking over the garden hedge.

    "He says he wants a posy 'at's asleep," replied Betty.  He meeons one like thoose 'at's on th' bed-quilt upstairs.  They're roses."

    "Let him tak th' bed-quilt wi' him, an' then he'll ha' roses enoo'," said Ben, chuckling to himself.

    "Howd thi bother!" cried Betty, "an' bring him some roses! .  .  .  Both colours, else thae'll ha' to go again."

    "Theer they are!" said Ben, as he came out at the garden gate, with the flowers in his hand.  "Theer they are!  Tops o' trees, an' shinin' daisies!  Eh, Billy, thae'll be as fine as a mountebank's foo!  Neaw, which wilto have?"

    "I'll have a red un," said Billy.

    "Theer it is, sitho!" said Ben.  "A pummer!"

    "I'll have a white un, an' o',—munnot I, dad?"

    "I thought heaw it would be," said Betty.

    "An' thae shall have a white un, an' o', my lad," said Ben.  "There,—I'll put it into thi hat."

    "Go thi ways, an' get thisel weshed," said Betty, pushing Ben aside.  "Gi me thoose posies.  I'll trim him up, thae'll see.  Thae knows, thae'll ha' to mind him while I get ready .  .  . What dost think he's bin sayin'?"

    "Eh, there's no tellin'," said Ben.

    "Well, thae knows, his shoon are lace't up like thine," said Betty; "an' when he wur puttin' 'em on he cock't his fuut up, an' he said, 'These are felly's (men's) shoon, aren't they, mam?"

    Here, little Billy, who was hearkening to every word, put his arm round his mother's neck, and said, "Well, I's be a felly, soon, shan't I, mam?"

    "Ay, in a bit, my love," replied Betty, with a long-drawn sigh,—"in a bit,—if God spares thi life."

    "Little lads o' groon into fellys, don't they, mam?"

    "Ay, if they liven, my love," answered Betty, in a quiet tone.

    The child croodled thoughtfully to himself a minute or two, whilst his mother went on dressing him; and then, suddenly turning up his face, he said, "Eawr little Ben's i'th bury-hole, isn't he, mam?"

    This unexpected turn in his talk set all Betty's heart in a tremble, for it brought back to mind the death of her firstborn; and when she had recovered herself a little she replied in a low voice, "He is, my love!"  But when the lad, after another moment's silence, looked up again and said, "He's gone a-bein' made into a felly, isn't he, mam?" the pent waters overflowed her eyes, and tears began to fall on the child's clothes as she dressed him; and Billy, seeing his mother begin to cry, stretched up his little arms to clip her neck, as if she was herself a child, and, with tears in his eyes, he said, "Husht, mam,—I'll be a good lad!  Give o'er cryin', an' I'll buy yo summat!"

    "Eh, heaw this little thing does talk!" said Betty, unable to restrain herself any longer.  "Here, Ben, tak howd on him a minute, till I goo upstairs to look after yon things."

    Ben took the lad in his arms, and went to the door, and in an instant the lad's thoughts had veered round to another drift, and he began to prattle about the things outside with the changeful vivacity of childhood.  And Ben prattled with him, too, although the water was standing in his eyes all the while.

    In the meantime Betty was giving full vent to her tears a she turned over the clothes of her first born, laying them aside again, one by one, with tender care, in the herb-scented treasury where her dearest relics were stored.
                            .                       .                       .                       .                       .

    "Come, my lass," said Ben, going to the foot of the stairs, "let's be off! "

    She did not answer, but Ben guessed right well the reason why, so he went quietly back to the door again, with the lad in his arms, and waited.  He had given Billy a rose to play with, that it might divert his thoughts, and the child fondled it and sang to it; and as his eyes wandered around whilst he swung the rose carelessly in his hand, he stopped suddenly, and, gazing into his father's face, he said, "Dad, wheer does God live at?"

    "Oh, he lives up i'th sky," said Ben.  "He lives everywheer."

    "What, wheer there is nobody?"

    "Ay, everywheer, my lad."

    "Eh, well," said Billy, swinging his rose.  "An' who makes his baggin'?"

    "He never needs noan, my lad," replied Ben.

    The child stopped as still as a statue, with the rose in his hand, and, gazing earnestly at his father for an instant, he gave a long, thoughtful sigh; and then he sang, and played with the rose again.  But, almost before a minute had elapsed, he seemed to return to the same train of thought, for he stopped again, and said,—

    "Wheer does he sleep?"

    "He never does sleep," said Ben.

    The child gave another sigh, and was silent for a minute or so.

    "Does he live eawt o'th dur when it's rainin'?

    "Oh," said Ben, "he maks rain, my lad."

    "Did he mak it rain yesterday?"

    "Ay, I guess he did," said Ben.

    "Oh!" cried Billy, swinging his rose round, with sudden ,glee, "He's a rain-maker!  He's a rain-maker!  Isn't he, dad?"

    "He is, for sure," replied Ben.

    "Ay," said Billy, flinging his little arms round his father's neck, "an' you're a besom-maker, aren't yo, dad?"
                               .                               .                               .                               .

    Ben went to the foot of the stairs, and cried, "Come, come, my lass,—it's time to be gooin'?"

    "I'll be deawn in a minute," said Betty, closing the lid of the kist, which contained the underclothing of the little family, all scented with lavender and other sweet herbs.

    When she came downstairs, she was dressed in her Sunday clothes, and her eyes were red with weeping.  She quietly told Ben that she had left his clean things out for him, but not a word more passed between them.  Billy played with his rose, and prattled on to himself, in his fitful, childish way, about his fine clothes, and about Dimple, and there was something touchingly strange in the thoughtless glee of that little voice, contrasted with the unusual stillness of the listening household.

    In a few minutes Ben came down again, ready to start; and, taking the lad in his arms, he went silently outside, followed by his wife, with the key in her hand.

    "I think o's reet," said Betty, looking into the house before locking the door.  "I've laft th' hens their meight, an' some milk for th' cat.  Th' fire'll tak care of itsel.  I put some sleck on.  Stop, I've laft th' hond-brush upo' th' table.  One should have a tidy place to come back to."

    "Turn th' key, an' come thi ways," said Ben.  "Th, heawse'll do."

    She locked the door, and put the key in her pocket, and there they were,—Ben, and Betty, and Billy, all dressed in their best, ready for the journey.

    "Here," said Ben, "tak this lad till I bring th' jackass."

    "Come, my lad," said Betty, "we're beawn a ta-ta,— aren't we?"

    When Ben had arranged the padding upon the rude saddle which he kept for his wife's use, he took the lad from her again, and said, with a sly smile, "Come, jump up, lass, an' let's be off."

    "Eh, Ben," cried Betty, "I con jump noan."

    "Here, come," replied Ben, "I'll gi' tho a leg on."

    "Thae greight foo!" cried Betty.  "Thae'll gi' me no legs on, noather.  It'll be a good while afore I con do ony jumpin'.  I wonder heawever thae con think to ax one sich a thing.  But some folk has no feelin' for nought nobbut theirsel."

    "Well, well," said Ben, patting her on the shoulder, "keep thi temper.  I're nobbut havin' a bit of a marlock wi' thou."

    "I wish thae'd keep thi marlocks to thisel moor than thae has done, or else I don't know wheer we's be,—some on us."

    "Howd thi din!" said Ben.  Here, I'll draw th' jackass up to th' well-side.  It'll do for a horse-block,if we han nobbut a jackass to tak to't.  An' sin things are no better nor they are, owd lass, let's thank God they're no worse."

    "I wish thae'd give o'er thi preitchin', an' draw that jackass up to th' well," said Betty.

    "Well," replied Ben, when he had brought Dimple close to the trough, "th' jackass is there, sitho; an' thank God 'at we han one for tho to get onto,—an' a good un."

    "I tell tho what, Ben," said Betty, looking into his face,  "I deawt thae'rt noan beawn to live lung."

    "Why, what for?" said Ben.

    "Why," replied Betty, "becose thae'rt gooin' so terrible religious o' at once .  .  .  But what arto stonnin' starein' theer for?" continued she, gathering her skirts together.  "Thae'll be like to help me up, mon!  Folk 'at's like me connot be expected to beawnce up an' deawn like fuut-bo's.  Come, get howd!"

    "Sure I will, lass," said Ben, setting the lad down upon the ground.  "Sure I will.  I don't know whatever thae'd do without me."

