SPEND Christmas in
town? Not whilst the sun is shining so brightly over the
house-tops, and the snow looking so white and crisp in the yet
untrodden streets, reminding one how beautiful the country may
be, even at this season.
My friend S— thinks we might have a jolly day of it in his
"snuggery," where neither squalling children on one hand, nor
neighbour's piano on the other, would annoy us. He has laid in a
stock of some half-dozen cigars (a rare provision for my
eccentric friend), besides several bottles of "wink and
stagger," which his landlady knows nothing of; and these, with
an occasional "chop," by way of a "stiffener," would be
sufficient to comfort the inner man; whilst a glowing
two-handful of fire, and an accommodating hob for the feet, and
a sofa that we could loll on in turns, would nestle us in all
the coziness we could desire.
I am not so sanguine upon these matters as my friend is. I am
not certain that, were I to accept his offer, we should not go
to sleep before dinner, or that the chequered board upon which
so many potentates have been crowned and deposed, and the old
cracked flute, which has to be soused in the waterbutt before it
will sound a note, would not be abandoned for a turn in "at the
King," and a "hob an' hob" with such of "his majesty's" subjects
as might be present at his daily levee.
Then, my friend has a horror of snow-balls, and in the
alternative of a walk about town, sight-seeing, or giving calls,
I am afraid we should have but little pleasure, as any urchin
that should happen to possess a suspiciously laden pinafore,
would have his movements narrowly watched, out of fear that a
well-aimed "hard un" should be found in too close proximity with
somebody's auricular organ.
Out of town S— will not budge an inch at this season, for,
although he professes to be a lover of nature, and an admirer of
the grand and the picturesque, yet he can see no beauty in a
snow-covered landscape, which he compares to the interior of a
theatre with the wrappers hung around.
Considering these objections on my friend's part to a day's
pleasure out of doors, that eccentric, but worthy individual,
will surely not blame me if I go on my journey alone; although
there is a "sweet little spot" in the country that he would be
glad to visit at another time, and share with me an admiration
of its many attractions.
Oh, "Daisy Nook!" if, through my faint picture of thy charms,
many have been induced to crave acquaintance with thee, how much
more ardent must the devotion be of one who has almost lived
upon thy memories; whose ears have been charmed by the music of
thy sweet echoes; whose eyes have drunk in the loveliness of thy
embowered retreats, and the varied picturesqueness of the
landscape which sweeps around thee; of one who has shook the
hands of thy warm-hearted denizens, laughed at their quaint
humour, and wept at their distresses. I will visit thee to-day,
though I may have to tread many weary miles of deep-piled snow
carpet, accompanied only by my own reflections, and the sweet
anticipations of a day's rational enjoyment amongst thy village
Full of the briskness of the morning, and elate at the prospect
of slides and footballs, I take my departure, pleased to find
that the snow is not so deep as I expected, nor the air of that
cutting rawness that makes the ears tingle, and the respirations
feel frozen. There is a nicely beaten track on the highroad,
that becomes softer and fresher as I get country-wards, and
people glide noiselessly past me, and seem amused at the quiet
manner in which the everlasting reel of pedestrian life is being
run. Some look jolly and anticipatory of good doings; others,
with soiled garments and crumpled mien, regard me with that
peculiar stare that betokens a night spent out of bed. A vehicle
laden with hampers, from the top of which rises a good round
column of grey coat and bright buttons, with an apex of red nose
and low-crowned hat, whirls past me, and is soon lost amongst
the mazy windings of the road. How suggestive is that vision, of
evergreen boughs and berries of mistletoe with which the hoary
head of "Old Father Christmas" is enwreathed! I hear merry
voices, but they are within doors; and fancy pictures to me some
kind-hearted, home-loving "paterfamilias" galloping over his
stinted course in the drawing-room, mounted by a boisterous "Dulcissimus,"
and yoked to innumerable "hobbies," that tumble and dodge in his
wake, whilst delighted juveniles roar lustily at the scene. And
now I come upon the robins—the poor outcasts, as it were, of the
winged world—who do not desert us at this season for warmer
climes, but cling to the old stacks and farmsteads of their
summer haunts, and enliven with their plaintive twitter many an
otherwise solitary place. One of these has just quitted a
doorstep, with a huge crust in its mouth, and is gone to seek a
hiding-place wherein to store it for a future meal. Thanks, that
humanity hath still a crumb for thee, and that the unthinking
child, who would rob thy nest when thou revellest in summer
plenty, would now take thee to his bosom, and allow thee to
share his humble pottage meal.
The country is now opening before me, and I could count each
footprint that the snow has yet received. Indications of
population are getting behind me, and the scene is becoming
solitary and inductive of meditation. The only moving thing in
sight is a coal-laden cart worming itself slowly along the road,
and attended by something enveloped in a coarse sack-apron, or
slop, with perambulating haybands attached to the lower
extremities, and guided by a pair of eyes that resemble a couple
of pigeon's eggs deposited on a coal heap. I am saluted with the
compliments of the season, which I acknowledge by tendering to
the black-a-moor what would undoubtedly be construed into the
"price of a pint," and I am left to solitude again.
Diverging from the highroad, I soon come upon the valley
mentioned in my "summer ramble." Here human foot hath not
trodden since the snow fell. The crystal carpet spreads in pure
undulating sheets around me, only marred here and there by tufts
of rank grass peering through it, like ill-conditioned moles on
an otherwise spotless cheek. The path becomes more uneven and
more treacherous as I proceed, until I find myself sliding and
dodging along, busily, if not merrily, and though
"Setting my staff wi' a' my skill
To keep me sicker,"
an occasional half-summersault brings me souse amongst the snow,
giving me a sensation more lively than delightful, and
furnishing my lips with an impromptu tune—one of that class of
melodies that are generally whistled under circumstances of
surprise or sudden recollection. Proceeding along the edge of
the valley, I struck into a path that was only indicated by a
trench-like track, worming itself through the meadows in a
wayward, zig-zag manner. Here my walk was not, as the nature of
the country would suggest, a thoroughly uninteresting one. The
trees were glistening with crystals, and appeared to form huge
diadems, to which the sun's rays lent gold and silver as they
shot through the boughs. There was light pattering music in the
hedges, and the brook below seemed to accompany me with its
merry tinklings, as though it had been apprised through some
hidden agency that it was Christmas-time, and was lending its
carols to swell the joyousness of the season. Now would come
upon the ear a faint sound of bells; bells that were garrulous
of "good tidings" and merry greetings; bells that seemed to
speak of holly wreaths and wassail cups—of crackling pine-logs,
and lighted windows gleaming through dark, naked orchards;
bells, that said, "the primroses are coming,—coming too, the
music of the groves;" bells, whose sound seemed to awaken tones
that swelled above its own earthly resonance, tones thrilling
with millennial prophecies, and proclaiming, as if from the
heavens over Bethlehem,—GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, ON EARTH
PEACE, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN.
Summer hath not a feature more chastely beautiful than that
which snow and stillness—the one far spreading, the other all
pervading—gives to winter. The solemn quietude of the deep
woods, where each gnarled and naked denizen stands, like an arch
Druid struck entranced in his forest temple, with the eloquence
of decay and the life to come, upon his lips; the sun's
rays—here slanting through hedgerows and forming chequered
patterns on the snow-carpet, and yonder pillaring with vast
columns the valley's slope, as the shadows of intervening
poplars throw themselves across the stretching landscape—are
features that belong not to summer, but lend a glory to the face
of winter, and relieve the shadows which storm and darkness
betimes fling over it. And now the reader will, I hope, pardon
my digression from this stilted vein, when I say that the scene
around me conjured up other thoughts than the sublime, by
bringing to mind the exquisite poem of my friend S—, "On
winter," wherein he says—
"How must have Father Adam felt
When, naked, he in Eden dwelt,
And wintery breezes wildly blew,
And now it freezed and then it snew?
No tailor princes were there then,
To clothe and hat our gentlemen;
Nor Wellingtons, nor Bluchers strong
Was there wherewith to get along.
To think of him whilst dining out,
Without a fire to warm his snout,
Or take the tingling from his toes,
Gives me the shivers, that it do-oes."
I had now reached a point whence I could command a view of miles
of open country, and where I could distinguish objects which I
remember having seen on my previous visit. "Daisy Nook" could
not be far distant, and I felt no slight emotion at the thought
that I was approaching a spot which had associated itself with
many pleasing reminiscences. Here was the lane in which I first
encountered that impersonation of what is good and beautiful in
our nature, the accomplished Miss Jackson; there, the stile
against which Hobson, the philosophical weaver, was leaning; and
yonder, what I supposed to be the "line of umbrageous old
foresters," whose branches waved over the secluded village. I
had pictures of homely hospitality before me—of happy faces,
with guileless hearts shining out of them—of that freshness in
human nature which is one of the happiest characteristics of
country life, and which hath a paradise of its own, peopled with
the impersonations of its unsophisticated virtue. I thought I
heard a sound as of singing. It might be the softly humming
harmony of sweet thoughts which the soul can only hear in
silence such as this. But hush!—it is breaking through its
indistinctness, and swelling into an unbroken strain, that sinks
to murmuring cadences, or rises grandly to the skies, and floats
there as if its burden was caught up and echoed by seraph voices
from above. How I felt elevated and subdued in turns as the
notes varied on my ear, and lent their influence to my easily
impressible soul! I could have listened for ever to, and feasted
as it were upon, that thrilling harmony. But, gradually the
sound died away, and when it was no longer audible, I listened
again to catch another note for the memory to hang upon—but
there was no response—silence fell for the moment deeply and
sadly over me—the music had ceased.
"Daisy Nook" now lay at my feet, with its little wildernesses of
gardens, and its cottages peeping out of the snow, like so many
molehills; and its river—which even the frost could not tame nor
bind—brawling and swaggering, and leaping down its course as
noisily and as waywardly as ever. I had taken a wrong path, I
found, and entered the valley at a point lower down than the one
I entered at on my previous visit. But there was a quiet charm
about the place that repaid me for the trifling deviation I had
made, inasmuch as it brought to mind many a dream, and many an
episode, belonging to my boyish days. I had always a love and
reverence for venerable objects, and an old ruin would have been
a source of inexpressible delight to me; and, whether it was a
solitary column, or mouldering wall, if the ivy had twined
around, or climbed over it, my fancy would have endowed it with
all the qualities of a relic, and the associations of history. Here, as if fearing to be seen by ungodly eyes, a lowly pile
sleeps beneath the sheltering and wooded slope. Scarcely a foot
of wall is there of that humble edifice but the ivy has fastened
upon, and clings to with all the loving tenacity which that
plant seems endowed with. The building is evidently devoted to
religious purposes; yet no spire points from its roof, nor does
summoning bell proclaim the hour of worship on Sabbath-tide. It
hath a meekness, yet a solemnity about it, that draws me towards
the door, notwithstanding that I am out for a day's enjoyment;
and if I was wanting in spiritual attentions, the very manner in
which it is nestled beneath the shelving ridge, and surrounded
by modern touches of unobtrusive shrubbery and quiet garden
plot, would remind me that one of God's holy places was nigh. I
could hear the voice of prayer as I approached, breathed in low
murmuring accents; and I concluded that the sweet psalmody I had
heard but a few minutes before had issued from beneath that
roof, and that the congregation assembled there were engaged in
a form of Christmas thanksgiving, which partook more of the
earnestness than the conventionalities of religious worship.
