had so much respect for the privacy of his neighbour's home, and
such an instinctive delicacy in his regard for the sacredness of all
domestic relations, that he no sooner heard the voice of the old
Jacobin engaged in what he took to be some form of prayer, than he
re-crossed the threshold, and closed the door so gently that the
snick of the latch was only a kind of metallic whisper. Creeping
down the "fowt" with a cautious tread, and listening at each step
he took, he returned from his reconnoitring expedition, and got
beyond the enemy's lines without being observed. His own door was
opened sufficiently wide to permit such sounds to escape from within
as were anything but grateful to his ear. His old woman was "carryin
on" about something. That was quite evident from the manner in which
certain words were drawn out, or chopped off in their utterance, as
well as from the rattle she was making amongst the household crockery
and spoonery. With the reluctance of a schoolboy going up to be
whipped, our friend entered his domicile, and made such a
demonstration with his hammers and haybands as he approached his
wife's presence, that it was a wonder she did not faint with terror. But as that good lady's nerves were not quite made of spider's web,
and as she had been accustomed to receive similar formidable
displays without absolutely sinking into the earth, she on this
occasion coolly inserted her knuckles in her stays, and inquired of
her transgressing spouse if he knew who and where he was. Receiving
only a cough in answer to this compound question, she put another of
an equally inferential character.
"Are thy wits gone a woolgetherin?" she said, shaking a grey lock
that had crept from beneath her cap, as if it had been a species of
serpent hatched out of her temper.
"Art' sayin summit to me?" returned the road-mender, in a tone that
conveyed an expression of the deepest humility, as well as a
consciousness of having been guilty of some sinful act.
"Nawe," the wife retorted. "I'm talkin to a stump wi' a blue jacket
an' a red senglet on."
"Oh, well; oh, well! get said what thou hast' say." And the
road-mender slunk into the chimney-nook, where he was at much
unnecessary trouble in laying by his hammers, and hanging his haybands on two wooden pegs beside them.
"It's no use me sayin nowt to thee," protested the dame, in a manner
that would imply a doubt as to the efficacy of forty years' daily
lecturing. "I'm sure I've said enoogh to thee fort' mak thee heed
me, if ever owt would."
"Thou has, thou has, wench; goodness knows; but I m sich a bad larner, ut I'm hardly wo'th wastin skoo wage on," commented the
stone-breaker, with an acquiescent grunt.
"What hast' had th' hommers out this mornin for?" stormed the
"I're feeart thou'd be breakin yeads wi' 'em if I laft 'em i' thy
raich," was the peevish reply. But it was spoken in such a low tone
that "Margit" heard it not.
"Thou'rt a smart un, that thou art," exclaimed the latter, drawing
out her words so as to give them a rasping effect on her spouse's
ears. "I never thowt afore ut thou're so fond o' wark thou'd work ov
a Sunday; that I never did. This comes o' thy drinkin. I wish th'
churchwardens had ha' getten howd on thee; they'd ha' found thee a
dry shop on't for a while."
"I wish they'd howd o' thee," the road-mender muttered to himself,
though loud enough for his wife to hear, if not distinctly.
"What's that thou says?" the latter ejaculated, turning upon her
husband a most severe look.
"I're axin thee if thou'd seen or yerd owt o' Johnny Armitage
to-day," was the reply, evidently given as a substitute for the
former observation, from reasons of a pacific nature, or from a
desire to avert the dame's threatened descent upon the offender.
"Nawe, I ha' not," she snapped.
"Oh, well! What art' well-in at?"
"I're just gooin t' say I wanted t' see him."
"An' a nice figger thou art fort' see anybody. What dost'
want to see him for?" And the dame plunged a handful of nettles into the
pot that was simmering over the fire.
"I'm gooin t' help t' convert him to gooin to th' church ov a
Sunday," the road-mender replied, in a subdued tone, as if he
thought the announcement would be received with some little show of
incredulity on the part of his wife.
"What! thee convert him?" exclaimed the latter, making a violent
demonstration with her cap-screen. Thou means th' tother road about,
for I think thour't th' biggest sinner o'th' two. I dunno' know
whether thee or our Joe has it; for he's makkin a rappit-cote i'th'
loomhouse, an' has bin knockin an' sawin till I'm sure everybody
i'th' lone has yerd him; a wicked wratch as he is!"
"Does nor he know that it's Sunday?"
"Yigh, he knows it's Sunday by th' dinner."
"Well, thou sees I didno' know. By th' time he's yerd as mich o' thy
tongue as his feyther has, he'll have had o'th' recollection dinned
out of his yead."
The road-mender thought it prudent to retreat after having fired
this shot; so he made for the front door, whence he could hear a
dropping fire given in ineffective discharges behind him.
Sam leaned over the partition fence, and listened again at his
neighbour's door. There was no sound this time except the quiet
ticking of the clock, and the occasional twitter of an
anti-Sabbatarian canary. He felt a strong desire to put his ear to
the keyhole; but was afraid he could not reach it, and the fence
(his own making) was but a rickety fabric of "laggins," worn-out
treadles, and discarded weight ropes. It might come down if he
tested its resisting powers to the required stretch. Had he been two
inches taller he might have ventured upon a slight pressure against
it, without any danger of coming to grief; but—there, now: a little
further, and—hollo! "Well done, blue weft!"
This exclamation was caused by the road-mender finding himself
pitched head foremost into his neighbour's garden, with a portion of
the rickety fence apparently engaged in an effort to denude him of
his nether garments. The railing had given way under the last ounce
of pressure (the old story of the camel and the feather), and going
with a crash that alarmed the canary, as well as frightening away a
couple of hens that were seeking to do a little model gardening, it
left its constructor to moralise upon the consequences of a too
eager curiosity to pry into the affairs of other people. The noise
had caused some alarm elsewhere; for just as the road-mender was
getting a satisfactory account of the state of his legs, prior to
making what is regarded as a cowardly use of them, he heard a door
open; and looking up from among the gooseberry trees, beheld the
person of the Jacobin standing over him.
"What's the matter, neighbour?" said the latter, a smile radiating
over a face that appeared to be casting off a shade of melancholy.
"Well, yo' seen," replied the road-mender, getting upon his feet,
and shaking himself, "our Margit's tongue's a bit peppery this mormn,
like; an' I're gettin out o'th' road ont as fast as I could, an' geet
o'erbalanced—it's a wonder I'm ever on my legs at o—an' down I coome
among yo'r fayberry trees.'
"Are you hurt?" inquired the Jacobin, with a commiserating look.
"Well, I think my arms are o reet. As for my yead, or my legs, they
dunno' matter mich, for I've very little use for oather on 'em."
"Come into the house. I've some plaster that I find to be very good
for bruises, and I'll give you a little of it. But stop; I cannot
ask you in now." And again the shade came upon the Jacobin's face.
"Why?" the looks of the road-mender said, though his lips spoke not.
"Because," continued the other, the melancholy in his face growing
more profound as he spoke, "my child is very ill. I'm afraid she's
in a fever."
Fever! That word was enough to scare the whole village, had it heard
it. Fever! Dreadful announcement! The road-mender shuddered. The
short bits of hair that fringed his temples seemed to rise, and the
sweat began to ooze out of the patch of wrinkled tan. Fever! Let it
get whispered abroad that such a terrible scourge was germinating in
the Jacobin's house, and who would answer for the safety of his
person, his furniture, or for the life of the tender flower drooping
and thirsting in that heaven-forsaken waste? Fever! There might have
been some of the infection concealed in the Jacobin's clothes, for
his neighbour sprang away upon hearing the word, preferring to face
the ordeal of a merciless tongue to risking the chances of a foul
contagion fastening its teeth upon him.
The old woman was engaged in "lithing" the broth when her spouse
rushed in to tell her the dreadful tidings he had just heard. Before
the latter could utter a word, the dame was so struck with the
expression of alarm so visible in his looks, that she involuntarily
cast her eyes upward, as if expecting the ceiling to be giving way,
or the smoke to be oozing through the numerous cracks.
"Whatever's to do now?" she exclaimed, hurriedly placing the
bowl on the hob, and looking alarmed in her turn. "Are th'
churchwardens comin for thee? Sarve thee reet, if they are. If they putten thee opo' th'
stone stoo', an' fasten thy stockins wi' a pair
o' wooden garters (the stocks), thou'll be a nice seet for everybody
to stare at when th' church looses. Hast' getten thy tongue
hondcuffed o'ready? What's to do, I say?"
"Th' feyver, Margit!" ejaculated the road-mender, pointing with his
finger in the direction of the chimney-nook, as if the pestilence
was hatching amongst the haybands and hammers he had previously
"Th' feyver! What dost' meean?"
"It's there." And again the road-mender pointed towards the nook.
"Then thou's browt it wi' thee," said the dame, seizing hold of the
tongs, and darting at the nook, as if she expected the disease had
presented itself in the form of a frog, or a toad, or a newt. "This
comes o' thy workin ov a Sunday. We'st ha' some sort o' bad luck
beside, I reckon, through it."