    "I'm fast what to do witho, sometimes," replied Betty.  "But come an' get howd; an' give o'er makin' a foo' o' thisel."

    "Sure I will, lass," said Ben, lifting her, almost bodily on to the edge of the well-trough.

    "Theighur!  That'll do!" said Betty.  "I shouldn't fo in,—should I?"

    Ben smiled, and as he drew his arm across his forehead, he said, "Eh, thae art gettin' into a greight beawncin' crayter."

    "Theighur!  That'll do!" said Betty.  "Howd thin din, do! an' come an' help me on to this jackass,—afore I slip into th' wayter."

    Ben went to the well-side, and when he had got a safe grip he gave Betty a sly nudge before lifting her on to the donkey.

    "Neaw then, thae greight foo!" cried Betty, "mind what thae'rt doin'!  Thae'll ha' me in! .  .  .  Theighur!  That's it!  Stop!  I could do wi' a bit o' summat moor under me!"

    "Thae'll do very well, lass," said Ben.  "Thae'rt middlin' weel cushin't, to start wi'."

    "Doesto think everybody's as hard as thee?" replied Betty.  "Here, tak th' keigh.  Thae'll find an owd seck i'th buttery, yon."

    Ben took the key, and went back into the house, and when he returned, with the sack in his hand, he found Billy standing on the ground, with outstretched arms, stamping his feet, and crying, "Mam! mam! mam!"

    "Stop a minute, my lad!" said Ben; and when he had got the sack settled upon the saddle, he handed him up to his mother.

    "Here, tak him," said Ben.  "Tak him! .  .  .  Neaw then, owd lass, thae looks like a five-shillin'-piece, wi' a fourpenny bit i' thi arms!"

    "God bless this little lad o' mine!" cried Betty, clipping him to her breast.  "He's worth five hundred theawsan' million peawnd,—i' guinea-gowd,—every yure of his yed!  An' I'll not bate a bodle, noother! .  .  .  Neaw then, let's be off!"

    "Are yo o' reet? " said Ben, glancing at the posy in his button-hole.

    "As reet as a ribbin'!" said Betty, settling herself upon the saddle again.

    "Stop," said Ben, going to the side of the donkey.  "I mun tighten this bally-bant a bit,—or else I's be slatterin' yo!"

    "Ben!" cried she, "do give o'er shakin'!  Thae'll waut (upset) us, i' thou doesn't mind!
                           .                                  .                                  .                                  .

    "Come here," said Betty.  Let's look at that handkitcher.  Thou has it twisted like a boat-rope.  I'd ha put another singlet on, if I'd bin thee  .  .  .  Thi nose does look a bit better,—that's one good job.  Well, come, let's be off!"

    "Lap thoose legs o' thine up," said Ben.  "I don't want o'th world to see 'em."

    "There's no world here, to look at nobry's legs," said Betty.  "Come, let's be off!"

    "Stop, stop!" cried Ben.

    "Well, what neaw?" said Betty.

    "Well, to tell tho truth, lass," said Ben, "I could just like to kuss (kiss) tho once, afore we starten, if thai's no objection, —for, by th' mon, thae looks hondsomer nor ever this mornin'!  Weddin' becomes some folk better nor other-some.  Let's just ha' one kuss, lass."

    "Well, come here, then,—for thae'rt a foo!  Come, get it o'er, an' let's be off!"

    And she bent her head down to meet his lips, and she seemed very patient till it was over.

    "Neaw then," said Ben, flirting his whip, "are yo o' reet?"

    "Stop!" cried Betty, looking into her basket.  "Oh, they're here! .  .  . Hasto getten summat to height i'thi pocket?"

    "Ay, it's here," said Ben, giving his jacket a slap.

    "Well, I'll tell thou what," continued Betty, "doesn't thou think we'd better tak a posy for th' owd body, at th' Red Lion?"

    "Reet again,jow thi yed!" cried Ben.  "Here, stick to that whip."

    And away he ran into the garden.  In a minute or two he popped his head over the hedge, and cried out,

    "Neaw, win yo have another rose apiece, afore we starten?"

    "Well, bring 'em, an' be sharp," said Betty.  "It's time to be gooin', mon."

    "Theer," said Ben, returning with a posy as big as a new besom in his hand.  "Theer, heaw will that do?"

    "Eh, grandly!" said Betty.

    "Well, tak howd, then," said Ben, "an' let's be goon'."
                            .                                 .                                 .                                 .

    Ben gave his whip another flirt, and, stepping back a yard or two, he cried,

    "By th' mass, owd crayter, I never clapt my een on a prattier seet sin I wur born o' mi mother!  A rushcart's a foo to this!  By th' mon, it looks like a four-legged garden!  Eh, Dimple, owd brid, thae may weel prick thoose ears o' thine!  Thae never had as bonny a burn (burden) o' stuff upo' thi back, sin thae begun o' wearin' a tail!  Thae'd start o' singin' if thae could see thisel, just neaw! .  .  .  It's a fleawer-show upo' th' tramp! .  .  .  Th' childer of Israel, crossin' th' Red Say wi' posies i' their honds! .  .  . Lamb an' sallet for ever!  Thoose are my colours! .  .  .  It's a jackass load o' angels, by th' mon! .  .  .  Right-tooral-looral-laddie-oh!  Right-tooral-looral-ido!

    "Ben," cried Betty, "arto goin' mad!"

    "Am I hectum as like!" replied Ben.  "By th' mon, lass, I'm preawd on you! .  .  . Wheer's mi 'bacco?  I mun do summat or another, to keep this yed o' mine straight .  .  .  Neaw, off wi' yo, an' I'll follow yo,—ay, I'll follow yo, through Ay-gypt, or th' land o' Canaan, or onywheer yo'n a mind.  Goo wheer yo win, I'll follow yo,—as long as my shoon stops on!  Fly up i'th element,—I con howd on by th' tail!  An' by th' mon, Betty, I con tell thou another thing,—I'll have a good price if I part wi' aught there is upo' that jackass!"

    "Thae'll be hard set to find a market for some on us, I think," said Betty.

    "I dunnot care," answered Ben.  "I dunnot care.  I'll stick to my stall, if I dunnot sell a hawp'oth!"

    "Do let's be off," said Betty, "for thae'rt gooin' eawt o' thi mind."

    "Well, are yo ready?  Say the word!

    "Ready?" said Betty.  "We're waitin' o' thee."

    "Then, Seawnd the loud timbrel!" cried Ben, cracking his whip.  "Come up, Dimple."

    And away they went in the sunshine, down the bridle-road, between sprawling old hedges, all drowned in their wild variety of summer growth, Ben flirting his whip to and fro, as he walked by Dimple's head, singing,――


In the merry month of June—
    In the sweetest of the year,—
It's deawn i' yon green meadows
    There runs a river clear;
And many a little fish
    Does in that river play;
While many a lad, and many a lass,
    Are eawt a-makin' hay.

In come the jolly mowers,
    To mow the meadows down;
Wi' budgets, an' wi' bottles
    O' whoam-brewed ale nut-brown.
All men of courage, stout and bold,
    They come their strength to try;
They sweat an' blow, an' cut an' mow—
    For the grass is very dry.

There's nimble Tom and Ben,
    Wi' pitchfork an' wi' rake;
There's Mall an' Nan, an' Sue an' Sall,
    They come the hay to make;
And sweetly,—jug, jug, jug,—
    The wild birds they do sing,
From morning prime to evensong,
    Whilst they are haymaking.

And when the day did fade,—
    And the bright sun he went down,—
There was a merry piper
    Approachèd from the town.
Out came his pipe and tabor,
    An' sweetly he did play,
Which made 'em all throw down their rakes,
    And leave a-making hay.

Then joining in a dance,
    They jigged it on the green;
An' though all tired with labour,
    No weariness was seen:
But like so many fairies,
    The dance they did pursue,
In leading up an' casting off,
    Till mornin' came in view.

An' when the soft daylight,
    The peep o' day was come,
They lay them down to rest
    Till the rising of the sun,—
Until the rising of the sun,
    When the merry lark doth sing,—
And then each lad he took his lass
    Once more a haymaking.


 
CHAPTER IV.


Jog on, jog on, the footpath way,
    And merrily pent the style-a;
A merry heart goes all the day,
    Your sad tires in a mile-a.—

WINTER'S TALE.