Taking off my hat in the porch, I found myself in the presence
of a venerable looking individual, whose head—white as the snow
upon the roof over him—was bent forward in the attitude of
devotion. His manner seemed to invite me to a vacant place near
him; but I hesitated, for I felt more timid on entering that
lowly house of prayer than I should have felt had it been one of
our gorgeous and awe-inspiring cathedrals. The consciousness
that I was unfit to measure creeds with those who knelt at the uncushioned benches before me, and poured their half audible
responses in the ear of the Most High, kept me lingering at the
door until then words—"Rest, remain and abide with us to-day and
evermore"—remain, told me that the service was concluded. The
congregation rose, and soon the little aisle became thronged,
and good folks whispered kind congratulations to their
neighbours, and faces, that looked youthful as that on first
morn of the "New Year," shone lovingly on others to which time
was dealing shadows, whilst the benign countenance of the good
pastor beamed with a look of pious serenity over all.
I stood near a small wicket gate that opened into the shrubbery
at one angle of building, contemplating an old yew tree, that
seemed to be sighing over the remembrance of how many
generations had passed away since it was planted there, when the
gentleman whom I had noticed at prayers passed by me. He was
attended by a younger person—a lady; but whether she was plain
or pretty I had not much opportunity of remarking, for her face
was hidden behind a thick blue veil, which, though it was swept
aside betimes by those troublesome breezes that will play at
"pry," yet prevented me from obtaining as much as a glimpse of
her countenance; notwithstanding, I felt no little curiosity
about the owner of it. Her step had all the lightness and
elasticity of youth and, pardon me, ye saints, if I found
anything else to admire, or if I was reminded of one who was the
heroine of a little episode in my "Summer ramble" in that
locality. But the pair had vanished, and I was left to form my
own conjectures as to whether the old gentleman could possibly
be Colonel Jackson, of , "Bunk Ho'," and the lady his
I was beginning to feel that it ought to be dinnertime, and
visions of "toasted cheese and milk o' paradise" flitted before
my fancy; for the fresh winter air had given my appetite an edge
that threatened to be disagreeable if it was not soon attended
to. Taking the path by the river, I was not long in sighting,
what was a most welcome object at the time, the hospitable
establishment of that friend of thirsty souls, and purveyor to
the society of good-fellowship—"Red Bill." There it is, with its
signboard swinging about as if it would go into fits with very
jubilancy; and, what does not in the least astonish me, when I
consider the character of the house, the very robins and
sparrows seem to be holding a carnival about the roof.
"A happy New Yer to yo', mesthur!" sings out an old woman, who
was standing at a "fowt yate," with her arms wrapped in her
"The same to you, my good woman!" I replied, seasoning the
compliment with wishing innumerable "returns" of the time. She
lifted her spectacles, and, shading her face with her hand,
followed me with her eyes until I reached the door of the "House
of Commons," when she turned about, and calling to some one in
the house, I
could hear her say,—"Tum, yon's a felly ut aw know."
And now let me renew acquaintance with old friends and old
scenes. Ho! the fire there, "blinking" rosily within; ho! the
snow melting on the roof, and dripping in merry showers from the
eaves, and twinkling and splashing on rows of shining pebbles
beneath; ho! the "fowt," swept clean as palace floor, and the
porch, matted knee deep with straw, and the narrow strip of
sanded floor behind; ho! the wooden latch, looking as if it
would ask you to lift it and enter that favoured region; ho! the
welcome within, and the greeting, and the ado making, and the
apologising, and the pokering which the fire suffers; and, ho!
the "Well, whoa'd ha' thowt o' seein' yo' here this mornin'?"
Ordering a little refreshment, I took my seat near the fire,
whose heat made my flesh tingle, and had the pleasure of finding
that I was not quite alone. A young man of rather eccentric
appearance, and who was dressed in the most outrageous, or, as
"S—" would have said, "the loudest" fashion of the time, was
seated on the couch-chair, attentively poring over the contents
of an old newspaper. To my salute of "A Merry Christmas!" he
returned "A Happy New Year!" and resumed his reading. But on my
pressing him with questions, which pointed more or less directly
or indirectly to his business in that locality, he laid down the
paper, and, with an effort that seemed to pull him into all
manner of shapes and attitudes, informed me that our present
quarters were the best in the village, although the "swipes"
were not of the finest quality. It afterwards fell out in the
course of what the stranger might call a confidential chat, that
he was by profession a land surveyor, and that during the
previous summer he had been engaged in "going over" an estate
behind the mantle-piece, and had picked up a rather interesting
acquaintance with a pretty housemaid at the hall "over there," in
the direction of the window, and that his present business in the village
was to relight the fire of a suspended
attachment in that quarter. He had seen "Miss Jackson" once, and
spoke of that lady as being a fine looking girl, but who "didn't come out," by which latter expression I was to understand
that she did not mix with society of her own sphere;
notwithstanding, she was a "deuced fine girl."
Whilst thus engaged in a conversation that was gradually warming
out of dulness into a brighter vein, the landlady entered,
bringing with her a couple of "Welsh rarebits," of a kind
peculiar to old village hostelries, and which may still be met
with in out-of-the-way places, and amongst people who, in spite
of a questionable march of improvement in such matters, still
cling, not only to established usages, but to old methods of
cookery. Our present morceaux were hot muffins, newly baked, and
covered over with a shining layer of cheese, that looked so
delicious as to remind me of my former visit, when "Owd Tum"
expatiated with his own peculiar and apt eloquence on the
superior properties of "Red Bill's" fare. One of these muffins
was for the stranger, and, in justice to his appetite, I must
say that it was devoured in a manner that would have done credit
to an old hunter fresh from the chase.
We had just finished our repast, and were squaring ourselves in
our former places, when the door creaked upon its hinges, and a
person somewhat in years entered, whom, from his being dressed
in a suit of rusty black, with neckerchief to match, I took to
be a poor clergyman, or one occupying some position in
connection with a religious body. After glancing round at
nothing in particular, the old man took up his coat tails, and
dropped quietly in the unoccupied end of the couch-chair, right
under the range of the stranger's guns.
"Yo' look'n frosty this mornin'," observed the landlady to the
new comer, as she swept the few crumbs we had left from the
"Well, it's a winterly sort of a day," replied the person
addressed, "an' aw've noa bin thowed yet. Bring mi a pint, wilta',
Mary, an' just tak' th' chill off it. Aw're us't aw could ha'
swallut it if it ud bin as cowd as snow-bo's; be mi clockwark's
gettin' like owd Gimp's cart shaft—rayther temporary. Hello! mesthur! is that yo'?" he exclaimed, addressing me.
I assured him I was the identical person referred to, but gave
him to understand at the same time that he had a little the
advantage of me in regard to our acquaintance.
"What!" said he, "dunno' yo' know Owd Tum?"
"You're not Hobson, are you!"
"Yi'; what's laft o' him."
"Well, really, I did not know you again."
"Aw reckon," said he, "it's becose aw've meawtut, and getten in
a bit tidier fither. If yo'd seen mi i' mi owd wellers, an' mi
clod-crushers, and mi curnboggart breechus, yo'd happen not ha'
made two gexes at mi. Be neaw aw've getten donned up i'th' Owd
Kurnel's har'stone regimentals, foke takk'n mi t' bi summut
different to what aw am."
"Well, and how is the world using you?" I enquired.
"Whorr?" he ejaculated, placing his hand over his ear, and
leaning forward, so as to be better able to listen.
"Aw'm gettin' a bit deeof, so ut if yo' wanten t' tawk to mi
aw'st ha' t' sit o'th' side on yo'." With that he rose from his
seat, and drawing a chair close to mine, enquired what I had to
"How is the world using you?" I repeated.
"Bo' meeterly, bo' meeterly," he replied; "yet," and he
stretched down his waistcoat as he spoke, and seemed to take an
interest in the peculiarity of the cut; "Aw've not had so mich
t' grumble at as some foke;—noa lately, at anyrate."
"Then you find the 'down hill' of life a little easier than the
"Well, ther's a bit o' jowtin' neaw an' agen ut puts one eawt
o' temper wi' things, be' aw ha' no' had so mich o' that brokken-yurt
sort o' livin' as aw're us't have; that's what aw meean. Yo're
noa comn a fishin at this time o'th' yer, are yo'?"
"No, indeed; what makes you ask that?"
"Nowt, nobbut aw thowt thoose rods happen belungt to yo'."
This was an allusion to a phenomenon which was observable in the
opposite nook, and which appeared in the form of two legs
projecting over a chair back like a pair of telescopes,
connecting themselves at their nether extremities with the
recumbent body of the genteel stranger, who, in his apparent
fondness for the American method of sitting at ease, had nearly
turned himself upside down for the purpose of enjoying a smoke. The remark passed off without the stranger's hearing it, for he
had got himself behind the old newspaper again, and the entrance
of the landlady, with Hobson's beer, turned the conversation in
"Well, here's a happy new yer to yo' o', an' a good deeol o'
dittoes!" exclaimed "Owd Tum," taking up his pint, and lessening
it by at least one half. "Aw thowt every newyer's day 'ud ha'
bin mi last, bo' they keepn comin' reawn like Owd Ratcher's
creeam jug, ut never stopt till someb'dy wur laid under th'
table. Aw'st bi laid under summut elze before lung, aw reckon."
"How is your old woman?" I enquired.
"As cramm'd as a wisket, an' as cute as Dick's hat bant. An'
what dun yo' think? Hoo's getten it int' her yed ut aw want bi
beawt her, an' every mornin' hoo fo's eawt wi' th' lookin'
glass, becose it winno' mak her t' look as yunk as hoo're us't
"The old lady isn't getting jealous of you, is she?"
"Husht, husht!" said Hobson in a whisper, "yo're puttin' yor yed
in a dog-kennel neaw," and he looked round as if he thought ears
were listening that ought not to be; "Tawk about summut elze,
tawk abeawt summut elze."
"Well, how are my old acquaintances—your friend Shadow, how is
"Eh, poor Jack! he's takken his reed an' geers in lung sin'."
"Indeed! poor fellow!"
"Ay, that winter ut things worn so bad bent him deawn like a
windle, an' he never hove up his yed agen. Aw're soory for th'
owd lad, be' aw could no' help him."
"Old age," I supposed.
"Well, he met ha' livt a yer or two lunger if things had no'
gone so croot wi' him; bo' it's like as every misfortin coom on
him o' at wonst. His yungest dowter—as nice a wench as need be
for a poor body—went off in a decline, at a time, too, when hoo
should ha' bin doin' her feythur some good. This wur welly enoof
for th' owd lad; bo' he totthert on, and followt his wheel a bit
lunger; bo' he're never th' same chap agen, noather."
"A grief that we all have to feel more or less, at one time or
another," I observed.
"Thrue, thrue; bo' wi' some it's felt different to to what it is
wi' others. Ther' are foke ut dunno' seem fort' care whoa's
ta'en away so ut they're laft thersels. Bo' thoose dunno' know
what whoam is, nor what a blessin' it is fort' ha' breet an'
lovin' een lookin' at 'em o' day lung; so conno' feel t' loss on
'em t' same when they're gone. Bo' wi' foke ut'n wortcht, an'
clemm'd, an' frettut t'gether; when they'n bitten o'th' same
buttercake, an' drunken eawt o'th' same pot, an' hutcht t'gether
of a winter's neet, an' warmt thersels at th' same foyar, an'
neestud t'gether like shepsters ut'n never flown fro' under th'
thatch; it's hard when they'n nowt t' stare at nobbut th' empty
stoo', an' nowt laft nobbut thee' own weary sel's fort' care
"But your neighbour had another daughter, had he not?" I
"He had," continued Hobson, "bo' hoo geet wed to a wastrel, an'
that wur another blow for him. This son-in-law geet it into his
yed that Owd Jack lee i' moore nor his get, an' he'd have him i'th' heawse no lunger. So he turnt him eawt o'th' dur i'th'
cowd winter time, an' th' poor felly did nowt bo' wauk abeawt
his owd whoam o' day, an', when neet coom, wheer he went, or
what he did, wi could no' tell, for it wur some time afore wi
yerd on him agen."
