The Chronicles of Waverlow (II.)
Home Up Marlocks of Merriton Spring Blossoms Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. I. Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. II. Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. III. Yankeeland Short Stories etc. Main Index Site Search
 


 

 [Previous Page]


A CURE FOR LOVE.

IT was when the harvest moon shone in its golden luxuriance down upon Waverlow, and the chirp of the cricket and the quack of the "corncrake" were the only sounds that broke the serenity of the evening's quietude, that a small "ringlet" of smoke might have been observed curling itself about the door of a lone cottage that shrank into its cover of ash and hawthorn from the wayside there.  It was old Johnny Kenyon's pipe, blinking in its ashy redness like a little smithy fire, that the smoke came from, as the sturdy weaver inhaled the narcotic and the evening's breath near his threshold.

    Our neighbour's custom was at such times to take his "whiff" and his stroll as a relaxation after a hard day's toil at the loom, and it was certainly a picture of homely comfort to see the old man take his measured stride round the garden, watch the moon in the scarcely-disturbed water of the river, then returning, place himself against the door-cheek, and finish his pipe in a kind of reverie; often puffing when there was nothing but ashes in his pipe.  But it was not of fairies and spirit-haunted caves that Johnny was thinking, but of a certain village Orpheus, who nightly brought his lute near the old man's dwelling, and who sometimes varied his music by a soft whistle, resembling the faintest notes of the thrush.  The instrument this visitor used in his serenading was a one-stringed affair, played between the teeth, and generally attributed to Israelitish origin.  This would sometimes be heard twanging at the keyhole of the door, and then, if a heavy pair of clogs had stirred in the house, the music would shift, and directly would be pouring its melody through a broken square of the "buttery" window.  Many a time had old Kenyon "whisked" round the house to catch the serenader, but the fellow was as difficult to approach as the corncrake, for he would seem to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.  Then a low whistle would come "whewting" out of the copse, or from behind the garden hedge, just according to where the pursuer might be at the time; and after making a fruitless search round the garden, old Johnny would go grunting back to his chair, perhaps to discover that other ears beside his own had heard the serenading.

    Our neighbour had a daughter — about as clever a girl as any in Waverlow — with a face like the harvest moon, and arms whose backs above the elbows were as red as newly-scraped carrots.  Sally Kenyon was truly a "bouncer."  She could weave and delve; and her linen, when hung out to dry in the summer sun, was too white and dazzling to be gazed upon.  She was not, as might be inferred from this description, anyways masculine; but a strong plump "wench" of four-and-twenty, with cheeks where the red and white were so sweetly blended, and which so set off her roguish black eyes, that it was no wonder she became a "bother" to her parents; especially at such times as the jew's-harp twanged at the keyhole, or at the broken square of the buttery window.

    In the early part of this evening I speak of, old Johnny Kenyon sat in the nook with his nose cocked towards the ceiling, dreaming, perhaps, of his probable success at a forthcoming apple show.  Old Esther had taken from the drawers the thick, dumpy, house Bible, and was busy reading from its pages — now aloud, as if unconsciously, and at other times to herself — folding down leaf after leaf, and as often stretching others, as she dipped here and there in the sacred volume.  Their daughter was engaged with her needle, hemming a white cambric pocket-handkerchief, which would perhaps be stolen ere two Sunday evenings passed; for stealing young women's handkerchiefs was, to a village Lothario, what scalping is to an Indian savage, a sort of evidence of his prowess — the handkerchief stolen being shown as a trophy at the next "stir," and perhaps restored to the fair owner for the ransom of a kiss.  Now the needle would stop, and Sally would look thoughtfully at the candle, then watch her father's eyes draw gradually close, and listen for the heavy breathing which indicated sleep; for she expected her lover's signal by-and-by, and it was such a beautiful night!  Oh, for a stroll by the river in that sweet moonlight, and listen to "Charley o' Po1ly's" new story of village courtship, or be delighted by the information of how much he had saved up for the wedding!  If her father would "just tope o'er," ere the expected signal came, she could steal out without her errand being suspected; for, had not her mother been slightly deaf, the thick "diced" chocolate napkin which she always wore tied over her cap would prevent her hearing anything out of doors, only the loudest noises.

    Old Johnny was just in that twilight which connects waking with sleeping, when a low, humming sound, proceeding from the front garden, caught Sally's ear.  The girl laid down her sewing, and listened.  The "angles" of the garden-gate squeaked, the latch "rickled," and the next moment the charming notes of "Hokey-pokey winkey-wank" were being twanged at the keyhole.  These sounds were succeeded by a clatter of clogs upon the pavement as if some person was making a hasty retreat from the door.  The latter noise wakened up the sleeper, just as his daughter was crossing stealthily over the floor, and he made a jump in his seat.

    "Od dammel him!" he exclaimed, seizing the chair arms and springing upon his feet.  "Yon's that janglin rascot again, is it?  Mind, if I con catch him I'll ring him a tune of his ears ut he'll no' forget o at once; for I'll poo 'em till they're as long as shoetees; that I will — a young gallows whelp as he is!  Now, Sally, thee come back, wilta?  If thou's nowt better to do, trammel off t' bed, for thou goes noane out this neet."

    Sally, abashed, returned to her chair, where she sat pouting and making vain efforts to look unconcerned.  The mother closed the Bible, and taking off her spectacles, turned to her lord and master and inquired what there was to do.

    "It's that snicket's felly ut's about, an' I reckon he wants to get her out, but I'll watch my gentleman."

    "What, Johnny, has hoo gett'n a felly?  Well, whatever win wenches be at e'ennow I wonder?  Sally, thou doesno' meean t' say thou'rt owd enoogh for owt o' th' sort, doesta?  I're a year owder than thee afore ever thy feyther oather spoke to me or looked soft at me.  But now-a-days they're gett'n into a lot o' forrad huzzies ut'n hardly laid by their skippin rope before they're thinkin about eendin their wits wi' chaps.  Sally, I thowt we'd browt thee up different, I did."

    Sally made bold to speak.

    "Ther's no' so mich difference in a year," she said, "ut yo' needn mak this bother about it.  Yo' pleeast yo'rsel about yo'rs, I reckon."

    "I did, wench; I did," replied old Esther; "but thy gronfeyther gan me mony a good bancellin for it, too, mind thee.  An' then thy feyther wurno' one o'th' roughest sort, but as dacent a lad as any i' Waverlow."

    "So is Charley," said the daughter.

    "Charley; what Charley?  No' Charley o' Polly's, is it?  How dar thou look at me, thou comikil besom, gooin wi' sich a pousement as him?"

    "He's as good as me."

    "Wheay, thou knows he's as wild as a March hare, an' plays pranks wi' folk about.  It wur but th' tother neet ut him an' a two-thri moore o' th' same brun tee'd a cat to a rope, an' it pood owd Sam Blunderick through th' broad Wayter.  An' it isno' long sin' ut he took owd Ducky mop an' hung it upo' th' oak staple o'er th' dur; an' when owd Ducky went out it leet slap int' his face, an' goodness knows it had been well soused i'th' sink afore.  Lord o' mercy, wench, what ever art' thinkin about?"

    While the mother was thus engaged lecturing the daughter, old Kenyon was creeping round the outside of the house, armed with a stout hazel stick, with which he meant to tan somebody's hide if he could just come across it.  The serenading had ceased, for anything he could hear, but had he been a little quicker he might have heard an occasional twang at the buttery window, and a low whistle given at similar intervals.

    "Rot his clog-soles, wheere is he, I wonder?" said Johnny, after having thrice made a circuit of the garden in search of his tormentor, without as much as getting a single "glent" of him.  "He's wurr than a boggart.  They con see thoose sometimes, if they conno' feel 'em."

    He crept round again — this time cautiously — and, peeping over the rain-tub, saw a figure of something standing in the shadow of the garden hedge.  Old Kenyon coughed, for he felt just then that he would rather his game would make a run of it than stand there to be struck at like a stump.  The figure stirred not, and Johnny coughed again, this time louder than before, and accompanied the noise by a flourish of his stick in the moonlight.  There was a slight movement under the hedge, and a crackling amongst the twigs; and a whistle more shrill than he had been accustomed to hear came from thereabouts.

    "Now for it," thought Johnny, darting from his place of concealment, and aiming a blow at the figure under the fence.  "I wanted t' catch thee a time or two," he exclaimed, as he let fall his stick; "so tak that for a lick an' a promise, my gentleman; an' if t' doesn't out I'st come again, an' happen a bit heavier next time."

    The blow which old Kenyon gave was not a heavy one, for he preferred frightening the enemy to hurting him; but it was sufficient for the purpose, as the latter took to his heels and made for a gap just below.  The pursuer, thinking to catch hold of the runaway's jacket laps, and make a show of dragging him back, made a "grab" just as the other was making his escape, when lo! instead of a handful of fustian, he caught hold of the rough, grizzly tail of a young donkey.  Johnny let go in an instant, and looked over the fence to assure himself that what he imagined he felt was a reality.  There was "Daunk," sure enough, pricking his ears and looking towards his adversary as if it occurred to him that the blow he had received was ill-merited, and might have been intended for someone else.

    "Well," said old Kenyon to himself, "it's th' fust time ever I knew a jackass could whistle, or play a jew's-harp oather.  But ther's no tellin what they con do when they're trained to it; for owd Tinker had one once ut kept itsel an' fund its own clooas for mony a year; so yon's happen one o'th' same sort.  Well, well, Sally; if thou's no hondsomer felly than that, thou'rt put to a shift," and he chuckled to himself as he turned away.

    The daughter had apparently gone to bed, and the old woman was still engaged with her reading when Johnny entered the house.

    "Well, has thou catcht him, Jacko?" asked the old dame, looking up from her text with a very inquiring look.

    "Nawe, I ha' no' catcht him," replied the other, "but I've letten him feel th' weight o' my stick."

    "An' what did he say to that?  Did he flyte?"

    "Nawe, he said nowt: but he stared very hard at me an' leet me look at a pair of his shoon, as good as to say he should use 'em if I touched him again."

    "His shoon, Jacko; does he wear shoon, then?  He use t' be a ragged, clomperin hobble-de-hoy, once.  How's he donned?"

    "Oh, he's getten his Sunday clooas on; but they favvorn they'd never bin brusht wi' nowt nobbut a thick stick," replied the old man, endeavouring to conceal a laugh.

    "Thou should ha' batted 'em, Johnny — thou should ha' batted 'em for him — a brasent jacanapes as he is.  I wonder whatever our Sally means — that's what I do.  If I'd bin theere I'd ha' poo'd his ears for him, that I would," and old Esther emphatically closed the book, and shoved her spectacles up on her forehead.

    "I think his ears han bin middlin weel stretched by th' length on 'em," said Johnny; and just as he was about breaking into a loud laugh, the full melody of the jew's harp came through the buttery window.

    "The deuce canker that noisy piece o' brass impidence," he exclaimed, involuntarily grasping his hazel stick again.  "If I dunno' break it an' spoil his whistle for him, I'm noane Johnny.  Ett, go thee to bed, an' I'll tak my pipe out an' wait quietly till he oather shows hissel or goes away, or else we'st be bothert with him o neet."

    "What, is he come'n again?  I've a good mind t' scaud him."  And with a menace in her manner, old Esther took her candle and retired.  Johnny reached down his pipe from the rack, and cramming it with an extra charge of tobacco, lighted it and went to his "look-out" at the door.

    The night, as I have said, was beautiful, and the moon was just placing the house front in shadow as our neighbour took up his station on the doorstep.  He thought of his old courting days as he stood looking on that calm scene ― how delighted he should have been to lead an old noodle like himself such a goose-chase round the garden.  He half wished the fellow would escape him, if it was only for the pluck he had shown.  And now he felt himself quite softening towards the intruder, and inclined to hang out the flag of truce, if it was only to know what the young scamp meant by thus nightly serenading.  He would take another stroll round the house — look at the field of corn which spread there like a golden carpet, till it lost itself in the light mist about the river.  And everything was so still too — so quiet — so charming even to an old man's fancy!  How could he harbour resentment towards anyone, with such a lesson of love and beneficence before him?  He placed his stick against the rain-tub and walked on.  How if he met the young fellow, and he showed no disposition to get away?  He would address him kindly; that he would.  Nay, he would even ask him into the house, that they might have some talk together.  Perhaps if he were to show a little favour to the suitor it might cool his ardour, for he had noticed that people who betrayed an anxiety to get their daughters married were almost sure to have them left on their hands.  And now a thought struck him that he would try some method of encouragement in this instance, for his eldest daughters had married early, and in spite of all he could do to prevent them.  He had scarcely turned the idea over in his mind, when, coming upon a rude summer-house, which he had constructed some years ago in a corner of the garden, he heard a shuffling of feet, and presently a voice exclaimed—

    "Eh, bless thee, Sally!  I could ate thee beaut oather butter or traycle," and smack went a kiss right in the old man's hearing.

    "Thou'd have a toughish sort of a meal on't if hoo's owt akin to her temper," said Johnny, confronting the pair in the very height of their ecstasy.  "Nay, thou's no 'casion t' run out o'th' road.  Thou art quite welcome t' come if thou'll do thy coortin o'th' hearthstone, an' leeave that dampert music awhoam.  Come into th' house, for thou'll be gettin hungry afore this, I'm sure, an' we'n a nice bit o' bacon yonder ut'll be better than chewin moonleet here."

    It were needless to say that the girl, for it was Sally, who had stolen out of the back door while her father was at the front, stayed not to listen to the invitation her lover received; but dreading her father's anger, made all the haste she could into the house, and crept upstairs with a very strange foreboding for the morrow.  The other two fell into a friendship all at once, and even discoursed upon the growing qualities of a large apple tree, which was then laden with shining fruit.  Charley thought he was getting on finely; and when they got into the house, and the flitch of bacon began to swing previous to a portion of it being flung upon the fire, he felt as if he was somebody, and even looked round to see where he could conveniently hang his hat in the event of getting married.

    "Thou sees," said the intended father-in-law, "it isno' becose we'n owt again thee ut I've kept thee at arm's length; but we dunno' like thee comin o'th' plan thou does — tootin an' whistlin, an' twangin that gridiron, an' dartin about like a bitbat, same as if thou're feeart o' bein seen.  If thou'd come'n and punct dur oppen at th' fust, and flung thy hat i'th' middle o'th' house floor, an' said thou wanted our Sally, an' thou're determined to have her, I should ha' said tak her an' welcome, for if thou con mak owt on her it's moore than ever we could.  Now then, get that between thy ribs, an' if t' feels th' wynt blow through thee o'er gooin whoam, thou'rt woven out of a poor piece."

