Lancashire Sketches Vol. 2 (I.)

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Gristlehurst Boggart.

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Thought-wrapt, he wandered in the breezy woods,
In which the summer, like a hermit, dwelt:
He laid him down by the old haunted springs,
Up-bubbling, mid a world of greenery,
Shut-eyed, and dreaming of the fairest shapes
That roam the woods.

ALEXANDER SMITH.

 


Whiles glow'ring round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogies catch him unawares.

BURNS.


WHEN one gets a few miles off any of the populous towns in Lancashire, many an old wood, many a lonesome clough, many a quiet stream and ancient building, is the reputed haunt of some local sprite, or "boggart," or is enveloped in an atmosphere of dread by the superstitions of the neighbourhood, as being the resort of fairies, or "feeorin." [p.1]  This is frequently the case in retired vales and nooks lying between the towns.  But it is particularly so in the hilly parts, where the old manners of the people are little changed, and where many homelets of past ages still stand in their old solitudes, and,—like their sparse population,—retain many of their ancient characteristics.  In such places the legends and superstitions of old Lancashire are cherished with a tenacity which would hardly be creditable to the inhabitants of great cities in these days.  There still lingers the belief in witchcraft, and in the power of certain persons to do ill, through peculiar connection with the evil one; and the belief, also, that others,—known as "witch-doctors,"—are able to "rule the spells," or counteract the malign intents of necromancy, and possess secret charms which afford protection against the foul fiend and all his brood of infernal agencies.

    In the year 1842 I lived at an old farm called Peanock, up in the hills towards Blackstone Edge.  At that time a strong little fellow, about twenty-three years of age, called Robin, was employed as "keaw-lad" at the farm.  Robin used to tell me tales of the witches and boggarts of the neighbourhood.  The most notable one of them all was "Clegg-Ho' Boggart," which is commemorated by the late Mr. John Roby in his "Traditions of Lancashire."  This local sprite is still the theme of many a winter's tale among the people of the hills about Clegg Hall.  The proverb, "Aw'm here again,—like Clegg-Ho' Boggart," is common there and in the surrounding towns and villages.  I remember Robin saying that when he had to go into the "shippon" early on a winter morning, he used to advance his lantern and let it shine a minute or two into the building before he durst enter himself, on account of the feeorin which "swarm'n up an' deawn th' inside i'th neet-time."  But he said that "things o' that mak couldn't bide leet," for as soon as his lantern glinted into the place he could see "witches scutterin' through th' slifters o'th wole bi theawsans, like bits o' leetnin'."  He used to tell me, too, that a dairy-lass at a neighbouring farm had to let go her "churn-pow," because "a rook o' little green divuls begun a-swarmin' up th' hondle, as hoo wur churnin'."  And then he would glance fearfully towards a nook of the yard, where stood three old cottages connected with the farm, in one of which there dwelt an agèd man, of singular habits and appearance, of whose supposed supernatural powers most of the people in that neighbourhood were in considerable dread, and he would tell me in an undertone that the Irish cow "Red Jenny," which used to be "as good a keaw as ever whisked a tail, had never look't up sin' owd Bill glented at hur through a hole i'th shippon wole, one mornin', as Betty wur milkin' hur."  Prejudices of this kind are still common in lonely nooks of the Lancashire hills.  "Boggarts" appear, however, to have been more numerous than they are now, when working people wove what was called "one lamb's wool" in a day but when it came to pass that they had to weave "three lambs' wools" in a day, and the cotton trade arose, boggarts, and fairies, and feeorin of all kinds began to flee away from the clatter of shuttles, and the tired weaver was fain to creep from his looms to bed, where he could rest his body, and weave his fearful fancies into the freakish pattern of a dream.  And then, railway trains began to rumble through solitudes where "the little folk" of past days had held undisturbed sway; and perhaps these helped to dispel some of those dreams of glamour which had been fostered by the ignorance of the past.

    Far on in the afternoon of a summer day, I sat at tea with an acquaintance who dwells in the fields outside the town of Heywood.  We had spent the forenoon in visiting Heywood Hall, and rambling among its woods, and through a pleasant clough which winds along the northern base of the eminence on which the old mansion stands.  We lingered over the afternoon meal, talking of the past and present of the district around us; we speculated upon the ancient aspect of the country, and the condition and characteristics of its early inhabitants; we talked of the old local gentry, their influence, their residences, and their fortunes; of remarkable local scenes and men; and of the present features of life in these districts.  Part of our conversation related to the scenery of the tract of hills and cloughs which comprises the country, rising northward up to the lofty range of moorland which divides that part of Lancashire from Rossendale Forest.  Up in this romantic tract there is an old hamlet called Grizlehurst.  To a stranger's eye the two quaint farmsteads which are now the sole relics of the hamlet would be interesting, if only on account of the retired beauty, of their situation and the romantic character of the scenery around.  Grizlehurst stands on an elevated platform of land called Birtle, or Birkle, the place of birches.  It is bounded on the north by the ridge of Ashworth Moor and the lofty mass of Knowl Hill; and on the east by Simpson Clough, a deep ravine, about two miles long, running up into the hills.  This glen of steep crags and wood-shrouded waters is chiefly known to those who like rough and lonesome country walks; and to anybody who loves to ramble among such legend-haunted solitudes a moonlight walk through Simpson Clough would be not easily forgotten.  Grizlehurst stands about a stone-throw from the western edge of the clough, and out of the way of common travel.  But it is not only the lone charm of its situation which makes this hamlet interesting.  Grizlehurst is a settlement of the early inhabitants of the district, and was for some centuries one of the seats of the Holt family, of Grizlehurst, Stubley, and Castleton, in this parish,—a branch of the Holts of Sale, Ashton, Cheshire.  Some of this family fought in the Scottish wars, and also in favour of the royal cause at Edgehill, Newbury, Marston Moor, &c., and were named in King Charles's projected Order of the Royal Oak. [p.5-1]  There was a judge Holt, of the Holts of Sale; and a James Holt, whose mother was co-heiress to Sir James de Sutton.  He was killed at Flodden Field.  Mary, the daughter of James Holt, the last of the family who resided at Castleton Hall, in this parish, married Samuel, brother of Humphrey Chetham.  The manor of Spotland was granted by Henry VIII. to Thomas Holt of Grizlehurst, who was knighted in Scotland by Edward, Earl of Hertford, in the thirty-sixth year of the reign of that monarch.  The Holts were the principal landowners in the parish of Rochdale at the close of the sixteenth century.  What remains of Grizlehurst is still associated in the mind with the historic interest which attaches to this once-powerful local family.  The place is also closely interwoven with some other ancient traditions of the locality, oral and written. [p.5-2]  In earlier years I have often wandered about the woods, and waters, and rocky recesses of this glen, thinking of the tale of the rebel Earl [p.6] who is said to have concealed himself, two centuries ago, in a neighbouring clough which bears his name; and, wrapped in a dreamland of my own, sometimes a little tinctured with the wizard lore which lingers among the primitive folk of that quarter.  But in all my walks thereabouts, I had never visited Grizlehurst till this summer afternoon, when, as we sat talking of the place, my curiosity impelled me to propose an evening ramble to the spot from which we could return, by another route, through Simpson Clough.

    We were not quite half-an-hour's walk from Grizlehurst when we started from Heywood, and the sun was still up in the heavens.  Half a mile brought us into Hooley Clough, where the road leads through the village of Hooley Bridge.  This village lines the opposite banks of the Roch at that place.  Its situation is retired and picturesque.  The vale in which it lies is agreeably adorned with plantations and the remains of old woods, and the whole scenery is green and pleasant.  The village itself has a more orderly and wholesome appearance than any other manufacturing hamlet which I remember.  The houses were clean and comfortable-looking, and the roads in fair condition.  I noticed that nearly every cottage had its stock of coals piled up under the front window, and open to the street; the "cobs" nearly built up into a square wall, and the centre filled up with the "sleck an' naplins."  The whole population of the place was employed in the cotton-mills which stand close to the margin of the river, in the hollow of the clough.

    We went up the steep road leading out of Hooley Clough towards the north, emerging into the highway from Bury to Rochdale, about a quarter of a mile from the lower end of Simpson Clough, and nearly opposite the lodge of Bamford Hall.  The country thereabouts is broken into hills and glens, with patches of old woods shading the sides of the cloughs.  It is bleak and sterile in some parts, and thinly populated over the whole tract up to the wild moors.  As we descended the highway into Simpson Clough, through an opening in the trees, we caught a glimpse of Makin Mill, low down in a green valley to the west.  This old mill was the first cotton factory erected in the township of Heap.  It was built about 1780, by the firm of Peel, Yates, and Co., and now (1852) belongs to Edmund Peel, Esq., brother to the late Prime Minister.  Looking over the northern parapet of the bridge, the deep gully of the clough is filled with a cluster of mills, and the cottages attached to them.  Woody heights rise abruptly around, and craggy rocks overfrown this little nest of manufacture in the bottom of the ravine.  We climbed the steep road, in the direction of Bury, and on reaching the summit at a place called "Th' Top o'th Wood," we turned off at the end of a row of stone cottages, and went to the right along a field-path which led to Grizlehurst.  Half a mile's walk brought us to two old farmhouses standing a little apart.  We were at a loss to know which of the two, or whether either of them, belonged to Grizlehurst Hall.  The largest took our attention most, on account of some quaint ornamental masonry built up in its walls, though evidently not originally belonging to the building.  We went round to look at the other side, where similar pieces of ancient masonry were incorporated.  The building, though old, was too modern and had too much barn-like plainness about it to be the hall of the Holts.  And then, the country around was all green meadow and pasture; and if this building was not Grizlehurst Hall, there was none.  I began to think that the land was the most remarkable piece of antiquity about the place.  But one part of the west side of this building formed a comfortable cottage residence, the windows of which were full of plants, in pots.  A hale old man, bare-headed, and in his shirt-sleeves, leaned against the door cheek, with his arms folded.  He was short and broad-set, with fresh complexion and bright eyes; and his firm full features and stalwart figure bespoke a life of healthy habits.  He wore new fustian breeches, tied with black silk ribbon at the knees.  Leaning there, and looking calmly over the fields in the twilight, he eyed us earnestly, as country-folk do when strangers wander into their lonely corners.  The soft summer evening was sinking beautifully on the quiet landscape, which stretches along the base of Ashworth Moor.  The old man's countenance had more of country simplicity than force of character in it; yet he was very comely to look upon, and seemed a natural part of the landscape around him; and the hour and the man together, somehow, brought to my mind a graphic line in the Book of Genesis, about Isaac going out "to meditate in the field at eventide."  After we had sauntered about the place a few minutes,—during which the old cottager watched us with a calm but curious eye,—we went toward him with the usual salutation about it being a "fine neet," and such like.  He melted at once from his statuesque curiosity, and, stepping slowly from the threshold with his arms folded, replied, "Ay, it is, for sure. . . . Wi'n had grand grooweather [p.9-1] as week or two.  But a sawp o' deawnfo' would do a seet o' good just neaw; an' we'st ha' some afore lung, or aw'm chetted.  Owd Knowe [p.9-2] has been awsin to put hur durty cap on a time or two to-day; an' as soon as hoo con shap to tee it there'll be wayter among us, yo'n see."  His dame, hearing the conversation, came forth to see what was going on, and wandered slowly after us down the lane.  She was a strong-built and portly old woman, taller than her husband; and her light-complexioned face beamed with health and simplicity.  The evening was mild and still, and the old woman wore no bonnet, nor even the usual kerchief on her head.  Her cap and apron were white as new snow, and all her attire looked sound and sweet, though of homely cut and quality.  I knew, somehow, that the clothes she wore were scented with lavender or such-like herbs, which country-folk lay at the bottom of the "kist," for the sake of the aroma which they impart to their clothing.  And no king's linen could be more wholesomely perfumed.  Give me a well-washed shirt, bleached on a country hedge, and scented with country herbs!  The hues of sunset glowed above the lofty moors in front of us, and the stir of day was declining into the rich hum of summer evening.  The atmosphere immediately around seemed clearer than when the sun was up; but a shade of hazy grey was creeping over the far east.  We lounged along the lane, with the comely dame following us silently, at a distance of three or four yards, wondering what we could be, and why we had wandered into that nook at such a time.  After a little talk with the old man about the hay-crop, the news of the town, and such like, we asked him whether the spot we were upon was Grizlehurst; and he replied, "Yor upo' th' very clod."

    We then inquired where Grizlehurst Hall stood; and whether the building of which his cottage was a part had been any way connected with it.

    He brightened up at the mention of Grizlehurst Hall and, turning sharply round, he said, with an air of surprise, "What dun yo pretend to know aught abeawt Gerzlehus' Ho'? . . Not mich, aw think, bi' th' look on yo."

    I told him that all we knew of it was from reading, and from what we had heard about it; and that, happening to be in the neighbourhood, we had wandered up to see if there were any remains of it in existence.

    "Ay, well," said he,—and, as he said it, his tone and manner assumed a touch of greater importance than before,—"if that's o' th' arran' yo han, aw deawt yo'n made a lost gate.  Noather yo nor nobory else needs to look for Gerzlehus' Ho' no more.  It's gwon, lung sin'! . . . But yo'n let reet for yerrin a bit o' summat abeawt it, if that'll do."  He then turned slowly round, and, pointing to a plot of meadow-land which abutted upon a dingle to the south, he said, "Yo see'n that piece o' meadow-lond at th' edge o'th green hollow theer?"

    "Ay."

    "Well, that's th' spot wheer Gerzlehus' Ho' stoode, when aw're a lad.  To look at't neaw, yo wouldn't think at oathur heawse or hut had studd'n upo' that clod; for it's as good a bit o' meadow-loud as ever scythe swept. . . . But that's th' very spot wheer Gerzlehus' Ho' stoode.  An' it're a fine place, too, mind yo, once't of a day.  There's nought like it upo' this country-side neaw as heaw 'tis,—noather Baemforth Ho', nor noan on 'em.  But what, things are very much awturt sin' then. . . New-fangle't folk, new-fangle't ways, new-fangle't everythin'.  Th' owd ho's gwon neaw, yo see'n; an' th' trees are gwon 'at stoode abeawt it.  The dule steawnd theem 'at cut 'em deawn, say I! [p.11]  An' then th' orchart's gwon; an' th' fruit-trees are gwon; nobbut a twothre at's laft o'er-anent this biggin,—aw dar say yo seed 'em as yo coom up,—they're morels. . . . An' then, they'n bigged yon new barn upo' th' knowe; an' they'n cut, an' they'n carve't, an' they'n potter't abeawt th' owd place, whol it doesn't look like th' same,—it doesn't for sure,—not like th' same."

    We now asked him again whether the large stone building in part of which he lived had belonged to the old hall.

    "Ay, well," said he, looking towards it, "that's noan sich a feaw buildin', that isn't.  That're part o'th eawt-heawsin to Gerzlehus' Ho', yo may see.  There's a window theer, an' a dur-hole, an' some moor odd bits abeawt it, of an owdish mak.  Yo con happen tak summat fro thoose.  But it's divided into different livin's neaw, yo see'n.  Ther's a new farmer lives i'th top end theer.  He's made greyt awterations.  It's a gradely good heawse i'th inside, if yo see'd through."

    "Well," said I, "and what sort of a place was Grizlehurst Hall itself?"

    "What, Gerzlehus' Ho'?" replied he.  "Well, aw should know, as heaw 'tis, if onybody does.  Aw've bin a good while upo' th' clod for nought, if I dunnot. . . . Ay, thae may laugh; but aw're weel acquainted with this greawn afore thae'rt born, my lad,—yers to mo, neaw?" [p.12-1]

    I made some excuse for having smiled, and he went on,—

    "Gerzlehus' Ho' wur a very greyt place, yo mo depend.  It're mostly built o' heavy oak bauks. . . . There wur our Jammy lad, [p.12-2] an' me, an' some moor on us,—eh, we hap carted some of a lot o' loads o' fine timber an' stuff off that spot, at time an' time!  An' there's bin a deeol o' good flags, an' sich like, ta'en eawt o'th lond wheer th' heawse stoode; an' eawt o'th hollow below theer,—there has so."

    "How long is that since?" said I.