Here the stranger laid aside the newspaper, and, taking down his
legs from their elevated position, leaned upon the table to
"Would none of your neighbours take your friend in under such
circumstances?" I enquired of Hobson.
"Yi, monny a one would ha' done; bo' wi o' lost th' seet on him,
till one day awhile after, Owd Sparrow Shanks, th' o'erseer,
coed, an' towd mi aw're wantut up at th' Knowe—that's th'
Well, aw went, naa thinkin' what aw're gooin' abeawt, an' when
aw geet theer, aw're shown to a bed wheer a mon lee, ut favvert
he're wayin' his last drawdeawn o' life.
'Tum, is that thee?' he sed. 'Good God, Jack! whoa'd ha' thowt
o' seein' thee here, an' i' that plight?' aw sed.'
'Aw'm fain theaw'rt comn, Tum, that aw am,' he sed; 'it's like a
leetenin' to mi fort' see an owd fase afore aw goo.' An' he put eawt his
hont, ut wur as thin as a comm, an' lookt at mi so
"'Theaw'rt no' for deein', art ta, Jack? Come, pluck up, an'
look like thisel,' aw sed. 'Theaw munna leeav us yet, mon.' He
fixt his een on mi for a minit as if he'd bin us't to believin'
o' ut aw sed, bo' deawted mi then, an' at last shut 'em, as
nob'dy shuts their een bo' what's i'trainin' for another world,
an' rowlt his yed backert an' forrud upo' th' pillow.
'Aw'm gooin' Tum, aw' feel aw'm gooin',' he sed. 'Bo' ther's a
looad upo' mi mind ut wants shiftin' afore aw con dee gradely. Eawer Betty, Tum; lost think hoo's had owt t' do wi' bringin' mi
here?' an' it favvert his heart ud a comn up as he sed it.
'Eh, nawe, lad; aw'm sure hoo has no',' aw sed. 'It wur bo' th'
tother day ut aw met her, an' when aw axt her wheer theaw wur,
an' heaw theaw're gettin' on, hoo bastud eawt o' cryin', an'
could no' tell mi.'
'That's enoof, Tum,' he sed softly, an' then his hont twitcht i'
mine, an' his lips went same as if he're makkin' prayer. 'Lift
mi up, wilta', an' let mi look through th' window,' he sed; so
aw lifted him up, an' sich a worn, thin felly he lookt; as leet
as a chilt, an' as feeble, too.
'Aw wisht aw could see her, Tum; bo' it's too lat' t' send for
her neaw. Theaw'll give her mi blessin', wilt no'? Ay, aw'm sure
theaw will. Tum, aw conno' help thinkin' abeawt owd times, when
thee an' me wurn yunk, an' wern us't play at marbles t'gether,
an' goo a brid neezin'. Wi never took no eggs, nor kilt no yung
uns, did wi, Tum?'
'Nawe, Jack,' aw sed.
'Thoose wurn happy days, an' aw feel as aw're gooin' back to 'em,'
he sed; 'bo' before aw goo, Tum, ther's summut aw want thi t' do. Aw owe a milk score up at th' Ho'. It's no' so mich, bo aw'm
feeart they'n think aw did no' meean t' pay 'em. Ther's a two-thri
bits o' things belungin' to mi at Pincher's, wilt' try t' sell 'em
for mi, an' pay th' debt off?'
'Mak' thisel yezzy abeawt that, aw'll see ut o's made reet,' aw
'An' ther's Red Bill's, aw've a bit o' summut owin' there too,
bo it's no' for drink. Aw bin tryin' t' reckon it up afore theaw
coom, bo aw couldno'.'
'Never mind,' aw sed, 'aw'll bi thi egseketer to th' last
'Thank thi, Tum, thank thi,' he said, 'it's a weary will aw'm
makkin', is it no?'
'It's His will, Jack, it's His will, no' thine, ut's bein'
'An' so it is, Tum, an' so it is: neaw lay mi deawn an' if it is
no' too mich for thi t' do, mak' a bit of a prayer for mi; bo
dunno let it be a book prayer, let it come fro' thi heart, an'
God'll yer it.'
So aw laid him deawn, an' then dropt o' mi knees bi th'
bedside, an' made a bit of a prayer for him as he wantut. Nobbut
a two-thri words yo seen, for aw'd no larnin' to help mi eawt;
bo poor as it wur, God o' Meety yerd it, for when aw'd done, aw
lookt at Shadow, ut wur bo a shadow then, an' he're as quiet as
a stopt clock;—he're stark deead.
There was a silence as of that solemn death scene when Hobson
had finished his narrative. Then "stark deead" seemed to be
echoed hoarsely from the chimney; "stark deead," had spirit
voices in the lobby, and the massive poker which had been
incautiously placed against the mantelpiece, was shaken by
something from its equipoise, and rolling forward it fell with a
loud sound upon the fender, seeming to ring "stark deead" with
its fall! There could have been nothing like it for
impressiveness, except the falling of Trim's hat when the
gallant Corporal was relating the account of Le Fevre's death in
"Tristam Shandy." We all felt it; and whether the old man
regarded our silence as a tribute to his unadorned eloquence, or
as the mere effect of listlessness, there was certainly nothing
in his manner that betrayed either conclusion. He sat rocking
himself to and fro in an abstracted manner, and shaking his head
betimes, and staring moodily at the fire. The entrance of our
hostess, however, broke the spell, and recalled "Owd Tum" to the
presence of life and vigour, and the associations of a joyous
season, by observing that he had not had his "new yer's gift
"Eh, bless thi, Mary," said Hobson, "aw're thinkin' abeawt
summut elze. Well, aw'd as lief have another pint as owt theaw
con bring mi."
"An' yo'st ha' one made nice, wi' a dhrop o' summut in it ut'll
stir yo'r owd wheel-an-barrels up, an' bring th' snow off yo'r
thatch i' sheawrs;" so saying, the landlady bounced out of the
room, and immediately pots and glasses were ringing so musically
in the kitchen, that had a troop of wassailers been making merry
in that apartment, and the sound of revelry let in suddenly upon
us, it could not have awakened such an air of cheerfulness as
seemed to blink about the ceiling in the sweet firelight
reflected there, and to be conveyed about the house on the busy
tones which housewifery sent forth.
"And so you fulfilled the trust your old friend placed in you by
acting as his executor," I observed, not wishing to relinquish
the subject of Shadow's death, from the interest which the
circumstances connected with it had awakened in my mind.
"Well, nay, aw con hardly say ut aw did, though aw did mi best,"
replied Hobson, seeming a little embarrassed. "Aw went to
Pincher's, as he towd mi t' do, but then nowt theer nobbut a
pair o' twinin'-in rods, an' a loaf tin ut he'd ust for a
pin-box, an' thoose would no' fotch above a pint o' Owd Haggy's
porritch drink. Ther' had bin a two shuttlet laith (fly), an' a
pair o' beeams, an' a sixteen-shaft dobbin ut wur Jack's, bo'
his son-in-law ud claimt 'em as things belungin' to his wife; so
ut aw're just laft as aw wur. Aw'd no brass o' mi own nobbut
what ud as monny legs as an' ear-wig, or aw'd a paid th' milk
score off misel; God knows aw would."
There could be no doubt of it, by the manner in which he
"How much might that little affair of your friend's be?"
enquired the stranger, crossing over to Hobson, and whispering
rather loudly in his ear.
"Well," replied Owd Tum, "aw went up to th' Ho' an' axt Mary
Ann, bo hoo would no' tell mi."
"Get to know, if possible," said the other, "and though my purse
is but a poor one, I'll discharge the liability."
"Yo're very good, aw'm sure," said Hobson, "an' aw've no deawt
bo' yo'd do as yo' promisen, bo'—well it's hard for t' rob foke
o' that comfortable feelin' ut they getten fro' doin' a good
turn, bo' th' milk score is paid. Him ut pays o' eawer debts
when He takes us int' His sarvice, paid th' debts off for poor
owd Jack. So Mary Ann towd mi when aw axt her agen."
"Oh, I see, yes," said the stranger, feeling himself rebuked by
the other's simple but profound reply. "I did not think of that,
I assure you," and he returned in confusion to his seat on the
Just then the landlady entered, bringing in Owd Tum's "new yer's
gift," which foamed over the old-fashioned pot that contained
it, in milky streams, and formed little white pools on the
table. My old friend slapped his knees quietly, gave a faint
diddle on the hearth-stone, roused the fire until it sent
sky-rockets up the chimney, then taking hold of the pint, which
he seemed to welcome as if it had been a child absent from home
since the Christmas before, delivered himself as follows,—
"Mary,—God bless thee an thine; aw meean yo're Bill,—an' thi
childer, if ever theaw has any, bo' aw think theaw'rt getten too
owd; bless thi bread-flake, an' thi porritch dish, an' thi bacon
hooks; may thi har'stone never be frozen o'er, bo aulus be as
wot an' as comfortable as it is neaw. May theaw never feel no
little cowd feet i' bed, nor see no little meawths yammerin for
summut ut theaw conno' give 'em. May o' ut's abeawt thi prosper,
just becose theaw likes seein' foke weel off, an' when theaws
done i' this woald, may God o' Meety tak' thi to th' side o'
Him, an' put as mony creawns o' thi yed as theaw's done good
things i' this life, an' theaw'll have 'em yept up as hee as th'
Teawer o' Babel, an' a breek or two o'th' top on't. Amen."
On concluding the above benediction, Hobson raised the pot to
his lips, and the foam disappeared at a draught; then turning to
me with a refreshing smack, said "Aw'm thowin' neaw like a snow-bo'
on a top-bar." And the ruby flushed into his nose, and the old
twinkle dwelt in his eyes, and a drop of something stole down
his cheek, and falling upon his coat sleeve, glittered like a
pearl there,—a pearl of worth untold.
The stranger, who had been somewhat taciturn since the entrance
of "Owd Tum," now put aside his reserve, and seemed anxious to
enter into conversation about something. He was unfortunate
however, either in the choice of his subjects, or his method of
introducing them. He tried the weather, and failed; made some
observations on the appearance of the country, and failed in
them also. He next entered upon the pastimes of the season, but
finding we knew little of the manner in which our "select"
neighbours spent their Christmas, he took himself about and
whistled. There is much ready relief to be found in whistling;
it supplies many a defect in our aptitude for conversation. We
may not be in possession of the whole, or even part of a tune,
but we can run up and down a succession of notes that may
themselves have all the charm of music, and serve to fill up a
vacuum in loose talk as well as anything that Verdi or Rossini
could impart to us.
My new acquaintance had, I found, a well stocked repertory of
these musical interludes, and when they failed to make silence
tolerable, he fell back upon his supplies of the "Havana,"
which, until now, he had kept to himself; kindling his solitary
fire in the dusky nook, and hiding his person behind a cloud of
smoke that seemed to wrap even his ideas in its ample curtains.
Looking round, however, and observing Owd Tum in the act of
feeling his pockets over, as if in search of a hidden screw of
the cut "narcotic," he drew forth his cigar-case, and with many
apologies for what he seemed to consider an inadvertant omission
of courtesy, invited my old friend to accept of a "weed."
"A weed," exclaimed Hobson, "what's a weed?"
"O a cigar, of course," replied the other, running his fingers
over the contents of his case as a reporter would his pencils.
