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North, South and Over the Sea by M.E. Francis (Mrs. Francis Blundell)

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Library of Fiction._


(Mrs. Francis Blundell.)

_with Illustrations by H.M. BROCK._



_Some of these stories have already appeared in "The Cornhill Magazine,"
"Longmans' Magazine," and "Country Life," and are reprinted by kind
permission of the Editors of these periodicals._









The long warm day was drawing to its close; over the sandhills yonder
the sun was sinking in a great glory of scarlet and purple and gold.
The air was warm still, and yet full of those myriad indescribable
essences that betoken the falling of the dew; and mingling with, yet
without dominating them, was the sweet penetrating odour of newly-cut

John Dickinson walked moodily along the lane that led first to his
uncle's wheat-field, and then to the sandhills. He was a tall,
strapping young fellow, broad of shoulder and sturdy of limb, with
nevertheless something about him which betokened that he was not
country bred. His face was not brown enough, his hands were not rough
enough, the shirt sleeves, rolled up above his elbow, were not only
cleaner than those of the ordinary rustic after a hard day, but
displayed arms whereof the tell-tale whiteness proclaimed that they
were little used to such exposure. These arms ached sorely now; all
day long had John been assisting in "carrying," and the hours spent in
forking the hay from the ground to the cart had put his new-found
ardour for a country life to a severe test.

John had been born and brought up in Liverpool, having since he left
school acted as assistant in his father's shop. But on the latter's
death, his affairs were found to be so hopelessly involved that it was
impossible for his family to carry on the business. Mrs. Wilson and
her daughters had obtained employment in "town," and John had
announced his intention of taking to farming. Having been more or less
master in his father's small establishment he could not brook the idea
of accepting a subordinate post in the same way of business; and,
indeed, as his mother's brother, burly old Richard Waring of
Thornleigh, had offered to take him into his household and teach him
his work, there seemed to be no reason why he should not adopt the
career which was more to his mind.

John had frequently made expeditions into the country before, and had
spent many pleasant hours in the company of his aunt and uncle, and
their buxom daughter Jinny; but he found a vast difference between
these pleasure excursions and the steady routine to which he was now
subjected. All the household were abed at nine, an arrangement to
which John objected. As his aunt opined that it was "a sin an' a shame
to burn good lamps i' summer time when days was long enough for
onybody as was reasonable," he bought a supply of candles out of his
own meagre store, and, being fond of reading, spent an hour or two
with book or paper before retiring to rest. But the worst of this
arrangement was that when, as it appeared to him, he had just settled
comfortably to his first sleep, it was time to be astir again. His
uncle thumped at his door, his aunt, from the bottom of the stairs,
called out shrilly that if he wanted any breakfast he had best make
haste, for she was "goin' to side the things in a twothree minutes."
Jinny made sarcastic comments on his tardy appearance, and laughed at
his heavy eyes. That was the worst of it--Jinny was always laughing at
him; she "made little" of him on every possible occasion. His "town"
speech, his "finicky" ways, his state of collapse at the end of the
day, his awkwardness in handling unaccustomed tools, were to her
never-failing sources of amusement. John set his teeth and made no
sign of being wounded or annoyed, the sturdy spirit inherited from his
mother's people forbidding him to cry out when he was hurt; but his
spirits were at a low ebb, and to-day he had walked forth after tea
with a heart as sore and heavy as those over-strained arms of his.
Jinny had come out to the field with the "drinkin's," and her face
looked so bewitching under the sun-bonnet, and her waist so tempting
and trim beneath the crisp folds of her clean bed-gown, that John had
made bold in cousinly fashion to encircle it with his arm, whereupon
she had freed herself with an impatient twirl, remarking that she
didn't want no counter-jumpers to be measurin' of her--a sally which
had been regarded as exquisitely humorous by the bystanders. John's
cheeks burned as he thought of it.

"She needn't be afraid--I'll not come nigh her again," he muttered

He was skirting the wheat-field now, the tall, green ears stirring
with a pleasant rustling sound; in some distant reeds a bunting was
warbling, a belated lark was circling slowly downwards over his head.
From the village yonder voices and laughter fell faintly on his ear,
and all these mingled sounds served but to accentuate the prevailing
impression of peace and stillness; as John strolled onwards, his heavy
steps crushing out the aromatic perfume of the thyme which grew
profusely along the path, he was insensibly soothed and calmed by the
evening quietude.

Over the wooden railings now, and across the dewy pasture and up the
tallest sandhill, from the top of which he could, as he knew, look
down upon the sea. The waters would be ruddy and golden at this hour,
but by day ran brown and sluggish enough over the mud banks of the
Alt. On the other side of the shining expanse the houses of New
Brighton would stand forth all flecked with gold, and farther still
the very smoke of Liverpool would appear as a luminous yellow haze,
and the masts and riggings of the ships lying at anchor would be
turned into bars of gold. John knew these things by heart, but was
never tired of gazing upon them, and as he climbed the hill his heart
grew lighter and lighter; the salt, tart breeze that lifted his hair
as he topped it gave new vigour to his tired limbs, and a sudden sense
of exhilaration to his whole being. He stood at last with folded arms
on the summit letting it sing past him, and gazing about him in vague
delight. A golden world indeed; just what he had expected to find. A
golden sea, a golden sky, the very sand and grasses at his feet
appeared to be golden too.

Now, what was that? About twenty paces beneath him, on the seaward
side of the dune, he caught a glimpse of another golden object, an
unusual object, the nature of which he did not at once identify. He
shaded his eyes with his hand, and presently began to laugh softly.
That golden thing which had caught his eye was the uncovered head of a
girl. She was seated in a hollow of the hill, and the tall star-grass
and blossoming ragwort grew so freely at this spot that only her head
was visible. All at once a hand was thrust out from behind the screen,
and a sudden shower of gold fell downwards from that glittering crown.
John laughed again as the girl began very composedly to comb her hair.

