THE OLD FIDDLER.
The traveller stops and gazes round and
O'er all the scenes that animate his heart
With mirth and music. E'en the mendicant,
Bowbent with age, that on the old gray stone
Sole sitting, suns him in the public way,
Feels his heart leap as to himself he sings.
IT was not quite
eleven in the forenoon as Lobden Ben sauntered along the road
towards the head of the Clough, near Healey Hall, as happy as the
summer day. And right well did that jolly-hearted besom-maker
harmonise with the scene around him. He was a healthy, hardy,
comely fellow, just in his prime, as clean as a new pin, and
dressed in his holiday clothes, freaked with such bits of rustic
prettiness as his little garden and his native fields afforded.
He looked like "a man of cheerful yesterdays," and hopeful future.
Embroidered was he, as it were a mead,
All full of freshι flowers, white and red,
Singing he was or fluting all the day:
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
The day was hot, and Ben was idle, and, as it still wanted more than
an hour of noon, he paced the road with a slow, wandering gait.
His hat was thrown back from his broad forehead, and in his right
hand he carelessly swung a green branch, as he chanted aloud,
Be merry while it's day, my lads,
'Twill soon be set o' sun;
An' fate will have her way, my lads,
Let a mon do what he con!
What he con!
Let a mon do what he con!
Then, wiping his moist forehead, he lounged onward in silence for a
few yards. But he was too glad-hearted to be silent long, and,
according to his wont when thus wandering alone, he began again to
interweave the quiet thoughts that played about his mind with quaint
threads of the minstrel memories of days gone by. Like a
fitful bird in the summer woods, he chanted as he went, now this,
now that; but nothing long,
I'm quite content, I do not care,
This world may wag for me;
When fuss an' fret wur o' my fare,
I geet no greawnd to see.
So, when away my carin' went
I ceawnted cost, an' wur content.
And then, after another moment's silence, another fragment flitted
across his thoughts, and he trolled forth,
And she did laurel wear!
And she-e did laurel wear!
Ben's voice rang loud and clear in that quiet scene, where the rich
repose of summer noontide seemed to steep every thing in drowsy
delight. Haymakers were at work upon the hill-sides, spreading
out the damp grass which had been cut before the previous day's
rain; and, now and then, a cheery laugh, or the cadence of some
snatch of old country song, came sailing on the sunny air, softened
by distance; but Ben had all the highway to himself, and the man and
his melody lent a charm to the landscape, as he wandered on,
chanting "like tipsy jollity that reels with tossing head."
The birds eyed him curiously from the trees as he went lounging by,
with the cosy sprig nodding in his hat at every footstep, and the
green branch swinging in his hand; and they seemed to listen
intently to his lay, till some dreamy pause of silent thought stole
in upon the fitful strain, and then they gushed forth into wilder
music than before, as if they had suddenly discovered an old friend,
and were delighted to find any human creature astir in the gay,
green world as happy as themselves.
He was approaching the head of the Clough called "The Thrutch,"
the most picturesque part of the road, and ten minutes' walk would
have brought him up to Healey Hall; but, though afraid of being too
late for his appointment with the colonel, he was too shy a man to
wish to be too soon in such an unusual place; and, therefore, he
began to linger, and look about for a place where he might rest and
cool himself during the intervening time. Seeing a bush of ripe "heps"
that overhung the pathway, he climbed the prickly hedge, and began
to pluck them, like a truant school-boy whiling away the sunny
hours, and as he put them, one by one, into his pocket, he sang,
An' still the burden o' my song,
Shall be, to great an' smo',
For hee and low, for weak an' strong,
Good government is o'!
Here he suddenly leaped down from the hedge-side, and seating
himself upon the bank, he began to look at his hand, into which a
great thorn had penetrated; and, as he examined the bleeding finger,
he kept quietly repeating the last line,
Good government is o'!
over and over again, until, with the help of his pocket-knife blade,
he had extracted the thorn. Then, rising lazily to his feet again,
he sauntered on, and sang,
For I neverno, never,no, nev-er,
Shall see my love more!
Go from my window, love, go,
Go from my window, my dear,
The wind and the rain
Will drive you back again,
You cannot be lodgιd here.
Begone my fuggy, my puggy,
Begone my love, my dear;
The weather is warm,
'Twill do thee no harm,
Thou cannot be lodgιd here.
Ben walked so near to the hedge-side, for the sake of the shade
afforded by the overhanging bushes, that his face came in contact
with a spider's web, fine as the down of a midge's wing. He halted,
and wiped away the ruins of the delicate rosace from his cheek; and
even this trifling incident seemed, unconsciously, to change the
tone and direction of his wandering fancy, for he burst forth with
an old ditty, of another tune:
Come, ye young men, come along,
With your music, dance, and song;
Bring your lasses in your hands,
For 'tis that which love commands;
Then to the Maypole hie away,
For it is now a holiday.
It is the sweetest of the year,
For the violets now appear:
Now the rose receives its birth,
And the primrose decks the earth
Come to the Maypole, come away,
For it is now a holiday.
Here each bachelor may choose
One that will not faith abuse;
Nor pay with coy disdain
Love that should be loved again;
Come to the Maypole, come away,
For it is now a holiday.
And when you well reckoned have
What kisses your sweethearts gave;
Take them back again, and more,
It will never make them poor.
Come to the Maypole, come away,
For it is now a holiday.
When you thus have spent the time,
Till the day be past its prime;
To your beds repair at night,
And dream there of your heart's delight.
Then to the Maypole hie away,
For it is now a holiday.
Here, spying a well at a little distance, on the other side of the
road, he muttered to himself, "Hello, let's sup!" and away he went
lounging across towards it. Laying his hat on the green bank, he
knelt down upon the edge of the well; and, as he bent down to drink,
the reflection of his face rose up in the water to meet him. Ben
paused to contemplate the sight, and groping at his sore nose, which
still bore marks of the old fiddler's heel, he said, "Come, it does
look a bit better; but it's hardly fit to be sin yet. They'n be sure
to ax me abeawt it up at th' ho', yon. Well, I's be like to poo
through as weel as I con; for I connot go beawt it, that's sartin. It would do weel enough to go a-fuddlin' wi', but it's
noan fit for
a parlour. I wish I could wear eawr Betty's a day or two till this
gets mended. Hoo's a angel of a nose compar't wi' mine. Come,"
continued he, caressing it once more, "I'll poo tho through, owd
lad, as weel as I con." Then, seeing his holiday clothes, and the
posy in his button-hole, reflected in the water, he cried, "Hello,
Benjamin! what's up at you're so fine to-day? Yo're like th' better
side eawt! Are yo beawn to a weddin' or summat? I'll tell yo what,
maister, you're gettin' new things fast! Has somebry laft yo some
brass latly, or summat, at there's o' this fancy-wark agate? . . .
Posies an' o'! Eh, dear! There'll be no touchin' yo wi' a pike-fork
in a bit. . . . 'Ston fur!' said Simon o' Twitter's! 'Stone fur! I
never talk to poor folk when I've these clooas on! Ston fur! I'm
busy wi' th' quality. Co' to-morn, when th' brass is done! . .
Well, come, here's luck, owd lad!" And dipping his mouth into the
well, he took a long drink; then, rising slowly, and with half shut
eyes, he gave a sigh of satisfaction, wiped his mouth with his
napkin, brushed the dust carefully from his knees, donned his
rose-wreathed hat, re-arranged the posy in his button-hole, and
taking up the green branch, he lounged back to the shady side of
the road again, singing,
For I nev-er,no-o, nev-er,no, never,
Shall see my love more!
"Nawe, nor I never shall," said Ben, with a sigh. "Eh,
hoo wur a
bonny lass, wur Jenny. God bless her! Eawr Betty's forgetten o' abeawt it, neaw. But
hoo use't to ding me up wi't a bit, sometimes,
when we wur cwortin'."
My lodging it is on the cold ground,
And oh, very hard is my fare;
But that which grieves me more, love,
Is the coldness of my dear.
Yet still he cried, "Oh turn, love,
I prythee, love, turn to me;
For thou art the only girl, love,
That art adored by me."
With a garland of straw I'll crown thee, love,
And marry thee with a rush-ring;
Thy frozen heart shall melt with love,
So merrily I will sing.
Yet still he cried, "Oh turn, love," &c.
But if thou will harden thy heart, love,
And be deaf to my pitiful moan,
Then I must endure the smart, love,
And shiver in straw all alone.
Yet still he cried, "Oh turn, love," &c.
"Hello; what's comin' neaw!" said Ben, staring down the road. It was
a handsome, well-dressed, and well-mounted horseman, who came riding
hastily along. As soon as he had got within a few yards of Ben, he
up, and inquired how far he was from the village of Whitworth.
"Oh, three-quarters of a mile, happen," said Ben. "Th' first heawses
yo come'n to. Turn up at th' reet hond amung th' heawses, an' yon be
i'th midst on't, i' two minutes. I've just come fro' thither mysel."
"Do you think Dr. James will be at home?" inquired the rider,
"Sure to be," replied Ben. "He's seldom off, except when he's oather huntin' or shootin'; an' then he doesn't go far fro' whoam. Well, yigh; he twos into th' Red Lion a bit of a neet, after he's done."
"What kind of a place is the Red Lion?" inquired the horseman.
"Oh, the best shop i' Whit'orth, if yo wanten to put up. I know th'
folk 'at keeps it, very weel. Th' landlady's an owd friend o' my
wife's. I left my wife theer this forenoon. They'n a rare good
"Thank you!" said the rider, and flinging a shilling towards Ben,
he galloped off.
"Yon's moor money nor wit, I deawt," said Ben, looking after the
disappearing horseman. Then, walking up to where the shilling lay,
he looked down at it, and said, "Well, I never expected that, as
heaw. . . . He met
(might) ha' gan it one decently, beawt flingin' it o'th floor. . .
But it's no use lettin' it lie theer. It'll come in for summat
(somewhat) better nor mendin' th' hee-road wi'."
Then he pocketed the shilling, and went on singing, ―
Green grow the leaves on the hawthorn
Green grow the leaves on the hawthorn tree;
They hangle, an' they jangle,
An' they cannot well agree,
While the tenor o' my song goes merrilee.
While the tenor o' my song goes merrilee!
"I wish I'd axed yon chap what time it wur," said Ben. Then, after
walking thoughtfully on a few paces, he burst out again in a fresh
There wur an owd fellow coom o'er the
An' it's oh, I'll not have him!
He coom o'er the lea,
A-cwortin to me,
Wi' his owd gray beart new-shorn.
My mother hoo tow'd me to oppen him th' door.
An' it's oh, I'll not have him!
I oppen't him th' door,
An' he fell upo' th' floor,
Wi' his owd gray beart new-shorn.
My mother hoo bade me set him a stoo.
An' it's oh, I'll not have him
I set him a stoo,
An' he looked like a foo,
Wi' his owd gray beart new-shorn.
My mother hoo towed me to cut him some bread,
An' it's oh, I'll not have him
I cut him some bread,
An' threw't at his head,
An' his owd gray beart new-shorn.
My mother hoo towed me to leet him to bed.
An' it's oh, I'll not have him
I let him to bed,
An' he're very near deeod,
Wi' his owd gray beart new-shorn.
My mother hoo towed me to take him to church.
An' it's oh, I'll not have him!I
I took him to church,
An' I left him i'th lurch,
Wi' his owd gray beart new-shorn.
