The Chronicles of Waverlow (III.)
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CHAPTER IV.


TREVOR HALL, like many other baronial mansions, had its legends — some dark, some chivalric, and others strangely compounded of love and mystery, with a dash of the superstitious about them.  Stories were told of it at winter firesides, and each gossiping housewife had her own version of the marvellous things connected with the ancient edifice.  There was one circumstance, however, which was known only to old Jack Planker, the blacksmith, and it had but recently been added to his stock of legendary lore.  He had not told this to anyone yet for, as he confessed afterwards, he became so horrified by the mere thought of it that he durst not go to bed without wakening all the house.

    One evening, about a year after the break-up at the "Dovecot," Jack was at work late in his smithy.  He had a few of his neighbours gathered about him for if his anvil was heard to ring after other people had ceased work, it was sure to be the signal for the "sidling" in of some of them, when they would sit there gossiping or telling tales until long after the smith had finished his work.  This evening's labour and chat were made more agreeable by a couple of "fotchins" from the "Jolly Butcher," and joke and anecdote went round rather too freely for Jack to get on with his job.  Tales were being told which had often been turned over and patched, like an old garment that had little left of the original material  and new ones were added that had, perhaps, gone round other of the hillside villages, and were imported into Welbrook as matters of course.  "Jone o' Pee's," from Highfield, had called in on his way from Waverlow and, as the conversation was upon housebreaking and highway robberies, Jone regaled his friends with a story he had heard told at a "main brew" that he had been at "i' Owdham," and which was known in that locality as the adventures of—


"BILLY BUMP AND THE FOOTPAD."


    Ther a chap that they coed "Billy Bump" (Jone began), ut lived down i'th' Broozles; that's somewhere toart Owdham, I think. Billy wur a wayver, an' wove to owd Kay's i' Manchester, an' he'd as good a reed o' wark as any ther wur gooin i' thoose days. He used to bear whoa1n [8] every Sethurday as regular as Sethurdays coome round, an' it wur very nee as sure as ever he went ut he'd ha' comen back drunken, for he couldn't go past a alehouse dur if he yerd a noise inside; an' he'd ha' peearcht i'th' nook as long as anybody else, or as long as they'd ha' filled him drink.

    Well, one Kesmas neet Billy had been kept late at the warehouse, becose ther so mony beside him to be fitted, as ther aulus is at a pastime.  Bein as it wur so far on, he thowt he'd go straight whoam; for he had to buy a lot o' oranges for th' childer, an' he knew they wouldno' go to bed till they'd had one a-piece, an' yerd th' Kesmas Hymn sung.  It wur a cowd frosty neet, wi' plenty o' stars, an a' bit o moon ut favvort it had been breetent up o' purpose for Kesmas, an' when Billy cockt his nose up at th' New Cross, an' felt th' wynt come slap int' his face like a cowd dishclout, he didno' mak two buffers [9] o' turnin into th' "Crown an' Kettle," just for a warm pint an' a pipe.  Well, in he went, an' fund a lot o' chaps fro' th' Plattin, singin' as if they'd lift th' roof off.  Billy's wallet shuttert off his shoother in a crack, an th' next minit he're sprawtin afore th' fire same as if he'd been put theer to roast.  A pint, he thowt, ud hardly weet his whistle; so he supped one, an' knockt again for another; an' by th' time he'd bottom'd th' second he mit ha' been glued to th' cheer, for any notion he had o' stirrin yet awhile.  He sung 'em "Robin an' Kate," an' "The Dark Rolling Danube," for Billy wur as good a singer as heer an' theer one.  At last th' company slackent, an' ther nob'dy laft nobbut him an' another chap, ut lookt like a tramp.  This stranger sit starin at Bill, an' e'en now he says—

    "Cold night, mesther."

    "Ay, outside," Billy says.

    "You come from the country, I suppose?"

    Bill reckont he did.

    "Far?"

    "A two-thri mile."

    "Owdham?"

    "That way on?"

    "Dangerous road."

    "What for?" Billy said, for he'd quite forgotten o about footpads and the like, an' how lonely it wur o'er by th' Yeath late o' neets.  So he said, "I conno' see how it's so dangerous — a good hard road, an' plenty o' moon an' star leet."

    "Hush!  I mean robbers."  An' th chap spoke in a whisper.

    "Oh, ay?  Well, ther's summat i' that," Billy said; an' I da'say at th' same time he wisht he're at th' back o'th' Watchcote towbar; for by that time it wur gettin on for twelve o'clock.

    "I'm going that way," th' stranger said, "and have been waiting for company, as I do not like the idea of going over Newton Heath myself, when there are so many rumours of highway robberies having been perpetrated in that neighbourhood.  Not that I have anything they can take from me, but still it is unpleasant to meet with a thief who punishes you because he can find nothing upon you."

    "Ay," Billy said; an' he put his hont int' his pocket an' counted his brass.  "I've nobbut a two-thri coppers beside a suvverin, an' that I'll put i' my clog," he said; "an' if yo'n a mind we'n go t'gether for company, like."

    Th' stranger agreed.

    Well, they'd another pint in, an' then Billy shoothert his wallet, an' teed his hat o'er his ears, an' leet his pipe, an' then said he're ready.

    So they two seet off t'gether, an' fund they'd a good deeal o' Newton Lone to theirsels.  They passed some Kesmas singers at th' Plattin, an' after that o wur as quiet as if they'd been at th' middle o'th' White Moss.  Well, they kept on, Billy's clogs makkin o th' noise ther wur, till they geet to th' top o'th' Yeath.  There Billy happent to stop while he changed his wallet fro' one shoother to th' tother; an' just as he'd done that he seed his companion stondin afore him, an' howdin a pistil at his yead.

    "Oh, ay!  Well, I didno' think that on thee, noather, or else we should ha' had a pint less," Billy says, at th' same time feelin a little bit pottersome.  "I reckon it's that suvverin thou wants.  Well, I'st mak no sort o' bother about it, for I aulus fund quietness wur th' best wheer I'd a chance o' havin th' worst on't.  But I'st ha' to poo my clog off afore I con get to it, thou knows."

    "Well, be quick," th' stranger said, "before I blow your head off."

    Billy down with his wallet, an' then dofft his clog; but it wur not that ut had th' suvverin in it, noather.  So he groped about th' inside, same as if he're feelin for th' brass, an' kept watchin th' chap's hont o th' time.  E'ennow he up with his clog an' catcht his hont with a blow ut ud welly ha' knockt a cow down.  Th' pistil dropt, an' Billy ud howd on't afore th' stranger could bat his een.

    "Now, then," he says to th' chap, "just pike that wallet up an' carry it to our house quietly, or I'll whistle a tune i' thy earhole ut thou winnot like.  Come, just be nimble, wilta?"

    "You've nearly broken my hand with that thundering clog o' yours," th' stranger said.

    "Thou may think thysel weel ut I ha' not brokken a two-thri o' thy ribs afore now," an' Billy just put his foot agen th' chap's hindereend, ut made him look rather wakken; an' he nipt th' wallet up, an' put it ont' his shoother as comfortable as he knew how.  Billy catcht howd on him by th' collar just as he're makkin a spring for t' set out o' runnin.

    "Nay, nay, I dunno' want thee to go by thysel," Billy said; "I'st goo wi' thee.  So tramp, an' I'll just stick to thee for t' save thee fro' tumblin."

    Th' chap seed he'd no chance nobbut doin as Billy ordered him; so they went on an' crossed th' Yeath, Billy stickin to th' tother's collar like a pair o' pincers, an' now an' then cockin th' pistil just below his hat, an' tellin him for two pins he'd drill a piece out of his yead for t' leeten him a bit.

    A' this way they went on a mile or two furr, an' at th' last turnt into th' lone ut led to wheer Billy lived.  When they geet to th' dur, Billy said, "Come, we'n just co and leeav th' wallet, an' then we'n goo an' knock owd Jack Taylier (he're th' constable) up, an' see if he's any whoam-brewed i'th' house; for I da'say thou could do with a sope."

    Th' chap thowt he're gettin on very nicely, an' ut Billy ud be gettin fuddlt, an' then he could slip out o'th' road.

    So into th' house they went.

    Billy's wife wur waitin up, an' th' childer wur wakken i' bed, an' when they yerd th' dur oppen, they shouted out, "Is my dad comen? has he browt any oranges?"  "Ay, an' a felly to carry 'em," Billy said.  "Now, Mary," he said, "I never went out but I coome again, an' this time I've browt company, thou sees.  Thou's no 'casion to poo thy face; he'll no' tarry so lung; but bein as he're so good as to carry my wallet, he desarves a drop o' drink."

    "I'st fotch no drink out to-neet," Billy's wife said, "an' look what time it is.  Yo'n had enoogh, I think, for thou looks as wild as if thou'd seen a boggart."

    "Ay, an' thou'd ha' looked wild, too, if thou'd had this poked i' thy face," an' Billy showed th' pistil ut he had in his hont.

    Th' wife set up a scream, an' e'ennow th' childer come clatterin down th' stairs, skrikin out, an' wonderin what there wur to do.

    "See yo', childer; this chap had thowt to ha' takken yer buttercakes off yo'," Billy sed, "but I stopt him at it; so he's goin a havin his Kesmas wi' owd Jack Taylier, an' I'll goo wi' him an' see ut they dunno' turn him out o'th' dur till he's had enough.  Now, get yo' a orange a-piece, an' upstairs wi' yo'; an' Mary, thee give o'er skrikin, for I'st be back again i' two minits.  Come on, Copper Nob."

    With that they set out; th' stranger gettin rayther down about his Kesmas when he felt Billy's hont tighten on him like a vice.  At last they coome to a house ut stood by itsel, just by th' broo' side.  Billy stopt.

    "This is owd Jack Taylier's," he said; "Con't sing any?  If thou con, we'n just give 'em a stave o'th' Kesmas Hymn for t' wakken 'em up."

    Th' stranger muttered summat very savage; so Billy punst th' dur, an' gan a hunter's shout, loud enoogh to wakken o th' fowt.  Owd Jack geet up to th' window un said: —

    "Whoa's theer?"

    "Me," Billy ses.

    "Is it thee, Bump?"

    "Ay."

    "An' what hast wi' thee?"

    "A chap ut wants buy a canary."

    Owd Jack wur a great canary breeder, so thowt he'd a chance of a good customer, an' he coome down th' stairs an' oppent th' dur.

    "Wheere's yore Tinker?" (that wur a big dog) Billy says.

    "He's upo' th' hearthstone."

    "Just let him smell at this chap's heels, ut he'll know him again."

    "Here, Tinker!"

    Tinker coome, jumpt up at th' stranger, walked round him, and then laid him down again.

    Billy towd owd Jack what had happent, an' rayly th' owd lad stared when he fund ut he'd a highwayman i'th' house instead o' a canary chap.  Th' fire wur brokken up, an' th' couch-cheear drawn to th' hearthstone, an' th' chap wur towd he met lay him down; but if he offered to get away, Tinker 'ud have his throat out before he could stir a foot.  Th' ale wur fotcht out, an' bread an' cheese, an' Billy 'ud ha' sung "Bobin an' Kate," but th' wife coome for him, an' said hoo're feart he'd be murthert.

    Well, i'th' mornin th' chap wur hondcuffed, an' marcht off to th' New Bailey; an' when his trial coome on, they gan him a lease o' some ground toart Botany Bay for fourteen year; and Billy Bump were made into th' captain o'th' Watch on Ward, an' he's th' pistil ut he took hanged o'er th' chimdeypiece to this day.



*        *        *        *        *


    Soon as Jone had finished his story, the blacksmith flung a piece of iron that he had been tempering on the floor, "banked up" his fire, and throwing one leg over the anvil, said—

    "Ther's summat I've never towd yo' about yet, an' I da'say yo' winno' believe it when I do tell; but it's as true as this anvil's iron!"

    "Well, let's yer it," said Jone o' Pee's, "afore I goo whoam, for I mun be treddlin soon."

    "A two-thri neets sin'," said Planker, "I're comin back fro' Waverlow, wheere I'd bin to a cow ut had had a bad time wi' its cawve. (Jack was a cow doctor as well as a smith.)  I'd getten a little bit muddled wi' some ee-wayter ut I'd had at th' 'Wheel an' Barrels,' an' I coome a road back ut I happen shouldno' ha' done, if John Barleycorn hadno' had howd o' me arm, an' promist to see me safe whoam.  I coome across th' cloof by Trayvor Ho, a road I've gone mony a time when I're coortin, an' never thowt nowt at it.  As I dropt down th' Hollybank, I began a-thinkin about th' owd Witch o' Welbruk; how hoo're used t' keend fires i' doytch bottoms, ut swithurt up i'th' welkin like a hally-blash, an' then took th' shape o' legs and arms, an' grinnin faces, an' flew off i' cracks o' thunner an' flashes o' leetenin.  I thowt, too, about that choilt ut wur fund i'th' bruck, an' ut never wur ownt, an' I could see i' my mind that strake o' blood ut went fro' its neck to its shoother; an' thinkin this road made me feel as if someb'dy had clapt a weet clod o' my yead, an' wur teemin cowd wayter down my back.  Just then I yerd th' owd clock at Waverlow strikin twelve, an' a church bell at midneet never puts folk i' better sperrits when they're thinking about fearin.

    "Whether it wur th' wynt ut made a noise or not, as it blew roughish, I couldno' tell, for it does mak strange sounds sometimes among those rotten trees ut looken like so monny boggarts at th' top o'th' cloof theere; but I yerd summat between a skrike an' a whistle come fro' toart th' Ho; an' as dismal a noise as ever I yerd i' my life; it wur.  I geet mysel t'gether as weel as I could, an' put my face toart wheere th' sound coome fro', an' pegged on down th' cloof, feelin same as if I're wadin up to th' armholes through wayter o th' time.  E'ennow, I yerd that skrike again, plainer than before, an' this time it sounded like a woman's voice.

    "Before I hardly knew what I're dooin, an' what for t' do, I coome i' seet o' Trayvor Ho.  Theer ther a leet shoinin out o' one o'th' end windows, an' sich a leet as I never seed i' my days; it wur like as if they'd catcht a thunnerbowt an' put it theere for t' leet th' witches in their devulment, for it shoint round th' country, an' made o th' trees about like crow-boggarts wi' haliday shirts on.

    "I said a two-thri words of a nominy ut my gronmother towd me for t' keep varmint an' trouble away, an' towd John Barleycurn for t' do a bit o' his best, as I'd bin a good customer to him, an' then stood waitin for th' next peeal.

    "In about three minits (I're takkin my wynt then as thick as an o'errun hound) that skrike coome again, an' this time ther a loud thunge coome wi' it, as if everybody i'th' wo'ld 'ud bin tumblin downstairs; an' o' at once, as sudden as I could bat my een, th' leet at th' window went out, an' laft me as if I mit ha' bin i'th' middle of a breekoon, it wur so dark.

    "Well, yo' may be sure I're in a great takkin.  I couldno' tell whether my een wur oppen or shut beaut feelin at 'em, an' whether I're wick or deead, I couldno' ha' sworn to it at th' time.  I began o' thinkin I're happen getten down that coalpit ut owd Noll tells about, wheere they bak'n potatoe-pies for young imps ut are havin a college eddication as nee this country as they dar come.

    "How I geet fro' that pleck I never knew, but I fund mysel' in about an hour after reart again th' owd milestone, wi' swat runnin down my face as if I'd bin stondin o' my yead in a fryinpon, an' sich a smell o' brimstone about me ut I could hardly get my wynt.

    "'Thou're carried theere wi' a witch, no doubt,' observed one of the listeners.

    "Ay," said Planker, "but I never liked sayin so.  How else could it be?"

    "When I coome to mysel grade1y," he continued, "I recollected an owd tale ut my gronmother used t' tell at merrymeals, an' sich like.  But yo'd none on yo' know her.  Hoo said ut about two hundert year sin', th' nar corner o' Trayvor Ho wur built like a tower, an' one time it crackt an' gan way so ut they had t' tak it down; an' through what I'm gooin t' tell yo' now it never wur built up again, but made into a corner like t'others.

    "When they took it down, an' wur clearin th' stuff out ' o'th' foundation, they coome to a leead box, ut wur made th' shape of a coffin; and when they oppent th' lid, what done yo' think they fund?"

    "Happen a milliont suvverins!" ventured one of the listeners.

    "Happen a fiddlestick!  They fun a necklace, an' a weddin ring, an' a lot o' booans, an' a yep o' dust.  That wur o!"

    "An' what's that t' do wi' thy tale?" asked Jone o' Pee's.

    "Yo'n yer," said the blacksmith.  "It ud bin said afore — so mi gronny used t' tell — ut th' wife o' one o'th' barons ud gone off wi' another felly an' never turnt up again.  Nob'dy belieft this, for it wur known how he're used t' ill-use her; how he teed her up in a chamber, an'kept her for months t'gether o' nowt nobbo' porritch an' traycle."

    "I could likt be kept o' that plan for a year or two, if I must have enoogh on 'em," observed a hungry-looking fellow, who probably did not "fare sumptuously" every day.

    "Ay," said Planker.  "But I reckon porritch are no' th' reet sort o' stuff for ladies t' live on; but as I're sayin, th' owd baron geet another wife, a young un; an' it wur aulus belieft after ut he'd murthert th' tother, an' buried her i' that coffin ut wur fund under th' tower."

    "How could they put her under theere?" asked one of the company, who had said nothing hitherto.

    "Well, that's nowt t' do with it," said the smith; "they could do monny a thing i' thoose days ut they conno' do now.  What I want yo' t' understond is this — they sayn at ghosts o' murthert folk come'n back again every fiftieth year, an' getten murthert o'er again, just same as howdin a weddin-day up, or a bonfire plot; an' as it's about two hundert year sin' this woman wur murthert, t'other neet wur happen just th' time ut th' job wur done; at anyrate I believe so; an' if I live fifty year longer, they'n no catch me gooin past Trayvor Ho at midneet, when th' witches are howdin up their devulment; if they done, I'll give 'em leeave t' mak a tit of a besom-stail, an' put me stroddle-leg on it, an' send me flyin toart Banter-o'-Boby's, wi' a squib at back on me like a fluss o' H—wynt—now then."

    As the blacksmith concluded, he blew up his fire, sending the blaze roaring up the chimney; and as the light fell upon the pallid faces of his audience, he could see by their expression that, notwithstanding the levity which some of them had assumed towards his narrative, there were few who had listened to it that would have ventured to go past Trevor Hall that night.

    In fact, it was not merely a "phantom of the brain" that Planker had conjured up.  Other people had heard the shrieks coming from Trevor Hall, or thereabouts, on that same midnight.  They had seen the lighted window; but not having been at the "Wheel and Barrels" and got into that mood which exaggerates everything presented to the vision, they saw nothing extraordinary about it.  The cry, however, sounded as if coming from a person in distress; but no murder having been reported, and as Trevor Hall looked "gradely" the day following, with nothing strange in the appearance of the servants, the alarm was attributed to some mischievous person who wished to frighten the thinly-strewn inhabitants of that quarter, and revive the old superstitious connected with the place.  The smith got laughed at for telling his story and seeming to believe it; but he shook his head at his neighbours incredulity, and in reply to the many taunts that were levelled at him, said—

    "Summat'll be fund out about th' owd place yet; mind that, yo' yorneys!"

 
――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER V.


THE wind blew "big guns," as they say at sea, and the rain sighed through the naked copse, as Waverlow drew its curtains and closed its shutters one November night.  The brook, swollen to a fierce torrent, tumbled down its course, and sang its storm-song to the howling of the blast.  The mountains looked like clouds, and the clouds like mountains; for the eye knew not each from the other, save when a streak of borelean light pierced the horizon, and showed the sharp summit of the moorland heights apart from the ragged pall which hung over it.