He came down the hill, stepping as lightly as he could, and paused in
front of her quaint 'tiring-room. She looked up as his shadow fell
across her, paused a moment with the comb poised in mid-air, and then
calmly drew it through her yellow locks. What hair it was! It fell
round her like a veil as she sat: it would reach almost to her knees,
John thought, if she were standing. He looked at her with a kind of
awe; for a moment the strange tales he had so often heard of mermaids
and witches recurring to his mind. But he was reassured on a closer
inspection of the girl and her attire. She wore a bed-gown and apron
like Jinny's, but not, alas! so neat or clean; her stuff petticoat,
too, was ragged and old, and the feet, which were stretched forth from
under its folds, were brown and bare as the hands which so deftly
wielded the comb.

John's eyes rested with intense disapproval on these shapely feet, and
travelled slowly backwards over the ragged petticoat and the pink
cotton jacket--which, instead of being neatly buttoned over at the
neck, fell loosely open, disclosing the girl's throat, firm and round
as a pillar--and so on till they reached her face; then suddenly
drooped before the disconcerting gaze of another pair of eyes, very
large and bright.

"I hope ye'll know me again," said the girl.

John looked up with a grin. "It'll be hard work if you keep your face
covered up with all that hair," he said.

She gathered together the heavy yellow masses with both hands, twisted
them up with astonishing speed and deftness, and let her arms fall
upon her lap.

"Theer!" she said.

It was not a pretty face John at first decided; tanned as it was to
the colour of ripe corn, and the eyes, such a light blue and with such
blue whites, looking so strange in this setting. The cheeks, moreover,
were not rosy like those of his cousin Jinny, nor rounded in their
contours--the chin was too pointed; yet even as John looked a sudden
dimple flashed there, and a smile, swift and mischievous, lit up the
whole face. Then he did not feel quite so sure.

[Illustration: GOLDEN SALLY
"I hope ye'll know me again," said the girl]

"What in the name of fortune are you doing here?" he asked abruptly,
almost roughly, for the smile nettled him. "Can't you find some better
place than this to do your dressing in?"

"If I didn't comb my hair i' th' sandhills I wouldn't comb it at all,"
she returned. "It's the on'y place I have to do onythin' in. Mony a
time when th' owd lad is fuddled, me an' my Aunt Nancy sleep on 'em."

"Sleep out o' doors!" ejaculated John, much scandalised.

"Aye, oftener than not, I can tell you. Tisn't so very coomfortable
when theer's snow about--though we mak' up a bit o' fire an' that; but
it's reet enough this time o' year. Aye, I like to lay awake lookin'
up at the stars, an' listenin' to the wayter yon. The rabbits coom
dancin' round us, an' th' birds fly ower we'r 'eads when the leet
cooms. It's gradely."

John slowly lowered himself down on the sand beside her, as if to
endeavour to look on this strange aspect of life from her level. His
respectable commercial soul was shocked, but he was nevertheless

"My word!" he ejaculated; and then, after a pause, "What's your name,
if I may ask?"


"Sally? It's a good enough name. What's th' other one?"

"I haven't got no other one as I ever heerd on. My uncle's Jim
Whiteside, an' soom folks call'n me Sally Whiteside, an' then he gets
mad an' says 'tisn't none o' my name. An' soom folks call'n me 'Cockle
Sally.' Aye, that's what they call'n me mostly."

Dickinson looked at her disapprovingly. He had heard of the wild,
disreputable "Cockle Folk" who roamed about the sandhills; who were
worse than tramps in the opinion of respectable people, and who had,
many of them, no fixed abode of any kind.

"Well," he remarked, "it's a pity. I could ha' wished ye'd ha'
belonged to different folks. I don't hold with these cocklers. They're
a rough lot, ar'n't they?"

The girl laughed.

"My Aunt Nancy says I'm as rough as ony mysel'. Would ye like soom
cockles?" she asked, breaking off suddenly. "I'd fetch ye soom
to-morrow if I've ony luck. They're chep enough--an' big ones. Wheer
do ye live?"

"At Mr. Waring's farm," responded John, distantly; adding, more
truthfully than politely, "I doubt you'd best keep away though. My
aunt 'll be none too pleased if you come yonder."

"Aye, I knows her. Hoo buys mony a quart of me, an' then hoo chivies
me out o' th' road. I'll coom. If you're not there, I'll coom to the

"Well, you might do that," agreed John, accommodatingly. "Some o' th'
other chaps 'ud be glad enough to take a few of these cockles off you.
'Twould be a bit of a change wi' th' bread and cheese. We're goin' to
cut the big meadow to the right as you go to the village. Come to the
top of the hill, and I'll show it you."

"Nay, I'll not go near field if they're all theer. I went once, an'
farmer he said he'd set dog at me; an' th' lads began o' jokin' an'
laughin' at me. Aye, I get mad wi' nobbut thinkin' on't."

She coloured as she spoke, and John's face clouded over, as though her
indignation had infected him. In fact, he had too recently suffered
from the rude jests and laughter of his fellow-labourers not to
sympathise with Sally.

"I know them," he said bitterly, "and a rough lot they are. They leave
me no peace; they give me plenty of their impudence too, if it's any
comfort to you, Sally, to know that."

"Eh dear!" cried Sally in amazement. "Why, whatever can they find
amiss wi' you?"

The blue eyes were upturned with such genuine and admiring
astonishment that John could not but be touched and flattered. In this
actual mood, moreover, when his spirit was still smarting from the
remembrance of the manner in which scornful Jinny had turned him into
a laughing-stock, Sally's respectful appreciation was doubly sweet to

"I'll bring ye th' cockles if ye'll coom up th' lane at dinner-time,"
she went on. "I'll stand near the white gate. Coom, I'll show ye."