    The bacon was lifted from the fire, and coiled on an oat cake which old Kenyon reached from the "bread-flake," and the astonished young fellow set to work heartily upon the meal, while his host proceeded to draw a mug of "whoam-brewed."  Charley had some slight misgivings that all was not right, but knew not which way to direct his suspicions.  Sally was pretty ― good-tempered, and to all appearances healthy; but might she not have bad legs, or be troubled with "fits," like a very pretty cousin of his?  Well, somebody would have known about it if she had been afflicted either way, and he should have heard.  Nobody ever said she was lazy, so there was nothing wrong in that quarter.  Still there was something that made him he did not care for coming the night following, as he had promised to do before their surprise in the summer-house.  Yet, what could it be?  Oh, that Elysium ― so beautiful in the distance, with Styx rolling between — what a wilderness we find it, when we have got safely ferried over, to what our imagination had fashioned it!  How perishable its flowers ― how insipid its music ― how tasteless the nectar which it offers to our lips!  So with "Charley o' Polly's."  Often as he peeped stealthily through the corner of the window, he thought he had never seen such a bright hearth or such pretty pictures as belonged to old Kenyon; and how happy he should be if ever it was his privilege to become one of the family.  But now he was eating his supper under that very roof ― almost within sound of Sally's breathing ― with her once dreaded father winking down the pot's side as he took his "droit o' whoam-brewed."  How much did the bright picture fancy had made lose of its colouring on so near an approach!  Oh, Love and Paradise, what are ye?

    "Now sup, an' drink heartily, an' it'll wesh th' grease off thy teeth," said Johnny, pushing the jug towards his guest, whose supper had made his face shine like a newly varnished picture.  "Thou'rt welcome t' come anytime thou's a mind, an' there'll aulus be a collop an' a pot'll o' drink for thee as long as thou behaves thysel.  Come, empty th' pot an' we'n have another."

    Charley did as he was bidden; but nothing went down with the relish that might have been expected.  He fancied the drink was stale and barmy, and that something might have been wrong with the bacon.  Both would, undoubtedly, have tasted sweeter had Sally let him into the house unknown to her parents, as he had often wished her; but now the charm was broken, and he felt his love drying up like dew in the summer's sun.  Still matters would become partially rectified if after the next "pot'll" old Johnny would kick him out of the house, as he did a previous suitor who was admitted without his consent.  The father had never treated any of his sons-in-law in the manner he was treating him.  One of them, he recollected, was near being impaled on a stump through his haste in getting down a cherry tree, where old Kenyon had caught him making signs to his "lady love" through the chamber window, and the "battin" he received from the mopstail made him sore for many a week.  Another, who had crept to the house window in his stocking feet, was so alarmed at a tin bobbin being dropped on his head, that he took to his heels in a hurry, and left his clogs behind him.  But for himself, here he was being feasted like a lord, and a welcome offered him whenever he might choose to come.  Surely all was not right!

    "Dost think thou'll come t' morn o'neet?" asked old Johnny, again pushing the jug towards his guest.

    The latter did not know.

    "Becose thou's no 'casion t' mak any haffle about it; o 'll be straight forrad for thee.  An' then o' Sunday me an' th' owd dame are goin t' church, an' if thou's a mind yo' con have th' house to yo'rsel, o afternoon, an — "  Here Johnny winked again, to the intense disgust of Charley, who began to feel very uncomfortable, and wished himself as far away as possible from where he was.

    "I think I'st go t' church mysel," was the reply with which this hint was met, though it is doubtful if he meant it at the same time.

    "Oh, then thou con tak our Sally, an' we'n o go t'gether."

    "Well, but I'd forgetten; I've no shoon, so I'st ha' t' tarry awhoam."

    "Well, well — just pleeas thysel;" and old Kenyon looked at the clock.

    The visitor took this as an intimation that it was time to be moving; so, apologising for having stayed so long, and probably kept his host out of bed, he put on his cap and said "Good neet."

    "Good neet, my lad," responded Johnny, as the door closed; then bursting out into a lit of laughter that caused some alarm upstairs, he shuffled off his clogs and crept to bed, feeling satisfied that he had so physicked his daughter's sweetheart, that the house would not be again troubled with his presence for some time to come.

    His calculations were not wrongly made.  Neither the jew's-harp nor the whistle were ever again heard at the keyhole or the buttery window.  Sally often wondered at the prolonged absence of her lover, and the coldness assumed by him, but did not trouble herself much to account for the manner in which it had been brought about; so, after fretting for about ten minutes, she said to herself, "Ther's plenty moore chaps i'th' country," and otherwise consoled herself by the reflection that "th' reet un 'ud come sometime."  But for "Charley o' Polly's," it became quite evident since their last meeting that his love was perfectly cured, and by the very means that some people took to encourage it.

 
――――♦――――

 
THE BUCK-HUNTERS' GALA.


THE Waverlow district of the "Ancient Order of Royal Buck-Hunters" resolved to hold a "Grand Gala," in imitation of those popular entertainments annually got up by their more advanced brethren belonging to Birchwood and other large districts.  These "stirs" were originally instituted for the purpose of propitiating the Order, as well as to increase the funds appropriated to the relief of the widows and orphans of deceased members, and had certainly been instrumental to a considerable degree in promoting both objects.  But Waverlow had neither widows nor orphans to relieve; for wives who had the misfortune to lose their partners generally managed to "clog again," to use a local term, before their necessities were pressing; and orphans, who could not support themselves, "went in with the ruck" somewhere until they could; so that there was no necessity in the least for a "Widow and Orphans' Fund" in connection with the "Waverlow District of the Ancient Order of Royal Buck-Hunters."  There were, however, a few ambitious members who wished to "show off," and air some of the old moth-eaten regalia that was stored up in the several wardrobes of the leading "groves," and an excuse for getting up a demonstration was consequently hit upon.


    Edward Oldham Willows, Esq., a gentleman who had made "heaps o' money" by speculations in "shoddy," and had risen from the inheritance of his father's blue apron and fustian jacket, to the proprietorship of "Sea Islands Villa," and the possession of an independency, had recently become a patron member of the "Loyal Diana Grove," and had pushed himself so rapidly over the chairs and stools of office — commencing with the "Grand Butler," or "Server of the Golden Drinking Horn" — that he was made "High Chief Marksman" of the district before he had properly committed to memory the "Initiator Grand's" charge to a newly-admitted brother, which he would sometimes deliver after the following fashion:— "And now newly initiated brother, if — if — a — you have got it into yo'r yead that we have admitted you into the bosom of our society for the base purpose of betraying the trust reposed in you, you — you — had better get it out again; for you must know that to betray a member who has trusted to you the inmost secrets of his soul, is to become an object worthy of imitation, and the blessed hope of eternal bliss beyond the grave.  Worthy Server of the Golden Drinkin Horn, let our newly-admitted brother sup."

    Past Initiator Grand, or P.I.G. Oldham Willows, had just mounted the district chair after innumerable renderings of "He's a jolly good fellow," and as many responses of "Yo' known I'm nowt at spakin, but here's my hauve-crown to yo'r thrippence a-piece.  Worthy Server of the Golden Drinkin Horn, go round wi' th' hat."  He soared into the official sky like a balloon, and the rapidity of his ascent, though mainly attributable to the frequency of his half-crown subscriptions, was nevertheless the subject of much "whisky-toddy" compliment at the "Wheel and Barrels," where the "Diana Grove" was held; as well as on each friendly visit to the "Pig and Fork," in Langleyside.  No brother had served the Order with so much zeal, and with such a disregard to pecuniary and other sacrifices, as had P.I.G. Oldham Willows.  The shilling per night salary for holding the key of the dispensation-box he had in the most unselfish manner returned to the general fund; and it was a well-known fact that he had paid for his own drink, because preferring whisky to the usual "grove" allowance of "ee-wayter," [4] ever since he became one of their Order.  It was also a matter of special comment how, when laid up during a whole week through taking an overdose of light dinner beverage at a district audit, he had never so much as hinted at going upon the sick fund.  "A man with such a generous self-ignobling nature, must always shine out among the constellations of the society, and be a guiding star to such members as were labouring up the toilsome and unroyal ascent of the chairs, to perch themselves at last upon the pinnacle of greatness occupied by the High Chief Marksman, the envy of disappointed candidates, and the admiration of the whole Order."

    This unexampled feat of chair-climbing, accomplished in the brief space of two years, as recorded in gold on the dispensation box lid, ought to be the occasion for some extraordinary show of the society's appreciation of such a success and the service it implied.  A worthy member who shed honour of appending his signature in full to a draft on the Birchwood bank, and had looked down with contempt on "his mark" signatures ever since, observed that it was a "flagrant act of disparagement of the worthy P.I.G., H.C.M., not to have met such services as he had rendered the Order with some substantial token of their recognition."  Another member who was proud to be a tenant of their chief officer, dwelt in even a more extravagant strain upon his virtues, and proposed the presentation of a mahogany cradle with brass rockers, and an inscription plate of silver to his lady; but as Mrs. Oldham Willows was without children, and had arrived at that age when an increase of family was hardly amongst the possibilities of life, it could not be seen by a facetious member what use that description of testimonial could be put to, except it might be to "rock" over again their very dear and worthy brother.  The cradle was therefore quashed without being put to the vote.  The presentation of a silver snuff-box was next suggested, but it being possible that such an article might be taken as a reflection upon the recipient's nose, which, either from disease or high feeding, had grown to something like the hard end of a shillelah, the proposition could not for a moment be entertained.  To present the worthy P.I.G. with a watch would be like "carrying coals to Newcastle," as he already possessed a splendid hunting ditto, valued at fifty guineas.  A writing-desk would be another superfluity, for with the exception of being able to scrawl something which he flattered himself was his own name, the retired shoddy merchant could not boast of any accomplishment allied to the use of writing materials.  What then must be done?

    "Let's have a grand gala," suggested a little pompous fellow delegated from the "Pig and Fork."

   "A gala! a gala! a gala!" was taken up and repeated with such ecstasy that every tumbler of whisky disappeared in the rapidest succession of twinklings.  Nobody had any distinct idea of what a "gala" really was; but it was a great word, and looked well on the walls, as many of them had seen in Birchwood, surrounded by fireworks, and brass bands, and refreshments.  They would have a "gala," and the occasion should be deemed the inauguration of the High Chief Marksmanship of P.I.G. Oldham Willows.

    A "preliminary meeting for the purpose of carrying out the object of the foregoing resolution" was agreed upon, and delegates from the various "groves" that composed the Waverlow district, were to attend with instructions from their "constituents," to decide upon the scale and character of the arrangements to be made.  The meeting was held at the "Wheel and Barrels," priority being given to that establishment on account of the "parent grove" being planted there.  Seven deputies attended.  And here let me record the fact as a refutation of the prevailing impression that friendly societies cannot conduct their proceedings with the despatch characteristic of our go-ahead age, that on its being announced that P.I.G. H.C.M. Willows was below, ready to send up a bowl of punch as soon as the business was concluded, the chairman could not see the necessity for any further discussion on the point in question, but to leave it to the decision of the next meeting.  The whole delegation concurred with their Worthy chairman's views, and the meeting was adjourned, and the bowl of punch placed upon the table before the secretary had finished penning the resolution.

    After several meetings ending in punch, the affair was deemed ripe for coming off.  Sir Hugh Horton had generously offered the use of Trevor Park for the demonstration, and, at the request of the deputation appointed to wait upon him, had kindly allowed his name to be used as one of the patrons of the gala.  Lady Horton had also intimated her willingness to become a patroness; and these names, with those of the rector and a few substantial farmers and pursy shopkeepers, gave the announcement on the bills quite an aristocratic appearance.

    The day for the demonstration came, and was as lovely a morning at the outset as could have been desired.  The gala was not to take place until the afternoon, when the whole populace of Waverlow and the surrounding villages were expected to turn out and join in the festivities of Trevor Park.  Certain enthusiastic past and present officers, however, could not wait for the time of the procession starting, but must rehearse a little preliminary demonstration of their own in the "fowt" of the "Wheel and Barrels," where they promenaded about in their costume, to the intense delight of six old women, about a dozen nurse girls, and a great force of children, who kept up a shout of encouragement that would have brought "Punch and Judy" to the front of the curtain, or induced a company of acrobats to go through a whole performance.

    A "bran new" flag presented by the "munificent brother" for whose honour the gala was got up, was hung out at one of the tavern windows before there was anybody  to look at it except the hostler.  This flag was ornamented with a coat of arms representing stags' heads; hunting or powder horns; a human skull grinning over a pair of unprepossessing drumsticks, and a something which might have been interpreted into an hour-glass or a goblet, just according to one's fancy.  On each side of this coat of arms stood a human figure, — very wasp-waisted, and with a strong inclination of the knees inward.  The dress of the upper portion of these figures was equally divided between black neck-stock and "Lincoln green" jacket, whilst the lower was so "throttled" in unyielding pantaloons, as to resemble four boot-trees on an elongated scale; the feet being so pointed downwards as to imitate the extremities of a ballet-dancer when she executes the "cat-in-cockles" movement on her toes.  On the reverse side was a very masculine figure, intended for the patroness of the Order, habited in a sort of half hunting, half ball dress, with the inscription over her head, "HAIL . DIANA . GODDESS . No. 543 . OF . THE . CHASE."

    At two o'clock, the time announced for the procession to start, the Frog Lane Band marched into the "fowt," followed by the rest of the juvenile population collected on their route.  They played the "Conquering Hero," and "God Save the Queen," royalty and heroism being represented in the person of P.I.G. H.C.M. Oldham Willows, who bowed his acknowledgments to both tunes from a chamber window, and afterwards announced that a "giillon o' ale" was ordered for their immediate refreshment.  The illustrious chief was already up to the ears in the costume belonging to his high office; but how he would  have managed to take part in the brisk chase of a wild buck, had one been started, would have been matter for some speculation, seeing that from the stoutness of his person, and the tightness of his garments, which wrapped him up like a pudding, the movement of his body was so difficult as to make it doubtful if ever he saw his toes during the whole afternoon.  He was supported on each hand by a worthy P.I.G., each bearing the emblems of his rank as past officer of the higher grade, besides wearing the regalia belonging to some subordinate office he had filled.  Each also wore a ponderous tin key suspended by a ribbon on his breast — emblematica1 of his knowledge of all the secrets of the particular degree he belonged to — whilst a stick of sealing-wax suspended by another ribbon was supposed to represent that to all who were not P.I.G.'s the secrets belonging to that degree were as a sealed letter.