    But, terrible as was the night, there were delicate feet abroad, treading those lone hillsides, so lovely under the quiet summer moon, yet so wild when swept by the winter storm.  And soft eyes — tearless just then — were straining at the gloom to discern some light that would indicate the whereabouts of the village.  Yet not a glimmer could be seen; for Waverlow was abed, sleeping as soundly as if it had been rocked to some evening lullaby, instead of being shaken by the rude hand of the tempest.  The feet wandered on, the eyes strained again at the darkness, and if the heart was nearly "fainting by the way" who could have wondered, since Heaven seemed to have forgotten the "shorn lamb" that night?  Now a speck of light twinkles a moment in the distance, grows brighter and brighter, and the glad heart sends up a prayer and blesses it.  But hark! — a plunge — a shriek — and the wind howls in mockery, and the flood sings its storm music as if jealous of every other sound.  Take her to your arms, ye elements — shroud her limbs kindly — the outcast; for even your rudeness were mercy to what hath been shown to her by some of her kind.

    Waverlow, as I have said, had retired for the night; but not all were in bed; it was too early yet for some to sleep.  The more well-to-do would draw their ale, and spread their evening meal, regardless of the world's tribulation, and their sleep would be the repose of the happy.  But the poor must wake and toil till late, whether winds blow or storms gather, that their "daily bread" may be earned in honour, and eaten in peace.

    To finish his work for the morrow's "bearin whoam," owd Tum Jinks was busy at the loom, and his wife, Letty, sat, a picture of patience, at the bobbin wheel.  Although the hour was late, the old folks looked as happy at their work as if it had been noonday; and the shuttle and the wheel, and the wind and the rain, made strange music in the weaver's cottage.  But stranger still was Tum's song, which, out of humour with everything else, was as if his soul had a summer of its own, and his voice was that of the lark's.  To the motion of his shuttle, and the Working of the treadles, owd Snapper-spring sang —
 

THE WEAVER OF WELBROOK.

Yo' gentlemen o with yo'r heaunds an' yo'r parks,—
    Yo' may gamble an' sport till yo' dee;
Bo a quiet heause nook, a good wife, an' a book,
    Is mooar to the likins o' me—e.
                        Wi' mi pickers an' pins,
                        An' mi wellers to th' shins;
                Mi linderins, shuttle, and yealdhook;—
                        Mi treddles an' sticks;
                        Mi weight—ropes an' bricks;—
                What a life !—said the wayver o' Welbrook.

Aw care no' for titles, nor heauses, nor lond;
    Owd Jone's a name fittin for me;
An' gi'e me a thatch wi' a wooden dur-latch,
    An' six feet o' greaund when aw de――e.

Wi' mi pickers an' pins, &c.


Some folk liken t' stuff their owd wallets wi' mayte,
    Till they're as reaunt an' as brawsen as frogs;
Bo for me—aw'm content when aw've paid deawn mi rent,
    Wi' enoof t' keep me up i' mi clogs—ogs.

Wi' mi pickers an' pins, &c.


An' ther some are too idle to use their own feet,
    An' mun keawer an' stroddle i'th' lone;
Bo when aw'm wheel't or carried — it'll be to get berried,
    An' then Dicky-up wi' owd Jone—one.

Wi' mi pickers an' pins, &c.


Yo' may turn up yo'r noses at me an' th' owd dame,
    An' thrutch us like dogs agen th' wo;
Bo as long's aw con nayger aw'll ne'er be a beggar,
    So aw care no' a cuss for yo' o—o.

Wi' mi pickers an' pins, &c.


Then Margit turn reaund that owd hum-a-drum wheel,
    An' mi shuttle shall fly like a brid;
An' when aw no longer con use hont or finger,
    They'n say—while aw could do aw did—id.

Wi' mi pickers an' pins, &c.

    As the weaver finished his song, the "cut mark" peeped through the healds, and he gave it a shout of welcome, for he saw that his day's task was drawing to a close.

    "About three more bobbins 'll do, Lett," he sung out to his wife, who had paused in her work to see what would be required to finish the cut.

    "Hast thou wovven thoose ut I browt thee o'ready?" asked the old dame, giving the "barrels" a jerk as the obstinate thread, plucking and sticking, refused to be separated from the hank.  "I'm fain thou's welly done, for thou'll ha' me wun to th' deeath yet, thou will.  Just come an' put th' porritch o'er th' fire, wilta, while I wind thee thy bobbins?"

    Tom, after fettling about his loom a little, blew out his candle and crept from the loomhouse, just as a spasm of the storm was threatening to sweep the cottage from the hillside into the river below.  He listened with a sort of placid awe as gust followed gust, making the very beams creak, and the rafters rattle like loose boards in a timber rack.

    "I think th' Owd Lad's afoot t'neet," he observed, placing a dried faggot on the sunken fire, which immediately brought fresh life into it.  "Ther'll no' be mony cobwebs laft i'th' cloof after this blowin beaut, I'm sure."  And he set his back, weaver-like, towards the fire, and amused himself by watching his shadow dance upon the wall, and listening to the wind outside.

    "Ther mit be witchcraft i'th' wynt, I'm sure," said old Letty, "for this weft sticks upo' th' barrels same as if it wur glued to 'em."

    "Ther hasno' bin a storm like this sin' that day Joe Lane wur buried, when it blew so ut th' church bells rang theirsels wi' th' steeple rockin."

    "But some folk thowt it wur fearin ut did that, Tum," said Letty.

    "Ay, I know it wur said ut ther wur some queer things wi' lung arms pooin at th' ropes, and the bells went regular — one, two, three — same as if owd Sam Sax'n an' his set wur ringin 'em.  It wur an awfu' time."

    "I think ther's summat about now ut's noane gradely, for I never see'd our Trim mak sich wark afore.  He keeps whinin an' creepin about me same as if he're a Christian."

    "Happen ther's th' owd besom o' Welbruck tryin some o' her capers on," observed Snapper-spring, as he placed the porridge-pan on the fire.  "Hoo's soundin her bagpipes now at th' top o'th' chimdy."

    "Eh, God o Meety presarve us!  What wur that?" exclaimed old Letty, turning round and loosening her cap about her ears.  "Trim, lie down."

    The dog was trembling and whining by her side.

    The weaver strode across the floor, for he had heard a sound like a wailing cry; nothing like the howling in the chimney, but the voice of a human being in distress.  He opened the door, and looked out upon the night.  Around and over him was the "black immensity," which seemed rolling and drifting about as the wind lashed the clouds against the hilltops.  The rain had ceased, and now a streak of light shot out of "heaven's windows," glimmered a moment, and the next was buried by a thousand-folded pall.  It was a scene to strike awe, if not fear, to the stoutest heart.  The weaver, however, forgot his "downing" and the storm at once, and listened for a repetition of the cry he had heard before; but the wind only for a time answered him.  Just as he was closing the door, which the wind pressed against, a loud shriek struck his ear.

    "There's no mistake about that," he said.  "It's someb'dy's poor choilt; God help it!" and he reached down an old lantern which hung in the nook, lighted the candle, and forgetting he should require either hat or coat, he dashed down the road towards the river.

    There was moaning now plainly audible; and looking towards a "rindle" which emptied itself in the river, and waving the lantern about, Tom discovered something white flutter close to the bank.

    "Help, help!" said a voice.

    "Stop a bit," Jinks called out, as though he had been addressing someone in the act of "turning-on" a warp; "stop a bit, an' howd up while I get a rail fro' somewheere.  Theere, now," said he, "this'll do.  Now get howd on't, an' think whoa yo'r stickin for.  That'll do.  Now, howd tight, an' I'll draw yo' across.  Slips, by――; but I mun after, sink or swim."  And, swinging the rail forwards, Snapper-spring dashed along the torrent's bank.

    People unacquainted with the ingenuity of weavers as a class — whose lives, it may be said, are spent in scheming — might regard the next act of owd Snapper-spring as one of downright madness; for when he had got a short distance down the valley, instead of holding out the rail to the person who was floating towards him, he grasped it firmly in both hands, and threw himself into the flood.  Although the torrent was boiling like a cauldron, Tom rode it bravely; and as he could see by the light which the sky was again emitting the body struggling near him, he anchored each end of the rail in the river's banks.  The weaver felt a sort of wild glee as he accomplished this feat, the performance of which he had suddenly calculated on, and reaching out one hand, while he held on with the other, he laid hold of the white garment as it floated within his reach.

    "Theere now, we'st do this time," he said to himself; for he had planted his feet firmly in the river's bed, which was formed of large boulders.  "If yo'n any help for yo'rsel, strike out like a tooad, an' wist tak us wynt again safe.  Hallo! it's a woman, by th' makkins!  I thowt it ud bin a drunken wayver.  Poor thing!" and scrambling up the bank, with his charge beneath one arm, Snapper-spring made towards his lantern, which lay in a gutter, sputtering and blinking like a little beacon.

    The being he bore was not quite helpless, but, clinging tightly to the person of her deliverer, could manage to walk with the assistance he rendered her.  Not a word passed between them until they reached the cottage, where old Letty and Trim held guard at the door in their master's absence.  On the entrance of the latter with his dripping charge, the fire was performing its most brilliant feats of blinking, and an exclamation of joy and wonder from the honest dame awoke the benumbed energies of the fair claimant of their hospitality.

    "Eh, bless her! whoa ever is hoo?" said Letty, receiving her husband's charge, whom she conducted to the fire, Trim following and licking up the wet as it dropped from her garments.

    "I poo'd her out o'th' bruck," replied Jinks, divesting himself of his waistcoat, and wringing his shirtsleeves as well as he could.  "Another minnit or two un hoo'd ha' bin done for; that hoo would.  Now Letty, tak her upstairs, an' put her i' bed; I con sit by th' fire o neet, after I've finished yon bit o'th' wayvin."

    "Oh, how can I thank you for this," said the poor girl — for the rescued person was only a girl — "I am homeless, friendless, and have no means of thanking you as I would."

    "Say nowt about that, my choilt," said the weaver.

    "Say nowt about that, my choilt," responded Letty, "but come upstairs wi' me, if yo' can walk, an' I'll mak yo' as comfortable as if I'd bin yo'r mother.  Tum, just help her, wilta, an' swap thy breeches, an' put a dry shirt on, or else thou'll be parisht to th' deeath.  Come, my poor choilt."

    Snapper-spring divested himself of his wet clothes, and put on dry ones, whilst his wife was putting the stranger girl to bed; and when old Letty descended the stairs, she found her lord occupying himself with, what she thought, a strange freak — running backwards and forwards betwixt the fireplace and the end of the loomhouse, for the purpose, he said, of "gettin th' steeam up, an' his owd blood i' sarkilation."

    "Eh, Tum!" said Letty, "hoo's th' Queen, I'm sure.  Thou should see a ring ut hoo has on her finger.  I could hardly abide t' look at it, it's so breet."

    "A dimon, I dar'say," said Jinks, pausing in his race and bestowing on his wife a look of wonder.  "Happen it's wo'th moore than o Waverlow — an' Langley Side put to it.  Hoo munno' dee, Lett; if hoo does folk un think we'n murthert her o' purpose."

    "Dee, Tum — hoo's too pratty t' dee.  Hoo's for o th' wo'ld like our Ann wur afore hoo begun o' wearin away — bless her now in heaven!  It would be a weary wo'ld, Tum, if ther nowt nobbo' sich curn-boggarts as thee an' me in it; would not it?  Well, I'll mak her a sope o' tae afore hoo gets asleep; an' thou con mak th' porritch."

    "I'll mak 'em as soon as I've had another fifty miler," and Jinks resumed his race with as much briskness in his manner as if he had been running for a "wakes hat" at the "Wheel and Barrels," whilst his spouse prepared a soothing cup for her suffering patient.

    We will leave these old people in their snug cottage, happy in the enjoyment of their humble porridge meal, and the consciousness of having saved a fellow-creature's life — we will leave their stranger guest in a peaceful slumber, and descend again towards the river.

    The rain, as I have said before, had ceased, but the wind blew as violently as ever; and though the clouds were not so dense as they had been in the earlier part of the night, the sky still looked fiercely wild, and low rumbling thunder was now and then audible above the noise made by the wind and the torrent.  Had Snapper-spring been there at that time he might have seen another light than that emitted by his own lantern which he had left in the gutter, and a brighter one, for a "bull's eye" was dancing about on the river's margin, and seemed to be assisting in the exploration of every bend and eddy in the torrent's course.

    "I'm afraid pursuit is hopeless, Trail," said the person who carried the dark lantern, addressing his companion.  "No living being could have crossed this ravine without something to guide them, especially on such a night as this.  Why, even you, who know every bank and hollow for miles round as well as I do my own garden walks, stumble and hesitate as if you were blindfolded."

    "I never poacht on a neet like this, Sir Richart," said the other, "unless it's bin upo' better ground.  Ther isno' a neet-hunter i' Waverlow ut ud set a grin here when th' welkin's troublt; not if rappits wur as plentiful as buttercups i' haytime."

    "Why, Trail?" asked the baronet; for it was Sir Richard Trevor who with his gamekeeper was searching the valley.

    "Becose they mit catch summat else," the other answered.

    "Yes, perhaps snare the lightning if it flashed about in this manner."

    "Ay, but ther's wurr things than th' thunner-bowt, Sir Richart. Beside, that ud slip through afore they could noose it; but no' so wi' ―――"

    "With what?"

    "Besom stails wi' witches ridin on 'em."

    "Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Sir Richard.  "Why, you don't believe in witchcraft, do you, Trail?"

    "Dun yo' think ut seein's believin?"

    "Not always; especially when you've had too much whisky, and see regiments of squirrel-tailed imps swarming about you."

    "Well, but one neet — it wur summat like this, too — me an' Cracker wur settin a noose down by th' little dingle; for there'd bin a good fat hare seen about th' day before, an' we thowt o' catchin it.  We'd no sooner laid th' noose than we yerd a noise as if a thousunt cats wur feightin; and sich a smell o' brimstone ther wur.  Well, we crept toart th' grin to see if ther owt in it, an' just as we geet to th' gap, we seed a red neetcap an' a green bedgown fast i'th' hedge, an' summat flew o'er us like a great bit-bat wi' i blue spectacles, carryin a lantern wi' it, an' makkin sich noises as yo' never yerd.  When it geet up to th' clouds, th' lantern dropt, an' — oh, dear me! — ther's a lantern theere now; look yonder, o'th' tother side o'th' bruck."

    "Ther is a light, certainly," said the baronet, feeling a little scared by the apparition.

    "Th' owd witch o' Welbruck's bin about, I'm sure," said the gamekeeper; "an' we'st be seein a red neetcap an' a green bedgown e'ennow."

    "Let us go over the bridge," said Sir Richard; "perhaps we may find some traces of the runaway."

    "We'st be swept into th' bruck if nowt wurr," objected the gamekeeper, "for whoa con walk that plank i' sich at wynt as this?"

    "Come on, you coward!" said the baronet, commandingly; and without further hesitation the two stepped upon the bridge, which was a rude plank without railings on either side, and passed over safely.

    When they reached the lantern, which was just giving its last dying blink, something that lay near it caught Sir Richard's attention.

    "It is as I feared, Trail," he observed.  "This is the scarf she wore, I know it by the fastenings.  And here is something else — a handkerchief, lettered in the corner, too, 'M.D.'  She must have procured the lantern from some of the neighbours when she fled from home.  No doubt she intended making her way to Birchwood, as this is the nearest road.  She would attempt to cross here.  The bridge is narrow, and would be slippery when it rained.  She missed her footing, and the torrent bore her down.  No mortal could recover from such a flood, for hear how it roars and plunges down its course.  Come, we must search further, and recover her if possible, either living or dead."

    "Livin hoo conno' be now, Sir Richart; an' if hoo's deead hoo'll tak no hurt till mornin, an' then we con seech her i' good dayleet," said the gamekeeper, who was thinking more about witches than anything else just then.

    "Pick up that lantern, raise the candle, and proceed," said the baronet, exhibiting in his manner a firmness of purpose that astonished his servant.  "You know the way best, so lead on."

    "I dunno' like this lantern, Sir Richart," said Trail.

    "Why not, you fool?"

    "Becose ther's a red neet-cap an' a green bedgown i'th candle; we'st be seein a besom stail an' a pair o' blue a spectacles, e'ennow."

    "If we see a pair of horns and a cloven hoof we must proceed with our search; so come on!" and the baronet, after sending the rays of his "bull's eye" into every hole and crevice around him, took hold of the gamekeeper's hand, and the two strode cautiously along the river's bank.  The reader already knows how fruitless the search would be.

 
――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER VI.


NOTWITHSTANDING the late going to rest, there was an early rising at Windy Gap on the morning following the adventure related in the preceding chapter.  Old Jinks had made a bed of three chairs placed side by side, using the salt-box for a pillow, as he had done many a time before, probably after a protracted visit at the "Wheel and Barrels."  He wakened up and "shaket his fithers" long before the break of day; for his "out" had to be made up, and the "bearin whoam" journey to Birchwood had to be commenced before most people were out of their beds.  The fire was broken up, and by some magical operation not known to everybody, in a few minutes was made to look as brisk as if it had been at its work for an hour or two.  The tea-kettle commenced its matin service — humming song and spouting out steam right gaily, and before old Letty could "crapple" downstairs, Tom had the old-fashioned "chaney" (never brought out only on special occasions) spread upon the table.  For himself, had he been staying at home, he would have preferred porridge to breakfast; but, as he expressed himself, "they would no' stond jowtin on th' road.  A two-thri thick uns are weel enoogh for kowerin upo' th' shetbooart wi'; but by one's lippen a bruck or two on a cranklety road, they'n slip fro' between one's ribs afore we'n had time t' catch 'em."

    "How's yon wench — lady, I mean?" inquired Snapper-spring, as old Letty crept to her chair in its snug corner.

    "Hoo's slept like a hangel, Tum," said Letty; "an' hoo's sleepin yet.  I wouldno' wakken her for o th' wo'ld just now; hoo looks so pratty.  Are her clooas dry, Tum?  Ay, I feel they are; nicely aired, too.  What a pity ut sich fine things as these should be spoilt wi' bein mault i'th' bruck!  Well; God's marciful, or it mit ha' bin wurr.  I'll tak 'em up th' stairs ready for her again hoo wakkens; but hoo'st sleep o day if hoo will."

    So saying, the motherly dame gathered up the now dry, but soiled, clothes of her patient, and went and placed them on a chair beside the bed.

    Letty looked again at the sleeping child, removed a stray curl which lay on her forehead, and gazed into her features.  How beautiful!  Yet was there sadness on that brow, and a sob would escape the sleeper betimes, although the face looked so placid, and its expression would be left as unruffled as before.  Now her eyes opened.  She started, threw round her a look of wonder, then fixed her gaze upon her attendant, who just then knew not what to say or do.

    "Where am?" said the girl, seizing Letty's hand, which had been unconsciously laid upon the pillow.  "Tell me — am I safe from them?"

    "Yo'r in a honest mon's house, an' safe fro' anybody,  I know," said Letty assuringly.  "Th' danger's o'er now, an', wi' God's will, noane shall come to yo' again, if I can help it."

    "But how have I got here?  All is a dream to me."

    "That ud be a long tale to tell.  If yo' feel yo'rse1 ready for gettin up, I'll have as nice a tae ready by th' time yo're donn'd as a poor body con get yo', an' then I'll tell yo' o about it."

    "Thank you, thank you!" said the young lady.  And Letty descended the stairs again, and began to prepare breakfast.

    "Now then, Tum," she said, "when thou's tee'd thy wallet up thou mun get thy tae swallowed as soon as t' con, for yon wench is gettin up, an' I da'say hoo wouldno' like t'come down th' stairs while thour't i' th' house."