She sprang up and began quickly to ascend the hill. Her figure had the
erectness common to those accustomed to carry burdens on their heads,
and also a grace and freedom of movement which impressed John with
vague astonishment. As she turned upon the summit to point out the
place of meeting, her face sparkling with animation, her eyes alight
and eager, the golden coronet of hair radiant in the mellow glow, he
gave a little gasp of amazement. The girl was beautiful! What a pity
she should lead such a life!

"Yonder, see," she continued. "Aye--why do ye stare at me that way?"

"Sally," said practical, plain--spoken John, "I'm lookin' at you
because I think you're real handsome, an' I think it's a terrible pity
for ye to be traipsin' about like this. Why don't you leave your uncle
and aunt and go to live with decent people--and put on shoes and
stockings?" he added severely.

The girl gazed at him in amazement.

"Whatever put that i' your 'ead? Decent folks wouldn't have nought to
say to me. I'd as soon go cocklin' as do onythin' else--an' I couldn't
do wi' shoes an' stockin's."

"Didn't you ever go to school?"

"Nay, scarce at all. We was wonderful clever 'bout that. We shifted
an' shifted an' gi'ed 'em all th' slip."

"Don't you go to church on Sundays?"

"Eh dear! I wonder what they'd say if me an' Aunt Nancy an' Uncle Jim
was to go paddlin' in among all the fine folks--wi' bare feet an'

She laughed grimly.

"Will yo' coom yonder for the cockles?" she inquired presently.

John nodded, and, turning, she ran down the hill, fleet as a hare, and
disappeared round its curved base.

John walked homewards thoughtfully, his own troubles quite forgotten
in the consideration of Sally's lot. All that evening, and even during
his work on the following morning, he pondered over it, and it was
with a portentous face that he betook himself at noon to the
trysting-place. So punctual was he that he stood there for some
minutes before a musical cry of "Cockles! fine cockles!" came ringing
down the lane, and presently Sally appeared, the basket poised upon
her head throwing a deep shadow over her face, but the curves of her
figure strongly defined by the brilliant summer sunlight. Halting by
the gate she balanced her basket on the upper bar, and immediately
measured out a quart by way of greeting.

"How much?" inquired business-like John.

"Ye may have 'em for nought; I've got plenty, see. They're fine ones,
ar'n't they?"

"I'd sooner pay you for them. You want the money perhaps."

"Well, then," said Sally, and thrust out her brown palm.

"Sally," said John, seriously, "I've been thinking a deal about you. I
think it is somethin' dreadful the way you are livin'--you so comely
an' all. It's an awful thing to think you don't know anythin' and
never go to church or that. Do you never say your prayers?"

Sally looked at him, and twisted open a cockle before replying.

"Nay, I dunnot. Aunt Nancy doesn't neither."

"Do you know who made you, Sally?"

"I larned at school, the on'y time I went, but I forget now."

"Well, Sally, I've been thinkin'--somebody ought to teach you. I could
teach you myself of an evening if you'd come yonder to the big

Sally looked reflective, but presently nodded.

"I will while I'm here," she said; "but we's be shiftin' afore aught's
along--we're allus shiftin'. We have to be terrible careful not to get
cotched for sleeping out. They're that sharp wi' us they won't let a
body do naught, so we dursen't stay too long i' one place. But I'll
coom, an' ye can teach me if ye've a mind. If ye dunnot see me when ye
coom to th' top o' hill, jest call out 'Cockle Sally! Cockle Sally!'
an' I'll coom."

"No; that's an ugly name," said John, who had been idly watching the
play of the sunbeams on the little curling strands of hair which were
lightly lifted by the summer breeze. "I could find you a better name
than that, I think. You look like--"

He paused.

"What do I look like?" inquired Sally.

John's glance once more travelled over her whole figure. The faded
buff jacket, the not altogether immaculate apron of unbleached calico,
were transfigured by the all-pervading sunshine; golden lights
outlined the tanned face and hands; as for the hair, it was at that
moment a very glory.

"I reckon I'd call you Golden Sally," he said with a laugh. "You look
as if you were made of gold this morning, and I'll engage you're as
good as gold," he added gallantly.

"Coom, that's too fine a name for me," cried Sally, well pleased,
nevertheless, and smiling broadly.

"I'll christen you by it all the same," replied John, smiling too.
"You must be good and mind what I tell you," he added with mock
severity. "If you don't, I must find some other name for you."

Sally's long eyelashes suddenly drooped, and she drummed on the gate

"I'll do my best to please ye," she said. "I'll coom when ye call,"
she added after a pause.

Lifting up her basket, and balancing it once more on her head, she
raised her downcast lids, and flashed a farewell smile at John as she
turned away. In another moment she was speeding in the opposite

John was vexed and disappointed that she should terminate the meeting
so abruptly, but consoled himself with the reflection that he was free
to assume the office of instructor that very evening if he chose.

The long, toilsome day seemed slow of passing, the company of the
farmer and his men more tedious even than usual, but by way of
compensation Jinny's sallies seemed to have lost their power to wound
him. It was late when, the last waggon-load having been conveyed from
the field and the evening meal disposed of, he found himself free to
attend to Sally's education. He strode along the sandy lane and across
the field at a very different pace to that of the previous evening,
and was almost breathless when he found himself on the top of the tall
dune, gazing about with anxious eyes. No golden head was to be seen
amid the star-grass and ragwort this time; no graceful girl's figure
was outlined against the evening sky. His heart sank, and it was in a
disconsolate, uncertain voice that he called aloud:

"Golden Sally! Golden Sally!"

Then, starting up, as if by magic, from some unsuspected place of
ambush, she came quickly towards him. Her face was blushing and eager,
her hands outstretched; and John was somehow so glad to see her after
the chill disappointment of the moment before, that he not only
grasped the hands, but kissed the glowing cheek.

It would be difficult to say how much Sally learnt from her zealous
young instructor--for zealous he was, sincere and earnest in his
desire to improve her mind. But he taught her one thing very rapidly
and completely--to love himself with all her undisciplined heart.
After a time she made no secret of this devotion, and John was oddly
abashed and disconcerted by her occasional outbursts of affection. He
was much interested in Sally, very much attracted by her. Her worship
of him was distinctly pleasant, if a little too demonstrative. Now and
then he himself could not refrain from a tender word or a caress; but
he was thoroughly convinced of her inferiority, and nothing could have
been further from his thoughts than the wish to marry her.