When Ben had ended the ditty, he wiped the moisture from his
forehead again, and muttered to himself, "'Eh, it's warm, God bless
yo,' as th' owd woman said when they axed hur heaw hoo liked th'
thin broth. I wonder what o'clock it is. Hardly eleven, bith' day, I
think. Twelve's my time; an' I'll go noan afore, as heaw th' cat
jumps. I may no 'ceawnt o' bein' catechise't bi folk, quality or no
quality. Th' owd kurnul's sure to be theer, an' happen a parson or
two. I wish this nose o' mine wur reet; they're sich chaps for
readin' folk fro yed to fuut. . . . An' then, they're sure to begin
abeawt yon bit o'th jackass o' mine bein' round up into th' mill
chamber [Ed.― for this story, see
BESOM BEN AND HIS DONKEY]. Rare gam' for 'em, that'll be. It'll last my life-time,
that jackass dooment. Sarve me reet, too, leather-yed. I could ha' laugh't rarely if onybody else had done it but me. But th' laughin's
o' upo' one side, this time, like th' handle of a can. Ne'er mind;
it'll be somebry else's turn th' next. . . . Th' most o' folk are
fain to see other folk make fool's o' theirsels. It's th' way o'th
world. . . . An', by th' mon, if a poor lad happens to be born wi'
a hair-shorn lip, or his yure a bit cauve-lick't, he's sure to be
punce't for't, oather by one bowster-yed or another, though he's no
moor to do wi't nor he has wi' makin' moonleet. There's a decol o'
feaw flytin' i' this cote, that they co'n a world. . . . But then, I
wur a jumpt-up foo abeawt that jackass-do, there's no gettin' off
that. Well,come,I's happen larn sometime. It's a lung lone 'at's
never a turn. . . . But I's catch it, when I get to th' ho'. If it
isn't mention't o'th parlour, it'll be mention't i'th kitchen. Th'
sarvants are ten times war nor th' tother. But, never mind, every mon
mun do his do, while th' time's up. Come on!' said Kempy; 'we're noan freeten't o' frogs! Folk 'at's boggart-fear't
han nobbut a feaw
life.' 'Forrad, lads!' cried Tickle-but; 'yo'r wark's i'th front on
yo!'. . . . I'll face up at twelve, but not a minute afore, that's sattle't. An' there's an hour to do on, yet. Come, I'll keawer me deawn, an'
pike a two-thre o' these heps."
Taking a few of the red hips from his pocket, he was just preparing
to seat himself upon the hedge, when, glancing along the road, he
spied somebody sitting in a shady place, close by the wayside.
"Hello," said Ben; "what's yon? Somebry sittin' bi th' roadside,
as snug as a button, wi' o'th world to theirsel'. I wonder who it
is. A tramp o' some mak, I dar say. Come, I'll have a look at 'em,
as heaw." And away he went lazily onward, chanting,
Han yo sin my love, my love, my love;
Han yo sin my love, lookin' for me?
A cock't hat, an' a fither, an' buckskin breeches
An a bonny breet buckle at oather knee.
As Ben drew nearer, he began to recognise some features of the
person he had seen from the distance, and, stopping suddenly, his
eyes began to glisten, and, raising his hands, he cried, "By th'
mass; I believe it's Dan o' Tootler's, th' owd fiddler! Eh, if it's
him! Come, that'll do!" And then he strode forward more briskly,
Robin Lilter's here again
Here again, here again?
Robin Lilter's here again,
Wi' th' merry bit o' timber.
It was, indeed, Dan o' Tootler's, a blind fiddler, well known all
over the country side. His native spot was a wild moorland fold,
near to the foot of Brown Wardle Hill, at the north-eastern end of
the vale of the Roch; but he was a great wanderer; and his wide
acquaintance with old melodies, especially those peculiar to the
north of England, as well as his remarkable power as a performer
upon the violin, made him a favourite guest wherever he went. At
wakes, and weddings, and churn-suppers, or any country holiday, his
was a well-known and welcome face, in every country nook between
Blackstone Edge and the bleak ridge of Rooley Moor; and even far
beyond that great dividing line, in the hills and dales of
Rossendale Forest, and amongst the lonely folds of Ribblesdale, up
to the great end of Pendle, many a merry heart leaped with joy at
the mention of blind Dan o' Tootler's, and his fiddle. There the
minstrel sat, upon an old tree root, which had been left by the
wayside, sunning himself, and crooning a quaint tune, with his blind
eyes turned upward to the summer sky. He was called "Owd Dan"
wherever he went; but this was meant more as an acknowledgment of
kindly acquaintance than as indicating the decrepitude of age; for
he was not yet sixty, and he was a happy-hearted and remarkably hale
man for his years. He was humbly clad, but all was clean and whole
from head to toe; and even the clumsy, unconcealed patches upon his
clothing, here and there, were indicative of wholesome thrift, and
showed that, though poor, he was not severely so, and also that, in
his lowly estate, he was kindly cared for. His son, a chubby lad of
nine years old, whose business was to lead him by the hand, had
wandered into a field, hard by, to gather flowers, always keeping
within call, whilst the old man rested himself; and as the blind
fiddler sat there, with his face up-turned, and quietly swaying his
body to and fro, to the measure of an old tune, which he was
crooning dreamily to himself, there was something very touching in
the placid helplessness which pervaded his well-cut features. Indeed, there is often a strange heaven of peaceful expression in a
blind man's face; as if the loss of sight, which deprives life of so
many pleasures, had taken away also some of its troubles; and the
mute, pleading eloquence, the plaintive quietude that dwells in a
sightless countenance, moves the heart more than strength, more than
beauty ever can; as if helplessness itself was surrounded by an
angelic atmosphere, more potent for its defence than any merely
physical protection could be.
The fiddler was on his way to the house of an old friend, who farmed
a large tract of land upon the edge of the moors, near the town of
Bacup. Indeed, the minstrel and the farmer were distant relatives,
bearing the same name, apart from the personal attachment which
bound them to each other; and, according to a custom long
established between the two, the fiddler had been specially invited,
quite as much in the character of a guest as of an itinerant
musician, to enliven the rustic gathering which thronged the old
house at the Nine Oaks' Farm at the annual churn-supper, as the
feast of the hay-harvest is called in South Lancashire. The
churn-supper at Nine Oaks was famous all over the Forest of
Rossendale, no less on account of the number of the guests and the
bounty of the cheer, than on account of the presence of a minstrel
so well known and so universally welcome as Dan o' Tootler's was in
those days. He had already walked many a rough moorland mile, and,
having still several miles further to go, the old man had sat
himself down in this shady nook of the road to rest a little while. The loss of sight had made the fiddler's hearing more acute than is
common to those whose senses are all in full play; and in the
all-pervading stillness of the scene, where nothing seemed astir but
the songs of wild birds, his quick ear caught the sounds of Ben's
footsteps approaching from the distance.
"Husht!" said he, as if talking to the birds around him;? "husht!
there's somebry comin'!" Then, catching the tones of Ben's voice as he
came singing on, a quiet smile crept over the old man's up-turned
face, as he rubbed his hands and said, "Come, I know who that is! .
. . Husht! Let him goo on again! . . . Ay; it's him. Lobden Ben,
for a creawn!" As Ben drew near, the fiddler cried out, with his
smiling countenance still turned sunward, "Hello, Ben, owd lad! Is
that thee? Heaw arto gettin' on amung yon yirth-bobs (tufts of
heather) upo' Lobden Moor?"
"Eh, Dan o' Tootler's, owd dog!" cried Ben, running up, and catching
the fiddler by the hand. "God bless thy owd tweedlin' soul! Wheerever arto wanderin to, wi' thoose bonny bits o' cat-bant o'
"Oh, a bit fur up, Rossenda' gate on," replied the fiddler. "I'm beawn to a churn-supper, at th' Nine Oaks."
"Th' dule theaw art!" cried Ben. "Eh, thae will tickle yon owd
clinkert shoon o' theirs up, aboon a bit! By th' maskins, I wish I're beawn witho', owd brid!"
"An', by the good Katty, I wish thae wur, owd crayter!" replied the
fiddler. "But I'm i' good time, yet. Come, keawer tho deawn a bit."
"I'm i' good time, too," answered Ben. "I've aboon an hour o' mi
"Well; come thi ways, an' have a keawer, then," continued the
fiddler, shifting, to make room for Ben upon the old tree root. "Keawer
tho deawn. Th' moon's had mony a reawnd sin I let on tho afore. An' wheer arto for when tho sets off again, like, conto tell? Or, thae'rt like wayter in a bruck, noan tickle if thae can keep gooin'."
"Yelley Ho's (Healey Hall) th' first shop I have to play for, as
soon as th' time comes," replied Ben.
"What, owd Kurnul (Colonel) Cherrick's?" said the fiddler.
"Why, thae'rt noan so fur off theer, now, arto?" replied the
"I can year th' dogs barkin' i'th yard, fro' here," answered Ben.
"Come, that'll do!" said old Dan, rubbing his hands; "that'll do!"
"He wants me to goo up to th' top o' Blacks'n Edge wi' him an' some
friends of his, this afternoon," continued Ben.
"Oh, ay!" replied the fiddler. "There'll be find doin's thae'll see. He's a rare owd cock, is th' kurnul.
Yo'n be nought short, if he's
theer. But yo'n be pinch't for time, winnot yo? I'd ha' started i'th
"Well, thae knows," replied Ben, "I go bi orders. Twelve o' clock's
my time; an' I's go noan afore."
"Shootin', I guess?" inquired the
"Nay; I know nought what they're after," answered Ben. "It's reet to
me, as what it is; though I like to see a bit o' good spwort, for o'
that. But twelve o' clock's my time an' it wants an hour yet."
"Well, then," said the fiddler, "thae'rt i' no peighl. So come an'
sit tho deawn, an' let's have a bit o' talk. I'll be sunken if I'm
not gooin' meawldy for th' want o' somebry to fratch wi'! Come an'
sit tho deawn."
"I'm willin'," said Ben, giving the old man a friendly slap on the
shoulder, as he sat down beside him on the tree root. "Hutch up a
bit. Well, an' heaw arto gettin' on, Dan, owd lad?"
"Oh, peeort (pert), lad; peeort as a pynot (a magpie)," replied the
old fiddler, smiling.
"That's reet," said Ben, "I like to yer o' folk doin' weel,
particilar fiddlers, ― they'n so mich fancy-wark abeawt 'em.
A mon 'at plays a fiddle weel,
Should never awse (attempt) to dee,
I'll tell tho what, Dan!"
"It's a fine day, an' we'n plenty o' time on er honds, an' it's a
good while sin we let o' one another afore; an' there isn't a wick
soul i'th seet nobbut thee an' me."
"Well; an' what bi that?"
"Why, thae met trate a body to a bit of a do upo' that friskin'-stick
o' thine. Come, strike up!"
"Well," replied Dan, drawing his fiddle from the
bag; "I've nought again that noather."
"Good again! " cried Ben. "What arto beawn to give us, owd
"Aught 'at ever thae's a mind, Ben," answered the fiddler, as he
rosined his bow.
"Well, let's have a good owd minor, then," said Ben.
replied the fiddler. "But I'll tell tho what, Ben."
"I'm just thinkin' 'at I could like to yer thee tootle one o' thoose
bits o' ditties o' thine, th' first."
"So be it, then," said Ben. "What's it to be?"
"Try 'Chad'ick o'
"I don't know it through," said Ben.
"Let's ha' 'Fair Ellen o' Ratcliffe,' then," continued the fiddler.
"Oh, it's so lung," replied Ben. "Thea'll have us agate o' yeawlin'
"Well," said the fiddler, "sing 'Bowd Byron an' his men,' then; or
else 'Iron Cap o' Bernshaw Tower.'"
"Oh, I couldn't get through 'em i' time, mon," replied Ben. "I could
happen manage Tuttlin' Tummy,' or 'Skudler o' Buckstones,' or 'Th'
Piper o' Wardle.'"
"Doesto know 'Thungin' Robin?'" inquired the fiddler.
"Or, 'Dark Rondle o' Sceawt Scar,"' continued the fiddler.
"I don't know that, noather," replied Ben.
"Well 'Cowd Simeon,' then," continued old Dan.
"Eh, nawe," said Ben. "It's to hee, it's to hee! By th'
where I know one thae knows twenty."
"Well, I'll tell tho what," said Dan; "try 'The Flowers o' Joy.' That's short enough; an' a bonny thing too."
Full oft the sweetest flowers of joy.
From the soil of sorrow spring.
"Here, here," said Ben, doffing his hat, and stroking his hair
aside. "I'll try one."
"Well, get agate," said Dan, beginning to tweedle on his fiddle. "Get agate, an' I'll put an odd note or two in as thae gwos on. Eh,
Ben, I wish I could sing like thee!
Bowd Buckley o'er the wild hills rode,
A darin' dance to tread;
Wi' twenty-four o'th starkest lads
That ever Rachda' bred.
Come, get agate, Ben; or else I'll start mysel'."
The fiddler's little lad, hearing the noise, had come out from the
field, with his hand full of posies; and he was now standing by his
father's side, holding the lap of his coat, and gazing at Ben with
"Come, Ben; what is it?" said the fiddler.
"'The girl I left behind me,'" replied Ben.
"Brast off, then," replied the fiddler.
I'm onely since I crossed the hill,
An' o'er th' moor an' valley;
Such heavy thoughts my heart do fill
Since partin' wi' my Sally.
I seek no more the fine an' gay,
For they do but remind me
How swift the hours did pass away
With the girl I left behind me.