    "I'st be ready now in a crack," said Tom; "I'd rayther, too, just ha' had one glent at her afore I'd gone.  But hoo happen doesno' want t' be seen yet, so—"

    "Mind o' scaudin thysel," interrupted Letty, seeing that her spouse was swallowing the tea, which she had just poured out, as if it had been as cool as a mug of his favourite "fourpenny."  "Get back soon, wilta, an' dunno' co at th' 'Wheel an' Barrels,' beaut thou'rt very dry, an' then nobbut have a pint; that's a Tum."

    "Is't goo like a hunter," said Snapper-spring, "if th' weather 'll keep as it is, for I'm as keen o' knowin summat about yon wench — lady, I mean — as if hoo'd bin my own downthur, risen fro' her grave."  As he said this he threw open the door, letting in the fresh breeze of the morning, which he gave a welcoming sniff as he shouldered his wallet and trotted down the fold.

    All traces of the night's storm had vanished, except in the noisy river, and in the roads, which were raked and furrowed by the sweeping waters.  The breeze was playful and somewhat mild for the season, which was getting close upon winter.  The sun streamed into old Jinks's cottage quite warmly, and settled upon Letty's wheel-head, and on the tea-things, and made "old-women-washing" dance on the walls as gaily as if it had been the brightest morning in spring.  Everything in the cottage seemed to put on a cheerful look.  Even Trim appeared wishful to contribute his share towards bringing the gladness around him, and set out in pursuit of his tail at quite an early hour, and barked what no doubt he intended for a succession of morning salutations to his mistress, who would pat his back, and threaten what she would do if he did not "lake" up his milk; all of which Trim took in good part, and wagged his tail all the merrier for it.

    Directly, the guest-patient descended the stairs, and presented herself, in all her modest beauty, to her hospitable hostess.  How was it that Letty stood and gazed at here long and silently, then would approach her and adjust the lace collar she wore, after her own fashion, and fettle about her hair like a very antiquated lady's maid that she was?  Answer me, ye mothers who have watched your daughters grow up around you; who have seen them in the pride of womanhood, arrayed like the morning, and as lovely and as glorious in your sight.  Tell me, ye to whom the night of bereavement hath come; who have seen the last smile on the whitening face, as the last setting of the sun, and tried to recall it from its twilight and deeper darkness of the grave!

    "Come, my choilt, now sit yo' down an' get a cup o' tae.  We'n nowt nobbut what's plain, yo' seen; but it's howsome an' sweet, an' yo'r welcome to it — God knows."

    And as the guest seated herself and partook of the humble but refreshing meal, Old Letty recounted to her the events of the preceding evening, completing each detail before she allowed herself to pause.

    "Ay, it wur an awfu' neet," she concluded, "an' yo'rn as helpless as a little babby when our felly browt yo' in — soakin — soakin like a wringin o' clooas at a weshin tub; an' I thowt o neet ever sin' ut I should like t' know summat moore about yo' — wheere yo' come'n fro', an' how yo' happent that misfortin.  Yo' winno' think me bowd — win yo'?"

    The young lady proceeded at once, and briefly, to relate the particulars of her life, so far as she knew — her unfortunate birth, her subsequent adoption, her happy childhood, the death of her protector, her mother's disappearance, and other after-events, but kept out one name connected with her history, as though it had nothing to do with the narrative.  That name was Hugh Horton.  The fugitive, if the reader has not already discovered, was Marian Dale.

    "Since that time," said Marian — referring to the breaking up at the "Dovecot" — "I have lived at Trevor Hall.  Lady Trevor was very kind to me for a time, but soon began to show strange conduct in my presence.  Her son, Sir Richard, pretending love to me — but pray do not ask me to name the painful circumstance; think that he attempted the worst after I refused his offers — that I tried often in vain to escape — that my shrieks even at midnight were unheard by those who would have helped me, until last night I found means to open my window, and though the storm was raging at the time, I felt that to encounter its fury would be nothing to staying where I was.  I made my escape by letting myself down from the window by means of the bedclothes, and hurried in this direction as quick as I could; thinking I might reach Birchwood, and conceal myself there.  I missed my footing in attempting to cross the bridge yonder, and though the current bore me down, I managed to lay hold of the bank, and keep myself from being carried further down, until your good man — oh, how can I thank him! — came and rescued me.  The rest I need not tell you.  I am now an outcast upon the world; an orphan, for anything I know; friendless, too, when I pass from beneath this roof; but return to Trevor Hall I never will, unless you betray me to Sir Richard, which may fate never prompt your hearts to do!"

    "That it never shall," exclaimed old Letty.  "This shall be yo'r whoam, if it isno' too poor.  Yo'st be my wench, an' yo'st co me mother, or granny, whichever yo' win, an' if ever Sir Dick shows his weezle face here, I'll fill his shoon wi' scaudin wot porritch, that I will."

    "But how can I support myself?  I must not become a burden upon two old people like you."

    "Well, yo' needno' be.  If yo're not above it — and God knows we shouldno' be above doin one's best — our Tum shall taich yo' t' wayve, an' then yo' con do for yo'rsel.  We'n a empty loom――" (Here the old woman paused, shook her head, and sighed.)  "We'n a empty loom ut our Ann wove on when hoo're with us — God bless her! — an' yo' con ha' that gaited; an' a willin hond 'll larn in a week or two for t' wayve as weel as any."

    "You have had a daughter, then," said Marian, seeing that a tender chord had been awoke in the old lady's breast.

    "Ay," replied Letty, sobbing, "I've had two, but one went when hoo're a babby; an' th' tother lived till hoo're nineteen, an' then hoo went too.  Ann, we coed her, after her gronmother on her feyther's side; an' I allus said hoo're too pratty to live.  Our felly used t' flyte me for sayin so, but hoo wur — hoo wur, as it turnt out when hoo began a-wearin away, after wayvin hard one winter for t' help us t' lay up a bit o' brass again we'rn owd."

    "Did she, then, die of consumption?"

    "Decline, decline — went out like a fire, an' as quiet too.  That's her bonnet ut hangs theere.  Not as grand a one as yor's, but I wouldno' part with it for its micklth o' gowd.  I tak it down every day an' dust it, for I conno' abide it out o' my seet.  I should think I'd lost another choilt."

    "And where is she buried?"

    "Hoo lies i'th' owd churchyart upo' th' knowe yonder, in a grave without a stone; wi' mignionette an' forget-me-not an' daisies grooin o'er her."

    "Oh," said Marian, "if I could be to you as she was, how gladly would I pay you for your kindness to me!  I would do as she did — try to look like her in all I did, try —"

    "Ay, but at mother's een," interrupted Letty, "conno' see i' other childer what they oon i' her own.  I'll try to do, too.  Bring yo'r cheear closer to me — closer to me — closer yet;  put yo'r arm o' my shoother; look as if yor'n watchin for hangels t' come down an' ax yo' t' go back wi' 'em, an' then I'st think it's our Ann after readin her Bible on a winter's neet — talkin about Lord Jesus, an' how hoo should like to be with him.  Oh, I'm feelin like a mother now, when hoo's getten her little lambs about her, puttin their gowden curls aside o' these owd grey thrums, an' comfortin me as our Ann did afore her lips whitent, an' hoo could see things ut we shouldno' see till we getten int' our graves."

    "And may the Lord Jesus, whom we all pray to, comfort you and strengthen you in your old age.  May His grace abound in the hearts of all good kind people like yourself, and his blessing always be with them!"

    "Amen!" responded the old woman, and the two prayed fervently together.

    "Mun I co yo' Ann, then?" said Letty, rising.

    "If the name would please you better," said Marian, "you may call me by it, and it will always remind me of my duties towards you."

    "Well, Ann, then, come, we'n side th' pots, an' mak o straight again our felly comes whoam, an' then yo'st don our tother Ann's clooas if yo'n a mind; an' it'll mak him feel beside hissel when he sees his choilt's come back again, as he'll think.  Dunno' mind me cryin a bit now an' again.  I'm o th' happier when I'm weet i'th' een, for it's a sign ut ther's sunshoine ut th' back on't."

    Marian assisted old Letty in washing and removing the breakfast things — a task easily accomplished in a poor man's house, and the hearth was tidied up, "skitterins" of sand were riddled over the floor, and the window was draped in fresh clean curtains.  The dame reached from a drawer a clean and carefully folded cotton bedgown, of a pattern almost as old as herself, and a little checked apron, both of which had belonged to her daughter; and did not Marian look like a pretty cottage girl when she put them on, and took up a piece of knitting which old Letty found her, and which she begged to be allowed to finish?

    Well, Snapper-spring did not hasten home as he promised he would.  Noon passed, the day waned, evening set in, and still he came not.  Stopping at the "Wheel and Barrels" no doubt he was.  He could never get past if anyone put a finger up — so Letty told Marian; but she did not mean it all, not she, for Tom was a good, kind husband, if he had a little of his own way betimes.

    Just as the old woman was drawing the curtain for the night she heard a stumble at the gate, and the latch clinked, and a bang came to the door.  Marian started.  She was thinking about her past life, or rather the unhappy portion of it, and the shadow of her persecutor stood before her like an ugly presence.

    "Thats him, rot him, an' he's drunken!" exclaimed Letty, as the door flew open and discovered the wallet of her old man in the act of swinging off his shoulder and alighting on a chair.  "Th' owd luck again, Tum.  I thowt thou're in a hurry to get back; but thou'll never mend, that thou winnot."

    "I'm as reet as a clock, Lett, an' as straight as a new pin," said Tom, doffing his hat and flinging it on the couch chair.  "Hello!  Well! am I dreeamin'?  Ann, wench, come to thy feyther; come, my choilt!  We thowt we'd1ost thee, darlin, we did.  Stop; I'd forgetten.  Hoo's deead, an' I'm dreeamin.  Hoo's deead, hoo's deead!"  Tom sat himself down, and, laying his face on his knees, gave a deep and painful groan.  That over, tears began to pour down his cheeks, and he wept like a child.  Marian, seeing this, felt its meaning at once; and, as if by an instinctive prompting, all the tender passion — all that clinging affection which she should have bestowed on a father, had she known him — leaped to her lips; and the next moment her deliverer's head was resting in her bosom.  She wiped his cheeks with her apron — that apron which Tom knew had been his daughter's; and after a short, rainy time of it, the old man's face cleared up like spring-tide weather, when the storm-cloud hath exhausted itself and the sun comes out again genial and bright.

    "It's o'er now, Lett — it's o'er now.  I know it's not our Ann; but bless her, too, for o that!  Well, an' yo'r lookin bonny an' weel after bein welly drownt.  An' how that bedgown becomes yo'!  By th' mass, Lett, if hoo's noather feyther nor mother to fret about her, hoo shall tarry where hoo is, if hoo will.  What?  Is it to be so?  Then I'll be a feyther, or else a gronfeyther, to her; an', as long as I live, if anybody mislists her, owd Snapper-spring 'll ungait ther ribs for 'em, if his clogs 'll raich 'em.  Hast' any tae for me, Lett?  I've had nowt but fourpenny an' 'bacco sin' this mornin."

    "Thou should ha' com'n whoam sooner," said the old dame.

    "Well, I should ha' done; but ther owd Jack Planker at th' 'Twelve Apos'ls' [10] an' he're tellin sich fearin tales about Trayvor Ho as I never yerd — summat about ther bein strange skrikes yerd o' neets, an' he thinks it's a boggart cheeont up i' one o'th' chambers.  Hello, what's do now?  In a fit?"

    The latter sentences had reference to Marian, who turned deadly pale at the mention of Trevor Hall, and her head fell upon her shoulder in a swoon.

    "Hoo's noane getten her strength gradely yet," remarked Jinks, as Marian opened her eyes and looked round with somewhat of a scared expression.  "Hoo'll be better in a day or two."

    "Oh, do not mention Trevor Hall again — pray do not, in my hearing!" exclaimed the young lady, in a tone and manner whose significance was quite lost upon old Jinks.

    A word or two from his wife made him start.

    "What," said he, "is this the boggart?  An' a pratty boggart hoo is, too; but somehow I've getten it int' my yead ut it'll no' be cheeont up again yet awhile.  Come, come, Sir Dicky, thou'rt gettin thysel int' linderins very nicely.  Thou'll be wovven up to th' yealds e'ennow; an' if ther isno' a weightstone hangin o'er thy yead heavier than owd Planker's onvil, I'm as blynt as a mowdiwart, an' as deeaf as a bum-baily.  I'm fain, now, ut I never towd nob'dy about yesterneet's job.  We mun keep it quiet till th' sixth chapter o' Revelations is read, an' th' Great Seal is oppent."


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER VII.

FOUR years and several months had passed over since Marian's flight from Trevor Hall, and she had become of Jinks's household almost what an own daughter would have been.  How prettily the bedgown and blue petticoat became her; and even the light, brass-buckled clogs, that every morning shone like a couple of ravens, and the white woollen stockings, too, the pride of weaver lasses, peeping beneath her skirt so bewitchingly!  No one would have known her to have been the rather pensive young lady who had once been the presiding spirit at the Dovecot; and as time advanced it obliterated one by one all traces of her connection with fashionable life.  She could not prevail upon herself to visit Welbrook during those years, although she need not have feared identity from Sir Richard Trevor, seeing that the baronet regarded her as no longer a denizen of this world, the knowledge of which reached Marian's ears on more than one occasion, through the medium of Snapper-spring's visits to the "Jolly Butcher," and his interviews with his friend and crony, old Jack Planker.

    To her there might not have been such a person in the world as Hugh Horton, for she had heard nothing of him during all the time he had been absent.  Why should she, when Hugh had been informed by his cousin, Sir Richard, that she had met her death long ago?  Neither did Marian hear anything from her mother.  She, too, might have been only of the past; and Trevor Hall had sunk in the daughter's memory to the significance of some horrid dream, that had been succeeded by years of calm and unalloyed happiness.  Old Letty had long since ceased to look upon her as a stranger, and would have thought it a most undutiful act, indeed, on the part of Marian, had she married any of the village lads without her approval and consent as a mother.  But there was no fear of the lass taking up with any of those who gave her sly glances as they passed, for she had one love only — living in the memory of those sunny days she had spent at the Dovecot — and in recalling which she had always Hugh pictured in her imagination as the quiet and contemplative boy, rather than as the man his subsequent life must have made him.  Would he ever return? she wondered.  What would he return for?  To poverty and disgrace?  Oh, no.  The little that belonged to her, and which she could at any time wrest from the possession of Sir Richard Trevor, if she had anyone to take her part, would be sufficient for both; and the disgrace — how sweet to throw around it the charm of her indulgent love!  She had to check her fancies when they took this direction, otherwise they left her in tears; and how she had resolved, over and over again, to forget Hugh and all the associations connected with her previous life, living only to lighten the cares and beguile with tender offices the affections of her adopted parents.

    As had been suggested by old Letty, Marian was put to the loom.  Yes, the workhouse girl, the "Lily of Welbrook," the might-have-been Lady Trevor, adopted the profession of her benefactors, and became as good a weaver as any lass in that end of Waverlow.  It was a trial to her at first — learning to tread the treadles, and throw the shuttle, and make the cloth even, although Snapper-spring took every pains to instruct her.  But a day or two's practice made the task easier.  She became less diffident, and could even be left for ten minutes at once without danger of her work being spoiled.  In a month her task-master had the satisfaction of pronouncing her fit to weave for either Whiffle or Sloper — particular as they were about the quality of their work — and in six months from her commencement she became her "own mon," as Tom expressed himself.  That is, she had a loom to herself; and from early morn until the summer night closed, the cheerful rattle of her shuttle, and the boisterous singing of her shopmate, made the loomhouse into quite a little paradise.

    Old Letty was not the woman to neighbour much, and few people ever came into the house, or troubled themselves to inquire who Marian was, so that the secret of her history was not in any great danger of transpiring beyond the threshold of Windy Gap.  But whenever Spuddle came that way, as he often did when taking out besoms for sale at Birchwood, he would call to see his old friend, say about a dozen words during the hour he stayed, and the rest of the time would occupy himself with staring at Marian, as if she had been the object of some pilgrimage thither.  His staring over, he would shoulder his besoms again, fashion his lips into saying "Chup, chup, chup," a mode of expressing satisfaction quite peculiar to himself, and then depart on his hawking expedition.  Sometimes he would call on his return, and bring a thimble, or a needle-case, or a bit of ribbon for Marian, and would be so pleased at her accepting them that he would "Chup, chup, chup" nearly all the time that he stayed.

    Once Marian remarked, jokingly, that she believed Spuddle and she were destined to marry each other, and since then the poor fellow had become quite altered both in his appearance and manner.  He would now have a clean face when he called at Windy Gap, which was the more remarkable because Jinks had often said that soap and water never took kindly to his skin, and it had been strange to him in consequence.  He became all at once a sort of dandy ogre; would wash his face at least twice a week; tie a mildewed napkin round his neck in about as neat a style as a housewife would dress a mop; make spider's web-like darnings over his tattered coat, and thus attired would make such visits to Windy Gap as left no doubt, even on Letty's mind, that he was in love with Marian.  In love!  Why not?  Can we not look out from a wretched hut on as lovely scenes as we can behold from palace terrace?  The blushing morn, the rosy sunset, the star-spangled sky, the wonders and glories of heaven and earth, are they not as beautiful to peasant as to prince? and cannot the outwardly unfavoured of Nature worship them as well as he of Apollo's mould?  A fine lady was once beloved by a bellows-mender; and why should not a besom-maker look with admiring gaze on a weaver lass — even if she were beautiful?

    On one occasion when Spuddle called at Windy Gap, Jinks was absent from home on a "bearin whoam" errand; and Marian had unfortunately a "treadle-band" broken which she knew not how to piece.  What could the lass do in such a fix but ask the amorous swain, who was sitting on the loom rail, to set the matter to rights?  Although Spuddle knew no more about a treadle-band than he did about the mainspring of a watch.  He, however, threw himself into the treadle-hole, tied and untied this string and that, noosed and knotted, cut and slashed and pieced until he had got everything so entangled that he swore, "no mon wick could ever find out which wur reet, an' which were wrank."  It was early in the afternoon when he set to work, and now it was "baggin-time," and still Spuddle lay grunting in the treadle-hole, farther from righting the loom than he was when he commenced.

    Let us leave the besom-maker "chupping," old Letty and Marian laughing, and take a walk down the village as far as the "Wheel and Barrels."

    It is the same afternoon, at the time of the year


When jocund Spring the gentle Summer woos,
And May and June the bridal garlands weave.


The air is sweet with honeysuckle and hawthorn; bees come straying across the river, buzz round the sycamore on the green, then seek their honey pastures again up in the meadows by the hillside.  Gloaming is coming on; the lark, after having wearied itself in the sky, hath sought its nest; and the thrush is just commencing its evening hymn.  The sweet bells of old Waverlow are chiming the hour, and the advanced guard of rooks are wheeling down to their nests as a solitary traveller, footsore and weary, unshoulders his bundle, and seats himself beneath the old sycamore.  The strangers clothes are so begrimed with dust that it would be difficult at a glance to say what class of people or what country he belongs to; and though his body retains much of the litheness of youth, years seem to have descended upon his head, and they, together with sun and sea, have made such havoc with his features that they have the appearance of having been roughly carved out of a block of mahogany.  He looks about him wistfully, at objects that he would fain think were familiar, and casts many a longing glance in the direction of the public-house, as if he would like to enter there and refresh himself; then falls into a reverie, and seems rapt amongst the memories of a bygone time.

    The traveller started as the first chime of the next hour struck upon his ear, and he looked around again.