"What art' rootin about wi' th' tongs for?" asked the road-mender,
impatiently. "Dost' think thou con pike a disorder up, same as thou
does a cinder, an' carry it out o'th' house? I tell thee it's th'
feyver, next dur, owd Johnny Armitage's wench."
"Eh, dear me! thou doesno' say so?" was the dame's exclamation, as
the right interpretation of her husband's announcement penetrated to
her somewhat obtuse faculties.
"Yigh; owd Johnny's towd me so just now."
"Eh, whatever mun we do?"
"We mun be better folk. Thou hasno' bin to th' church sin' that
Sunday ut thou couldno' get thy bonnet in at th' dur, an' thou had
to turn back." And the road-mender could not help smiling as he
called up the reminiscence.
"Joe," shouted the dame to her son, in the loomhouse, "give o'er o'
that knockin an' sawin, an' come out."
"Is th' dinner ready?" demanded Joe, pausing in his persistent
hammering at a pointless nail that refused to be driven through a
stout piece of oak, used in the construction of his model "rappit-cote."
"Dinner ready, sure! How con th' dinner be ready yet, dost think?"
replied the mother; and she looked in at the loomhouse door, and
spoke in a more subdued tone. "Put that wood by. Throw summat o'er
it, so ut it conno' be seen. Come into th' house, an' down o' thy
knees in a minnit."
"Nawe, I shanno'," said the very dutiful son, aiming another blow at
the obstinate nail.
"Ift' doesno' come, I'll fling a stoo' at thy yead, thou sinful
wratch!" said the dame, raising her voice to a more authoritative
pitch. "Come at once, I say," and she flew at the youth, seized him
by the hair, and in the true spirit of Christian humility, as
interpreted by ignorant Merritonians, compelled him to assume an
Muttering over something that appeared to have the effect of
softening the dame's anger, as well as quieting her alarm, the
hopeful rose upon his feet, and drawing a varnished sleeve across
his eyes, promised to use his clogs for a purpose not intended by
the clogger, if she did not allow him to proceed with the
construction of his rabbit-cote.
"Dost know ther's th' feyver next dur, an' thee carryin on o' this
fashion?" demanded Margit, making a charge at the few buttons
attached to Joe's waistcoat, and thereby imperilling the existence
of several ragged button-holes.
"Th' feyver!" exclaimed the latter; his looks betraying a degree of
fright that one would have thought could only have been produced by
the sudden appearance of a "boggart." "Howd it back, mother, till I
get out o'th' house; an' the rappit-cote may go to ―." Well, where
it might have gone to, the mother heard not; for the son was out of
the house and far up the lane before she could get out of the loomhouse.
"Yon lad's takken th' boggart finely," said the road-mender,
laughing (some people would jest over the grave), an' he'll come
noane back till his stomach brings him, noather."
"He's like his feyther, he's a keaward," said the dame, looking for
all the world as if she did not know what she was saying. "Look
after thoose broth, Sam, while I goo an' see what owd 'Mary o'
Jone's o' Sally's' has to say about it, before we're too late."
Mary o' Jone's o' Sally's, an old beldam who had the reputation of
being a fortune-teller, lived in a cot close by. It has been
levelled with the road long since; but it was, at that time, quite a
model dwelling for such as dealt in the black art to inhabit. The
walls of this tenement were of rough stones and mud; the roof of
sods and rotten wisps of thatch that turned to manure, and fed long
stalks of rankest grass, growing in bristly tufts, where it was not
browned by absolute decay. The "easings" were so low that a portion
had to be cut away to let in the door; and the one window was a
single "bull's-eye" square of glass, admitting a feeble ray of
greenish light, that was of no use to anybody but the spiders. The
interior, when not redolent of burning turf, smelt of damp and
mould, and was as dark as the spirits that were supposed to haunt
it. The chimney, through a compulsory economy of space, was seldom
permitted to perform its functions; being for the most part choked
up with sods, deposited there by mischievous boys, who could
scramble on the roof as easily as mount a fence. How the cot was
furnished was never known till the day on which it tumbled; for the
light was never sufficient to reveal anything to the eye except one
post and the coverlet of a bed; a table that had to stand in a
corner to stand at all; a chair that was constantly leaning towards
the table, as if asking for support; and a stool that appeared to
have abandoned all idea of ever rising to the dignity of a chair. The old woman was of a pattern with her abode. An only window shed
its feeble light upon her soul; her chimney was choked up with
snuff; and her roof had nothing upon it except here and there a
straggling remnant of thatch, that no one remembered being any other
colour than grey. She had so long accustomed herself to sitting on
the rickety chair, that if, when calling at a neighbour's house, she
happened to sit on a firm one, she would lean on one side, and seem
to be in constant fear of going over on the other. Her habits were
as singular as her person was repulsive; and she moved in an
atmosphere of mystery, that strengthened the convictions of her
neighbours as to her possession of the faculty of foreknowledge, and
the power to avert the visitation of evil by feats of the
Mary was sitting at the door, reading an old brown-leaved Bible,
when the road-mender's wife presented herself at the gate.
The beldam closed the book, raised her glasses, and looked up at
"Thou looks meeterly flayed, wench," she observed, before the other
had an opportunity of disclosing the purpose of her errand.
"Flayed I may weel be, Mary," returned Margit, shaking her head
ominously, "for what dun yo' think?"
"Hoo's a good fortin-teller ut knows what folk thinken," replied the
prophetess, making way for her neighbour to enter the cot. "Come in,
wench, an' kank thee down on th' bed, for th' stoo's low an' rotten,
an' happen would nor howd thee. What is it thou has to tell me; an
uncouth (piece of news) or a tale?"
"An uncouth, Mary," replied the road-mender's wife, taking her seat
on the bed. "The feyver's about."
"That's ill news, wench; but not so bad as famine, or blight, or
unholy Jacobin war. Wheere's it brokken out?"
"At Johnny Armitage's."
This was communicated in a whisper, and with a misgiving as to
whether some supernatural manifestation would not make itself
visible about the chimney, or among the weird-looking rafters.
"That unfearin, book-worshippin, Heaven-forswearin Jacobin! Him ut
said I'd no power o'er sperrits, an' couldno' tell when luck or mis-luck's
comin. It's a judgment on him for his unbelief." And the Sybil
rubbed her hands with fiendish satisfaction.
"But we may catch it, Mary," observed the road-mender's wife.
"Nay; I'll tak care o' that," said the sorceress.
"Husht!—yon's th' church bell gooin. It mun be done now, for Sattin
has a hond in it, an' his power mun be crossed before it's too late. That Jacobin has a wicked book in his house, th' 'Reets o' Mon' it's
coed; an' I've said long sin' ut if that book wurno' brunt, th'
plague ud come upo' Merriton!" The hag threw up a shrivelled arm
among the rafters as she delivered herself of this conclusion, and
her client felt awe-stricken at the manifestation of such an amount
of supernatural wisdom.
"But whoa dar fetch th' book out?" asked the latter.
"It needs noane," was the reply. "Set fire to th' house, if he winno'
give th' book up. That ud kill th' disorder an' o; and what's riskin
two lives, to sure deeath to scores? It mun be done."
"But that poor wench has done no hurt to nob'dy," urged the
road-mender's wife. "It ud be a pity if hoo're lost, too."
"What does that matter? Our Saviour wur innocent, an' wur crucified. They didno' spare Him. Away wi' thee, wench, an' shout it i'th' lone
while folks are cumin' fro' th' church, or else it may be too late. What, thou winnot? Then I will!"
And the hag chaunted—
An eye for an eye, an' a tooth for a tooth;
Confusion to error, an' promise to truth.
Do unto others the ill they do you;
That's the religion of Gentile an' Jew.
Meanwhile a part of the old beldam's undertaking had been
anticipated. The rumour of pestilence had gone through the village
like a war-cry, and no lip that took up the word was niggardly of
its office, but spread it wherever there was an ear to listen, and
gave it a darker meaning every time it was spoken. Villagers were
gathered in small groups about the lane, and conferred in whispers. The parson was the centre of a larger group assembled near the
church gates; his usually benign face now clouded by a dark thought,
and his ears forced to listen to wicked suggestions, and creeds of
humanity that have no parallel in the teachings of our glorious
Christianity. Fever and Jacobinism were synonymous evils, so the
people decreed. Both must be exterminated before Merriton could open
its doors with safety; and who so fit to lead them against their
common enemies as the apostle of that faith which enjoins "peace and
good-will to men?"
"Promise me that you will use no violence towards this man or his
house, or anything that is his," said the reverend gentleman, "and I
will go down with you, and make inquiries about this wicked book."
The promise was reluctantly given, and with a slow, measured step,
and a prayerful heart, the vicar led the excited remnant of his
congregation down to the gate of the Jacobin's house.