"Here's a good one; will you try it?"
"Well, aye; aw dunno' mind if it's owt like 'bacco. Thank yo;
which eend man aw leet th' fust?"
"Oh, the blunt end, to be sure," replied the stranger. "But
first take your penknife and cut the point from the other end."
"My penknife," exclaimed Owd Tum, shaking his head as if he
thought the other was treating him to a whiff of gammon, "aw've
no moore use for a penknife nor Queen Victorey has for a yeald
hook. Aw'll leet mi weed, as yo' co'en it, too," and he took a
piece of paper from the oven, and twisting it so as to resemble
an old pair of stays, stuck it into the fire, with an apparent
disdain for the fancy "spills" which decorated the centre of the
The cigar lighted, my old friend commenced pulling, and winking,
and squinting most painfully, in the vain endeavour to get a
cloud of smoke about his nose. Now would he handle the tube as
if it were a flute, then insert it betwixt his finger and thumb,
with an apparent intention of writing his name in ashes; and,
what with repeated essays to get up fire, and the difficulty he
had in holding his "piece," so as not to interfere
with the functions of his nasal organ, the lighted end was
smouldering in ashy blackness, whilst the other assumed a
moppish appearance, as if it intended to return to its native
"Aw'st ha' rufflt mi bobbin inneaw," he said, with a look of
dismay, and an apparent wishfulness to relinquish his task.
"Aye, well; gi' mi a gradely churchwarden pipe, an' a screw o'
owd Juddie's rooughpoo'd, an' yo' may keep o' sick like chitty-pearches
as this to yorsels. Bo' let's see if aw conno' shap' it some
other road," And, opening a drawer in the cupboard, he took out
a long pipe, that had a bowl about the size of a pepper-duster,
which, after having shaken out an old cork, and covered his
clothes with ashes, he commenced filling with the ragged
remnants of the cigar.
"Aw reckon," he said; pulling a good whiff, with the bowl of the
pipe stuck in the fire, and sending the smoke curling over his
head; "Aw reckon yo're howdin' Kesmus up i'th' teawn as well as
we are here?"
"Certainly," I replied, "or most probably you would not have
seen me in your village to-day."
"Ay, ay; atin' an' drinkin', an' reawkin up o' neet, an' gettin'
yung foke agate o' cooartin' ut never seed one another
before;—aw reckon that's road yo' teawnsfoke howd'n yo'r Kesmus
I supposed he was pretty near the mark.
"That sort may do for some foke ut 'ud rayther live i'th' neet
nor i'th' day, bo' gie mi a good wide fielt, just beartud o'er
wi' frost, an' a pair o' clogs ut winno' turn up their noses at
th' smell o' shin booans, an' a foowt-bo' ut'll beawnce like a
yung widow at a club-dinner;—that's sort for puttin' a more i' a
good howsome swat, an' makkin' him t' feel hungry afore th'
dinner's o'er th' foyer. Aw've known monny a bakin' day shiftut
through a good puncin' beawt i'th' Hee-fielt yonder."
"Was the game of football much practised in the country now?" I
"Noa so mich as it wur when aw're yunk," replied Hobson, "bo'
wi never miss'n a Kesmus, just havin' a bit of o tussle t'gether,
for th' sake o' keepin' owd times i' one's yed. Ther's gooin' t'
be a do to-day, an' if yo're stoppin' i'th' nook, you' may have
a foowt in, if yo'n a mind."
"Is the match for a wager?" I asked.
"Well, yo' may co' it a wager, bo' it's nobbut which stands
feyther for a steeam injun."
"A steam engine!" exclaimed the stranger; "What kind of steam
engine? A churning, or a turnip-cutting affair?"
"Nawe, yo're quite eawt on't," replied Owd Tum, grinning. "It's
a great, thumpin' pottatoe-pie, made in a weshin' mug, an' it's
bein' baket i' Owd Juddie breek oon at this minit."
"Lord bless us!" exclaimed the stranger.
"Ay," confirmed Hobson, "aw expect th' Stewart hear inneaw. He's like th' joss o'er it; an' when he comes wi'st not ha' mich
reawm t' feight in, aw con tell yo'."
"Becose ther'll be a lot after him. Th' foowt-bo' players meet'n
here at one o'clock, an' they're noa bi' so mich beheend theer
time, yo'n see."
There was a loud barking of a dog at a distance, and directly a
bang came to the door, as if some one had flung a wet sod from
the river; then a whistle, and a voice calling "Blucher! get
"That's Blucher," ejaculated Owd Tum, jumping upon his feet,
"an' here's his mesthur, wi' a whul regiment after him. We'st
ha' rare spooart inneaw."
Another loud bang at the door; a sound as of the tramp of
multitudinous feet, a rough seizure of the latch, and the
steward, with his retinue, entered. Blucher was already crouched
under the table, and a crowd of rustics of all ages, sizes, and
callings, with faces glowing like so many yule logs, took
possession of the room where we sat, and immediately every chair
in the house was put in requisition.
The steward was a jolly-looking personage, with something of the
huntsman's dash and the yeoman's sturdiness about him. He was
evidently in his proper element, surrounded as he was by a host
of—not exactly dependants, but followers; and it took but a
short time to convince me that he was knight of the revels, and
leader of the sports at Christmas tide.
"Neaw, lads, are yo' o' here?" he said, squaring himself on the
hearthstone, and dashing himself up to the elbows in his sacks
Everybody looked at everybody, but nobody missed anybody in
particular; still the number did not appear to be made up.
"Co' th' rowls o'er," suggested one.
"We'd best ha' some drink in th' fust," said another; a
conclusion which no one appeared to dissent from.
"Bring in a gallon," said the steward, and he drew a paper from
his pocket, and viewed it over.
The stranger looked uneasy whilst this was going on, and sat
chewing the end of a tobacco pipe, and casting furtive glances
towards his feet, as though he expected Blucher to make a sudden
charge in that direction, in order to test the vulnerability of
his boots. Now the ale was brought in and served round—the jug
never being allowed to stand until the last drop was drained. Then the steward coughed, and prepared to call over the list of
competitors who were to engage in the play, and—"Onswer to yor
names!" went round the room. Then be proceeded as
"Bockey!" "Th' same chap yet!"
"Cakey-o'-Matty's!" "Sweepin' th' fish-ponn up at th' Ho'. He'll
bi ready bi th' bo's eawt! "
"Duck-at-th'-weir-yed!" "Qua-a-a-ack!" and the party answering
to the foregoing cognomen imitated the call of the well-known
fowl which he represented.
"Futter!" "Wheer he likes bein'!" "Wheer's that?" "I'th'nook
here!" There was a laugh at this remark. The steward went on
"Gatty-o'-Thrutcher's!" "A-back o'th' table!"
"Grey-bob!" "Pee-weet-ree-e-e-clink-clink-clink!" and a little
fellow under the window imitated the song of the "grey-bob," or
"chitty," properly "redpole,"—a bird familiar to most boys in
"Jannock!" "He conno' come, becose his clogs are at cloggin'!"
"Merry-clogs!" "Never misst!"
"Pee-at-Ratcher's!" "Gone for a tatchin'!"
"Rackey!" "Gettin' th' bo' ready!"
"Owd Rack-an'-hook!" "Here!"
"Well, that's twenty; Jannock conno' come, an Cakey-o'-Matty's 'll
hardly be here i' time, so wi'st bi two short. What sen yo'
Mesthur," said he, addressing me, "wi'n yo' bi one?"
I always liked a game at football, so could not refuse.
"Well, aw'll put yo' deawn—stranger. An' yo'," he said, turning
to my friend on the sofa,—"Yo' favvern puncin' someb'dy off at
knees,—win yo' be one?"
"Well,—yes,—I don't mind," responded the worthy surveyor of
land,—"only I shall have to learn the game."
"Oh, yo'n larn when yo'n had yor shins crackt a time or two. What name mun aw put yo' deawn?"
"What you please—anything."
"Put him deawn Dragon-bandin'," suggested a little
fellow, who was playing with Blucher's head.
"Dragon-bandin"' went down.
"Neaw then, aw think wi'st do. Is th' bo' ready?" "Rackey's
blowin' it up i'th' fowt; it'll be ready i' two minus."
Thump went the football against the door, rebounding against the
walls of the porch, and startling everyone to his feet.
"Neaw, lads," said the steward, "let's ha' fair play; punce low,
an' keep off one another's legs. Wi'n co' sides when wi getter
"Here," said Owd Tum, taking hold of the steward's elbow; "What
have aw done amiss?"
"Eh, Hobson, awd quite forgetter yo'. Well, yo' mun punce at th'
rook, an' be in at th' atin; will that do for yo'?"
"That'll do," replied Hobson, with a wink, and he took stock of
his gaiters, and felt if the straps were secure.
The whole forum then sallied out, the stranger and I following,
and Owd Tum trigging along with us.
Never, I am sure, was there such a crew mustered as the one
which made Daisy Nook ring with merry voices on this glorious
New Year's morning. [p.33] Never was warrior so elate at the prospect
of certain victory as was each of these competitors in a
harmless strife, as they speculated on the chances of the
contest. Some were matching themselves with others of something
like equal powers, whilst those who could not reckon upon any
chance of individual display, but must content themselves with "puncin'
at th' rook," chaffed their more favoured brethren by ironical
remarks on the length of their shanks or the size of their
clogs. One or two were measuring their "swing," by kicking
at such objects as they might deem fit to experiment upon.
One kicked at a huge snow-ball that the children had rolled
together, and the snow flew abroad,
and spread in showers amongst the crowd. Another tried his
"length" at an old can and had the satisfaction of seeing his
clog fly to within an inch of the river, whilst his comrades
laughed an jeered, and advised him to put "th' lindherins" on if
he meant to "keep th' fielt." Now a snow-ball wool come whizzing
from behind a garden hedge, followed by a juvenile yell, as the
missile took effect on one or other of the players. Then a word
of encouragement would be dropped from a chamber window,
accompanied by a wish from the speaker that she "wur a mon." Quadrupeds as well as bipeds were in the highest glee.
Blucher held canine levees upon almost every ashmidden they came to, to
which all the "fancy" in the village attended, and it was odds
but each occasion ended in a most ferocious and curlike scramble
Crossing the bridge, we began to wind up a narrow path, which
led through a slight fringe of wood, and brought us into a
spacious meadow, from which the roof of "Bunk Ho'," with its
modest stack of chimneys, sending up playful wreaths of smoke,
could be seen."
"This is th' fielt," observed Hobson, who had trudged at my
elbow all the way we had come. "It'll be rayther bad puncin'
amung th' snow, bo' aw believe ut th' match ud ha' t' bi played
if it wur as deep as a hay-moof, an' every mon ha' t' punce eawt
of a hole; they're so keen."
"Sides!" sung out the steward, as soon as we reached the middle
of the field; and immediately each man was told off, who then
took his position on the s"ide" to which he was allotted, and
prepared for action. The steward took the football, and, with
the preliminary exclamation of "here goes!" sent it flying in
the air, and then retired to a corner of the field to watch the
What a lusty cheer rose from the group as the ball flew up from
amongst them! A moment it seemed poised in mid-air, then with a
rebound, that seemed like the effect of a second kick, it
dropped to within a yard of the spot from whence it was sent. Then there was a closing in of some of the more venturesome
spirits, and for some time the ball was oscillating in the
narrow circle, as if it was struggling to get out and could not.
