Edwin Waugh: Besom Ben (6)

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SNECK-BANT; OR, THE OLD TOLL BAR.

CHAPTER I.


At length his lonely cot appears in view,
    Beneath the shelter of an agèd tree;
Th' expectant wee things, toddlin', stacher through
    To meet their dad, wi' flichterin' noise an' glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinking bonnily,
    His clean hearth-stave, his thrifty wifie's smile,
The lisping infant prattling on his knee,
    Does a' his weary carking cares beguile,
And makes him quite forget his labours and his toil.

BURNS.


THE storm was over, and the blue sky was beginning to smile upon the world again, as Ben the besom maker left the village of Whitworth and took his way up the hill-side towards his cottage at the edge of the wild moors.  Ben chose the shortest cuts,—blind, wandering sheep-tracks, that sometimes led through patches of swampy moss, which trembled and splashed under foot, till, to use his own words, he was "welly (well-nigh) slutched up to th' neck," with peat mire.  Now and then his path was crossed by rugged water-courses, swollen with torrents from the hills,—the moorland hills that rose high and bleak to the eastward, rolling far away in billows of lonely grandeur, with many a sweet secluded vale between.  But Ben held bravely on his way.  Neither "mosses, waters, slaps, nor stiles" could stay his foot, so eager was he to reach the shelter of his own little fireside.  There was not a sound to be heard but the voice of rushing streams, which came from all parts of the hill-sides, in tones of drowsy solemnity; for man and beast had scarcely recovered from the terrors of the storm, and the moor-fowl was still trembling in its nest.

    Betty had been sorely frightened, and her heart was anxious for her husband.  Many a time had she looked through the quarrel-paned [diamond-paned; a pane shaped like the head of the quarrel; the arrow used for the ancient cross-bow] window into the rain, and wished that he was at home.  Whilst the lightning flashed and the thunder rattled upon the lonely moor, she held her children clipped in her arms, and murmured, "Oh, I wish he would come!  Surely he'll creep in somewheer eawt o' this!  I wish he would come!"  And still she clipped them to her arms and trembled, whilst the tempest raged around her solitary dwelling .  .  .  As the storm abated her spirits revived, and when she had soothed her terrified children, she set about making the place as comfortable as possible, in expectation of Ben's arrival.  She mended the fire, scoured the hearth, set on the kettle, and hung up clothing to air, in readiness for him to change.  In the meantime the rain had ceased, the sky was slowly brightening, and the flowers in Ben's garden had lifted their heads, and were smiling through their tears to see the clouds sail away from the expanding blue once more.  A strange stillness lay upon the landscape, as if everything had been struck dumb by the tempest.  Betty threw open the door, and the first thing that met her eyes was Dimple.  There he stood, close to the threshold, gazing into the house with patient eyes.  Dimple had been away on a browsing ramble, down towards the valley; but when the storm began he had made the best of his way homeward again.  Finding the door of the shed closed, he crept under a spreading thorn-bush near the garden; and there he stood, with his tail nipped in, and his ears laid back,—indeed, his whole body twitched into as little compass as possible, apparently as motionless as a statue, though trembling with terror, whilst the storm raged all around him.  But when the wild uproar died out, and little birds began to twitter a timid welcome to the return of peace, the donkey trickled forth from his shower-laden shelter, and crept as close as he could to the cottage door.  There he stood, whisking his tail and pricking his ears at every stir he heard inside.  When Betty opened the door, Dimple's patient face was the first thing that met her eyes.  Leading him away by one ear to his wooden shed at the house-end, she shook down a little hay, and, leaving him to enjoy himself in peace, she began to saunter about the front of the cottage, gazing at the scene, as if half expecting to find some mark of disastrous change after such a tempest .  .  .  It was a lovely evening!  Peaceful beauty was beginning to spread her wings over the storm-beaten moors again.  Betty looked along the bridle-path, but there was nobody in sight.  There was no visible living thing astir in all the scene, except the few small birds that were beginning to twitter in the garden and about the cottage eaves.  But with nature's returning smile the sounds of cheerful life were creeping back into glad expression all around.  The moor-fowl was cooing soft notes to its frightened brood, as it fluttered its wet plumage for an evening flight across the rain-spent heather; and there was a low buzz of awakening pleasure in all the air.  A soft wind, laden with the smell of flowers, was wandering around; and on its wings there came floating up from the valley the low of kine at milking-time, mingled with the faint-heard strain of a fiddler, on his way home with a wedding party.  And yet, contrasted with the wild uproar which had so lately filled the air, the whole landscape seemed strangely still.  Betty hovered restlessly about the front of the cottage, and she went to the house-end again and again, and gazed eagerly along the moorside, like a low-roosted lark tooting out for its minstrel-mate's return.  At length she caught a glimpse of Ben's figure brushing through the heather by a short cut, and the comely little woman's warm heart leaped in her breast for joy.  Ben shouted aloud, and waved his hat round and round; and Betty fluttered away into the house, to tell the children that their father was coming,  The eyes of the little things were scarcely dry; but they clapped their hands, and crowed, "wi' flichterin' noise an' glee," at the news; and Billy would fain have paddled out barefoot into the wet road to meet his dad.  Betty had much ado to keep him in.  At last she, herself, with love too impatient for the lessening distance that divided them, nipped the chuckling lad into her arms, and hurried out to the house-end again.  There, with glowing heart and laughing eye, she met her husband, and welcomed him with a burst of simple affection,—sweet as the odour of the rose that greets the morning gale,—glad as the skylark's welcome to the returning sun.
                        .                        .                        .                        .                        .

    "Eh, Ben!" cried she, "I'm fain thae's getten whoam, lad!  Come thi ways in, an' get those weet things off!"

    "Weet?" replied Ben.  "Nought o'th sort, lass.  I'm as dry as a oon-shelf; an' as hearty as a hare!  Let's ha' some baggin'.  I'm dry enough."

    "Dry?" answered Betty. "Theaw never art.  What, theaw'rt slutch't up to th' shoolders, mon.  An' look at thi breeches!  Go thi ways in, an' get thi things off!"

    "Agreed on," replied Ben, moving towards the house.  "Agreed on, lass; for I'm dampish abeawt th' legs wi' wadin' through th' weet moor; but o' tother's as dry as a bakin'-spittle" (baking-shovel).

    "Eh," said Betty, feeling his shoulders, "I thought thae'd ha' bin fair sipein' (trickling) at after this pasha."

    "Sipein'?" replied Ben. "Ay, by th' mon, thae may weel say sipein', lass.  Eh, what a storm!  But, as it happens, I crope into a comfortable nook, wheer I geet my clooas dried, or else I've bin as weet as a wayter-dog once to-day.  Eh, heaw it did come deawn!  It's a good while sin I wur as primely borne't (swilled) as I've bin this time.  Th' world wur gettin' drufty (droughty), at after so mich sun; but, by th' moon, they'n letten us sup at last,—beawt stint.  Eh, it would ha' stode (wearied) a clatch o' ducks!  I could feel nine different bits o' brucks (brooks) runnin' deawn th' inside o' my clooas; an' mi shoon made a weet solch every time I planted a hoof.  Talk abeawt wayter!  God bless thi life, lass, I've bin as weet as a walkin' dish-cleawt once to-day!  But, bother no more abeawt it.  I'm used to't.  Thae never finds me ony war for a bit of a steepin', doesto?  Folk 'at's bin brought up o' yirth-bobs an' scaplins are noan so soon kilt.  Bother noan!  It's clearin' up, nicely.  Let's go in.  Heaw didto get on, lass, while it wur agate?"

    "Eh, I did wish thae'd bin awhoam," said Betty.  "But come thi ways in, an' doff tho.  An' get summat warm into tho,for thae'll do wi't."

    "Howd thi din, lass, wilto," replied Ben.  "I've had fine times on't, mon, while th' thunner wur agate.  Just when th' storm wur at th' height,hommer an' tungs,—an' thunnerbowts flyin' up an' deawn like hailstones I geet croppen into a grand owd chimbly-nook, wi' a pitcher o' warm ale an' rum at my elbow, an' a nice lass dryin' my clooas, beside.  What doesto think o' that?  Rare doin's I co' it!"

    "Eh, Ben!  Thae knows wheer to find a good shop, when thae wants one."

    "Howd thi din!" answered Ben.  "I'd ten times rayther ha' bin awhoam,—weet as I wur.  Nay, mon, nay.  Th' owd spot for me, for ever an' ever, amen!  I're playin' straight for this nook, through thunner an' leetenin' an' rain,—when I geet stop't.  I didn't goo in o' mysel.  They very near poo'd me in bith scuff o'th neck, or else I'd ne'er ha' stopt theer, thae may depend.  Wheer wur it, thinksto?"

    "Nay, heaw con I tell?  Theaw's so mony co'in (calling) shops."

    "What dost think o'th Red Lion, at Whit'oth?"

    "What, th' owd woman's?"

    "Nought else."

    "Never, sure!"

    "I towd to."

    "Well, thae caps me!  I thowt yo two would never ha' bin thick as long as yo'd live't."

    "We're noan so thick, yet, lass, I doubt.  But it's true, for o' that.  I've bin theer."

    "Well, I never yerd th' marrow! .  .  .  Come thi ways in!  Here, tak that cheer, and let's be knowin' .  .  .  But afore thou gates (begins) a-talkin', goo an' don these dry things.  Here, off witho upstairs, while I lay th' baggin eawt."