AWAY went Dimple, trickling down the bridle-path, with his flower-garnished load of joy,—frisking his tail, and pricking his ears, as if he felt proud of such a blithe and bonny burden.  Away he went, through the sunshine,—that patient little rusty paragon of quadrupeds,—with the posies nodding at the ear of his bridle, and his heart beating time to the prattle of the mother and her child upon his back; and with Ben, full of lazy glee, stepping gaily by his side, to the measure of an old country song.  Away they went,—Betty and Billy, and Dimple and Ben,—through the heather-scented sunshine, with a thousand varied wild-flowers gushing over the borders of the rugged way, and the bloomy wilderness smiling all around, and the wild birds fluttering after them, from bush to bush, chanting pretty trills of lyric kindliness to the smiling cortege, as it meandered down the wild moorside.

    As they began to glide away from the front of the cottage, the little rindle that fed the well with water tinkled a silvery adieu to the departing train, and the pot-flowers in the window leaned forward to catch another glimpse before they disappeared at the house-end, and the whole flowery slope of the hill seemed to listen to Ben's receding song.  And even the weather-stained walls of the lonely cot they were leaving seemed to gaze down the rugged pathway, after the kind hearts they had sheltered so long, as if every grey stone, every creeping tinge of mossy emerald, and every delicate lichen that had found a home upon those many-tinted walls, had, through long acquaintance, become endued with something of the emotional gentleness of those whom they had shielded with friendly care from many a wintry storm, and who had made everything in that lowly nook so sweet,—so very sweet and glad.  And as that lonely homestead faded from view there was something touching in the way in which Betty turned her face,—like the "bending pennant" of a departing ship,—to take another look at its humble walls, and then, with a quiet sigh, seated herself upon her seat once more; for, in spite of the unusual elation of her spirits, a flush of kindly remembrances, connected with that little nest of her wedded years, came over her mind,—and, with them, remembrances, too, of many a little household treasure she was leaving there.  These things came over her mind as she turned to look upon the retiring gables of the little cottage, like a fleecy cloud sailing across a sunny sky.  A touch of plaintive tenderness mingled with her joy as she thought of her kindly hearthstone, left silent now, to watch the fading fire's decay, and to listen, hour after hour, for the return of those whose footsteps had so often made it glad.  She thought, too, of the clock, left ticking to the lonely walls,—of the tinkling well, playing its silvery cymbals to the silent air,—of the garden, wondering at the unusual stillness of the cottage,—of the flowers upon the window-sill, and of the old kist, where the clothing of her buried darling lay.  She thought of all these things as of so many old friends.  The twittering birds, the pet poultry, and a thousand nameless trifles that had twined around her heart, came crowding across her mind in one tender retrospective glance,—so subtle are the sympathetic bonds of Nature and the human spirit.

    Away they went, down the bridle-path and it was indeed a pleasant sight to see that little company wandering alone, so fair and glad, along the sunny way.  It was a rugged path, full of


Quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles;


but it led through a scene full of wild sweetness; and the feet that trod it loved it well.  Even the very boulders, and ruts, and tangled irregularities of that ancient storm-worn way had unconsciously become familiar and dear to them as the furrows upon the features of an agèd friend.

    Any one well acquainted with the hills of Lancashire will remember meeting with strips of old road, here and there, which, though long since deserted, and almost forgotten now, have evidently been the common pathways of ancient times, when many of the valleys of the North of England were impassable swamp and jungle.  They are sometimes found far away from any track of man in these days, peeping out from the overgrowth of centuries, like the bones of a deserted graveyard.  These silent roads are ancient channels of human life, from which the streams have been diverted long ago .  .  .  And the path which led up from the valley past Ben's cottage was an old pack-horse road, which, though it had long since been widened for the admission of carts, as far as cultivation had crept up the hill-side, beyond that was nothing more than a deserted bridle-track,—rocky and rutty, and full of boulders and sprawling wash from the moorside; and, in seasons of heavy rain, quite as much a water-course as a practicable road.  Ben had done something towards keeping it a little in order up as far as his cottage lay, and in front of his own dwelling he had cleared a wider space, and he had enlarged and improved the rude old sandstone pavement which had been laid down there two or three generations before he was born.  But beyond Ben's cottage it wandered away, almost untrodden and quite neglected now; and, in many places, very dim and difficult to trace.  Far away northward it wandered, in silent windings, over many a heathery hill, through many a clough, and athwart many a lonely stream, where even the old stepping-stones have long been washed away.  It was only where it approached some quaint farmstead that it assumed anything like practicable condition.  All the rest was one long train of wild neglect and ruinous solitude.

    It was a glorious forenoon as our happy family descended the slope of Lobden Moor, in the direction of the hamlet of Facit; and Dimple trod the rough pathway with a daintier step than usual, as if he was walking a minuet.  But if ever jackass was a gentleman, Dimple was one.  He was a gentleman in heart and thought; for he had a heart, and a kind one, too,—a heart that had twined its tendrils in a noiseless way around far more things than the blustering would ever dreamt of.  Ben and Dimple had been companions in the ups and downs of life so long, and they had been so helpful and kindly together through it all, that they now absolutely loved one another; and each was uneasy when the other was away.  They loved one another like very brothers; and if all the world loved one another half so well as Ben and his jackass did, there would be less inhumanity to be mourned than now.  Dimple was a gentleman in thought, too, for he had thoughts of his own,—not gathered from books, certainly, but fed on quiet observation and lonely musings; though, as a rule, he kept his thoughts to himself, for he was of a reticent and contemplative nature, and his blood and judgment were so commingled that he rarely indulged in a bray.  Oh, if all the,—but let that pass.  And when, impelled by some impressible emotion, he did give way to an impassioned burst of asinine eloquence, it was no personal vanity that moved him, no desire for vulgar display, no wish to delude, nor vaulting ambition to over-ride his kind.  It is true that, to a susceptible and observant spirit, like his own, there was a ceaseless and expressive language at work in the frisk of his tail, and in the fitful play of his ears, and in the changeful gleam of that quiet, philosophic eye; but, to the dull world at large, these were all an inarticulate mystery,—seldom noticed, never explained, but passed by, like the unheeded pebble at a man's foot, which could put him to the riddle of the universe, if he cared to inquire of it.  But, apart from all this play of silent action, and what it revealed to the penetrative spirit, Dimple's thoughts were his own.  Long ears and long-suffering were the accidents of his birth, and the hereditary badges of his tribe; but he never wearied either his own ears or the ears of others with doleful complainings, nor gusts of windy utterance, "signifying nothing," but silently went his way through storm and sunshine, towards his end,—like a gentleman.  His words were few, his thoughts were many.  He had a true and tender heart for his friends, and a pair of hard heels for his enemies; he had a patient and enduring spirit for all that befel, and a quiet, observant eye for everything.

    Betty and Billy, and Dimple and Ben.  There they were, all freaked with summer flowers, and wandering through the sunshine, as happy as the lark that sang above them.  It was a great event for them all, this little summer trip together to the old village of Whitworth.  Ben was accustomed to travelling about to the towns and villages around, within the distance of an easy day's journey from home; and he was looked upon as a man who had seen a good deal of the great world, in comparison with many of his neighbours, with whom an annual trip of four or five miles, to the "Rush-bearing" at Rochdale town, was an event to talk about through all the rest of the year.  To Ben the mere journey was therefore no novelty.  But Betty was unusually elated in spirits; for, like most folks born in remote nooks of those hills, she was not much given to wandering, even in her own neighbourhood.  And this home-keeping habit had become more confirmed in her ever since her wedding-day.  She was quite content with her little cot upon the sweet wild slope of Lobden Moor, and she listened to Ben's description of scenes and events met with in the towns and villages within a few miles' circuit, with as much wonderment as men in these days listen to the tales of travellers returned from far foreign lands.  To her mind the distances from nook to nook of her native hills still retain something of the importance which they had in childhood,—so little need had she found for travelling, and so little facility was there for it, especially in such retired places at that time.  The people of those days little dreamt of the change which a few years were to bring forth in this respect.  The wonders of modern railways were still in the womb of time; and there are old people living in those hills who, even yet, view the vast change in the mode of travel, and the wonderful results arising there from, with no small amazement.

    But it was not alone the novelty of the trip, nor the beauty of the day, that made Betty's heart gladder than usual.  The chief feature of the event that pleased them all was that they were going together.