Oh! ne'er shall I forget the night, ―
The stars were bright above me,
An' gently lent their silver light,
When first she vow's to love me.
But now I'm bound unto the camp,
I pray that heaven may guide me,
An' send me safely back again
To the girl I left behind me.
Had I the art to sing her praise,
With all the skill of Homer,
One theme alone should fill my lays,
The charms of my true lover.
Then, let the night be e'er so dark,
Or e'er so wet an' windy,
I pray kind heaven may send me back
To the girl I've left behind me.
Her golden hair in ringlets fair,
Her eyes like diamonds shining,
Her slender waist, her carriage chaste,
May leave the swain repining.
Ye gods above! oh, hear my prayer,
To my true love to bind me,
And send me safely back again
To the girl I've left behind me.
The bee shall honey taste no more,
The dove become a ranger,
The rolling waves shall cease to roar,
Ere I shall seek to change her.
The vows we've register'd above
Shall ever cheer and bind me,
In constancy to her I love, ―
The girl I've left behind me.
My mind for her shall still retain,
In sleeping or in waking,
Until I see my love again,
For whom my heart is breaking.
If ever I return that way,
And she should not decline me,
How gladly will I live and stay
With the girl I've left behind me.
"Weel chanted, owd lad!" cried the fiddler, slapping Ben on the back
heartily. "Weel chanted. It's a bonny owd thing, to this day. An',
eh, I'll tell tho what, Ben, there's many a poor sodiur lad has sung
that wi' a achin' heart when he's bin far away fro' whoam, an'
little chance o' comin' back again."
"Eh, ay," replied Ben; "I know summate abeawt that. Eawr Bill wur
kilt at th' stormin' o' Badajos. Thae knows Moses Whistler, th'
"Sure, I do."
"Well, eawr Bill an' him listed together," said Ben.
"Oh, ay?" said the fiddler.
"Ay," continued Ben, looking thoughtfully round. "Moses has getten
whoam again, lam't for life; but eawr Bill, poor lad, he's lyin'
somewheer abeawt Badajos, quiet enough, what there is laft on him."
"Well," replied the fiddler, "my young'st brother, eawr Joe, a finer
lad, nor a better-hearted, never steps shoe-leather, he deed, wi'
Nelson, at Trafalgar. Eh, I thought my mother would ha' brokken her
heart! He're like th' nestle-cock at eawr heawse. . . . I
don't know heaw it wur, but he would be a sailor, lung afore he'd ever set een
upo' salt wayter. . . . Poor Joe!"
"Ay, it's so, sometimes, for sure," said Ben, in a dreamy tone. "Th'
last time 'at I yerd 'Th' Girl I left behind me' wur at 'Th' Amen
Corner,' i' Rachda'. It wur one o'th leet horse, a fine yung chap as
ever I claps een on. He'd come upo' furlough, a-seein' his
relations; an' when he geet to Rachda' he fund 'em o' laid by i'th
churchyard, th' owd sweetheart an' o'. An' th' lad look't
lost, quite lost, as he sit theer i'th nook bi hissel', as still as
a meawse. But nought 'ud fit these tother but he mut (must) tak' his
turn, an' sing 'Th' Girl I left behind me.' Well, I tell tho, he
tried, an' I never yerd it better sung sin I're born o' mi mother. But when he'd getten abeawt th' hauve gate through, he brasts eawr
a-cryin', an', by th' mon, he sets us o' agate, th' drunkenest foo' i'th hole, they're o' cryin' at once. There weren't a dry face i'th
spot. Owd Bill Hollan', th' butcher, wur sheer, but he couldn't
ston it. He had to goo eawt. Eh, heaw that lad did cry! . . . But,
come, let's drop it, for God's sake. . . . Here, it's thy turn, Dan. Strike up summate or another."
"Agreed on," said the fiddler, drawing his sleeve across his eyes,
and then shouldering his instrument. "Agreed on; what mun us have?"
Try 'Remember the Poor,'" said Ben.
"Well done, Ben!" said the fiddler. "That's a fine owd minor tune!"
"It's nought else," replied Ben. "Brast off!"
The old man began to arrange the pegs of the instrument, and, as he
tried the strings, one after another, and then in unison, he
muttered affectionately to his fiddle, as if it was a living thing.
"Neaw, owd lad," said he, as he screwed first one peg,
then another, and tweedled over little fits of wailing prelude, to
get the tones he wanted. "Neaw, owd lad, this is a nice job
for tho. Just thee talk to 'em a bit, i'th owd fashion.
Thae can do it if thae's a mind, I know. We'n had mony a happy
day together, thee an' me, hadn't we, owd brid? Ay,
an' we'n ha' mony another, if God spares er lives. . . . Neaw, mind
thi hits! . . . 'Remember the Poor,' thae says, Ben?"
"Well, wean see what we can do," continued the fiddler.
Then he quietly began the plaintive old forest tune, and, as the
beautiful wail rose upon the air, it seemed to hush the wild birds
around, and fill the summer noontide with a sweet sadness. The
rindle of water, dribbling into the well hard by, subdued its
silvery tinkle, and the very trees and hedges seemed to stand still
and listen, as if spellbound by the old man's touching lay.
Ben was so moved that he could not help taking up the melting
strain, and so they played and sang the tender old ditty together,
till tears began to trickle down their cheeks; and when the song was
ended, and the last soft cadence was dying out upon the woods in the
clough, they sat silent together for a minute or two.
Oft seated 'neath some spreading oak,
To rapturous strains his soul awoke;
Whilst ii,tening hinds would drop the spade
Forgetful of their hardy trade;
And peeping maidens raised the latch,
The minstrel's melting lay to catch;
And the lone brook that crept along,
Bore on its breast the fiddler's song.
LAY OF THE POOR
"THAT'S a nice
thing," said Ben, drawing the sleeve of his coat across his eyes.
"Ay, it is" replied the old fiddler. "Gi' me thi hont,
Ben; I con play for thee wi' some'at like comfort. But, eh,
mon, it hurts me, it hurts me to play for folk at's no feelin'.
There's nobry knows nought abeawt music if they hadn't a heart i'
their inside. But, th' most o' folk, neaw-a-days, are like as
if they'd bin made eawt o' button-tops an' scaplins, put together
cowd. . . . But, gi me thi hont, Ben, lad! Thae knows what
And they shook hands together, whilst the tears stood
gleaming in the old fiddler's blind eyes.
The little lad was still standing by his father's side,
gazing, wonderingly, first at one, then at the other.
"Billy," said the fiddler, "go thi ways an play tho i'th
feels again a bit. I'll shout when I want tho."
"Dan,' said Ben, groping in his pocket, "hasto had ony
"Nawe," replied the fiddler, "but eawr Billy has a bit in a
"Wilto have a bit o' mine?" continued Ben.
"What hasto getten?" inquired the fiddler.
"Green-sauce-cake an' cheese," replied Ben.
"Ay, an' good, too," answered the fiddler. "Come, I'll
have a bite wi' tho."
"Ben," said the old man, "hasto sin 'Duck-fuut' lately?"
"What, Tummy o' Doddle's?"
"Ay," replied Dan. "They co'n him 'Duck-fuut,' for a
bye-name, dunnot they?"
"I thought his bye-name had bin 'Whelp,'" said Ben.
"Well," replied the fiddler, "I've yerd him co'd both 'Whelp'
an' Duck-fuut.' It's thoose 'at doesn't like him at co's him
'Whelp,' I dar say."
"Well, but," continued Ben, "it's same chap that I meeon.
It's lung Tummy, th' ceawnter singer, isn't it?"
"Sure it is," replied the fiddler.
"Eh, I connot tell when I seed him last," said Ben. "I
believe it wur one Sunday forenoon, up at Ash'oth Chapel, soon after
Kesmass. An' what dost think he did?"
"Nay, I know not," replied the fiddler. "Some'at quare,
for a creawn."
"Well, thae knows, they'd no organ up at Ash'oth Chapel;
they'n nought nobbut th' singers, an' a bass fiddle, an' a little
fiddle, an' a piccolo, an' sometimes a bazzoon, that's when Billy
Diggle's th' solid side eawt. Tim o' Yeawler's plays th' bass
fiddle. Well, that forenoon, owd Nobbler, th' clark, ga' th'
hymn eawt, 'Let us sing to the praise and glory of God, th'
fourteent' hymn.' Then there wur a deeod stop for a minute or
two, an' folk wur wonderin' that th' singers didn't start o' their
wark. An' just as they began o' turnin' reawnd to see what wur
to do, up rose 'Duck-fuut,' two yards hee, i'th singin' pew,
sich a seet! He'd a thick red wool muffatee reawnd his neck;
an' he'd two o'th primest black een i'th front of his face 'at ever
thae seed, for he'd bin to a fuut-bo' match, th' day afore, an' it
had finish's up wi' a battle. Well, up that figure rose i'th
singin' pew, six fuut o'th quarest-lookin' stuff 'at ever stoode i'
that spot, an' he sheawted deawn to th' clark, 'Heigh, Bobby!
doesto yer?' Owd Bob happen't to be blowin' his nose at th'
time, an' didn't just catch him, so 'Duck-fuut' sang eawt again, 'Doesto
yer, Nobbler?' Th' owd clark jumps, an' drops his hankitcher,
when he yerd that word Nobbler,' an' he stare't at th' singin' pew,
an' said, 'What's up?' 'Well,' cried 'Duck-fuut,' lookin'
deawn at him, 'you mun stop a minute or two; owd Tum's brokken a
streng. Sit yo still a bit. I'll gi' yo th' item when
"Just favvours him!" said the fiddler.
"A bit like him, for sure," said Ben. "But he geet th'
bag for that."
"Sarve him reet," replied the fiddler. "But he never
wur very breet. I can remember 'em tellin' on him gooin' to
Rachda' rushbearin' when he wur a little lad, an' he happened to see
a chap i'th street playin' a trombone. He'd never sin a
trombone player in his life afore, so he stood a while, watchin'
this chap play. At th' last he turn't to his faither, an' he
said, 'See yo, faither, at yon chap 'at's playin' yon brass thing;
he connot get it th' reet length, as what he does.'"
"By th' mon," said Ben, "he's as ill as owd Nukkin, 'at went
up Knowe Hill a-meetin' a sheawer o' rain."
"I yerd on him bein' at a rent-supper, once," continued the
fiddler, "an' when th' supper wur o'er, th' cheermon code for
'order!' An' when he'd getten 'em still, he said, 'There is no
parson here, is there?' 'Nawe.' 'Well; I could like to
yer some on yo say 'Grace,' after sich a supper as we'n had to-neet.
Here, Duck-fuut, thee try thi hond, thae'rt a church-singer.'
Then up jumped 'Duck-fuut' in a minute, an' he cried eawt, 'Thank
God 'at there's nobry brawsen.'"
Here Ben began to feel a little compunction, remembering how
often he had laid himself open to ridicule. And, wondering
within himself whether the old man had heard of his foolish freak
with the jackass, which was now the talk of the whole country-side,
he silently determined to seize the opportunity of turning the
conversation into a different direction.
"Dan," said Ben, "I've a good mind to gi' tho another bit of
"Do, Ben, do, God bless tho!" said the old man, shouldering
his fiddle once more.
"Here goes!" said Ben,
The day was spent, the moon shone bright,
The village clock struck eight,
Young Mary hastened with delight,
Unto the garden gate.
But what was there that made her sad?
The gate was there but not the lad;
Which made poor Mary say and sigh,
"Was ever poor girl so sad as I?"
She traced the garden here and there,
The village clock struck nine,
Which made poor Mary sigh, and say,
"You shan't, you shan't be mine.
You promised to meet me at the gate at eight,
You never shall keep me nor make me wait;
For I'll let all such creatures see,
They never shall make a fool of me!"
She traced the garden here and there,
The village clock struck ten;
Young William caught her in his arms,
No more to part again
For he'd been to buy the ring that day,
And O! he had been a long, long way;
Then, how could Mary so cruel prove,
To banish the lad she so clear did love?
Up with the morning sun they rose,
To the church they went away,
And all the village joyful were,
Upon the wedding-day.
Now, in a cot, by a river side,
William and Mary both reside;
And she blesses the night that she did wait
For her absent swain at the garden gate.
"Bravo, Ben!" cried the fiddler. "Thae mends!
Bravo, bravo, very well sung,
Jolly companions, every one!