    The worthy chief waved his hand, notifying his wish to address the assembled buck-hunters, whereupon the drummer gave a roll on the drum, and as decorous a silence followed as the preponderance of the juvenile element would permit.  The chief then said —

    "Worthy officers, past officers, and brothers all; — be off, yo' chi1der!"  Whereupon they (the "childer ") gave a shout, but did not show the least inclination towards running away.  Not to have his authority slighted, the chief again waved his hand and said, "Worthy Grand Usher of the Silver Arrow — clear th' fowt!"

    That most chivalric and august person the "Grand Usher of the Silver Arrow," taking from his head a green  billy-cock, which, do what he would, persisted in resting upon his nose, replied—

    "Worthy High Chief Marksman, th' childer winno' tak a bit o' notice o' me; for if I say owt to 'em they dun nowt but laaf at me, an' co me owd Billy Butterworth." [5]

    "Be it so," said the worthy P.I.G., H.C.M. — "It'll do i'stead o' my speech.  Now then, when yo'n supped round we'n be off.  Grand Server of the Golden Drinking Horn — knock that ale about."

     The officer whose duty it was to fuddle the lot rushed to the centre of the assemblage, armed with something more like a gallon jug than a "drinking-horn," and the whole rank and file — Past Officers and Present, Grand Marksmen, Quiver Bearers, Arrow Fledgers, Initiator-Grands and P.I.G.'s, Priests of the Order in their calico robes and skull caps; and valiant buck-hunters in "Lincoln green," — swigged like ordinary mortals at the contents of the jug, and showed an acquaintance with the art of cocking the little finger which would vie with that of any tavern "fixture."

    "Now then, form!" sung out the chief, when the valiant men of the chase had got their whistles moderately wetted.  "Brothers all two a-breast; Present Officers one a-breast, an' a Past Officer o' either side. P.I.G. Tum o' Bob's — thou's getten thy hat on th' wrong side about.  Th' ribbin should hang behind thee — not i' thy face.  Turn it round.  An' thee, Past Bearer of the Golden Drinking Horn — Dick at Dody's —whoa towt thee t' carry thy bow an' arrow o' that fashin?  They met be a pair o' twinin-in rods.   Shoother 'em gradely, or else thou'll keep jobbin 'em i' someb'dy's ribs.  Now, then, yo're carryin th' stars afore th' sun an' moon.  They should be carried behind, same as childer followin their feyther an' mother.  Whoa carries this flag?"

    "Me," sung out a little fellow, who, from the extraordinary dimensions of his pants, appeared to be "futtered" like a bantam-cock; causing his legs in their locomotion to have the appearance of wading through water.

    "Well, mind which eend up thou carries it," said the chief; "for thou doesno' look o'er weight enoogh for th' job.  Howd thy sleeves up, an' I'll give it thee down."

    The little fellow held up his sleeves, and the flag was reached down; when, with one disastrous wave, it swept sun, moon, and stars from their orbits; despatched a tin snake that was coiled round a golden apple, and bared many a sconce that was dignified with a green wide-awake; besides putting in great peril Diana's skirts and buff tights, and the wasp-waisted gentry who guarded the arms of the Order.

    After lecturing the diminutive cause of this accident on his presumption in offering himself to be the bearer of a flag when "it ud ha' bin as mich as he could ha' done to ha' carried a fishin-rod," P.I.G. H.C.M. Oldham Willows appointed a more likely brother to the office, and the procession was got in readiness for the start.  The band marched to the front, and played "The girl I left behind me," as a farewell to the six old women and the concourse of nurses and children.  The flag waved till Diana and her companions looked sea-sick.  The worthy H.C.M. wriggled himself into his place at the head, where he puffed and sweated betwixt a pair of lean P.I.G.'s, and the word was given to "march."

    And was not the start a real dash of loyal buck-huntership!  The band set out as if they scented a savoury dinner two miles ahead, and left the girls behind them in the greatest ecstasy of shouting.  "Lincoln green" and dust mingled smotheringly, and the short-legged, dumpy shoddy merchant, with face of scarlet and eyes protruding from the sockets, through the effort to keep time and pace with his less unctuous companions, twisted himself about like a small pair of compasses engaged in rapid measurement; and the rest of the brotherhood followed in more or less regular or irregular order until the "Three Lane Ends" were reached.  Then the chief, in a voice scarcely audible from exhaustion, gave the order to "halt."  The band stopped instantly, and the rear ranks came tumbling upon the front ranks — packing themselves so closely that the procession, reaching about two hundred yards at the start, had shrunk into the space of about twenty.  Bows and arrows; long staves and short staves; sun, moon, and stars, were found to be sadly inconvenient to manage; and were poked into indignant brethren's ribs and stomachs and eyes;— provoking sundry unbrotherly threats to damage certain offending heads, — which heads were so hidden in green felt its scarcely to allow the eyes the slightest exercise of their functions, and which may account in some degree for the accident taking place.

    The procession had now reached the most crowded part  of Waverlow, and every door-place was tenanted by spectators, chiefly women and children, who did not look on with that gravity of demeanour which the imposing nature of the affair ought to have commanded.  No one was sparing of her comments on the appearance which certain acquaintances made in the procession; and such comparisons as "green bottles," "bundles o' rushes," and "sage an' onions," were freely dealt out.

    "Eh, look at my dad!" shouted an irreverent urchin as he dragged his mother out of a porch, "-He's getten a box-orgin jacket, an' a owd bobbin-hat on; an' he's carryin a bownarrow, an' a oyl-bottle wi' him; an' he's a knife-box on his back wi' arrows in."

    "Well, I'll be sunken!" said a stout matron in a blue printed bedgown, looking from under a pair of heavily rimmed spectacles, "if yon isno' James o' Joe's borin about in a suit o' clooas made out of a green bed-quilt.  I didno' know him till he dofft that humbrel off his yead.  Well, if it doesno' byet pace-eggin!"

    "Our Tum's noane awhoam; he's somewheere among yo'," said a younger damsel to a worthy lizzard-like P.I.G., who had stepped out of the ranks, and was making towards the door of one of the cottages.

    "Dost' meean t' say thou doesno' know me, then?" said the loyal buck-hunter, with a grin on a very "wizzunt " face under a very broad hat.

    "Well, I'll be carned if I did!" exclaimed the woman.  "Eh, Tum! but thou'rt likker th' king of a bonfire than owt else.  Dunno' let our lads see thee, for goodness sake; if thou does, they'n shout thee; thou great foo."

    "Well, I want my 'bacco-box, an' howd thy noise."  So it appears the men of the "merrie greenwode" smoked.

    At the request of the High Chief Marksman, the band struck up "The Dead March;" which, being slow and easy to step, was a great relief to those of difficult locomotion; and the procession reached the park gates without any further unpleasant reminiscences of ancient warfare, in the shape of eyes being bored out by arrow-tips, and noses receiving more than polite intimations from quarter staves.

    After dribbling away an hour in admitting the public at two-pence per head, to defray sundry expenses, the signal was given for the sports to begin.  A balloon resembling a very large kidney potato was produced, and with difficulty inflated, from the danger it stood in of catching fire.  At last it swelled out into dropsical proportions, and on the order being given to "let go," it rose to the height of the highest tree.  Then it staggered as if it had been drunk, and appeared irresolute whether to go up any farther, or come down again.  A feu-de-joie of six fowling-pieces was ordered to be fired to announce the balloon's ascent; and whether it was from the concussion of the air caused by the discharge of the pieces, or merely the whim of the balloon itself, is hard to say, but the machine, all at once — and when it should have risen majestically heavenwards, to be hailed by the shouts of the assembled hundreds —  turned a half-summersault, and catching fire through the indiscretion, blazed up a moment, and, "like the baseless fabric of a vision," left only a hoop of blackened wire behind.

    Although this accident was looked upon as a bad beginning, the best was made of it, and the "gala" commenced in right good earnest.  Worthy brothers in "Lincoln green" chased each other, and hunted an imaginary buck after the sham-fight fashion, letting arrows fly at nothing, and shouting when they had hit the mark.  About a dozen engaged in a "tourney" with quarter staves, fencing with their weapons like little boys with sticks, and ending in a wrangle between two worthy P.I.G.'s, who had pummelled each other as if in earnest, and who were only prevented from settling the quarrel in true Lancashire style by the timely interference of the chief, who arrived puffing on the scene of the encounter just as one of the combatants was promising the other a brotherly "clout i' th' earhole" if he hit his knuckles again.

    Then was announced a grand main at archery; and, all being loyal buck-hunters, this part of the day's programme was regarded as the principal, when there would be such a display of marksmanship as had never been heard of before, not even in the days when "Bold Robin Hoode, in merrie Sherwoode," shot the King's property, and knocked the King's yeomen and bowmen into fits.  A round table that had its legs amputated through being lamed at a taproom fight, and which was daubed over with lime-wash and raddle, with a broad patch of bull's-eye in the centre, was set up for a target.  This mark was at first placed at one hundred yards' range, but not having been hit during the first hour's shooting, the distance was shortened to fifty yards, when everybody was for pegging into the "eye" at each shot.

    Twenty valiant marksmen entered themselves to shoot  by paying a fee to keep the contest select, but as they fired away until their shoulders ached without once damaging the paint, the main was thrown open to all comers who chose to take up a bow and arrow, and thus a regular mκlιe ensued.  Arrows flew about like straws in a gale — dropping anywhere except near the point at which they were aimed, and placing "brothers all," who stood watching, in imminent danger of losing more eyes than the target.  One unlucky shaft transfixed P.S.G.D.H. James o' Joe's hat, where it stuck like a weather vane; whilst the feat was hailed with shouts of merriment from the unparticipating public, who gave the marksmen a wider range than they had hitherto given.  James, feeling his person insecure after this mishap, went and placed himself against the target, which he said "wur th' safest pleck i'th' fielt."  Nor would he budge from that position for any remonstrance that could be made; and notwithstanding that he was threatened to have his "carcus" stuck as full of arrows as a pincushion in two minutes.

    The main was thus brought to a close after about two hours' shooting; and the prize, which consisted of a beautifully chased silver spoon presented for the occasion by the worthy High Chief Marksman, was reserved until the next gala, as it would be difficult to say who had hit nearest the target.

    The archery business over, the High Chief Marksman lifted up his voice and said:—"Worthy officers, past officers, and brothers all—it's no use shootin any moore, for it's dangerous to folk ut dunno' stond i'th' road; so let's play at 'Little Johnny Lingo.'"

    "Hear, hear," and loud cheers responded to this suggestion of the fertile-brained chief; and "Johnny Lingo" was played; and "fine sheep O" were stolen; and Johnny got whacks and thumps till he grew disgusted with his calling; and as the trumpet now sounded the hour for closing the proceedings, all loyal buck-hunters left their sports and gathered round the person of their High Chief Marksman.

    That worthy, addressing the men in "Lincoln green," said:—"Officers, past officers, and brothers all,—Iniator-Grand Tummus Wiketter has summat t' say to yo."

    A smooth-mannered, glib-tongued veteran in buck-huntership, here elevated himself on tip-toe, and said — after the usual introductory jargon, which he drawled out to a tiresome length —

    "There can be but one feeling with respect to the entertainments of to-day — that of profound satisfaction at the great success with which they have been attended.  I have always contended that nothing beats rational recreation; and the example presented by the manner in which this grand affair — (cries of "Gala, gala!") — well then the manner in which this grand gala has been carried out confirms that opinion.  I cannot particularly compliment you on your success at the target; but it must be borne in mind that no brother has ever handled a bow before, only in the grove.  (A voice: "Yigh, Dick at Dody's has bin practisin a fortnight i'th' loomhouse, shootin at th' wife's neetcap.")  Then Dick at Dody's ought to have been a better marksman; for I believe it was one of his arrows that pierced James o' Joe's hat.  I regret the accident, but it might have been worse if James had been two inches  taller.  (Here the person known as "Dick at Dody's" gave out a challenge to shoot any brother present at twenty yards distance for a "pint o' ale," but as no one accepted the challenge, the speaker proceeded.)  Well, let that pass.  We have an agreeable duty to perform — a duty which I trust no one will gainsay—that of thanking the noble proprietor of the park and his worthy lady for the privilege implied in being allowed the use of it for the purpose of holding the gala.  (Loud cheers.)  I therefore propose that we give our best thanks to Sir Hugh Horton and Lady Horton for granting us the aforesaid privilege?

    The vote was seconded — carried by acclamation, and the High Chief Marksman undertook to deliver the compliment in person to the worthy baronet by special visit to Trevor Hall.

    "Now then," said the little shoddy merchant, "we'n march back i' full order to th' 'Wheel an' Barrels.'  Musicianers, play 'Home, sweet Home,' an' officers an' brothers fall in as before."

    The officers and brothers did fall in as before; the band went to the front, and struck up "Home, sweet Home," which appeared to melt every heart with thoughts of those they had left behind them, and thus marshalled, the loyal buck-hunters took leave of Trevor Park, and marched back to the "Wheel and Barrels," where they feasted and fuddled till the stars went out, and made a "jolly good fellow" of nearly every brother in the district.

    Thus ended the first grand gala ever got up by the "Waverlow District of the Ancient Order of Royal Buck- hunters."  A second was never attempted, as, for some  cause or other, every rag of "Lincoln green" was, by unanimous vote, consigned to the mop; sun, moon, and stars shone over chimney-pieces; and bows, arrows, and quarter-staves were disposed of by private contract, to be carried about by juveniles at their annual "peace-egg" time.

 
――――♦――――

 
THE NEW SHIRT.

 

Oh, there's mony a gate eaut ov eaur teawn-end,—
    But nobbut one for me:
It winds by a rindlin wayter side,
    An' o'er a posied lea:
It wanders into a shady dell:
    An' when aw've done for th' day,
Oh, aw never can sattle this heart o' mine,
    Beaut walkin deawn that way.

It's noather garden, nor posied lea,
    Nor wayter rindlin clear;
But deawn i'th' vale there's a rosy nook,
    An' my true love lives theer.
It's olez summer where th' heart's content,
    Tho' wintry winds may blow;
An' there's never a gate 'at's so kind to th' fuut,
    As th' gate one likes to go. —Waugh.

"MARY!"

    "What?"

    "Wilt' ha' me?"

    "Nawe!"

    A pretty weaver lass had left her loom for the day and had taken her sewing up the "fowt," and seated herself on the "backing" close to a stile whence a footpath led by the edge of the wood.  This path connected the villages of Waverlow and Langleyside, and was a favourite haunt of young people, especially in the flush of summer, when the hay grass was down, and the river blended its tinklings with the whistle of the thrush and blackbird at eventide.  Then it was so pretty about the bridge; the willows dipping in the stream, and the hazels bowering over, and hiding one of the approaches, hardly permitting the sun's rays to glance at the water, but forming a cool solitude, so refreshing after broiling in the midday heat!