    As they descended the hill, the top of the cottage chimney disappeared, and the fields, and meadows, and scattered homesteads of the valley began to expand upon the sight.  The last note of Ben's song had died out upon the air, and they had journeyed on a minute or two in silence together, as if drinking in the varied beauty of the scene before them, when Billy's rosy face peeped over the top of the posy which his mother was carrying, and clapping his little fat hands, he cried out, "Sing again, dad!"

    "Doesto yer what he says?" cried Betty to Ben, who was a few yards ahead of the donkey, flirting his whip at the gorse bushes by the roadside.  "Doesto yer what this lad says?"

    "Nawe," replied Ben.  "What is it this time?"

    "He says he wants tho to sing again."

    "Well then, I will, my lad!" cried Ben.  "Here goes!—


As I crossed the fields wi' my milkin'-can,
    In a May mornin' early,
I met with a fine young gentleman,
    An' he said 'at he loved me dearly!
I made him a curtsey, he made me a bow,
    He kissed me, an' said he would marry I trow;
I wish i' my heart he wur here just now,
    In a May mornin' early."


    "Neaw then, Billy, my lad," said Ben, patting the little fellow on the cheek, "heaw will that do?"

    The little fellow crowed and clapped his hands.

    "Well, come," said Ben, "I've just time to gi' tho another bit of a ditty afore we come'n to yon heawse.  What's it to be?"

    "Sing him 'Th' Carion Crow,' or else 'Poor Owd Horse,'" said Betty.

    And little Billy clapped his hands again, and crowed among the posies which half-concealed his chubby face.


The carrion crow he sat upon an oak,
An he spied an owd taylior cuttin' eawt a cloak.
        Heigho! the carrion crow.

The carrion crow he began for to rave,
An' he code th' owd taylior a dirty knave.
        Heigho! the carrion crow.

Dame, go fetch my arrow an' my bow,
An' I'll have a shot at yon carrion crow.
        Heigho! the carrion crow.

Th' taylior he shot, but he missed his mark,
An' he shot th' owd sow slap through th' heart.
        Heigho! the carrion crow.

Dame, go fetch me some traycle in a spoon,
For th' poor owd sow's in a terrible swoon.
        Heigho! the carrion crow.

Th' owd sow deed, and the bells they did toll,
An' th' little pigs prayed for th' owd sow's soul!
        Heigho! the carrion crow.


    They were now entering the cultivated lands upon the lower slope of the valley.  Kine (cattle) were cropping the green herbage of the pasture lands; and, lower down, the light green hue of the new-mown meadows was visible in all directions.  Old sprawling hedges, drowned in the wild growth of summer plants and flowers, began to flank the sides of the way.  Farmhouses stood here and there, one or two near the road down which they were going, others scattered irregularly along the valley, in shady nooks, and on shelves of green land.  Some of these were quaint stone-built homesteads, some centuries old.

    As they approached a gate which led up to an old farmhouse, a few yards retired from the road, a burly old farmer was coming down the path, from the door of the house, towards the gate, with a hay-rake in his hand.  Recognising Ben, as he came down the road by the side of the jackass, chattering to Betty and Billy, the old man shaded the sun from his eyes with his hand for a second or two; and when he had reconnoitred the approaching travellers, he lifted his rake and cried out,

    "Hello, Ben, my lad!  Heaw fur?  Heaw fur?  What, arto for tryin' th' green-grocery line?  Or thae'rt hawkin' garden-plants? .  .  . Well, Betty, haw are yo?  What, Billy theer an' o'?  What's to do?  What's to do? Arto for flittin', Ben?  Arto for flittin'?  Or thae'rt beawn to a rushbearin' somewheer?  What's th' price o' thi garlan', owd lad?  It looks weel,—an' nought else."

    "Well, are we fit to turn eawt, thinken yo?" said Ben, stopping the donkey in front of the gate.

    "Turn eawt!" cried the old man.  "Turn eawt, saysto?  I never seed a prattier dooment sin I're born into th' world!  Lobden garlan', by th' mon!  An' yor Betty sits theer, i'th middle on't, as grand as th' Queen o' Shayba!  Betty, heaw arto,—heaw arto lass, for thae looks primely?"

    "I'm just middlin', Amos, thank yo!" cried Betty.  "Are yo middlin'?"

    "Oh, I'm th' reet side eawt, lass,—th' reet side eawt.  What, han yo getten Billy wi' yo,—is Billy theer an' o', th' little urchin?  I see tho theer, at th' back o' thoose posies!  I see tho peepin'!  What, Ben, lad, thae's getten o'ath lot here,—stock, lock, an' barrel.  Arto for flittin', lad?  Arto for flittin'?"

    "Nay, we're noan beawn so fur, Amos," replied Ben.  "We's be back again abeawt th' edge o' dark, when th' crow flies whoam."

    "Well, come, that'll do,—that'll do.  I thought yo're off, like; as you're so donned, an' so trimmed, an' so garlanded up to th' een, o' on yo.  By th' mass, it favvours a gardener's weddin'!  As for thee, Ben, I never seed thee as smart sin I're wick!  Thae'rt as grand as a recruitin' sarjen', i' war time!  An' th' jackass an' o',—th' jackass an' o',—brokken eawt in a rosy rash!  There never wur sich a jackass i' this world as that o' thine, Ben, never!  Eh, dear o' me!  I'm fain to see yo,—I'm fain to see yo,—th' jackass an' o'!  I'm fain to see yo!  But heaw fur arto for, Ben,heaw fur arto for?"

    "Eawr Betty an' Billy's beawn as fur as Whit'oth.  I'm gooin' as fur as Blacks'nedge; an' I'se co' for 'em as I come back, at neet."

    "A bit of a junkettin'-jawnt, I guess?" continued the old farmer.

    "Nought else, Amos," replied Ben.  "Eawr Betty an' me are noan beawn to tak things as quietly as we han done.  We're for havin' a jawnt together to-day, for a leetenin', as it's turns eawt so fine at after bein' so rough."

    "Ay, ay, an' nought but reet, noather," said Amos "nought but reet, noather, lad!  Pluck up, an' look reawnd tho, an' do a bit o' summat for thisel!  An' dunnot be rootin' wi' thi nose upo' th' grindlestone for everlastin', mon.  Pluck up, an' twirl thisel reawnd a bit!  Faint heart never won fair lady, mon,—never!  Not i' this world; I don't know heaw they'n go on i'th next.  Doesto yer, Betty, lass?  Am I reet?  Faint heart never won fair lady.  Am I reet?  Am I reet?"

    "I yer yo," replied Betty.

    "Well, am I reet, then, I want to know?" continued the old farmer.

    "You're noan so fur off th' mark, Amos," answered she, with a sly smile.

    "Neaw then, Ben, lad, doesto yer that?" cried Amos.  "Doesto yer that hommer-rap?"

    "I yer," replied Ben, stroking Dimple's fore-leg down.  "I yer what yo say'n."

    "Well, heed, then, lad, heed!" said Amos.  "Faint heart never won fair lady,—nor it never won mich o' nought else, noather."

    "Fair ladies!" said Ben, lifting up his head, with a flush upon his countenance.  "I know nought abeawt yor fair ladies.  Look at eawr Betty, as hoo sits theer, at th' top o' that jackass!  By th' 'ounds, Amos, I deawt I'm set up i'th lady-line, as fur as this world gwos.  I don't know what th' next'll do for me,—as yo say'n.  But, hoo is theer, to look at.  I think I'm very weel fitted, Amos.  I don't know what yo thinken."

    "I dar say thae art well fitted, Ben,—an' a good job, too.  Be thankful, lad, be thankful.  There's noan so mony 'at's let on better nor thee. Dun yo yer him, Betty?  Dun yo yer what he says?"

    "I yer yo," said Betty, blushing.  "I yer yo, both on yo.  I don't know whether yo co'n me a lady or not; an' if it's o'th same to yo, I'd as lief yo would'nt co' me no mak o' nicknames.  But, lady or no lady, I am here, sich as I am,—to be gooin' on wi'.  An' if I'm a lady,—eawr Ben's a gentleman, I guess.  A bosom-maker's wife has no 'casion to reckon to be so mich aboon porritch.  I dunnot thank folk for throwing their slurs.  Everybody knows what trade we are,—an' I don't care whether they dun or not."

    "Keep thi temper, lass,— keep thi temper," said the old farmer, laughing aloud.

    "Hoo's noan short o' pluck, is hoo?" said Ben.  "Hoo's roan short o' pluck, if hoo has nobbut a jackass to ride on."