Sally sometimes made him presents: bags of cockles, which, on leaving
her, he not infrequently dropped into a ditch; a few flowers, procured
he knew not how; and once she astonished him by producing, carefully
wrapped up in paper, a very handsome silk handkerchief, with a curious
pattern of sprigs and flowers.

"Why, Sally," he cried, "I scarcely like to take this. It's worth a
deal of money I'm sure."

"It is," said Sally, with an odd look. "Aye, I am fain that ye like
it. I wish I could find summat better to give ye. Theer's nought too
good for ye."

John, much flattered, and moreover sufficiently of a dandy to rejoice
in the possession of a handsome and unusual article of wearing
apparel, thanked her warmly, and assured her that he would value it
all the days of his life.

On the following Sunday he was tempted to wear it, and came down to
breakfast much pleased with his appearance; but he was both astonished
and alarmed at his aunt's demeanour on beholding it.

"Lor', John, wheerever did ye get yon 'andkerchief? Dear, now, I could
swear it's the same as the one Mr. Lambert, of Saltfield, lost a five
or six week ago. Mrs. Lambert towd me 'bout it when we drove yon on
neighbourin' day. Eh, hoo was in a way! It's been i' th' family for
years an' years; and hoo'd weshed it hersel' an' put it on th' hedge
to dry, an' soombry coom an' whipped it off. Eh, I mind it well. Hoo'd
often showed it me. Hoo thought a dale of it."

John coloured up to his temples, a horrible suspicion darting through
his mind; but he was nevertheless determined to carry off the
situation in a high-handed manner.

"This can't be hers, anyhow," he returned angrily, "seein' it's mine."

"Well, I could ha' sworn it were the same," retorted his aunt. "Such
an old-fashioned thing too. It's strange ye should get one of the same
pattern. How long have ye had it, John? Happen them as stole it sold
it again."

John hated telling a lie, but conceived it advisable to tell one now.

"I've had this years an' years. My father gave it to me."

"Well, if he gave it you so long ago as that it can't be the same, I
suppose, but it's wonderful like it. I wonder wheer he got it. It's a
pity we can't ask him, but he's dead, as how 'tis, poor fellow! Coom,
pull up an' tak' your breakfast."

John dutifully drew his chair to the table, but he felt as though
every morsel choked him. His own falsehood, to begin with, stuck in
his throat, while the thought of Sally's possible perfidy seemed to
turn the wholesome farmhouse bread to sand in his mouth. Was it
possible, could it be possible, that this love-token of hers was
stolen? Had she dared to offer him that which it was a disgrace to
possess If such were the case, of what avail was all his teaching? To
what purpose had he stooped to associate so constantly with one so
much beneath him?

Meanwhile the eyes of all the Waring family were fixed upon his
luckless neckerchief in a manner which made him feel more and more
uncomfortable; and he was fairly beside himself when, after church,
his aunt informed him that she was thinking of axin' Margery Formby,
who was Mrs. Lambert's sister, to step round after dinner and have a
look at it, "It's so amazin' like the one Mr. Lambert lost, I reckon
it 'ud be a kind o' comfort if hoo could tell Mrs. Lambert hoo needn't
set sich store by it, as sich things is easy to be got."

"Well, aunt, I'm not goin' to stop in to have Margery Formby pokin'
and pryin' at my things. I never see such queer folk in my life.
'Tisn't thought manners in other places to be passin' remarks an'
askin' questions about a fellow's clothes."

"Well I never!" ejaculated Mrs. Waring, scarlet with indignation.
"Upon my word, John, if it's thought manners in town to be givin'
impudence to your own aunt ye'd best go back theer. It's not thought
manners here, and what's more, we won't put up with it. Your uncle'll
ha' summat to say, I'll warrant."

John heard no more, for, seeing that the good woman was working
herself up into a most unchristian fury, and being, moreover, in no
mood to meet the astonished queries of Margery Formby, he went quickly
out of the room and out of the house, resolved to extract an
explanation from Sally without delay.

Very bitter and angry was his mood, far more bitter and angry than on
the evening when he had first beheld her. That which he had originally
dismissed as an unjust suspicion had now grown to be almost certainty;
and he waited doggedly the word which must confirm it. His blood
boiled within him as he thought of Sally's effrontery. It was an
insult, an unpardonable impertinence; one which he was, indeed,
resolved never to pardon. He would make her confess, and then he would
have done with her for ever.

Had his temper been less wrathful he might have been touched at the
joyful alacrity with which she sprang to meet him. It had needed no
call to bring her to his side; some instinct seemed to have warned her
of his coming, and she had caught sight of him while still a long way
off and hastened towards him as he approached. She uttered a little
cry of joy as her eyes fell upon her gift.

"Eh! ye've got it on! It looks gradely."

"It looks gradely, does it?" returned John grimly. "I've a word or two
to say to you about this, Sally? Where did you get this? Is this the
handkerchief that was stolen from Mr. Lambert of Saltfield?"

Sally looked back at him quite unabashed, and began to laugh.

"Think o' your guessin'!" she cried. "Well, doesn't it suit ye a dale
better nor yon ugly owd chap?"

John turned quite pale; then, with an oath and a sudden fierce
gesture, tore the handkerchief from his neck and threw it on the

"How dare you?" he cried, turning on Sally with flashing eyes. "How
dare you look me in the face after treating me like this? Insultin'
me--makin' a laughin' stock of me--"

He stopped, stammering with rage. The angry colour had now returned to
his face; it was Sally who was pale. She stared at him aghast, and
presently began to sob like a frightened child.

"I'm sure I dunno whatever I've done to mak' ye so mad," she cried
brokenly. "I did but look to please ye."

