Tufts of Heather, Vol. I (3)

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[Jannock]


THE BARREL ORGAN.

―――♦―――


I CAME out at Haslingden town-end with my old acquaintance, "Rondle o'th Nab," better known by the name of "Sceawter," a moor-end farmer and cattle dealer.  He was telling me a story about a cat that squinted, and grew very fat because — to use his own words — it "catched two mice at one go."  When he had finished the tale, he stopped suddenly in the middle of the road, and looking round at the hills, he said, "Nea then, I'se be like to lev yo here.  I mun turn off to 'Dick o' Rough-cap's' up Musbury Road.  I want to bargain yon heifer.  He's a very fair chap, is Dick ― for a cow-jobber.  Bu yo may as weel go up wi' me, an' then go forrud to our house.  We'n some singers comin' to-neet."

    "Nay," said I, "I think I'll tak up through Horncliffe, an' by the moor-gate, to t' 'Top o' t' Hoof."'

    "Well, then," replied he, " yo mun strike off at the lift hond, about a mile fur on; an' then up th' hill side, an' through th' delph.  Fro theer yo mun get upo' the owd road as weel as yo con; an' when yo'n getten it, keep it.  So good day, an' tak care o' yorsel'.  Barfoot folk should never walk upo' prickles."  He then turned, and walked off.  Before he had gone twenty yards he shouted back, "Hey I say!  Dunnot forget th' cat."

    It was a fine autumn day; clear and cool.  Dead leaves were whirling about the road-side.  I toiled slowly up the hill to the famous Horncliffe Quarries, where the sounds of picks, chisels, and gavelocks, used by the workmen, rose strangely clear amidst the surrounding stillness.  From the quarries I got up, by an old pack-horse road to a commanding elevation at the top of the moors.  Here I sat down on a rude block of mossy stone, upon a bleak point of the hills, overlooking one of the most picturesque parts of the Irwell valley.  The country around me was part of the wild tract still known by its ancient name of the Forest of Rossendale.  Lodges of water and beautiful reaches of the winding river gleamed in the evening sun, among green holms and patches of woodland, far down the vale; and mills, mansions, farmsteads, churches, and busy hamlets succeeded each other as far as the eye could see.  The moorland tops and slopes were all purpled with fading heather, save here and there, where a well-defined tract of green showed that cultivation had worked up a little plot of the wilderness into pasture land.  About eight miles south a gray cloud hung over the town of Bury, and, nearer, a flying trail of white steam marked the rush of a railway train along the valley.  From a lofty perch of the hills, on the north-west, the sounds of Haslingden church bells came sweetly upon the ear, swayed to and fro by the unsettled wind, now soft and low, borne away by the breeze, now full and clear, sweeping by me in a great gush of melody, and dying out upon the moorland wilds behind.  Up from the valley came drowsy sounds that tell the wane of day, and please the ear of evening as she draws her curtains over the world.  A woman's voice floated up from the pastures of an old farm-house, below where I sat, calling the cattle home.  The barking of dogs sounded clear in different parts of the vale, and about scattered hamlets, on the hill sides.  I could hear the far-off prattle of a company of girls, mingled with the lazy jottings of a cart, the occasional crack of a whip, and the surly call of a driver to his horses, upon the high road, half a mile below me.  From a wooded slope, on the opposite side of the valley, the crack of a gun came, waking the echoes for a minute; and then all seemed to sink into a deeper stillness than before, and the dreamy surge of sound broke softer and softer upon the shores of evening, as daylight sobered down.  High above the green valley, on both sides, the moorlands stretched away in billowy wildernesses — dark, bleak, and almost soundless, save where the wind harped his wild anthem upon the heathery waste, and where roaring streams filled the lonely cloughs with drowsy uproar.  It was a striking scene, and it was an impressive hour.  The bold, round, flat-topped height of Musbury Tor stood gloomily proud, on the opposite site, girdled off from the rest of the hills by a green vale.  The lofty outlines of Aviside and Holcombe were glowing with the gorgeous hues of a cloudless October sunset.  Along those wild ridges the soldiers of ancient Rome marched from Manchester to Preston, when boars and wolves ranged the woods and thickets of the Irwell valley.  The stream is now lined all the way with busy populations, and evidences of great wealth and enterprise.  But the spot from which I looked down upon it was still naturally wild.  The hand of man had left no mark there, except the grassgrown pack-horse road.  There was no sound nor sign of life immediately around me.

    The wind was cold, and daylight was dying down.  It was getting too near dark to go by the moor tops, so I made off towards a cottage in the next clough, where an old quarryman lived, called "Jone o'Twilter's."  The pack-horse road led by the place.  Once there I knew that I could spend a pleasant hour with the old folk, and, after that, be directed by a short cut down to the great highway in the valley, from whence an hour's walk would bring me near home.  I found the place easily, for I had been there in summer.  It was a substantial stone-built cottage, or little farm-house, with mullioned windows.  A stone-seated porch, whitewashed inside, shaded the entrance; and there was a little barn and a shippon, or cow-house attached.  By the by, that word "shippon," must have been originally "sheep-pen."  The house nestled deep in the clough, upon a shelf of green land, near the moorland stream.  On a rude ornamental stone, above the threshold of the porch, the date of the building was quaintly carved, "1696," with the initials, "J. S.," and then, a little lower down, and partly between these, the letter "P.," as if intended for "John and Sarah Pilkington."  On the lower slope of the hill, immediately in front of the house, there was a kind of kitchen garden, well stocked, and in very fair order.  Above the garden, the wild moorland rose steeply up, marked with wandering sheep tracks.  From the back of the house, a little flower garden sloped away to the edge of a rocky hank.  The moorland stream ran wildly along its narrow channel, a few yards below; and, viewed from the garden wall at the edge of the bank, it was a weird bit of stream scenery.  The water rushed and roared here; there it played a thousand pranks; and there, again, it was full of graceful eddies; gliding away at last over the smooth lip of a worn rock, a few yards lower down.  A kind of green gloom pervaded the watery chasm, caused by the thick shade of trees over spreading from the opposite bank.  It was a spot that a painter might have chosen for "The Kelpie's Home."

    The cottage door was open, and I guessed by the silence inside that old "Jone" had not reached home.  His wife, Nanny, was a hale and cheerful woman, with a fastidious love of cleanliness and order, and quietness too, for she was more than seventy years of age.  I found her knitting, and slowly swaying her portly form to and fro in a shiny old-fashioned chair by the fireside.  The carved oak clock-case in the corner was as bright as a mirror; and the slow and solemn ticking of the ancient time-marker was the loudest sound in the house.  But the softened roar of the stream outside filled all the place, steeping the senses in a drowsy spell.  At the end of a long table under the front window sat Nanny's grand-daughter, a rosy, round-faced lass, about twelve years old.  She was turning over the pictures in a well-thumbed copy of "Culpepper's Herbal."  She smiled, and shut the book, but seemed unable to speak, as if the poppied enchantment that wrapt the spot had subdued her young spirit to a silence which she could not break.  I do not wonder that old superstitions linger in such nooks as that.  Life there is like bathing in dreams.  But I saw that they had heard me coming; and when I stopped in the doorway, the old woman broke the charm by saying, "Nay sure!  What? han yo getten thus far?  Come in, pray yo."

    "Well, Nanny," said I, "where's th' owd chap?"

    "Eh," replied the old woman, "it's noan time for him yet.  But I see," continued she, looking up at the clock, "it's gettin' further on than I thought.  He'll be here in abeawt three-quarters of an hour — that is, if he doesn't co', an' I hope he'll not, to-reel.  I'll put th' kettle on.  Jenny, my lass, bring him a tot o' ale."

    I sat down by the side of a small round table, with a thick plane-tree top, scoured as white as a clean shirt; and Jenny brought me an old-fashioned blue-and-white mug, full of home-brewed.

    "Toast a bit o' hard brade," said Nanny, "an' put it into 't."

    I did so.

    The old woman put the kettle on, and scaled the fire; and then, settling herself in her chair again, she began to re-arrange her knitting-needles.  Seeing that I liked my sops, she said, "Reitch some moor cake-brade.  Jenny 'll toast it for yo."

    I thanked her, and reached down another piece, which Jenny held to the fire on a fork.  And then we were silent for a minute or so.

    "I'll tell yo what," said Nanny, "some folk's o'th luck i'th world."

    "What's up, now, Nanny?" replied I.

    "They say'n that Owd Bill at Fo' Edge, has had a dowter wed, an a cow cauve't, an' a mare foal't o' i' one day.  Dun yo co' that nought?"

    Before I could reply, the sound of approaching footsteps came upon our ears.  Then, they stopped, a few yards off; and a clear voice trolled out a snatch of country song:—


    Owed shoon an' stockins,
An' slippers at's made o' red leather!
    Come, Betty, wi' me,
    Let's shap to agree,
An' hutch of a cowd neet together.

    Mash-tubs and barrels!
A mon connot al'ays be sober!
    A mon connot sing
    To a bonnier thing
Than a pitcher o' stingin' October!


    "Jenny, my lass," said the old woman, see who it is.  It's oather 'Skedlock' or 'Nathan o' Dangler's.'"

    Jenny peeped through the window, an' said, "It's Skedlock.  He's lookin' at th' turmits i'th garden.  Little Joseph's wi' him.  They're comin' in.  Joseph's new clogs on."

    Skedlock came shouldering slowly forward into the cottage — a tall, strong, bright-eyed man of fifty.  His long, massive features were embrowned by habitual exposure to the weather, and he wore the mud-stained fustian dress of a quarryman.  He was followed by a healthy lad, about twelve years of age — a kind of pocket-copy of himself.  They were as like one another as a new shilling and an old crown piece.  The lad's dress was of the same kind as his father's, and he seemed to have studiously acquired the same cart-horse gait, as if his limbs were as big and as stark as his father's.

    "Well, Skedlock," said Nanny, "thae's getten Joseph witho, I see.  Does he go to schoo yet?"

    "Nay; he reckons to wortch o'th delph wi' me, neaw."

    "Nay, sure.  Does he get ony wage?"

    "Nawe," replied Skedlock; "he's drawn his wage wi' his teeth, so fur.  But he's larnin', yo known — he's Larnin'.  Where's your Jone?  I want to see him abeawt some plants."

    "Well," said Nanny, "sit tho down a minute.  Hasto no news?  Thae'rt seldom short of a crack."

    "Nay," said Skedlock, scratching his rusty pate, "aw don't know 'at aw've aught fresh."  But when he had looked into the fire for a minute or so, his brown face lighted up with a smile, and drawing a chair, he said, "Howd, Nanny; han yo yerd what a do they had at the owd chapel yesterday?"

    "Nawe."

    "Eh, dear! . . . Well, yo known, they'n had a deal o' bother about music up at that chapel, this year or two back.  Yo'n bin a singer yo'rsel, Nanny, i' yo'r young days — never a better."

    "Eh, Skedlock," said Nanny; "aw us't to think I could ha' done a bit forty year sin — an' I could, too — though I say it mysel.  I remember gooin' to a oratory once, at Bury.  Deborah Travis wur theer, fro Shay.  Eh! when aw yerd her sing 'Let the Bright Seraphim,' aw gav in.  Isherwood wur theer; an' her at's Mrs. Wood neaw; an' two or three fro Yorkshire road on.  It wur the grand'st sing 'at ever I wur at i' my life. . . . Eh, I's never forget th' practice neets 'at' we use't to have at Israel Grindrod's!  Johnny Brello wur one on 'em.  He's bin deead a good while. . . . That's wheer I let of our Sam.  He sang bass at that time. . . . Poor Johnny!  He's bin deead aboon five-an-forty year, neaw."