He then quickly began to play the air of the quaint old
My owd wife, hoo's a good owd crayter;
My owd wife, hoo's a good owd soul!
But before he had quite drawn out the last note of the second bar,
Ben laid his hand upon his shoulder and said, "Dan, owd lad, we'n
o'th world to ersels (ourselves), yet. There isn't a wick soul
i'th seet. Let's have a doance! These toes o' mine are
ram-jam full o' flutterment! Strike up 'The Flowers of
Edinburgh,' or else 'The Devil Rove his Shirt!' There's a bit
o' nice hard greawnd i'th front on tho here, 'at looks as if it'd
bide thumpin'. Strike up, owd brid! 'The Flowers of
Edinburgh.' I'll fuut it! Just thee hearken my feet,
neaw! Brast off! There's nobry comin'."
"Howd!" said Dan. "Howd a minute, till I get my strengs
Then he twisted and tweedled a minute or two, and when he had
got his instrument into tune, he tapped upon the back of it with his
"Nae then, Ben," said he, "arto ready?"
"Crash off! " replied Ben.
And at it they went, ding-dong.
Ben, though unusually strong-built for his height was a
lithe-footed, and, what is called in the country, a "lark-heeled
lad," a good runner, and a capital dancer of the dances common to
his own country-side.
The fiddler's quick ear followed Ben's footsteps with glee.
"Go it, my lad!" cried he. "Go it, Ben, owd dog!
Weel fuuted! By th' mon, weel fuuted! Rare time, Ben,
owd brid, rare time! Welt at it! Theighur! By th'
mass, thae'rt makin' that bit o' floor talk like a Christian!
Capital races! . . . Go thi ways, Ben, my lad! Dee when tho
will, thae'rt a glitterin' jewel!"
There they were, "with all the world to themselves," Ben
dancing in the sun, with the posies in his hat nodding to the tune;
and the blithe old fiddler, with his smiling face upturned, frisking
his gleeful elbow, and his whole body moving restlessly to the beat
of the dancer's feet, whilst the fiddler's lad, with his hands full
of wild flowers, leaned through a gap in the hedge, gazing upon the
scene with mingled astonishment and delight.
"Stop! stop!" cried the fiddler, ending the tune with a soft
wailing cadence. "Stop, an' rosin! Tak thi woint, Ben.
Thae's done weel this time reawnd. Eh, if thou'd had a
brewheawse-dur or summat to caper on, it would ha' made it sing!
Come, sit tho deawn, owd lad!"
"It's warm wark, Dan," said Ben, wiping his forehead.
"I wish we'd summat to sup. I'm as dry as soot."
"Eh," said the fiddler, " I wish thae'd a quart o'th best ale
'at ever wur brewed i' this world, o'th front on tho just neaw, fair
singin' for tho to seawk at it! God bless thi heart!
Thae's a fuut like a angel, Ben, an', by th' mon, thae'rt as lennock
as a snig! Gi' me thi hont! That bit o'th heart o' thine
followed th' music, or else thae could ne'er ha' stricken sich time
as that! Thae can doance both leet an' shade, owd brid!
It does my heart good to yen a doancer touch th' tender bits of a
tune with a soft fuut! Oh, it maes me feel as fain as a cat in
a tripe shop! Come, an' sit tho deawn upo' this tree-root.
Eh, it would ha' eawnded weel if it had bin a wood floor!
Let's stop an' rosin. Gi' me thi hont, lad! . . . I'll tell
tho what, Ben, thou's some music in thou,' as owd Swatter said when
th' jackass eat his tune-book. Thou has, owd lad! 'God
bless thoose hoofs o' thine!' as Tuner said when th' lon'lort
brought him two keaw-heels to his supper. Come, sit tho dawn.
By th' mon, that's warmed me up!"
"Ay, an' it's warmed me up, too, primly," replied Ben, taking
his seat by the side of the old man.
It is a remarkable thing, that blind people, even those
that have been born blind, often speak of the appearance of
persons, and places, and things, as if they had actually seen them.
Whether this is merely an imitative manner of speech in their case,
or it may be accounted for by the unusual acuteness of the senses
still left to them, and the keener attention to the reports of those
who can see, aided by the shaping power of imagination, which must
be greatly stimulated by the loss of sight, it is not easy to
decide. But the result is often so. And so it was with
old Dan, the fiddler.
"An' wheer is it 'at you're off to this afternoon, Ben?" said
the old man.
"Top o' Blacks'n Edge," replied Ben.
"Well, yo couldn't have a nicer day for th' job," said the
fiddler. . . "I guess thae never wur i' Turvin Cloof, Ben?"
"Never. I know nought mich abeawt that countryside,"
"Eh, it's one o'th wildest nooks 'at ever I set een on,"
replied the fiddler. "I know o' that country-side, deawn as
far as Ripponden, hill an' dale, wood an' wayter-stid, hamil
(hamlet), an' roadside heawse. . . . Yo'n co' at th' White House,
at' top o'th Edge, I guess?"
"I dar say we sha'n," replied Ben. "There is nowheer
else to co' at up theer."
"Nawe, there isn't," said the fiddler. "It's a wild
country up theer, for sure. I've bin frost-bitten mony a time
crossin' thoose tops. . . . Hasto ever bin to Robin Hood Bed?"
"Oh, ay," replied Ben, "three or four times. It's a
fine lump o' rock, is that."
"Ay, it is," said the fiddler. "It stops upo' th' edge
o'th moor-side, as if it own't everything within seet, an' that's no
"Nawe, by th' mon, it isn't so," answered Ben. "They
can see across Lancashire an' Cheshire into Wales, fro' th' top o'
Robin Hood Bed."
"Ay, they con," said the fiddler. "Let's see, I guess
thae wouldn't know th' owd folk 'at kept th' White Heawse afore Joe
Faulkner went to't."
"Nawe," replied Ben, "that wur afore my time."
"Eh,' continued the fiddler, "I once yerd a bit of a tale at
th' White Heawse. But heaw arto for time, Ben?"
"Oh, I've aboon hauve an heawer yet," replied Ben.
"Come, that'll do," said the fiddler. "This tale'll
just do to put a two-thre minutes on, while we're restin' us. . . It
wur one afternoon, i'th depth o' winter,―――
But perhaps the old fiddler's story had better begin another
How she did wish, with useless tears,
To have again about her ears
The voices that were gone.
Her lonely heart was breaking,
And crazed was her mind;
She sighed, and wandered, seeking
A face she could not find.
IT wur i'th depth
o' winter, an' th' snow lee thick upo' th' greawnd. This lad
o' mine an' me, we'd bin deawn at Mytholmroyd; an' late on i'th
afternoon, we set off up through Turvin Cloof, to get to th' White
Heawse, at th' top o' Blacks'n Edge. An' a wild an' lonely
cloof it is, partickilir i' winter time. Th' road wur terrible
dree, an' hard to travel; for it wur rough, an' sometimes very
steep; an' here an' theer, wheer rindles o' wayter had run o'er it
fro' th' hill side, th' keen frost had made it as slippy as a lookin'-glass.
It wur as mich as I could do to keep my feet; an' thae may depend we
didn't get forrud so very fast. I wur fain to sit me deawn
neaw an' then, an' eawr Billy started o' cryin', for th' lad
thought we're lost, an' done for, sure enough, when it geet th'
edge o' dark, an' nought but th' wild cloof abeawt us; and it made
me rayther for-think (regret) ever settin' beawt. But I
cheert't him as weel as I could; for, thae knows, th' lad wur o'
that I had to depend on. Well, we geet forrud o' someheaw, bit
by bit, but dark overtook us lung afore we geet to th' top end o'th
cloof, an' we'd o' th' wild oppen moor-side to tramp at after, afore
we coom to th' White Heawse, at th' top o'th Edge. An' th'
wynt blew so keen that it welly (well-nigh) flayed (fleeced, strips)
th' skin off my face; an' eawr Billy cried, poor lad, he cried,
but I believe he cried moor because he wur freetent o' me foin',
than he did for hissel'; for every time that I slipt, or gav' a bit
of a clunter again a stone, he brast eawt again, as if his heart wur
breighkin. An' he tremble't fro yed to fuut, an' he kept
tellin me to tak care, an he gript my hond, as tight as deeoth.
An' he'd a hard job, had th' lad, that day; for, bi what he said, bi
th' time we geet to oppen moor-side it had getten as dark as a fox's
meawth, an' he could hardly see th' gate afore us. But eawr
Billy's made o' good stuff, God bless him! an' I don't know what
I could do beawt him. . . .
Well, at th' lung-length we geet to th' White Heawse, fair
stagged up, an' as starved as otters, for th' north wynt blew as
keen across that hill as if it had bin full o' razors. I wur
some fain for us to creep into shelter, I con tell tho. But,
afore many minutes wur o'er, eawr Billy an' me wur comfortably
keawert (cowered, seated) bi a roarin' fire i'th kitchen, chatterin'
together as if we'd live't among roses, an' etten nought but lamb
an' sallet, ever sin we were born. An' th' londord an' his
wife wur as good as goose-skins to us. They're two very
daycent folk, I con tell tho. Th' owd lass, hoo set us a rare
baggin' beawt afore we'd bin mony minutes i'th heawse, an' we fell
to't wi' good heart, thae may depend. . . . An' th' woint went
whistlin' an' yeawlin' reawnd that heawse as if o'th witches between
theer an' th' big end o' Pendle had bin frozen eawt o' their holes,
an' wur ridin' reawnd upo' th' storm, like a boggart-hunt i'th air.
I yerd it o'th time; for, thae knows, I've a keen ear for sich like
things. But theer we wur, snugly heawse't for th' neet; for
they wouldn't yer on us goon' a fuut fur, till mornin'; an' to tell
tho th' truth, I wur fain on't. . . .
There wur five or six moor i'th kitchen, a gam-keeper, an'
two delph-chaps, an' three or four moor, 'at looked like hawkers;
they'd bin deawn Ripponden Road on, an' they'd dropt in, one after
another, as they'rn makin' th' best o' their gate whoam again; an',
in a bit, we wur as thick as if we'd every one bin mates together
fro' chylt-little (child-little). An' nought would suit these
chaps but I mut (must) give 'em a touch upo' th' fiddle. So I
played, first one thing, then another, an' we'rn o' as comfortable
as crickets, nobbut one on 'em, he'd rayther a three-nook't mak
of a temper. But I took no notice on him, for he'd had to mich
to drink upo' th' road, afore he geet to 'th White Heawse. . . .
Bi this time, th' moon wur up; but th' sky war o'erkest
(over-cast), an' thick snow wur drivin', white an' wild, across th'
top o' th' Edge. . . .
Well, I're agate o' playin' 'Roslin Castle,' an' th' folk
i'th kitchen wur as whist as mice, for they seam't a bit taen wi'
th' tune; an' weel they met (might), for it's as bonny a minor as
ever tremble't fro' fiddle-streng. . . .
Well, I wur up to th' eon i' this fine owd tune, an' th'
heawse wur as still as a chapel, when o' at once, we wur startle't
wi' aclatterin' o' feet eawtside, an' then th' dur flew open, an' a
chap coom runnin' into th' kitchen, o' in a cowd sweat, wi' a face
as white as millk, an' shakin' till his teeth fair chatter't i' his
yed. 'God bless us o'!' cried th' lon'lady, 'whatever's th'
matter!' But th' chap wur clean done up, an' he thrut (threw)
hissel' into a cheer, an' theer he sit, speechless an' pantin' an'
tremblin' fro' yed to fuut, like a hunted hare. O' th' heawse
wuar terrified, for they could noather make top nor tail on him an'
they thought th' felly (fellow) wur deein.
In a bit he gasped eawt for 'em to let him sup o' wayter, an,
he said that he'd 'sin summat.' Well, when this drunken hawker
yerd him say that, he began a-laughin', an' makin' o' maks o' gam on
him; but these two keepers soon stopped him, for they
threaten't mich an' moor that if he didn't howd his din they'd throw
him eawt at th' dur-hole; so he kept his tongue between his teeth,
like a good lad. . . .
Well, as soon as this chap had getten reawnd, he set to, an,
towd his tale. . . .