    "Ah, me!" he said to himself, with a dejected air, "it is little more than five years since I was here before, yet they have had, to my calculation, the length of twenty.  That is a long period in a young man's life; and if he has seen much during the time, his experience will tend to spoil the freshness of youth.  It has damaged mine woefully; for I feel as old and as sapless as a superannuated wooden leg, that is retained more for the sake of old acquaintance than for service.  I wonder whether anyone will know me!  They have a better memory than mine if they do; for I hardly know myself.  This comes of glory hunting — laurels and rags — a name amongst the myriad on the 'scroll of fame,' but none at the banker's.  Such is the bright setting of a soldier's career.  How sweetly smells the hawthorn blossom! — much pleasanter to one's nostrils than gunpowder; and the church bells, too — how soothing their melody to a wearied, anxious soul!  Chime on — chime on!  I would rather listen to your music than I would the boom of cannon or the roar of musketry — the sweet tales ye tell, than the death-shriek of such as speak of earth's joys no more."

    These reflections were interrupted by the appearance of a weaver's wallet swinging out at the door of the "Wheel and Barrels," the same being carried, or, rather, knocked about, by the slightly unsteady shoulders of owd Snapper-spring.  The weaver had the appearance of being rather crusty and quarrelsome, for he had just fired off an oath in the lobby, and was now grumbling loudly over something with his characteristic manner of expression.

    "A nice thing, too," he said; "ut I mun keawer between four posts o' poverty, doancin upo' pegs o' misery to th' tune of about forty yard a week, for a leawsy seven-an'-sixpence!  They sayn I'm like t' do it, or clem.  Stop till blackb'ry time comes, an' I'll let 'em see.  'Bated me a shillin, too, for brokken picks.  I wish I'd poo'd th' owd divul o'er th' counter; I'd ha' brokken his picks till I'd rovt o th' weft out on him; for a dampert cut leawser as he is.  Our Lett expects me buyin her a new bedgown, but hoo'll be same as owd Jone o' Philip's wur when his hens began a-crowin — hoo'll be sadly gloppent.  Now, red un! art' afther listin someb'dy, like?  If thou art, thou may ha' me, if I'm noane too owd.  Come, what sesta?"  This was addressed to the stranger, who had left his seat under the sycamore, and was making for the door of the public-house.

    "I would rather enlist myself in your service, daddy," said the stranger, "than take you under a banner that can only afford such rags as these."

    "What," said Jinks, "dost belong to th' Mopstail Guards, or th' Flyin Jack-ass Rippers, as theau's sich fine regimentals?  Ther's no' mony crows 'll leet about thee, I think.  Well, come into th' 'Poss'ls; I'll stond a pint at anyrate, for thou looks as dry as a pavor.  But stop; let's keawer us down here, for there's a lot o' chaps i'th' tap-room ut if they seen a pot they'n be dippin ther noses into t' like as monny flees.  Heigh, Ailse!  A pint for owd 'Snapper-spring, born beaut shirt, an' cares for nob'dy!"

    The pint was brought and offered to the traveller, who took a pull at its contents that drew forth the remark from Jinks that he must come from a "dry country."

    "I've come from the Indies," said the stranger, "where I've been fighting for my Queen and country, and am on my way home; that is, if I can find a home."

    "Wheere wurn yo' reeart at?" inquired the weaver.

    "Not far from here," was the reply.

    "Well, I never knew nob'dy about here ut ever went for a sodier, nobbut owd Joe-at-Whackers' lad, an' he're kilt at Wayterloo," said Snapper-spring, setting his chin upon his thumbs, and apparently running over his memory.  "Let's see!  Yigh, now I bethinks me; wur yo' ever at Waverlow wakes?"

    "Only once in my life, and that was once too often," said the stranger.

    "Yo' are no — yigh — bedam yo' are th' young squire ut wur, or I'm noane here.  Are no' yo'?"

    "My family name is Horton, but as I have proved unworthy of it, I have adopted another name since I left home," and the young man looked down and sighed.

    "Well, but," said Snapper-spring, "I'st co yo' Horton, an' th' squire too; an we'n have a spree now, if o my out brass has t' goo.  So come in, an' if yo' conno' drink, I know someb'dy ut con."

    "Excuse me," said Hugh, "I must look out lodgings somewhere before night, for I feel wofully tired.  Beside, I want to visit the churchyard."

    "Yo' dunno' want t' goo a roostin among th' crows and pynots, dun yo'?  Yo'd do better wi' th' Twelve Aposs'ls here.  Beside, I want t' have a great deeal o' talk wi' yo' yet; so come in.  Ther's nob'dy buried yonder belongin yo,' is ther?"

    "Yes, one who was dearer to me than all beside — my foster sister."

    "What, dun yo'' meean her ut wur browt up wi' yo' — Marian?"

    "Yes, Marian."

    "Whoa's gone an' crommed that thumpin lie int' yo'r yead?  Marian's weel an' hearty, an' as wick as a midge this minit."

    "You don't say so?"

    "But I do say so, an' I'll say it again if yo'n a mind — fifty times o'er."

    "It is impossible."

    "Then I'm a dateless gonner, an' our Lett's reet when hoo coes me so, now then," and Snapper-spring threw his hat emphatically upon the pavement.

    "Why, she was drowned in the river some years ago," said Hugh, startled, and unwilling to disbelieve what the weaver had told him.

    "Wur hoo, begad!" exclaimed Jinks.  "Here, just help me wi' this wallet ont' my shoother, an' goo wi' me, an' we'n soon see whether me or someb'dy else has bin lyin.  We con put th' fuddle off till another day.  So come on t' our house, an' my owd dame con tell yo' wheere hoo is in a couple o' jiffies."

    Hugh Horton, with a feeling of mixed surprise and foreboding, helped the weaver to shoulder his wallet, and as if something beside his natural strength urged the old man forward, his legs played about like a pair of eccentric drumsticks, and he and his anxious companion were soon rounding the hillside in the direction of Windy Gap.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER VIII.


WHEN Jinks and Hugh Horton reached Windy Gap, Marian was just preparing supper, whilst old Letty was looking through the window, watching the sun settle itself down in the nest of cloudlets that crowded round its setting, like a parent amongst his children.  The last ray was "paling" itself on the cottage ceiling, and the nook opposite where Letty sat had only its twilight relieved by occasional blinks from the fire, as Marian hastened the porridge meal that was sputtering merrily in its pan on the bar.  Now and then a snatch of thrush-song would come "whewting " out of the adjacent copse, which would grow fainter, and with lengthening intervals as the light faded, until old Letty found herself listening only to the two crickets that held undisturbed concert beneath the oven.  It was as sweet a domestic picture as the imagination can realise; for a serene tranquillity reigned over it, to which the lights and shadows, the quietly flitting to and fro of Marian, and the saintly form of old Letty, fixed like a portrait in relief against the window, with the last gleam of sunset tipping the screen of her cap, lent a charm as if appertaining to such scenes of cottage romance as we read of in our pastorals of old.

    Snapper-spring had not given the slightest hint to his companion as to the whereabouts of Marian, and any question that Hugh put to him regarding her was answered by a hiccup, or a remark as foreign to the purpose as it well could be.  The weaver rather chose to have a "gloppenin," as no doubt he would term the meeting — a surprise; and such a happy scene to follow, that his very wallet seemed to rejoice at the prospect.  And then the going down to Trevor Hall, the explanation of certain matters not very pleasant, the row that would ensue, and then his finally taking the baronet by the ears, as he thought, and shaking him out of his shoes.  All this so occupied the weavers mind that no wonder he stumbled against the garden gate before he was properly aware that he had reached home.

    "Here he is," said old Letty, coming from the window like a portrait out of its frame; an' he's getten someb'dy with him, too — some drunken rascot ut he's let on, I reckon."

    "Here, Ann, tak howd o' this wallet, wilta?" shouted Jinks, as he banged open the door, and staggered into the house.  "I've browt thee a felly [11]; I towd thee I would do sometime.  An' he's a fancy un, too.  Come in, Lolloper," said he adopting the familiar in order to favour Hugh's disguise.

    "Have I the honour to salute your daughter?" said the soldier, as Marian approached and curtsied.

    Marian started.

    That voice! — that dress! no; it could not be he.  The beard, that almost swept his breast; the reddish olive of his complexion; the closely cropped head; and Hugh — her Hugh, had curls so fair, and face of almost womanly delicacy.  No; it cannot be her soldier.

    It was no wonder that Marian did not recognise her lover.  She had never seen him in his regimentals, and he was so altered in other respects from the boyish youth who had wooed her in the alcove at the Dovecot.

    Marian took the stranger's cap, and as she laid it on the drawers she saw written on the inside of it the name of "Luke Jordan?"  How, then, could it be the squire?

    "Nob'dy else dar say hoo's theirs, nobbut one mon," said Jinks in reply to the question which Hugh had put.  "An' anybody ut takes her fro' under my wing 'll ha' t' ax my leeave fust."

    Old Letty was not cross, as she had thought to have been; nor was the stranger the "drunken rascot" she had fancied him to be.  There was something in the tone in which she asked him would he "tak a mess o' porritch" with them that expressed the feelings of a mother in her tenderest solicitude.

    Marian stood in the shadow of the nook, gazing at the stranger, who only took stolen glances at her in return, as if he were afraid of awakening a suspicion in the parents' minds that he was paying too much attention to their daughter.  Had he forgotten his old love; he was sure he could love her, although he saw her but imperfectly.  Did she know Marian? he wondered; and had she caught from her a tone — an expression of her beauty and gentleness, and cherished it to adorn her humble cottage home?

    "Come, poo up yo'r cheear," said old Letty to her guest.  "It's nobbut a plain supper; but it's howsome.  An' thee give o'er o' thy mad wark," she said to her husband, who was cutting all sorts of capers in the middle of the floor — now attempting to dance, and ending in a kick at the table leg, or a pitch backwards against the drawers.

    Just as the others were seating themselves at the table, the weaver made a pause in his "marlocking," and brushing up his hair till it stood like a handful of waste on his head he exclaimed —

    "I conno' howd a minit longer.  Ann — Marian, I mean! dustno' know him?  It's him, wench — th' young squire.  Come into the kitchen, Lett, while I gi'e thee my brass.  They'n bated me a shillin; cuss 'em."

    Was there not a "gloppenin," as Tum had anticipated.  The old fox knew that the young folks would rush into each other's arms in a moment, and he decoyed his spouse into the kitchen that they might have the interview alone.  And what hugging and kissing there was between the young couple, as though the joy of that meeting would never have an end!  And how Snapper-spring caught hold of his old dame with the determination that the others should not have all the delight of that time to themselves!

    "Oh, my dear Marian!" said Hugh, after the first transport of joy had exhausted itself, "could I have dreamt that this meeting was in store for me, how tardy would have seemed the ship that bore me home!  How I should have prayed for winds to drive us leaping o'er the waves till they had cast me hither in your arms!"

    "I know not how it happened, Hugh," said Marian, "but I always had faith in your coming home again, and being the dear brother you were once.  But why did you not write to me during all the time you have been absent?"

    "Shame at the one mad act of my life forbade me for awhile.  At last I wrote to my cousin, Sir Richard—why do you tremble?"

    "'Twas nothing."

    "At last I wrote to my cousin, Sir Richard, asking him how you were, and intending, on the receipt of his answer, to beg your forgiveness of what I had done, and bear my fate with the fortitude becoming a soldier."

    "You know I should have forgiven you," said Marian.

    "My heart told me so, but my folly said otherwise; for when I had thrown away the fortune which should have made us both happy, what atonement could have served me in the eyes of those I had wronged?"

    "But I had sufficient for both of us; and our conditions would then have been far above what mine would have been but for the benevolence of your father.  Oh, Hugh!  Why not have given me the joy of making a return for the many kindnesses I received at your hands when we were children together."

    "Well, but listen.  My cousin wrote me, in answer, that you were dead; yes — dead; that you had wilfully left his guardianship, and in making your escape, during one stormy night, you had perished in the river, and that he had never been able to recover your remains.  What strange adventure have you had, Marian, that has brought you here?"

    "It is too much to tell at once," said Marian, again shuddering.  "You shall know by-and-by, and from other lips than mine.  My father — I must still call him father — will tell you."

    "Ay, that I will, my wench," said Jinks, coming from his hiding place — old Letty following, and blessing her soul and wondering what God would send them next, and if they were in the sixth chapter of Revelations, as her spouse had been saying.

    "I'1l tell him summat ut 'll mak him oppen his een till they're ready to split his yead; but we'n have us porritch fust."

    Who cared for porridge just then?  But no matter, Jinks out with his narrative by bits, between each spoonful; and delving deep into the dish when he described the terrors of that night he found Marian in the river, and delving deeper still when he pictured to himself the thunder cloud which he imagined was about to descend upon Trevor Hall in consequence.

    But there was a link wanting in the chain of that strange history; a knot to be untied that had puzzled the weaver sorely whenever he thought about it — the mystery of young Horton's enlistment, for a mystery there was about it, he was sure.

    "Dun yo' recollect," said he, dropping his spoon into the empty bowl with a jingle that implied he had finished his meal — "dun yo' recollect, Mesthur Horton, owt about that time?"

    "How could I, when I was away?" said Hugh.

    "Well, but I meean that time when yo' tooken th' shillin!"

    "Took the shilling!  What do you mean?"

    "Wheay, when yo' said yor'n free, willin, an' able to kill Frenchmen or Indy blackymoors for a shillin a day, an' sweep yo'r own loomreaum."

    "Oh, I understand you now.  No; it is as great a mystery to me now as it was then.  You know how I was at the time."

    "Ay, an' it strikes me ut ther summat wrank about it at th' time; ut yo' didno' list o' yo'r own yead, but I conno' swear it."

    "I con!" said a voice, apparently coming from the loomhouse.  And immediately there was a crash among the treadles, as if a beam had fallen; and a "chup, chup, chup," prefaced by a few loud grunts, informed the group at the table that Spuddle was somewhere within sound of his lips.

    "What's that owd ling-boggart dooin yonder?" exclaimed Jinks, twisting himself round towards the loomhouse door.

    "Dear me!" said Marian, "I had forgotten him, poor fellow!  I asked him to piece a broken treadle-band for me, and since then I have been sewing in the garden, and knew not but he'd gone away."

    "Well, I'd quite forgotten him, too," said Letty.  "Has thou pieced it, Spuddle; for thou's bin a long time about it."

    "Nawe," said tho besom-maker, who was just poking his head from the interior of the loomhouse; "but I chink I could ha' done if it ud bin leet another hour or cho."

    "My dear old follow," said Marian, "how cruel it was to forgot you!  All this time without anything to eat, too!"

    "Mesthor Horton," said Snapper-spring, "yo' mun look afther this mon, for he's a dangorous sort of a customer.  If ther's a young wench i'th' country ut's prattier nor common, he's sure t' be after her.  He's done mooer coortin now wi' our Ann — I meean Marian — than ever I did wi' my owd dame.  I keept lippenin on him carryin her off some o' these days, an' makken a quiet weddin on't."

    "Chup, chup, chup," and Spuddle's face was all over grins long before his laughter burst forth, so delighted was he with the idea of his being the gallant which his friend had represented him to be.

    Spuddle had never once thought about food.  His thoughts had been all about Marian, and what he could do to please her.  He would have lain in the treadle hole all night, if such had been her wish — and half hanged himself into the bargain.

    "Never mind that," said he, looking at Marian as if he wished he had been somebody else.  "What wurn yo' talkin about just now?"

    "Oh, Spuddle, owd lad!" said Jinks, "thou'r wi' me when Mesthor Horton here listud, wurtno'?"

    "Yigh," said the besom-maker, "I wur, an' chee'd o about it."

    "What did you see?" said Hugh, with intense eagerness.

    "I chee'd [12] Chir Richut Trayver put a ribbin i' yo'r hat, an' a chillint [13] or chummat i' yo'r pocket."

    "Will you swear that?"

    "Ay, by o th' witches i' We'bruck."

    "Gollad, Spuddle!" exclaimed Jinks, jumping up and slapping his old friend on the back.  "Thou'rt wo'th thy weight i' wimb'ry just now.  Look yo' here, Mesther Horton; I thowt ther summat ut ud welly hang Sir Dick, but this pot-bo o' mine wouldno' carry it reet.  Now, then, Marian, thou'st ha' th' Pigeon-cote back again before I pick th' shuttle another time, or else I'm noane owd Snapper-spring!  Sit yo' still, Mesther Horton; yo'st stop here oneet, if our Letty an' me sleep'n on th' hearthstone.  Now, what are yo' for?"

    "I'm for taking vengeance this very night," exclaimed Hugh, rising suddenly, a dark cloud lowering about his brow.  "Before I sleep Sir Richard shall feel that there is a Nemesis at hand."

    "If yo' go'ne to Trayver Ho t' neet, I'st goo wi' yo'," said Jinks, almost as eager for the business as Hugh himself.

    "Oh, do not go near Sir Richard yet," entreated Marian; "you do not know what a desperate man he is.  I have heard him talk to himself of murder, when he thought no one was listening.  Who knows but he might design such a fate for you?"

    "I have seen too much on the battlefield to be scared at the sight of blood, let alone the thought of it," said Hugh, with a determination in his manner that nothing could check.  "I will seek an explanation of him this very night.  If he refuse it, I will arrest him as a deserter, so soon as I can procure instructions from the proper quarter."

    "Ay, an' let him have 'a taste o' gunpowder tae sweetnt wi' leead," said Snapper-spring, buttoning his jacket as if getting ready for a fight.

    "Eh, thou'll lose thy life if thou goes out this neet," broke in Letty, snatching hold of her husband's arm as he flourished it in mimic warfare.  "Dunno' goo till morning."

    "Stay where you are, old friend," said Hugh.  "If I am not a match for a coward like Sir Richard, my training has been lost upon me."

    "Nawe; I'st miss no spoort if I con help it," said Jinks, taking off his shoes and putting on his clogs.  "I ha'no' bin thrut at a bull-bait for t' be feeart of a bit of a tapeworm like Dicky Trayvor.  If he hauses t' be obstropilous, he shall smell at this timber, an' that's what he winno' like so weel as th' steeam out o' a beefsteak pie.  Come, Spuddle; never mind thy besoms, nor treadle-bands noather, just now.  Goo wi' us, an' thou'st see some spoort, owd lad; an' if thou's a besom-stail wi' thee it'll happen do some sarvice."

    Spuddle had a bundle of "besom-stails" with him, as it happened; and armed with one each, Hugh Horton and his attendants, after taking leave of the women — promising not to commit themselves if it could be avoided — left the cottage, and proceeded in the direction of Trevor Hall.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER IX.


"WHERE'S your master, Trail?  Tell him I want to speak to him in the library."

    Lady Trevor had just descended from her carriage on her return from a drive over to Birchwood; and she stood on the hall steps as the gamekeeper happened to pass.

    She seemed flurried in her manner; and the uneasy twitchings of her mouth betrayed an emotion, or a purpose, that was deeply momentous.

    "Mun I say ut yo'r ladyship wants him just now?" said Trail.

    "Immediately," was the reply.

    "But how if I dunno' know wheere he is?"

    "You must find him."

    "He wur up at th' kennels a while sin', but he's noane theere now."

    "What matters it where he was an hour ago?  See where he is now.  He's somewhere about I know, and you must find him."  As she said this she swept into the hall; and the door closed with a ringing bang, as though it had been the entrance to some fortress suddenly barred against the invader.

    "I didno' like tellin her," said the keeper, turning away, "but Sir Richard's drunken, an' laid down upo' some straw i'th' stable, wheere he's bin these three neets out o' th' four, to my knowledge.  I conno' tell what's come o'er him, for he's gooin on past o reckonin.  There'll be some queer game brakin cover afore lung, I'm thinkin.  Eh, Agnes! thou looks feeart, wench.  What's up?"  This was spoken to a servant girl who was running across the courtyard, evidently, from her manner, in a state of great excitement.

    "Oh, dear me!" she exclaimed; "my lady's in such a way — walking about the library yonder like a queen that's going to drink poison.  She rang for me, but when I saw her I no more durst go near her than if she'd been a witch.  Something has happened, I'm sure."