    The old woman, who had been listening behind us, with her hands clasped under her apron, now stepped up, and said, "Heaw long sin'!  Why, it's aboon fifty year sin'.  He should know moor nor yo abeawt it, aw guess."

    "Ay," said the old man, "aw've known this clod aboon fifty year, for sure.  An' see yo," continued he, "there wur a shootin'-butts i' that hollow, sin' aw can tell on.  An' upo' yon green," said he, turning round towards the north, and pointing off at the end of the building, "upo' yon green there stoode an owd sun-dial, i'th middle of a piece o' lond at's bin a chapel yort, aforetime.  They say'n there's graves theer yet.  An' upo' that knowe, wheer th' new barn stons, there wur a place o' worship,—so th' tale gwos."

    It was clear that we had set him going on a favourite theme, and we must, therefore, let him go on.

    Turning his face to the west, he pointed towards a green eminence at a short distance, and said, "To this day they co'n yon hillock 'Th' Castle,' upo' keawnt on there once being a place theer wheer prisoners were confin't.  An' that hee greawnd gwos bi th' name o'th 'Gallows Hill;' what for, I know not."

    He then paused, and, pointing to a little hollow near the place where we stood, he slightly lowered his voice as he continued, "An' then, aw reckon yo seen yon bend i'th lone, wheer th' ash-tree stons?"

    "Ay."

    "Well," said he, "that's the very spot wheer Gerzlehus' Boggart's buried."

    My thoughts had so drifted away in another direction that I was not prepared for such an announcement as this.  I was aware that the inhabitants of that district clung to many of the superstitions of their forefathers; but the thing came upon me so unexpectedly, and when my mind was so quietly absorbed in dreams of another sort, that if the old man had fired off a pistol close to my ear I should not have been much more astonished, though I might have been more startled.  All that I had been thinking of vanished at once; and my curiosity was centred in this new phase of the old man's story.  I looked into his face to see whether he really meant what he had said; but there it was, sure enough.  In every outward feature he endorsed the sincerity of his inward feeling. His countenance was as solemn as an unlettered gravestone.

    "Grizlehurst Boggart!" said I, looking towards the place once more.

    "Ay," replied he.  "That's wheer it wur laid low; an' some of a job it wur.  Yo happen never yerd on't afore."

    The old woman now took up the story, with more earnestness even than her husband.

    "It's a good while sin' it wur laid; an' there wur a cock buried wi' it, with a stoop [p.14-1] driven through it.  It're noan sattle't wi' a little, aw'll uphowd yo."

    "And do you really think, then," said I, "that this place has been haunted by a boggart?"

    "Has bin,—be far! " replied she.  "It is neaw!  Yodd'n soon find it eawt, too, iv yo live't upo' th' spot.  It's very mich if it wouldn't mak yor yure stop of an end, oather wi' one marlock or another. [p.14-2]  There's noan so mony folk at likes to go deawn yon lone, at after delit, [p.14-3] aw con tell yo!"

    "But, if it's laid and buried," replied I, "it surely doesn't trouble you now."

    "Oh, well," said the old woman, "iv it doesn't, it doesn't; so there needs no moor.  Aw know some folk winnot believe sich things.  There is some it'll believe nought at o', iv it isn't fair druvven into 'em, wilto, shalto; [p.15-1] but this is a different case, mind yo.  Eh, never name it; thoose at has it to deeol wi' knows what it is; but thoose at knows nought abeawt sich like,—whau, it's like summat an' nought talkin' to 'em abeawt it; so we'n e'en lap it up where it is."

    "Well, well, but stop," said the old man.  "Yo say'n 'at it doesn't trouble us neaw.  Why, it isn't aboon a fortnit sin' th' farmer's wife at th' end theer yerd summat i'th deeod time o'th neet; an' hoo wur welly thrut eawt o' bed, too, beside,—so then."

    "Ay," said the old woman, "sich wark as that's scarrin' [p.15-2] i'th neet time. . . . An' they never could'n find it eawt.  But aw know'd what it wur in a minute.  Th' farmer's wife an' me wur talkin' it o'er again, yesterday; an' hoo says 'at ever sin' it happen't hoo gets quite timmersome as soon as it draws toward th' edge o' dark, iv there's nobory i'th heawse but hersel. . . . Well, an' one wyndy neet,—as aw're sittin' bi th' fire,—aw yerd summit like a—"

    Here the old man interrupted her: "It's no use folk tellin' me at they dunnot believe sich like things," said he, seeming not to notice his wife's story.  "It's no use tellin' me they dunnot believe it!  Th' pranks 'at it's played abeawt this place, at time an' time, would flay ony wick soul to yer tell on!"

    "Never name it!" said she.  "Aw know whether they would'n or not!  One neet, as aw're sittin' by mysel'—"

    Her husband interposed again, with an abstracted air: "Un-yaukin' th' horses, an' turnin' carts an' things o'er i'th deep neet-time, an' shiftin' stuff up an' deawn when folk are i' bed,—it's rayther flaysome, yo may depend.  But then, aw know, there isn't a smite o' sense i' wastin' breath wi' tellin' sich things to some folk. . . . It's war (worse) nor muckin' wi' sond an' drainin' wi' cinders."

    "And it's buried yonder," said I.

    "Ay," replied he, "just i'th hollow where th' ash tree is.  That used to be th' owd road to Rachda', when aw're a lad."

    "Do you never think of delving the ground up?" said I.

    "Delve! nawe!" answered he.  "Aw'st delve noan theer!"

    The old woman broke in again: "Nawe, he'll delve noan theer,—not iv aw know it!  Nor no mon else dar lay a finger upo' that clod.  Joseph Fenton's [p.16] a meeterly bowd chap; an' he's ruvven everything up abeawt this countryside, welly; but he dar not touch Gerzlehus' Boggart, for his skin!  An' aw houd his wit good, too, mind yo!"

    It was useless attempting to unsettle the superstitions of this primitive pair.  They were too far gone.  And it was, perhaps, best to let the old couple glide on quietly through the evening of their life, untroubled by any ill-timed wrangling.

    But the old dame suspected, by our looks, that we were on easy terms with our opinion about the tale, and she said, "Aw dunnot think yo believ'n a word abeawt it!"

    This made us laugh in a way that left little doubt upon the question; and she turned away from us, saying, "Well, yor weel off iv yo'n nought o' that mak o' yor country-side."

    We had now got into the fields, in the direction by which we intended to make our way home, and the old people seemed inclined to return to their cottage.  We halted, and looked round a few minutes before parting.

    "You've lived here a good while," said I to the old man, "and know all the country round."

    "Aw know every fuut o'th greawnd about this part,—hill an' hollow, wood an' wayter-stid."

    "You are getting to a good age, too," continued I.

    "Well," said he, "aw'm gettin' bowdly on into th' fourth score.  Our breed are a lungish-wynded lot, yo se'en, tak 'em one wi' another."

    "You appear to have good health for your age," said I.

    "Well," replied he, "aw ail mich o' nought yet,—why, aw'm meyt-whol, [p.17-1] an' sich like; an' aw con do a day-wark wi' some o'th young uns yet,—thank God for't! . . . But then aw'st come to't in a bit, yo known,—aw'st come to't in a bit.  Aw'm so like. [p.17-2]  Folk connot expect to ha' youth at both ends o' life, aw guess; an' we mun o' on us oather owd be or yung dee, as th' sayin' is."

    "It's getting time to rest at your age, too."

    "Why, wark's no trouble to me, as lung as aw con do't.  Beside, yo seen, folk at's a dur to keep oppen connot do't wi' th' wynt." [p.17-3]

    "Isn't Grizlehurst cold and lonely in winter time?"

    "Well, it is,—rayther," said he.  "But we dunnot think as mich at it as teawn-folk would do. . . . It'll be a greyt deeol warse at th' top o' Knowe Hill yon, see yo.  It's cowd enoof theer to starve an otter to deeoth, i' winter time.  But here we're reet enough, for th' matter o' that.  An' as for company, we gwon a-neighbourin' a bit, neaw an' then, yo see'n.  Beside, we getten to bed sooner ov a neet nor they dun in a teawn."

    "To my thinkin'," said the old woman, "aw wouldn't live in a teawn iv I might wear red shoon!"

    "But you have not many neighbours about here

    "Oh, yigh," said he.  "There's the farmer theer, an' one or two moor.  An' then there's th' Top o'th Wood ' folk.  Then there's Hooley Clough, an' th' War Office,' [p.18]—we can soon get to oathur o' thoose, when we want'n a bit ov an extra do. . . . Oh, ah! we'n plenty o' neighbours.  But th' Birtle folk are a deeol on um sib an' sib, rib an' rib,—o' ov a litter,—Fittons an' Diggles, an' Fittons an' Diggles o'er again. . . . An' wheer dun yo come fro, sen yo?"

    We told him.

    "Well," said he, "an' are yo i'th buildin' line—at aw mun be so bowd?"

    We again explained the motive of our visit.

    "Well," said he, "it's nought to me, at aw know on,— nobbut aw're thinkin' like. . . . Did'n yo ever see Baemforth Ho', afore it're poo'd deawn?"

    "Never."

    "Eh, that're a nice owd buildin'!  Th' new on hardly comes up to't, i' my een,—as fine as it is. . . . An' are yo beawn back this gate, then?"

    "Ay; we want to go through the clough."

    "Well, yo mun mind heaw yo gwon deawn th' wood-side, for it's a rough gate.  So good neet to yo!"

    We bade them "Good night!" and were walking away, when he shouted back, "Hey! aw say!  Dun yo know Ned o' Andrews?"

    "No."

    "He's the very men for yo!  Aw've just unbethought mo!  He knows moor cracks nor onybody o' this side,—an' he'll sit a fire eawt ony time, tellin' his bits o' tales.  Sper ov anybody at Hooley Bridge, an' they'n tell yo wheer he lives.  So, good neet to yo!"

    Leaving the two old cottagers and their boggart-haunted hamlet, we went over the fields towards Simpson Clough.  The steep sides of this romantic spot are mostly clothed with woods of oak and birch.  For nearly a mile's length the clough is divided into two ravines, deep, narrow, and often craggy,—and shady with trees.  Two streams flow down from the moors above, each through one of those gloomy defiles, till they unite at a place from whence the clough continues its way southward, in one wider and less shrouded expanse, but still between steep and rocky banks, partly wooded.  When the rains are heavy upon the moors, these streams rush furiously through their rock-bound courses in the narrow ravines, incapable of mischief, till they meet at the point where the clough becomes one, when they thence form a strong and impetuous torrent, which has sometimes proved destructive to property lower down the valley.  Coming to the western brink of this clough we skirted along in search of an opening by which we could go down into it with the least difficulty.  A little removed from the eastern edge, and nearly opposite to us, stood Bamford new hall, the residence of James Fenton, Esq., one of the wealthy cotton-spinners in the neighbourhood.  A few yards from that mansion, and nearer to the edge of the clough, stood, a few years ago, the venerable hall of the Bamfords of Bamford, one of the oldest families belonging to the local gentry, and probably among the first Saxon settlers there.  Thomas de Bamford occurs about 1193.  Adam de Bamford granted land in Villa de Bury to William de Chadwick in 1413; and Sir John Bamford was a fellow of the Collegiate Church of Manchester in 1506. [p.20-1]  A William Bamford, Esq., of Bamford, served the office of High Sheriff of the county in 1787.  He married Ann, daughter of Thomas Blackburne, Esq., of Orford and Hale, and was father of Ann, lady of John Ireland Blackburne, Esq., M.P.  He was succeeded by Robert Bamford, Esq., who, from his connection with the Heskeths of Cheshire, took the name of Robert Bamford Hesketh, Esq., and married Miss Frances Lloyd, of Gwrych Castle.  Lloyd Hesketh Bamford Hesketh, Esq., of Gwrych Castle, Denbighshire, married Emily Esther Ann, youngest daughter of Earl Beauchamp. [p.20-2]  The old hall of the Bamfords was taken down a few years ago.  I do not remember ever seeing it myself, but the following particulars respecting it have been kindly furnished to me by a native gentleman, who knew it well:—


It was a fine old building of the Tudor style, with three gables in front, which looked towards the high-road; it was of light-coloured ashler stone such as is found in the neighbourhood; with mullions, and quaint windows and doors to match; and was, I think, dated about 1521.  Such another building you will certainly not find on this side of the county.  Castleton Hall comes, in my opinion, nearest to it in venerable appearance; but Bamford Hall had a lighter and more cheerful aspect; its situation, also, almost on the edge of the rocky chasm of Simpson Clough, or, as it is often called, Guestless, i.e. Grizlehurst Clough, gave an air of romance to the place, which I do not remember to have noticed about any ancient residence with which I am acquainted.


    Stillness was sinking upon the scene, but the evening wind sung vespers in Grizlehurst Wood, and now and then there rose from the rustling green the silvery solo of some lingering singer in those leafy choirs, as we worked our way through the shade of the wood, until we came to the bed of Nadin Water, in the shrouded hollow of the clough.  The season had been dry, and the water lay in quiet pools of the channel,—gleaming in the gloom where the light fell through the trees.  We made our way onward, sometimes leaping from stone to stone in the bed of the stream, sometimes tearing over the lower part of the bank, which was broken and irregular, and scattered with moss-greened fragments of fallen rock, or slippery and swampy with lodgments of damp, fed by rindles and driblets of water, running more or less in all seasons, from springs in the wood-shaded steep.  In some parts the bank was overgrown with scratchy thickets, composed of dog-berry stalks, wild rose-bushes, prickly hollies and thorns, young hazels and ash-trees, broad-leaved docks and tall drooping ferns, and over all hung the thick green of the spreading wood.  Pushing aside the branches, we laboured on till we came into the opening where the streams combine.  A stone bridge crosses the water at this spot, leading up to the woody ridge which separates the two ravines in the upper part of the clough.  Here we climbed from the bed of the stream, and got upon a track leading out of the clough, and up to the Rochdale road, which crosses the lower end of it, at a considerable elevation.  The thin crescent of a new moon's rim hung like a silver sickle in the sky; and the stars were beginning to glow in "Jove's eternal house!" whilst the fading world below seemed hushed with awe, to see that sprinkling of golden lights coming out in silence once more from the over-spanning blue.  We walked up the slope, from the silent hollow, between the woods, and over the knoll, and down into Hooley Clough again, by the way we came at first.  Country people were sauntering about, upon the main road, and in the by-lanes, thereabouts, in twos and threes.  In the village of Hooley Bridge the inhabitants were lounging at their cottage doors, in neighbourly talk, enjoying the close of a summer day; and probably "Ned o' Andrew's" was sitting in some quiet corner there amusing a circle of eager amusing listeners with his quaint country tales.

    A short walk brought us to the end of our ramble, and we sat down to talk over what we had seen and heard.  My visit to Grizlehurst had been all the more interesting that I had no thought of meeting with such a living evidence of the lingering superstitions of Lancashire there.  I used to like to sit with country folk, hearkening to their old-world tales of boggarts, and goblins, and fairies,—


That plait the manes of horses in the night,
And cake the elf-lock in foul, sluttish airs,—


and I had thought myself well acquainted with the boggart-lore of my native district, but the goblin of Grizlehurst was new to me.  By this time I knew that in remote country houses the song of the cricket and the ticking of the clock were beginning to be distinctly heard, and that in many a solitary cottage these were now almost the only sounds astir, except the moody night wind sighing around, and making every crevice into a voice of mystic import to superstitious listeners, while perhaps the rustle of the trees blended with the dreamy ripple of some neighbouring brooklet.  The shades of night would by this time have fallen upon the haunted homesteads of Grizlehurst, and in the folds of that dusky robe would have brought to the old cottagers their usual fears, filled with—


Shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends;


and I could imagine the good old pair creeping off to repose, and covering up their eyes more carefully than usual from the goblin-people gloom, after the talk we had with them about Grizlehurst Boggart.


――――♦――――

 
Boggart-ho' Clough.


          Under the greenwood tree,
          Who loves to lie with me,
          And tune his merry note
          Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither;
                Here we shall see
                No enemy
But winter and rough weather.

SHAKSPERE.