Mary o' Jone's o' Sally's, the fortune-telling crone, was there
already, inciting her neighbours to such deeds as would at another
time have made them shudder to think of. But what scruples will not
bigotry and fear overcome? These who would have been charitable
yesterday are now as exacting as "Shylock," and demand their "pound
of flesh" to the "ninth part of a hair." At the door stands the
Jacobin, pallid with grief and dismay, begging in the name of
something that does not concern them then that his little household
idols might be spared. And more plaintive comes a voice from the
sick-room, a childish-treble voice, that dares to breathe the name
of God in its prayers, yet pierces no heart save one; and she, the
owner of that heart, mourns for the loss of another such a girl
buried the week before. No, no; to spare would be a compromise with
the spirit of darkness; though their Master preached mercy, a
doctrine that might have done for the mitreless preachers of
Galilee, but was heresy to some of the fishermen's successors in
this land. No; apply the torch at once, and let fire purge the air
of the twofold poison that infected it!
But stop! The people fall back, and their clamour is hushed for the
moment. The vicar has opened the gate, and now beards pestilence and
sin at the door.
"Neighbour," says he, "the people are wroth against you, because you
harbour wicked books, and teach false doctrines to those who will
listen to you. I come, as a minister of our blessed gospel, to
implore you to purify your house from such a contagion, that we may
as fellow-Christians seek to avert the spread of another contagion
amongst us, and which my parishioners look upon as a judgment."
"What books do you refer to?" demanded the Jacobin, in a sorrowful
"One which is known as the 'Rights of Man.'"
"Shall I commit it to your hands?"
"If you please."
"You will commit it afterwards to the flames, I presume?"
"These people will."
The Jacobin stepped back into the house, and in a moment returned,
bearing open in his hands a large calf-bound tome, the appearance of
which took the vicar by surprise, as he had speculated on its being
a small and insignificant-looking volume, adapted for concealment
about the person.
"My ideas of the 'Rights of Man' are gathered from this book. What
other you mean I know not. Take it, and when you have read it as
much as I have, and learned the lessons of charity it teaches, you
will be no less fitted than now for your duties as a minister of
Christ. What, you seem surprised!"
The Jacobin had reason to make this remark; the vicar was surprised,
nay confounded; for his eye had lighted on a passage in that
forbidden book that would have afforded him a text for an eloquent
and impressive sermon:—"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged;
condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be
"This the 'Rights of Man?'" the vicar exclaimed, scarcely believing
his eyes as he glanced over the text.
"The book that teaches us the most truly what are the rights and
duties of men. I have no other," replied the Jacobin.
The vicar was silent and thoughtful for a moment; then, turning to
the crowd of people at the gate, said, in his most impressive
"Neighbours, we have mistaken this man. He is no Jacobin, but a
Christian like ourselves; for lo! when I demand of him the book upon
which he builds his faith, he presents to me the Bible. Go home,
neighbours, and pray that you may be as good Christians as he."
A murmur went through the crowd. It was not the harsh sound that had
struck the Jacobin's ear as he opened the door. There were
expressions of pity heard in that buzz of voices, and more than one
brave-hearted woman pressed to the gate, and offered a ministering
hand on behalf of the dear child about whom the shadow of death was
then hovering. The more timid slunk away in shame and fear; whilst
others, disappointed at what promised to them to be a glorious marlock, glutted their mischievous desires by an uncompromising
descent upon the cot of the fortune-teller, every stone of which
would have been levelled to the ground but for the interference of
the churchwardens, who happened to be passing at the time.
The vicar remained with the Jacobin, and prayed with him. Softly
they ascended the stairs, pausing at each step to listen, with a
fear that the voice of the sufferer might be hushed for ever. More
softly still! No sound yet; not even a sob. Hush! was that the
rustle of a seraph's wing bearing the freed spirit heavenward? or
was it that of the Angel of Mercy, sent to pour balm on a father's
breaking heart? They are now at the bedside, the one kneeling and
the other listening with an anxious ear to the music of a settling
slumber, that indicates the crisis to have been passed. That
rustling must have been the departure of Death, foiled of his
purpose, for the patient sleeps a calm unruffled sleep, and the
hectic flush is leaving her cheek, like the unfolding of rosy
curtains to disclose a bower of lilies.
Shall I tell you more? The reputed Jacobin was a learnèd physician,
who had sought the retirement of Merriton in order that he might
pursue his investigations into the soundness of a theory much
disputed by the faculty. His retiring habits, and the mystery
surrounding his daily life, had engendered a suspicion in the minds
of curious Merritonians that he was a follower of "Tom Paine." They
could see piles of books on shelves as they passed the cottage; and
what business had people with so much reading, unless they were
intent upon turning the world upside down? So reasoned Merriton; and
so does society yet reason on behalf of men who are
in advance of their time.
You see the neat brick mansion on the rise of the hill yonder? That
is now the residence of "Johnny Armitage." Children of large
families blame him for bringing so many "babbies" into the world;
but the poor of Merriton bless him for his kind heart and ministering
hand. As for his daughter, Patience Armitage, she is married to his
assistant; and three happier, worthier people there are not in Merriton. Well, of course the parson must not be put on one side,
for he's a jolly trump; fond of putting his knee under the doctor's
table, and christening little "Jacobins" as they succeed each other
to the family cradle at "Merriton Lodge."
The road-mender has filled his last "rut." Death laid his hammer on
him one day, a short time ago; and his gravestone now fills up a
space in that pavement with which the arch-destroyer is gradually
covering the earth.
I HAVE heard my
grandfather say that Merriton, in his time, was more uncouth in its
habits than it is even now, in this blessed reign of the Fourth
William. I do not know exactly what period of his life the old
gentleman called "his time;" for he used to say in commencing a
story, "When I're a lad," or "In my yard-wide days," or "When I're
agate o' snootin after wenches," or "When I're teed to thy
grondmother," or "When little Turting-towers had begun o' poppin up
they years round th' porritch dish, like little pigs at a trough, it
wur a grand time;" from which I may conclude that Merriton,
during the reigns of the two last Georges, must have enjoyed twenty
or thirty years of uninterrupted prosperity; notwithstanding which,
we read of "barley times," bad trade, visitations of pestilence, and
long, devastating wars. But there is this to be said of your
true Merritonian, that he has sources of enjoyment in things that to
others might be productive only of misery. I have heard him
laugh heartily at a funeral, however unseemly it might be to do so;
and make jokes at poverty, that I should not wonder at seeing him
look downhearted at the prospect of doing well in the world.
No doubt his notions of political and social economy would upset all
others, if carried into practice. He "would live and let
live;" and though to reduce such a theory to a practical
illustration of its principles might tax to the utmost the faculties
of the most profound thinker, he is nevertheless right in the main.
He would shoulder no man on the road through life; that is his
meaning. He would be content to leave the race for wealth to
such uneasy natures as are never satisfied with a reasonable share
of that which a watchful Providence sends for all. He
complains not of want of elbow-room. He is not anxious to
provide for the future of a lazy offspring, by accumulating property
to be quarrelled over at his death. To encourage independent
effort, he takes his son affectionately by the hair of the head, and
says—"Bill, we connot o be gentlemen. Someb'dy 'll ha' to
wayve, an' delve, an' use hommers an' axes, an' live so ut they
winno' be plagued wi' what they coen th' geaut. Thou's a good
pair o' honds o' thy own; a set o' teeth ut are fit for a grinnin
match, an' a pair o' shanks ut dunno' want proppin up wi' sticks.
Thou's th' wo'ld afore thee; a feyther's example at thy back; a pair
o' clogs an' a shirt; an' what can thou want moore? Nowt!
Then thou'rt fit to live. If thou seed a mon up to th' ears in
a pit, what wouldt' do? Poo him out, wouldta?
That's reet, Bill; it's th' key to th' whul duty o' mon—help one
another. Go to thy porritch."
Such is a sample of Merritonian philosophy. How it was
exemplified in the daily life of its propounders and their
followers, is to be the subject of this and the succeeding chapter.
Somewhere about the time when the first Bonaparte was engaged
in his praiseworthy endeavours to depopulate Europe, there existed
in Merriton a society of social reformers calling themselves
"Gallithumpians." The qualifications for membership were
exceedingly simple. If the candidate had returned a favourable
answer to the question, "Dost' want to see th' wo'ld a bit betther
than it is?" he had subscribed to the fundamental principle of the
Gallithumpian creed. If he had said "Ay" to the further
question, "Dost' believe ut fun's better nor physic; an' ut long
faces are an abomination?" he was deemed eligible to be made
acquainted with the initiatory tenets of the society. If he
pledged himself never to lose sight of the public good for private
gain, he was invested with a ragged coat—the Gallithumpian badge—and
further inducted into the great mysteries of living cheaply, dealing
fairly, and using the world as if he wished it to last beyond his
The Gallithumpians had a motto, which embodied in its
injunctions the objects it was desirable should be carried out,
"Never rob anybody of a day's wark;" a principle which found great
favour among most aspirants to the investiture of the ragged
garment. It was contended by eminent Gallithumpians that, if
the Creator had intended man should work after sunset, He would have
given him a pair of cat's eyes, or otherwise endowed him with the
faculty of groping his way through the most profound darkness.