    "Well, but Nanny," said Skedlock, laying his hand on the old woman's shoulder, "yo known what a hard job it is to keep th' bant o'th nick wi' a rook o' musicianers.  They cap'n the world for bein' diversome an' bad to plez.  Well, as I wur sayin' — they'n had a deeal o' trouble about music this year or two back, up at th' owd chapel.  Th' singers fell out wi' the players.  They mostly dun do.  An' th' players did everything they could to plague th' singers.  They're so like.  But yo may have a like aim, Nanny, what mak' o' harmony they'd get out o' sich wark as that.  An' then, when Joss o' Piper's geet his wage raise't — five shillin' a year — Dick o' Liddy's said he'd ha' moor too, or else he'd sing no moor at that shop.  Here noan beawn to be snape't bi a tootlin' whipper-snapper like Joss — a bit of a bow-legged whelp, twenty year yunger nor hissel.  Then there wur a crack coom i' Billy Tootle bassoon; an' Billy stuck to't that some o'th lot had done it for spite.  An' there were sich fratchin, an' cabals among 'em as never wur known.  An' they natter't, an' brawlt, an' played one another o' maks o' ill-contrive't tricks.  Well, yo' may guess, Nanny ――

    "One Sunday mornin', just afore th' sarvice began, some o'th' singers slipt a pepper-box, an' a hawp'oth o' grey peighs, an' two young rattons, into old Thwittler double-bass; an' as soon as he began a-playin', th' little things squeak't an' scatter't about i'th inside, till they thrut o' out o' tune.  Th' singers couldn't get forrud for laughin'.  One on 'em whisper's to Thwittler, an' axed him if his fiddle had getten th' bally-warche.  But Thwittler never spoke a word.  His senses wur leavin' him very fast.  At last, he geet so freeten't, that he chuck't th' fiddle down, an' darted out o'th chapel, beawt hat; an' off he ran whoam, in a cowd sweat, wi' his yure stickin' up like a cushion-full o' stackin'-needles.  An' he bowted straight through th' heawse, an' reet up-stairs to bed, wi' his clooas on, beawt sayin' a word to chick or choilt.  His wife watched him run through th' heawse; but he darted forrad, an' took no notice o' nobody.  'What's up now,' thought Betty; an' hoo ran after him.  Wen hoo geet up-stairs th' owd lad had getten croppen into bed; an' he wur ill'd up, o'er th' yed.  So Betty turned th' quilt deawn, an' hoo said, 'Whatever's to do witho, James?'  'Howd thi noise,' said Thwittler, pooin' th' clooas o'er his yed again, 'howdy thi noise!  I'll play no moor at yon shop!' an' th' bed fair wackert again; here i' sich a fluster.  'Mun I make tho a saup o' gruel?' said Betty.  'Gruel be —!' said Thwittler, poppin' his yed out o' th' blankets.  'Didto ever yer of onybody layin' th' devil wi' meighl-porritch?'  An' then he poo'd th' blanket o'er his yed again.  'Where's thi fiddle?' said Betty.  But, as soon as Thwittler yerd the fiddle name's, he gav a wild skrike, an' crope lower down into bed."

    "Well, well," said the old woman, laughing, and laying her knitting down, "aw never yerd sich a tale i' my life."

    "Stop, Nanny," said Skedlock, "yo'st yer it out, now."

    "Well, yo seen, this mak o' wark went on fro week to week, till everybody geet weary on it; an' at last, th' chapel-wardens summon't a meetin' to see if they couldn't raise a bit o' daycent music, for Sundays, beawt o' this trouble.  An' they talked back an' forrud about it a good while.  Turn o'th Dingle recommended 'em to have a Jew's harp an' some triangles.  But Bobby Nooker said, 'That's no church music!  Did anybody ever yer "Th' Owd Hundred" played on a triangle?'  Well, at last they agreed that the best way would be to have some sort of a barrel-organ — one o' thoose that they winden up at the side, and then they play'n o' theirsel, beawt ony fingerin' or blowin'.  So they order't one made, wi' some favourite tunes in — 'Burton,' an' 'Liddy,' an' 'French,' an' 'Owd York,' an' sick like.  Well, it seems that Robin o' Sceawter's, th' carrier — his feyther went by th' name o' 'Cowd an' Hungry;' he're a quarryman by trade; a long, hard, brown-looking felley, wi' een like gig-lamps, an' yure as strung as a horse's mane.  He looked as if he'd bin made nowt o' owd dur-latches an' reawsty nails.  Robin, the carrier, is his owdest lad; an' he favvurs a chap at's bin brought up o' yirth-bobs an' scaplins.  Well, it seems that Robin brought this box-organ up fro th' town in his cart o'th' Friday neet; an' as luck would have it, he had to bring a new weshin'-machine at th' same time for owd Isaac Buckley at th' Hollins Farm.  When he geet th' organ in his cart, they towd him to be careful an' keep it th' reet side up; an' he wur to mind an' not shake it mich, for it wur a thing that wur yezzy thrut eaves o' flunters.   Well, I think Robin mun ha' bin fuddle't or summat that neet but I dunnot know; for he's sich a bowster-yed, moo, that aw'll be sunken if aw think he knows th' difference between a weshin'-machine an' a church organ, when he's at the sharpest.  But let that leet as it will.  What dun yo think, but th' blunderin' foo — at after o' that had bin said to him — went an' 'liver't th' weshin'-machine at th' church, an' the organ at th' Hollins Farm."

    "Well, well," said Nanny, "that wur a bonny come off, as heaw.  But how wenten they on at after?"

    "Well, I'll tell yo, Nanny," said Skedlock. "Th' owd clerk wur noan in when Robin geet to th' dur wi' his cart that neet, so his wife coom wi' a leet in her hond, an' said, 'Whatever hasto getten for us this time, Robert!'  'Why,' said Robin, 'it's some mak of a organ.  Where win yo ha't put, Betty?'  'Eh, I'm fain thae's brought it,' said Betty.  'It's for th' chapel, an' it'll be wanted for Sunday.   Sitho, set it deawn i' this front reawm here, an' mind what thae'rt doin' with it.'  So Robin, an' Barfoot Sam, an' Little Wamble, 'at looks after th' horses at Th' Rompin' Kitlin, geet it eawt o'th cart.  When they geet how'd 'on't, Robin said, 'Neaw lads; afore yo starten; mind what yo'r doin'; an' be as ginger as yo con.  That's a thing 'at's soon thrut eawt o' gear — it's a organ.'  So they hove, an' poo'd, an' grunted, an' thrutch't, till they geet it set down i'th' parlour; an' they pretended to be quite knocked up wi' th' job.  'Betty,' said Robin, wipin' his face wi' his sleeve, 'it's bin dry weather latly.'  So th' owd lass took th' hint, an' fotched 'em a quart o' ale.  While they stood i'th middle o'th floor suppin' their ale, Betty took th' candle an' went a-lookin' at this organ; an' hoo couldn't tell whatever to make on it. . . .  Did'n yo ever see a weshin'-machine, Nanny?"

    "Never i' my life," said Nanny.  "Nor aw dunnot want. Gi me a greight mug, an' some breawn swoap, an' plenty o' soft wayter, an' yo may tak your machines for me."

    "Well," continued Skedlock, "it's moor liker a grindlestone nor a organ.  But, as I were tellin' yo —

    "Betty stare't at this thing, an' hoo walked round it, an' scrat her yed, mony a time, afore hoo venture's to speak.  At last hoo said, 'Aw'll tell tho what, Robert; it's a quare-shaped 'un.  It favvurs a yung mangle!  Doesto think it'll be reet?'  'Reet?' said Robin, swipin' his ale off; 'oh, aye; it's reet enough.  It's one of a new pattern 'at's just com'd up.  It's o' reet, Betty.  You may see that birth hondle.'  'Well,' said Betty, 'if it's reet, it's reet.  But it's noan sich a nice-lookin' thing for a church, that isn't!'  Th' little lass wur i'th parlour at th' same time, an' hoo said, 'Yes.  See yo, mother.  I'm sure it's right.  You must turn this here handle, an' then it'll play.  I seed a man playin' one yesterday, an' he had a monkey with him dressed like a soldier.'  'Keep thy little rootin' fingers off that organ,' said Betty.  'Theaw knows nought about music.  That organ musn't be touched till thi father comes whoam — mind that, neaw. . . . But, sartinly,' said Betty, takin' the candle up again, 'I cannot help lookin' at this thing.  It's sich a quare un.  It looks like summat belongin' — maut-grindin, or summate o' that.'  'Well,' said Robin, 'It has a bit o' that abeawt it, sartinly. . . . But yon find it's o' reet.  They're awterin' o' their organs to this pattern, neaw.  I believe they're for sellin' th' organ at Manchester owd church, so as they can ha' one like this.'  'Thous never says?' said Betty.  'Yigh,' said Robin, 'it's true what I'm telling yo.  But aw mun be off, Betty.  Aw've to go to th' Hollins to-neet yet.'  'Why, arto takkin' thame summit?'  'Aye; some mak o' a new fangle't machine for weshin' shirts and things.'  'Nay, sure!' said Betty.  'Aw'll tell tho what, Robert; they're goin' on at a great rate up at that shop.'  'Aye, aye,' said Robin.  'Mon, there's no end to some folk's pride till they come'n to th' floor; an' then there isn't, sometimes.'  'There isn't, Robert; there isn't.  An' I'll tell tho what; thoose lasses o' theirs — they're as proud as Lucifer.  They're donned more like mountebanks' foos nor gradely folk — wi' their fither't hats, an' their fleawnces, an' their hoops, an' things.  Aw wonder how they can for shame o' their face.  A lot o' mee-mawing snickets!  But they're no better nor porritch, Robert, when they're looked up.'  'Not a bit, Betty — not a bit!  But I mun be off.  Good neet to yo!'  'Good neet, Robert,' said Betty.  An' away he went wi' th' cart up to th' Hollins."

    "Aw'l tell tho what, Skedlock," said Nancy; "that woman's a terrible tung!"

    "Aye, hoo has," replied Skedlock; "an' her mother wur th' same.  But, let me finish my tale, Nanny, an' then" —

    "Well, it wur pitch dark when Robin geet to th' Hollins farm-yard wi' his cart.  He gave a ran-tan at th' back dur, wi' his whip-hondle; and when th' little lass coom with a candle, he said, 'Aw've getten a weshin'-machine for yo'.  As soon as th' little lass yerd that, hoo darted off, tellin' o' th' house that the new weshi-machine wur come'd.  Well, yo known, they'n five daughters; an' very cliver, honsome, tidy lasses they are, too, — as what owd Betty says.  An' this news brought 'em o' out o' their nooks in a fluster.  Owd Isaac wur sit o'th' parlour, havin' a glass wi' a chap that he'd bin sellin' a cowt to.  Th' little lass went bouncin' into th' reawm to him; an' hoo sed, 'Eh, father, th' new weshin'-machine come'd!'  'Well, well,' said Isaac, pattin' her o'th' yed; 'go thi ways an' tell thi mother.  Aw'm no wesher.  Thae never sees me weshin', doesto?  I bought it for yo lasses; an' yo mun look after it yorsels.  Tell some o'th' men to get it into th' wesh-house.'  So they had it carried into th' wesh-house; an' when they geet it unpacked they were quite astonished to see a grand shinin' thing, made o' rose-wood, an' cover't wi' glitterin' kerly-berlys.  Th' little lass clapped her hands, an' said, 'Eh, isn't it a beauty?'  But th' owd'st daughter looked hard at it, an' hoo said, 'Well, this is th' strangest washin'-machine that I ever saw!' 'Fetch a bucket o' water,' said another, 'an' let's try it!'  But they couldn't get it oppen, whatever they did; till, at last, they found some keighs, lapt in a piece o' breawn paper.  'Here they are,' said Mary.  Mary's the owd'st daughter, yo known.  'Here they are;' an' hoo potter't an' rooted abeawt, tryin' these keighs, till hoo fund one that fitted at th' side, an' hoo twirled it round an' round till hoo'd wund it up; and then yo may guess how capt they wur, when it started a-playin' a tune.  'Hello!' said Robin.  'A psaum-tune, bith mass!  A psaum-tune eawt ov a weshin'-machine!  Heawe's that?'  An' he star't like a throttled cat.  'Nay,' said Mary, 'I cannot tell what to make o' this!'  Th' owd woman wur theer, an' hoo said, 'Mary, Mary, my lass, thou's gone an' spoilt it — the very first thing, theaw has.  Theaw's bin tryin' th' wrong keigh, mon; thou has, for sure.  Try another keigh.  Turn th' weshin' on, an' stop that din, do.'