THERE is a quiet little clough about three miles from Manchester, near the old village of Blackley.  The best entrance to it is by a gateway leading from the southern edge of a shady steep called Entwisle Brow, on the highway from Manchester to Middleton.  Approaching the spot in this direction, a winding road leads down between a low bemossed wall on the right, and a thorn hedge, which screens the green depth on the left.  The trees which line the path overlap the way with shade in summer-time, till it reaches the open hollow, where stands a brick built farmhouse, with its outbuildings, and gardens,—sheltered in the rear by the wooded bank of the clough.  Thence this pretty dell wanders on southward for a considerable distance, in picturesque quietude.  The township of Blackley, in which it is situated, retains many traces of its former rural beauty, and some remnants of the woods which once covered the district.  As a whole, Blackley is, even yet, so pleasantly varied in natural feature as to rank among the prettiest scenery around Manchester, although its valleys are now, almost all of them, more or less surrendered to the conquering march of manufacture,—all except this secluded glen, known by the name of "Boggart-Ho' Clough."  Here still, in this sylvan "deer-leap" of the Saxon hunter, the lover of Nature and the jaded townsman have a tranquil sanctuary, where they can wander, cloistered from the tumults of life; and there is many a contemplative rambler who seeks the retirement of this leafy dell, the whole aspect of which seems to invite the mind to a "sessions of sweet silent thought."  One can imagine it such a place as a man of poetic temperament would delight in; and the interest which has gathered around it is not lessened by the fact that Samuel Bamford, the poet, once dwelt in a pleasant cottage on the summit of the upland, near the eastern edge of the clough; and here he may have sometimes felt the significance of Burns's words,—


The muse, nae poet ever fand her,
Till by himsel' he learn'd to wander,
Down by some streamlet's sweet meander,
                And no think lang.


The rural charms and retired peacefulness of the scene might well account for part of its local celebrity, but not for the whole of it.  The superstitions of the locality and the shaping power of imagination have clothed the place with an interest which does not solely belong to the embowered shade of its green recesses, nor to its picturesque steeps overgrown with fern and underwood, nor to its swardy holm, spreading out a pleasant space in the vale, nor to the wimpling rill which wanders through it from end to end,


Amongst the pumy stones, which seem to plane,
With gentle murmurs, that his course they do restrains.


Man has clothed the scene in a drapery of wonder and fear, woven in the creative loom of his own imagination.  Any superstitious stranger, wandering there alone, under the influence of a midnight moon, would probably think this a likely place for the resort of those spiritual beings who "fly by night."  He might truly say, at such an hour, that if ever "Mab" held court on the green earth, "Boggart-Ho' Clough" is just such a nook, as one could imagine, that her mystic choir would delight to dance in, and sing,—


          Come follow, follow me,
          Ye fairy elves that be,
          Light tripping o'er the green,
          Come follow Mab, your queen
Hand in hand we'll dance around,
For this place is fairy ground.


In Roby's "Traditions of Lancashire" there is a story called "The Bargaist, or Boggart," which seems to have been dragged into connection with this clough.  From this story, which was contributed to that work by Mr. Crofton Croker, author of "The Fairy Legends," I quote the following:—


    Not far from the little snug, smoky village of Blakeley, or Blackley, there lies one of the most romantic of dells, rejoicing in a state of singular seclusion, and in the oddest of Lancashire names, to wit, "Boggart-Hole."  Rich in every requisite for picturesque beauty and poetical association, it is impossible for me (who am neither a painter nor a poet) to describe this dell as it should be described; and I will therefore only beg of thee, gentle reader, who, peradventure, mayst not have lingered in this classical neighbourhood, to fancy a deep, deep dell, its steep sides fringed down with hazel and beech, and fern and thick undergrowth, and clothed at the bottom with the richest and greenest sward in the world.  You descend, clinging to the trees, and scrambling as best you may,—and now you stand on haunted ground!  Tread softly, for this is the Boggart's Clough.  And see in yonder dark corner, and beneath the projecting mossy stone, where that dusky, sullen cave yawns before us, like a bit of Salvator's best, there lurks that strange elf, the sly and mischievous Boggart.  Bounce!  I see him coming!  Oh no, it was only a hare bounding from her form.  There it goes,—there!

    I will tell you of some of the pranks of this very Boggart, and how he teased and tormented a good farmer's family in a house hard by; and I assure you it was a very worthy old lady who told me the story.  But, first, suppose we leave the Boggart's demesne, and pay a visit to the theatre of his strange doings.

    You see that old farmhouse about two fields distant, shaded by the sycamore tree; that was the spot which the Boggart, or Bargaist, selected for his freaks; there he held his revels, perplexing honest George Cheetham,—for that was the farmer's name,—scaring his maids, worrying his men, and frightening the poor children out of their seven senses; so that, at last, not even a mouse durst show himself indoors at the farm, as he valued his whiskers, five minutes after the clock had struck twelve.


    The story goes on describing the startling pranks of this invisible torment of honest George Cheetham's old haunted dwelling.  It tells how that the Boggart, which was a long time a terror to the farmer's family, "scaring the maids, worrying the men, and frightening the poor children," became at last a familiar mysterious presence,—in a certain sense a recognised member of the household troop,—often heard, but never seen,—and sometimes a sharer in the household conversation.  When merry tales were being told around the fire, on winter nights, the Boggart's "small, shrill voice, heard above the rest, like a baby's penny trumpet," joined the general laughter, in a tone of supernatural congeniality; and the hearers learned, at last, to hear without dismay, if not to love, the sounds they had feared before.  But boggarts, like men, are moody creatures; and this unembodied troubler of the farmer's lonely house seems to have been sometimes so forgetful of everything like spiritual dignity, or even of the claims of old acquaintance, as to reply to the familiar banter of his mortal co-tenants in a tone of petty malignity.  He even went so far, at last, as to revenge himself for some fancied insult, by industriously pulling the children up and down by the head and legs in the night-time, and by screeching and laughing plaguily in the dark, to the unspeakable annoyance of the inmates.  In order to get rid of this nocturnal torment it appears that the farmer removed his children into other sleeping apartments, leaving the Boggart sole tenant of their old bedroom, which seems to have been his favourite stage of action.  The story concludes as follows—


    But his Boggartship, having now fairly become the possessor of a room at the farm, it would appear, considered himself in the light of a privileged inmate, and not, as hitherto, an occasional visitor, who merely joined in the general expression of merriment.  Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt; and now the children's bread and butter would be snatched away; or their porringers of bread and milk would be dashed to the ground by an unseen hand; or, if the younger ones were left alone but for a few minutes, they were sure to be found screaming with terror on the return of their nurse.  Sometimes, however, he would behave himself kindly.  The cream was then churned, and the pans and kettles scoured without hands.  There was one circumstance which was remarkable.  The stairs ascended from the kitchen; a partition of boards covered the ends of the steps, and formed a closet beneath the staircase.  From one of the boards of this partition a large round knot was accidentally displaced; and one day the youngest of the children, while playing with the shoehorn, stuck it into this knot-hole.  Whether or not the aperture had been formed by the Boggart as a peep-hole to watch the motions of the family I cannot pretend to say.  Some thought it was, for it was called the Boggart's peep-hole; but others said that they had remembered it long before the shrill laugh of the Boggart was heard in the house.  However this may have been, it is certain that the horn was ejected with surprising precision at the head of whoever put it there; and, either in mirth or in anger, the horn was darted forth with great velocity, and struck the poor child over the ear.

    There are few matters upon which parents feel more acutely than that of the maltreatment of their offspring; but time, that great smoother of all things, at length familiarised this dangerous occurrence to everyone at the farm, and that which at the first was regarded with the utmost terror became a kind of amusement with the more thoughtless and daring of the family.  Often was the horn slipped slyly into the hole, and in return it never failed to be flung at the head of someone, but most commonly at the person who placed it there.  They were used to call this pastime, in the provincial dialect, "lakin' wi't' Boggart,"—that is, playing with the Boggart.  An old tailor, whom I but faintly remember, used to say that the horn was often "pitched" at his head, and at the head of his apprentice, whilst seated here on the kitchen table, when they went their rounds to work, as is customary with country tailors.  At length the goblin, not contented with flinging the horn, returned to his night persecutions.  Heavy steps, as of a person in wooden clogs, were at first heard clattering downstairs in the dead hour of darkness; then the pewter and earthen dishes appeared to be dashed on the kitchen floor, though in the morning all remained uninjured on their respective shelves.  The children generally were marked out as objects of dislike by their unearthly tormentor.  The curtains of their beds would be violently pulled to and fro; then a heavy weight, as of a human being, would press them nigh to suffocation, from which it was impossible to escape.  The night, instead of being the time for repose, was disturbed with screams and dreadful noises, and thus was the whole house alarmed night after night.  Things could not continue in this fashion,—the farmer and his good dame resolved to leave a place where they could no longer expect rest or comfort,—and George Cheetham was actually following, with his wife and family, the last load of furniture, when they were met by a neighbouring farmer named John Marshall.

    "Well, Georgy, an' so yor leavin' th' owd house at last?" said Marshall.

    "Heigh, Johnny, my lad, I'm in a manner forced to't, thou sees," replied the other; "for that weary Boggart torments us so, we can neither rest neet nor day fort.  It seems like to have a malice again't young uns, an' ommost kills my poor dame here at thoughts on't, an' so thou sees we're forced to flit like."

    He had got thus far in his complaint when, behold, a shrill voice, from a deep upright churn, the topmost utensil on the cart, called out, "Ay, ay, neighbour, we're flitting, yo see."

    "Od rot thee!" exclaimed George.  "If I'd known thou'd been flitting, too, I wadn't ha' stirr'd a peg.  Nay, nay, it's to no use, Mally!" he continued, turning to his wife.  "We may as well turn back again to th' owd house as be tormented in another not so convenient."


    Thus endeth Crofton Croker's tradition of the Boggart, or Bargaist, which, according to the story, was long time a supernatural pest of old Cheetham's farmhouse, but whose principal lurking-place was supposed to be in a gloomy nook of Boggart-Ho' Clough, or Boggart Hole Clough, for the name adopted by the writer of the tradition appears to be derived from that superstitious belief. With respect to the exact origin of the name, however, I must entirely defer to those who know more about the matter than myself. [p.31]  The features of the story are generically the same as those of a thousand such like superstitious stories still told and believed in all the country parts of England,—though perhaps more in the northern part of it than elsewhere.  Almost every lad in Lancashire has in his childhood heard, either from his "reverend grannie," or from some less kin and less kind director of his young imagination, similar tales connected with old houses and other haunts, in the neighbourhood of his own birthplace.  Amongst the "Papers of the Manchester Literary Club," vol. vi., there is one by Mr. Charles Hardwick upon the "Flitting Boggart," in which, after a critical examination of the character and origin of Crofton Croker's story, he says,—


    The Lancashire story, as related by Mr. Croker, is a palpable plagiarism,—a mere reproduction of a tale told by a Yorkshire correspondent in the Literary Gazette No. 430 (1825), with some rather feeble attempts to translate the dialectal peculiarities, and the addition of some matter generally attendant on boggart stories of its class.


    Among those who have noticed Boggart-Ho' Clough is Mr. Samuel Bamford, well known as a poet, and a graphic prose writer upon the stormy political events of his earlier life, and upon whatever relates to the manners and customs of Lancashire.  In describing matters of the latter kind he had the advantage of being "native and to the manner born;" and still more specially so in everything connected with the social peculiarities of the locality of his birth.  He was born at Middleton, about two miles from Boggart-Ho' Clough, and, as I said before, he resided for some years close to the clough itself.  In his "Passages in the Life of a Radical" (vol. i., p.130) there is one of the raciest descriptions of Lancashire characteristics with which I am acquainted.  The first part of this passage contains a descriptive account of "Plant," a country botanist; "Chirrup," a bird-catcher; and "Bangle," a youth "of an ardent temperament, but bashful," who was deeply in love with "a young beauty residing in the house of her father, who held a small milk-farm on the hill-side, not far from Old Birkle."  It describes the meeting the three in the lone cottage of Bangle's mother, near Grizlehurst Wood; the conversation that took place there; and the superstitious adventure they agreed upon, in order to deliver young Bangle from the hopelessness of his irresistible and unrequited love-thrall:—


    His modest approaches had not been noticed by the adored one and, as she had danced with another youth at Bury fair, he imagined she was irrecoverably lost to him, and the persuasion had almost driven him melancholy.  Doctors had been applied to, but he was no better,—philters and charms had been tried to bring down the cold-hearted maid,—but all in vain:—


He sought her at the dawn of day
He sought her at the noonin';
He sought her when the evening grey
Had brought the hollow moon in.

He call'd her on the darkest night,
With wizard spells to bind her;
And when the stars arose in light
He wandered forth to find her.


    At length sorcerers and fortune-tellers were thought of, and "Limping Billy," a noted seer, residing at Radcliffe Bridge, having been consulted, said the lad had no power over the damsel unless he could take St. John's fern-seed; and if he could but secure three grains of that, he might bring to him whatever he wished, that walked, flew, or swam.


    Such being the conditions laid down, and believed in by the three, they resolved to venture, together, on the taking of Saint John's fern-seed, with strict observance of the time and the cabalistic ceremonials enjoined by Limping Billy, the seer of Radcliffe Bridge.  Plant, the botanist, "knew where the finest clump of fern in the country grew" and he undertook to accompany Chirrup and Bangle to the spot, at the time appointed, on the eve of St. John the Baptist.  The remainder of the passage describes Boggart-Ho' Clough, the spot in which St. John's fern then grew in great abundance, and where the botanists of the district still find the plant; it describes, also, the fearful enterprise of the three, at the witching hour of midnight, in search of the enchanted seed:—


    On the left hand, reader, as thou goest towards Manchester, ascending from Blackley, is a rather deep valley, green swarded and embowered in plantations and older woods.  A driving path, which thou enterest by a white gate hung on whale-jaw posts, [p.34] leads down to a grove of young trees, by a modern and substantial farmhouse, with green shutters, sashed windows, and flowers peeping from the sills.  A mantle of ivy climbs the wall, a garden is in front, and an orchard, redolent of bloom and fruit in season, nods on the hilltop above.  Here, at the time Plant was speaking of, stood a very ancient house, built partly of old-fashioned bricks and partly of a timber frame, filled with raddlings and daub (wicker-work plastered with clay).  It was a lone and desolate-looking house indeed,—misty and fearful even at noonday.  It was known as "Boggart-Ho'," or "Fyrin-Ho';" and the gorge in which it is situated was, and is still, known as "Boggart" or "Fyrin-Ho' Kloof" ("The Glen of the Hall of Spirits").  Such a place, might we suppose, had Milton in contemplation when he wrote the passage of his inimitable poem:—


Tells how the drudging goblin sweat
To earn his cream-bowl, duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail had thresh'd the corn
Which ten day-labourers could not end;
Then lies him down, the lubber fiend,
And, stretch'd out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength;
And cropful, out of door he flings,
Ere the first cock his matin sings.


    By the side of the house, and through the whole length of the valley, wends a sickly, tan-coloured rindle, which, issuing from the great White Moss, comes down tinged with the colour of its parent swamp.  Opposite the modern house a forbidden road cuts through the plantation on the right towards Moston Lane; another path leads behind the house, up precipitous banks, and through close bowers, to Booth Hall; and a third, the main one, proceeds along the kloof, by the side of the stream, and under sun-screening woods, until it forks into the roads,—one a cattle-track, to the Bell, in Moston, and the other a winding and precipitous footpath, to a farmhouse at Wood End, where it gains the broad upland, and emerges into unshaded day.

    About half way up this kloof is an open cleared space of green and short sward,—it is probably two hundred yards in length, by sixty in width,—and passing along it from Blackley a group of fine oaks appear, on a slight eminence a little to the left.  This part of the grove was, at the time we are concerned with, much more crowded with underwood than at present. [p.35]  The bushes were then close and strong; fine sprouts of "yerth-groon" hazel and ash were common as nuts; whilst a thick bush of bramble, wild rose, and holly, gave the spot the appearance of a place inclosed and set apart for mysterious concealment.  Intermingled with these almost impervious barriers were tufts of tall green fern, curling and bending gracefully; and a little separate from them and near the old oaks might be observed a few tern clumps of a singular appearance, of a paler green than the others,—with a flatter and a broader leaf,—sticking up, rigid and expanded, like something stark with mute terror.  These were "St. John's Fern;" and the finest of them was the one selected by Plant for the experiment now to be described.

