Tufts of Heather, Vol. II (1)

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SNOWED-UP.
――――♦――――


CHAPTER I.


Its cheerful light gleamed from afar,
Upon the lonely hill.

THE MOORLAND INN.


IT was drawing towards the close of a keen day in the depth of winter.  The season had been unusually severe, ushered in by long frost and bitter winds, with fitful falls of snow, which now lay in deep drifts by the roadsides, and in lonely creases of the moors.  There they had lain for weeks, in great heaps of powdery crystal, glittering in the wintry sun, and lessening day by day under the action of the driving blast.  But a change was coming over the wintry scene.  A moister air had begun to soften the frozen ground; and, as daylight declined upon the bleak range of hills that divides Lancashire from Yorkshire, a steady wind set in from the north-west, and the sky became overcast; indeed, there was every indication that a wild storm was at hand, and the moorland cottager shivered as he closed his door upon the rising gale.


God help the poor, who in lone valleys dwell,
Or by far hills, where whin and heather grow
Theirs is a story sad indeed to tell.
.     .     .     .     Cold snow drifts deep
Around the fireless cot, and blocks the door;
The night storm howls a dirge o'er moss and moor.

                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "Giles o' Quifter's," the bullet-headed hostler at the old moorland inn, called "The White House," near the top of Blackstone Edge, was whistling and singing by fits, as he swept the yard of the hostelry, glancing now and then at the kitchen window, and longing for the landlady to call him in to his "baggin'," which is the name country-folk in Lancashire give to their afternoon meal, or the meal which comes between dinner and supper-time.  Giles was a strong, round-limbed, "keen-bitten" lad, of the old Saxon breed, — deep-blooming, blunt, and true, — a rare trencher-man; and a hearty fellow both at work and at meat; indeed, he was steadfast and thorough at anything he took in hand.  Giles o' Quifter's was well worth his meat.  And there was no fear of his being stinted at that house, where the old landlady's cry to her servants at meal-time was, "Now, get summat into yo; for there's nobody can do as they should do, if they don't heyt (eat) as they should do!"  He was an especial favourite with the landlady, too; although he was, sometimes, unmanageable by anybody else.  And Giles was as fond of her as if she had been his own mother.  "God bless yon owd crayter," he would say, sometimes, "I'd goo o' mi honds an' knees to th' edge o' th' world for her.  Hoo knows th' temper of my inside to a yure (hair)!  Hoo gi's mi th' run o'th' buttery, neet an' day!  God bless her owd soul!  Never a better hearted woman trode shoe-leather than hoo is, — never! . . . .I wish yon baggin' were ready," continued he, giving another glance at the kitchen window, as he swept the yard.  And then he began to sing to the stroke of his besom:—


Lithe an' strung, an' fresh an' yung;
    Two blue twinklin' een;
Staunch as steel, I like him weel,
    Th' pride o' Ripley Green.
Brave "Heather Cap," huzza,
    The prize he has won,
And he's carried it away!


    Giles swept and sang; and still no signal was given at the glowing kitchen window of the White House.  But he knew right well that the evening meal was preparing, for a faint hissing sound issued from that quarter of the house, which made his teeth shoot water; and the jingle of the tea-things was music in his ears. . . . The rising wind was beginning to roar around the walls of the old house, as if enraged at the resistance they opposed to the fury of the storm.  Day was darkening down upon the moors; and the dense clouds, now fast over-spreading the sky, deepened the evening gloom.  The sudden change began to attract the attention of Giles; and, as he leaned upon the handle of his broom, and gazed aloft, he muttered to himself, "We're beawn to have a wild neet!  There'll be a heavy deawn-fo', o' some mak, — an' soon, too!"  As he stood thus, gazing, now at the sky, where the clouds were gathering, like armies moving to battle, now at the darkening moor, across which the keen wind was rushing with fierce and unrestrained sweep, he heard the tramp of a traveller's feet, descending the road.  Giles fixed his eyes on the house-end, by which the road passes, and in a minute or so, a sturdy fellow, in the dress of a quarryman, made his appearance.  He was trudging steadily on, down the middle of the highway, staff in hand, with his eyes fixed upon the ground, when Giles shouted to him.

    "Neaw, then, Sam," cried he; "wheerto for?"

    "Hello, Giles, owd lad," replied the quarryman; "is that thee?"

    "It's o' that there is laft on mo," said Giles.  But wheerto for?  Thae'rt in a terrible peighl (hurry)."

    "I'm for yon bit o'th pleck (place) at th' bottom o'th broo"; meaning the village of Littleborough, at the foot of the hill, three miles off.

    "Arto noan for co'in' (calling), then?" said Giles.

    "Nay," replied the quarryman; "I want to get deawn th' hill afore this storm comes on.  It's beawn to be a rough neet, bith' look on't."

    "It favours it (looks like it), for sure," answered Giles.

    "Well, I think I'll be gettin' on," said the quarryman "afore dark o'ertaks me."

    "Stop a minute, mon!" cried Giles.  "What, there's nobody at th' deawn-lyin', is there?"

    "Nawe, by th' mon!" replied the quarryman; "We'n had enough o' that mak (sort) o' wark at eawr heawse."

    "Well,—tak thi woint (take thy wind) hauve a minute!  Heaw are they gettin' on i' Turvin, yon?"

    Giles alluded to the wild slough of Turvin, — one of the most picturesque ravines in that mountain range.

    "Oh, th' owd bat!" replied the quarryman; "th' owd bat!  Delph Robin broke his leg in a battle at Todmorden (Todmorden) tother day, and Iron Jack's bin taen up for neet-huntin' again."

    "Ay, by th' mon," said Giles; "that's abeawt th' owd bat, — as thae says.  Yo don't awter (alter) mich deawn i' Turvin, I think."

    "If they done awter," continued the quarryman, "it's for th' wur (worse)."

    "Bith' mass," said Giles, "I think so."

    "Well," said the quarryman, setting his staff firmly in the road, and crossing his legs, "Well; an' when does this wrostlin'-match o' thine come off, Giles?"

    "Next Thursday," replied Giles.

    "Well, an' what mak (make, sort) o' fettle arto in, thinksto?" said the quarryman.

    "Oh; as reet as a ribbin," answered Giles.

    "Thae mun mind what thae'rt doin'," continued the quarryman; "he's a strung fellow, is Jone."

    "Oh, I know him!" replied Giles; "I know him weel enough!  I've had a twirl or two? him afore; but he's like as if he's noan sattle't in his mind abeawt it.  If ever I leet on him when he's had a gill or two, he's sure to begin, a hectorin' a bit.  Thae knows, he's rayther, of a maisterful turn; an' it gwos (goes) terrible again th' grain for him to lose.  So, I'se be like to give him another chance.  Oh, — I'm noan fleyed on him, Sam, — not I.  But if he happens to get thrut (thrown) again this time, it'll make him war (worse) nor ever.  He will slatter some cample off at th' edge o' that under lip of his.  He's bad to bide, sometimes, thae knows. . . . I shouldn't wonder but I's ha' to try to tan' his hide a bit, i'th end of o'."

    "Conto bant him, thinksto?" said the quarryman.

    "Bant him!" replied Giles; "I tell tho, I'm noan fleyed on him, Sam.  I don't want to swagger nought abeawt it; but I've tried th' best they han o'th Ripponden side, — aboon once; an' he's noan o'th best, I can tell tho, ― he isn't that, bi a lung chalk.  I've tried 'em o' reawnd, I tell tho, an' I dar tackle 'em again, one after another, — fro end to end, — come cut an' lung tail! "

    "Thae'll ha' no quietness o' thi life till thae's gan it him seawndly," said the quarryman.

    "I deawt it'll end so," replied Giles, "but we's see in a bit."

    Just then the kitchen door opened, and the landlady cried out,—

    "Giles, come to thi baggin'!"

    "That's th' mak," said Giles, giving a twirl round upon one heel and flinging his besot into the corner, "that's th' mak; I've bin waitin' o' that a good while.  Come in a minute, Sam!


Bowd an' bonny;
    Frank an' free;
If I've ony, —
    Bill for me!

                           .                           .                           .                           .

Came thi ways in, Sam," continued he; "come thi ways in, an' quiff an odd tot off, afore thae gwos deawn th' broo.  Thae'rt noan i' that hurry."

    The sky was now completely saddened with the gathering storm; and, through the deepening gloom, the snow was beginning to descend in thin wavering flakes, as Giles entered the house, followed by the quarryman, who muttered, as he closed the door behind him,—"I munnot stop here mony minutes.  It'll be a wild neet, this neet; an' it's a rough road deawn th' hill side i'th dark."

    "Come, Giles," said the landlady, "sit tho deawn, an' let's get this baggin' o'er."

    "I'm willin'," replied Giles, taking his seat at the table.

    "I think thae'rt generally ready for thi meals, owd lad," said the quarryman, addressing Giles.

    "Aye," said the landlady; "he's ready for 'em afore they're ready for him, sometimes."

    "I go nought short," said Giles.

    "Well, yo don't need to goo short i' this heawse," replied the landlady.

    "O' reet," said Giles.
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    The house was unusually still.  The last coach had long since gone down the hill into Lancashire.  The bustle of horses, and thirsty travellers, had sunk into silence; and the notes of the guard's retiring bugle had died out upon the wild moor-side.  The shades of evening had folded away from view the towns and villages, which dotted the wild landscape, spreading far away from the foot of Blackstone Edge; and the light of "The White House" windows shone upon the dark mountain-top, — like a solitary star peeping through the curtains of a cloudy night.

    The old hostelry, called the "White House," near the top of Blackstone Edge, has long been a famous place.  Its storm-beaten sign still exhibits some faint pictorial relics of a coach and horses, — which was the original name given to the house; but it is far more widely known as "Th' White House a-top o'th Edge."  The latter name arises, no doubt, from the fact that its whitewashed walls are visible from eight or ten miles' distance, in the valley of the Roach, on the Lancashire side of the hills.  It stands close by the side of the highway which leads over that mountain ridge into the West Riding of Yorkshire; and it is the last house upon the Lancashire side of the hills, the boundary stone of the two counties standing about five hundred yards beyond the house, close by the road.

    Upon the bleak moor-side, about half a mile west of the inn, the well-defined line of an ancient Roman road runs almost parallel with the present highway.  The Roman road is still a massively-paven track for miles, although the great hewn blocks have been carried away here and there; and the ancient pathway is covered by the overgrowth and deposit of many centuries, except where it has been cleared away by stone-getters, for the sake of the ready-hewn blocks.

    The "White House" is substantially built of the rough stone with which those moorland hills abound, and, with its outhousing it forms three sides of a square, open to the roadside, — an admirable arrangement for shelter, in the stormy exposure of those wild heights.  The kitchen occupies the central part of this range of building, and at night the light from its windows throws a cheery gleam upon the lonely road in front of the house, and glows upon the hay-strewn space between the wings of the building, into which vehicles sometimes draw for cover, when the weather is wild.

    In the old coaching days, when the road over Blackstone Edge was the principal route from Lancashire into Yorkshire, the "White House" was a scene of continual bustle.  Wild and steep as that mountain path was, it was a much shorter route than through the long pass of the Todmorden valley.  In those days it was customary, before coaches ascended the hill from Littleborough, on the Lancashire side, to add two additional horses to the team, which were left at the "White House" on the top of the Edge, when the coach went on.

    A ceaseless stream of commerce between the two manufacturing districts kept the house alive by night and day.  So great was the traffic even then, and so famous the house as a baiting-place, that its hearth-stones had never time to cool.  The walls of its kitchen were always a-glow; the aroma of good cheer steeped the whole place from the foundation to the roof, and the bustle of men and horses, and the sound of revelry had scarcely died upon the midnight air before it began again; for, even throughout the night, carriers and other passengers were continually calling there.

    Amongst the varied traffic which then crossed those moorland wilds, there was one feature which has now altogether disappeared from the scene; or, at least, is only to be found amongst the most retired tracks of these northern hills.  The feature of traffic to which I allude is the pack-horse.  In those days long strings of pack-horses, trailing after each other in Indian file, — called, now and then, at the "White House."  In remote parts of these hills they may even yet be found, now and then, used chiefly for the conveyance of lime, in panniers.  They are still known by the name of "lime-gals," or lime galloways.  On the north-eastern boundary of Rossendale Forest there is an old mountain-path, still known by the name of the "Limer's-gate."  But, in past times, these rough ponies were used for the transit of woollens and other goods, as well as lime, — hence their name, pack-horses.  In the ancient woollen towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, "The Pack Horse" is a familiar sign amongst the old public-houses.  In the town of Rochdale there is not only the "Pack Horse Inn," but "Packer Street," from whence woollen goods were despatched upon pack-horses; and "Packer Meadow," a meadow or field near Packer Street, into which the pack-horses were turned to graze.

    The railway has long since changed all this; and the pack-horse is now a very rare sight indeed, except, as I have said before, in the wildest and most remote parts of the mountains, where they are yet occasionally used in some purely local bit of traffic, in lime or coals, and in places where any other mode of conveyance would be almost impossible.  The immense traffic of these more active times now thunders, hour after hour, by night and day, along the picturesque valleys of the Todmorden district, leaving the old road over Blackstone Edge as silent as the bed of a diverted stream.  The wild grouse upon those moorland heights is no longer startled from its heathery cover by the clatter of coach-horses, and the horn of the guard.  No more the foaming team is pulled up at the end of the "White House," whilst frost-bitten travellers dismount from their cold perch to swing their arms and stamp about the pavement and rush into the shelter of the inn, to restore the circulation a little before descending that wild road on the Lancashire side of the hills. . . .

    In the old coach times the "White House" was known far and wide, on both sides of the hills, as an excellent place of entertainment; as it is, in some degree, even now, when railways have drawn away the traffic into another direction, leaving the old house comparatively lonely, perched there near the summit of Blackstone Edge, — as if it was listening in thoughtful amazement to the railway trains rushing, night and day, along the foot of the hill.  But the "White House" was a famous hostelry before railways were dreamt of.  Fifty years ago, any traveller who came up there in stormy weather would not be unlikely to hail its genial shade, whether he came from the Lancashire or the Yorkshire side of the hills.  The whole seven miles, from Sowerby Bridge, in Yorkshire, up to the "White House," is a continual ascent, through a wild scene; and half a century ago, there was hardly any place of shelter and refreshment between the two, except at the old village of Ripponden, about five miles from the top of the Edge; and though much of the route lay between the shelter of picturesque hills, the ways were foul, and the toilsome ascent ended in a long tract of open moorland, — more than a thousand feet above the sea, — across which the storm swept with unrestrained fury.  And, although the distance between the village of Littleborough, at the foot of the mountain on the Lancashire side, and the "White House" was only three miles, it was one wild, unsheltered ascent; for the most part, much steeper than the approach on the Yorkshire side; so that whether the traveller had climbed the Edge from the Yorkshire or from the Lancashire side, the "White House" would be a welcome resting place.  In those days it saw a great deal of curious company, — company marked with characteristics which have now entirely disappeared, — and it was the scene of many a curious adventure, out of which strange stories have grown.

    Being, as I have said before, the last inn, indeed the last building of any kind upon the Lancashire side of the hill, it was a kind of farewell inn to those who were leaving the land of the red rose; and, of course, to those who came across the Yorkshire border, the genial cheer within its weather-beaten walls was the first welcome they met with.  And a right cosy nest it was for the weary traveller in those days.  The house was a paragon of cleanliness and comfort; the accommodations were excellent; the fare was bountiful, and of the best quality; and the charges were moderate.

    In addition to all this, Joe Falconer, the landlord, ― who was a retired coachman, well known upon that road, — was the very king of good fellows.  He was a general favourite with high and low; and no wonder, for he was a singularly good- natured man, — humorous, attentive, and obliging to rich and poor.  He was "a fellow of infinite jest," too; and his memory was replete with a world of racy anecdote, picked up during his coaching days.  No wonder that Joe Falconer was a favourite.  Besides, he had another rare quality, — for a landlord.  He was a man of strong physique, with a brain that could stand a great deal of drink, — when circumstances drew him into an unusual carouse; for, when left to himself, he was a man of comparatively sober habit.  In his cups, Joe's whole nature seemed to light up with good nature and racy humour.  However long the revel lasted, his spirits never seemed to flag; and, on the following morning, he was out before six, as usual, looking after the stabling, or stalking about the open moor-side, seemingly as fresh as a new sprung lark; whilst his companions of the previous night were sleeping off the fumes of their late revel.