"Please me!" cried John, stamping his foot. "How could it please me
for you to give me a thing that no respectable man ought to touch--a
thing as was stolen? I was a fool to think it could have been honestly
come by; but when you gave it me, looking so innocent, I never guessed
you'd gone and picked it off a hedge."

"I didna," sobbed Sally. "I took it out of Aunt Nancy's bundle. Hoo'll
be soom mad when hoo finds out, and hoo'll thrash me for 't. Hoo
reckoned to pop it as soon as we'd getten a bit further away fro'

John turned quite sick. This gift of Sally's had, then, been doubly
stolen. He had been wearing an adornment which had been stolen from a
thief! Words failed him, but he looked at Sally as though he could
slay her.

"Dunnot be so mad," she pleaded, laying her hand upon his arm. "I
didn't think to vex ye. I nobbut looked about for the best I could
find. They flowers ye didn't seem to set mich store by, and I could
on'y get a twothree now and again when theer was nobry about."

He shook her off with an angry laugh. "So the flowers were stolen,
too! Now, look you, Sally, I'm goin' to have an end o' this. You may
pick up yon handkerchief and take yourself off. I'll have no more to
say to you after this. I'll have nothing to say to a thief. Don't you
ever think to come botherin' me again, for I'll have no more to do wi'

She stood looking at him stupidly for a minute or two, and then, to
his great annoyance and discomfiture, flung her arms round his neck,
sobbing out inarticulate words of entreaty and remonstrance. She
didn't think to vex him, she didn't think it was any harm.

He shook her off roughly and impatiently. Sally had evidently no sense
of decency or even decorum. "Get out of my sight," he cried fiercely,
"or if it comes to that I can go myself. I've done with you, I tell
you--ye needn't come after me no more."

She had been looking at him piteously, the big tears standing in those
strange blue eyes of hers, and on her tanned cheeks; but now a curious
sullen expression came over her face. Stooping and picking up the
handkerchief, she tore at it fiercely, first with her hands and
subsequently with her teeth. A kind of angry curiosity caused John to
delay his departure.

"You've no right to make away with Mr. Lambert's handkerchief," he
cried. "If I did what was right I'd give notice to the police."

"Well, why dunnot ye?" she retorted with a fierceness which startled
him. "Ye can if ye've a mind."

And she walked away slowly, still plucking at the handkerchief.

* * * * *

A year later, on just such another Sunday afternoon, John stood on the
same spot with a woman by his side--the woman was Jinny, and Jinny was
his wife. Many things had happened since John had parted in wrath and
bitterness from the girl whom he had once called "Golden Sally." His
demeanour towards his aunt on the momentous morning alluded to had led
to a violent quarrel with her and her husband, which had had
unexpected results, for Jinny had taken his part--Jinny who was the
idol of her parents and the pivot on which the whole establishment
turned. John's whilom indifference had led first to pique on Jinny's
part and then to interest. John, perturbed of spirit and sore of
heart, had been grateful for her favour. The attachment which poor
Sally had for a time diverted was soon re-established, and before six
months had passed the young couple were courting in due form.

Farmer Waring was at first a little annoyed, but consoled himself with
the reflection that blood was thicker than water. He had no son of his
own; it would be pleasant to keep Jinny still at the farm with a
husband whom he could "gaffer" and break in to his own ways; so, by
and by, consent was given, and John Dickinson was treated with great
respect by all at the farm, and already assumed the airs of a master.
As for Sally, he had never set eyes on her since the moment of their
parting. It had once come to his ears that she and her aunt were in
prison for sleeping out of doors, and, shortly after their release,
she had apparently "shifted" with the rest of her family. John thought
of her as little as possible, for the mere recollection of the manner
in which he had been duped, and, as he conceived it, disgraced, filled
him with disgust.

There was certainly no memory of her in his mind now as he climbed the
hill with Jinny on his arm. They had only been married a few days, and
his attitude towards her was still that of a lover. They sat down on
the summit of the hill, and John put his arm round Jinny's waist.
After the manner of their kind they did not talk much, but were
vaguely content with one another and their surroundings. Jinny had
some sweets in her pocket, and crunched one occasionally. John did not
care for sweets, but was thinking of having a pipe by and bye. The
larks were singing, and the little sandpipers fluttering about them,
uttering their curious call.

"Here's soombry comin'," remarked Jinny all at once, between two sucks
of a lemon drop.

John looked round without removing his arm. He gave a start, however,
as his eyes fell on the figure which was rapidly advancing towards
them along the irregular crest of the hill. Half unconsciously he
released Jinny, and turned over a little on the sand to avoid meeting
the direct gaze of the new-comer.

"It's nobbut wan o' they cocklers. You've no need to mind," remarked
Jinny a little petulantly. She had thought John's arm in the right

John made no answer. He did not dare to raise his eyes, but his ears
were strained to catch the swift patter of the approaching bare feet.
If Sally should recognise him--_if_, of course she must--if she should
speak, what irreparable mischief might not be made in a few moments!

The steps came nearer; there was a pause, Dickinson's heart beating so
loudly that he feared his wife must hear it. He did not raise his
eyes, but from beneath their drooped lids he caught sight of Sally's
well-known skirt. He made no sign, however, and after what seemed an
interminable time the skirt brushed past, actually touching him, and
the soft _pat pat_ sounded a little farther off. Even then John did
not raise his eyes, but continued to draw patterns on the sand with
his forefinger. The silence seemed to him unbearable, and yet he did
not dare to break it. He could hear Jinny crunching her sugar-plums
with irritating persistency. Why did she not speak?

At last she edged round on the sand, and he felt that she was looking
at him.

"What's the matter wi' you?" she cried peevishly. "You're as dull as
dull. Can't you say summat?"

John rolled round, squinting up at the pouting, blooming face.
"There's not much to say, is there? What's the good of talkin' if
you're 'appy?"

"I'm glad to hear you're 'appy, I'm sure," retorted Jinny somewhat
mollified. "I can't say as you look it, though," she added.

Words did not readily occur to John, but he made the best answer that
was possible under the circumstances. Throwing out his arm he drew
Jinny's face down to his and kissed it.

"Now do you believe I'm 'appy," he said.

"Well, if you ar'n't you ought to be," said Jinny coquettishly. "Did
you see that cocklin' wench, Jack?"

"Her as went by just now?" inquired John indifferently. "Nay, I didn't
take much notice."

"Hoo was a funny-lookin' lass," pursued Jinny. "A bit silly, I think.
Hoo stood an' hoo stared at us same as if we was wild beasts or

"Perhaps she wanted us to buy some of her cockles," remarked John,
hurriedly volunteering the first explanation that came into his head.

"Eh! very like hoo did. My word, I wish I'd thought on axin' her to
let us 'ave a quart--I'm rale fond o' cockles. Could we run arter her,
think ye, Jack?"

This was the very last thing which John wished to do, and in order to
divert Jinny's mind, he hastily proposed that they should hunt for
cockles themselves.

"Nay," she returned, "I'll not go seechin' for cockles--I've got my
weddin' dress on, see, an' my new boots an' all."

"Well, then, I will," cried John eagerly. "I need but to kick off my
boots an' socks, an' turn up my trousers, an' paddle down yon by the
river; there are plenty hereabouts, I know."

"Tide's comin' in--you'd best be careful," screamed Jinny as he
bounded barefoot down the slope; but he was already out of earshot.

There sat Jinny on the sunny, wind-swept hill-top; her silk skirt
carefully tucked up, and the embroidered frill of her starched white
petticoat just resting on her sturdy, well-shod feet. One plump hand,
in its tight kid glove, toying with her posy of roses and "old man,"
the other absently tapping John's discarded foot-gear. Her eyes
followed the movements of the lithe young form that wandered hither
and thither on the sandy expanse below; her lips were parted in a
smile of idle content. All at once a shadow fell across her, and,
looking up, she beheld the strange cockle girl standing beside her
with folded arms. Jinny stared at her for a moment in astonishment
from under the brim of her fine befeathered hat:

"Have ye got any cockles to-day?" she inquired at length.

"Nay, I haven't," responded the girl rudely; "an' if I had you
shouldn't ha' none."

"My word!" exclaimed Jinny angrily, "ye might as well keep a civil
tongue i' your 'ead. I don't want none o' your cockles, as it jest
falls out--my 'usband's gone to get me some."

"Your 'usband," repeated the girl, clapping her hands together in what
Jinny thought a very odd and uncalled-for way. "Your 'usband!"

Jinny felt very uncomfortable; the girl's demeanour was so strange
that she began to think she had been drinking. Hastily collecting
John's socks and boots she scrambled to her feet.

"He's gone cocklin', has he?" inquired Sally, fixing those queer blue
eyes of hers on the wife's face with an extraordinary expression; "an'
you're takkin' care o's shoon till he cooms back? Ha! ha!--happen
he'll ne'er coom back."

Jinny turned very red and walked indignantly away; most certainly the
girl was either mad or drunk. "Happen he'll ne'er coom back," indeed!
Such impudence! Jinny did not quite like being left alone with her in
that solitary place, and partly on this account, partly to disprove
her ridiculous assertion, bent her steps towards the shore, calling
loudly to her husband to return.

But a fresh breeze was blowing, and the waves were leaping shoreward
with unusual haste and energy; her voice did not reach him, and he
wandered still further away from her, stooping ever and anon to
examine the sand. He had crossed the river some time before, and was
now pacing the opposite shore. The muddy waters of this little tidal
river had been shallow enough for him to wade through not half-an-hour
previously, but were now rising rapidly. He would find his return
difficult if not dangerous, and the difficulty and danger were
increasing every moment. When Jinny realised this, which she did
suddenly, she forgot all about her silk dress and her new boots, and
ran frantically towards the water's edge, screaming with all her
might; and at last John heard, and began to walk placidly towards the
spot where he had originally crossed. The mud banks were out of sight
now, and a broad belt of water was spreading rapidly on the other
side. It was advancing rapidly also at his rear; soon the stretch of
shore, half sand, half mud, on which he stood, would be entirely

"John! John! coom ower at once!" screamed Jinny, as he paused, looking
about him.

"I'm in a fix," he called out. The breeze, which had baffled her
endeavours to make herself heard, bore, nevertheless, his words to
her. She beckoned and gesticulated, continuing her useless entreaties
the while. John laid down his handkerchief full of cockles and began
to roll up his trousers higher. Jinny fairly danced with impatience.
He made a step or two forward--the water was up to his knees; he
walked on, plunging deeper at every step.

Suddenly Jinny uttered an even wilder and more piercing scream--John
had disappeared from her sight, and, for a moment, the only trace of
him which was evident was his hat rolling and tossing on the brown
wavelets. But, before she had time to reiterate the anguished cry, he
reappeared, pale and drenched, on the opposite bank.

"Run lass," he cried, "run quick an' fetch a rope, else I'll be
drowned. I can't get across the river--the water's nigh ower my head
as 'tis, an' my feet keep sinkin' into the mud."

Almost before he had ceased speaking Jinny had turned and was
staggering with trembling limbs towards the sandhills. How should she
get help in time? There was no habitation within a mile at least, and
the water was rising moment by moment. It would be better for him to
make a bold dash for safety now. Surely he could get across where he
had crossed before, by those brown stepping-stones.