    If you had stood upon the slope opposite, on a fine summer evening, before the twilight had so far advanced as to render distant objects dusky, you might have seen something peep out like a flower from among the foliage, linger a time on the bridge, then steal down the path, and lose itself again in the low ground by the wood-side.  Then, perhaps, or before you had lost sight of the first, another flower would steal into view, and flit out of it in the same manner.  These would be our village maidens, in their short white bedgowns and blue skirts; their hair "snooded" and falling down upon their necks, or twisted up in plaited bands behind their "back combs."  Mostly they would have their sweethearts with them, with whom they would toy playfully, or hold "sweet converse," or walk apart from them, as if they had no relation to each other.  It were possible you might see a struggle betwixt one of these couples, when the apparently unaccepted suitor would either give up his wooing, or, in the event of a look of encouragement, and a "sidling" linger about the stile, would return to the charge and capture the heart that he had smitten before.

    For several weeks during one summer-time, a tall, "gawky" youth, almost too bashful to introduce himself to his shadow in the river, had been seen each evening  about sunset to loiter about the bridge, and steal occasional glances towards one of the cottages up the path leading to Langleyside.  There were three of these cottages — all of them whitewashed outside, with a pretty garden in front surrounded by nicely cropped privet hedges, and with little broomy-looking orchards behind.  The one next the stile had a window looking towards the bridge; and this window, and the "fowt-yate," were being watched by our bashful acquaintance, as if some delightful apparition was expected to show itself at one of the two places.  It could almost be guessed that Mary Harrison was this apparition, and that to Jim Taylor there was nothing the village contained beside her that was worth his lingering there for.

    Well, Mary was pretty; and she had a way of arranging her hair — nay, her whole person—so Jim thought, that no other girl had; and he felt as if he would have given worlds for the privilege of twining his fingers in the light auburn curls as they hung down upon her bare white shoulders.  And the frill round her bedgown! — there were none like it he was sure — with the one loop at the neck always unfastened, and the bit of chemisette peeping out like a lily creeping through a hedge.  Oh, Jim! had not thy tongue been as great a coward as thy heart, these would have been thine long ago!

    About the fortieth evening of Jim's loitering upon the bridge, and when he had chewed a stick of sweetbriar until it resembled a piece of untwisted string, he made up his mind, for perhaps the thirty-ninth time, to bring matters to an issue, and either give Mary an intimation that he was wasting almost to nothing on her account, or vacate the bridge, and leave the sweetbriar alone — for ever.

    Mary, as I have said, had brought out her sewing.  She had done the same many a time before, and Jim wondered if she was making shirts for all the village; for surely one family did not require so much sewing on its own account.  How prettily her neck would arch as she bent over her task, and with what a graceful motion her hand would play, and how accommodatingly the white linen would rest upon her lap — sometimes stealing under her arm, or creeping up to her bosom, and seeming to woo a kiss from her lips.  Jim felt jealous of even that innocent shirt.  Whom could she be making it for?  She had no brothers, and her father did not wear such fine linen as that.  It appeared much finer to Jim's imagination than it really was — did that shirt.

    Mary had given one glance towards where her lover stood, but it was just as she seated herself on the "backing;" and it was such a hasty care-nothing-about-you glance.  She had looked the other way ever since, when she had happened to take her eyes off her work, and the stick of sweetbriar would then taste as bitter as before it had been sweet.  Come what would, that evening should decide everything; and, to bring matters to an issue, the youth stalked from his reconnoitring place and shambled slowly up to the stile near where his "ladye love" was sitting.

    There was a meadow gate opposite; and Jim felt that it might have been placed there on purpose; for he could lean over it, and if he had not courage to say anything, he could stand there and stare.  He did hang over the gate — and stare — a very long time; but it was more in the direction of a newly painted garden wicket than towards Mary's  face.  At length he caught himself watching the thimble in its rapid motions accompanied by a few nervous twitchings of the hand that plied it; and as the lass looked down with a winsome smile upon her face, the words somehow came out of Jim 's mouth that are given at the commencement of this narrative: —

    "Mary, wilt' ha' me?"

    The girl 's refusal — given so unhesitatingly, threw her lover on his "beam ends," as a sailor would say; and it was some time, and not until after a good sifting and adjusting of words — before he ventured upon another essay at speech.  At length, when several inches of "back-stitching" had been executed, to be undone again for its being so irregular, Jim found his inspiration at his tongue's end again: —

    "Thou winno' — wilta?" he said; and the answer was as before —

    "Nawe!"

    "Who art' makkin that shirt for?" after another long silence.

    "What 's that to thee?"

    "Is it for thy feyther?"

    "Nawe."

    Jim felt just then as if he should like to see the man who durst claim that shirt — who durst put it on in his presence.  He would not give much for the garment after he had had his will upon it.  No, that he wouldn't.  He would tear it up into as many ribbons as a "pace-egger" could desire — that he would.  He did not say this to Mary, but he felt it nevertheless.

    The youth had taken out his pocket-knife, and was cutting at a portion of the gate most unmercifully, sending chips flying towards the face of his beloved, as if he intended them to tease her into a more free communication with him; for he felt a terrible amount of courage just then, and could have said almost anything short of colloquial thunder and lightning.

    "I reckon it's for some chap o' thine," he said, after "thwiting" at the topmast bar of the gate till he had made it look almost like a new one.

    "An' what if it is?" said Mary, still looking down.

    "Nowt."  But as he said it he wrenched at the gate as if he was in the act of tearing a sleeve off the shirt.  "I didno' think thou'd had a chap" he said, as soon as his feelings would allow him to speak again.

    "Thou should oppen thy een, mon," observed Mary, trying to thread her needle, and failing for the first and second time.  It was a very provoking needle, very obstinate thread, and then the chips were flying so about her.  How very annoying!

    "But hast' a chap, Mary?  Now just tell me true.  If thou has, I 'll never say nowt to thee again — never.  Come, Mary, now, has thou?"

    "Nawe!"

    "Then, wilt' ha' me?"

    The girl blushed up to the eyes; stuck her needle in her bosom, and gathering up her work, went into the house, without as much as giving Jim a look, or saying another word.

    The young man, rather knocked over, stood staring  towards the "fowt yate;" then at the currant trees, and then at the house door; his mouth feeling as dry as the chips he had been cutting, and his heart giving him such "lungeous" thumps, that his knees were shaken into a nervous oscillating movement by the action.  What could the lass mean?  What was he to augur from such treatment?  If she had refused him after a second offer, he might have asked her a third time; and if she still held out, why — there were other lasses in the village — that was all.  But going away in that manner — leaving him at his amateur carpentry — without power to advance or a will to retreat; and no assurances, either way, that he was partially accepted or properly rejected; —why he would rather have been soused in the river, and held there until he was half drowned, than left in such a pickle.

    Why did he not follow the girl into the house — the softy!  There was no one in beside herself; for her parents had gone to Waverlow, to a funeral there, and would not be back until late.  Go home, you silly fellow, and be like many a thousand before you, who have been in love — fret and be jealous, fall out with your meals and be sulky at life; as if there was no world for you — now that your mistress appears unkind!

    Jim went home, threw himself on the couch chair, sent his eyes up to the ceiling, and sighed.

    "What's to do wi' thee, Jim?" said his mother, who was preparing supper.

    "Nowt mich," said Jim.

    "Art' poorly?"

    "Nawe."

    "What dost' keep mokin an ' rootin about th' Well Lone Bridge so mich for o' neets?"

    "Buzzert catchin," said Jim, glad that he had hit upon an excuse so readily.

    "Ay, thou may be; but I think they're buzzerts wi' nobbo' two legs," observed the dame.  "I con tell by thy ways, mon.  Thou'rt hankerin after some wench or other, I know."

    The young man hung down his head; just the very thing he should not have done, if he wished to keep his secret from his parent's knowledge.  But he hung down his head — played with the valance of the couch chair — sighed now and then, but spoke not for a while.  At length he said —

    "Mother, what would yo' do, if yo'rn me?"

    "Ay — just as I thowt; thou'rt i' love."

    "I am, mother," said Jim.

    "Well, get out on't as soon as thou con, or else goo cleean o 'er th' yead at once, an' sattle it."

    "I have spokken to her; but hoo'd ha' nowt t' say back."

    "Didno' hoo sauce thee?"

    "Nawe."

    "Did hoo stare thee i'th ' face, like a brazent snicket?"

    "Nawe."

    "Did hoo gi'e thee no readiness at o?"

    "Not a bit."

    "Thou wants a lesson off thy feyther, Jim.  He'd ha' made her to ha' said summat, or else he'd ha' brokken o th' windows about th' house wi' knockin on her out.  But whoa is hoo?"

    "Dunno' ax me that, mother, till I've oather ended it or  mended it.  So say nowt no moore to me.  I'll see her again, an' if hoo comes no nar, I'st just give her o th' lone to hersel whenever I meet her after."

    "Eh, Jammie, thou'rt soft; thou's noane o' thy feyther about thee, I'm sure."  And as she said this, she unrolled a bundle of linen that was cut up into all sizes of pieces.  "Here, I want t' messur thy neck for this shirt-collar; for thou wants new uns, an' I've one i' makkin for thee now."

    "Bother th' shirt!" exclaimed the son; "I've bin shirted enoogh to-neet.  I dunno' care just now, if I goo as ragged as 'Owd Spuddle ' o th' days o' my life."

    "Eh, dear!" said Dame Taylor, "thou owt think weel ut thy mother  'll mak this trouble on thee, i'stead o' carryin on o' that plan.  An' look here what nice buttons I've getten for th' fronts.  Like little stars they are — nowt like  'em i' o Langleyside; for thy Aint Sally i' Manchester has sent  'em."

    Oh! if somebody else had been making those shirts, and had selected those buttons, how like garments made of roses they would have been to the love-lorn youth!

    Next evening Jim was on the bridge again.  He waited till nearly dark, but no Mary appeared.  He ventured to walk past the house, but he saw nothing beyond the window except a closely-cropped head on one side of the hearth, and a woman's cap playing about a chair back on the other.  The lass was not in the house, he felt sure, and he turned a very reluctant foot towards home.

    "Oh, dear me!" he said to himself; "another neet 's puttin off.  I'll goo an' drown mysel, or sumrnat, afore I 'll stond this mich longer, that I will!"

    When he had got to within one field of home, just where the paths make an angle, somebody brushed past him — a woman, too; and, if his eyes did not deceive him, that woman, or girl, was Mary Harrison.

    "Mary!" he called out.  But the form had vanished into the darkness, and though he ran back and called again he could see nothing, and no one answered him.

    "If that isno' her, it's a witch ut's tryin her marlocks wi' me," he mused.  "An' what could hoo be dooin here — so nee our house, too?"  And he stood there, wondering at what he had seen, and irresolute as to what he should do.

    Another somebody came in sight.  This time it was a man, about his own age, Jim fancied — some favoured suitor, following Mary, no doubt.  He had surprised the two at their amours, and the girl had fled through fright.  That was what Jim made out.  Instantly his fist was grippen, and before the other could stand on his defence he was sprawling in the ditch.

    "Now, now! what's that for?" exclaimed the vanquished one from his bed of rushes.  It was old "Spuddle," the besom-maker, returning from haymaking at the "Wheel and Barrels," and he was in as jolly a companionship with John Barleycorn as ever he wished to be.

    "Eh, Spuddle, owd lad!" said Jim, "I didno' know what I 're dooin.  We'd some hens stown out o'th 'cote tother neet, an' I took yo' t' be th' thief.  Come, get out, an' yo'st havea pint o' whoam-brewed if yo'n come to our house i'th' mornin."

    "Thou may knock me into th' doytch again for another  pint," said "Spuddle," as he crawled out of his hole; but as he was too old and too ugly for Jim to have any further quarrel with him, the two parted company, pledged to future friendship, which the promise of a pint had so powerfully propitiated.

    When Jim Taylor reached home he found his "feyther" cross; for he should have been assisting in the garden that evening, instead of going his "foo's arrand" down to the "Three-houses."

    He crept to bed without saying a word to anyone, resolving in his mind upon a desperate venture, if the next night ever would come.  He would know something more than he did about how the wind blew in the neighbourhood of the "Three-houses" stile; how the little minx in the bedgown felt towards him or anyone else, if she dared have another.  He would "go in" either to conquer, or, in the event of being worsted, would reconcile himself to rags and neglect, as he had intimated before.

    Despite the wearily dragging time, and although the sun appeared as if it would never be tired of shining, the third evening came, and it found Jim at his post on the bridge again, devouring sweetbriar as industriously as ever.  Directly there was something fluttering about the stile.  The white bedgown, the "snooded" hair, the sewing — all were there, and Jim was not long before he was at the gate, leaning over it, as we have seen him before.

    "Well, Mary," he said, pumping up the words with a strong lift of sighing; "I'm come'n a-axin thee again if thou'll ha' me.  An' mind, I shanno' ax thee above another time; if I do, I wish I may be as stiff as this stump afore mornin; now, then!"

    The girl smiled, but did not seem to take her attention from her work.

    "What dost' keep comin a-botherin me for," she said, "when ther's plenty o' wenches beside me about?"

    "Becose I like thee, Mary; an' if I wurt' jow my yead till I see'd blue leets flyin out on't, I should no' give o'er thinkin about thee."

    He said this with an energy in his manner that plainly showed there was no further trifling with him; and the needle paused, and Mary leaned her head upon her hand, as if she was considering deeply what reply to make.

    "Now, I'm gooin t'be a different chap o t'gether to what I have bin," Jim continued, following up the advantage which he found he had gained!  "I'st have a new hat o' Sethurday; an' my mother's makkin me a new halidy shirt, finer than that ut thou'rt makkin, an' I'st goo t'skoo a taichin of a Sunday; now then.  I hope thy mind's made up, an' thou'll ha ' me."

    "My mind is made up," said Mary; still without looking at her lover; "it 's bin made up afore now."

    "An' thou'll ha' me?" said Jim, eagerly.

    "Nay, stop a bit," said the girl.  "Thou sees this shirt?"

    "Ay."

    "Well, I'st oather ha' thoose ut it belongs to or nob'dy."  And she turned her face towards the fence, and crimsoned up to her hair.

    "Well, then," exclaimed the youth, "I 'm for another country.  Stond furr, an' I'll jump into th' bruck, an' lay me down o' my face in it, an' ift' offers to get me out, I'll poo thee in, an' we'n drown t'gether."