    "Just as thou likes, lass," said Ben.  "I need no dry things.  Thae may gi me a pair o' stockin's i' thae's a mind.  I con do for tother.

    "Go thi ways," replied Betty. "Thi legs are wringin' weet; an' thae'rt war slutch't nor an owd stone-cart.  There, tak these things, an' off witho."

    "O' reet!" answered Ben, as he went upstairs, with the clothes on his arm.

                        .                        .                        .                        .                        .

    "Well," said Betty, as she stirred the fire, after Ben had disappeared, "that's a capper of a tale, as heaw! .  .  .  But I'll get th' baggin' ready."

    By this time there was not a cloud upon the sky.  The evening was deliciously cool, and the smell of the flowering heather filled the air with delicate delight.  The rain had covered the lonely hills with twinkling beauty.  Every sprig of heather and blade of grass had "kepped its ain drag o' sweet."  The patches of bright moss by the sides of the water-courses were all sprinkled with liquid gems; and the big drops on the thorn-bush in front of the cottage danced with changeful gleams of brilliance to the slightest stir of the evening wind.  The sun had just gone down behind Holcombe Hill, but his lingering splendour still lay upon the upper slopes of the eastward hills, tinging every little rain-star with a glow of molten gold; and where the moorside was in shadow, the purple heather, blent with varying tints of green, shone out in its richest tones.  It was a glorious evening.  The sandstone pavement between the cottage and the garden was as clean as a new plate, and everything looked sweet and fresh.  The well was tinkling its old melody to the poor man's rest.  The murmurs of distant waters came from the hill-sides, and the voice of the swollen stream behind the house, rushing to the valley, rose with a dreamy sound upon the evening air.

                        .                        .                        .                        .                        .

    In a few minutes, Ben had come downstairs again, comfortably clad, and he was seated in the arm-chair by the hob, with little Billy on his knee, croodling to the happy lad, whilst Betty scattered little bits of endearing chatterment upon them as she cluttered to and fro at her housework .  .  .  The youngest child was asleep in the cradle, and Ben, forgetful of all the storms that ever blew, was up to the eyes in pleasant business with Billy,—now clipping him to his breast, now dancing him upon his knee, to the measure of some old song, now rocking him upon one foot for a cock-horse, now tossing him aloft till his curly hair brushed the herbs that hung from the ceiling, and the little fellow screamed with delight, and cried out for his dad to do it again, and again.  Betty watched them with glowing eyes, as she went to and fro, and she hardly knew what to say, she was so pleased with the picture .  .  .  They were as fain to see one another as if half a lifetime had intervened since their last meeting; and as they sat around their simple board that evening, heaven saw with a smile the unconscious play of unaffected tenderness that marked their little attentions to one another.  There was the essential element of all true politeness, gushing from the fountain heart in these untrained children of nature .  .  .  Meanwhile, the blue heavens, suffused with the hues of sunset, looked in at the rain-dropped lattice, filling the cottage with a quiet grandeur, which touched the hearts of those within till they unconsciously subdued their voices, as if there was something too sacred in its solemn charm to be disturbed by a too boisterous joy.  Pleasant odours came in with the evening wind, and the bundles of herbs hanging about the ceiling made the place "as sweet as Bucklersbury at simple time."

    "Ben," said Betty, as she filled up the tea-pot, "wilto ha' loaf-trade, or that'll have oon-cake?"

    "Oon-cake for me," replied Ben, clipping Billy again.  "Oon-cake for me."

    "I thought so," answered she, glancing at Ben and Billy.  "I thought so.  Eh, yo are some thick, yo two."

    "Thick!  We're as thick as a pair o' owd reawsty inkleweyvers!  Aren't we, Billy?  I say, lass, thae'd better do a bit o' bacon."

    "Sitho, mon," replied Betty, opening the oven door, and showing him a plateful of fried collops.  "I thought thae'd ha' smelled 'em afore neaw."

    "I've bin too busy wi' this little pouse to smell aught at o'.  Thae likes thi dad, doesn't thou, Billy?"

    "Yigh," lisped the little fellow, "an' my mam an' o'."

    "God bless that little face!" cried Betty, setting the teapot down, and seizing the child round the neck.  "It's worth a million, just this minute, it is!  I'll have a kussin', if I live!  .  .  .  Neaw, then, kiss thi dad, love, while I teem th' ray eawt."

    Billy cocked up his rosy neb for a kiss, and then Ben gently tickled the lad's soft chin with his beard, till it made him scream with delight.  Then setting him astride his foot again, he swung him up and down, singing, "Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross;" and Billy laughed and crowed till the tears came to his eyes.  After that, Ben had to sing Baa-lamb Black Sheep," and " Little Johnny Lingo," and


    High diddle diddle,
    The cat and the fiddle;
The cow jumped over the moon;
    The little dog laughed
    To see the fine sport,
While the dish ran after the spoon.


and "Humpty-dumpty," and "Goosey, goosey, gander," and "One, two, buckle my shoe;" and such like chicken-rhymes, whilst Betty arranged the table.

    "It's baum tay" (balm tea), said Betty.  "I'm eawt o'th tother."

    "Never mind," replied Ben.  "It's as good as ony mak (any sort).  I could ha' brought thou some gradely tay if thae'd spoken."

    "I never gav it a thought," said Betty, filling up his cup.

    "My gronmother uses no mak else," answered Ben.  An' I'd as soon have it mysel."

    "Neaw then," said Betty, pulling her chair up.  "O's ready.  Draw to.  Get some o' that bacon.  I'm sure thae'll do wi't."

    "I'm rayther sharp set, for sure, lass," replied he.  "It smells nice."

    "It is nice," answered Betty, shifting the pots to make room for his plate .  .  .  "I'll tell thou what, Ben,—we's want a bigger table in a bit."

    "Never mind," replied Ben; "'God never sends mouths but he sends meight,' as th' sayin' is."

    "Nawe," said Betty,  "He doesn't.  But sometimes th' mouths are at one place, an' th' meight at another."

    "Well," replied Ben, with a quiet sigh, "it leets so, sometimes, for sure, lass.  But let's do as weel as we con, an' try to make th' best o' what comes .  .  .  Artn'to beawn to ha' some bacon?"

    "It's rayther too rich."

    "Couldn't manage a bit o' sallet?"

    "I think I could."

    "Here," said Ben, handing Billy to his mother, "stick to this lad while I go to th' garden."

    "Come, my lad," said Betty, taking Billy upon her knee, whilst Ben went out to the garden, with his pocket-knife in his hand.

    In a minute or two Ben looked over the garden-hedge, and cried out, "Heigh! doesto yer, lass?"

    "Well."

    "Mun I bring two-three chives?"

    "Ay," shouted Betty, "if thae'll ha' some thisel."

    Ben returned with both hands full.  In one he held a lot of crisp salad, and in the other a bunch of flowers.  Betty set the lad down upon a chair, and began to wash the salad, whilst Ben arranged the posies in a pot upon the windowsill.

    "Eh, it is a bonny neet!" said he, glancing through the window as he arranged the flowers.  "These wall-fleawers are first-rate this time.  An' th' roses are i' good heart, too.  I never seed th' garden look as weel i' my life, I think .  .  .  Theer!" continued he, giving a finishing touch to the bouquet.  "Theer, lass,—that's pratty, isn't it?"

    "It is pratty!" replied she, shaking the water from the salad in her hand, as she looked at the flower-pot.  "It is pratty!  Thae knows heaw to trim a posy up, Ben."

    "Thae'rt my posy, lass," answered Ben, putting his arm round her waist, as she brushed by him with the salad in her hand.  "Thae'rt my posy!  Come, I's be like to smell."

    "Nay, do be quiet," replied she, turning her lips with a smile towards his.  "Do be quiet, an' let me set these things.  Thae'll make me slatter 'em.  Look at that lad, mon.  He wonders what thae'rt after.  Th' little thing's noan use't to seein' groon-up folk makin' fool's o' theirsels."

    When Ben had heartily saluted the rosy petals of his own sweet posy, he let her go; and rubbing his hands as he took his seat at the table again, he gave another glance at the window, and said, "Ay, it is a bonny neet, for sure,—after this storm."

    "It is," replied Betty, drawing her chair up, and taking Billy upon her knee.  "It al'ays clears up again, doesn't it?"

    "It does," answered Ben, giving her a gentle slap on theback.  "It does, an' I hope it al'ays will do!  .  .  . Come, let's get this baggin'!"

    And thus they sat, mingling their simple evening meal with pleasant chat together.

    When they had finished, Betty fed the youngest child, sang it to sleep, and took it up to bed.  Billy cried to "stop up," and, as Ben pleaded for him, his mother consented for him to stay "a bit longer."  When she began to clear away the table-things, Ben put the lad's hat on, and went to the door with him; and everything looked so sweet and still that he turned back for a chair, and planting it under the window, he sat down, and crossed his legs.

    In a few minutes he turned his head, and cried out, "Betty!"

    "Well!"

    "When thae's done, come an' sit here a bit.  Eh, it is nice, eawtside! "

    "As soon as ever I've sided up!" replied she.

    And the jingle of the tea-things, as she put them away in her corner cupboard, came with a pleasant sound into the quiet air outside.

    "Mun I bring th' 'bacco?" said she, looking through the open window, when she had cleared the table.

    "Ay, do," replied Ben, knocking the ashes from his short pipe.  "Let's have a smooke."