    "Pluck?  Nawe, by th' 'ounds, I wish thae'd hauve as mich, Ben," said the old farmer.  "But yo munnot tak me wrang.  Yo ail'n nought at o', Betty,—yo ail'n nought at o'!  God bless yo bwoth!  There's mony a rare good nut wi' a rough shell.  God bless yo!  You're o' reet, if yo con poo through together."

    "Well, I'm content, if eawr Ben is," replied Betty.  "An' I don't think he has mich occasion to grumble, if he con sattle his mind."

    "That's wheer it is, Betty," said Amos,—"that's just wheet it is.  There's a deeol o' trouble wi' some folk's yeds.  Owed Snitch, th' taylior, use't to say that he could mak a pair o' breeches to fit their Nathan ony wheer except o'th yed.  He could never mak a pair to fit his yed.  An' it's happen th' same wi' Ben, here."

    "A little bit, sometimes, I think," said Betty, smiling.

    "Oh, Ben! oh, Ben!" said old Amos.  "I deawt thae's a twothre curly fancies i' that pate o' thine, sometimes."

    "I wish to the Lord yo'd howd yor tungs," said Ben, playing with the end of his whiplash.  "As for thee, Betty, thae'll mak it eawt in a bit at I'm oather leet-yedded, or summat war."

    "Eh, dear o' me!" said Betty.  "Who's settin' their bristles up neaw, I wonder?  Thae plagues me mony a time; but thae connot stop' jokin' a bit thisel.  Put that neck-hankitcher o' thine straight, an' let's be gooin'."

    "Ay, come, come, come,let's drop it," said Amos.  "But what's o' yor hurry?"

    "We mun be gettin' forrad," replied Ben, taking hold of the bridle.  "I think yo'n done middlin' wi' yor hay this time, Amos, hadn't yo?"

    "Oh, ay," replied the old farmer, "we'n done very weel, tak it o' together.  Just th' tail end o'th harvest geet catcht by th' storm, yesterday,—but nought o' no weight.  Two or three hours' moore dry weather, an' we should ha' had it every bit snugly heawse, an' i' good fettle."

    "Eh, it wur a storm," said Ben.

    "Ay, it wur, lad," replied the farmer.  "It's a lung time sin aught like it befel, i' my time.  We's yer of a deeol o' damage bein' done, up an' deawn, I deawt.  Heaw did thae go on, Ben?"

    "Oh, I geet steep't to th' skin i'th for-end o'th storm," said Ben; "but I crope into th' Red Lion, at Whit'oth, an' geet my clooas dried, while th' storm went by."

    "Eh, ay," said Betty.  "I couldn't tell wherever he could be, Amos.  An' th' childer an' me wur o' alone i' yon bit o'th cot, wi' nought nobbut th' wild moor abeawt us.  I wur terrible fleyed, I con tell yo."

    "Thae met ha' come'd deawn here wi' th' childer," said the old farmer.  "It would ha' bin company for tho."

    "Eh, thank yo," replied Betty; "but it coom o' of a sudden, yo known, Amos.  An', fleyed as I wur, I never once thought o' gooin' eawt o'th heawse, for I lippen't of eawr Ben comin' in every minute, as weet as a wayter-dog.  An' if he had, yo known, I wouldn't ha' had him to ha' fund th' dur fast again him, for a keaw-price .  .  .  But, eh, dear o' me, Ben, do let's be off!  Thae'rt forgettin' thisel. mon!  Th' day's creepin' on!"

    "Ay, lass, we mum be gooin' for sure," said Ben, laying hold of Dimple's bridle once more.

    "Heaw's th' owd mistress?" said Betty, as she settled herself upon the saddle for another start.  Heaw's th' owd mistress, an' yor Martha?"

    "Eh, dear! ay, ay, ay," said the old farmer.  "By th' mass, Betty, I'd like to made a hole i' my manners.  Hoo'd ha' played th' upstroke wi' me if I'd letten yo go by.  Come, I'll co' on her."

    Then the old man turned round, and shouted up towards the house.

    "Eysther!  Doesto yer, Matty?  Come here, you're wanted a minute."

    The farmer's wife came to the door with spectacles on her nose.  She had evidently been baking, for her hands were white with flour, and she had brought a rolling-pin to the door.  Esther was about sixty-five years of age; but she was a fine, healthy, cheerful woman still.  She was far above the middle height, and she was round, and sound, and as fresh-coloured as a well-grown apple.  Silver threads were beginning to shine among her auburn air, and time had engraved a few delicate wrinkles upon her open forehead; but a sound constitution, and a happy temperament, combined with a sweet and simple life, in easy circumstances, had made her almost insensible to the approach of age; and she was a pleasant picture to look upon, as she stood there, smiling in the doorway, with the rolling-pin in her hands.

    "Hoo is yon, sitho, Betty," said the old farmer.  "Hoo is yon,—as cant as a kitlin'.  It's th' bakin-day, thae sees, an' hoo's up to th' een i' flour, an' sich like.  It'll be th' churn-supper th' day after to-morn, too; an' we're o' upset,—we're o' upset .  .  .  Neaw, then," continued he, turning round, and shouting to his wife, "arto noan beawn to come deawn,—wi' that rollin'-pin o' thine?"

    "Who is it?" said the old woman.

    "Come thi ways an' see," said Amos.  "Come thi ways an' see!"

    "I'm sich a seet, mon," said the old woman, wiping her hands upon her apron.

    "Seet!" replied the farmer.  "Thae ails nought.  Come thi ways deawn, an' bring th' rollin'-pin wi' tho,th' mug an' o', if thae's a mind.  Come thi ways.  What, we sha'not bite tho!"

    "Whatever hasto agate?" said the old woman, as she came down to the roadside, smiling and wiping her hands.

    "Agate?" replied the farmer.  "Thae met be freeten't o' sombry runnin' away wi' tho.  Doesto see what there is at th' top o' that jackass, theer?"

    "Eh, God bless mi life!" said the old woman.  "What, is it Betty?  An' Billy an' o'!  Well, well, by my truth, but yo looken vast smart!  Wheerever are yo for?"

    "We're beawn as far as Whit'oth, Eysther," said Betty.

    "Whit'oth?" replied the o'd woman.  "What, yo're noan beawn to th' doctor's, are yo?  Han yo had a misfortin, some on yo?  No limbs brokken, I hope?"

    "Eh, nawe, we'n had no misfortins at eawr heawse, Eysther,—thank God for it!  Nawe, I'm nobbut gooin' for a bit of an eawt," replied Betty.

    "It's weel to be yo, Betty, 'at con go flirtin' up an' deawn,—that it is," said the farmer's wife.  "But never mind, lass," confined she, "never mind.  See a bit o' summat while there's a chance.  For when thae get's four or five moor childer reawnd tho, thae'll not be able to stir far away fro whoam."

    "Doesto yer that," said the old farmer, whispering to Ben.  "Doesto yer that, lad?  Four or five moor.  Eawr owd woman's cuttin' wark eawt for yo."

    "I yer her," replied Ben, kicking a little stone which lay at his foot.

    "Eh, mistress," said Betty, "four or five moor!  It makes me tremble to think on't.  We'n as mich as th' pastur'll keep, neaw.  I'm quite content as we are."

    "Howd thi din, lass, do," replied the old woman.  "Dunnot thee be flayed, Folk mun do as they con i' this world, and not as they win.  Eawr Amos an' me,—we'n had nineteen; an' I believe 'at they every one on 'em brought us fresh luck,—I do for sure,—thank God for't!"

    "Eh, mistress," said Betty, blushing and smiling, "you're as bad as eawr Ben, every bit.  That's just his talk to nought at o'."

    "Well, an' he's reet," replied the old woman.  "But, here, Amos, tak howd o' this rollin'-pin.  I'll wipe my honds.  Code, Betty, gi's howd o' that little lad o' yor's.  Yo mun get off a twothre minutes.  Ben, help her deawn."

    "Eh, nay," said Betty, "I dar not get off, Eysther,—I dar not get off!  Eawr Ben's to be at Yealey Ho' at noon; an' we'n to go to Whit'oth th' first.  He's takkin' me deawn to see th' londlady at th' Red Lion.  Hoo's bin an owd friend o' mine ever sin' I wur a bit of a lass; an' I hadn't sin her, I dunnot know th' time when.  Hoo's gettin' a good age, is th' owd woman; an' hoo's nobbut in a tickle state o' health; an' hoo wants me to go deawn.  If aught wur to happen her, I should fret sadly if I hadn't sin her, for hoo's bin very good to me."