    A little before midnight, on the eve of St. John, Plant, Chirrup, and Bangle were at the whale-jaw gate before-mentioned; and having slightly scanned each other, they proceeded, without speaking, until they had crossed the brook at a stepping-place opposite the old Fyrin-Ho'.  The first words spoken were,—"What hast thou?"


"Mine is breawn an' roof,"


said Plant, exhibiting a brown earthen dish.  "What hast thou?" he then asked.


"Mine is breet enough,"


said Chirrup, showing a pewter platter, and continued, "What hast thou?"


"Teed wi' web an' woof,
 Mine is deep enough,"


said Bangle, displaying a musty, dun skull, with the cap sawn off above the eyes and left flapping like a lid by a piece of tanned scalp, which still adhered.  The interior cavities had also been stuffed with moss and lined with clay, kneaded with blood from human veins, and the youth had secured the skull to his shoulders by a twine of three strands of unbleached flax, of undyed wool, and of woman's hair, from which also depended a raven black tress, which a wily crone had procured from the maid he sought to obtain.


"That will do,"


said a voice, in a half whisper, from one of the low bushes they were passing.  Plant and Chirrup paused; but Bangle, who had evidently his heart on the accomplishment of the undertaking, said, "Forward!—if we turn, now a spirit has spoken, we are lost.  Come on!"  And they went forward.

    A silence like that of death was around them as they entered on the opening platting.  Nothing moved either in tree or brake.  Through a space in the foliage the stars were seen pale in heaven, and a crooked moon hung in a bit of blue amid motionless clouds.  All was still and breathless, as if earth, heaven, and the elements were aghast.  Anything would have been preferable to that unnatural stillness and silence,—the hoot of the night-owl, the 'larum of the pit-sparrow, the moan of the wind, the toll of a death-bell, or the howl of a ban-dog, would, inasmuch as they are things of this world, have been welcome sounds amid that horrid pause.  But no sound came and no object moved.

    Gasping, and with cold sweat oozing on his brow, Plant recollected that they were to shake the fern with a forked rod of witch-hazel, and by no means must touch it with their hands, and he asked, in a whisper, if the others had brought one.  Both said they had forgotten, and Chirrup said they had better never have come; but Plant drew his knife, and stepping into a moonlighted bush, soon returned with what was wanted, and they went forward.

    The green knowe, the old oaks, the encircled space, and the fern, were now approached,—the latter stiff and erect in a gleamy light.

    "Is it deep neet?" said Bangle.

    "It is," said Plant.


"The star that bids the shepherd fold,
 Now the top of heaven doth hold."


    And they drew near.  All was still and motionless.  Plant knelt on one knee, and held his dish under the fern.  Chirrup held his broad plate next below, and
Bangle knelt, and rested the skull directly under both on the green sod, the lid being up.  Plant said,—


"Good St. John this seed we crave.
 We have dared—shall we have?"


    A voice responded:—


"Now the moon is downward starting,
 Moon and stars are all departing;
         Quick, quick; shake, shake;
 He whose heart shall soonest break,
         Let him take."


    They looked, and perceived by a glance that a venerable form, in a loose robe, was near them.

    Darkness came down like a swoop.  The fern was shaken,—the upper dish flew into pieces,—the pewter one melted,—the skull emitted a cry, and eyes glared in its sockets,—lights broke,—beautiful children were seen walking in their holiday clothes, and graceful female forms sung mournful and enchanting airs.

    The men stood terrified and fascinated; and Bangle, gazing, bade, "God bless 'em."  A crash followed, as if the whole of the timber in the kloof was being splintered and torn up,—strange and horrid forms appeared from the thickets,—the men ran as if sped on the wind,—they separated, and lost each other.  Plant ran towards the old house, and there, leaping the brook, he cast a glance behind him, and saw terrific shapes,—some beastly, some part human, and some hellish, gnashing their teeth, and howling, and uttering the most fearful and mournful tones, as if wishful to follow him, but unable to do so.

    In an agony of terror he arrived at home, not knowing how he got there.  He was, during several days, in a state bordering on unconsciousness; and when he recovered, he learned that Chirrup was found on the White Moss, raving mad, and chasing the wild birds.  As for poor Bangle, he found his way home over hedge and ditch, running with supernatural and fearful speed,—the skull's eyes glaring at his back, and the nether jaw grinning and jabbering frightful and unintelligible sounds.  He had preserved the seed, however, and, having taken it from the skull, he buried the latter at the cross-road from whence he had taken it.  He then carried the spell out, and his proud love stood one night by his bedside in tears.  But he had done too much for human nature,—in three months after she followed his corpse, a real mourner, to the grave!

    Such was the description my fellow-prisoner gave of what occurred in the only trial he ever made with St. John's fern-seed.  He was full of old and quaint narratives, and of superstitious lore, and often would beguile time by recounting them.  Poor fellow! a mysterious fate hung over him also!


    This description of Boggart-Ho' Clough, with its dramatic embodiment of one of our strong local superstitions, is all the more interesting from the pen of one who knew the place and the people so well.  With respect to the name of the place, I must leave the reader to settle the matter for himself between the advocates of a romantic origin and the letter of Mr. John Bolton Rogerson upon the subject.

    But the neighbourhood has other points of interest besides this romantic nook.  In it there is many a boggart story, brought down from the past, many a spot of fearful repute among native people.  Apart from these things, the chapelry of Blackley is enriched with historic associations well worth remembering, and it contains some interesting relics of the ancient manner of life there.  In former times the chapelry had in it several fine old halls: Booth Hall, Nuthurst Hall, Lightbowne Hall, Hough Hall, Crumpsall Hall, and Blackley Hall.  Some of these still remain.  Some of them have been the homes or the birthplaces of men of eminence in their day,—eminent for worth as well as station,—among whom there is more than one who has left a long trail of honourable recollections behind him.  Such men were Humphrey Chetham, Bishop Oldham, and others.  Bradford the Martyr, also, is said to have resided in this township.  William Chadderton, D.D., Bishop of Chester, and afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, was born at Nuthurst Hall about the year 1540.  George Clarke, the founder of the charity which bears his name, and one of Fuller's "Worthies," resided in Crumpsall.  The following particulars respecting the district and its notabilities I glean from the recently-published "History of the Ancient Chapel of Blackley," by the Rev. John Booker, B.A., of Magdalene College, Cambridge, curate of Prestwich.  First, with respect to the ancient state of Blackley, in the survey of Manchester, as taken in the 15th Edward II. (1322), and preserved by Kuerden, [p.39] the following official notice of the township occurs:—


    The park of Blakeley is worth, in pannage, aery of eagles, herons and hawks, honey-bees, mineral earths, ashes, and other issues, fifty-three shillings and fourpence.  The vesture of oaks, with the whole coverture, is worth two hundred marks [£133 6s. 8d.] in the gross.  It contains seven miles in circumference, together with two deer-leaps of the king's grant.


    This short but significant passage is sufficient to give the reader a glimpse of the Blackley township five hundred years ago.  From the same authority we learn that Blackley Park (seven miles in circumference) was at that time surrounded and fenced by a wooden paling.


    The two "deer-leaps" were probably sloughs or ravines, of which the most remarkable is the Boggart-Hole Clough, a long cleft or dell between two rocks, the sides of which rise abruptly and leave a narrow pass, widening a little here and there, through which flows a small brook.  This is the last stronghold of Blackley's ancient characteristic features, where rural tranquillity still reigns, free from the bustle and turmoil of mercantile industry around it.


    The following particulars respecting the etymology of the name "Blackley" will be acceptable to students of language:


    Its etymology is yet a disputed point, owing to the various significations of the Anglo-Saxon word blac, blæc, bleac, which means not only black, dark, opaque, and even gloomy, but also pale, faded, pallid, from blæcan, to bleach or make white.  And, as if these opposite meanings were not sufficiently perplexing, two other forms present themselves, one of which means bleak, cold, bare, and the other yellow, the latter syllable in the name, ley, legh, leag, or leak, signifying a field or place of pasture.


    On this point, Whitaker says, in his "History of Manchester,"—


    The Saxon blac, black, or blake, frequently imports the deep gloom of trees, hence we have so many places distinguished by the epithet in England, where no circumstances of soil and no peculiarities of water give occasion to it, as the villages of Blackburn and Blackrode, in Lancashire; Blakeleyhurst, near Wigan; and our own Blackley, near Manchester; and the woods of the last were even seven miles in circuit as late as the fourteenth century.

    Leland, who wrote about the year 1538, bears testimony to the unaltered aspect of Blackley, under the influence of cultivation, and to the changes incident to the disafforesting of its ancient woodlands.  He says: "Wild bores, bulles, and falcons, bredde in times past at Blakele, now for lack of woode the blow-shoppes decay there." [p.41-1]

    Blackley had its resident minister as early as the reign of Edward VI., in the person of Father Travis, a name handed down to us in the pages of Fox and Strype.  Travis was the friend and correspondent of Bradford the Martyr.  In the succeeding reign he suffered banishment for his Protestant principles, and his place was probably supplied by a Papist.


    The site upon which, in 1815, stood the old hall of Blackley, is now occupied by a print-shop.  Blackley Hall was


    A spacious black-and-white half-timbered mansion, in the post and petrel style, and was situated near to the junction of the lane leading to the chapel and the Manchester and Rochdale turnpike-road.  It was a structure of considerable antiquity, and consisted of a centre and two projecting wings,—an arrangement frequently met with in the ancient manor-houses of this county,—and it bore evidence of having been erected at two periods.  Like most other houses of similar pretensions and antiquity, it was not without its traditionary legends, and the boggart of Blackley Hall was as well known as Blackley Hall itself.  In the stillness of the night it would steal from room to room, and carry off the bedclothes from the couches of the sleeping but now thoroughly aroused and discomfited inmates. [p.41-2]


    The township of Crumpsall bounds Blackley on the north side, and is divided from it by the lively but now turbid little river Irk, or Iwrke, or Irke, which means "roebuck."  "From time immemorial, for ecclesiastical purposes, Crumpsall has been associated with Blackley."  The present Crumpsall Hall stands on the north side of the Irk, about a mile and a half from Boggart-Ho' Clough.  The earlier orthography of the name was Crumeshall, or Curmeshall.  For its derivation we are referred to the Anglo-Saxon, the final syllable "sal" signifying in that language a hall or place of entertainment, of which hospitable abode the Saxon chief whose name the first syllable indicates was the early proprietor.  Thus, too, Ordsall in the same parish.

    Here, in later days, Humphrey Chetham was born, at Crumpsall Old Hall.  The author of the "History of the Ancient Chapel of Blackley," from whose book I gather all this information, also describes an old farmhouse, situated in a picturesque spot, in the higher part of Crumpsall, and pointed out as the dwelling in which Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, who founded the Manchester Grammar School, was born.  About four years ago, when rambling about the green uplands of Crumpsall, I called at this farm to see a friend of mine, who lived in a cottage at the back of the house.  While there I was shown through this curious old dwelling, and I remember that the tenants took especial pains to acquaint me with its local importance as the place of Bishop Oldham's nativity.  It was still known as "Oldham's Tenement," and also as "Th' Bongs (Banks) Farm."  The following is a more detailed account of the place and the man:—


    It is celebrated as the reputed birthplace of Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, who, according to tradition current in the neighbourhood, was born there about the middle of the fifteenth century, and it is stated to have been the residence of the Oldhams for the last four hundred years.  The house itself,—a long narrow thatched building,—bears evidence of considerable antiquity; the walls appear to have been originally of lath and plaster, which material has gradually, in many places, given place to brickwork; and the whole exterior is now covered with whitewash.  A room on the ground-floor is still pointed out as the domestic chapel; but there are no traces of it ever having been devoted to such use.

    Hugh Oldham, LL.B., Bishop of Exeter, was descended from an ancient family of that name.  According to Dodsworth (MSS., folio 152), he was born at Oldham, in a house in Goulbourne Street; but this assertion is contradicted by the testimony of his other biographers: Wood and Goodwin state that he was born in Manchester, by which they mean not so much Manchester town as Manchester parish; and Dugdale, in his "Lancashire Visitation," states more definitely in what part of the parish, correcting at the same time the misstatement of the others, "not at Oldham, but at Crumpsall, near Manchester."  In 1503 he was created Archdeacon of Exeter, and in the following year was raised, through the influence of the Countess of Richmond, to the See of Exeter.  In 1515, having founded the Grammar School of Manchester, he endowed it with the corn-mills situated on the river Irk, which he purchased from Lord de la Warre, as well as with other messuages and lands in Manchester.


    In relation to Bishop Oldham it may be worth notice that in the Manchester Guardian of Wednesday, January 10th, 1855, I found the following letter respecting a descendant of this prelate.  This brief notice of an agèd and poverty-stricken descendant of the bishop,—a soldier's wife, who has followed the fortunes of her husband as a prisoner of war, and through the disasters of battle, shipwreck, and imprisonment in a foreign land,—is not uninteresting:—


    There is now living in this city a poor agèd woman who, it appears, is a descendant of the founder of the Manchester Grammar School, and who was also (in 1783) the first scholar in the first Sunday School opened in Manchester.  In subsequent years, as a soldier's wife, she followed the fortunes of her husband in the tented field, as a prisoner of war, and also in shipwreck.  She is in full possession of her mental powers; and, though, in a certain sense, provided for, I am persuaded that many of those whose Alma Mater was the Grammar School, and the Sunday school teachers and scholars, would be delighted to honour her.


    Crumpsall, in the chapelry of Blackley, was also the birthplace of Humphrey Chetham, one of Fuller's "Worthies," and a man whom Manchester has good reason to hold in remembrance.  The following matter relative to the man, and the place of his birth, is from the same volume:—


    He was born at his father's residence, Crumpsall Hall, and was baptised at the Collegiate Church, Manchester, July 15th, 1580.  He probably received his education at the Grammar School of his native town.  Associated with his brothers, George and Ralph, he embarked in trade as a dealer in fustians, and so prospered in his business that in 1620 he purchased Clayton Hall, near Manchester, which he made his residence, and subsequently, in 1628, Turton Tower.  "He signally improved himself," writes Fuller, "in piety and outward prosperity, and was a diligent reader of the Scriptures, and of the works of sound divines, and a respecter of such ministers as he accounted truly godly, upright, sober, discreet, and sincere.  He was high sheriff of the county in 1635, and again in 1648, discharging the place with great honour, insomuch that very good gentlemen of birth and estate did wear his cloth at the assize, to testify their unfeigned affection to him; and two of them (John Hartley and Henry Wrigley, Esquires), of the same profession with himself, have since been sheriffs of the county."

    By his will, dated December 16th, 1651, he bequeathed £1,000 to buy a fee-simple estate of £420 per annum, wherewith to provide for the maintenance, education, and apprenticing of forty poor boys of Manchester, between the ages of six and fourteen years,—children of poor but honest parents,—no bastards, nor diseased at the time they are chosen, nor lame, nor blind, "in regard the town of Manchester hath ample means already (if so employed) for the maintenance of such impotents."  The hospital thus founded was incorporated by Charles II.  In 1700 the number of boys was increased to sixty, and from 1779 to 1826 eighty boys were annually maintained, clothed, and educated.  In the year 1718 the income of the hospital amounted to £517 8s. 4d., and in 1826 it had reached to £2,608 3s. 11d.

    He bequeathed, moreover, the sum of £1,000 to be expended in books, and £100 towards erecting a building for their safe deposit, intending thus to lay the foundation of a public library; and the residue of his estate (amounting to near £2,000) to be devoted to the increase of the said library and the support of a librarian.  In 1826 this fund was returned at £542 per annum.  The number of volumes is now about 20,000.  Mr. Chetham died, unmarried, September, 20th, 1653, and was buried at the Collegiate Church, where a monument has recently been erected to his memory, at the cost of a former participator in his bounty.


    Well may Fuller, writing of Humphrey Chetham, say, "God send us more such men!"  The "poor boys" of Manchester may well repeat the prayer, and pray also that heaven may send after them men who will look to the righteous administration of the bequests which such men leave behind them.