"That's what aw co' a bit o' clognose music," observed Owd Tum,
who was coaxing the stranger, or "Dragon-bandin"' as we must now
call him, to "goo in an' tak' it off 'em." "If it wur no' for
th' snow yo'd yer ther shins crack like rush-cart-whips. That's
it, Racket', that's it!—neaw, owd lad,—goo into it! theaw's a
bit o'th' owd ber in thi yet. Follow it up, mon—follow it up! Greawt-yed'll have it neaw! Ha! theaw yorney!"
The individual who answered to the euphonious name of "Greawt-yed"
had been "lying out," and, on the ball approaching him, he
seemed to measure the range, and caught it on its first rebound,
then returned it with a little more interest than the other side
might have desired. The ball alighted so close to where our
friend the land surveyor stood, that that individual might have
caught it with his hands if he had been so disposed. As it was,
he seemed to take an oblique "survey" of the descending object,
then running a few paces in the direction it was taking, was
within an ace of receiving its spent force about the left ear.
"Neaw, Tapeworm!" shouted some one who appeared to have
forgotten the appellation by which the stranger was to be
distinguished. "Give it a gall-er, owd mon,—give it a gall-er!" [p.36] But "Tapeworm," or, "Dragon-bandin',"
instead of seconding his fellow-competitor's wishes, by sending the ball flying over
the fence, turned round with a sudden wheel, and, as if he he felt the wind
from a dozen pairs of clogs about his shins, threw up his heels,
and bounced out of harm's reach with surprising agility.
"Yon chap's belungt to th' flyin' artillery some time," observed
a short-legged, dumpy fellow, who' though he experienced a
difficulty of locomotion in consequence of the snow, was as
"game" "as anyone in the field." "If aw'd had as good a pair o'
compasses as he has, aw'd ha' dofft someb'dy off at th' knees
afore aw'd ha' letten sich a chance as that goo."
The contest now became warm and general, and "clognose music"
was being given out in rapidly succeeding "thuds," as the ball
flew and dodged about amongst the forest of legs, or went up in
a graceful "riser," that showed the finished qualities of some
experienced player in the height of its ascent. The chances of
the game were in constant fluctuation, and the centre of the
field was well kept by both sides, notwithstanding that several
well-timed kicks sent the ball a considerable distance, to be
caught up by some "out-lyer," and as successfully returned.
Owd Tum's gaiters might now be seen in active
movement,—sometimes in the very midst of the "tussle," and at
others engaged in an ill-matched race with a more youthful
competitor; but, with all the old enthusiast could not obtain a
single kick to gratify his desire for distinction. At last, when
the game had been going on for about half an hour, " Racket'"
caught the ball with his hands, and was about to give it a "riser," when Hobson went up to him, and begged that
he might be
allowed an opportunity of distinguishing himself a little more
favourably than he had hitherto done.
"Just lemmi ha' one punce," he said, "afore th' gam's up, wilta? Aw'll punce o' thy side."
The favour was conceded, and Owd Tum, taking the ball in one
hand, and balancing it steadily with the air of an old
professional, let fly a gaiter, and sent the ball spinning and
bounding along the snow in a manner that promised to be a
considerable stroke in the game.
"Well done, Owd Thrums-an'-pooins'," shouted "Racket',"
following up the ball, and giving it another lift that sent it
clean over the fence,—the success of which stroke being hailed
with a loud shout from his fellow-competitors, who were mad with
delight that the game was so suddenly and so unexpectedly
decided in their favour. It was evidently all over; the field
was lost and won, yet, notwithstanding the losing party were a
little chagrined at their discomfiture, they did not object to
the manner in which it had been brought about. Strictly
speaking, Hobson had no right to take part, on either side, but
there were few who would willingly have deprived the old man of
his participation in the action, or his share of the triumph. Those who had lost shouted "Well done!" And "Greawt-yed," the
leader of the vanquished, as if forgetting on which side he had
been playing, slapped the old hero on the shoulder, saying at
the time, he would match him "agen any i'th' fielt for a new
pair o' clogs." Owd Tum took all this adulation quietly, for he
seemed to know that it was bestowed more out of respect for him
as a man than admiration of his qualities as a player. He sought
me as the party began to leave the field, and with that
self-satisfied twinkle of the eye which I had often observed,
begged to know my opinion upon the result of the contest. I gave
it him unreservedly; told him the winning party owed all their
success to his skill and prowess, and that they ought to pledge
him in a "full pint" at their "steam engine" refection, as
acknowledging the service he had rendered them. To this the
veteran shook his head, as if half doubting my sincerity, and
with a mode of emphasising peculiar to himself, said:—"I have
seen th' day; bo' mi wynt's gone—mi wynt's gone."
I looked round amongst the straggling group for our quondam
friend, and companion on legs, the stranger land-surveyor, but
nowhere could I discover him; and mentioning the circumstance
to Hobson, the old man chuckled in his liveliest manner, and
pointing to an elevated portion of the fence which we were
approaching, said—"He's yondher; wheer he's bin this
hawve-heawer." There he was, sure enough, seeming, by his
gesticulations, to be enjoying the issue of the game as though
he had mainly contribute to its success; but, on some one
sending a snow-ball in the direction of where he stood, the
gallant "Dragon-bandin"' disappeared behind the fence, and it
was some time ere we saw him again.
And now let me rest my pinion in this wayward flight, and settle
for a time upon a quiet hearth, away from the noise of revelry,
which is loud under a certain roof. The "steam engine" is
rapidly losing its twenty-man-power, and "John Barleycorn" is
assuming a reign that is seldom long in interregnum. But I have
left the revellers to their merriment and their potations, and
am seated in a cozy chimney-corner, listening to the billing and
cooing of an elderly pair; one of them in gaiters and rusty
black, whose person I need not describe here; the other in
modest printed gown and clean mob-cap, with apron crimped all
over,—giving the person an air of ancient coquetry that makes me
almost in love with age. The two are preparing for another scene
than the one I have just left; one more becoming their time of
life, and more in character with that season's' enjoyments which
may be said to laugh itself over the threshold of a new born year. "Bunk Ho"' is to make merry this night; and neighbourly
villagers, who may be ranked amongst good and homely people, who
have not turned the needy from the door, nor "courted
selfishness in many ways," are to be guests there. Amongst the
invited are my friends, Hobson and his worthy dame, and I am
pressed to accompany them. How can I refuse, when they assure me
that my being a stranger would give me a claim to the
hospitality of that noble mansion, which even the title of
friend could not supersede.
"Come, men; Mary Ann 'll bi fain t' see yo', aw'm sure
hoo will;" entreated Owd Tum; "Hoo's getten beawt that little
rott'n of hers; it geet ut it would no' ate porritch, an' then it
deed. Come, yo'n goo, aw'm sure. Neaw Sarah, wench,—bless
thi ow face,—art ready?"
The wife frowned as she adjusted a sort of hood over her head,
but on turning from the glass to give a finishing pluck at a
modest bit of ribbon, a smile met the merry, loving look of her
spouse, and, as the sun was shedding its last gleam aslant the
grey landscape, we bent our steps towards "Bunk Ho'."
Hail, hospitable mansion! at once the cradle and shelter of
goodness—beacon of the world-wrecked, and earth's heaven for the
weary-laden, and sorrow-wounded of our kind;—let me pause a
moment ere I cross thy hallowed threshold, and give vent to the
full emotion which is swelling in my breast, at the remembrance
of how much the needy owe to thee, and how the good have cause
to bless thee! But I am summoned hence. The door is swung ajar,
and dreamily defined shadows are flitting to and fro in the
firelight that blinks around the spacious hall, and the largely yuled hearth is laughing in broad grimace at the farther end. I
find myself in the presence of our gallant host and his circle
of choice hearts, and perceive that already the revels have
begun. Oh, no simpered compliment, no flat smirk, nor sensual,
glaring eye meets me there; but welcoming smiles—round and
rosy—and greetings hearty as the hand can give, or the lips
utter, seem to be festooned about us like the berry-laden
evergreens that hang from the thickly foliaged ceiling.
I had no conception of the game that was going on when we
entered, for my attention was suddenly diverted from
the general company to fix itself on a particular group that had as quickly
formed in the centre of the hall, and over whose heads a
monstrous, crown-like bush displayed clusters of
luscious-looking yellow globes, that probably owed their
sweetness more to the sun of Andalusia than the hothouses of
"Bunk Ho'." A merry cheer, which rang through the hall, told
that something unusually jolly had been going on, and on my
catching a sight of Owd Tum, who made himself conspicuous
amongst the group by a grotesqueness that was plainly the effect
of sudden bewilderment, I saw the explanation in a moment. He
looked up into the bush, as if he fancied an angel had dropped
from amongst its foliage, and after saluting his beard with the
gentlest of kisses, had returned to its green home, to reserve
its favours for future comers. The oranges, however, knew
nothing about it, and as the sprigs of holly and mistletoe
seemed indifferent about sheltering spirits, Hobson withdrew his
eyes from their upward look, and, turning them on a laughing
face that was peering from behind his shoulder, broke out into
an exclamation that was perhaps more hearty than refined at the
discovery. But if there was a cheer at the cause of my agèd
friend's confusion, there was one doubly as merry when his
worthy dame, as if unconscious of the meaning of such customs,
or the particular act that was to make her a candidate for their
favours, stepped right under the fatal symbol, and began to
examine its interior. At this moment, up jumped the gallant
host, in whom I recognised the venerable worshipper of the
little chapel, and seizing the old girl by the waist, attempted
to dispense the honours of the occasion in as graceful a
manner as his infirmities would permit. The attempt, however,
was not successful, for Dame Hobson, becoming suddenly aware of
his intention, twisted herself round, and before the old
campaigner could return to the charge, she had put herself into
an attitude from which defence was easy. To her struggles she
added remonstrances; and when she found that her persecutor was
upon "rigid purpose bent," she threw herself upon his mercy,
and, as if begging him to spare her life, entreated:—"Nawe,
dunno' 'squire. Nob'dy never busst mi nobbut eawer Tum an' th'
childher." This modest appeal had the effect of bringing about a
compromise, and our worthy entertainer, after shaking by the
hand his simple-minded guest, conducted her to a side table
(intended for late comers) which was spread with such viands as
are generally supposed to be associated with Christmas
Here Owd Tum was just settling himself down, and, as I found
myself most unceremoniously ushered to the same quarter, I
proceeded to join the old couple in their repast.
Let it not be recorded elsewhere, how we carved, and scooped,
and dived, and plunged amongst the various substantials that
were set before us; how Hobson could not get round a huge bone
without making half the circuit of the table; how the carving
knife slipped out and went into the cheese; how he bespattered
the old lady's apron with gravy; how the damaged party scolded,
concluding a most sublime lecture on "human capacities" by
sundry disparaging allusions to her husband's "nieves," which,
she said, were "never made for hondlin' sich tools as thoose."
Let it only be whispered how the insulted party protested that
he was doing his best, but had not been accustomed to "thwitin'
at sich a lump;" and how he at last threw up his task—declaring,
as a sort of qualified excuse, that—"if it had nobbut bin abeawt
th' mickleth of a meawse" he could have managed it better.
You are not to suppose, dear reader, that while this is going
on, the rest of the company are silently looking over our
shoulders. No; they are quite as busy as we are, and too mindful
of the fun that is growing "fast and furious," to regard our
little mischances. In one corner, I behold a pair of
legs—certainly not the shortest—that are trying to get the
better of gravitation by sundry and futile efforts to erect
themselves ceiling-wise, and have the satisfaction of
discovering that we at the table are not making ourselves more
ludicrous than is my newly recognised acquaintance, yclept
"Dragon-bandin'," who, intent on redeeming certain articles that
he had "forfeited" at some kind of play, is endeavouring to
stand upon his head, while the onlookers are roaring with
"Aw'st ha' no mooar o' that stuff!" exclaimed Owd Tum,
who had helped himself to a slice of plum-pudding, and was now
pulling his face at the first taste. "Ther's summut abeawt it
ut's noan gradely, aw'm sure. It's nowt like what wi us't have
at eawer club-dinner, ut coom on th' table i' thunner an
leetenin', an' ud welly ha' sweelt a chap's eebrees off wi'
lookin' at it. That wur th' sort for shiftin' ther ribs, an'
makkin' 'em t' tak' they wynt thick. Bo' this—it smells like
cat—hum,—ay,—wel,—Sarah wench, thee taste."