    Then Mary turned to Robin, an' hoo said, 'Whatever sort of a machine's this, Robin?'  'Nay,' said Robin, 'I dunnot know, beawt it's one o' thoose at's bin made for weshin' surplices.'  But Robin begun a-smellin' a rat; an', as he didn't want to ha' to tak it back th' same neet, he pike't off out at th' dur, while they were hearkenin' th' music; an' he drove whoam as fast as he could goo.  In a minute or two th' little lass went dancin' into the parlour to Owd Isaac again, an' hoo cried out, 'Father, you must come here this minute! the weshin'-machine's playin' th' Old Hundred!'  'It's what?' cried Isaac, layin' his pipe down.  'It's playin' th' Old Hundred!  It is, for sure!  Oh, it's beautiful!  Come on!'  An' hoo tugged at his lap to get him into th' weshhouse.  Then the owd woman coom in, and hoo said, 'Isaacs, whatever i' the name o' fortin' hasto bin blunderin' and doin' again?  Come thi ways an' look at this machine thae's bought us.  It caps me if yon yowling divvle 'll do ony weshin'.  Thae surely doesn't want to ha' thi shirt set to music, doesto?  Thou'll ha' thi breeches agate o' singin' next.  We'n noise enough i' this hole beawt yon startin' a skrikin'.  Thae 'll ha' th' house full o' fiddlers an' doancers in a bit.'  'Well, well,' said Isaac, aw never yerd sich a tale i' my life.  Yo'n bother't me a good while about a piano but if we'n getten a weshin'-machine that plays church music, we're set up, wi' a rattle!  But aw'll come an' look at it.'  An' away he went to the wesh-house, wi' the little lass pooin' at him, like a kitlin' drawin' a stone-cart.  Th' owd woman followed him, grumblin' o' th' road, — 'Isaac, this is what comes on tho stoppin' so lat' i'th' town of a neet.  There's al'ays some blunderment or another.  Aw lippen on tho happenin' a sayrious mischance, some o' these neets.  I towd tho mony a time.  But thae taks no moor notice o' me nor if aw're a milestone, or a turmit, or summate.  A mon o' thy years should have a bit o' sense.'  'Well, well,' said Isaac, hobblin' off, 'do howd thi din, lass!  I'll go an' see what ails it.  There's olez summat to keep one's spirit's up, as Ab o' Slender's said when he broke his leg.'  But as soon as Isaac see'd th' weshin'-machine, he brast eawt a-laughin', an' he sed: 'Hello! Why, this is th' church organ!  Who's brought it?'  'Robin o' Sceawter's.'  'It's just like him.  Where's th' maunderin' foo gone to?'  'He's off whoam.'  'Well,' said Isaac, let it stop where it is.  There 'll be somebody after this i'th mornin'.'  An' they had some rare fun th' next day, afore they geet these things swapt to their gradely places.  However, th' last thing o' Saturday neet th' weshin'-machine wur brought up fro th' clerk's, an' the organ wur takken to the chapel."

    "Well, well," said the old woman; "they geet 'em reet at the end of o', then?"

    "Aye," said Skedlock; "but aw're not quite done yet, Nanny."

    "What, were'n they noan gradely sorted, then, after o?"

    "Well," said Skedlock, "I'll tell yo."

    "As I've yerd th' tale, this new organ wur tried for th' first time at mornin' sarvice, th' next day.  Dick-o'-Liddy's, th' bass singer, wur pike'd eawt to look after it, as he wur an' owd hond at music; an' the parson would ha' gan him a bit of a lesson, th' neet before, how to manage it, like.  But Dick reckon't that nobody'd no 'casion to larn him nought belungin' sich like things as thoose.  It wur a bonny come-off if a chap that had been a noted bass singer five-and-forty year, an' could tutor a claronet wi' ony mon i' Rossenda Forest, couldn't manage a box-organ, — beawt bein' teyched wi' a parson.  So they gav him th' keys, and leet him have his own road.  Well, o' Sunday forenoon, as soon as th' first hymn wur gan out, Dick whisper't round to th' folk i'th singin'-pew, 'Now for't!  Mind yor hits!  Aw'm beawn to set it agate!'   An' then he went, an' wun the organ up, an' it started a-playin' 'French;' an' th' singers followed, as weel as they could, in a slattery sort of a way.  But some on 'em didn't like it.  They reckon't that they made nought o' singin' to machinery.  Well, when th' hymn' wur done, th' parson said, 'Let us pray'; an' down they went o' their knees.  But just as folk wur gettin' their een nicely shut, an' their faces weel hud i' their hats, th' organ banged off again wi' the same tune.  'Hello!' said Dick, jumpin' up, 'th' divvle's off again, bith mass!'  Then he darted at the organ; an' he rooted about wi' th' keys, tryin' to stop it.  But th' owd lad wur i' sich a fluster, that istid o' stoppin' it, he swapped th' barrel to another tune.

 


    "That made him warse nor ever.  Owd Thwittler whisper'd to him, 'Thire, Dick; thae's shapt that nicely!  Give it another twirl, owd brid!'  Well, Dick sweat, an' futter't about till he swapped th' barrel again.  An' then he looked round th' singin'-pew, as helpless as a kitlin'; an' he said to th' singers, 'Whatever mun aw do, folk?' an' tears coom into his een.  'Roll it o'er,' said Thwittler.  'Come here, then,' said Dick.  So they roll't it o'er, as if they wanted to teem th' music out on it, like ale out of a pitcher.  But the organ yowlt on; and Dick went wur an' wur.  'Come here, yo singers,' said Dick, come here; let's sit us down on't!  Here, Sarah; come, thee; thou'rt a fat un!'  An' they sit 'em down on it; but o' wur no use.  Th' organ wur reet ony end up; an' they couldn't smoor th' sound.  At last Dick gav in; an' he leant o'er th' front o' th' singin'-pew, wi' th' sweat runnin' down his face; an' he sheawted across to th' parson, 'Aw cannot stop it!  I wish yo'd send somebry up.'

    "Just then owd Pudge, th' bang-beggar, coom runnin' into th' pew, an' he fot Dick a souse at back o' th' yed wi' his pow; an' he said, 'Come here, Dick; thou'rt a foo.  Tak howd; an-let's carry it eawt.'  Dick whisked round an' rubbed his yed, an' he said, 'Aw say, Pudge, keep that pow to thisel', or else I'll send my shoon against thoose ribbed stockin's o' thine.'  But he went an' geet howd, an' him an' Pudge carried it into th' chapel-yard, to play itsel' out i' th' open air.  An' it yowls o' th' way as they went, like a naughty lad bein' turn't out of a reawm for cryin'. Th' parson waited till it wur gone; an' then he went on wi' th' sarvice.  When they set th' organ down i'th chapel-yard, owd Pudge wiped his for-yed, an' he said, 'By th' mass, Dick, thae'll get the bag for this job.'  'Why, what for?' said Dick.  'Aw've no skill of sich like squallin'-boxes as this.  If they'd taen my advice, an' stick't to th' bass fiddle, aw could ha' stopt that ony minute.  It has made me puff carryin' that thing.  I never once thought that it'd start again after th' hymn wur done.  Eh, I wur some mad!  If aw'd had a shool-full o' smo' coals i' my hond, aw'd ha' chuck't 'em into't. . . . Yer tho', how it's grindin' away just th' same as nought wur.  Ay, thae may weel play th' Owd Hundred, divvleskin!  Thae's made a funeral o' me this mornin'! . . . But, aw say, Pudge, th' next time at there's aught o' this sort agate again, aw wish thee'd be as good as keep that pow o' again thine to thysel', wilco?  Thae's raise't a knob at th' back o' my yed th' size of a duck-egg; an' it'll be twice as big bi mornin'.  How would yo like me to slap tho o' th' chops wi' a stockin'-full o' slutch, some Sunday, when thae'rt swaggerin' i'th' front o'th' parson?'"

 


    "While they stood talkin' this way, one o'th singers coom runnin' out o' th' chapel bare yed, an' he shouted out, 'Dick, thae'rt wanted, this minute!  Where's that pitch-pipe?  We'n gated wrang twice o' ready!  Come in, wi thou!'  'By th' mass,' said Dick, dartin' back; 'I'd forgetten o' about it.  I's never see through this job to mi deein' day.'  An' off he ran, an' laft owd Pudge sit upo' th' organ grinnin' at him. . . . That's a nice do isn't it, Nanny?"

    "Eh," said the old woman, "I never yerd sich a tale i' my life.  But thae's made part o' that out o' thi own yed, Skedlock."

    "Not a word," said he; "not a word.  Yo han it as I had it, Nanny; as near as I can tell."

    "Well," replied she, "how did they go on at after that?"

    "Well," said he, "I haven't time to stop to-neet, Nanny; I'll tell yo some time else; I thought Jone would ha' bin here by now.  He mun ha' code at 'Th' Rompin Kitlin'; but, I'll look in as I go by.'"

    "I wish thou would, Skedlock.  An' dunnot go an' keep him, now; send him forrad whoam."

    "I will, Nanny — I dunnot want to stop, mysel'.  Con yo lend me a lantron?"

    "Sure I can.  Jenny, bring that lantron; an' leet it.  It'll be two hours before th' moon rises.  It's a fine neet, but it's dark."

    When Jenny brought the lantern, I bade Nanny "Good night," and took advantage of Owd Skedlock's convoy down the broken paths, to the high road in the valley.  There we parted; and I had a fine starlight walk to "Th' Top o' th' Hough " on that breezy October night.

    After a quiet supper in "Owed Bob's" little parlour, I took a walk round about the quaint farmstead, and through the grove upon the brow of the hill.  The full moon had risen in the cloudless sky; and the view of the valley as I saw it from "Grant's Tower" that night, was a thing to be remembered for a man's lifetime.


――――♦――――

 
TOLD BY THE WINTER FIRE.


CHAPTER I.


Now all our neighbours' chimneys smoke,
    And Christmas logs are burning;
With baked meats all their ovens choke,
And every spit is turning.
Outside the door let sorrow lie
    And if for cold it chance to die,
We'll tomb it in a Christmas pie,
    And evermore be merry.

GEORGE WITHER.

 


By the crackling fire

We'll hold our little, snug, domestic court.

SHAKESPEARE.


HIGH upon the southern slope of Waddington Fell in the midst of a few green fields, an old country inn stands, with its gable-end close to the roadside, and the heathery moors rising wild behind it.  Its comfortable shelter was well known to all who travelled across those storm-swept heights; and when the shades of night had folded up the wide landscape, its cheerful light gleamed like a star upon the dark breast of the moorland hill, far down into the vale, whilst an inviting ray from the little window at the end of the building threw a beam of bright welcome across the lonely road to every passer-by.  The front of the house looked down upon one of the finest expanses in all the famous valley of the Ribble — a region of clear rivers and pure air, remarkable for the natural beauty of its scenery; abounding in historic memorials of the olden time, and in sweet pictures of rural life. . . .

    At the foot of the fell, where the bleak but beautiful heather-land dies away into rich meadows and pastures green, the blue smoke curls up from the chimneys of the hamlet of Waddington, the old town of Wada, a famous chieftain of Saxon times, whose stronghold in those rude days occupied a remarkable conical eminence still called "Waddow," about a mile south of the hamlet, and hard by the banks of the Ribble.  Waddington is still a quaint, quiet, sweet-looking, rustic village, through the heart of which a limpid stream comes wimpling down from the moors.  It still retains many features of bygone days.  Its ancient church is an object of interest to the antiquary; and close by the little stream — which trails its pleasant undersong through the quiet air of the village, by night and day — stands Waddington Old Hall, the last shelter of Henry the Sixth, after lurking, from place to place, for years amongst these northern wilds.  It was from this ancient manor-house that he fled at last, and was pursued and overtaken by Talbot, of Bashall, and his men, whilst crossing the river at Brunkerley hipping-stones, about a mile south of the village.  This sealed the fate of that feeble and unfortunate monarch; for he was conveyed thence, a prisoner, to London, where he fell into the hands of his enemies. . . .

    Looking still from the front of the old inn, upon the fellside, into the beautiful valley which spreads far and wide at its foot, the sweet old town of Clitheroe stands upon a gently rising ground, about three miles to the south, with the ruined Norman castle of the Lacys — lords of the Honor of Clitheroe  — upon a bold rock over-frowning the market-place.  Beyond that, the scene is bounded, on the south, by the grand ridge of Pendle, stretching five miles, from the "big end" of the hill, near the pretty village of Downham; on the east, to the wooded slopes; on the west, where the hill declines into green holms, and rich meadows, amongst which the ancient hamlet of Whalley, and its ruined abbey, rest by the side of the river Calder.  Altogether, the landscape seen from the front of the old inn — which is the scene of our story — is a glorious sight.  In the Saxon period of our history, this beautiful valley is said to have been one of the most remarkable battle-grounds in all the north, between conflicting Saxon chiefs, and between the Saxon and the Dane.  The landscape has certainly been wilder, and more thickly wooded, then; but grim old Pendle — the heather-crested monarch of the scene — stands there yet, in silent and solitary pride, untouched by change, through all the lapse of centuries; and the whole country, as seen from the wild side of Waddington Fell, must retain much of the same general aspect that it had a thousand years ago; for,


Though much the centuries take, and much bestow,
Most, through them all, immutable remains,
Beauty, whose world-wide empire never wanes,—
Sole permanence in being's ceaseless flow.