    "An' nought but reet," said the farmer's wife.  "But, what the hangment, you're noan i' that hurry?  Thae can get deawn a minute.  Gi' me howd o' that lad.  Ben, help her off."

    "Eh, I dar not,—I dar not, Eysther," cried Betty.  "I dur not, for sure!  It'd tak me hauve-an-heaver to get on again.  We'n co' as we come'n back.  Come, Ben, let's be gooin'."

    "Ay, we mun be gooin', for sure, lass," said Ben.

    "Well, then, if yo win co' as yo come'n back, I'll let yo off," said the old woman.

    "Oh, we'st come back this gate, Eysther," replied Betty; "an' I'll co', if I'm livin'."

    "That'll do!" said old Esther,—"that'll do; an' then yo con stop a bit."

    "Sure, I con," replied Betty.  "Well, I'll bid yo good mornin'.  Come, Ben."

    "Here, here," cried the old man, turning to his wife, "What, thae'rt noan beawn to let 'em go by dry meawth arto?  Look at Ben, here.  Th' lad's as dry as soot!"

    "Eh, dear!" replied the old woman, "whatever am I thinkin' abeawt!  This yed o' mine isn't worth a row o' pins."

    "Nawe, nawe," said Betty.  "Never mind it just neaw, Eysther.  Thank yo o'th same.  But we hadn't time,—we hadn't, for sure."

    "Stop wheer yo are a minute," said the farmer's wife, as she hurried up to the house.

    "Here, here," cried the farmer, "tak this rollin'-pin o' thine.  What hasto left it wi' me for?"

    But the old woman had disappeared into the house.

    "Hoo's off!" said the old man, laughing, as he flung the rollin'-pin up and caught it again descending.

    "Ben," said Betty, "I wonder at tho.  Thae knows what what we han to do; an' theer thae stops, as quiet as a milestone, just as if thi meawth wur stitch't up!"

    "Well, thae knows," replied Ben, "thae'rt a better talker than I am.  It's no use on us both bein' agate at once, mon."

    "Thae knows wheer to find thi tung, when thae's a mind, too," said Betty.

    "I wish I knowed heaw to stop thine, sometimes," replied Ben.

    "Come, come, hoo's here," cried the farmer, as the old woman returned with a tray in her hands, upon which were refreshments.

    "Here, Amos, tak howd a minute," said she, handing the tray to the old farmer.  "Neaw then, Betty lass, there's a drop o' elder wine for tho; get it 'into tho.  It'll do tho no harm, lass.  Ben, I dar say thae's dry.  Thae'll find that a saup o' good ale, I think .  .  .  An' as for this pratty little lad o' yors," continued she, patting Billy's dimple chin, "I've brought him some bits o' sweet-cakes, an' two red-cheeked apples,—God bless him!  Come, I'm like to have a kiss."  And Billy stretched out his little arms to clip the kind old woman's neck.  "Betty," said she, "he'd happen like a saup o' new milk to his cake."

    "Oh, nay, thank yo," replied Betty, "I'll let him taste wi' me."

    "Well," said the old woman, "it'll not do him a bit o' hurt, bless him,—th' poor little thing."

    And so they chatted kindly together, whilst Betty sipped her wine. .

    "Mistress," said Betty, "I don't see yo're lasses abeawt.  Wheerever are they?"

    "Eh, they're off at th' teawn, marketin'.  We're o' up to th' neck, gettin' ready for th' churn supper.  It comes off th' day after to-morn; an' I've my honds full, thae may depend."

    "Ben," said the old man, "thae met come deawn to th' churn supper, an' bring Betty wi' tho."

    "Eh, ay, do come!" added the old woman.  "What's th' use o' mewin' yorsels up i' yon lonely heawse, fro' week-end to week-end?  Do come.  I'm sure we'n make yo welcome.  What say'n yo, Betty?  Win yo come?  Eawr lasses win be some fain."

    "Eh, ay, bith heart, mistress, I'll come, an' thank yo mony a time!  I'll come for an heawer or two, if eawr Ben'll come wi' me."

    "Oh, we'n not ha' yo sunder's, lass," cried the old farmer.  "Yo mun come together.  An' yo mun stick together.  Ay, an' yo mun doance together, too."

    "Eh, my dancin' days are o'er, I deawt," replied Betty.

    "Howd thi din, lass, do!" said the old woman, "thae'll be reet enough, i' thae'll ha' patience! .  .  .  But it's a bargain, I guess,—isn't it, Betty?"

    "Oh, we'n come, for sure," said Betty.  "It will be moonleet."

    "Sure, it will," replied the old woman.

    "Neaw, doesto yer that?" said the farmer, giving Ben a slap on the shoulder.  "If thae doesn't bring her, I'll ha' thee ducked i'th hoarse-poand, th' next time thae comes by."

    "Oh, we'n come, Amos, yo'n see," replied Ben.  "I'll come afore I'll be ducked, as heaw."

    "An' neaw then," said Betty, handing down the empty glass, "we mun be gooin',—we mun, for sure!  Ben, do start!"

    "Well, then," said the farmer's wife, "good mornin' to yo, Betty!  Good mornin' to yo o'!  An' I hope yo'n have a pleasant eawt!"

    And so, with many kind parting words, they started on their way again.

    The old woman watched them down the lane, and as she stood leaning over the gate, little Billy chanced to turn his head and looked back.

    "I see tho theer," said she,—" I see thou, wi' thi bonny blue een!  God bless tho! .  .  . Poor little thing!  It's a bonny lad!"

    "He's a pratty lad, for sure," said the farmer, gazing after them; "an' they're two very daycent folk,—Ben an' th' wife."

    "Ay, they are," replied the old woman.  "But I mun go back to yon bakin'.  Put th' rollin-pin upo' this tray, an' let me be off."

    The old man laid the rolling-pin upon the tray, and she walked back into the house, whilst he went humming across the road, with a rake in his hand, disappearing at the entrance of a meadow on the opposite side.

    In the meantime the little family were wending their way quietly downward, between the thick-grown hedgerows, as happy as the day, Betty and Billy chatting together about his cakes and red-checked apples, whilst Ben walked by their side, whistling, and switching at the brambles that grew by the way.

    They had reached the bottom of the bridle-path, and emerged upon the high road leading along the valley from Rochdale to Rossendale, when Ben, in a sudden fit of hilarity, gave Dimple a switch behind, and cried, "Come up!" and away went Dimple, as if quite willing for a frolic.  Away he went, at full gallop, to the dismay of Betty and Billy, who, being hampered with the basket and the flowers, began to roll about in an ominous way.  Billy screamed, and Betty cried out, "Stop it!  Do stop it!  I'm slurrin' off!"  Ben ran ahead, and caught the donkey by the bridle.  "Thane great foo," said Betty, wiping the perspiration from her face, "what didto set it off o' that shap for?  Thae knows I'm as fast as a midge in a traycle-pot, wi' this lad i' my arms.  We should ha' bin rollin' upo' th' floor in a minute.  Do drive gently!  I connot do to be shake't o' that road!  I wonder what thae'rt thinkin' at?"

    "I never thought it would ha' started a-gallopin'," said Ben, still keeping hold of the bridle.  "I've hard work to get it to walk, sometimes.  Thae mun ha' some pins abeawt tho."

    "Pins be hanged!" replied Betty.  "Keep thi whip still, an' stick to th' bridle a bit.  I don't want to make a job for th' doctors, if we are gooin' to Whit'oth."

    " Well, sattle thisel, lass.  I'll keep him up," said Ben, walking on, with his hand upon Dimple's neck.

    "Sattle mysell!" cried Betty.  "Stop it!  Stop it, this minute!  Th' saddle's givin' way, neaw!  We're o' slutterin' deawn o' one side!  Come thi ways reawnd, an' look at this batty-bant."

    Ben ran to the other side, to see what was the matter.

    "Heawever hasto getten these things twisted reawnd thi legs?" said he.  "Tak thi feet o' one side, till I tighten this bally-bant."

    "Stop a minute," replied Betty.  "I'm fast as a thief in a mill, mon, with o' these things abeawt me .  .  .  theer, that'll do."

    "Arto reet neaw?" said Ben.