    "Is it becose Sir Richard's gooin to sell th' Pigeon-cote, I wonder ?" said Trail.

    "I connot tell," said the girl, "but she wants to see master immediately; and she bade me run out to look for him.  Do you know where he is?"

    "Well, between thee an' me, wench, he's i' th' stable asleep.  Wur just now.  I dar' say he's bin down i' th' cloof again."

    "What do you mean by that, Trail?"

    "Wheay," said the other, "I never knew him goo down by th' bruck side but he'd come back lookin as wild as if he're gooin straight off it.  Then he'd shut hissel up in his chamber, an' he'd drink an' shout till he'd tumble down, an' froth at th' mouth like a mad dog.  Summat's wrung wi' him, thou may depend on't."

    "You frighten me, Trail.  But will you tell master my lady wants to speak to him, for I dare not go near him?"

    "Well, I'll goo an' shake him up; but I know he'll cuss me.  Dost yer that?  That's my lady ringin again."

    "Oh dear!" sighed the girl, "I wish I was away from this place.  There's always something to frighten one or put one about.  See to the master, Trail; I'll attend my lady."

    The keeper went to the stable, and found his master still lying in the position he had left him in an hour previous.  The baronet started on hearing his name called, and muttering something which his servant could not make out, turned himself over, gave a deep groan, and breathed heavily in an attempt to compose himself to sleep again.

    "Sir Richart!" again Trail called out.

    "I tell you I did not do it!" muttered the baronet, giving another start.  "It was dead when it was born.  I did but conceal it."

    This time the keeper heard the words distinctly, but their import was so incomprehensible to him that he did but open his eyes and wonder.  What could they mean?  Had they reference to a dead dog, or a rabbit, or a moor-fowl?

    "My lady wants to speak to yo'," said Trail, seeing that his master was apparently wide awake.

    "Tell her I'm coming," said the baronet.

    "But hoo wants yo' just now — said in a minit, or summat o'th' sort."

    "Why, what's the matter?" asked the other.

    "Conno' say; but hoo's in a terrible way, I con tell yo'."

    "I'm afraid Minnie will die, Trail."

    "Dun yo' think hoo will?"

    "Yes; all the pups are dead, and she seems likely to follow, poor thing!  Just go up to the kennels and see to her, and let me know how she's doing."

    Leaving this injunction with his keeper, Sir Richard Trevor staggered out of the stable and proceeded to his mother's presence in the library.  Lady Trevor was pacing rapidly to and fro as her son entered the room; and the look she gave him was one in which reproach and commiseration mingled.

    "Close the door; see there is no one about first," said the lady, in a voice and manner that struck terror to the baronet's heart.

    Her command obeyed, she fixed her eyes on Sir Richard for a moment, as if she would read in his countenance the preface to a life of sin and shame; then said, as though she intended the words should unseal his soul, and discover its inmost secrets!

    "Sarah Rogers is dead!"

    "Sarah Rogers!" exclaimed the baronet, looking confusedly at his parent.

    "You knew her.  She was housemaid here about eight years ago."

    "O yes; I remember."

    "Is there anything else you remember?"

    "Yes; she quarrelled with the cook."

    "Nothing more?"

    "And left through it."

    "Is that all you know?"

    "All I remember."

    "Do you know whither she went when she left here?"

    "To Birchwood, I think."

    "But was not that a fortnight after she left our service?"

    "How should I know?  I don't make it my business to look after servants.  I don't keep a registering office."

    "None of your evasion, Richard; you know all about it."

    The baronet trembled from head to foot, and he seized a chair to support himself.

    "Where was she that fortnight?"

    "Her mother could perhaps tell you best; why put the question to me?"

    "Richard, if the hayloft could speak, do you think that would answer me?"

    The son dropped upon the chair he held, and wiping away the perspiration that hung upon his temples, begged, in a voice that expressed a sense of guilt in its very tone, to know what his mother meant by thus questioning him.

    "Sarah Rogers is dead, as I told you," said Lady Trevor.  "She died this very day; I saw her take her last."

    "Well?"

    "Well, she confessed everything to me.  Now, what became of the child?"

    "Did she not tell you that?"

    "What became of it, I ask?"

    "How should I know?"

    "I see it in your face that you know.  Is the rest true?"

    "I shall not now deny it."

    "Then, confess it all.  I know you are not guilty of murder.  The child was still-born.  You took it away.  What became of it?  Confess!  Let me witness your contrition, pray to God for his forgiveness, live to atone for that great sin, and the sanctuary of a mother's heart shall hold the secret for ever from the world."

    The baronet rose from his seat, staggered to the door, and felt that it was fast; then, casting a timid glance at the portrait of his deceased uncle, Timothy Horton, which frowned down a reproach from the opposite wall, as though its lips would open and proclaim another deep wrong to make up the terrible account of guilt, he said —

    "You shall know all, mother, and more than you suspect.  That child I placed in the river on the night of its birth, and though the current was strong at the time, it remained all night in the pool where I deposited it, and was discovered the following morning by a man who was passing.  You remember an unknown child being taken to my uncle's house, and buried from thence?"

    "I do."

    "That was the child.  Now you know all about it."

    "Oh, Richard, how you have wrung your mother's heart!  Little did I dream of this sad and fatal blow to all my hopes of you when I was sent for this morning.  But it is done, and let the remembrance of it be as a gibbet-post in your path, warning you against all other temptations to sin, pray for the forgiveness of Heaven, and let your future life atone for this one error of the past.  You were but a boy at the time, I know — spoilt by my indulgence; and were you now to commence a life such as your uncle led, how much could a mother's heart forgive — how much her memory obliterate and forget."

    "It is too late!" said the baronet.

    "Why so?  It can never be too late to reduce the measure of sin in the eyes of God.  You are yet young, and have a profitable life before you, if you but keep clear of the dangers which my watchfulness may guard you against for a time."

    "It is too late, I say; rather find a place for me to hide in, for I am a ruined man."

    "Ruined!  How?"

    "Drink, gaming, debt — the three hells have me in their torments now."

    "Good God, my son! you do not say so?"

    "I might have redeemed myself — and have sought to do — but there is one fatal obstacle in the way."

    "Tell me what it is," said Lady Trevor.  "Our estates are broad and rich."

    "Mortgaged past redemption," exclaimed Sir Richard.  "I had intended to sell the Dovecot; but I find now that there is a condition in the will that will prevent me.  Besides, I find on looking over the list of passengers by the latest vessel from India, that my cousin, Hugh Horton, is amongst them.  We may expect him in this neighbourhood before long, and if it has ever occurred to him that his enlistment was more the result of a stratagem of mine than the act of his own will, he may become troublesome to us."

    "Why, what on earth more is there to be revealed?  Oh, Richard, my son! tell me.  How does the future darken before us!  There are clouds before my eyes now, and terrible faces looking out of them; and they are accusing me — me, your mother, with having a share in your crimes.  Look, your uncle there is frowning upon us, as if we had wronged him, too, which God knows we have not.  See, he opens his lips to denounce us.  Oh, speak! my son; say what new and terrible discovery is there in store for me?"

    "Leave it to time; it may be better than we fear.  Let the worst come, they shall not take me."

    "But is it something that will imperil your life?"

    "The law cannot take it.  I have committed no felony beyond the one instance I have confessed to you.  But my liberty might be in danger were I to suffer things to take their course."

    "Then fly this night," said Lady Trevor; "but let it be night first, that no suspicion may be aroused amongst the servants.  Go to France.  We have relatives there who will find you an asylum; and when Trevor Hall can no longer be a home for me, I will follow and join you."

    "Thank you, mother, for the suggestion," exclaimed the baronet; "this night shall see me away.  There is a superstition among the people in the village that the hall is haunted.  Let lights be placed in all the front windows.  The illumination will be attributed by them to some supernatural agency, and my disappearance will easily be connected with the mystery.  They'll think I've been spirited away by the witches, and all suspicion as to the cause of my flight will soon be allayed."

    "Then," said Lady Trevor, rising, "we will make preparations for your departure.  Saddle your horse yourself, so that the servants may not suspect anything; I will see that your trunks follow you to-morrow.  When ten o'clock strikes, mount; and I will take care that there be light sufficient to guide you through the valley.  It is getting dark already.  The crows are coming home, and we shall barely have time to prepare?

    As night fell, the stillness that reigned around Trevor Hall was as if every conscience was as tranquil as the sunset, and each soul as pure as the fleecy dots of clouds that sailed slowly down towards their western home.  The rocks had ceased their cawing, and save now and then a low cry from the shippon, and a whining bark from the kennels, no sound of life broke the stillness of the evening's close.  But as ten o'clock approached there might have been heard a pawing on the pavement of the stable, as if a horse was restless, and a jingling of stirrups might have alarmed the groom, had he not been sound asleep at the farther end of the hall.  One by one lights began to twinkle in the front windows, increasing in their number and brilliancy, until from basement to attic, from the eastern angle to the wood-swept tower that frowns upon the valley looking westward, a flood of light streamed over the landscape that would have appeared in the distance as if the hall had been in flames.  There was scarcely an eye in Welbrook that did not look with a feeling of awe on the strange spectacle, and many a villager heard, or fancied he heard, strange and unearthly sounds flying through the air.  The night was a devoted one.  Spirits were abroad, it was thought, and old Planker's legend of the haunted tower found many a believer amongst people who had been sceptical before.

    Lady Trevor and her son were again in the library, waiting for the hour to strike that would separate them perhaps for ever.  Their leave — taking was not the tender and affecting ceremony that might have characterised the severance of two pure natures, or of beings whose souls have not been blunted by contact with sin, and where the heart still held an unconstrained affection.  The two were silent — Lady Trevor gazing on her son, and he at vacancy — but the heaving breast of the woman showed that its inward workings were not of the quietest kind, and the wild glance of the man betokened a purpose in which desperation was both guide and incentive.

    The hour of ten rang from the old clock in the tower.  The baronet started and rose from his seat.

    "The servants will now have retired," observed Lady Trevor, "and you can depart unseen.  Farewell, my son! and may Heaven spare you for a better life!"

    "Farewell, mother!"

    They had scarcely left each other's arms, Lady Trevor to seek her room and Sir Richard to fly, when a loud knock came thundering at the entrance door.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER X.


DID it not ring through Trevor Hall like a knell — that knocking at the door?  Sir Richard started when he heard it, and a death-like pallor spread over his countenance.  Lady Trevor might have had a foreknowledge of its import; for she, too, felt as though it were a summons to judgment; and both stood for a moment in that agony of suspense which may be said to precede the tale of doom.

    "What can it be at this hour?" exclaimed the baronet, irresolute whether to attend the door himself, or ring for a servant.  "It is too late for ordinary visitors, and yet—"

    "Stay!" said Lady Trevor, laying her hand on her son's arm.  "My heart tells me that knock bodes no good.  It maybe some message that will affect your safety.  Stay; I'll go myself."  With that she stepped cautiously to the hall door, and opening it to the length of its chain, beheld a man standing on the terrace.

    The light was yet sufficient to enable Lady Trevor to assure herself that the visitor was not of the character she most dreaded at the time.  He had neither handcuffs, nor chains, nor irons in his appearance; neither did he come with pistol in one hand and warrant in the other to say, "Richard Trevor, I arrest you on the charge of murder."  The lady could not help smiling at her fears when she recognised in their cause the well-known physiognomy of the besom-maker of Welbrook.

    "What!  Spuddle, my poor fellow," she said, "whatever brings you at this time of night?  Do you know how late it is?"

    "Is Chir Richut in?" inquired the other, in a tone that was far from conveying in it anything to alarm.

    "I'll see," replied Lady Trevor; and leaving Spuddle waiting on the hall steps, she went to acquaint her son with the character of their visitor.

    "The besom-maker!" exclaimed Sir Richard, laughing; "what can he want, I wonder?  I promised him a good horsewhipping next time I caught him among the copse-wood.  Perhaps he's come to beg my forgiveness for the saplings he has already stolen.  I've a good mind to frighten him.  Show him in."

    The door was opened — unchained — but although it was Spuddle whom Lady Trevor had seen on the terrace, another person than he strode through the hall, and now stood like a spectre at the library door.

    "I have no card to present, Sir Richard, otherwise I might have announced myself," said the visitor, gazing steadfastly at the baronet, who, with confusion and despair in his countenance, was literally crouching at the other end of the room.

    "What!  Don't you know me?  I am your kinsman — Hugh Horton."

    "What!  My dear cousin!" exclaimed Sir Richard, rising, and essaying to embrace the visitor.  "How glad am I to see you!"

    "Stand off!" said Hugh, waving the other from him.  "Don't think me rude, aunt," said he, turning to Lady Trevor, who was as much taken by surprise at the visit as was her son.  "Sir Richard owes me some explanations, which I come to demand from him."

    "What explanations do you require?" asked the baronet, assuming a strangeness about the other's purpose that was far from natural.

    "Touching my disinheritance," said Hugh.

    "Who so likely to know as much about it as yourself."

    "You; you know more than I do; or rather, I would say, more than I knew two hours ago."

    "At another time and in any other presence I might have disputed that; but I do not choose to do so at present.  You are my guest, I presume."

    "Not to-night; when I sleep in this hall Sir Richard Trevor will not be its possessor."

    "Which will not happen until the baronet of that name be dead."

    "We shall see.  The Dovecot and its estates were once mine; but deception, villainy, wrested them from my possession.  Who knows but avenging justice may have power to restore them to me, and dispossess others of that which they might once have held in peace."

    "How shall that happen, pray?"

    "Sir Richard, I know not the extent of your baseness, but sufficient to denounce you as one sunk deep into crime."

    "You know nothing of that, surely," broke in Lady Trevor.  "No one has told you — no one knows but myself."

    "Of what?"

    "Of the girl.  She's dead now — died today — I saw her with my own eyes."

    "What do you mean, aunt?  Who is dead?"

    "You see, cousin," said Sir Richard, affectedly, "how the death of your poor sister has afflicted my mother.  I am afraid her reason has been affected by it, for she's always fancying that the girl perished today, or yesterday — just according to the humour she is in."

    "Of that hereafter," said Hugh.  "I would not distress Lady Trevor now by calling to her mind the death of one who was as dear to me as all the world beside."

    "She was as dear to me as she was to you," exclaimed the baronet; "and Trevor Hall has lost an ornament in her death that can never be replaced."

    "Sir Richard, there was always a mystery about Marian's disappearance from beneath this roof that your correspondence never satisfactorily explained.  What was the real cause?"

    "A romantic disposition inherent in her nature, and fostered by the books she road.  She was bent upon rambling, and I believe that if she could have found you she would have become a camp follower, like her mother."

    "False, Sir Richard!  You believed no such thing."

    "How came you by the power to measure my convictions?  Why challenge my opinion upon a matter about which I know no more than you?"

    "I have a reason, Sir Richard.  You say that Marian's rambling disposition led her to leave your guardianship.  Was it not rather your persecution that drove her away?"

    "By Heaven, I say it was not!"

    "Then by Heaven I say you lie!"

    "Your proof."

    "From Marian's own lips."

    "Impossible?"

    "Sir Richard Trevor, she whom you thought dead — lives; and like myself has a terrible account of wrong to avenge."

    "Lives!" exclaimed Lady Trevor.

    "I saw her not an hour ago," said Hugh.  "To-morrow she will be here, and confront Sir Richard with his baseness.  It is true she fell into the river on the night she fled from here, but was rescued."

    "How?"

    "By a poor old weaver living up at Windy Gap.  He heard her screams, and ran down to the river, where he just arrived in time to save her.  Since then she has been living with him as his adopted daughter.  It was in his cottage that I saw her."

    "But we have only your word for this," said Sir Richard.  "You may have been deceived yourself, and are trying to deceive us."

    "If you doubt the truth of what I have told you, there is a witness at the door who will corroborate my testimony.  Will you call him in?"

    There was no need of calling that witness into their presence; for, on turning round, Hugh encountered the unmistakable form of owd Snapper-spring leaning leisurely against the door-cheek, with the face of Spuddle peering over his shoulder.  How the two had got there no one could account for, unless Lady Trevor had inadvertently left the door ajar when she admitted Hugh Horton.  However, there they stood; and it became a matter of momentary embarrassment to the baronet what to do with them.  At length, summoning as much courage as he was master of, he observed —

    "I know not how you two men came here, but I guess your purpose; and since you are here, what have you got to say?"

    "A good deeal, Sir Richart," replied Snapper-spring.

    "A good deeal, Chir Richut," echoed Spuddle.

    "I owe you a good trouncing," said Sir Richard, shaking his fist at the latter.

    "Give it me now," said the besom-maker, making rather an ominous exhibition of a clumsy-looking piece of hazel intended for a besom-stail.

    "What business have you here — you! old fellow, I mean?"

    "I'm come'n a-backin Mesther Horton," said Jinks, showing a duplicate of his companion's weapon.

    "Are you the Weaver from Windy Gap?"

    "I live theere, I believe."

    "And some girl assuming herself to be a young lady who was once attached to our family is living with you?"

    "Say that again."

    "You understand me — a girl is living with you?"

    "Ay — wi' me an' my owd woman; put it reet."

    "And she calls herself Marian Dale?"

    "Well, but we aulus coed her Ann."

    "No matter; she claims to be that young lady."

    "Well, an' hoo is."

    "How know you that?"

    "Becose hoo showed me a mark on her arm ut Dicky Trayvor made with his teeth when he're tryin t' buss her again her mind.  Now then!"

    "You lie, you old scoundrel!"

    "If I'd bin twenty year younger, thou wouldno' ha' towd me that twice o'er, lemme tell thee, Dicky Smo'beeart."  And Snapper-spring struck the floor with his stick.

    "She's an impostor, and you're a — "

    "Hoo's as good a wayver as any i' Waverlow, an' as nice a wench, too.  Too nice for a whelp like Dicky Trayvor to slaver o'er."

    "You insolent old vagabond, get out of the room?  Begone, I say!"  And the bayonet made a push at the weaver's shoulder.

    "I sha'no' stir a peg fro' here till Mesthur Horton tells me t' do," said Jinks, throwing off the baronet's arm.  "Touch me again, an' I'll raise a lump o' thy yead ut thou may hang thy hat on."

    "Were anyone to quarrel it is I who have the greatest cause," said Hugh, throwing himself between his cousin and the weaver.  "There can be no mistake about identity of the young lady.  If my eyes deceived me, my heart could not.  But let the question rest a while.  There is another matter, not of greater moment, but requiring more immediate attention.  You remember a circumstance occurring at Waverlow wakes in which you and I were very closely concerned."

    "When you enlisted, I suppose you mean," said Sir Richard.

    "That is the circumstance I allude to."

    "Well?"

    "Was I not asleep when that interesting ceremony was performed?"

    The baronet's face turned paler than ever, and his knees shook against each other as he replied :—

    "How could you enlist, if you were asleep?"

    "Because there is such a thing as proxy.  It was Sir Richard Trevor who enlisted in the name of Luke Jordan; and the deception was palmed upon me."

    "If you could prove that, cousin, then you would have a case indeed; but in the absence of that proof, it is possible you may have to remain Luke Jordan to the end of your service."

    "The witnesses are here who saw the trick, and are prepared to swear to it."

    "Who?"

    "I'm one," said Spuddle.

    "An' I'm another," said Snapper-spring.

    "You will swear to what Mr. Horton has stated?"

    "To every word on't."

    "Hugh Horton," said Sir Richard, "if you imagine this plea will serve you to my detriment, you are deceiving yourself.  There is an authority — a law — that will step in betwixt you and what you no doubt consider your revenge.  To-morrow will explain my meaning.  Wait till tomorrow."

    "I must have satisfaction this very night," said Hugh.  "If you do not at once give up all claim to the Dovecot estate, I shall arrest you as a deserter.  I leave you to choose the alternative."