It seemed that he'd bin to th' owd hamil (hamlet) o' Sawrby (Sowerby),
a-seein' an uncle of his that wur just at th last; an he'd stopt
theer, bi th' bed-side till th' owd mon had drawn away; an' then
he'd come'd back i'th dim moonleet, across th' owd moor, that skirts
by th' top end o' Turvin Cloof. An' when he'd getten abeawt a
mile off th' White Heawe, as he wur feightin' on through th' drivin'
snow, o' at once he seed a tall figure of a mon, wi' summat like a
fur cap on his yed, travellin' on abeawt twenty yards afore him, but
he couldn't yer th' seawnd of a footstep. He co'd eawt to him,
for he thought he could like company, but still this tall figure
travell't on, an' not a word nor th' seawnd of a fuutstep; an'
though th' keen woint wur blowin' so strong across th' moor, he said
it never seemed to stir this traveller's clooas (clothes), an' he
began to think it very strange. But when it geet close to th'
owd division stone, between Yorkshire an' Lancashire, he said this
tall figure stopt, and seemed to stare deawn towards th' White
Heawse, an' as he drew nearer up to it he sheawted again, an' then,
he said, it turn't slowly reawnd, an' he could see streaks o' blood
fro th' for-yed, deawn a lung white face; an' then th' whole thing
began a-meltin' away into th' moonleet, an' it seemed to float
across th' road, an' o'er th' moor, i'th direction o' Robin Hood
Bed. An', wi' that, he took to his heels, like a red-shank,
an' never stops till he geet to th' inside o' th' White House
kitchen. . . .
Well, when he'd towd his tale, they made him a bed up, an' he
laft us to ersels (ourselves), for he wur quite done o'er, an' he
durstn't go east again that neet. . . .
As soon as he'd gone, some on 'em i'th kitchen reckon't that
they'd never sin no ghosts; but, evenly, if there wur ghosts o' folk
theirsels, they couldn't see heawe there could be ghosts o' folk's
clooas, ― fur caps an' sich like. But these two keepers wur
very quiet, an' as soon as th' chap had done his tale, one on 'em
whisper's to th' other, 'He's sin Breawn Dick!' An', whether
they believ't i' ghosts or not, they couldn't get one o'th lot to
goo eawt o'th heawse that neet, so they had to find 'em quarters
till mornin'. They wanted no moor music, an' as soon as these
hawkers wur gone to bed, we crope together, reawnd th' fire, an' I
yerd th' tale abeawt 'Breawn Dick,' an' it wur this:
"It seems that lung afore Joe Faulkner coom to th' White
Heawse, it wur kept bi an owd widow woman. Hoo'd buried her
husband fro' th' same heawse; but hoo kept it on, for hoo'd two or
three good owd sarvants abeawt her; an' hoo'd an only son, a fine,
strappin', swipper (active) young fellow, th' pickter of his feyther,
an' th' very leet o'th owd woman's ee. Well, it seems that
this lad, bein' th' nestle-cock, had bin very much marred when
he wur yung both by feyther an' mother. They'd letten him have
his own way, an' he grew up very yed-strung an' maisterful.
An' at after his feyther deed, he becoom quite a terror to th'
country-side, for he took to neet-huntin', an' he geet connected wi'
a lot o' desperate hee-way robbers, that prowl't abeawt th' Edge at
that time o'th day. Some on 'em coom eawt o' Turvin Cloof, an'
some fro' th' Tunshill, another fro' Booth Deighn (Dean), but th'
warst o'th lot wur 'Iron Jack,' that kept th' owd aleheawe, at 'Th'
Buckstones,' wheer th' gang stable't their horses under th' heawse.
Th' owd woman's son wur known bi th' name o' 'Breawn Dick o'
Blacks'n Edge.' . . .
Well, I believe there wur mony a feaw deed done upo' th'
moorlan' roads i' thoose days. Mony a traveller wur stopt an'
robbed, an' mony a lonely heawse wur brokken into, an' stript; an'
neaw an' then, folk disappeared fro' th' road, an' never wur yerd on
News o' these things kept comin' into th' White Heawse, but th' owd
lon'lady little dreamt that her own lad had a hond i' 'em.
Well, that gang wur not brokken into for years an' years. 'Breawn
Dick' use't to be oft away fro' whoam, sometimes two or three days
together; but his mother could never get to know wheer he'd bin; for
he wur very close-temper't, an' very seldom oppen't his meawth to
onybody. . . .
But a' last there coom a lung an' weary day. A whole
week flitted by, an' he never darken't his mother's dur. An'
th' lonely woman began o' mournin' for her son; for, to th' end of
her days, he wur the leet of her ee, an' hoo couldn't see a faut in
him; but, when folk began to ax wheer Dick wur, hoo cried, an' said,
'Nay, there's no accountin' for eawr Richard. He comes an' he
gwos, just as th' fit taks him, an' I noather know wheer he's goon'
nor what he's after, nor when I mun see him again, nor wheer he's
bin, when he gets back. I wish he would stop moor a-whoam,
for I feel so lonely.' But still, day after day, an' week
after week, went by, an' he never coom; an' th' owd woman began o'
lookin' wizzen't an' weary, fur hoo wur frettin' her heart eawt,
neet an' day. At last it began to be clear to everybody that
th' poor owd crayter's senses wur givin' way, for hoo would have two
candles set i'th window every neet, so that he could see th' heawse
i'th dark; an' when th' wynt shook th' dur after hoo'd getten to
bed, hoo'd come deawn an' oppen th' dur an' look into th' dark, an'
hoo'd say, 'Richard, wheerever hasto bin, lad? Come thi ways
in, eawr o'th cowd, thae'll be starve't to deeoth! Thi
supper's i'th oon!' for hoo kept his supper ready for him, neet bi
neet, week after week. But still, he never coom. At
last, hoo geet worse an' worse, an' hoo began o' axin' every
stranger 'at entered th' heawse, if they'd sin Richard, an' hoo kept
turnin' to th' sarvants, an' sayin', 'Han yo sin aught of eawr
Richard?' An' hoo began o' wanderin' up an' deawn th' road,
an' cryin' eawt for him across th' wild moor, as if he wur a little
lad that had gwon an arrand, an' wur lingerin' bi th' way. But
still, week after week went by, an' 'Breawn Dick' never darkens' his
mother's dur. . . .
At last, one wild neet, when o'th heawse wur dark, except th'
two candles hoo kept brunnin' i'th window to leet him whoam, there
wur three men coom shuffling up to th' dur, carryin' another that
had bin shot, an' wur fast hastenin' to his end. When th' owd
woman yerd th' knock hoo wur comin' deawn th' stairs, cryin',
'Richard, wheerever hasto bin?' but th' sarvants kept her back, an'
pacified her as weel as they could. But th' rest o'th heawse
wur astir that neet, for this chap that had bin shot wur bleedin' to
deeoth. He proved to be 'Iron Jack,' a noted neet-hunter, an'
one o' this gang o' robbers that had done sich depredation upo' th'
moor-roads. An' they saddlet a horse, an' th' hostler rode
deawn to Littlebruf (Littleborough) for th' parson an' th' doctor,
an' they geet up to th' White Heawse a very light (few) minutes
afore he drew away (drew his last breath). . . .
It turned eawt that 'Iron Jack' an' another o' th' gang had
stopt these three men upo' th' hee-road, an' threaten't 'em wi'
loaded pistols, if they didn't give up what they had. Well,
they fought for it. One o' these travellers wur a desperate
strung chap, an' he gript 'Iron Jack.' Jack fired at him, an'
just grazed th' tip of his ear, an' then, as they wur wrostlin', mon
to mon, for they liives, tother robber fired, but he missed his
mark, an' shot 'Iron Jack,' an' when he seed Jack drop, he took to
his heels up th' moor-side. An' then these three travellers
carried Jack into th' White Heawse, to dee. . . .
When th' parson an' th' doctor geet to his bed-side, he
hadn't mony minutes' life in him; but he made a terrible confession
afore he drew away. I don't know heaw moray murders an'
robberies he'd had a hond in, but among other things, he said that
five o'th gang had robbed a farm heawse, up at 'Th' Whittaker,' an'
then they'd taen up th' dark moor-side, to th' little cave i'th
bottom o' 'Robin Hood Bed,' an' theer they divided what they'd taen,
bi lantron-leet. Well, to make a lung tale short, it seems
they fell eawt abeawt their spoil, an' one on 'em shot 'Brawn Dick'
through th' yed, an' they buried him abeawt forty yards below Robin
Hood Bed. . . .
Well, when he towd his terrible tale, they tried to get th'
names o'th gang fro' him, but they couldn't. He gaspt an'
moaned to his last, beawt utterin' another word. That wur th'
end o' 'Iron Jack, o' Buckstones,' an' it wur th' end o'th gang,
too; for they wur soon brokken into after that. . . .
Well, they fun th' body, as he towed 'em, sure enough, an' it
wur taen up, an' 'Breawn Dick' wur buried i' Ripponden Churchyard,
close to th' yew-tree hedge. An' th' owd woman followed him to
his grave, witheawt a word, an' witheawt a tear in her ee. Th'
White Heawse had to goo into other honds; for th' poor owd crayter
wur getten quite dateless (disordered in mind), an' hoo wur takken
to live wi' some relations not far fro' Ripponden. But, though
hoo wur harmless, rain or fair, they couldn't keep her in, an'
they had to send a lad wi' her, for hoo would goo an' sit bi th'
side of his grave, an' sing to him, as if he'd bin in his cradle.
An' one cowd day this lad left her, an' went a-playin' him a bit,
an' when he coom back to tak her whoam, he fund her lyin' across he
son's grave, as still as a stone."
Is this thi own yore, or a wig?
fiddler's tale was ended, Ben and the old man sat in silent thought
for a few minutes; and then, being both deeply imbued with
superstitious feeling, they were beginning to talk about the old
halls and other places in the district which had the reputation of
being haunted by supernatural beings, when Ben announced the
approach of a stranger, from the direction of Rochdale.
"Hello, Dan," said he, "there's summat comin' at last."
"What's it like?" said the fiddler.
"Nay, I can hardly tell yet," replied Ben.
"Is it a mon or a woman?" inquired the fiddler.
"It should be a mon, o' some mak'," answered Ben, "for, as
far as I can see, it's getten breeches on."
"It may be a woman for that matter," replied the fiddler;
"they wear'n breeches, sometimes. I don't know heaw it is at
yor heawse, Ben, but it is so at eawrs."
"Eawr Betty may wear what hoo's a mind for me," said Ben.
"Weel, an' thae'rt reet, lad," replied the fiddler. "We
getten better through when we letten 'em have a bit o' their own
"Besides, hoo's moor wit nor me, i' some things," continued
Ben, still keeping his eye on the advancing stranger.
"I dar say hoo has," replied the fiddler. "I dar say
hoo has, lad. An' it's weel 'at thae can tak it so."
"Oh, I'll al'ays give in to a reet thing, as wheer it comes
fro'," said Ben.
"That'll do, owd lad," replied the fiddler. "My mother
use't to say that onybody that had ony sense met (might) larn fro' a
foo. . . . But which gate is this thing comin', wi' breeches on?"
"Fro' Rachda' side," answered Ben. "It's a poor tramp,
o' some mak', bi th' look on him. By th' mon, it's Owd
Skudler, I believe."
"Skudler? Skudler?" said the old fiddler. "What
does he do?"
"Well, I connot tell what he is bi trade," answered Ben.
"I can hardly tell what he is, he's so mony jobs; but I think he's
keaw-jobbin' just neaw, bi th' look on him; for he's a cauve-stick
in his hond, as lung as a clooas-prop. An' I know he does a
bit for th' butchers neaw an' then; an' he use't to be a mak (make,
kind) of an odd lad abeawt th' slaughter-heawse, at th' top o'th
Bull Broo, i' Rachda'."
"Oh, I know him!" cried the fiddler. "He's better known
bi th' name o' 'Boot-jack.'"
"I never knowed him bi nought nobbut Skudler," replied Ben.
"Then, I guess thae never ye'rd heaw he geet 'Boot-jack' for
a bye-name," said the old man.
"Nawe; I don't know that ever I did," replied Ben.
"Well, thae knows, abeawt ten year sin, this Skudler wur a
sort of a sarvant mon for owd Clement Royds, at th' Failinge; an'
one time, when he're off wi' th' family, i'th south of Englan', they
put up at an inn for th' neet. Well, it seems that Skudler
geet to mich drink i'th heawse, wi' one an' another on 'em; an' when
it wur gettin' late on, th' owd lad geet wander't into a grand reawm,
wheer there wur twu or three travellers set drinkin' their glass,
afore goin' to bed. Well, one o' these travellers rang th'
bell, an' towd th' waiter to bring him a glass o' brandy an' a
boot-jack, an' owd Skudler stare't at this traveller fro' yed to
fuut, for he thought he're beawn to ha' th' boot-jack to his supper.