Sarah tasted—pulled her face—then turning a severe look upon her
husband, exclaimed, with a sort of sarcastic triumph,—"Theaw
owd foo; theaw's temd caper-sauce on it, that theaw has; an'
spoylt as nice a bit o' dumplin' as ever wur lapt in a rag. Theaw', no business wi nowt at o' bo' a mess o' ale sops, or a
two-thri fried angels; theaw crazy-pate."
Owd Tum pocketed the rebuke with a chuckle, and begging that I
would help him to a "nepplin' o' cheese," assured me that he
would "rayther ha' had a creemin' o' summut bi hissel i'th'
nook, than ha' sit deawn to th' best, 'qualaty' dinner ut ever
made a chap saucy."
Our repast finished, for to use my old friend's expression, we
"made short up," as there was too much attraction elsewhere to
allow of our indulging in a protracted meal, we rose from the
table, and prepared ourselves for what might come next. I took
the opportunity thus presented to take stock of the company, and
from the position I had taken, I could see everybody, and
observe everything that was passing.
To count the number of guests, would have been a difficult
matter, for not only were they mixed up with the household, but
each appeared to have some business with a neighbour across, so
there was a stream down here, and a fluctuation there, that
looked like a cross reel, or a set of "morris dancers" out
of order. Here was our friend the surveyor, who had at
last succeeded in redeeming his "forfeits," a tête-à-tête
bouncing girls (pardon me, I mean two good-looking ladies), with
red arms, and faces that shone like newly waxed mahogany. They
were evidently sought for partners in the first dance, and the
gallant "Dragon-bandin'," with a sort of "how-happy-could-I
be-with-eitherish" expression in his manner, besieged first one
and then the other, until the appearance of a heavily-shod
swain, who bore down upon him like a three-decker, when the shy
craft hoisted sail, and made for another station. There was a
rather spare young lady (I wish her face had had a more
temperate look,) in a ball dress, and white-satin slippers that
did not become the character of the house, and she was "pouring
her soul" into the ear of another spare young lady with an
operatic air, and a head-dress of very unseasonable flowers. Both, as Hobson informed me, were assistants at a neighbouring
boarding school, and tea-and-toast acquaintances of the
steward's wife's. Then there was a corner full of people who
could do nothing but laugh and suck oranges, and with whom
"Dragon-bandin"' was now getting on "nutty" terms. Here was a
forum of youngsters,—very dumplings,—burning their fingers with
roasted apples which they plucked from the fire, and sent
spinning and fizzing along the hearth, whilst admiring parents
laughed approvingly at their glee. Batches of
such as only a rural population can produce, were promenading
and loitering about, when there was nothing particularly funny
going on, and stiff "stocks" and loosely tied neckerchiefs,
glossy curls, and stubble heads that put one in mind of newly
dressed hay-stacks, mingled in their every variety of colour and
form. Mob cabs nodded to their more sprucely ribboned
acquaintances, and the waddling dame of eighty showed the coy
maiden of the first score how they used to foot it at Christmas
parties in the "good old times" of her own day. Shall I note the
musicians? Yes; they are worthy of being brought out of their
corner to the light. The first is a complete model of an old
village fiddler, not a thoroughly blind one neither, but so
darkened on the right side, as to be incapable of observing the
young scamps on the hearth who are mimicking the action of his
elbow. Whether some wag had been experimenting with a candle
upon old "tweedle-dee's" bow could not be much doubted, for in
spite of the latter's frequent "rosining," the cat-gut would
only answer with a squeak, which would set the juvenile
imitators into a scream of discords. The next had a much larger
instrument, that uttered a tone like a growl, and when it got to
the top of its voice, fairly barked; and what betwixt the
yelping of the little one, and the deep-mouthed baying of this
old "gronfeyther," as the juveniles called it, the orchestral
effect was truly delightful. The latter instrument was operated
on by what appeared to be a superannuated "wait," in most
dilapidated exteriors, who kept up the animation of his clay by
frequent applications of a glass tumbler, down the side of which
you might have seen a grey eye twinkle as the liquor was being
gulped. These two seemed to be under the conductorship of an
itinerant harpist, a young man with a profusion of ringlets
hanging about his ears, and who, from his whole "get up," I took
to be a would-be imitator of "Blondel," of Cœur de Lion romance. It struck me, too, that this young man (undoubtedly a fresh
importation), was the object of considerable jealousy on the
part of his rivals of the "cat-gut" order, for whenever he
played, which was only occasionally, the others would rest their
elbows, only now and then, when the thought of mischief induced
them to put in a grunt or a yelp to mar some fine passage that
the harp might be engaged in, which "accompaniments" were sure
to be followed by a storm of music from the latter instrument
that would drown the whole kennel into silence.
But the company are getting impatient for a dance. Small groups
are joining hands, and restless feet are trying novel steps, to
get the initiative for the "latest out." Our friend the surveyor
has at length found a partner in one newly arrived down stairs;
who is all blushes and smiles, but who nevertheless "deports"
herself in a manner that shows some acquaintance with ball-room
etiquette. The fair one leans on the arm of her faithful Dragon-bandin, and casts down her eyes towards a small
slippered foot that is playing itself on the floor, with an air
that seems to say, "how far above me is this lord of mine!" Indeed
he is far above her, for her curls are playing about the
second button of his waistcoat, and when he stoops to listen to
some sweet whisper, and gets jostled by a passer-by, and pushed
from one position to another, the spectacle is ludicrous in the
extreme. Flitting about here and there, is our gallant host, his
white head in good contrast with the profuse clusters of evergeens that form little groves in every nook, and his face
beaming with an expression of jollity and good nature that makes
a summer under that snowy canopy, and reflects its geniality on
all around. But where is that paragon of a daughter—the lovely
Miss Jackson? Ha! I see her yonder, with such a crowd of
little-folks about her, that I wonder she is not torn to pieces. Dispensing "gifts," I dare say she is, from the scrambling and
racing that is going on, and the attention which her every
movement awakens. Let her come forth, ye little tormentors, that
we may give the lie to the axiom, that "goodness hides in lowly
places," and that the fairest flowers are "born to blush
unseen," &c., &c.
Now ply thine elbow, "Tweedledee;" grunt thy loudest old "Gronfeyther;"
and "Blondel," tear not "thy chords asunder," nor dream of a
willow-tree just now, for hither comes the lady of the house to
tax your good-will for a merry strain, and lead her frisky
lambkins through the dance! I miss a companion from my side, an
elderly one, and am left with only an old dame for company,
whose look portends a matrimonial storm anon; for the clouds are
lowering about her eyes, and her puckered mouth seems to be
bottling vengeance. Up starts the music, and away go the dancers. Forty feet are "hastening to the wedding," though some are
carrying heads to which a bridal wreath would hardly be
becoming. Bobbing up and down, is an iron-grey sconce, and
contiguous are a pair of coat-tails, that are undergoing a
peculiar sort of vibration, and I know there to be gaiters below
that must be getting desperately hot, from the lively manner in
which they are knocking about. But who would not follow where
his partner leads? for the lady takes the initiative in this
instance, and she is young, and handsome, and good, and I
daresay the old heart is blessing her all through the mazes of
that merry romp. But there is a hitch in the proceedings. Couples get entangled and out of order. Miss Jackson finds
herself in company with the housemaid, and Owd Tum and
"Dragon-bandin'" are running foul of everybody—bearing down the
swain with heavy shoes, playing the deuce amongst muslin, and
only stopping in their career when they find themselves
confronted by a mob cap and a bony hand, both of which are
shaking threateningly, and the exclamation of "theaw crazy owd
foo! wilt sit thi' deawn?" brings the whole affair to a stand.
"Aw'm noan toyart yet," responds Owd Tum, looking as restless as
possible. "Come, fiddlers, let's have a hurnpipe, an' aw'll show
yo' a bit o' heel-an'-toe wark ut'll s'prise yo'. Toodle-iddle-oo-dle-iddle-heighty-hom. That's it. Never mind
her; hoo'll bi upo' th' floor hersel inneaw. Toodle-iddle-oo-dle-iddle-heighty-hom. Blaze away, Bill!"
Bill did "blaze away," and his mate followed, and "Blondel" was
moved by the merriment of the scene into an accompaniment; then
Hobson, with a leap and a flourish, commenced a succession of
steps, which he distinguished as—"leet, heavy, an' rowlin';—double-shuffle,
and new-fanglet caper;" the latter of which he had seen his son
"Joe" practice on the door flag. Every alternate "step" was
taken up by "Dragon-bandin'," who tried to imitate the "Sailor's
Hornpipe,"—handling the lines, waving signals, and other
movements,—which gave him the appearance of one of those
automaton affairs that children term "jack-jumpers," and which
are worked by pulling a string attached to each joint. Owd Tum
would sit down and rest whilst his partner was performing, but
when his turn came, he would take his place on the floor
apparently as fresh as ever. I noticed, as the "backstone" was
getting warm, that the weather in certain quarters was rapidly
clearing up. The thunderclouds, instead of waging elemental
warfare in their direst fury, only emitted a slight pattering
shower, and then disappeared, which change being observed by
Hobson, that youthful individual called out,—"Come Sarah, wench; ger up and shake thi rags. Theaw us't theaw could ha' doanct 'Owd
Moll o' Gibberland' wi' anybody i'th' nook. Come, frame thi owd
carcus upo' th' floor, and tak th' step up."
No sooner requested, than the "owd carcus" did "frame" itself on
the floor; and after thrusting a thin lock of grey hair inside
her cap, so as to secure it from falling over her face, Mrs.
Hobson set herself in front of the musicians, and took up the "step" in right good earnest. Now she would move from one side
to another, then advance and retire—her feet making an almost
inaudible attempt to "patter" in time to the music, and had it
not been for the shaking of her cap screen, we should hardly
have known that she was dancing. Owd Tum was in ecstasies of
delight, and alluding to what was going on, said,—"It byets
foowtbo' plain'; does nor it? Neaw, Sarah!" he sings out,
"shuffle it off, wilta? Wi couldno' leeave it i' betther honds."
The wife complied, and just as she was putting in the last
"shuffle," she threw up her head, and snapping her fingers at a
group of "teens" that had gathered round this terpsichorean
circle, exclaimed,—"Sixty-odd, wenches!" and then retired to her
The dance over, the Wassail was brought in and served round. Fruit followed, in varieties that astonished the company. Owd
Turn cracked nuts with his heel for himself and dame, and sipped
at the fiddlers' tumbler until his eyes began to wink. Others
were enjoying chat, as if that commodity was served round in
"courses," whilst the musicians, now resting from an exertion
that had quite blown them, were turning over the leaves of dog's
eared tune-books, apparently consulting about the music for the
next dance. But we are not to have another dance as yet. The
harpsichord is brought out of its corner, and the lid opened. I
wondered what the old thing was that stood there, with its
gouty-looking legs encased in stockings of brown holland, and
its " pin-engine" top looking as if it had been made by the
village carpenter, for the purpose of boxing off dangerous
machinery. But the first note struck, rang like a bell through
the hall, and proved the instrument to be of that rare
description that makes up in sweetness what it lacks in
elegance; like many a thing I could name besides, if similies
were wanting. Immediately the hum of voices sank into a whisper.