    "Ay," replied Betty, "I think we's do neaw.  But, prithee, neaw, do drive quietly!  Thae knows heaw I am."

    "Ay, I know, lass,—I know," said Ben, laying hold of the bridle.  "Come up, Dimple!"

    In a few minuses they were journeying on again, seemingly forgetful of all but the beauty of the day and the novelty of the trip.  They had not gone far before they came in sight of a herd of cattle, whisking their tails as they wended their way slowly onward, at a short distance ahead, with two drovers lounging after them, staff in hand.  In the rearward came the drovers' dogs.  They had little trouble with the cattle on this quiet road; but now and then they darted from side to side, at their heels, and gave a bark or two, which sounded loud and clear in the still valley.  The cattle had evidently come a long way, and occasionally one or other of them would stop and gaze dreamily around, and then begin to low at the sky, as if calling to the mates it had left far behind among the hills among and dales of the north, until aroused from its reverie by a snap on the heel, from one of the dogs, it darted forward to find shelter among the lazy-pacing herd in front.  The drovers were tall, hardy men, with plaids upon their shoulders; and they had a weather-stained appearance, as if they had come a long way.  One of them was eating a raw turnip, from which he cut a slice now and then, with his pocket-knife.

    Billy was delighted with the sight of the cattle, and, clapping his hands, he cried out, "See yo, mam, moo-keaws!"

    Ben gave a passing salute to the two drovers, and he was following Dimple quietly through the midst of the herd when one of them, as if seized with a fit of indignation at the companionship of the donkey, gave Dimple a sudden prod in the rear with his horns,—an unexpected compliment which Dimple instantly returned with his heels, to the speedy discomfiture of his bovine foe.  Again and again, Dimple's hind-quarters rose into the air, and out flew his heels, like shot.  The sudden upset frightened Betty and the child, and they screamed out in concert.  Of course she blamed Ben for the whole thing; and what vexed her most of all was that the two drovers were laughing heartily, and Ben joined them.

    "For two pins," said she, "I'd get off this jackass, an' turn back whoam again!  I wish to the Lord I'd never com'd!  Thae like as if thae does everything 'at thae con to mak a foo' o' one.  It'll be a good while afore thae catches me eawt wi' thee again,—I con tell tho that!  Thae hasn't a bit o' thought for nobody nobbut thisel!

    Ben held his tongue, and allowed her to exhaust her temper, unopposed.  Taking Dimple by the bridle, and leading him quietly through the herd, they went ahead.  A turn of the road soon took them out of sight of the drovers and their cattle, and they were travelling on, with the road to themselves once more.  When Betty came to look into Billy's basket, she found that Billy's apples were gone.  In fact, they had been shaken out of the basket during the gallop, and had long since been eaten by a hungry lad who found them lying on the road.  Billy began to whimper for his lost apples, but he was soon pacified, and so was Betty; and in a few minutes the lad had leaned his head on his mother's breast, in a dreamy state of happiness, listening whilst she sang to him.

    As they were thus wending their quiet way again, Billy caught a glimpse of a tall fox-glove shining through the thorns by the road-side, and, clapping his hands, he cried out, "A posy,—a posy!"

    "What is it, Billy?" said Ben, stopping the donkey.

    "It's yon, sitho," replied Betty, pointing to the fox-glove.  "He's just thy marrow for posies."

    "Here, I'll fotch it," said Ben.

    And away he ran to a gap in the hedge, and, jumping through, he alighted in a wet ditch, up to the ankles,—which, for the sake of quietness, he did not mention to his wife.  When he had wiped his shoes carefully with grass, he plucked the flower from the hedge-side, and, returning triumphant, he held it aloft, and cried, "Sitho, Billy,—it's a grand un!"

    "Dad," said the little fellow, "give it Dimple."

    "I will, my lad," replied Ben.

    And when Ben had fixed it upright in the head of Dimple s bridle, like the plume of a knightly steed, Billy clapped his hands, and crowed again with glee; and then he bent forward to clip Dimple's neck with his little fat arms.
                              .                              .                              .                              .

    "Mam," said Billy, looking into his mother's face, as they went on, "mun I drive a jackass when I'm a felly?"

    "Eh, I hope not, my lad," replied Betty, in a low, soft tone.  "I could like thee to do summat better,—if,—"  She was going to say, "If God spares thi life;" but she stopped, for fear of reviving the sad train of thought which had troubled their hearts before.  The child gave a look of silent inquiry into his mother's face; then, lifting his little mouth for a kiss, he whispered to her.

    "Ben," said she, "he wants tho to sing for him again.  Thae mun give him an odd verse o' some sort, or else there'll be no quietness."

    "Well, I will," replied Ben.  "Neaw for it, Billy:


'Twas down in Cupid's garden
    For pleasure I did go,
To see the fairest flowers
    That in that garden grow.
The first it was the jessamine
    The lily, pink, and rose;
And surely they're the fairest flowers
    That in that garden grows.

I'd not walked in that garden
    The past of half an hour,
When there I saw two pretty maids
    Sitting under a shady bower.
The first was lovely Nancy,
    So beautiful and fair,
The other was a virgin
    Who did the laurel wear.

I boldly stepped up to her,
    And unto her did say,
Are you engaged to any young man
    Come, tell me, I pray."
"I'm not engaged to any young man,
    I solemnly do swear,—
I mean to live a virgin,
    And still the laurel wear."


Theer Billy," said Ben, chucking the lad under the chin,—"will will that do?  Come, gi' me a kiss."
                       .                                   .                                   .                                   .

    They were now approaching the little hamlet of Facit, and they were in sight of the Bull's Head,—the rock on which Ben had split many a time, when alone.  But now that his trusty wife was by his side, he was not afraid.  He remembered, too, that be had promised the landlady that he would bring Betty down to see her.

    "Sitho, Betty," said he, pointing ahead, "theer's th' Bull's Bed, yon."

    "Ay, I see it," replied Betty "an' it may stop yon, for me.  Thae'rt noan beawn in, so I've towd tho."

    "It's no use," said Ben, "we connot get by beawt co'in'; if it's nobbut for a minute or two.  Hoo laid sich a charge o' me as never wur, that I wur to bring tho deawn.  Beside, hoo wants to look at eawr Billy.  We's be like to peep at her."

    "Eh, Ben," replied Betty, "we'n no time to stop botherin' theer."

    "I know that," said Ben; "but it's no use tryin' to snake off it, mon; for we connot get by.  Somebory's sure to stop us; so we met as well face up at once.  We's get better through."

    "Well," replied Betty, "I don't mind for a minute or two.  But I'll not get off this jackass, at no rate,—so neaw thae knows; an' I'll tell tho another thing,—if we are to co', let's go reawnd to th' kitchen dur.  I don't want to sit at th' top o' this thing, i'th front of a alehouse, to be a show for ony mak o' rabblement 'at happens to be i'th tap-reawm, while thae'rt makin' a hobby-horse o' thisel i'th inside."

    "I'm noan beawn to make a hobby-horse o' misel," said Ben.

    "But thae has done afore, Ben," replied Betty,—"thae has done afore.  Or else thae's letten other folk do it for tho; an' that's nearly as ill.  But go thi ways reawnd to th' kitchen dur.  An' dunnot stop, I pritho,—dunnot stop, neaw!"

    They were now within a few yards of the house, and Ben said no more, but quietly laying hold of the bridle he led Dimple round to the back door.  The landlady was bustling about among the servants in the kitchen, helping in the preparations for dinner; for she was a notable cook, and she liked to be amongst that kind of work.  She had a fine saddle of mutton in her hands when Ben and the donkey came into the yard, and when she saw them, she laid the mutton down upon the dresser, and setting her hands upon her sides, she stared through the window, and said, "In the name o' fortin', what's comin' neaw?"

    She ran to the door, and when she saw who was there, she welcomed them with all the warmth of her genial nature.  She would fain have had Betty get down from the saddle; but Betty firmly resisted all her kindly importunities, on the plea that there was so little time to spare.  Then the warm-hearted landlady seemed as if she hardly knew what to do to show her kindly feeling for the little family.  She fetched Betty a tumbler of hot negus, and though Betty strongly urged that she was "fleyed on it gettin' into her yed," she insisted on her sipping at it.  She then took Betty's basket and crammed it with fruits, and with all sorts of sweets "nifles," to the great delight of Billy, whose little blue eyes were full of wonderment at the warmth and briskness of the buxom dame, as she went smiling, and chattering, and frisking to and fro, with her snow-white cap-strings fluttering about her neck.  Taking the lad in her arms, she smothered him with kisses; and as she carried him into the kitchen she pushed the lad's father in before her, and said, "Go thi ways into th' kitchen!  Thae'll be like to have a meawthful o' summat."

    "Ben," cried Betty, beckoning him, "I want tho a minute," and he went and listened, whilst she whispered to him.

    "O' reet," replied Ben, nodding.  "I yer what tho says."  And he went and sat down by the open door, in the kitchen.  The landlady ordered some refreshment for him; and then, setting Billy upon the top of the dresser, she patted his rosy cheek, and said, "Stop theer a bit, thae little curly-paced midge!"  Then, turning to the servants, she said, "Neaw, lasses, stir yorsels!  Mary, thee get that stuff deawn to th' fire, as soon as thou con, an' onswer yon bell!  An' Sally, come here, an' stick to this lad a minute, while I run upstairs."  The servant took him in her arms, and dandled him, and chatted to him, whilst Billy silently examined her countenance, and her dress; and when he had looked her over well he said, "Thae artn't sich a nice un!" which set them all a-laughing.  His eyes then began to wander silently round the kitchen, and pointing to the clock, he said, "That clock isn't as dud (good) as ers (ours)."  And so he went from one thing to another, complaining that there was nothing so good or so pretty as the things he had left at home.  When the landlady came downstairs again, she had a piece of bright pink ribbon in her hand.

    "Neaw then, Sally," said she, "set him onto th' top o' that dresser again!"

    The servant set him down upon his feet, and she told the landlady how he had been speaking slightingly of,—first one thing, then another, in the kitchen; and that he had told her that she was "not such a nice un."

    "Well," replied the landlady, "an' th' lad's reet enough, Sally, for thae'll no greight shakes, as fur as beauty goes; but thae'd pass better, mon, if thae'd keep thisel tidy.  If I wur thee, I'd wesh mi face, an' ready mi yure a bit.  Th' choilt may weel say thae artn't a nice un, for thae'rt as dirty as an owd tramp.  I would keep myself some bit like, if I wur as young as thee.  John o' Simons'll have a smart hondful when he gets thee.  I wonder heaw thae'll look when thae's hauve a dozen childer at thi heels?  If I're a lad I should as soon think o' gettin' wed to a corn-boggart as sich a trollops!  Go thi ways, an' swill th' dirt off tho; an' put some mak of a daycent frock on;" and she pushed her away.  Then, turning to Billy, who was standing upon the dresser, she said, "An' as for thee, thae little saucy, niddlety-noddlety, camplin, curly-paced pousement,—wi' thin blue een,—there never wur nought i' this heawse one hauve as nice as thou art; nor there never will be, I deawt,—not belongin' to me, as heaw 'tis.  Come here; let's tee this bit o' ribbin reawnd thin neck! .  .  . Neaw then!" said she, stepping back, and looking at him, "Isn't that nice,—thou little sweet-lipped scopperil!  Then, in a gushing fit of admiration, she clapped her hands, and cried, "He's a pratty little crayter, an' nought else!  I've a good mind to squeeze him i' two!"  And, folding him in her arms, she smothered him with kisses, till Billy began to stamp and kick with impatience; and when she let go her hold, Billy pushed at her pettishly, and said, "Yo are not my mam!"  "The dule I am not?" replied she, laughing.  Then, setting her hands upon her hips, she sighed, and said, "Nawe, choilt; nor I am not thin mother.  I doubt thae'd be ill marred if I wur.  I should be bitin' that bonny little yed o' thine off, or some lumber." .  .  .  Owd Dody o' Flutter's, the wooden-legged brewer, was swilling the yard, and the landlady rapped at the window, and beckoned for him to come in.  The old man reared his besom against the wall, and then came stumping into the kitchen.  "Dody," said the landlady, "gi' that jackass some wayter, an' a bit o' summat to height (eat)."  When Billy heard the sound of Dody's wooden leg upon the kitchen floor, he looked at it very earnestly, and then, turning to Ben, he said, "Dad, he's getten a table leg."  "Theer, Dody," said the landlady, laughing, "it's thy turn this time.  Thae'd better tak that peg-leg o' thine eawt o' seet, or else he'll be at it again.  Off witho, an' get yon swillin' done.  Ben, lad, sup up,—thae con manage a drop moor."

    "Not another toothful, thank yo," replied Ben.  "I con hardly manage this."

    "An' as for thee," continued the landlady, turning to Billy again, "I'll stop that little saucy meawt o' thine, oather bi hook or crook!  Mary, reitch th' black-curran presarves eawt o' yon cubbort .  .  .  Come here, thae little urchin," continued she, holding out a spoonful of the preserves.  "Oppen thi meawth!" Billy gaped, like a little unfledged throstle, and the preserves disappeared.  "Again," said she, holding out another spoonful; and again they went out of sight.  "Neaw then," said the landlady, " isn't that nice?"  Billy nodded, and licked his lips, and looked at the empty spoon; and, after he had swallowed another dose, and she had wiped his mouth, he said, "We'n traycle a-whoam!"  "What, aren't we reet yet," said the landlady, laughing, "thae little comical, twitterin', twinklin' cricket?  I've a good mind to empty th' jar into thi hat!"  And she seized the lad again, and kissed him till he fairly screamed.

    At this point old Dody entered the kitchen, and said that Betty was clamouring for Ben to come out and be off.

    "Ay, we mun be goin', for sure," said Ben, laying his pitcher down.  And when he had explained to her what he had to do, and that he should be due at Healey Hall at noon, she saw that he was in earnest about the matter; so she took Billy in her arms, and went into the yard with him.  And as she handed the lad to his mother, she said, "Neaw, Betty, if yo dunnot bring him deawn to see us again afore mony days are o'er, I'll come up to yor heawse, an' I'll poo yor toppin' off for yo, as sure as I'm livin'!  Dun yo yer that?"  And so, with many kind words at parting, and promises to meet again, they separated; and Ben set out with his charge upon their journey once more.  They had scarcely got out of sight of the house before Betty complained that the stuff she had taken was getting into her head a little.

    "Ay, ay," said Ben.  "Neaw thae may see, lass, what a job I have sometimes."

    But, they were all in good spirits, and they chatted pleasantly together as they journeyed on, evidently pleased with the reception they had met with by the way.  A mile or so brought them to the end of the village of Whitworth.  As they turned out of the high-road to go up into the old village, the neighbours began to look out as usual to see what fresh cripples were coming to "th' owd doctors."  Ben was well-known to everybody in the place, old and young; and first one and then another saluted him as he went up between the houses.

    "Hello, Ben," said an old man, "hasto somebory lame't amung thoose posies?"

    "Oh, nawe," replied Ben, "we're o' reet, James, thank yo!"

    "That'll do!" said the old man.  A little further on, a burly fellow who was lounging against a doorway, beckoned and cried out, "Here, Ben!"

    "Well," replied Ben, "what is it, Joe?"

    "Here," said he.  "I don't want thi wife to yer."  Then, drawing Ben closer, he whispered into his ear, "Is this th' same jackass?"

    "Same jackass as what?" said Ben.

    "Why, th' same 'at wur wund up into th' mill chamber?"

    "Here," replied Ben, drawing the other close up, and whispering into his ear, in turn, "it's just th' very same."  And as he ran on after the jackass, he turned round and shouted back, "Don't thee go an' tell nobry!"

    Two or three minutes more brought them to the front of the Red Lion, in the middle of the village,

    Mary, the landlady's daughter, was standing at the door of the Red Lion, as they came up; and, as soon as they were near enough for her to recognise their features, she ran into the little parlour, where her mother sat knitting.

    "Mother," cried she, "Ben's comin', wi' Betty an' th' choilt upo' th' jackass!"

    "What, Betty o' Crapple's?"

    "It is, for sure," replied Mary, as she ran to the front again

    The old woman followed her daughter to the door as fast as her rheumatic limbs would carry her.  She received Betty with tears in her eyes; and in a few minutes they were all comfortably seated together in the little parlour.  Ben lingered with them a little while, and then set out, alone, upon his errand to Healey Hall, leaving the dearest treasures of his heart behind him, in the care of their kind old friend.

_________________________





JOHN HEYWOOD LTD., Excelsior Printing and Bookbinding Works, Manchester.

 


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