    It was Christmas Eve; and every lonely homestead upon the wild moors was touched with the cheerful temper of that blessed festival which warms the heart of man with the kindliest remembrances of all the year.  During many days past the weather had been keen and clear, delighting every eye, and rejoicing the hearts of the young and strong with its bracing beauty — for old winter was wearing its brightest robe, and hill and dale, and "every common sight," in all the wide landscape was lovely to the view.  The heathery slope of Waddington Fell was white all over with a shining robe of seed pearls; and every leafless tree, and rough thorn hedge — every little winter-nipped bush, and fern-clad wayside well, was festooned with fairy frost-work, which twinkled in the sun.  Even the rude-built walls and fences, the lonely "rubbing stoops," in the midst of the frozen fields, and the farm gear about the yard of the old inn, were all decked in the glittering enchantment of cunning nature's happiest wintry mood.  The rugged rut-worn moorland roads were hard as iron; and the crisp snow by the roadside crackled under the traveller's foot.  As twilight deepened down, and the distant landscape began to fade from view, the blue smoke curled up thicker than usual from the chimneys of the old house, into the pure mountain air, for the landlord and his wife were preparing for a jovial night for their own little family, and for any stray travellers who might chance to cross the fell that night, from the Trough of Bolland into Ribblesdale, after the sun had gone down.  The ordinary business of the solitary household was all arranged for the night.  The horses in the stable had been fed and foddered down; the two cows had been milked;


The sheep were in the fold,
    And the cattle were in shed;


    Little Liddy, the housemaid, had finished her work in the dairy, and was in her chamber trimming herself up, after the ruder labours of the day; "Amos o' Lumpyed's," the hostler, and general servant-man upon the farm connected with the inn, had gone down to Clitheroe on an errand; and old George, the landlord, — known all over the Forest of Bolland by the name of "Judd o' Sheep Jamie's" — old George and his wife, Betty, had the lower part of the house all to themselves; for, in those days, that wild fell was not much travelled, and there had not been a customer in the place since two hours before the sun went down.  But it was Christmas Eve; and the hearty old couple knew it was a time not unlikely to bring strange visitors over from Newton-in-the-Forest, on their way to Clitheroe, after nightfall.

    Day was declining; but the candles were not yet lighted for old George and his wife felt an unconscious delight in the mystic charm of the lingering twilight hour, which filled the sweet old house with such a dreamy beauty, at the close of a fine day.  The kitchen looked more bright and cheerful even than usual.  Everything in the place had a holiday appearance, for the landlady had decorated its walls with evergreens, amongst which the traditional mistletoe-bush, hanging from the low ceiling, amongst hams and flitches of bacon, and great branches of red-berried holly, here and-there, twinkled conspicuously in the firelight.  The fire was piled up high in the wide chimney, and its rosy glow lit up the whole room, in which everything, great and small, was radiant with the beauty of perfect cleanliness and order.  The round-topped table was covered with a snow-white cloth, upon which tea-things were laid for the landlord and his wife, and Liddy, the servant-girl.  The great kettle hung upon its usual hook, above the glowing grate; and a quaint tea-pot, which rarely made its appearance, stood upon the hob.  Betty had brought her best old china out, too, for the occasion; and, in addition to the usual simple fare of home-baked bread and sweet mountain butter, of her own making, with a dish of fried eggs and bacon, several dainties of the season, amongst which were spice cakes, and cheese, and mince pies, occupied the board; and upon the great oak dresser, under the window, a cold chine of beef stood ready for all comers.  It was a pleasant sight; and the good old couple looked around with quiet delight, as they went to and fro.  Everything seemed to wink and chuckle with glee; and the antique eight-day clock, in the corner, ticked more blithely than usual as the ruddy firelight played upon its polished mahogany case, across the white-scoured floor of the kitchen.

    The landlord had sat down in his arm-chair by the fire, and was enjoying the luxury of a quiet smoke, whilst looking contentedly around.

    "Come, George," said the landlady, drawing her chair up to the table, "come an' get thi baggin'!"

    The old man laid down his pipe, and rising slowly from his seat, till his tall figure seemed almost to touch the low ceiling of the kitchen, he yawned, and said, "Well, I'm willin', lass; but afore I begin, I think I'll stretch my legs a minute or two."  Then, with a slow and heavy footstep, he sauntered out at the doorway, to look at the night.

    By this time the full moon was up and it was as light as day.  The frost-pearled moorside was one glittering expanse of silvery brilliants, under the soft radiance of the queen of night; and the clear blue sky was thickly "fretted with golden fires."  The cold seemed to strengthen as the night came on, and the snow, which had lain freezing for many a day, was now so hard that the foot left no mark upon its surface.

    "Betty, lass," said the old man, calling to his wife, "come here a minute!  I never seed a finer neet i' my life!  This is gooin' to be one o'th' grand owd-fashioned wintry Kesmasses — with a bit o' howsome (wholesome) nip in it — sich as there use't to be when I wur a lad!  Look here, mon!  It's full moon; an' it's as leet as noonday!  I could see to read th' almanac very near!  An' th' stars are as thick i'th' sky as a swarm o' gowden midges!"

    The old woman came to the doorway, and looked out.

    "Ay," said she, gazing round upon the bright scene, "it is a bonny neet, for sure!  But come thi ways in; thou's no hat on, an' thou'll get coud, i' tho stops theer much lunger!  Come thi ways in, an' let's get er baggins!"

    The old man came slowly back into the house, muttering that a bit o' frost would do nobody no harm.

    "Come, Liddy," said the old woman, shouting upstairs to the servant-girl, "whatever arto doin' so long up theer?  Come thi ways down!  Th' baggin's ready!"

    The girl — a rosy little rustic Hebe — came downstairs, looking sweet and tidy, from top to toe, and the three sat down to the table together.


 
CHAPTER II.


Some say, that ever against that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirits can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, no witch hath power to charm;
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

SHAKESPEARE.

 


'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.

SIR WALTER SCOTT.


"NOW then,'' said the landlady, beginning to fill the cups, "let's fo' to.  It looks as if we wur gooin' to ha' th' house to ersels — Christmas Eve as it is — so we may as weel try to make th' best on't.  Now, Liddy, lass; reitch to — an' don't be shy.  Here, George; thou'll sweeten for thisel.'  I lippen't o' some of our Jonathan's childer cumin' up, fro' Waddin'ton, — an' to tell th' truth, I feel raither disappointed."

    "Thou doesn't need," said the old man.  "It's Christmas Eve, — as thou says, — an' folk are o getherin' round their own hearthstones, — among theirsels."

    "Well; an' aren't they our own gront-childer?  George, thou talks silly."

    "Never mind, lass.  They known th' gate, — if they wanten to come.  But, give 'em time, mon — give 'em time. . . . Now, when I wur a lad, my faither wouldn't ha' had one on us away fro' whoam at Christmas time, upo' no 'count.  We were a great family, — an' a bit scatter't, — mony a mile asunder, — but he said that he like't to gether o his flock together into th' owd fowd, upo' Longridge Fell, every Yule-time, so that he could reckon 'em up, an' see their faces once more, bi th' feet of a roarin' winter fire.  He said it did him good; an' it did, too.  As for my mother, — I don't think hoo could ha' poo'd through th' winter if hoo hadn't sin her childer, an' her childer's childer about her, — fro' o sides, — owd an' yung, — an' there wur a grand swarm on us, — little an' big, — when we wur o together; for two o'th' lads an' three o' my sisters were wed, an' they brought th' yung uns wi' 'em.  I can remember us musterin' thirty i'th' owd kitchen, the very Christmas afore my mother deed; an' a heartier family I never clapt een on, — for there weren't one on 'em that wur oather sick, or soory, or sore — an' that's sayin' a good deeol, i' sich a world as this is."

    "Well, George," replied she, "I think that we'n a reet to expect our own childer to come an' see us i'th' same way.  They'd never missed yet; an' it looks very strange.  They're o' that we han left; an' I shan't feel reet if they don't come."

    "Don't fret thisel to soon, lass.  There's time enough.  What, th' eawl-leet's noan o'er yet.  Make thisel comfortable.  Thou'll see this kitchen turn't th' wrang side up afore th' neet's o'er.  I shouldn't wonder if they aren't comin' gigglin' up th' fellside this very minute, as merry as ingle-crickets."

    "Well," said the old woman, wiping her eyes, "we's see. . . . I could like to yer their feet."

    "Nay, nay, lass," said he, "don't goo an' fret thisel about nought.  Thou'll have 'em among these mince-pies afore aught's lung.  I'll be bound that th' childer are as anxious to come up as thou art for 'em to come.  Dry thi een, lass, do! . . . Here, afore I begin o' mi baggin' I'll put some moore dry eldin' upo' that fire.  We'n make a shine i'th' hole, whether onybody comes or not."

    And the stalwart old fell-ranger — for in his younger days he had been by turns a shepherd and a gamekeeper — rose from the table and fetched a great tree-root from the outhouse, which he planted fairly upon the glowing fire.  The well-dried log ignited at once, and the flame went roaring up the wide chimney, filling the kitchen with a ruddier light even than before.

    "Theer," said he, "that looks like Kesmass, doesn't it?  We's need no candles for a bit.  That'll make this house shine down th' dark moorside like a great lantron!  I'll be bund little Nelly's clappin' her honds just this minute, an' sayin', 'Look yon!  I can see my gronny's window!  Hello, Liddy; who's left this spade o'th' nook here?"

    The girl rose from her seat at the table.

    "It's Amos," said she.  "He left it when he coom in to his baggin', afore he set off to Clithero."

    "Well, tak it into th' shippon.  It's no business here.  Let's ha' th' house as tidy as we con, as it's Kesmass Eve."

    The girl went out with the spade, and the old man sat down again to his evening meal.

    "I'll tell tho what, George," said the landlady, as she filled his cup, "yon lad's raither of a careless turn.  How does thou get on wi' him?"

    "Well," replied he, "Owd Bill wur worth a dozen on him!  Poor owd Bill — he wur a great loss.  I miss him as if he'd bin my own brother — he'd bin wi' us so lung."

    "Well," said the landlady, "we han th' satisfaction o' knowin' that we made him as comfortable as we could as long as he wur bedridden."

    "Aye," said he, "it's an ill thing to have to look back — when folk are laid by for ever — an' remember that yo didn't do as yo should to 'em while they wur alive."

    "It is," said she, "it is. . . . But we ha' not that on er minds, George — as how 'tis."

    "Nawe, we ha'not, lass," replied he. . . . . As for this new lad — this Amos — he's nobbut a shiftless, shammockin' sort of a craiter, as far as he's gone.  He's sin nought — an' he knows nought — an' he'll not do so mich, if he can help it.  I doubt th' lad's had an ill bringin'-up, an' he's some idle bwons in his pelt.  He's a lither lump o' stuff-except at eatin' an' drinkin.'  At dinner-time, he'll count four; but, when it comes to a bit o' solid work, he isn't aboon th' hauve of a gradely chap.  But he'll happen mend — we's see in a bit."

    "I wonder what's keepin' him i' Clithero till now?"

    "Bother thi yed noan about th' lad.  He'll turn up of hissel.  I dare say he's let (alighted upon, met with) o' some of his owd cronies.  Thou knows it's holiday time, an' yung cowts are jumpin' th' fences a bit; an' one connot expect th' lad to keep his feet just th' same as if it wur a common wortchin'-day.  I guess he'll ha' bits o' runs of his own — th' same as other yung craiters an' he may run a bit, as far as I am concarn't."

    "He should be in afore bedtime."

    "What does it matter?  We're noon boun to bed yet.  Never mind th' lad.  If he comes, he comes; an' if he doesn't it'll make little odds, for there's nought mich for him to do to-morn."

    "Wilto have another cup?"

    "Nawe, I've done very weel.  Poo up to th' hob, an' let's make ersels comfortable.  Liddy 'ill side these things."

    He then rose from the table, and taking the arm-chair in the corner, he lit his pipe; and, for the next hour or two, the time glided by in quiet chat with his wife, who sat rocking herself on the opposite side of the fire, the kind old man trying, all the while, to divert the mind of his good dame from the unusual solitude of their hearth on Christmas Eve.