Fire and water were sent for cooking purposes, and not for driving
engines; for of what use was it employing steam power, when hands
were idle that could do the work; unless there was a communion of
property, and each member went on the idle list in his turn?
Nothing could prove of lasting benefit that involved waste of
material. Wind and water power might, in some degree, be
allowed to supersede manual labour, because their sources were
inexhaustible; but steam could not be produced without wasting coal;
therefore, what was gained at one point would be lost at another.
Had Gallithumpians ever dreamt of the coming of a time when rivers
would be polluted with substances that were required by the land,
and that corporations would quarrel about which town should be made
the cesspool of the other, they would have calculated that, in a few
generations hence, the whole human race would have degenerated into
a breed of maggots, thriving only on corruption—moral as well as
This society held its meetings weekly, in the clubroom of the
"Jolly Carter." It had neither secretary nor chairman at the
outset; requiring no funds on the one hand, nor government on the
other. All might be speaking at once if they thought proper;
for it was one of the established axioms of the society, that no
man's opinion was worth more than a single listener; and that it was
only the privilege of boredom to attack prejudices in a mass.
Consequently, the noise generally grew louder as the ale circulated;
and so demonstrative did each member usually become, either in
maintaining or resisting a proposition, that the dispute was not
unfrequently referred to the conciliatory arbitrament of a battle,
fought in true Lancashire style. Indeed, I have heard my
grandfather, who was a member, declare, that he had seen as many as
a dozen appeals to clogs during one night's session: each conducted
on the brotherly principle of "fair up an' down, an' shake honds at
On one occasion, during the most prosperous period of this
society's existence, an idea got abroad that so took the attention
of every Gallithumpian as to require an extra pint, as an
ingratiatory potation, or in order to wash it fairly into the
system. By whom the idea was propounded no one knew, or cared
to know, so long as it was common property. I suppose, like "Topsy's
paternity," it was spontaneous—it "growed." The idea was
"communion of property," on a small scale. It would be a grand
thing, thought everyone, to live in common; have a general
repository for the produce of each other's labour; all feast at the
same table; be clad by the same tailor; and spend their evenings
together, over a tap that flowed in equal quantities for all;
singing, tale-telling, and marlocking to their heart's
content. Their bond of brotherhood would be a patriotism that
involved no personal sacrifice, as not one of them was in possession
of a penny that, to use a Gallithumpian phrase, had not "as mony
legs as an earwig." The greatest difficulty they had in their
way was the start. Anybody, it was contended, could go on
after a beginning, whether in manufacture, commerce, or agriculture.
Let them turn their first sod, "gait" their first loom; sow their
first seed, and the thing would go on, to give an enthusiastic
member's illustration, "like slurrin down a plank." But how
was a beginning to be effected?
It transpired during a very noisy session, some time after
the fifth battle had added its cementing qualities to the bond of
union, that there was a farm to be let in the immediate
neighbourhood; a farm of sufficient dimensions to locate and afford
sustenance to the whole Gallithumpian brotherhood, sisterhood,
babyhood, and such stocks of cattle, pigs, poultry, and beasts of
burden as might, in the prosperous future, become the property of
the community. This farm might be secured for any term of
lease, if a couple of trustworthy and substantial Gallithumpians
would become the leaseholders. This difficulty was, after much
canvassing and disappointment, at length overcome. Two
shopkeepers, whose books were inconveniently full, and whose
perceptive faculties could discern in the scheme a probable chance
of liquidation, became the necessary sponsors; and the society's
flag, a weaver's apron attached to a hay-stang, was one morning seen
floating over the chimney of the "Gallithumpian Home of Industry,"
announcing the inauguration of an order of things that should reform
Merriton first, and the whole world in time.
So far, everything had gone on prosperously. Merriton
was in ecstasies. The "Jolly Carter" never did such a trade;
never made such long chalks behind the bar door, nor ever speculated
in such sanguine purchases of malt and hops as then loaded the floor
of the little chamber over the buttery. If the house had been
commissioned to fuddle the whole Gallithumpian estate for a series
of prosperous years, it could not have gone into more extensive
preparations. Nightly the taproom was crowded with eager
commentators; and weekly the clubroom discharged its patriotic
duties, by giving audience to the debates that went round in noisy
succession; yet no barrel refused to yield its moiety of ambrosial
liquid when required. The brewing and the fermenting kept up
the supply, and the bar door grew considerably whiter after each
night's debating, fighting, and carousing. The time, however,
for more earnest action had arrived; and the ultimate triumph of
Gallithumpianism must be secured by each member doing his utmost to
further that end.
The "home," at present, could not be made to accommodate more
than four families; and they must all be workers; so that to make a
selection became a matter of some difficulty. In this exigency
they were driven to the necessity of appointing a chairman and
secretary, and to the making of a considerable pecuniary sacrifice
in the purchase of an old sick-club pence-book, in which to enter
the proceedings of the society. It fell to the lot of the
village schoolmaster, "Fause Juddie," * as he was
mostly called, to be chosen as secretary; and as this wonderfully
erudite pedagogue wrote everything he undertook in a bold round
hand, taking off his pen at each up and down stroke in the formation
of a single letter, he was generally a day or two behind in his
entries. "Limpin Joe," an old bachelor, whose ideas, like his
person, never could get along without the aid of crutches, was
unanimously elected chairman; and of such importance did this
individual estimate his office, that he insisted on being allowed to
wear an old and much-battered Masonic "star," the legacy of a
deceased relative, and which had shone lustrously from all points of
the compass during many years' toasting of the "mystic tie," as the
badge of his authority. He announced, in very peremptory
terms, on his induction to the chair, that he would not listen to
more than one speaker at a time; but reserved to himself the
privilege of talking to anyone who might sit near him whenever he
chose, and of interpolating such observations as might occur to him
during the delivery of any member's speech. He, moreover,
would not submit a motion to the meeting without an amendment had
been previously moved; insisting that the merits of a proposition
could not be satisfactorily tested unless a counter-motion "divided
the house" with it. He would then have a "rider" moved, to the
effect that the motion or amendment carried "was so;" which, he
argued, was tantamount to the sanction by the "lords" of a Bill
submitted by the "Commons at Lunnon fowt."
It was not uncommon during the progress of a lengthy debate,
often rendered more protracted by his meddlesome interruptions, for
this model chairman to find his hat rather nearer to his chin than
they could be worn with comfort to the wearer; invariably driven in
that direction by the momentum applied by a heavy fist operating in
his rear. These indignities he would sometimes resent with his
crutch, striking right and left at guilty and innocent
indiscriminately, which he declared to be the only means of coming
at the right party. The secretary and he worked well together;
for as it generally took a whole night to get through one
proposition, the former could manage to pen it during the succeeding
week, and present it in its laboured completeness at the next
meeting, to be so altered in its texts by captious meddlers as never
to be intelligible afterwards.
The evening appointed for the selection of the four families
to be first located on the Gallithumpian estate arrived. The
members were in full session, noisy, pugnacious, and speculative.
The chairman had his star furbished up in grand style, and the
secretary's spectacles glistened in the candlelight as if some
extraordinary intelligence had been imparted to them. There
were eight families represented, who were all workers, and so could
conform to the conditions of candidature. It was at first
suggested that the representatives of these families should not have
the privilege of voting; but as "Lunger," one of privilege
candidates put in nomination, and who had on several occasions been
instrumental in damaging the chairman's hat, declared it his
intention to either vote or "feight," the suggestion fell to the
ground. "Drawin cuts" (casting lots) was next mentioned as the
fairest method of deciding the election; but even this method did
not meet the approval of such members as stuck for everything going
upon its merits, and standing or falling by the same. It was
ultimately agreed, after much noise, plenty of drink, and no little
brotherly ill-will, that a "show ov honds," should be the means of
deciding the choice of candidates, and business was gone into with
"I'll mak a motion ut Lunger an' his wife an' lads is a fit
and proper person to be a fust mon upo' th' lond," said a
little fellow whom Lunger had been plying with pints of persuasive "fourpenny."
"I'll second it," said another imbiber, from the same corner.
"An' I'll third it," said Lunger himself.
"Yo' o yern that," said the chairman, rising, and making a
pompous display of his battered bauble. "Is there any 'mendment?"
"Ay; I mak a 'mendment ut he isno'," said a fourth, rising in
an opposite corner to that in which Lunger and his supporters were
"What for?" demanded the chairman.
"Becose he's spavined, for t' begin with, an' as brokken
wynded as an owd coach hoss," was the objection urged.
"Come into th' fowt, an' try me," said Lunger, making a feint
at pulling off his jacket.
"My clogs are ready," responded the objecting party; and
immediately the two went downstairs to settle their differences
while the business proceeded.