At last, Skudler rang th' bell, an' when th' waiter coom, he said,
'Here, bring me a glass o' brandy, an' a boot-jack, too!
If that mon can height (eat) a boot-jack, I con!' That's heaw
he geet th' name o' 'Bootjack!' But he geet th' bag fro'
Clement's, at after, through bein' to fond o' drink."
"Husht, hush!" said Ben. "Here he comes! Neaw,
Skudler, owd lad, is that thee?"
"Hello, Ben!" said Skudler. "Heaw arto?"
"Oh, as nice as ninepence," replied Ben. "Heaw arto
gettin' on, Skud?"
"Just middlin'," said Skudler. Then recognising the old
fiddler, he continued, "Hello, Dan, owd lad, art thou theer, too?"
"Aye. I'm here; I'm here," replied the old man.
"Thae sees, I keep turnin' up again, like Clegg Ho' Boggart."
"And nought but reel, noather," said Skudler. "Nought but
reet, noather, owd lad!" Then, turning towards Ben, he
whispered, as he pushed his fingers through his unkempt hair, "Eh, I
am some ill, to-day, Ben."
"Thae looks rather wild," replied Ben. "What's th'
matter, owd mon?"
"I wur wrestlin' th' champion, again, yesterday," answered
"Th' champion?" said Ben.
"Ay, th' champion," replied Skudler. "An' he geet me
"What champion?" inquired Ben.
"I're drinkin', mon; I're drinkin'!" replied Skudler.
"I geet too mich drink! That's o'!"
"Aye, aye," said the old man; that's th' champion, reet
enough! He's deawn't mony a better chap nor thee, Skudler.
An' he'll deawn mony another, yet."
"I dar say he will," replied Skudler. "I dar say he
will, if they dunnot let him alone. . . . But, beside that,"
continued he, "I've been ill trouble's wi' th' worms, this day or
"Worms!" cried Ben. "I con tell tho heaw to cure th'
worms, owd lad!"
"Let's be yerrin' (hearing), then," replied Skudler; "for
they dun punish me, to some gauge!"
"Well," answered Ben, "thae knows th' Hauve Moon, i'th Black-wayter,
"Ay, weel enough," replied Skudler.
"Well, then; co theer, as soon as tho gets back," continued
Ben, "an' sup three pints o' their sour ale. An' if it doesn't
kill th' worms, it'll kill thee."
"Oather'll do!" cried the old fiddler, rubbing his hands. "Oather'll
do! But come an' sit tho deawn a minute or two, Skudler."
"Well," replied Skudler, "I've nought again that, noather. I
wur al'ays a good hond at sittin'. If onybody wur to look at
my breeches, they'd find that they wear'n eawt i'th sittin'-quarter
th' first of onywheer. My mother use't to say that I wur just
reet build for sittin' duck-eggs."
"Well," said the old fiddler, laughing, "an' it would be a
nice quiet job, too; for onybody that would gi' their mind to't.
But I deawt thae'd never stick to't lung enough to mak' a fortin
eawt on't. . . . But, wheer arto for, lad; wheer arto for?"
"Well," replied Skudler, "I'm beawn as fur as th' Thistley
Bonk Farm, for a wye-cauve, for Tummy Glen, th' butcher, at Rachda'.
Yo known Jem at th' Thistley Bonk, dunnot yo, Dan?"
"Aye, aye," said the old fiddler, "I know th' whole seed,
breed, an' generation. There's seventeen yards o' brothers on
'em, an' they're two sisters that are aboon five fuut eleven
a-piece. Their mother's just prick-mete their dur-hole full,
to an inch, an' hoo has to bend deawn, an' come eawt sideways.
An' then, Jem had an aint (aunt), his aint Sally, hoo wur so
tall that hoo couldn't for shame stretch hersel'! "
"There's a deeol o' stuff wasted i' makin' folk sich a length
as that, too," replied Skudler.
"Well, I don't think it's a useful size for wark, mysel,'
said the fiddler.
"It depends upo' th' build, an' what sort o' wark they han to
do," said Ben.
"It be reet enough for lamp-leeters an' white-limers, an'
sich like," continued Skudler.
"Well, aye," said the fiddler, "it would save summat i'
"Aught fresh deawn i' Rachda'," said Ben, addressing Skudler.
"Well," replied Skudler, "there's bin a bit o' damage done,
here and theer, bi thunner and leetenin', yesterday."
"I say, Dan," said Ben, addressing the old fiddler, "thae'll
remember that greight woint-storm 'at happen't i'th last back-end
"I should think I do," answered the old man; "it blew part
o'th slate off eawr heawse. It wur a storm, wur that!
Slate-stones, an' windows, an' shutters flew up an' deawn, like
"Well," continued Ben, "that day I wur sit in a aleheawse
kitchen, at Rachda', an' folk kept comin' in wi' news o' this damage
an' that damage, when, just as we'rn sit reawnd th' fire talkin'
together, abeawt th' storm, a chimbley, belungin' th' next heawse,
coom crash deawn, an' part on't fell through th' kitchen-slate wheer
we wur sittin'. But, by th' mon, there wur some scutterin'
abeawt i' that hole. Well, while they'rn agate o' sidin' th'
dirt, an' breek an' stuff, that had fo'n through, there wur a
strange chap coom in, fro' somewheer abeawt Castleton Moor, an' when
he seed this rubbish lyin' upo' th' floor, he said, "What, yo'n had
a bit of a touch o' this woint, I see. But, eh, by th' mass,"
said he, "it's bin a deeol war (worse) wi' us! I wur in a
heawse at Castleton Moor, this forenoon, an' it blew th' window slap
eawt; an' in abeawt two minutes at after, th' woint brought another
window wap into th' same place, an' it just fitted, to a yure
"Nea then, Ben," said Skudler, "thae's done it at last."
"Aye," said the fiddler, "I think he's polish't that tale off
"Yo han it as I had it," replied Ben. "But I thought at
that time, that if this chap had said mich moor o' that mak, he'd
ha' bin agate o' lyin'."
"Well, come," said Skudler, rising to his feet, "I mun be
So they bade him "good day!" and away he went, to fetch his
And, after a few minutes' further chat together, the old
blind fiddler whistled his lad from the next field, and, taking his
fiddle-bag under his arm, he shook hands with Ben, and went his way
towards Bacup, with his face up-turned to the sky, and holding his
little lad by the hand.
"Theer he gwos!" said Ben, looking up the road after the old
fiddler. "There he gwos, like a good un, as he is!
Good luck go witho, owd crayter, for thae'rt one o'th better end o'
God Almighty's childer!" and when he had watched the old man out of
sight, he said, as he turned his face the other way, "It's time for
me to be hutchin' a bit nar (nearer) Yelley Ho! It connot be
so fur off noon."
As he went singing up the road towards the hall, under the
thick-leaved shade, through which the strong sunshine stole here and
there, freaking the highway with streaks of gold, he met a stout old
farmer descending the road, and dressed in his best, as if he was on
his way to a cattle fair. When they drew near, Ben stopped,
and asked the old man what o'clock it was.
"It's close upo' puddin'-time, if my stomach's aught to go
by," said the old man, eyeing Ben all over as he pulled a large,
old-fashioned silver watch out of his fob. "It'll be within a
light (few) minutes o' noon, I'll be bund. But I'll look at
this silver turnip o' mine, as soon as I can get it eawt."
And, as he tugged at the chain, he continued, "What, I guess thae'rt
hungry? Thae's rayther a twelve o'clock mak of a look, lad."
"Yo'n sided some beef i' your time, too, maister; bith' look
on yo," replied Ben.
"Well, lad," said the old man, looking at his watch, "I've
done middlin', for sure. . . . Let's see, I'm rayther of oather
fast; but it wants abeawt five minutes o' twelve, bi Rachda' (by
Rochdale Church clock)."
"Thank yo!" replied Ben. "Good day!"
"Good day to thee answered the old man, taking his stick from
the hedge side again, and trudging sturdily down the road.
When he had got a few yards off, he turned round, and cried out to
Ben, "Heigh, my lad!"
"Nea then!" said Ben, looking back.
"I've bin towd yo'n had some lumber done abeawt here
yesterday, bi thunner an' leetenin'. Hasto yerd aught?"
"Well, ay," replied Ben. "There's bin four keaws kilt
up i'th White Hill pastur', here; an' it's knocked th' gable-eend of
a heawse in, up Facit road on."
"So I've bin towd," said the farmer. "An' I yer there's
bin a woman kilt deawn at Shay Cloof, yon."
"Nay, sure," replied Ben. "Dun yo know who it is?"
"Well, I did yer th' name," said the old man, "but it's
slipped mi mind. But I deawt we's yer o' moor, yet; for I
don't know 'at I con recollect a heavier storm, i' my time."
"Nawe, nor me noather," replied Ben. "But it's takken
"It has," said the old man. "Han yo mich hay eawt,
"Oh nawe," replied Ben. "Very light (very little)."
"Come, that's better," said the farmer. "Well, good day
"Good day," answered Ben.
And then the old man went his way, and Ben was left loitering
about under the shade of the trees, waiting for the stroke of
"Come," said he, rubbing his hands, "they connot say that I'm
too lat this time! I'll walk in just to th' minute,
like clock-wark! That'll stop their meawths, I should think. .
. . It wants abeawt four minutes, yet," continued he, groping at his
sore nose. "I'll watch till it strikes." He was close to
the yard door, and as he paced to and fro in front of it, he
straightened his clothing, and trimmed his posy, and tied his
kerchief afresh, with nervous fingers; for he was naturally shy and
sensitive. There was a well by the wayside, a few yards off,
and going up to it, he bent down to examine the reflection of his
face in the water, and when he had looked himself well over, and had
given another finishing touch to his kerchief, he said, "Come, I
think I's do!" Then walking back, he halted at the yard door,
and peeping through the lock-hole, said, "I wonder wheer that dog
is?" The last word had hardly left his mouth, when the great
clock in the hall kitchen began to strike the hour of twelve, and
the kitchen-door being wide open, the sound of each stroke came with
a solemn, measured pause between, clear and sonorous, into the
noontide air of that still and shady spot. Ben's heart beat
quicker and quicker as he counted the strokes; and, laying his hand
upon the latch, he said, as he told the eleventh, "Neaw for't!
Th' next is a finisher!"
Oh thou, who dost these pointers see,
And hear'st the chiming hour,
Say, do I tell the time to thee,
And tell thee nothing more?
I bid thee mark life's little day
By strokes of duty done;
A clock may stop at any time,
But time will travel on.
THE clock in
Healey Hall kitchen had not struck three times before the solemn
monitor in the gray tower of St. Chad's began to boom forth its
mid-day warning along the winding river, telling the inhabitants of
the good old town of Rochdale that it was now "high twelve," the
ancient dinner-time in the valleys of the north; and, at the first
stroke, the hungry workman dropt his half-filled spade, and hurried
homewards, from labour to refreshment. . . . From hoary steeples,
and from lordly towers, in cottage and in hall, throughout our
English land, the hour of noon was pealing, from clocks of all
kinds, and of different tempers of tone, some solemn, some gay;
some too fast, some lagging in the rearward of the sun; some musical
and sweet as the ring of silver cymbals, others dull as the stroke
of a cobbler's hammer upon a leather sole; some wheezy, asthmatic,
and irregular,some funereal and measured as a passing-bell; others
tripping forth the tale with brisk precision, with the strokes
treading on each other's heels, as if they, too, were hungry, and in
a hurry to get done, and go to dinner. . . . The captive school-boy
had long been pining for this blessθd hour of his release. Oft
had he glanced at the window of his prison-house, and watched the
slow-moving sunbeams, streaking the dust floor with bars of gold,
which seemed as if they had stolen in with the special intent to
fret his heart, and beguile his thoughts into the open summer day.