    Whilst they were thus conversing together, a loud sough of wind went moaning round their solitary dwelling, and the doors of the outhouses began to rattle.

    "Hollo," said the old man, "th' wind's risin'!  What's comin' now?" and looking up at the window he saw that the sky had become overcast.  Then, rising from his chair, he went to the door, and found that a sudden change had come over the scene.  The wind swept fiercely in at the open doorway.  The moon had disappeared, and the sky, lately so bright and clear, was now one wild scene of commotion.  Dark clouds were flying across the heavens, and wild-driving mist and sleet filled all the air.  Not a star was now in sight.  Every moment the air grew thicker; the wind grew wilder; and the flying sleet began to be mingled with thick flakes of snow.

    "What a change!" said the old man, closing the door.  We're gooin' to have a snowstorm; an' not a little 'un, noather.  We don't need to expect onybody up fro' Clithero to-neet now, if this howds out. . . . Liddy, goo an' put a leet i' yon end window that looks upo' th' roadside, so that onybody may see it that happens to come o'er th' top o'th' fell."


 
CHAPTER III.


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

SHAKESPEARE.


Then came the merry maskers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.

SCOTT.


THE storm grew wilder, and the snow fell faster every minute.  The air was thick with flying flakes, and the whole landscape was, now, one ghastly sheet of white.  As the snow increased, the wind sank down to a steady, sullen moan, as if overladen, and the usual stillness of the moorland solitude deepened to a death-like hush, which added to the appalling aspect of the scene.

    A light, planted in the little window at the gable-end of the house, now threw a cheerful ray across the lonely road which led down the fell-side.  The doors and shutters were all fastened.  The old landlady and the little household settled down, in full expectation of passing this Christmas Eve in quiet seclusion amongst themselves; and another hour had glided by, during which the snow came down faster and thicker, when somebody lifted the latch, which was followed by a loud knock at the door, and voices heard in conversation outside.

    "There's somebody here at last," said the old man, going to the door just as the knock was repeated louder than before.  "Who's theer?" cried he, before drawing the bolt of the door.

    "There's three on us," replied a merry voice in the storm outside; "there's me, an' Jack o'th' Tinker's, an' Alick o' Cauve-lickt Antony's.  We'n com'd o'er th' top, by Wallapa Well, out o' Newton-i'-Bollan'.  Oppen th' dur.  We connot get no fur (further)."

    The landlord threw the door open at once, and in rushed the three travellers, muffled to the chin, and all white with snow.

    "Lads," said he, glancing at the wintry storm before he closed the door again, "yo'n brought a wild neet wi' yo'!"

    "Nay," replied the spokesman of the three, looking round the kitchen, as he shook the snow from his clothing, we'n left it beheend us, — an' between yo' an' me, maister, I'm fain to get under cover, — for we're just about done up.  Con we stop o' neet?"

    "Yo' may, if yo'n a mind — an' welcome!" said the old landlord.

    "That's th' mak! (make, sort.)"

    "Here," said the landlady, setting three chairs around the hearth, "draw up, an' warm yo'; for yo' mun have had a terrible trawnce o'er th' fell i' this storm."

    "Thank yo', mistress," replied the rattle-pate who had first spoken, "I like th' look o' this side o' th' house, I con tell yo'!  An' it's a good job we geet in, too, — for Alick here's noan weel."

    "What's th' matter?"

    "He's a terrible pain in his inside."

    "Eh dear!  Does he tak' nought for it?"

    "Yigh, — three or four times a day, — an' sometimes moor."

    "Some mak' o' bottle, I guess?"

    "Nay; it's mostly pills."

    "What mak' o' pills?"

    "They're for th' stomach."

    "Oh! that's wheer it tak's him, is it?"

    "Aye, aye," said the landlord, laughing; "I'm a bit trouble't wi' th' same complaint mysel'.  But yo'n com'd to th' reet shop for bein' cure't this time.  We're seldom short o' hunger physic i' this house, thank God! . . . Liddy, set th' cowd beef upo' th' table, an' let these lads thwite (to cut with a thwittle) at it a bit."

    The table was quickly spread with substantial Christmas fare, and the hungry travellers sat down.  For about half-an-hour every man of the three "played a good stick," as the old saying goes, chatting blithely together all the while; and when they had eaten their fill they rose and took their seats around the hearth again, in merry mood.  They had hardly got well settled before a whining and scratching was heard at the door.

    "Hello, Alick," said Billy o' Mall's o' Jumper's, the "ready-mouth" of the party, "thou's laft thi dog out!  Oppen th' dur!"

    Little Liddy opened the door, and in rushed the dog, whisking the snow from his hide all over the floor.

    "I'll tell tho what, Alick," said Billy, "that dog o' thine's a quare-lookin' craiter.  What breed dosto co' it?"

    "Nay, thou fastens me now," replied Alick.  "It's a mixtur o' maks (kinds).  Sometimes I think it's a tarrier, an' sometimes I think it'll turn out a foomart-dog; but th' yure's to short.  It's a bit o' bull about th' nose; but it looks as if it had bin clemmed at t'other end, for th' hinder-quarter's nipt in like a greyhount whelp.  I doubt it's had moore faithers than one. But I like th' dog, for o that it's sich a feaw un.  It's good to nought mich but for a bit o' company.  It followed me whoam fro' th' fair about a month sin', an' I didn't like to send it away in th' wide world, to be starve't, an' punce't, an knocked about fro' window to wole."

    "Well, you're a good pair, Alick," said Billy, "an', as far as I'm concarn't, I'se be sorry if ever you're parted. . .  But it reminds me," continued he, "of a dog that I bought one Whit-Monday.  When I took it whoam my wife stare't at this thing a bit; an' at last hoo said, 'Now, then, what hasto getten this time?'  'Well,' I said, 'it pretends to be a dog.'  'A dog, eh?' said hoo.  'I shouldn't ha' thought it; for it's feaw enough for a corn-boggart.  What, thou'll turn this house into a gradely menagerie soon, what wi' th' hens, an' th' pigeons, an' th' poll-parrot, an' two canaries.  Thou'rt nought short but a camel, an' two or three monkeys, an' thou't be set up for life.  But I'm noan boun to ha' that thing i' this house, I can tell thou.'  An' I said hoo should, an' hoo said hoo wouldn't; an' we fell out abeawt it.  But while we wur at it ding-dong, th' cat coom in an' settle't o disputes wi' a rattle.  Th' cat had just kettle't that mornin', an' as soon as it seed th' dog it flew at it, an' for a minute or two I couldn't tell which wur which, they wur so mixt up together.  An' they whuzzed round like a fizz-gig.

    First I geet a wap o'th' dog, then I seed a bit o'th' cat; but I couldn't sort em at o; an' between yeawlin', an' scrattin', an' spittin', an' squeakin', they kickt up such a din that it made mi yure stone o' one end.  At last th' cat jumped onto th' table, wheer th' dinner wur set out, an' th' dog jumped after it.  Then they set th' pots agate o' flyin'; an amung th' rest, a dishful o' bacon collops went to th' floor.  Our Sall flew at 'em wi' a quart pot in her hond; but, as hoo wur gooin', hoo happen't to set her foot onto a bacon collop, an' away hoo went across the floor in a great slur (slide), wi' her legs a yard asunder, an' hoo never stops till hoo coom bang again th' edge o'th' clock wi' her nose, an' down hoo went, back'ards, upo' th' floor, wi her nose bleedin'.  'Oh, I'm kilt,' cried Sall, 'I'm kilt!' an' I went to help her; but, just as I wur bendin' down, hoo up wi' her foot and took me bang between th' een, wi' sich a welt that sparks flew i' o' directions; an' down I went staggerin', th' hinder-end first, into a mugful o' dough, that stood at th' end o' th' dresser — and there I stuck fast.  By this time hoo'd getten to her feet; and while I wur busy, tryin' to wriggle mysel' out o' th' mug, hoo flung an' owd birdcage at mi yed, that wur stonnin o'th' nook — an' that wur followed wi' a mugful o' starch that coom flusk into my face, an' filled my mouth an' een, till I wur as blint as a bat.

    I don't know what hoo sent th' next, but I kept feeling one cloat after another, as thick as leet, an' when I coom to reckon mysel' up, I found that I'd a pair o' prime black een, an' a cut o' mi foryed, an' four or five fresh lumps o' my yed — for hoo had me fast, an' hoo kept hommerin' at it like a nail-maker i' full wark. After I'd getten the starch out o' mi een, I wur a good bit afore I could rive mysel' out o' th' mug — an' then I fund that I'd as mich bakin'-stuff stickin' to th' thick end o' mi breeches as would ha' made a couple o' four-pond loaves.  While this wur agate, th' cat had run up to th' top o'th' eight-day clock, an' th' dog had gone yeawlin' out at th' dur, wi' a quart pot after it.  I know not where th' dog's londed, but it took off toward Yor'shire, an' I've never sin it fro' that day to this; an' I don't think I ever shall — as lung as our Sall's alive. . . . Well, when I'd poo'd mysel' out o'th mug, I fund our Sall rear't up again th' dresser, strokin' her nose, an' tryin' to get her breath; an' I believe, to th' best o' my remembrance, that I said some words that I never yeard in a chapel — but I'll not mention 'em again.  An' hoo left me nought short, for hoo towd me moore about my private character than ever I knew afore.  It made my yure stone up, I con tell yo.  But let that drop; for I don't like to think on't; an' I don't want it to goo ony fur. . . .

    Well, as I stoode o'th' middle o'th' floor, tryin' to poo this stuff off mi breeches, we looked at one another for a minute or two.  At last, I said to her, 'Now, then, owd lass; what does to think o' thisel'?  Thou'rt a bonny baigle (beagle, dog), for onybody to look at!'  'Ay; an' so art thou,' said Sall.  'Thou'd make a rare alehouse sign, if thi pictur' wur takken as thou stops!'  'Well,' I said, 'I should look a bit different, owd lass, for thou's takken some pains wi' this face o' mine this last twothre minutes.'  'Sarve tho reet, thou 'greight idle rack-an'-hook!' said Sall.  'Where's that pratty dog o' thine?  Thou'd better look after it!  It's a pity to lose sich a thing as yon.  It should ha' stopt, an' had a bit o' some'at to eat.  I doubt th' poor thing's noan satisfied wi' his maister.  Go thi ways, an' look for it, or else somebody'l bi steighlin it.  Poor thing!  Folk shouldn't be rough wi' things that connot speak for theirsels.'  'Never thee mind, owd lass,' I said; 'I'll ha' that dog back here if I'm a livin' mon — whether thou likes it or not.'  'I would, lad,' said Sall; 'an' bring a wild craiter or two, at th' same time; an' let's set up a show!'  'Nay,' I said, 'there needs no moore wild craiters where thou art.  An', as for a show, that nose o' thine would fotch brass just this minute, — if I had tho in a caravan.  But, I'll be gooin', — an' th' next time I come thou'll be fain to see me, — whether I've a dog or not.'  'Take thisel' out o' mi seet, — an' keep thi heels this road on!' cried Sall.  An' as I went out at th' dur-hole, a rollin'-pin flew close by my ear-hole, an' broke a weshin'-mug that stoode at tother side o'th' road. . . . I coom off, an' left her to it a bit.'

    Billy's dog story put all the company into a merry temper and the night wore on in cheery chat and story.  As it drew near midnight, the storm gradually abated, and the heavens grew bright again.

    "Now then," said the old landlord, looking up at the clock, "it'll be Christmas Day i' two minutes!  Fill up, lads!"

    The old clock in the corner struck twelve; and everybody listened to the last stroke.

    "Stop!" said the old man.  "Husht! . . . Ay, yon's Clithero Church bells!"

    The merry peal, mellowed by distance, came floating up the fellside, with the glad tidings of the happiest feast of all the year.

    "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!" cried old George, rising to his feet; and as the toast went blithely round the kitchen, a burst of music arose under the window.  It was the Christmas waits, who had wandered up from Clitheroe to salute old George and his wife.

    Sweetly into the wintry air arose Dr. Byrom's fine carol, "Christians, awake, salute the happy morn!" sung to the well-known, glad old tune, which was composed for it by Wainwright, the organist of Manchester Old Church.