    And he made a spring, but the distance between himself and the river was so considerable, beside there being so many obstacles in the way in the shape of "backings" and railings, that had his mind been ever so bent upon committing suicide, he would have to have taken great pains before accomplishing the deed.  But the attempt served his purpose nevertheless; for just as he was making his spring, Mary caught him by the hand, and, holding it with such a tender grasp, said —

    "Thou great foo; what dost' meean?"

    "I meean to do for mysel this time, so leeave lose.  Here's my cap, an' my knife, an' fourpence — thou'll never see me no moore.  Gi'e my respects to my feyther an' mother, an' tell  'em to look after th' club-brass."

    "Thou shanno' stir fro' here," said Mary.

    "It 's no use; it ud tak' fifty folk for t' howd me," said Jim, seeming to pull violently.  But Mary held him with one hand only — what a strong girl she must have been! — and she drew him back, and she looked in his face for the first time, and notwithstanding that he was tearing about like a mad lion only a moment before, that look, and that gentle pull quietened him down into the docility of a lamb, and he seated himself on the backing, close to Mary.

    "I knew thou wouldno' goo," said the girl, playfully.  "Thou'rt noane quite tired o' livin yet, Jim.  Now just howd thy hont up while I see if this 'll fit thee."  And, as she said it, she took a wristband which she had been "backstitching," and placed it round Jim 's wrist.

    The young man stared.  What a mercy he had not drowned himself, he thought just then.  It was his own shirt that Mary was making, with a ruffle on the front and some half-dozen plaits spreading over it.  He had never worn plaited-fronted shirts before, not even on Sundays.  There were the buttons, too, like stars, that had come from his "Aint Sally's i' Manchester."  In his own eyes he never looked so foolish as he did then.  Yet he never felt so happy — that was one comfort — and Mary might laugh at him — laugh till "th' cows come whoam," now that she had said softly — which he wanted her to repeat, if it was only for the music there was in it — that "she loved him!"

    "An' thou'll ha' me?"

    "Ay, Jim."

    Whatever else was said was spoken in a whisper, if anything was said at all.  The shirt-making was given up for that evening, and in about half an hour after Jim 's desperate attempt to smother his sorrows in the river that individual was listening to its merry tinklings with such inexpressible delight, as they both strolled down the valley, that he never uttered a word during the whole space of twenty minutes.  At last the silence was broken by his remarking that —

    "Whiffles han' bated ther poplins."

    "Han' they?" said Mary; and they shut themselves up again for about ten minutes more.

    They came to a stile.

    "We 'n gone far enoogh, now, I think."

    "Ay."

    "Let 's turn back, then."

    "Well."

    So did this loving couple retrace their steps, and the half hour occupied in their return walk was enlivened by the one glorious, loving, exuberant expression on the part of the enraptured swain —

    "How sweet th' hay smells!"

    Well, the hay was sweet, but no sweeter than Mary.  Jim found that out before parting for the night; for he made such mad work about the garden wicket that, had not Mary pushed him away, it is probable he would have been indicted at the following assizes for homicide by suffocation.  He was, however, spared this painful situation, to be placed in one not the less serious, but more agreeable.

    In a short time after the scene at the meadow gate, Jim was arrested on a charge of "matrimony," and taken before the minister at Waverlow Church, where, after being duly tried and committed, he was sentenced, along with a female accomplice, to remain in Hymen's servitude "so long as you both shall live."


――――♦――――

 
TREVOR HALL;

or,

THE WEAVER OF WINDY GAP.

CHAPTER I.

WHY was that old dotard of a church ringing its bells so merrily, as if it had been a young church, like the one at Welbrook, built for the convenience of the late Sir Richard Trevor and family, because it was too far for them to drive to the next village every Sunday?  They were the Waverlow church bells that were ringing, for it was "wakes" time; and churches, like individuals, have a license on such occasions to put on a gay demeanour — dress in ribbons if they choose — for it is a mad-cap holiday, when nobody would envy the man who refused to "come out of his shell" and take his neighbour's hand in a dance over a modest jug of "whoam—brewed."  The "Wheel and Barrels," the principal tavern in Waverlow, was in high gala; its interior having been thoroughly renovated, its front newly whitewashed, and its door and window shutters made "jolly green" with new coatings of paint.  From an upper window of this choice establishment (famous for clubs and  "greawt neets") hung a gay silk flag, bearing a string of very sentimental mottoes, encircling a couple of nude figures located in a brown and yellow garden.  From another window projected a pole ornamented with copper kettles, brass pans, pewter teapots, and long sashy ribbons.  These were to be contended for during the wakes by racers, jumpers, wrestlers, and dancers — a custom which had been kept up from time unremembered by each successive Boniface who had risked or made his fortune at the old "public."

    The day being exceedingly fine, and it not having rained the day before (Sunday), as it had been accustomed to do over another very long period, a more than usual disposition to laziness and merriment had come over the village folks, who turned out very early to walk the lanes, watch the sports on the green, or take their social cups at the "Wheel and Barrels."  The stately sycamore, which spread its branches like a huge crinoline in front of the latter place of resort, now did the duty of a parasol to about thirty people who were seated on forms and chairs beneath its shade.  The ale can went round freely, being supplied at the expense of a gentleman who wished it to be thought by those present that he was playing the part of a benefactor to the village — a character assumed by many who imagine that a few shillings spent in beer ought to entitle them to especial notice and respect from their neighbours.  The song and joke went round as briskly as the can, and now and then a lusty "huzzah," with "Long life to Sir Richard Trevor!" would further enliven the proceedings.  The fiddler, perched in one of the boughs of the sycamore, scraped accompaniment to everything; for he was a merry fellow, and his instrument could squeak a hornpipe, crow like a farmyard cock, and put in a very harsh note when the huzzahs were being given.  On an old shippon door laid flat on the sward, and which was worn to the roughness of a butchers trestle, those who had a little "conceit" about their cleverness at "step" dancing plied the "heel and toe" with a zest that led to one garment being stripped after another to give freedom to their limbs, as well as for another purpose that might be inferred from the quantity of perspiration that was pouring down their faces.

    These gaieties had been going on from early morning, yet nobody seemed worse from the pastime, except one young fellow who had been imbibing stronger stuff than that which was served from the gallon can.  This person was always in close company with the gentleman whose liberality supplied the company with drink, and who happened to be the inheritor of the name and fortune of the late Sir Richard Trevor, of Trevor Hall.  The two were on terms of the greatest intimacy, and were often popping in and out at the tavern door, each return being marked by a stronger manifestation of inebriety on the part of Sir Richards friend.

    "I'll tell you what, cousin," said the latter, with a very thick utterance, "this won't do.  I feel ashamed at my weakness in suffering this temptation to overcome me."

    The baronet laughed in careless glee, switched his cane in the air, and with a rollicking swagger in his manner, sang—


With my jug in one hand, and a pipe in the other,
I'll drink to my neighbours and friends.


And then, slapping his companion on the shoulder, said —

    "Come, Hugh, you're getting into a maudlin way; let's break another bottle before you turn Methodist?"

    "No railery, cousin, if you please, for I'm not in a humour for it," returned the other, with bitterness.  "This is a sad falling away from the precepts and example of our kin.  Drunk at a village wakes!  What would my poor father have said, had he been living, to have seen me in this beastly state?"

    "Tut, tut, Hugh," said Trevor, who, in bar-parlour phraseology, could "stand his drink" better than his friend, "we have never known what life was till now.  We have been like Marian's canary, hopping its day, its month, its year, round its little prison, whilst other birds were singing in the woods or in the air as if the whole summer was a holiday time to them.  Why should not we enjoy ourselves so long as we have the capacity to do so?"

    "My father," replied Hugh Horton, "your uncle, was a pious man, Sir Richard."

    "He was, and I should revere his memory for that quality if there were nothing else to recommend it."

    "His life was a quiet water, with sunshine always upon it."

    "Well?"

    "It taught us that tumultuous joys were not the most lasting, for his was a calm and holy happiness — never ruffled, never clouded; serene to the setting."

    "And the application of that metaphor to us?"

    "These are worldly enjoyments, cousin — vanities; and their indulgence would lead to sinfulness.  I feel now degraded to a degree that will require a life's virtue to counterbalance."

    "At your homilies again.  What a zealous Puritan you'd make!" and the baronet laughed again.

    "Mock me not, Sir Richard," said the other; "for I take it that when a child forgets the teachings of its parents, it takes the first step towards vice, dishonour, ruin."

    "Granted, Hugh, when those teachings have been sound; but when nature ceases to deck the earth with flowers; when the rainbow exchanges its gay vesture for a coat of drab; when music is denied the fields and woods, and we become a humdrum world of leaden spirits and colour, then only will some of the maxims with which your mind has been crammed be accounted sound philosophy."

    "There is a medium in all things, cousin," observed young Horton; "but we have overstepped that medium and plunged ourselves in dissipation, regardless of what we may feel for it to-morrow."

    "Why, man, look here!" replied his companion.  "These people whom we see carousing about us will keep up their convivialities till midnight, and on the morrow feel as little compunction about it as if they had merely been spending an hour over a neighbourly cup, whilst you are whimpering and whining because, not accustomed to drinking anything stronger than your nurse's milk, an inoffensive glass has made you fancy yourself drunk.  For shame, Hugh!  I expected better pluck from you."

    "Pluck!" retorted the other.  "It requires no pluck to do a proper thing.  It is when the soul swerves from its integrity that the kind of courage you call pluck is most required."

    "Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the baronet, "moralising over  a beer can; preaching a schoolmaster's orthodoxy at a village wakes!  Why, it's worse than a missionary on a racecourse sermonising a gang of pickpockets."

    "Jesting at good things ill becomes you," observed Horton, in whom a sense of propriety still remained, notwithstanding his drunken state.  "Joke as much as you like in the gravelled walks of common and worldly things, but as the notices in the park say —'Keep off the flower borders.'"

    "I stand rebuked.  Give me another sermon; it will be so easy to remember when the fiddle strikes up again, and the dancers begin to shake their shoulders.  Now, tell me, Hugh, in sober earnestness — for sober you must be yet — what boots it to wear a solemn face at a festival, as though the capacity for enjoyment, shared by all these good folks around, was denied to us?  Pshaw! it's as bad as wearing a mourning band on a white hat, or saying 'ashes to ashes' at a wedding."

    Hugh Horton shook his head, looked dreamily at his companion, bent another dreamy look at the people under the sycamore, some of whom were preparing for another "set-to" on the shippon door, made a very unconnected reading of the flag inscriptions over his head, and sighing, exclaimed, "I'm drunk!"

    At this juncture the sound of distant music was heard, there was a lively commotion in the tavern "fowt," and the feet of the younger people moved to the measures of the "morris dance."

    "Hurrah!" shouted the fiddler in the tree—th' rushcart's comin; an' here's owd Snapper-spring leeadin th' doancers up.  Hurrah!"

    "Now, good people," said Sir Richard Trevor, "shout, and give the dancers welcome; and just stand aside to make room for them.  Now then — Huzzah!"

    With the baronet acting as fugleman, the crowd gave a lusty cheer, and then divided on each side of the green, that the dancers might perform between.

    Bringing with them a cloud of dust, and capering to the music of a couple of fifes and a brass drum, came the merry and gaily-ribboned troop.  In advance of them, and mounted on a sorry jade of a pony, with his face turned towards the tail, rode "Owd Tum Jinks," or "Owd Snapper-spring," as he was mostly called in Waverlow.  He had marshalled the dancers at every wakes for the last five and twenty years; and from his appearance it might have been calculated that he would fill the office for five and twenty years longer.  He was dressed in a green coat, crimson breeches, and cocked hat, the latter article being set off by a fox's tail in lieu of a feather, but which hung very ungracefully upon his shoulder.  Round his neck was tied a white tablecloth for neckerchief; and what from the confinement of its thick folds, and the sweltering heat of the day, the marshal's face was as crimson as his smalls.  Occasionally the cravat would be untied and made a towel of; and with sweat and dust, and its frequent application to the latter use, the tablecloth had become a very dirty neckerchief indeed.  Our friend's steed was led by a fellow with one blue ribbon tied anyways round a very shabby hat, and whose mouth appeared to have been so habituated to slouching itself at an ale-jug, that it had produced a constant twitching of the lips, as if they were sucking at  something.  To this individual devolved the extra duty of handing up the marshal's drink, which service he performed at very short intervals, always taking care to drink twice for his master's once.  For a little private amusement, he took occasion betimes so to apply his fingers to the animal's loins as to cause it to give uneasy starts, and raise its heels too near the heads of the standers-by, when the latter would make considerably more room than was required, and "Owd Snapper-spring," seizing hold of the convenient tail in order to preserve his balance, would sing out, "Who-o-oy, Bouncer!  Doance pratty, my lad.  Gently, gently, if thou will caper!" which always drew a loud laugh from his mischievous groom.

    The "Wheel and Barrels" was regarded as a most important "baiting" place, previous to the cart and dancers setting out to Hazelworth and Birchwood, where the principal harvest of sight-money was to be gathered; so leaving his tit in charge of the groom, Jinks descended from the saddle, and made a great demonstration under the sycamore; which demonstration consisted in, at first, seizing hold of three bouncing girls, one after another, and hugging them until they screamed again.  That part of the ceremony finished, he next made up to an elderly dame, who, with chocolate napkin tied primly over her head, stood looking admiringly on; and taking her by both hands, commenced capering so madly in front of her, that if provoked the old girl to imitate his movements, which she did with hearty goodwill, and with a dexterity most astounding for her age.

    "Now lads an' wenches, sixty-five next tharcake time;  an' I could doance a pair o' clogs off my feet just now.  Eh, eh, it's th' wakes time once mooer, an' we'n as bonny a cart as ever wur drawn out of a hole, [6] an' as good a set o' doancers as ever cocked up a heel.  See how they're comin yonder, like a little regiment.  An' th' wenches, too, are doancin, bless 'em!  Eh, ut I wur but yunk!  Ailse, bless thee, art thou here?  We'n doancet monny a time t' gether at a greawt neet; ha' no' we, owd gel?  Lord, how grand thou art!"

    These latter sentences were addressed to the landlady of the "Wheel and Barrels," who, notwithstanding that her years were getting close upon "Owd Tum's," had surrounded her face with quite a garland of artificial flowers, ribbons, and the like, and was bustling amongst her outside customers with the activity of a stirring dame of thirty-five.

    "And how grand you are, neighbour!" returned "mine hostess," tossing her head as a rushcart horse would its garland — the ribbons making such a pretty flutter.  "If your Letty wasn't in the way, you'd have all the widows in Waverlow setting their caps at you.  But, I say, don't you see what strange visitors we've got yonder?"  and she motioned with her ribbons towards a retired bench, where Sir Richard Trevor and Hugh Horton were seated, or rather lounging.