The harpist is seen to confer with a lady. The harp is made to
accord with the tones of the other instrument, and the prelimin-@@@
cries to a song are evidently being arranged. A moment's
suspense, and then what a cheer went forth. as Miss Jackson took
her seat at the old heirloom, and smiled her acknowledgments to
the company. Crash went the harp, in imitation of a peal of
bells: loud at first, and merry rang out the chimes; then, as if
the sound was borne away upon the breeze, their tones fell
faintly and indistinctly on the ear,—returning again, full and
clear, and dying away at last into the slow dong-dong-dong of
the funeral knell. Then the harpsichord chimed in with garrulous
undertones;—light, and cheerful, and loving,—if music can
love,—and with a tremour in her voice at first, but with a
sweetness that seemed to contain her whole soul, the fair
THE WAVERLOW BELLS.
Old Jamie and Ailse went adown the brookside,
Arm-in-arm, as when young, before Ailse was a bride;
And what made them pause near the Hollybank-wells?
'Twas to list to the chimes of the Waverlow bells.
"How sweet," said old Jamie, "how sweet on the ear,
Comes the ding-donging sound of yon curfew, my
But old Ailse ne'er replies—for her bosom now
Oh, she loved in her childhood those Waverlow bells.
"Thou remember'st," said Jamie, "the night we first
Near the Abbey-field gate—the old gate is there yet—
When we roamed, in the moonlight, o'er fields and
And our hearts beat along with the Waverlow bells.
And then that wakes morning, so early at church,
When I led thee a bride, through the old ivy porch,
And our new home we made where the curate now
And we danced to the music of Waverlow bells.
And when that wakes morning came round the next
How we bore a sweet child to the christ'ning font
But our joy-peals soon changed to the saddest of
And we mourned at the sound of the Waverlow bells."
Then in silence, a moment, the old couple stood,
Their hearts in the churchyard, their eyes on the
And the tear, as it starts, a sad memory tells:—
Oh! they heard a loved voice in those Waverlow
"Our Ann," said old Ailse, "was the fairest of
She had heaven in her face, and the sun in her
Now she sleeps in a bed where the worm makes its
And her lullaby's sung by the Waverlow bells."
"But her soul," Jamie said, "she'd a soul in her
And their brightness is gone to its home in the
We may meet her there yet, where the good spirit
When we'll hear them no more—those old Waverlow
Once again—only once—this old couple were seen
Stepping out in the gloaming across the old green,
And to wander adown by the Hollybank-wells,
Just to list to the chimes of the Waverlow bells.
Now the good folks are sleeping beneath the cold
But their souls are in bliss with their daughter and
And each maid in the village now mournfully tells
How old Jamie and Ailse loved the Waverlow bells.
"God bless her!" exclaimed Hobson, when the song was finished;
"God bless her!" he repeated, taking hold of a corner of his
wife's apron, and wiping something from his cheek; "Aw could
ate her to a thumb-buttercake; that aw could. Sarah, theaw conno
sing like that, tho' theaw could ha' sung onset like a
nightingell, when theaw wove thoose gossimer tippets, an' aw
thowt they noan like thi'."
"Howd thi' noyse!"
Yes, silence! you garrulous old critic; for here is another
candidate for lyrical honours in the person of our friend
"Dragon-bandin'." How the housemaid smiles and blushes, looking
any way, only not towards her lover, for there he stands alone
by the harp, with his thumbs stuck in his waistcoat pockets, and
his eyes uplifted towards the ceiling, as if invoking Apollo's
aid; then, with a cough and a flinging forward of his chest, he
fires away with—
"Maxweltown's braes are bonny,
When early fa's the dew-m,
'Twas there that Annie Lorry
Gave me her promise true-m,
Gave me her promise true-m,
Which ne'er forgot shall be;
And for bonny Annie Lau-au-rie-m,
I'd lay me down and dee-m.
Her brow is like the snow drift
A pause—a scratch of the head—a cough—confessions of a "break
down"—and then—an ignominious dive into a corner, where
nothing could be seen for several minutes but a pair of boots,
kicking at imaginary obstacles in the air.
"Dun yo' think yon chap's o' his weft in?" said Owd Tum to me,
seeming by his manner to have had some previous discovery
"To be sure; only he's a little eccentric!"
"Wether he's egsentric or not, he's summut like what Owd
Calamity wur when they teed him deawn i' bed, an' shavet his
Now one of the boarding-school assistants has caught the singing
epidemic, and is preparing to eclipse her fair rival who has
gone before. With what a stately air she stalks towards the
harpsichord, fanning herself with a sheet of music, and looking
languishingly at the rows of ivory before her. Hush! she is off
"I cannot mind my wheel, mother,
I cannot mind my wheel."
"Theaw would mind it, if theaw'd eawer Sal at thi back," was Owd
Tum's observation, as the plaint of the love-sick maiden fell
upon his ear. "An' theaw'd wind good bobbins, too, aw'll uphowd
thi'; an' pike th' knots eawt, or elze hood tak' th' knots eawt
o' thee, an' smartly too."
"Silence! deawn theer," sung out the swain with heavy shoes. But
the song was finished before Hobson could settle down into the
required decorum, and then it was only on conditions that his "owd gell" would sing, that he could be induced to behave with
something like propriety.
"Come, Sarah," he said; "give us one o' thi best, an' aw'll ax
that chap wi' th' pooins reawnd his yed fort play his
thingumyjig for thi."
"Aw'st do beawt that," replied the wife, who required no second
invitation to follow in the wake of harmony. "Aw could do betther if aw'd mi wheel here; be' aw'll thry t' do mi best." And with a voice that hardly got louder than the mewing of a
cat, she sang a song that I had often heard before, but which
Burns would with difficulty have recognised as his own, from the
text in which it was given;
"'Twas there I took my last fareweddle,
O' my sweet Heedlian Maory."
"Well done, Owd Ballispipe!" shouted Hobson, slapping his wife
on the shoulder, as she consigned "Heedlian Maory" to the "green
sod" and the "cold clay." "Theaw's gan that bant, heawever. Let
her sup o' that oyntment ut theaw weets thi throat wi; wilta
Sammy," said he, turning to the whole-eyed fiddler, who handed
his tumbler to the old dame, with the exclamation of "quite welkim!"
"Oh, aw say, Sammy, theaw're ust theaw could ha' towd a good
tale or two, when theaw fiddlet o' Setterday neets at Owd
Ratcher's. Hast forgotten 'em o'?"
Sammy smiled, and, for a moment, past recollections seemed to
bring a little sunshine in his face. "Ha, well," he replied, "aw
ha' no' towd a tale this good while; bo' aw yerd a new un th'
tother neet, Tum, an' th' fust time ut we'n a pint t'gether
aw'll tell it thi'."
"Let's have it neaw, afore yon pair o' twinin'-in rods starts o'
singin' agen. Aw'm sure th' owd Kurnul 'll like it." So saying,
Hobson was at our host's elbow in a twinkling, and immediately
returned with a message to the effect that "Sammy Scutcher"
might lay aside his "owd grondfeyther" for awhile, and favour
the company with such anecdotes as he might think would please.
The fiddler took a pull at his "oyntment," and removing to a
seat in front, as the harp sounded "to order," proceeded with
his new story of—
THE HAZEL-CLOUGH BOGGART.
One fine moonleet neet at th' backeend o' that yer at pottatos wurn so rotten, Owd George o' Jammie's wur lookin' through th'
chamber window, just before gooin' t' bed. He liv't then at that
farm-heawse at top o' th' Hazel Cloof, an' farm't th' lond
abeawt. So did his feyther afore him. Well, Owd George had a
nice crop o' what he coed Indian limestones, at had ne'er ta'en
th' disorder, bo kept as seawnd as a dobber o' th' gettin' up
time. They'rn growin' i'th' Broo Fielt, at th' front o' th'
heawse; an' Owd George thowt ut some 'dy wur helpin' t' get 'em
ut didno' care mich abeawt th' ten commandments; so he spent a
neet or two i' watchin' for t' see if he could find th' thief
eawt. This neet at aw'm spakin' on, he'd bin reawnd th' fielt a
time or two, an' seen ut o' wur quiet, an' foke i' bed, as he
thowt, when it coom int' his yed at he'd just peep through th'
window, afore he dofft hissel, if it wur nobbut for't to see
heaw nice an' quiet everythin' look't abeawt. Well, he'd yawkt
an' cowght un yam-yam'd for abeawt five minits, and skeawlt a
time or two toart th' pottato-fielt, when he thowt he yerd
someb'dy comin' leatherin' up th' lone, same as if they'rn
runnin' for ther life. He harkent an' look't an' hardly took his
wynt, till at th' last he seed a mon dart through th' yate, an'
mak' straight toart th' heawse. "That's noan o' th' thief," Owd
George thowt to hissel'. "If he is, he's badly looad'n. What con
he want here, aw wondhur? He's noan com'n a-stalin' thoose at 're
ready getten, is he? If he is, darm his impidence."
"Neaw, neaw," he sheawts, "if theaw'rt comin a sleepin i'th'
barn, theawd better ax my leeaf th' fust. Whoa art to?"
"It's me, George, it's me; an' do lemmi in," th' chap sed, "for aw'm very nee feeart to th' deeath."
"Wheay, what's up?" Owd
"Oh, dear me! aw've just comn through th' cloof, an' aw've seen
summut. Do oppen th' dur, for God's sake."
Owd George poo'd his yed in, an' went deawn th' stairs, an'
oppent th' dur, when whoa should dart in, wi' a face as white as
a puddin'-cleawt, bo' Ned-at-th'-barn-eend; him at mow'd a
match onct wi' Breawn Tummy.
"What is it theaw's seen?" Owd George sed, "for theaw looks
"Eh, George! eh, George!" Ned sed, an' he favvert bein' likker
for't tumble deawn.
"Hast' seen a thief?" Owd George sed. Aw da' say he're thinkin'
abeawt his pottatos.
"Wurr no' that, George; wurr no' that!"
"Theaw's noa seen a murdhur, hasta?"
"Wurr no' that, George; wurr no' that!"
"Wheay, what i' th' name o' th' owd witch o' Fearnyhaugh hast'
seen then?" Owd George sed; an' he staret at Ned same's if
he thowt at th' mon wur beside hissel.
"Aw've seen—aw've seen—eh, George! aw've seen a boggart!"
"Oh, ah, hum! theaw's seen a boggart, hasta? Well, well, if
that's o' aw met as weel blow th' candle eawt, an' go t' bed
agen. Be wheere did theaw see it?" Owd George sed.
"I'th' cloof yonder, at th' side o'th' Cawve fielt yate; aw had
t' come as close past it as fro' here to th' shipp'n."
"Did it stir?" Owd George sed.
"Nawe, it never stir'd. It stood theer agen th' backin;
an' sich een it had; awst never forget 'em. Just same as if th' moonleet
were shoinin' through em."
"Did theaw see owt of a seck at th' side on't?
"Nawe, aw seed
nowt nobbut th' boggart; that wur enoof."
"Well," Owd George sed, "theaw tells a strange tale;" an' he
pluckt his neetcap off his yed, an' put his jacket on. "Aw dunno
like th' thowts o' my greawnd bein' pasturt wi' th' devul's
cattle; so wi'd best see if we conno shift this boggart, aw
think. Thee get that pikel eawt o'th' nook, an' aw'll tak'
Teawzer theer, an' we'n go reawnd bi Thatcher's, an' get him an'
their Sam fort' go with us, an' see if his boggartship 'll stond
his greawnd agen steel an' pepper."