    The landlord threw the door wide open, and cried, "A Merry Christmas to yo o'!  Come in, an' let's look at yo!  I'm fain to see yo, by th' mass!  Come in.  But who han we here?" said he, laying his hand upon the shoulder of a little figure, muffled in a red cloak.  The child threw its cloak off, and held up its laughing mouth to be kissed.

    "Eh, it's our Nelly!" cried the old landlady.  "Eh, my darlin', my darlin'!"

    "Yes," said the child, "an' my father's here; an' our George, an' our Mary; an' Kate an' Annie are comin' up, beside! "

    "Eh, my darlin's — my darlin's!" cried the kind old matron, bursting into tears of joy, as she clasped her children to her breast, again and again, one after another.

    And it was a blithe Christmas morning in that old house upon Waddington Fell Side.


――――♦――――

 
OWD CRONIES.
 


THE face of nature has been so much changed in Lancashire during the last eighty years that it is hard to conceive what the country was like three or four centuries ago.  Almost within the memory of living man, the rise of modern industrialism, and the combination upon the same spot of the elements essential to success in manufacturing enterprise — coal, stone, clay, iron, and water the great energy of the old inhabitants; the vast influx of population from other quarters, and the rapid growth of wealth and towns — these things altogether have overwhelmed the ancient features of the land like a sudden deluge; and now the county which, up to a century ago, had seen least of change, has, since that time, undergone greater alteration in its appearance and way of life than any other part of the kingdom.

    In ancient days, when men never dreamt of the slumbering wealth beneath the surface, its soil was reckoned among the poorest in England, and its people among the hardiest; its range of hills rolled across the country in stormy waves of lonely moorland; its cloughs were impassable swamps; its forests were wild hunting-grounds, kept for the pleasure of the king and the nobles of the land its roads were chiefly ancient bridle-paths; and upon its plains there were vast tracts of wild heath and spongy moss.  Sterile, remote, and unattractive, it held little communion with the rest of the kingdom, except when stirred by some great event which roused the whole land to war.  Then, indeed, the strong-bred bowmen and billmen of Lancashire mustered from their leafy nooks and followed the banners of their proud aristocracy to many a well-fought field, where their stern front and deadly shafts have spread dismay amongst the boldest foes.

    In those wild times Lancashire was famous over all England for its terrible bowmen.  In many of its ancient towns — as at Rochdale and Bury — there are places which, though now covered by modern streets, still bear the name of "The Butts," where the ancient population practised archery, then the warlike sport of the yeomanry of England.  Some parts of Lancashire cherish the old love of archery to this day: and on the south-eastern border of the county the legends of Robin Hood are still associated with the land.  Upon the wild western slope of Blackstone Edge an immense crag stands alone — the rugged monarch of the moorland — in the lowmost part of which there is a small cave, known all over the country side by the name of " Robin Hood's Bed," and upon the opposite hills there are great boulders, which he is said to have flung across the valley.

    Ancient Lancashire was a comparatively roadless wild; and its sparse population — scattered about in quaint hamlets and isolated farm-nooks — were a rough, bold, and independent race, clinging tenaciously to the language, manners, and traditions of their fore-elders; and despising all the rest of the world, of which they knew next to nothing.  Its simple life was singularly self-contained, and what little traffic it had was carried on by strings of pack-horses, upon rugged tracks, which had been the pathways of the ancient inhabitants of the land from the earliest historic times.  These facts leak out in all that we read of Lancashire in the olden time.  The learnθd Camden, after travelling over the rest of the kingdom, implored the protection of Heaven before entering on a region so little known and of such wild repute as Lancashire was in those days; and Arthur Young the famous Suffolk agriculturist, writing about the end of the last century, complains in vigorous, old-fashioned English about the state of the Lancashire roads at that time.  He lived long enough, however, to see the beginning of a new state of things in that county.


 
CHAPTER I.

MIDDLETON IN THE OLDEN TIME.


O' crom-full o' ancientry.

 OUR FOLK.


IN the time of the Plantagenets, when the woods of Lancashire were wild and thick, when its air was pure, and its rivers clear, and all the country wore the livery of nature, Middleton must have been one of the most picturesque villages in the county.  In those days, when the neighbouring hamlet of Blackley was deep in the heart of a forest — when "Boggart Ho' Clough" was a "deer leap," and "Th' White Moss" was a lonely waste of evil repute, little Middleton, with its fine old manorial hall, its moated rectory, its timber-built houses, and its venerable church upon the hill, must have been a pretty nest of rural life in the midst of a green and quiet country.  Even now, when the land has been stript of its ancient woods, and all nature seems to have been pressed into the service of modern necessities, the country around is prettily varied in feature, and the little town is pleasant to the eye.  The history of the place is obscure until the beginning of the thirteenth century when Henry the Third was king, in whose reign a church existed, upon the site of the present one.  In the same reign the manor was held, "by military service," by a family bearing the local name — the Middletons of Middleton; one of whom, Sir James Middleton, is associated with the foundation of a chantry chapel in the ancient church of Rochdale, five miles off.  From the Middletons this manor passed, in the reign of Henry the Fourth, into the hands of the Bartons, then a famous family in Lancashire.  From the Bartons the lordship of Middleton passed into the possession of the Asshetons — men of great renown in their day.  Baines says:—


    Margaret, the daughter of John Barton, Esq., having married Ralph Assheton, Esq., a son of Sir John Assheton, knight, of Ashton-under-Lyne, he became lord of Middleton in her right, in the seventeenth of Henry the Sixth, 1438, and was the same year appointed a page of honour to that king.  He was knight-marshal of England, lieutenant of the Tower of London, and sheriff of Yorkshire, 1473-1474.  He attended the Duke of Gloucester at the battle of Haldon, or Hutton Field, Scotland, in order to recover Berwick, and was created a knight banneret on the field for his gallant services, 1483.  On the succession of Richard the Third to the Crown, he created Ralph vice-constable of England, by letters patent in 1483.


And thus it was that the little town of Middleton emerged from its old historic obscurity, and became associated thenceforth with the great events of the times, through connection with the Asshetons, in the person of Sir Ralph Assheton the terrible "Black Lad" of Lancashire story — one of the most ambitious and active members of a powerful family, of whose tyranny tradition still preserves the remembrance.  Dr. Hibbert, in his history of Ashton-under-Lyne, says of this famous favourite of a cruel king:—


    He committed violent excesses in this part of the kingdom.  In retaining also for life the privilege of guld riding, he, on a certain day in the spring, made his appearance in this manner, clad in black armour (whence his name of "Black Lad"), mounted on a charger, and attended by a numerous train of his followers, in order to levy the penalty arising from neglect of clearing the land from carr gulds [Ed. ― 'corn marigolds'].  The name o' the "Black Lad" is at present regarded with no other sentiment than that of horror.  Tradition has, indeed, still perpetuated the prayer that was fervently ejaculated for a deliverance from his tyranny:—


Sweet Jesu, for Thy mercy sake,
    And for Thy bitter passion,
Save us from the axe of the Tower,
    And from Sir Ralph of Assheton.


    The present church seems to have been built upon the site of the previous edifice, by Sir Richard Assheton, a grandson of the "Black Lad."  On the south side of the church is the following inscription, which indicates both the rebuilders and the date of the present edifice: "Ricardus Assheton et Anne, uxor ejus, Anno D'ni MDXXXIIII."  This Sir Richard was, for his valour and bravery at the battle of Flodden Field, knighted by Henry the Eighth, and had divers privileges granted within his manor of Middleton.  An ancient window of stained glass commemorates the death of sixteen of the band of Middleton archers, who fought under Sir Richard in that famous fray.  The church contains numerous monuments of the Asshetons; and part of the armour of the same "Sir Richard," dedicated by him to Saint Leonard, of Middleton, is still preserved in the church.  These Asshetons seem to have been a stirring race of men through many a century, and it is curious to speculate upon what kind of life was led by the obscure tenantry of these warlike lords of Middleton, in those


                                      Dear lamented times
When theft and homicide were jokes, not crimes;
When burning peels and towns were acts of merit,
And red revenge became a lad of spirit;
When every eye saw fairies, ghosts, and devils
Frisk in the moonbeams in their midnight revels.


The life of the aristocracy is recorded in many ways, but of the undercurrent of human existence we know very little.  We have still a curious picture left of what kind of life was led by the ancient gentry of Lancashire in the "journal of Nicholas Assheton, of Downham, in Ribblesdale," who was a scion of the knightly family of Middleton.  It is a singularly minute record, full of graphic details, and of "touches which make the past more than present."  In Dr. Whitaker's analysis of its contents we get a vivid glance of this characteristic memorial.  He says:—


    Thus ends the journal of Nicholas Assheton, then a young and active man, engaged in all the business of, and enjoying all the amusements of the country.  What he might in a rainy day and a serious mood have done for himself I will now do for him, or rather for his readers — analyse this curious fragment, and assign every portion of time accounted for to its proper occupation; promising, however, that there are great chasms in the journal, one of three months at least; and that the days which are marked "home," &c., are passed over as blanks, though perhaps better spent than many which are more strongly characterised.  In this period, then, he accounts for the hearing of forty sermons, three of them by as many bishops, and one for communion.  On the other hand he records sixteen fox chases, ten stag hunts, two of the buck, as many of the otter and hare, one of the badger, four days of grouse shooting, the same of fishing in the Ribble and Hodder, and two of hawking.  Shooting with the long and crossbow, horse matches, and foot races were the other means of consuming time without doors.  Stage plays and cards are never mentioned.  As a scale by which the writer measured his own degrees of intemperance, and a catalogue of his excesses, let the reader attend to the following "Merrie" eleven times, "verie merrie" once, "more than merrie" once, "merrie as Robin Hood" once, "plaid the bacchanalian"once, "somewhat too busie with drink" once, "sick with drink" once, "foolish" once, and lastly, "fooled this day worse" once.  With all these confessions we hear of neither resolutions nor attempts at amendment.  In this short period he saw four deaths of the Asshetons; he attended the king at Hoghton Tower; he assisted in quelling a private quarrel in Wensleydale; attended the king's commission in the great cause of the copyholds of Blackburn Hundred; and took two journeys to London on business with the Court of Wards and Star Chamber.  A man more largely connected, or extensively acquainted with his county, there probably never was.


    Such was Nicholas Assheton, of the time of James the First, who, in the course of his Journal, mentions, again and again, his visits to "Cousin Assheton, of Middleton."  A little nearer our own day we find these Asshetons still abreast with the events of the time.  In the Cromwellian war, Ralph Assheton, of Middleton, was an energetic adherent to the Parliamentary cause.  On the 24th of September, 1642, about one hundred and fifty of his tenants, in complete arms, joined the forces of Manchester in opposition to the Royalists.  He commanded the Parliamentary troops at the siege of Warrington.  He was engaged at the siege of Fathom House, and led the Middleton Clubmen at the siege of Bolton-le-Moors.  In 1648 he was a major-general, and commanded the Lancashire soldiery of the Commonwealth, on the marshalling of the Parliamentary forces to oppose the Duke of Hamilton.  His son Ralph, however, espoused the cause of Charles the Second, and was created a baronet in 1663.

    The old hall of the Asshetons at Middleton must have been a fine specimen of an ancient manor house.  It was situated in a park, hard by the town, "but having been modernised about the latter part of last century, and afterwards deserted by its owners, it was entirely demolished in 1845."  Canon Raines says of it:—


    Middleton Hall was a timber-built house, surrounding two spacious courts, and approached by two bridges over a moat.  The great entrance hall was described, about the year 1770 or 1771, as "resembling a ship turned upside down," from which it might appear that it had rested upon crooks, and was probably built in Edwardian times by the Middletons, the then material owners.  This ancient hall was hung round with two or three hundred heavy matchlocks, with buff-coats and some half suits of armour, which have all been removed and dispersed within living memory.  Some of this armour is now in the collection of George Shaw, Esq., of St. Chad's, Saddleworth.


This memorable old house saw many generations of strong Englishmen.  In Samuel Bamford's "Early Days" I find the following notice of it:—


    The Old Hall was perhaps one of the finest relics of the sort in the country.  It was built of plaster and framework; panels, carvings, and massy beams of black oak, strong enough for a mill floor.  The yard was entered through a low wicket, at a ponderous gate; the interior of the yard was laid with small diamond-shaped flags; a door led on the left into a large and lofty hall, which was hung round with matchlocks, swords, targets, and hunting weapons, intermingled with trophies of the chase.