    Such was the "White House" fifty years ago; and such was its landlord at that time.  It is a well-conditioned inn yet, although a comparatively quiet house; and the company it sees now is of a different and much less varied character from that which swarmed within its walls in the old days.  Foot travellers over the Edge, stone-getters, and moorland folk are now its principal customers.  In summer and autumn it is a favourite resort of sportsmen and gamekeepers, and of holiday folk from the villages and towns on both sides of the hill; with whom a trip to the top of Blackstone Edge, and a visit to the famous crag known by the name of "Robin Hood's Bed," is a favourite excursion; and, on a fine day, the view from the "White House," across South Lancashire, with its populous towns and villages, right out to the Irish Sea, is very fine.
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    On the evening of our story the kitchen of the "White House" was a scene of comfort and cleanliness, which contrasted finely with the storm which was beginning to drive wildly across the moorland waste outside.  The evening meal was spread upon the white-scoured table; and the servants were already seated at the board, except Giles, who came into the kitchen smiling and rubbing his hands, followed by his friend the quarryman, with whom he had been conversing in the yard.

    "Come, Giles," said the landlady, "Come, an' let's get this baggin o'er, an' then goo an' look to th' horses. . . . Eh, I declare, it's snowin'," continued she, looking through the window, where the white flakes were flying by, thicker every minute.

    "Snowin'!" replied the quarryman, as he closed the door behind him; "it'll be a white world afore mornin', yo'n see.  It's quare to me if this doesn't turn eawt a rough neet! . . . I'll just have a odd gill; an' then make th' best o' mi gate deawn th' hill, afore it gets dark. . . . By th' mon," continued he, rubbing his hands, "that's a rare fire!  Mistress, bring me a warm pint."

    And he drew up a chair to the hearth.

    Giles had already planted himself by the board-side; and was silently and steadily concentrating his attention upon a savoury dish of ham and eggs in front of him.  The only other person in the kitchen, except the quarryman, who did not belong to the household, was an old pedlar, who sat close by the fireside, with his pot upon the hob at his elbow.  Joe Falconer, the landlord, was snugly seated in a cosy parlour, in one of the wings of the house, chirruping with two jovial Yorkshire travellers, and the quaint sexton of Rochdale, who was an old friend and boon companion of his; and who had called on his way homeward from a visit to the village of Ripponden.

    "Neaw, then," said the landlady, handing the quarryman his drink, "see if it's sweet enough."

    The quarryman took a steady pull at the odorous compound, and then, smacking his lips with an air of quiet satisfaction, he said, "Ay, it'll do!  That's better than a slap o'th chops? a snow-bo', on a neet like this! . . . Come; here's luck a-piece!" and he drank again.

    "Here, Giles," said he, holding out the pot to his friend, "winnot tho taste? mo?  It's good takkin!  Sup hearty, owd lad; it'll mak thi yure curl!"

    Giles, who was still too deeply engaged to say much about anything, turned half round upon his seat, and took hold of the pitcher, and looked into it; and then, giving a little sideway nod of the head towards his friend, he said, "Well, — come!"

    "Do!" replied the quarryman.

    And then the pot went to Giles's lips, "as natural as life."

    The old pedlar's eyes began to twinkle.  He had got planted "unto right, fast by the Ingle bleezin' finely."  He had been silently listening to the gathering storm; and, as he watched the snow-flakes flying by the window in the gloom outside, he felt every moment less inclination than before to leave the comfortable corner he was in, — especially when he bethought him of the wild walk which lay between him and the village of Littleborough, at the foot of the hill, — where he had no hope of finding better quarters than those he was in.  Besides, a peal of laughter came, now and then, from the parlour where the landlord and his friends were carousing; and, from the general tendency of things, he began to think there would be a little fun in the "White House" that night.  Altogether, the old man had inwardly resolved to remain where he was till morning, if they would only let him stay; and he knew the people too well to fear that they would turn him out into the wintry night on that wild moor-top.  And so, glancing again, almost with a feeling of satisfaction, at the rising storm, he drew his chair closer to the hob, crossed his legs, and emptying his pitcher, he handed it to the landlady, and said, "Come; I think I can manage another."

    "Hadn't I better warm it for yo," she said, as she took the pot from him.

    "Do," replied the old man; "do, — an' put a bit o' sugar an' nutmeg in.  I've had a hard day."

    "I dar say yo han," replied she, glancing at his grey hair and nipped features.  And when she had brewed the old man's drink, she said, as she set the pot down again upon the hob at his elbow, "Theer, see yo!  That'll do yo good! "

    "God bless yo! " said the old man, as he took up the pot, and drank.

    The snow was falling thicker and faster every minute, in a more steady and downright descent.  The wind had sunk down into a sullen moan; and an awful hush settled upon the scene.  "The power of the silence of the mountains, the awe that dwelleth in them high and far," was deepened into appalling grandeur by the wild storm which fell upon Blackstone Edge that night; and a deathlike stillness seemed to pervade the whole of the wide landscape, spreading out far away, from the foot of the hills to the sea.  The million-footed snow came steadily and silently down; and the dirge-like moan of the wind was the only sound to be heard.


God help thee, traveller, on thy journey far;
The wind is bitter keen, — the snow overlays
The hidden pits, and dangerous hollow ways,
And darkness will involve thee.  No kind star
To-night will guide thee, traveller, — and the war
Of winds and elements on thy head will break,
And in thy agonising ear the shriek
Of spirits howling on their stormy car,
Will oft appalling ring.  I portend
A dismal night.


    But the "White House" glowed on the lonely mountain top that night, — "like a good deed in a naughty world."

    The servants had finished their evening meal; and the landlady, rising from her rocking-chair, by the fire-side, said, "Neaw, lasses; get these things sided, an' then goo an' finish what yo han to do.  Mary, — thae'd better stop here, an' help to wait on.  An', Giles, — hadn't thae better goo an' get th' horses done up?  An' mind th' leets i'th stable, whatever thae does.  I'm terrible freeten't o' fire.  Ailse, thae knows, thae's yon keaws, to milk.  Come, do stir yo! . . . Giles, put that dur to when thae gwos eawt.  There'll be nought moor in to-neet, I dar say. . . . Eh, heaw it is comin' deawn," continued she, as she took her seat by the fire again, with her knitting in her hand.

    "Comin' deawn," said Giles, gazing round, when he had opened the door; "by th' mon' it's comin' deawn solid!  Eh, what a change!  I never see'd nought like this.  If aught comes into this heawse to-neet, they should come soon; or else they'n have a hard job, as who they are! . . . Sitho, Sam; look here!"

    The quarryman ran to the door.

    "Eh, by th' mass! " cried he, as he looked around, "why it's comin' deawn thick-an'-three-fowd?  It's mich if yo are not snowed-up afore mornin'!  Come, I'll goo an' finish my gill, an' then I'll be travellin' on.  But it will be yezzier (easier) goin' deawn th' hill than tother gate on."

    "Well, I'll goo an' get my horses done up," said Giles, darting towards the stables, through the thick-falling snow.

    "Shut that dur," cried the landlady; "it swales these candles so."

    The quarryman closed the door behind him, and sauntered back towards his seat in the kitchen, as if debating in his mind whether he had not better keep the safe side of the house for that night.

    "Well, what's it like?" said the landlady.

    "Like!" replied the quarryman, as he sat down again.  "It's like bein' snowed-up, — if ever aught wur like it i' this world.  They're weel off that's no wheer to go this neet, I can tell yo! . . . Here, Ailse," continued he, "bring me another gill!  It's no use deein' i'th shell."

    "Warm?" said the girl, as she took the pot from him.

    "Ay, warm," replied he; "very warm, an' weel sweeten't!  Dun yo think yo can manage deawn th' hill i'th dark, then?" said the landlady.

    "Well, I have done, afore, mony a good time," replied the quarryman; "an' I's be like to try it again, I guess.  But we'n see, — in a bit. . . . Are yo beawn deawn th' broo to-neet, maister?" continued he, turning to the old pedlar.

    "Well," said the old man, glancing timidly at the landlady, "Well — that depends."

    "Ay," replied the quarryman, drawing his chair nearer to the fire, "that depends — as yo say'n."

    "Eh, awe," said the landlady, "it would hardly be fit for him to turn eawt sich a neet as this!  Besides, he's had a dree day, I dar say."

    "I have, — very," replied the pedlar.

    "An it's hard at your time o' life," continued the landlady.

    "It is, — very," answered the old pedlar, taking another sip at his warm drink.

    "It's nought else," said the quarryman.  "An' it's noan fit to turn a dog eawt upon Blacks'n-edge this neet."

    "It'll happen clear up in a bit," said the old man, in a tremulous voice.

    "It happen will," replied the quarryman; "but not this neet, I deawt. . . . Ails," continued he, turning towards the girl, who was grating the nutmeg into his ale, "Ails, is that gill  ready?"

    "Comin'," said the girl, as she stirred it with the spoon.

    "That'll do," said the quarryman, throwing one leg over the other with a satisfied air.

    When the girl handed his drink to him, the quarryman fondled the bottom of the pitcher with one hand, and he gazed silently into the fire for a minute or so.  Then quietly raising the pot towards his lips, he looked first at the old pedlar, and then at the landlady, and he said, "Well, come, — here's wishin' 'at noan on us may never feel no want o' nought, — nor want feelin', — noather!"

    "The same here," replied the old pedlar, tasting his drink again.

    "Thank yo!" said the landlady.  "That's a wish that'll do nobody no harm!"

    And then they all seemed to knit closer round the fire, and listen to the spell-bound silence outside, broken only by the moan of the wind, as it flew by the window, thick-laden with ghost-like flakes of snow.  The old pedlar sipped at his drink again; and then set it quietly down upon the hob, as if he was afraid of the sound being heard.  The landlady went on with her knitting, and swayed herself to and fro in her chair, in silence; and the quarryman sat, with his legs crossed, gazing silently into the fire.  And, for a minute or two there was not a sound to be heard in the kitchen but the tick of the old clock in the corner, the creak of the landlady's rocking-chair, the chirp of two or three loud crickets, and, now and then, a little jingle among the tea-things, which the girt was putting away for the night.

    All this while the snow was descending, heavier and heavier, and the white pile, rising upon the window ledge, outside, began to glare through the low-most panes, like a ghastly face.  The doors rattled; the snow drifted into the lobby; and the wintry blast moaned wild across the lonely moor.  It was the beginning of a fearful night.
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "Ailse," said the landlady, "tell 'em to bring some moor coals to this fire; an' sweep this hearth up.  I do not like to see an untidy fire-place.  An' goo an' see what they're wantin' i'th parlour.  That bell's rung twice; an' thae stops theer, starin', as if that'd never yerd (heard) sich a thing as a bell i' thi life afore.  Come, stir tho, lass, do!"

    "Eh, I'll tell yo what," continued she, addressing the quarryman, "this is terrible weather for poor folk, an' owd folk, an' folk 'at's ill-clad, an' ill-fed."

    "It is so," replied the quarryman.

    "Aye, aye," continued the landlady, "when th' body gets crazy? age, — when th' blood gets thin, an' th' e'en dim, — an' folks are past sarvice, an' poverty-stricken, an' forgetten, eh, winter mun be a terrible time to sich as them, i' their bits o' cowd nooks, — God help em!"

    "God help 'em! an' God help us o'! " replied the quarryman.

    "Well," continued the landlady, "we every one needen His help, — for we're nobbut poor things, th' best on us, — when we come'n to be tried."

    "There's somethin' in that," said the old pedlar, in a timid whisper.

    And then they sat silent again for a minute or two.

    "I'll tell yo what," said the quarryman, looking dreamily into his half-emptied pitcher, "to th' best o' my belief, tone (the one) hauve o'th world dunnot know heaw tother (the other ) hauve lives."

    "Nawe, they doant," replied the landlady; "an', what makes it worse is, that th' bigger hauve on 'em doesn't care."

    "There's somethin' in that, too," whispered the old pedlar.

    "Forgive us our sins!" said the quarryman, looking into his pot again."

    "Aye, aye," replied the landlady; "forgive us our sins, — for we needen it.  An' help us to forgive one another.  Folk are too hard? folk.  It's a great pity!"

    "It is, — it is whispered the old pedlar, tasting his drink again. "It is continued he, as he laid the pot quietly down again upon the hob.  "It is, for sure!  There's something in that!"

    "Well, come," said the quarryman, lifting his pitcher towards his lips; "the Lord save us, an' bless us o', an' help us to do as we should'n do, as lung as we liven!"

    "Amen!" whispered the old pedlar; "Amen!? o' mi heart"
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "Ailse," said the landlady, "yon's th' cat meawin' at th' dur.  Goo an' let it in, poor thing!  It's enough to starve an otter!  I couldn't find i' my heart to shut the dur again a ratton, sich a neet as this!"

    The girl went and opened the door, and the wintry gust rushed coldly through the house, swaling the candles wildly, and whirling the snow into the kitchen.  The cat came mewing pitifully up to its mistress, its hair all bristled with cold, and sparkling with snow.

    "Eh, it is such a night!" said the girl, as she entered the kitchen again, staring, with astonished eyes, "it is such a night!  I'd hard work to put th' dur to again!"

    "Come, owd lad!" said the quarryman, laying his hand upon the pedlar's knee, "Come, just have an odd tot? me!"

    "Well, thank yo!" replied the old man, sipping up the last drop in the pot, which he had been nursing some time, — "Thank yo; I don't mind!"

    "Here, Ailse," said the quarryman, "fill th' owd chap his pitcher; an' make it good!"

    "Come, I'll doctor it for him," said the landlady, laying her kitting down, and taking the pitcher from the girl.

    "There," said the landlady, stirring the pedlar's drink, as she laid it down upon the hob beside him.  "There!  Make yo'rsel comfortable.  Yo'n be like to stop all night.  We'll find yo a bed, an' welcome."

    "Con yo find me a bit of a boose, too, thinken yo?" said the quarryman.

    "To be sure we con," replied the landlady, "Yo can sleep? th' owd man there, if yo like."

    The quarryman gave a sly glance at the old pedlar's shirt, and then he looked into the fire.  And then, turning to the landlady, he said, "Who sleeps? Giles?"

    "He sleeps bi hissel'," replied she.

    "Then Giles an' me can sleep together," said the quarryman; "we're use't to one another, an' I want a bit of a chat? him."

    "So be it, then," replied the landlady.

    "Fol der diddle ido!" cried the quarryman, throwing one leg over the other, and snapping his fingers.  "Fol der diddle ido  That's settle't!  Here, Ailse, bring me another pint!"
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    The fun in the parlour had been going on as if the company there were heedless or unwitting of the storm; but now, the parlour door opened, and the voices of the landlord and his friend the sexton were heard in the lobby.

    "Well," said the landlord, as he shook hands with his friend, "when are we to see that face o' thine at top o' Black'sn-edge again?"

    "Oh, before aught's lung," replied the sexton.

    "Come," continued the landlord, "I'll go to th' heawseend an' see tho off."

    But when he opened the door he cried, "Eh, Lord, what a neet!  Why, thae'll never be able to get deawn th' broo!"

    "I shouldn't like to face that, for sure," replied the sexton.

    "Here," said the landlord, "let's put that dur to!  Come thi ways in, an' let's goo an' see heaw they're gettin' on i'th kitchen."


 
CHAPTER II.


In winter's tedious nights, sit by the fire,
With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales.

SHAKESPEARE.


"COME, this'll do, I think," said the landlord to his friend, as they stood in the door of the kitchen, looking slowly round at the cosy picture before them.  And it really was a pleasant scene to meet with on a wintry night.  Joe Falconer and his quondam friend felt the beauty of the contrast all the more after the glimpse they had just had of the storm outside.  And there was not a soul in the kitchen of "The White House" that night in whose mind the rare comfort of that genial nest was not heightened by an almost unconscious sense of the dark wilderness around it, — across which the snow-laden blast was sweeping through the night-gloom with resistless rage. . . . It was, indeed, a pleasant sight, — glittering with scrupulous cleanliness, and glowing with a geniality to which the characteristic appearances of those present lent no small additional charm.  The cat was stretched, half asleep, upon the bright hearth-stone, basking in the fire-light, and dreaming of holes in the stable, by the side of which it had watched hour after hour, listening to the provoking cheep of uncaught mice, and vexed at every passing sound which startled its prey from a sense of security, favourable to its own designs; the great kettle was singing upon the hook over the fire, as if it was anxious to do something for the good of the company; the landlady's rocking-chair creaked now and then, with a kind of drowsy chirrup, as she slowly swayed her buxom form to and fro, knitting and smiling the while, as her benevolent eyes fell upon her husband and his crony in the doorway; the burly quarryman, in front of the fire, had turned half round upon his chair, with his legs crossed, and his pot in his hand, — his massive countenance beaming with glee, as he gazed silently at the newcomers into the kitchen, the old pedlar's faded eyes were lit up with a gleam of unusual brilliance, — his bald head, "like Alps in the sunset," was touched, for the moment, with "the gay tinge of youth's roses again," — and the parallels which time had delved in his brow were all running with unexpected joy, as he rubbed his shrunken hands together, and pushed his seat noiselessly back a little, to make room; and the girl, who was "waiting on," stood motionless by the side of the kitchen dresser, with a dishcloth in one hand and a half-wiped pot in the other, her ripe lips trembling upon the balance of laughter, and her glittering eyes fixed upon the doorway, as if she thought that there was something funnier than usual coming from that quarter, at last.