    For the purpose of this sketch, I went down to the Chetham Library, to copy, from Booker's "History of Blackley," the foregoing particulars.  The day was gloomy, and the great quadrangle of the college was as still as a churchyard.  Going up the old staircase, and treading as lightly as I could with a heavy foot, as I went by the principal librarian's room door, I entered the cloistral shades of the old library.  All was silent as I went through the dark array of book-laden shelves.  The sub-librarian was writing in some official volume, upon the sill of a latticed window, in one of the recesses.  Hearing an approaching foot, he came out, and looked the usual quiet inquiry.  "'Booker's Blackley,'" said I.  He went to one of the recesses, unlocked the door, and brought out the book.  "Will you enter it, sir?" said he, pointing to the volume kept for that purpose.  I did so, and walked on into the reading-room of the library; glancing, as I went in, at Oliver Cromwell's sword, which hung above the doorway.  There was a good fire, and I had that antique apartment all to myself.  The old room looked very clean and comfortable, and the hard oaken floor resounded to the footstep.  The whole furniture was of the most quaint and substantial character.  It was panelled all round with bright old black oak.  The windows were latticed, and the window-sills broad.  The heavy tables were of solid oak, and the chairs of the same, with leather-covered and padded seats and backs, studded with brass nails.  A curiously-carved black oak book-stand stood near the door, and several antique mirrors and dusky portraits hung around upon the dark panelling.  Among these is the portrait of Bradford the Martyr, a native of Manchester.  In the library there is a small black-lettered volume, entitled,—


    Letters of Maister John Bradford, a faythful minister and a syngular pyllar of Christe's Church, by whose great trauiles and diligence in preaching and planting the syncerity of the Gospel, by whose most goodly and innocent lyfe, and by whose long and payneful imprisonments for the maintenance of the truth, the kingdom of God was not a little advanced: who also at last most valiantly and cheerfully gave his blood for the same.  The 4th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1555.


    The portrait of Humphrey Chetham, the founder, hangs immediately above the old-fashioned fireplace, under the emblazoned arms of his family.  Sitting by the fire, at a little oak table covered with green baize, I copied the particulars here given relative to Chetham's bequest to the people of his native locality.  I could not but lift my eyes now and then towards that solemn face, inwardly moved by a feeling which reverently said, "Will it do?"  The countenance of the fine old merchant seemed to wear an expression of sorrow, not unmingled with quiet anger, at the spectacle of twenty thousand books,—intended as a Free Library, though now, in comparison with its possibilities, free chiefly in name,—twenty thousand books, packed together in gloomy seclusion, yet surrounded by a weltering crowd of five hundred thousand people, a great number of whom really hunger for the knowledge here, in a great measure consigned,—with excellent registrative care and bibliopolic skill,—to dusty oblivion and the worm. [p.47]  It is true that this cunningly-secreted Free Library is open six hours out of the twenty-four, but these hours fall precisely within that part of the day in which people who have to work for bread are cooped up at their occupations.  At night, when the casino, the singing-room, and the ale-house, and all the low temptations of a great city are open, and actively competing for their prey, the Chetham Library has been locked up for hours.  I am not sure that the noble-hearted founder would be satisfied with it all if he saw the relations of these things now.  It seems all the more likely that he would not be so, when one observes the tone in which, in his will, he alludes to the administration of certain other local charities existing in his own time.  After specially naming the class of "poor boys" for whose benefit his hospital was intended, he specially excludes certain others "in regard the town of Manchester hath ample means already (IF SO EMPLOYED) for the maintenance of such impotents."  Judging from the glimpse we have in this passage of his way of thinking upon matters of this kind, it seems likely that, if it were possible to consult him upon the subject, he would consider it a pity that the twenty thousand books in the library and the five hundred thousand people outside the walls are not brought into better acquaintance with each other.  So, also, murmurs many a thoughtful man, as he walks by the college gates, in his hours of leisure, when the library is closed.


――――♦――――

 
Dulesgate.


THE Lancashire clough known by the name of "Dulesgate," or "Devil's Gate," is about three miles long, from Gauxholme up to Sharney Ford, a little hamlet on the moors, about half way between Todmorden and Bacup.  The lower part of the clough is narrow and craggy, and the hills rise wild and steep on each hand.  Close by this end, the canal, the railway, and the high-road run side by side, and within a few yards of each other.  A Roman road also skirts the side of the hill which faces the end of the clough; and here and there a rough old packhorse road meanders down the rocky steeps around.  There is generally some din of business at Gauxholme, for there are several manufactories and a number of workmen's cottages clustered in that part of the valley.  A wandering footpath leads up the hill on the east side to an old mansion called Stones.  It stands nearly a thousand feet above the sea, and commands a fine view of the surrounding hills.  Close by this house there is a buttressed mound,—the stations of one of those beacons by which intelligence was formerly flashed from hill to hill across the island.  Dulesgate must have been a gloomy spot in ancient times, when thick woods clothed the sides of the ravine, and when the stream was dammed up here and there by fallen trees, making the bottom of the clough a tangled swamp.  In those days, what rude roads there were in this then wild district led along the hill-sides or over the hill-tops,—as the Roman road from Manchester to Slack, or Cambodunum, near Halifax, still traceable, climbed over the top of Blackstone Edge, and then skirted along the side of the southern hills overlooking the Todmorden valley.  There are many fragments of ancient roads upon these hills still, which may have been British or Saxon.  I do not know whether the name of Dulesgate is derived from the gloomy appearance of the clough in ancient days, or from incursions made by the foresters of Rossendale, in those times, down this pass, which was then, as now, the shortest route into the Todmorden valleys.  There are traditional stories of such incursions from the Forest side of the hills into these vales.  I remember one, of a party of foresters stealing the horses from the stables of Buckley Hall, by night, in the olden time.  Being pursued by the then Buckley of Buckley and his tenants, they were overtaken at a spot on the moors called "Th' Midgy Hillock," where the leader of the forest party was shot, and the horses retaken. . . . There is now a good road through Dulesgate, and over the hills into Rossendale, and it was upon this road that I wandered alone one summer day.  The sky was cloudless, and after I had left the houses at Gauxholme behind I began to enjoy the scenery of the clough.  The most picturesque part of Dulesgate is the lower half, where the banks are steepest and the gorge is narrowest.  In two or three places there is only room for the road and the stream; in others, the clough expands a little, and a few clean-looking cottages stand by the way-side, and here and there a larger and more tasteful house, with a bit of trim garden about it.  These houses are occupied by mill owners and their work-people, for there are several mills in the clough.  They are all built of stone.  The woods have long since been thinned, the stream is now confined to its natural bed, and in some places the rock has been cut away to make room for the road; but wild Nature still sufficiently asserts herself to make Dulesgate an interesting scene.  The valleys of this district abound in excellent springs; and stone well-troughs, brimming with clear water, are familiar features by the waysides.  There are several in this clough.  And now, anybody who wishes to see scenery of this kind to advantage should always travel upward, and meet the falling water,—then only can its best features be seen.  This moorland stream glints out prettily upon the ascending traveller, as it comes dancing down the rocky hollow, full of frolic loveliness,—here peeping through a screen of leaves like a child at play, there babbling unseen in its deep bed below the road, and there in a leafy nook, stopping to rest in a burnished pool under the trees.  Now it glides into sight again, laving the mossy stones with liquid beauty; and then it leaps down the smooth-lipped rocks in headlong glee, scattering showers of spray upon the greenery around. . . . The little glen is full of wild charms in summer time.  In some parts, rough crags overfrown the road, contrasting well with the surrounding green; but the steep banks are mostly covered with pasture, or plantations, or wild underwood, blending here and there with the moorland heather which crests the summits of the hills.  As I went up the road that day rindles of water laced the hill-sides, for there had been heavy rain in the night; the rocks were festooned with bright ferns, and lichens, and tufts of heath; the blending songs of birds filled the clough with wild delight; and the lush verdure of June fringed the way-side with beauty. . . . I met very few people on my way.  A round-faced lad came clattering by in clogs, whistling as he went; a tattered cobbler, on tramp, looking damp and doleful as he limped down towards Todmorden, with a pair of raggèd "pushers" on his feet, like bits of ruined dish-clout; a jolting stone-cart, attended by a great bare-breasted, brown-faced driver, in mud-stained corduroy; and a lonely, wan-faced woman, clean as a new pin, and dressed in decent, quaint-fashioned black, with a blue lin umbrella in her hand.  She was evidently on her way to a funeral.  As I passed by a mill, the buzz of wheels came upon the ear like the rush of water over a drowsy fall; and when I came to a cluster of cottages, children were playing about the doors, and women looked out, hearing footsteps out upon the road.  Now and then a dog barked, seeing a strange face; and I noticed in the window of a schoolhouse by the road side a placard announcing that some notable preacher was coming to the opening of a new chapel in the clough.  Some of the chapels in these vales are built so like mills that it seems as if the trustees intended, in case of failure in converting the congregation, that at least they should be able to convert the chapel.  About two miles up, where I left all sylvan features behind, and where the scene grew bleaker at every stride, a few cottages and a tollbar stood close by the road.  A few yards above the tollbar there was a comfortable stone-built inn, called the Bay Horse.  It stood back from the road, leaving a space where carts could draw up.  About half a dozen cottages trickle off from the upper end of the inn; and this cluster of dwellings was the high-water mark of human life in Dulesgate, for there was nothing in sight above but the unshaded moorlands.

    I went into the Bay Horse.  There was a fire in the tap-room, where four carters were sitting at their ale.  They were talking briskly enough as I walked up the lobby, but the moment I entered the room they became silent, and stared.  I called for a glass of ale, and took a seat by the fire.  The landlord, who was a stout elderly man, sat by the door with his elbows on his knees, looking at the ground, and now and then casting a sly glance at me.  The four carters, too, were quietly taking stock of me, from head to toe, wondering, perhaps, whether I was a "Scotchman," a quack doctor, or an attorney's clerk, and what business had brought me up there.

    "Tay, I doubt," said one of the carters, in a whisper, to his neighbour.

    "Pills, for a quart," whispered the other in reply.

    In two or three minutes the landlady entered with a plate of mutton chops.  "Theer," said she, as she set the plate down in front of one of the carters.  "Get that into tho! . . . Aw guess thae'll want some brade?"

    "Ay"

    "Come, aw'll fot (fetch) a bit," said she; and out she went.

    "Hasto no saut?" said the landlord, half raising his head, and looking at the table.

    "Nawe."

    "Heigh!" cried the landlord, shouting towards the kitchen.  "Bring some saut!"

    "Comin'!" replied the landlady's voice from the kitchen.

    The landlady returned with the bread and salt, and setting them down silently, she went out again, looking askance from the doorway to see what I was like.  The carter fell to his mutton, and all was so still that I could hear his jaws at work.  Before he had eaten many mouthfuls, he knocked with his empty pot upon the table, and said, "I can manage another."

    The landlord raised his head, and shouted out at the doorway again, "Heigh!  Dost yer?  Another pint."  Then, as if suddenly bethinking himself, he took up the pitcher, and said, "Come, aw'll fot it," and for a minute or two there was not a sound in the room again but the carter's knife and fork and his champing jaws.  As the landlord came back with the ale, he stopped at the door, and looking out towards the high-road, he said, "Hello! there's two moor gooin' deawn, I see."

    The carters jumped up, and looked through the window.  "Ay," said one of them.  "Yon belungs th' same lot."

    "Who are they?" said the landlord.  "Conto mak 'em eawt?"

    "Nay, aw don't know 'em," replied the carter; "but they favvourn Todmorden chaps.  I'll be bound they're upo' th' same dooment."

    "Aw dar say they are," replied the landlord.  "They're come'd a-viewin', aw guess."

    Then they sat down, and all was still once more, and they eyed me again, with more curiosity than before.  "What's bin to do?" said I to the landlord.

    "Some sheep worried, upo' th' tops here," replied he, without even raising his elbows from his knees, as if he thought I was somehow connected with the affair, and had crept in there to gather information in an underhand way.

    "How mony?" said I.

    "A twothre," replied he, giving another sly glance, and then looking at the floor again.

    Here one of the carters began to be more communicative.  "There's bin four dogs at th' job, as far as I con yer," said he; "an' there's law flyin' o'er it. . . . They're foos for gooin' to law.  It's wur nor feightin' in a fire-hole,—th' best on 'em 'll get brunt."

    "Ay," replied the landlord, "there wur four dogs, I believe, bi what they say'n; but I know nought mich abeawt it."

    "There wur four dogs, I tell yo," continued the carter.  "I know folk 'at see'd 'em.  But two o'th dogs belungs poor chaps, an' they'n drops upo' thoose two.  Tother are too big for 'em to hondle, aw guess."

    "Thae knows nowt abeawt it, Joe," said the landlord; "nobbut what somebry's towd tho."

    "Dunnot I?" replied the carter.  "Aw know 'at kissin' gwos by favvour, owd lad; an' th' waiker side 'll ha' to go to th' wole i' this dog stir, th' same as everythin' else."

    "Well, ay," answered the landlord; "there's summit i' that.  But let's drop it wheer it is, whol we yer'n fur into't."

    "O reet," replied the carter.  "Bring another pint."

    The landlord brought the ale, and then dropped into his seat, with his elbows on his knees again.  In the meantime, I bethought me of a plan by which to dispel the reserve which kept us asunder.  As it happened, I had known this inn many years before, and the owner of it was an old friend of mine.

    "Has Charles bin up lately?" said I, addressing the landlord.

    "What Charles?" replied he, taking his elbows from his knees.

    "Charles o' Jimmy's."

    "Dun yo know Charles?" replied he, looking me full in the face.

    "Ay," said I.  "I've known him a good while.  Has he bin up lately?"

    "Nawe; but I know when he will be up to a day or two."

    "When's that?"

    "It's th' rent-day," replied the landlord; "an' it doesn't want aboon a fortnit' to, now."  After that, he looked thoughtful for a minute or so, and then, taking up the poker, he said, as he scaled the ashes out of the fire-grate, "O, ay! what, dun yo know Charles, then?  Here, lass!  Bring some naplins to this fire."

    The landlady came and mended the fire.  When she had gone out the old man began again by asking if I knew "Brown Tummy."

    I did not know Brown Tummy.

    "Ay, well! " continued he, "his wife's just at last, I yer."

    "What age is hoo?" said I.

    "Hoo'll be fifty," replied he; "an' he'll be threescore, I dar say."

    "It'll be a bad job for th' owd chap," said I.

    "Well, ay," replied he; "I dar say he'll miss her,—he's so like.  But hoo's like potito-settin's,—hoo'll be th' best i'th ground.  Hoo's lad (led) him a feaw (foul) life,—hoo has that."

    We were now getting nicely a-swing together, and I thought I would keep it up.

    "Yo'n getten a new poker, I see," said I, taking it up from the fireside.

    "New poker!" replied he, staring me in the face.  "Well, ay. . . . Whau, nay,—we'n had it,—let's see.  Hea lung han we had this poker, lass?"

    "Oh, a good bit," said the landlady, setting her hands upon her hips, and turning round to look at me again.  "We'n had it a good bit; an' what bi that?"

    "Nay, nought," answered I; "but yo use't to have a little short un, worn sharp at th' end."

    "Ay, an' so we had.  What, yon bin here afore, I yer?"

    "O, ay," replied I; "lung sin.  I've seen th' poker weighed."

    "Hello!" cried one of the carters; and then they all laughed in chorus.

    "What the dule!" said the landlord; "han yo bin in at th' poker-weighin', then?  Well, an' heaw did yo go on?"

    "Ay," said the landlady, "heaw wenten yo on?  Let's be yerrin'!"