Long before the fingers of the clock had met at the striking mark,
he had rubbed his hands, and whispered to the right and left that it
was nearly dinner-time; and as the lazy pointers drew nearer to the
hour of his enfranchisement, he had slyly grasped his cap, and
gathered himself together, like a greyhound straining upon the slip,
for a sudden rush into the open air, the moment the first stroke
came. Dinnertime! Oh, welcome hour to the healthy, the
hungry, and the well-to do. Oh, welcome hour to the
happy-hearted school-boy, newly freed from the tether of his taskful
time, and with a bountiful board to run to! Oh, glad hour to
those careless young lordlings of life, who dream no more than the
well-fed fledgling that anything but plenty and pleasure is theirs,
by natural right of inheritance! . . . But the poor, the forlorn,
and the houseless,what of these? The little pinched student,
with the iron teeth of penury preying upon his vitals, the pale
lad, whose scraps of learning are purchased by careful parings from
his scanty meals, and who creeps homeward at noon with melancholy
heart, because he knows that famine awaits him there, like a lean
wolf whetting its teeth upon bones, the child of a joyless life,
whose days are all in shadow, what of him? What is
dinner-time to the poor mother, trembling as the hour approaches
when her young brood will clamour for meat in vain; and when they
will gaze into her pale face, with wondering eyes, trying to read
how it is that the rest of the world have food, and they have none?
Oh, the sadness of that mother's heart! Oh, the strange
thoughts of that hunger-bitten child! . . . This is the hour when
perspiring cooks are hard at work in rich men's houses, preparing
ingenious dainties for educated palates, amidst a sickly atmosphere
of savoury fumes! This is the hour, too, when famished
wanderers stop to sniff the aroma of steaming kitchens, and gaze,
with wolfish eyes, through cook's-shop windows! This is the
hour when the happy cottager's family gather round their simple
meal, promptly spread; and when poor men's slatternly gossips
exclaim, as the clock strikes, "Eh, dear o' me! why, it's
dinner-time, an' th' fire's out!" This is the hour when many a
keen appetite clears the scanty board before it is half satisfied;
and when rich meals are spread for vitiated epicures, who can find
no pleasure therein.
The shadow upon the sun-dial in front of Healey Hall had
glided by the mark of noon, silent and sure as the finger of fate.
The last stroke had boomed from the gray tower of St. Chad's; and
the old chimes were beginning to trickle forth the silvery tones of
"Life let us cherish," the melody for the day, marking the time,
here and there, with a kind of tottering irregularity, like the
shaky treble of an agθd minstrel's song. Just before the last
stroke of twelve came from the clock in the kitchen of the hall, Ben
laid his hand upon the latch of the yard-door and said, "Neaw for't!
Th' next is a finisher!" The sound was still ringing upon the
air when he lifted the latch; and, after he had looked carefully
round, to see where the dog was, he entered the yard. The fat
cook stood in the open doorway, with her arms akimbo, and her face
glowing with the heat of the kitchen fire.
"Come," said she, smiling, "thae's hit it middlin' weel this
"What time is it?" replied Ben, looking as innocent as if he
had never heard the clock strike.
"Just gwon twelve," replied the cook. "It's a good job
thae'rt here; I expect him ringin' for tho every minute; he's so
partickilar abeawt folk bein' to their time. Come forrud."
But she had little need to invite him to come forward; for,
though Ben was giving the kennel as wide a berth as possible, the
dog, which had been watching his motions, sprang out to the full
length of his chain, and at the sound Ben darted at the doorway,
right into the cook's arms, nearly upsetting both himself and her.
"God bless mi life, lad!" said she, "whatever arto doin'?
Thae's knock't breath eawt on me!"
"It's that dog," replied Ben, wiping his forehead, and
looking back into the yard.
"Dog be hanged," said she. "Th' dog wants nought wi
"Oh doesn't it," replied Ben. "What did it come eawt o'
that shap (shape, manner) for then?"
"Why, becose it sees thae'rt soft, mon; that's o'," said the
"Oh well," replied Ben. "Soft or not soft, I thought
I'd better be comin' forrud, eawt o'th road."
"Thae'd no need to come with sich a ber," said the cook,
wiping her hot face, and straightening her dress. "But go thi
ways in, an' sit deawn, till I get my wynt; for thae's welly
(well-nigh) kilt me."
Ben laid his hat upon the kitchen dresser, and sat down, and
he had scarcely got settled in his seat before the colonel's bell
tingled in the parlour.
"Theer," said the cook, "I towd tho. He's yerd th' dog
barkin'; an' he's ringin' to see if thou'rt com'd."
One of the servants went to answer the bell, and returning
almost immediately, she said, "Th' kurnul says that Ben's to get his
dinner, an' he'll ring for him in a bit."
"Come, I'll look after that," said the cook, "if he has
knock't th' woint eawt on me."
The colonel's bell rung again, and when the servant returned,
she said that he had sent word that Ben could take time with his
dinner, as Dr. Skelton didn't intend to start for more than an hour
So Ben sat down, and enjoyed his noontide meal in pleasant
chat with the servants in the kitchen.
'Fore God, you have a goodly dwelling and a rich.
IN the great
wainscotted parlour of Healey Hall, Colonel Chadwick's ancient
friend, Doctor Skelton, sat alone, reading a quaintly-bound volume
of the Spectator.
Doctor Skelton was a native of Gloucestershire, and a justice
of the peace of that county; and had come to Healey Hall,
accompanied by his maiden sister, on a visit to his old college
friend; according to annual custom, of fifty years' standing.
The doctor was a curious, bookish man, naturally dreamy, and of a
speculative turn of mind; and a man of varied acquirements.
And yet he was sound-hearted, and clear-headed in all practical
affairs of life. Apart from his own profession, of which he
was an eminent member in those days, he was a learnθd man, in some
of, what may be called, the by-ways of learning. Amongst the
rest, archaeology was one of his pet studies. His manners,
however, were, in a worldly sense, so void of ornament and
complacency, so evidently contemptuous of bald customs and little
pleasing seemings, that to a superficial observer he appeared
cynical and cold; and sometimes even absolutely rude. But,
like the pine-apple, in spite of his prickly rind, the old gentleman
was wonderfully sweet at the core. His life had been curiously
checkered; and he might, indeed, be reckoned as one whose career had
a specialty in it. The strange events, and painful struggles
of his youth had tinged his character with melancholy; and some
frowning events had thrown his early days into shadow, so dark and
impenetrable, that it seemed endless. Many a sad experience
had dropt the plummet of his thoughts below the level of custom; but
he had taken the lesson of life with such a tractable spirit that
his mind had become elevated thereby. He had indeed "suffered
persecution and learnt mercy." And yet, though tender-hearted
as a woman, and privately generous to a fault, he might be accounted
a crotchety man; for, though time had healed his wounds, the scars
were visible still.
Colonel Chadwick was a Tory of the old school; and, though
the doctor and he were far asunder in their political views, there
were so many points of affinity in their characters, that they had
been drawn together by natural attraction when young; and, as years
rolled on, quiet observation of each other's strokes of character
had insensibly endeared them more and more. They had learned
to admire each other's sincerity, and truthfulness, and independence
of mind; and now they were inalienably attached to each other.
"What a strange fellow that Skelton o' mine is," the colonel would
sometimes say to himself. "How thorough, how genial, how
crotchety, and yet how really good-hearted and wise! except for
his politics. He has a thousand bits of quaint wisdom stowed
away in odd nooks of that queer brain of his, where other men have
at best only cold piles of mouldy platitude!"
Doctor Skelton was a great reader, and he had a wise leaning
to the old and famous books, that have proved their vitality.
He sat that day, with spectacles on nose, reading a quaintly-bound
volume of the Spectator. He was quietly poring over the
fine essay on "Novelty," No. 626, an essay thoroughly in unison
with the tone of his own mind, when his friend entered the room with
a letter in his hand.
"This is a bad world, Skelton," said the colonel, shaking the
letter in his hand, as he flung himself into a chair, "a miserable
world. By Jove! it's enough to make one willing to go to the
lower regions a while, till things get settled upon a different
footing, it is, upon my soul!"
"What, Chadwick," said the doctor, raising his spectacles,
"are you railing at the incomprehensible, too? Why, you
talk of the government of the world as if it was a hall of thread
that you had measured off, and found to be a few yards short of what
you expected, and bad stuff withal."
"Well," replied the colonel, sighing, "Heaven forgive me, if
I'm irreverent; but I say again, it's a bad world, and I'm sick of
"Why Chadwick, my good fellow, what's the matter now?"
said the doctor, closing his book and rubbing his spectacles.
"Oh, nothing," replied the colonel, "nothing new.
Only an ungrateful rascal of a friend. Read that!" continued
he, handing the letter to the doctor, "read that!"
When the doctor had read the letter, he gave a quiet whistle.
Blow, blow thou winter wind.
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude.
"Well, this is something certainly," continued he.
Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
Thou doss not bite so nigh,
As benefits forgot;
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
"But you'll get over this, Chadwick, you'll get over this!"
Heigho! sing heigho, unto the green holly
Most friendship is feigning, most loving is folly.
Then heigho, the holly!
This life is most jolly!
"You've seen worse things than this in your time, Chadwick.
Take it quietly, my friend. It'll do you good," said the
doctor, handing back the letter, and taking up his book again.
"Do me good!" cried the colonel, striking the table.
D――n the fellow! I tell you, it makes me sick of life to see
such villiany, Skelton. It does, upon my soul!"
"Ah, Chadwick," replied the old doctor, "you remember
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
"Oh, yes; I remember," said the colonel, "I remember that,
and many another thing of the same kind. But, when a man's got
the toothache, he will pull wry faces, in spite of all you
can say. And Shakspere, and you, may preach till doomsday; but
you cannot preach away the abominable fact, ― you cannot make black
ingratitude pleasing to the human heart."
"It's not a bad thing, Chadwick, that helps one to bear their
crosses like a man. I never saw you so moved before.
What, you're like a child crying because it has too much salt in its
"Oh, yes; I know," replied the colonel, bitterly. "I
know how easy it is for one to bear anybody else's troubles.
Pelt me with passages from the book of Job, my friend! . . . It's
not the property, Skelton; it's not the property. I could bear
that, well enough, though it's not pleasant. But it breaks
down one's faith in human nature; that's the worst of it. It
make's one a worse man, it hardens one's heart, Skelton; and
that's a great calamity. . . . It's a sad world, my friend; it's a
sad world! Ask me no more questions about it, for heaven's
sake. You remember the proverb, Skelton, 'Whether it's the
stone that hits the pitcher, or the pitcher that hits the stone,
it's all the same to the pitcher. I would not have cared if .
But here," continued he, tearing the letter to pieces, and flinging
it into the fire; "I'm making too much of this! 'Perish the
record!' as one of your favourite play-wrights says 'Perish the
record!' and, perish the remembrance, too; for I will mention it no
And he rose to his feet, and paced the room to and fro,
struggling to smother his excited feelings; whilst the doctor,
seeing his friend so much moved, gave a quiet sigh, and opened his
book again, and read on, or seemed to read on, in silence.
At last, the colonel took his hat, and walked out into the
The doctor silently watched him out; then, laying down his
book, he, too, rose, and paced the room, thoughtfully, muttering to
himself, "What a fine fellow that Chadwick is! He always was!
And he always will be! It's a sad thing. But that heart
of his is too genial, too forgiving, to trail any lasting
feeling of resentment about the world! He will soon be himself
again, and able to look upon this unhappy event as he looks back
upon yesterday's storm, which has left the air clearer, and the sky
brighter than ever, to-day!"
After about a quarter of an hour's absence, the colonel
entered the room again; and, though he began to walk to and fro, as
before, he was evidently in a calmer mood. The doctor had
resumed his book; and, in a few minutes, the colonel took a chair,
and, after a quiet sigh of preparatory relief, he entered into
conversation with the doctor once more.
"Skelton," said he; "what do you think of our reverend
friend, Henley, after his last freak?"
The old doctor was glad to join in any theme which he thought
likely to divert the thoughts of his friend, and relieve the pent-up
bitterness which he knew was still scalding his heart.
"Well, Chadwick," replied the doctor, laying down his book
again, "I think he's a very indifferent specimen of the cloth, not
the kind of man to do honour to his calling, certainly."
"Well," replied the colonel, "I suppose he's only a human
creature, he's only a man after all, as you say, sometimes."
"Nay, nay," said the doctor, "if he was a man, he would do;
if he had even sufficient humility to remember, now and then, that
he was, in some sort, a human being 'of like passions' with
ourselves, he would be passable. But the truth is, Chadwick,
he's a precious sneak, wearing the disguise of a lofty office.
It was a mistake, Chadwick, it was a mistake! He should never
have entered a pulpit! Such fellows bring evil tongues upon
"So proud, too," said the colonel.
"Proud!" replied the doctor, "yes; proud as Lucifer!
Proud! aye! and of all the prides that afflict poor humanity,
spiritual pride is the most beguiling, and the worst to cure.
