Edwin Waugh: Besom Ben (1)

Home Up Lancashire Songs Lancashire Life Lancashire Sketches I. Lancashire Sketches II. Rambles in the Lakes The Cotton Famine Poems and Songs I. Poems and Songs II. Tufts of Heather I. Tufts of Heather II. The Chimney Corner The Limping Pilgrim The Barrel Organ Sheet Music Sheet Music Sheet Music Miscellanea Main Index Site Search
 


 

Besom Ben and his Donkey.
――――♦――――

CHAPTER I.
 

Who'll buy my besoms?
    Besoms, fine and new!
Fine heather besoms!
    Better never grew!

OLD SONG.


IT was the rosy time of the year, and the smell of the new hay came from the fields, cheering the heart of man with suggestive sweetness.  Nature was swinging her rich censor over the green earth; whilst choral bursts of song gushed heavenward from hill and dale.  The fine incense floated upon the sunny air, through little villages, and in at the ends of busy towns, telling the pleasant tale of summer and its flowers, and of the ever-returning bounty that laps the earth in blessings.  The small bird was beside himself with joy; and the wild flower laughed, and clapped its hands with wonder, at the tipsy minstrel's lay.  The brown mower stood in the meadow, at the head of the new-fallen swathe, trolling quaint fits of ballad-metre, and wiping the sweat from his forehead, and whetting his scythe again; while the tall grass gave its last tremble in the lazy wind before his coming stroke.  Little children were gathering buttercups and daisies in the fields.  Poor women, in cottage homes, chanted snatches of long-forgotten melody over their house-work, wondering how they came to mind; and the infant, leaping in his mother's arms, crowed pretty bits of inarticulate chicken-music, that woke up a burst of loving diminutives from all around.  The captive schoolboy fretted at his task, as he watched golden bars of sunshine glide across the floor of his prison-house, and heard the wild birds sing upon the window-sill outside; and, fidgeting upon his hot seat, he whispered slyly to his mates about nuts, and nests, and wicken-whistles, and little rivers, where jack-sharps were at play in the cool water.  The pale workman yawned and stretched his arms; and, opening his dusty lattice, he gazed wistfully into the sunny air; and as his mind wandered away over unseen landscapes, he sighed for a free stroll through the leafy woods.

    It had been market-day in the town of Rochdale, and the central part was still busy with loitering crowds of folk.  A few loungers leaned upon the stone bridge, dreamily watching the river as it shimmered goldenly away to westward, under the trees in front of the "Orchard," where the ancient manor-house stands, retired from the neighbouring bustle, in its embowered nook.  But up in the old quarter where the cow-fair was held, near the venerable parish church, quietness was creeping over the scene, though a few cattle-dealers still lingered upon the ground, at the alehouse doors, chaffering, and putting the "God's penny" from hand to hand over some late bargain; and lowing kine were wending slowly away from the streets, leaving behind them a smell that told of "cribs where oxen lie."  Evening was coming on, and country-folk had begun to saunter away homewards.  But down in the heart of the town late wassailers were gathering round their ale, and roaring fun rose higher as the day declined; whilst old folk in quiet streets sat smoking at their cottage doors, with children about their knees, enjoying the balmy summer evening.

    The sun had just begun to dip his golden rim behind the Birtle Moors as a jackass and its driver stopped in front of an old alehouse, called the Beehive, on the north-western edge of the town.  The driver was a simple moorland fellow, well-known among the hills and dales of Spotland by the name of "Besom Ben," from his occupation, which was the manufacture of ling brooms for sale in the towns and villages around.  He was a short square-set man, about thirty-years old.  The first glance at him told that he was sound as a roach in constitution, and hardened by habitual exposure to all sorts of weather.  His hazel-eye was bright as a ferret's; and he had a hungry look, as if he was accustomed to clear his plate at dinner-time before he had eaten enough.  There were no symptoms of indigestion about Ben.  He was as keen-bitten as a starved ostrich.  The curly flaxen hair that thatched his bullet pate was covered with an old felt billycock, with a short pipe stuck in the band of it.  His coarse lin shirt was whole, and clean enough to suggest that there was somebody at home who kept him in tidy trim; and it was wide open at the neck, leaving his brown breast bare to the skies.  There was a wild, sweet, heathery freshness about him from top to toe.  The most remarkable part of his dress was a slack, short jacket, or singlet, with sleeves.  The front of it was of undressed calfskin, with the hair outside.  His feet were sheathed in a pair of clinkered ankle-jacks, as heavy, and nearly as hard, as iron.  The rest of his outer clothing was of stout fustian, soundly patched here and there.  It was easy to be seen that he was a man who had plenty to do to make both ends meet, but there was a cheerful expression upon his tanned face that told a pleasant tale of good health and a contented mind.

    "Wo, Dimple!" said Ben to his donkey, as they came in front of the Beehive.  "Wo, owd lad! just an odd jill wi' Billy, an' then we'n be off whoam like red-shanks. . . . Here," continued he, lifting a bucket of water which stood by the door, "sup, owd brid!  It'll make thi yure curl!"  Then setting the bucket down again he walked slowly towards the alehouse door.  Hesitating upon the step, he scratched his head thoughtfully, and turned back again.  "Let's see," said he, looking into the panniers, "I'd better reckon up afore we gwon ony fur.  There'll be wigs upo' th' green if there's aught wrang when aw get whoam."  And then, slowly turning over the things he had bought in the town, he began,

    "A pair o' clogs, an' two eawnces o' 'bacco.  That's reet . . . . Five peawnd o' brisket, at fourpence hawp'ny, an' two peawnd o' breawn soap . . . . Ay. . . . An' a bit o' nice beef, too, it is.  Owd Boswill's like one o'th better end o' butchers.  Howd! aw'll put th' soap into these clogs, or else eawr Betty 'll happen be slappin' it into th' pon wi' th' beef, th' same as Mall o' Yebbers did when hoo stewed a peawnd o' short-eights i'th inside o'th keaw-yed, for th' churn-supper . . . . Th' owd lass had forgotten to tak 'em eawt o'th yed when hoo coom fro' th' teawn . . . . Nea, then, let's see again.  . . . A peawnd o' fourpence-hawp'ny sugar . . . . Ay. . . . A peawnd o' tollo candles, fro' owd Jewisson's, an' two blue pitchers.  Tone on em's cracked, aw see, . . . Well, come! . . . Hauve a gallon o' mussels, an' a quart of fayberry. . . . Aw wonder what mak ov a pie fayberry an' mussels would make? . . . It'd be summat like th' raisin puddin' 'at owd Mall made wi' bulljones in it.  'Hello, mother!' says little Jerry, what dun yo' co' this?'  'Why, it's a raisin', said Mally,—'get it into tho.'  'Well,' said Jerry, howdin' it upo' th' end of his fork, 'aw never see'd a raisin wi' a tail on afore!' . . . Come, I think I've reckon't o' up, neaw . . . . Oh, nay!  There's two eawnces o' milk-an-wayter colour't yarn, an' a pen'oth o' peawder blue, an' an eawnce o' snuff for my gronmother, an' two hawpo'ths o' traycle-toffy for th' childer . . . . Ay.  Aw have thoose i' mi' pocket.  O' reet! . . . Nea, then, let's reckon mi brass up.  Four shillin' for eggs, an' five an' thrippence for besoms, an' a shillin' an' a pint o' ale fro' Missis Cherrick, at th' bottom o'th Packer, for a burn o' nettles . . . . I'm al'ays sure of a pint an' a bit o' cheese an' brade at that shop . . . . Then I geet sixpence fro' th' lonlort o'th Amen Corner for a bundle o' sanctuary and some meawntain flax, an' sixpence for stuffin' a moudiwarp for Dan at th' Gowden Bo' . . . . Well.  I've three an' ninepence hawp'ny laft i' brass, beside stuff.  Well, come.  Fol der diddle ido!  That's noan sich an ill do for a besom-maker! .  .  .  . I think it'll ston a gill.  Come, Dimple," said he, laying hold of the donkey's bridle, "an odd tot, owd brid,—an' then, heigh-up for Lobden moorside!"

    He was drawing the donkey up under the window, where he could see it from the inside, when an old acquaintance came up, wheeling an empty barrow.

    "Hello, Ben! said he, dropping the barrow.  "Heaw arto?"

    "Crisp as a new poo'd lettice (lettuce), drippin' wi' well wayter," replied Ben.  "Wilt have a gill o' ale?"

    "Eh, God bless thee, Ben!" answered he, wheer doesto go to schoo' to? for thae talks like an angel!  I'm as dry as smithy-smudge."

    "Bring thi throttle this gate on, then!" said Ben.  And away the two cronies went into the Beehive.

    In about a quarter of an hour Ben came trickling out at the door again, singing to himself with an air of careless ease.  And well he might, for his conscience was free from all wilful offence.  His wants were simple and his cares were few, and the sunshine of peace warmed his honest heart.  It is true he lived near the ground like a fieldmouse, but Ben was "contented wi' little, an' canty wi' mair."  A freeman of the mountain solitudes, he loved his native wild, and nothing could tempt him from it to dwell among the bustle of great towns.  Lobden moorside and the quiet folds of Spotland were a heaven on earth to him, and his main hope in this world was to live decently among his neighbours in the nook where he was born, and be buried at last in the graveyard of the old chapel at Whitworth, where his "fore-elders" lay.

