Tufts of Heather, Vol. II (2)

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THE HERMIT COBBLER.
――――♦――――


CHAPTER I.


Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.

KING LEAR.


IT was the sunset of the year.  The finger of decline had tinged the wild moors with gorgeous hues and the floral world, which had so lately gladdened the air of summer with sweetness and beauty, was slowly sinking into the sleep of change; as if content to rest now that its task was done.  In the woods and groves sere leaves had long been quivering down with every wind that blew.  There was a deepening hush among "bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang;" and the leafy screen, which had played so long with balmy winds and refulgent sunlight, lay mouldering on the earth from which it sprang.

    Upon a green knoll, overlooking a rough road which led down to a little town at the foot of the moorland hills, an ancient farmhouse stood, with its scattered outbuildings, half shaded by wide-spreading trees.  It was a quaint, substantial stone edifice, with mullioned windows; and the date, upon an engraved slab above the porch, showed that it had been the home of some sturdy yeoman in the Cromwellian time.  From the heathery steep behind the knoll a moorland stream rushed through a rocky, tree-shaded cleft, which divided the house from the hills on that side, descending thence in many a foamy leap along its craggy channel, to swell the river that crept through lush pastures in the valley below.

    It had been "a weet back-end," as the moorland folk say, and for many days in succession there had been an almost continuous downpour from the skies.  The moors were soaked and swampy; and every lonely tarn and pool was filled to repletion.  The highway was full of slutchy ruts, and down the low side of the road the overflow from the hills ran like a river towards the valley.  Every wayside well was gushing over, and the spouts and eaves upon the roof of the farmhouse were all choked and sputtering with the heavy rain.  Every rindle and streamlet that wandered down from the wide upland wastes was swollen to roaring; and the lonely moorland air was filled with the sound of rushing waters.  All else was silent as the grave; except the mournful sough of the wind as it swept by the house, now and then, laden with rain.  There was not a bird on the wing; and the whole scene, from earth to sky, looked cheerless and gloomy.

    The sun had set, and the lingering light of day was sinking into the deep shade of a gloomy night, as a thin, grey-haired man, ill-clad and wet to the skin, came limping wearily down he road, with a little bundle tucked under his arm, and the collar of his coat turned up to keep the rain out of his neck.

    At a window of the old house the farmer's wife and daughter sat sewing in a comfortable room overlooking the moorland steep, and they lifted their heads, now and then, to look at the bleak hills, and the solitary road, upon which the rain was still beating, with steady patter.

    "Ellen," said the farmer's wife to her daughter, "stir that fire, and tell yon lass to put some more coal on."  Then, looking out, she continued, "Bless my life, what a night it is!  It's coming down as hard as ever, — an' there's no sign of a change.  It'll be dark directly, too.  Days are shortening fast.  Good gracious! what poor soul's this comin' down th' road?  Look here, Ellen; I cannot make him out."

    The daughter ran to the window, and looking into the road, she said, "Nay; I don't know him.  It's some poor tramp, — God help him, — he's in a pitiful plight!  Whoever can he be?  My word, how it rains!"

    "Ellen," said the farmer's wife again, "call our John; he's somewhere about th' stables.  If its anybody belonging to this country, he'll know him."

    The daughter went, and called her brother from the stables.

    In a minute or two the farmer's son came into the room, — a tall, strong, light-complexioned youth, with open countenance, blue eyes, and crisp, auburn hair.

    "Well, mother," said he; "what's th' matter?"

    "Look here, John.  There's some poor lost craiter comin' down th' road, here, that looks as if he could hardly trail one foot after tother.  He'll be drenched to th' skin; an' I doubt he's quite done up, bi th' look on him.  I can't make him out.  He's a bundle under his arm.  I can see that.  Who is it, thinksto?  Will it be anybody belonging th' town, yon, or is it some poor rovin' tramp?"

    "Let's look!" said he, setting his elbows upon the window-sill, and gazing into the wet road.  "Well," said he, still gazing into th' road, "I don't know who he is, but he's a very wambly look, has th' owd lad.  He's bin sadly torn down, as wheer he comes fro', — an' he's noan fit to be out sich a neet as this, — for he hawmples in his walk, like a lame duck, — an' as far as I can make out, it's a good while sin he wur a yung un. . . . Howd; stop!  By th' heart, mother; it's Boggart Bill!"

    "It's who?"

    "It's Boggart Bill, th' cobbler.  Billy Alone, as some folk co'n him, for a by-name."

    "What, that starv't-lookin' owd shoemaker?"

    "It's him, I believe, mother, — as far as I can make him out.  An' what th' wizzent hermit's doin' up here, i' this rain, is more than I can tell, — for he's seldom sin by mortal e'e."

    "So I believe," said the farmer's wife, looking through the window.  "Poor fellow!  He'll be in a sad pickle when he gets home; an' it's but a cold place to go to, by all accounts."

    "It'll be a rough shop, will Billy's mansion, for sure, mother; for he's live't bi hissel' aboon thirty year; an' nobody can get to look through his house; for if they takken him a cobblin' job, he'll not let 'em in ony further than th' back kitchen.  I'll be bound that house is a quare cote, if it wur weel looked up. . . . Hello! th' owd lad's come down on his back i'th middle oath road; an' his bundle's flown mony a yard!  Ston' up, smo' drink!  Thou'll be a bonny seet, Billy, after rollin' i' that slutch!  Theer, owd lad; gether thi limbs together, an' travel on! . . . Bi Guy, he's down again! — I doubt th' owd craiter's props are failin'."

    "John," said his mother, "it would beseem tho better if thou were to go an' help him up."

    "Yes," said the daughter, "go an' help th' poor fellow, — I'm sure he's hurt!"

"Ay," said her mother, " and bring him into th' house. It isn't fit for a dog to be out, such a night as this; much less a starved crafter like him, that's nought neither in him nor on him."

    The young man needed no further urging, for he had a kindly nature; and, heedless of the rain, he rushed down to the miry road, where the old man was floundering about in search of his bundle.

    "Hello, Billy," said the young man, "thou'rt noan gooin' to bed here, arto?"

    "Is that yo, John?  I've bin down o' mi back."

    "Ay; I've bin watchin' tho through th' window, yon.  An' what arto doin' up here, a neet like this?"

    "I've bin a-seein' a cousin o' mine, 'at lives at tother side o'th hill, here. . . . Wheer's my bundil? I want to be gooin'?"

    "What wur there in it, Billy?"

    "A twothre potitos, — an' two slices o' bacon, that Jonas' wife teed up for me afore I coom off . . . I wish yo'd help me to find mi bundil, John.  It's gettin' dark, — an' I connot see so weel, — an' I want to be gooin', for I'm weet through."

    "Here it is," said the young man, lifting the little bundle out of a rut by the roadside; "here it is, Billy.  But it's come'd unteed.  Th' potatoes are o' up an' down th' road.  Come, I'll pike 'em up for tho.  Ston' wheer thou art . . . Here; get howd o' that, — an' that, — an' that."

    As the young man gathered the potatoes out of the mire, the old man sat down upon an old well-trough at the roadside, counting them, one after another, as they were handed to him; and wiping the mud from them upon his wet sleeve.

    "Now then, Billy," said the young man; "that's o' I can find."

    Heedless of the rain, Billy still leaned against the well-trough, silently counting over his potatoes, one by one.  At last he cried out, in a tremulous voice, "John, I'm a potito short, yet!"

    "Ne'er mind it," said the young man.  "Gi' me howd o' thi bundle, an' come up to our house."

    "Eh, nawe!" said Billy.  "Nawe, John, I can look for th' potito mysel'.  Nawe; I'll be gooin', afore it's dark."

    "Gi' me howd o' that bundle, Billy!" said the young man.  "Thou doesn't goo another peg down that broo this neet!  So come thi ways up to th' house, at once, — an' quietly, — if thou doesn't, I'll carry tho!"

    And, with feeble resistance, still protesting, the old cobbler was half dragged up the slope into the kitchen of the house at the head of the knoll.

    "Well, William," said the farmer's wife, "whatever are yo doin' out in this rain?  Why, it's enough to kill yo!"

    "It's bin raither to mich for me, missis," said Billy; "but I want to be gooin'."

    "John," said the farmer's wife, "take him upstairs into th' cow-lad's bedroom, and I'll send some dry things for him to put on.  What; th' poor fellow's sipein' weet!"


 
CHAPTER II.


By'r lakin', I can go no further, sir; my old bones ache.

THE TEMPEST.


AS the feeble old cobbler, led by the farmer's son, slowly ascended the stairs, with the rain dripping from his clothes, he still cried out, at every step, in a querulous wail, "I want to go whoam!  I want to go whoam — an' lie me down!"  But, partly by force, and partly by persuasion, the young man succeeded at last in getting the poor wretch up into the chamber where Robin, the cow-lad, slept.  The room was at the top of the house; and it was lighted by one small lattice, opening on to the roof, and looking eastward, through which, in summer, the morning sunlight came streaming into the tired husbandman's little dormitory with slanting gleam.

    The room was very simply furnished with one little strong oak table, two rough old-fashioned chairs, and a rudely-carved chest, in which Robin had kept his clothes nearly thirty years; for though, after the fashion of moorland folk, Robin was still known as "th' cow-lad" at the farm, that hale and faithful servant was well stricken in years.  The walls of his little bedroom were white as snow. The planks of the oaken floor were scoured till every knot, and every line in the graining of the wood, were clear to the eye.  There was not a sign of dust or cobweb about the cross-beams of the roof, and from the white bed-clothing a pleasant aroma filled old Robin's nest with the smell of lavender. . .

    John had some difficulty in getting the drenched cobbler to doff his wet garments and don the things which the farmer's wife had laid out for him.  The poor fellow had lived so long alone, and almost forgotten in the world, that his mind was quite weaned from the sweet sympathies of human association, and he now preferred the gloom of his own tomb-like dwelling to the comfortable haunts of busy life.  Penury and solitude had sunk deep into his soul; and, as he stood shivering in the chamber, he clung tenaciously to the little bundle of potatoes which he had brought so far over the moors through the heavy rain, as if his life depended upon it, even in the midst of plenty.  The farmer's son took the bundle from him, and laid it down upon the table in the corner, and, instantly, the poor fellow began to look helplessly around as if he had lost something.  "Where's my bundil?" said he, again and again, in a plaintive, child-like tone, as John helped him to strip the wet clothes from his shrivelled frame, "Where's my bundil?"  "Never mind thi bundil said the young man.  "I'll tak care on it!  Come, let's get these dry things on; an' then we'n goo down into th' kitchen, where there's a bit o' fire!"

    By this time, the last tinge of daylight had faded from the west; and the dense gloom of a wet autumnal night had sunk down upon the moors; and nothing now was heard among those bleak mountain tops but the mournful sough of the wind, the fierce patter of driving rain, and the cheerless sound of wild waters, which rose on all sides, with deepening roar, as darkness crept on.

    The farmer's kitchen was a cheerful scene that night; and the sense of security and comfort which filled its genial air was intensified by the gloom outside.  The wide old-fashioned grate, in its quaint, arched recess, with stone seats at the sides, was filled with a great fire; and its bright glow filled the clean kitchen with a comfortable radiance, which lit up the delf rack, and glittered upon the burnished metal things that hung against the wall.  Now and then the wind roared around the old house, and moaned in the chimney, with melancholy sound; by fits, the rain came in a rushing torrent against the windows and doors and shutters flapped and rattled in the storm; but all within was bright cheer, and homely comfort.

    In the meantime the farmer's wife bustled about the kitchen, looking after household affairs.  Her husband had been dead nearly ten years, and the whole care of the farm was divided between herself and her daughter Ellen, a handsome girl, just emerging from her teens, and her son John, a strapping moorland colt, about twenty-six years old, six feet high, fourteen stone weight, as strong as a horse, and "as limber as a snag."  Assisted by these, and three faithful servants who had spent the greatest part of their lives in the house, the farmer's wife had carried on the business of the farm successfully since the death of her husband.  Although, now, silver threads were beginning to shine in the kind old matron's hair, — for she was considerably past the middle age of life, — she was still a healthy, and good-looking woman, taking an active delight in all the work that was going on; and, whilst her son was busy in the cow-lad's bedchamber with the cobbler, old Mary Buckley trotted about the kitchen among her servants.

    "Martha," said she, "there's a door keeps bangin' somewhere at th' back, yon; go thi ways an' put it to.  An' fasten these shutters back, or else they'n rattle all night through, — for it's gooin' to be a stormy neet again, — an' I shan't get a wink o' sleep, wi' that clatter agate under mi window. . . . Jane, put some more coals on, an' sweep this hearth up.  Hasn't Jerry finished that yard yet?"

    "Yes; long sin'."

    "Well; where is he?  I hope he has not gone off wi' thoose butchers, — for they're a rackety lot.  Where is he?"

    "He's doin' some'at i'th shippon."

    "What's he doin' i'th shippon?  Tell him to come in to his baggin'. . . . An' come, lasses, yo mun stir yorsels; it's welly (well-nigh) time for milkin'. . . . Did our John sattle wi' yon chaps for killin' th' pig, I wonder?"

    "I don't know; but they went away about an hour sin'."

    "Ay, well; it's all right then.  They wouldn't ha' gone away without bein' paid.  An' what weight did they say it wur?"

    "Twenty score six."

    "Come, I guessed within six pound.  Well, it isn't a bad pig.  An' wheer han they hanged it?"

    "They'n hanged it i' that lumher-house at th' side o'th coal-rook."

    "An' what han they hanged it theer for?  Bless mi life, there isn't room to whip a cat i' that hole, — an' its wheer Robin keeps his tools an' things.  They should ha' hanged it up i'th wesh-house. . . . Well I hope they'n swilled up after their wark."

    "Oh, ay; they'n left o' reet."

    "That'll do. . . Martha, let's have a candle at this table.  Here, Ellen, bring thi sewin'.  We'n ha' some tea as soon as yon poor soul comes down stairs. . . . But, what's getten th' dogs?  Where's Rover and Laddie?

    "They went to town wi' Robin this mornin'."

    "Well; an' what's keepin' Robin till this time o'th neet, i'th' name o' good Katty?  What, he set off afore it wur gradely leet this mornin'!  I hope to the Lord he hasn't getten into lumber, for he's hardly to be trusted on a market day, — as owd as he is.  Which horse did he tak? "

    "He took Brown Jenny, an' he's comin' now, yer yo."

    "They all listened, and the sound of a horse's feet was heard, clattering into the paved yard at the back of the house, accompanied by the barking of dogs, and the voice of old Robin, singing—


An' so you may see
    By that which I say,
That there are queer things
    Which fall in my way.
The rest you may guess
    By that which I show,
For I'll not tell it all,
    But I know what I know,
            Know, know;
    I know what I know.


    "Aye, aye, bi lakin," said the farmer's wife; "that's him, at last, for sure; an' I doubt he's bin 'weshin his neck,' as our John says, bi th' sound on him. . . Martha, set his supper out; it'll be th' first thing he'll ax for, an' he'll be as weet and as hungry as an otter-dog."

    Robin led the mare into the stable, and he rubbed her down, and washed her feet, and fed her well.  Then, closing the stable-door, he went whistling across the yard towards the little outhouse, where he kept his tools, and saddles, and other odd things.  It was pitch dark.  Kicking the door open with his foot he entered, still whistling carelessly; but, before he had gone two yards he ran his face into the cold belly of the dead pig, which the butchers had hung in the middle of the little shed.  He stopped whistling.  The saddle and bridle dropt from his hand.  He rushed across the yard, and in at the kitchen door, with a face as white as a sheet of paper.  The farmer's wife turned round as he entered the kitchen.

    "Why, Robin, thou's bin a bonny time."

    But, seeing his white face she changed her tone.

    "Whatever's th' matter wi' tho, lad?"

    Robin leaned his hand upon the end of the dresser, and sputtered out, "As sure as I'm a livin' mon, mistress, there's some mon hanged hissel' i'th backyard, yon."

    "Lord bless us an' save us, lad, whereabouts?"

    "I' yon little saddle-reawm o' mine," said Robin, wipin' the cold sweat from his face.

    "Thou greight leather-yed," said the farmer's wife, laughing; "it's th' pig that butchers kilt this afternoon."

    "God bless yo'r soul, mistress!" said Robin; "yo'n taen a greight weight off my mind."

    "There, get thi supper,"

    "Nay, nay," said Robin, sitting down at the end of the dresser; "let me get mi breath a bit, an' then."


 
CHAPTER III.


A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.


THICK darkness had now settled down upon the wild moors; and the heavy rain swept across the hills in one fierce and continuous tempest, steeping the decayed verdure into the sodden earth.  But the dwellers at the old farm were all under cover for the night.  The shutters were closed; the cattle were folded, and foddered down; the doors were fastened; the fires were mended; and the inmates of the house were gradually gathering into the kitchen, as usual, for a cheerful hour or two before going to rest.


The storm without might roar and rustle,
They didna mind the storm a hustle.


Robin's wet coat had been hung up at the fire in the washhouse, and he had donned a dry milking-jacket; and, now, the hearty old fellow sat at a white-topped round table, near the fire, in front of a cold chine of beef, steadily plying his knife and fork with silent satisfaction, like a good trencherman, as he was, — dreaming, meanwhile, of the adventures of the day.

    "Robin," said the farmer's wife, as she arranged her knitting-needles, "what's that beef like?"

    "Well," replied Robin, "it's tender an' it's toothsome; an' I'm i' good fettle, too, mistress; for I haven't had a bite sin' noon."

    "Get some'at into tho, then, lad, i' God's name," replied she, "for thou'll need it! . . . But if thou's had nought to eat, thou's had plenty to sup, I doubt, — for thou stuts a bit."

    "Nay," said Robin, "I've had nought to make a din about."

    "So thou says," replied she. . . . "But where didst leet o' that scrat upo' thi nose?"