    The landlord was still standing with his hand upon the door-check; and the sexton stood beside him, in all his travelling gear, — his hat upon his head, his stick in hand, a thick muffler round his neck, and his great coat buttoned up.

    "Con we manage here, thinksto?" said the landlord, addressing his friend.

    "Let's try," said the sexton.

    "Nice neest, isn't it?" continued the landlord.

    "Snug as a button," said the sexton, rubbing his hands.

    "It smells weel, too," said the landlord.

    "Sweet as a posy!" replied the sexton.

    "It's pratty!" continued the landlord.

    "I like th' look on't!" replied the sexton.

    "Well, come a bit farther in, then," said the landlady; "Come a bit farther in, an' let's see heaw we liken yo."

    "Ay, come in, do," said the quarryman.  "There's no silver expected at th' dur."

    "Dar tho ventur, thinksto?" said Joe, taking his hand off the door-check, and turning to the sexton.

    "I'll chance it!" replied the sexton.

    "Take thoose things off, then," said the landlord, advancing into the kitchen with a port and a presence that made the place look jollier than ever.  "Tak thoose mufflements off," continued he, "an' bring thisel' to an anchor till morning, for thae stirs noan eawt o' this heawse, to-neet, — as theaw th' cat jumps! . . . Here, Ailse," said he, addressing the girl, as he helped the sexton to doff his winter-hap, "Here, Ailse; tak these things, an' put 'em where they'd be dry for mornin'."

    "I'll see to'em," said the landlady, laying her knitting aside.

    "I'll tell thou what, owd lad," said Joe, as he tugged at the sexton's overcoat, "thae's a terrible lot o' hap abeawt thou."

    "Oh, goo on!" cried the sexton; "Goo on!  Thae'll find a bit o' good stuff i'th middle."

    "Then thae thinks th' krindle's (kernel) quite as good as th' shell, doesto?"

    "It's sealed, Joe," replied the sexton; "It's seawnd, — as heaw tis."

    "I dar say it is, owd lad," continued the landlord.  "But I doubt there's better chaps than oather thee or me that's noan as weel lapped up as theaw art, this neet."

    "Theawsans, Joe, theawsans!" replied the sexton.  "But if I'd my mind —"

    He was beginning, when the landlord broke in again.

    "Oh, I know, — I know," said he.  "If thae'd thy mind, thae'd dress 'em o' i' Rachda' flannel and velvet; an' feed 'em o' simblins an' port wine, — an' a saup o' chicken-broth, at bedtime."

    "Well," replied the sexton, "I'd let 'em have a bit o' summat, as lung as th' stuff lasted."

    "I dare say thae would," answered the landlord.  "But I doubt some on 'em would pop their clooas, owd lad."

    "Well, they happen would," said the sexton; "but that wouldn't be my faut, thae knows."

    "No moor it would, owd lad," replied the landlord.

    "I'll tell thou what, Joe," continued the sexton; "I look upo' ill-disposed folk as a mak o' mad" (afflicted with a kind of madness).

    "Then we wanten moor 'sylums (asylums) buildin'," replied the landlord, giving a last tug at the sexton's coat.

    "There's no 'sylums for some folk, nobbut a grave," said the sexton, drawing his arm out of the sleeve.

    "Come, let's ha' noan o' that mournful trade o' thine to-neet," replied the landlord.  "Thae talks like a chap 'at's gettin' orders for berrin's (burials). . . . Theer, owd lad," continued he, when he had drawn his coat off, "thae looks rayther less like a wool-seck than thae did a bit sin' (since).  Come an' sit thou deawn an' do not set us agate o' cryin'? thi talk, whatever thou does."

    "I'm noan of a cryin' sort," said the sexton.

    "Thae's sin to mony funerals for that," replied the landlord.  "But thae can happen feel a bit, if thae connot cry."

    "I shouldn't wonder," said the sexton.

    "Well, let's sit us deawn, then," replied the landlord.
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "Con yo make reawm for us?" said the landlord, looking round.

    "We'n try, if your shoes are clean," replied the landlady.

    The quarryman had already shifted his chair away from the front of the fire; and the old pedlar had drawn his chair quietly a little back, as if he was afraid that his shrunken figure occupied too much of the apartment.

    "Plant thisel' deawn theer," said the landlord, setting a chair for the sexton "plant thisel' theer, an' thae'll be less bi th' legs.  An' let's try and be comfortable a bit."

    "Come here, Joe," said the landlady to her husband, as she pulled a massive arm-chair to the fire-side; "come here; thae'll look th' best i' thi own corner."

    And when they got settled into their places, the landlord said to his friend, "Well, come neaw, what are we to have?  We's be like to do a bit o' summut for th' heawse, or else it'll not pay for coals.  Give it a name."

    "Brandy for me!" said the sexton.  "Safe drink, — takken seldom.  Eawr owd maister used to say, 'when in doubt, play brandy.'"

    "But I'm noan i' doubt," replied the landlord, "so I think I'll play whisky again. . . . Come, Ailse, bring 'em in!"

    "An' bring me another, th' same as afore," said the quarryman, handing his pot to the girl.  "Come, owd lad," continued he, turning to the pedlar, "You're sittin' dry meawthed."

    "Oh, nay," replied the old man, tilting his pot to one side, and looking into it; "I've a drop left yet."

    "Swipe it off, then," said the quarryman, "an' try another tot!"

    When the landlady brought the old man his drink, she asked him in a whisper if he could like a mouthful of something to eat; and he thanked her, and told her in an undertone that he thought he could manage a bit of bread and cheese!

    "Yo shall have it!" said she; "come up to th' table here."

    "Mistress," replied the old man, catching at her gown as she turned away, and pointing to the sideboard under the window, "I'd rayther have it i' this nook, if yo'n a mind."

    "Yo shall, then," whispered she, patting him on the shoulder.

    In two or three minutes the handsome remnant of a noble sirloin, with the usual trimmings, were spread before the old pedlar's astonished eyes, in the shady nook, near the window; and the kind landlady slyly whispered to him to fall to, and "play a good stick!"

    "God bless me!" said the old pedlar, with a moistening eye, as he gazed upon the things before him.  "It's a long while sin I sat deawn i'th front of a lump like this!"

    "Well, finish it, if yo con," whispered the landlady.

    "Finish it," replied he, looking up in her face; "it 'ud last me three week!"

    The quarryman, the landlord, and the sexton had all been quietly watching this little touch of kindly by-play; but, with benevolent delicacy of feeling, they chatted on with one another, as if quite unconscious of what was going on in the corner; and they drew their chairs together, — throwing the pedlar's corner still more into the shade, — so as to encourage the old man to get his meal freely, and in his own way, unrestrained by the gaze of strangers.
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "Come," said the landlord, raising his glass, "thank God that wean a roof o'er us!"

    "Amen!" said the Sexton.

    "Amen again!" whispered the old pedlar in the corner, with his mouth half full.

    "Th' same here," said the quarryman.

    "Yo may o' make up yor minds to stop wheer yo are to-neet," said the landlord, looking round the kitchen.

    "I think we han done that," replied the quarryman.  "I'd aim't at gettin' to th' bottom o'th broo; but I sign't o'er soon after this storm coom on."

    "It's as weel as it is," said the landlord.

    The storm was raging with unabated fury, and in the pause which followed the landlord's words, the dismal howl of the blast came with startling distinctness upon the ears of those in the kitchen.

    "Husht!" said the landlord, raising his hand; "Husht! . . . I thought I yerd a cry outside. . . . Husht . . . Eh, it'll be a terrible thing if onybody gets lost i'th snow! . . . Ailse, get my hat and leet that lantron.  It's no use; I mun see what it is."

    The quarryman and the sexton had already jumped from their chairs.

    "I'll go, too!" cried the quarryman.

    "An' so will I," said the sexton.  "Here, my lass, where's my hat?"

    The old pedlar had laid down his knife and fork, and he had risen from his chair to follow the rest, but the landlord cried, "Sit still, owd lad; sit still!  We can manage. . . . Mary," continued he, addressing the landlady, "don't let him come eawt.  He's noan fit."

    "I'll tak care he doesn't," said the landlady.  Then, rising from her chair, she came across to the old pedlar, and, laying her hand upon his shoulder, she said, "Stop where yo are!  It's not fit for yo to go eawt!  Sit still, an' get some supper into yo!  I'm sure yo can do with it."

    "I connot heyt (eat) another bit!" replied the old man.  "I connot heyt another bit!  It's quite upset me!"

    "Eh, good Lord!" said the landlady, clasping her hands; "What a thing it'll be if ony poor crayter's lost! . . . .Ailse, fill this kettle, an' put some moor coals on!  Eh, dear o'er! what a thing, — what a thing!"

    The landlord, with the lantern in his hand, followed by the quarryman and the sexton, had sallied forth into the storm.  On their way they had summoned Giles, too, from the stables; and the four were now wading through the snow upon that lonely road, in all directions.  As they struggled against the heavy-laden blast, which blinded their eyes, they felt how hopeless would be the case of any wanderer upon the moor-top that night.  Steadying each other as well as they could, in the bewildering fury of the tempest, they waded on, about half-a-mile up the road, and about the same distance down the hill. Now and then they stopped, and shouted aloud, in concert: and then they listened, but no human voice responded to their cries.  The hollow moan of the snow-laden gale was the only sound to be heard on all that wintry waste; and, after nearly an hour's search, they returned to the house again.

    They were all thickly over-snowed when they entered the house.  As they closed the door the sexton said, "I wouldn't walk three mile across that moor-top by mysel' for ten thousan' peawnd!"

    "Eh, lad," said the landlord; "thae couldn't do it, at no price."

    "Well, thank God, we'n no need to try," said the quarryman.

    "Eh, dear, eh, dear!" replied the sexton, shaking his head at the thought of the thing.

    The snow from their clothing had filled the floor of the lobby with a muddy swim.

    "Come, let's goo in," said the landlord.

    "I think it's nought but the wind," said Joe to his wife, as he entered the kitchen, followed by the other two.

    "Eh, it's a blessin'!" said the landlady, clasping her hands.

    "Thank God for it," said the old pedlar.

    "Ay," continued the landlord, "God help ony poor soul that's eawt upo' Blacks'n-edge this neet!  There'll be little chance for their life!  Eh, it's rough, — it's rough! . . . Ailse; goo an' put two candles i'th end window yon.  If aught should happen, an' one hadn't done everything they could, it wouldn't be nice to think about at after."

    "Eh, dear, nawe, it wouldn't," said the landlady.  "Come, I'll see to th' candles."

    "I don't know that I ever seed aught like this," said the quarryman.  "Why, it'll be two or three feet deep afore mornin'."

    "It'll be moore, wheer th' drift lies," said the landlord.

    "Heaw will owd Bill th' carrier come on?  He gwos by abeawt three in a mornin', doesn't he?"

    "He'll miss this time, Sam," said the landlord.

    "I don't know," replied Sam; "he's one o'th hard'st chaps alive."

    "If he're as hard as brazzil he couldn't do it," continued the landlord; "an' if he could, th' horses couldn't get through th' snow."

    "He's driven this road a long time," said the quarryman.  "Twenty year, I dare say," replied the landlord.

    "Quite!" said the quarryman, "Quite!  I wur but a lad when he began.  That wur afore yo coom to this heawse, Joe."

    "Oh, ay," replied the landlord, "ten years before."

    "I yerd a quare tale abeawt him suppin' a bottle o' vitriol once," said the quarryman.  "It wur i'th owd lon'lort's time.  Bill use't to drive by i'th middle o'th neet then, th' same as he does neaw.  I' thoose days there wur a bit of a window? one shut, that oppen't into akind of a closet at th' corner o'th wesh-heawse.  An' i' winter time they use't to set Bill his drink i' this window, so as he could put his arm in an' get it eawt, beawt disturbin' th' folk i'th heawse.

    "Well, it seems that one day, i'th depth o' winter, they'd getten a bottle o' vitriol, for summit or another; an' some o'th lasses had car'lessly set this bottle o' vitriol deawn i'th window a side o' Bill's drink.  Bill al'ays drank rum.  Well, o' th' heawse went to bed, an' th' vitriol bottle wur left theer, close by Bill's rum bottle; an' when Bill poo'd up at three o'clock th' next mornin', he put his arm into th' window, i'th dark, an' he took th' wrang bottle, an' away he went? th' vitriol, as content as a king.  Heaw he went on?t nobody never knew; but it's mich if it didn't trouble his wynt a bit afore he geet to th' bottom o' that bottle.  Heawever, when mornin' coom this vitriol bottle happen't to be wanted; an' th' savant lass said, 'Oh, I put it i'th little window yon, at th' side o' th' carrier's rum.'  But when they went to look for it, they fund the rum-bottle laft, an' th, vitriol gone.  Well, they'rn o' in a terrible takkin' abeawt this; but there wur no help then.  'We're in for't this time!' said th' lonlort.  He's lyin' upo' th' road some wheer; as deeod as a robin!  By th' mon, yo munnot mention a word about it to never a wick soul, or else we'st get hanged for this job!'

    "Well, o' that day, they wur'n i' terrible trouble abeawt this vitriol; for they expected th' news comin' into th' heawse every minute that Bill had been fund lyin' stiff bi' th' roadside; an' they dursn't ax nobody if they'd sin him.  Well, th' day coom to an end at last; an' at after o' th' heawse had getten to bed, except th' lonlort an' his wife, he said to her that he couldn't rest in his bed till he see'd whether Bill turn't up, or not; so he wur determin't to sit up till three i'th mornin'.  So he did do; an' th' wife stopped? him; for th' owd lad wur terrible boggart-freeten't.  Well, as it geet near three o'clock, th' owd lad hearken't till his ears crack't; but he dursn't oppen th' dur for his skin, he're so flayed o' seein' Bill's ghost, for he felt sure that he're done for.  At last they yerd a whip crack.  'There's summat comin' neaw!' said th' lon'lort, an' he went as white as a sheet.  Then a cart poo'd up at th' heawse end; an' they yerd somebody sheawt 'Woigh!' an' begin a-whistlin'.  'By th' mass!' said th' owd fellow, 'it's yon!'  An' he're just gooin' to drop on his knees, an' begin a-sayin' his prayers.  'Come; I'll goo an' see what it is,' said th' wife.  An' away hoo went to th' little window, just as Bill coom whistlin' up, an' put his arm through, to reitch (reach) his drink out as usal.  'Is that thee, Bill?' said th' lon'lady.  'Me; ay!  What th' hectum are yo doin' up at this time o'th' neet?'  'Come thi ways in, an' let's look at tho', said th' owd woman.  'Go reawnd, an' I'll oppen th' dur.'

    "'It's o' reet!' said th' wife, when hoo went into th' kitchen.  'He is yon, as fresh as ever!  Don't say a word abeawt it; I'm gooin' to let him in for tho to look at.'  'Arto sure it's him?' said th' lonlort.  'Thae shall see for thisel' in a minute,' said th' wife.  An' hoo went an' oppent th' dur, an' in walked Bill, whistlin', an' flirtin' his whip, as fresh as a daisy, an' as bowd as a lion.  Th' owd lonlort stare't at th' lad? o' his e'en; but Bill wur theer.  Let's be sure at he's wick,' said th' lonlort in a whisper; ax him if he'll ha' summat to heyt (eat).'  'Conto (can't thou) do? a bit o' summat to heyt?' said th' owd woman.  'Con a duck swim?' cried Bill.  'Th' owd tale,' said th' lon'lort.  'It's him;' an' he jumped up.  'Eh, owd lad,' cries he, takkin' Bill bi th' hond, 'I never wur as fain to see nobody sin' I wur born o' my mother as I ain to see thee this minute!  I thought thae'd bin—'  'Bin what?' said Bill, for he could make noather top nor tail o' this dooment, at three o'clock i'th mornin'.  'Hasto getten thi rum eawt o' th' little window?' said th' lon'iort.  'It's theer, see yo,' said Bill, howdin' th' bottle up.  'An' didto get it yesterda' mornin'?' said th' lon'lort.  'I did that,' said Bill.  'An' did to sup it?' said th lon'iort.  'Sup it? — ay!' said Bill; 'I don't use greasin' my shoon?t, do eh?'  'An' heaw didto like it?'  'Like it?' said Bill; 'I liked it weel enough; but it're rayther stinted o' measure', an' it wur a very cowd mornin'.  Yo' wouldn't like to ha' your drink fented if yo'd to drive o'er this moor-top of a winter's neet.'  'Then thae supt it?' said th' lon'lort.  'I did that, an' soon, too,' said Bill.  'Then get summat to heyt, an' be off eawt o' this heawse, for by ―― thae's a cast-iron inside, — thae's supt a bottle o' vitriol!'  'It did tickle me up a bit at first,' said Bill, 'but I could ha' done? a saup moor on't — vitriol or no vitriol!'  'Well, that licks Batterlash!' cried th' lon'lort. 'Heaw mich is it a quart, this vitriol?' said Bill; 'for it's noan sich bad takkin' of a cowd neet.'  'Finish that bit o' stuff,' said th' lon'lort 'an' get eawt o' this hole as fast as tho con; for thae doesn't belong to this world!'  An' away went Bill, whistlin' deawn th' broo side, as breet as a squirrel."