    Ben came singing out at the door of the Beehive, and, giving Dimple a quiet switch on the crupper, they toddled away together up the road towards Spotland Bridge.  About half a mile on he had to pass another alehouse, and as he drew near the place the sound of a fiddle greeted his ears.  Now Ben was of a musical turn, and when he heard the strains of the trembling string it stirred his nature with delight, and he stopped his donkey.

    "Woigh, Dimple!" said he.  "Does yer nought?  God bless that merry bit o' timber!  I've a good mind to have another gill,—just for a finisher!"

    But whilst he stood looking up at the sign a woman at a cottage door behind him screamed to her child, which was playing in the street,—

    "Ay, wilto?  Do if thae dar!"

    The voice startled Ben.  He whisked round, and stared at the woman.

    "By Guy" said he, wiping his forehead with his sleeve, "I though that were eawr Betty!  Just same seawnd!  It made my yure ston straight up! . . . Come, Dimple, let's be hutchin' a bit nar whoam!" and away they paddled down the brow towards the bridge which crosses the river Spodden, in the hollow.

    Near the bridge Ben left the main road, and turned up a green lane.  It was hemmed in by old sprawling hedges, thickly clothed in the wild luxuriance of the season; a rambling fretwork of many-patterned foliage, pranked all over with floral prettiness,—the rich overflow of nature's festal cup of beauty.  A posied crowd of hedge-plants were gathered there at the year's great holiday.  Thyme, and mint, and mugwort; docks, and sorrel, and nettles, and cotton-flowered thistles; the purple privet; the tall, proud foxglove, with its gaudy bell; the wilding rose, and yellow agrimony; the solemn, dark crimson-tinted hound's-tongue; and the little blue forget-me-not; burdock, and the lilac-flowered mallow, and the pretty harebell, with its trembling pendant cup; the golden-flowered broom,—beautiful crest of old Plantangenet kings; and the scarlet pimpernel, that shuts its flower at noon, and tells the watchful farmer what sort of weather's in the wind.  Trailing honeysuckles, with their creamy, sweet-scented flowers; and the rambling bramble, with its small white rose and "gauzy satin frill,"—the fairy's night-cap,—peeping out prettily upon long, flexile sprays; and here and there a thick-leaved tree, growing by the lane side, hung over all its friendly robe of green.

    Twilight,—that dreamy charm of our English summer,—had almost imperceptibly begun, though the sky was still grand with the splendour of the sunken sun, and a lingering tinge of golden light suffused the evening air.  Midges were dancing in mazy swarms above the pathway, those gauzy tribes of winged dust that fan their little patch of sunshine for an hour or two, and die.  They seemed wild with delight,—now rising and falling in spiral whirls, now swayed to and fro by the sighing wind.  Poor flutterers on the skirts of life!  One cold breath,—and all your dainty world of aerial glee lies low!  Oh, inexhaustible nature! whose remotest bounds throb with being's ceaseless flow, and with "beauty, whose world-wide empire never wanes," how mysterious thou art! . . . The throstle was singing his loud carol with unfired glee.  Dusky bats darted to and fro in vivid angular flight; and the honey-loaded bee was buzzing homeward, pleased with his day's work,—like poor Ben, as he sauntered down the lane, in the wake of Dimple, easy at heart, and lightly touched with the finger of fatigue .  .  .  . Ben felt more at home as he got farther away from the town.  He had been born "in the eye of nature," and he loved her truly, though he hardly dreamt that he did so.  As he went along the quiet lane a child-like sense of gladness grew stronger and stronger in his simple heart, and he drew his breath more freely as the buzz of the village in the hollow died upon his ear.  Before he had got many yards into this green cloister he took a match from his pocket, and, striking it upon a ragged stone, he lit his little pipe, and then meandered on after the donkey again.  Dimple paced lazily from one side of the path to the other, tasting first one, then another patch of grass that cushioned shady spots of the old lane with rich emerald.  Ben brought up the rear, with wandering steps and slow; easy and idle as a schoolboy dreaming in the summer woods, switching at the dogberry bushes on the hedge, and crooning scraps of old minstrelsy, in fitful gushes, like a bird, that must either ease its heart by song or die of pent-up pleasure.  He stopped at the hedge-side, plucking the wild roses for the children at home, and singing,—


"Th' chylt cries i'th keyther;
     Th' cake bruns i'th oon;
 Th' keaw moos i'th milkin'-gap,
     Bith leet o'th moon.


"Come up, Dimple! " said Ben, tapping the donkey with his whip-handle.  He said this more from habit than from any desire to hurry the poor brute, for they were good friends,—in fact, Ben, rough as he looked, had a warm side for almost everything that lived,—and his donkey understood him very well.  Dimple knew that the day's work was done; and somehow guessed, from Ben's way of going on, that it had been satisfactory.  So when Ben said "Come up!" it merely answered by an extra frisk of the tail, and two or three rather livelier steps forward; but the instant that he stopped at the hedge again, and began to sing about hearing "the drums and the trumpets sound in the wars of High Jarmanie," Dimple turned aside, and began to crop the grass as before.  And when Ben turned round and saw the donkey thus engaged he went and patted him on the neck, and said, "That's reet, owd brid!  Get a bit o' green meight into tho, while I have a reech o' 'bacco;" and Dimple pricked his ears and whisked his tail, and gave a playful snap at the leg of Ben's trousers, by way of acknowledging his kindness.  "Stop," said Ben, looking into the panniers; "let's be sure at o's reet again.  Iv eawr Betty finds aught wrang hoo'll be for powin' mi wi' a rollin'-pin o' some lumber . . . . Let's see." . . . And, once more, he turned over the things he had bought that day. . . . "Clogs, an' swop.  Breawn sugar, and 'bacco, an' beef.  Reet again. . . . Two blue pitchers.  Ay, wee's catch it abeawt one on 'em being crack's, owd lad. . .  . I've a good mind to lay that o' thee, Dimple . . . . An' then there's fayberry, an' peawder blue, an' yorn, and two hawpo'ths o' toffy, an' candles, an' mussels.  Ay. . . . Oh, an' there's snuff. . . . Nan o' Dolly's takes snuff, too. . . . 'What's an eawnce o' snuff a week,' said Nan, 'for a woman at's givin' seawk?' . . . Come, aw think o's reet an' square.  Reet as a' hatch-horn! (acorn).  Fol der diddle ido!  Nea, then; I dar face aught there is upo' Lobden moor this neet!  That is, if it'll come i'th daytime,—and it belungs this world.


"So red and rosy was her lips,
     So curly wur her hair;
 An' sparklin' was those robes of gowld,
     Which my true love did wear.


"Get some o' that graice (grass) into thou, Dimple!"  Then he sat down upon the hedge, and charged his pipe again.  "Come," said he, leaning his elbows on his knees, and looking dreamily at Dimple's panniers, "that's bin a fair do to-day . . . . Eawr Betty's laid in for a week or so.  We han meighl,and potitos, too.  My feyther use't to co' 'em Irish grapes . . . . That bit o' brisket looks nice . . . . I'm partial to butcher's chips, but they're rayther aboon my cut for regilar heightin . . . . I wish they wur abeawt twopence a peawnd.  We'd oather ha' lobscouse or a beef-bo' every day! . . . Come, never mind. . . . There'll be broth to-morn,—weel lithe't,—an' plenty o' pot-yarbs in 'em,—an' stars at top, winking at one another like fun, an' as close together as herrin' in a barrel.  I don't like to see 'em when they're so far asunder 'at they han to sheawt to one another, like folk at's lost on a wild moor in a dark neet. . . . An' then we'n have a suet-dumplin', too, beside. . . . Aw co' that a gradely good do. . . . Right tooral looral laddie oh! right tooral looral ido!"  And then he began to sing again,—


"They brought me up a mutton pie,
     Aw like't it weel, aw like's it weel;
 They brought me up a mutton pie,
     Aw con both sing and say:
 They brought me up a mutton pie,
     Wi' th inside weet, an' th' eawtside dry;
 An' it's nay, nawe, never while aw live,
     Win they ony moor bring it me, oh!


Come, Dimple, hasn'to had enough o' that sallet?  Nea, then, come up!  Thae'll have it dark afore we getten whoam . . . Howd a minute," continued Ben, sticking a wild rose into his button-hole, and fastening another at the head of the donkey's bridle.  "Let's put a bit of a haliday-tuft into thi clooas . . . . Theighur!" cried Ben, retiring a yard or two to get a better look.  "Theighur, owd lad! thae looks as fine as a foo at a fair wi' that o' thi yed!  .  . . 'Bonny all o'er, like Marlan' banner!' said Mall o' Thatcher's . . . . I'll get thee in for a poo er when Whit'oth rushbearin' comes! . . . Nea then; let's be gooin'.  Stir thoose legs!  Play for Lobden as well as tho con! .  .  .  . 'Forrad, Tummus!' said Johnny, 'th' bull's comin'!'"

    Dimple began to move slowly along the lane again, and Ben followed, arranging the flowers in his button-hole, chanting,


"As I was walkin' deawn by yon green gardens,
     All on a summer's evening clear,
 It's there I met with a beautiful damsel,
     Lamentin' for her shepherd dear.
            .            .            .            .            .            .            .
 An' it's never more with my love I'll wander,
     With pleasure for to rest myself, and view the land;
 An' it's never more—"

 
    Here a turn in the lane brought Ben in sight of an old woollen mill, at the foot of a wooded steep, on the top of which the quaint gables of a little hamlet peeped through the trees.  The mill stood in a secluded spot by the lane side.  All the workmen had gone home except "Twitchel," and "Owd Riprap," and little "Enoch o' Yem's o' Swivers at th' Lung Rindle."   The last bag of a load of wool lay at the front door, and Enoch was preparing to fasten the hooks to it.  The other two were in the top room, winding up.  When Ben came in sight of the mill he stopped, and said, Hello!  What han they agate at th' owd mill?  Oh, aw see.  They're gettin' wool in . . . . Little Enoch's rooting abeawt th' dur, yon .  .  .  . Come, I'll have a bit of a do wi' thoose lads . .  . They're allays playin' me some mak o' marlocks,—prodigal divvles! .  .  .  . But I'll serve 'em eawt an odd time! . . . Come up."  And on he went, pretending to fettle his whip-lash, and singing louder than before,—


"And she did laurel wear,
 And shee-ee did a laurel wear!


    Come up, Dimple!  He hasn't sin us yet."  And he chanted still louder,—


"Sing, blow the winds, I-ho!
 Sing, blow the winds, I-ho!
 Clear away the mountain dew!
 And, blow the winds, I-ho!"


    As he drew nearer the mill, Enoch caught the sound of his voice, and, whisking round, he cried out,

    "Hello, Ben!  Is that thee?  Wheerto for?"

    "Wheer should I be for but whoam at this time o'th neet?  I've a good way to go, thae knows."

    "What's o' thi' hurry?  If thae'll wait abeawt ten minutes while we'n done, I'll go wi' tho as fur as Yelly Ho."

    "Well, I don't care.  But I'm dry.  Conto get a saup o' ale, thinksto?"

    "Ay, con I,—an' soon, too."

    "Wheer?"

    "Th' Tobe's Yed." (Talbot's Head.)

    "Eh, it's a greight way."

    "Not it.  I con be theer an' back i' under ten minutes."

    "Well, nip up for a quart.  They'n lend thee a pitcher.  .  . . An' dunnot thee go an' sup it upo' th' road, now.  I know what a drunken throttle is.  It's no conscience. . . . Nea, be slippy.  I'll hook this bag up whol thae'rt off."

    "Honour bright, owd lad!" said Enoch.  "Nea, mind thae fastens th' hooks weel; an' then, thae's nought to do but gi' th' rope a bit of a wag, an' co' eawt, 'Wind up!' an' away it'll goo."

    "Get off witho!" said Ben.  Doesto think I've no wit?"

    "Well, I've nobbut spokken, thae knows," as he ran oft for the ale, with his teeth shooting water.


 
CHAPTER II.
 

Twopence more, ladies and gentlemen, and up goes the donkey.

STREET ACROBAT.


BY this time, the sunken sun had drawn his gorgeous train into the west, where it seemed to linger, looking back upon the landscape, with a sad, intense splendour, that showed the dark outlines of the hills in grand relief.  The wild flowers were closing their petals; and, in the deepening stillness, the sound of the little river in the clough rose clearer, singing its drowsy night-song to the sleepy woods.  In the blue east, a few pale stars were struggling to outshine the light that never wholly fades from the midsummer sky.  A delicious coolness was creeping into the air; and twilight had touched the eyelids of day with her soft finger.  Nature was at evening prayer; and there was a holy hush upon all the scene.  Poor Ben was a simple, uncultivated man, and his mind was busy with the frolic he had on hand at the moment; but he was not insensible to the fine enchantment of that twilight hour.  And yet it wrought upon him so unconsciously to himself that he would have been at a loss to tell what it was that touched his heart to a softer tone as he looked slowly round, and heaved a deep sigh.  But that sigh was the inarticulate testimony of his spirit to the influence of nature, who woos us with blessings all our way from the cradle to the grave.

    But this delicate mood was fitful with Ben,—fitful just then "as the snowfall on the river," for his thoughts hurried back to the prank he was about to play.  Running to the end of the building, he watched till Enoch had got out of sight, and then he looked carefully round.  There was nobody about; and all was still but the murmur of the stream in the clough, the carols of a few late birds on the wooded steep, and the sounds of Twitchel and Riprap, in the top room of the mill, shifting bags of wool, and singing an old poaching song,


In Thorney-moor woods, in Nottinghamshire,
    Right fol der dol layrol, right fol laddadie!
In Robin Hood's bold Nottinghamsheer,
    Right fol der lol layrol leigh!
Three keepers' heawses stood three-square,
    An' abeawt a mile from each other they were,
Their orders were to look after the deer,
    Right fol der lol layrol lib deigh!


    Ben would fain have chimed in with them, but he durst not, for fear of spoiling the sport; so he subdued the gleeful impulse, and listened.  He looked up at the doors of the top room, to make sure that the coast was clear, and as there was nobody in sight, he chuckled and rubbed his hands with childish glee.

    "O' reet! . . . Neaw for a mank!" said Ben, as he drew the patient companion of his wanderings under the rope.

    "Nea then, owd brid," continued Ben, patting Dimple's neck; "thae's bin put on a good while, but aw'll gi' thee a lift i'th world for once! . . . If thou'd bin reet done to thou met (might) ha' bin a carriage horse long sin'! . . . But never mind," said he, as he tightened the bellyband; "never mind, Dimple.  Put thi best fuut for-most, just neaw, iv thae'rt ony hand at flyin'; for thae's beawn a-seein' some o' thi relations i' hee life,—so behave thisel as weel as tho con . . . . An' iv ever thae see'd two bigger jackcasses nor yon two that thou'll find i'th top reawm o' this mill thou may tell me when thou comes down again,—if ever thou does come down again . . . Neaw for't!  Look eawt!  Thae'll be on a different fuutin' in a minute, owd brid!"

    The unsuspecting animal pricked his ears, and whisked his tail, and gazed at the ground with vague, contented eye, thinking no ill.  Its heart was far away on Lobden moor, among thistles and liberty, and it stood still.  When Ben had secured the bellyband he looked aloft again.  All was clear.  The two in the top room were still singing and shifting the wool bags, so Ben fastened the hooks firmly to the jackass-gear, and, giving the rope a shake, he cried, "Wind up!"  Twitchel and Riprap began to work the windlass.  The rope gradually tightened, and as soon as the donkey felt itself being lifted, it started from its peaceful dream.  Its eyes glistened with fear, and it gave unmistakable evidence of a strong dislike to "take a flight to heaven that night, and leave dull earth behind it."  The poor brute struggled to lay hold of the ground with its feet.  But fate was too strong for Dimple.  First the forelegs rose,—and he stood pawing the air like the rampant supporter of a costermonger's coat of arms,—then the hind legs left the ground, and the entire animal was a-swing, and slowly rising in the world, to its great dismay.  The earth itself seemed to stare with astonishment to see a jackass,—of all things in the world,—take leave of it in such a way as this.  As Dimple rose higher and higher, he rocked up and down, fore and aft; and every time his head came lowmost he looked at his master with doleful eyes.

    Before Dimple had risen three yards into the air, Ben began to repent what he had done; and for an instant he felt half inclined to cry out for them to let the jackass down again.  But the fear of ridicule kept him silent; and his heart grew more and more troubled as his old friend rose farther out of reach.  When Dimple looked down at him, he shook his head, and said, "Nay, thou doesn't need to stare at me! . . . I cannot help tho neaw! . . . Thae'rt eawt o' my honds o'together this time!"  And he tried to laugh, but it was no use.  Pleasure was fast oozing out of him; and the one feeling that moved him most of all now was fear for the fate of his poor jackass.

    "Howd fast, good bally-bant!" cried Ben, gazing up and clasping his hands.  "Howd fast!  If thou gi's way, that poor crayter's done for! . . . Eh, Dimple!  Aw wish thee an' me wur safe awhoam this neet! . . . What a stark, starin', jumped-up foo I wur to send tho up theer! . . . If that bally-bant breighks, aw'll jow my yed oft again this stone wole! . . . Woigh!  Gently!  Tak care, owd brid! . . . I'll never face Lobden again if aught happens thee,—never while I've teeth an' een i' my yed!"

    In its helpless plunges the donkey came slightly against the mill, and the instant it felt the touch it shot out its hind feet.  The kick sent Dimple forth into the air with a great swing, which brought him back, sideway, against the wall, crushing one of the panniers, which contained, among other things, the two pitchers that Ben had bought for his wife that day.  Ben trembled at the sight; and when he heard the crash, he cried out, "Woigh, my lad! . . . Gently does it, Dimple,—gently does it!  By th' mon, thou's brokken my pots! . . . Keep off that wole as weel as ever tho con!  Thae's a tickle job bi' th' hond.  The Lord send tho safe through it,— for I connot help tho, now! . . . What a bowster-yed I wur to make sich a foo on tho as this!  Thae never did me no harm,—never i' thi life, nobbut bi trailin' up an' deawn wi' o' maks o' things o' thi back, an' helpin' one to get a bit of a livin'! . .  . It's a d――d shame!  But mind that wole, owd crayter,—whatever thae does, keep off that wole!"

    The fright and the unusual motion had sadly disturbed the donkey.  "Poor Dimple!" said Ben, staring up.  "Poor Dimple!  This mak o' wark doesn't agree witho,I can see that, plain."  The donkey was twirling round, and swaying up and down, like a rocking-horse; and Ben watched every movement with a distressed heart, speaking to his jackass in terms of simple endearment, and blaming himself as "a foo, full-measur, for playing sich a trick on a poor thing that had groon up wi' th' childer awhoam—like peighs i' one swad."  He declared that if the bellyband would only hold good through this trial, he would have it framed and hung up for a picture.  In the meantime, the strange situation so affected Dimple that he broke out into a loud bray.  This made Ben worse than ever, and he sat down upon a stone at the end of the mill, and covered his face with his hands.  "Eh, what a waistril I am!" said he; "what a waistril I am, to get that poor crayter into such a hobble as this!"  All this while, the two in the top room were singing and winding away, quite unconscious of what was coming up outside, and when they heard the jackass bray, one of them said to the other, "Yer tho, Twitchel; there's another weighver deeod!"*  When they had wound to the top Twitchel locked the wheel, and went whistling towards the warehouse door, expecting to see a bag of wool.  But when he saw Balaam twirling in front of the warehouse door he started back and cried out,

    "Hey!  Hello!  Sitho, Rip! . . . It's a jackass!" and he started back, and rolled over a bag of wool.

    "A what? said Riprap, whisking round, and looking at the doorway.

    "A jackass! . . . Iv it isn't, aw'll go to the crows!" replied Twitchel, gathering himself up, and staring with all his eyes from the back of the bag of wool.

    "It is a jackass!" said Riprap, rubbing his eyes, and going nearer, to make sure of the thing.  "It's a jackass, bigo! .  .  .  . Heaw's th' moon, Twitch?"

    "Moon or no moon, that's a jackass!  An' aw've sin it afore somewheer, or else aw'm swapped," replied Twitchel.  "But haw has it getten up theer, thinksto?"

    "Nay," answered Riprap, scratching his pate, "aw'm just wonderin'. . . . Aw'll tell thou what.  Aw'll be bund 'at Enoch's hooked it on in a mistake.  Th' berm-yed doesn't know th' difference between a jackass an' a bag o' wool.  But it's happen come'd i'th cart wi' tother stuff. . . . Tak it in! . .  .  I dar say th' maister's bought it for th' childer when he's bin upo' th' fuddle. . . . Let's tak it in, as heaw! . . . We winnot let it hang twellin' theer like a lump o' beef afore a kitchen fire."

    "Well," said Twitchel, walking towards the door, "it caps o', iv our maister's taen it into his yed to goo into the jackass-line!  He's never gooin' to fill th' warehouse wi' crayters o' that mak, is he?  He'll be wantin' me to go a-gettin' orders for 'em next,—wi' a sampled under mi arm. . . . Aw should as soon ha' thought ov a skipful o' whelps comm' up as this! . . . Come, aw'll tak thou in. . . . Thae'rt in a weary pickle, owd crayter!  Let's see,heaw mun aw get howd on tho?  .  .  . Oh, th' tail end! . . . Wo, Smiler! . . . Woigh, my lad!"

    When the tail came round, Twitchel tried to lay hold of it; but the instant Dimple felt his touch he shot out his hind-feet like lightning, catching Twitchel a little below his dinner, and sending him flat back upon the warehouse floor.

    "O――oh!" cried Twitchel, laying his hands upon his belly, and jerking up his knees.  "Oh, my!  E—eh! .  .  .  By th' mass, Rip! .  .  . That's skifted my baggin above a bit! . . . Heighve mo up!  Aw feel as if awed swallowed a dog-battle! . . . O—oh!  Peterloo! .  .  .  Eh! that's a crumper!"

    "Arto hurt?" inquired Riprap, running up to his comrade.

    "Am aw hurt?" replied Twitchel, looking up indignantly.  "Try a barrowful thisel, an' see heaw thae likes it!  Eh, Rip if thae'd bin i' my inside just then thae'd ha' been kilt stone-deeod! . . . Oh!  Aw's carry th' shap o' jackass shoon to my grave, neaw! .  .  . Heighve me up!  Gently!"

    "Thae should ha' getten howd of it toppin', mon," said Riprap, as he helped him up.

    "Who?  Me?" replied Twitchel, staring at Rip with a vexed look.

    "Ay," said Riprap.  "Get howd o' th toppin' next time.  It's th' safer end, mon."

    "Ay," replied Twitchel, as he sat upon the floor, rubbing his belly.  "Ay, aw dar say it is th' safer end.  There is nobbut two ends to a jackass, an' tother end's noan safe,—I've fund that out. . . . But I'm noan greedy.  I'll let thee ha' th' next go. . . . I con stop sheep-trotters, but jackass' heels dunnot agree wi' my stomach.  Thae's ha' th' next go, Rip!  Heighve mo up! .  .  . Oh, by th' mon! aw shan't be reet ov a month!"

    "Arto ony better?" inquired Riprap, as he lifted him to his feet.

    "Nawe, I am not no better,—an' thou knows that, too!" replied Twitchel, hobbling slowly away, with his body bent.  "Get that jackass in, aw tell tho."

    "Mun aw rub tho a bit?" said Riprap.

    "Nawe,—not just neaw. . . . Get that jackass in!"

    "Wilto sup a saup o' sweet oil, or summat ?"said Riprap.

    "Gullook!" replied Twitchel, as he caught a glimpse of Riprap's grinning face.  "Thou wouldn't ha' care't if it had sent it feet straight through me!  Goo an' get that jackass in, aw tell tho,—an' then come and unbutton my singlet!"

    Riprap stood a minute, looking at the poor brute twirling in front of the doorway, and considering which would be the best way of getting it in.  "Oh," said he, "aw have it."  And he went and took a long brush from a corner, and he turned the donkey round with it, until its head looked in at the door.  "Wo, Smiler!" said he, laying hold of the bridle.  "Woigh! .  .  . Kick th' tother gate on, an' aw con do witho."  And then, as Twitchel lowered at the wheel, he drew the donkey in, till its feet were safe upon the warehouse floor.  The poor animal trembled with fright as he led it to the back part of the mill chamber.

    "Here, Twitch," said Riprap, "tee this crayter up while aw see after Enoch."  And he went to the front door, and, looking down, he cried out, "Hello, Enoch!  Nea then wheer arto? . . . I see nought on him," continued he, looking carefully about.  "Howd!  Stop!  By th' mass, Twitch, that jackass belongs Besom Ben!  I've just sin a wap on him, peepin' off at th' end o'th mill!  I'll bet tho' a hawpenny he's done it for a marlock!"

    "Arto sure it's him?" said Twitchel, brightening up at the news.

    "Am I here, thinks to?" replied Riprap, turning sharply round, and stretching out his arm like an indignant orator.

    "Well, then, come away fro that dur," said Twitchel.  "We'n a rare gam afore us, if thou'll mind what thou'rt dooin'!"



* In the manufacturing districts of Lancashire it used to be a common saying that every time a jackass brayed a hand-loom weaver had just died.


 
CHAPTER III.


BEN was fain to see Dimple safely taken into the chamber of the mill after that dangerous ascent; but, when he sat down, off at the corner, wondering how the freak would end, his heart began to be troubled in another way.  A swarm of dim fears arose in his mind, for he felt that he had foolishly thrown himself at the mercy of those who were, at the best, only mischievous friends; and, as he had so clumsily tried to plague them, it was hardly likely that they would lose the chance of paying him back in his own coin.  He knew that he had made a blunder; and yet, after all, he thought, in the simplicity of his heart, that it was just possible they might not see the advantage they had over him.  He peeped up every two or three minutes, half expecting to see them let the jackass down again, and hoping that, at all events, they would give him some sign that they had taken the joke in a good-natured way, and did not intend to carry it any further for the sake of tormenting him.  Night was coming on, too; and he wanted to be going home.  But he could not think of leaving his jackass; and in tethering it he had tethered himself; so there was nothing for it but to wait and see the thing out as patiently as possible.  He sat down, and thing he tried to be comfortable; but it was of no use.  He looked up again and again, and he listened, but the sounds in the chamber had ceased almost as soon as the donkey had been taken in.  Ben couldn't tell what to make of this.  He was afraid it meant mischief.  His heart was fast failing him, and he began to build his last hope upon a thin chance of making all right with the help of Enoch when he came back with the ale; and there he sat, at the corner of the mill, nursing this flickering spark of consolation, and looking out for the old man's return.

    In a few minutes Enoch came paddling into sight, with a pitcher in his hands, and a cheerful grin upon his flushed face.

    "What a while thou's bin," said Ben.

    "Nay," replied Enoch, wiping his forehead, "it's a good way up yon an' back, mon.  Tak howd an' sup! . . . Thou'll need no tot.  Aw think it tastes better eawt o'th pitcher.  Tak owd, an' oppen thi shoolders ! "

    "Well," said Ben, taking the pitcher, "I'll just taste wi' tho,—or else I care nought mich abeawt it.  .  .  . Hello! there's no quart here, Enoch!"

    "Well, I nobbut had one poo at it,—an' that's o, —but it wur a pummer, owd lad; for I wur dry as soot . . . . But what's up witho?  Thou looks very slamp abeawt th' face!  Wheer's th' jackass?"

    "What dost think I've done wi't?" said Ben, making a miserable attempt at looking merry upon a sad stomach.

    "Thou's sent it whoam?"

    "Nawe."

    "Thou hasn't etten it?"

    "Not I."

    "Well, wheer is it?"

    "I've sent it up."

    "Up wheer?"

    "To th' top reawm."

    "What! th' top reawm o'th mill?"

    "Aye," said Ben, pointing aloft with his finger, and trying once more to smile against the grain.

    "Thae lies, belike!" replied Enoch, changing the pitcher from one hand to the other, and staring at Ben.

    "Aw have, for sure," said Ben, blushing at the sense of his ridiculous situation.

    "Why, what's thae done that for?"

    "Aw can hardly tell.  Fun, aw guess," replied Ben.  And then he looked down at the ground, and kicked a little stone at his foot, and he looked round in a wandering way, and tried to whistle.

    "Oh, aw see," said Enoch; and then he paused, and his old eyes twinkled with mischievous glee. "Well, come, sup up, Ben," said he.  "Aw'll tak th' pitcher into the mill till mornin'."

    "Well, thou'll get it deawn again as soon as thae con, winnot tho?" replied Ben, laying hold of Enoch's sleeve as he was starting.  "Be as sharp asto con.  I want to be off whoam."

    "I'll make it reet, thou's see," said Enoch, running into the mill by the back way.  Closing the door behind him, he bolted it with as little noise as possible, and then he ran upstairs.

    "Where's that jackass?'' cried he, almost out of breath.

    "It's i'th nook, here," said Twitchel.  "What the hangmen' hasto sent it up here for?"

    "Nay, it's noan o' me," answered Enoch.  "It belungs Lobden Ben.  He did it while I're off for th' ale."

    "What ale?" asked Riprap.

    "We'n had a quart fro' th' Tobe's Yed," replied Enoch.

    "An' where is it?" continued Riprap.

    Enoch turned the pitcher upside down, and, pointing to his mouth, he whispered, "Th' Red Lone."

    "Oh.  I see," said Twitchel, in a sarcastic tone.  "I guess thou doesn't know there's onybody i'th world has a throttle but thisel."

    "Throttle cried Enoch.  "What's a quart among two?  I could ha' supped it o' mysel, aw're so dry .  .  .  . What's th' use o' takin' ale in i' numbers, this weather? .  .  .  . But, here, I say, lads!  We'n sarve yon mon eawt for sendin' his jackass up here! .  .  . Let's lower it deawn at th' back, an' pop it somewheer."

    Twitchel and Riprap were delighted with the scheme.  "By th' mon, Enoch!" cried Riprap, snapping his fingers, "thae has it, owd lad! thae has it ! .  .  .  Go thi ways an' talk to him eawt at th' front while we getten it down at th' back, or else he'll see us."

    "Well, get ready," said Enoch.  "Get ready, lads!  By mon, this is a do!"

    As soon as they had rigged all ready for lowering the donkey, Twitchel quietly opened the back doors and peeped cautiously out to see if the coast was clear.

    "O' reet!" said he, chuckling.  "Neaw, Enoch, go thee an' talk to him at th' front while we getten it deawn."

"Well, but wheer are yo gooin' to tak it to? becose I'm noan beawn to be done eawt o' my share o' this marlock."

    "We'n tak it up to Jem's at the Tobe's Yed.  So, when we'n getten fairly off, thou mun lock th' durs, an' pike eawt at th' back after us as nicely as thou con."

    "Well, are yo ready?"

    "Ay; get agate," said Twitchel.

    Enoch looked out at the front, and seeing Ben still sitting, lost in thought, upon the stone at the corner of the mill, he cried out,

    "Hello, Ben! come under here.  I want to speighk to tho."

    "Nea, then," said Ben, jumping up and coming to the front, in expectation of a comfortable finish to his troubles.  What saysto, Enoch?"

    "Which gate 'ud be th' best to get this thing deawn again?  I've bin thinkin', like, 'at if we could get a greight skip or summat,—what thinksto? . . . Or if we could make it up nicely in a strong pack-sheet, it'd happen be safer."

    "Nawe, nawe!" said Ben anxiously.  "No pack-sheet no pack-sheet!  It'd never howd, mon!  But if yo'n a good strong skip ――"

    While Ben was talking in this way, Enoch, pretending to listen, glanced slyly inside to see how his mates were getting on with lowering the donkey.  They had already got it down to the ground at the back of the mill, and were hurrying downstairs as gently as possible to drive it off to the village.  Enoch watched them from the corner of his eye with mischievous glee, and still pretended to listen to Ben's earnest request that he'd "be sure an' make o' reet, so as it'd come deawn safe."

    "It'll get deawn, thou'll see," said Enoch, "safe an' seawnd! . . . But thae'd rayther have it in a skip, thae says."

    "Well, i'tho con find one big enough an' strung enough."

    "Well, stop theer a bit, while I look for one."

    Enoch ran to the window at the back of the chamber, from which he saw his two mates hurrying the donkey in the direction of the village.  As soon as they were out of sight he quietly closed the front doors of the chamber and crept downstairs and out at the back, locking the door behind him as stealthily as possible; and then he took to his heels after the other two, leaving poor Ben all alone, with night closing around him, gazing up anxiously at the top room of the mill, and wondering what was keeping Enoch so long.


 
CHAPTER IV.


Now with religious awe, the farewell light Blends with the solemn colouring of the night.

WORDSWORTH


AS Ben walked slowly to and fro in front of the mill, expecting every minute to see Enoch show himself at the top doors again with some news of Dimple, he began to be aware that there was a deeper silence around him than before, and it sent a cold chill all over him.  A fearful sense of isolation was beginning to lay hold of him.  He tried to sing a song by way of keeping his courage up.  But it would not do.  The sound came back upon his ear with such weird loneliness that it frightened him, and he stopped at the end of the first line.  There was something so mysterious in the stillness that was settling down around him that he durst not disturb it; and yet he would have been glad to hear any sound that told of human life, for he felt like a man locked up alone in an old church at midnight.  Poor Ben was a solitary pool left trembling upon the shores of darkness after the tide of life had gone down.  He paused, and looked wistfully around.  All was still, and night was silently winding her dusky arms about him.  The hollows of the clough were already shrouded in thick gloom, and vague terrors began to overshadow the benighted besom-maker; for he was a simple, superstitious man, and his mind had been early stored with the goblin tales of "Spoddenlond."  He had sat by the fire on winter nights, when a lad, in his father's cottage on Lobden moor, listening in eager excitement to many a wild "boggart" story, the scene of which was laid in the solemn clough where he was then wandering to and fro so lonely in the dark.  He could have kept his heart up better if he had even had his poor jackass by his side; but, bereft of Dimple, he felt strangely cut off from human society, and left entirely at the mercy of those fearful beings who are said to wander back to us from the confines of the invisible world.  He tried to get the better of his fears, but he could not; for, in spite of himself, the awful stillness and the deepening gloom sank every moment more heavily upon his spirits.  He began to be afraid of his own footsteps; for his senses were so unnaturally quickened by a morbid imagination, that those thin undersounds which creep about lonely corners of the world all through the night-time came now with strange distinctness upon his ears and loaded with undefinable horrors.  He pulled his hat down upon his brow, and he turned up the collar of his coat, to shut out things he dreaded seeing; and he trod the ground with softer footfall than before, lest he should awake the anger of some lurking wanderer from the land of shade.  The unhealthy activity of his senses left him no rest.  Now, a leather-winged bat, flitting athwart the gloom, made his heart leap with sudden terror, and he glared aloft, and muttered tremulously, "What's that?"  Sometimes he fancied he heard strange whisperings a few yards off; but, too terrified to look, he hutched closer into his clothing,—the last poor citadel left to protect him from the powers of darkness.  And now and then, even when the wind was still, a stealthy rustle crept through the trees behind the mill, as if the dusky wood swarmed with goblin wings.  He began to keep nearer to the building, for there was more of human association in that than in the gloomy clough.  But even there he was haunted by the terrors of the night; for as he paced by the door it gave a drowsy jolt that made him start aside.  There was something in the sound that told him it had not been stirred by the wind, nor yet by earthly hands, and the poor fellow's flesh crept upon his bones.  And then, when the wind came moaning up from the dark, like a thing in pain, it seemed to pause where he stood, and coil itself about him maliciously; and he felt as if it had left its hollow cell solely to wail an inarticulate warning against his intrusion upon the mysteries of the night.  Everything around him seemed to be waiting to go on with some weird business as soon as he should go away.  And, heaven knows, poor Ben had no desire to make or meddle with such things.  He would have been glad to go, if he could only have got hold of his jackass; for he was terrified, and even the faint sounds of life which came, by fits, from little folds upon the heights in the distance, only served to deepen his sense of the solitude around him.

    But Ben began to think of the little cottage on Lobden moor, where Betty and the children were waiting for him; and the thought made him desperate.  He could see his wife looking out at the door, and wondering what kept him so late.  He could see her walking into the lonely packhorse track that led by his cottage door, and hearkening down towards the valley for his footsteps.  And he could hear his children playing about the hearth, and prattling over their "porritch," and then crying for their "mam" to let them stop up till their "dad" came home.  Ben could not stand this any longer.  It woke up new mettle within him, and for a few minutes broke the spell that had begun to paralyse his spirits.  It was high time to get his jackass out of the mill, for,—goblins or no goblins,—he durst not go home without it.  And once more he bitterly blamed himself for the foolish prank he had played with poor Dimple.

    It struck him, too, now, that Enoch was a long time in coming with the promised skip, and Ben began to wonder what was keeping him so long.  He went and knocked at the door, but the mill sounded awfully hollow, and his knocking woke up wild echoes, that shouted to one another from dark corners down the clough, and he looked fearfully round, as if he expected every moment to see something unearthly come forth from the gloom behind him.  Then all sank into a tomb-like stillness again, and the poor fellow was nearly at his wits' end.

    Retiring a few yards from the front, so as to get a better view of the upper part of the building, he cried out,

    "Heigh! now then, Enoch!  Wheer arto?  Come, owd brid!  I want to go whoam!"

    But when he saw that the top doors were closed, his heart began to be troubled with new misgivings.

    "Hello!" said he, staring up.  "How neaw?  They're noan gwon, belike!"

    He could hardly believe it—so he tried again.

    "Enoch!  Dosto yer?  What arto botherin' abeawt so lung? .  .  . Heigh, Twitch, owd dog!  Come, lads, I want to be off Lobden gate on!"

    There was no reply.  A pin-drop silence pervaded the old mill; and when the night wind came soughing up from the dark again, Ben's heart sank into his shoes.  He looked through the window.  All was gloomy and still, and in the solemn tinge of light that lingered there the machinery had assumed vague and spectral shapes, and he was glad to turn his eyes away, for he could not endure the spell-bound appearance of that lonely mill.  But, believing that Enoch and the other two were still lurking inside, and merely trying to frighten him, he went and shook the door again, and shouted.  And then he began to appeal to them in imploring accents: speaking sometimes through the lock-hole, and sometimes through a broken pane in the window.

    "Twitchel, owd brid!  Heigh!  I say!  Is Enoch theer?  Come, lads.  Dall it, an' sink it!  A joke's a joke, an' I can ston one as weel as onybody,—When it's dayleet, an' there's folk abeawt.  But, it's gettin' th' deeod time o'th neet, an' I want to be pikein' off.  Come, lads! .  .  .  I say, Enoch!  I'tho'll send that jackass eawt, I'll stan an odd gallon,—I will, for sure? . . . Come, lads, do!  I've th' brass i' my hond, here! . . . Neaw, Enoch, come.  I've a greight way to go yet, an' thae knows what mak o' one our Betty is when hoo starts .  .  .  . Heigh, Rip, owd brid?  Arto theer?  Dost yer?  Oppen th' dur, owd lad! .  .  .  Doesn't to remember thee an' me gooin' a wimberryin' together when we'rn bits o' lads?  .  .  .  Come, owd dog!  Fair do's amung mates!"

    He listened again, but all was still.  "Eh, this is a do!" said he to himself, looking despairingly round.  "This is a do!"  And then he went and tried the key-hole.

    "Now then, come!  I yer yo' snurchin' an' laughin' theer! .  .  .  Come, lads; let's ha' that jackass! .  .  .  I say, Rip!  Dost yer?  Hasto forgotten me pooin' tho eawt o' that greight tub i' Bull Robin back-yard when thae'r abeawt th' bugth of our Billy?  Why, thae'd happen be five year owd or so .  .  .  . Thae'd ha' bin dreawnt that time, owd brid, but for me.  Eh, thae wur a seet when thou coom eawt o' that tub!  It wur noan sich nice stuff to fo' into, noather.  Aw remember thi mother ga' me a trayclebutter-cake an' a hawp'ny when aw geet tho whoam .  .  .  . Our folk had nought mich to tak to at that time o'th day .  .  .  . Come, owd dog!  Have a bit o' wit!  Let's have owd o' that jackass!  Dost yer?"

    Ben held his tongue, and hearkened again; but the only sound he heard was made by the wind, which whistled a little razory note through the lock-hole into his ear, as if in mockery of his simple arts of persuasion.  Ben turned away despondingly, and he walked about staring at the ground, and muttering to himself, "Well, by th' mass!  I've brought my pigs to a bonny market this time!  Whatever mun I do?  Eh, whatever mun I do?" and then he sat down upon the stone at the corner of the mill again.  "Eh," continued he, "if ought happens that jackass, I'se never do no moor good i' this world,—never no moor,—never no moor! . . . It mother belunged our folk . . . . I reckilect it bein' foal't as weel as con be.  An' a prattier little thing never bote of a thistle!  Bonny Dimple!  It's been brought up like one o'th family, in a manner o' speighkin'.  .  .  . Aw like as if aw con see it paddlin' up an' deawn th' lone amung th' childer, just th' same as if they wur o' childer together,—stickin' honds wi' one another.  Ay, an' th' little things use't to cample an' talk to't, as if they wur own cousin to't; an' it hearkened an' prick't its ears, an' then marlock't up an' deawn, as if it knowed every word 'at they said . . . . Eh, Dimple, owd lad! . . . . Aw've watched 'em through th' window mony a toime, while it's made my belly warche wi' laughin'!  .  .  . Ay, an' it use't to height bits o' brade an' sich like eawt o' their honds,just th' same as a gradely Christian.  .  .  . Eh dear o' me!  Our Billy bought it a hawpoth o' toffy ounce't, an' he kept comin' to me an' sayin', 'Here, dad, make it height it!  It winnot bite.  Make it height it, dad!' .  .  . Eh dear! eh dear! .  .  . An' I remember him cryin' his een up one neet, becose his mother wouldn't let him have it i' bed wi' him.  .  .  .  . It knocked him into th' well-trough one day wi' pushin' its nose into his porritch-dish.  .  .  . Ay, an' another time it followed him o' th' road to schoo' to Owd Maily's, at 'Th' Swine Routin's,' as if it wanted to larn th' a—b, ab,' like him.  And when they geet to th' dur Owd Mally wouldn't have it i'th heawse.  An' our Billy cried for her to tak it in, an' he towd her he're goon' to save his Sunday hawp'nys to pay for th' schoo' wage for it.  But while th' owd woman wur tryin' to drive it off wi' th' hond-brush he pike't eawt at th' back dur and ran off a playin' truan' wi' th' jackass.  Hoo'd a regular battle wi't, an' it sent it fuut through a mug 'at stoode at th' schoo' dur afore hoo could get it to goo away.  But when our Billy code eawt on't fro th' end o'th lone it set off after him at full gallop, an they took straight deawn Velly-Ho' Cloof together,—like red-shanks.  As Owd Mally stoode i'th dur hole watchin' 'em, hoo shaked th' brush at our Billy, an' hoo said, 'I'll warm thee, gentleman, for bringing jackasses to't schoo' witho!'  But our Billy didn't care a hep for th' brush, nor for hur noather, so as Dimple wur wi' him .  .  .  . I thought they'd bin lost that time.  An' our Betty flote me as I'd bin th' instigation o'th whole consarn.  But they turn't up at th' edge o' dark as hungry as two foomart-dogs. . . . Eh, there'll be some frettin' i' yon hole abeawt that jackass! .  .  . Dimple, Dimple, owd lad!  Thae's done nought to desarve sich usuage as this!  Thae's been one o'th main props o' my life sin thou boom to ony sense! .  .  .  . By Guy! aw'll face noan o' Lobden moorside again beawt that jackass!  If I do I'll ―― . . . Hello!  What's that?"

    It was the mill door that rattled in the wind.  But Ben sprang to his feet, and ran to the lock-hole again, thinking it might be some sign of life inside.

    "Heigh, lads!" cried he.  "Are yo theer?  Nea then!  I say!  Oppen dur! .  .  . Come, do some bit like as yo would'n be done by!  Turn that jackass up, an' let's be gooin'! .  .  . Heigh!  I say!  I care nought abeawt that bit o' beef,—nor th' clogs noather.  .  .  . Twitch, owd lad!  Doesto yer?  Thae may tak that beef whoam witho.  It'll come in for th' childer,—and thae'rt welcome, owd mon!  An' thae may gi' Rip thoose clogs.  They'n just fit him.  .  .  . Come, lads, let's ha' mi jackass! . . . An' I say, Enoch, thae knows that cauve-skin singlet 'at I won at th' seck-race th' last Whit'oth rushbearin'.  Aw'll gi' tho that, an' a brass bacco-box o' mi gronfeyther's, an' thrippence, i' tho'll let mi jackass off! .  .  .  Come, lads, for God's sake!  It's getten dark, an' I don't like bein' so
lat whoam of a neet ! .  .  .  Come?  Dun yo yer?"

    It was no use.  Ben's appeal was lost upon the dead mill.  And in the depth of his despair it struck him that he had better try another tack.  So, after he had listened a minute or two, he cried out again in a tone of half-assumed anger, "Come, I say!  Yor gooin' rathur too fur for me, neaw!  I'm noan to ston this much lunger!  If yo dunnot send my jackass eawt o' that hole i' under two minutes I'll wuzz a twothre stones through these windows.  Neaw, I've towed you! . . . An' as for thee, Enoch.  Th' next time I leet o' thee, owd mon, I'll fot thee a wusk i'th' earhole!  So, look out!  Thae'll ha' to go through St. Peter's needle, i' my shoon stops on!  I've towd to!"

    But this tone was so foreign to Ben's gentle nature that he could not keep it up, and feeling painfully aware of the fact, he gave way at once, and leaning himself against the wall of the mill, he covered his face with his hands, and said, in a trembling voice, "Eh, I's ha' to dee upo this clod, to-neet!  I's ha' to dee upo this clod!"  Then he crept into the doorway for shelter, and there he stood, downhearted and silent, and still as a statue, pricking his ears at every little sound.  The poor fellow little dreamt that Dimple had been let down at the back of the mill, and driven up into the village nearly an hour before; and therefore, believing that the jackass was still inside, he clung to the building with a heart full of melancholy anxiety.

    The last gleam of sunset had burnt out in the west, and darkness had fairly settled down upon the scene.  But, as the dreamy fringe of the day was drawn off from the landscape, a cold, chaste tinge of still more solemn light began to suffuse the gloom, for the stars were silently mustering to their nightly sessions in the cloudless sky.  Gentle sleep had begun to weigh down the eyelids of the tired world; but "Nature's soft nurse," who "knits up the ravelled sleeve of care," had no power over fretful Ben as he stood there, weary, yet unnatural wakeful, in the doorway of the old mill that night.  And there, for the present, we must leave the poor besom-maker, moaning in the solitary clough, whilst we follow his unfortunate donkey up into the neighbouring village.


 
CHAPTER V.


But, is this true? or is it else your pleasure,
Like pleasant travellers, to break a jest
Upon the company you overtake?

"TAMING OF THE SHREW."


WHEN we last left Enoch he had closed the doors of the mill chamber, and he had crept downstairs and out at the back, locking the door quietly behind.  'Twitchel and Riprap were hurrying Dimple across the fields.  They durst not take the high-road for fear of their footsteps being heard.  Enoch followed them as fast as he could go, and soon as he had crossed the first field he stopped and looked back from behind the hedge.  All was dusky and still, and there was nobody in sight.  No doubt poor Ben was innocently pacing about the other side of the building still, waiting for Enoch to show himself at the top doors again, as he had promised.  Enoch chuckled at the thought, and ran on after the jackass and its drivers.  He was nearly out of breath when he overtook them, but he blurted out, in earnest tones, "Forrad, lads! forrad!  We're noan eawt o' seet yet!"

    They were getting near a hillock which would hide them from view in the direction of the mill.  Once behind that, they would be safe.

    "Come up, yo slow-motion't leather-yed!" said Enoch, flinging his cap at the jackass.  "Come-up!  Nip reawnd that nook, lads, an' we's be as reet as a ribbin!  Eh, this is a marlock!"

    It was easy to say "Come up," but Dimple was bad to drive.  The poor brute was quite bewildered.  He neither liked the road nor those who drove him along it, and every foot he went was against the grain.  But by dint of pulling and hauling, and sundry ingenious modes of torment in the rearward, they managed to get the frightened animal slowly along.  As soon as they had got over the hillock, Enoch peeped back again.

    "O' reet!" said he.  "Tak that feelt-road, an' o'er Tummy Glen's meadowhe'll never see us,—an' then through th' farmyard an' deawn th' keaw-lone!  Go quietly through th' yard, or else they'n yer us.  Off wi' yo, neaw!  Here, I'll make that jackass stir better nor this!" and he picked up a thorn branch from the ditch and tickled the donkey behind with it.  Dimple had not been used to such treatment as that, and at the first touch of the thorns he darted his heels out.

    "Hello!" said Enoch, starting aside.  "Look out!  It's kickin' again!"

    "By th' mon!" said Twitchel, running up to the bridle, "thoose heels weren't aboon th' thickness of a shillin' off my shins!  Thee look after that end, Enoch.  I'll tent this front quarter!  Come up, Balaam!  Tickle it again, Enoch!"

    And away they went, tugging and tormenting the poor jackass along the field-path till they came in sight of a turnstile which led into the next field.

    "Howd!" cried Enoch.  I'd forgotten that steel-hole!  How mun we manage this?"

    "Let's heighve it o'er!" said Rip.

    "Nay," replied Twitchel,—"noan o' me!  I matter havin' nought to do with that job!  Yo two heighve it, an' I'll go to th' tother side an' 'tice it wi' a bit o' brade."

    "Well, then," said Rip, "let's drive it up th' wayterstid."

    "Nay," answered Enoch, "that'll do noan.  We's be dreawnt, or some lumber.  Beside, it's a mile of a reawnd . . . . But howd," continued he, running down the hedge-side, "aw'll shap it!  Come here.  Let's widen this hole a bit!"  And he pulled down a bush of thorns which had been put into a gap in the hedge made by the cattle.

    "Nea then," cried Enoch, "o'er wi' it!  Be sharp!  By th' mon, lads, this licks cock-feightin'!  O'er wi' it!"

    "Cock-feightin'!" replied Twitchel, pulling at the bridle.  It's as good as a steeple-chase, bigo!  Tickle it beheend again, Enoch!"

    "Here, I'll make thee skift! " said Enoch, taking aim at Dimple with a rotten gate-bar which had helped to fill the gap.  But Twitchel cried out, "Howd!  No peighlin'!  Thae may tickle it i'' thou likes, but no peighlin' while I'm here!"

    At last, with a great deal more tickling and tugging, they got Dimple through the gap.

    "Theighur!" said Twitchel, as they stood on the other side, taking breath, "Theighur!  That job's done!  Which gate now?"

    "Tak through th' turmit-feelt!" replied Enoch.  "It'll not do to stop here!"

    "Who's is it?" inquired Rip

    "It belungs Tummy Glen," answered Enoch.

    "Eh!" said Rip; "he'll have us up!  He's a rivven chap, is Tummy!  He'll have us afore Owd Clement, as sure as pie!"

    "Never thee mind him!" cried Enoch, "Tummy's as drunk as a wheel-yed bi neaw!  He's off at a churn-supper at Prickshaw.  Forrad, I tell yo!"

    "Forrad, then!" replied Twitchel.  "I'll be as hard as thee."

    And away they went, kneading through the soft soil, towards a gate which led into Tummy's farmyard.  As they drew near to the gate Enoch whispered to the other two

    "Nea then, yo mun be as whist as mice!  Be ginger wi' that yate, Twitch!  Owd Sall's i'th kitchen yon, aw see! .  .  .  Dunnot cheep till we getten through th' yard!  Hoo's a thin-eart un, is Sall!"

    Twitchel managed the gate as noiselessly as if it had been made of moonshine, but the moment he had set it back he tript forward through the yard, staring at the kitchen door as he went by.  When he got off at the corner of the house he stopped and peeped back to see how the others came on.

    "Sitho, Rip," whispered Enoch, pointing to Twitchel as he ran off; "sitho at yon―― turmit-yed!  He'll have us taen!"

    Enoch and Rip had scarcely got half way across the yard with Dimple when the door of the house was opened, and out rushed a great dog, followed by the farmer's wife.  The light from the inside fell full upon Enoch and Rip driving the jackass.  Enoch was nearest the door, and the dog flew straight at him, seizing him by the leg.  Enoch screamed out, "Take it off!  Oh, tak it off!" and he fell back into a trough full of swillings, splitting the trough in his fall.  The instant Twitchel saw the door open he took to his heels "full pelt" down the cow-lane, and at the same moment Riprap disappeared in a mysterious way.  As soon as Enoch fell into the trough the dog let go his leg and rushed at Dimple, and away went the poor jackass kicking and prancing down the lane with the dog at his heels.

    Old Sally was alone, but she was a dauntless dame, and as soon as she saw that the dog had disposed of the others she ran up to Enoch, who sat among the swillings, rubbing his leg.

    "Nea then!" cried Sally.  "What dun yo want here?"

    "I want to be off eawt o' this cote as soon as I con!" replied Enoch, gathering himself up from among the swillings.  "That dog o' yours has taen a lump eawt o'th cauve o' my leg!"

    "Th' dog would ha' touched noan o' thee if thae'd bin upo' thi own clod," said Sally. "Who arto?"

    "Who am I?  I'm Enoch.  Enoch o' Swivers.  That dog's played――"

    "Oh, is it thee, Enoch?"

    "Ay, it's me."

    "Well, an' what are yo after?"

    "We'n fund a jackass deawn i'th cloof."

    "Well, an' what are yo doin' wi' it here?"

    "I'll tell yo sometime else," said Enoch, taking to his heels over a hedge close by.  "Yon dog's comin' back, I yer!"

    "Well, but who's to make this trough good?" shouted Sally.

    "Who's to make my leg good?" replied Enoch, from behind the hedge.  And then he struck across the fields.

    Enoch durst not take the cow-lane for fear of meeting the dog; so he went helter-skelter over hedge and ditch in the dark, and in about ten minutes he came out upon the high-road at the top end of the village of Shawclough.  The first person he met was a mower going home with his scythe upon his shoulder, and singing


Thae'm get him bi th' leg, an' give him a twell,
An' say, Boney, owd crayter, tak care o thisel!
I'tho doesn't, bi th' maskins, he'll potter thi wynt;
An' he'll ding up thi een, and send tho whoam bloint.


    "Nea then!" said Enoch.  "Is that thee, Jem?"

    "Nawe, it isn't, me Jem!  Who art thou?"

    "I'm Enoch.  Enoch o' Swivers."

    "Well.  An' what does Enoch o' Swivers want wi' me, reckons he?"

    "Hasto let o' two chaps wi' a jackass?"

    "I con leet o' nought else but jackasses to-neet, o' somehow .  .  .  . What mak o' chaps are they?"

    "Tone on em's a wart at th' end of his nose," replied Enoch.

    "How could I see a wart at th' end of his nose i'th dark, thae――tup? .   .  .There's two churn yeds o' some mak nursin' a jackass at front o'th Tobe's Yed, yon.  Off witho to 'em!  Thae favvurs one o'th same breed!"

    Enoch made no further parley, but ran down the road towards his comrades.  As soon as he came within hail he shouted at the top of his voice,

    "Heigh, lads!"

    "Nea then!  Is that thee, Enoch?"

    "It's nought else.  Whereas th' jackass?"

    "It's here," answered Rip.  "How did to get off, owd lad?"

    "Off!  Yon dog's taen a great meawthful eawt o'th cauve o' mi leg!"

    "An' what said owd Sally?"

    "Why, hoo reckons hoo'll have us up."

    "By th' mon!" said Twitchel, "I wish I'd had nought to do wi' this job!  If our maister gets to yer on it he'll seck us o'! .  .  .  An' sitho what a seet I am!"

    "Eh, ay!" said Enoch.  "Wheer hasto bin?"

    "Bin!  I ran up to th' middle in a sink-hole, eawt o'th gate o'th dog!"

    "Well, thae'rt a bonny baigle, owd mon," said Enoch, laughing.

    "Baigle!" replied Twitchel; "Feel at mo!  Aw met ha bin in a traycle-tub!"

    "An' how did th' jackass goo on?" continued Enoch.

    "Th' jackass replied Twitchel.  "Why, it needed no drivin', aw con tell tho, wi' that dog beheend it .  .  .  .  It took slap through a potito-feelt, an' eawt at th' back of Johnny Baa-lamb pig-cotes, wi' th' dog snappin' at it every stride.  Off it went deawn the keaw-lone, like a wild unicorn or summat, wi' it tail up, an' it heels dartin' eawt like leetenin' .  .  .  . I made reawm for 'em as they went by, thae may depend .  .  .  . Just at th' turn o'th lone it met owd Mall o' Flazer's wi' a pitcherful o' churn-milk in her honds.  Down hoo went, milk an' o'.  Hoo skrike't eawt 'Murder!' an' th' jackass sprang straight o'er th' top on her, just same as if hoo'd bin a bruck, or a fire-hole, or summat.  An' then it catch't th' dog a welt o'th jowl wi' it heel, an' sent it yeawlin' whoam again, wi' th' part of it jawbwon skifted,—or else aw'm chetted .  .  .  . Aw're wipin' mysel wi' some hay when th' dog coom back, but I crope beheend a stack till it had getten by, an' then I coom forrad whistlin'—as sly as a meawse.  When I geet to the turn o'th lone folk began o' axin' if that wur my jackass.  But I'd ha' noan.  I reckon't to be as gawmless as a tup.  I began a-thinkin' it had jumped through a window, or some lumber .  .  .  . How did thae go on, Rip?"

    "Goo on!" replied Rip.  "Thae knows awed that bit o' beef o' Ben's i' my hond, 'at I'd taen eawt o'th pannier.  As soon as I see'd th' dog get howd o' Enoch leg, aw lees th' beef fo' into a gutter, an' I lope straight o'er th' hedge.  Look heaw I ruvven mi breeches amung th' thorns!  An' I'll be bund my skin's rule't like a copy-book just neaw.  Well, as soon as I'd getten o'er th' hedge aw lee me down flat o' mi face i'th feelt, till things geet sattle't a bit.  An' when I coom to pike mysel up―― .  .  . Sitho at my breast!  Talk abeawt mustard-plaisters!"

    "Slutch, bi' th' mon!" said Enoch, feeling at it.

    "Slutch!  Ay, keaw-slutch!" replied Rip.

    "Ay, it is, bigo!" said Enoch, examining it more carefully.

    "Well, come," cried Rip, cheerfully, "ne'er mind.  It'll wesh off.  I'm fain we'n getten th' jackass.  But what mun we do wi't, lads?  What the devil mun we do wi't?

    "Pop it, I tell you!" cried Enoch.

    "Pop it, saysto?" answered Twitchel.  "There's no pop-shops abeawt here, and if one wur to drive it to Rachda' it's ten to one if ony o'th pone-brokers would tak it in.  Here, Enoch, look after it thisel .  .  .  . I'm noan beawn to ston here so mich longer.  We's be taen up, or some lumber."

    "Come, thae'rt not gooin' to run soft again, arto?" said Enoch.

    "Soft or hard," replied Twitchel, "I'm noan beawn to be taen up for jackass-steighlin', I tell yo!  So if ony on yo knows a pop-shop wheer they taen jackasses in, get agate o' truckin, or else I'm off at th' nook,—like a red-shank!"

    "Try th' lonlort here, aw tell yo!" cried Enoch.  "He's a daycent chap, is Jem!  Let's give him th' first chance!"

    "Well, go thee in an' ax him then, as thae'rt so cliver!" replied Twitchel.  "He stons i'th bar yon."

    "Come, I'll goo!" said Enoch.  And he ran up the steps, and shouted in at the doorway,

    "Heigh, Jem!  Thae'rt wanted a minute."

    "Comin'!" replied Jem, setting down a pitcher which he was filling at the bar.  When he got to the front he set one hand against the door-cheek, and looked out into the starlit road.  "Well, what's wanted?" said he.

    "Come here!" replied Enoch, beckoning him to the causeway side, where they stood with the donkey.

    "Sitho, Jem!" continued Enoch, "Con to lend us hauve-a-creawn upo' this jackass?"

    "A jackass!" cried Jem.  "What the devil wi'n yo bring next?  Wheer han yo let o' this?"

    "We'n fund it powlerin' abeawt i'th cloof, yon," replied Enoch, "an' we'n had aboon hauve-a-creawn's 'oth o' bother wi't.  It caps me heaw it geet yon.  It belungs somebry 'at's oather drunken or dreawnt.  But as who's it is, they'd be fain to pay for't when they turn's up .  .  .  . Thae'll be sure o' this brass back, or else thae con stick to th' jackass, thae knows .  .  .  . It's a nice little thing o' somebry's."

    "Ay, it is!" said Rip, pretending to examine Dimple's points.  "It's a pratty-legged un,—very .  .  .  . Feel here, Jem!  .  .  .  . There's a bit o' breed abeawt that jackass, or else aw'm chetted."

    "Well," replied Jem, eyeing the rogues with doubtful glance, and then groping at the donkey's legs, as if he was beginning to be satisfied in his mind about the matter,"well, I guess I's be like to do it.  Here!" and he handed the money to Twitchel.

    "It's worth hauve-a-creawn, as how 'tis," continued Jem, "I'll put it i'th stable a day or two, an' if nobody owns it it'll come in for th' childer .  .  .  .  Here, Rip, tak it in, and give it a bit o' some'at to height .  .  .  . Thae may leeav thoose things i'th panniers .  .  .   . I'll see to 'em afore I go to bed."

    "That's reet," said Twitchel, pocketing the half-crown, as Rip and Dimple went round to the stable; "we'n getten it into good honds at last.  Come, owd brid," continued he, turning to Enoch, "we mun goo in, I guess?"

    "Ay," replied Enoch, "in witho."

    And away they went into the alehouse, at the heels of the landlord.



[Next Page]
 

 


[Home] [Up] [Lancashire Songs] [Lancashire Life] [Lancashire Sketches I.] [Lancashire Sketches II.] [Rambles in the Lakes] [The Cotton Famine] [Poems and Songs I.] [Poems and Songs II.] [Tufts of Heather I.] [Tufts of Heather II.] [The Chimney Corner] [The Limping Pilgrim] [The Barrel Organ] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

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