"Does anybody second th' amendment?" asked the chairman.
"Ay, I do," was shouted in the candidate's absence.
"Then," said the chairman, "I'll put 'em. Thoose ut
thinken Lunger an' his family is a fit and proper person to be th'
fust at gooin on th' lond, put up booath honds."
A number of hands were raised, which the chairman counted,
and recorded in hieroglyphical characters sketched with a piece of
chalk, upon the table.
"Now then for th' 'mendment."
Fewer hands were held up for the amendment, and,
consequently, Lunger was declared to be duly elected as one of the
pioneers of the Gallithumpian Society, in its new and important
"Now, then," said the successful candidate, wiping a swollen
and ensanguined nose, on returning from the vindication of his
physical capacities in the "fowt," "I'll mak a motion ut Mudge is a
fit and proper, an' yo' known what;" intending, by virtue of the
motion, to return the compliment to the brother who had proposed
him. This was immediately seconded, and had the merit of being
carried without an appeal to the arbitrament of the "fowt."
A third candidate was put up in the person of "Joe Jinks,"
the father of four stout lads, who were familiar with gardening and
other operations on the land, but were "limbs" at mischief. It
was a question for some time whether the marlocking
propensities of these youths would be compensated for by their
industrial services; and as each was known to be an adept at clog
exercise, to the proof of which many a Merritonian's ribs could
testify, it was feared they might indulge their "puncing"
inclinations so far as to endanger the peace of the community, and
interfere with its endeavours to raise mankind to their proper
sphere in the Creative policy.
It was ultimately agreed, to the disappointment of several,
that Jinks and his family were "fit and proper," and the further
election of pioneers was proceeded with.
The fourth candidate was proposed, seconded, and carried
without a word of dissent. The fifth was equally successful.
The sixth, through some oversight on the part of the chairman, who
was getting rather damaged in his upper story, was elected without
his candidature being seconded. The seventh very nearly
escaped being rejected; and the eighth was only a winner by a vote.
The election thus far accomplished, and the several
manifestations of ill blood having been appeased, the chairman
requested the secretary to read over the names of the successful
"Stop till I've getten 'em o set down," said the functionary
appealed to, his tongue following the pen as the latter took its
slow meanderings over the field of virgin paper.
"How long wilt' be?" was demanded by his superior.
"About hauve an hour, if th' pen doesno' want mendin; about
an hour if it does," was the reply, given during the several pauses
made in the formation of a word.
"Then we'n have a sung, an' a buttle round," said the
chairman, filling his pipe, and coughing an important and
official-sounding cough. "Bowzer," he continued, holding the
stem of his pipe over the candle, with the intention of lighting it,
and glancing at the half-obscured form of the fourth candidate,
"give us summat, an' dunno' be partikilar about puttin some mouth
into it, an' we'n join chorus if it's fol-lol-der-dey, or owt o'
that sort. Thou'rt scrattin thy knowledge-box, I see; thou'll
do e'ennow. Silence for Bowzer's sung!"
Bowzer looked into his pot, the bottom of which was scarcely
covered with liquid, and appealed to the good sense of the company
as to whether it could be thought possible for anyone to sing with
the "seed box" so near being empty.
"Sup wi' me," said the chairman; and Bowzer, intimating with
a nod that it was just the thing he wanted, took hold of the
proffered pot, and, to use his own expression, "made holes in it."
"Mun I sing about huntin, or love, or feightin?" he inquired,
running over a mental catalogue, and expressing fears that his "wynt
ud fo short."
"Give us a touch o' war, Bowzer, an' leeave love to wimmen;
it suits 'em better," suggested the chairman."
"Then I'll sing yo' 'Th' Little Drummer Boy;" and Bowzer
threw back his head, and screwing up his eyes and mouth preparatory
to giving his lungs a little wholesome exercise, waited for the
necessary silence to begin.
"Art ready?" said the chairman.
"Ay, if yo' are," was the reply.
"Then fire away."
Bowzer did so; singing to a rude and uncouth strain the
pathetic ballad of—
THE FAIR DRUMMER BOY.
I'm off to the wars, love, to fight for Old England;
Oh weep not, dear Mary, that now we must part!
Though torn from thy presence to cross the wide billow,
Thine image shall leave not this fond loving heart."
Thus spoke a brave guardsman, his foot on the gangway
The sails of the transport unfurled to the wind.
It was not faint-heart wrung the sigh from his bosom
But leaving his Albion and Mary behind.
Up went the anchor, away sped each vessel
That bore a brave army to Spain's rocky coast;
And soon in the smoke and the tumult of battle,
The image of love to our hero was lost.
One night, as he lay by the camp-fire reposing,
A sweet, gentle voice whispered thus in his ear:
"Oh let not the sigh break thy wound-soothing slumber,
But rest, dearest rest, for thy Mary is near."
He starts! Hark! the trumpet to battle is
The drum rolls its thunder; the sword flashes bare;
Up, up, ye brave guardsmen, the eagle is screeching,
And flapping its wings in the dull morning air!
The sun gazed once more on that field red with carnage;
The dead and the dying lay thick on the ground;
When a drummer boy knelt by a wounded young
And whisperd'd of love while he bound up the wound.
"Who art thou, my youngster, that com'st with such
To cheer me in sorrow?" the soldier he cried;
But the boy answer'd not, for a stray shot came flying,
And Mary fell dead by her true lover's side.
"I'll tell thee, what, Bowzer," said one of the company, when
the compliments to the singer's musical abilities had subsided, "ther's
no woman ud follow thee to th' war, if thou're a so'dier.
I've wondered mony a time how it wur ut thou geet yo'r Sally i'th'
humour for t' go through th' church gates that mornin hoo're teed to
thee. I conno' see but thou mit as weel give someb'dy else a
chance o' gooin upo' th' lond, for thou mit get thy livin by fearin
"Thou'rt noane so very hondsome thysel, Swankey," replied
Bowzer, good-humouredly, and drawing a further account on the
chairman's pot. "Thou'rt one o' thoose ut looks th' best at th'
back of a table; for thou's letten lads punce thy legs till they're
like a pair o' scythe-pows, in an' out, as if they'd bin groon in a
Whether this slight indulgence in banter would have led to
more serious business, had it been allowed to proceed, is hardly
certain; but, being cut short by the secretary's announcing the
stupendous fact that he was ready to read over the names of the
newly-elected communists, the two curs retired to their imaginary
kennels, and allowed the business to proceed without further
interruption on their part.
"Silence, while those names are read o'er, an' then we'n ha'
some moore singin!" commanded the chairman, knocking on the table
with his pot.
"Lunger!" shouted the secretary, looking over his spectacles
in the direction of where the amiable owner of that name was
"That's reet," said Lunger, "goo on."
"Mudge!" again shouted the scribe, with another glance over
"Ay, that'll do," said Mudge, winking at Lunger.
"Joe Jinks, Bowzer, Swankey, Toppin, Lobber, Snuffle," the
secretary called out in succession, without pausing at each name, as
if the list only embraced the lesser lights of the Gallithumpian
"How mony hast' put down?" demanded the chairman, rising upon
his feet and leaning over towards his colleague.
"Eight," was the reply, given amidst a roar of
laughter, in which the whole meeting joined.
"Eight? we nobbut wanted four."
"Well, I dunno' care; yo' voted o on 'em in."
"Nowt o'th' sort; how could we do that?"
"Wheay, which are not elected; con onybody tell me?"
No; nobody could say which were not elected. The whole
eight stuck up to a man, and insisted individually that they were
all "fit and proper" persons; and challenged the whole meeting to
prove they were not.
The chairman found himself in a dilemma, from which he could
discover no means of escape. The last four would not give way
to the first four; and the first would not consent to any kind of
exchange or amalgamation with the last. All were legally
chosen, according to their notions of public choice, and insisted
upon their rights being respected.
Joe Jinks rose to offer a suggestion. He proposed that
they should "feight" for it.
No, no; Lunger and Swankey had had enough of fighting
already. Some other mode of settlement must be resorted to.
"I dunno' think," said the secretary, an idea occurring to
him that promised to settle the dispute to the satisfaction of all
parties, "ut yo' any on yo' needn be so keen o'th' job. Yo'
happen dunno' know what I know."
"What was that?" was eagerly demanded; no one presuming to
possess as much knowledge as a schoolmaster.
"Wheay, ut ther's bin a boggart yerd i' yon house," replied
the scribe, peevishly.
"Ay, it goes to th' bottom o'th' stairs every neet, an' wants
to know if they wanten any blood for t' mak black puddins on.
If they say nawe, it keeps knockin an' shoutin o neet; an' if they
say ay, it whets a knife, an' then ther's a grooan, an' a sound like
wayther tricklin into a can, ut lasts till th' cocks begin a crowin."
This boggart might have been indulging its butchering
propensities then, in that very clubroom; for the fear that was
depicted in the looks of most present was no slight tribute to the
belief in supernatural visitations.