    "Eh, the deuce, Ailse!" exclaimed "Snapper-spring," "what'll happen th' next, I wonder?"

    "They've been here all morning, drinking wine as if it was only fourpenny ale at threepence out.  I never saw Mr. Hugh in that state before, nor, indeed, Sir Richard neither."

    "I'll tell thee what, Ailse," said Tum, with a sort of private information wink; "if Sir Dicky has paid for owt t' drink, it's gone — tlk; down his own throat.  He isno' of a givin sort.  He wouldno' let th' childer get the nettles out of his doytch backin, if he could help it."

    "But he's been treating all that would come, to gallon after gallon, that I've filled myself," said the landlady.

    Jink's whistled.

    "Ther's summat up, then," he said, in a very confidential manner.  "As for him, I wouldno' care if he drunk till his nose wur like a bunch o' reddishes; but as for Mr. Hugh — he're aulus a steady, good-heartut lad, an' I should be soory if owt bad coome o'er him.  But I mun mount this war tit o' mine, an' clear th' fowt for a doance; for th' lads are here, I yer.  Heigh, heigh, wenches! mak reaum for owd Snapper-spring, an' mind my tit doesno' ride o'er yo'.  Come, Spuddle," addressing his attendant; "gi'e me a leg on, wilta?  'That's it.  Hurrah!"

    "Spuddle" gave the steed one of his magic touches, after lifting its master to the saddle; and the touch caused it to elevate its heels till they reached the ale can which stood on the extemporised table, and sent its contents splashing about in a most alarming manner; the steed continuing its diversion despite the coaxings of "Owd Tum" and the screams of the young people near.

    The morris dancers, numbering twelve couples, now made their appearance in front of the "Wheel and Barrels," and they formed in line over the "fowt."  The band (i.e. the two fifes and drum), following the example of a full brass ditto, closed in what should have been a circle, but which was unavoidably a triangle, on the alehouse step, and commenced rattling off the morris tune in jovial earnest.  The dancers set their legs and arms in motion; their knotted handkerchiefs waved and twirled about; their ribbons fluttered and presented every variety of colour to the gladdened eyes of the spectators; and before they had got to "cross morris three times o'er!" there was not a lass of any pretensions to womanhood who did not imagine herself dying for very love of every lad in the ranks."

    "Owd Snapper-spring," seated behind his horse's tail, which from baldness and frequent pulling stuck out from the animal's rump like a broken pump-handle, surveyed with complacent admiration the gay and lively scene before him, and when the knotted handkerchiefs were thrown up, and the drum gave a final roll that told the dance was concluded, he turned to the groom with a thirsty look and said:—

    "Spuddle, look after th' drink, or else we shanno' get us share" — an injunction that did not require repeating.

    After all had been served with the customary allowance of beer, "Spuddle" getting as usual a double share, the dancers reformed in line, with the band in the centre; "Bouncer" made a spasmodic effort to trot to the front, and at the signal "March on" from their marshal, the whole moved off the green on their way to Hazelworth.

    Then the rushcart announced itself by a violent ringing of the horses' bells, and the loud cracking of its whipsters.   Another fife and drum squealed and rattled to the tune of "'Twas on the morn of sweet May Day," and directly the smartly-bedecked pageant presented its gaudy front to the equally gay exterior of the "Wheel and Barrels."  The green silk flag of the "United Free Gardeners" waved a greeting to the dusty tri-colour that led the cart, and which was now fluttering in difficult display amongst the projecting boughs of the sycamore; the horses tossed their heads, and shook their bells with all the pride belonging to their distinguished office; the stalwart carters engaged in cracking matches about the crowded door; and everybody in turn expressed their admiration of the well-built proportions of the chief object of attraction, and an expression of mingled delight and triumph sparkled from all eyes.  It was universally acknowledged to be a much finer rushcart than the one that Hazelworth had last turned out; that the sheet displayed a greater value of plate; that the garlands were more artistically made, and that the horses carried an additional "ring o' bells."

    After all looked-for compliments had been exhausted, and the can had intimated its reluctance to serve any more ale by turning itself upside down, the horses gave a spirited pull, the cart veered round, the little flags on the top were waved, the life and drum tuned up, and, amidst the many-voiced acclamations of the crowd, the pageant followed in the wake of the morris dancers.

    When Snapper-spring mounted his "Rosinante" to lead up his men, he was observed to make two very polite bows to a couple of gentlemen in Her Majesty's uniform, who were quietly enjoying their pipes at one of the tavern  windows.  These gentlemen were recruiting sergeants, who, expecting to do a little business amongst the young men who frequented the wakes, were waiting for a proper opportunity to commence their calling.  It was too early yet to throw in their lines, as the fish were not likely to bite until they were in that peculiarly valiant mood which sets consequences at defiance.  They had been watching the proceedings of the two individuals whom we introduced in the beginning of the chapter, and who had for some time been passive spectators of the scenes in front of the ale-house.

    One of the latter party, overcome by the influence of the "alcohol" he had imbibed, could hardly refrain from going to sleep; whilst his friend, much the fresher of the two, was leisurely smoking a cigar, and nodding acquaintance to the two military gentlemen across the "fowt."  At length one of the soldiers left the window and appeared with a gay cockade in his hat at the door.  Beckoning to the gentleman with the cigar, who happened to be Sir Richard Trevor, and strutting with a martial swagger across the way, the sergeant bade the baronet "good morning."

    "Good morning, my gallant fire-eater," exclaimed the latter.  "What bounty would you offer for a likely recruit if he were to offer himself?"

    "Five pounds and kit, and the chance of a pension for five years' service," replied the officer.

    "Hand me the shilling, then; I'm your man."  And the baronet held out his hand to the sergeant, who gave it a rude grasp, at the same time muttering over the ceremonial of enlistment.

    Hugh Horton had not observed this proceeding, for, yielding at last to the influence of sleep, he laid his head down upon the table, and was soon oblivious of all that was passing around him.  Had his eyes been opened, he might have noticed the ominous hand-shaking — the "hail-fellow" salutations exchanged between his companion and the new acquaintance, and might have drawn some kind of conclusions from the ceremony of removing the cockade from the sergeant's hat to the one worn by Sir Richard, and the latter gentleman's apparent delight at the exchange.  Being locked, however, in the arms of Morpheus, Hugh did not witness these things; otherwise, the scene would have had quite a different denouement to that which, unfortunately for him, it was destined to have.

    The enlistment completed, the officer returned to the inn to join his comrade, inviting his recruit to follow; and the latter intimated his intention to be with them presently, and pledge the first cup in the service of Queen and country.  But the officer's back was no sooner turned than Sir Richard whipped the cockade from his own hat and fastened it to that of his unconscious companion; then, dropping the "shilling" (which was marked) in the latter's pocket, suddenly disappeared.

    "Ay, well; cliverly managed, Sir Dick," said a voice from behind, the voice being the property of an individual whose presence there at that time could hardly have been expected by the runaway baronet.  "Cliverly done, owd lad!  It seems some folks can ha' fun wi' things ut others hardly dar look at; but it's dangerous, too, playin a game ut gradely soldiers, if they are great folk.  Well, well; it's  nowt to me.  Let 'em ha' their frolic.  Goo on, Spuddle, if the devilment 'll stir."

    The maker of these observations was no other than Snapper-spring, who, with all the coaxing, lashing, and tail-twisting that he had applied to his "charger," backed by the peculiar but excellent persuasions of his attendant, had failed to induce the wayward animal to move one single step up the brow leading to Hazelworth, and was now making his retreat towards the stable at Waverlow.  The party passed on, and, just as they quitted the "fowt," the sergeant returned to see after his recruit.  He looked round, and, observing Hugh Horton taking it comfortably in his corner, slapped him on the shoulder, and bade him "Attention!"

    Hugh rolled his head, lifted it, then stared with a look expressive of astonishment at the soldier.

    "Come, young man; it's time we were marching," said the sergeant, trying to look good-humouredly at his charge.

    The latter opened his eyes still wider, gazed at the strange badge attached to his hat, then again at the soldier, and, rousing himself by a spring to his feet, the truth, or what he took to be the truth, of his situation flashed upon his mind.

    "You don't mean to say that I've enlisted, do you, sir?" exclaimed the young man.

    "I do mean to say that you've said the word and taken the shilling," replied the other.  "Search your pockets, and see if you haven't got some strange money upon you."

    Hugh did so, and produced from his waistcoat pocket a shilling marked with the initials "S. C."

    "There it is — 'S. C.' — Sergeant Coppin," said the officer.  "Now, then, are you ready?"

    The young man put on his hat with the cockade streaming from it, took up his cane, which lay beside him, and, smiting the table with all the violence that sudden passion — the passion of despair — prompted, exclaimed, "O God, that I should have been such a fool!  All, all is now lost, and for ever!"

 
――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER II.


TIMOTHY HORTON, when a young man, had quite romantic notions of marriage and married life.  He was not very rich, but possessed a comfortable independence, and instead of mixing with the world, as the world was according to his notions, he preferred the "love in a cottage" sort of life, with one or two quiet neighbours, and plenty of sweet country about him.  This ideal he had kept constantly before him from boyhood; and when his turn came to manage the property his father had accumulated during a life of successful industry, Timothy looked about him for the wife of his peculiar fancy, and marked out the foundation for the life he had sketched in his dreams.

    He was not long in finding the wife; she had grown up near him.  He thought there was not a prettier girl in all Birchwood than she was.  He had walked out in company with her and others on summer mornings at larkrise, played soft airs for her on a flute in some hidden nook by the river, she listening at a distance to the melody.  He saw more of her than of any other girl, though he fancied he saw less; and when she removed with her father to Highfield, he thought the country up there was much prettier than it had ever appeared to him before; though there were only a few green fields, lines of monotonous hedges, a farm or two of no pretensions, and a small unpicturesque hamlet.  It must have been the presence of his enchantress that lent a charm to the place.  Yes, it was.  But, strange, Timothy had never thought about this girl as his wife, until one evening, after not having seen her for weeks past, he met her at a style near Highfield, and they chatted together for a very long time.  What was he strolling up there for?  He had no business in that quarter.

    In a few weeks after this meeting there was an interesting ceremony performed at "St. Swid's," at which there were only about six people present; and a young and beautiful bride was led thence to a home where anyone must have loved and have been happy.

    The "Dovecot" was just such a place as suited Timothy Horton's taste and temperament.  It was a quaintly-built dwelling, had a little antiquity to boast, and the gardens and meadows around it, rich in plants and herbage, with healthy fruit trees and clumps of wildwood, were included in the purchase.  It required no effort of the imagination to fashion the abode into what its name suggested; for a child would have called it such, had it known anything about pigeons and their haunts.  Besides, there was always a flock either strutting about the grounds or taking circular flights about the chimneys; and their cooing might have been the only sound ever heard in the vicinity.  The structure was of no acknowledged style of architecture.  It resembled mostly a child's cardboard toy-house, with a roof formed into three points, and a grey, roughcast front, pierced by a number of such comical-looking windows that it might, indeed, have been taken for a pigeon-house on a large scale.

    A charming life did Timothy and his partner lead for the first two years after their marriage.  A child was born to them.  A delicate little thing it was at first; but the father was so proud of it that when the mother fell sick and died, as did happen before the little one could "toddle," he mourned her death more for the child's sake than his own.  For its sake he resolved never to re-marry, as he could not reconcile his mind to the idea of the youngster's being committed to the care of a stepmother.  So, when the deceased wife was laid in the little churchyard of Welbrook, and the osiers and flowers were planted over and around the grave, the widowed squire set himself the task of bringing up little Hugh with the spoon and feeding bottle.  But the patient rebelled against this kind of nursing.  He would not take his food, but chose rather to spill it on his clothes when it was offered him; and his poor arms grew thinner and thinner, and his legs shrank in his socks.  He wailed night and day; would suck his fingers, and call "Mam, mam, mam," till the distracted father could bear it no longer, but took occasional fits of grief at seeing the poor thing so wan and fretful.  At last he resolved upon procuring a nurse in addition to the servant he already kept; and for this end he applied one day to the governor of the workhouse at Birchwood, to see if that worthy could find him a suitable person among the paupers.

    The following morning a young woman, very bashful, very timid, made her appearance at the "Dovecot," bringing with her a letter from the governor of the workhouse, addressed to Mr. Horton.  This letter described the bearer as "a very proper person to engage the duties of a nurse."  She was "a good creature," had been "unfortunate," was "without friends," had first come to the workhouse to be confined, and had since remained as an assistant to the matron.  "Hers is a sad history," the governor further wrote.  And Timothy, without reading any more, opened wide his door, took from the young woman her bonnet and shawl, with such a tenderness in his manner that the poor girl burst into tears, and thanked him with her full, sobbing heart, so earnestly.  And how beautiful she looked in her tears! thought Timothy.  "Deceived by some wretch or other," no doubt.  Nay, he was sure that was one of the events of her "sad history."  He could see it, and henceforth he was that man's enemy, whoever he might be-the monster!

    "There, now," said he, "look upon this as your future home.  Be kind to this poor rat here, and I'll be a — ;" he was going to say he would be a "father" to her — I am sure he was, though he would not be much older than the young woman herself.  But he put it off by saying it was so awkward being left that way.

    "The governor does not say whether a — whether — your child is living."

    "It is living, sir," said the nurse.

    "And where is it then — why have you not brought it with you?" inquired Mr. Horton.

    "Master Howard said I was to leave it at the house; they could nurse it there," sobbed the girl, a fresh flood of tears following.

    "Nonsense," exclaimed the squire, "that will never do; deprive a child of its mother for the sake of a stranger!  Now, just take this little hungry fellow, and give him the breast; then you can go back to the house and fetch your own child, and the two can be playfellows together.  But stop; I'll go myself.  Yes, that I will.  Now, whatever you require, name it to Betsy; I shan't be long away.  Perhaps you'll know each other better when I return."  So, taking his hat, Mr. Horton set out on his strange errand to the workhouse.

    He was longer away than he expected to have been — an hour longer — for he had to have a chat with the governor about his servant and the little object of his errand, which he dandled on his knee with all the fondness of a parent, even if it was dressed in coarse, pauper clothes.  The child of the unfortunate young woman was a girl, about six months old.  A fine baby, however, for its age, with short, light hair, that Timothy said would be "golden," and such blue eyes — so roguish already — and a sweetness all over it, that its nurse could not help uncovering its face and kissing it.  Many a time would he stop on the road to have a little conversation with his new acquaintance, which, perhaps, no one but Mr. Horton could interpret, except such phrases as "Did 'em do?"  "Was its papa naughty?" and "Would it come to its mamma, and its little Hugh, and its nuncle?"