    "Here," said she, bringing the tobacco-pot, and a chair, "fill up, an' I'll leet it for tho."

    He charged his pipe, and when she had lit it for him at the fire, she sat down by his side, and they looked silently about them for two or three minutes, at the sweet evening scene.  Twilight was sinking upon the hills, and there was not a sound to be heard in the nook where they sat, but the tinkle of the well, the murmur of the stream behind the house, and Billy's fitful prattle, mingling now and then with the silver solo of some little bird lingering late in the garden.
                        .                        .                        .                        .                        .

    "Heaw quiet everything is," said Betty, drawing her chair nearer to Ben's.

    "Very," replied he.  I al'ays think there's summit fine abeawt th' eawl-leet.  Everything looks so nice, as if th' world wur fo'in asleep after a good day's wark.  Beside, it reminds one o'th owd cwortin'-time.  But thae forgets sich like things neaw, I reckon."

    "Eh, nay, not I.  Never shall, while I'm livin'.  But one's other things to think at, neaw, thae knows .  .  .  Hardly a brids stirrin', is there?"

    "Yigh," replied Ben, " there's one.  I yerd it cheep then.

    "What is it?" answered Betty, looking round. "I yer nought."

    "Theer it is again!" said Ben.

    "Whatever is it?"

    "It's thee, mon,—it's thee!" replied Ben, putting his arm round her.  "What, thae hasn't hauve th' ear for music that I have.  Unbutton thi ears!"

    "Neaw then," replied Betty, leaning towards him, "thae'rt beginnin' again .  .  .  But sometimes, when I'm by mysel, I get it into my yed that thae doesn't like me as weel as thae use't to do."

    "What!" replied Ben, clipping her closer, and staring into her eyes.  "Thae never does?"

    "I do, for sure," replied she, with a slight tremble in her voice.
                        .                        .                        .                        .                        .

    "Oh, Ben!" cried Betty, half starting from his warm embrace, "theaw's never towd me abeawt th' Red Lion."

    "No moor I have," he replied, clearing the ashes from his pipe again.  "But I will do."

    When Ben had charged his pipe, and lighted it again, he gave his wife a full and particular account of all that had befallen him during the day.  He told his story frank and free, and in a merry way; for, simple-hearted as he was, there was a rich vein of humour in his nature.  He told her how the dog had startled him as he crossed the yard at Healey Hall; how he was behind his time; and what reception he had met with from the old colonel.  He gave her a glowing account of the storm, and how he was making the best of his way through it, drenched to the skin, when, to his great surprise, he was almost pulled into shelter by the landlady and her daughter at the Red Lion.  Betty was delighted to hear of her old friend, for she knew full well the genuine worth and the tenderness that underlay her curious manners; and it had often grieved her heart to think that they should be so long estranged.  Ben was a rare mimic, too; and, as he imitated the old woman's quaint manner and tone of voice.  Betty laughed at the truth of the picture till the water stood glittering in her eyes; but when he told of the tender allusions the old woman had made to herself, and how earnestly she had pressed him to let her come and see her before she died, the kindliest sluices of her heart gave way, and the tears began to trickle down her cheeks.

    "Eh," said Betty, wiping her eyes, "I could dearly like to goo an' see th' owd body.  Thae knows, Ben, as quire as hoo is, hoo wur al'ays very good to me."

    "I know that, lass," replied Ben.

    "I could like to see her, for sure," continued Betty.  "What dost think if I goo while thae'rt off at Yelley Ho', to-morn?"

    "Well, do, lass," replied he, giving her a slap on the shoulder.  "Do.  We'n goo deawn together i'th mornin'.  So get thisel ready, an' th' childer, an' I con co' for yo as I come back."

    "Eh, I will, Ben, if that's a mind."

    "Well, I've towd tho!  An' thae's ride, too!  Thank God we han a jackass of our own, if we'n nought else.  Thae's ride!  An' off we'n goo,—like Darby an' Joan!  So get thisel ready,—th' childer an' o'!"

    "I'll not be so lung abeawt that, that may depend .  .  . But come, let's goo in!  It's gettin' cowd; an' this little thing's quite done o'er.  I'll put him to bed.  Let's goo in!"

    They went inside, and the door was closed for the night.  In a few minutes Betty had stripped her sleepy lad.  His little things lay strewn around; and he knelt at her knee saying his prayers, repeating each sentence after her with all the lisping prettiness of an inarticulate child.  But when she came to "Give us this day our daily bread," the little fellow paused for an instant, and, lifting his face from his hands, he said, as he looked sleepily up, "Ay, an' butter to't an' o', mother!"  And then, ending his simple orisons by scattering child-like blessings on everything that had twined around his little heart,—his dad, his mam, his brother, his uncle Joe, an' little Doe o' Billy's, an' Rover, an' Dimple,—his drowsy eyes were almost shut before his prayers were done; and when Ben had gently kissed his sleepy face again, she took him up to bed, and long before the stroke of ten had boomed from the grey tower of St. Chad's they were all sound asleep, and the moon had flooded the silent landscape with her silvery light once more.


 
CHAPTER II.


"This is a mery mornyge," said little John,
    'Be hym that dyed on tre;
 A more mery man than I am one
     Lyves not in Christiante."

ROBIN HOOD AND THE MONK.


THE storm of the previous day had swept the heavens of every baleful thing, and when morning touched the hills again with its cheerful light the heathery moors began to throb with a quickened sense of joy and beauty.  The sky seemed vaster than before, and the soft witchery that dwells in that wondrous dome of blue, o'er-canopied the scene with its beneficent smile, as if to assure this world that the commotions of Nature are governed by blending law and love,—law infallible in its justice, and love too deep for the heart of man to know.  All things in heaven and earth seemed glad.  The birds sang with renovated glee, the rivers danced and shimmered as they ran, tinged with morning's orient glow, and the nimble air like a young colt set free from its load, was full of jocund freshness.  Lapping the green earth in its blithe embrace, it seemed to steep all things in a cheerful spell, as if it was fondling a new-created world.  It seemed to whisper gladness to every lonely lichen clinging to its cleft of rock,—to the bluebell swinging its incense in the woods, and the soft mosses that cushion weather-stained walls with beauty,—to the small white rose on the bramble,—to the golden celandine, to the "crimson-tippit" daisy, and to the kindly herbage that takes the graves of the forgotten into the sweet embrace of Nature,—to the medicinal plant teeming with friendliness for man "when sickness makes him pale,"—to the lowly dock, spreading its patient leaves by marsh and pool, and murmuring river's marge,—and to the delicate meadow grasses, by the side of which old Linnæus knelt, praising the Lord for their wondrous beauty,—to all things, great and small, the blithe air seemed to whisper the story of the old kindliness that dwells in the highest heavens in silence.  And all the earth was glad .  .  . The little bud, which during the storm had shrunk affrighted to the shelter of the mother-flower, now struggled to unfold its leaves into a smile, and everything that had sweetness gushed forth its odour to the caressing air, like a chastened child rushing to its relenting mother's arms, laden with the rich aroma of a passionate responsive joy.  The gauzy inhabitants of the sunbeam, that are born with the morning's smile, and die with the fading glow of day, were beginning to flutter out their little hour of life in wild gyrations between the eye and the sky; and the joyous lark "high-poised" in sunny air, where neither bird nor gaze of man could reach him, was singing like some stray minstrel from the groves of Paradise, sent down to teach the dwellers upon earth how glad the blest can be.  Affrighted Nature had recovered calmness; and where some tears still lingered in her eyes, they were now lighted with the radiance of a new-born joy .  .  .  Such was the bright morning that dawned upon the moors after the day when Ben had taken shelter from the storm at the Red Lion, in the old village of Whitworth.

    It was within a few minutes of eight o'clock, and the strong sun was fast exhaling the moisture from the moors.  Ben had been working in his garden since five, whilst Betty cleaned up the house, and got things ready for the morning's journey, and she was so pleased with the idea of the coming trip, that, as she went about her work, she trilled out many a pretty snatch of country song, for, like Ben, she was gifted with a notable voice, and good natural taste for music.  Many a time during the course of the morning she had run outside in the fulness of her glee, to have a bit of chat with Ben, and ask him simple questions, through the garden hedge.  The door and the windows were wide open, and a few yards down the lane Dimple stood browsing by the wayside, ready graithed for his journey.  And there was a general air of preparation for something new about the little cottage.

    The lonely slope of Lobden was one wide scene of wild beauty.  Lonely it seemed, for there was no human being in sight, and the only sounds that stirred the air were such as made the solitude more evident.  Now and then the crack of a gun re-echoed among the hills.  Some indistinct sounds of life came from the distant valley, and here and there the moor cock sprang from his heathery cover, and his wild cry rang clear across the scene,—"Co-back!  Co-back!  Co-back! Keb-oweigh!"—followed by the croodling notes of the hen bird, "Cooterty-coo!  Cooterty-coo!  Coo!  Coo!  Cooterty-coo!" and then all was silent for awhile, but the ripple of the skylark's lay, the clear twitter of a few small birds, close at hand, or the wail of a plover sailing by at a little distance overhead.

    It was nearly eight o'clock, and by this time the cottage was on the shady side of the sun.  The space between the house and the garden was cool and pleasant, and the pavement of sandstone blocks, worn smooth by long footing, was even cleaner than usual after the heavy rain.  The door and the windows were wide open, and there was a kind of holiday smile upon the very walls of the little house, and upon everything about it.  The flowers in the pots upon the window-sill, inside, seemed quite contented to smile out their little remnant of life in that pleasant prison-house, whilst those which were peeping over the garden wall looked as if they were beckoning to their captive comrades to come back to the garden again, and enjoy the sweetness of the morning,—as schoolboys, who have been let loose, linger about outside, whistling to those who are kept in at late tasks.  Ben sat on the edge of the well-trough, leaning upon an old spade, and on the ground beside him lay a crushed billycock hat, which had been his close companion through storm and sunshine for many a long day.  It was sadly battered, and he only wore it about the house and in the garden, now.  Ben's countenance glowed with good humour and the flush of healthy exercise, and his large hands were baked over with the soil in which he had been working some three hours.  By his side sat a tall, square-built man, in the dress of a gamekeeper, and seemingly about thirty-five years of age.  He was a strong, hardy man, well seasoned by habitual exposure to changes of weather that would have extinguished a less massive vitality, and on his large aquiline features there was a settled leonine calm, indicative of great determination of character.  And yet, there was a quiet twinkle in his hazel eye, and something about the lines of that well-cut mouth, which bespoke a touch of the humourist.  This was "Randle o' Rough Cap's," one of the lord of the manor's moorland gamekeepers.  Ben and he were born within half a mile of each other, on the Lobden side of the hills.  They had been great cronies when lads together, and the same attachment held them still, though quite in an undemonstrative way.  Circumstances had thrown them a few miles asunder, and to Ben's simple mind his friend was a man, now, eminently successful in life; but nothing except death itself could break the bond of instinctive attraction which first united them.  They were natural friends, though they said very little about it; for, with them, there was no need for any anxiety about the matter,—no need for a constant succession of outward and visible signs to prove that the sign that twined around their hearts were not giving way.  Most of the so-called friendships in this world of "greetings where no kindness is" are but painful mockeries of that noble name,—cowardly concessions to the general mush of hypocritical complacency, trembling in the balance with every mutation of life, because they are founded more upon fleeting fancies and merely worldly interests than upon affinity of character.  Compared with these the friendship of Ben and Randal was as the light of a fixed star to the flame of a candle flickering in the veering gusts of an uncertain wind.  They were sure of one another,—whatever changes fortune might bring,—and therefore their friendship yielded a life-long quiet joy.

    Randal had been a ranger of the Wardle moors, about three miles eastward, for nearly ten years; and something of their stern solemnity and silent loneliness seemed to have suffused his nature.  He had broken his left arm about a fortnight before.  It hung in a sling from his shoulder, and having been on a visit to the famous bone-setters, at the village of Whitworth, he had come a mile or so out of his way to call upon Ben, and to have a chat with him.  They sat together upon the edge of the stone well-trough, and the keeper held a pitcher of Betty's home-brewed in his right hand.  Randal was a man of few words.  Ben was naturally the more garrulous of the two, though neither of them was much at talking.  But this unexpected meeting had thawed them both a little, and they were quite "throng," talking of old times, and telling one another the "uncuths" (bits of strange news) of their separate neighbourhoods.

    "Middlin' o' brids upo' th' moor this time, I think," said Ben.

    "Ay," replied Randal, "but they're terrible wild upo' th' wing."

    "I guess thae'll not ha' sin mich on 'em this time," continued Ben.

    "Yigh," replied Randal.  "I've bin upo' th' moor nearly every day; but, thae knows, one's nought good to wi' a brokken arm. They'n had to get Turvin Ben i' my place.  Good keeper, is Ben."

    "Han yo had ony fresh shooters upo' yon side?" said Ben.

    "Ay," replied Randal; "to mony, for my likin'.  Eawr maister's doin' to mich at it this time.  He brought welly twice as mony guns this time as there wur last oppenin' day.  There'll hardly be a fither to fire at when they'd done.  They'n clear yon clod, stump and rump, if they gwon on as they are doin'."

    "Oh, ay!  Who are they?"

    "Well, I connot tell, justly.  They coom fro' o' sides.  Strangers to me.  Some on 'em are friends o' Dearden's, fro' Gloucester road on.  One on 'em's th' best shot 'at ever trode yon greawnd, an' th' merriest little scopperil, too."

    "I guess Dick 'ud be among 'em ?"

    "What Dick?" inquired Randal.

    "Th' 'tourney," replied Ben.

    "Dick!  Oh, ay!  Say little!" answered Randal.  "Dick the Divel," I co' him.  Oh, ay, he wur theer.  Him an' this tother wur as thick as inkle-weighvers.  Eh, dear!  They wur as thrunk (throng, busy) as Throp wife together.  They wur as wild as two scoaded rattons every time they met one another.  I could make nought o' their talk; but they went through some marlocks, those two did."

    "I know Dick," replied Ben.  "We'n had him o' this side mony a time.  He's a quare un, is Dick.  Terrible nattle betimes; but noan o'th warst mak for o' that.  I think I never laughed as mich i' my time as when he're upo' Rooley Moor, one oppenin' day.  Eh, th' pranks 'at that mon did play at owd Mall's aleheawse, at th' top o'th moor!  An' th' talk!  Eh, by th' mon!"

    "Oh, say little," said Randal.  "He's a merry chap,—very.  He ails nought 'at I know on, nobbut he talks to mich off at th' side, neaw an' then; an' he's foo'-hard."

    "Th' best jumper 'at ever live't! " said Ben.

    "Good wrostler, too," continued Randal.

    "Ay, an' one o'th bowd'st riders 'at ever crossed a tit," said Ben.

    "Ay, he is," answered Randal.  "I lippen on him breighkin' his neck some o' these days."

    "He should ha' bin a sodiur," continued Ben.

    "Well," said Randal, "he'd ha' fougbten like a lion, as fur as that gwos; but he're to short-temper't for a good sodiur."

    "Well, ay,—as thae says," replied Ben.  "Come, Rondle, thae gets noan on wi' that ale."

    "It's soon on i'th day yet, mon," said Randal.  Then, raising the pitcher to his mouth, he nodded quietly at Ben, and said, "Well, come."

    "Ay, do," replied Ben, acknowledging the toast with corresponding brevity.
                          .                        .                        .                        .                        .

    "Oh, Randle," said Ben, "I wish thae could send me two or three moss-roses fro yon side.  Thae's better chances o' gettin' sichk like things nor I have."

    "What, for th' garden?" inquired Randal. Ad.

    "Well," replied Randal, with a kind of grunt, "we'n see.  Heaw arto for gooseberries?"

    "Eh," said Ben, "I ha'not a fayberry tree i'th garden.  Conto get me one or two?"

    "Say little!" answered Randle.  "I'll try to bring a twothre bits o' things th' next week, when I come to th' doctor's.  We can happen manage to fill ony bare greawnd 'at thae's getten."

    "Well, thae knows," began Ben.

    "Enough said!" replied Randal, interrupting him.  "I'll bring 'em .  .  .  Hasto ony black currant?"

    "Not one."

    "Well."

    "But, here," said Ben, rising to his feet, "thae'd better come an' have a look at th' garden."

    "Agreed on," replied Randal.

    Away they went into the garden, where they spent about a quarter of an hour in discussing the nature of the soil, and the plants that grew in it.

    "I tell tho what, Rondle," said Ben, closing the little gate, as they came back to sit upon the well-trough again, "I like this garden.  It does for one to play wi' if its nought else."

    "Well, ay," answered Randal.  "An' it cheerfuls th' nook a bit too!  I like a garden, mysel.  Thae's two or three nice things in it; but thae'rt noan o'erstock't, Ben .  .  .  Well; we mun see what we can do."
                          .                        .                        .                        .                        .

    "I'll tell tho what, Rondle," said Ben.  "There's a deal o'th owd set gwon sin thae lift this side."

    "I dar say," said Randal, quietly.

    "Eh, ay," continued Ben.  "Owd Billy Cryer,—an' Johnny Baa-Lamb,—an' Thunge,—an' Yeawler,—an' Robin o' Blotcher's,—an' Owd Israel Grindrod,—an' a greight lot moor than I can reckon up."

    "Oh, ay,I dar say!" replied Randal.  "Thae knows, Ben, it's a job 'at everybody has to do,—once apiece.  We're o', like, under sentence.  It's nobbut 'at some are code on a twothre days afore th' tother.  They're weel off 'at's ready for't, come when it will.  Heaw's Owd Grime gettin' on?"

    "What, th' schoomaister?"

    "Ay".

    "Oh, he's gwon!  Th' owd lad type't o'er abeawt a fortnit sin.  But what, he'd be close upo' ninety."

    "He'd be that, good measur," replied Randal.

    "He would," continued Ben; "an' he wore like pin-wire, up to th' last bit."

    "I dar say," answered Randall.  "An' so th' owd lad's gwon, is he?"

    "I tell tho he're laid by th' last Thursday," said Ben.  He're laid by i' Rachda' churchyard.  An' there wur aboon fifty folk followed him whoam .  .  .  Thae remembers thee an' me goon' to schoo to him, Rondle?"

    "Oh, say little!" answered Randal.  "Doesto think I've forgetten?"

    "Owd Grime wur a fine chap," said Ben.

    "He wur," replied Randal.

    "An' a good schoomaister, too," continued Ben.

    "Very," said Randal.

    "An' he're meeterly strict, too, beside," said Ben, in a dreamy tone, as if his thoughts were wandering among the grass-grown pathways of days gone by.

    "Oh, say little!" said Randal.  "I remember."

    "Eh!" continued Ben, "I can tell on him makin' me ston o' one leg upo' th' window-bottom, two hours, wi' a Testament under my arm, for sendin' my clog into Mally Potter's weshin' mug.  An' every five minutes I had to swap legs, an' sheawt out, "Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you."

    "I remember," said Randal.  "But thae rested both legs at once mony a time that afternoon, Ben.  Th' owd lad kept goin' eawt a-lookin' at his hen-cote, an' as soon as he darken't th' dur-hole, deawn went thi leg."

    "He went eawt a purpose, mon," said Ben.

    "Ay, I dar say he did," replied Randal.  "He seed thae're gettin' done up."

    "Sure he did," said Ben.  "An' doesn'to remember, one time, when he coom in, little Dody o' Rappers jumped up, an' said, 'He keeps puttin' his leg deawn!'  But th' owd lad stretched his hond eawt as he stood i'th durhole, an' he sheawted 'Silence!  Th' first 'at oppens his meawth again mun stone of his yed, wi' a fire-pote between his teeth.'  But they leet my legs alone 'at after that."

    "I like as if I con mind summat on't," said Randal.  "But thae con think on better than me, Ben."

    "Some folk reckon't he're crack't," continued Ben.

    "Well," replied Randal, "he happen wur, a bit.  Mon, he coom of a crack't mak, an' here like to keep up th' owd system, as weel as he could.  There wur summat uncuth (strange) abeawt th' whole seed, breed, an generation on 'em.  They were'n o' on 'em oather yarb doctors, or planet-rulers, or music mad, or terrible religious,—or summat eawt o'th common line,—Jacobins an' Ranters, an' sich like.  One or two on 'em were aboon crack't; they'n devilish ill brokken!  But say little.  He're a good schoomaister,an' a good chap, too, when done."

    "He're a different schoomaister to owd Blotch," said Ben.

    "Eh, dear!" replied Randal.  "Say little!  There wur nobbut a thin papper-wole between owd Blotch an' a sun-brunt foo."

    "I went to his schoo' th' first," continued Ben.  "He'd nobbut one arm."

    "He'd as mony arms as brains," said Randal.

    "Well," continued Ben, "we never larn't nought at that schoo', nobbut heaw to hommer one another.  An' every time at th' scholars oppen't their meawths o'th wrang side, th' owd chap flang a rollin' pin at their yeds.  An' he use't to send 'em eawtside a-feightin' one another, —regilar.  Eh, I did get pown at that shop!  But it wur his way o' teitchin'.  He thought 'at th' best way o' bringin' a lad on wur bi raisin' knobs at th' top of his yed wi' an' owd pickin'-peg, 'at he kept i'th corner.  An' I mun ha' bin a favourite wi' him, for he took more pains wi' me nor some on 'em.  Eh, it makes me dother (shake, tremble) neaw, when I think o' that pickin'-peg!  I may weel be a good scholar, Rondle.  Put thi hond oath top o' mi yed.  Full o' stumps,—like a new pair o' carter's shoon .  .  .  Doesto feel nought?

    "Some lumps," said Randal.

    "Lumps! " replied Ben.  "Ay, by th' mon! an' bummers too, some on 'em.  They ston, here an' theer, up an' deawn my yed like hay-cocks in a meadow, just afore heawsin'- time.  Haste fund 'em?"

    "I keep leetin' on 'em," said Randal.

    "Ceawnt 'em," continued Ben.  "I think they'n come to seven,gradely dobbers,—an' thae'll find two of a less mak, just at th' back o' my reet ear-hole.  If they wur'n o' of a level size, there'd be a good reawnt dozen on 'em, an' a bit o'er .  .  .  Hasto fund 'em?"

    "Ay," replied Randal, "I've getten 'em."

    "So have I, too.  They're owd comrades o' mine, are thoose lumps," said Ben.  "An' they'n stick by me as lung as I live, thae may depend."

    "I dar say they wi'n," replied Randal.  "An' I'll tell tho what, Ben," continued he, "this yed o' thine's as ill as an owd church dur, for knobs."

    "Ay," said Ben, "it is.  Thae didn't know o' thoose, didto?"

    "Nawe, I didn't," replied Randal.

    "Well," continued Ben, "an' neaw 'at thae's fund 'em, what doesto think on 'em?"

    "Well," answered Randal, "if thae happens to get a hat 'at's too big, they'n help to fill up, like.  But for aught big they're a mak o' things 'at I make no 'ceawnt on.  To tell else, tho truth, Ben, I'd as lief ha' their reawm as their company.  But, then, I know thae's partial to bits o' orniments."

    "Orniments!" cried Ben.  "Th' dule steawnd sich orniments!  They're noather orniment nor use! .  .  .  I'll tell tho what they are, Rondle.  They're larnin',—lapt up i' little hard parcels.  They're lessons, thoose knobs are.  O' th' lessons 'at I brought away fro' owd Blotch schoo', as haw.  Mon, th' owd lad begun o' teitchin' o'th wrang side o'th yed,—like Joe Buckley, when he punce't their Jem three times reawnd th' back-yard wi' a pair o' iron clogs, to mak him change his religion fro' th' Methodys to th' Independents.  Larnin'!  He met as weel ha' bore't a hole i' my yed' an' rommed an owd book in,—or else a lot o' shavin's!  Eh, mon!  Talk abeawt memory!  I's al'ays remember owd Blotch!  There's nought like drivin' nails into folk for makin' 'em think on."

    "They'd ne'er ha' made Blotch into a schoomaister if he'd had two arms," said Randal.

    "Schoomaister!" cried Ben.  "Didto ever see a chap wi' two wooden legs doance a three-hond reel?  Thae met as weel ha' tried to make a smoothin'-iron into a ceawnter-singer as owd Blotch into a schoomaister.  I use's to think they sent us to that schoo' to larn us heaw to be hard; an' nought else.  An' I think so yet."

    "Well, thae knows, Ben," said Randal, "a chap 'at knows nought can teitch nought."

    "Nut he," replied Ben.  "Heaw con he?"

    "Owd Grime wur worth a theawsan' o Blotch for bringin' childer on," said Randal.

    "Eh, Rondle," continued Ben, in a dreamy tone, "I like as if I con see Blotch just neaw, as he use't to goo trailin' abeawt th' fowd wi' a drop at his nose-end; an' as wambly an' slamp as a pack-sheet full o' tripe badly teed up.  Eh, what a seet!  Poor owd crayter!  When it geet toward Setterday, he wur some dirty an' tatter't.  A gradely blash-boggart!  I use's to think he slept among th' coals, or else on a shelf somewheer.  He'd no bed,—nobbut a lot o' owd seckin'.  An' when he wanted to look daycent, he use't to dip his face in a rain-tub, an' dry it wi' his jacket-sleeve.  He never use't no soap.  He're to greedy for that."

    "Howd, Ben,—howd!" said Randal.  "Thae'rt doin' to hard at th' owd lad.  Say little, mon,—say little."

    "Well, I want noan to harm th' owd lad," said Ben.  "Not I.  He'd nobbut a feaw life on't,—poor owd dog! .  .  .  Eh, but he wur a greedy chap, Rondle.  If ever he geet howd of a penny, it wur takken prisoner for life,—for it wur never sin no moor.  An, eh,—what a wild stare he had!  Doesto remember his een?"

    "Yigh," replied Randal.  "He al'ays looked, to me, as if he wur lookin' for a cat wi' three legs.  An' as fur as I con remember, he'd generally three or four buttons off, i' different places; for his bits o' clooas hanged o' in a ropy wriggle, as if they wanted to get away fro' him as soon as ever they'd a chance.  They met (might) weel co' him a wizzart."

    "Stop, stop, Rondle!" said Ben.  "Who's doin' to hard at him neaw, I wonder?

    "Well," answered Randal, "thae knows what he wur; an' as for gettin' ony sense eawt of his talk, thae met as weel ha' tried to catch a hare wi' thumpin' a drum .  .  .  But, come, let's drop it.  He'd noather feyther nor mother, nor sister nor brother, nor wife, nor chick, nor choilt, nor nought o'th world to look after him.  An' they're weel kept that God keeps.  So, let's e'en drop it."

    " I think we may safely drop it, neaw, Rondle," said Ben, "for we'n done as mich as we con at th' owd lad."
                     .                                   .                                   .                                   .

    "Neaw, then!" cried Betty, looking through the window "heaw are yo gettin' on, yo two?"

    "Oh, we're as reet as a ribbin," answered Randal.  "We're havin' a bit o' owd times,—aren't we, Ben?"

    "Yigh, we are, owd lad," replied Ben.

    "That's reet," said Betty.  "Come, Rondle, hadn't yo emptied that pot, yet?  Here, I'll bring yo another."

    "Nawe, nawe, Betty!" cried Randal.  "Not a drop moor.  I mun be gooin' o'er these tops!"

    But Betty came out of the house with another pitcherful; and, as she set it down upon the well, she said, "Yo dunnot need to be freeten't on't.  It's noan so strung; an' yo'n a stiffish walk afore yo .  .  . Ben, what a seet thae's made o' thi clooas .  .  . Neaw, Rondle, win yo have a bit moor cheese an' brade?"

    "Not a bit, Betty,—not a bit moor.  I've had theawsan's, an' thank yo."

    "Well, I'll lev yo to it, then, an' get forrad wi' my job," said Betty.  "So, mind 'at yo dunnot fo' eawt."

    "Oh, we'n manage, Betty, yo's see," replied Randal.
                     .                                   .                                   .                                   .

    "I'll tell tho what, Ben," said Randal, "this bit o'th place o' thine looks very snug."

    "Ay," replied Ben, "I like th' owd nook.  I couldn't do to live in a teawn."

    "Nawe, nor me noather," said Randal.  "I al'ays feel smoor't when I get into Rachda', between so mony breek woles.  I never feel reet till I'm upo' th' moorside again."

    "I'd rather be hanged here than live in a teawn an' wear red shoon," continued Ben.

    "I'm noather partial to th' teawn nor th' teawnsfolk, to tell tho truth," said Randal.

    "Nor me noather," replied Ben.  "They'n to mony meemaws abeawt 'em for me."

    After a pause of a minute or two, Randal turned and said, "Heaw's Billy Kettle gettin' on, Ben?"

    "What, th' tow-bar chap?"

    "Ay."

    "Oh, abeawt th' owd bat.  As greedy as ever.  He'll lend onybody a shillin' if they'd give him fourteen-pence to stick to."

    "Fond o' Brass, is Billy, I know," replied Randal.

    "Ay, but Sneck-bant, o'th Nab, sowd him, too, didn't he?"

    "I forgetten," said Randal.

    "Doesn'to remember him seechin' th' five-peawnd note in a shower o' rain one neet?" said Ben.

    "Nay, it's slips my mind."

    "Why, Rondle," said Ben, "thae met be gettin' an owd chap."

    "Heaw wur it?" inquired Randal.

    "Well, it fell eawt o' thisens, to th' best o' my knowledge," said Ben.  "Sneck-bant had bin off one November day, keaw-jobbin', i' Rossenda' Forest, an' as he wur trailin' whoam, wi his cauve-stick in his hond, abeawt one o'clock i'th mornin', a dree sheawer o' rain began o' comin' deawn, as straight as a pickin'-rod, an' i' great lumps, till it made th' road smooke like a wesh-house, just as he'd getten within forty yards o' Billy Kettle tow-bar.  He'd aboon a mile an' a hauve to goo afore he get whoam, an' if he travel't on i' that rain, he'd ha' bin soak's to th' skin in a minute; an' it wur as dark as if th' world wur made o' blackin', an' slated wi' cob coals.  But Sneck crope into a shady nook at th' hedge-side, thinkin' o' waitin' till th' sheawer bated.  But it kept at it, as dree as a lung sarmon; as if it'd a lot o' lost time to fotch up.  'By th' mon,' said he, as he turn's his collar up, an' cruttle't into th' nook, like a freetn't hedgehog, 'it's comin' dawn, full bat!  They mun be flingin' their suds eawt aboon yon!  It's just hauve an hour to soon for me.  I could ha' bin heawse't by then.  Eh, how dark it is!  I wish I could borrow a whitewesh-brush for a lantron!'  Then he hutch't fur into th' nook, an' began o' unbethinkin' hissel, as th' rain coom splashin' deawn i' gill drops; an' he wur just beginnin' o' considerin' that he met (might) as weel dart forrad an' tak what coom as ston shiverin' theer, when his een let (alighted) upo' th' tow-bar.  'Eh, by Guy!' said Sneck, 'that's Billy Kettle's!  Little pousey monkey!  .  .  .  I wonder if he's an umbrell' i'th hawse? .  .  .  But it's no use .  .  .  If he'd a theawsan' he wouldn't lend one to his own feyther,nawe, not to save life.  He wouldn't lend a dog to catch a ratton wi' .  .  . There's nought to be getten eawt of a chap 'at runs after th' smooke of his porritch to warm his honds at it, afore it gets cowd an' clips th' yure off folk's cats to stuff cushins wi' .  .  .  They're gwon to bed seeminly, for o's dark .  .  .  I could like to roose th' little waistrel, if it's for nought but mischief.  If I could mak a din like a waggin (wagon) neaw, he'd come.  But I connot shap that.'  Then he began o' thinkin' it o'er, and in a minute he clapt his honds, an' cried 'Howd!  I have it!  Here goes!' an' he went up to th' dur, an' began o' thungin' an' skrikin' like mad.  An' it did seawnd some wild i' that nook, at th' deeod time o'th neet.  'Hello!  Billy!  Be sharp!  Murder!' cried he.  'Murder!'  Th' fire wur rake't, an' there wur some bits o' supper things upo' th' table.  Billy an' th' wife wur seawnd asleep; for it wur seldom aught coom through th' bar at that time o'th neet, bein' an eawtside place; but th' first time he skrike't eawt, they both jumpt up at once, an' as Billy sat on his hinder-end, starin' at th' dur, wi' his yure bristlin' up like a frozen yard-brush, he mutter't to hissel, 'What the hectum's agate, neaw?'  'Mur-der!' cried Sneck, puncin' at th' dur again.  'Be sharp!'  'Eh, do get up!' said th' wife.  'There's somebry kilt, I'm sure.  Heaw lung arto beawn to sit starin' theer like a foo; an' th' din agate at th' dur?'  'Mur-der!' cried Sneck again.  'Murder!'  'Comin',' cried Billy, beawncin' out o' bed; wi' th' wife after him.   Th' first thing Billy did, he popped his fuut into some mak of a thing, an' swish it went amung th' clooas upo' th' floor.  Then, th' wife an' him jowed their yeds together, as they wur bendin' deawn to reitch their stockin's up.  An' they swore at one another like two horse-swappers.  Then Mally trode upo' th' cat, an' away it shot on to th' top o'th drawers, eawt o'th gate o'th row.  An' thus they went jowtin' abeawt i'th dark, first again one thing, then again another, for they wur flayed eawt o' their wits.  Sneck wur hearkenin' at th' lock-hole; an' as Billy flounder't up an' deawn i'th inside, like a bloint bull in a wasp-neest――"

    "Stop, Ben!" said Randal.  "Not a bull in a wasp-neest.  It would'nt howd it, mon."

    "Well, never mind it, just neaw," replied Ben.  "Let me get forrad .  .  . Well," continued Ben, "th' next thing 'at happen't wur this.  As they went powlerin' abeawt i'th dark, like two rattons in a pepper-box――'

    "Theer thae art again," said Randal.  "Who ever yerd o' rattons in a pepper-box?"

    "Bother noan!" cried Ben.  "Thae con talk abeawt it at after.  Let me get done wi' my tale, for God's sake!"

    "Well, on witho, then," said Randal, "an' blunder at it thi own road."

    "Well," said Ben, taking up the story again, "as Billy an' th' wife wur powlerin' abeawt o'th dark, Mally dabbed her hond slap into th' traycle-pot.  'Theighur!' said Mally, howdin' her hond eawt, to keep it off her clooas, 'that's a marlock, as heaw!'  'What hasto agate neaw?' said Billy, bobbin' his face again her hond i'th dark.  'Hello!  What the dule hasto getten upo' thi hond?'  'It's traycle,' said Mally.  'Traycle!  Thae―― foo!  What arto walkin' up an' deawn i'th dark, wi' a hondful o' traycle for?  Thae's bunged mi een up.  The dule steawnd thee, an' thi traycle, too.  I want noan o' my face sweetenin', if thae does.'  'An' th' dule steawnd thee for a foo',' said Mally.  'I wish thaed strike a leet, so as one could see what they're doin'.'  An' at it they went again, co'in one another to ill to brun.  'Murder!' cried Sneck again at th' eawtside, roggin' at th' dur, an' scufflin' his feet.  'Murder!'  That set Billy an' th' wife agate o' scutterin' up an' deawn again; an' th' first go-to Billy ran his yed again th' bed post, an' he code it as if it had bin some'at 'at should ha' getten out of his road.  Then, as he wur drawin' his breeches on, th' wife happen't to be bendin' deawn o'th other side, an' hoo jowed again him beheend, an' away Billy flew o'er a cheer, an' he let wi' his yed amung th' cinders under th' firegrate.  It freeten't Mally so 'at hoo ran to him, i'th dark, wi' a candlestick in her bond.  'Whatever arto doin', lad?' said Mally; an' as hoo bent deawn to help him up, bang went th' candlestick into his face.  'Theighur!' said Mally.  'Oh, by ――!' cried Billy, 'thae's made my een strike fire!  I'd rather ha' traycle nor that.  What the dule is it?' 'It's a candlestick,' said Mally.  'Candlestick!' cried Billy.  'I thought it wur hardware, this time.  Get a poker, an' kill me at once.'  Sneck-bant yerd every word through th' lock-hole; an' just as Billy had getten to his feet, an' wur beginnin' to wipe th' cinders an' traycle eawt of his een with his shirt sleeve, he ga' that dur another punce, an' he sheawted, 'Are yo noan for comin'?  If I'd bin a cart yo'd ha' bin here lung sin!  Murder!'  'Ston fur,' cried Billy, pushin' th' wife o' one side.  'Ston fur, an' let's oppen that dur!  Hond me that poker; an' keep thee back!'  Th' rain wur comin' deawn as hard as ever, but Sneck-bant were weel-sheltered i'th dur-hole.  'Hond me that poker!' cried Billy.  They'd getten a leet by this time, an' theer Billy stoode, wi' th' poker i' one hond an' th' bowt o'th dur o'th tother.  His breeches wur nobbut slung bi one gallace; tother hanged down beheend, like a razzor-strap in a barber's shop; an' a bonny seet he wur!  Th' candlestick had gin him a black e'e; an' his face wur daub't wi' a mixture o' cinder-dust an' traycle, like a wild Indian, or summat.  'Ston fur,' cried Billy to th' wife.  Then grippin' th' poker tight in his reet hond, he shot th' bowt wi' his left, an flang th' dur wide oppen.  Th' owd lad had gather't hissel together, like a greyheawnt wi' a hare i'th seet, ready to dart at 'em.  He'd ha' bin eawt into th' road in a snift, but――theer stoode Sneck-bant i'th dur-hole, as quiet as a dreawnt meawse, wi' th' rain drippin' off his hat brewits.  Billy stare't as if he're lookin' at summat 'at had come'd fro another world; but he said nought, for he'd hardly come'd to hissel.  'Neaw, Billy,' said Sneck-bant, switchin' th' rain off his hat, 'heaw arto gettin' on?'  Billy stare't, an' he rested the end o'th poker upo' th' floor; an' as soon as he'd come'd-to a bit he said, 'Oh, just middlin'!  .  .  . Wur it thee 'at knock't?' .  .  . 'Ay, it wur,' said Sneck-bant.  'Conto lend me a umbrell' an' a lantron?'  'What's up?' said Billy.  I thought there wur somebry kilt.'  'Nay,' said Sneck, I want tho to help me to look for a five-peawnd note, between here and eawr heawse.  We'n divide it between us.  It'll be two peawnd ten apiece, thae knows.'  He just geet that out i' time, for Billy wur very near brastin' off, but as soon as th' money wur mention't he pricked his ears in a minute .  .  .  Th' wife stoode wi' th' candle in her hond, hearkenin'; an' hoo cried eawt, 'Well, I never yerd sich a tale i' my life!  Come thi ways to bed, an' let him seech his five-peawnd notes hissel,—if he con find ony.  What does he come makin' his hullabaloos at folk's durs at this time o'th neet for?  He's ha' no umbrells at this heawse,—nor lantrons noather!  I know what he'd have if I'd some whot wayter!  Who is he?'  'Howd thin din, bowster-yed,' whispered Billy, 'it's Sneck-bant, mon!'  'Well, let him get his wife to help him to look for his five-peawnd notes!' cried Mally.  'Thee keep thi tung between thi teeth!' whisper't Billy to his wife.  'Doesn'to yer what he says, thae gosterin' foo'?  He says we're to divide th' brass between us!  If I can mak two peawnd ten wi' walkin' between here an' their heawse, thae's nought again it, hasto, guinea-pig?  It'll tak thee a greight while to gether fifty shillin' i' tow-brass, at th' rate we're gooin' at,—a keaw i'th forenoon, a wheelbarrow i'th afternoon, an' happen a jackass at th' edge o' dark; an' then two or three carts of a Setterday mornin', when we're at th' busiest.  That'll do nought for a livin', will it, berm yed?  Here, hond me that lantron.  Let's try to mak a penny while one's a chance.  Thae connot find two peawnd ten i' every gutter, conto, goslin'-chops?'  'Nawe, nor thee noather, I think,' said Mally, hondin' him th' lantron.  'I never seed no gutters o' that mak i' this country.  If thae con leet of ony, off witho,—for thae'rt a foo',—dee when thou will!'  'Here, here,' said Sneck-bant, 'lend me th' lantron an' th' umbrell', an' I'll look for it mysel, as hoo's so rivven.  Thee stop wheer thae art, Billy,—I con manage.'  ' Nay, nay,' cried Billy, 'thae's noan beawn to run off thi bargain becose o' this fuzzock makin' her din, arto?  Nay, I'll go witho, owd lad.  I'm noan fleyed of a saup o' rain, if it's to obleege a neighbour!  Come on, an' let her cample to hersel till hoo's weary,—th' owd foo!  Hoo's al'ays studden i' my leet, when I'd aught agate 'at had ony sense in it .  .  .  Neaw then!' said he, sheawtin' to th' wife, 'put this dur to!  An' tak care o'th tow-bar while I'm off makin' a bit o' summit.  Doesto yer?'  'Get eawr o' my seet,' said Mally; 'for thae hasn't th' wit of a seawkin' foomart!'  An' hoo banged th' dur to.  'Come on,' said Billy.  'Let's get a bit fur off!'  'Ay, come on,' said Sneck-bant.'  'Here, Billy, tak howd o'th lantron.  I'll carry th' umbrell'.  I'm strunger i'th wrist than thee!'  Billy took howd o'th lantron, as innocent as a flea; an' every time he seed aught upo' th' road that looked white, he ran to see if it wur a five-peawnd note.  'Come on, come on!' cried Sneck-bant.  'It's nar eawr heawse!'  When they had getten abeawt thirty yards off, Mally oppened th' dur again, an' hoo sheawted after 'em,—'Heigh, Billy!  Doesto yer?'  Billy twirl't reawnd, as nattle as a wasp, an' he cried eawt, 'Well, what doesto want, neaw?'  'Han yo fund it?' said Mally.  'Nawe,— not yet,' said Billy.  'Well,' cried Mally, 'wilto buy me a dress eawt oath brass?'  Billy stepped back into th' rain, an', stretchin' eawt his arm, he sheawted, 'Ay, I will, owd lass,—a good un!  Thae's go to Racbda' o' Setterday mornin,' an' pike it eawt for thisel; an' thae doesn't need to be to a shillin' or two, if th' pattern fits, Bumbazeen, or aught thae's a mind.  Summit wi' brids on!  An' thae met as weel bring a bit o' brisket at th' same time, for th' dinner o' Sunday!  I think it'll afford it, for once, will this bit o'th wind-fo!'  'Well, off witho then,' said Mally, 'an' be sharp back; for thae'rt a foo,—if ever there wur one.'  Hoo said th' last words to hersel, as hoo put th' dur to.  But away they went up th' road.  It wur rainin' harder nor ever.  Sneck-bant kept fast howd o'th umbrell,' an' strode straight forrad; but Billy kept runnin' into th' rain, an' lookin' up an' deawn for this five-peawnd note, an' in abeawt three minutes he're as weel soaked as if he'd bin asleep in a duck-poand.  'Come under th' umbrell',' said Sneck.  Thi clooas'll be gettin' damp.'  'Damp!' cried Billy.  'I'm weet to th' skin! ' 'Well, come on,—it's no use lookin' for th' note till we getten nar Mawr heawse,' said Sneck-bant.  'Thae should ha' towd me that afore,' said Billy, feelin' at his jacket.  'A haven't a dry threed on me, neaw .  .  .  But, never mind.  Th' less road there is to look o'er, an' th' moor chance there is o' findin' it .  .  .  Eh, heaw it does come deawn, doesn't it?'  'Yigh, it does, owd lad,' said Sneck-bant, stridin' on, wi' Billy trottin' at his side, like a dish-cleawt runnin' a race wi' a dromedary.

    "A what?" cried Randal.

    "Never mind it," replied Ben.  "I've nearly done.  Well," continued Ben, "as I wur tellin' tho, on went Sneck-bant, wi' Billy stickin' to his jacket lap,—for, thae knows, Sneck-bant stood aboon six feet, an' Billy'd be happen five feet an' a penny-moufln', an' nearly as broad as lung.  'I'll tell tho what, Billy,' said Sneck, 'if I wur thee, I wouldn't goo an' wear so mich o' this bit o' brass upo' yon wife o' thine.  Thae knows, women's clooas are a heightin' (eating, devouring) thing; an' when they once getten agate, there's no stoppin' 'em.  Beside, what is two peawnd ten?  It's nought, mon!'  'Not it,' said Billy; 'it's nobbut abeawt fifty shillin' or so.'  'No moor it is,' said he.  'Beside, thae sees, Billy, thae'rt gettin' into years, an' it's time to begin o' layin' summit by for a rainy day.  There's nought like a bit o' brass i'th bank, mon.  It'll be makin' summat when thae'rt asleep.  It's like th' owd chap's horse that geet fat wi' heightin' (eating) i'th neet time.  If I wur thee, I wouldn't wear so mich o' new dresses.  If thae's ony wit thae'll lay abeawt forty shillin' o' this brass by,—for a neest-egg!'  'Howd off!' said Billy.  Eawr Mally'll not get as mich eawt o' this brass as hoo thinks on.  I've bin reckonin' up as we coom on; an' I'll drive a nail through this two peawn ten afore to-morn at noon.  Hoo needs no new dresses, 'at I know on.  Yon 'at hoo has 'll do weel enough, if hoo'll get it turnout.'  'That's reet, owd lad,' said Sneck-bant, slappin' him on the shoulder.  'Thae talks to some sense, neaw' .  .  . 'Neaw, then, Jone,' said Billy, wipin' his face wi' his weet sleeve, 'heaw soon mun we begin o' lookin' for this note?  'Oh, abeawt a hundred yards fur on,' said Sneck bant.  'That's abeawt th' place, as near as I con tell .  .  . Keep under th' umbrell' Billy.  Thae'll be dreawn't.'  Well, when they had getten within abeawt fifty yards o'th heawse, Sneck-bant said, 'Neaw, Billy, it's abeawt here wheer I missed it.  An',—if it's onywheer,—it mun be between here an' whoam, for it's noan i'th heawse, an' it's noan i' my pockets.  I've looked 'em o'er, 'an' there isn't a note to be fund i' my rags.'  'Well, then, it's like to be here,' said Billy, bendin' deawn wi' th' lantron.  'Sure it is,' said Sneck-bant, stridin' on, wi' th' umbrell' o'er him.  'Haw lung is it sin thae left whoam?' said Billy.  'Oh, happen three heawrs sin.'  'Come, that'll do,' said Billy.  There's bin nobry upo' th' road.  An' if there had bin, they couldn't ha' fund it i'th dark .  .  .  Let's see,' said he, stretchin' his arm eawt, 'thae's walk somwheer abeawt i' this line.'  'Ay, that's abeawt it,' onswer't Sneck-bant.  'Well, then,' said Billy, hondin' th' lantron deawn, 'let's begin here!'  An' they both began o' lookin' o'er.  Billy took no notice o'th umbrell'; but went to an' fro i'th rain, wi' th' lantron in his bond an' his nose deawn, like a huntin' dog, seechin' a lost scent.  But Sneck-bant crept nar to his own heawse at every stride.  'I see nought on it,' said Sneck-bant.  'Does thou, Billy?'  'Not yet,' said Billy, shakin' th' wayter off his hat.  'Howd! .  .  . Oh, it's a bit o' 'bacco papper .  .  .  Look, heaw th' wayter's runnin'!  It'll happen ha' weshed deawn th' gutter.'  'I'll tell tho what, Billy,' said Sneck-bant, when he geet up to his own dur.  'Well,' said Billy, turnin' his weet face up.  'I'm just thinkin' it would be th' best to look for it th' first thing i'th mornin', as soon as it comes leet.'  'It happen would,' said Billy, wipin' th' wayter off his face.  'Well, then,' said he, hondin' Billy th' umbrell' as he oppen't th' dur, thee get up an' look for it i'th mornin,' afore there's aught stirrin'.  Thae'll be sure to find it.  They'n gi' tho change deawn at th' Hare an' Heawnds aleheawse yon; an' thae con bring my share in ony time between morn an' th' edge o' dark.  Good neet to tho, owd lad!  I's be like to shut th' dur,—I'm freetn't o' catchin' cowd.  Good neet!'  'Good neet!' said Billy, givin' his face another wipe.  'Good neet!  I'll see to't.'  Then bang went th' dur, an' Billy wur left stonin' by hissel i'th teemin' rain.  He set th' leet deawn upo' th' floor, an' as he stoode thinkin' a minute or two, he groped at his weet clooas; then he looked at th' umbrell', an' then he looked at th' lantron, an' then he began o' lookin' a bit o'th road o'er again, mutterin' to hissel, 'I wish I could find it.  I think I's desarve an extra five shillin' for gettin' up i'th mornin'.  He looks very carless abeawt it .  .  .  Let's see, I promised my wife a dress eawt o'th brass' .  .  .  Then he went quietly on, thinkin' to hissel.  Summat new seemed to be agate in his yed.  But he said nought till he'd getten abeawt th' hauve gate whoam, when he stopt short i'th middle o'th road, an' flingin' his weet hat deawn into th' slutch, he punce't it afore him, an' cried eawt, 'Sowd again!  I've a good mind to go back an' fling a stone through th' chamber window!'  But he thought better on't, an' went forrad whoam, quite terrified at th' thought's o' facin' th' wife.  When he geet near th' dur, he said, 'Neaw for't!  That dress!  I's never yer th' end o' this!  But I'm like to face up.'  'Well,' said Mally, as hoo oppen't th' dur, 'thae's getten back, I see.'  'Ay,' said Billy, as he set th' lantron deawn upo' th' table,  'I've getten back.'  'Well,—an' han yo fund it?'  'Fund what?' said Billy.  'Th' brass.'  'What brass?'  'Th' five-peawnd note.'  'Han we h―――!' said Billy, puncin' th' table-leg.  'I towd tho, didn't I?' said Mally.  'What didto tell me?'  'I towd tho thae wur a foo, didn't I?'  'I think I remember tho mentionin' summat abeawt that,' said Billy; 'but thae'd happen better tell me again, once or twice,—it'll help me to think on.'  'Poo thoose weet clooas off,' said Mally, 'an' soon, too.'  'Doesto know what I've bin doin' while thae's bin off?' said Mlly.  'Nawe.'  'Well,' said Mally, 'I made th' fire up, th' first thing, becose I thought thae'd happen be a bit damp abeawt th' shoolders when thae geet back,—as it looked likely for rain.'  'Well, I am a bit damp, as thae says, abeawt th' shoolders.  But, here, tak howd o' that,' said Billy, hondin' her his jacket, wringin'-weet.  'Take howd o' that, an' thae'll see. I'll gi' tho these tother in a minute.  They're o' alike,—a bit damp,as thae says.'  'They dun feel so, for sure,' said Mally.  'Whey, thae'd ha' bin weet through if thae'd stopped eawt an heawr or two longer.'  'I dar say I should,' said Billy, wringin' his stockin' into a weshin'-mug.  'Well, an' what doesto think I did at after I'd made th' fire up?' said Mally.  'Nay,' said Billy, as he twisted another gill eawt of his stockin', 'I know not.  Thae jowed thi yed, happen.'  'Nay,' said Mally, 'there's bin enough o' that mak to-neet, I think.  But, I'll tell tho what I did.'  'Well!'  'I look's up some patterns for this new dress!'  'Oh, didto?' said Billy, tuggin' at his tother stockin'.  'Ay, I did,' said Mally.  'Then thae wur for bein' ready again this two peawnd ten o' mine coom,' said Billy, wipin' his weet legs.  'I thought it would happen save time, thae knows,' said Mally.  But I guess I may as weel put these patterns by again, neaw?'  'Oh, brun 'em,—brun 'em!' cried Billy.  'Thae'll never ha' no moor new dresses as lung as thae lives,—not o' my buyin', as heaw.'  'Well, we'n seen,' said Mally.  'But wesh that traycle an' stuff off thi face, an' get to bed,we con talk abeawt that i'th mornin'.'  'I dar say,' said Billy; 'but I'd rather thae'd finish to-neet.'  'I've done o' 'at I shall, neaw,' said Mally.  'That'll do,' said Billy.  An' he turn't hissel o'er, an' drops asleep.  An' when Mally had hung th' clooas to th' fire, hoo crope in at th' back o'th owd lad, an' in a twothre minutes o' wur satt'lt,—there wur nought stirrin' i'th heawse but th' clock, an' two or three crickets .  .  .  An' neaw," said Ben, "my tale's ended."

    "I've yerd summat on't afore," replied Randal; "but I think thae's put a good deal to't, Ben."

    "Not so mich," said Ben.

    "Well, somebry has," answered Randal.
                      .                           .                           .                           .                           .

    In the pause which followed the story, Betty's voice was heard, singing, to a fine old tune, the words of the psalm,—


The Lord's my shepherd,—I'll not want;
    He doth my needs supply,
An' leadeth me through pastures green,
    The quiet waters by.


    "Yor Betty's i' rare tune this mornin'," said Randal.

    "Ay, middlin'," replied Ben.

    "Thae let on weel, theer, Ben," continued Randal.

    "I did," replied Ben.  "Hoo's o' reet, is eawr Betty.  Wheer there's one as good, there's a theawsan' noan fit to howd a candle to her.  Besides, hoo's my own, thae knows.  An' to tell truth, I don't know what I could do witheawt her, neaw."

    "A better lass never broke brade," said Randal.  "Hoo comes of a good breed."

    "Hoo does," said Ben; "an' hoo's th' best o'th lot.  Oh, ay, hoo'lt do for me nicely, will eawr Betty."

    "Yer tho, heaw hoo pipes up," said Randal.  "Well done, Betty!"

    "Husht!" said Ben.  "If hoo thinks we're hearkenin', hoo'll drop it."
                             .                               .                               .                               .

    "I say, Rondal," said Ben, "doesto remember us singin' 'Th' Ringers' Glee' at owd Joss Brello's farm-heawse, at th' Siss Hill?"

    "Oh, ay," replied Randal, "I've had mony a good do at th' owd lad's.  They wur of a singin' breed, o' both sides."

    "Let's try an odd verse," said Ben.

    "It wants four parts, mon," said Randal.

    "Never mind," continued Ben.  "Let's try it wi' two.  Thee tak th' bass; I'll try treble.  Brast off."


We're country clod-hoppers, as you may well know;
We're ringers, an' singers, an' fiddlers also;
At weddin's an' wakes we'n a merry peal, then,—
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.


    "O'er again," cried Ben.  "Pipe up!"


One, two, three, &c.


    Betty had joined them in the refrain and when it was ended, she came to the door, and said, "Come, yo'n done that very fair."

    "Just middlin', Betty," replied Randal.  Then, rising from his seat, he said, "Well, neaw, I mun he goin', Ben.  I'm fain to find yo o' reet an' straight.  So good day! .  .  . Betty, good day to yo!"

    "Good day to yo!" answered Betty.

    "Well, Rondal," said Ben, following the keeper a little up the road, "thae'll be sure to co' when tho comes this gate on again, an' let's have another look at tho?"

    "Oh, ay," replied Randal, "I'll co', thae may depend.  We'n tup an' lamb together, as lung as it lasts, Ben.  An' so, good day to tho once more, owd lad!"




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