    "Well, thae's done that weel, Sam," said the landlord.

    "Ay, that's a corker," replied the sexton; "why, vitriol would burn a hole through a flat-iron."

    "There isn't a flat-iron i' Rachda' teawn as hard as Bill," replied the quarryman.

    "Oh, it's a sun-brunt lie fro' end to end," said the landlord.

    "I'm rayther hard o' belief myself," muttered the old pedlar.

    "Well, yo han it as I had it," said the quarryman; "an' I charge yo nowt for't."

    "Ay, an' its chep at th' price, too, owd lad," replied the sexton.

    "Here, some on yo tell us a tale," cried the quarryman.

    "Ay; let somebody else try," said the landlord.  "Come, owd friend," continued he, turning to the pedlar, "connot yo do a bit o' summat for us?"

    By this time the old man was gettin' chirrupy; and he began to clear his throat at once, as if he was quite willing to contribute his little share to the social pleasures of the night.  He had been a good singer in his youth, too; and, although now his voice was sinking into the piping treble of age, it was still governed by a natural taste, which made his singing pleasant to listen to.  When the landlord spoke to him he began to fidget upon his chair.

    "I don't know that I can bring a tale to mind just now," said the old man, clearing his throat; "but I'll try a bit of an owd ditty, if yon a mind.  It use't to be a favourite when I war a lad."

    "That'll just do," said the sexton, rubbing his hands.  "Strike up, owd lad; thae couldn't plez (please) me better," said the quarryman.

    "Ay, weet your whistle, an' begin," cried the landlord.

    After a little preliminary cough or two, the old pedlar turned his face towards the ceiling, and struck up "The North Country Lass," to a quaint old tune, called "The Dancing Master":—


A north country lass up to London did pass,
    Although with her nature it did not agree;
Which made her repent, and so often lament, —
    Still wishing again in the north for to be.
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, an' the bonny ivy tree,
        They flourish at home, in my own countrie!

Fain would I be in the north countrie,
    Where the lads and the lasses are making of hay;
There should I see what is pleasant to me,—
    A mischief o' them that enticed me away.
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, &c.

I like not the court, nor the city resort,
    Since there is no fancy for lasses like me;
Their fuss an' their pride I can never abide,—
    Because with my humour it does not agree.
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, &c.

How oft have I been on a Lancashire green,
    Where the lads an' the lasses resort for to play;
When we, with delight, from the morning till night,
    Could frolic an' feast on a bright holiday.
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, &c.

The ewes an' their lambs, an' the kids an' their dams,
    To see in the country how finely they play;
The bells, how they ring! an' the birds, how they sing!
    An' the fields an' the gardens, how pleasant an' gay!
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, &c.

At wake or at fair, away with all care,
    It's there, with our sweethearts, we used for to dance;
Oh, what hard hap had I my ill fortune to try,
    When up to this London my steps did advance.
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, &c.

But still I perceive I a husband may have,
    If I to the city my feelings could frame;
But I'll have a lad that is north-country bred,
    Or else, to the endin', a virgin's my name!
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, &c.

A maiden I am, an' a maid I'll remain,
    Until my own country once more I do see;
For here, in this place, I shall never set face
    On a lad that's intended my love for to be.
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, &c.

Then, farewell my daddy, an' farewell my mam,
    Until I do meet you I ever shall mourn;
My brothers, my sisters, — and oh, many others,
    Before the year's over to you I'll return
        Oh, the oak, an' the ash, an' the bonny ivy tree,
        They flourish at home, in my own countrie.


    "Well done, owd lad!" cried the landlord, clapping his hands; "that's a bonny song!"

    "It's nought else," said the quarryman.  "What's th' name on it, owd mon?"

    "It's co'de 'Th' North Country Lass,'" replied the pedlar.

    "Well, it's a good un!" said the quarryman.

    "Bring th' owd chap another gill," cried the sexton.

    "Ay, bring him another' gill," said the landlord.  "Come, let's draw up," continued he.

    They drew their chairs nearer, as if they were setting in for the night.

    "Neaw, then, who's th' next?" said the sexton, as he laid his glass down upon the table.

    "Stop an' rosin!" replied the quarryman.  "Stop an' rosin!  We'n see in a bit."


 
CHAPTER III.


Let us rouse the night-owl with a catch

SHAKESPEARE.


"COME, I'll see heaw th' neet's gettin' on eawtside," said the landlord, and rising from his chair he went to the door and looked out.  The storm was as wild as ever; the snow was piled against the door and the wintry gust blew the chill drift into the lobby.  "I'll e'en shut it eawt," said he, pushing the door to again, and walking back into the kitchen.

    "It's as bad as ever," said he, as he took his seat again.  There'll be no coaches here, to-morn, if it keeps on o' this way o' neet, — an' I think it gets worse."

    "Well, that's a capper!" said the landlady.

    "It's true," replied he; "there's no sort o' wheel carriages can get o'er Blacks'n-edge i' this snow."

    "Heaw mun I get whoam?" said the sexton.

    "Thae mun try to make thisel' a-whoam wheer tho art till we find a daycent sort of a gate for tho, owd lad!" replied the landlord, slapping him on the knee. . . . "Come," continued he, "it's no use pooin' lung faces, I think this heawse 'll howd eawt till storm's o'er; an' your welcome to what there is, as lung as it lasts.  I connot say fairer. . . . Come, let's make best on't. . . . Come, Sam; connot thae give us a bit of a ditty?"

    "I'm no singer," replied Sam.

    "I've yerd (heard) tho make din enough sometimes, at Todmorden fair," said the landlord.

    "Well, it has been a din, then," replied the quarryman but no singin'."

    "Try, mon, try," said the landlord, "an' then we can judge for ersels (ourselves)."

    "Well," replied the quarryman; "if yo win have it, I'll try an odd verse — an' then yo'n see."

    "Do, owd lad," said the landlord, "it'll show willin', — if it does nought else."

    "Here goes, then," replied the quarryman.


Of all the brave birds I ever did see,
The owl is the best in every degree;
For all the day long she sits in a tree,
And, when the night comes, away flies she.
    Sing ginger and sugar, nutmeg an' cloves―
    Where didst thou get that jolly red nose?


    "Stop, stop!" cried the landlord.  "Don't go no further!  Thae's done quite enough, — if that's a sample.  Thae's spokken truth for once, owd lad, — thae connot sing!

    "Didn't I tell yo?" said the quarryman.

    "Thae did, owd lad; an' I believe tho, neaw.  By th' mon, thae'rt war (worse) nor ony owl 'at ever I yerd i' my life!"

    "It's nobbut middlin', for sure," said the old pedlar.

    "Middlin'!" replied the landlord.  "It's made my yure stop of an end, like a lot o' card teeth.  A quarter of an hour o' that mak (make, kind) o' singin' would turn th' ale sour.  Don't do no moor, I pray tho!  Tell us a tale i'stid (instead).  Aught'll do!"

    "I towd yo; didn't I?" said the quarryman again.

    "Thae did, — thae did!" replied the landlord;  "Thae did!  Dunnot begin again!"

    "Well; let somebody else have a turn," said the quarryman, laughing. "They connot do so much war; that's one comfort."

    "Nawe, they connot," replied the landlord.  "If they done, I'm off eawt o' this heawse, — as cowd as th' neet is!. . . Here, here," continued he, turning to the sexton, "We're forgettin' thee, Dan!  There's some notes in tho!  Come, pipe up!  Thae'rt an owd hond!"

    "I'm willin'," said the sexton.

    "Get agate, then," said the landlord.

    The sexton drank, and laid his glass down; and when he had taken a long-drawn pinch of snuff, he began an old song which he had chanted many a time to a set of choice comrades at the old Golden Ball, below the Church steps, in Rochdale.


Oh, what a plague is love!
    I cannot bear it;
She will inconstant prove,
    I greatly fear it:
It so torments my mind,
    That my heart faileth;
She wavers with the wind,
    As the ship saileth;
Please her the best I may,
Still she doth me gainsay;
Alack, and well-a-day!
    My darling flouts me!

I often heard her say
    That she loved posies;
So, in the month of May,
    I gathered roses,
And pinks, and gilly-flowers,
    And the sweet lily
I plucked, to decorate the bowers
    Of my dear Philly:
But she did them disdain,
And threw them back again;
And, therefore, it is plain,―
    My darling flouts me.

Which way soe'er I go,
    Still she torments me;
Whate'er I find to do,
    Nothing contents me.
I fade and pine away,
    Both night and morrow;
I'm falling to decay,
    With grief and sorrow.
And I shall die, I fear,
Within this thousand year,
And all because my dear
    Phillis doth flout me.


    "Theer," said the sexton, "my song's ended."

    "An' it's a good un, too," said the landlord.  Thae's just brought me round, after that terrible skrike o' Sam's abeawt th' eawl.  If I'd gone to bed wi' that din i' my ears, I should ha' bin ill i'th mornin'.  Come, here's healths a-piece!  Neaw, Sam," continued he, addressing the quarryman, "connote thou tell us another bit of a tale?  Is there nought abeawt Turvin that thae can give us?"

    "Did'n yo ever yer of Amos o' Copper-nobs, an' his potitoes (potatoes)?" said the quarryman.

    "Let's have it," said the sexton.

    "Ay; get agate," said the landlord.

    "It'll be summate quare, I doubt," said the old pedlar, with a quiet grin upon his face.

    "Nay; there's nought mich in it," said the quarryman; "but it shows, like, what sort o' farmin' there use't be i' Turvin. . . . It seems that one Tormorden fair, two Cliviger farmers were fratchin', i'th White Hart, abeawt which had groon big'st potitos that year; an' one said his wur this size, an' tother said his wur that size.  An' Harry at Gauxholme had bin sittin' i'th nook, hearkenin' 'em till he couldn't bide a minute lunger beawt (without) puttin' his motty in; so he jumped up, an' he said there wur a chap i' Turvin that had groon potitos, that year, five times as big as oather (either) o' theirs.  'Name him!' cried the farmers.  'Amos o' Copper-nobs, up i' Turvin,' said Harry.  'He's groon potitos five times as big as oather on yo; I'll bet two to one on it!"  'Twos what?' said one o'th farmers.  'Two penny muffins to hauve a sovereign,' said Harry.  'Talk to some sense, an I'll see what I can do wi' thou,' said th' farmer.  'Well, I'll bet an even ten shillin', then,' said Harry.  'Done!' cried the farmer; an' they staked their brass.

    "Well, in a bit these farmers went eawtside; an' Harry yerd 'em talkin' together, under th' window; an' th' chap that had bet ten shillin' towd tother that he intended to slip up into Turvin, th' next day, an' have a look at these big potitos; an' if th' tale prove't true, he'd try to get his brass back afore th' bet were sattle't; an' he could happen make a bit o' summit eawt o' somebody else, for he were sure nobody would believe it.  Thought Harry to hissel', 'I'll slip up into Turvin, too, owd lad, an' see what I can do!' an' th' first thing th' next mornin', away went Harry up into Turvin's cloof, to see owd Amos; an' he towd him what a foo of a bet he'd made.  'Neaw, Amos,' said Harry, 'thae sees how it is.  He's comin' up to look at these potitos, to-morn.  Make 'em as big as ever thae con; but, whatever tho does, dunnot let him see 'em!'  'I'll manage him,' said Amos.  Well, th' farmer coom up to see Amos, th' same day; an' he said, 'I yer yo'n groon some good-size't potitos upo' this side, this year.  Con yo let me look at 'em?'  'Well,-nawe,' said Amos; 'I connot.  They're of a mak (kind) that never were sin i' this country afore; an' we're keepin' 'em eawt o' seet, at present.  But are yo wantin' to buy some?'  'Well, — ay,' said th' farmer; 'I could like to try 'em.'  'Haw mony dun yo want?' said Amos.  'Well, ― abeawt a stone, — just to see what they're like.'  'A stone!' cried Amos; 'eh, I'll never cut into one o' yon potitos for th' sake o' sellin' a stone!'  Well, that kilt th' farmer's pig, at one stroke; an' he coom off wi' his under-lip hangin' deawn.  He never axed for his ten shillin' back.  An', for a good while at after that, Harry went bi th' name o' 'Turvin Lumper.'"

    "By th' mass, thae mends noan, Sam," said the landlord, when the quarryman had finished.

    "Nawe," said the sexton.  "He's somewheer about th' owd bat, for sure."

    "Poor owd Amos," said the landlady "he's had fearful trouble with his family.  That owd'st son of his coom to a terrible end,"

    "Heaw were that?" said the sexton.

    "Well," replied the landlady, "about twenty year sin, Amos kept th' owd alehouse, deawn i'th bottom o' Turvin Cloof.  An' th' owd'st son wur a racketty sort of a lad; an' he did nowt but drink, an' maunder about th' country-side, o' maks o' sleeveless wastrels that he could leet (alight) on.  At last, he disappear't, o' at once; an' day after day went by, an' they could noather yer top nor tail o' this lad.  Just about th' same time they lost a keg o' rum eawt o'th cellar.  But that didn't trouble 'em mich; for they were'n middlin' weel to do, at that time o'th day.  But time kept gooin' on; an' noather th' lad nor th' rum turn't up.  At last, when about three weeks had gone by, th' gamekeeper fund him in a hole, upo' th' moorside, lyin' cowd an' stiff, bi th' side oath rum-keg."

    "That's true, mistress," said the quarryman.  "I've yerdth' same tale mony a time.  His mother never look't up after it."
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "Joe," said the quarryman, "did'n yo ever yer tell of owd Quifter an' Billy Nukkin playin' th' ghost i' Ripponden churchyard?"

    "I don't remember," replied the landlord, "let's have it."

    "Well," said the quarryman, "Quifter an' Billy were owd cronies; an' they wur al'ays up to some mak o' witless marlocks (frolics), — particular when they had a gill or two.  Well, as they coom maunderin' eawt o'th public-house at th' side o'th church one winter's neet, about nine o'clock, Nukkin looked up at th' churchyard, an' he said, Billy, it's too soon to go whoam.  Let's have a go at boggartin'!  Go thee an' borrow two sheets, an' two white neet-caps; an' we'n see if we connot stir some o' these sleepy bowster-yeds up a bit as they walken by.'  So Billy geet these sheets an' neet-caps, an' they rigged theirsels up in a nook o'th churchyard; an' then they coom to th' side o'th wole (wall), where th' road goes by, an' they couched deawn, an' looked eawt for squalls.

    "In a bit, a drunken chap coom creepin' by i'th dark, singin' to hissel'.  'Let's try him,' said Nukkin.  'Go on, then,' said Quifter.  An' as he coom nar (nearer), they began o' moanin', an 'risin' up, an' then sinkin' deawn again, — first tone (the one) an' then tother (the other).  'What the hectum is there agate neaw?' said th' chap, lookin' up at th' churchyard.  But when he seed these two white things paupin' up an' deawn, he took to his heels through th' fowd (fold), like a redshank; an' he spread th' news far an' wide that he'd sin two ghosts i'th churchyard.  Then there were a lad coom by th' churchyard, whistlin' an' jinglin' some brass (money) in a tin can.  Up went Nukkin, in his white, an' deawn went Quieter; an' th' first wap (glance) that th' lad geet o' these two things, he dropt his can, an' off he went, skrikin' like mad.  They sarve't some moor folk th' same way as they went by.

    "But, in a bit, folk began o' comin' eawt o' their heawses, wi' leets i' their honds, — for th' whole teawn wur risin', — an' four or five on 'em that wur bowder nor (than) tother, went o'er into th' churchyard, wi' pokers an' things i' their honds.  So Billy and Quifter had to cut.  Quifter thrut (threw) his sheet and neet-cap off, and crope (crept) at th' back of a tombstone, till he manage't to fo' in amung thoose that wur after th' ghost.  But Nukkin kept his sheet an' cap on, an' slipped into a new-made grave, eawt o'th gate, an' theer he lee o' of a tremble.