"Eh, George! dunnot ax me t' goo," Ned sed, "for I dar' not."
"Then awst think it's thee uts stown my pottatos," Owd George
sed, "an' ut there's no bigger boggart i'th' country nor theaw
"Nay, George, afore yo'st think that abeawt me aw'll go wi' you,
an' face th' boggart if it fleighs me."
"Come on, then," owd George sed; an' he raicht Teawzer deawn
fro' th' chimdypiece, ut had booath barrels ready looaden, an'
Ned shoothert pikel, an' off they booath seet o' boggart huntin'.
Thatcher wur rakin' th' foyer when they geet to their heawse,
an' Sam wur just comn in fro' cooartin; an' when Owd George towd
'em what they'rn after. Thatcher went welly beside hissel. He doanct abeawt th' floor like a scopperil, an' swore they had no
had a bit o gradely spooart abeawt theer sin' th' last eawl
catchin', an' that wur two yer gone; bo' if th' boggart had any
gam in it, they'd have a skit eawt on't, that they would.
"Come, Sam," he sed, "just get th' thowts o' yon wench eawt o'
thi yed, an' fotch summut heavy eawt o'th' barn—summut ut'll noa
be shy at brimstone; an' if yon boggart is nor as tough as Jone
o' Butcher's barn-beef, wi'n let moonleet into't afore wi'n
Sam went, an' browt an owd scythe blade for hissel, an' a midden
fork for his feyther, an' they o' four seet eawt, mooar like a
gang o' poachers nor owt elze. "Wi'n goo across th' Great Meadow,"
Thatcher sed, "it'll bi th' next road."
So across th' Great Meadow they went, an' deawn bi th' Owler
Dingle; an' when they geet at th' side o' that pit at th'
bottom, Thatcher stopt.
"Let's see," he sed; "it's here where Crazy Ailse dreawnt
hersel, is nor it, George?"
"Aw believe it is," George sed.
"Well, as nee as aw con think, it'll bi fifty yer sin"' Thatcher
sed; "an' foke sen ut they comn back agen every fifty yer; dunno'
George sed nowt, for he thowt Thatcher wur up to some sort o'
"Neaw," Thatcher sed, "if there is owt o'th' sort aw wish wi met
see it neaw—oather rise eawt o'th' pit or come up th' dingle."
"Howd yer wicked noyse, feyther; an' come away," Sam sed, "yo'n
happen see summut soon enoof."
"Well, they had no' getten monny yards fur, when Ned laid howd
o' Owd George's arm, an' very nee poo'd him deawn.
"Look, neaw, it's yonder," he sed, "un' his knees rappt agen th'
pikel-stail like two battin-rods.
Theer th' boggart wur, sure enoof, wi' it yed reeart i'th'
hedge, an' it body lapp't in a sheet ut lookt as white as a new
"They o' stood as quiet as if they'd bin asleep,—starin' at th'
boggart, an' wonderin' what it could be. Owd George begun feelin'
rayther queer toart his hat; bo' when he thowt abeawt his Indian
limestones, he tried t' persuade hissel ut th' boggart had
"Hast had owt missin' eawt o' thy greawnd," he sed to Thatcher.
"A two-thri turmits," Thatcher sed; "that's o'."
"Aw've had above a looad o' my pottatos stown, an' it's my
belief at yon boggart knows summut abeawt 'em," Owd George sed. "An' he's comn o' yon fashin fort' mak foke think it's feearin'. Look,—did nor he shift then?"
"Yi," Sam sed; "aw'm sure he did. Bang into him, George."
Owd George level't th' gun.
"Neaw, then!" he sheawts. "If theaw'rt oather a boggart or a
thief aw'st foyer i' two minits; so just look eawt. Recollect, aw'm a kunstable, an' aw pay tithes an' church-rates, so theaw
conno' hurt mi chus what theaw art!"
Th' boggart never stirr'd a peg, be' kept stondin' theer as
brazent as a pot-cat.
"Neaw, Thatcher, so be't'in' it's a mon, an' aw shoot him deead,
what will it be co'ed? Theaw's bin a o'erseer, so theaw knows th'
law better nor me."
"It'll be co'ed justifiable whomicide," Thatcher sed,
law couldno' hurt thi' finger for it."
Owd George level't th' gun agen.
"Neaw," he sheawts, "aw'll gie thi another chance, for aw dunno'
want t' ha' no blood upo' mi yed; so ut if theaw'll gie thysel
up, an' tell us heaw theaw likes mi Indian limestones, aw'll
let thi off; be' if theaw does noather, aw'st be like t' shoot
thi, an' then tak thi up."
Whether th' boggart ne'er yerd him, or it didno' care about bein'
shot at, they couldno' tell, bo' it ne'er stirr'd chus what Owd
George sed. So at last he keawntut twenty, an' then sed, "Here
goes!" Bo' it didno' go; an' he aim't, an' he gruntut, an' he
poo'd at th' trigger, bo' Teawzer wouldno' bark for o' that.
"Why does no' foyer?" Thatcher sed.
"Aw conno'; summut keeps gettin' howd o' mi finger."
"Let me thry," Sam sed. So he geet howd o'th' gun, an' banged
booath barrels off at once, an' leet soss i'th' doytch, wi'
Ned-at-th'-barn-eend under him.
Owd George ne'er look't whether
th' boggart wur shot or not, bo' off he took as fast as he could
leather an' run, an' th' tother chaps after him—helter, skelter,
like a moonleet steeple-chase. Ther' a pikel laft here, an' a
fork theer, an' th' scythe wur gone wi' Teawzer to th' Owd Lad,
for anythin' they knew or caret just then, for noan on 'em
wanted t' carry mich, an' away they ran, an' ne'er stopt till
they geet to Thatcher's dur. Sam puncet th' dur oppen at one
punce, an' Owd George leet i'th' middle o'th' heawse floor like
a seck of his Indian limestones. Ned-at-th'-barn-eend laft one
of his clogs in a gutter, an' sheawtut "Murther!" for he thowt
th' boggart had takken it.
Well, they fastent th' dur', an' Owd George sed he're wheer he
should tarry that neet. Thatcher threw an owd stock upo' th'
foyer; an' when they'd getten ther wynt abit, he slit two pair
o' gallowsus off a flitch o' bac'n ut hung i'th' nook, an' put 'em
to th' foyer. So they o' four keawert reawnd th' har'stone,
tellin' boggart tales, an' gratin' their chops wi' yards o'
collops, till th' cocks began a crowin'.
Owd George sed he dust goo whoam then; so him an' Ned piket off,
an' crept toart whoam, as quietly as they could, an' went t'
bed. George snoort an' moandhurt amung th' blankets till
porritch time, an' chus heaw their Grace sheawtut at bottom
o'th stairs, he kept sayin', "Arta thief or a boggart?" an'
then began a ramblin' abeawt his Indian limestones. When he wakkent, he could hardly believe bo' what he'd bin' doin' o'th'
o'er neet wur a dhream; bo' when he geet up, an' lookt for
Teawzer o'er th' chimdy-piece, an' mist it, he fairly swat agen;
an' it wur a good while afore he could touch his breakfast. Th'
neighbours geet a wynd ut ther'd bin summut seen i'th Hazel
Cloof, for Ned-at-th'-barn-eend had bin bletherin abeawt it i'th'
smithy, an' th' schoomesthur wur howdin' a krunner's inquest on
it i' Owd Wyndy's loomheawse. Owd George crept as far as th' yate
after he'd swallut his porritch, an' then up th' lone as far as
th' skoo' fowt, wheer ther a lot stood tawkin' abeawt th'
boggart. So George had his akeawnt for t' give, an' rare
whisperin' an' wonderin' ther wur backert an' forrud. Limpin'
Ike, th' fortin' teller, sed it wur a sign o' war, an' they met
expect yerrin' summut abeawt th' French comin' afore lung. Th'
skoomesthur made no deawbt bo' science 'ud explain it o', if
they nobbut understood th' laws o' hoptics an' phantumgory, or
summut as he co'ed it. Billy Softly said he thowt it wur t' best
for t' be sure ut they wurn, sure, for he hadno'
forgetter th' mischief ut th' owd witch o' Fearneyhaugh had done,
so he'd nail't a horse-hoof upo' th' shipp'n dur, an' hanged a
baws'n clog i'th' chimdy, for witch charms.
Well, while they'rn tawkin', a lad coom runnin' past, an' sed th'
sodiers wurn comin' up th' lone. "Didno' aw tell yo?" Limpin'
Ike said, an' they o' staret one at another. Inneawe, ther sich
a sheawt set up, for th' sodiers, i'stead o' bein' th' French,
wur nowt bo' a pa'cel o' skoolads, ut had t' come across th'
Hazel Cloof to th' skoo'. One on 'em march't i'th' front wi'
summut draggin' after him ut favvert a lung fleawer poke; th'
next had a gun of his shoothur, an' one had a pikel, an' another
a midden fork, an' th' last o'th' lot flourisht an owd reawsty
scythe-blade abeawt. Owd George went stark-starin' mad when he
seed this, an' he grabbed howd o' him ut had th' gun, an' axt
him wheer he'd stow, that fro. Th' lad sed—"We'n fund it i'th'
Hazel Cloof, an' thoose tother things, an' that balloon ut went
up fro' the Goose Paster yesterday."
Th' boggart wur fund eawt in a minit. It wur this balloon ut had
dropt i'th' hedge; an' neaw they coom t' look at it, it wur
stickt full o' pellet holes, as if it had been shot at. Owd
George took howd o'th' gun, for he knew it wur Teawzer, an'
swore if it wur chargt he'd blow Ned-at-th'-barn-eend's yed as
hee as ever th' balloon had bin—that he would. An' ther sich
sheawtin an' laithin as never wur; an' when Thatcher geet t'yer
ut they'd catcht th' boggart, he made o' sorts o' gam o' Owd
George, an' sed he knew what it wur o'th' time, for he'd seen it
leet. Th' Indian limestones wurn getten up straight forrud, an'
a nice crop they turnt eawt; an' the next seedlins ut Owd
George-o'-Jammies raist, Thatcher kessunt 'em Boggart Booans,
an' th' same sort are co'ed so to this day.
No sooner had the applause which followed the recital of the
foregoing story subsided, than "blind-man's buff" was
announced. The heavily-shod swain, with eyes bandaged, was
already scaring people into corners, and catching at
chair-backs, with a zest that put the whole company into screams
of merriment. I receive a light tap on the shoulder, and on
turning round, find myself confronted by "Dragon-bandin'," who,
from his manner, seems to have some important communication to
make. He informs me "it is ten o'clock." Indeed! How the night
has stolen upon us! Ten o'clock! Then it is time we departed. Come, friends; a hasty good night to you all; good night, and a
happy New Year! Good night—good night! Your hand, old
friend—yours, mother; good night! Our gratitude to you, our
worthy host; blessings on your lovely daughter; and God be with
you all! Farewell! Good night, in the hall; good night, in the
lobby; good night, at the door; then ho! for the stars, and the
snow, the gossiping brook, and the weird woods, and the lonely
Merrily we tread the crackling snow; bravely we breast the
treacherous slopes; gaily we slide along trodden paths; singing,
laughing, chatting, we go, till the welkin, illumed by the
city's lights, beacons us home at last.
p.33 The reader must observe that, in most
villages about Manchester, the Christmas holidays do not
commence until New Year's Day.
p.36 Send it to the goal.
Abel Heywood, Printer and Publisher, 58,