"Anybody may have my chance," said Lunger, feeling at
his nose, as if he fancied the reputed boggart had secretly made a
chop at it.
"An' mine, too," said Bowzer.
"I'll be bowt off wi' a pint," said Swankey; but as no one
bid even so humble a price, he agreed to accept any terms that might
be offered; preferring to let his chance go for nothing to risking a
night's experience in the boggart's slaughter-house.
Such an effect had the secretary's disclosure made on the
nerves of the pioneer Gallithumpians, that the difficulties which
stood in the way of settling the election vanished in a moment.
Four of the elect withdrew their claims at once; but the rest
declared it to be their unalterable intention of facing a whole
churchyard of hobgoblins, in preference to giving up such a glorious
chance of making Gallithumpianism a beacon that should guide the
benighted of the world's wayfarers into a safe and prosperous path.
The four who thus agreed to venture upon the experiment were Joe
Jinks, Toppin, Lobber, and Snuffle—all more or less emboldened by
drink, and incited to emulation by the distinction their lot had
accorded to them.
The election concluded, and each pioneer having a host of
congratulations showered upon him, most of which had reference to
mysterious noises, and the presence of unearthly smells in old,
deserted rooms, the chairman declared the night to be too far spent
for any further business to be transacted; at the same time
expressing his willingness to remain in the chair and listen to as
many songs as the meeting might be favoured with, in order to
dissipate the fear which the allusion to boggarts had created.
The meeting accordingly held together till a late hour.
Song followed song in merry succession; and when at last it was
announced that the time for breaking up had arrived, the company
rose and gave three lusty cheers for the success of the "Merriton
Gallithumpian Home of Industry."
THE D――L IN THE KITCHEN.
EVERYBODY has a
knowledge of an Englishman's love for public feasting and
celebration; and of the importance he would give to very trifling
events. No matter what the occasion, whether it be a county
election, or the appointment of a parish beadle, it must be
commended to the public by a "feed" of some kind or other. He
cannot even build a house, but there must be the "rearing" supper,
and its proceedings reported in the Weekly Twaddler, or what
other name the local newspaper of the time may be distinguished by.
He cannot succeed to the office left vacant by the demise of "the
late and much lamented" Mr. Numskull, parish clerk and collector of
dog tax, but he must gather his friends around his board, hold down
his head whilst his virtues are being enumerated, and in response to
a musical burst of "jolly good fellowship," declare it to be the
"proudest and happiest moment of his life."
You must not suppose that Merriton would be behind hand in
these gastronomical celebrations; although their being reproduced in
the columns of a public journal would have been regarded in the
light of an event supplementary to the "seven wonders," as no
broadsheet had, up to the time of which I speak, ever found its way
over the wooden bridge, except in the form of a wrapper, or as
supplying the driving medium to a toy windmill. The annual
"rent neet" supper was the chief event looked forward to by
convivially-disposed Merritonians; when a huge potato pie, made on
the principle of one pound of meat to five pounds of potatoes, would
be furnished to appease the cravings of unpampered appetites, and
supply soaking matter to the copious "droits" of home-brewed that
Not to underrate the importance of their scheme, the
Gallithumpians must celebrate their first location on the "Home"
estate by a public banquet. Pray do not allow the term
to take the wind out of you; for if the feast was not served by
waiters in white "chokers," and though no champagne was uncorked (it
would have been "good for sore eyes" to have seen a bottle of
"Madame Cliquot" in Merriton at that time), it had, nevertheless,
all the importance of a banquet. It is true there was no
toasting, nor speech making; yet the partakers felt drowsy after
they had fed; admired the rotundity of their waistcoats, as aldermen
are supposed to do, and either slunk down stairs or went to sleep
while the table was being cleared. (I ought to have said
while the cloth was being removed, only table-cloths were not
then known in Merriton.) Some singing and jesting went round
after the company had reassembled; but every one was in too good
humour with himself to fall out with his neighbour; consequently
clog noses went home, for once, innocent of any unpleasant contact
with tender shins.
The morning after the feast, Merriton presented a busy scene.
Some dozen Gallithumpians were engaged in "flitting" the families
and chattels of the four successful candidates for communistic
honours; and a merry time they had of it. A broker, in this
age of uniformity, would have been puzzled to discover the uses to
which a considerable portion of the furniture had been put, or
whether it really was furniture at all. That which belonged to
Joe Jinks had once been elegant, and well housewived, because it was
the property of a substantial yeoman; but in its descent from one
generation to another, it had not met with that careful treatment
which its first owners might have desired. The clock had been
denuded of its case to supply material for the construction of a
home-made cradle; and this cradle, in its turn, when the latest
comer of the little Jinkses no longer required rocking, had been
transformed into a repository for old shoes, potatoes, rubbing
brick, floor sand, and marbles. Artificers in wood might have
gleaned fresh ideas in the art of carving from sundry specimens of
improvements on old masters of which the chest of drawers had been
made the medium. A carved imitation of a rose had been
artistically embellished with those distinguishing properties of the
animal kingdom, eyes, nose, and mouth, evidently burnt into the wood
by a "wotyel" (hot awl). A griffin had been converted into a
pig; and a foliated border-piece had been dexterously transformed
into a brood of chickens, being led by a matronly hen towards the
confines of an imaginary farmyard situated somewhere about the lid.
Several panel-backed oaken chairs had been notched and burnt into
imitations of dwarfish New Zealanders; and one in particular had
supplied the material for a "merril" board, upon which the cunning
artificers played nightly games, by the uncertain light of a winter
Lobber, to whom no heirlooms had descended, and whose married
life had been a constant "flasker" with poverty, might easily have
obeyed the injunction—"take up thy bed and walk;" inasmuch as an
oaken frame, supported by four rickety legs that refused to stand
after the cord had been removed, was the only article of chamber
furniture mentioned in the rude inventory. Add to this a
bobbin-wheel, four spokes of which had been abstracted to do duty as
porridge "slices;" a round table that was held in its integrity by a
mop-nail; three chairs, with list bottoms; a stool, half of which
had been burnt away through having to support a wreck of a Dutch
oven during the roasting of the family collop; and a pair of looms
that, like "Paddy's coat," had been fashioned out of a dozen others
and you have got nearly the whole household effects, as well as the
working plant, of one of the most thoroughgoing of the Gallithumpian
fraternity. The worldly possessions of the other two pioneers
were a sort of compromise between the useful and the ornamental; and
not sufficiently peculiar in their character or construction to be
particularised here. They each knew their own, and found no
difficulty either in the taking down or setting up; whilst the
latter operation proved to be a somewhat perplexing task to both Joe
Jinks and his fellow-worker Lobber.
The only females connected with the establishment were the
wives of Toppin and Lobber, a full-grown hoiden that claimed
paternity of Snuffle, and a cat that remembered so many generations
of mice as to become visibly affected whenever the days of her
kittenhood were referred to.
It required a couple of days or more to get things into some
kind of working shape; the preparations being delayed by the
absence, in most instances, of the tools necessary for the fitting
up of their looms, and the construction of certain accessories
required for their working. The only saw belonging to the
establishment had not been operated upon by the joiner's dentist
within the memory of its rightful owner; consequently, instead of
making short work of anything it was set upon, it only mumbled at
it, as if its teeth were only fit for the mastication of sops.
The only hammer had a most insane way of losing its head when
applied to a stubborn nail; and a small hand-plane that had often
been deprived of its "bit," in order that it might do duty as a boat
on the river, was so shy at harder work that, instead of turning up
a long ringlet of shaving, it only whistled, as if in contempt of
its legitimate occupation. Their most useful implements were
an axe and a pocket-knife; the former never flinched even when in
contact with a fourpenny nail, and the latter was at home with
anything, from a piece of bread and cheese to a rusty barn door.
It may be inferred from this description that those two public
servants were much in request during the execution of such
arrangements as were necessary to ensure the comfort and convenience
of the pioneer Gallithumpians.
The division of labour, and the equal appropriation of
produce were questions that had not yet come under consideration; as
there was plenty of work for the whole family on the one hand, while
on the other there was nothing as yet to appropriate, except what
was yielded through the instrumentality of the shop-book. The
first intimation that such a question would require an early
consideration suggested itself to Lobber while engaged, along with
his wife, in setting up a bed, whose erection depended more upon the
aid of four-inch nails than it did upon the presence of the
"I'll tell thee what, owd crayther," observed Lobber to the
companion of his bosom, after a prolonged attempt to force a nail
through a piece of oak that had not previously been bored, "it's a
poor look-out when we conno' muster a gimlet amung th' lot ov us.
It doesno' favvor raisin cows, an' pigs, an' hosses yet awhile.
What dost' think about th' atin ut's bin gooin on these two days?"
"I dunno' know what to think," replied the wife,
drawing out the last word so as to give it a peculiar kind of
emphasis. "But this I know, ut th' meal-box is empty o'ready,
an' yon's Joe Jinks's lads i'th' kitchen now, agate o' roastin th'
potatoes ut wur bowt for sets."