The site of the hall is now occupied by a cotton factory, and no traces of its ancient park remain.  Speaking of the old parsonage, as it appeared in his youth, Bamford says:—


    The rectory was then an old irregular-looking edifice, built partly of brick and partly of stone, with a moat round it, and shot-holes in the walls for musketry or cross-bows.


Bamford dwells lovingly upon the ancient features of his native town, and the pleasant appearance of the country around, when he was a boy — that is, about the end of the last century.  He speaks of the old stained-glass window in the northern aisle of the church, representing "a band of archers, kneeling, each with his bow on his shoulder, his quiver at his breast, and his name above his head," commemorative of Middleton men who were slain at the battle of Flodden Field, under the command of Sir Richard Assheton.  He says:—


    On the north side of the churchyard wall stood an old thatched timber and daub house, which we entered down a step, through a strong low door with a wooden latch.  This was "Old Joe Wellins's," the church alehouse, a place particularly resorted to by rough fellows when they had a mind for a private drinking bout.  It was a current tradition that gentlemen roadsters, who lived by levying contributions on the northern highways, made this their "boozing-ken," or place of concealment, after their foraging expeditions.  Nevison and Turpin are said to have frequented this old secluded alehouse.


He speaks plaintively of the days when "few of the lonely, out-of-the-way places — the wells, the by-paths, the dark old lanes, and solitary houses — escaped the reputation of being haunted by boggarts, feeorin', witches, fairies, clapcans, and such like beings of terror, who were supposed to be lurking in almost every retired corner or sombre-looking place, whence they came forth at permitted hours to enjoy their nocturnal freedom."  He babbles pleasantly of the green fields and shady dingles of his youth; and he tells us of the old haunted "Owler Bridge " over the Irk, where his father used to sing hymns as he crossed in the dark when on his way to take lessons from "th' wise mon o' Hulton-fowd;" and of the haunted Grammar School; and of "Boarshaw," where, in ancient days, a boar of great size having been killed by one of the Asshetons, of Middleton, the boar's head was thenceforth borne as the family crest; and of "Doom Cloof," a deep cliff or gully, "darkened by timber and underwood, and haunted by fairies and clapcans;" and of the ancient house at the head of "Blomley Cloof," which was haunted by the ghost of "Owd Blomley," a fierce retainer of the Hopwoods, of Hopwood, during the civil wars.  With the plaintive delight of a romantic second childhood, he tells over the old superstitious country tales of an age gone by, and lingers lovingly among the lonely woods, the green rambling-grounds, and shady dingles of his youth, and closes his graphic "glimpse of auld lang syne" with these words: "But the cloughs and hollows in the neighbourhood of Middleton are now as bare as if they had been swept by a fire.  The woods, the shelters, the bosky dingles, the pleasant summer shadows are no longer there; nay, the hedgerows are stinted; the wild roses and honey-bines are nearly all gone 'The glory has departed.'"  They are gone, as he himself now is gone, and as all things on earth must go.  The old man sleeps in peace, close by the church of St. Leonard, almost the only relic of ancient Middleton now left, except the rectory, and the old timber-built inn called the Boar's Head, which is the scene of our story.


 
CHAPTER II.

THE OLD BOAR'S HEAD.


Where greybeard mirth and smiling toil retired,
Where village statesmen talked with looks profound,
And news much older than their ale went round.

GOLDSMITH.


IT was a busy day in the Old Boar's Head on the 24th of December, 1800, and the ancient crest of the Asshetons creaked on its rusty hinges as it swung to and fro in the wintry blast.  It was a famous house at that time, for all the coaches that ran between Manchester and York called there; and this alone made it the centre of the village life and of village loungers seeking news.  In addition to which the old inn was remarkable for its cleanliness and the general geniality of its appearance inside and out.  Its accommodation was excellent; its fare was bountiful, and of the best quality; its charges were reasonable; and its home-brewed ale was renowned for strength and purity.  The host and hostess, too, were of the good old, strong, deep-blooming breed of country folk — genuine descendants of the stiff, unbridled Saxon race — the very pair to keep a substantial wayside inn sweet, and sound, and homely.  Genial, generous, and business-like, with a thorough hatred of dirt, disorder, and injustice, they had a warm side for poor humanity in all its forms, and a natural love of the busy varieties of roadside life.

    Giles Buckley, the landlord, was a stalwart, large-bodied specimen of an Englishman.  In the old time of bills and bows he would have been a formidable antagonist upon the battle field.  With a mind free from all underhand dealing, he was happy-hearted, humorous, kind, and naturally of an obliging disposition; a foe to riotous excess, he was yet able to stand any amount of drink, which enabled him to entertain by his presence any number of successive guests.  Naturally intelligent, and fond of fun, his way of life had acquainted him with great varieties of mankind; and he was an inexhaustible storehouse of tale, anecdote, and song.  Such was the usual simplicity of his life and the strength of his constitution that, when any extraordinary occasion called for special indulgence, a night's rest brought him forth again as fresh as a daisy and as firm as a rock.  With these attractions no wonder that the Old Boar's Head was one of the best accustomed inns for miles around.  Many a weary traveller hastened onwards in the dark to gain the shelter of that famous inn; and many a forlorn wanderer's heart was made glad in its glowing kitchen.  Here, too, when twilight came, the village folk met to enjoy the company of their neighbours, to tell old tales, and to discuss the news of the day and the gossip of the village.

    It was a busy day, for, in addition to the usual bustle of the place, the landlord had invited a few friends to supper on Christmas Eve; and the whole house was astir to do honour to the feast, which had been the talk of the village for a week.  In the kitchen the stout old landlady bustled about among her servants, looking anxiously after the preparation.  "Now, lasses," said she, "do stir yoursel's!  Yo' known what we han to do.  Get this place sided up; th' coach 'll be here directly.  There's three dinners i'th front parlour, an' th' men 'll be in fro' th' stable afore long.  Sally, go into th' nooks an' corners wi' that brush o' thine, an' be sharp.  If I've ony clennin' done, I mun have it done through-an'-through.  I cannot abide your scamblin', sham-smart ways.  I like to be clen, as well as to look so.  I wish to the Lord thou'd manage to do thi wark beawt so mich tentin'.  Thou'll make a bonny dossy of a wife for sombry, when thou comes to be left to thisel'.  It 'll be weary deed for ony poor lad 'at gets thee, if thou dosn't awter."

    Sally blushed and nettled up.  "I never seed sich a house as this for clennin'," said she; "yo're al'ays agate — th' day to an end.  My mother never—"

    "Keep thi tong between thi teeth," replied the landlady "an' dunnot tell me about thi mother.  I mun ha' th' wark done as I want it, an' not as thi mother wants it.  Come, stir thoose shanks o' thine!  Thou'rt gettin' to fat and to full!  I'm talkin' to thi for thi own good.  But thou'd raither sit by th' fire fro' mornin' to neet, countin' cinders, an' up to thi een i' dirt, if folk would let tho live an idle life.  I declare it seems as if some poor craiters were born to be miserable theirsel's, an' to make everybody miserable about 'em.  I've no patience wi' sich like slotchin' wark.  Do try some bit like, lass; an' dunnot need so mich talkin' to. . . . Martha, I'll chop that suet; go thi way up stairs an' help to make th' beds. . . . Nanny, how's that beef gettin' on? . . . Tell Bill to mend these fires. . . . What's yon bell?"

    It was a bright, cold winter's day.  The wind came steadily, with cutting keenness, from the north-east.  The snow-drifts by the wayside were crisp and hard: the hoarfrost glittered, but did not melt in the sun; and the highroad rang under foot like a metal plate.  The old church clock had struck twelve, and a knot of grammar school lads were "sleddin" down the brow which leads to the church, whilst others stood by the footpath, watching them, and blowing their nails; whilst their gleeful clamour sounded far into the little town.  In front of the "Boar's Head," a stiff-built, old, grey-haired ostler was puffing and blowing as he curried and brushed the hide of a traveller's horse, whilst another was briskly engaged in whistling "Britons, strike home!" as he swept the coble-pavement before the doorway.  A dense flock of sparrows, flitting from the road up to the eaves of the house, and back again, filled all the air in front of the inn with a gleeful twitterment; whilst a redbreast chanted, by fits, his pretty, plaintive winter song from the leafless thorns on the opposite side of the road.  Two or three villagers were lounging about the doorway, as usual, talking to the hostlers.

    "Jack," said one of them, "that's noan an ill make of a tit."

    "Nawe, bi th' mass," replied Jack; "there's some comfort i'hondlin' a thing like this.  It's as bonny a bit o' horse-flesh as ever I clapt e'en on.  Nevison, th' heeway-man, had one the very marrow o' this.  I can remember it as if it were to-day."

    "By Guy, Jack; this is happen it."

    "It's hectum as like!  What the dule arto talkin' about?  Both him an' his horse were laid low afore thou were born.  Beside, Nevison's tit had a white star upo' th' for-yed; an' it were raither of oather finer i'th leg nor this.  Oh, nawe; Nevison's were never sin upo' this side at after he robbed th' vicar o' Rachda', at 'Th' Slattocks.'  Let's see; that'll be forty year sin' come peigh-cod time."

    "Well; him an' Dick Turpin, — they'n played some bonny marlocks upo' these roads, bi o' accounts."

    "Aye, aye; now thou talks.  They wur two lively cowts, for sure.  But they seldom tried their pranks long together upo' one spot.  Old Joe Wellins says 'at they dropt in at th' church ale-house yon, one back-end, at after they'd robbed th' York mail, and they lee theer a whole week, as snug as two mites in an owd cheese; though th' hue and cry were out all o'er England.'  Well, they crope off one mornin', just afore skrike o' day; an' in about two year after they turn't up again, i'th deeod time o' th' neet; but they were so swapped that no mortal mon could ha' towd 'em. . . . Hasto bin up at owd Jim's, at Goom Cloof, latly?"

    "Aye; I code th' last week about a cauve he had to sell.  But I coom off at th' edge o' dark; for I may no 'count o' stoppin' i' that nook after delit (daylight); 'Owed Blomley's' agate war than ever."

    "What, th' boggart?"

    "Ay; an' th' warst boggart there is upo' this country side for flaysome deed, an' powlerin' about i'th neet time!  I'd back it again oather witch, fairy, clapcan, Nut Nan, Jenny Green-teeth, Baum Rappit, Radcliffe Dog, or the dule hissel."  I wouldn't live i' that hole, sitho, if I met wear red shoon!  I wur sittin' i' that kitchen a twothre week back, just as th' owl-leet coom on, an' o' at once there were a great yeawl coom down th' chimbley, an' th' arm-cheer shifted out o' one nook into tother, an' never mortal soul laid finger on it!  But, bi th' mass, my yure began o' stonnin' straight up, an' I crope out o' that cote as if I'd been steighlin' summat.  I gav a bit of a glent o'er my shoulder as I went out, an' th' tungs an' poker were just startin' o' doancin' a three-bond reel wi' th' churn.  But, by th' mon, I never looked beheend me again; for I thought it'd be my turn th' next.  An' I're in another township in a twothre minutes."

    Just then a snatch of song came from the open window of the taproom:—


When they snapen your heart, an' they stinten your fare,
                It's time to be joggin' away;
When th' pitchers are empty, an' th' pouches are bare,
                It's time to be joggin' away.


    "Hello, Jack; who's yon?"

    "It's Craddy o' Batters," replied Jack.  "He's sittin' i'th tap-reawm be hissel' yon, singin' an' talkin' to his pint pot, as usal.  Go thi ways in to him."

    Here the landlady looked out at the doorway.

    "Bill," said she, "when thou's done sweepin', come in to thi dinner; an' then fill yon boighler up, and look to th' fires.  Jack, come to thi dinner."


    "I'm comin' as soon as I've put th' horse up," replied the old hostler.  "Jone," said he to his village crony, "thou looks starve't; how leets thou doesn't go inside an' get a saup o' summat warm?"

    "Well, Jack; if thou thinks I'm partial to starvation thou'rt off at th' side.  But I'm one o' thoose chaps 'at hasn't mich to stir on, thou knows.  I've been rootin' up an' down mi clooas a good while to find brass for another gill; but I can leet o' nought but two gallows-buttons an a 'bacco papper."

    "Come; I'll lend tho a shillin'."

    "Fork out, owd brid!  Thou talks like an angel!"

    "Theer it is, sitho.  Now creep into the tap-reawm at th' side o' owd Craddy yon, an' I'll come to yo in a bit."


 
CHAPTER III.

THE LANDLORD'S GUESTS.