    "Never!" exclaimed the baronet.  "Never shall you have that satisfaction."

    "Then guard the door, friends, while I secure my prisoner."

    It was too late.  Sir Richard made a dash out of the room, and the next moment the hall door was heard to close with a bang that shook the whole building.

    Lady Trevor had sought her room before the close of the interview betwixt her son and her nephew.  The excitement she had undergone had set her brain on fire, and she sank down in a fit of delirium from which she awoke not for a long time.  Hugh Horton heard a strange cry; but his feelings had been so much occupied by the encounter with his cousin that the noise created no alarm in his mind.  Sir Richard had fled, and now for the chase.  Night and darkness favoured his escape; but Hugh was fleet of foot, and, although he was travel-sore when he entered Waverlow, he somehow, had thrown off his weariness, and a new strength nerved every limb.

    "Come, friends," he said, "we must go in pursuit.  You stay about the hall here.  Sir Richard may return, and you may then secure him.  I know the road he is likely to go, and will follow.  Wait till I return.  Come."

    The three left the room; Hugh Horton to go in pursuit of the runaway baronet, and Snapper-spring and Spuddle to remain on the ground, waiting for the return of their game.

    As Hugh leaped from the terrace a crash of horses' hoofs made the pavement in the courtyard blaze, and the next moment a cloud swept past them, showers of fire tracking its flight till it swooped down into the valley, and was lost to both sight and hearing.  Hugh saw that pursuit was hopeless, and he stood with his companions, listening for the sound of the horse's hoofs again, so as to indicate the direction of its masters flight.  But night, as if angry at having its repose disturbed, appeared to intensify the solemn quietude of the hour, and draw more closely its sombre garments around it.

    "He's gone," said Hugh, in a whisper, still listening for the slightest sound, and striving to pierce the gloom which hung about the valley, as if his eyes would interpret the imaginary shapes which seemed to fill the air into that of the flying baronet and his swift-footed steed.  But notwithstanding that it was a night on which you might have heard the faintest flutter of a wing, or a breath that would scarcely stir the gossamer, not a sound disturbed the dreamy stillness of the scene.

    "They'n sunken in th' yearth, I think," observed Snapper-spring, turning himself round and catching a strong gleam of light as it shot from a turret window.

    "An' no wonder; for if there isno' fearin about t' neet, owd Jack Planker never see'd noane."

    "I chee'd a great bit-bat fly o'er just now," said Spuddle, a feeling of terror creeping over him.  "An' it had wings like two cart sides.  I da'chay it wur carryin Chir Richut away; for if he'd gone ont' road we chud a yerd him."

    "Hush!" said Hugh.  "I heard a horse's foot just then.  No; I must have imagined it.  How my heart oppresses me!  I feel as if a dead weight were dragging me down.  This night is full of terrors.  The very sky appears one huge pall waiting to wrap the world in death.  I now begin to pity Sir Richard, and feel that if he would return I could forgive him everything.  Poor fellow!  I shall not forget the last look he gave me.  It recalled our boyhood's days, and his soul seemed to catch at them an instant, and the next give itself up like a drowning man to the despair of death.  I wish I had not been so hasty.  If to-morrow—"

    Tomorrow!  What had Sir Richard Trevor to do with tomorrow? the fears of Hugh Horton were then asking.  What is time to him — or the treasures and concerns of life — for whom eternity may now be yawning?  Hark!

    "Oh God! did you not hear that " exclaimed Hugh, as a piercing cry stuck his ear.

    None of the three moved.  They stood as if listening for a repetition of the cry. It came not; but a clatter of horses' hoofs was heard.  Nearer and louder grew the sound, till a cloud rushed past them again! the fire flew in showers, and the horse — this time without its rider — dashed into the courtyard.

    "What ho! lanterns here!" rang through the hall; and the servants were roused, and lights produced; and now a searching party, guided by Spuddle and Snapper-spring, entered the valley, probing every thicket and peering into every crevice to discover the missing baronet.

    "It's no use lookin for thoose ut th' Owd Lad's getten howd on," said the besom-maker; "for as chure as owt I chee'd him fly away wi' Chir Bichut ; an' I smell chummut now like brunnin matches?"

    The party had been searching about for several hours, and now daylight was breaking.  No Sir Richard had yet turned up, and even Snapper-spring was doubtful whether there might not be some probability of his friend's surmises hitting the truth.  They continued their search, however, the increasing twilight revealing objects and situations that were hidden from them before.  Now the first ray of sunshine shot over the mountain top, and pierced the gloom of a hazel-fringed ravine through which the river flowed with a turbulent spirit.  Hugh Horton looked down into the chasm, and the paleness of death that instant spread over his features.  His eye had caught a glance at some object lying at the bottom.  A second glance confirmed the fears he had from the first entertained respecting the baronet's fate.  There lay Sir Richard — his feet in the water, and his head and shoulders resting on a bulge of rock scarcely lapped by the stream — bloody, ghastly, dead!




    The sequel is soon told.  Lady Trevor became a hopeless maniac, often wandering down the "clough," and seating herself by the side of the river, gazing at the flood as though it were a book which woke her memory to unhappy scenes; and she would wipe her forehead with her handkerchief — wipe it as if there was blood upon it, like that she saw upon her son's forehead when they laid his mangled corpse before her on that terrible morning.  Then she would go to the churchyard, and sit upon his grave, and read over the inscription, often muttering to herself after each repetition, "He was my son for all that."  And there was a little grave around which osiers and flowers grew — a little nest of a grave it was, and Lady Trevor would lay her hand upon the grass, as if she could feel the little heart beat of the one who slept beneath.  There were the hopes of the Trevor family buried — husband, son, grandson — all; and why did they not lay her beside them?

    One day as she sat there a marriage procession passed; the bells rang merrily, and Hugh Horton and his blushing bride bowed their acknowledgments to the crowd of villagers who formed a living avenue up to the church door.  That happy spectacle, the joyous ringing of the bells, and the blessings poured from a hundred lips were too much for the maniac's soul, then pondering over scenes of blood and agony, and weltering as if in a charnel-house of blasted hopes.  With a wild, unearthly scream she fell dead upon the grave — her heart had burst.

    As the reader may have supposed, Trevor Hall came into the possession of Hugh Horton; and the new proprietor set about relieving the estate of some of the encumbrances which his late kinsman's extravagance had entailed upon it.  Spuddle had free range allowed him of all the woods on the estate; and when he could no longer carry besoms to Birchwood, he became a sort of useful lounger about old Jack Planker's smithy; and if anyone had asked him how he got his living, he would "chup, chup, chup," roll his tongue in the hollow of his cheek, and giving a wink peculiar to the construction of one eye, would point with his thumb in the direction of Trevor Hall.

    Snapper-spring never again wove till bedtime.  It was even said he never lighted up his loomhouse at all on winter nights; preferring, whenever he could cheat old Letty, to air himself in the spacious kitchen of the "Wheel and Barrels."  It need not be said how gently the autumn of life mellowed down the old couple; for Lady Horton took care that there was as much sunshine attending it as her bounty could create.

    One morning, several years after the death of the last of the Trevors, Lady Horton took a stroll down to the Dovecot.  She had a little rosy-cheeked boy — her own little Hugh — by the hand; and the two were welcomed at the gate by a sedate-looking lady who had made the place what it was twenty years before, when two little boys and a girl played with the pigeons, and plucked the flowers and berries in the meadows around.

    "Oh, look, ma — see what my new grandpapa is doing!" shouted the little fellow, pulling his mother towards the alcove where she had spent many, many happy hours.  Turning her eyes in that direction, Marian beheld a venerable-looking, white-haired gentleman standing on the lawn there.  He was minus the lower part of his left arm, which he had lost whilst fighting in the Punjaub; and with the stump he held a paint-pot, whilst with his one hand he was engaged in restoring the uniform to the little wooden Sergeant who during all those years had been constantly performing a peculiar kind of double sword exercise on the limited area of a poplar stump.  This veteran was Marian's father, who with her mother had returned from abroad to finish life's campaign among the peaceful associations of their daughter's childhood.  Marian glanced at the ring which she still wore upon her finger — the diamond ring, with the motto, "Wear for my sake?  She thought it looked brighter now that the giver was so near, and she saluted her parent with the tenderest of greetings as she approached.

    Shade of Timothy Horton!—frown not down upon the old man now; for the sins of his youth have in some degree been atoned for by services rendered to his country, and the justice — tardy though it may have been — at last extended to her he had wronged.  Frown not upon him; for he is blossoming now for that purer life wherein our garments shall be whiter than the snow upon his head, and whore they say the wicked who have repented shall not be known from the righteous.

 
――――♦――――

 
RENEWING OLD LOVE;

on,

CLOGGING NEW CLOGS.


OF all the girls in Waverlow Mally Dixon was esteemed the prettiest, and, as a natural consequence, the sauciest.  Good-looking young women are rarely to be found who are ignorant of their charms, or the market value of such; and certainly Mally was not one of those.  Although a weaver herself, she looked down on others of her class, especially the male portion, and it used to be a saying of hers that the driver of a shuttle was not yet born who dared "cheep" to her of the tender passion.  She aimed at higher game, and not without success.  She had cast sheep's eyes on the son of a manufacturer hailing from a neighbouring village, and whose frequent visits to the "Wheel and Barrels" were not made for the sake of either the drink or the company.  Mally lived not far from this old hostelry, and Lemuel Schofield — that was the youth's name, or Lem, as he was mostly called — knew that if he sat at the parlour window a couple of hours on a summer evening he would be sure to see the belle of Waverlow pass.  He had begun to rap at the window on these occasions, and never failed to elicit responses that were most provoking.  A smile, a sideway glance, a deep blush and then an averted face, were sure signs that there was something fluttering in Mally's breast of which he had half possession, and he was determined to be still more sure.

    Lem followed the girl one evening; tapped her on the shoulder; whispered something in her ear; and before the gloaming had set in the pair were wandering by the brookside, saying soft nothings to each other; and indulging in those little freaks of "spooning" that appear to be essential to modern courtship.  But there was another youth that Mally would have preferred had he been anything but a weaver; and the young fellow knew it.  But he knew also that his station in life stood an insurmountable bar between them.  So he never "bothered" himself about the girl — nor, indeed, any other; but laid himself out for the best way of enjoying a bachelor's life.  Mally would, however, sometimes find herself thinking about Luke Howarth when she ought to have been thinking of someone else.  But these stray thoughts will occasionally force themselves on the best us, and in spite of the pains we take to drive them away.

    To end the matter, wedding bells one morning startled the sleep of Waverlow; and a beautiful girl, attired in beautiful silk, held a beautiful bouquet in a trembling hand; and a few words, almost inaudibly spoken, changed that girl's name "for better for worse," as the lottery of life might turn out.  She was married to Lemuel Schofield.

    And Waverlow settled down to its ordinary daily duties, notwithstanding that there had been a grand wedding, and a great deal of gossip.  The old village seemed to get on quite as well now Mally Dixon had left, as it did when she tossed her head at the fainthearted fellows who admired her; and soon the affair had all the wonder washed out of it.

    Time and change continued at their work, and wrought many things that were not prophesied of Waverlow.  To some they brought fortune; to others poverty; and death was in the category of the ills that the village was heir to.  The latter had brought to Luke Howarth a substantial property in a small farm, the legacy of a deceased uncle.  The shuttle was laid aside for ever; and if Mally Schofield had still been Mally Dixon, he ventured to think that instead of her being my lady with a lapdog, she would have been taught something about cows and pigs.  But fortune had come too late.

    It would not seem, however, that fortune had come too late, if newspapers recorded nothing but what was true; and the following had been read in the kitchen of the "Wheel and Barrels," in the presence of Luke Howarth, — "On the 15th inst., suddenly, Mr. Lemuel Schofield, of Heaton View, Birchwood."  Luke scratched his head when he heard that; and he felt a tingling about the tips of his ears.  There was a chance for him then, he thought, of having something besides a pair of pattens, now that death had removed the chief obstacle.  He blushed as if he was then popping the momentous question; and he was afraid lest the company might notice this sign of inward perturbation, and rally him about it.  He was put at ease directly by one of the party remarking —

    "There's a rare pair o' clogs for someb'dy theere if they con get 'em t' fit, for Mally's th' wrong sort for no' cloggin again."

    "Thou'll ha' no chance theere if thou tries it on," said another, whose chances were about equal to the rest.

    "Nawe, there's nob'dy i' this cote need don theirsels up for that arnt (errand).  We're too lumbert wi' boggart wood for gettin o'er that hedge.  It'll ha' to be someb'dy ut's noane handicapt."

    "No childer, noather."

    "An' a factory when th' owd chap shuts up."

    "There must be a rare owd stockin, too, somewheere."

    "I wish I worked at Platt's, I'd mak someb'dy stond out o'th' road, an' let 'em see what's comin," said a fellow whose shirt was enjoying a look — out at one elbow.  "What a shawm it is ut anybody should be hampered wi' a pair o' b'yeams (beams)."

    "Let's see," said another, addressing Luke Howarth, and after a pause in the conversation, "thou'd a bit of a notion i' that quarter once, if owd Betty Jackson tells true."

    "Wheay, what has owd Betty been sayin?" demanded Luke.

    "Hoo towd my mother that day ut Mally wur wed hoot knew somob'dy ut could ha' put Lem Schofielt's nose out if he'd hondled owt beside a pickin-peg."

    "Nay, Mally wouldno' ha' had a cobbler," put in the fellow with the windowed coat sleeve.  "I yerd her say so one Wakes neet.  Hoo'd ha' nob'dy wi' thumbs like jackass feet.  Thoose wur her very words."

    "Whoa wur it owd Betty Jackson meant when hoo're talkin to thy mother?" Luke Howarth pressed to know.

    "Th' fust wayver ut ever wore a dicky," was the reply.  "Thou used to smush thysel up ov a neet, an' go shuffling about owd Dixon's dur, as if thou're after summat beside lookin at their Joe's pigeons.  Mally knew what thou're after, an' owd Betty geet it out on her ut thou could ha' hung thy hat up if it had covered anybody's yead beside a a wayver's."

    "Well, he'll have a chance now," was the remark of several.

    "Ay, if he'll no' goo in his shippon shoon, an' that foomart-huntin jacket.  He should goo as if he meant bizness.  Pumps an' white stockins, an' a flower as big as a cabbitch in his buttonhole."

    How long this course of bantering might have been kept up is uncertain had not Luke taken the surest method of escaping it by abruptly leaving the company.  He turned the subject of the conversation over in his mind as he wended his way along the lanes which led to his farm; till by the time he reached home he had fairly resolved to try if there was any of the old regard, supposing it to have existed, left in Mally Dixon's esteem, and if it could be so far increased as to lead to a matrimonial engagement.  After all, what was a bachelor's life, with a cranky old woman of a mother to fret and grumble about the house, as if rheumatism ought to be the chief consideration of everybody, whether they had it or not?  Besides, she could not be expected to live for ever; and when she was gone, what?  A housekeeper, to set neighbours' tongues wagging — plunder him of his eggs to give them to her relations; and perhaps drink one half she brewed.  With Mally for a wife, tripping about the house like a piece of animated sunshine; and making music among the cans in the dairy! — the picture became irresistible; and his impatience grew as the glorious prospect opened out before him.  He would sell the mill and extend the farm.  The next one was to be let.  He could put both together.  The villagers would then call him Squire; and he could become a patron at the annual pig show.  The idea almost made him dance.  His heart did dance; and to relieve himself of this oppression of delight, he would break the project to his mother as soon as he could get a hearing.

    The old lady gave him the opportunity at once; for she immediately made her appearance, coming from the dairy, and taking her usual seat in the old-fashioned chimney corner.

    "Well, mother," the son began, "I've just bin thinking yo' winno' live for ever."

    "I hope not," the dame responded, shaking her head with the slow movement of age.  "Whoa'd want to live for ever if theyr'n i' sich pain as I'm in sometimes?  But what made thee begin a-thinkin about that?"

    "Well, I've the makkins of a wife i' seet?"

    "What, thee bring a wife wheere I am!  I'd scaud her.  As long as I con wesh thee a shirt, an' look after th' milk, thou'll bring no woman i' this house."  And a twinge of pain shot up her grisly arm.

    "But bethink yo', mother, if yo' droppen off th' peearch, an' there's no other hen to fly up, th' cote 'll be empty."

    "Well, let me drop th' fust; I want no poot (pullet) for t' come peckin at me.  But whoa's farm has thou bin lookin round on; let's be knowin that?"

    "Oh, it's a rare stock farm."

    "A skrikin stock, I reckon."

    "Nay, there's nowt o' that sort.  Beside this hen isno' a poot.  Bin on th' walk about three year.  It's Mally Dixon.  Her husband's deead, an' laft her a lot o' brass, an' no childer."

    "Brass, Luke, brass!  Well, that does cover a multitude o' sins, as owd Betty Jackson says; an' makes feaw folk int' pratty uns.  It brings likins, too, wheere ther noane before.  I dar'say I could happen manage wi' Mally i'th' house, if hoo wouldno' jow again my elbow when I'm havin my pipe."  And a gleam of satisfaction warmed up the old dame's wrinkled face.

    There was no further opposition to Luke's wishes manifested on his mother's part, and the happy fellow set about thinning a young bed of onions, an occupation that gave him leisure to revolve in his mind the scheme for future action.

    It could not have been more than a couple of months after the "funeral bak'd meats" had been consumed at Heaton View, when Luke Howarth, attired in his "Sunday best," and with a "Sweet William" stuck in his buttonhole, was seen tripping jauntily in the direction of Birchwood.  On arriving at his destination, which had been the residence of the late Lemuel Schofield, he pulled himself up before he ventured to ring the bell.

    "I mun mind what I say," he inwardly reasoned.  "It winno' do for t' hint about coortin so soon after th' buryin.  But I mun do summat for t' mak th' ground reet for comin again.  Turn a clod or two o'er, an' see how th' soil is.  If it's too damp I mun wait a bit; but if it's dry, an' mellow, I may happen drop a hint in it ut'll come to summat sometime.  Now for it."  And he gave a pull at the bell, and had the satisfaction of hearing it ring.

    The door opened, and a domestic appeared.

    "Is th' missis in?" was the inquiry made.

    "Yes.  What name?"

    "Luke Howa'th; hoo'll know it."

    The servant retired.  Then came those few moments of suspense that bedew our hands with a cold perspiration when there is something momentous impending.  Presently there was a rustle in the hall, and in another second there was a beautiful face shining on the visitor's.

    "Well, Luke, whatever's browt thee here?" put the young fellow so thoroughly at his ease that he was stepping into the house before he had been asked.

    "A fine day, and a good pair o' shanks," was the answer.

    "Well, come in.  I dunno' see so mony folk fro' Waverlow."  Mally Dixon, that was, had not dropped her vernacular if she had become a rich lady.  "Come'n to Birchwood, so thou thowt thou'd co a-seein me, I reckon?"

    "Ay, that's about it."

    "Well, hang thy hat up, an' come this road."

    Luke was shown into a room that surprised him by the richness of its furnishing, and he hesitated before he took a seat.

    "Sit thee down, an' mak thysel awhoam," said the mistress of the house, pointing to a chair.  "I dar'say thou'd do wi' a glass o' ale a day like this."

    "I should know wheere to put it, but dunno' send out for it.  I con do till I get to a jerry-shop."

    "Oh, we've plenty in the cellar."  And Mrs. Schofield rustled out of the room.