"An' what does their feyther say about sich like?"
"Oh, he said, 'lads would be lads, an' his wur aulus fond o'
marlockin.' That wur nowt to'art what they would do, if o wur
true folk said about 'em."
"What wur it, they'rn makkin sich a racket about i'th' barn
"Well, owd Jone, at th' next farm yonder, had missed two
ducks, an' he traced some clog marks about th' duck-cote, ut he
thowt he knew th' shap' on. So he coome o'er here, an' fund
two duck yeads lyin upo' th' midden. He's bin makkin a bother
about 'em, but th' lads takken no moore notice on him than if he'd
bin th' left-hond spoke ov a cart-wheel."
"But how does owd Jone know they'rn his ducks?"
"Wheay, becose one ov 'em had th' bottom part of its bill
brokken, an' he'd lindered it t'gether wi' a bant. That's heaw
he knew th' ducks were his."
"Well, an' what had they done wi' th' carcasses, then?"
"Nay, whoa knows beside thersels? Folk sayn ther a good
smell at the 'Jolly Carter' yesterneet; an' a bigger noise, too, nor
ther's bin for some time. I shouldno' wonder at o if th' ducks
fund ther road theere."
"I'll tell thee what, wench, we'st ha' to look as wakken as a
cat on a wot backstone if we keepn things straight here. Dost
think Joe an' his lads wantn th' place to thersels so soon."
"It welly favvors it. I begin o' wishin' we'd had nowt
to do with this new-fangled sort o' livin."
"By th' mass, 'Ria! thou munno' talk that road yet.
Let's try things fairly afore we gin 'em up. Thou sees I've
bin hommerin at this nail about a hauve an' hour, an' I mit as weel
strike wi' a carrit, as wi' an owd rip of a hommer like this.
Pike me th' yead up again, 'Ria; that's about th' fiftieth time it's
takken leeave o'th' stail while I've bin dooin this job; but I
shanno' give it up if it lasts till mornin."
Lobber re-adjusted the hammer head, which had flown off, as
he remarked, about the fiftieth time during his struggle with the
obstinate nail; whilst "Maria," whose name, for domestic
convenience, was reduced to "Ria," seated on the floor, placed her
back against the bed's side, to act as a sort of "buffer," in
resisting the pressure upon the whole frame given by the force of
her husband's hammering.
At length the nail was found to be so far buried in the oak
as to be within half an inch of being fairly driven up; which, under
the circumstances, Lobber regarded as a great achievement.
"It'll do now, wi' a bit ov a hat on," he observed; by which
he meant the nail-head should be covered with a wrapper of some
kind; "an' now thou may get up an' shake thysel," he said to his
wife, whose limbs were cramped with sitting in one posture for so
long a time. "Th' neest-box is ready for th' neest, owd
crayther; an' now I'll go down th' stairs, an' see what's gooin on
Leaving 'Ria to pile on the bed-clothes, which, for the two
previous nights, had lain upon the floor, waiting for the "frame" to
be got in readiness, Lobber went downstairs, and joined his
companions in the loomhouse.
Things were not getting on much more satisfactorily in their
model workshop than they had been in one of the dormitories.
Snuffle was making sawdust so fine that Toppin declared "it would do
to mix wi' th' porritch stuff;" while Toppin himself was so intent
upon decapitating a nail with the axe, that he made sparks fly as if
struck from the face of an anvil. Joe Jink was engaged with
the plane, endeavouring to smooth the surface of an old tub-bottom,
with which he meant to prevent the wind from blowing through a space
in the window that was once occupied by four squares of taxed glass.
"I'll tell yo' what, chaps," said the latter, laying down the
plane, and wiping his face with his shirt sleeve, "I should ha' to
live a long time if I're teed to mak my own coffin wi' sich tools as
this. It's as bad as fishin in a bruck; for I nobbut get a
bite for about twenty nibbles. Wheere didt leet o'
this presshus piece o' joiner's furnityer, Toppin?"
"It's one ut my feyther had when he used to do a bit o' loom
crappin," replied the owner of the plane, pausing over the savage
work he was making with the axe. "I dunno' think it's smelt at
a grindlestone for this last twenty year; an' I know that lad o'
mine, afore he deed, used to goo about with it, planin fence rails
an' stone walls. I dunno' think thou'll turn up a shavin
strong enough fort' hang a dog with."
"Nawe, nor as mich as 'ud fither a hummabee's back," replied
Joe, again taking up the plane, and making most abortive attempts to
get it to more than nibble at the uninviting tub-bottom. "I
think I should get on better wi' th' knife. Dost know wheere
it is, Snuffle?"
"Ay," replied that worthy Gallithumpian, who had paused over
his sawdust making in order to measure, if such a thing was
possible, the progress he had made during the last half-hour; "I
seed yo'r Ned with it this mornin, tryin to cut a mopstail i' two,
for t' mak trap-sticks on."
"The dickens thou did!" Joe said, chuckling in a most
appreciative style. "That lad's a janius, thou may
depend on't. He'll never work for his livin, that thou'll see.
It wur but th' tother day ut he nailed a donkey's ear to a gate
stump, an' then set fire to its tail, becose it had hovven him o'er
its yead when here ridin it round th' barley fielt. An' then,
again, it's nobbut about a fortnit sin' ut he geet two cats an' teed
their tails together, an' they fowten till nob'dy could tell whether
they'rn cats or skinned rottens. If those are no' signs o'
janius, what is?"
"Dost think he's any ways boggart feart?" put in Lobber,
approaching the subject as if afraid to touch it.
"Him boggart feart!" exclaimed Joe, with a most
determined sweep of the plane. "Nowt o'th' sort. If I
thowt then one o' my lads ut wouldno' face a fielt full on 'em,
I'd raise him by th' ears till he could see into another country.
They'd not ha' done as they did yesterneet if they'd bin feart o'
owt short o'th' owd lad."
"Wheay, what did they do?" asked Snuffle, his saw stopping
half way in its passage downwards.
"What did they do?" echoed Toppin, flinging down his axe, and
looking as scared as if he had seen the marks of suspicious hoofs on
the easily impressed floor.
Joe Jinks laid down his plane, and again wiping his face with
his shirt-sleeve, and making an observation that reflected upon the
sleeping propensities of his companions, said—
"Dun yo' meean t' say yo' yerd nowt yesterneet?"
"I yerd nowt," said Toppin.
"Nor I noather," said Snuffle.
"An' I yerd nowt nobbut th' wynt makkin a flute o'th chimdy,"
said Lobber. And the four pioneer communists formed a group,
in which Joe Jinks was the centre figure. Joe was about to
relate what we must suppose were his experiences of the previous
night, when he was interrupted by a most unaccountable noise coming
from the kitchen.
"That's noane o'th' boggart," said Toppin, listening.
"It sounds moore like a women's club when o th' drink's come'n in.
What's up, I wonder? Our Nell an' yo're Madge," he said,
turning to Snuffle, "are makin th' biggst noise, I con yer."
"They shouldno' start o' fo'in out so soon," observed Lobber,
listening if he could detect his own wife's tongue engaged in the
"Let's goo an' see what's puttin 'em so out o' flunter,"
suggested Snuffle, feeling anxious about the issue.
"Nowt o'th' sort," said Joe Jinks, shaking his head, as if he
dreaded the consequence of meddling. "Aulus let women feight
their own battles, or else they'n be at it otogether. They
liken it so mich better when they thinken someb'dy's takkin notice
on 'em; but let 'em a-be, an they'n give o'er o' theirsels."
He had scarcely finished the sentence when the door opened,
and in rushed Toppin's wife, making such havoc of her capstrings,
which she pulled and twisted in her excitement, that one might have
been induced to suppose they were anything but minor objects of her
"Sithi," exclaimed the infuriated woman, fixing her eyes on
Snuffle, and giving another pluck at her capstrings, "Yon's yo're
Madge an' me han mopt th' kitchen an' th' buttery, an'
cleeant th' stairs, while Lobber's wife's done nowt nobbut nuss her
elbows upo' th' hearthstone. Dun yo' co that fair?"
"If hoo'd nobbut ha' wesht up, or getten th' hess out, or
swept th' fowt, we shouldno' ha' cared; but sittin ov a rook, an'
roastin her stockins at th' fire while we're slavin an' moppin, we
conno' stond at o; nor we winno'. I'll goo back to th' owd
The division of labour, so far as women's work was concerned,
had not been considered by the Gallithumpians; and to find two of
the weaker sex agreeing upon even so trivial a point, would be next
to discovering the sources of perpetual motion, or the geographical
position of that much-sought-for quarry which is to yield the
"philosopher's stone." It therefore struck the pioneer
communists that this disagreement between their wives would be the
rock upon which their project would become wrecked, should it escape
every other danger; and though each returned to his work without
making any kind of remark, or seeming to pay the least attention to
the accusations set forth by Madam Toppin, it was not the less
evident that their speculations were not of the most sanguine
character. The boggart was for the moment forgotten, or its
interest absorbed in the graver events of the morning. Joe
Jinks's plane went more merrily than ever; but Snuffle's saw seemed
to go dejectedly up and down, and Toppin's axe had ceased to strike
fire, while poor Lobber stood like an animated cipher, inwardly
wishing the "community" was at—Jericho. (He would have said
something harsher had his feelings found utterance.)