The winds whistle cold;
    The stars glimmer red;
The sheep are in the fold,
    And the cattle are in the shed,

OLD GLEE.


Man, what changes come o'er us!  I mind when master and servant sat a' at ae table; and, if ye'll believe me, I've seen mair wit played off at a dinner time than ye'll gather now in half a year.

SCOTS COMEDY.


THE winter sun sank down behind the snow-clad hills; and as night crept on, clear and cold, the bustle of village life died away into stillness, save where the fire of the blacksmith's forge threw a broad, red glow upon the glittering highway, and the chime of his busy hammers rang loud and clear in the deepening silence all over the little town, mingling now and then with bursts of laughter from a knot of loungers, who were whiling away the winter evening among the fun that gathered round the dusky smithy's genial glow.  The cloudless sky was thick with stars, and their solemn light filled all the frosty air with a subtle radiance, which strengthened as the sunless hours stole on.  It was a hearty, hardy, old-fashioned winter night.  The village doors were closed, for the frost was intense, and the north wind blew keen and wild, whistling weird melodies in the lock-holes and crevices of many a lonely grange, whose inmates shuddered as they huddled closer round the fire, listening with superstitious fear to the rattle of doors and windows, and the wild sough of the blast outside.  All signs of life in quaint little Middleton were stilling down, except where a cottage candle threw a flickering gleam into the night, or the shrill voice of a woman cut through the cold air as she called home her truant lad, who had lingered behind his mates "sleddin'" upon the steep below the church.  All else was deepening down into starlit silence, save where the bright windows, and open, straw-strewn doorway of the Old Boar's Head attracted the shivering traveller with its cheerful glow.

    Amongst the guests invited by old Giles to his Christmas supper there were Randal Holt, or "Rondle o' Raunger's" an old schoolmaster, who was looked up to by his neighbours as a kind of "hamel-scoance," or lantern of the village; "Jem o' th' Har-barn," a sturdy yeoman, who reckoned among his ancestors one of the band of Middleton archers who followed Sir Richard Assheton to Flodden Field; "Jima o' Dauber's," a village painter; "Jone o' Gavelock's," a humorous old weaver; Henry Shaw, better known as "th' wool chap," a well-known traveller in the flannel trade, and an old customer at the Boar's Head.  These, with the principal tailor and the principal shoemaker of the town, — all old cronies together, — made up Giles Buckley's Christmas party.

    Of course the news of the feast had spread over the town long before the time; and when the eventful evening came on, the lads of the village, as they returned from their wintry games, lingered about the doorway of the Boar's Head, yammering, and sniffing at the odours of the kitchen; and then ran home with the savoury tale.

    "Eh, mother," said the tailor's lad, as he darted into the house with his wooden "sled" upon his back, "there's moore beef up at th' Boar's Yed than there is onywheer else i' this world!  I've bin a-smellin'!  Eh, I wish I live't at yon house!  An' there's goose amung it, too, mother, — I can tell goose. . . . Eh, I am some hungry!  Wheer's my supper?"

    "Thou'rt al'ays hungry.  Sit tho down an' warm thisel' a bit, like a good lad; till I've finished my ironin'.  I shan't be mony minutes.  An' put that "sled" o' thine out o' th gate."

    "Eh, mother, couldn't yo' gi' me a lump o' oon-cake to be gooin' on wi'?"

    "Make a less din for a minute or two, I tell tho!  Thou fair moiders me!  Bless my life, thou met (might) be clammed!"

    "Eh, mother, I wish I wur gooin' to my supper wi' my faither to-neet.  Dun yo think he'll bring ony goose back wi' him?"

    "Not he, marry.  Whatever arto camplin' an' talkin' about?"

    "Mun I sit up till he comes whoam?"

    "Nawe; thou mun do nought o'th sort.  Thou mun get thi porritch, and go to bed like a good lad; an' thou shall ha some goose to-morn.  It's hanged up i' the buttery yon.  It's Kesmass to-morn thou knows."

    "Eh, mother; I wish it wur Kesmass every day, — dunnot yo?"

    "Marry, choilt, how thou talks," said she, setting a bowl of milk and a thick piece of bread before him; "get that into thou; an' let it stop thi mouth."

    About six in the evening Giles's guests began to trickle in at the doorway, and a tailor was the first man upon the ground.

    "Hello, Snip," said Giles, as the tailor came in at the front door, drest in his Sunday clothes, with a fruited sprig of holly stuck in his button-hole; "by th' mass, thou'rt as grand as Thornham rushcart!  A merry Christmas to tho, owd craiter!  I' gadlin, we's never look beheend us after this.  Come thi ways in!"

    "A merry Christmas to yo, Giles!" replied the tailor, rubbing his hands.  "Here; don't put th' door to; Lapstone an' owd Rondle are upo' th' road."

    "That's reet," replied Giles; "th' moore an' th' merrier!"

    "They're here now," said the tailor, as the two old cronies came up to the door, laughing noisily.

    "Roll up, an' buy 'em alive!" cried Giles, slapping old Randal on the back.  "Tops o' trees, an' shinin' daisies!  Buy 'em or lev 'em, — I'll bate nought at mi stuff!  Come in, lads!  I hope yo're i' good fettle!  Wheer's tother?"

    "There's three for four on 'em upo' th' gate; an' I pept in at th' painter's as we coom by.  He're agate o' rubbing his yed wi' toppin'-fat."

    "Here, Giles," said the landlady, "tak 'em into this room till th' supper's ready.  There's a good fire."

    "Come in here, lads," said Giles, "an' sattle yo'rsels a bit, while they setten th' table out.  Here, I'll buttle for yo'.  Cowd ale afore supper, lads, an' aught 'at yo'n a mind for at after.  Tak howd, and weet yo'r whistles, for a start."

    As the servant entered with another jug, a snatch of song came from the tap-room hard by:


Peighs-porritch whot, peighs-porritch cowd,
Peighs-porritch in a dish, nine days owd.


    "Craddy o' Batters, for a crown," cried Randal.

    "It's nought else," replied Giles; "he's been here mony an hour.  Th' owd lad's started Kesmass already; an' it'll last him till 'Th' First Market,' I'll uphowd.  By th' mass, let's have him in!  What, he's somebody's choilt, an' he'll do wi' his supper as weel as ony on us.  What say'n yo, lads?

    "Fot him in; he's rare company," said Randal.

    "So said, so done," replied Giles.  "Mary, tell owd Craddy to come here."

    "Win yo ha' th' whole lot in?" said the landlady.

    "Why, who is there beside?"

    "There's owd Bonny Mouth; an' Jem o' Pratty Strider's."

    "Well , what the hangment, they're neighbours' childer.  Let's have 'em o'!  This is no time to make fish o' one an' flesh of another!  Let's have 'em o'! "

    In came Craddy and his friends, all in their working gear, which contrasted strangely with the holiday garb of the rest of the company; but everybody was in good humour, and everybody made them welcome; although Craddy was getting merry with the drink he had taken during the day.  "Never mind, lad," said Giles, slapping him on the shoulder, "thou'll be as reet as a ribbin when tho gets a bit o' beef into tho!"  They had hardly got well seated amongst the rest before the landlady came in to say that supper was ready; and away they streamed in the wake of old Giles, towards the place where the feast was spread.

    The quaint room was profusely decorated with evergreens; a great bush of mistletoe hung from the centre of the ceiling; and there was a huge log burning in the fire-grate, which filled the place with a ruddy glow.  The long table was spread with bountiful piles of roast and boiled meats, and with pies, and savoury country messes; and all the house was redolent of good cheer.

    Giles took the chair at the head of the table, in front of a noble sirloin, which became his presence well.

    "Here, owd craiter," said he, to Jem o' th' Har-barn, "go thee to th' tother end, an' try thy thwittle upo' yon goose.  Thou use't to be a rare hond at mowin'; an' I've sin tho thwite very hondsomely at a goose afore now.  Come, off with tho, an' bother noan."

    The burly yeoman smiled quietly, and took his seat at the other end of the table; and two finer specimens of the old English breed rarely faced one another.

    "Now lads," said Giles, "are yo getten sattle't into yor booses?"

    "Ay, we're o' reef," said Jone o' Gavelock's " we're o' reet, if I can get Craddy, here, to hutch a bit fur off."

    "Craddy," said Giles, "hutch up lower, mon; an' draw nar to th' table.  Thou looks as if thou were beawn to fire a gun.  Thou's no 'casion to be fleyed.  I want yo to have fair elbow-reawm, for yo'n a deeol to do. . . . Come, that's better."

    "Now, then," said Giles, knocking upon the table with his carving-knife, "are yo ready?"

    "O' ready," replied Jone o' Gavelock's.

    "Well, then," said Giles, rising from his seat, "God bless everybody 'ats i' this house — an' everybody o'th outside on't, — for a start!  Lads, yo're as welcome as th' flowers o' May!  Yo seen what there is afore yo.  I hope you're in good fettle; an' I hope it'll agree wi' yo!  Fo' to, — an' spare nought! . . . Who says beef?"

    "Britons, strike home!" said Jem o' th Har-barn, at the other end of the table, seizing his carving-knife.  "Who says goose?  It's as prime a brid as ever I clapt e'en on!  Come, Craddy, owd lad; I'll gi' thee a leg to begin wi'.  Jone, help him to some potitos."

    "Buttle out, free!" cried Giles to the servants, "an look after these plates!"

    And to it they fell, all round the jovial board, — hammer and tongs; and for the next hour or so there was a ceaseless clatter of knives and forks and plates; and the servants were kept in continual motion among the guests.

    "Come, Lapstone," said Giles, "back thi cart up, — an' fill again!"

    "Stop, an' rosin a minute," replied Lapstone; "I'll be theer again directly."

    "Now, Craddy, my lad, how arto gettin' on!"

    "O' reet," said Craddy, "I'm nobbut wyndin' (taking breath) a bit."

    "Don't stop short of up, lads," said Giles; "let another reef out, an' start again! . . . Jem, thou'rt lookin' after thisel', I guess; amung th' rook."

    "We're doin' weel here," replied Jem.  "If thou'll mind that end o' th' table, I'll keep 'em goin' here."

    "Giles," said old Bonny Mouth, "I'll trouble yo for a bit moore o' that under-cut."

    "Ay; an' thou'st have it, my lad," replied Giles; "thou'st have it, if this knife hondle stops on."

    "Come, Gavelock, owd brid, wakken up; thought noan sto'in (getting tired) arto?"

    "By th' mon, it's gettin' time, I think.  Thou doesn't want to see mo brawsen, doesto?  I measure's a hond-bradth off between my singlet an' th' table, afore we started, an' they're welly met.  I've done very weel, Giles, — I've done very weel."

    "What! thou'll have a bit o' cheese, sure?"

    "Well, — aye, aye, — a bit o' cheese, as thou says.  I think I've an odd nook laft for that."

    At last the festive fray sank down into peace; the hungriest of the hungry had eaten his fill, and the knives lay at rest.

    "Come, Jone," said Giles to Jone o' Gavelock's, "say a word or two afore we gettin' up."

    The old weaver rose slowly from his seat, and looking quietly round the board, he said: "Lads, we'n had a rare supper.  I've played a good stick mysel', an' I'm thankful.  We dunnot leet o' sich a do as this every day.  It's a bit o' Kesmass sunshine!  Giles, here's good luck to thee an' thine!  I wish we may never do ony wur nor wean done this neet; an' I wish that everybody i'th' world may do as weel; for there's a deeol o' folk 'at's noan so weel off, an' one connot help but think about it at a time like this, yo known.  But, as far as I'm consarn't, I feel fain 'at I'm wick, an' yo looken as breet as a rook o' squirrels o' round, — except Craddy, theer; I think he'll repent to-morn 'at he hadn't a bit moore o' that beef."

    "Oh nay," cried Craddy; "I've done very weel!  I couldn't bant another smite!"

    "Well then, that'll do," continued the old weaver.  "God bless yo o'!  Giles, owd lad, here's luck to tho again!  An' now I think that'll do."

    And the old man sat down, amidst cries of "Amen to that! " and "Bravo, Jone!"

    When they had drunk the health of the host and hostess, with "three times three and one cheer more," which made the mistletoe-bush twirl round upon the ceiling, as if it enjoyed the fun, old Giles returned thanks in a few hearty words, and then said, "Now, lads, let's go out an' stretch er legs a bit till they siden these things.  It'll help to sattle your suppers.  An' when they're getten o' reet, we're come back an' have a bit of a frisk."



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