    "Well, by dam!" said the visitor to himself when he was left alone.  "Things are as straight as a rod.  Hang my hat up, have a glass of ale, an' sit on a cheear like this!  There'll be cheese and bread next, I'll bet owt.  I've dropped on my luck, an' no mistake.  An' how brisk hoo looks!  There mit nowt ha' happened.  I never thowt hoo liked Lem at th' bottom, an' this shows it.  I'll be bun if I wur to hause at her now th' job 'ud be done at once.  But I mun see which road th' wayter taks afore I go too far.  I have dropped into a nice shop.  I should ha' thowt folk would ha' to doff their shoon when they oome'n i' here, an' sit i' their stockin feet."  The entrance of the servant with beer, followed by her mistress, cut off further inward communings, and Luke entertained himself with his thumbs instead.

    "Well, an' how are things i' Waverlow?" inquired Mrs. Schofield, bestowing on her guest a smile that nearly lifted him out of his shoes.

    "Mich as us'al," was the reply.

    "Thou's dropped in for a fortin," I've bin towd.

    "Ay, a bit o' one.  I've gan o'er swingin a poverty-nocker now.  I dar'say thou's yerd ut I'm farmin."

    "Oh, ay, I've yerd that.  How's thy mother?"

    "Well, hoo's gettin owd, thou sees, an' troubled wi' th' rheumatis.  Hoo's not o' mich use to me now."

    "Thou'll ha' to get a wife if hoo drops off," and the manner in which Mrs. Schofield said this nearly made the fellow beside himself.

    "Well, thou sees, a mon conno' do a woman's wark, or elze I should be i' no hurry for hookin my jacket laps to a skirt," said Luke, fishing round to his purpose.  "But I dunno' want to part wi' th' owd woman yet."

    "I dar'say not; hoo's bin a good mother to thee.  Thou's yerd of our trouble, I reckon," and a slight cloud passed over Mally's face.

    "Ay, I seed it i'th' newspapper.  Very sudden, I understond.  Had he bin gan to takkin summat beside his porritch?"

    "Nawe, he're th' next to teetotal of owt.  It's a family complaint.  His feyther an' gronfeyther deed th' same."

    "There's nowt o'th' sort i' our family.  They seem to live till they wanten someb'dy for t' punce 'em to deeath.  It'll like unship thee a bit."

    "Ay, thou may be sure o' that.  But I conno' say but it's a blessin ut he's gone.  He's bin a great trouble for some time."

    "Thou'll fret awhile, no doubt."

    "Nay, I dunno' see ut there's mich to fret about.  When a mon's i'th' road o' others they're better out on't."

    "True, true; but I shouldno' ha' thowt he're one o' that sort."

    "There's nob'dy knows 'em better than thoose ut han to live with 'em."

    "He didno' ill-use thee, I reckon?"

    "Nawe, he dustno' ha' done that.  There's someb'dy would ha' looked after him if he had.  Beside, he hadno' strength to do it."

    Luke wondered who that "somebody" was that would have looked after the individual in question.  Had there been one before him?  If so he must come to close quarters at once.  There must be no further beating about the bush.

    "Thou's friends about thee, I reckon?" he surmised.

    "Well, I've one; an' he's quite enoogh for t' look after me.   I expect him here afore long."

    The visitor involuntarily whistled.

    "Shall I be i'th' road when he comes?" he asked.

    "Eh, nawe; he'll be fain t' see thee, I dar'say."

    "Then he's noane comin on th' same arnt as I'm on," and Luke screwed his courage to the sticking pitch.  He felt that the moment to strike had come.

    "Oh, thou has come'n for summat, then," said Mally, looking a little surprised.  "Well, what is it?"

    "It's no use howdin back. I mit as weel out with it," and Luke rubbed up his short hair as if with the intention producing an electric spark.  "If thou meeans cloggin again, an' so soon, I'm th' mon for th' job.  Tak me an' th' farm; I care nowt about th' factory."

    "Cloggin again, Luke!" exclaimed Mrs. Schofield, after indulging in a laugh that was fairly a shriek.  "Thou'd let me be a widow fust, surely."

    "Wheay, artno' a widow?" said Luke, with a blank stare.

    "Well, a woman conno' be a widow if her husbant's livin; con hoo?"

    "But thine's noane livin."

    "Thou'll see whether he is or not if thou'll wait a bit.  That wur his feyther's deeath ut thou seed i'th' newspapper."

    "Then I'm off afore I get punced out o'th' house."  And the crestfallen would-be suitor sprang from his seat.

    "Thou'll think nowt o' this job, wilta?"

    "Eh, not a bit, Luke.  But I shall have mony a laaf to mysel about it, too."

    "Then good afternoon to thee, an' th' fust newspaper I con get howd on I'll sweel someb'dy's chimdy with it."

    With this apology and threat the young farmer "made tracks" towards Waverlow, and he has not yet heard the last of "Clogging New Clogs."


――――♦――――

 
A BIT O' MINT CAKE.

CHAPTER I.


THERE  is scarcely a village without its beau, and Waverlow  not one of the exceptions.  But this exquisite has many phases of character.  In some localities he may present himself in the person of a bookkeeper at a mill; in others counter-jumper at the head drapery establishment; and one instance, at the least, has it fallen to the lot of an ambitious weaver to assume the character of the leading dandy of the village.  How the role was in this instance supported, as theatrical people would say, will be seen in the love adventures of one Edward Dove, or "Ted Pigeon," as he was mostly called; a buck of the first pasture, as he thought himself, and the only real gentleman in Waverlow; not a gentleman, be it understood, according to worldly  possessions, but by birth, breeding, and refinement.

    The mother of Ted Pigeon was somebody; her parents  before her were somebody; and all the antecedent virtues were supposed to be inherited by the latest sprout of the family tree.

    "Our Edward meeans gettin his livin wi' his cooat on his back," Dame Dove would say, whenever the future of her "hopeful" was the subject of conversation among the neighbours; and if mounting a light yellow stick and donning his best on a Saturday night were the right steps to take towards qualifying his parent's predictions, Ted was on the high road to the leading of a very easy, if not a very useful life.

    "Larnin's born with him," the mother would sometimes remark.  "His grondfeyther wur a scholar, an' could read th' begats i'th' testyment beaut missin a word, an' he could reckon shopscores up, an' write letters for folk, wi' anybody.  He could ha' bin a rich mon if he'd had a mind; but he aulus said everybody cou1dno' be rich, an' he'd gie th' chance to somebody elze.  He're satisfied wi' bein in a middlin way."

    The heir to these endowments, not being required to pursue a severe course of intellectual or moral training, was brought up very much after his own fashion, and the gentleman developed himself in very surprising stages, and was accompanied by a proficiency in address that was equally marvellous.  How he had come into the possession of such "mouthfuls o' fine words," was the wonder of his companions, when he was not above holding communications with common people; and these accomplishments, they felt, would have such effect when brought to bear on the female heart, that the whole village youth became mischievously envious.  They would shout him in the lanes — naming him after certain words, which, by their frequent application, he must have held to be the most useful his vocabulary contained.  Thus he was often called "owd perpendikilar," "owd abstract," "organic," "premature," "precautious," and the like; words which probably few people in Waverlow knew the meaning of, not even excepting the learned Ted Pigeon himself.  These jealousies culminated into actual hostility when it was discovered that Ted had his eye upon a girl that was allowed to be the belle of the village; and several "larkish" adventures were the result.

    Selina Lord, or "Leena-o'-Bob's," as the girl was invariably called by her youthful acquaintances, was the daughter of a small shopkeeper.  Tradesmen in Waverlow were rather small five or six years ago, when this adventure took place.  Leena was pretty, after a certain style of female beauty.  She had a fine forehead, delicately arched eyebrows, cheeks like peaches, and a pair of arms that you would have liked to scrape and eat, as you would a couple of radishes.  But the girl had high notions, and looked over the heads of all the village youth — so it was thought — unless it might be just possible that her eyes could not help responding to the overpowering glances of Mister Edward Dove, when he passed her at the door, and wheeled gracefully and majestically into old Betty Brand's "sweet-stuff shop."

    Ted frequently patronised old Betty, his favourite edible being "mint cake," of which he would make formidable purchases whenever he found a number of "haupenny lads" in the shop.  Many a time he had been on the point of offering a lump to Leena, by way of propitiating her favour; but after fumbling very awkwardly with the delicious condiment, he would generally end the matter by cramming the piece into his own mouth; and in this manner pounds of mint cake were consumed before the slightest offering found itself secured between Leena's fingers.  But the tide in the affairs of this silent courtship at length rushed in, and if it was not taken at the flood, a plunge was made before it had actually receded.

    Leena happened to call at old Betty's shop one Sunday evening, her business being the purchasing of a "quarter of a pound o'th' best-mak o' ginsbreads," or what a modern fair-ground confectioner would term "brandy-snaps."  Betty was just weighing them, and descanting upon their excellent quality, when Ted Pigeon marched into the shop, and out a flourish with his stick in the vicinity of a collection of confectioner's "sundries," including bundles of liquorice and artistic displays of penny whips.  His eyes met those of the fair investor in "best maks," and a little awkwardness was the consequence.

    "I know what thou wants," said old Betty, turning up her eyes at Ted.  "Thou must trate o th' wenches i' Waverlow wi' th' stuff thou buys.  Did he ever gi'e thee any, Leena?"

    Whether the girl said "ay" or "nawe," no expert at listening could have made out.  The utterance was nothing more than a whine, that might have been taken to mean anything or nothing, but certainly vague and expressionless to the parties who heard it.

    "Georgious sunset," observed the young man, hardly knowing, in the embarrassment of the moment, what remark to venture upon.

    "Thou'rt at thy fine talk again," said the shopkeeper,  emptying the contents of the scales into Leena's pocket-handkerchief.  "I wonder wheerever thou's learnt it."

    "Sich fine clouds on the orrizon," continued Ted, as if he had not been interrupted.  "Signs of a hurricane," and the tapped the counter with his stick.

    "That looks more like a stick than a cane," said old Betty, on whom the trisyllable was lost.  "I sell penny uns thou sees, for lads to swagger with at th' wakes."

    Ted smiled a patronising smile.  He was always proud to meet some one who could not understand the language he used, and the vendor of toffy could be as obtuse as anyone to serve a purpose.  But why did Leena linger in the shop?  She had been served; she had paid her money; the "best-maks" were stowed away under her Sunday apron, so there was nothing to detain her.  Possibly she wanted a little gossip with old Betty, and was waiting for Ted Pigeon's departure before she began to open her mind.  No; that could not be it, for, as if suddenly remembering something temporarily forgotten, the girl twitched herself away from the counter, and sailed out of the shop.

    "A nice bit theere for someb'dy," said old Betty, flinging a lump of mint cake back into the tin, after weighing its fellow, and handing it to her customer.

    "What, aw, mint cake?" said Ted, in half a mind to  have the whole lot.

    "Leena, I meean, thou sweety."  And the old Woman laughed till her one tooth seemed ready to drop out of its place.

    "Oh, ay, yes; shuperb person, Miss Lord," said the young man, deeply colouring with confusion.  "Not engaged, I think?"

    "Dost meean there's nob'dy followin her?"

    "Not in the abstract sense."

    "They mun be someb'dy wi' a bit o sense if Leena's owt to say to 'em," said Betty, fishing about to get at Ted's meaning, if he had any definite one.  "I've yerd her say hoo'd ha' nowt less than a bookkeeper."

    Ted's heart went plop down; he was only a weaver.  Mechanics, joiners, bricklayers, and even dyers, were considered to be above weavers; and all these were immeasurably below bookkeepers.  He was clean out of the race, or, as a sporting man would say, "out of the betting."  But, then, there was his figure; his address; his family prestige to be put in the scale, and weigh in his favour.  Besides, had he not an aspiring breast?  To be sure he had.  What one man had been another could be; and Ted Pigeon would be something more than he was.  Most youths have felt similar aspirations, perhaps with similar results.  They would be something, but what that something was never assumed a practicable shape, but floated vaguely in the imagination till it became to late too be anything.

    A thought struck Ted, and he survived the blow.  His face brightened, and assumed its natural colour.  Mint cake he felt to be a power in itself, but there was one greater in reserve.  If he did not learn bookkeeping he could pretend to a knowledge of it, which, in his own estimation, was much the same.  This sudden burst of light must have had something to do with his manner of flinging a threepenny piece on the counter, which was a grand and imposing performance, considering it was the only coin in his possession.  Gathering up his purchase, and hastily pocketing it, the elated youth essayed to leave the shop, but was detained by a remark made by old Betty.

    "I'll tell thee what, lad," said the dame, "I think thou's  a notion o' Leena thysel."

    "Well, aw, for the matter o' that; don't you see that — aw — well, you understand, I don't tell all I know; don't you see?"  And Ted tried to look mysterious, but could not manage the part.  The old sweet-seller could see through the "make-up."

    "Thou happen wouldno' tell us mich if thou did," said Betty, the force of which remark Ted did not seem to comprehend, because he stretched and posed himself the more conceitedly.

    "Don't show my cards, you see," said Ted; and he winked at old Betty.  "I wish you sold wine, Misses Brand."

    "What for, Teddy?"

    "I might now and then consume a bottle on the premises.  I'm getting above beer.  Vulgar stuff; quite premature."

    "Ay! nobbut fit for carters and wayvers."

    This remark struck Ted such a blow that he bounced out of the shop with less dignity in his manner of bolting than he was wont to display.  It gave an awkward twist to his gait; and took away much of the coxcombical flourish of his nether limbs.  To be placed in the same rank as a stupid lounger beside a cart was more than his noble blood cou1d bear; and he resolved there and then, with a stroke of his stick that was near shivering the poor piece of swagger to splinters, to be something more than what he was, or seem so, at anyrate.

    From old Betty's shop to the one occupied by old Bob Lord there was a distance of about sixty yards; and the toes of Ted Pigeon's exquisitely polished "lace-ups" were turned in that direction.  Leena stood at the door, with her back towards her admirer.  Had she had her face another way it is more than probable that Ted would have wheeled round, and given her a sight of his back; but now — courage, my dear fellow — thy mother hath often told thee that — "nowt venturt, nowt won," and thou could'st not have had a better maxim from more persuasive lips.  Go in, and if not to win at once, to take an important lead in the race.

    Should he speak to Leena?  If so, what was he to say?  These were the questions Ted was turning over in his mind as he paused in the lane to pluck a mellow twig from the sprouting hedge.  Happy thought — the mint cake!  That surely would, or ought to be, the open sesame to Leena's heart; and he prepared himself accordingly.  Taking from his pocket the diminutive parcel that contained the potent and delicious charm, and breaking off a piece about the size of his thumb, he proceeded to his purpose.  He was within twenty yards of the object of his temporal adoration.  In another minute he would be basking in the full blaze of her beauty; and his knees, somehow, did not perform their office so steadily as when they were working the treadles of his loom.  Leena's glance met Ted's as the latter was within a step of overshooting his mark, and he felt that the crisis had arrived.

    "Why—a—hem—aw—have a bit o' mint cake?"  Ted managed to drawl and stammer out, at the same time twisting about like a weathercock in a storm, as if he hardly knew which way the wind would settle.  "Nice suckin."

    The piece of confectionery was offered, accepted, and appropriated, without as much as a thanks or other word from the receiver to the giver; and the young man passed on with as proud a bearing as if he had accomplished some great work.

    So far so well, thought Ted, as he with buoyant step and fluttering heart bounded down the lane.  The ice was broken, and no mistake, and it only remained for him to follow up his suit, when he was sure to bear away the prize.  But why should he not make another advance, and on that very evening, too, especially when there was such a "georgious" sunset?  He might ask Leena to have a walk.  There were pleasant and quiet footpaths in the neighbourhood, plenty of things in the surrounding landscape to talk about, and hedges to pluck when he had nothing to say.  He would turn back and make the proposal.  The girl was still at the door, and looking that way.  Happy omen!

    Ted Pigeon retraced his steps.  This time he approached his "ladye love" with a boldness — so he felt — that was much akin to audacity.  His heart did not give out more than twenty per cent of its former fluttering.  He would absolutely kill all the lasses in the village from that very evening — well, all that were worth the slaughter.  Oh, the propitiatory virtues of mint cake!

    "Why—a—Miss Lord," said the murderous swain, again pausing, with homicidal purpose, opposite old Bob's door, "would you like to have a perpendikilar walk?  The evening, you see, is beautiful and precocious.  Have a bit more mint cake?"  This time the youth had to talk to Leena's back hair.

    The lass spoke not for some time.  One cheek was bulged out, as if that side of her mouth contained an enormous quid.  Perhaps it was that which prevented her speaking.  Ted might have judged from this disproportionate appearance of her face that the supply of mint cake was more than equal to the demand, so he did not press his offer.  But the walk!

    "Shall I take you as far as the turn-bridge?" said Ted, with a persistence that quite astonished himself.  "Hear how the throstles is whistlin."

    "I'm noane donned up for gooin out," said the girl, at length finding the use of her tongue.

    "If you are not dressed now," observed the wily flatterer, "I should like to see you in your gay shuperbness.  Beauty undonned is donned the most."

    "But I should watch th' durr; our folk are off," Leena urged.  But what does love care for a door?

    "Can't you lock it?" said Ted, eagerly pushing his purpose.

    "Yigh; but our folk met come whoam before — I meean, an catch me out; an that ud be wrong."

    "Then I should have the pleasure of getting you in, don't you see?  No excuse at all."

    "Thou wouldno' keep me out above two hours?"

    Two hours!  The tale of love could be told in two minutes, so Ted felt; and such an instalment of happiness taken in as would keep his soul refreshed over the weary day that would intervene before their next meeting.

    "It is now eight o'clock," said Ted, taking from his pocket a cumbrous, dumpy watch, which had been his grandfathers and which, however he might shake it, always stood at five minutes past three.  But then there was old Bob's eight-day clock at work in a corner opposite the door, and Ted could see what time of the evening it was by that.  "I'll land you home at exactly ten, the hour that all proper girls should be under the protecting roof.  What say you?"

    "I should ha' to put my bonnet on," said the half-consenting girl.

    "Never mind; go bout it," enjoined the impatient lover.  "And keep your apron on.  I like to see old fashioned country ways.  The walk is such a short one, you see."

    "But what if that hurricane comes on?"

    "I'll shield you with my protecting arms."

    "I shouldna' like to be out when our folk come whoam;  my feyther ud be so cross."

    "No fear! — come along."

    "Should I put my bonnet on?"

    "No! go bout it."

    "No furr than th' turn-bridge."

    "Not a yard further than the locks."

    "What'll folk say?"

    "Never mind! we're as good as them."

    "I shouldno' like t' be talked about."

    "But we shall be.  They'll say, 'There goes the handsomest couple in Waverlow.' Come on."

    Pottering the key out of the lock, Leena drew the door to, and in another moment the bolt was shot.  Then wrapping her arms in her apron, as was the custom with girls in quiet country places, she submitted herself to be led down the lane by her ecstatic lover.  They had to pass the "Calf's Head," one of the windows of which was ornamented by the gay head-dresses of flashily-attired young women, whose personal charms were not fit to be seen by the same candle as those of Leena-o'-Bob's.  As they were passing the tavern the window became more crowded, and noses were undergoing the process of flattening.  Presently the sash was shot up, a number of heads protruded, and voices sang out —

    "Perpendikilar."

    "Abstract."

    "Precochus."

    "Give us a bit o' mint cake."

These salutations were followed by a loud peal of laughter, and the withdrawal of the heads from the aperture of the window. Ted and Leena sped on, not altogether unheedful of their jeering acquaintances, and soon they had gained the towing-path of the canal, where the beauty of the evening shone in serene and massive splendour. There they could indulge in "love's sweet converse," unseen by prying eyes, and unheard by listening ears. Here Ted took the opportunity of announcing that —

"Wild's have got their wheat in."

    The fact thus proclaimed was not without its significance, as for some years past it was quite exceptional to house a crop of well-got corn.  But what had crops to do with courtship, Leena wondered.  The lovers glided on in their romantic path, and their shadows grew longer in the adjoining meadows.  After thus silently pursuing their way for several minutes, Ted suddenly paused, as if in the labour of a great thought; and when Leena was wondering what he was going to say, he proclaimed the important discovery that —

    "I can count three throstles whistlin."