    When the squire reached home he found his son asleep  on the nurse's knee.  His face was so calm, and had settled with such a rosy smile upon it, that the father's heart was moved with a tender joy at the happy change; and two little flowers that were destined to twine round each other in brotherly and sisterly love, drew their nourishment at the same fount that day; and in the evening lay in the same cot, and closed their eyes to the lullaby which the nurse and mother sang in the little room with its tree- shaded windows, through which the sun sent a chequered ray that made the scene a sweet and holy one to behold.

    The summer passed, and the winter; and summer came again.  Little Hugh grew into a merry boy, fond of dirt and pigeons; and his sister, Marian, as he would call his companion, unfolded her beauty like an opening lily; and the father and "nuncle" was so fond of both that he would take them over the meadows for whole days at once, and perhaps return home with one in his arms and the other on his back, and with sheaves of flowers hanging about him.

    The "Dovecot" was a little paradise again.  The nurse became housekeeper, and many a one believed that, had not Timothy Horton made a vow against second marriage, Mistress Martha would sometime have been more than servant to the squire.  But he did not so soon forget his old love.  Many a time was he found gazing on her portrait, which hung in his study, and his spirit would appear subdued at such times, and a chastening melancholy would come over him.  But Hugh's prattle and little Marian's Sweet looks would soon dispel such feelings, as they each claimed a knee; and Marian's mother would come and sing, for she had a soft, plaintive voice, and would sing love  songs of simple village maidens, their joys and sorrows, and the one passion of their fresh hearts, whose requital was their dream and hope of life.  On some of these occasions Mr. Horton would inquire into her history; and when she retired, after having given a painful but modest account of her sufferings and their cause, he would mutter over something like very savage cursing, but which was not quite so wicked as it sounded; and such terms as "infamous scoundrel," "base deceiver," "unmitigated scamp," would form the tail of his denunciations.

    The lass had been housemaid to a captain in the Dragoons, once quartered at Birchwood, but now serving on a foreign station.  He was a consummate libertine, and more than one poor girl had fallen through his practices.  Martha was his last victim, and so incensed was the squire at the heartless conduct of the seducer that he abhorred the very profession he belonged to, and looked upon a redcoat with such disfavour that he consigned a famous battle picture to the lumber-room, and made a perfect blackamoor of the wooden sergeant that was constantly exercising on a post in the garden.  He was often heard to say that if ever his son took to "soldiering" he would disown him; nay, he would disinherit him — a resolution which he kept until his dying day.

    "Now, Hugh," he would sometimes say, as the youngster grew up, "no powder-burning for you.  You shall be a doctor or a lawyer, or else a parson."  The latter profession meeting with the most favour from the youth.

    Timothy had a sister — an only one.  They called her the "Belle of Birchwood."  It was not that she was extraordinarily pretty that she had this title given to her.  But she possessed a good share of personal attractions.  She was, however, vain, capricious, haughty; fond of dress and show.  She had other qualities, too, that hardly became a true woman.  Her brother was proud of her, notwithstanding.  In the largeness of his heart he overlooked her failings, and saw nothing in her but a woman fit to be adored by princes.  The old baronet of Trevor Hall bowed to her from his carriage one Sunday, and it somehow fell out that in a few months after she became Lady Trevor, and was prouder of herself than ever.  This lady was older than her brother, and was mistress of Trevor Hall before the romance of the "Dovecot" commenced.  She sometimes visited the latter place, but could not bear "that Martha."  She was sure that the woman must have practised some kind of witchcraft upon her brother, or he never would have had her near him.

    One child was the only issue of this marriage, but it was a boy, and Sir Richard was quite reconciled to future unfruitfulness if this son should live to become his heir.  The child did live, and was a frequent visitor at the "Dovecot," where he found much pleasurable companionship in the society of Hugh and Marian.  The latter had grown up into a most ladylike girl.  As her fosterfather had predicted, her hair was a beautiful light gold.  Her eyes, from their childish roguishness, had become soft and tender in their expression, and her general demeanour had a tinge of melancholy about it.  She was, in every respect, a lovely creature.  Even Lady Trevor admitted that she was, perhaps, as pretty as a pauper could be — a compliment  which, doubtless, meant more than the term expressed.  Nor were Marian's attractions lost upon others.  She was not the flower to "blush unseen," nor "waste its sweetness" upon nothing.  Her charms had so won upon the heir to the Trevor estate that a confession of love was one day conveyed in a pink note from the Hall to the "Dovecot," but never hinted at in either word or manner by Marian.  She was, if anything, colder towards the future baronet; but he did not regard this shyness in other than a favourable light, and if he did not press his suit at that time, it was because he looked forward to a better opportunity.  His father died in the meantime, and when the day would come that the country would rejoice over the attainment of his majority, the title of "Lady Trevor" would be too much to be refused by a workhouse girl, now dependent on his uncle's bounty.  There were things led him to suspect that his cousin had made some impression on Marian's heart — a suspicion that soon got confirmed, by hearing from Hugh's own lips that there was a mutual attachment between them.

    It was true enough.  The girl was all blushes once because she imagined Mr. Horton was giving her a searching look; and she blushed deeper still when Hugh took courage to "breathe out the tender tale," which he did one evening in the little arbour where they had played as children together.

    Mr. Horton never knew of this love; but somehow he came to look upon Marian's union with his nephew as a possible event in the family history.  Lady Trevor, too, had begun to suspect that her son's frequent visits to the  "Dovecot" were induced by something more than his attachment to his uncle and cousin, and these suspicions were materially strengthened by a communication from the servant who bore the love-message from his young master to his inamorata.  The lady was not, as may be supposed, averse to such a match.  There were good families in Birchwood whose alliance would not have disgraced the Trevor escutcheon; but their daughters had nothing of the novel heroine about them — and Lady Trevor was fond of romance.  There was something romantic connected with Marian's birth and subsequent adoption; and, as Mr. Horton had hinted his intention to endow her with as much of his fortune as a daughter might naturally look for, the contemplated match would be as eligible as a moderate ambition could desire.

    "Dick shall marry the chit," Timothy said, during a conference he had with his sister at Trevor Hall.  "I know he loves her, and I'm sure she could love anyone that was deserving of it, she's such a heart.  What a treasure that wretch of a father flung away when he deserted her mother!  I hate the scoundrel for it, and ever shall."

    Strange that the son was never thought of by the father during these interviews.  Lady Trevor once named the omission to her brother.

    "Oh," said he, "Hugh will remain a bachelor.  I should have been one myself had I not known his mother; and the boy has just my ways with him — walks out on evenings by himself; fond of solitude and philosophical books; moralises like a sage; and would not complete  'Tom Jones' on any account.  I like him all the better for it.  I think he will take naturally to parsoning, and I shall encourage him that way if he does."

    "Don't you think, brother, a commission in the army would suit him better," observed Lady Trevor, smiling peevishly as she said it.

    "You know my sentiments in that quarter," replied Timothy, jumping up as if something had stung him.  "Don't mention such a thing again, sister, neither in jest nor earnest.  By my faith, Lady Trevor, I'd as lief see him doing duty in front of Newgate, taking life by legal strangling, as adopt the profession of those who esteem it the highest earthly glory to be cutting one another's throats, or pricking their bodies like pincushions.  No, no; Hugh must be a parson, and save souls rather than destroy them."

    One evening Marian and Mr. Horton walked out together; for the squire loved a stroll in company with his adopted daughter.  They had rambled on as far as Welbrook Church, a favourite haunt of Mr. Horton's, as the little graveyard contained the remains of one truly beloved in her days, and whose memory was still cherished by her husband with the devotion of a being who has only one faith — one affection in the world.  The air was damp and chill, and the squire leaned on the tombstone longer than usual; whilst Marian trimmed the plants and flowers there, and bestowed a loving touch on the daisies that grew over a little stranger child which had been found in the river two years before, and which was buried at Mr. Horton's expense.

    As the squire left the churchyard he was seized with a violent shivering.  His hands and face grew hot, and before he could reach home all the symptoms of fever had set in.  That night he took his bed, and never left it alive.  In less than a fortnight from thence, the flowers and osiers, so lately trimmed, had to be disturbed, and Timothy Horton joined his beloved wife in "the sleep that knows no waking?"

    This event caused a great change in affairs at the "Dovecot."  Hugh had not come of age at the time of his father's death; and the nephew, Sir Richard Trevor, was made the squire's sole executor.  It was discovered in the will that Mr. Horton had carried out his long formed intentions with regard to his son.  All his wealth, with the exception of a dowry for Marian, and a small legacy for her mother, was left to his son, with the conditions before intimated.  In the event of the latter joining the army, his share of the property would pass to the nephew and executor, Sir Richard Trevor."

    The conditions of his inheritance did not give Hugh any uneasiness at first, as his thoughts and aspirations had never turned towards a military life.  He was content to be plain Squire Horton, or the "Young Squire;" to be loved by Marian; and to indulge the prospect of living honoured and happy days in the home of his childhood.  This might have been his lot, had not the spoiler been near; had his inheritance been more humble, or had Marian been less pretty.  But Sir Richard, though he did not press his suit to the young lady, still hovered about the "Dovecot" with a constancy that, to a jealous mind, might have betrayed some purpose beyond mere friendship.

Hugh, had, however, too much confidence in human nature to observe anything strange or sinister in the conduct of his kinsman, and regarded his visits as induced by ties of relationship and the purer motives of an esteem founded on childhood's affection. It was not a secret now the attachment of Hugh and Marian. It was known at Trevor Hall and throughout the village of Wellbrook, a happy event, and a happier one still, were looked forward to with impatient expectation, when there would be rare doings at the "Dovecot."

It wanted only a few weeks of young Horton's majority, when the bells of a distant church proclaimed the festivities of "Waverlow wakes."

"Come, cousin," said Sir Richard, as the two young men stood listening to the bells, "it is long since I saw a rushcart, and they say there is to be a pretty one at Waverlow to-day. What say you to driving over there Will you go "

There was no harm in looking at a rushcart, nor even watching the morris dancers. "Yes " Hugh would go. And what a deep design had Sir Richard formed to entrap his cousin, companion, and friend, might be seen in the events of the preceding chapter. He had aimed at disinheriting Hugh by inducing him to violate the conditions upon which his patrimony depended. He hoped by this diabolical project, not only to make Hugh dependent upon his generosity, but to remove him out of the way of his hitherto unsuccessful suit to Marian for how could she regard with favour one who had thrown away fortune, position, and the precepts of his early training for the life of a common soldier?

He knew not what the heart of a true woman was, the designing villain  He had often felt there was little love on his mother's part towards his father that there was more outward show of grief than inward mourning at his death and he measured other women's affections by that standard.

The first step of his scheme had succeeded, and why should not the rest follow  He would be proprietor of the "Dovecot" now, at all events. Marian and her mother would be at his mercy. Hugh, ashamed of the act of folly he had committed, would never return home, even if he should purchase his liberty  so that the castle Sir Richard Trevor was building looked strong of foundation and would it not be as complete a structure ere long as was ever fashioned out of airy materials?

Oh Sir Richard, did not a remembrance come over you of the time when, as children, you played together when you took each other's hand in the sweet innocence of your childhood; when the "Dovecot" was a bower to you, and you were of its demesnes like the twin flowers of one stalk, blossoming together Surely you remembered not this or why have you shut out the beauty of it from your soul by one fell act that must blight your future for ever?


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER III.


"OWD TIM JINKS," like many others who are fond of getting "a glass," which I take to mean any number of glasses, from a dozen to its quadruple, was naturally very thirsty on the morning following the wakes. He had studied all kinds of excuses for getting out of the house comfortably  but, not having hit upon a special one which would convince his wife that it was more from a sense of duty or necessity than from a desire to relieve the headache or the parched condition of his throat that he wished to have a walk over to the other end of the village, he determined upon going at all hazards, whether old Letty had a mind or not.

    With this purpose firmly fixed, Tum took advantage of his wife's temporary absence in the back yard, and the next minute he might have been seen rounding the hillside in the direction of the "Wheel and Barrels," whither the prospect of a "fresh-drawn pint" was urging him.  He had laid aside his red breeches and green coat, and put on his weaving apparel and, minus hat and jacket, his white apron and shirtsleeves fluffing in the breeze, and his hair blown up into any number of ridges, "Snapper-spring" made straight for his favourite tavern nook.

    There were a few like himself lounging about the "fowt," but these were evidently "spent up," or they preferred the cooler atmosphere outside to being stifled in the already crowded rooms of the alehouse.  There was more talking than drinking going on, both among outsiders and insiders, the previous day's proceedings affording plenty of gossip to the talkative portion, and Tum found himself to be a sort of "lion" before he had got properly seated.  The landlady's tongue had been set in motion almost as early as her hands and feet that morning, and it had continued wagging, with only the intervals of drawing ale, until our friend had reached his corner, when, observing the latter's "rumpled topping" and hearing the smacking manner in which he asked for his "pint," she came towards him, and in a tone of voice which I have no doubt was intended for a whisper, said, as she set down the pot

    "Jinks, I want to speak to you in the kitchen."

    "Well, I'll be wi' thee, owd gel, in a couple o' picko'ers," responded Jinks, dipping his nose into his "pint," and making a very graceful curve with his elbow as it went upwards.

    Having drained the measure to nothing but froth, Snapper-spring followed the landlady into the kitchen, where another fresh-drawn twopennyworth was immediately deposited in a kind of "pigeon-hole" in the nook.

    Tum loved the kitchen, even on a hot summer's day, and especially when the hearthstone was greasy with cooking, and three or four pans were playing at "hug-a-back" on the fire.  He loved to see the poker raking the bottom bar of the grate, and to hear the clanking of the oven door, and the hissing noise coming from within.  He loved to see rolling-pins knocking about like skittles on the dresser, and in pair of wholesome-looking arms up to the elbows in the kneading trough and he loved, too, to see the flowers wagging their heads at the window, as if they wanted to come in and drink, like very thirsty flowers that they were.

    Jinks, admiring these, the more pleasant associations of alehouse kitchen life, felt just then as though he should like to be a landlord the rest of his days, if it was only to be among such good things as he saw about him and when the landlady came in, and mixed the odours of the garden with those of the kitchen as she "wafted" past, and the dairy door opened and let in another rich smell, how grateful to every sense was the whole atmosphere of the place!

    "You saw those soldiers who were here yesterday," observed the landlady, as she seated herself in a chair that resembled, from its dimensions, a high-backed sofa on rockers.

    "Ay, two on 'em," replied Tom.

    "They've come many wakes together, but I never saw that they got anything by coming before yesterday."