Talk of that rare virtue, true humility! Oh, Chadwick; if the
crust was taken off that fellow, the rest would be unendurable.
Humility, forsooth! Lord help us all, for we're all tarred
with the same stick, more or less! But the creatures that I
have seen stalking about this planet, as if each had a consecrated
wall built round him, and he alone were admitted within the pale of
the redeemed! And when they do lift their chins over
the paling, and condescend to bestow a look of 'mitigated regard'
upon the unregenerate wretches outside, they do it with an air of
ineffable contempt for the whole human race. I hate such
fellows, Chadwick. . . And then, they talk and walk as if they were
in the habit of taking wine with the Creator of the universe, in
some sly vestry; where they held council together as to what was to
be done with the miserable mass of mankind. Heaven save me
from any irreverent feeling for what is truly reverend! But I
say again, I hate such fellows! I'd rather have a wholesome
sinner than a sham saint any day."
"Stop, stop, Skelton," said the colonel. "Why, you're
getting worse than ever!"
"Worse! Nay, nay, Chadwick," replied the doctor; "a man
of my age seldom gets much worse. His virtues and his vices
have culminated, long before that. Men's sins change, as years
roll on, true enough, mine have done so, I know; but I can't get
worse than I have been; 'No, no,' says the Frenchman, that can't
be!' as that fine old sea-song of yours has it. . . . And then, we
old fellows sometimes deceive ourselves with the idea that, as age
creeps on, we are leaving our sins, when it is only our sins that
are leaving us. But, what do you know about sin, Chadwick?
You're all right; my stainless paragon of the elected few!"
"Why, Skelton; this is worse still said the colonel.
"Nay, nay," replied the doctor. "If this be anything,
it is one of my poor virtues."
"You're a sad fellow, Skelton," said the colonel; "but you
may as well pass the bottle, for all that."
"Well," replied the doctor, pausing an instant, and then
heaving an involuntary sigh, "that's true enough. I am sad
enough, sometimes, Chadwick, God knows."
The colonel saw in an instant that he had touched a wrong
chord, and, when he had filled his glass, he assumed a jovial tone,
and, stretching out his hand, he said, "We know one another,
Skelton; we know one another, old boy! I am proud of you!
Give us your hand! The worst thing about you is that you are
such an infernal Jacobin."
The shade passed from the doctor's countenance in an instant,
and he bristled up at once.
"Jacobin!" cried he, sitting upright in his chair.
"Now you're off again," said the colonel, leaning back in his
chair, and smiling. "You're off again! Well, 'Let her
went,' as the Welshman said."
"Jacobin!" continued the doctor. "Why, Chadwick, I'll
bet odds you don't know what you're talking about. But, if you
mean that I am a reformer, let me remind you that wherever reform is
impossible, revolution is certain. The whole course of history
shows it. . . . But what do such fellows as you care about history?
You read it as a painful duty, at school; and perhaps you may
remember some scattered fragments, sufficient for a little
disjointed table-talk with folks of your own way of thinking; but
you never digest it, no more than a cat could digest the wheels of a
watch. Reform! Why the whole course of Nature is
incessant reform! You might as well try to stop the rain from
falling, with a pitch-fork, as try to stop the progress of reform!
But what the devil's the use of talking to such an unchangeable
fogey as you, Chadwick! When you were made, the politics were
made for you at the same time. The same old programme from
father to son, from father to son world without end."
"Whatever is venerable and just, Skelton," replied the
colonel, "cannot be defended too long. Our ancient
institutions in church and state ――"
"Yes," continued the doctor, interrupting him; "and you pin
your politics down to your acres, too; for you absolutely make the
unthinking land into an engine for the control of thinking men!
Your acres make laws for your people! Oh, if the fields of
England think, the fields of England that have been so often
soaked with the blood of the brave, if they think at all, I wonder
what they think of that! I can imagine the beautiful
meadow-grasses having great fun amongst themselves with the idea of
their having more power in Parliament than the perspiring lout who
sings as he whets the scythe that is to cut them down!"
Here, the doctor's deaf old maiden sister entered the room,
with her ear trumpet in her hand. Seeing that her brother was
in the midst of one of his old flights, she said, as the colonel
courteously rose to receive her, "Politics again, I'll be bound!
But you know him, colonel. I've heard it all before.
After the training I have gone through, I think I should be able to
represent the county in the Liberal interest, colonel, but for this
deafness of mine."
"Humph!" said the doctor, giving a grunt; "we've plenty of
old women in parliament already, Mary."
These words were spoken in too low a tone for Miss Skelton to
"A little friendly tilting-match, Miss Skelton," said the
colonel, speaking into her ear trumpet, as he placed a chair for the
ancient maiden "a little friendly tilting-match. Be seated,
"No, thank you colonel," replied Miss Skelton. "I
merely came for a volume I had left behind me," continued she,
taking up a book from the table. "I have presided at your
tournaments before, colonel. These faded eyes of mine could
rain no new influence upon such familiar knights. I will leave
you to tilt it out alone."
The colonel bowed and escorted her to the door; and when he
had taken his seat again, the doctor resumed the same strain.
"I'll tell you what it is, Chadwick," said he; "you remind me
of a passage in Smollett's translation of 'Don Quixote' which, by
the way, is the best translation of all, in my opinion. The
passage runs thus: "'The king is my cock,' quoth Sancho. 'It
is plain," said Don Quixote, 'that thou art an arrant bumpkin, and
one of those who always cry, 'Long live the emperor!'"
"And why not cry, 'Long live the emperor!'" replied the
colonel. "Loyalty is a noble virtue."
"Loyalty!" cried the doctor. "Let your kings be loyal
to the people, then! They are human creatures, I suppose.
Let them acknowledge the common dignity of human nature!"
"Dignity of the devil!" replied the colonel, warmly.
"Yes," replied the doctor; "and the devil has a kind of
dignity about him, too; if all be true that Milton says of him. . .
. Did you ever read Milton's 'Tenure of Kings,' Chadwick?"
"No," replied the colonel, with emphasis, "nor I don't
"I dare say not," said the doctor. "Did you ever read
his 'Liberty of Unlicensed Printing?'"
"Liberty of the devil! I say again," cried the colonel; "no,
I have not read it! nor I never will, ――'Deo Volenti!'"
"Hello, Chadwick," replied the doctor; "you've managed to
save that fragment from the wreck of your school-Latin, I see."
"Yes, Latin," said the colonel. "And I'll say the
same thing in any language under heaven, Skelton, if I can only
"I'm sorry for you, Chadwick," replied the doctor. "And
yet I like you, at least for one thing."
"And pray, what's that?"
"Because you're such a fool!"
"Well, thank you."
"Oh, you're welcome as the flowers in May."
"I tell you again, Skelton," said the colonel, "I hate
Milton, and you know why."
"Hush!" replied the doctor, raising his hand.
"What's the matter, now?" said the colonel.
"Don't let the winds of heaven hear you say that," replied
"Perhaps they mightn't like it."
"Rubbish!" replied the colonel. "The winds of heaven
are as much mine as ever they were Milton's!"
"Aye," says the doctor, "that comes of the all-pervading
goodness of the great scheme, Chadwick. The Creator of the
world is kinder to us than we are to one another."
"I'll stick to my text, Skelton," continued the colonel; "I
hate that canting, rhyming, republican rebel, for his share in the
"Never mind it, Chadwick, never mind it; I know all about
it," replied the doctor. . . . . "Well, let us drop it. I see
it's a bad case. 'He who will not be advised, neither can he
be helped.' Come, let us change the subject."
"With all my heart, Skelton," said the colonel, "with all my
heart! You know we never agree about these things.
Confound it; what an old fool I am! Well, come, fill up; and
let us talk of something else."
"Agreed," said the doctor, pulling out his watch what's the
time? Why, it's near one o'clock."
"Yes," replied the colonel, looking at his own watch "you'll
have to leave here in half an hour. George will have the drag
at the door exactly at the time. I suppose Ben can ride behind
"Certainly," said the doctor; "where is he?"
"Oh, the lad's all right," replied the colonel; "he's in the
care of my cook; and they have a neighbourly liking for one
"Oh, by the bye," said the doctor, "Mary said she should like
to see the hero of this donkey-story that amused her so much.
Couldn't we get him into the parlour for a few minutes?"
"Of course," replied the colonel. "But stop; hadn't we
better have Miss Skelton in first?"
"Fetch her, Chadwick; fetch her! She'll be delighted,"
said the doctor.
Away went the gallant colonel, returning in two or three
minutes, chatting and laughing with Miss Skelton, as he led her into
When they were all comfortably seated, the colonel rang the
bell, and told the servant to send Ben into the parlour.
Ben entered the room in a shy and awkward manner, as usual;
but the kind-hearted old colonel entered so freely into conversation
with him in the native vernacular, that his embarrassment began to
subside at once; and the doctor and his sister, with true courtesy,
began to chat with him in such a frank and simple way that, in a few
minutes, Ben was almost as much at ease with his genteel companions
as if they had been cottage neighbours all their lives. At
last the ice got so thoroughly melted that the colonel ventured to
ask Ben to sing a song for Miss Skelton. This request rather
staggered the poor fellow at first; but, being earnestly pressed,
especially by the lady herself, he consented to sing a favourite
country song called "Cupid's Garden." The great difficulty
was, however, that he had to bend down and sing into the end of the
ancient maiden's ear-trumpet, which confused him very much, for he
was sensible of the absurdity of the situation. He could see,
too, that the humorous old lady was enjoying the fun of the thing.
But he encountered the difficulty like a man. He struggled
through the first verse, bent down with his mouth at the end of the
ear-trumpet; and with big drops of perspiration rolling from his
forehead, and with the old lady's dark eyes fixed intently upon his
own. He got to the end of that, and then he stopped to take
breath, and to wipe his face. He began the second; and he had
nearly fought through it, under the same circumstances, when he
suddenly stopped, and, drawing his sleeve across his forehead, he
reared himself upright, and said, "By th' mon, aw connote ston
this!" at which the doctor and the colonel laughed "till the girdle
rang," as the Scotch say. The old lady had not heard what he
said; but when she saw the sudden burst of mirth from her brother
and the colonel, she inquired what was the matter; and when they had
told her what he had said, the quaint damsel laughed, and laughed
again, till the tears stood glistening in her eyes. Then
laying her hand upon Ben's broad shoulder, she thanked him, and said
she was only astonished that he had done so well under the
circumstances. "Eh, God bless yo, mistress," said he, "if
there'd bin nobody lookin' aw could ha' sung ten times better nor
that for yo!" At which they all burst out again, till Ben
began to wonder what on earth he had said to move them to so much
merriment. But he had won their hearts by his frankness and
the simplicity of his demeanour; and as Burns says, in "The Twa
They were unco pack an' thick thegither,
till the servant knocked at the parlour-door, and said that the
vehicle was ready.
In a few minutes after that they were all mounted, and away
they went. A pleasant ride of four miles brought them to the
little village of Littleborough, at the foot of Blackstone Edge.
The way thence to "Th' White House," at the top of that wild ridge,
is a winding road, about two miles and a half in length. The
heavy rain of the previous day had left it slushy, and it was
difficult for wheel-carriages to travel. But, about half-past
two on that glorious summer afternoon, they dismounted at the door
of the old hostelry, on the top of the Edge.
There the learnθd doctor met with his learnθd friends, and
they wandered about the wild moorland ridge that divides the
counties of York and Lancaster, from one point of interest to
another. The feature of the scene that had special attraction
for that learned company was, however, the remarkably fine relic of
the Roman roads of Britain, which climbs to the summit of
Blackstone, from the Littleborough side, and then winds along the
moors to Slack, the ancient Cambodunum of the Romans. In that
well-preserved remnant of the Roman road, they found so much to
examine, and to trace, and to speculate upon, that it was
unanimously resolved that the whole company should pay a second
visit to the scene on the following day. There was all the
greater reason for this, as they found, on meeting together, that
each had some pet point of interest, which together not been
sufficiently considered in the general scheme of the day's trip,
the ruined entrenchments thrown up during the Cromwell wars; the
Druidical stones upon the lofty mountain track, called "The
Wilderness;" the ancient halls of the district; and certain
remarkable geological features of the scene. These things,
together with the stress laid upon the matter by certain hospitable
local gentlemen, of archaeological tendencies, induced the assembled
savants to resolve upon a second visit to the scene. However,
they spent a pleasant and instructive day together, and when
twilight began to dusk the evening air ―
Each took aff his several way,
Resolved to meet some ither day.