    I told them the tale briefly but this was how it happened to me at the time:—

    About six years before the day of which I am writing, I wandered into Dulesgate, one winter afternoon, and I called at this same inn, the Bay Horse.  There was a large company in the taproom, chiefly carters, and they were very noisy.  But as soon as I entered, being a stranger, I became the subject of curious observation, as usual, and they were still for a few minutes.  At last a carter who sat next the hob took up the little worn poker, and stirred the fire; and then he began to balance the poker quietly upon the palm of his hand, like an Irishman examining a new shillelagh.  He then gave a kind of meditative grunt, as he laid the poker down again, and seemed to turn his mind to something else.  The other carters had been silently watching this all the while.  "Jim," said one of them, "what's up wi' th' poker?"  "Nay," replied he, "I're nobbut wonderin' whether I could guess th' weight or not."  "Gi' me howd," cried another.  "I'll guess ony on yo for a quart."  Then he tried it on his hand.  "Two peawnd four eawnce and a quarter," said he, handing it to the next.  "What says thae, Joe?"  The other seemed to try it with great care, and as he handed it back he said, with a knowing air, "A quarter lower, for a quart." And so they sent it round amongst them, some guessing one thing, some another, but all hovering about the same weight. At last, when the poker came round to the one who had started the thing, he tried it again, and then, handing it to me, he said, " Two peawnd four eawnce an' a hauve.  What say'n yo, maister?" Now betting was not in my way, but I began to feel a little interest in the thing, so I, too, balanced the poker, and guessed something.  "By th' mon," cried one of them, taking the poker out of my hand, "I believe that chap's th' nearest of ony on us.  I'll venture an odd pint upo' th' same weight, as heaw.  It's o'th brass 'at I have abeawt my rags, or else"  "Here, let me have another do," said a little stiff fellow, who sat in a corner playing with his whip.  He tried it once more, with critical nicety, and then, addressing me, he said, "I'll bet yo a shillin', maister, 'at yor aboon an eawnce eawt."  An I took the challenge for the fun of the thing.  The moment I had done so there was a general cry, "Come, lads, let's have it weighed!"  "Wheer mun we goo?" said one.  "Han yo a pair o' scales?" said another.  "Nawe, we ha' not," replied the landlord.  Tak it deawn to John Ho'th's, at th' tother side.  He'll weigh it for yo."  This John Howarth kept a little grocery shop a few yards below the inn.  Away we went with the poker, half a dozen of us or so.  A little bell tingled as we opened the shop door, and out came John from the kitchen.  "Here, John, owd brid," said one of the carters, "weigh this fire-potter for us, wilto?"  "What, again?" said John; and as he readied his scales, his eyes wandered inquiringly through the group.  At last they settled on me, being a stranger, and a quiet smile crept over his face, in which a great deal of sly fun mingled with something like contempt.  But, with a kind of humorous earnestness, he seemed to weigh the poker very carefully.  I forget what it weighed, but I was several ounces wrong; and as he handed it back he said that it had worn a great deal lighter since he first knew it.  The carters kept countenances till we got out; but I saw that I was sold.  John followed us to the door, and as I went out he said, as he tapped me on the shoulder, "Yo'n happen know th' weight o' that poker th' next time yo seen it."

    The weighing of the poker pleased the landlord and the carters very well.  They had seen the same trick done many a time; and they were very sociable with me after the story.  But twilight was stealing on, and I had a long distance to go, so I took leave of them, and went on my way across the wild moors.


――――♦――――

 
Norbreck.

CHAPTER I.


Come unto these yellow sands,
        Then take hands:
Court'sied when you have, and kissed,
        The wild waves whist.

THE TEMPEST.


AT the western edge of that quiet tract of Lancashire called the Fylde, lying between Wyre, Ribble, and the Irish Channel, the little wind-swept hamlet of Norbreck stands, half asleep, on the brow of a green ridge overlooking the sea.  The windows of a whitewashed cottage wink over its garden wall as the traveller comes up the slope, between tall hedgerows; and very likely he will find all so still that, but for wild birds that crowd the air with music, he could hear his footsteps ring on the road as clearly as if he were walking on the flags of a gentleman's greenhouse.  In summer, when its buildings are glittering in their annual suit of new whitewash, and when all the country round looks green and glad, it is a pleasant spot to set eyes upon,—this quiet hamlet overlooking the sea.  At that time of year it smells of roses, and of


Cribs where oxen lie;


and the little place is so steeped in murmurs of the ocean that its natural dreaminess seems deepened thereby.  I cannot find that any great barons of the old time or that any world-shaking people have lived there, or that any events which startle a nation have ever happened on that ground, but the tranquil charm that fills the air repays for the absence of historic fame.

    There is seldom much stir in Norbreck, except such as the elements make.  The inhabitants would think the place busy with a dozen people upon its grass-grown road at once, whatever the season might be.  It is true that on a fine day in summer I have now and then seen a little life just at the entrance of the hamlet.  There stands a pretty cottage, of one storey, consisting of six cosy rooms, that run lengthwise, its white walls adorned with rose-trees and fruit-trees, and its windows bordered with green trellis-work.  Two trim grass-plats, with narrow beds of flowers, and neat walks, mosaically-paved with blue and white pebbles from the sea, fill up the front garden, which a low white wall and a little green gate enclose from the road.  In front of this cottage I have sometimes seen a troop of rosy children playing round a pale girl, who was hopelessly infirm, and, perhaps on that account, the darling of the whole household.  I have seen her rocking in the sun, and with patient melancholy watching their gambols, whilst they strove to please her with all kinds of little artless attentions.  Poor Lucy!  Sometimes, after swaying to and fro thoughtfully in her chair, she would stop and ask questions that sent her father out of the room to wipe his eyes.  "Papa, are people lame in heaven?"  "Papa, are angels poorly sometimes, like we are here?" . . . It is one of those beautiful compensations that mingle with the mishaps of life, that such a calamity has often the sweet effect of keeping kind hearts continually kind.  The poor Lancashire widow, when asked why she seemed to fret more for the loss of her helpless lad than for any of her other children, said she couldn't tell, except "it were becose hoo'd had to nurse him moor nor o' tother put together."  Surely,


There is a soul of good in all things evil.


About this pretty cottage, where little Lucy lived, is the busiest part of the hamlet in summer time.  There may chance to be two or three visitors sauntering in the sunshine; or, perhaps, old Thomas Smith, better known as "Owd England," the sea-beaten patriarch of Norbreck, may paddle across the road to look after his cattle, or, staff in hand, may be going down to "low watter" a-shrimping, with his thin hair playing in the breeze.  Perhaps Lizzy, the milkmaid, may run from the house to the shippon, with her skirt tucked up, and the neb of an old bonnet pulled led down to shade her eyes; or Tom, the cow-lad, may be leaning against a sunny wall, whistling, and mending his whip, and wondering how long it wants to dinner-time.  There may be a fine cat dozing on the garden wall or gliding stealthily towards the outhouses.  These are common features of life there.  For the rest, the sounds heard are mostly the cackle of poultry, the clatter of milk-cans, the occasional bark of a dog, the distant lowing of kine, a snatch of country song floating from the fields, the wild birds'


Tipsy routs of lyric joy,


and that all-embracing murmur of the surge which fills one's ears wherever we go.  In Norbreck everything smacks of the sea.  On the grassy border of the road, about the middle of the hamlet, there is generally a pile of wreck waiting the periodical sale which takes place all along the coast.  I have sometimes looked at this pile, and thought that perhaps to this or that spar some seaman might have clung with desperate energy among the hungry waters, until he sank, overpowered, into his uncrowded grave.  The walls of gardens and farmyards are mostly built of cobbles from the beach, sometimes fantastically laid in patterns of different hues.  The garden beds are edged with shells, and the walks laid with blue and white pebbles.  Here and there are rockeries of curiously-shaped stones from the shore.  Every house has its little store of marine rarities, which meet the eye on cornices and shelves wherever we turn.  Now and then we meet with a dead sea-mew on the road, and noisy flocks of gulls make fitful excursions landward, particularly in ploughing-time, when they crowd after the plough to pick slugs and worms out of the new furrows.

    With a single exception, all the half-dozen dwellings in Norbreck are on one side of the road, with their backs to the north.  On the one side there are gardens, and a few whitewashed outhouses, with weather-beaten walls.  The main body of the hamlet consists of a great irregular range of buildings, formerly the residence of a wealthy family.  This pile is now divided into several dwellings, in some of which are snug retreats for such as prefer the seclusion of this sea-nest to the bustle of a crowded watering-place.  A little enclosed lawn, belonging to the endmost of the group, and then a broad field, divides this main cluster from the only other habitation.  The latter seems to stand off a little, as if it had more pretensions to gentility than the rest.  It is a picturesque house, of different heights, built at different times.  At the landward end, a spacious yard, with great wooden doors close to the road, contains the outbuildings, with an old-fashioned weather vane on the top of them.  The lowermost part of the dwelling is a combination of neat cottages of one story.  The highest part is a substantial brick edifice of two stories, with attics.  This portion has great bow windows, which sweep the sea view, from the coast of Wales, round by the Isle of Man, to the mountains of Cumberland.  In summer, the white walls of the cottage part are covered with roses and creeping plants, and there is an air of order and tasteful rusticity about the whole, even to the neat cobble pavement which borders the way-side.  On the top of the porch a stately peacock sometimes struts, like a feathered showman, whilst his mate paces to and fro, cackling, on the field wall immediately opposite.  There are probably a few poultry pecking about the front; and, if it happens to be a sunny day, a fine old English bear-hound, of the Lyme breed, called Lion, and not much unlike his namesake in the main, may be seen stretched in a sphinx-like posture in the middle of the road, as if the whole Fylde belonged to him, by right of entail, and slowly moving his head with majestic gaze, as if turning over in his mind whether or not it would be polite to take a piece out of the passing traveller for presuming to walk that way.  Perhaps in the southward fields a few kine are grazing and whisking their tails in the sunshine, or galloping from gap to gap under the influence of the gad-fly's spur; and it may happen that some wanderer from Blackpool can be seen on the cliffs, with his garments flapping in the breeze.  Except these, and the rolling surge below, all is still at this end of the hamlet, unless the jovial face of the owner appear above the wall that encloses his outbuildings, wishing the passer-by "the fortune of the day."  Norbreck, as a whole, is no way painfully genteel in appearance, but it is sweet and serene, and its cluster of houses seems to know how to be comfortable, without caring much for display.  Dirt and destitution are unknown there,—in fact, I was told that this applies generally to all the scattered population of that quiet Fylde country.  Though there are many people there whose means of existence are almost as simple as those of the wild bird and the field-mouse, yet squalor and starvation are strangers amongst them.  If any mischance happen to any of these Fylde folk, everybody knows everybody else, and, somehow, they stick to one another like Paddy's shrimps,—if you take up one you take up twenty.  The road, which comes up thither from many a mile of playful meanderings through the green country, as soon as it quits the last house, immediately dives through the cliffs, with a sudden impulse, as if it had been reading "Robinson Crusoe," and had been drawn all that long way solely by its love for the ocean.  The sea-beach at this spot is a fine sight at any time; but in a clear sunset the scene is too grand to be touched by any imperfect words.  Somebody has very well called this part of the coast "the region of glorious sunsets."  When the waters retire, they leave a noble solitude, where a man may wander a mile or two north or south upon a floor of sand finer than any marble, "and yet no footing seen" except his own; and hear no sounds that mingle with the mysterious murmurs of the sea but the cry of the sailing gull, the piping of a flock of silver-winged tern, or the scream of the wild sea-mew.  Even in summer there are but few stragglers to disturb those endless forms of beauty which the moody waves, at every ebb, leave printed all over that grand expanse, in patterns ever new.

    Such is little Norbreck, as I have seen it in the glory of the year.  In winter, when the year's whitewash upon its houses is getting a little weather-worn, it looks rather moulty and raggèd to the eye; and it is more lonely and wild, simply because Nature itself is so then,—and Norbreck and Nature are not very distant relations.


 
CHAPTER II.


The waves shall flow o'er this lilye lea,
        And Penny Stone fearfu' flee:
The Red Bank scar scud away dismay'd,
        When Englond's in jeopardie.

PENNY STONE: A TRADITION OF THE FYLDE.


IT was a bonny day on the 5th of March, 1860, when I visited Norbreck, just before those tides came on which had been foretold as higher than any for a century previous.  This announcement brought thousands of people from the interior into Blackpool and other places on that coast.  Many came expecting the streets to be invaded by the tide, and a great part of the level Fylde laid under water, with boats plying above the deluged fields, to rescue its inhabitants from the towers of churches and the tops of farmhouses.  Knowing as little of these things as inland people generally do, I had something of the same expectation; but when I came to the coast, and found the people going quietly about their usual business, I thought that, somehow, I must be wrong.  It is true that one or two farmers had raised their stacks several feet, and another had sent his "deeds" to Preston, that they might be high and dry till the waters left his land again; and certain old ladies who had been reading the newspapers were a little troubled thereby; but, in the main, these seaside folk did not seem afraid of the tide.

    During the two days when the sea was to reach its height, Blackpool was as gay, and the weather almost as fine, as if it had been the month of June instead of "March,—mony weathers," as Fylde folk call it.  The promenade was lively with curious inlanders, who had left their looms at this unusual season to see the wonders of the great deep.  But when it came to pass that, because there was no wind to help in the water, the tide rose but little higher than common, many people murmured thereat, and the town emptied as quickly as it had filled.  Not finding a deluge, they hastened landward again, with a painful impression that the whole thing was a hoax.  The sky was blue, the wind was still, and the sun was shining clearly; but this was not what they had come forth to see.

    Though some were glad of any excuse for wandering again by the shores of the wild ocean, and bathing soul and body in its renovating charms, the majority were sorely disappointed.  Among these, I met one old gentleman, close on seventy, who declared, in a burst of impassioned vernacular, that he wouldn't come to Blackpool again "for th' next fifty year, sink or swim."  He said, "Their great tide were nowt i'th world but an arrant sell, getten up by lodgin'-heawse keepers, an' railway chaps, an' newspapper folk, an' sich like wastril devils, a-purpose to bring country-folk to th' wayter-side, an' hook brass eawt o' their pockets.  It were a lond tide at Blackpool folk were after; an' they wanted to get it up i' winter as weel as summer.  He could see through it weel enough.  But they'd done their do wi' him.  He'd too mich white in his een to be humbugged twice o'er i'th same gate, or else he'd worn his yed a greyt while to vast little end.  But he'd come no moor a-seein' their tides, nor nowt else,—nawe, not if th' whole hole were borne't away,—folk an' o', bigod!  He did not blame th' say so mich,—not he.  Th' say would behave itsel' reet enough, iv a rook o' thievin' devils would nobbut let it alone, an' not go an' belie it shamefully, just for th' sheer lucre o' ill-getten gain, an' nowt else. . . . He coom fro' Bowton, an' he're beawn back to Bowton by th' next train; an' iv onybody ever see'd him i' Blackpool again, they met tell him on't at th' time, an' he'd ston a bottle o' wine for 'em, as who they were.  They had a little saup o' wayter aside o' whoam that onsert their bits o' jobs i' Bowton reet enough.  It're nobbut a mak ov a bruck; but he'd be content wi' it for th' futur,—tide or no tide.  They met tak their say, an' sup it, for him,—trashy devils!"  Of course this was an extreme case, but there were many grumblers on the same ground, and some amusement arising out of their unreasoning disappointment.

    Down at Norbreck, about four miles north of Blackpool, though there was a little talk, here and there, about the curious throng at the neighbouring watering-place, all else was still as usual.  Owd England, the quaint farmer and fisherman of the hamlet, knew these things well.  He had lived nearly seventy-four years on that part of the coast, and he still loved the great waters with the fervour of a sea-smitten lad.  From childhood he had been acquainted with the moods and tenses of the ocean; and it was a rare day that didn't see him hobble to "low watter" for some purpose or other.  He explained to me that a tide of much lower register in the tables, if brought in by a strong wind, would be higher, in fact, than this one with an opposite wind and he laughed at the fears of such as didn't know much about the matter.

    "Thoose that are fleyed," said he, "had better go to bed i' boats, an' then they'll ston a chance o' wakkenin' aboon watter i'th mornin'. . . . Th' idea of a whol teawn o' folk comin' to't seea for this.  Pshaw!  I've no patience wi' 'em! . . . Tide!  There'll be no tide worth speykin' on,—silly divuls,—what I knaw.  I've sin a fifteenfuut tide come far higher nor this twenty-one fuut eleven can come wi' th' wind again it,—sewer aw hev.  So fittin' it should, too. . . . But some folk knawn nowt o'th natur o' things."