    "Hum " grunted the weaver, as if he wished the landlady to think that he, in some measure, at least, comprehended her meaning, which he did not.

    "They've tried very hard beforetime to get some of our lads about to list, but they've more sense now-a-days."

    "Ay, now-a-days" chimed in Tum.

    "But not all of them, I am sorry to say."

    Jinks rubbed up his face, and endeavoured to look intelligent.

    "One young man, as I was going to tell you, sold himself yesterday to the soldiers, and I should be very sorry, I'm sure, if it was through the drink he'd had.  I never to my knowledge saw him here before, and I wish he had never come at all."

    "Whoa's that?"

    "The young squire."

    "What  Squire Horton?"

    "Yes, Squire Horton."

    "No, belike!"

    "He's 'listed, and gone off, and weary work there's been."

    The weaver raised his hand to his forehead, which he scratched for a considerable time with his fingers, as if he wished to bring to a distinct recollection something of which only a very faint trace was left on his memory.

    "There's summat wrung about that," he said, at length "I'm sure there is.  An' if this yead o' mine wur no' like a pokeful o' pooins ut they couldno' get a single eend [7] out on, I could ha' towd what it wur.  Thou sees what it is, Ailse, t'have a pint or two too mich."

    "Well, I'm sorry — very sorry indeed," said the landlady.  "Such a nice young man, too!"

    "I know summat, an' yet I dunno' know for what's th' use o' knowin owt if they conno' think on?"

    "That's just like knowing nothing at all," said the landlady, with a smile.

    "Thou'rt reet, Ailse I desarve my yead jowin till it's as thick as a barrel eend for forgettin.  I'st think on, too, sometime mind if I dunno'.  An' he's gone off, is he?"

    "Went off this morning, with one of the soldiers."

    "Wurno' Sir Richard, fro' th' Ho, with him yesterday?"

    "Yes  they were drinking together nearly all day."

    "An' didno" he 'list, too?"

    "No, I should think not."

    "Well, he owt t' ha' done, then."

    "He made sad work when Master Horton and he parted.  He cried bitterly."

    "Ay! Did he cry? I could like t' ha' seen his tears, too.  I've a notion they'd ha' poisoned him if he'd swallowed 'em.  They'd ha' ta'en th' grease out of a sarcenet cut, I'll be bun."

    "Why, isn't Sir Richard a very decent gentleman?" asked the landlady.

    "Oh, yigh he's a dacent sort of a chap i' one sense.  Taks care o'th' odd number, thou knows an' he's very liberal when he gi'es owt, too.  One's no right t' say nowt about folk when they're deead  but his feyther ud ha' robbed a church if he could ha' done it beaut bein fun' out, he're so keen o' havin howd o' brass.  I know o th' brun on 'em, an' this young un's as good a chicken o' th' breed as ever wur hatcht.  He'd flee the owd lad for his skin if he wurno' feeart o' brimstone; that he would."

    "Sir Richard would not thank you, if he heard what you are saying of him, I think," said the landlady.

    "Nor I shouldno' thank him to be hearkenin," replied Snapper-spring.  "But I'll tell thee what, Ailse.  Trayvor Ho wurno' wo'th as mich brass a hundert year sin' as it is now, by mony a round lump.  If th' lond wur messurt up now, they'd find a deeal moore acres nor ever th' owd Dick of o drew rent for.  An' if it's bin comen by honestly, same as me buyin a pint o' ale off thee, or thee givin me one, as thou does th' mornin after a fuddle, my name isno' Tom Jinks."

    "What tales you tell!" exclaimed the landlady.  "Jenny, attend to the taproom; hear how they're knocking."  The latter sentence was addressed to the daughter, who had hitherto been busied in the kitchen.

    "Tales!" said Jinks, "I could tell thee a Bibleful, if I'd a mind for sometimes I goo o'er to Welbruck, an when I get peearcht wi' owd Jack Planker, at back o' th' Knowe, theer — we very oft getten a pot'll or two at the 'Jolly Butcher' — he'll set to an' tell me o th' news there is gooin  an' one-hauve's welly sure to be about th' folk at th' Ho.  Owd Jack is a very fause an' far-larnt chap, an' he's plans of o th' farms about, booath as they are now an' as they wur i' owd George's days.  There's bin some rare hanky-pankyin, wench, if thou knew o.  They'n stown moore common nor o th' londlorts for mony a mile every road; an' they say'n this young un 'll ha' th' Pigeon-cote afore he's mony year owder for he's th' karicter o' bein greedier than o ut's gone before him."

    "I have heard them say he was a little near," observed the landlady, "but he paid me for everything they had yesterday, and seemed to care nothing about it."

    "Thee spake weel o' th' bridge ut carries thee safe o'er th' bruck, Ailse; but it strikes me just now ut if he're so fond o' payin for drink he'd some wrinkle for doin' so, beside what's reet and gradely.  Thou may depend on't that wur th' case.  But I wish young Horton hadno' gone off.  I think I could ha' put him up to a thing or two, ut ud ha' saved his bae'n."

    "And what might it be, pray?"

    "Nay, blame this owd pot-bo o' mine, for I conno' just bethink me now.  If th' lad wur here, it would be a sort of a cleearin up for me, thou sees.  'Ods cuss it; fotch me another pint."

    Another pint was fetched, and just as the landlady was reseating herself, the nose and lips of Spuddle were seen projecting beyond the "speer."

    "Hallo, Spuddle, owd lad," exclaimed Jinks; "wilt' sup?"

    The ex-groom did not say "nawe" to this invitation; it was not expected that he would; for the pot went up to his lips, which were engaged in their peculiar flapping motion, before he could muster courage to refuse it, even had he possessed the inclination.

    "I say, just bring that index meshee o' thine round th' table," said Tom, alluding to Spuddle's face, which appeared to be stuck full of short pegs, like the roller of the machine which the other had compared it to.

    "Thou seed thoose two so'diers hangin about here yesterday, didt' no'?"

    "Ther chee (three)," replied Spuddle, dropping himself on a stool like a brick setting in a wall.

    "Nobbo two, mon  thou swetty!"

    "I chay ther chee."

    "Wheay, if theau hadno' skenned wurr than a deein cawve, I could ha' believed thee," said Jinks; "but thou could aulus see moore nor anybody else."

    "Ther one went to'art We'bruck—yechterday—come back thich mornin—five o' clock—a woman wi' him—an' a box in a cart."

    "A woman an' a box an' a cart?  What art' talking about, mon?"

    "Ay th' houchkeeper at th' Pigeon-cote, I chink it wur."

    Owd Snapper-spring staggered in his seat as if someone had dropped a "pile-mo'" on his head from behind the speer.  Laying his fist on the table with an emphasis that made even his companion wink — he exclaimed —

    "By owd Sam, Ailse, ther's a treddle-bant broken theere!  That chap's as sure him as th' housekeeper happent that misfortin by, as I'm wick and limber i' this nook!"

    "Chure he ij," said Spuddle, clinching his testimony by an extra movement of his mouth, and a peculiar rolling of one eye.

    "Bless me!" exclaimed the landlady.

    "An' hoo's gone wi' him, after o," said Jinks.  "Eh, wimmin!  Tee a red rag round a stump, an' they'n flutter about it like midges at a candle.  I owt to go down on my knees now an' thank my Makker for takkin my wench afore her yed wur turnt, or onny varment had been nee her.  I could cuss now till I dostno' go t' bed, for t' think ut th' snickets hanno' moore sense."

    "It's a chin an' a chawm, while therj dachent young chaps here," put in Spuddle.

    "Thou'd ha' no cagion t' put thisel on th' hooks," said Snapper-spring, with a peevish grin upon his face.  "If thou're daubt o'er an inch thick wi' cart paint nob'dy ud follow thee."  At which Spuddle and the landlady laughed heartily.

    "Well, it's a pity, that it is," observed the latter, changing from her cheerful manner to a look and tone of sympathy.  "I should have thought she'd suffered too much before to have gone and thrown herself away a second time.  And that daughter of hers.  They say there isn't a prettier lass in Welbrook than she is.  The young squire would have married her, no doubt, if this had not happened.  He would have come of age in a week or two, I heard them saying in the taproom."

    "Ther'd ha' bin rare dooins at th' Pigeon-cote, then eh, Spuddle?" observed Jinks.

    "Chup, chup, chup," responded the ex-groom's lips.

    "I heard them saying, too," remarked the landlady, "that the whole of the squire's property will go to Sir Richard Trevor, through Hugh 'listing."

    "Then there's bin feaw (foul) play!" exclaimed Tom, with another emphasis from his fist.  "If ther hasno', dom owd Snapper-spring!"

    This ended the conversation, for on Jinks casting his eyes round the kitchen, as if he expected everything in the place, from Spuddle to a pan-lid, would either by sound or motion confirm the opinion he had just expressed, he saw a hand beckoning at the window outside.  Fancying that he had seen that hand before, and that the beckoning was meant for him, Tom got up from his chair and went towards the back door, where he met his spouse, Letty, just retreating from the window.

    "Here" she said, in a tone of voice which had more influence over her husband's nerves than all the "four-penny" he had drunk that day, "I have browt thy hat an' jacket.  It'll be a deeal cooler when thou comes whoam than it is now, an' thou'd happen ha' complained of a cowd i'th' mornin  so tak 'em wi' thee."

    With that she flung the hat and jacket on the coals, and "sailed off," as Tom expressed himself afterwards, "wi' as mich wynt in her sails as ud ha' driven a man-o'-war."

    The news of the young squire's enlistment had by this time spread over the countryside.  It formed the chief topic of conversation in the taproom of the "Wheel and Barrels," as well as in the kitchen, and a good deal of charitable and uncharitable comment was made upon it.

    Women dished it up with their general gossip at "tea-and-rum-parties;" men talked about it between the songs at their club dinners; it received rough commentaries at the smithy door, at the "four-lane gate," and at the chapel end.  Doctors of politics laid aside their latest nostrum for State-healing, and talked soberly about wars, and levies, and "Boney," subjects naturally arising out of the topic which had introduced their discourse.  Trevor Hall was in some kind of ecstasy over the affair.  The servants whispered with each other, and shook their heads; the gardener hob-an'-hobbed with the gamekeeper longer than usual, and there can be no doubt that the subject of their conversation related to the fortunes of their master and those of a kindred house.

    But at the "Dovecot" there was a different feeling upon the matter to what prevailed elsewhere.  It was as though a great sorrow had stricken the household, and filled it with mourning.  Spuddle had told the truth about a soldier having visited that place; but whether, as Snapper-spring surmised, it was the person whom the housekeeper had known before, remained a mystery for some time.  Whoever it might be, the woman had left the cottage in his company — without the slightest explanation to her daughter as to whither she was going.  All that could be got from her was that she would return in a few days, when she hoped to be a more satisfied, if not a happier, woman.

    Hugh had not even been to take a farewell of Marian.  As Sir Richard had predicted of him, he was too much humbled by the position he found himself in to look upon home and its associations again.  He had left the neighbourhood early, and was then on his way to the depot of the regiment at Woolwich.

    His cousin was down at the "Dovecot" long before his usual time of visiting, endeavouring in his way to comfort Marian by assurances of a brotherly regard for her but the solace he had to offer was not of a kind to be acceptable to the young lady, and for prudential motives the baronet withheld any allusion to the claims he himself had set up to her deeper affections.

    Days passed over, and no Martha returned.  Nothing was heard of Hugh except that he had joined his regiment, as was communicated by an officer then billeted in Birchwood.  Sir Richard continued his visits to the "Dovecot," and administered its affairs with seemingly ungrasping hand.  He had always a sympathising word for his cousin, and a solacing one for Marian.  His affected kindness won upon the young lady's respect, if it had no influence upon her heart, and their intercourse became of a more trusting, if not a more endearing character.  She even reconciled herself to taking his arm one evening for a walk round the garden, and they discoursed hopefully, if not cheerfully, of the future, during that walk.

    "If you should find this place too lonely for yourself and servant during the winter," said the baronet, "Trevor Hall will be ready to receive you."

    "Thank you, Sir Richard," said Marian.  But the prospect which the change offered hardly seemed to please her so much as the baronet had hoped it might.  In about three weeks after the first of these interviews, a packet was left at the "Dovecot," addressed to Marian.

    On being opened it was found to contain a portrait of the young lady's mother, and strange — the wedding ring was depicted on her finger.  Oh, mysterious Providence!  What could it mean?  Had she, then, found her father?  Accompanying this miniature was a note saying that her mother must not be expected home yet — if she had a home any longer.  It might be months before she returned.

    Curiously folded in another paper, and strongly guarded by a stout walnut box, was a trinket that, had Marian been Lady Trevor, she would have valued more than the treasure of any man's love, according to that lady's experience of the passion.  It was a beautiful diamond ring, bearing the inscription "Wear for my sake."  This could not have come from Hugh; he was too poor to purchase such a gift  and yet there was not a word to say by whom it had been sent.

    If there was a little vanity expressed in the manner in which Marian fitted the jewel on her finger, admired its lustre, and gazed at it from time to time as if it contained some hidden power of fascination, it was because she was a woman, and baubles will for a moment dazzle when things of more solid worth are present.

    Through the chequered fortunes which came over Marian's life this ring never left its place on her finger.  It was with her in the sunshine, in the shade, and in the darker wildness which threw its clouds over her path.  Another name was mentioned in her prayers  for she had in her dreams visions of a parent hitherto estranged from her, but now with his hand on the door which opened on that world to whose mercy she seemed to have been abandoned.  And she had faith beyond Hugh and her mother — a faith in an unknown being who was growing dearer to her every day, and whose presence appeared to draw nearer as time advanced "Wear for my sake."

    As days shortened, and nights grew wild and stormy, and the wind began to moan round the "Dovecot," and utter those fretful sounds that knell the departure of summer, Marian found her spirits giving way under the loneliness of the change.  Besides, Sir Richard began to importune her to leave the "crazy old box" for the more cheerful abode of Trevor Hall, where she could enjoy the society of his mother, and the gay circle which, even in that secluded place, was frequently drawn together.  She consented at last.  The "Dovecot" was stripped of most of its furniture; a portion of the windows were boarded up; Sir Richard's gamekeeper became tenant of the kitchen, and the estate of Squire Horton came formally into the possession of the Trevor family, to be inherited by the successors of the present baronet, as stated in the will of his deceased uncle.


――――♦――――



[Next Page]

 


 

[Home] [Up] [Marlocks of Merriton] [Spring Blossoms] [Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. I.] [Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. II.] [Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. III.] [Yankeeland] [Short Stories etc.] [Main Index] [Site Search]
 

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk