Edwin Waugh: Besom Ben (3)

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CHAPTER II.


Poor fellow!  He'd a deal o' heart,
But very little head.

BENJAMIN PRESTON.


BEN was so ashamed of the freak of the previous day that he listened silently to the admonitions of his wife, pretending all the while to be arranging the things in the panniers.  But the poor fellow heard it all, and every word woke up a fresh pang of shame within him.  The only reply he made was when she concluded with the inevitable words,

    "An' do mind what thae'rt doin' now!  Doesto yer?"

    Ben pricked his ears at the words, as he stood there like a shy lad smarting under the reprimand of his schoolmaster, and as he fumbled with his teeth at an imaginary knot on the end of his whip-lash, he muttered in reply to his wife

    "Ay, I yer."

    "Well, for God's sake! heed, then," answered Betty; "an dunnot goo an' make thisel into a country-side's talk.  Have a bit o' wit,—for th' childer's sake.  Doesto yer?

    "Ay, I yer," replied Ben.

    "Well, then, do, aw beg on tho, tak care.  Thae'll find thi dinner o'th bottom o'th basket.  Neaw, thae'll get back soon, winnot tho?"

    "Yigh, I will," replied Ben, giving the donkey a switch, and beginning to whistle a low tune.

    "Well, I'll come deawn a-meetin' tho.  Thae'll be back bi four o'clock, winnot tho?"

    "Ay, lung afore that," replied Ben,—"lung afore that, if o' leets reet.  But I'll meet tho theer bi that time, as heaw 'tis."

    It is well that Betty pushed the thing no further, for the water was rising into Ben's eyes as he walked slowly on, by the side of his donkey, kicking at bits of stone in the road, and making a tremulous attempt at whistling, which came sputtering from his lips as if his mouth was full of peas.  Betty knew what was going on in his heart as well as if it had been her own; and she began to think that she had spoken too roughly to him, and she sighed as she followed the poor fellow down the old bridle-path.  Perhaps there are few in the world who have parted, even for a short time, from those they loved, without the heart being touched with some shadowy thought of the inevitable hour when they return no more.

    "I think I'll go no fur," said she.  "I mun turn back to th' childer."  And she stopped and watched him wandering on; but, as he drew near to a turn in the road round which he would be out of sight, she cried out,

    "Well, good mornin' to tho!"

    "Good mornin'!" replied Ben, giving a sly glance back and playing with his whip-lash.  In another minute he had disappeared; and as Betty stood gazing at the vacant road, all the tenderness of her nature welled up within her.  Turning away towards home again, she wiped her eyes and sighed, for her heart was full.  As soon as she reached the cottage, she went upstairs to the children.  Little Billy was sitting up in bed, playing with his wooden horse.  The younger child was still asleep.  Snatching Billy up in her arms, she clasped him to her breast, and she sat down upon the bedside, and burst into tears.  The child gazed into his mother's face, and stretching his little round arms up to clip his mother's neck, he cried, "Mam! mam! mam!" weeping as if his little heart would break.  This woke up the younger child, and it began to cry.  Still holding Billy in her arms, she flew to it, and sat down by its side, trying to soothe first one then the other of her weeping children.

    "Husht, my love!" said she, happing the clothes about it.  "Come husht, my darlin'!" and as she swayed to and fro, caressing the little things by turns, the tears came dreeping from her eyes upon the bedclothes, like rain-drops from a wind-shaken rose-bush.

    It was some time before the storm of feeling had swept by and Betty's heart was relieved.  But at last the younger child became silent, and Billy had sobbed himself to sleep again, with his thumb in his mouth.  Betty laid the sleeping lad down in bed again, by the side of his brother, and when she had drawn the clothes about them, took a long look at their faces, and then crept away; and all the little house was still, for the poor woman went very quietly from side to side about her work.  Opening the "kist" where Ben's clothes lay, she took them out one by one, and examined them, and brushed them, and then refolded them, and put them carefully by again, with a few fresh sprigs of lavender strewn amongst them.

    Meanwhile Ben is wandering on his way towards the main road in the valley, still touched at heart with a little sadness.  As he descends the hillside he leaves the stillness of the lonely moors farther behind, and draws nearer to morning sounds of life in the green valley. The bridle-path led through a grove of fir-trees, where the sunshine lay in straggled streaks of gold on a shady bank flushed with a sky of blue-bells.  The moorland stream ran through this grove, and Ben sat himself down by the water to tie his shoes again, and to look about him.  Dimple had stopped of his own accord when he saw Ben sit down.  They were great lingerers in the quiet paths, these two wayfaring friends.

    As Ben sat playing with a blue-bell, and listening to the pleasant sounds which rose on every hand, he said, as he looked dreamily through an opening in the trees, "I don't know 'at ever I seed a grander hay-time nor this,—never!  I wish owd Dan o' Dolly's would start a-cuttin'.  I could like a twothre days amung th' hay.  Th' owd lad happen thinks this weather's beawn to last for ever.  But I'd begin this very day if I're him.  All things has but a time,—all things has but a time i' this world," continued he, rising to his feet.  "Come up, Dimple.  Let's be gooin' a bit fur."

    As they started lazily away, Ben sighed, as he stuck a sprig of thorn-blossom into his button-hole, and began to sing,


"Good lorjus days! what change there is
     Upon this mortal greawnd!
 As time goes creepin' o'er one's yed
     How quarely things come reawnd!
 The ups an' deawns, th' ins and eawts,—
     The blendin' ill an' weel
 There is i' one poor crayter's life,—
     It is not for to tell."


    Ben's store of country song was replete with quaint and varied scraps,—as varied as the changeful moods of his own mind; and, as he emerged from the grove into full view of the valley, he switched his whip-lash carelessly from side to side, and chanted again, as he gazed around with delight,


       "I know not, I care not,
         I cannot tell how to woo;
 But we'll away to th' merry greenwood,
         An' we'll get nuts enoo'."


    Ben's heart got more cheerful as he got lower into the vale, where the haymakers were singing at their work in the meadows, and all the world was smiling in its flowery summer robe.  The ridge of the opposite hill, like that he had left behind, was bleak moorland; but the low grounds were nearly all green pasture and meadow lands.  The wild rose warmed the thick-leaved hedges with its simple beauty; birds were singing in every bush and tree; and Ben, as he lounged along, with a heart attuned to the music of Nature, broke out again,—


"Tum Posy coom o' daicent folk
     O'th good owd moorlan' breed;
 A seawnder, sweeter-lookin' lad
     No mortal ever seed;
 He stoode six feet, his een wur breet,
     His voice wur loud an' clear,
 But Tum could whisper soft an' sweet
     Into a woman's ear."


    And thus, as he went singing and sauntering down towards the main road in the valley, he stopped an instant again to peep through the hedge at a number of haymakers at work in a meadow hard by.  It was a pleasant sight to Ben, and there are few people in the world who can look upon it without delight.  The farmhouse stood at the head of the meadow; and a stout old woman came to the door, and shading her eyes from the sun with her hands, she shouted down the meadow, to the haymakers, in a shrill voice, "Come to your breakfast, lads!"  Down went rake and scythe; and the haymakers straggled up the grassy slope, laughing and chattering together on their way to their morning meal.

    "I wish I're amung that lot!" said Ben, rubbing his hands.  He watched them till the last had disappeared, and then he cracked his whip, and went his way again.  When Ben came out upon the high-road, near the little hamlet of Facit, he became thoughtful; for as he looked towards the cluster of houses he had to pass, he felt afraid that the "Facit folk" might have heard of the foolish adventure he had been engaged in on the previous day.  Laying hold of the donkey's bridle, he stopped.  Then he scratched his head and looked round, as if he would rather have gone some other way, so as to avoid the hamlet.

    "I make no 'ceawnt o' goin' through that hole this mornin'," said he.  "But it's like to be done.  I mun co' at th' Bull's Yed wi' these things."  And he might well be afraid, for though the hamlet consisted of only half-a-dozen houses or so, in addition to the old inn, the inhabitants were too curious to let anything go by without scrutiny, and very seldom, too, without some rude comment.  The chief danger was at the Bull's Head.  Houses of that kind were rare upon that then comparatively lonely road; and though the population, with the exception of the inhabitants of the half-dozen dwellings about the alehouse, was very thin and widely scattered, the Bull's Head was not often without company,—carters, sportsmen, farmers, and other country-folk from solitary nooks of the hills around,—many of them people who lived partly by farming and partly by woollen weaving, which last was done at their own houses in those days.

    Our poor besom-maker was an unusually sensitive man.  His neighbours knew this very well, and for the most part they could not understand it.  Many of them looked upon that strange sensibility of his as something especially unaccountable in one of his position of lifea kind of disease, in fact, which needed more than usual rough treatment; and this was a view which the natural simplicity of the man helped to strengthen.  Ben was afraid of the Bull's Head, for he knew his customers.  But he had to leave his besoms, and eggs, and herbs there; so at last he took heart of grace and went forward, determined not to enter the house.  As he drew nearer he saw that three carts, heavily laden with stone from the delfs in the neighbourhood, stood in front of the inn; and he was glad of it, for they partly screened the windows.  But when he got a little nearer still he heard loud peals of laughter inside, and the sound went through him like a knife, for he imagined himself the subject of that boisterous merriment.  He thought it possible that he might get by safely, under cover of the carts in front of the house, if he only had his goods delivered; and he was just thinking of creeping round the corner to hand them in at the back door when his plan was changed.  An old broken-down serving-man, or hanger-on, called Dody o' Flutter's, who acted as brewer, ostler, messenger, scavenger, and man of-all-work, was holding up a bucket of water to the mouth of one of the horses at the door, when, hearing footsteps on the road, he looked off at the side of the horse's head, and, setting the bucket down, he cried out, "Hello, Ben, owd mon!  Is that thee?  Thae'rt just i' time.  They're having a rare do i'th inside here."

    "Husht!" replied Ben, raising his whip, and pulling up behind the carts.  "Howd thi din, for God's sake!  Sing low, an' come here!  I don't want 'em to see me.  Come here!"

    "What, thae met as weel co'," said Dody, limping up to Ben, on the sheltered side of the carts.

    "Nawe, nawe, I tell tho!" replied Ben.  "Thae knows what mak o' devils they are when they starten.  Beside, I've no time this mornin.'  Where's th' lonlort?"

    "He's i'th tap-reawm," answered Dody, "wi' a rook o' carters, an' a 'putter-eawt,' fro Bacup.  He's just tellin' 'em abeawt that bit of a do 'at thae had wi' windin' th' jackass up into th' mill-chamber, yesterday."

    "By' th' mon," said Ben, "I thought as mich!  They'n getten summat to play off, neaw.  I darn't co' this mornin', Dody!  But I'll tell tho what do.  Just tak these bosoms, an' that basket, slyly in at' th' back dur to th' mistress.  There's a lot o' eggs under 'th yarbs i'th basket.  Mind thoose eggs, Dody.  Th' mistress knows what they come'n to.  I'll watch here till thae brings th' brass.  Now, dunnot goo an' tell yon tother."

    "I yer," replied the old man; and away he limped, with the besoms and the basket, round the house end, and in at the back door, to the landlady in the kitchen.

    "Lobden Ben's yon, wi' his jackass," said he with a chuckle.  "He's brought these bosoms.  Wheer mun I put em?—an' that basket wi' eggs in.  He says yo known what they are; an' he's watchin' for th' brass at th' back o' some carts yon.  He begged on me not to tell th' maister."

    "Well, mind thae doesn't, then," replied the landlady.

    The landlady was a well-grown, buxom countrywoman, with good common sense, and a kind heart.

    "Here," continued she, plunging her hand into herpocket, "I'll come to him eawt at th' back.  Dody, put those besoms deawn at th' dur, an' then goo an' bring him to th' heawse end.  I'll be theer in a minute .  .  . Mary, fill a pint o' ale."

    The old man went to the house end, and beckoning to Ben, who stood whistling low, as he turned over the things in his panniers, he called to him off the side of his hand, "Hoo's comin' to th' nook here!  Bring thi jackass!"

    Ben looked carefully round; then he drew Dimple up to the corner, just as the landlady came sailing down from the back door, with her white cap-strings streaming behind her head.

    "Eh, Ben," said she, "whatever wur tho doin' to goo an' make sich a foo' o' thisel an' thi bit o'th jackass yesterday?  What, thae'll never yer th' last on't, mon.  Here," continued she, handing the pint of ale to him, "get that into tho.  I thought thae'd had moor wit.  How's Betty, an' th' childer?"

    "They're o' reet," replied Ben, unbuttoning the lowmost button of his waistcoat, and then buttoning it up again.  "They're o' reet, nobbut Billy.  He's getten a bit of a nosecowd.  His mother missed him one day, an' hoo fund him up to th' middle i'th wayter-stid, reckonin' to fish wi' a lung pipe of his gronny's.  He's sich a lad for wayter as never wur."

    "Eh, poor thing!" said she.  "He's a pratty lad.  Thae should let him come deawn, now and then for a change.  These lasses 'ud tak care on him, mon.  Here, I'll pay for these things.  Sitho, there's three shillin'.  Hasto ony hore-hound?

    "Ay."

    "An' tansy?"

    "Plenty."

    "Well, bring some th' next time thae comes deawn.  But, co' to-neet.  I think I can shap a bit of a frock for Billy . . . An', let's see,—Tummy o' Plunger's wants four bosoms.  I'll pay tho for 'em now, i' tho likes."

    "Nay," replied Ben,—"I'll ha' noan o'th brass till I bring th' stuff."

    "Well," said she, "it makes no matter.  But tell Betty to come deawn to her tay, an' bring th' childer.  Wilto?"

    "Ay, I will,—an' thank yo," said Ben, turning his donkey's head towards the road again.

    "Well, mind thae does," said the landlady.  An' off witho, neaw," said she, calling after him,—"off witho,—or they'n torment thi life eawt!  An' do tak care o' thisel, lad!"

    In a minute he had disappeared behind the carts, and was going quietly up the road, hoping to escape in peace from the wassailers in the taproom.

    "Poor Ben!" said the landlady, looking up the road after him.  "Poor Ben!  A daicent lad, very."  And then, as soon as he had got behind the carts, she whisked round, and ran back into the kitchen. . . . "Neaw, lasses," said she, nipping up the poker, and beginning to scale the ashes from the lower bars of the grate, "it's time to be shappin' for th' dinner.  Bless my life, it'll be noon afore one knows wheer they are.  Do stir yo.  How's yon parlour fire?  Mary, go thee an' look at it.  We'n six to get ready for bi one o'clock.  I wonder what yor thinkin' on .  .  . Sam, go thee into th' garden this minute, and get some potyarbs, an' some potitos, an' a twothre carrits an' turmits.  Doesto yer?  Off witho.  Thae'rt like a snail trailin' up an' deawn .  .  . Tell Dody I want him, some on yo.  Mary, hasto getten that baggin ready for th' hayfeelt, yet?  Set off to th' meadow wi't, as fast as ever yo con.  Sally, thee help her to carry it .  .  .  Wheer's that lad gwon,—young devilment 'at he is,—he's al'ays wi't lone when he should be i'th feelt,—that he is! .  .  . Fill that boighler up, some on yo.  Yo should never be short o' hot wayter in a heawse like this .  .  .  That's th' parlour bell!  Come, I'll goo."  And away she ran, returning in a minute, and beginning again: "Mary, two glasses o' brandy i'th parlour.  Stir thisel, my lass."  Then, setting her hands upon her hips, and looking thoughtfully at the fire, she continued: "These coals are noan as good as tother; an' they're th' same price.  We's ha' to try another pit th' next time.  Put some naplins under that pon .   .   .  Sam, reitch that beef deawn, wilto; an' then off witho into th' yard, an' pluck thoose chickens .  .  . Which on yo's laft this bucket here, for folk to breighk their shins on?  I wonder when yo'n larn sense.  Away wi't, this minute!  Gi' me a clen brat eawt o' that drawer,—I mun start o' mi pies.  Eh, Sally, what a seet thae's made o' thisel!  Wipe thi nose, mon; thae's blacked it wi' th' pon .  .  . Now then, they're knockin' i'th tap-reawm.  Come, I'll goo. . . . Look to that oon some on yo!" and away she went.

    She had no sooner got out of the room than one of the girls began to mimic her: "Sam, clen these shoon.  Sally, side these glasses.  Dody, fot some coals.  Who's laft th' hond-brush upo' th' table?  Mary, th' cat's agate o' yon pickles again.  That's th' parlour"

    As the landlady came into the kitchen again the girl stopped suddenly, and there was a crash in the taproom.

    "Hello!" said the landlady.  "That's another glass brokken!  Come, I'll goo.  Yon's a weary lot."

    Meanwhile Ben was creeping by the front, as quietly as possible, when the landlord, who was standing with uplifted hands in the taproom, roaring with laughter amongst the rest, caught a glimpse of him just as he was disappearing.

    "Bith mass!" cried the landlord, "he's yon,—th' jackass an' o'!"

    "Nay!"

    "I'll bate nought at it."

    "Let's have him in," cried two or three of the company.

    "Come, I'll fotch him back," said the landlord, running out, with all the company at his heels.  "Heigh, Ben!" shouted the landlord, "whereto for?  Here, I've an order for tho.  Just a minute.  Come!"

    But Ben jogged on, and, pointing ahead with his whip, he cried out, "Shay cloof!  I'm beheend i' mi time!"  Then seizing Dimple's bridle, he gave the poor beast a smart switch.  "Stir thoose legs o' thine," said he.  "I want no truck wi' yon lot."

    First one and then another cried out for him to stop, but Ben held on his way

    "He's for off, an' nought else," said one of the carters, who stood in the middle of the road, staring after Ben, with his whip in one hand and a pint pot in the other.

    "He'll ha' noan, I believe," said the landlord, scratching his head.  "I could ha' liked to had a bit o' gam eawt on him.  Stop, I'll see if I cannot fotch him back."  And away he ran after Ben.

    The poor fellow heard him coming, and he didn't like it.  But he knew it was no use running.  And then Dimple was not accustomed to galloping, except when he was returning home, or when he took a fit of it to please himself; and Ben could not find in his heart to beat him to it.  So the landlord overtook him, and laying hold of one of the panniers, he said, "What's o' thi hurry?  I want tho to run o'er to th' miller's wi' a bantam.  It isn't aboon a mile or an' I'll gi' tho a shillin'.  Eawr folk are o' i'th hay, or so; an' I'll gi' else I'd ha' sent Sam."

    "Well," replied Ben, as he turned Dimple round, "I've nought again doin' that.  But I'm noan beawn into th' heawse this mornin'."

    "Thae's no 'casion, i'tho doesn't like," answered the landlord, walking demurely by the side of the donkey.  "Neaw, thae mun be as sharp as tho con.  An' aw want tho to co' wi' a bit of a note at Bill o' Fair-Off's, at th' lone side."

    As they came near the house, the landlord gave a sly hint to the carters at the door that they were to be silent, and go inside, which they did at once, for they knew him well enough to make them think he had better sport in store for them.  But they made Ben uneasy by staring at him through the window.  First one, then another rapped, and cried "Come in!" holding up their pots by way of inducement.  But Ben laid hold of his donkey's bridle, as if it was the one sheet-anchor that could keep him from drifting into mischance.  The landlord tried to persuade him, too but Ben stuck to Dimple, and would not enter the house.

    "Wait here, then," said the landlord, "an I'll bring it eawt."

    In a few minutes he came to the door again, with a bag in his hand and a bantam cock under his arm.

    "Tak howd o' this brid," said he, handing the bantam to Ben.  "Neaw put it into that bag, an tee it up, an' tak it deawn to th' miller's.  An' sitho,—thae mun co' upo' th' road at Bill o' Fair-Off's, wi' this note.  Thae'll ha' to bring an onswer back.  Neaw, be sharp; an' there's a shillin' for tho.  Never mind takin' th' jackass.  Aw con fasten it to th' ring at th' dur, here."  But Ben did not relish the idea; and he said he would rather take Dimple with him.

    "Well, off wi' yo together, then," replied the landlord, "an' dunnot be long, neaw."

    Away went the simple-minded besom-maker down the road, between the thick-leaved hawthorn hedges, delighted with the splendour of the day.  He felt glad, also, to earn a shilling so easily.  The wild birds carolled to him all the way, as if he was a kindred spirit; and at last Ben himself broke out into song, as usual when he was alone, and in the green country.  And thus he sauntered along in the sunshine, chanting quaint fragments of "minstrel memories of days gone by," and cracking his whip, and fondling the wild flowers upon the hedge-side with unconscious tenderness.

    Rather more than half a mile on the way there was a substantial stone-built cottage, at the head of a sloping garden by the road-side.  Two steps led up to a green painted wooden gate, which opened into the garden.  Close by the road, and embedded in the grassy bank below the garden hedge, there was a mossy well-trough, into which an unseen rindle of spring water came down from somewhere; and the low tinkling music it played was clear as the ring of a fairy's moonlight festal bell.  To the bended listener's appreciative ear, its silvery cymbal-chimes rose and fell again in cadences of such exquisite beauty that the bright ferns which festooned that little recess seemed to thrill with delight as they listened to the tiny minstrel's melody, interlacing their leaves as if to screen it from the noisy world outside.

    This road-side cottage was the place where queer old Bill o' Fair-Offs lived.  Billy was a hearty, waggish fellow, who had been a farmer and an innkeeper on the road, but who had now retired from business.  The old man sat smoking in the front parlour, with the window open, and when he saw Ben stop at the gate, he came out with his pipe in his mouth.

    "Well, Ben, my lad," said he, giving a long puff into the air, "what's up?"

    "Ave brought a note fro Jem at th' Bull's Yed," replied Ben, handing the document to old Billy; "an' aw'm to wait for an onswer."

    Old Billy's eyes began to twinkle, for he had received many a note from his crony at the Bull's Head before; and they generally meant some kind of humourous mischief, which Billy delighted in above all things.

    "Come in," said he, putting the note into his pocket and Ben followed him through the garden into the front parlour.  "Sit thou deawn," continued Billy, pointing to a chair at the back of the room.  "Wilt have a gill o' ale?"

    "I dunnot care if I have," replied Ben.

    "Well, I'll be back directly," said Billy, walking slowly out, and closing the door behind him.  When he got into the kitchen he said to his wife, who was a little deaf, "Does yer, lass?  Tak a pint o' ale to yon chap i'th parlour, an' keep him i' talk a twothre minutes."

    "I yer," replied the old woman; and as she went out he closed the door quietly behind her, and then opening an old corner cupboard, he took out a bag very like the one Ben had brought the bantam in, and lifting something from the sofa, he whipped it into the bag, and when he had tied the mouth up, he went out at the back door.  Creeping round to the front of the house, he took the bag from Dimple's pannier, replacing it with the one he had brought.  And then, after leaving Ben's bag in a little outhouse he sidled back into the parlour again.

    "Well, Ben," said he, "heaw doesto like that ale?"

    "Oh," replied Ben, "nice ale enough.  Rayther new."

    "Yigh, it is," answered Billy.  "Well," continued the old man, "thae mun co' as tho comes back fro th' miller's, an' I'll ha' th' answer ready."  And the old man followed Ben out at the front, and down to the garden gate.

    "I'll not be aboon twenty minutes," said Ben, looking back as he started up the road.

    "O' reet," replied Billy.  "I'll have it ready."  And then he went back into the house, rubbing his hands with delight.

    A few minutes brought Ben to the end of a shady lane on the left hand, leading down to the miller's house, which stood near the brook in the hollow, between the road and the hill-side.

    "Woigh!" said Ben, stopping Dimple at the gate.  Then taking the bag from the pannier, he walked up to the open door of a great, low-roofed kitchen, which was all aglow with cleanliness and comfort.

    "Is th' miller in?" said Ben to the miller's wife, who stood in the doorway.

    "Ay," replied she.  "He is yon, i'th arm cheer.  Yo'n let better than likely, too.  He should ha' bin at th' mill; but he's sprain't his anclif a bit, wi' jumpin' off th' hay-moo yesterday."  Then, turning to her husband, she said, "There's some mak of a chap wi' a jackass here.  He wants to speighk to tho.  He's a bag in his bond.  Come forrad," continued she, turning to Ben.  "Come forrad,an' wipe yor shoon."

    The miller turned round in his chair; and, seeing Ben, he said, "Hello!  Is that thee, owd lad? What hasto getten?"

    "Jem at th' Bull's Yed's sent yo a bantam cock," replied Ben, holding out the bag, as he walked towards the miller.

    "O, ay!" said the miller, winking to his wife.  "Well, come forrad, an' shut th' dur after tho .  .  . Neaw then, tak it eawt,—an' let's have a look at it."

    The miller's two daughters, and a lad about ten years old, came into the kitchen from an inner door.

    "It's as pratty a bantam," said Ben, untying the bag, "as ever I clapt een on."

    "Well," replied the miller, "poo it eawt, lad, an' let's see what it's like."

    "In hauve a minute," answered Ben, taking the string off.  "It's a nice colour't un, too," continued he, putting his hand into the bag to take the bantam out.  But in an instant his countenance changed, and, whipping his hand out again, he cried, "Oh, by th' mass!  What's that?"

    "What's to do, neaw?" said the miller.  "Has it bitten tho?"

    "Bitten me!" replied Ben.  "It's scrat me,—an' ill, too.  It's nought to laugh at, I can tell yo.  Look theer," continued he, holding up his hand.

    "Well," answered the miller, staring at Ben's hand with an air of assumed surprise, "it caps the dule if a bantam cock can scrat o' that shap."

    "Bantam or boggart," replied Ben, putting his hand to his mouth, "it's scrat me,—an' aboon a bit, too.  Yo can see for yorsel," continued he, holding his hand up again.  There's a pattern theer."

    "Poo th' divvleskin eawt," said the miller, "an' let's look at 't.  Poo it eawt.  Will it ha' teeth, thinksto?"

    "Well, it's bitten me," said Ben, looking at his hand again.  "It's bitten me,—teeth or no teeth."

    "By th' mon," continued the miller, "rive it eawt!"

    "Here," answered Ben, offering the bag to the miller, "poo it eawt yorsel.  I'll ha' no mooar."

    "Will it be a guinea-pig, thinksto?" said the miller.

    "Guinea pig, or hawp'ny pig," replied Ben, "I'll poo no moor.  By th' mon, it'd like to poo'd me into th' bag.  Here, tak howd," continued he, holding the bag to the miller.  "Tak howd.  It's noan o' mine."

    "Nay, nay," said the miller, laughing, "doesn't tho see 'at I've spraint my anclif?"

    "Well," answered Ben, laying the bag on the table, "I don't want yo to get howd on't wi' your fuut.  It is theer.  Yo can help yorsel to it when yo'n a mind.  I'll be gooin'."

    "Shake th' bag beawt," cried the miller, "an' let it leet o'th floor, as what it is."

    "Come, I can do that," replied Ben, laying hold of the bottom of the bag, and flinging the open end towards the hearthstone, on which the miller's terrier lay half asleep.  Out rolled a black cat, with blazing eyes; and alighting upon the dog's back it flew at it instantly.  The terrier sprang instantly upon his foe, and shook it.  Grimalkin kept her talons going with great vigour, clawing her antagonist with tigerish fury.  The worry and the spitfire scuffles of the combatants were wildly exciting.  The din of battle rolled to and fro about the kitchen, with vivid speed,—now under the table, now in a corner, now between the miller's legs, who sat watching the affray with all the calmness of an Olympian god overlooking some fierce bit of mortal strife.  At last he could stand it no longer; and, seizing his crutch, he shuffled after the fight, sweeping a jug from the table, which shivered upon the edge of a mug full of dough upon the hearth.  The crash seemed to revive the fury of the contest.

    "Go it, Nip!" cried the miller.  "Go it, owd lad! or else thae'rt done for!  Thae's let o' thi match, owd lad!"

    The girls screamed, and the lad ran up and down after the combatants, who seemed mixed up together.

    Ben, who had got upon a chair, at the beginning of the fray, jumped down, and cried out, as he ran to seize the dog, "Nay, by th' mon, I'm noan beawn to ston here an' see a cat worried."

    "Let 'em alone," said the miller.  "Th' owd dog hasn't a tooth in his yed, mon.  Let 'em alone!"

    And, certainly, Nip had very much the worst of it, in spite of his wiry armour; for he was old, and almost toothless.  But this sudden attack upon his slumbers, by a strange cat, and on his own hearthstone, too, had revived his "wonted fires" in an extraordinary way.  But he began to show signs of distress; and when the cat ran up to the top of the clock-case, and sat there, mewing, and glaring round with eyes that glowed like melted gold, the old dog came puffing to the hearth again, but wagging his tail, and snorting with joy at having won the field.

    The miller's wife had been swelling the tumult with screams of fright and indignation all the while it was going on; but it was not till a lull came that her shrill voice rose above the storm.

    "I'll not ha' sich gooin's on!" cried she.  "Look what lumber yo'n made.  Robert," continued she, turning to the miller, "I wonder 'at thae's no moor wit."  Then she flew at poor Ben, who stood in the doorway, looking as penitent as if he had been the sole cause of the row.  "Go thee whoam wi' thi cat," said she, "an' be sharp.  Here, tak thi bag, an' bowt!  We wanten nought i'th cat line; so thae may tak thisel off wheer thae coom fro, as fast as tho con."

    "It's noan o' my cat," replied Ben.  "Jem at th' Bull's Yed sent it; an' it wur a bantam cock when I started off."

    "Ay, an' I'll Bull's Yed him when I lent on him.  He may keep his cats awhoam.  We can manage what mice we han here nicely; an' we can do our own scrattin', too, beawt ony of his cats.  Tell him I say so.  John oppen that dur.  I'll shift that cat, an' soon too "

    And then she took up the long brush to drive the cat from the top of the clock-case.  At the first thrust of the brush head, puss, seeing the door open, jumped down upon the dresser and flew out at the door, with the dog after it, and the lad after the dog, and Ben after the lad.

    The miller took up his crutch and followed them, with the bag in his hand.  As he went out he said to his wife, "I think thae'rt making a foo o' thisel, artn't tho?"

    "I think thae'rt a ready-made un, to alleaw sich wark," replied she.

    Ben stood waiting in the road, by the side of his donkey.

    "Thae'd better goo a bit fur up th' lone, eawt o'th seet o' this woman of eawrs," said the miller to Ben, "or else there'll be no quietness.  Which gate has th' cat gwon?"

    "It's taen through th' garden hedge," said Ben.  "Han yo getten th' bag?"

    "Ay," replied the miller, "I have it here.  Goo a bit fur up th' lone, eawt o'th seet o' yon woman.  Eawr Johnny 'll look after th' cat.  I'll bring it directly."

    As soon as Ben was out of sight, the miller slipped into the stable, and, wrapping a piece of wood in a handful of hay, he put it into the bag and tied up the mouth, and then he limped across the corner of the field and handed the bag down over a low thorn hedge to Ben, who was waiting in the lane below.

    "There it is," said the miller.  "Off with, neaw!  An' tell Jem I dunnot like th' breed of his bantams.  I'd rayther have a two-legged un.  Yon woman of eawrs is quite reet.  We han a cat at eawr heawse.  Off witho; an' tell him I'll co' as soon as my fuut's weel."

    Ben was willing enough to go, and he lost no time about it; for he had been detained longer than he expected.  The scene in the miller's kitchen had bewildered his simple mind; and as he urged Dimple up the lane, thoughts of witchcraft came over him; and he gave many a glance at the pannier where the cat was, thinking to himself that the devil took so many shapes that there was no knowing,—besides, he had always heard that the form of a cat was one of his favourite disguises.  He stopped now and then and listened, for he fancied he heard a weird mew; and then he hurried on again, anxious to get rid of his charge.

    Bill o' Fair-Offs was leaning upon his garden gate waiting, as Ben came towards his cottage on his way back.  Behind a holly-bush, beside him, the old man had the duplicate bag containing the bantam, ready for exchange.

    "Woigh!" said Ben, stopping his jackass in front of the gate.  Then, wiping his forehead with his sleeve, he looked up at the old man, and said, "I've bin."

    "Well," replied Billy, "wur he in?"

    "In!  Ay!  But what dun yo think it wur?"

    "What wur?"

    "Th' bantam."

    "A spreckle't un, happen?"

    "Spreckle't be d――d!" replied Ben.  Then, going up the steps, he whispered to the old man, "It wur a cat!"

    "What saysto?" replied the old man, staring, with feigned astonishment.

    "It's a cat, I tell yo.  A black un," continued Ben, in a whisper, "an' I want to get rid on't.  Is that letther ready?"

    "Ay," replied Billy.  "Slip reawnd to th' kitchen.  Thae'l find it upo' th' dresser."

    The moment Ben was off at the end of the garden hedge, old Billy whipped up the bag containing the bantam, and exchanged it for the one in the pannier, which contained, as he supposed, his own cat.  Then he took up his pipe, and leaned upon the gate again; and when Ben came back with the note in his hand, the old man was smoking, and looking round at the fields the same as before.

    "Didto find it?" said Billy.

    "Ay," replied Ben, holding the note up.  "It's here."

    "Well, then," continued Billy, "off wi' tho, an' lond that cat wheer it coom fro' as soon asto con.  I don't mich like on't."

    "Nawe, nor me noather," replied Ben.  "There's summate moor than common abeawt this dooment."

    "Arto sure it wur a cat?" inquired Billy.

    "A cat?  Ay!" said Ben.  "Look at mi hond!  By th' hectum, yo should ha' sin heaw it tackle't yon dog o'th miller's!  Eh, there wur sich a do i' that hole!"

    "Well, away witho, an' get it back to th' Bull's Yed as fast alto con."

    "I will do so," answered Ben, laying hold of the bridle.  "I will do so.  Good mornin' to yo."

    "Good mornin'," replied Billy, as he watched them up the road.

    "Come on, Dimple," said Ben, pulling at the bridle.  Let's get this job o'er, an' be off.  Thae little knows what there is i' that thing upo' thi back.  I wonder what thae'll ha' to carry th' next."  And for the rest of the way he was too uneasy in mind to enjoy the beauty of the season, smiling around him in earth and sky.

    The landlord at the Bull's head had been watching some time through the window for Ben's return.  And several of the customers who were in when he started were still waiting to see the fun.  In addition to these, several of the neighbours had been sent for, and they were all noisily merry together, when the landlord, who had caught sight of Ben in the distance, cried, "Husht, lads!  He's comin'.  Sit still!  He isn't aboon forty yards off.  Be talkin' abeawt summat else.  I'll goo an' meet him at th' dur."

    "Well, thae's getten back," said the landlord, handing a shilling to Ben as he came up to the door with his jackass.  "What said he?"

    "What said he?" replied Ben, as he put the shilling in his pocket.  "He's sent it back.  It had turn't into a cat when I geet theer!"

    "A cat!  Thae lies, belike."

    "It're a cat, I tell yo!" continued Ben.  "It're a bantam here, reet enough; but it're a cat when it geet to th' tother end,—an' a pummer too!  Look at mi hond!"

    "Well, come, bring it in," replied the landlord.

    "Nay," said Ben; "I'll ha' no moor truck wi't.  It is theer.  Tak it for yorsel."

    "What, thae'rt noan fleyed of a cat, arto?" continued the landlord.

    "I'm fleyed o' that cat," replied Ben.

    "Come, I'll get it," said the landlord, going to the pannier, and taking the bag out.  "Neaw then," said he to Ben, "come in a minute, an' let's see what mak of a cat it is.  It'll happen come in for Joe of o' Sorts.  He wants one."

    "Neaw, then," said the landlord, beginning to unloose the bag, when he got into the taproom, "stop fur, lads,—an' shut th' dur."

    "Howd a minute!" cried Ben.  "Look eawt!  It'll fly at some on yo!  Here, let me get upo' th' table!  Neaw then, mind yor hits!  It's a divvdle, is that!  Oppen that dur, an' let's ha' reawm for runnin'! "

    The landlord turned the bag upside down, and out rolled a little strutting bantam, as proud as a heelan' piper.

    "Well, by th' mass!" said Ben, staring,—first at the bantam and then at the bag.  Then jumping down from the table, and darting out at the door, he shouted, "I'm off at th' nook!" and seizing Dimple's bridle, he hurried up the road as fast as he could go.  The place rang with laughter when Ben ran out.  The landlord ran after him.  But Ben was away.  He had jumped up behind the panniers, and Dimple was galloping off with him.

    "By th' mass," said Ben, glancing back, when he had got some distance from the house, "that's a crumper!"  And then he jumped down, and wiping the sweat from his brow, he went thoughtfully on by the side of Dimple towards the village of Shawclough, still looking back, now and then, with an indefinite fear of something or another in the rearward.


 
CHAPTER III.


The lark, that tirra-lirra chants,
    With hey! with hey! the thrush and the jay,
Are summer songs for me and my aunts,
    While we lie tumbling in the hay.

But shall I go mourn for that, my dear?
    The pale moon shines by night:
And when I wander here and there,
    I then do most go right.

SHAKSPERE.


THE forenoon was creeping on.  The sun was high in the heavens, and there was not a shadow of cloud on all the blue sky.  The air, that had been dancing ever since morning woke the wild bird, was dancing with still more delight now that the choir of noon was swelled with all its lyric train.  The thick-leaved woods stood still, steeping in sunshine and listening to the festal glee, and the little field-mouse, rushing in tiny journeys about the glades of his grass forest, stopped now and then and hearkened with pricked ears, and then rushed on again, chirping blither than before.  The bee was roving in the sun, playing his little bassoon on his way from flower to flower.  Far away aloft, hid in the golden dazzle of the upper air, the spreckled lark,—the topmost singer of the summer sky,—was fanning the sunshine with fervid wing, whilst he poured out his floods of ecstasy under the windows of the listening gods.  His blithe song streamed down upon the vale, linking earth to heaven with one wild strain of matchless minstrelsy.  Sweet odours rose from hill and dale, making the air a soundless region of free relight to every living thing.  The wagoner's sleek team whisked their tails as they crept along the dusty road, with their driver lounging by their side, flirting his whip in the sunshine, and carolling idly to the beat of their slow-motioned tread; and all the world seemed glad.

    The beauty of the season soon moved Ben's elastic spirit into a temporary forgetfulness of his little troubles; and he began to rejoice with rejoicing Nature once more.  He met nobody on the road for a mile or so; but thin trails of new-mown hay caught his eye, showing where the loaded carts had come out from the meadows; and he began to take his time, and to look about him.  He could hear the haymakers at work in a meadow close by the road, and he stopped his donkey that he might get a peep at them through the thorn-hedge.

    "By th' mon," said Ben, "that's a rare meadow.  There isn't better yarb-graice (herb-grass) i' this country side; an' it'll be well getten, too, this time.  He's a rare chap to wortch for is this farmer.  Hello, there's Dick yon, I see.  I wish I'd bin amung that lot."

    Ben was still looking through the hedge, when a little thick-set haymaker came whistling out at the gate of the meadow, with a great brown bottle in his hand, and an old crushed billy-cock set jauntily upon his head.  Recognising the besom-maker, he cried out, "Hello, Ben!  Heaw go?"

    "Heaw go?" replied Ben, whisking round.  "Is that thee, Jerry, owd lad?  Wheerto for?"

    "I'm beawn for moor ale," said Jerry.  "I'll let tho sup i' tho'll bide till I come back."

    "I thought thae'd bin doin' at th' Greenbooth," replied Ben.

    "I'm beawn theer as soon as we'n finished this meadow.  I wish we'd another meadow to do here.  It's a rare shop.  As mich as ever we can height; an' noan stinted o' drink.  Wait till I come back, an' I'll let tho sup."  And away he went, singing,


Now summer it is coming, lads, what pleasures we shall see;
The small birds they are singing on every green tree;
The blackbirds and the throstles are whistling merrilie-a-ee!
                       Sing wo, my lads, sing wo!
                       Drive on, my lads, I-ho!
        Who wouldn't lead the life of a jolly wagoner?


    Ben looked round to see how his jackass was getting on.  Dimple had turned aside to drink at an overflowing well on the other side of the road, and Ben walked across and sat down on the trough, by the side of the donkey.  "Ay," said Ben, looking at Dimple, "sup, owd lad.  It's thy turn.  I supped th' last.  An' thae desarves it better than me .  .  . Eh, it's a grand day!" continued he, looking round, as he pulled out his pipe.  "I'll have a wift o' 'bacco, an' hearken these lads i'th meadow, while I unbethink me a bit .  .  .  Let's see, I've nobbut three places to co' at, neaw,—Tobe's Yed, an' th' Failinge, an Owd Jacob's at th' Cronkeyshay.  Th' best customers I have,—thoose Cronkeyshay folk.  They wear'n their besoms eawt so fast,—very particular abeawt havin' things clen abeawt 'em,—very.  This is th' third lot 'at they'd had within six months.  Eh, I wish they owden me for a hunderth theawsan' besoms!  By th' mon; nought to do but knock at th' dur, an' ax for th' brass an' then go rickin' whoam wi't i' my pocket.  Eh, we'd ha scallions to our baggin every day!  There would be some owd donnin an doffin upo' Lobden Moor, yon.  Eawr Billy'd ha' to wear a skedlock in his hat; and as for eawr Betty, I dar say hoo'd order a pair o' red shoon at Jem th' cloggers, th' furst go to .  .  .  Ay," continued he, "they're a rare sort.  Noan within doin' a good turn to a poor body.  An' they're o' alike.  It runs i'th breed on 'em.  By th' mon, I shouldn't like Owd Jacob to ha' yerd o' me makin' sich a foo o' mysel, yesterday.  He'd gate a-riggin' me o'er it.  Bigo, he'd happen bag me.  But, I'm noan so mich fleyed o' that.  I'll bet onybody a suverin' I could tak th' owd lad o'th blynt side, an' beg on again.  Let's see.  I's ha' sarve't thoose folk wi' besoms neaw aboon seven year, come wakin'-time."

    Dimple was taking another long pull at the water when Ben looked round.

    "Hello!" said Ben, pulling him round by the bridle.  "Come, come, be i' resson, owd mon; be i' resson.  That neck o' thine bides a deeol o' swillin'.  Thae met ha' bin havin' red yerrin' to thi breakfast.  Come off that wayter.  Thae'll be breighkin' eawt in a rash, or some lumber.  I munnot ha' thee laid up, Dimple.  Go thi ways an' play wi' yon hedge-side, while I brun this bit o' 'bacco."  Then pushing the tobacco into his pipe with the end of his finger, Ben slowly re-crossed the road, and peeped through the hedge at the haymakers again.

    They were clustered in a shady corner of the meadow, near the road, and they were just tapering off their "forenoon baggin'," or lunch, which consisted of bread,—white bread and hard oak-cakes,—butter, cheese, and salad fresh from the farmer's garden.  Some of them were seated upon the hedge-side, under a spreading bush of wild roses.  Some sat upon the ground, leaning their backs against a great haycock, on the top of which sat a little round-faced lad belonging to one of the mowers, munching at a handful of bread and cheese.  Others lay at full length upon the new-mown meadow, basking in the sun, as they finished their forenoon meal.  A little nimble bow-legged fellow, with a humorous face, and with an old crushed milking hat cocked saucily upon his round, close-cropped head, went to and fro amongst the group, buttling out ale in a drinking-horn.  Several girls, of ages ranging from seven to about twenty, and consisting chiefly of the farmer's family and their friends, hovered about the outer circle of this pleasant group, laughing wildly as they ran about, trying to bury one another in the hay.

    The little pudgy lad on the top of the hay-cock watched them till he could stand it no longer.  "Here, dad," cried he, holding out the remains of his bread and cheese to a tall mower who sat below,—"here, dad, aw cannot height no moor."

    "Hasto had enoof, Joe?" said the mower, taking the bread and cheese from the lad.

    "Ay."

    "Here, Dick," said the mower, "let him have a seawk at that breawn keaw."

    "I will do so," replied the merry little butler, handing the horn up to the lad.  "Here, Joe, my lad; oppen those bits o' shoolders o' thine, an' sup."

    The little fellow clipped the horn in his fat hands, and when he had taken a tiny tug at the home-brewed, he held up his rosy foam-garnished neb, and gave a slow, satisfactory sigh as he recovered his breath again.  Then stretching out his arms to the tall mower, he said, "Dad, heighve me deawn.  I want to goo an' play me wi' yon tother.  Heighve me deawn."  Lifting him from his scented perch, and setting him down upon the meadow, the mower said, as he gave him a kindly bat behind, "Off witho, my lad; off witho."  And away the fat-legged urchin waddled, screaming with delight, towards the children who were frolicking in the hay.

    "Neaw then, lads," said the tall mower, lighting his pipe and sitting down upon the hay again, "let's have a sung!  Come, Dennis, owd lad," continued he, addressing a crisp-haired young Irishman who sat by the hedge, with a piece of bread and butter in once hand and part of a bunch of radishes in the other, "Come, Dennis, owd brid, give us a odd stave afore we starten a-cuttin' again."

    "Aisy, boys, dear," replied Dennis, speaking with his mouth half-full, "Aisy, boys, till I tuck in this purty tuft o' radishes, an' thin,—bedad, it's myself that'll tip yees a stave, wid all my heart, an' part o' my shirt.  Aisy, boys, dear,—wan minute, an' I'm yer man!"

    "Here, owd cockolorum!" said Dick, handing the horn to Dennis, "thae's ha' summat to wesh those redishes deawn.  Weet thi whistle, owd buzzart, an' then brast off!"

    "Here goes, then," said Dennis, handing back the empty horn, and wiping his mouth upon his sleeve.  "Whist, now, till I sing the 'County o' Mayo;' an' divvle a better song I know, barrin' 'Willy Reilly,' an' the 'Soggarth Aroon'"  Then giving his mouth another wipe, and clearing his throat, he turned up his face and began, in a shrill, wailing tone:


On the deck o' Patrick Lynch's boat I sat in woful plight,
Through my sighin' all the weary day, an' weepin' all the night.
Were it not that full of sorrow from my people forth I go,
By the blessed sun, its royally I'd sing thy praise, Mayo.

When I lived at home in plinty, and my gowld did much abound,
In the company of fair young maids the Spanish ale wint round,—
'Tis a bitter change from thoose bright days, that now I'm forced to go,
To lave my bones in Santa Cruz, far from my own Mayo.

They're altered girls in Irrul now; they're grown so proud an' high,
Wi' their hair-bags an' their top-knots, for I pass their buckles by;
But it's little now I heed their airs, since God will have it so,
That I must depart for foreign lands, an' lave my sweet Mayo.

'Tis my grief that Patrick Loughlin is not earl in Irrul still,
An' that Brian Duff no longer rules as lord upon the hill;
An' that Colonel Hugh M'Grady should be dead an' lyin' low,
An' I sailin', sailin', swiftly from the county o' Mayo.


    "Bravo, Dennis, owd lad!" cried the haymakers; "bravo!"

    "I like th' sung weel enough," said Ben, quietly commenting upon the performance, as he looked through the hedge.  "I like th' sung; but he's nought mich of a singer, yon mon isn't."

    "The plaintive Irish melody died away upon the sunlit vale, as the singer rose to his feet, giving himself a quiet wriggle from head to foot inside of his clothing, and said: "There boys, my song's inded; an' by the powders o' war, it's dry work singing this day."

    "Here, Dennis," cried little Dick, filling the horn again, "I'll be witho in a minute.  Thae desarves another tot, owd brid.  Tak howd, an' borne (swill) thi throttle eawt."  As Ben stood staring intently through the hedge at all this, somebody quietly laid a hand upon his shoulder.  Ben started, and turned round.  It was the parson of Whitworth chapel.

    "Hello," said Ben, blushing, and scratching his head "I didn't know it wur yo."

    "Well, Ben," replied the parson, "what are you doing here?"

    "Oh, I'm watchin' th' haymakers a bit,—that's o'," answered Ben.

    "But, what's this I hear about you and your donkey?  Is it true that you had it wound up into the Foot Mill chamber yesterday?"

    "Ay; I guess it is," replied Ben, beginning to play with his whip-lash.

    "Very foolish,—very foolish.  I expected better things from you, Ben.  Take care of yourself, that's a good fellow.  How's the family?"

    "Oh, they're o' reet, thank you!" replied Ben, looking down, and scraping the ground with his toe.

    "That's right.  Now, mind and take care of yourself,— that's a good fellow.  Good day!"

    "Good day!" answered Ben, walking across the road towards his donkey.  "Come," said he, taking hold of the bridle, "let's be gooin'.  He's yerd abeawt thee an' me, Dimple, seeminly.  I's get a bonny name to my back in a bit, wi' one thing an' another.  He'll be yerrin' abeawt that cat dooment th' next, I guess.  By th' mon," continued he, looking at his hand, "that cat caps me.  Eh, it did scrat!"

    Just as he was starting to continue his journey, one of the mowers behind the hedge struck up an old Lancashire song.

    It was a favourite ditty of Ben's, and he was glad of such a pleasant excuse for lingering a little longer where he was.  Looking carefully round, and seeing that the parson had disappeared, he let go the bridle again, and, taking three sips of water in the hollow of his hand from the well, he said, as he sat down upon the trough once more, "By th' mon, I'll not goo till that sung's o'er, as heaw 'tis."

    It was a song written about two centuries ago, by an unhappy Lancashire Lady,—Mrs. Fleetwood Habergham, of Habergham, near Burnley.  She "soothed her sorrows," says Dr. Whitaker, "by some stanzas yet remembered among the old people of her neighbourhood."  The mower trolled it clearly out, in a fine tenor voice, to its own old quaint and plaintive tune.


I sowed the seeds of love,
    And it was all in the spring,—
In April, May, and June likewise,
    When the small birds they do sing.

O my garden, it's planted well,
    And the flowers are everywhere,
Yet I had not the liberty to choose for myself,
    The flower that I loved so dear.


    "Bravo, owd lad!" cried Ben, rising to his feet.  "By th' mass, thae's a rare piper!  I know that sung.  Here goes!"  And to the astonishment of the haymakers on the other side of the hedge, Ben struck up the following verse.  As he stood there in the road singing aloud, with his right hand out-stretched, and his face turned towards the sky, a solitary horseman rode past, and he stared at the lonely singer as if he thought the man was mad.  But Ben went on with the song:—


My gardener he stoode by,
    An' I asked him to choose for me;
He chose me the violet, the lily, and the pink,
    But those I refused all three.

O, the violet I forsook,
    Because it fades so soon;
An' the lily an' the pink I did o'erlook,
    An' I vowed I'd wait till June.


    "Crack that nut!" cried Ben, shouting to the haymakers behind the hedge.  "Brast off again, owd brid!"

    "Who the hangment is it?" said the haymakers, and some of them were about to rush to the hedge and look through.  But the mower who had begun the song cried out, "Howd!  Stop a bit, lads.  I'll have another twirl!"

    "Ay, do, Joe, owd lad!" said little Dick, handing another horn to the mower.  "There, wesh thi pipe eawt a bit, an' start again,—like a layrock!  I'll back thee to sing yon moon for a keaw-yed, ony minute!  Go at it again, owd cockalorum!  He connot touch that sung where thae comes,nought o'th sort!  Neaw then; off witho!"

    "Here goes!" replied the mower, handing the empty horn back to Dick,—


O in June there's a red rosebud,
    An' that's the flower for me!
But often as I've plucked at the red rosebud,
    I've gained the willow tree.

O the willow tree will twist,
    An' the willow tree will twine;
An' I wish that I was in that young man's arms,
    That once had this heart of mine.


    "Hurrah!" cried little Dick, giving a twirl round upon one foot, and flinging his old hat into the air.  "Hurrah!                                                     Capital races! Neaw, then, owd mon," continued he, shouting to Ben, "Get forrad; it's thy turn th' next."

    "I'll be wi' yo in a minute," replied Ben, taking another sip of water from the well, and clearing his throat before he began,—


My gardener he stoode by;
    He told me to take great care;
For, oh! in the middle of the red rosebud,
    There groweth a sharp thorn there.

I told him I'd take no care,
    Till I did feel the smart;
An I plucked an' I plucked at the red rosebud,
    Till it pierced me to the heart.


    "Neaw, then," cried Ben to the mower on the other side of the hedge, "finish it off thisel, owd mon.  Thae licks me o' to jam-rags!  I can yer that.  By th' mon, thae's a rare pipe!  Finish it off, owd brid!"

    "He shall do so!" replied little Dick from the other side of the hedge.  "He's a top-sawer, is this," continued he, giving the mower a slap on the back, and then rubbing his hands.  "Go at it again.  We dunnot ha' thee lick't, owd brid!  Neaw, get agate!  Husht, lads!  This is the last reawnd!"


I'll make me a posy of hyssop,—
    And no other I will touch;
That all the world may plainly see
    I have loved one flower too much.

My garden is now run wild;
    Where shall I plant anew?
For my bed that once was sweet with thyme
    Is now o'errun with rue.


    "Theighur!" (there!) said the mower, rising to his feet  "That's done wi'."  The haymakers all clapped their hands, and cried "Hurrah!"  "Hurrah!" said little Dick, flinging his hat up again, and squeaking out in a shrill voice, as he capered round the triumphant mower,—


He gave three cheers, an' cried "Farewell!
I've done wi' the women!" an' deawn he fell.
        Fal der dal layrol laddie—oh!
        Fal der dal layrol laddie—oh!


    "Neaw then, lads," said he, picking his hat up.  "Let's see who yon is i'th lone," and there was a general rush to the hedge-side,—some peeping through the thorns, others clambering up to get a view over the top.  Dick was first at the hedge; and, peeping through a little gap, he caught sight of Ben, as he walked by towards the donkey, with the intent of going on his way again.

    "Hello, lads," cried Dick.  "By th' mass, it's Besom Ben!  If it isn't, I'll go to th' crows!"

    "It's him, for sure," said Joe, as he looked over the top of the hedge.

    "Neaw, owd lad," continued he, shouting to Ben, who was starting off with his donkey, "heaw go?"

    "Eh, Joe, owd brid!" replied Ben, "is that thee?  I thought it're somebory 'at knowed what music belungs to."

    "Here," continued the mower, "poo up a minute.  What's o' thi hurry?  Thae'rt noan after a labbor, arto?  Dick, hond me an odd tot up, for Ben."

    "He's ha' two if he's a mind," said Dick, filling the horn, and handing it up.  "Ax him if he'll have a bit o' summat to height."

    "Here," said the mower, reaching over the ale to Ben, "come, sup!  Wilt have a bit o' summat to height?  There's plenty i'th basket yet.  There's loaf an' butter, an' cheese.  An' there's a twothre scallions laft.  Thae'rt welcome, thae knows."

    "Nay," replied Ben, "I dunnot know 'at I feel to want aught.  I've mi dinner lapt up in a handkitcher, here."

    "Well, an' heaw arto gettin' on, Ben?"

    "Oh, I ail nought, 'at I know on," replied Ben.  "I'll tell tho what, Joe, I think thae rayther missed it i' that third verse."

    "Wheer, thinksto?"

    "Well, just try it o'er again."

    "I will," replied Joe.

    "Howd!" said Ben, in a whisper.  "There's a berrin' comin'."

    It was a straggling country funeral, followed by a long train of people, old and young, all well and cleanly clad, though most of them evidently belonged to the humblest walk of country life.  As the body went by, Ben and the haymakers took off their hats reverently, and stood silently looking on, simply nodding to those in the funeral train whom they happened to know.  But, at the end of all, there came a thin, old, fresh-faced man, leading a little lad by the hand.  Ben knew the old man; and, as he came up, he went to him, and asked in a whisper whose funeral it was.

    "Didto ever know Rondle o' Kilter's, at th' Owler Nook?" said the old man.

    "I think I've yerd on him," answered the mower.

    "He wur a walk-miller when he're yang," continued the old man; "an' he wortched a while at a place code th' Holmes Chapel.  It's somewheer Cliviger road on.  That'd be afore thy time, Ben.  But abeawt thirty year sin he gav o'er millin'; an' he coom back to his own country; an' he sattle't on a bit of a farm at th' Owler Nook, a piece aboon Th' Thrutch, yon.  I'm own cousin to him, o'th mother's side."

    "Oh, I think I knowed him," said Ben.

    "Well, I know not whether tho did or not," replied the old man.  "He're a very quiet chap."

    "Did he do a bit i'th bazzoon line, neaw an' then?" inquired Joe, who was still looking over the hedge.

    "Sure he did!" answered the old man.  "An' he could ha' tutor't a double-bass middlin' weel, when he'd a mind, I dar say thae'd know him, Joe.  They code him Tansy for a by-name.  He're a greight chap for yarbs.  They ne'er had no childer, nobbut one,—an' he're olez a trouble to 'em.  He would list for a soldiur.  Th' owd fellow bought him off once; but he went again.  An' he get kilt at th' end of o',—at Salamanca.  Th' owd woman use't to fret terrible o'er that lad."

    "Eh, I knowed th' owd chap," said Joe.  "I knowed him.  An' is this him?"

    "Nawe," replied the old man; "it's his wife.  It's owd Martha.  Hoo're like getten to th' top side o' fourscore.  What, yo known, we are not made o' stuff 'at lasts for ever."

    "Nawe, we are not," replied the mower.  "An' heaw is th' owd lad?"

    "He is here wi'th funeral," said the old man.  "He's aboon eighty, too.  We had aim't to ha' kept him awhoam; but he wouldn't.  He said he couldn't sattle to be laft beheend i'th empty heawse, an' see her carried eawt by herself.  He'd followed her o' her life; an' he thought he'd follow her end-way.  So, he's toddled on wi'th berrin'.  Th' owd chap's quite lost.  He keeps lookin' reawnd as if he're seechin' for summat.  He says nought mich, yo know.  But, I think it's taen his reckillection away.  He'll not be so long after her, yon see.  But, I mun go forrad; or else I's lose th' end on 'em.  Good day to yo!"

    "Good day to yo!" replied Ben and the mower.  "Good day!" said little Dick, who had been harkening through the thorn hedge.

    "They keepers droppin' off, thae sees, Joe," said Ben, as he watched the old man walk away.

    "Ay," replied the mower, "it's a bit of a job that we o' han to do once a-piece, Ben.  An' we cannot hire nobody to do it for us, noather.  Deeoth's no moor wit nor takkin no notis o' brass, an' fine clooas, an' sich like,—not he."

    "Nawe, he hasn't," said Ben, looking thoughtful.  "It's happen becose he wears noan hissel."
                         .                         .                         .                         .                         .

    "Who's singin' keawnter up at Whit'orth Chapel, neaw, Ben?" inquired the mower.

    "Doe o' Deb's," replied Ben.

    "O, ay!" said the mower.  "Is he theer yet?  A good singer, too, he is.  But they're of a music breed, that lot,bwoth th' lasses an' th' lads.  It's quare heaw sich like things runs i' families."

    "Ay, it is," answered Ben, handing up the empty horn.  "Neaw, wilt have another?" said the mower, reaching over to get the horn.

    "Nawe, no moor," replied Ben.  "I'll be gettin' a bit nar Shaycloof."

    "Well, good day to tho," said the mower.

    "Good day!" replied Ben.  "Come up, Dimple!"

    Ben met nobody remarkable on the road for some distance, except a farmer-looking man, on a heavy limbed horse.  The farmer's wife sat on a pillion-seat behind him, with a lame lad in her arms.  They were on their way with the lad to the famous Whitworth doctors.  But when he came to the place where the road overlooks the head of the wild clough called the Thrutch, a poor road-wearied woman was giving a pale girl, of about six years old, a drink of water from a little tin can, which she carried in her pocket.  Both the woman and the child looked ill and tired, and they were poorly, though cleanly, clad.  As Ben came up she lifted her head, and asked him how far they were from Oldham yet.

    "It'll be abeawt eight mile, as near as I can tell," said Ben, looking first at one, then at the other.  "Han yo to walk to Oldham?"

    Then the poor woman told him that she must get to Oldham that day.

    Ben questioned her again, and when she had looked well at him she opened out her simple story, telling him that she had walked all the way from three miles beyond Bacup.  Her husband had been out of work for weeks, and he had suddenly taken ill at Oldham, whilst on tramp in search of a job.

    "Come," said Ben, "I'll gi' yo a lift wi'th choilt as far as th' Shaycloof .   .   .  Come, my lass," continued he, lifting the child up, and settling her into a comfortable seat amongst the besoms, "thae's have a ride."

    The poor woman thanked him; and then they went slowly on their way.


 
CHAPTER IV.


We wander there, we wander here,
We eye the rose upon the briar,
Unmindful that the thorn is near,
    Amang the leaves.              B
URNS.


IT was about an hour past the stroke of noon when Ben reached the low end of Shawclough village, a place that he had looked forward to with a kind of dread, as he left home, cold and pensive, in the morning, being so near the scene of his previous day's adventure.  But, though Ben was habitually a temperate man, his frank and simple nature was easily misled; and the checkered course of his forenoon's ramble had been so exciting, he had thoughtlessly imbibed more drink than was common with him at that time of the day, and it began to take hold of him.  He felt unusually jovial and careless, and he trod the highway with a free and wandering step, and an unconstrained mind.  The sober outworks of discretion were all thrown down and the frolic garrison of his heart lay open to an insidious foe.  And yet he cast many a sly glance at the doorways and windows of the cottages by the roadside, for he knew that the fame of himself and his donkey would have been ringing through the village during that summer forenoon, and he did not much relish the thought.  But "care had drowned himself among the nappy," and Ben felt ready for anything that might befall, as he walked on by Dimple's side, inspired with alcoholic courage, and more with an air of a conqueror than a culprit.

    As he sauntered up the slope, with a sprig of gorse-blossom stuck in his hat-band, and one hand laid on Dimple's neck, many a finger was pointed towards him from cottage doors, and many a laughing face stared through the windows with mischievous glee, mingled with no little wonder; for the poor woman's child sat upon the top of the pannier, munching the bread and cheese which Ben had given to it, and gazing with quiet amazement upon the things around it.  On the other side of the donkey the weary wan-faced woman trailed along, with slow and painful steps, holding by the skirt of her child's frock with one hand; her thin and threadbare garments bearing touching evidence of the honourable struggle which decent poverty makes to put its best appearance on.  For the poor wayfarer was one of those


                        who would blush
To wear a tattered garb, however coarse,—
Whom famine could not reconcile to filth.


As they paced slowly up the village, many an old crone stared at the well-known besom-maker, and muttered to herself, "Whatever's he up to neaw?"  The inhabitants were mostly woollen weavers in those days; and, as they passed the dwelling of one of these artisans, the window of the loom-house was suddenly thrown up, and a merry face looked out and cried,

    "Hello, Ben; thae's getten it back, I see."

    "Getten what back?"

    "Thi jackass.  I thought thae'd sowd it to th' lonlord at th' Tobe's Yed."

    "It's here, thae sees," replied Ben; an' it owes thee nought, that I know on."

    "An' wheer's th' beef?" continued the weaver.

    "Gullook!" cried Ben, running after his donkey, and walking carelessly on by its side with half-defiant air, as he trolled out in a low voice,—


When good King Alfred rule't this lond,
    Rule't this lond, rule't this lond,
When good King Alfred rule't this lond,
    He wur a goodly king, oh!

He stoole three peck o' barley-meal,
    Barley-meal, barley-meal,
He stoole three peck o' barley-meal,
    To make some dumplins on, oh!

He stuck in it greight lumps o' fat,
    Greight lumps o' fat, greight lumps o' fat,
He stuck in it greight lumps o' fat,
    Enough to chauk a mon, oh!


    "Come up, Dimple," said he, giving his donkey's ear a fillip.  "Come up! let's get eawt o'th seet as soon as we con;" and then he took up the same strain again, skipping some verses which he did not remember well:


An' what they couldn't eat that day,
    Eat that day, eat that day,
An' what they couldn't eat that day,
    Th' next day they had it fried, oh!


    "Hello, Ben," said an old man who stood smoking at his cottage door, "thae sings as if thae'd had a lot o' brass laft thou.  Wheerto for?"

    "I'm beawn a-'liverin' some besoms a bit fur up," replied Ben.

    "Arto for co'in' at th' 'Tobe's Yed?"

    "Ay, I's be like.  I've some besoms for 'em."

    "Thae'rt quarely loaden't to-day," continued the old man, looking at the woman, and at the child in the pannier.  "Is that one o' thy childer at sits a-top o'th jackass?"

    "Nawe," replied Ben, in a whisper.  "It belungs this woman here.  I let on her o' tother side o' Yealey Ho', quite stagged up."

    "Why, who is hoo?"

    "Nay," answered Ben, "I know nought who hoo is.  But hoo's ill tire't; an' hoo looks ill, too.  Her husban's bin eawt o' wark; an' he's bin taen ill while he wur seechin' a job i' Oldham; an' hoo's beawn to him.  Hoo looks deawn-hearted."

    "Ay, hoo does look ill," said the old man, taking a sly glance at her face again.  "It's a theawsan' pities,—poor body!  Hoo's gooin' on a sorry arran'.  There's nobry knows what's to betide 'em i' this world .  .  . Doesto think hoo'd ha' sixpence if I're to give her one?"

    "God bless yor owd soul, Jone!" said Ben.  "Gi's howd o'th brass.  I'll ax hur."

    The poor woman's pale face flushed with a kind of shame; but necessity was strong, and as she took the sixpence she said, "Yo known I'm not quite beawt; but it will be a bit of an help for me; an' I con nobbut thank yo!"

    "Stop a minute," said the old man.  "That choilt may as weel have a butter-cake.  Mary, bring one o' thoose new-baked moufins."  The old man's daughter, who had been listenin and watching through the window, ran and brought a well-buttered home-baked cake, big enough for a wagoner's dinner.  "Here, my lass," said the old man, going up to the child, "there's a butler-cake for tho."

    "Neaw, what doesto say for it?" said the mother.

    The child had already eaten its fill; and it was so over-faced by the size of the cake and the strange bewilderment of things around, that it put its soft knuckle up to its eyes, and began to cry.

    "Husht, my love!" said the mother, taking the cake from the child. "Come, I'll lap it up for thi supper.  Husht, neaw!  We're beawn to see thi dad, aren't we?"

    Ben turned away and looked down the road, for his heart was made of soft stuff.  But as soon as the woman had pacified her child, he bade the old man good day, and they set off again.

    "Good day," said the old man.  "An' good day to yo, mistress.  I hope yo'n find things better nor likely, at th' fur end."

    Ben had not got fifty yards further on his way, before a slatternly-looking woman, who was standing by the footpath with a child in her arms, beckoned to him, and called out, "Here, I say!  I want tho a minute."

    "Well, what dun yo want?" said Ben, walking towards her.

    "What's th' matter wi' yor Betty?  Hoo looks terrible torn deawn.  Has hoo been ill or summat?"

    "Yon's noan of eawr Betty," replied Ben.  "It's a woman 'at I've let on upo' th' road.  I'm nobbut givin' her a lift wi' th' choilt."

    "Oh, I see," answered the suspicious jade.  "What then, thae'll be for goin' forrad to th' teawn wi' her, I dar say?"

    "Nay, not I," said Ben.  "I'm beawn no fur nor th' Tobe's Yed, an' then hoo'll go forrad hersel."

    "Oh," replied she, staring after the woman.  "I like as if I'd sin yon woman afore, somewheer.  What's hoo code?"

    "I know nought what hoo's code," answered Ben, walking away a little nettled by her impertinent curiosity.  "Hoo is yon.  Ax her yorsel'."

    When she had watched him up the road with an evil eye for a minute or two, she rambled up to the door of the next cottage, where a congenial gossip dwelt.

    "Mally," said she, looking in, and addressing a stout, middle-aged woman, who was washing the pots after dinner, I never thought yon had had as mich in him as he has."

    "Who is it?"

    "Lobden Ben.  Him 'at had his jackass wund up into th' mill-chamber yesterday."

    "Nay, sure!" replied she, running to the door with the dishcloth in her hand, and looking up the road.  "It's him, for sure; an' th' jackass an' o'.  What's he bin agate on again?  They say'n he's noan reet in his yed."

    "Isn't he reet?  Howd off yon, for bein' reet.  He's no better nor he should be.  He's taen up wi' some mak of a dirty trollops 'at he's let on upo' th' road, an' he's carryin' her choilt upo' th' jackass yon."

    "An' what's he for wi' her, thinksto?" replied the portly dame, returning to her pots.

    "He's beawn to some nook or another, wheer he thinks nobry knows him."

    "It's a nasty dirty trick on him," answered the fat potwasher.  "I wonder if his wife knows?"

    "Hoo shall do afore mornin'," replied the ill-contrived jade.  "I'll take care o' that."  And away she sidled to the door of the next cottage to scatter the baleful influence of her spiteful nature a little further.

    Ben met with no further interruption until he was within a few yards of the inn, when a lad came running up the road after him, crying out, "Stop! stop!  My mother's come'd in.  Hoo says that woman's to come back to our heawse, an' get her tay.  Tummy Ricker's is beawn to Oldham wi' th' cart in hawve an hour an' he says he'll let her ride."

    "By th' mon, mistress," said Ben, "that's a nice chance for yo!  I'm fain yo'n let in so weel.  It'd ha' bin a weary treawnce to Owdham.  Owd Jone's a daycent chap.  He's as good as goose-skins.  An' they're o' alike i' that family; sib an' sib, rib an' rib.  Come, my lass," continued he, lifting the child down from the pannier and putting threepence into its hands, "that's to buy toffy wi'.  Thae'rt beawn to ride in a cart wi' thi mam."

    The poor woman took up her child in her arms, and when she had thanked Ben over and over again in her simple way, but with a full heart, she followed the lad back to the old man's cottage.

    Ben pulled up in front of the inn, and began to take the besoms from his panniers and lay them down upon the footpath.

    Twitchel and old Enoch had been hanging about making holiday all the day, and Enoch was sitting at the window of the taproom when Ben came up to the front of the house.

    "Hello!" cried Enoch, staring through the window.  "Ginger for flirtin'!  He's here again wi' a gowden sallet in his hat!"

    "Who's here?" said Twitch, looking round.

    "Besom Ben," said Enoch.  "Come, I'll fotch him."  And he ran to the door and called to him.

    "Now, Ben, owd mon!" cried Enoch, "come in.  An' bring th' jackass wi' tho.  I'll ston a pint for that Jackass, bith mon."

    "I'll be in in a minute," replied Ben.  "These bosoms are for th' londlort."

    The landlord was coming out of the kitchen as Ben entered with the besoms in his arms.

    "Hello!" said the landlord, "what, thae's londed safe after o'!  Come in here," continued he, beckoning Ben into the kitchen, "come in here, Ben.  Haw mich are thoose besoms?"

    "Two shillin',—same as th' last."

    "Theer it is, sitho," replied the landlord, handing the money to him.  "Neaw then, sit tho deawn here.  Never mind yon chaps i'th tap-reawm.  Th' dinner 'all be ready i' two or three minutes, an' thae may have a bit wi' us, i' tho likes.  It's boighlt beef, an' broth, an' dumplins .  .  . Oh, stop," continued he, remembering himself, "thoose chaps agreed to pay for that beef o' thine 'at they stoole last neet.  I should ha' sent th' brass up to yor heawse if thae hadn't come'd.  Theer it is, sitho."

    "Nawe," replied Ben, "I'll not have it till they getten their sheep's-yed and stuff back.  Eawr Betty says hoo'll not have it i'th heawse."

    "Put th' brass i' thi pocket," replied the landlord, "an' height th' sheep's yed an' o'.  It'd sarve 'em reet."

    "Put th' brass i' thi pocket, Ben," cried the landlady, "an' dunnot be a foo.  I make no 'ceawnt on 'em playin sich like tricks.  They carry'n things too far.  Put it i' thi pocket.  They'n moor to stir on nor theaw has.  Thae's to scrat hard enough for a livin'.  Put it i' thi pocket, lad!"

    "Well," replied Ben, pocketing the money, "I'll send 'em th' sheep's-yed an' stuff back as soon as I get whoam, or else I'll bring it myself."

    "I never would," answered the landlady, setting a pint of ale before him.  "Bother noan abeawt it, but sit still, an' get that into tho till th' dinner's ready."

    "Nay," said Ben.  "I'd rather goo an' 'liver my besoms furst.  Iv'e nobbut two places to co' at—Owd Clement's at th' Failinge, an' at Owd Jacob's at Cronkeyshay.  I can go to both i' under an hour."

    "Here," replied the landlord, "sit tho still.  I'll send Joe wi' 'em.  Haw much win they be?"

    "Eh," said Ben, "I wish yo would'n send him.  I deawt they'd be riggin' me abeawt yesterday.  I'd rayther not face Owd Jacob, if he's yerd o' that dooment .  .  . There's six besoms for Jacob, an' six for th' Failinge folk.  It'll be two shillin' at either place.  I'll give him a pint for goin'.  An' I say, Jem; tell him to tak care o'th jackass!"

    "I'll see to't," replied the landlord, walking out at the kitchen door.

    Whilst Ben was standing with his jackass at the front of the alehouse, taking his besoms out of the panniers, several of the villagers thereabouts had recognised him, and one of them more officious than the rest, ran to the door of old Mally, whose pitcher was broken by the donkey upsetting her at the end of the lane on the previous night.

    "Heigh, Mally!" cried she, "yon chap's at th' Tobe's Yed dur wi' his jackass again!  It's th' same jackass at knocked yo o'er at th' lone end last neet, an' broke th' pitcher.  If I're yo I'd make him pay!  Send yor Alick to him, an' tell him to crack o' fottin law if he doesn't turn up some brass.  Be sharp wi' yo!"

    "I will do so," said old Mally, hobbling out at the back of the cottage, and calling to her grandson, who was in the garden.  "I will do so.  Alick!  Alick!  Th' jackass chap's yon.  He's at Tobe's Yed!  Go thee, an' make him pay; or else have him taken up!"

    Just as the landlord was leaving the kitchen to give directions to Joe about the delivery of Ben's besoms, the old woman's grandson came clattering up the steps, and in at the front door.  The landlord met him full in the face, as he was running towards the door of the taproom.

    "Here, here," said the landlord, stopping him.  What art theaw after?  I'll not ha' thee in theer."

    "Where's th' chap 'at belungs that jackass at th' dur?" said the lad, pointing to Dimple.

    "What does theaw want wi'th chap 'at belungs that jackass?" inquired the landlord.

    "I want payin' for th' damage 'at he did th' last neet," replied the young fellow, with an impudent air; "an' I'll have it, too; or else he'll ha' to goo afore Clement,"

    "Why, has he done thee some damage?" continued the landlord, restraining his rising temper.

    "Nawe," answered the young fellow; "but his jackass knocked my gronmother o'er at th' end o'th lone, last neet, an' broke her pitcher, an' sheeded th' milk,—an' hoo'll ha' to be paid, or else hoo'll fot a summons on him."

    "What mak of a pitcher war it?"

    "It war a quart pitcher," replied the lad.  "A blue an' white un."

    "Well, sitho," answered the landlord, fetching a quart pitcher from the bar.  "Give her that.  An' here," continued he, "there's a shillin' for her.  Hoo's not a bit wur.  I've sin her this mornin'.  Off witho while thae'rt weel."

    "Is this o' I mun have, then?" said the lad, looking at the shilling.

    "It's o' thae mon have, my lad," replied the landlord, "unless thou wants a bat o'th ribs."

    "Are yo noan beawn to pay for th' milk 'at wur shed then?" continued the unscrupulous manikin.

    "Heaw mich milk war there?" inquired the landlord.

    "Better than hauve a gallon," replied the lad.

    "What! in a quart pitcher?" said the landlord.  "Come, off witho, or I'll gi' tho a lifter beheend, wi' my fuut.  Off witho toward that dur-hole!  I know yo!  Yod skin two devils for one hide!  If thi gronmother wants aught moor, send her to me.  Come, shap off."

    The lad went slouching toward the doorway, muttering sulkily that the thing was not done with yet.  His grandmother "wur noan beawn sattle it under a suvverin'."

    The landlord followed him to the front, and as he watched the lad lounge across the street, he said to himself "A wastril gang, that."  Then, taking Dimple by the bridle, he led him into the back yard, where Joe was at work, swilling the flags.

    "Here, Joe," said the landlord, "put that bucket deawn a bit,—I've a nice job for tho."

    Joe set down his bucket; and when the landlord had given him instructions about the delivery of Ben's besoms, he started away, with Dimple, a little tickled with the novelty of the job.  The landlord shouted after him up the road, telling him to put the donkey up in the stable as soon as he returned; and then he went in to dinner, which was just ready.

    "Come, Ben, my lad," said the landlord, taking his seat at the head of the table, "get a bit o' dinner into tho. Wilco have a bowl o' broth?"

    "Well, thank yo! " replied Ben.

    "Theer," said the landlady, setting a steaming basin before him.  "Get thoose into tho; they'n do tho good."

    The broth was mad-hot, and between blowing and supping Ben had full employment for a few minutes.

    "Wilt have a dumplin', Ben?" said the landlord, seeing that Ben was finishing his broth.

    "Ay," answered Ben.  "There's nobry likes dumplin' better nor me."

    The landlady handed a plate of dumpling to him, and the dinner went on with few words thrown away.  Ben had finished his dumpling, and was just beginnings to attack the beef and potatoes, when Enoch came to the kitchen door.

    "Come, come, owd mon!" said Enoch, "thae'rt a greight while wi' fillin'!  I could ha' etten a keaw bi neaw.  Be slippy, or else we'n come in here.  Mun we come into th' kitchen, Jem?"

    "Nawe, nawe," cried the landlady.  "Keep where yo are.  We'an no reawm here.  Off wi' yo till we'n getten th' dinner o'er.  He'll not be mony minutes."

    Before the dinner was quite over, Joe came smiling in from delivering his besoms.

    "Thae'rt soon back," said Ben, speaking with his mouth half full.  "Heaw didto goo on, owd lad?"

    "O' reet," replied Joe, putting the money on the table.  "Here's th' brass, sitho.  Four shillin'."

    "Well, an' what said they?"

    "Oh,—why,—I seed nobry at Owd Clements, 'nobbut Jem, th' coachman; an' he axed what they wur.  So I tow'd him, an' he went in an' geet brass for me.  An' they brought me a pint o' ale to th' dur."

    "Well, an' haw didto goo on at Cronkeyshay?  Didto see th' owd chap?  I dar say he'd wonder heaw it wur 'at I didn't come wi' 'em mysel."

    "Nay," said Joe.  "I didn't leet of owd Jacob.  I seed nobry abeawt, nobbut a bit of a lad marlockin' wi' a gash (hoop), an' a chap wi' a spade on his shoolder.  He locked as if he'd been wortchin' i'th garden.  So I axed him if Owd Jacob wur abeawt; an' he said that he wur gwon up Whit'oth road a-seein' one o'th honds 'at hand bin taen ill, an' he'd taen one o'th younger end o'th lads wi' him, 'at wur code after hissel.  So I went into th' yard, an' reet up to th' back dur."

    "Eh, thae should ha' gwon to th' ceawntin'-heawse, mon," said Ben.

    "O, bother noan," continued Joe.  "It wur o' reet.  As soon as I knocked th' mistress coom to th' dur, an' hoo axed what wur to do 'at thae hadn't come'd thisel.  Well, to tell thou truth, I towd her a — lie.  I said 'at thae wur noan so weel, an' I'd had to come for thou, and sich like.  An' then hoo axed heaw th' wife an' childer wur.  Well, I made up some mak of a tale abeawt thoose, too.  I's ha' to go to the devil for tellin' lies for thee, Ben.  I shall, bigo!  An' then, hoo wanted to know what ailed thou, like; an' I said I thought it're rheumatism, or summat o' that; fur there're terrible ill o' thi inside."

    "Eh, thee, Joe, for a sup-yed!  Thae shouldn't ha' said so, mon.  What didto say beside?"

    "Well," replied Joe, "I'll be hanged if I can tell justly.  I know one thing,—I never name't that do 'at thae had wi' th' jackass.  But I'd hard wark to help for laughin' when th' mistress look't at Dimple, as it stoode theer .  .  . I think hoo aim't at sendin' tho some physic, or summat.  Thae knows they're a mak o' doctors amung poor folk; nobbut they never chargen nought.  An' they're gan to rommin a bit o' meight an' stuff into nooks where there is noan .  .  . Eh, there wur one o'th lads,—a stiff-set un,—coom runnin' into th' yard, wi' a face as red as that fire.  He'd bin marlockin' at th' front, wi' two or three more fro Littlewood schoo'; an' they'd had fuut-bo' wi' 'em, summer an' o' as it wur,—an' they'd sent it slap through th' window.  Th' mistress axt him who'd brokken th' parlour window, an' he said, 'Me!'  So hoo towed him, like, 'at he shouldn't ha' done so.  But he reckon't 'at he couldn't help it; becose he didn't like to miss his punce.  By th' mon, he's a pluck's-un is that lad, or else I'm swapt "

    "Oh, I know him," said Ben.  "He catch't me i'th ear-hole wi' a snow-bo', as I're goin' through th' yard th' last Kesmass."

    "Eh, I tell tho what, Ben," continued Joe, "there wur a little lass coom to th' dur wi'th mistress!  Eh, owd lad, if ever I seed a angel it's that little lass!  That face never wur made i' this world!  It's to good for this cowd country, is yon,—or else I'm chetted .  .  . Oh, an' I let of Absalom, th' carter, as I're comin' away.  He'd bin carryin' dinners eawt to a lot o' owd folk upo' Cronkeyshay."

    "I dar say," replied Ben.  "It's one of Owd Absalom's jobs, is that."

    "Well, come, Joe," said the landlady.  "Get thi dinner, an' let's ha' this table sided, so that these lasses can begin o' their ironin'."

    "O' reet," replied Joe, flinging his cap upon the dresser, and pulling chair up to the table as old Enoch came into the kitchen again.

    "Neaw then, Ben," said Enoch, holding his hand out, as if he was making a speech, "arto beawn to come, or thae artn't?  We wanten tho to give us a bit of a sung.  They're for havin' a do o' reawnd.  Twitch says he'll start th' first if thae'll sing after him.  Come on witho."

    "If thae'll let me alone five minutes longer," said Ben, "I'll he ready for aught."

    "Well, I'll time tho," replied Enoch, walking to the taproom.



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