    Lame old Billy Singleton, a weather-worn fisherman, better known by the name of Pegleg, sat knitting under the window, with his dim eyes bent over a broken net.  Owd England turned to him and said, "It wur a fifteenfuut tide, Billy, at did o' that damage at Cleveless, where th' bevel-men are at wark."

    Old Pegleg lifted his head, and replied, "Sewer it wor, Thomas!  An', by th' hectum! that wor a tide!  If we'd hed a strang sou'west wind, this wad ha' played rickin', too.  I've heeard as there wor once a village ca'd Singleton Thorpe, between Cleveless and Rossall, weshed away by a heigh tide, abaat three hundred year sin'.  By th' hectum! if that had happen't i' these days, Thomas, there wod ha' bin some cheeop trips an' things stirrin' ower it."  He then went on mending his net.

    Old bed-ridden Alice, who had spent most of the daylight of seven years stretched upon a couch under the window, said, "But it never could touch us at Norbreck,—nowt o't sooart!  It's nearly th' heighest point i't country,—isn't it, uncle?"

    "Sartinly," said Owd England.  "But," continued he, "iv yo want to see summat worth rememberin', yo mun go to low watter.  It'll be a rare seet.  Th' seea 'll ebb far nor ever wor knawn i'th memory o' mon; an' there'll be skeers an' rocks eawt as hesn't bin sin of a hundred year.  Iv ye'd like to set fuut o' greawnd at nobody livin' mun walk on again, go daan with us at five o'clock o' Friday afternoon."

    I felt that this would indeed be an interesting sight, and I agreed to accompany the old fisherman to low water.

    It was a cloudless, summer-like evening, when our little company of four set out from Norbreck.  As we descended the cliffs, the track of the declining sun's beams upon the sea was too glorious for eyes to endure, and every little pool and rill upon the sands gleamed like liquid gold.  A general hush pervaded the scene, and we could hear nothing but our own voices, and a subdued murmur of the distant waves, which made the prevailing silence more evident to the senses.

    Owd England led the way, with his favourite stick in hand, and a basket on his arm for the collection of a kind of saltwater snail called "whilks," which he said was "the finest heytin' of any sort o' fish i'th world for folk i' consumptions. . . . Yo happen wouldn't think it," said he, "bod I wor i' danger o' consumption when I were a young mon."

    As we went on, now over a firm swelling sand-bank, now stepping from stone to stone through a raggèd skeer, and slipping into pools and channels left by the tide, or wading the water in reckless glee,—the fine old man kept steadily ahead, muttering his wayward fancies as he made towards the silver fringe that played upon the skirts of the sea.  Now and then he stopped to point out the rocks and tell their names.

    "That's th' Carlin' an' Cowt,—a common seet enough.  Yo see, it's not far eawt. . . . Yon's th' Mussel Rock, deawn to so'thard.  Ther's folk musselin' on it neaw, I believe.  But we'n go that way on. . . . Tak raand bith sond-bank theer.  Yaar noan shod for wadin', an' this skeer's a varra rough un. . . . That's Penny Stone reight afore yo, toward the seea.  Ye'll hev heeard o'th Penny Stone Rock, mony a time, aw warnd.  There wor once a public-heawse wheer it stons, i'th owd time; an' they sowd ale theer at a penny a pot.  Bod, then, one connot tell whether it wor dear or cheeop till they knaw what size th' pot wor,—an' that aw dunnot knaw.  Mr. Thornber, o' Blackpool, hes written a book abaat this Penny Stone; an' I believe that Mr. Wood, o' Bispham Schoo', hes one.  He'll land it yo in a minute, aw warnd.  Yo mun send little Tom wi' a bit ov a note.  I never see Penny Stone eawt so as to get raand it afore. . . . Neaw, yon far'est, near low watter, is th' Owd Woman's Heyd.  I've often heeard on it, an' sometimes sin a bit o't tip aboon watter, bod I never see it dry i' my life afore,—an' I never mun again,—never."

    He then paddled on, filling his basket, and muttering to himself about this extraordinary ebb, and about the shortness of human life.  The sun began to


Steep his glowing axle in the western wave,


and the scene was melting every moment into a new tone of grandeur.  As we neared the water, the skeers were more rugged and wet, and in a few minutes we picked up a basketful of "whilks," and a beautiful variety of the sea anemone.  After the sun had dipped, his lingering glory still crowded the western heavens, and seemed to deepen in splendour as it died upon the scene, while the golden ripples of the sea sang daylight down to rest.  I never saw mild evening close over the world with such dreamy magnificence.  We wandered by the water, till


                                            Golden Hesperus
Was mounted high in top of heaven sheen,
And warned his other brethren joyeous
To light their blessèd lamps in Jove's eternall house.


The tide was returning, and the air getting cold, so we went homewards, with wandering steps, in the wake of our old wandering fisherman, by way of Penny Stone Rock.  There is a tradition all over the Fylde that this rock, now only visible


On the utmost verge of the retired wave,


marks the locality of a once famous hostelry.  Doubtless the tradition has some foundation in fact, as the encroachments of the sea upon this coast have been great, and sometimes disastrous, as in the destruction of the village of Singleton Thorpe, about a mile and a half to northward, in 1555.  In the Rev. W. Thornber's interesting little volume, called "Penny Stone; or, a Tradition of the Spanish Armada," he says of the old hostelry associated with this now submerged rock,—


    It was situated in a vale, protected from the sea by a barrier of sand-hills, at a short distance from a village called Singleton Thorpe, in the foreland of the Fylde, Lancashire.  The site of the homestead was romantic, for it was in the very centre of a Druidical circle, described in a former tradition of the country, one of the huge stones of which reared its misshapen block near the porch.  Into this stone a ring had been inserted by the thrifty Jock, its host, to which he was wont to attach the horses of his customers whilst they regaled themselves with a penny pot of his far-famed ale.  Hither the whole country resorted on holidays, to spend them in athletic games, and to quaff the beloved beverage,—nay, so renowned was the hostel, that "merrie days of hie away to Penny Stone" was common even to a proverb.  Here lay the secret enchantment of its popularity.  The old distich tells us that


Hops, reformation, bays, and beer,
Came into England all in a year.


Ale was a beverage which had been well known in England, but in the reign of Henry VIII. it assumed a new name from the infusion of hops.  Now, Jock's father, a cunning lout, was the first to commence in the Fylde this new, and at that time mysterious, system of brewing, which so pleased the palate of his customers that while others sold their insipid malt liquor at twopence per gallon he vended his ale at a penny per pot.  Hence his hostel became known by the name of Penny Stone.


    Such is the embodiment Mr. Thornber has given to the common tradition of Penny Stone, which we were now approaching on our homeward way.  As we drew near it, we saw five persons coming over the shining sands towards the same spot, and we heard merry voices ringing in the air.  I first made out my friend Alston, in his strong shooting-dress of light-coloured tweed, attended by two favourite terriers, Wasp and Snap.  We met at the rock, and I found my friend accompanied by three "brethren of the mystic tie," one of whom was Mr. Thornber, the veritable chronicler of Penny Stone.  The latter had wandered thus far, with his companions, mainly to avail himself of this rare chance of climbing his pet legendary crag.  His hands were full of botanical specimens from the sea, and, in his fervid way, he descanted upon them, and upon the geology of the coast, in a manner which, I am sorry to say, was almost lost to my uninitiated mind.  I took the opportunity of inquiring where he found the materials for his tradition.  He answered that there was no doubt of its fundamental truth, "but, as to the details wrought into the story," said he, pointing to his forehead, with a laugh, "I found them in a cellar, deep down in the rock here."

    The gloomy mass was surrounded by a little moat of salt water, nearly knee-deep, through which we passed; and then, clinging to its Triton locks of sea-weeds, we climbed to the slippery peaks of Penny Stone.  The stout lad in attendance drew a bottle from his basket; and then each in his way celebrated this unexpected meeting in that singular spot, where we should never meet together again.

    I shall never forget the sombre splendour of the scene, nor the striking appearance of the group upon that lonely rock, when the rearward hues of day were yielding their room to "sad succeeding night."  We lingered there awhile, but the air was cold, and the sea began to claim its own again.  Four then returned by the cliffs to Blackpool, and the rest crossed the sands hastily to Norbreck, where, after an hour's chat by the old fisherman's great kitchen fire, I crept to bed, with the sound of the sea in my ears.



CHAPTER III.


A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry. Now, good Peter Quince, call forth your actors by the scroll. Masters, spread yourselves.

MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.


THE "million-fingered rain" was tapping at the kitchen window as I sat by Owd England's bright hearthstone one forenoon, hearkening to the wind that moaned outside like a thing in pain.  I could hear by a subdued thump that Lizzy was churning in the dairy; and I knew, by the smell of fresh bread which came from a spacious out-kitchen, that Granny was baking.  Little Tom, the cow-lad, had started early with the cart to Poulton for coals, making knots on his whiplash as he went along, to help his memory, which was crowded with orders to call at one place for meal, at another for mutton, and at others for physic, and snuff, and such like oddments, wanted by the neighbours.  Owd England had gone to the seaside, with his staff, and his leather strap, to fetch the daily "burn" of firewood, and to see what he could see, for every tide brought something.  One day he hauled a barrel of Stockholm tar from the waters,—on another, part of the cabin furniture of an unfortunate steamer,—and then a beam of pine was thrown ashore,—in all of which the old man had a certain interest as "wreck-master."  Pegleg, the fisherman, was mending a net; and lame Alice lay, as usual, wrapped up, and in shadow, on the couch under the window, with her pale face, and a nose "as sharp as a pen," turned to the ceiling; while Tib, with her soft legs folded under, lay basking luxuriously in the fire-shine, dreaming of milk and of mice.  The old clock ticked audibly in the corner, and a pin-drop silence prevailed in the room.

    "That's a fine cat," said I.

    "Ay," replied old Alice.  "Isn't it a varra fine cat?  It's mother to that as Missis Alston hes.  It cam fra Lunnon, an' it's worth a deeol o' money is that cat.  The varra day as you cam, it weshed it face an' sneez't twice,—it dud, for sewer.  Missis Eastwood wor gettin dinner ready at th' time, an' hoo said, 'We'st hev a stranger fra some quarter this day, mind i' we hevn't;' an' directly after yo cam walkin' into th' heawse, I tell yo, just as nowt were.  I offens think it's queer; bod I've sin cats as good as ony almanack for tellin' th' weather an' sich like."

    "Will it scrat?" said I, stroking Tib, as she stretched and yawned in my face.

    "Well," replied Alice, "it's like everything else for that,—it just depends what you do at it.  Bod I can onser for one thing,—it'll not scrat as ill as th' Red Cat at Bispham does.  I hev sin folk a bit mauled after playin' wi' that."

    "Ay, an' so hev I, too," said old Pegleg.  "I ca'd theer tother neet, an' by th' hectum! heaw they were gooin' on, to be sewer!  I crope into a corner wi' mi gill, there wor sich liltin' agate; an', ye knaw, a mon wi' one leg made o' wood and tother full o' rheumatic pains is nowt mich at it.  Beside, I've taen a likin' to quietness,—one does, ye knaw, Alice, as they getten owd.  I geet aside ov a mon as wor tellin' abeawt Jem Duckworth, o' Preston, sellin' his midden.  Ye'll hev heeard o' that, Alice?"

    "Nay, I don't know as I hev, Billy.  What is it?  I dud hear at once th' baillies were in his heawse, an' they agreed to go away if he'd find 'em a good bondsman.  So Jem towd 'em that he had a varra respectable owd friend i'th next room that he thowt would be bund wi' him to ony amount,—if they'd let him fotch him.  So they advised him to bring his bond in at once, an' hev it sattle't baat ony bother,—for th' baillies wor owd friends o' Jem's, ye knaw, an' they didn't want to be hard wi' him.  Well, what does Jem do bod go an' fotch a great brown bear as he'd hed mony a year, an' turns it into th' place wheer th' baillies were, baat muzzle, and says, 'Gentlemen, that's my bondsman.'  Bod, never ye mind, if th' baillies didn't go through that window moor sharper! . . . I've heeard mony a queer tale o' Jem.  What's this abaat th' midden, Billy?"

    "Well, ye knaw, Jem wor a good-temper't mon, but full o' quire tricks.   He wor varra strong, an' a noted feighter,— th' cock o'th clod in his day, for that.  An' he kept a deeol o' horses, that he leet aat for hire.  Well, he'd once gether't a good midden together fra th' stables, an' farmers began o' comin' abaat th' yard to look at it; so one on 'em says, 'Jem, what'llto tak for th' midden?'  'Five paand,' says Jem.  'Well, I'll gi' tho five paand,' says the farmer.  So he ped him, an' said he'd send th' carts in a day or two.  In a bit, another comes, an' axes th' price o'th midden.  Jem stack to th' owd tale, an' said, 'Five paand,—an' cheeop, too;' an' th' farmer gev him th' brass at once.  'Sowd again,' says Jem, 'an' th' money drawn!'  Well, at the end of o', it happen't at both sets o' carts cam for th' midden o'th same day, an' there were the devil's delight agate i'th yard between 'em.  At last, they agreed to send for Jem.  So he cam, wi' a face as innocent as a flea, an' wanted to know whatever were to do.  'Didn't I buy this midden, Jem?' said one.  'Yigh, sure thae did,' said Jem.  'Well, an' didn't I pay tho for't at th' same time?'  'Sure thae did, owd lad,—reet enough,' says Jem.  'Well, but,' says tother, 'didn't I buy it on tho?'  'Yigh, thae did,' says Jem; 'an' thae ped me for't, too, honourably, like a mon,—an' I'll tak very good care that nob'dy but yo two hes it.'  That wor rayther awkert, ye knaw, an' I know not heaw they'd end it,—for Jem wor bad to manage.  They wor tellin' it at th' Red Cat tother neet, bod I could hardly hear for th' gam at wor afuut.  Lor bless yo!  There wor a gentleman fra Fleetwood tryin' to donce i'th middle o'th floor; an' owd Jack Backh'us stood i' one corner, wi' his yure ower his face, starin' like wild, an' recitin' abaat th' Battle o' Waterloo.  Three chaps sit upo' th' sofa as hed been ower Wyre, o' day, an' they'd etten so mich snig pie at th' Shard that it hed made 'em say-sick, so Tom Poole wor mixin' 'em stuff to cure it.  Another wor seawnd asleep on a cheer, an' little Twinkle, fra Poulton doncin' abeawt, challengin' him to feight.  An' it wor welly as bad eawtside, for there wor a trap coom up wi' a lot o' trippers as hed bin to Cleveless, an' Bugle Bob upo' th' box, playin' 'Rule Britannia.'  Bod I left when th' bevel-men fra Rossall begun o' comin' in, singin', 'Said Dick unto Tom,' for I felt my yed givin' way under it."

    The song, "Said Dick unto Tom," alluded to by the old man, is a rude fishing ditty, never printed before, and hardly known out of the Fylde, to which it relates.  I wrote it down from the recitation of a friend near Norbreck.  There is not much in the words except a quiet, natural tone, with one or two graphic strokes, which breathe the spirit of the country it originated from.  The tune is a quaint air, which I never heard before.  The song was written some time ago, by William Garlick, a poor man, and a weaver of "pow-davy," a kind of sail-cloth.  These are the words:—


Said Dick unto Tom, one Friday at noon,
                Loddle iddle, fol de diddle ido.
Said Dick unto Tom, one Friday at noon,
"Aw could like to go a-bobbin' i'th mornin' varra soon."
                To my heigho, wi' my bob-rods an' o',
                Loddle iddle, fol de diddle ido.

Then up i'th mornin' Dick dud rise.
                Loddle iddle, &c.
Then up i'th mornin' Dick dud rise,
An' to Tom's door like leetnin' flies.
                To my heigho, wi' my worm-can an' o'.
                Loddle iddle, &c.

So up Tom jumped, an' deawn th' stairs dart.
                Loddle iddle, &c.
So up Tom jumped, an' deawn th' stairs dart,
To go a-gettin' dew-worms afore they start.
                Wi' my heigho, an' my worm-can an' o'.
                Loddle iddle, &c.