What Jinny took for stepping-stones were in reality the remains of a
submerged forest, and no doubt, if John could have discovered their
whereabouts, would have afforded him a tolerably secure footing, but
they were indistinguishable now beneath the brown, swirling waters.
Oh! he would be drowned!--he would be drowned! The yielding sand
crumbling beneath Jinny's feet rendered her faltering progress even
more slow. She paused hesitating, ran distractedly backwards a few
paces; then, as John imperatively waved his arms, plunged forward
again and toiled up the slope. All at once her distracted eyes met
those of the girl from whom she had fled a little while before, the
cockling girl, who was seated very composedly on an out-jutting point
of the sandhill, whence she must have had a good view of John and his
recent struggle. Jinny, panting upwards, cast a desperate glance upon

"For God's sake help me! My 'usband 'll be drowned before my e'en.
Wheer can we get help? Will ye run one way an' I'll tak' t' other?"

Sally looked down at the convulsed face. "I'm not goin' to run
noways," she retorted. "Run yoursel'; I'm not goin' to be sent o' your

"But he'll be drowned!" gasped poor Jinny.

"He'll be a fool if he drowns then," retorted the girl with a sneer.
"He can get across easy enough if he finds th' reet place."

"Oh, thank God for that!" cried Jinny with momentary hope. "Will ye
show me wheer's th' reet place, quick, for the wayter's coomin' in
awful fast. It's down by th' steppin'-stones yon, isn't it?"

"Aye," replied the girl, 'it's down theer; ye'd best go an' look for

"Eh dear! won't ye show me?" cried Jinny wringing her hands. "I'll
gi'e you all as I 'ave i' th' world. My watch, see--an' I've money i'
th' box a' whoam--I'll gi'e you everythin'. Eh, do run down wi' me
now, else it'll be too late."

"I want noan o' your brass an' stuff," cried Sally violently. "He's
nought to me--let him drown if he can't save hissel'. He's yourn an'
not mine. Ye'd best see to him."

"Eh, you wicked, wicked wench!" sobbed Jinny. "'Owever can ye find it
i' your 'eart--but I'll waste no more time on you."

She clambered on, and soon was flying down the slope on the farther
side. How long she ran she could not tell--it seemed to her a century
since she had left the shore behind. Her brain reeled, her heart
throbbed to suffocation--the terrible thought was ever present to her
mind: "At this moment perhaps he is drowning--I may find him dead when
I go back." Her very desperation lent her speed, and, moreover,
fortune favoured her quest, for it was in reality only a very few
minutes after her parting with Sally that she came upon a loving
couple seated by the road-side. The man was a fisherman well known to
Jinny. How she explained and what she promised she never quite knew,
but, in an inconceivably short space of time they were speeding back
together, the man preceding her with long, swinging strides. There was
no time to lose in looking for a rope--he thought he knew a place
where he could get Mr. Dickinson across; if not available, he himself
could swim.

But, lo and behold! when they reached the summit of the hill and were
about to plunge downwards to the shore, an unlooked-for sight met
their eyes. There, on the hither side of the river stood John, alive
and well, though plastered with mud from head to foot, and by his side
was Sally, with her drenched raiment clinging to her, and the water
dripping from the loosened strands of her long hair.

"Seems soombry else has had the savin' of him," cried the fisherman,
astonished and perhaps a little disappointed; Mrs. Dickinson had
promised such wonderful things.

Jinny, speechless with joy, ran down the slope and flung herself upon
her husband. His face was pale and all astir with emotion.

"Jinny," he said, when at length she allowed him to speak--"Jinny,
_she_ saved me."

Jinny turned to Sally. "Eh, how can I ever thank you," she cried
brokenly. "You saved my 'usband arter all. I don't know how to thank

Sally looked round with a fierce light in her eyes. "Ye needn't thank
me--I didn't save him for you."

"I'm sure," said John, in a voice husky with emotion, "I don't know
what to say mysel'--it is more than I could have expected, that you
should risk your life for my sake."

"'Twasn't for your sake neither then," said Sally still fiercely.

"Then, in the name of fortune! why did you do it?" he ejaculated.

"I did it--for mysel'," said Sally.

She turned away, the water dripping from her at every step, and
bounded up the slope with the erect carriage and springing gait which
John remembered of old.

The fisherman retired somewhat disconsolately, and husband and wife,
still palpitating, walked slowly away together; while "Golden Sally,"
once more standing aloft on her sandy pinnacle, wrung the moisture out
of her yellow hair.


Doctor Craddock rode slowly along the grassy track which led from
Thornleigh to Little Upton, and as he rode he smiled to himself.
Though he had been settled for more than a dozen years in this quiet
corner of Lancashire, his Southern mind had not yet become accustomed
to the idiosyncrasies of his North Country patients. He had just been
to see old Robert Wainwright, who was suffering from an acute attack
of gout in his right foot, and who was, in consequence, unapproachable
in every sense of the word, answering the Doctor's questions only by
an unintelligible growl or an impatient jerk of the head. Moreover, on
being informed that he must not expect to set foot to the ground for
several days more, he had emitted a kind of incredulous roar, and had
announced his opinion that his medical adviser was a gradely fool.
Poor Mrs. Wainwright had subsequently apologised for her lord's
shortness of temper, explaining in deprecating tones that he was apt
to be took that way sometimes; adding that he had been moiderin ever
sin' mornin' about Club Day.

"He reckons he's th' owdest member, ye know. Him an' Martin Tyrer, of
Little Upton, is mich of an age, an' they'n walked same number of
times--they're a bit jealous one o' th' t'other an' our Gaffer reckons
if he bides awhoam, owd Martin 'ull be castin' up at him, an' sayin'
he's beat him."

"There'll be no Club meeting for Tyrer, either, to-morrow," Doctor
Craddock said; "he's laid up with a bad attack of bronchitis."

"Eh, is he?" exclaimed Mrs. Wainwright, with such visible satisfaction
that the Doctor smiled now as he recalled it; she had barely patience
to escort him to the door, and before he mounted his horse, he heard
her joyfully informing her Gaffer that owd Martin Tyrer had getten th'
'titus, and she hoped that now he'd be satisfied and give ower
frettin' hissel'.

"I shall have an equally warm reception here, I suppose," said the
Doctor to himself, as he dismounted before Tyrer's door, "but,
whatever happens, the old man must not think of going out to-morrow.
It would be serious if he caught fresh cold."