    "I reckon it's too late for th' cuckoo," said Leena; and they resumed their walk without the assertion being challenged, or the question it implied being answered.

    The turn-bridge was passed; the locks were gained ere another word was spoken, and the couple seated themselves on the spur of one of the gates.

    "What a glorious night!" the ardent lover exclaimed, sending his eyes roaming about the universe, as if with a poet's glance.

    "Ay," Leena responded, looking at her boots.

    "Have you read Gladstone's speech on the Irish Church?" asked Ted, after another pause.

    "Nawe," was the reply.

    "I'll lend it you.  Now for a little more mint cake."


――――♦――――


CHAPTER II.


WHAT further conversation passed between the happy pair as they sat out the sunset on the spur of the lock gates our listener was unable to make out, except by fragments.  It had the appearance of being desultory, however, and lengthened out by pauses, as if the even-song of the thrush was more agreeable to the lovers than any vocal essay of their own.  Then there was the gurgle and the splash of the waste water of the lock that was ever so musical, and reminded one of the listeners of tumbling cascades, hidden by verdure green, out of which the genius of song poured forth its soul in evening melody.  The rapture that was begotten of this ear-ravishment swelled and heaved in Ted Pigeon's breast, and so moved him to amorous advances, that he passed his arm tenderly round — a mooring-stump — and hugged it with wild ecstatic embrace.

    "Leena," said the lover.

    "What?" said the beloved.

    "This is the last bit o' mint cake."

    "Ate it thysel, then."

    Advice taken.

    "I wonder," said Ted, pushing the sugary condiment into his cheek, "what is the cause of blind people singing out of one side of the mouth."

    "Dun they do?" said Leena.

    "Yes; and always out of the same side."

    "They're happen suckin mint cake o'th' tother side."

    "Didn't think of that.  An organic explanation, certainly?"

    After a long pause, a conversation, conducted in an undertone, followed, during which Leena slightly raised one foot, and said something about "seven-an'-sixpence."  The girl had a pair of boots "new on" that day.  Possibly her lover was admiring one of them, as he rapturously exclaimed —

    "Shuperb!"

    Another interval, filled up only with the music of the waste water of the lock, and an occasional puff of wind.

    Suddenly, Ted broke out with a flood of impassioned eloquence that, like the storm that was gathering, threatened at the outset to bear down all before it.

    "Leena," he exclaimed, and in his fervour he caught hold — for the first time — of the girl's hand, "it's Middleton Show in a fortnight.  We are showing a pig and two dandy hens.  Will you go?"

    "Wilt' tak me?" asked the fair one.

    "Take you?  By all means — most happy.  Ride in the cart with the pig.  Your father's cart we've spoke for.  Isn't that premature?"

    "I'd rayther walk."

    "But only think of the show-off!  Riding with a prize pig!  Sure to take a prize!  Me by your side — perhaps driving!  I can drive.  Beside, I'm engaged to report for the Waverlow Stunner.  Put your name in.  'On the grandstand we observed Miss Lord, of Waverlow, among other distinguished ladies.'  Look at that, now!  Have a little more — I had forgot — the mint cake's evacuated.  And now I think it is time that we evacuated too — the hurricane is unfolding."  Ted most courageously slipped his arm round Leena's waist when he had finished this grand sentence, and Leena said —

    "Ger off!"

    Then a sod came whizzing past them, which being heard, and not seen, was made out to be a warning gust of the impending storm.  The pair at once rose from their seats — rose as if by magic — for the arm held on to the girth of the apron string, and seemed noways disposed to relinquish its hold.  Ted's prognostications of the weather were being realised: darkness was coming on apace, and the wind howled in the adjacent wood; the surface of the canal, so smooth an hour ago, was now curled into foam-crested waves, and heavy shadows gloomed over it; there were hissings in the hedges, and leaves were blown across their path.

    "Let us hasten to the nearest shelter," urged Ted.  And the nearest that offered itself was the "Calf's Head."

    To the door of this hostelry the couple repaired.  Was it worth while calling?  Would the storm hold off until they reached home, or would it be unsafe to venture further?  To go home would be to part for the night, and that could not be thought of.  No; another delicious hour, and then — a few minutes at the door before parting.  There was a spitting of rain, and the lover said to the loved one —

    "Have a glass o' fettled porter?"

    "I dunno' care, as it's rainin," was the response.

    In they went, and made their way to the snug, where they found another pair of lovers its only occupants.

    "Two glasses o' fettled porter," said Ted, as the landlord presented himself.

    With the proverbial alacrity of country tavern waiters the glasses of "fettled porter" were brought in; and as the favourite courter's beverage was being placed on the table it suddenly occurred to the mind of the staggered Ted that, with the exception of a halfpenny, change out of the threepenny-bit tendered at Betty Brand's, his pockets were coinless.

    "Thou'rt a good while i' fumblin thy brass out," said the landlord, seeing that the blushing fellow was rummaging his pockets, as if he suspected one of them was on fire, and he didn't know which.  "Has thy mother gan thee nowt this week end?"  Landlords in the country are remarkable for their suavity of manner and politeness of address.  The host of the Calf's Head was by no means an exception.

    "Oh, by-the-bye," said Ted, a sudden idea shooting across his mind, "I had forgot I'd changed my trousers, and left my cash in my other pockets.  But never mind," and he dived his hand into an inner coat pocket, took therefrom a very formidable-looking pocket-book — at one time his grandfather's — and opened it.  "Can you change me a ten-pound note?"  He held something that had the appearance of a bank-note betwixt his linger and thumb, but did not unfold it, so that its value might be seen.

    "What art thou doin wi' a ten-pound note?" said the landlord, with a vulgar sneer.

    "Never you mind," said Ted.  "Can you change it?"

    "I'm no' gooin to change any ut thou has," replied the host, sneering more sarcastically.

    "Then you'll have to trust me," said Ted.

    "Not without theau leeaves summat on it," Boniface continued.  "If thou'll let me howd that note till thou coes again it'll be reet."

    "Nay; if you can't trust me, I won't trust you," said Ted.  "I'll leave you my knife, if you like."

    "Turn it up, then," said the landlord.  And the knife was flung upon the table.

    "Here, give him that knife back," said Leena, bringing her hand out of her pocket, which had been a region for exploration during the last three minutes or so; "I've getten fourpence somewheere."  She opened her hand, and out of a heterogeneous assemblage of thimbles, packets of needles, deeply-furred nuts of beeswax, and scraps of dried orange-peel, she took out the required coin.

    "Paid all my embrocations, and money in hand," exclaimed Ted, strapping up his pocketbook, and carefully cramming it in its former custody.  He had not observed a face peering in at the door while this was going on, otherwise he might have been more guarded in what he said and did.  The face belonged to a would-be rival, a desperate fellow, to whom peace was a humdrum life — a row the very mint cake of existence.  It was he who threw the sod when the couple were seated on the spur of the lock gate, but neither of them were aware of it.  Why didn't he go into the room?

    The fettled porter was sweet — sweeter even than mint cake.  The slice of lemon floating on the top of each glass, and bobbing against the lip as the nectar was drained — was it not suggestive of something?

    "Now, Leena, what does it remind you of?"

    "A yallow coach-wheel," was the answer.

    "Nothing more?  Try again."

    "I dunno' know what elze."

    "Does it not remind you of a — wedding in the abstract sense, and a ring in the circumfluent fact?  Drink, Leena before it goes cold."

    The storm rolled round on wheels of thunder while the nectar was being sipped, and people crowded into the tavern.  The snug began to smell of wet umbrellas and new sawdust, and two pairs of soaked corduroys gave out a less agreeable odour.  At a time when the room was in its most crowded and confused state a hand was seen beckoning at the door.  Ted Pigeon was wanted outside.

    The young man obeyed the summons, and strutted out of the room with an important air.  But no sooner had he reached the door than he was surrounded and hustled by some half-dozen youths, one of whom knocked his hat over his eyes, whilst one or other — how it was done Ted had not the remotest idea — relieved him of that valuable and venerated heirloom, the pocketbook, and with it decamped.

    "Two pounds reward!" Ted shouted, as soon as he got outside his hat.  "I've been robbed!  I've been robbed!  Two pounds reward for the thief!"

    The house was instantly in commotion, but nobody knew who had committed the robbery.  Some even doubted that anything had been stolen; and when a ten-pound note was  named as being among the spoil, a contemptuous and all but general scepticism was openly avowed.  He have a ten-pound note!  Tenpence, more like.  Don't believe he'd even that.  Such were the most prevalent among the opinions expressed.  They little knew for certainty how near the mark they were.

    When the uproar had been silenced, and a promise had been given by the landlord that he would instantly put the noses of the police on the trail of the delinquents, Ted Pigeon and Leena-o'-Bob's, seeing that the storm outside had given signs of immediate discontinuance, rose to leave the tavern.  The "Calf's Head" was a marked house — mind if it wasn't — from that day.

 
――――♦――――


CHAPTER III.


THE morning following his first love adventure Ted Pigeon, whilst ruminating on the proceedings of the past night — his escape from a most embarrassing situation, which would have been still more perplexing had the landlord of the "Calf's Head" offered change for the "flimsy" counterfeit of a bank note — the hustling and robbery in the lobby, and its probable consequences — paced moodily along the stretch of path that led from the backyard of his home to the bottom of the garden.  Being Monday morning, the loom felt stiff and rusty.  Although he had oiled the spindles of his fly, he had not yet rolled up his shirt sleeves, nor tied on his apron.  He felt, not exactly lazy, but "Monday-ish," that is, he could not settle himself to any kind of work except weaving.  Love never could work except at what it was not called upon to do; and it was this feeling that had half determined the young fellow to make holiday.  To settle the matter, he placed his back against the pigcote wall, and thoughtfully felt over his sprouting chin.  Happening to cast his eyes towards a hole beneath the slanting roof of the stye, and which formed the doorway to a tenantless hen-roost, he beheld his pocket-book partially secreted behind the brickwork.  Opening it, he discovered that the note on the "Bank of Elegance" had been abstracted, and the following entry made therein :—


chang for the note wen
wee meet if you goe to midleton
show with leno lord look out


    Mister Edward Dove read and bit his lip.  The discovery of that book and its newly-inscribed contents settled the question of work or play for the day by completely unsettling the young fellow himself.  What did the writer mean by giving him change for the note?  How did he know, whoever he might be, that Ted intended going to Middleton Show, or that he had asked Leena-o'-Bob's to accompany him thither?  Had the conversation at the lock gates, brief and desultory as it was, been overheard by some one?  That was the only conclusion Ted could arrive at, and he made up his mind accordingly.  No threat that could be written or uttered would deter him from visiting the show, or from taking Leena with him if the girl was willing.  No!

    Ted went into the house, put on his jacket and cap, and, telling his mother that he was going up the village to have a lesson in bookkeeping, set out upon a ramble in the fields.  We will leave him for the day, lying on his back in the shade of a broad-armed oak, trying to wrench a few lines of poetry out of his small head, and failing to detach more than the following :—


O leena Bobs,
my heart it trobs,
with thinking of thee
under this tree,
i have a brestake,
not to be cured by mint cake;
but by thy smyles —


[Here the writer appears to have dozed over.]

    While Ted lay thus basking in the realms of fancy, rivalry was at work in the village.  Bill Dixon, the aspiring youth, who would rather fight over a girl than undertake a peaceful wooing, had met Leena Lord going to the well.  He had taken especial care to look a bit smart that morning, as he intended coming across the girl by some chance or other.  He had curled the hair over each temple more trimly than was his wont, and, for a wonder, he had put on a necktie.  His looks, for this once, were not of the description termed "dogged," but were open, and strangely good-humoured, as if to indicate that a complete change for the better had come over him.  Stopping as Leena was about to pass him, Bill accosted her with—

    "Hast read Gladstone's speech yet, Leena?"

    "What dost' meean?" said the girl, blushing very deeply, and hesitating whether or not to proceed on her way.

    "Th' Irish Church," Bill replied, with a triumphant grin.

    "I conno' tell what thou meeans," said Leena, her looks confessing to the contrary all the time.

    "O nawe; I reckon not," said Bill, with another significant grin.  "Thou knows nowt about gooin to Middleton Show, noather; an' I dunno' think ut ever i' thy life thou tasted mint cake.  How mony throstles is there singin just now?  I con count three."

    "Thou'rt talkin hauve-talk about summat, but I conno' tell what," faltered out Leena, her blushes and general confusion pleading guilty more eloquently than words could have conveyed.

    "Am I?" said the tormentor.  "But I'm gooin to yo'r shop a-seein if I con get change for a ten-pound note, an' I'll see if thou con remember owt when I come back."

    "A ten-pound note!" the girl exclaimed.

    "Ay; I fund it i'th' lobby at th' 'Cauve's Yead' yesterneet," was the reply.

    "I know someb'dy ut's lost one," said Leena.

    "An' so do I."

    "But if it's th' same thou conno' change it."

    "Not for fettled porter I conno', but I happen con for summat elze.  Ay, whorr, Leena?  How art' gettin on now?"

    "Stop, Bill," said Leena, laying a trembling hand on th' young fellow's arm.  "Has someb'dy bin sayin summat to thee?"

    "Sayin summat!  I think so.  Not to me exactly, but everybody he's met.  Thou'rt th' talk of o Waverlow just now."  And Bill felt that he had given such a blow to the hopes of Ted Pigeon as would leave that youth but a small chance of his ever again distributing mint cake at the lock gates.

    "I'm sure I ha' no' desarved this," said Leena, putting her apron to her eyes, and giving two audible sobs; "but I'll ha' nowt to say to nob'dy no moore, never; I'll be an owd maid fust."

    "Thee be an owd maid!" said Bill, with very strong doubts as to the probability of the girl carrying out her rashly-formed resolution.  "There's one or two lads about ut'll tak care o' that.  But I'll tell thee what, Leena; if thou goes to Middleton Show wi' yond hack-slavver at th' fowt eend thou'll desarve o thou gets.  Gooin a cooartin wi' this!"  And Bill pulled out the Bank o' Elegance note.  "Have 'em gan 'em by hontfuls i' Manchester.  Here, Leena, tak it, an' daub it o'er wi' traycle ; an' th' next time thou meets Ted slap it upo' his mouth, an' tell him that's change for it."

    "If he's gone an' towd o thou says he has, I'll never spake to him again," said Leena, giving a last wipe to her grief-reddened eyes.

    "I should think not," said Bill, who felt that he had given the coup de grace to his rival.  "If I had a gentlman I'd ha' one wi' gradely brass in his pocket."

    "I'll gie him a look next time I see him," said Leena, sobbing again.

    "I'll tell thee what t' do," said Bill, in a confidential tone —"thee go to Middleton Show by thysel, and leave Ted to me.  If I dunno' show him up so as thou'll never spake to him again, I'll ha' my yead shaved wi' a breek.  Is it a case?"

    "I'll no' go nee th' show."

    "But thou mun."

    "He'll happen do summat at me."

    "Let him!"  And Bill gripped his fist.

    "I wish I're out o'th' country."

    "Thou'll be i'th' warkhouse very soon if thou tees thyself to Ted."

    "But I'm no' gooin to do."

    "Nawe; if thou conno' mak a better market wi' that face, thou desarves it spoilin.  Now, then."

    "Are thou gooin to th' show?"

    "Nowt so sure."

    "An' wilt see me whoam if I lose th' tother wenches?"

    "Will I?  Trust me."

    "Eh, I've bin sich a while away.  I'se catch it when I get whoam.  We're busy wi' th' bakin, an' I should ha' bin back now."  With which parting words Leena-o'-Bob's swung round her can, and tripped off to the well; leaving Bill Dixon whistling a tune of triumph, occasionally interrupted by a shout of laughter at the supposed prostration of his foppish rival.

    The morning of the great Middleton carnival dawned, and carts, bearing various species of overgrown quadrupeds, began to crawl through Waverlow.  In front of one of these, but without his "Dulcinea" by his side, rode Mister Edward Dove, not looking quite so happy as he was when last we saw him.  Behind him was the pig that was to beat all comers, and in a basket on his knee were the two "dandy hens" that few others could match.  But with all the prospects of a successful competition, Ted was disconsolate.  He had never been able to meet Leena-o'-Bob's since the first night of their being together, notwithstanding that he had walked past the door nightly, like a sentinel, and had whistled till his lips ached.  What did the girl mean?  On reaching the show he left his charge to a neighbour, and wandered about the ground in a hopeless search for Leena.  The time for the "jumping" came, but it found not either the youth or his inmnorata seated on the grand stand.  Even the report to the Waverlow Stunner was forgotten.

    Seeing no one, meeting no one he cared for, the youth at last made for one of the refreshment booths, with the fullest intention of drowning himself, or rather his sorrows, in beer.  It was a booth behind the stand, and underneath the flapping canvas the desperate fellow rushed.

    "A glass o' ale!" he shouted.

    "An' a bit o' mint cake," a voice joined in.  And, there, in the light of day, not many yards removed from where he stood, were Leena Lord and Bill Dixon; one laughing as loud as Lucifer, and the other with a cloud from Erebus upon her face.  What could it mean?

    Ted drank deeply of his glass, right down to the bottom, and called for another.

    "Here, I'll pay for th' next out o' that ten pound note, said Bill Dixon, with another laugh.

    "Goo an' read Gladstone's speech," screamed his companion.  I am afraid to say that Leena had had more than one twopennyworth.

    "Yer thee how th' throstles are whistlin."

    Ted could stand it no longer; so he drank up his second glass, which Bill Dixon insisted upon paying for, and prepared for a sudden departure.  But his now triumphant rival would not permit him to escape so cheaply.  Seizing him by the arm, Bill administered to Ted the following rebuke:—

    "Ted, thou sees what thou gets wi' purtendin to be summat moore than thou art.  If thou'd gone about thy cooartin like another mon, an' no' tried to show off wi' things at are wo'th no moore than a bit o' bacco papper, thou'd ha' bin th' fust i'th' race.  Now thou'rt hardly th' second.  Put that i' thy pipe an' smooke it.  I've yerd th' pig's won a prize; so thou'll ha' to be satisfied wi' that.  Adux!"

    Ted went home that night a sadder, a wiser, and a commoner sort of a young man.  He cast off his dandifled airs from that moment, and minded his loom, and attended a mechanics' institution, until he made himself quite as much as he pretended to be before.  But his eyes never met those of Leena-o'-Bob's again; and it is my firm belief that he owes the girl the fourpence she paid for "fettled porter" to this day. 


――――♦――――



Footnotes.

 
1. Invitation.
 
2.  It is quite possible that this funeral was conducted on the principle of a "Birtle buryin," which was never reckoned to leave the house while the drink lasted.  It is told that on one occasion a late rector of Middleton had been waiting most of an hour for the arrival of a cortege that was made up of a rather wet lot.  He grumbled to one of the conductors about it, and at first refused to bury the corpse; but on its being explained afterwards that "th' drink went furr nor wur expected," he said, "Well, I reckon I mun e'en bury him, then."
 
3.  River Thame.
 
4.  Eye-water, a term applied to weak ale.
 
5.  Alluding to the eccentric "Hermit of Goldwick," who was fond of picturesque costumes.
 
6.  When a rushcart is being built, the wheels are generally sunk to the axles to prevent motion.  "Drawing out" used to be a great ceremony.
 
7.   
Eend, end, thread.

 
8.    Take his work to the warehouse.
 
9.    But-fors ― excuses.
 
10.   A nickname for the "Wheel and Barrels," the idea of which was suggested by the twelve spokes which a bobbin-wheel generally contains.

 
11.    Felly, as applied by old Jinks, means in Lancashire a sweetheart.

 
12.   
Chee'd: See'd, saw.
 
13.   
Chillin: Shilling







 


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