    "Well, mistress," said Robin, "I hadn't been i'th town aboon an hour afore I dropt in for that. . . . As soon as I'd stable't Brown Jenny, I set off into th' market to look after mi truck (trade), an' welly (well nigh) th' first thing that took mi e'e wur some mak (sort) of a Frenchman, wi' rings in his ears.  I knowed he wur a Frenchman, becose he couldn't talk no gradely talk; but th' owd lad had a mon made o' pipe-clay on his yed, that he wanted to sell.  Well, this pipe-clay mon wur as fine a bit o' wark as ever I clapt e'en on.  So I stopt, an' looked at it; an' then I said to this Frenchman, I said, 'Ill tell tho what, owd brid, that pipe-clay mon that tho has upo' thi yed theer, mun ha' bin a cliver sort of a chap when he wur alive, bi th' look on him.  What dosto want for him?'  Well; th' owd lad chunner't an' said some'at or another; an' he wur goin' to tak it off his yed; but afore I could mak out what he wur talkin' about, there wur an ill-willed keaw (cow) coom tickle-but bang through th' fair, wi' th' yed down, an' th' tail up, an' it sent this Frenchman flyin' one gate (way) an' me another, — slap into a pot-cart that stood close by, ― an' it knocked th' pot-chap reet into a cellar-hole, wheer there wur an owd woman sellin' penny pies, — an' I seed no moor on him.  An' what wi' th' pots an' one thing an' another, thur wur a gradely crash, yo may depend; for amung th' row th' pipe-clay figure coom bang to th' floor.  Well, th' keaw stops o' at once, an stare't at this pipe-clay mon that lee upo' th' street, an' it smelled at it, an' then, o' of a sudden, it took th' boggart again.  Up went th' tail, as stiff as a pump-hondle, an' off it set, madder than ever, slap through th' thick o'th market-place, as if th' dule wur beheend it.  Folk flew one gate, an' stalls flew another, an' off it went, straight up th' street, wi' a swarm o' butchers after it, full scutch, wi' cauve-sticks i' their honds.  Well, I watched th' keaw out at th' town-end, an' I left th' pot-chap an' th' owd Frenchman skrikin' at one another about their brokken stuff; an' I slipt into the Boar's Yed to wesh mi face, for I'd th' part of a quart pot stickin' i' mi chops. . . . I see'd no more on 'em; but that's how I geet this scrat upo' mi nose."

    "I never yerd sich a tale i' mi life.  Thou does manage to leet o' some lumber when thou gets down into yon town."

    "Well, I couldn't help it, yo known.  It would ha' bin just th' same wi' yorsel' if yo'd bin theer.  Ten to one you'd ha' gone yed first into that cellar-hole amung th' owd woman's pies."

    "So thou says.  Well, an' how didto goo on at th' market, then?  Thou's bin long enough away.  Give an account o' thisel."

    "Oh, I geet a better price than I expected.  I've a lot o' brass here.  I may as weel give it yo."

    "Nay, thou'd better sattle with our John.  Yo han it between yo."

    "Where is he?"

    "He's upstairs, with a poor owd fellow that wur takken ill i'th road here as he coom o'er th' tops, at th' edge o' dark, weet to skin, an' nearly, clemmed to death, bi th' look on him."

    "Poor owd dog.  It's bin an ill day for sich folk as that.  Who is he?"

    "Our John says they co'n him 'Boggart Billy.'  He's an owd cobbler that lives down i' th' town yon."

    "Nay, sure.  Is it poor owd Bill?  Eh, I haven't sin him as aboon ten year."

    "What! thou knows him then?"

    "Know him!  I've known him aboon forty year.  I knew him when he wur as honsome a lad as ever broke brade, — aye, an' as limber as a kitlin he wur.  Poor owd Bill!  He little thought at that time that ever he'd come to be poo'd down as he has bin. . . . Aye, aye; he's gone through St. Peter's needle has owd Bill.  An' I doubt it's unsattle't his top-knot a bit."

    "Has he ony relations?"

    "Well, for aught that I know, Billy stons bi hissel' i'th world, like th' rubbin'-stoop i'th middle o' th' ten-acre feelt yon; for he's noather farther, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother, nor chick, nor chyle, nor livin' soul that owns him; an' he's live't by hissel', in a bit of a cot, in a garden, wole't (walled) round, an' wi' darken't windows, for aboon thirty year, to my knowledge.  Nawe; Billy's like a chap that's born alive an' akin to nobody; for thoose that did know him hap very near forgetten that he's wick. . . . Oh, now I remember that he had one cousin, — his name wur Joe, — but he went across th' say when he wur yung, an' they'n never yerd top nor tail on him sin; an' I doubt they never win now."

    "It isn't very likely, for sure.  Well, but what kept tho i'th town so long after th' market wur o'er?  What, we lippen't on tho bein' back by noon; an' we'n had a busy day here, wi' th' pig-killin' an' one thing an' another."

    "Well, an' I met (might) ha' bin back bi noon if I hadn't let o' (alighted upon) some owd cronies.  I happen't to slip into th' Gowden Bo', an' who should be theer but Bill o' Snickett's, an' owd Tim o' Nudger's, an' Johnny Potyarb, him 'at wed little Matty o' Camomile's.  Theer they sit, with a rook more; an' nought would do but I mut (must) have a tot wi' 'em."

    "I can believe it.  An' I dar' say they'd have hard wark to persuade tho, too."

    "One doesn't go to th' town every day, mistress."

    "Nawe; an' it wouldn't do for thee to go every day, Robin.  Thou wouldn't be mich good to if thou did; for thought like th' rest, thou'rt yezzy (easy) lad off. . . . Well, an' how didto goo on?  I guess thou'd keawer (cower, sit) among that lot at th' Gowden Bo' for th' remainder o'th day?"

    "Nay; we didn't sit lung; for I fund that they wor o' gettin' ready to go up th' justice-reawm, at th' Flyin' Horse, to yer some lads tried for robbin' a porritch-pop."

    "Robbin' a what?"

    "A porritch-pon, mistress, an' nought else."

    "Nay, bi lakin (by our ladykin), lad; they mun ha' bin ill put to't to goo an' rob a porritch-pon.  It would be somebody that wur badly clemmed, I warnd yo (I'll warrant).  An' who wur they, i' godsnam?"

    "Well; thoose that did it wur noather stinted for meat, nor drink, nor clooas, nor brass.  It wur done bi a lot o' grammar-schoo' lads, fro th' top o'th Church Lone."

    "An' what did they do it for, pritho (I pray thee)?"

    "Well; it wur 'Mischief Neet,' an' they did it for a marlock, as far as I can understood.  What, lads win be lads, yo known, mistress — as lung as they are lads."

    "Aye, aye, marry; I know.  Yo connot put owd yeds upo' yung shoulders."

    "An' if yo could, tone (the one) end would never agree wi' tother (the other), — so it's happen as weel as it is."

    "Haply so. . . . Well; an' how wenten they on?"

    "Well; dun yo remember an owd farmhouse that stons bi itsel', a bit off th' roadside, between th' Pinfowd an' th' Goose Lone?"

    "Oh, aye; I remember.  It's just afore yo come to Sparth Bottoms!"

    "That's the very pleck, mistress."

    The servants began to draw near to listen to Robin's story.

    "I know it!" cried little Tib; "it's where owd Judd Robishaw lives!"

    "Thou's hit it, Tib," said Robin.  "Well; owd Judd had a lad that 'listed for a soldiur, th' last Rushbearin' but one —"

    "Oh, I know him!" cried Tib; "he's co'de (called) Charlie!  I use't to live at th' next farm!"

    "Tib," said Robin, turning round in his chair, "keep thi tongue between thi teeth, while I tell my tale!"

    "Ay," said the farmer's wife, "an' don't ston' gawpin' i'th middle o'th floor theer, wi' your knockles afore yo!  Get for'ad wi' your wark!  What, yo con hearken, an' wortch too, surely! . . . An' bring Robin a saup moore ale. . . . Now then, Robin; get endways wi' th' tale."



TH' WONDERFUL PON.


    "Well, as I wur tellin' yo, this lad of owd Judd's that went for a soldiur coom whoam a twothre (a few) days back, upo' furlough; so owd Judd an' th' wife made a bit of a supper, an' invited some o'th neighbours, an', as luck would have it, this supper happen't to leet o'th Mischief Neet,' when there's o' maks (makes, sorts) o' devilment agate among these wild cowts i'th fowd.

    "Well, th' news o' this supper geet out amung th' grammar-schoo' lads, an' they made up their minds that they'd have a bit of a frisk at owd Judd's, for they thought there wur no law for ony mak o' lumber that they did o'th Mischief Neet.'  An' they'd a rare chance at that farmhouse; for owd Judd's chimbley's wide enough to drive a cart down. . . . Well, — when th' day coom, there wur nought but roastin' an' boilin' agate at th' owd farmhouse.  They'd a fat goose, an' a prime piece o' stonin' ribs i'th front o'th fire; an' the big porritch-pon wur hanged i'th chimbley, rom-full wi' a fine cauve's-yed, an' a lump o' bacon, and a dozen suet puddin's. . . . Well; as soon as th' edge o' dark coom on, these grammar-schoo' lads crope onto th' riggin' o'th house; an' they fixt a bit of a windlass across th' top o'th chimbley, so that they could let a hook down, an' wind it up again, quietly.  An', to make things safer, one o' these mischievous whelps dropt into th' kitchen, just as th' eawl-leet (owl-light, twilight) wur darkenin' down, as if he'd co'de a-seein' 'em; an' they axed him to stop, an' have a bit o' supper.  That wur just what he wanted; so he crope up to th' fireside, close to th' pon that hung i'th chimbley; an' as soon as th' stuff wur gettin' middlin' well ready, an' there wur nobody lookin', he tapped again th' pon, with a little hommer, to gi' th' lads at th' top th' signal when to let th' hook down, and wind up.

    "In a bit, when th' kitchen wur clear, he rapped wi' his hommer, an' down coom th' hook, an' up went th' pon; an' as soon as these lads upo' th' riggin had fished hauve-a-dozen puddin's out, they leet th' pon down again.  Soon after that, owd Judd wife coom a-tryin' th' puddin's wi' a fork.  'Hello!' cried Judd wife; 'Sally, how mony puddin's didto put i'th pon?'  'A dozen,' said Sally.  'Well, that caps the dule.  I can nobbut find six on 'em here!  Thou mun be wrong, lass!'  'I'll swear I put a dozen in!' said Sally.  'Then cauve's-yed's etten 'em,' said Judd wife 'for they're noan here!'

    "Afore lung there wur another chance, an' he rapped again.  Up went th' pon once more, — an' this time they fished th' bacon out, an' leet th' pon down again; an' th' next time Judd wife coom to look, hoo cried out, 'Hello!  What's become o'th bacon?  The very dule's i'th hole!'  An' hoo stare't at this lad that sat at th' fireside; but he reckoned to be readin' a book.  Off hoo went into th' next reawm to tell owd Judd; an' as soon as her back were turned this lad rapped again, — an' up went th' pon like winkin'; an' this time they whipt th' cauve's-yed out; an' the pon had just getten back into it place again, when owd Judd, an' his wife, and this young sodiur coom into th' kitchen, wi' th' sarvents after 'em; an' as they crowded round th' fire, Judd wife said, 'There's some devilment agate i' this house; for there's six o'th puddin's gone — an' th' bacon's gone — an' — hello!' cried hoo, lookin' i'th' pon again, — 'Bi —! th' cauve's-yed's gone this time!  There'll be nought laft in a bit!'

    "Well — this yung sodiur whipt his faither's gun down, an' he slipped outside o'th dark; an' soon as he yerd these lads upo' th' riggin' sniggerin' an' laughin' among theirsels, he leet th' gun off at 'em, — an' down they coom, wi' th' cauve's-yed an' dumplin's, — some into th' midden', an' some into t' duck-poand, — an' they wur every one catch't; an', I believe, a bonny seet they wur. . . . But th' end on't wur that they wur o' summon't before owd Clement, th' magistrate."

    "Well; an' how did they goo on?"

    "Well; he gav 'em a good talkin'-to, — an' he towd 'em to goo into another reawm, an' sattle it amung theirsels' ― th lads wor to pay for th' stuff 'at they'd stown."


 
CHAPTER IV.


DURING a slight pause in Robin's tale about the farmer's chimney, the latch was lifted, and "Jerry o' Bit-bats," commonly known in those moorland wilds by the name of "Nobbler," stole in from the yard, dripping with rain.  Jerry was an "odd lad" on the farm, and he had just finished his work in the stables.  All eyes were turned towards the entrance, where he stood switching the wet from his hat.  He had left the door open behind him; and there was a dead silence in the kitchen, for the contrast between the scene inside and the sounds which came in at the open doorway, told with startling effect during that brief stillness, which lay upon the inmates of the house like a spell.  The rain-laden blast swept across the floor, swaling the candles, and howling out again, up through the wide chimney.  The roaring of the torrent through the gorge at the rear of the house, the rush of a hundred swollen watercourses down the hillsides, and the mournful sough of the wind, filled the kitchen for the instant with the wild sounds of a stormy night, in that dreary region, where the element of water was now raging on all sides, in the thick darkness and death-like stillness of the mountain-tops.

    "Jerry," said the farmer's wife, "for the Lord's sake put that door to.  Look how it's swalin' these candles!  Put that door to; an' sit down!  Thou's bin a long time potterin' about yon stables.  Whatever hasto bin doin', lad?  Martha, give him his supper.  Now then, Robin, get forbad wi' thi tale."

    The door was closed, the candles were trimmed; the hearth was swept; Robin began his story again; and "Jerry o' Bit-bats" sat down to his supper at the end of the dresser, listening, meanwhile, amongst the rest, to the conclusion of Robin's story.

    When Robin had finished, a general laugh ran through the kitchen.

    "Well, well," said the farmer's wife, "did ever onybody yer th' like o' that!  It isn't to tell what foolish pranks yung folk win play, — it isn't, for sure!  Thou does bring some comical tales out o' yon town, lad!"

    "Aye, aye," replied Robin, shaking his head, and knocking the ashes from his pipe, "it leets (alights, befalls) so sometimes, as yo say'n; but yon town's like th' rest o'th world, mistress, — it isn't o' fun that's goin' on theer, I con tell yo."

    "Nawe, marry, I doubt not, lad."

    "Eh, nawe; it isn't o' sunshine down yonder, no moore than it is up here, an' yo'n think so, too, when I've towd yo' th' latter end o' my news."

    "An' whatever is it, lad, I pritho?

    The farmer's wife laid down her knitting for an instant; her daughter stopped sewing; Martha turned round from her ironing at the kitchen dresser; and all eyes were bent on Robin, to hear his news.

    "Well," said Robin, trimming his pipe with the end of his finger, "I'd had a merry mak (make, sort) of a day amung 'em down i'th town, wi' one thing an' another, — an', to tell yo truth, I felt raither marlocky (frolicksome) mysel', for an owd un, — but I met wi' some'at, just afore I coom off, that sober't me o' at once.  I haven't getten o'er it yet.  An' that's what fleyed me so when I ran mi face into yon deeod pig that's hanged i'th saddle-reawm."

    "I' the name o' the Lord, lad, what wur it?"

    "Well, yo known, mistress, as soon as I geet into th' town I stable't Brown Jenny, at th' owd shop, i'th' Hare an' Hounds back yard.  What, yo'n remember th' lonlort at th' Hare an' Hounds very weel?"

    "What, John o' Jamie's?"

    "Aye; John o' Jamie's.  His faither were a brid-stuffer.  He live't at 'th' Well i'th' Lone."'

    "Remember him!  Ay, bilady (by our lady), I remember him weel enough!  An' as daicent a mon as ever stept shoe-leather he is, too!  What, I happen't to be i'th town that very day that he geet wed to Mary o' George's, o'th Howt Broo, — an' a hondsomer couple I think I never clapt een on!  Eh, it nobbut looks like tother day, — an' it'll be nineteen year sin, come first market Monday.  Aye, aye, we just geet into th' house as they wur comin' back fro th' owd church — an' nought would sarve but our George and me mut (must) sit down an' have a bit o' dinner wi' 'em.  Our Ellen, here, wur quite a little thing; an' hoo wur ill o'th maisles at the time; and that very day we took our John down to th' Whit'oth doctor's to get his shoulder put in."

    "I remember very weel, mistress.  He'd be about nine year owd at th' time.  He fell down th' crag, into th' wayterstid, at th' back o'th house, here, — an' he'd ha' bin drown't but for me.  But he wur al'ays a ventursome lad. . . . Well, but, — as I were tellin' yo, — while I wur busy o'th stable at th' Hare an' Hounds, wi' Brown Jenny, who should come in at th' dur-hole, but John o' Jamie's, the lonlort, wi' a peck-measur' in his hond.  I wur agate o' rubbin' my horse down at th' time but he fot (fetched) me a slap o'th back, an' he said, 'Hello, Robin, is that thee?  How are yo gooin' on up at moor-top, yon?  How's th' owd mistress?  Come thi ways into th' kitchen, an' have a gill!'  An' he wur as hearty an' as full o' gam as ever I see'd him i' my life.  Well, I towd him that I'd raither goo down into th' town an' get mi wark done first, an' then I'd come an' have a bit of a keawer (a cower, a sit) wi' him, for the sake of owd times.  But nought would sarve but I mut have an odd tot afore I went a peg fur (further.)  So I went into th' kitchen, an' geet a droight (draught) o' whoam-brewed; an' we agreed to have an hour together when I'd done, an' off I went into th' market. . . . Yo known already how I went on theer. . . . Well, when I'd finished my wark down i'th town I crope off up th' street toward th' Hare an' Hounds, as cant as a kitlin', chucklin' to mysel', and thinking what a grand tale I had for Jone o' Jamie's about this dooment i' Judd Robishaw's chimbley; but when I coom up to th' Hare an' Hounds dur, I fund that th' blinds were down; an' I thought to mysel', 'Hellos, th' owd lad's for leetin' up soon to-day?  What, it's noan dark yet.'  But afore I'd getten two yards up th' lobby I met one o'th sarvants, cryin' as if her heart would breighk; an' I said, 'Now then, Sally, lass, what's th' matter wi' thee?'  An' as soon as hoo could get her breath, hoo said, 'Th' maister's deeod!' and I said, 'What maister?'  And hoo said, 'Th' lonlort!'  An' I said, 'What, John?'  An' hoo said, 'Aye.'  An' I said, 'Thou lies, lass, belike!' — for I didn't know what to say.  But I soon fund it were true enough. . . . Well, yo met (might) ha' knocked me o'er wi' a hay seed.  An' I stood theer a bit afore I could bring mysel' round to believe it.  But I had to give in; for it wur theer.  Th' owd Mower had bin i'th house, — when nobody were expectin' him, — an' he'd cut a prime swathe down, o' of a sudden; an' laft it lyin' theer."

    "Eh, bless us an' save us, what trouble there'll be i' that house!"

    "Aye, marry, trouble enough, mistress, God knows."

    "An' what had bin th' matter, pritho; had he bin ailin', or some'at?"

    "Nay, not a bit.  Fro what I can yer, there wur not a failin' sign about him.  It seems that an hour afore he dee'd he wur as full o' life an' as likely for life as oather yo or me, as far as mortal mon could tell.  About four i'th afternoon Mary coom into th' kitchen to measure his wrist for some shirts hoo were makkin for him, but afore th' owd church clock had stricken five he'd drawn his last breath, an' th' shirts were laid by."

    "Good gracious, lad!  What a stroke wur that!  Eh, what a poor thing life is!  What a poor unsartain thing!  It behoves folk to think what they're about, it does for sure. . . . Then, they couldn't tell what ail't him, I guess?"

    "Well, some said one thing and some another; but it seems that he wur takken ill o' in a minute, while he stoode i'th kitchen, laughin' an' talkin' wi' customers, an' afore they could get ony gradely help he wur gone like a shot, — an' gone for ever.  An' theer he lee upo' th' floor as still as a clod, for they hadn't time to get him to bed."

    Every eye in the kitchen was turned to Robin; every hand had left its work; and there was an expression of sympathy in every face.  Even Jerry, who sat eagerly intent upon his supper at the end of the dresser, paused for an instant with uplifted knife and fork; and a subdued cry of sorrow arose in different tones from all around.

    "Poor Mary," said the farmer's wife, wiping her eyes, "hoo'd be in a terrible way."

    "Aye, aye," said Robin, "he wur gone afore hoo could get to him; an' they had to carry her out o'th kitchen as dateless (insensible) as a stone, into th' parlour, where his unfinished shirts lee strewn about.  Th' whole house wur upset fro top to bottom; an' bi this time there wur two doctors theer.  I peeped into th' little parlour where Mary wur laid upo' the couch cheer, wi' a lot o' neighbour women about her; but as soon as I see'd that pale face I knew that I could be no use, so I mounted th' horse, and coom off, through th' rain, quite down-hearted."

    "Poor Mary," said the farmer's wife, wiping her eyes again, "I can feel for her — I can that.  I's be like to go down an' see how hoo's getten on to-morn."

    "I wish yo would, mistress," said Robin.  "It'll be some time afore hoo gets o'er this."

    "I doubt it will, poor lass," replied she; "I doubt it will."

    And now, for a little while, a sad silence pervaded the farmer's kitchen.  Robin filled his pipe again, and sat gazing dreamily into the fire.  Jerry went on with his supper in a noiseless way; and the rest quietly returned to their work again.

                         .                              .                              .                              .

    "Martha," said the farmer's wife, "bring some more coals to this fire."

    As Martha was throwing the coals on the fire, a gust of wind brought down a great cloud of soot from the chimney, which covered all the hearth, and made Robin sit back from the grate.

    "Good gracious!" said the farmer's wife, "that's a bonny marlock.  Ellen, tak thi sewin' into th' parlour a bit.  Robin, this chimbley wants sweepin'; we mun have it looked to i'th mornin' th' first thing.  This 'll never do.  Come, lasses, sweep th' hearth up, an' don't stop' starin' at one another.  Jerry, hast finished thi supper?"

    "Ay."

    "An' hasto bin down to see thi mother?"

    "Ay."

    "An' how's hoo gettin' on?"

    "Hoo's no better."

    "Poor craiter! hoo's a feaw life on't.  I mun send a saup moore elder-wine, an' some black curran's.  Just mind me on't i'th mornin'.  Dost yer?"

"Ay."

"Well, mind thou does, now; and dunnot need so mich coin in a mornin',—dosto yet?

    "Ay."

    "An' is there ony news o' that rackle (reckless) brother o' thine?"

    "Ay."

    "What's he doin'?"

    "He's wrostlin' th' champion."

    "What champion?"

    "Drink."

    "Nay, sure; is he agate o' drinkin' again?"

    "Ay."

    "Well, then, he's in an ill gate, is th' lad. . . . An' thou may weel say 'champion,' bilady; for onybody that'll tackle drink, it'll bring 'em to th' floor, as who they are."

    "It will that," said Robin, knocking the ashes from his pipe.

    "Come, come," said the farmer's wife, "thou doesn't need to say nought.  It's had thee down mony a time."

    "Ay, it has," replied Robin, "an' I'm noan bi mysel', mistress."

    "Nawe, marry," said the farmer's wife, "thou'rt noan bi thisel'.  It would be weel if thou wur.  There's a deal o' feightin' agate i' this world, — about some'at an' nought, — but there's bin moore folk kilt wi' drink than wi' gradely straight-for'ad feightin'."


 
CHAPTER V.


In lonesome penury and pain,
    He drew his breath alway;
A poor, forlorn, night-wandering man,
    Who shunned the light of day.

ANON.


ALTHOUGH darkness had now settled down upon the hills, the hour was not late; and the farmer's kitchen was a bright scene of homely comfort; for in that happy and decorous household simple manners prevailed, and master and servant mingled in friendly sympathy together, each interested in the welfare of the other.  Once more the fire had been mended, with the addition of a dry tree-root, full of gnarls and knots, which was beginning to crackle and blaze, filling every nook of the place with cheerful radiance.  That strong old house of the solemn and sturdy Puritans of troubled times, — which had stood the storms of centuries,  — shone like a star amidst the gloomy wilds that night.  There innocence and sober mirth, and the inestimable blessings of health, and peace, and useful work, and contentment, were gathered together in the wide kitchen, beneath massive oaken rafters, richly hung with hams and flitches, and bunches of dried herbs, culled from the pastoral region around, that filled the whole house with a pleasant smell.

    Supper was over, and the tables were cleared.  Jerry was still resting himself at the end of the dresser, stolid and satisfied; staring across at the fire, with his head upon his hand.  And old Robin, now seemingly lost in thought, — for he had become suddenly silent, — sat dreamily smoking at the end of the long-settle and gazing steadily into the glowing grate.  These two had finished the labours of the day; but the rest of the household were still at work.

    At a little old-fashioned table, near the fire, the kind old matron sat, in her snowy cap, with long white strings, deftly plying her knitting-needles, and looking round the kitchen, now and then, with an air of quiet satisfaction.  On the opposite side of the table, sat her daughter Ellen, — a sweet and modest-looking girl, now blooming into healthy womanhood, — intent upon her sewing, and turning, from time to time, to lift her bobbin from the window-sill, upon which an old Bible lay, under the shade of well-tended pot-flowers.  Martha was busy at the dresser, ironing the clothes of the household, by candlelight, and stepping across the floor, occasionally, to take a fresh heater from the fire; and little Jenny, the youngest servant of the family, sat at a small round-topped table, apart from the rest, mending stockings.  A decorous silence pervaded the place, although, at intervals, a merry whisper crept through the little company; but, in the pauses between, the dull thump of Martha's smoothing-iron upon the dresser, mingling with the moan of the wind outside, the patter of the rain upon the windows, the whistle of the blast in the lock-hole, and the rattle of a door in the yard, told distinctly in the silence; deepening the feeling of comfort amongst those inside.

                         .                              .                              .                              .

    "What a neet it is, to be sure," said the farmer's wife, changing her needles; "What a neet it is!  An' I doubt it'll be no better as long as th' wind's i' this quarter."

    "Nawe!" said Robin, "th' wynt comes fro' a weet country, at present, for sure; an' it's like to bring weet with it, as lung as it blows; but I think we may look for a change afore aught's lung.  There'll be a new moon to-morn."

    "Well," replied she, "we're like to tak it as it comes, lad."

    "Aye," said Robin, "it's one o' thoose things that's out of our reitch.  But if yo'n notice't, mistress, ill weather al'ays makes th' inside o'th house look fine."

    "It does, lad," replied she; "an' fine weather makes th' outside o'th house pleasant.  So we han it both ways.  Aye, aye; folk han a deal to be thankful for when they com'n to think. . . . Jerry, hasto finished thi supper?"

    "Ay."

    "An' hasto had enough?"

    "Ay."

    "Then come up to th' fire, lad.  What arto sittin' theer for?  I'm sure thi clooas are damp."

    "Ay," said Robin; "come thi ways up to th' fire.  There's plenty o' reawm upo' th' lung sattle here; an' I dar say thee an' me can manage to sit together 'bout fo'in out."

    Jerry came lounging across the floor, and took his seat by Robin on the long settle.

    "Jerry," said the landlady, lifting her eyes from her work, "I think thou might ha' weshed thi honds an' face afore thou'd sit down to thi supper.  I don't like to see dirty folk.  Good gracious! look at thoose honds!  Thou connot be comfortable.  I know thou's dirty wark to do; but thou doesn't need to leave it on.  Bless my life, thou'll be barkle't wi' clutch!  Hasto weshed tho to-day?"

    "Ay."

    "Jerry thinks that where there's muck there's luck," said Robin.

    "I don't believe i' sich talk," replied the farmer's wife.  "My mother use't to say that cleanliness wur next to godliness; an' I think that it has some'at to do with it.  Do try to keep thisel' tidy, lad.  Thou'rt noan fit to lie down among daicent clooas i' that state.  Mind thou weshes thisel' afore thou goes to bed. Doesto yer?"

    "Ay."

    And now there was another silent lull in the kitchen; and the wild voices of the storm outside were heard again.
                         .                              .                              .                              .

    Robin had been unusually still for a little while; but now he seemed to rouse himself suddenly.  Knocking the ashes from his pipe, he shifted uneasily upon his seat, and cleared his throat with an evident effort.

    "Mistress," said he, trimming the bowl of his pipe again with his little finger.  "I didn't tell yo o' mi news.  I've another bit for yo yet."

    "An' whatever's th' next, lad?  I hope to the Lord it's some'at good this time, for th' last thou gav us wur sad enough."

    "Well; I didn't think o' tellin' yo till to-morn; for I don't know how yo'n tak it.  But, it'll ha' to come out; so I met (might) as weel get it o'er."

    "Out wi't then, pritho, — an' let it leet (alight, fall), — as what it is."

    "Well, — here goes, then!  If I mun tell yo truth, — while I wur i'th town to-day, — I put th' axins (askings, banns) up."

    The farmer's wife drop her knitting, and looked across over her spectacles.

    "An' who hasto bin puttin' th' axins up for, pritho?"

    "For mysel'."

    The farmer's wife laid her knitting down, and took off her spectacles.  Martha turned from the dresser, with the flatiron in her hand, muttering to herself, "What's comin'now?" and every eye in the kitchen stared at Robin.

    "Good gracious, lad!" cried the matron, "thou'rt lyin', belike."

    "Nay; it's a bit o' God's truth, mistress," said Robin, looking down at the hearth, as if half-ashamed of the fact.

    "Lord help us an' save us!" continued the farmer's wife, "what's th' matter wi' tho, lad?  I doubt thou'rt gone off it o'together!  Thou mun ha' getten a touch o' faiver wi' goon' i'th rain bout hat, — an' sittin' i' thi weet clooas.  I've towd tho about it mony a time.  Mon, thou'rt gettin' into years, an' thou cannot ston what thou use't to do.  Thou'd better ha' some wortchin-physic, — an' a churn-milk posset, sweeten't wi' traycle.  Thou wants a good sweat.  Martha, see that he has some more clooas on his bed.  How does his yed feel?  I doubt it's faiver.  Our Jonathan just began o' ramblin' in his talk th' same road when he took th' faiver."

    "Well, mistress," said Robin, "if I'd a faiver made up of o'th colours i'th rainbow, mixt with thunner an' leetnin', it's as true as I'm stonnin here, for o' that."

    "By my song, lad, thou caps me this time!  An' what mak' of a craiter arto gooin' to be wed to, i' the name o' the Lord?"

    "Dun yo know Matty o' Lung George's, that use't to be th' sarvant at th' Doldrums alehouse?"

    "What, 'Mat o' Yeawler's,' as they co'n her?"

    "Ay; that's hur."

    "Thou doesn't meeon to say that thou'rt goin' to get wed to a bit of a pullet (chicken) like that, sure?"

    "I do."

    "Well, — go thi ways to bed, then, — an' say thi prayers, — for thou'll never do no moore good i' this world!"

    "What for?"

    "What for! . . . Nay; don't talk to me. . . . Thou's takken my breath!"

    "I see nought wrang in it."

    "Thou sees nought wrang in it . . . . Thou'rt partin' wi' thi senses, very fast, lad! . . . Th' owder an' th' madder, as th' sayin' is!  What mun I live to yer th' next, I wonder? . . . Why; thou'll be rockin' i' spectacles, mon!"

    "Well; I dar say I can manage to rock a bit, — if there's aught to rock."

    "Nay; howd thi din, do!  I connot bide to yer tho talk! . . . An' does thou mean to tell me that Matty'll tak up wi' a cratchinly whisket like thee, — wi' one foot in his grave, — an' owd enough to be her faither?"

    "Hoo says so."

    "Well; hoo's takkin' her pigs to a bonny market, then, — I will say that! . . . An' whatever possess tho to put up at sich a kitlin' as that?"

    "Hoo's a bit of a stockin' hanged i'th chimbley, mon."

    "Nought o'th sort!"

    "Yigh, hoo has.  Her faither left her some brass."

    "Well; I don't know whatever this world's comin' to! . . . I think th' best thing thou can do would be to goo an' hang thisel' i'th chimbley, at th' side o'th stockin'! . . . Here; let it drop! . . . an' shift to one side.  Yon's our John comin'!"

    Footsteps were heard on the stairs.  It was her son coming down into the kitchen, with the old cobbler.


 
CHAPTER VI.


A friendless wanderer on the earth, mine was a hapless lot;
I groaned in secret misery 'midst a world that heeded not
Unhappy thoughts and wretched dreams my restless nights did
        haunt;
And days of cheerless solitude were darkened o'er with want.

HERMIT OF THE HILLS.


WHEN the farmer's wife announced the approach of her son and the old cobbler, everybody stood still and listened; but, as soon as the footsteps were heard upon the stairs, a sudden stir ran through the kitchen.  The matron and the daughter drew their work farther from the fire; Robin and Jerry "hutched" away to the other end of the long settle, so as to leave a warm seat next the hob; Jenny crept nearer the window, with her table full of stockings; the dogs upon the hearth, roused by the bustle, got up and turned round, and then lay down again; and even Matty shifted her ironing-cloth a little, as if the wretch whose feeble steps were drawing near was going to sit all over the place at once.  And, indeed, he did occupy an important position in the house that night, for every heart under the roof was moved by a kindly feeling for the forlorn old man whose life, so visibly miserable, was, also, wrapt in a gloomy mystery, that made him doubly an object of wonder and of pity to all around.

    "Ay," said the farmer's wife, resuming her knitting, "they'n bin a long time rootin' up th' stairs; but they're comin' at last.  Poor owd Billy; whatever's brought him thus far away fro whoam sich weather as this.  What, it's enough to kill him!  Ah, he's no moore fit to wander by hissel' than a bantlin' is! . . . Martha; fill this kettle again, — an' push that arm-cheer up to th' hob-end.  He'll be better here than upo' th' long-settle.  Let's make him as comfortable as we can while he is here; for I doubt he's nobbut a feaw life on't, — tak it o'together. . . . Set some tea-things on that little table, — an' make a less din wi' yor wark!"

    The stir of preparation in the kitchen was soon over, and, as silence settled down again, the manly tones of John's voice, mingling with the querulous wail of the old man, came from the staircase, which they were slowly descending together.  The cobbler had been completely stript of his wet clothes — even against his will, — and he was now clad from top to toe in dry things, partly belonging to Robin, the cow-lad, and partly belonging to the strapping young giant who was leading him downstairs.  The change was very comfortable; but the fit was certainly ridiculous, for Robin's trousers were many inches too long, and John's jacket was "a world too wide" for the shrunken son of Crispin.  And the old man seemed partly conscious of this, for stopping, again and again, as he slowly descended the stairs, he eyed himself all over, and then said, in a feeble and tremulous treble, "These aren't mine!  Where's my own clooas?"

    The young farmer encouraged the old man as well as he could.

    "Never mind thi own clooas, Billy!  What, they're as weet as dish-clouts!  Off witho downstairs, — an' let's get to a bit o' fire — for thi teeth are chatterin' i' thi yed like a pair o' rick-racks!  I doubt thou's getten' cowd!  Thou hasn't bin measure't for these clooas; but they'n do for to-neet.  An' tother'll be nice an' dry for mornin'."

    "Look there," said Billy, holding out his arm, in the long sleeve of which his thin limb was lost.

    "Never mind," said John, "they're dry, an' they're clean, an' they'd do well enough to sit in.  What, thour't noather goin' to a weddin' nor a rushbearin'.  Come, let's get into the kitchen, an' see if they can find us a bit o' baggin'.  I don't know how thou art, but my appetite's as keen as a cross-cut saw!"

    "I mun be gooin'," muttered the old cobbler.

    "Thou doesn't go out o' this house to-neet, Billy," replied the young man, as they entered the kitchen together.  "Dun yo yer what he says, mother?"

    "What's that?"

    "He wants to go whoam."

    "What nonsense!  I durstn't let him goo o' no 'count!  It isn't fit to turn a dog out!  God bless my life, he'd never get hauve gate whoam a neet like this, poor fellow!  John, bring him up to this cheer. . . . Martha, how arto getten on wi' that ironin'?"

    "I'm just finishin'."

    "Well, get some tea ready, an' set it out for two on that round table; an' then help Jenny to finish thoose stockin's."

    Martha folded up her cloth, and put her irons away, and then she began to get the tea ready.  Meanwhile, John led the old cobbler, like a child in a string, up to the arm-chair by the fire, near where his mother sat; and, as they crossed the floor the old man's appearance in the borrowed clothing was so comical that a quiet titter ran through the kitchen, in spite of the feelings of pity which touched every heart for his feebleness and misery.  Laying his hand upon the arm of the chair, the old man gazed vacantly round the room, as if trying to remember where he was; then he sat down, and seemed to sink into a kind of dreamy stupor, in which, with head hung down, he fixed his eyes upon the fire, and muttered to himself, by fits, about his having to go home and about his bundle, for which he groped around now and then.

    "Come, Billy," said young John, "let's try to pick a bit!  I dar say thou'll be welly famished."

    "Nay; I'm not very hungry," said the cobbler, rising painfully from his seat, and gazing upon the repast which had been prepared, with a bewildered air.

    The table was spread with tea, with its usual trimmings, in addition to which there were several savoury elements of a solid meal, to which the young farmer sat down with right good will.  Planting Billy on the opposite side of the table, John helped the old man, pressing him to eat, and "make up for lost time."  Almost mechanically the old cobbler obeyed his young friend, and when half-an-hour or so had passed, John had led him back to his seat, evidently much refreshed, and gradually becoming more communicative.

    "Billy," said John, drawing his chair up to the old man's side, and laying his hand upon his shoulder, "I guess thou'rt livin' by thisel' yet?"

    "Ay."

    "Does never think o' gettin' wed?"

    "Me?" said the old man, turning half round, in surprise. "Never name it!"

    "Well, but, if I were thee, I'd trace mysel' to a bit of a wife o' some mak, I know folk that are as owd as thee [looks across at Robin], an' not hauve as hondsome, that are willin' to venture upo' weddin', just th' last thing, afore they putten the shuts up for ever."

    "Well," muttered the old man, "they're welcome.  But I'm too far gone, John, — I'm too far gone!"

    "Well, but; thou mun have a weary life on't, Billy," replied the farmer's son, "livin' by thisel' neet an' day, th' year in, an' th' year out, — rootin' an' scrattin' in a cowd house, — an' never a wick soul to fratch wi'.  Get wed, mon! "

    "Ay," said the farmer's wife, smiling, "get married to some nice young woman that has a bit o' money in an owd stockin' i'th chimney."

    "I am too far gone, mistress," said the old cobbler.
                         .                              .                              .                              .

    Robin, to whom these remarks had been sarcastically applied, began to fidget upon his seat.  At last, he suddenly knocked the ashes from his pipe, and rising from his seat, he stretched his arms, and then lounged quietly across the kitchen towards the foot of the stairs, as if he was going to bed.  The young farmer rose from his chair at the same time, and beckoning Robin into a corner under the stairs, he began in a whisper:—

    "Well: didto do what thou said?"

    "What's that?"

    "Didto put th' axins up?"

    "I did."

    "An' hasto towd my mother?"

    "Ay, I have."

    "Well?"

    "Well, what?

    "What did hoo say?"

    "Well, — as far as I can remember, — hoo said just th' same as thou said thisel'."

    "An' what wur that?"

    "Well, — hoo said I were a foo, — fur one thing."

    "Didn't I tell tho?"

    "Yigh, thou did.  An' as far as that goes, — thee an' thi mother are both in a tale."

    "Well; an' isn't hoo reet, thinksto?"

    "I don't know."

    "Thou will know in a bit.  If thou wanted to be wed thou should ha' started o' thi wark forty year sin, — an' thou met (might) ha' had it o'er bi now."

    "So thi mother says."

    "Ay, what thour't beginnin' at th' end, mon."

    "So thi mother says."

    "Ay, an' thou'rt beginnin' at the wrong end, too."

    "So thi mother says."

    "So mi mother says?  Well, but doesn't thou think thisel', that it's getten to late to mend a bad day's wark?"

    "Well, — i' my time, — I have yerd folk say, — 'Better late than never!'"

    "An' I doubt thou'll find it out, afore lung, that its sometimes 'Better never than late!"'

    "Thi mother said the very same; an' hoo mentioned some'at about folk rockin' i' spectacles."

    "Hoo didn't need.  Thou'll ha' no rockin' to do."

    "I don't care; I'll have a penk at weddin' afore I dee; if yon lass will ston' to her bargain."

    "My mother met (might) weel co' thee a foo, Robin."

    "Well, — so thou says.  But, — beside that, — hoo as good as towd me to go an' hang mysel'."

    "Well; an' I'm sure hoo couldn't say fairer, — for, if thou would, it'd save tho a deal o' trouble."

                         .                              .                              .                              .

    The farmer's wife had watched Robin walk across the kitchen towards the stairs, and when her son and the old cow-lad had done talking together, she called out :—

    "Thought gooin' to bed, Robin?"

    "Ay."

    "Well, — mind thou says thi prayers. . . . An' co' at th' parson's to-morn, an' ax him to pray for tho, too, — for thou'll want o' th' help thou can get afore aught's lung!  Thou great owd gonnor!  I wonder whatever's put this maggot into thi grey yed!


 
CHAPTER VII.


Though thou write with a goose-pen, no matter; about it.

TWELFTH NIGHT.


"THERE, William," said the farmer's wife, setting a hot glass of rum and water down upon the hob, close to the old cobbler's elbow, "there drink that.  Yo'n had a terrible weetin' i' this storm.  What, it's enough to kill yo.  Now, drink it while it's hot, an' it'll happen keep yo fro gettin' cowd.  When folk getten into years, mon, they cannot ston th' same racket as they did when they wur yung an' hearty.  I know I can feel it.  Years will tell.  An' when th' hair's gettin' grey, and th' blood's gettin' thin, folk needen more care, — life's music sinks down to a low keigh (key), an' a little harassment puts it out o' tune. . . . Here," continued she, handing him the glass, "taste that, and see if it's to your likin'."

    The old cobbler was still in a wandering state of mind, as if not quite sure where he was.  Gazing with mazy eyes at the glass in her hand, he said in a tremulous tone, "Mistress, I'd better be goin' down th' broo afore it's dark.  Wheer's my bundil?  I want to be gettin' whoam."

    "Dark?" replied she.  "Whatever arto talkin' about?  It's bin as dark as coalpit nearly two hours?  An' th' rain's comin' down as if it wur coming out o' dishes!  It's a very wild neet, I can tell yo!  What, yo couldn't see your hond afore yo; an' yo'd be down o' your back afore yo'd gone mony yards!  I couldn't find i' my heart to turn a dog out, — let alone a Christian!  Nay, nay; marry, yo'n be like to stop where yo are!  So do sattle yo'rsel', an' we'n try to make yo as comfortable as ever we con! . . . What, yon nobody waitin' on yo', han yo?"

    "Nawe," replied the old cobbler, "I've nought but mysel'."

    "Well, then, fret no more about it, I prayo," said she.  "They're well off that's under cover this neet, — owd or yung, — I can tell yo! . . . Now, drink o' that, — it'll do yo good. . . . What, yo're quite in a shiver!"

    "Here, mother," said the young farmer, drawing his chair up to the old man's elbow, "gi' me howd o' that glass, an' I'll doctor him up a bit."

    "Ay," replied she, "thee try to get him sattle't, John; poor owd craiter!  He isn't fit to walk a yard bi hissel'.  I doubt he's noan weel, — for though he shivers like a dog in a weet seck, his hand's as hot an' dry as a red poker.  Get that drop o' stuff into him, an' I'll goo upstairs an' look after his bed. . . . Has Robin gone?"

    "Ay, he's croppen (crept)-up-to-roost."

    "But he's never gooin' to bed so soon, sure?

    "He'll come noan down again to-neet, I doubt."

    "Though better goo up an' see."

    "Nay, I'll e'en let th' owd foo lie still, an' think things o'er a bit. . . . He's towd yo, hasn't he?"

    "What about?"

    "About puttin' th' axins up?"

    "Yigh, he has. . . . He caps me!  I don't know what this world's comin' to! . . . He's gooin to make a bonny hond of hissel'! . . . A mon o' three-score gettin' wed to a bit of a snicket that's hardly done wearin' hippins! . . . I cannot underston' it — I cannot for sure!  It looks so unnatural!  An' th' lass, too, — I'm fast whatever hoo can see in a cratchinly owd mon o' three-score!"

    "Hoo comes of a crazy breed."

    "Why, then, there'll be a pair on 'em, — for I'm sure he's noan reet! . . . What's th' matter I cannot tell!  I think the dule mun ha' thrut (thrown) his club o'er him o' at once, — for I little dreamt o'th owd leather-yed givin' his rheumatic legs such a crazy flirt as this, — just at th' latter end o' his days."

    "Well," said the young farmer, "I've bin tryin' to persuade him to drown hissel', — but I connot get him into th' mind, just yet!  I think he'll be willin',—in a bit. But, he says that, — afore he tries that, — he'll see what weddin's like, — an', if it doesn't turn out reet, he'll make an awteration o' some make'."

    "Well," replied she, "time'll tell, — for it tries o', — but I think it wouldn't be an ill thing to get him into a 'sylum, afore worse comes on it.  But I'll goo upstairs, an' get th' poor owd mon's bed ready.  Thee look after him, John, an' make him comfortable, for he looks ill."

    The farmer's wife went slowly upstairs to look after the old man's bed, muttering to herself, "Poor owd body!  He's nought noather in him nor on him, — an' he's quite alone!  One hauve o'th world doesn't know how tother hauve lives, — they don't, for sure! "

    John quietly watched his mother out of sight on the stairs, then, taking the glass in his hand, he turned to the old cobbler, and said, "Come, Billy; drink this afore it goes cowd.  It'll tak th' chill off tho!  What, thou'rt starve't through.  Come, owd friend; an' I'll have one mysel'."

    The old man gazed vaguely at the glass, and murmured, "I daren't tak it, John; I daren't tak it.  I'm noan use't to drink."

    John, however, still continued to press the odorous beverage in a kindly way, till, at last, the old man began to sip, listening dreamily, meanwhile, to the cheery talk of his friend.

    And now, whilst the two sat quietly thus by the fire, footsteps were heard in the Coble-paved yard, — the kitchen door opened, and in came "Ab o' Plunger's," a stout moorland farmer, on his way home from town.  Ab came in without ceremony, for he was an old friend and neighbour, — and his clothes were dripping with rain.

    "Hello, Abram," cried the young farmer.  "Neet brings th' crows whoam!  Whatever arto doin' areawt (outside) at a time like this?"

    "Thou may weel say a time like this," replied Ab, switching the rain from his hat, "for it's a steeper, and nought else.  It's th' weetest back-end we'n had this ten year!. . . I've bin down to th' market, an' just as I coom by th' Cross, owd Job Sutcliffe, th' barber, axed me to co' wi' a pair of razzors he's bin settin' for tho, — an' theer they are, sitho! . . . But I didn't know thou use't sich like things.  I've never sin ony wark for a razzor upo' thi chin, yet, John.  If I wur thee, I'd save barberin', an' gi' th' cat a job!"

    "Never mind that, Abram," said the young farmer, "poo up to th' fire, an' have a glass.  Win yo stop o' neet?"

    "Not I, marry!  I mun get endways, John, — rain or no rain, — or else th' fat'll be i'th fire at our house.  But I've no objection to an odd glass afore I start, thou knows."

    "That's reet! . . . Wi'n yo have a bit o' some'at to eat?"

    "Not a bit, John!  I've done nought but stuff mysel' this day, at one shop an' another, till I'm as full as a filch (vetch). . . . I'll have a saup o' some'at to sup, I tell tho, — an' nought else!"

    "That's reet," said John.  "Poo up, an' fill for yo'rsel, an' dry your clooas a bit. . . . Well; han yo let (alighted upon) o' nought uncuth (strange) down i'th town, this time?"

    "Nay; I've met wi' nought particular. . . . Well, I did yer a comical sort of a crack while I wur i'th Clock Face kitchen, this forenoon."

    "Oh, ay; what wur it?"

    "It wur about a bit of a blow up that happen't i'th town, yon, a day or two back."

    "Well, let's have it."

    "Well, thou remembers that wood-yard up at top o'th Blackwayter?"

    "What, at th' town end, theer?"

    "Ay, a bit past th' sign o' 'Hark up to Glory,' — as they gwon out to Spotlan' Bridge."

    "Ay."



THE STOLEN TIMBER.


"Well; it seems that, time after time, they'd missed a lot of wood out of a corner o' this yard, close bi th' roadside, — an' they couldn't make out how it went, — nor who stoole it, — except that it kept gooin' — an' it went i'th dark; an', when mornin' coom, th' maister coed this chap, that had bin watchin', into th' office, an' he said, 'Well, how hasto gwon on?  Did they come for ony moor?'  'Ay,' said th' chap, 'they coom creepin' o'er th' wole (wall) about hauve-past four this mornin', — when they thought o' th' world war asleep, — an' they took another burn (burden) o' wood, as sly as mice steighlin' cheese.  I could ha' nabbed 'em, as nice as ninepence, but yo said I wur to find out who it wur, — an' then yo'd see to't yorsel.'

    "'Well,' said th' maister, 'an, who's thief?  Didto find that out?'  'Aye, I did,' said th, chap, 'an' who dun yo think it is?'  'Nay,' said th' maister, 'if I knew who it wur, I shouldn't need to ax thee.  Who is it?'  'Well,' said th' chap, 'it's owd Bill that keeps th' bakehouse, at tother side o'th road, yon.'  'Th' dule it is!' said th' maister.  'Why, I should as soon ha' thought o'th vicar steighlin wood for his vestry fire as owd Bill. . . . Well, come in; we'n see if we connot help th' owd lad with his firin'-up, th' next time he comes.' . . .

    "Well, after that it seems that th' maister sent down into th' town for a lot o' powder; an' then he had some wood cut up into nice handy blocks, — just about th' reet size for chuckin' into a fire-hole; an' then they made these blocks hollow, an' filled 'em chockfull o' powder, an' pegged 'em together a-again, — so that never a mortal could tell.  Well, when they'd getten these blocks ready, they planted 'em snugly i'th owd nook, where these thieves coom i'th neet-time.  'Theer!' said th' maister, when they'd getten 'em set, 'there's a twothre nice roastin'-pieces ready for th' owd lad th' next time he comes!  An' they'n not need mich cookin', noather!  His oon (oven) 'll be in another township afore thoose getten burnt through!' . . .

    "Well; everything wur ready, an' they set this chap to watch again, th' next neet; an' th' maister said, 'Thou'd better come an' wakken me about four o' clock.  I'll get up, an' see this marlock mysel!  There'll be a bit of thrutchin' i' yon hole, as soon as the fire gets to that stuff!  I doubt it'll awter (change) th' owd lad's bakin'-day for him.  But, we's see!'. . . . Well, this chap watched again i'th owd nook; an' sure enough, owd Bill boom creepin' o'er the wole for his wood, as usal, about hauve-past four i'th mornin'.  Th' maister had bin wakken't a bit afore that, as' he see'd th' owd devilskin takin' the wood away, his sel', this time. . . . Well; when owd Bill had getten nicely off wi' his plunder th' maister said to this chap that had been watchin', 'Come, Sam; we mun see th' end o' this job.'  An' then they went an' planted theirsels, i'th dark, o' tother side o'th road, o'th front of owd 'Bill's bakehouse!

    "In a bit they geet a wap o'th owd lad, flutterin' about th' bakehouse, gettin' ready for his wark, — an' singin' like a layrock.  'Theer he goes!' said the maister; 'theer he goes, — as content as a king!  But, it's mich if there isn't a hole in his ballet, afore aught's lung!'  Then they yerd th' owd lad agate o' firin' up, an' they began o' gettin' ready for an awteration.  'Look out, master!' said Sam.  'It'll come this road on!  Mind yorsel'!  There'll be loaves flyin' directly, — an' a breek or two, beside, I dar say, — for it'll shift aught that stops i'th road, will yon stuff, — when it gets warm!  Look out!  I'll get at th' back o' this wole!  Maister, yo'n better go to th' end o'th house yon!  Keep your een oppen!  It's war time!' . . .

    "It began o' gettin' a bit breeter i'th bakehouse, — an' owd Bill sang louder nor ever, — but it wur comin'.  'Now for't!' said Sam, duckin' his yed beheend th' wole, ― an' then there come a thunge that shake't o' th' buildin' i'th neighbourhood.  Th' windows were blown into bits, an' th' front o'th house lee i'th middle o'th road, — an' two four-pound loaves flew through a chamber window at tother side, where th' clogger an' his wife wur i' bed, — an' one on 'em took th' owd chap o'th nose end, — an' owd Bill coom flyin' out at th' bakehouse dur-hole, th' hinder-end first, wi' a fire-shool in his hoed, — an' he let sock amung a pile o' slutch, 'at had bin left by th' street-sweepers.  An' theer th' owd lad lee, — as black as the dule, — an' as daze't as a goose wi' a nail in it yed. . . . Sam an' his maister went a-helpin' him up, — for they thought th' owd lad wur kilt.  'Arto hurt?' said Sam.  But he could get nought out on him, but 'Wheer am I?'  'Billy, my lad,' said th' maister, 'yon are  ― strong coals o' thine!  Mind wheer thou gets 'em fro' th' next time!' . . . But I believe there wur no bakin' done at owd Bill's that day."


 
CHAPTER VIII.


Full of decay and failing.

TIMON OF ATHENS.


THE farmer's story about the stolen timber, and the explosion in the bakehouse, gave rise to a burst of merriment from everybody in the kitchen except the sad-eyed recluse who sat shivering by the hob, gazing dreamily around, with a lean and hungry look.  The farmer told his tale in a vivid way, — for his whole body went with the current of his story, in a strain of quiet mimicry, which greatly increased its effect upon the audience, with one exception.  The poverty-stricken cobbler's heart had sunk down hopelessly into the minor key; and his poor old face had long ceased to be the index of any inward joy; for though a complacent tinge of relaxation might haply change its solemnity for an instant, now and then, — like a ray of wintry sunshine gliding across a grave, — it never lingered there, but flitted quickly from that unhappy ground, leaving it cold and gloomy as before.  The old man's nature was tainted with the bitterness of misanthropy.  His life had been so long cut off from human society, — he had dwelt so long in a penurious seclusion, nursing the sad memories of his early life, that he shrank, now, from the genial enjoyment of happier natures.  With mazy and mournful eyes he gazed upon the farmer as he told his tale; but that melancholy visage was as immovable as sculptured stone, until the story came to an end, when, — in the midst of general merriment, — he heaved a deep sigh, and turned his face to the ground again.

    "Well done, Abram," said young John, when the farmer had finished his tale.  "That's as nice a marlock as I've yerd on for a good while!"

    "It's not a bad un o'th sort," replied the farmer.

    "Nawe, it isn't," said John.  "An' by th' heart, owd Bill would stare when he fund hissel' flyin' through th' air, with a fire-shool in his hond."

    "It would make onybody stare!  It's time to oppen yo'r een when yo find'n yorsel' shot out o'th house, like a cannon-bo'!  By th' mass, he met weel stare!  Mon; he'd had no notice, — an' he didn't know how far he had to goo, — nor wheer he wur gooin' to leet."

    "Nawe," replied John. "But it wur a good job that slutch war theer for him to leet on."

    "Ay; it wur 'a good job of an ill un,' as th' sayin' is.  If he'd met wi' a stone wole in his travels it would ha' bin war (worse) for him."

    "It would that! . . . If ever I'm to be fire't up into th' air, I'd raither ha' slutch than stones for a stoppin'-shop mysel'. . . . But it would put an end to th' owd lad, singin' that mornin', as how."

    "I believe it did, — an' I don't think he's sung a note sin."

    "I dar say. . . . Well, an' what becoome on him after th' bakehouse wur blown up?"

    "Nay; thou has th' tale as I had it, fro' end to end.  But thou may depend on't that no fresh loaves 'll come out yon bakehouse for a bit; for th' front wole's blown out, an' th' oon's ripped to ribbins."

    "Sarve him reet!"

    "Ay; sarve him reet, — as thou says, — an' I think th' owd lad'll happen mind wheer he gets his eldin' (firing) fro' for time to come."

    "Ay; an' I think he'll try coals th' next time hem fires up."

    "Well; he'll be jealous o' chips, now, as lung as he lives."

    "Th' owd lad'll never be able to face a wood-yard again."

    "Nawe; noather bi neet nor day.  An' if he happens to meet a chap carryin' a plank, he'll run to tother side o'th road, freeten't on it gooin' off like a gun."

    "He'll be fleyed o' sittin' on a cheer, now."

    "Ay; or aught else 'at's made o' timber.  They tell'n me that as soon as he coom to hissel', after th' bakehouse war blawn to jam-rags, some o'th neighbours piked him out o' this pile o' slutch that he'd bin shot into, an' carried him into th' Beehive alehouse to put him to bed; but, as soon as he see'd th' bed, he said, 'Howd, lads!  What are those bedstocks made on?'  'Why, they're made o' mahogany.' 'Well; set me down, then,' cried Bill.  'I'm noan boun' to lie theer!  It'll blow up, if it's wood!  Make me a bed on th' kitchen floor!'

    "Poor owd Bill! It'll ha' gan him a shakin'."

    "Ay; I believe it's laft him in a wambly sort of a state.  But he needed no shakin', for he was nobbut about hauve-rocked to begin wi'.  He's bin a regilar Hal for th' lads i'th fowd ever sin he wur a bit of a cowt at schoo'.  I yerd mony a comical crack about him while I wur i'th Clock Face kitchen, this forenoon. . . . One neet, when he wur rollin' whoam fro' th' Amen Corner alehouse, as drunk as Chloe, he let of a tough customer."

    "How wur that?"

    "Well, it seems that he reckons to be a bit of a kempy when he's fuddle't; an' so, as he went whoam i'th pitch dark, singin', and growlin', and swingin' about fro one side o'th road to tother, he coom ram bazz wi' his yed again a pow (pole), that stoode at th' end o'th lone (lane), — an' he went back'ards to th' floor like a shot.  Well, that put owd Bill on his mettle; so he gether't his limbs together, an' he nips onto his feet in a greight wuther, an' he planted his sel' i'th front o' this pow, i'th dark, an' he said to this pow, 'What th'― hasto done that for?'  Well, there happen't to be a chap rear't again tother side o'th pow that wur about hauve drunk, and this chap said, 'What the hectum didto run again me for?'  'Who did run again thee?'  'Thou did.'  'Thou lies!  What arto stonnin' theer for?'  'What's that to thee?'  'Gullook!'  'Thou'd better button thi lip, owd mon!' said th' chap.  'Doesto want to feight?' said Bill, squaring up for a tussle.  'Well,' said th' chap at th' back o'th pow, 'if thou's ony consait o' thysel', thou may get agate as soon as thou's a mind.'  So Bill made no moore ado, but he up wi' his fist, an' he let fly straight at this pow, i'th dark.  But by Guy, the first stroke wur enough.  Bill began a blowin' his knockles, an' he said, 'Give o'er!  I'll ha' no moore!'  An' off he went, staggerin' whoam, with his hond under his arm, mutterin' to hissel',   'Yon's a hard devil, — as who he is!'"

    "Drunken leather-yed!" said John.  "He's a rough life on't, wi' one thing an' another."

    "Sich chaps as him generally han," replied the farmer.  'He's al'ays mixt up wi' some mak o' blunderment. . . . Last Christmas mornin' he went out wi' th' singers; an' when it wur gettin' toward th' racketty end o'th neet, they poo'd up i'th front of an empty house, an' theer they sang for three-quarters of an hour afore they fund it out.  An' it wur o' through owd Bill — he kept knockin' at th' dur, an' shoutin' through the lock-hole, 'A merry Christmas an' a happy New Year to yo! . . . Brass off again, lads; I yer some'at stirrin'!'  But there were nought stirrin', — for there were nought o'th hole but a ratton or two.  At last they geet a wap (a glance) of a printed 'To Let' i' one o'th windows; an' off they went, talkin' a bit o' rough talk amung theirsels. . . . Th' next shop they went singin' to they geet a good dowsin'."

    "Oh, ay?  How wur that?"

    "Well; it had getten far on i'th mornin', — an', afore they parted, they thought they'd do a bit o' mischief, if they could; so they went a-singin' under an owd chap's window that didn't want to hear 'em, — for he hated music, and he hated to be disturbed i'th neet above o' things, — an' he wur born wi' th' cramp in his fist, for he wur never known to give a hawpenny to nobody i' this world.  'By th' mass,' said Bill to th' singers, 'afore we parten, let's give owd Jonathan a bit of a touch, — he'll be as mad as a wasp!'  So off they set, an' they drew up under owd Jonathan's window, — and then they clatter't at th' dur an' began a-singin' 'Christians, Awake,' as loud as they could bawl.  Well, th' owd lad wakken't in a minute, an' he lee theer a bit, swearin' like a trooper.  At last he geet up, an' he went an' filled a ten-gallon can wi' wayter, an' set it down on a cheer, close bi th' window-sill.

    "Well, when o' wur ready, and these singers wur agate o' their yeawlin', full swing, th' owd lad thrut (threw) th' sash up, an' looked out.  'Good morning, lads,' cried Jonathan.  'I'm fain to see yo!  A merry Christmas an' a happy New Year to yo!'  Well, these singers were quite capt (astonished) to see sich a change i'th owd lad, for they thought he would ha' bin ready to shoot 'em, — so they spoke him fair, an' wished him o' mak o' good wishes, an' sich like; an' th' owd lad kept givin' 'em a bit o'th smooth side of his tung back again, till he geet them into a good humour.  'Well, lads,' cried he, 'I wish I'd known on yo comin', an' then I'd ha' had a bit o' some'at comfortable ready for yo.  But I dar say yo'd as soon have it i' brass?'  An' they o' cried out that it would do very weel.  'But, are yo noan dry?' said Jonathan.  An' one or two on 'em shouted out, 'Ay, we're as dry as soot!'  'Well, then,' said Jonathan, 'Ill see what I can do for yo! . . . Th' fire's out, or else I'd ha' getten yo a sup o' somewhat warm. . . . But it'll happen do cowd?'  An' they o' shouted out that it would do very weel.  'Well, then,' he said, 'you munnot (must not) think nought at me not oppenin' th' dur, becose I'm noan so weel; but I can manage to let a saup o' some'at down for yo, — if that'll do?'   'It'll be o' reet, Jonathan; an' thank yo!'  'How mony is there on yo?'  'Fifteen o'together, Jonathan.'  'Come a bit nar (nearer), then.' An' th' singers coom clusterin' under th' window.  'Now, then,' said Jonathan, 'are yo theer?'  'Ay.'  'Con yo catch it, thinken yo?'  'Ay.'  'Well, then,' said Jonathan, dashin' th' whole ten gallon o' wayter down onto 'em, 'Divide that amung yo, — an' be d—d to yo!' an' down went th' window again."

    "They wouldn't sing mich after that, Abram."

    "Nawe, it put an end to their twitterin', an' set 'em agate o' swearin'.  An' they needed no moore partin', noather.  It wur a keen frosty neet.  In a twothre minutes they wur o' scutterin' off whoam, i' different directions, as hard as they could pelt, wi' icicles at their nose-ends, an' their teeth chatterin' i' their yeds like rick-racks."


 
CHAPTER IX.


                                                    I hang the head,
As flowers with frost, or grass beat down with storms.

SHAKESPEARE.


"ABRAM," said the matron of the house, coming forward from the doorway, where she had stopped to listen to the farmer's story about the Christmas singers, "thou does tell some o'th quarest tales that ever coom out o'th mouth o' mortal mon.  Wherever doesto leet on 'em?"

    "Leet on 'em?  Bless your life, — I goo into nooks an' corners that sich as yo never thinken on!"

    "Aye, marry; no doubt thou does."

    "Leet on 'em, say'n yo?  Why, th' country's full on 'em!  An' when one comes to think that th' whole world's at wark outside of a body's sel', there's sure to be mony a marlock agate that folk never getten to yer on that spenden their days i'th chimney-nook, countin' th' cinders i'th fire-hole.  But some folk are like as if they wur frozen to th' floor they wur born on; an' what chance han they o' knowin' what things belongs?  They're like a midge in a traycle pot, — their journeys are short an' troublesome; an' they known nought, an' they wanten to know nought, — an' they see'n nought; for their e'en are clagged up.  Now, if ever I quit th' owd clod for an odd day or so, I'm safe to leet o' some'at (something) uncuth (strange).  Oh, nawe, Mary, yo munnot (must not) get it into yor yed that there's nought gooin' on o'th world but what's agate i' this nook."

    "Me?  Eh, nawe; not I, marry!  I'm noan so gawmless (stupid) as that, Abram!  There's noan so mony on us here, i' this house; but they'n o' different tempers, an' they'n o' different ways, — an' some on 'em are noan so good to manage, I can tell tho, — an' though I seldom go away fro' whoam, now, I know very weel that where there's a deal of folk there's sure to be a deal o' stirrin's.  I've sin a bit o'th world, when I wur younger; but, I've sin as mich on it as I want to see.  I make no 'count o' mixin' wi' racketty swarms, now, at my time o' life.  I care nought for din, an' gew-gaw glitter, an' noisy dooments.  Some folk are like Billy Robishaw's dog, — they're never quiet but when they're feightin', — they're never at rest but when they clatterin' about amung a noisy, jowtin', swelterin' bustle.  But, between yo an' me, Abram, I don't envy sich folk, — I don't, for sure.  If yo'n believe me, I get quite moider't (confused) amung a lot o' madlin' chatter-baskets, now.  I connot bide their din, ― an' their empty gosterin' tricks.  An' as lung as God spares my life, I would fain spend my days in a peaceable way, if possible.  An', to tell yo truth, Abram, I'm quite content wi' th' owd nook, now, — quite, I am."

    "Ay, an' so am I, too, Mary, — though I relish a bit of a frisk among these outsiders, at an odd time, now and then, for o' that, — just for a leetenin', yo known, — nought no moore.  But a very little sarves; an' I'm al'ays fain to get back to th' owd ground, — where there's room under th' sky for a body's voice to wander in, when they oppen their mouth. . . . Oh, ay; th' moor-ends for me! . . . Now; when I wur a young mon, like your John, here, — I wur al'ays hankerin' after a great town, where there wur some life gooin' on; but I've getten o'er that a good bit sin.  If ever I go to th' town now, Mary, I feel as if I wur stifle't amung it; an', if yo'n believe me, it fair warms my heart when I turn my face toward th' moors again.

   "I'm like yo, Mary, as I get owder, I get more soil-bund.  I'd liefer live on th' moors, now, than anywhere else i'th wide world!  After I've bin i'th town a day I feel like a whale that mun rise afore it can blow; an' I fair long to get up whoam again.  An' it does me good to find mysel' amung these hill-tops, where one can draw a deep breath o' good air, an' leave plenty moore to go on wi'.  Folk are forced to draw their breath, every minute, as lung as they liven; an' they should e'en tak care to have it as good as they can get it, for it's what they liven on mostly.  They takken money a one up for poisonin' drink, an' sich like; but I'd hang onybody that poisons th' air, — for poor folk han very little else to depend on.

    "As for me, Mary, I believe I wur born to live a country life, for I tak a delight o'th changes o'th weather, an' th' changes o'th year, fro' seed-time to harvest, an' fro' winter to summer, ― I tak a delight i' watchin' th' changes o'th sky fro' break o' day till th' sun dips his gowden rim into th' say, an' th' grey eawl-leet comes softly on; an' then th' moon, an' the quiet stars, looken down fro' th' sky, while o'th world's asleep.  An' it does my heart good to watch bits o' things growin' upo' th' rough moors, an' round about th' owd farm, — wild plants an' posies, — an' th' green yarb o'th fields.  Eh, mon, they're bonny!  An' when th' time comes that they han to dee, — like everything else i' this world, — I can watch th' little things droop, fro' day to day, just as if they wur livin' craiters; an' I feel delighted to think that, when th' winter's gone by, they'n spring up again about us, as fresh an' as bonny as ever.  Eh, ay; th' wild moors for me!  I wouldn't live in a town if I met (might) wear red shoon! . . . An' money a time, Mary, when I'm rovin' about these tops, after th' sheep, wi' my dogs about me, I sit down amung th' heather bith' side of a little rindle o' clear wayter, that's wanderin' bi itsel', — or upo' th' edge of a tinklin', moss-groon well, — I sit down an' think, an' hearken th' dainty bit o' music, when there isn't another sound stirrin' under th' sky, — an' I feel as happy as a king!"

    "Abram," said the farmer's wife, "thou'd ha' made a rare parson.  But, thou al'ays wur a quare lad. . . . Come, sup up, an' have another glass.  What arto nursin' that drop for?"

    "Nay; I mun be gooin', Mary."

    "Nonsense.  What, th' neet's quite yung yet; an' thou hasn't far to goo!  What, we do not get a wap on tho every day, thou knows!  Here; let me mix for tho.  Thou'd better stop a bit, — it's rainin' as hard as ever."

    "Ay; come, Abram," said the young farmer, "have another tot afore yo gwon.  Th' rain'll happen bate in a bit."

    "It'll bate noan, this neet, John," replied the farmer.  "It's set in.  The wynt's in a weet quarter, an' it'll stick theer a bit, I doubt. . . . However, I'll just try another toothfull.  I may as weel be kilt for a sheep as a lamb. . . . But, my wife'll play th' upstroke when I get whoam."

    "Not hoo, marry," said the matron, as she filled his glass again.  "Tell her wheer thou's bin, an' it'll be o' reet, I'll awarnd you (I'll warrant you). . . . But, how is your Sally!  I haven't clapt een on her sin' th' last churn-supper.  However is hoo?  Thou knows, hur an' me went to schoo' together, when we wur lasses."

    "Aye, aye; I know. . . . Oh, th' owd wench is as cant (canty) as a kitlin'.  Hoo never looked better in her life."

    "I think hoo doesn't goo out much, Abram."

    "Nawe; hoo's like yo, Mary; hoo's a gradely whoam brid, now, — though hoo took a deol o' spackin' (reconciling) to th' shop when we first geet wed.  But, now, a pair o' chen-horses couldn't drag her away fro' th' clod."

    "I dar say.  Thou ought to mak' mich on her, Abram; for hoo's made thee a good wife, hoo has that."

    "Ay; hoo's a good sort, is our Sally."

    "A better lass never stept God's ground, Abram."

    "Hoo's o' reet, Mary."

    "Hoo is that, Abram.  An' hoo hasn't an idle bone in her skin."

    "Nor th' hauve o' one!  Hoo keeps us wick i' yon nook, I can tell yo. . . . Our Sall's as sweet as a posy, an' as sound as a roach, Mary, fro' top to toe!  Th' owd craiter, ― I don't know what I mut (must) do bout her!"

    "Nawe, marry!  An' hoo's a heart as good as guinea-gowd!"

    "Hoo has that, owd woman!"

    "Aye, aye.  It would be an ill day for thee, Abram, if ever thou wur to lose her."

    "Eh, never name it, Mary; never name it!"

    "But, thou should give her bit of an out, now an' then, thou knows, Abram, — for a change."

    "Out!  I've the hardest wark o'th world to get her out, I tell yo!  It's war (worse) than drawin' a badger! . . . I did manage to persuade her to go to th' rent-supper wi' me, down at th' Boar's Yed, yon, about a fortnit sin', but it wur as much as th' bargain, I can tell yo."

    "Oh, hoo went wi' yo, then?"

    "Ay; hoo went, at th' end of o'.  But I don't think hoo would ha' gone if hoo hadn't bin fleyed on me stoppin' to lung."

    "I dar say, poor lass!"

    "Poor lass! yo'n no 'cation to co' her 'poor lass,' by th'mon!  Sixteen stone weight, o' good, solid English stuff, — as breet as a squirrel, an' as limber (nimble) as a snip (eel)! That's noan so poor, for an owd un, Mary."

    "Nawe, marry, it isn't!  There is some poor uns, if that's poor, as thou says.  But Sarah wur one o'th hondsom'st lasses o' this country-side, when hoo wur yung.  Thou let on very weel, Abram; for thou geet th' flower o'th flock."

    "Well I thought so at that time, Mary; an' I've thought so ever sin'."

    "Aye, aye; an' thou may weel.  It's a great matter is weddin', — an' it leets weel when they both poo'n one gate.  But, some folk are born under a lucky star."

    "Well; I know nought about lucky stars, an' unlucky stars; but, I know that I wur born under as mony stars as onybody else; for th' same sky's aboon us o', — an' I'm content, Mary."

    "Well well; I know nought about sich like things; but it's lucky when things leeten reet."

    "Some folk lay's their own blunders upo' th' stars, Mary.  I don't believe there's a star i'th welkin that wishes onybody ill."

    "It doesn't seem likely, for sure, Abram.  Well, but how did this rent supper goo off?"

    "Oh, reet enough.  There wur plenty o' meight an' drink, an' plenty o' fun, for there wur a rook (a lot, a numbers) o' owd neighbours theer, that didn't meet every day.  An' some o'th farmers had brought their wives wi' em, — so our Sally wur noan by hersel'.  But, if yon believe me, Mary, I looked round amung these women, an' they wur a prime lot, I can tell yo, — an' I'm noan a bad judge of a woman, though I say it mysel' — I looked round amung these women, an' I thought to mysel', 'By th' mass, yo looken weel, — but there isn't one amung th' whole lot that's fit to howd a candle to our Sally!'"

    "Eh, Abram!"

    "High; it's true!  I thought so, Mary; an' I towd her so, too!  But hoo said, 'Howd thi din, do!  Don't begin o' thi foolish wark here!  Thou'lt have folk starin' at us!'  But I said it, — an' I stoode to't, — for I never seed her look better than hoo did that neet, — so, I out wi't again, an' I said, 'I don't care, lass, — thou'rt th' hondsom'st woman i' this hole!'  An' I believe I swore it.  But I connot remember everything, yo known, Mary."

    "Eh, Abram, thou art sich a mon!"


 
CHAPTER X.


"THEN yo'd have a fine time on't at this rent supper, Abram?"

    "Well, — ay.  We'd a rare spread upo' th' table, I con tell yo; an' I played a good stick, for one, that's sartin'. . . . Oh, ay, it went off very weel.  It's a bit of a change, yo known; an' one leets of a lot of owd cronies that they don't see every day; an' there's sure to be some mak o' fun agate, at a time like that, afore it's o'er. . . . But, between yo an' me, Mary — though I'm weel an' hearty, — I feel that I'm gettin' owder; and I tak less delight i' sich like things than I did twenty year sin.  I don't know whether it's my blood that's gettin' thinner, or my yed that's gettin' wiser, — an' I doubt it isn't th' latter; for as years creepen on, it sometimes happens that th' heart get's harder, an' th' yed gets softer."

    "Not al'ays, Abram, sure-ly."

    "Well, nawe not al'ays, Mary, thank God!  But let that leet as it will, I'm very mich o' our Sally's way o' thinkin' about sich like dooments; an' hoo whispers to me as we were sittin' at th' table, 'I'll tell tho what, Abram; I'd rather ha' had a bit o' quiet supper among ersels, a-whoam.'  An' I said to her, I said, 'So would I, lass; but we are here, an' let's make both ersels an' everybody else as comfortable as we con, — as long as it lasts.'  An' we did so, I con tell yo'; for hoo never grumbl't another cheep (chirp), but made herself as good as goose-skins to everybody about her."

    "That wur al'ays th' way wi' her ever sin' I knew her; an her an' me wur lasses together. . . . I knew her afore thou did, Abram."

    "A bit, I dar say."

    "A bit!  Ay; aboon ten year."

    "I dar say."

    "Ay, marry; why, mon, we use't to goo a-gettin' wimberry together, when we weren't much above th' height o' that table. . . . Eh, ay; we ramble't mony a day together, upo' th' moors, about th' owd farm, chatterin' an' talkin', an' deckin' one another's hair wi' bits o' posies an' things, as content as if o'th wide world belonged to us.  Eh, thoose wur happy days! . . . Ay; an' I took to her so mich that once, when hoo went away for a month, to see her gron-mother, up i' Pendle Forest, our folk thought I should ha' brokken my heart, — they did, for sure!"

    "I dar say, Mary, I dar say.  Hoo wur a winsome craiter when hoo wur a little un, I believe."

    "Ay; an' hoo is yet!"

    "Ay; an' hoo is yet, as yo say's, Mary, hoo is so yet.  God bless her owd soul!  It's me that knows. . . . Hoo weren't quite twenty year old when we geet wed; but th' first time I clapt een on her hoo floor't me for ever, — hoo did, for sure, — for I've never getten o'er it sin."

    "Thou's occasion to be thankful, Abram."

    "I am thankful, Mary."

    "Thou may weel, Abram.  I hope yo'n live lung together, an' be happy as lung as yo liven."

    "Thank yo, Mary," replied the farmer; "I wish for nought better i' this world."

    "Well, but," said the matron, "who wur there at this suppur, — an' how did'n yo goo on?  Thou doesn't tell me."

    "Oh, ay," replied the farmer.  "Well; it wur a leetsome mak of a stir, — as lung as it lasted, — I'll awarnd (I'll warrant) yo.  I geet very comfortably planted at th' table, for I'd our Sally at my reet hond, an' Rondle o'th Hillock o' tother, an yo' known what a rattle-pate Rondle is."

    "Ay, marry; he's war than a woman for talkin'."

    "Woman!  I'd back him again a hundred women, — an' a cage-full o' monkeys, to boot!  By th' mass; I couldn't get a word in edge-ways."

    "Nawe, marry.  I can never o'ertak his talk, Abram."

    "Nawe; nor me, noather.  So I gav o'er tryin', an' leet him have his fling; an' he kept us alive, I con tell yo."

    "No doubt he would, Abram, for his tung's never still.  If his tung had bin made of iron it would ha' bin worn out long sin.  He fair moiders me."

    "An' me, too, sometimes, Mary; for I lose th' end of his talk; an' then he goes chatterin' away, full scutch, grindin' th' same thing, o'er and o'er again; an' I keep starin' at him, an' sayin' 'Ay,' just for quietness; but I can make no moore sense on him than if it were a coffee-mill at wark. . . . I did try to poo him up, once or twice, when he were sit at supper, but I met (might) as weel ha' spokken to a stoo'-foot, bless yo.  'Rondle,' I said, 'for the Lord's sake, let thi meight stop thi mouth a bit, an' thou's ha' clear runnin' when th' supper's o'er.'  But it were no use; at it he went, ding-dong, gabble, gabble, gabble, as hard as ever, till he made me quite mazy."

    "He caps me, Abram.  I wonder whatever he finds to talk about."

    "Talk about!  He'll talk about ought or nought, — whether he understons it or not, — for I think he's one o' thoose that mun oather talk or dee . . . If yo'n believe me, Mary, I yerd him talk two hours once, to prove that a feelt weren't a garden."

    "Between yo an' me, Abram, I think thoose that chatter's so mich mun ratch (stretch, exaggerate) a bit."

    "They connot help it, Mary.  But some folk liken to yer their own din, mon."

    "Well, well; everybody has a way o' their own.  It takes a deal o' sorts to mak up o' sorts; an' he's one amung th' lot."

    "Aye, aye an' there's war (worse) folk than Rondle.  Oh, we geet on very weel together, wi' o' his talk."

    "No doubt yo would, for I don't think he's an ill-contrive't felly."

    "Oh, nought o'th sort! . . . He towd us a bit of a tale, now an' then, that sat us agate o' chinkin' (chuckling). . . . It seems he'd bin off at Liverpool that day, at th' cattle market, an' he'd come whoam by th' train; an' he said that i'th carriage he happen't to be in, there wur a greight fat chap, curl't up in a corner, hauve-drunken, an' muffled up to th' chin, — an' sound asleep.  Well; nobody took much notice on him, but leet him goo on snorin' by hissel', i'th corner.  But, o' at once, this chap began o' stirrin', — wi' his e'en shut, — an' he poo'd one of his boots off, — an' then he poo'd tother off.  Well; th' folk i'th carriage thought he'd happen corns on his feet, or some'at, so they said nought, but leet him goo on wi' his doffin'.  But, by Guy, as soon as th' owd lad had getten his boots off, what does he do but pikes (picks) 'em up, an' drops 'em out o'th carriage window; an' he said, 'Wakken me at seven o'clock.'  An' then he curl't up into th' corner again, mutterin' to hissel', 'This is a h―― of a world!'  An' away went th' boots, — an' away went th' train, wi' th' chap in it, sound asleep, in his stockin' feet; an' they seed no more on him."

    "Good gracious!  Why; th' felley'd lose his boots, then?"

    "Aye, aye; he'd see no moore o' thoose boots, I doubt. . . But, it were a marcy that there weren't a life or two lost at this supper of ours, Mary!"

    "Nay, sure!  Bless us, an' save us, Abram; how wur that?"

    "Well; yo known owd George at th' Tunshill, an' his wife?"

    "Ay, marry; I should think I do."

    "Well; George'll be seventeen stone weight, if he's an ounce; an' Matty'll not be mich less."

    "I dar say."

    "Well; as yo gwon into th' bar at th' Boar's Yed, — where we had er suppers, there's a lot o' steep steps that lead'n into th' cellar.  There's bin one or two necks brokken afore wi' folk tumblin' down thoose steps,――"

    "Eh, dear o' me, Abram; whatever's comin'?"

    "Well; as I wur sayin', — they'n had so mony warnin's, that they generally keepen th' cellar dur fast; but, as it happen't this supper day, one o'th sarvents had bin down for some'at, an' hoo'd just pushed th' dur to, but never latched it. . . . Well; when owd George an' his wife coom to th' supper, they stopt i'th bar a minute, to have a bit of a chat; an' while George stoode talkin' to th' londlady, Matty happen't to lean again this cellar dur, — an' it ga' way.  Well; Matty skrike't out, 'George, I'm gooin'!'  An' hoo clickt howd of his cwot, an' poo'd him after her; an' away they went down these steps together, — him o'er hur, an' hur o'er him, till they coom sock to th' bottom, like two packs o' wool. . . . Well; th' whole house wur up in a minute; an' there wur sich skrikin', an' scutterin' about i'th hole as never.  Th' londlady stoode tremblin', an' wringin' her honds, i'th bar, cryin' out, 'Eh, they're kilt, — they're kilt!'  Well; th' cellar-steps wur full o' folk i' no time; an' theer lee owd George an' th' wife at th' bottom, o' mixt up together, — an' as mazy as two tups.  In a bit owd George began o' comin' to, an' he said to his wife, 'Matty; wheer arto?'  'I'm here,' hoo said, puttin' her clooas reet.  'But, I can tell tho better,' said Matty, 'as soon as I get up.  Shift thi legs a bit!'  'Well; by th' mass,' said owd George, gettin' onto his hinder-end, an' lookin' up th' steps, 'han' we come'd o' this road, lass, an' noan kilt?' . . . An', sure enough, it wur so; for when they come to reckon their limbs up, they weren't a bit war for th' tumble; an' they sat down to their suppers as hearty as if nought had happen't."

    "Eh, what a marcy, Abram!"

    "Ay; it wur a good job of an ill un, for sure, Mary. . . Hello!" continued the farmer, starting from his chair, and running across to the old cobbler on the opposite side of the hearth, "What's to do wi' th' owd chap?"

    The old man was falling forwards from his chair, muttering incoherently, and almost insensible.  Young John and the farmer both caught him before he came to the ground, and the old man gazed wildly about, and talked in a childish, wandering way, as they settled him in the chair again.

    "He's noan weel" said the farmer.  "Who is he?"

    "Eh, poor owd fellow!" said the matron, "I doubt he's gooin' to be ill.  John, thou'd better get him to bed; get him to bed, an' I'll make him some gruel."

    "Come, owd friend," said John, "come, an' I'll help tho to bed."  But the old man was too far gone to answer him in any sensible way; and John, with the help of one of the servants, carried him off to bed.

    "Whoever is he?" said the farmer, gazing after them as they went upstairs, "I like as it I should know yon face."

    "It's an owd cobbler out o'th town yon," replied the matron.  "He coom o'er th' tops i'th storm, just at th' edge o' dark; an' he dropt down i'th middle o'th road yon; an' I doubt it's bin too much for him, poor fellow.  He's a poor forlorn craiter, that's live't by hissel' for aboon thirty year an' he goes by th' name o' Billy Alone."

    "Eh," cried the farmer, "is it poor owd Bill?  Why, I knew him when he wur a lad!  I knew th' whole seed, breed, an' generation on 'em!  Poor owd Bill!


 
CHAPTER XI.


There's something in his soul O'er which his melancholy sits on brood.

HAMLET.


"AN' so thou knows this poor owd craiter, then, doesto, Abram?" said the matron.

    "Know him?" replied the farmer, drawing up his chair, "ay, sure I do!  I know him as weel as I know my own brother, bless yo!  That is, I did know him; for it's twenty year sin I set e'en on him afore; though, we'n live't within three mile o' one another o' th' while."

    "Nay, sure!"

    "Yigh; it's true.  But he's kept hissel' terribly to hissel' don't yo see?"

    "So I believe."

    "Ay; that's how he geet th' name o' Boggart Bill, or Billy Alone.  An' some co'de him one thing, an' some co'de him another; an', sometimes, those that knew nought about him gav him very hard names.  But, between yo an' me, Mary, he's very much to be pitied."

    "I feel for anybody that's owd an' forlorn, Abram," said the matron.

    "Ay, ay," continued the farmer, looking dreamily into the fire, "if o' this world were as good as yon cratchinly owd craiter it would be better to live in than it is. . . . Poor owd Bill!  He's seriously alter't sin I last seed him!  Time, an' one thing an' another, han made a sad wakes o'th owd lad, they han that!  He's had a troublesome journey thus far, — but I think he hasn't much farther to goo."

    "Nawe, indeed, poor fellow.  I doubt he's very ill.  But I began to think yo must surely know some'at about him, when I see'd yo lookin' so hard at him, as he sit at the fireside, here."

    "I might weel stare at him, Mary; for I could hardly believe my own e'en.  As I've bin tellin' yo, it's twenty year sin I see'd him last, — an' that twenty year has made fearful havoc wi' th' owd lad. . . . An' then, he's so quarely rigged out, that I couldn't co' him to mind."

    "Oh, ay; I had forgetten that," said the matron.  "When our John brought him into th' house, at th' edge o' dark, he wur drenched to skin; so we geet him to strip his weet things, and don some dry clooas of our John's."

    "Poor owd Bill! " continued the farmer, musingly, "he's had a strange life! . . . Know him?  Aye, aye.  I should know him, for we wur lads together."

    "Nay, sure?"

    "Yigh; it's true.  I don't think yo can remember it, Mary; but, when I wur a bit of a cowt, about nine year owd, my faither sent me down into th' town to live wi' my uncle George a while, — so that I could go to a good schoo'.  Well; I lived down i'th town, at my uncle George's, off an' on, between six an' seven year, an' durin' that time I went to two o'th best schoo's i'th town.  Th' first that I went to wur th' owd schoo' upo' th' Vicar's Moss, — it goes bi th' name o'th Moss Schoo' to this day, — for though the town's creepin' up that way, an' th' owd schoo's gettin' surrounded wi' houses, now, I believe that about two hundred year back th' biggest part o' that end o'th town wur a wild moss, that belonged to th' church; an' on th' town-edge o'th moss this schoo' wur built; an' that's how it geet th' name o'th Moss Schoo'!  An' this wur th' first schoo' that I went to, down i'th town.  Owd Arundel wur th' maister at that time; an', though he wur a terrible sharp chap, an' raither too severe now an' then, tak him o' together he wur one o'th best maisters that ever put a lad through his facin's. . . .

    "Well; it wur at th' Moss Schoo' where I first met wi' th' very same owd chap that's just gone up yo'r stairs!  He'd be two or three year owder than me; but we no sooner coom together than we geet as thick as inklewaivers; an' we stuck to one another through thick an' thin, year after year, as long as I stopt i'th town.  Among th' lads at th' schoo' we went by th' name o' ' Th' cuckoo and th' little brid,' — for where one wur tother wur sure to be noan far off; an' if one geet into a scrape tother wur sure to have a hond in it.  An' as sure as ever one on us played truant, — an' that wur about twice a week i' summer time, — tother never turn't up that day.  Eh, the bonny happy days we an spent together, wanderin' about Hollinworth Lake, an' up th' moorside, to 'Robin Hood Bed,' or getherin' wimberry upo' Lobden Moor, or nuttin' i'th wild woods o' Yealey Ho Thrutch, wi' o' th' world to ersels, — till th' eawl-leet brought us whoam again, with er pockets full o' nuts, an' wicken- whistles; an' as hungry as two young huntin' dogs, after a hard day's run.  Eh, thoose bonny, happy days!

    "Th' world changes colour a bit, Mary, as one gets owder.  It hardly looks like th' same country, to me, that it did when I wur a lad, — it doesn't, for sure. . . . Aye, aye; when that lad an' me wur at schoo', there's nobody could ha' come between us.  It wur like interferin' between th' bark an' th' tree; for we use't help one another with er (our) lessons, an' we use't feight for one another, an' divide er pocket-brass wi' one another; an' if one o' us happen't to be eatin' traycle-toffy, t'other wur sure to have his mouth daubed wi' th' same mak o' stuff.  Eh, ay; if yo'd sin that lad then yo'd hardly believe that this is th' same mon!  He were one o'th hondsomest lads that ever bote (did bite) off th' edge of a cake!  An' he'd ways wi' him that would ha' brought a duck off th' wayter!  But, eh, th' difference, Mary, — th' difference there is in him between now an' then!  It shows what this world can do, i' one short life!  It's an unsartin' country, Mary; an' it seems to me as if nobody wur safe in it till they getten londed into their grave.

    "This poor soul that's up yo'r stairs i' bed, Mary, began life with as fair prospects as either yo or me; but, long afore he'd getten to th' middle age o' life a terrible change coom o'er th' sky, — an' its never clear't up again; an' it never will, now, unless it clears up after his sun's gone down; an,' I think, that'll be afore aught's long. . . . Ay; when him an' me wur at schoo' together, I use't to goo whoam with him very oft, an' sometimes I stopt o' neet wi' him, so I geet acquainted wi' th' whole family, very weel.  An' I never knew a nicer family, nor a family that wur fonder o' one another, sin' I wur born.  There were just four on 'em.  There wur two brothers, — this lad that's up th' stairs, here, an' another co'de Henry, that wur a clerk in a bank i'th town, — an' there wur one sister, Ellen, as sweet a lass as ever sun shone on, — an' there wur their mother, — a fine, staid, kind-hearted, matronly owd body, an' quite of a religious turn, — an' that wur o' th' family; for their faither had deed when th' youngest on 'em wouldn't be above nine year owd.  But, when he deed, he'd left th' owd woman enough to live on, an' so that hoo could give her childer a fair edication, an' put these two lads into some daicent way o' gettin' a livin'.

    "Well, as I wur tellin' yo, th' owdest son, Henry, wur takken into one o'th banks i'th town, as a clerk; an' as he wur a steady-gooin', thoughtful sort of a lad, an' very regular in his habits, everybody thought that he wur in a fair way o' bein' comfortably sattle't for life, — for th' folk he wur with wur very fond on him, an' they fully intended pushin' him for'ad in this situation as far as they could.  An' this William, — this poor soul that's upstairs now, — as soon as William left schoo', he went apprentice to th' principal shoemaker i'th town, who wur an owd friend of his faither's; an' his mother had made up her mind to get him into business on his own account, as soon as he wur out of his time.  As for Ellen, — eh, hoo wur a bonny lass — hoo could have had th' best mon i'th town, — for hoo wur th' flower o'th fowd!  But hoo wur of a quiet, sweet, retirin', disposition; an' hoo'd no thoughts o' leaving her mother by hersel'.  But, at last, hoo wur engaged to be wed to a fine young fellow, th' son of a woollen manufacturer i'th town; an' so, everything looked reet, an' promisin' for th' little family; an' they wur o' in a fair way for bein' sattle't an' provided for. . . . But, one can never tell when things are sattle't i' this world."

    Whilst the farmer was speaking, young John came hurriedly down the stairs.

    "Well," said his mother, "how is yon poor fellow?"

    "He's very ill," replied John; "an' I think he's gettin' worse.  His e'en are quite wild; an' I connot get a word o' sense out o'th poor owd craiter, for he wanders in his talk."

    "Poor fellow!  We'd better send for th' doctor!"

    "Ay, an' th' sooner an' th' better."

    "Jerry; run an' put th' saddle upo' Brown Jenny, this minute!"

    "Ay," said the farmer, "and let me ride down for him!"

    "Nawe," replied John; "I'll go mysel'.  Yo stop wi' my mother till I come back!"


 
CHAPTER XII.


When I say, my bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint,
Then thou scarest me with dreams and terrifieth me through visions:
So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than life.
I loathe it; I would not live alway; let me alone: for my days are vanity.

THE BOOK OF JOB.


IN the old farmhouse the labours of the day were over, and the inmates were preparing for their nightly rest, when the news of the old man's increasing illness roused all into sudden activity again.  The matron rose from her seat in evident alarm; Ellen laid aside her sewing, and cleared the little table; Jenny put fresh coals on the fire, and filled up the kettle; Jerry ran into the yard to saddle Brown Jenny; John hastily donned a rough overcoat, and taking down his riding whip, he got ready for a gallop to the doctor's; and the old farmer paced the kitchen, to and fro, eagerly inquiring if he could be of any assistance.

    "Nawe, nawe," said the matron; "but don't go yet.  Sit yo still, Abram, — sit yo still! "

    "Ay," said young John, "sit yo down, Abram; an' stop wi' my mother till I come back.  One doesn't know what may be wanted at a time like this.  Yo'd better stop o' neet, now, an' let Jerry goo up an' tell yo'r folk."

    "I'll stop wi' o' th' plesur i'th world, John!" replied the farmer.

    "That's right, Abram," said the matron, "it's very kind on yo; for this is a lonely place, an', as our John says, there's no telling what help may be needed. . . . Now, John, my lad," continued she, as she helped her son with his overcoat, "turn thi collar up, for th' rain's comin' down as hard as 'ever, an' thou'll have a wild ride.  An' pritho, lad, now, for God's sake, don't goo down this moorside, i'th dark, at sich a helter-skelter rate!  It's a dangerous road at th' best o' times, but it's as dark as a fox's mouth to-neet, so tak care!  I'm sure it makes me anxious every time I see tho ride out o' this yard; for as soon as thou gets a horse between thi legs it seems as if thou took leave o' thi senses!  Do tak heed o' thisel'!  Now doesto yer?"

    "I'll tak care, mother, yo'n see," replied the young farmer, springing into the saddle.

    "Well, mind thou does," said his mother. . . . "Oh, what a neet it is!" continued she, looking out at the doorway. . . . . . I think we'd better have Doctor Ogden, hadn't we?  He's nearest th' town-end."

    "He's th' nearest an' he's th' best," replied the young man.  "I'll co' theer th' first; an' if he can come, I'll bring him."

    "Ay," said his mother, "get him to come, if he can; an' tell him that he doesn't need to think o' going back; for we can make him comfortable till mornin'.  Doesto yer?"

    "I yer."

    "Now, mind an' tak care o' thisel'!"

    "I will, mother!  Good neet!"

    "Good neet; an' God bless tho', my lad!"

    The young man gathered up his reins, and was riding quietly out of the yard when the old farmer came running from the kitchen, shouting after him —

    "Heigh, John!"

    "Well, what is it?" cried the young man, pulling up in the rough bridle-path which led down from the end of the farmhouse to the highway.

    "Thou mun tak care," cried the farmer, "thou mun tak care, just afore thou comes to th' Moor Cock alehouse, down th' broo, yon!  They'n bin pooin' th' road up to-day; an' there's a lot o' stones, an' rough stuff, left upo' th' left-hond side!  So, ride gingerly by, as it's so dark!  Keep to th' reet hond; an' pike (pick) thi gate weel!  Good neet!

    "Good neet!  I'll look out!"

    "Eh, dear o' me," said the matron, "whatever han they that i'th road for, sich a neet as this?  I hope yon lad 'll tak care."

    "Oh, he'll be reet enough, now that I've towd him," replied the farmer.  "He's a good rider, is John; an' he knows every fuut o'th gate."

    The old woman stood listening at the doorway until the sound of the horse's feet died away, as her son rode down the moorland steep.

    "He's gone!" said she, closing the door slowly, with a quiet sigh, as if she did not like to shut him out; "he's gone, an' he'll be steeped to th' skin afore he gets to Rachda' town, for it's comin' down heavy an' dree, as if th' welkin wur givin' way; an' there's no sign on it 'batin'.  I hope he'll mind that place that yo towd him on, Abram, — it's so dark.  But he'll see th' road better after he's bin out a few minutes."

    "Sure, he will.  Sit yo down, Mary, an' sattle yoursel'.  Th' lad'll be reet enough.  Yo'r John's not made out of midge-clippin's, mon.  He comes of a good, strong breed.  An' as for a shower o' rain, — the lad's noather sugar nor saut, — so yo'n no 'casion to be fleyed on him meltin'.  A good steepin' 'll do him no harm, not it, marry, — if he'll strip his weet clocas when he geets back.  Sit yo down, an' mak yorsel' comfortable, Mary.  Yo'r John's a strong lad, an' a steady lad; an' he's i' good honds, goo where he will."

    "I know that, Abram; I know that; we're o' i' good honds; come what will."

    "Well, then; sit yo down, an' dunnot fret about some'at an' nought.  What! he's noan gone across th' say!"

    "He's o' that I have, yo known, Abram."

    "I know that, Mary; but yo don't expect him to be teed to yo'r brat-strings o' his life.  Tak yo'r cheer; an' don't try to meet trouble th' hauve-road."

    "Nay, I munnot sit, Abram; I mun goo upstairs, an' see how this poor soul's gettin' on. . . . Where's our Ellen?"

    "Hoo's gone upstairs, wi' some tay," said Jenny.

    "That's reet," said the matron, "an' I'll goo up, too, an' see what can be done for him, till th' doctor comes.  Th' poor craiter's not fit to be left by hissel'.  Now, make yorsel' comfortable, Abram," said she, as she moved towards the foot of the stairs, "make yorsel' comfortable.  I'll not be long.  Jenny'll help yo to aught that yo wanten; an' if yo feel'n inclined to go to bed, hoo'll show yo to yo'r room."

    "Nay, nay, Mary," replied the farmer, "I'm not goin' to bed this neet, now, an' o'th house upset, — not I, marry!  Nawe, nawe; I'll stop up till th' doctor comes, as how 'tis!  An' now, Mary, if I con be of ony use, dunnot yo be freeten't o' speighkin!  I'll see th' end o' this!"

    "Well, yo'r very kind, Abram," said the old woman, "an' I con nobbut thank yo.  Now, help yorsel' to what there is.  I'll not be long. . . . Jenny, gi' me that brandy."

    Jenny handed the bottle to her, and away she went up the stairs, like a ministering angel, to heal the sickness, and ease the sorrows of one who was ready to perish.
                      .                      .                      .                      .                      .

    "Jenny," said the farmer, filling his pipe, "con yo find me a bit of a leet?"

    "Yes," replied Jenny, bringing a little twist of paper, "I'll find some more and lay 'em on th' hob, so as they'll be ready."

    "Thank yo," said the farmer, as he lighted his pipe.  "Has Jerry set off to our house?"

    "Oh, ay!" said Jenny.  "He'll be welly (well nigh) there by now."

    "That's reet!" said the farmer.  "I hope th' lad 'll tell 'em a gradely tale; for our folk 'll wonder what's th' matter. . . . How lung has this Jerry bin wi' yo?"

    "About three months."

    "An' where did he come fro'?"

    "He coom fro' Lobden Moorside."

    "An' how does he shap?" (shape, attempt).

    "Oh, he's a good worker.  But he's very little in him, besides; for, as soon as he's done his wark, an' had his supper, he'll sit a bit, like a stone, with not a word to throw at a dog, an' then he'll go to bed, an' as soon as he gets up, off he sets to his wark, an' never oppens his mouth."

    "Except at meal times, I guess?"

    "Oh, he never misses a meal," replied Jenny, with a laugh.

    "Well," said the farmer, "th' lad desarves his meight, an' I'm sure yo're mistress 'll never stint him."

    "Eh, nawe, marry," replied Jenny.  "Hoo's not one o' that sort.  Hoo says folk that connot eat connot wortch."

    "Ay; but I know one or two that are terrible fond o' meight, but dunnot like wark a bit, — nor thoose that sets 'em to it."

    "Ay, but our mistress 'll ha' noan o' that sort here.  If they'n wortch, at this house, they may eat their fill, — an' welcome; but if they winnot wortch, they mun starve."

    "An' nought but reet, noather," replied the farmer; "for I believe that th' happiest folk i' this world are thoose that are doin' some mak o' useful wark."

    "That's what our mistress says," said Jenny.

    "Well; an' hoo's reet," continued the farmer, "for wherever there's idlement, there's devilment noan so far off. . . . Hasto ony whot wayter i' that kettle, Jenny?"

    "Yes; it's full."

    "Well, then, I'll try a drop moore o' that whisky."

    Jenny brought a jug of boiling water; and the old farmer was mixing his steaming beverage, when the footsteps of the mistress of the house were heard descending the stairs again.

    "Well," said the farmer, as she entered the kitchen; "how is yon poor owd craiter?"

    "Eh, I doubt it's a serious case, Abram," she replied.  "He's in a very bad state, poor soul! . . . Jenny," continued she, turning to the servant girl, "go an' leet a fire in his bedroom; an' do it without makin' a din.  Doesto yer?"

    "Yes; I'll go."

    "Now, go at once, an' make no disturbance; for he's very ill."

    Without another word the girl got together her chips and coal, and ascended the stairs with hasty, yet careful, footsteps, — for she, too, felt sorry at heart for the forlorn old man who lay prostrate in the upper chamber, with none but strange hands to smooth his pillow.

    "An' what's his complaint, thinken yo, Mary?" inquired the old farmer.

    "Nay," replied the matron, "of course, I cannot justly tell; but it seems to me like a fever o' some sort; for, though th' poor soul's thin an' worn, he's quite wild and wanderin' in his talk.  I cannot make ony sense o' what he says, for he keeps ravin' about his mother; an' then about Henry; an' then about some Ellen.  I wonder who that'll be?"

    "Ay! that's his sister, that I wur tellin' yo about," said the farmer, "an' a bonnier, sweeter lass never met mortal e'en than hoo wur!  Poor Ellen!  Hoo coom to an unhappy end!  It makes my heart ache when I think on it, now!"

    "Why; how wur that, Abram?"

    "I'll tell yo," replied the farmer.


 
CHAPTER XIII.

Thou touchest them, and they complain no more.

THE OLD BOOK.


ELLEN was seated by the sick old man's bed, whilst the servant Jenny, with noiseless haste, made a fire in his chamber; and, in the meantime, the gentle-hearted matron of the house bustled about the kitchen with anxious look, muttering plaintive wails of kindly commiseration as she went to and fro.  "Poor soul!" said she, as she took down a bundle of dried herbs, "what a thing it is to be so lost an' lonely, — an' so owd an' ill, — wi' never a soft hand that belongs him to smooth his pillow!  It's very sad!  My heart aches for him!  It's a great mercy that we geet him into shelter i' time.  It looks like a thing that must be that we happen't to be lookin' through th' window just at th' edge o' dark, when he dropt down upo' th' road yon.  In another half hour we should never ha' sin him, for it would ha' bin quite dark.  An' there he might ha' lain i'th peltin' storm, — poor, white-yedded, forlorn owd man, — wi' never a mortal within seet or sound; an' it's a thousan' to one if ever he could ha' getten down this rough moorside i'th state that he's in.  Aye, aye; God help us o', for it's a strange country is this world; an' it behoves folk to be kind to one another, wherever they con; for no mortal can tell what they may need to afore they getten to th' end o' their journey.  I doubt there's some sad tale connected with his life.  But they're well kept that God keeps; an' it isn't for us to judge.  I feel thankful that he's under cover i' this house, — God help him!"

    While she was speaking, her daughter came downstairs with hurried footsteps.

    "Well, Ellen," said her mother, "how is he getting on?"

    "I think he's worse," replied Ellen.  "He's beginning to shiver; an' he talks wilder than ever."

    "Fetch a bottle of elderberry wine, Ellen," said the matron, "an' make it hot, an' I'll put some gratter't ginger, an' cloves, an' a drop of owd rum into it, an' let's see if he'll tak it."

    "Aye, an' it's a very good thing, Mary," said the farmer.  "It's cure't our folk o' mony an ill cowd."

    "Well," replied she, "if it does him no good it'll do him no harm.  One hardly knows what to do for th' best; but I think if we can get him into a sweat it'll not be an ill thing for I doubt th' poor fellow's getten a bad chill.  An' well he may, for th' clooas that he doffed wur like weet dish-clouts, an' he's as thin as a lat (lath); an' he looks as if he hadn't mony drops o' blood in his body, poor soul! . . . An', Ellen, bring a clean blanket, an' spread it i'th front o'th fire here."

    Ellen spread the blanket in front of the kitchen fire; and when the farmer's wife had mixed the homely medicinal beverage of hot elderberry wine and spices, and sweetened it carefully, she handed it to her daughter.  "Here, Ellen," said she, "hie tho up stairs wi' that, an' I'll follow wi' this hot blanket to lap his feet in. . . . Now, Abram," continued she, looking back from the foot of the stairs, with the hot blanket in her hands, "make yorsel' a-whoam for a twothre minutes.  I'll be down again directly.  Yo known this thing's upset us a bit; an' I hope yo'n not think aught at me leavin' yo by yorsel'.  I'll try to get him to tak some o' this wine; an' I'll hap him up, an' mak him as comfortable as I can till th' doctor comes.  I'll not be long; so make yorsel' a-whoam, I pray yo!"

    "Never name it, Mary, never name it," replied the old farmer.  "Away wi' yo, an' do what yo con for th' poor lad!  An' if I con be of ony use yo'n nought to do but speighk!  Away wi' yo, owd woman, an' God bless yo!  I think it's a good job that he's fo'n into sick honds as yo'rs!"

    "Well; I'm thankful that it happens so, Abram," said she; "an' he sartinly sha'not be lost for anything that we can do for him.  But I mun be gooin' up, while this blanket's hot."

    "God bless yo, Mary!" said the old farmer, gazing after her, with moistening eyes, as she went up the wide staircase, with the blanket in her hands.

    "An' He will bless her, too," said the old farmer, looking dreamily into the fire; "for a better-hearted soul never set faut upo' God's ground! . . . Poor owd Billy," continued he.  "What a troublesome life is thine!"

    And as the old man said this he heaved a deep sigh; for he felt a kind of premonition that the end of the unfortunate companion of his youth was drawing near.

    And as he sat there, alone, by the kitchen fire, waiting, and musing with a sad heart, the wind moaned round the old house, and roared in the wide chimney; the doors rattled in the blast; and the "million-fingered" rain came with pattering rush against the window; for the storm was raging outside as wild as ever.  Brooding thus, by the solitary hearth, upon the strange mutations of life, the wild voices of the night, amongst the lonely hills, came with solemn effect upon the old man's ears, and deepened the sadness of his mind; for his thoughts were by the bedside of the prostrate man, in the chamber above, the light of whose life was flickering faintly, now, upon the brink of darkness.  Knocking the ashes from his pipe, in a noiseless way, as if afraid to disturb the wailing sounds that came with such weird distinctness from the wilderness around, he muttered to himself, as he filled his pipe again, "What's keepin' her so long upstairs?  I doubt he's worse."  Then crossing his legs, he gazed dreamily into the fire again, and smoked, and listened, and waited.

    After he had sat thus, musing in sorrowful mood, alone, for nearly half-an-hour, the careful footstep of the matron of the house was heard descending the stairs again.

    "Well," said the old farmer, "how is he?"

    "He's no better," replied she, "an' I begin to think it's a bad case, Abram.  He taks no notice of anybody; an' he wanders an' raves, so that I cannot understand a word he says.  We did get a drop o' that wine into him, poor fellow; an' we'n made him as comfortable as we can.  God help him, — he's very ill; an' I'm afraid his mind's givin' way.  I wish the doctor would come.  Our Ellen an' Jenny are with him; an' I'll go up again in a few minutes.  I should think our John'll have getten to th' town by now."

    "Oh, ay; he'll be there by this time, an' if th' doctor's in, he'll not be long afore he's up here again.  He'll let nought groo under his feet, yo may depend especially at a time like this.  Rest yorsel' a bit, Mary; he'll not be long, yo'n see."

    "It's no use, Abram; I feel very anxious."

    "Yo may well, Mary;" replied the farmer.  "I feel anxious about him mysel'.  If it wur my own brother I couldn't feel more so.  But yo'n done what yo con for him; an' th' rest is i' better honds than either yo'rs or mine.  Sit yo down a minute or two."

    "Well," said the old woman, spreading another blanket in front of the fire, "I'll sit me down till this gets ready;" and taking a chair on the opposite side, she continued, "Then it seems, Abram, fro' what yo wur tellin' me, that yo knew this poor fellow's family, when yo wur young, very well."

    "Know em!  Aye, marry!  An', as I said before, Mary, a nicer family never gather't together under one roof i' this round world than they were, at that time o'th day, — nor one that wur moore respected by hee an' low.  An', as I towd yo, this William, — this poor fellow that's so ill upstairs, — this William an' me wur schoo'-lads together for mony a year; an' we both left schoo' about th' same time.  I coom up whoam to th' farm; an' William went 'prentice to th' best shoemaker an' leather-cutter i'th town, — an' owd friend of his father's, — an' his mother intended to put him into business, as soon as he wur out of his time.  There wur four o'th family altogether, — this William an' his sister Ellen, an' his brother Henry, an' their mother, a fine, gentle-hearted, religious owd body as ever stept shoe-leather.  An' tak 'em o' together, they wur as hondsome a family as there wur i'th town, — an' as promisin' i' their circumstances; or, — as far as mortal mon can see into such things, — they wur every one provided for, an' comfortably sattle't for life.  Th' owd woman had money enough laft to live on, an' to bring her childer up; an' hoo did bring 'em up in a careful an' creditable way; an' when they wur grooin' to mons an' women's estate, hoo geet 'em planted where they wur likely to flourish, — Henry, th' owdest son, wur takken into a bank i'th town, where he wur a great favourite, — William wur 'prenticed to a good maister, an' an owd friend, — an' Ellen wur engaged to be married to a young fellow, th' son of a woollen manufacturer i'th town; an' I dar say th' owd woman wur lookin' forrad to spend th' latter end of her days i' peace an' quietness, with her childer's childer flourishin' about her, till th' time coom when God should see fit to tak her to Hissel'. . . .

    "But it is as th' owd Book says, Mary, 'nobody knows what a day may bring forth.'  An' it's quite true, as onybody may know that's lived long i' this world . . . . An' so it coom to pass that, just as this little family wur i'th full bloom o' good fortin, wi' fair prospects of happiness to come, one sad mishap fell like a thunner-bowt i'th midst on 'em, an' scatter't everythin' into wild ruin! . . . An' this is how it coom about. . . .

    "As I towd yo before, Henry, th' owdest son — brother to this lad that's upstairs, — wur th' pride o'th family, for he wur th' cleverest i'th lot an' he wur reckoned one o'th hondsomest young men i'th town.  I believe his mother fair doted on him, — an' no wonder, — for he wur as gentle-hearted, an' breet, as he wur hondsome; beside that, he wur th' very spit of his faither, that deed when he wur quite a lad.  Th' owners o'th bank that he wur at looked on him as a pattern for th' rest o'th clerks, an' they put greet trust in him; for he'd a staid an' thoughtful way with him, an' he wur very regular in his habits; an' yet there wur nought hard nor cowd about him, for he'd a pleasant, free manner, that won everybody's heart that coom across him.  But, for o' that, — poor lad! — it turn't out i'th end that he wur too easy led away.

    "It seems as if he'd bin short of a bit o' pith, somewheer.  But there's al'ays a some'at wantin', Mary, — where folk are tried to th' long-length.  Folk that han to wrostle i' this world mun ha' some backbone in 'em, — if they're to come off in a fair way.  An' onybody that gets into a fog about th' division line between reet an' wrung, — they're i' danger, as who they are. . . . But I'm losin' th' end o' mi tale. . . . Well, it seems that amung th' clerks at this bank that Henry wur at, there wur a smart young chap fro' somewhere i' Craven.  His faither wur one o'th londed gentry o' that quarter, an', as this son of his wur raither of a wild turn, an' these bankers were friends of his, th' owd chap geet 'em to tak him into th' bank, to see if they couldn't manage amung 'em to train him to run i' harness a bit.  But this lad had bin too fast-gaited, an' he'd had too much of his own road fro' bein' quite little.  He'd bin ill marred by a foolish mother; an' he'd bin brought up among dogs an' horses, an' huntin' an' fishin'; an' he'd sin a good deal o' wild life, young as he wur; but th' warst of o' wur that he wur fearful fond o' gamblin'.  Well, wi' o' his fauts, I believe he wur a fine-lookin', free bonded, oppen-hearted yung chap, full o' life, an' mirth, an' up to everything; an' he wur a general favourite; though he wur a terrible spendthrift, an' geet into debt up an' down in a rackless fashion, as if tradesmen wur born a-purpose to keep him swaggerin' daintily about th' world, in a useless way, without a farthin' o' brass for their trouble.  I believe his faither had to set him straight, o'er an' o'er again, to keep him out o' lumber.  An' if he hadn't had th' luck to have a faither afore him, he'd ha' bin i' limbo mony a time o'er; an' he'd ha' bin better teed up; for, as I can understood, he did no good i'th world while he wur runnin' loose.  But let that leet as it will; strange to say, this Henry, — this quiet, thoughtful lad, — the very leet of his mother's een, an' th' most trusted among o'th clerks i'th bank, seemed to tak to this harum-scarum scapegrace fro' Craven moore than onybody else did.  Mony a wise owd yed wondered whatever Henry could see in him; but it looked as if the dule had thrut (thrown) his club o'er th' poor lad; for he wur quite bewitched; an' it wur no use givin' ony advice, for he wouldn't yer a word said again this friend of his; an' there wur no sunderin' 'em.  Where one went, tother went.  An' that reminds me, Mary, o' what th' owd Book says about folk touchin' pitch ――"

    "Husht, Abram!" said the old woman.  "What's that?"

    It was her daughter speaking from the head of the stairs.

    "Mother; can you come up a minute?"

    "I'm comin', Ellen!  Sit yo still, Abram!"


 
CHAPTER XIV.


Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him.

JEREMIAH.


THE voice of Ellen, calling to her mother from the head of the stairs, put a stop to Abram's account of the cobbler's life, just at the point where the fortunes of the family were beginning to change for the worse.  At her daughter's summons the kind old woman rose hastily from her seat, apprehensive of ill, and quietly telling the farmer to sit still, she hurried up the stairs, with a troubled heart, leaving him alone again in the silent kitchen, to commune with his own sad thoughts.  And sad, indeed, were his thoughts that sombre night, for, though a man of joyous temperament, he had known sorrow, and his burly form concealed a sensitive nature, not entirely free from the lurid gloom of superstitious fear.  Brooding there, alone, upon the misfortunes of the forlorn old man now lying in the chamber overhead, at the point of death, who had been the cherished and prosperous companion of his youthful years, the solitude and solemnity of the hour; the strange and troubled incidents which had brought them there together at last, after long years of separation; and the wild sounds of the storm raging amongst the hill-tops outside, all tended to fill his mind with unhappy retrospect and melancholy forebodings.

    The clock in the corner had told the hour of midnight, with slow and measured knell.  The last stroke had died away into a deeper silence, — a silence crowded with necromantic dread, — and as the old man sat by the fire, with his head leaned upon his hand, the wind whistling through the crevices of the door, — now wildly-shrill, now in long-drawn wailing cadences, mingling with the lonely patter and splash of the driving rain, — and the hollow moan of the blast in the wide chimney, came upon his ears like voices from the shadowy region beyond the borders of human ken; and all the midnight air seemed to him the gathering-ground of fearful, mystic influences.

    Oppressed in mind, he rose from his seat, and paced the kitchen to and fro with quiet footstep, as if afraid to make any sound.  At last he opened the door and looked out. The sky was black as pitch, and the air was wild with elemental war.  In an instant his ears were filled with the din of the swollen torrent rushing through the rocky gorge at the rear of the house, and with the mingled uproar of winds and waters, rising wildly on all sides, in the midnight gloom.  The old man listened in the open doorway, but there was no footstep audible yet upon the lonely moorland road, — there was no sound of life, but the howl of a lost dog, heard faintly in the fitful pauses of the tempest, far down the hill.  "I wish to the Lord th' doctor would come!" said he.  "But I'm fleyed he'll never face this storm; an' if he puts it off till mornin' I doubt it'll be too late!"  He listened again, but still no sound of horses' feet came upon the wind.  "There's nought comin' yet;" said he.  "Well; there's nought for it but to bide, an' hope for th' best."

    Quietly closing the door, he was once more lapped in the storm-girt stillness of the lonely kitchen; and, as he resumed his seat by the fire, he muttered to himself, "It wur just such a neet as this when my faither's horse coom whoam without him; an' he wur fund lyin' upo' th' road yon, with his dog beside him."  And the old man sighed, as he drooped his head, and lapsed into silent thought again.

    In a few minutes he was aroused from his melancholy reverie by the sound of the matron's footsteps descending the stairs again.

    "Well, Mary," said he, rising from his seat, "how is he gettin' on?  I doubt he's no better."

    "I'm afraid not," replied she.  "He's very ill, Abram — very ill, he is.  I hope an' trust th' doctor 'll not be lung.  I wonder what's keepin' our John so lung.  It's time he should be back now."

    "Make yorsel' content, Mary," said the old farmer.  "I lippen o' yerrin' th' horse's feet every minute.  Yor John 'll lose no time, an' he'll not come without some help."

    "Well," replied she, "it makes one very anxious; for I should be very sorry if anything was to happen before somebody sees him that can give him proper assistance.  Th' poor fellow's in a very critical state.  His mind's quite upset, an' he wanders an' raves about his sister, an' his brother, an' his mother, an' about things that seem to have happened a long time gone by; an' sometimes he seems to think about pleasanter things, for a sickly smile creeps o'er his poor worn face as he maunders about his young days, just like a child.  But everything's so mixed up that I cannot make either head or tail of what he says.  God help him, poor fellow; it would touch a heart of stone.  Our Ellen called me because he wanted to get up an' go whoam, an' they'd hard work to keep him i' bed; an' when I got upstairs he begged an' prayed so pitifully for me to let him go, that I couldn't help cryin'.  An' he struggled, poor fellow, — he struggled so that, if he hadn't been i' such a weakly state, I'm sure we couldn't ha' managed him.  But, bless yor life, he's nothing but skin an' bone, an' he hasn't th' strength of a child.  His hands are so thin that one could nearly see to read through 'em, as th' sayin' is.  Poor fellow!  I had to bring his little bundle of potatoes that he'd brought with him o'er th' hill-top, an' put it on a chair at his bedside, before he'd be quiet.  I geet him sattle't at last; and now he seems to be sinkin' into a doze, thank God.  I wish th' doctor would come."

    "Dun yo think I could be of any use if I wur to go up an' sit with him, Mary?"

    "Not just now, Abram.  'Let the sleeper sleep,' say I.  There isn't a more healin' thing i' this world for a troubled mind; an' if he can get a bit o' rest, it'll do him more good than any physic.  Our Ellen will let us know if ony change comes o'er him.  Let him rest!"

    "Yo're reet, Mary.  Let him rest if he con, for he's had but little rest in his lifetime, poor lad.  Aye, an' yo may weel say that he's a troubled mind, Mary.  Yo would say so if yo knew what he's gone through. . . . But I didn't tell yo th' end of his story."

    "Nawe; yo broke off when Ellen called me upstairs."

    "Sit yo down a twothre minutes, then, an' I'll tell yo th' rest."

    "Aye, do; for I feel curious to know what's brought him down to this state."

    "It's a very unhappy tale, Mary; an' there's nobody knows it better than me; for though we'n sin very little o' one another for this last thirty year, at th' time when these things befel, him an' me wur close acquaintances."

    "Well, as I wur tellin' yo, everything wur smilin' an' fair wi' this happy little family till Henry — th' owdest brother of this William that's lyin' upstairs, — geet led off, little by little, by this wild young spark fro' Craven, that wur a clerk i'th same bank.  First he geet him persuaded to go wi' him to th' playhouses, then to coursin' meetin's, an' sich like, that led him into a lot o' wild company, sich as he'd never bin use't to in his bringin'-up; an' bit by bit, th' lad began o' losin' his feet; for he'd bin carefully brought up; an' he'd sin very little o'th' world.  But th' last on't, an' th' warst on't, wur that this yung sprig, that wur so fond o' gamblin', tice't Henry into gamblin' too; an' that wur the terrible upstroke that brought both hissel' an' everybody belongin' to him down to ruin.

    "It seems that this Henry, — this staid lad, — took to gamblin' at sich a rate, that he never knew a minute's quietness again; for he lost an' lost till at last, he began o' usin' th' brass belungin' th' bank; an' at th' end of o', he put somebody else's name to a bit o' papper for a great sum o' money, hopin', yo known, that he could mak it o' reet, afore it wur fund out.  But, as it happen't, it fell into somebody's honds that wouldn't let him off; an' he wur takken up, an' brought afore th' magistrates; an' he wur committed to th' assizes, to tak his trial for forgery.  Well; this threw th' whole family into sich a state that everybody's heart bled for 'em.  But while he lee i' prison, waitin' his trial, he deed; an' mony a one thought that he made away wi' hissel'.  Let it be as it may, that wur th' end on him.  But th' trouble didn't finish theer. That lad's miserable end brought his mother to her bed; an' theer hoo lay, stricken to th' heart, and flickerin' between life an' death, fro day to day. . . .

    "Th' next great blow coom from another quarter; an' it fell upo' th' owd woman's only daughter.  Ellen, sister to th' lad that deed i' prison, an' sister to this William that's lyin' upstairs; an' a sweeter, better lass never oppen't an e'e to th' dayleet, Mary!  If ever there wur an angel i' this world, Ellen wur one; an' as ill luck hoo had, poor craiter. . . . At th' very time when her brother Henry wur brought whoam, dead fro th' prison, an' when o' th' family wur lost i' distress — that hard-hearted wastrel of a whelp, that hoo should a bin be wed to, sent a cold letter, breakin' off his engagement.  Well; this wur a cruel stroke at sich a time; an' it broke th' poor lass's heart.  Hoo went clean out of her mind; an' they had to tent her as weel as they could; for hoo wur noan fit to be left by hersel'.  An' that wur a mournful house, Mary, yo may depend.

    "Well, another sorrowful day or two went by; an' one mornin', when they went into Ellen's room, they found her bed empty; an' they ransacked th' whole town, hee and low, but they couldn't yer tell on her, nor they couldn't find her, — till it wur too late, — for then they fund her i'th river.  Th' poor lass had slipt out o'th' house i'th' neet-time, an' drown't hersel'; an' there wur an end of her troubles; an' hoo wur brought whoam an' laid out i'th very room where her brother had bin laid th' week afore. . . .

    "Well her mother wur so ill that, at first, they dursn't let her know but o' somehow, it geet to her ears, — an' it wur enough, — for it had sich an effect on her that hoo went spark out the very same neet.  An' there they lay, — th' daughter dead i' one room, an' th mother dead in another; an' this wur less than a week after Henry had been carried to his grave.

    "That wur an end o' three out o'th four; an' now there wur nought left but this poor soul that lies tremblin' i'th' balance upstairs, here.  It's thirty year sin now, Mary an' I've wondered many a time how he kept his feet.  But it had a terrible effect on him at th' time.  He wandered about like a thing that wur lost; an' he wouldn't see nobody; nor he wouldn't be comforted.  At last he went clean away; an' he wur away nearly four year; an' no mon ever knew where he'd bin nor how he'd bin livin'.  An' when he coom back, he wur so worn down, an' tatter't, that nobody knew him.  An' he took a little bit of a cot that stoode by itsel' at th' edge o'th' town, yon; an' there he live't for five and twenty year, by hissel', scrattin' for a thin livin', by doin' odd cobblin' jobs.  It wur a miserable life.  His face wur hardly ever seen i'th dayleet; but he use't to wander about i'th neet-time, when o' th' world wur at rest; an' he generally crept up into th' church-yard.  That's how he geet th' name o' 'Boggart Bill.'  Poor fellow!  Folk that knew nought about what he'd gone through use't to jeer at him.  But that's th' way o'th' world, Mary."

    And now the sound of horses' feet came rattling into the yard at the back of the house.

    "Here's th' doctor, at last" said the old farmer, rising from his chair.

    "A wild night, Mrs. Buckley," said the doctor, as he entered the kitchen, muffled to the chin, and followed by John.  "It's a wild night.  Where is this poor fellow?"

    "Come this way, doctor," replied she.  And the two went upstairs together to the sick man's room, leaving John and the farmer in the kitchen.

    In a few minutes Jenny came running down for another hot blanket.

    "How is he?" said the farmer.

    "He's a great deal worse," replied she, hurrying up again with the blanket.

    Another quarter of an hour had gone by when Ellen's voice was heard calling from the head of the stairs.

    "Abram; you must come up, this minute!"

    The farmer sprang from his seat, with a look of alarm and he just reached the bedroom in time to close the eyes of his unfortunate old friend.

    "Poor William!" said he, as he gazed upon the worn features, now settling into the strange serenity of death; "poor William!  His heart's at rest at last."

    And in three days after that the remains of the lonely old man were carried down from the farmhouse in the hills, and were laid in the same grave with his mother, and his sister, and his brother; and there, after an unhappy life, they slept soundly together.



[Oh, this tooth!]

 


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