    "Well, it wur as dark as pitch, an' as these chaps went powlerin' up an' deawn th' yard, swearin' what they'd do at this ghost, Jone o' Nancy's fell slap in this oppen grave.  In he went, th' yed first, wi' a poker in his hond, an' he let (alighted) sock on th' top of owd Nukkin, wi' his white sheet an' neet-cap on; an' they fell to a-cleawtin' one another like mad.  'I have it!' cried Jone; 'bring a leet!'  'Bring a leet!' cried thoose at th' top, 'Jone o' Nancy's an' th' ghost are feightin' in a grave!'  An' when th' leets coom, Jone cried eawt, 'By th' mass it's Nukkin!'  'Rive him eawt!'  'Tan his hide!' says another.  'I thought it wur a rough ghost,' said Jone, wipin' his nose.  Well Nukkin begged on 'em to let him off, an' they did do in a bit.  But they rove (tore) his white sheet into ribbins, an' they made him heyt (eat) his neet-cap; an' there never wur no poor ghost i' this world ever went whoam wi' sorer bwons (bones) than that ghost had; for they hommer't him seawndly; an' ever sin that neet, owd Nukkin's gone bi th' name o' th' 'Ripponden Ghost."'

    "Thae's spokken again, owd lad," said the landlord.

    "Did ever ony body yer o' such foolish pranks among groon-up men?" said the landlady.

    "I co it babby-wark," said the old pedlar.

    "Well, don't let's begin a preitchin' abeawt it," replied the landlord.  "It would be a quare world if folk were al'ays th' solemn side eawt."

    "Here," said the sexton, taking a pinch of snuff, "I think I con tell yo a bit of a story about a grave, too."

    "That'll do," said the landlord, "it's just i' thy line."

    "Well," said the sexton, "I've sin some strange marlocks about yon owd church of ours at Rachda'."

    "I dare say thae has, owd lad," replied the landlord.  "Come, let's ha' this tale."

    "I hope it'll be to moor sense than th' last wur," said the landlady.

    "Oh, let it leet (alight), — let it leet, as what it is," cried the landlord.

    "Well, I'll see what I can do," replied the sexton and he took two or three hearty pinches of snuff.


 
CHAPTER IV.


The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter;
An' aye the ale was growing better;
               .               .               .               .               .

The souter tauld bis queeriest stories;
The landlord's laugh was ready chorus;
The storm without might rair an' rustle—
Tam didna mind the storm a whustle.

BURNS.


IN the pause which followed the quarryman's story, Giles had come in from the stables, bringing the news that the storm was as wild, and the snow falling as thickly as ever.  The two Yorkshire travellers, also, hearing the laughter, had left the parlour, and were now quietly seated in the kitchen with the rest, waiting for the sexton's story.

    The girl was replenishing the glasses, and whilst the sexton sat, looking thoughtfully into the fire, the rest of the company were engaged in a little discursive chat about the weather.

    The sexton was a man of more education than was common among people of his class; in fact, he was a naturally studious and bookish man, well read in such books as chance had thrown in his way; and he had a quaint liking for all kinds of antiquarian lore.  Of such matters he had stored up a curious and considerable collection in the course of his life; and he had often walked eleven miles, from Rochdale town, to consult volumes in the old Chetham Library, at Manchester, on points relative to local history.  On such subjects he was looked up to by his neighbours as a great authority.  He had no pretence to scholarly or symmetrical culture, — the sphere of life in which he was brought up had denied him that rare advantage; but he was gifted with an observant and susceptible spirit, and an exceedingly retentive memory, which had stored his mind with a great amount of quaint, though ill-assorted matter.  These qualities and acquirements, together with a rich flavour of humour, which was one of the most distinguished features of his character, made him much sought after by people of his own neighbourhood and standing, and, not unfrequently, a welcome guest amongst those of higher pretences.  And he was not the less welcome to a certain class of local magnates, in those days of tethered thought and cherished ignorance, that he was a man of strong prejudices and narrow political vision, — like themselves.  On political and religious questions he neither dared nor cared to speculate.  In these respects he had been born in an hereditary rut, from which the circumstances of his life and time seemed to deny him the chance of ever coming out.  Apart from such questions, however, he was at all times an ingenious, good-natured, and amusing companion.

    The sexton was a great snuff-taker, and before he began, he took a huge pinch, with evident satisfaction, and then laid the box down upon the table before him, as if it was a thing he was likely to want oftener than usual during the next half-hour and when he had brushed the brown dust off his clothes, with a large silk handkerchief, of antique pattern, he began a kind of historic and topographical preamble.

    He prefaced his story with a description of the town and neighbourhood in which the scene was laid.  He did it, too, "in good set terms," although, no doubt, some of his listeners might think it a little tedious, and feel impatient to get at the pith of the story long before he reached it himself.  But it was especially addressed to the two strangers, who knew little of the neighbourhood.  He took another pinch, and laying his box down upon the table again, he commenced as follows, though not exactly in the following words:—

    The first scene of the story is the interior of an old-fashioned inn, opposite to the south side of the ancient parish church of Rochdale.  It stands immediately in front of the gates which lead into the churchyard, from which it is divided by a narrow street, which was the principal, if not the only, thoroughfare of Rochdale town, in Saxon times, when it must have been only a rude village, ruled by the Saxon thanes of the castle, which stood in those days upon the summit of a steep eminence, about a quarter-of-a-mile west of the church, overlooking a green holm, by the side of the slow-winding Roch.  The old inn, called "The Oak," is a quaint building, and it is the house at which people used to "put-up" who attended funerals from long distances in the country.

    The parish of Rochdale is of great extent; and, not unfrequently, the dead are brought ten or twelve miles' distance to be laid down in the old churchyard, which was the favourite burial-ground at the time of our story, — when there were fewer "chapels of ease" and other places of worship scattered over the parish than there are now.  Sometimes several of these country funerals met at Rochdale church on the same day; and then the inn opposite the church-gates would be crowded with different parties of moorland farmers and their families, who had come from the surrounding hills to bury their dead.  A wide flagged footpath between the grave-stones in the churchyard, led from the great gate, up to the porch of the church; and it was on this pathway that the several bodies were laid at such times, upon biers, covered with palls, awaiting the commencement of the funeral ceremonies. The front windows of the inn commanded a full view of this path of the dead; and, during the interval between the arrival of the bodies and the time of interment, the different companies of mourners who had followed the remains, — which stood here and there upon the churchyard path, — to their last long home, would sit at these windows giving a sad eye, now and then, to the poor relic which was their especial care, with a jealous twinge of pain every time it was touched by cold official hands.

    One wintry day, when some half-dozen of these country funerals had met at the church, and the several coffins stood upon their biers in this pathway, waiting the appearance of the surpliced vicar at the little door which led from the vicarage into the churchyard, the sexton and his assistants were just beginning to arrange the different bodies in the order of their procession when a stalwart young farmer from the hills rushed out of the inn, and dashing the sexton and his men away from the coffin in which his mother lay, he cried out, 'Honds off that coffin!  That's er (our) berrin!" . . . "But," continued the sexton, addressing himself specially to the two Yorkshire strangers, "I only say this that you may have some idea of the place and the neighbourhood; for, though the tale which I am going to tell may be called a grave story, you will find that it has no particular connection with the melancholy of a funeral."

    Then, pausing and taking another pinch of snuff, he went on again, in a dreamy tone, as if his thoughts were wandering back into what he loved to call "the good old times," according to his wont:—

    "Rochdale was a quaint old town fifty years ago," said he with a sigh.  "It was not a fourth of the size it is now, and it was full of picturesque old buildings and curious nooks and corners. . . . But they are fast disappearing," continued he, giving another long-drawn sigh, and taking another pinch of snuff.  "They are fast disappearing, like the good old customs of our ancestors. . . . I remember, when I was a lad, the picturesque appearance of the buildings around the old market-place, where the ancient 'Cross' stood in Catholic times.  The old-fashioned inn called the 'Horse Mill,' was standing then, with its antique gateway, and the whole centre of the town had a picturesque aspect.  But it's changing fast.  Th' 'Amen Corner's' left, an' th' 'Clock Face,' an' th' 'Twitch' (this was a narrow passage through which nobody but a thin person could pass), an' th' 'Eagle Yard,' an' th' 'Bull Brook,' are left," continued he, "an' th' manor house of the Byrons."  There was a touch of increased importance in his tone when he uttered this, after which his voice sank down again and he went on.  "An th' Bowling Green's left," said he, "an' th' owd corn mill, and th' Grammar Schoo', built in Queen Elizabeth's time; but th' old features are rapidly passing away, th' town's creepin' up towards Yorkshire; and I shouldn't wonder but somebody 'll live to see the day when th' owd shootin' butts will be built on, an' th' gardens swept away fro' th' water side."

    And thus he wandered on among visions of the past, blending with fears of the future, in a dreamy reverie, till suddenly recollecting himself, and seeing that some of his listeners were beginning to yawn, he said, as he took another pinch of snuff, "Well, well, let it go; we're all going the same way."

    "An' now for this story," said he.



THE SEXTON'S STORY.


    "It had been market day in the town of Rochdale, and the street about the old market place had been thronged with manufacturers and merchants; for it was 'Big Monday,' as the chief fortnightly market for woollens is still called in that town.  Many of these manufacturers were 'little makers,' — that is, farmers from the neighbouring hills, who, in addition to their agricultural labour, made flannels on their own account; and sometimes bore them miles away from their own homes down to the Rochdale market, upon their backs, slung by a broad strap round the forehead.  The inns near the narrow streets called Blackwater-street and Toad-lane, — in which the flannel market was chiefly held, — had been filled all day with buyers and sellers.  The Roebuck, the Angel, the Saddle, the Coach and Horses, the Bishop Blaine, the Amen Corner, the Blue Bell, and the ancient inn called the Clock Face, — which was a dwelling house of the famous Chetham family, in the reign of Charles the First, — these had all been swarming from morn to night with country manufacturers from the hills and cloughs in the neighbourhood of the town, and with buyers from all parts of the kingdom; and it had 'snowed of meat and drink,' as old Chaucer says, in these quaint hostelries; throughout the whole of the day; till the very air of that part of the town was redolent of bountiful cookery. . .

    "Up in the high part of the town, near the parish church, the busy life of that day had presented somewhat different features to those which had stirred the neighbourhood of the market-place; for in the ancient street, on the south side of the church, the great 'cow fair' had been held; and the quaint inn, fronting the entrance to the churchyard, had swarmed with moorland farmers and cattle dealers, from early morning.  As night drew near most of these had trickled away from the scene towards their distant homes; and the sounds of revelry grew fainter and fainter as darkness began to fall, and the last lingerers wandered away to the more central part of the town, down by the river side.  By the time the clock of St. Chad's had tolled the hour of eleven, the street in which the 'cow fair' had been held, ― which was all strewn with relics of the bovine throng, — had become still; and very little was to be heard, except the dying buzz of midnight life in the town at the foot of the church steps; or the maundering ditty of some late wassailer, reeling homeward along the slippery street; and the wind wailing and moaning in the trees of the vicarage.  A quarter to twelve!  The chimes of the old church struck up 'O'er the hills and far away!'  And in many an old inn, down in the town, the landlord had already warned his customers that it was time to shut up for the night.  'Now, lads, its close upo' twelve!  Come, sup up an' be gooin'!'  Twelve!  The old church clock struck the hour, in slow and solemn tones, which floated over the town, at the foot of the hill, and along the stilling valley, and up the steep which slopes northward from the river side.  Before the last stroke had died away upon the midnight air, the chimes changed, and struck up 'Life let us cherish!' the melody for the new day; and the chirrupy notes were taken up by many a late wanderer, as he reeled homeward in the dark."


 
CHAPTER V.

THE SEXTON'S STORY CONTINUED.


My lodging is on the cold ground,
And, oh, very hard is my fare,

OLD ENGLISH SONG.


THE midnight chimes had just begun gun their usual fifteen minutes' melody, when the landlady of the inn opposite the gate of the church-yard, came slowly down the lobby, and closed the front door of the house.  She went into the empty tap-room, and sighed as she looked round at the floor, and at the sloppy tables.  Then, putting out the light, she set her hands upon her hips, and yawned, as she went, with weary step, towards the kitchen, where the landlord and three old cronies had crept round the fire, after all the rest had gone.  Their ale-tots stood, some on the hob, and some on the round table, at the landlord's elbow.  They were talking together in a low tone, and staring at the fire.  They had evidently 'set in' for a quiet 'conk' at the heel of the day's bustle.

    "'James,' said she, addressing her husband, 'James, I think I'll be off to bed, for I'm clen (clean) done up; an' to-morn's th' weshin'-day.  It's like as if one's wark were never ended.  What wi' one thing an' what wi' another I'm wearied eawt o' mi life!  Neaw don't thee goo an' sit up lung, — doesto yer?  For the Lord's sake, do let's get a bit o' rest while there is a chance!  An' mind thae puts th' leets eawt, an' make th' durs fast, — doesto yer?  Neaw, folk, I prayo, don't goo an' keawer (sit) theer till dayleet!  It's gettin' on for one o'clock!  I'm sure yo'r wives 'll be waitin' up on yo.  James, thae'll not keep 'em, wilto (wilt thou)? '

    "'Nawe, I'll not, lass,' said the landlord.  'Go thi ways to bed, — for thae's had a hard day.  Go thi ways to bed, — thae'll do wi' a bit o' rest!  We're noan beawn to sit here so lung, thae may depend.  Off wi' tho!  I'll see o' reet!'

    "'Well, mind thae does,' said she.  Then, addressing the other three, who were old customers of the house, she said, 'Good neet to yo.  Dunnot goo an' keep him, neaw.  I mun get my yed laid down, or else I's be fit for nought i'th mornin'.'

    "'Good neet, Betty,' replied they.  'We'll be off in a shift.'

    "'Good neet,' said she again; and then, closing the kitchen door behind her, she gave another quiet sigh, and slowly climbed the stairs.

    "By this time the chimes of St. Chad's had rung out their cheery salutation to the morn; and all around was silent, except the wind moaning among the trees around the old vicarage, and whirling withered leaves about on the gravestones in the churchyard.  And the town in the valley was now so still that the clear, strong voice of 'Owd Lord,' the watchman, whose beat was in the neighbourhood of the 'Cross,' rang among the deserted streets with a solitary sound, as he announced to the wide world, in kind of solemn melody, that it was 'Past twelve o'clock, and a cloudy morning!"

    "The landlord of the inn gave a quiet look at the kitchen door when his wife had closed it, and he listened to her footsteps as she retired up the stairs.  As soon as he heard her close the chamber door aloft, he drew his chair nearer to the fire.

    "'Now, lads,' said he, rubbing his hands, 'we'll just have another tot a-piece — an' then.  I'm fain th' owd lass is gwon; for th' fair-day al'ays knocks her up; an' hoo's noan so well of hersel'.  Come, sup up, an' I'll fill 'em again.  Yo mun ha' this wi' me, for th' sake of owd times.'

    "Each drank up, and then the landlord noiselessly opened the door, and went and filled the pots again at the bar.  Returning in the same stealthy manner, he said, as he set them down quietly, 'Now, lads; we must be as whist as mice!  I wouldn't wakken her for the wide world.  I like to have a bit of a quiet do, when o's o'er.'

    "The door was closed.  The old cronies drew their chairs together, in genial chat, round the fire; and the fun gradually rose, till at last all discretionary restraint was fast fading from their thoughts; and even the landlord began to be forgetful of his wife, and of the rest of the sleeping household.

    "'Come, lads!' said he; 'let's have a bit of a sung.  Billy, strike up "Gossip Joe.'"

    "'Nawe,' replied Billy; 'let's sing, 'Come, sweet lass.'  Joe, thae can put in a bit of a second.'

    "'Brast off, then,' replied the landlord.

    "Just then, somebody lifted the latch outside; and, addressing the landlord through the lock-hole, he said, 'Neaw then, Jem!  Dost yer?  Oppen th' dur!'

    "'Husht!' said the landlord, whispering to his cronies.  'Put that leet eawt!'

    "The light was instantly extinguished, and they sat like four statues; silently denouncing this disturber of their secret revel; and trembling lest the din should awaken the sleeping landlady.  At last, wearied of his fruitless appeal through the lock-hole, the midnight wanderer went muttering away.  They listened to his retreating footsteps till the sound died out in the distance; and then the landlord said, 'He's off.  Dun yo know who it is?'

    "'Nawe.'

    "'It's owd Wobble!  I'm fain we didn't let him in.  He'd weary a grooin'-tree, he's sich a maunderin' foo! . . . Now, then, Joe come, get agate o' that sung! Strike up,—"Come, sweet lass."  An' sing low, — by th' mon, — sing low; or else yo'n have her downstairs.'

    "Billy struck up the quaint old song, to the tune of 'Greenwich Fair:'—


    Come, sweet lass,
This bonny weather,
Let's together, —
    Come, sweet lass;
Let's trip upon the grass!
    Everywhere,
Poor Jockey seeks his dear;
And, unless she does appear,
He sees no beauty here.

    On the green,
The lads are sporting,
Piping, courting;
    On the green
The frisky lads are seen!
    There, all day,
The lasses dance and play,
And everyone is gay,
But I, — when you're away.


    "'Bravo, Billy, owd lad!' cried the landlord, repeating the last lines:—


And everyone is gay,
But I, — when you're away,


    "'Come, I'll gi' yo a bit of a ditty mysel' said the landlord; and he began,—


My owd wife, hoo's a good owd crayter;
My owd wife, hoo's a good owd soul!


    "But the noise had already awakened the sleeping landlady.  She listened a minute.  'Goodness days!' said she, 'Are they sittin' yon yet?'  She got out of bed and went to the head of the stairs.  'Jem,' cried she, 'i'th name o' fortin', — heaw lung ever are yo beawn to sit drinkin' theer?  Jem! dosto yer? . . . Did ever onybody yer sich a din as they're makin', at this time o'th neet?  Jem! dosto yer?'

    "But by this time the flowing revel had so far advanced that the three cronies were not easily aroused.  At last the landlady, getting clean out of all patience, took a candlestick and began to knock upon the banister; and the unusual noise soon attracted their attention.

    "'Husht, lads said the landlord, setting his pot down; 'Husht! what's that?' and there was an instant lull in the kitchen.

    "'Jem,' cried the landlady again, 'heaw lung ever are yo beawn to sit yeawlin' theer?'

    "'By th' mon,' said the landlord, 'it's eawr Betty!  Howd yore din!  I'll goo.'

    "Then, opening the kitchen door, he went to the foot of the stairs, and looking up in the dark, he said, 'Neaw, then, owd lass!'

    "'Neaw then, owd lass!' replied she, from the head of the stairs.  'Aye, thae may weel say, 'Neaw then, owd lass!'  Yo are makin' a bonny din i'th hole.  I wonder heaw ever thae can for shame allow sich gooins on, — when folk are i' bed; an' me as ill as I am!  Let thoose chaps go their ways whoam; it would seem 'em better nor (than) sittin' slotchin' theer.  We can send for 'em again when they're wanted!  They'n made hullabaloo enough here, for one neet!  I'll not ha' sich wark!  Turn 'em eawt, an' lock th' dur on 'em!  They'd ha' bin off afore now, but for thee!  It's time for o' gradely folk to be i' their own houses, — thoose 'at has ony.  Turn 'ern eawt, an' come thi ways to bed, this minute!  Dost yer?'

    "'I yer.'

    "'Well, heed then!'

    "'It's no use, lads,' said the landlord, as he entered the kitchen again.  'There'll be no comfort i'th hole neaw!  Yo may as well go soon as lat.  Come, sup up; an' I'll see yo to th' dur.  We'n have it eawt another day.'

    "He went with them to the door, and, bidding them 'Good neet!' in an undertone, he closed the door, and left them, 'on the right side for running,' as the saying goes.

    "It was a dark and cloudy night, and the wind moaned wildly in the vicarage trees.

    "'Well, lads,' said the cobbler, 'I guess we'd better go whoam, — there's nought else for it now.  So I'll make best o' my gate to th' Pin-fowd! . . . Billy, thae'rt beawn up th' Schoo'-lone.  If I wur thee, Joe, I'd tak across th' churchyard, an' deawn th' steps.  It'll be a short cut, — if thae can manage to hit th' gate, — for thae'rt nobbut a mak (sort) o' wambly to-neet.  But thae mun do as weel as tho con.  By th' mass, it is some dark!  Well, tak care o' yorsels!  Good neet, I'm off!'
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "Joe was a hearty little fellow, but he was quite done up that night; and the moment he was left to himself in the dark he seemed to get worse.  And he did not half like the thought of crossing the churchyard alone at that hour; but the other way was so much farther, and, by this time, he had such poor use of his legs, that, after a little hesitation, he began to lounge across the street towards the entrance gate.  He went in, and the gate closed behind him with a sound that made him shudder.  He pulled his hat over his brows; and, as he maundered about in the dark, he missed the path and ran against a tombstone, and dropped down.  As soon as he had managed to gather himself up again, he struck out once more, in a wrong direction, and before he had gone many yards, he tripped against a plank, and down he went, headlong, into a new-made grave.

    "As soon as Joe had a little recovered from the stunning surprise occasioned by his fall, he got slowly upon his feet and began to wipe the damp soil from his face.

    "'By th' mon, that's a socker! 'said he, as he combed the sand out of his hair with his fingers.  'Wheer am I getten to neaw?' continued he, as he groped around in the dark.  'Bi th' mass, I'm in a grave! . . . Ay, it's a grave, — an' nought else!' said he, groping about again.  'By Guy, I've shapt (shaped, managed) that nicely!  I co' this comin' deawn i'th world. . . . An' I believe I've put my shoolder eawt, too. . . . There's al'ays a summate!  I've played a deeol of marlocks i' my time, — o' one mak (sort) an' another, — but I've come'd to mi grave at last.  Heaw the dule mun I get eawt again? — that's th' next job.  I weren't mony minutes wi' gettin' into this hole; but it'll tak me some time to get eawt again, I deawt, . . . My mother use't to say that I should get takken deawn afore I deed; an', by th' mass, it's come'd true, — o' of a sudden!  An' I didn't leet o' mi feet, noather, — by th' feel o' mi yed. . . . By th' mon, it has prowst (stirred) my inside up, — to some gauge! . . . Wheer's my hat?' continued he, feeling about the bottom of the grave.  'Oh, it's here!  An' a bonny seet it'll be, when it comes to th' leet! . . . Folk shouldn't wear their Sunday clooas when they come'n into sich holes as these.  I never thought, when I donned mysel' this mornin', 'at I were beawn to my own berrin (burying). . . . If ever I get o'er this, I's ha' summat to tell on.  First I'm knocked o'er bi a tombstone, an' then I'm roll't into a grave, — o' in abeawt two minutes!  Talk abeawt warlocks!  Cock-feightin's a foo' to this!'

    "Just then the clock struck one.

    "'Ay,' said he; 'one o'clock!  That dar come bi itsel'!  Eh, I wish I'd gwon whoam i'th dayleet!  I've a good mind to rive th' yure off mi yed, — for a foo'!'

    "It began to rain.

    "'Neaw then,' said he, as he turned up the collar of his coat; 'neaw then, it's rainin', bi th' mon.  It'll be a smart go if I get dreawn't i'th hole?  I're just thinkin' o' fo'in asleep a bit.  But it's noan so nice when it rains i' bed. . . A grave,' continued he, groping at the side again; 'a grave!  A smart shop for wick folk to fo asleep in!  I wish there wur a bell i'th hole; I'd ring — soon, — an' bowdly, too! . . . It's no use.


Life's sich a quare bit o' travel—
    A warlock wi' sun an' wi' shade, —
An' then, on a bowster o' gravel,
    They lay'n us i' bed wi' a spade.


They didn't lay me i' bed wi' a spade, noather.  I'd no bother wi' gettin' down here.  I coom o' mysel'! — wi' a solsh. . . . Breet-lookin' chamber this is!  There's nought nobbut deed folk i' this shop.  If one could get a wink or two o' sleep, it would be rayther awkward bein' wakken't by a rook o' chaps beawt flesh' o' their bwons.  By th' mon, it makes me cringe to think on't!  They're cowd folk to lie wi', — ghosts are. . . . It is some dark i' this hole!  An' it's cowd, too!  If there wur a barrow-ful o' red cinders i'th nook it would be better nor nought. . . . I wonder if I could get out. . . . Let's try.'

    "He tried to climb the side of the grave, but the soil slipped from his grasp, and he gave up the attempt.

    "'Shall I ever get eawt o' this hole alive, I wonder?  By th' mon, it is some cowd! . . . Eawr folk are o' snug i' bed lung sin.  An' here I am — i' mi grave, — or somebody else's!  Eh, it is some cowd! . . . If I'd summate to cover me wi', I'd lie me deawn a bit.  An' owd brewheawse dur (door) would be better nor nought.  There'd be no fleas i' that blanket, as heaw. . . . Here, let's try again!'

    "Once more he attempted to get up the side of the grave, but slipped back.

    "'It's no use,' said he; 'it's no use.  There's no gettin' up beawt a ladder.  I may as weel try to make mysel' comfortable. . . . Howd, I'll poo some o' this sond deawn to sit on.'

    "He then began to scrape down the sand from the side of the grave, till, at last, he came to something hard.

    "'Hollo,' said he, 'what's that?'

    "He felt at it again.

    "'By th' mon,' said he, 'it's a coffin!'

    "A cold shiver rain through him, and he crept off to the other end of the grave.

    "'Bi' th' mass,' said he, as he looked back at the place from which he had scraped the soil, 'I'll let that alone.  I's be wakkenin' summat or another.  Somebody may pop their yed eawt o' that box ony minute. . . . Eh, I wish I wur eawt o' this hole,' continued he, giving a hopeless glance up at the night sky.  Then, pulling his hat over his eyes, and buttoning his coat up to the chin, he reared himself up in the corner, and began to mutter in a low tone, —

    "'Well, here I am, and here I mun stop, seemin'ly. . . .It's just th' way o' th' world, — buried to-day and forgetten to-morn.  I wonder if onybody 'll ever look after me. . . . Eh, if ever I get o'er this, I'll let somebody yer my tung. . . . Eawr childer are snug i' bed lung sin.  I wish I're wi 'em. . . . I dar say eawr Sall's sit by th' fire just this minute, coin' me war (worse) nor a powcat for stoppin' eawt so lung.  Eawt?  Nay, I'm in — aboon a bit.  Eh, if th' owd lass knew heaw sudden I've com'd to my grave, — just i' th' prime o' life, too, — hoo'd cry her e'en up, — happen.  I wonder if th' owd crayter would get wed again if one wur to dee. . . . I wish I could send her word wheer I am. . . . It's no use.'  Then, sighing as he looked round at the steep sides of the grave, he continued, 'Well, it doesn't matter.  I may as weel try to make mysel' comfortable.  I'll have a bit moor o' this sond deawn, if I can find a soft spot; for by th' mon I'll ha' nought no moor to do wi' that coffin!  It doesn't do to disturb folk when they're asleep.  I shouldn't like it mysel'. . . . Husht!  What's that? . . . I thought I yerd summat.  Nay, it's nobbut th' woint. . . . Eh, I am some starv't.  Noather blankets nor nought.  A bonny hole this is. . . . Husht!'

    "It was a company of late stragglers coming up Church Lane, singing—


Bright chanticleer proclaims the dawn,
    And spangles deck the thorn;
The lowing herds now quit the lawn;
    The lark springs from the corn;
Dogs, huntsmen, all, the window throng
    Fleet Towler leads the cry;
Arise the burden of my song,—
    This day a stag must die!

                    With a heigho, chevy!
Hark forward, hark forward, tantivy!
    Hark forward, away!   Tantivy, huzza!
    Hark forward, hark forward, tantivy!
Arise the burden of my song,—
    This day a stag must die.


    "'Ay; by th' mon,' said Joe; 'yo may weel tantivy.  Yo're o' reet! . . . Drunken bowster-yeds!  It would seem yo better if yo wer'n thinkin' abeawt another world, i'stid o' tantivin' up an deawn th' street, disturbin' folk i' their graves!  Yo'n ha' to come to't yet; as mich din as yo maken! . . . Husht!  They're at it again!'


Good mornin', gossip Joe;
    Where are you going so early?
Good mornin', gossip Joe;
    Where are you going so early;
So early in the mornin', gossip Joe?


    "'Eh, I wish I're amung thoose lads,' said Joe.  'Husht!'


My pocket I have lost, —
    'Twas lined with sugar-candy, —


    "'By th' mon!' said Joe, 'I know one o' thoose chaps.  Husht!'


My pocket I have lost, —
'Twas lined with sugar-candy,—


    "'It is!  It is, by th' mon!  It's owd Yeawler, th' huntsman, an' nought else!  Eh, owd lad; I wish I wur followin' thee across Rooley Moor, i' full cry, wi' a beef-bo' i' my pocket. . . . Howd,' continued he, 'I'll make thoose lads yer (hear), — or else I'll see. . . . I'll just give em a stave o'th owd mak.  They're comin' this road on.  Here goes! . . . Heigh, Blossom!  Ye-ho!  Heigh, Beauty, my lass!  Heigh, Beawncer; Beawncer,little dog!  By, dogs, by!  Yo-ho!  Theer,' said Joe, stopping to take breath, 'I think they'n yer that, if they aren't both dee of and gawmless. . . . Husht!'

    "He listened; and they stopped and listened, too, with the hair creeping upon their heads, as they stared towards the dark churchyard, from whence the sound came; and for a minute or two all was still, except the wind among the vicarage trees, and the dead leaves whirling about upon the whirling gravestones.

    "'There,' said Joe, 'I've stopped their din — as heaw.  By th' moon, they're freetn't!  An' they may weel. . . . Who wouldn't be freetn't, to yer folk huntin' in a grave, at two o'clock i'th mornin'?  I should mysel'. . . . An' bi th' mass, if there's onybody buried abeawt here that's bin use't to followin' th' dogs, they'n be gettin' up!  There'll be a bonny hullabaloo if I set a lot o' skeletons agate o' huntin' up an' deawn th' churchyard i'th neet -time! . . . Husht! they're comin'!'

    "The midnight wassailers were frightened by Joe's hunting cry; but they had crept softly up, and now they were peeping over the wall into the dark churchyard, within twenty yards of Joe's doleful lodging.

    "'The sound coom fro somewheer abeawt here,' said one in a fearful whisper.

    "'Well, I thought so,' replied the huntsman.  'But what the dule can it be, thinken yo? . . . Husht!  Rollo!  Sitho!  What's yon?'

    "'I see nought.'

    "'Ay, but I did!'

    "'Let's give 'em another stave,' said the third.  'Let's give 'em another stave — as who they are!'

    "'Nawe,' replied the huntsman, in a low tone; 'Nawe, nawe, let's be quiet. . . . Come away.  There's a good lot o' folk buried abeawt here 'at knows me. . . . Husht! . . . Let's go whoam.  I dunnot like this. . . . It's an ill sign when folk begins o' coin' on yo eawt o' their graves i'th neet-time.  I'm off, — as who else is!'

    "Joe had been hearkening to them all the while, and in the stillness of the night he could hear every word.  'Aye,' said he, 'it is as I said.  It's owd Yeawler.  I wish I could get him to help me eawt.  Here, I'll give 'em another stave.  Heigh, Yeawler, old dog!  Help me eawt!  I'm in a grave!'

    "'An' by —, thae may stop theer for me!' said Yeawler; and in an instant they all took to their heels.

    "'Theer,' said Joe, 'I've made yon lot shake i' their shoon, for once — as heaw 'tis.  They're off like redshanks.  An' they come noan back to-neet, noather, — a rook o' — leather-yeds! . . . Ay, they're off!  I've sin th' last on 'em for to-neet. . . . They'n have a bonny tale to tell i'th mornin', by Guy! . . . Eh, I wish I're eawt o' this hole!  I'd be at eawr heawse i' two minutes. . . . My porritch are waitin' upo' th' hob, just now; an' eawr Sall's sittin' bi th' fire knittin'; as cramps as a whisket, an' ready to brast off as soon as th' dur oppens. . . . Eh, Sall, owd lass, thae little knows, or else thae'd be here in a snift, wi' a clooas-prop or summat, to help me eawt!  God bless her owd face; I should he some fain to see thoose two blue een of hers lookin' off th' top theer, for I'm gettin' weary o' this shop! . . . They said it would be shortest road whoam through the churchyard; an' it is, too, when they gwon whoam for good.  But th' next time I goo whoam o'th dark, I'll pike (pick) a road that there's no holes in. . . . It's no use.  I'll try to mak mysel' a-whoam till day-leet.  . . . Sond an' coffins!  There's nought else i' this smithy!  Smart quarters for a feyther of a family to put up at!  Talk about keepin' one's heart up!  Sond for my supper, — sond for my bed, — sond for blankets, — an' skeletons for company!  They're quiet folk enough; but I'm noan partial to sich like neighbours.  Sond an' coffins!  I guess I's ha' to get my breakfast off a coffin-lid i'th mornin'!  Well, come; I'll ha' summat to sit on, as heaw.'

    "He was beginning to scrape the sand down again to make into a seat for himself in the corner, but, pausing thoughtfully, and laying his hand upon the side of the grave, he said, in a low tone, 'I wonder who sleeps i' this next chamber! . . . Happen some o'th quality!  The Lord knows.  Folk getten mixed up so at after they're deeod; an' they agree'n better than they dun when they're wick. . . . Well, as who they are, I shouldn't like to disturb 'em.  Nawe, I'll let 'em alone, if they'n let me alone.  Besides, they met (might) happen think that I'd no business here.  By th' mon, I think so mysel'! . . . But it's noan o' my faut.  I didn't think o' coin' at this shop.  An' if ever I get a-top o' this broo again, they'n not catch me here no moor, — till I'm brought in a box!  Let's see! my uncle Bill's buried noan so fur off this spot.  If th' owd lad knowed I wur here, I believe he'd get up an' help me eawt.  Folk are ready enough to help one another into their graves; but there's noan so mony 'at'll do tother job, — except these body-snatchers, as they co'n 'em.  By th' mass, I wish one o' thoose would come an' have a snatch at me!  I'd mak th' owd lad tak my body eawt o' this hole, or else I'd tan his hide reet weel! . . .

    "Let's see; my aint Matty lies i' yon fur (far, distant) nook.  Hoo'd be eighty-five when hoo deed. . . . Eighty-five! an' here I am, under forty!  Talk abeawt th' ups an' deawns in a mon's life!  This is a deawn if ever there wur one.  I should like th' next move to be tother gate on; an' I hope it'll come soon, too. . . . Eh, if my uncle Bill knowed that I wur here, th' owd lad would turn in his coffin, if he didn't get up.  But, by th' mass, if he did get up, he'd skift some o' these folk i' this yard — for he use't to be ill to manage when he started.  I hope he's gone to heaven, — th' owd lad; but, if he is, he'll be a rough angel, I doubt.  There's a two-three folk lyin' abeawt here that'll remember his shoon middlin' weel.  He use't to make bits o' notches upo' their shins, neaw an' then.  But, I dar say, he's quieter now than he use't to be. . . . "There's lots o' chaps buried abeawt here 'at knows me.  It looks quare 'at one mun be amung owd cronies, an' nobody to give a body a bit of a lift. . . .

    'Let's see,' continued he; 'this is th' time when ghosts are upo' th' look-eawt for squalls.  If there's ony on 'em stirrin' they'n happen look in here.  But they'n never think o' lookin' for wick folk in a grave!  It ony on 'em happens to see me i' this hole, they'n think I belung to th' same lot as theirsel's. . . . It's a quare thing abeawt ghosts; I've yerd 'em say that nobody ever comes back eawt o' their graves, nobbut thoose that han summat o' their minds.  I've summat o' mi' mind, just neaw, an' I'll let somebody know it, too, if ever I get eawt o' this grave!  If I'd bin a gradely ghost, I could ha' bin eawt o' this hole in a snift!  But I think that if ever I get laid deawn for good, — as what I have o' mi' mind, I'll try to lie still, an' keep it to mysel'.  I see no good in 'em gettin' up eawt o' their comfortable beds, i'th neet time, to maunder up an' deawn i'th cowd, freetenin folk eawt o' their wits! . . . It's a quare thing about ghosts comin' back, wi' their clooas on, too!  That caps me!  Think o'th ghost of a owd singlet, or th' ghost of a lin sheet!  I connot make it eawt. . . . An' then, when folk gets brunt to deeoth, they sey'n that they come'n back then sometimes!  One would think that after a chap's bin brunt to cinders, an' buried in a quart pot, he'd never coom back no moor, — unless he coom on a fire-shool!'

    "'But, they may do as they'n a mind, for me!  I can make noather top nor tail o' marlocks (pranks) 'at belungs th' tother country (the next world) want to get eawt o' this hole, that's o'! . . . Eh, I am some hungry!  I wish I'd fo'n into a cook's shop, istid (instead) o' this smithy! . . . Well, it's no use, I'm done up!  I mun have a bit of a nap, as what comes!  Husht! what's that?'

    "The old church clock struck three.

    "'One — two — three!' said Joe.  'Three o'clock.  Come, that'll do!  It'll be day-leet some time, I guess!'

    "Then the chimes began the melody for the day, again, — 'Life let us cherish!'

    "'Ay, bi th' mass,' said Joe; 'thae may weel say, "Life let us cherish!"  It's that very thing that encourages these ghosts to get up eawt o' their beds i'th neet-time!  But I'm noan deeod, yet; so here goes —.'  And he began to sing, 'Life let us cherish.'  'Howd!' said he; 'howd!  By th' mon, that's hardly th' reet mak of a sung to sing in a grave! . . . I'll drop it!  Eh, I am some sleepy!  It's time to fo' to! '

    "Then, pulling his hat over his eyes, and turning the collar of his coat up, he sat down in the corner upon the little pile of sand which he had scraped down from the side of the grave; and in a few minutes he was fast asleep.  And he slept on, in his cold corner, for more than two hours; giving an uneasy shiver now and then, and muttering dreamily, — "Sall, give o'er!  Thae'rt pooin' th' clooas off!'

    "It was now the still of the night.  Still, at least, from human sound; for all the troubled world of man's life lay pillowed on the breast of sleep, — that gentle breast, on which the mortal wanderer nightly takes the rest that helps him on his journey from the cradle to that last long sleep of death.  The book of worldly business was shut, and clasped, till the dawn of morning woke up matin-service again; and the undertones of nature, which are lost in the roar of noon, had all the ear of midnight to themselves.  And the dusky silence seemed to swarm with spiritual comments upon the fuming shows of the by-gone day.  And strange whispers came from the wandering night-wind, whispers, laden with the sighs of ages of departed sorrow.  And every inanimate thing seemed to have found some small voice that took part in the weird conversation of that solemn hour.

    "In the meantime Joe slept on in his cold nook, surrounded by the bones of his fathers.

    "A little before five o'clock, while it was yet dark, the sounds of morning life began to stir; cocks crew, and dogs barked and one after another, at lonely intervals, people straggled, half awake and shivering, across the dark churchyard, on their way to work.  Still Joe slept on until, at last, a lad came across the churchyard, singing aloud, to the old Lancashire tune, called 'The Dawning of the Day':—


'Twas on a rosy morn in June,
    When farmers made their hay,
Down by yon posied woodland green
    A milkin' maid did stray,
An' oh, but she was sweet an' fair,—
    The flower of all the vale;
In her hand a wild white rose she bare,
    And on her head a pail.


The song awakened Joe, and he began to stir in his cold nook.  First he shivered, and then he yawned, and rubbed his eyes.  And then, groping round in the dark, — for the day was hardly yet tinged with the dawning light, — he said, 'Hello! wheer am I neaw? . . . th' new Bailey?. . . Oh, — I remember; I coom in here last neet, — o' of a sudden! . . . Aye, — I'm buried!  Stop! what's yon?'

    "The lad was now drawing near, with his song,—


An' oh, but she was sweet an' fair,—
    The flower of all the vale;
In her hand a wild white rose she bare,
    And on her head a pail.


    "'Neaw for it,' said Joe, rubbing his hands.  'There's a bit of a chance at last!'  And, setting his hands to the sides of his mouth, he yelled out, 'Height! my lad.  Doesto yer?'

    "The lad stood stock still for an instant, staring in the dusk towards the place from whence the voice came; he stood for an instant, with the hair bristling upon his head; and then he took to his heels across the churchyard, and down the steps which led to the centre of the town.  Down the steps he went, taking the whole hundred and twenty at a dozen wild strides.

    "In a little while the six o'clock bell rang, and people began to come thicker along the churchyard path.  Joe tried them in succession as they went by; but, one after another, they fled at the sepulchral voice, — as the lad had done before.  In the meantime the daylight was strengthening; and soon after the old church clock had stricken seven, a milk cart came rattling down the street close bythe churchyard.  The cart stopped, and the man cried out, 'Milk!'

    "Joe hailed the sound with delight, for he knew it well.

    "'Hello!' said he, clapping his hands.  'By th' mass, that's Johnny!  Sing, O be joyful, all ye lands!  Fol der diddle ido!  I's get eawt o' this hole neaw! . . . Heigh, Johnny!  Johnny, owd lad!  For the Lord's sake come an' poo me eawt o' this  ――  hole!'

    "Who's yon?' said the milkman; and he came into the churchyard and looked round; and then, led by the sound, he came to the edge of the grave, and looked in.

    "'Eh,' cried Joe, gazing up at the milkman, 'I never were so fain to see no mortal face i' this world as I am to see that o' thine, owd lad.  What time isn't?'

    "'Hello!' cried the milkman, 'is that thee, Joe?'

    "'It's nought else,' said Joe.  'Come, poo me eawt!'

    "'Thae'rt gettin' deawn i'th world, owd lad!' replied the milkman.

    "'I am that,' said Joe.  'But I intend to rise an' shine again, — as soon as ever I've a chance!  Here, don't ston' starin' theer!  I want to get eawt!'

    "'An' what the deuce arto doin' i' that shop?' asked the milkman.

    "'I've bin here o' neet!'

    "'Thae's hectum as like!  An' what's that for?  Is there somebody after thou?'

    "'Nawe; but there will be afore lung, if I dunnot get eawt o' this hole,' said Joe.  'Eh, I am some cowd an' stiff!  There'll be some stock o' rheumatic i' my limbs at after this dooment!  Here, poo me eawt!'

    "'Nay,' replied the milkman, laughing, 'thae may as weel stop while thae art theer.  Thae'll ha' to come back some day.'

    "'Time enough for that,' said Joe.  'I haven't finished my wark up at th' top, yet! . . . But eh, for th' Lord's sake, don't make fun on me just now!  I conno' ston' it.  Poo me eawt!  An' then come deawn thisel' a bit, if thae likes th' look on it.  I've had a fairish do!'

    "'Come,' said the milkman, as he knelt down by the grave, 'let's see what we con do with tho.  Gi's howd o' thi hond!'

    "But the grave was too deep, and Joe was too short; and as the milkman rose from his knees he said, 'It's no use.  You're too deep for me, as th' jackass said when it fell into th' draw-well.'

    "'Here — here!' cried Joe, 'thaer't noan beawn to lev (leave) me i' this hole, arto?'

    "Nawe,' cried the milkman, 'I'll ha' thee eawt o' someheaw, owd lad.'

    "Then, taking off his jacket, he slung it down the side of the grave, and he said, 'Here! tak howd o' that.'

    "Joe clutched at the jacket in an instant, and the milkman began to haul.  But Joe was a good weight.

    "'Howd, howd!' cried the milkman; 'th' sleeve's comin' off!  Let goo!'

    "'Nawe; by th' mon!' cried Joe.  'I'll stick!  It's th' last chance.'

    "'Then tak it o'together,' said the milkman, loosing his hold, and letting Joe fall into the grave again.

    "'By th' mass!  I do get knocked abeawt i' this cowd world!' said Joe, as he rose to his feet again.

    "'Here; fling that jacket up,' cried the milkman.

    "'Howd thi din!' said Joe.  'I'm noan beawn to run away wi't. . . . Thae doesn't co' this pooin' me eawt, doesto?' continued he, looking up at the milkman.

    "'I co' it pooin' mi jacket i' pieces!' replied the milkman.  'Here; fling it up!  'That jacket cost me twelve shillin' i' good hard brass three week sin.'  Thae doesn't want me to go whoam wi' th' tone (the one) sleeve off, doesto?'

    "'Sleeve or no sleeve, thaell ha' to poo me eawt, owd lad or else thae mun go whoam beawt (without) jacket. . . . I con do wi' some clooas (clothes) deawn i' this hole!  Thae'd say so, too, if thae'd bin here o' neet!  Try thi breeches th' next.  They're strunger stuff!'

    "I've a good mind to fling a milk-can a-top o' thi yed!' said Johnny.  'I wonder what thae'rt doin' theer!  If thae'd bin a gradely size't chap thae met (might) ha' getten eawt o' that shop o' thisel'!

    "'Thae may say whatever thae's a mind, owd lad,' replied Joe;  'but there's no jacket for thee, till I get at th' top o' this brood!'

    "'Well, heaw mun I do it, then?' said the milkman; 'heaw mun I do it?  For I'm noan beawn to ston' here i' my shirt sleeves, shiverin' like a foo!'

    "'Thae may plez (please) thy bonny sel' heaw it's done, — but, dun it mun be, — or else I'll set up a clooas shop i' this hole!' cried Joe, folding the milkman's jacket up, and tucking it under his arm. . . . 'It'll ha' to be done, owd lad!' continued he; 'so thae may get to wark as soon as thae's a mind!  What arto stonnin' theer for?  Off witho to th' painter's yon, — an' borrow a bit of a ladder.  Thae's no shift in tho.  If Billy'd bin here, he'd ha' had me eawt o' this cote long afore neaw — ladder or no ladder!'

    "The milkman took the hint and off he ran.

    "By th' mass,' said Joe, clipping the jacket as he paced to and fro in the grave, 'I'll stick, till I get beawt o' this nook!'

    "In a few minutes the milkman returned with a short ladder.  Joe lost no time in ascending the side of the grave, and, when he got to the top, he said to the milkman,

    "'Here, tak thi jacket, owd lad! . . . Eh, I'm some fain to get back to my own country again!' continued he, as he flapped his arms, and gazed round the churchyard.  'The may want to dee 'at's a mind for me; I'm in no hurry.  It's no wonder at folk comin' eawt o' their graves i'th neet-time!  If I slept theer regilar (regularly), I should try to come eawt a bit, neaw an' then, — if it were nobbut to warm mysel'. . . . Eh, it has bin some cowd i' that hole!'

    "'Thae looks starv't, old lad, for sure!' said the milkman, as they walked out at the great gate of the churchyard together.

    "It was now nearly eight o'clock, and the landlord stood in the doorway of the inn, yawning and stretching his arms, and exchanging morning salutations with the passers by, for by this time the whole neighbourhood was getting wide awake.  But when he saw Joe, with his white face and shrunken form, sauntering across the street with his collar turned up and his hands in his pockets, he cried out,

    "'Hello! what's up 'at thae'rt here so soon this mornin', Joe?'

    "'Ston' eawt!' replied Joe.  'Ston' eawt, an' let's come in.  I want to warm me.'

    "'Ay, go thi ways into the kitchen,' said the landlord, 'for thae'rt i' poor fettle, owd lad.  What's to do?'

    "'I've had a bad neet,' replied Joe.

    "'I think thae mun have,' said the landlord, 'for by th' mon, thae looks ill!  Hasto had summat 'at didn't agree wi' tho?'

    "'I have that!' replied Joe.

    "'What wur it?' inquired the landlord.

    "'It wur my lodgin's, owd lad!' cried Joe; 'it wur my lodgin's!'

    "'Why, wheer hasto bin?' said the landlord.

    "'I've bin in a grave o' neet!' replied Joe, jerking his thumb in the direction of the churchyard.

    "'Why, whatever hasto bin doin' theer?' said the landlord.

    'I've bin wantin' to get eawt again, — o'the time,' replied Joe, looking over his shoulder as he sat at the fire.

    "'Here, come,' said the landlord, drawing his chair up, 'let's yer o' abeawt it.'

    "'Gi's howd of a saup (sup) o' summit warm, an' then,' replied Joe.

    "And when Joe had got something comfortable to drink he set to, and told the whole story, to the great amusement of the landlord and his wife.

    "'Come,' said the landlady, laughing, 'thae'll happen try to get whoam i' daycent time another neet.  It would ha' sarv't yo reet if yo'd every one fo'n (fallen) into th' hole together.'

    "'Well, that would ha' bin a bit o' company,' replied Joe, 'But I've had the hole to mysel', Betty, wi' sond for a bed, n' th' sky for a blanket.'

    "'Well, come an' get a bit o' breakfast into thou,' said she, 'for thae looks parish't (perished).  An' then hie thi ways whoam.  I'm sure your folk 'll be seechin' tho.'

    "And when Joe had finished his breakfast, he was glad enough to creep along the back streets homewards, and then to bed.  And ever after that night, when he had to walk home in the dark, he took especial care, as he said, to 'pike (pick) a road that had no holes in it.'"
                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "An' neaw," said the sexton, taking up his glass, "my tale's ended."

    "An' it's a toe-biter, too," said the quarryman.

    "It's a strange tale, for sure," replied the landlady, "but is it true, thinken yo?"

    "Oh, let it alone, lass," cried the landlord, "th' tale'll do."

    "Ay, it'll do as it stons," said the old pedlar.