Then they hunted, an' rooted, an' seeched abaat.
                Loddle iddle, &c.
Then they hunted, an' rooted, and seeched abaat.
"Egad," says little Tom, "there's noan so many aat!"
                To my heigho, wi' my worm-can an' o'.
                Loddle iddle, &c.

So off they set wi' th' bob-rods i' hond.
                Loddle iddle, &c.
So off they set wi' th' bob-rods i' hond,
Like justices o' peace, or governors o' lond.
                To my heigho, wi' my snig-bags an' o',
                Loddle iddle, &c.

An' when they gat to Kellamoor, that little country place.
                Loddle iddle, &c.
And when they gat to Kellamoor, that little country place,
Th' childer were so freeten't at they dorsn't show their face.
                To my heigho, wi' my bob-rods an' o'.
                Loddle iddle, &c.

An' when they gat to Brynin', folk thought there'd bin a mob,
                Loddle iddle, &c.
An' when they gat to Brynin', folk thought there'd bin a mob,
Till little Tommy towd 'em they were bod baan to bob.
                To my heigho, wi' my snig-bags, an' o'.
                Loddle iddle, &c.

An' when they gat to Wharton, they wor afore the tide.
                Loddle iddle, &c.
An' when they gat to Wharton, they wor afore the tide,
They jumped into a boat, an' away they both did ride.
                To my heigho, wi' their bob-rods an' o'.
                Loddle iddle, &c.


    Soon after dinner the clouds broke, and it was fine again.  I went to the seaside, and, after pacing to and fro by the waves a while, I struck out towards Rossall, through the by-paths of a wilderness of sand and tall grass called Starrins, that run along the edge of the cliffs.  I had scarcely gone a mile before


The rattlin' showers drave on the blast


again, and the sky was all thick gloom.  Dripping wet I hurried towards the hotel at Cleveless, and, darting in, got planted in a snug arm-chair by the parlour fire watching the storm that swept furiously aslant the window, and splashed upon the road in front.  Three other persons were in the room, one a workman from Rossall College, hard by, and the other commercial men on their route to Fleetwood.  It is wonderful how much rough weather enhances the beauty of the inside of a house.


Better a wee bush than nae bield.


Well, we were just getting into talk, when the door opened and a humorous face looked in.  It was a bright-eyed middle-aged man, shining all over with wet.  A blue woollen apron was twisted round his waist, and he had a basket on his arm.  Leaning against one door-cheek, and sticking a knife into the other, he said,—

    "By gobs! didn't I get a fine peltin' out o' that! . . . Do yees want any oysters, gintlemin?  The shells is small," said he, stepping forward, "but they're chockful o' the finest fish in the world.  Divul a aiqual thim oysters has in the wide ocean,—mind, I'm tellin' ye. . . . Taste that!"

    "Hollo, Dennis!" said one of the company, "how is it you aren't in Fleetwood?"

    "Well, because I'm here, I suppose," said Dennis.  "Bedad, ye can't expect a man to be in two places at once,—barrin' he was a burd.  Maybe it's good fortune sent me here to meet wid a few rale gintlemin.  Sorra a one I met on the way, but rain powrin' down in lashins, till the oysters in my basket began to think they were in the say again."

    "Well, Dennis," said the traveller, "I'll have a score if you'll tell us about the Irishman in the cook's shop."

    "Ye will?  Thin divul recave the toe I'll stir till ye get both! . . . Will ye take another score, sir,—till I tell the tale?  It's little chance ye'll have o' meetin' thim oysters agin,—for they're gettin' scarce. . . . An' now for the tale," said he, with his knife and his tongue going together.  "It was a man from Nenagh, in Tipperary,—he was a kind o' ganger on the railway,—an' he wint to a cook-shop in a teawn not far from this, an' says he to the missis o' the heawse, 'A basin o' pay-soup, ma'am, plaze,' says he,—for, mind ye, an Irishman's naterally polite till he's vexed, an' thin he's as fiery as Julius Sayzur.  Well, whin she brought the soup, Paddy tuk a taste mighty sly; an' turnin' reawnd, says he,—just for spooart, mind,—says he, 'Bedad, ma'am, your soup tastes moighty strong o' the water.'  Well, av coorse, the woman was vexed all out, an' she up and towld him he didn't understand good aitin', an' he might lave the soup for thim that had bin better eddicated.  But bowld Paddy went on witiheawt losin' a stroke o' the spoon, an',—purtendin' not to hear her,—says he, 'I'll go bail I'll make as good broth as thim wid a penny candle an' a trifle o' pepper.'  Well, by gobs! this riz the poor woman's dander to the full hoight, an' she made right at him wid her fist, an' swore, by this an' by that, if he didn't lave the heawse she'd knock him into the boiler.  But Paddy was nigh finishing his soup, an' he made up his mind to take the last word, an' says he, 'By the powers! that'll be the best bite o' mate ever went into your pan, ma'am!' an' wi' that he burst into a laugh, an' the philanderin' rogue up an' towld her how he said it all for divarshun, an' divul a better soup he tasted in his life.  Well, she changed her tune, like a child.  Bedad, it was like playin' a flute, or somethin'.  An', mind ye, there's nothin' like an Irishman for gettin' the right music out of a woman,—all the world over.  So my tale's inded, an' I'd like to see the bottom o' my basket.  Ye may as well brake me, gintlemin.  There's not more nor five score.  Take the lot, an' let me go home; for I've a long step to the fore, an' I'm wet to the bone, an' the roads is bad after dark."



CHAPTER IV.


Still lingering in the quiet paths.

ALL THE YEAR ROUND.


AFTER a good deal of pleasantry, Dennis got rid of his oysters, and as the storm was still raging without he called for a glass, just, as he said, "to keep the damp away from the spark in his heart," more by token that he had no other fire to dry his clothes at.  "But, begorra for the matter o' that," said he, "they're not worth a grateful o' coals.  Look at mi trousers.  They're on the varge o' superannuation; an' they'll require a substitute before long, or else, I'm thinkin' they'll not combine daycently.  How an' ever, gintlemin," continued he, "here's hopin' the fruition of your purses may never fail ye, nor health to consign their contents to utility.  An' neaw," said he, lighting his pipe, and putting the empty basket on his head like a cowl, "I must go, if the rain comes in pailfuls, for I'm not over well an' if I could get home wud wishin', I'd be in bed by the time ye'd say 'trap-sticks!'  But dramin' and schamin's neither ridin' nor flyin', so I'll be trampin', for there's no more use in wishin' than there would be in a doctor feelin' a man's pulse through a hole in a wall wid the end of a Kitchen poker.  An' neaw, I'll be proud if any gintleman will oblige me by comin' a couple o' mile an the road, to see the way I'll spin over the greawnd. . . . Ye'd rather not?  Well, fun an' fine weather's not always together, so good bye, an' long life to yees!" and away went Dennis through the rain towards Fleetwood.

    Waiting for the shower to abate, I sat awhile, and, as one of the company had been to a funeral, it led to a conversation about benefit societies, in relation to which one person said he decidedly objected to funeral benefits being allowed to people who had died by their own hands, because it would encourage others to commit suicide.  From this we glided to the subject of consecrated ground, and a question arose respecting a man who had been accidentally buried partly in consecrated and partly in unconsecrated ground, as to what result would ensue from that mistake to the poor corpse in the end of all.  The doubt was as to whose influence the unconsecrated half came under.  The dispute ran high, without anybody making the subject clearer, so I came away before the shower was over.

    Next day I went to Blackpool, and while awaiting at the station the arrival of a friend of mine, I recognised the familiar face of an old woman whom I had known in better days.  Tall and thin, with a head as white as a moss-crop, she was still active, and remarkably clean and neat in appearance.  Her countenance, though naturally melancholy, had still a spice of the shrew in it.

    "Eh," said she, "I'm glad to see you.  It's seldom I have a chance of meeting an old face now, for I'm seldom out."

    She then told me she had been two years and a half housekeeper to a decrepit old gentleman and his two maiden sisters, in a neighbouring town.

    "But," said she, "I'm going to leave.  You see I've got into years; and though I'm active,—thank God!—yet I'm often ill; and people don't like to be troubled with servants that are ill, you know.  So I'm forced to work on, ill or well; for I'm but a lone woman, with no friends to help me but my son, and he's been a long time in Canada, and I haven't heard from him this three years.  I look out for th' postman day by day,—but nothing comes.  Sometimes I think he's dead.  But the Lord knows.  It's like to trouble one, you're sure.  It's hard work, with one thing and another, very: for I 'have to scratch before I can peck,' as th' saying is, and shall to th' end o' my day, now.  But if you can hear of anything likely, I wish you would let me know,—for leave yonder I will.  I wouldn't stop if they'd hang my hair wi' diamonds,—I wouldn't, indeed.  I've said it, and signed it,—so there's an end.  But what, they'll never ask me to stop, I doubt.  It's very hard.  You see, I have to keep my son's little boy in a neighbour's house,—this is him,—and that eats up nearly all my bit o' wage; and where's my clothing to come from?  But, don't you see? yon people are greedy to a degree.  Lord bless you! they'd skin three devils for one hide,—they would, for sure!  See yo, one day—(here she whispered something which I didn't exactly catch)—they did, indeed!  As Missis Dixon said, when I met her in Friargate, on Monday forenoon, 'It was a nasty, dirty trick!'  But I've had my fill, an' I shall sing 'Oh, be joyful!' when my time's up.  I shall be glad to get to my own country again,—yes, if I have to beg my bread.  See, they're actually afraid of me going out o'th house, for fear I should talk about them to th' neighbours!  Bless yo! they judge everybody by theirselves!  But I'd scorn the action!  It is just as Missis Smith said, 'They're frightened o'th world being done before they've done wi' th' world,'—they are, for sure!  Such gripin', grindin' ways!  They'll never prosper,—never!'"

    "And is this your grandson?" said I.

    "Yes; an' he's a wonderful child for his age.  He's such a memory.  His father was just the same.  I often think he'd make a rare 'torney,—he remembers things so, and he has such queer sayings.  I've taught him many a piece off by heart.  Come, George, say that little piece for this gentleman.  Take your fingers out of your mouth.  Come, now."

    The lad looked a minute, and then rattled out,—


"Said Aaron to Moses, 'Aw'll swap tho noses!'"


    "Oh, for shame!" said she. "Not that!"  But he went on,—


"Said Moses to Aaron, 'Thine's sich a quare un!'"


    "For shame!" said she.  "You see they teach him all sorts o' nonsense; and he remembers everything.  Come, be quick, 'Twinkle, twinkle.'"  But here the train was ready, and in five minutes more she was on her way to Preston and not finding my friend I walked home along the cliffs.

    In my rambles about Norbreck I met with many racy characters standing in relief among their neighbours, and marked with local peculiarities, as distinctly as anything that grows from the soil.  In a crowded city they might be unnoticed, but amid


The hamlet's hawthorn wild,


where existence seems to glide as noiselessly as a cloud upon a summer sky,—save where friendly gossips meet, like a choir of crickets, by some country fire,—they are threads of vivid interest woven into the sober web of life; and among their own folk they are prized something like those old books which people hand from generation to generation,—because they bear the quaint inscriptions of their forefathers.  In my wanderings I had also the benefit of a genial and intelligent companion, and whether we were under his own roof, among books, and flowers, and fireside talk about the world in the distance, or roving the green lanes and coppice-trods, chatting with stray villagers by the way, or airing ourselves in the wind,


On the beached margent of the sea,


I found pleasure and assistance in his company, in spite of all our political differences.  My friend Alston lives about a mile down the winding road from Norbreck, in a substantial hall, built about a hundred years ago, and pleasantly dropped at the foot of a great natural embankment, which divides the low-lying plain from the sea.  The house stands among slips of orderly garden and plantation, with poultry-yards and outhouses at the north-east end.  The green country, sparely sprinkled with white farmhouses and cottages, spreads out in front, far and wide, to where the heathery fells of Lancashire bound the eastward view.  The scene is as quiet as a country church just before service begins, except where the sails of a windmill are whirling in the wind, or the fleecy steam-cloud of a distant train gushes across the landscape like a flying fountain of snow.  On a knoll behind the house there is a little rich orchard, trimly hemmed in by thick thorn hedges.  In March I found its shadeless walks open to the cold sky, and all its holiday glory still brooding patiently down in the soil; but I remember how oft, in summer, when the boughs were bending to the ground with fruit, and the leaves were so thick overhead that the sunshine could only find its way through chinks of the green ceiling, we have pushed the branches aside, and walked and talked among its bowery shades, or, sitting on benches at the edge of the fish-pond, have read and watched our floats, and hearkened the birds, until we have risen, as if drawn by some fascination in the air, and gone unconsciously towards the sea again.  There we have spent many a glorious hour and there, at certain times of the day, we should meet with "Quick," or "Mitch," or some other coast-guardsmen belonging to the boat's crew at Fleetwood, pacing to and fro, on the look-out for Frenchmen, smugglers, and wreck.  As we returned from the shore one afternoon last March, an old man was walking on the road before us, carrying what looked in the distance like two milk-pails.  These he set down now and then, and looked all round.  My friend told me that this part of the Fylde was famous for singing-birds, especially larks.  He said that bird-catchers came from all parts of Lancashire, particularly Manchester, to ply their craft there; and he would venture a guess that the quaint figure before us was a Manchester bird-catcher, though it was rather early in the season.  When we overtook the old man, who had set down his covered cages in a by-lane, we found that he was a bird-catcher, and from Manchester, too.  I learned, also, that it was not uncommon for a clever catcher to make a pound a day by his "calling."

    The primitive little whitewashed parish church of Bispham was always an interesting object to me.  It stands on a knoll, about a quarter of a mile over the fields from Norbreck, and its foundation is of great antiquity.  Its graveyard contains many interesting memorials, but none more solemnly eloquent than a certain row of green mounds covering the remains of the unknown drowned washed upon that coast from time to time.  Several of these, which drifted ashore after the burning of the Ocean Monarch off the coast of Wales, in 1848, now lie mouldering together in this quiet country graveyard, all unknown, save a lady from Bury, in Lancashire, to whose memory a tombstone is erected here.

    As the great tides declined, the weather began to be troubled with wintry fits; but when the day of my return came, it brought summer again.  After dinner, at Bispham House, I went up with my friend to bid farewell to Owd England, at Norbreck; and it was like parting with some quaint volume of forgotten lore.  Nursed here in the lap of Nature, the people and customs of the country were part of himself; and his native landscape, with all the shifting elements in the scene, was a kind of barometer, the slightest changes of which were intelligible to him.  At the eastern edge of Norbreck, a low wall of cobble stones encloses his garden.  Here, where I have sometimes made a little havoc among his Bergamots, Old Keswicks, and Scotch Bridgets, we walked about, whilst I took a parting look at the landscape.  Immediately behind us the sea was singing its old song; and below lay the little rural parish, "where," as I heard the rector say in one of his sermons, "a man cannot walk into the open air but all his neighbours can see him."  Beyond, the tranquil Fylde stretches out its drowsy green, now oblivious of all remembrance of piratical ravage, which so often swept over it in ancient times.  Yonder, the shipping of Fleetwood is clearly in sight to the north.  And there, a sunbeam, stealing between the fleecy clouds, glides across the land from field to field, with a kind of plaintive grace, as if looking for a lost garden.  Over meadow, over wood, and little town it goes, dying away upon yon rolling hills in the east.  The first of these hills is Longridge; and behind it weird old Pendle, standing in a world of its own, is dimly visible.  Northward, the hills roll on in bold relief,—Parlick, and Bleasdale, and the fells between Morecambe and "time-honoured Lancaster."  Still northward, to where yon proud brotherhood of snow-crowned giants, the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland, looks so glorious in the sunlight, awaking enchanting dreams of that land of romance the Lake District, hallowed by so many rich associations of genius.  They toss their mighty heads on westward, till solemn old Black Coomb dips into the Irish Sea.  Altogether a fine setting for the peaceful scene below.

    The afternoon was waning, so, taking leave of the old fisherman and his household, I returned from Norbreck like a man who rises from his dinner before he is half satisfied.  Accompanied by my friend I walked four miles, on highways and by-ways, to meet the train at Poulton.  The road was pleasant and the day was fine, and I reached Manchester before midnight, feeling better in soul and body for my sojourn by the sea.


――――♦――――


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