Toppin's wife, finding she could make no apparent impression
upon the four stupid specimens of the harder sex, gave them each a
salute in turn, as a sort of parting benediction, and returned to
exercise her wordy artillery in the fight that was still going on in
"They're throwin stones at one another hard enoogh now,"
observed Joe Jinks, again laying down his plane; "but they'n be as
thick as inkle wayvers afore mornin, mind if they are no."
Night came. It was the third night after the flitting
and the several sections of the united families had retired to their
beds, some to think about boggarts, and others to plot mischief; but
all more or less impressed with the futility of their present
attempt to illustrate the practicability of establishing universal
brotherhood upon earth.
About midnight, and when the wind was roaring in the
chimneys, and uttering plaintive music among the thatch, a loud
banging noise startled the whole house. Those who were asleep
opened their eyes and ears, and wondered if the upper story was
tumbling downstairs. Those who lay awake concluded at once
that it was the boggart commencing its antics, and prepared
themselves for hearing further evidences of its liking for mischief.
The bang was repeated—louder than at first—and the rattling of a
chain followed, and such a chain, too, as only the "old boy" himself
could have dragged over the floor. The wind might have made a
kite of the whole thatch, or played at ninepins with the chimneys,
without anyone having his or her attention called to the fact; of so
much greater moment was the noise that was going on below. A
sound as of hard breathing, which grew to a shrill whining whistle,
and deepened into a howl so terrible that the ear tingled as it
listened, succeeded these other noises; and by this time there was
not a pioneer, or a pioneeress, Gallithumpian who was not wide
awake, and either frightened at, or concerned about the disturbances
that were going on in the house.
Joe Jinks was, if possible, a trifle less terrified than were
his companions; for he ventured to jump out of bed, and summon the
others to an inspection of the premises to see if they could
discover the whereabouts of the "boggart," or any traces of its
"Now Lobber, Toppin, Snuffle!" he sang out on the landing of
the stairs, "get up, an' bring summat as heavy as yo' con carry, an'
follow me, an' we'n soon find out what this boggart is."
"I shanno' stir an inch, if it poos th' house down," said a
voice from deep down under the bedclothes.
It was Toppin, sweating with fear, and expecting every moment
to hear all the doors in the house fly open, and the shrill call of
the supernatural pork-butcher, demanding to know if they required
any material for the manufacturing of black-puddings.
Lobber, a trifle more courageous than Toppin, appeared,
shivering, at his bedroom door, armed with something which
afterwards proved to be a weaver's beam, that had a sharp toothed
scotch-wheel fastened to the end. With this weapon, he was
within an ace of making such a demonstration about the bob of Joe
Jinks's nightcap as would have interfered with the rotundity of that
individual's skull, had not the latter stepped aside, and placed
himself in immediate danger of going head foremost down the stairs.
"Howd on, Lobber!" sung out Joe, recovering his balance by
grasping at the oaken banister; "thou'll want thy strength for
summat else afore long, than makkin a nail o' my carcass.
Husht! con thou yer out?"
No; not a sound, save the roaring of the wind.
"Just send one eend o' that beeam through Toppin's dur while
I rooze Snuffle," said Jinks, after listening some time to hear if
the visitor was doing anything in the phlebotomising line.
Lobber was near obeying literally the injunction of his
companion; for, aiming a blow at the door pointed out, his weapon
fell with such force against the shaky timbers as to render several
nails inconstant to their trust.
"Eh, Mesther Boggart, dunno' tak me!" shouted Toppin, in a
tone of voice that appeared to be coming out of the ceiling.
"Tak our Nell, if yo' wanten anybody. Hoo'll be leeter for t'
carry; an' hoo knows how to mak blackpuddins better nor me."
"It's me, Toppin," said Lobber, applying his mouth to the
keyhole of the door. "Come, get up, an' don thisel."
"Han yo' kilt th' boggart?" demanded Toppin.
"Ay; an' we wanten thee for t' help to bury it," was the
reply, given in a hoarse whisper, as if the speaker was afraid it
might be heard downstairs.
"Well, I're comin like a roarin lion for t' ha' kilt it mysel,
but our Nell laid howd on me, an' pood me back," said Toppin,
growing valiant all at once. "Wait a minit while I find my
clogs. It looks th' best when ther's two or three together
o'er a job o' that sort. I'd better bring a bit o' summat for
t' keep th' rottens fro' natterin at one's feet; hadno' I, Lobber?"
"Ay; thou may bring a bit of a stick for t' dust th' carpet
with, if owt stirs."
"I feel vexed ut I wurno' in at th' killin," said Toppin,
opening the door, and pushing forward a heavy bar of wood, almost as
much as he could carry. "Wheere are Joe Jinks an' Snuffle?"
"They are down th' stairs readin th' buryin sarvice. If
we areno' sharp we'st be too late for t' see it."
"I conno' say ut I'm fond o' seein a deead carcass o' any
sort," said Toppin, hesitating. "I'd rayther see 'em when
they're wick, chus heaw dangerous they are. Yo' con bury it
beaut me, an' I'll stop here for t' keep th' women fro' comin down."
"Come on, mon," said Lobber. And he seized hold of
Toppin by the waistcoat, and both went rolling down the stairs in a
more precipitate manner than was intended, and was shortly at the
heels of Joe Jinks and Snuffle, who were groping their way through
"Wheere is it?" said Toppin, casting his eyes about in the
"Husht! it may wakken again," entreated Lobber, in a whisper
to Toppin. And the whole party held their breath and listened.
Suddenly Toppin found himself seized round the waist by
something that held him as tight as if he had been screwed up in a
vice. The fellow, finding himself a prisoner, roared loud
enough to drown the growlings of the monster that held him in its
embrace, and his weapon dropped useless on the floor. His
companions, instead of rendering any assistance, tumbled over each
other in their eagerness to reach the stairs, and the weapons they
carried were strewn about the lobby as if that passage had been
purposely converted into a lumber-room. In the meantime Toppin
struggled with his assailant, and yelled for the assistance of the
whole human race, as many saints as he knew the names of, and all
the powers that were supposed to interfere in the destinies of his
kind. Before, however, his breath was exhausted, as soon it
must have been, the boggart relaxed its grasp, gave a growl of
satisfaction, and dragging the portentous chain along the floor,
made its exit from the lobby.
Toppin had just sufficient strength left to enable him to
crawl upstairs; and when at last he reached the landing, he found
his companions huddled together in a state of the most abject fear,
anxiously awaiting the issue of his encounter with the boggart.
The women, forgetful of the day's differences, left their
beds, and grouped themselves together in one room, which they
strongly barricaded, and found such sweet satisfaction in each
other's society, that they vowed they would never quarrel again, no
matter whatever kind of grievance one might conceive against
Morning dawned, and found the four valiant boggart hunters
making such uses of one bed as the length of their limbs and the
width of their bodies would permit. They lay higgledy-piggledy
till the sun woke up; and more than one feigned sleep, for fear of
being challenged by the rest to join in another excursion
downstairs. At length it could be heard that the younger
branches of the Gallithumpian family were stirring. One of Joe
Jinks's sons was whistling about the house as if nothing had
happened the night before; and encouraged by these signs of the
boggart's absence, the elder branches at last ventured to accompany
each other on a second tour of investigation; and accordingly
descended to the lower story. Strange! there were no signs to
be found of a supernatural visitation; and when the boys were
questioned as to their having heard anything, they one and all
declared they had not; so the matter remained a mystery for several
In the meantime the "Home" was broken up. Toppin,
Lobber, and Snuffle returned to their former state of life; leaving
Joe Jinks and his sons as the only occupants of the haunted house,
where they lived in a sort of semi-barbarous state for many years.
Ned Jinks cleared up the mystery one night when carousing at
the "Jolly Carter." He said he and his brothers one night
stole a dancing bear out of an outhouse in Merriton, and which they
intended baiting the morning following. Not being able to
force an entrance into the barn, they had led the beast into the
kitchen, and fastened his chain to a staple in the wall. This,
however, Bruin had dislodged, and found himself at liberty to roam
about the house as he liked. The rest you may guess, except
that the ugly brute found means of escape before morning, and so
frustrated the designs of his would-be persecutors. The boys
had pledged themselves to each other not to tell anyone else about
their rather dangerous marlock; and thus, through their reticence,
the "Gallithumpian Home of Industry," like many other schemes of
short-sighted men, came to a sudden and inglorious end.
* This took place a few years
previous to the "philosopher's" identification with "Walmsley Fowt."