    "Well, come," said the landlord, raising his glass "here's hopin' that noan on us may ever come to er (our) graves before th' nateral time."

    "Amen," said the sexton.

    "I'll tell tho what, Dan," said the landlord, turning round to the sexton, "I think thae'rt aimin' at gettin' th' clerk's place at yon owd church o' yo'rs, — thae practises that 'Amen!' o' thine so mich."

    "Well, I'll say 'Amen!' for him then," said the old pedlar; "for I'm sure there's noan on us wants to be buried afore their time comes."

    "It'll be soon enough for me," said the quarryman.  "There's mony a poor soul can hardly get laid by after they are deeod," said the landlady.

    "I see noan on 'em laft at th' top," continued the quarryman.  "They o' getten buried, oather for love or summat else."

    "I don't think that'll trouble me mich, at after my yed get's lapped," said the landlord.

    "Come, who's turn is it neaw?" said the sexton.  "Let's have another bit of a ditty; or a tale; or summate.  Who's th' next?"

    "Nawe," replied the landlord, "let's tak breath, an' shake ersel's together a bit, afore we starten again! "

    "Mun I try another sung?" said the quarryman, addressing the landlord.

    "Nawe, awe!" cried the landlord.  "Nawe!  By th' mon; we'en had enough o' thy singin'!  Let's be comfortable!  If thae starts again, I'll be off to bed, eawt o'th gate, — for I connot ston it!  Thae makes a din like a sceawrin'-stone."

    "Rest yo'rsels a bit," said the landlady, "that last has bin a long do."

    "Agreed," replied the quarryman.  "Bring me another!"


 
CHAPTER VI.


This is no my ain house,
    I ken it by the biggin' o't:
This is no my ain house,
    I ken it by the riggin' o't.

SCOTCH SONG.


THE sexton's story had roused the spirits of the company to a great pitch of glee, and they began to knit closer round the great fire, which seemed to fatten the cosy air of the kitchen with its genial smile; and which seemed to flicker and glow with a sudden flush of applause, as if it had been listening to every word the sexton said, and the story had made it "hutchin'- fain."  The two Bradford travellers were especially delighted with the humour of the thing.  The dialect in which it had been given had so much affinity to their own, that it was quite intelligible, and it woke up in their minds a world of pleasant memories connected with their native locality, which is so rich in racy northern song and story; and they began to feel as if they, too, ought to do something for the honour of the white rose of York.  "Mun I give 'em Ben Preston's 'Natterin Nan,' or 'Clapham town-end,' thinksto?" said one of them to the other.  "Wait a bit," replied his friend; "wait a bit.  There's plenty o' time.  They hannot swallowed that last, yet.  T' aad lad's towd his tale reight weel!"  And he was right, for the sexton's solemn face, and his quiet, and yet intensely expressive quaintness of manner, had fully developed every idiomatic touch of humour, and heightened the general effect of the story.  Everybody in the kitchen had been so absorbed during its recital, that the storm was quite forgotten for the time; and now the glasses were replenished, and they were mingling together in social chat, commenting upon the tale which they had heard. . . . In the meantime, the storm outside went on.  The wind and snow swept across the wild moor with unabated fury, and the keen blast raged and roared around the walls of the old house, as if hungry for its destruction.  The doors and windows rattled; the candles swaled as if they were frightened; the curtains swelled and quivered; and the wintry drift whirled far into the lobby, through every chink of the doorway.  And still the merry company in the kitchen chatted on in unconscious glee; until, at last, when a little fitful pause ensued, the wild moan of the wind came upon the landlord's ear, and, suddenly recollecting himself, he turned and said to the hostler,—

    "Giles, just look eawt, an' see heaw it's gooin' on!  An' hearken if there's aught comin' upo' th' road."

    Giles donned his hat, and went out, and in three or four minutes he came into the kitchen again; all snowed over.

    "It's doin' as hard as ever," said he, "an' I cannot yer (hear) a seawnd upo' th' road nobbut (none but) th' woint wizzin' past th' heawse, as if it were mad that it couldn't rive it up, an' carry it off into Yor'shire. . . . I think I'd better shool a bit of a gate (road) through th' snow; or else we's have a job to get to th' stables i'th mornin'."

    "Aye, aye; off witho an' do it at once," replied the landlord.  "We mun ha' th' horses looked to, as what else."

    "Why, is it so bad as that?" said one of the travellers.

    "Bad!" replied Giles, shouldering his shovel, and fastening his hat upon his head.  "I never seed nought like it i' my life."

    "It'll be a bonny job if we cannot get away i'th mornin'," said the Yorkshire traveller, looking at his friend.

    "That's sattle't on," continued Giles.  "Come to th' dur an' look for yo'rsels."

    Away went Giles to shovel a road through the snow; and he was followed to the door by the two Yorkshire travellers.

    In a minute or two the travellers returned to the kitchen looking rather "yonderly."

    "We're booked," said one to the other as they sat down.

    "Well, never mind," said the landlord, "It's no use thinkin' about it.  Come, poo up; and let's be cosy till bedtime.  When mornin' dawns, we'n do as weel as we con for yo!  If yo con goo, — an' win goo, — we'en try to help yo on; an' if yo connot get off, we'en do th' best we con to make yo comfortable till yo con goo; an' I don't know that I can say fairer."

    "It's as fair as th' heart o' mon could wish!" replied one of the Yorkshire travellers. . . . . "Come, Sam, lad," he continued, slapping his friend upon the knee, "let's draw up to th' hearth-stone, an' think no moor about it.  It doesn't snow here!"

    "That's reet," said the landlord, "poo up!"

    "Aye," said the old pedlar, drawing his chair nearer, "I think we connot do better, to-neet."

    "Come, Dan," said the landlord, addressing the sexton, "thae's getten thi breath again.  Give us another dainty touch of an owd-fashioned sung!"

    "I'm willin'," replied the sexton.

    "Goo on, then," said the landlord.

    And, when the sexton had taken a pull at his glass, and a pinch of snuff, he began—


Oh, gather rosebuds while ye may,
    For time he is a-flying;
And this same flower that blooms to-day,
    To-morrow will be dying.

Yon glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
    The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,—
    The nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
    When youth and blood are warmer;
But, being spent, then worse and worst
    Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
    And, while ye may, go marry;
For, having once but lost your prime,
    You may for ever tarry.


    The two Yorkshire travellers had chimed in so well with the sexton's song, here and there, that, when he had finished, he said to them, "Come, gentlemen, you've both music in yo; I can hear that.  I think you ought to do a bit of something for us."  And the sexton had guessed right; for they were both men of some cultivation, and of more than ordinary musical taste.

    "Burns for songs! " said one of them.  "There's no songster like Robbie Burns, especially when he sings of love!  There's one of Burns's love songs that I always thought wonderfully beautiful in delicacy of feeling and expression, and I often wonder that it is so seldom sung.  It is called 'Mary Morrison.'  I think the second verse is particularly fine.  I'll try the song, if you like.  It's very short."

    A warm assent was immediately given to the proposition; and the traveller struck up at once, in a melodious voice, tastefully controlled,—


O Mary, at thy window be,—
    It is the wish's, the trysted hour!
Those smiles and glances let me see
    That make the miser's treasure poor;
How blithely wad I bide the stoure,—
    A weary slave frae sun to sun,—
Could I the rich reward secure,—
    The lovely Mary Morrison.

Yestreen,—when to the trembling string,
    The dance gae'd through the lighted ha',
To thee my fancy took its wing,
    I sat,—but neither heard nor saw:
Though this was fair, and that was braw;
    And yon,—the toast of a' the town,—
I sighed, and said amang them a',
    Ye aye na Mary Morrison.

O Mary, canst thou wreck his peace
    Wha for thy sake would gladly dee?
Or canst thou break that heart of his
    Whose only faut is loving thee?
If love for love thou wilt na gie,
    At least be pity to me shown;
A thought ungentle canna be
    The thought o' Mary Morrison.


    The traveller's song was received with a warm burst of applause; and when the chorus of praises which followed had subsided a little, the landlord turned round to the quarryman, and he said, "Come, Sam, couldn't thou touch us up wi' another bit of a tale?"

    "Did I ever tell yo abeawt Jone o' Bob's an' th' Hay-bag?" said the quarryman.

    "Nawe; but thae may do, if thae's a mind," replied the landlord.

    "Well," said the quarryman, "Jone went to th' teawn to th' rent supper; an' he stopt till o' tother had gone; an' when he turnt eawt abeawt one o'clock i'th mornin', quite knocked up, he manage't o' someheaw to tak th' wrang gate (road).  Istid (instead) o' gooin' towards whoam, he took th' road to Manchester.  Well, he maunder't on an' on i'th dark.  At last the moon broke eawt, an' he began o' lookin' abeawt him a bit.  'Hello,' said he, starin' at a house that stood close by th' road —' that uset to be at th' left hond side when I've gone whoam afore.  Howd, — no, let's see!  If I turn me reawnd, th' heawse'll be on th' reet side.  But stop, — I'se be wran then.  I's ha' to walk whoam th' back road on, if I turn me reawnd!  That'll do noan!  There's summat eawt o' tune here!  I'll sit me deawn an' think a bit!'  An' he rear't hissel' again a milestone, an' drops asleep.  An' theer he slept on, till abeawt four o'clock i'th mornin'.  An' he'd ha' slept a good while longer, but there was a waggin (wagon) coom by, pilet up wi' stuff for Manchester.  'Hello!' says th' wagginer, shakin' Jone up, 'what arto doin' here?'  'I'm beawn whoam,' said Jone, rubbin' his een.  'That'll be a good while i' gettin' theer, i' tho travels at that rate,' said th' wagginer.  'Wheer doesto live?'  'Smo'-bridge!' said Jone.  'Smo'-bridge!' cried th' wagginer; 'why, thae'll within a mile o' Middleton!  'Middleton!' said Jone.  'By th' mass, I've taken wrang turn! . . . I've a good mind to goo on to Middleton neaw, owd lad, — if thae'll gi' me a bit of a lift.   Eawr Marry lives at Middleton.  I'll goo an' see her.'  'I'll gi' tho a lift, owd lad, wi' o' th' pleasure' i'th world,' said th' waggoner; 'but I deawt thae'll never be able to climb to th' top o' this stuff!' an' he pointed to th' pile upo' th' waggin.  'Here, come,' said he, 'I'll shap (shape) it!  Get into this hay-bag!  Thae'll be as snug as a button!'  'Well, thae mun put me eawt at Middleton, thae knows,' said Jone.  'O' reet,' said th' wagginer; 'I'll put tho eawt, owd lad!  May (make) thisel' comfortable.'

    "So Jone crope (crept) into th' hay-bag; an' away went th' waggin', — wi' Jone fast asleep i'th haybag, — an' his yed hangin' eawt at th' top, — like th' nob of a onion.  An' away went th' wagginer, whistlin', — away he went, straight through Middleton, — till he coom to Blakeley, two mile fur (further) on; for he'd quite forgetter that he had Jone i'th hay-bag.  But, when he poo'd up at th' Blakeley ale-heawse, and went reawnd to get some hay for th' horses, he seed Jone's curly yed hangin' eawt at th' top o' th' bag, an' he said, 'Eh, I've forgetten to put this chap eawt at Middleton!'  An' he roos't (aroused) him up.  'Neaw, then!  Come, owd lad!  Ger (get) up!'  'O' reet!' said Jone, rubbin' his een.  Are we at Middleton?'  'Ay, — an' two mile o' tother side,' said th' wagginer.  'We're at Blakeley!'  'Why, what hasto brought me here for?  I wanted to get eawt at Middleton,'  'Well, I clen forgeet that thae were i'th hay-bag, — an' that's God's truth, owd lad,' said th' wagginer.  'Well, — by th' mon,' said Jone, as he looked reawnd at Blakeley, — 'I never were here afore.  I am gettin' nicely knock'd up an deawn, between one teawn an' another, this neet. . . . I's ha' to walk o' that gate back, thae sees,' said he to th' wagginer.  'Oh, nay,' said th' wagginer; 'I can do better than that for tho, I think.  There's Billy Robishaw comin' yon, wi' his cart, I see.  He's beawn to Rachda', an I can get him to let tho ride.'  'That'll do,' said Jone.  So, when Billy coom up, he agreed to let him ride back wi him; an' when Jone had getten into th' cart, Billy thrut him a pack-sheet, an' he said, 'Lap that reawnd tho, owd lad; thae'll be starved.'

    "When Jone had getten lapped up, he looked out o' th' pack-sheet, an' he said to Billy, 'If thae'll just poo up abeawt ten minutes when thae gets into Middleton, I'll gi' tho sixpence.  I want to speigk to eawr Mary.  It's close to th' Boar's Yed.'  'O' reet,' said Billy.  An' then Jone crope back into his pack-sheet; an' in about two minutes, he're seawnd asleep again.

    "Well, by th' mon, Billy Robishaw just did th' same as th' wagginer had done.  He forgeet Jone, as clen as a whistle, an' he drove through Middleton, an' straight on to Rachda', afore he unbethought hissel'.  But, when he poo'd up at th' Saddle, he said, 'Eh, by th' mon! there's that chap i'th pack-sheet!  He wanted to get eawt at Middleton!'  An' he went an' looked for Jone among th' pack-sheet; an' when he fund him, he said, 'Here, owd mon; wakken up!'  'O' reet,' said Jone; 'Are we at Middleton?  'Middleton,—!' said Billy; we're at Rachda'!  'Rachda'! said Jone, starin'.  'Wheer — shall I get to th' next? . . . Here, I'll come eawt o' this.'  An' he unwund (unwound) hissel' eawt o'th pack-sheet.  'I've had a smart neet on't amung yo,' said Jone, as he coom eawt o'th cart.  'I went off in a hay-bag, an' I coom back in a pack-sheet, an' I've bin at three different teawns, an' I'm noan reet yet!'  'Well, an' wheer arto for, neaw?' said Billy.  'I'm for Smo'-bridge,' said Jone, as hard as ever I con.'  'Well,' said Billy, 'I'm gooin' through Smo'-bridge.  Thae may as well ride forrud wi' mo.'  'Nay, I'll not!' said Jone; 'I's happen fo' asleep, an' find mysel at Halifax th' next.  It's day-leet, neaw.  I'll finish this bit wi' my legs, as weel as I con!  Off witho, bi thisel; for I'll trust no moor to noather carts nor waggins, this beawt (bout)!' . . . . . An' that's th' end o' Jone an' th' hay-bag," said the quarryman.


    "Well done, Sam!" said the landlord, lifting his glass; "Here's a merry Christmas to tho, when th' time comes!"

    "Eh, ay," said the landlady, "It'll be Christmas Day o' Friday.  It'll be a nice thing if we're snowed-up then."

    "Never mind," said the landlord.  "Th' heawse is well stocked; an' I think we can howd eawt till Christmas is o'er; an' a bit after."

    "Come, Dan," said the landlord to the sexton, "connot thou give us a bit of a ditty, afore we shutten up?"

    "Wi' o' my heart! " said the sexton.

    "Get agate, then," replied the landlord; and the sexton began:—


Come all you weary wanderers,
    Beneath the wintry sky;
This day forget your worldly cares,
    And lay your sorrows by:
            Awake and sing;
            The bells do ring;
For this is Christmas morning!

With grateful hearts salute the morn
    And swell the streams of song,
That laden with delight are borne
    The willing air along;
            The tidings thrill
            With right good-will,
For this is Christmas morning!

We'll twine the fresh green holly wreath,
    And make the yule-log glow;
And gather gaily underneath
    The winking mistletoe;
            All blithe and bright,
            In the glad fire-light
For this is Christmas morning!

Come, sing those carols old and true,
    That mind us of good cheer;
And, like a heavenly fall of dew,
    Revive the drooping year;
            And fill us up
            A wassail cup,
For this is Christmas morning!

To all poor souls we'll strew the feast,
    With kindly heart and free;
One Father owns us, and, at least,
    To-day we'll brothers be;
            Away with pride
            This holy tide,
For it is Christmas morning

So, now, God bless us, one and all,
    With hearts and hearth-stones warm;
And may He prosper great and small,
    And keep us out of harm;
            And teach us still
            His sweet good-will,
This merry Christmas morning!


    "That'll do for a finish, Dan," said the landlord. . . .

    "An' neaw," continued he, rising from his chair, with his glass in his hand, "I wish yo o' a MERRY CHRISTMAS AN' A HAPPY NEW YEAR!  An' peace an' good-will to o' th' wide world! . . . An' neaw; it's gettin' late!  Let's creep off to bed!"

    And, by the time the kitchen clock had struck twelve, they were all sound asleep; and the old "White House" upon the mountain top was still; with the wintry storm yet raging around it.



[The Hermit Cobbler]

 


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