Martin Tyrer was sitting, almost upright, in his bed, supported by
many pillows, for when he lay down, as his wife explained to the
Doctor, he fair choked. He was an immensely tall and stout man, with a
large red face, and a stolid lack-lustre eye, which he brought
solemnly to bear upon the Doctor as he entered the room.

"Well," said Craddock, "how are you to-day, Tyrer? Better, I hope."

Tyrer rolled his eyes in the direction of his wife, apparently as an
intimation that she was to answer for him.

"Noan so well," said Mrs. Tyrer lugubriously, proceeding thereupon to
give accurate, not to say harrowing, particulars of her master's
symptoms; Tyrer, meanwhile, suffering his glance to wander from one to
the other, and occasionally nodding or shaking his head. It was not
until she paused from want of breath that he put in his word.

"I mun get up to-morrow," he remarked, apparently addressing no one in

"If you do you'll make an end of yourself, my friend," returned the
Doctor decidedly. "You stay where you are, and go on with your gruel
and poultices--by-the-bye you needn't make those poultices quite so
thick, Mrs. Tyrer--and I'll come and see you on Wednesday. You mustn't
think of getting up. If you go out in this east wind, it will be the
death of you. Really you people are mad about your Club Day--you
should have seen old Robert Wainwright, when I told him just now that
it would be quite impossible for him to go out."

"He's not goin' to walk!" cried husband and wife together, their faces
lighting up much as Mrs. Wainwright's had done.

"He'd be very much astonished if he were to try," said Doctor
Craddock; "he can't so much as put his foot to the ground."

[Illustration: THE OWDEST MEMBER
"I mun get up to-morrow," he remarked]

"Coom," said Mrs. Tyrer, looking encouragingly at her spouse, "that's
one thing as should mak' thee feel a bit 'appier. He were takkin' on
terrible, ye know," she explained, "thinkin' Robert 'ud be crowin'
ower him at not bein' able to walk. He's allus agate o' saucin our
mester is yon--he reckons he's th' owdest member o' th' Club, an' my
'usband he's turned seventy, an' he's walked fifty-two times. Ah,
fifty-two times it were last Club Day, weren't it, Martin?"

"It were," agreed Martin, endorsing the statement with a nod; "but
Robert, he says he's walked fifty-two times, too, an' he's seventy-one
last Lady-day, an' so he reckons _he's_ th' owdest member, an' he's
ever an' allus throwin' it i' my face."

"Eh, sich a to-do as he mak's about it you'd never believe," put in
the wife, "he'll never let our Gaffer tak' a bit o' credit to
hissel'--eh, it's terrible how he goes on! I b'lieve if he were fair
deein' he'd get up an' walk sooner nor let poor Martin ha' th'
satisfaction o' sayin' he'd walked once oftener nor him. An' th' folks
has getten to laugh at 'em both, an' to set 'em on, one agin th'
t'other. At th' dinner yonder, at th' Thornleigh Arms, soombry 'll
allus get up an' call for th' 'ealth o' th' owdest member, an' then
th' two owd lads 'ull get agate o' bargin' one another, an' Upton
folks 'ull be backin' up Martin, an' th' Thornleigh folks 'ull be
backin' up Robert, an' they mak' sich a din, they say as nobry can
hear theirsel's speak."

The Doctor laughed loud and long. "Well, it must be a drawn battle
this year," he said; "certainly Wainwright will not be able to go to
the Club meeting unless he hops on one leg."

With a cheery nod he withdrew, chuckling all the way downstairs; Mrs.
Tyrer duly escorted him to the door, and then climbed slowly up again,
every step creaking beneath her weight. When she entered the sick room
she found her husband drumming on the sheets with his fingers, and
staring in front of him with a somewhat peculiar expression.

"Well," she cried, letting her ponderous person sink into the
old-fashioned elbow chair that stood by the bedside, "owd Robert, yon,
'ull ha' to keep quiet for once! He'll noan be castin' up at thee this
year as how 'tis."

Martin rolled his head from side to side, but said nothing.

"Ye'll be able to start fresh next Club Day," resumed his spouse
cheerily. "Happen th' gout 'ull mak' an end on poor owd Robert first,

Martin looked at her with a startled air. "Happen it will," he
assented doubtfully; "ah, it 'ud ha' been a fine thing if I could ha'
stolen a march on th' owd lad this time! I never got the chance
before, but theer he lays yon, fast by the leg! If I could ha' made
shift to walk this year he could never ha' cotched me up--eh, I'd ha'
had a gradely laugh at him."

"Well, well, ye'll happen ha' th' best on't another time," said Mrs.
Tyrer soothingly. "Happen he'll noan be able to walk no more next year
nor this--happen he'll noan be here! Dunnot thou go frettin' thysel'
this road; nobry knows what's goin' to come about i' this world."

Martin's eyes travelled slowly from the ceiling to her face with a
puzzled, discontented gaze.

"If th' owd lad dees afore next year it 'ull spile
everything--'twouldn't be no satisfaction to walk oftener nor him if
he were dead."

"Well, dunnot thou go frettin' thysel' as how 'tis," repeated his
missus with a vague attempt at consolation.

Meanwhile old Wainwright had somewhat calmed down since his wife had
imparted to him the welcome tidings that his rival had unwillingly
"paired" with him for the morrow's festivities. He ceased roaring at
his sons and daughters and throwing his bandages at his wife's head;
it must be stated that he never employed any more dangerous missile
even in moments of supreme irritation. Robert Wainwright's bark was on
all occasions worse than his bite, and though recently his bark had
been very loud indeed, no one in the little household was in the least
scared by it. This evening, however, "our Tom" and "our Bob," who had
of late satisfied themselves with screwing their bullet heads and a
small portion of their persons round the angle of the door, walked
boldly in, and cheerfully inquired how feyther felt hissel'; while
"our Annie" and "our Polly" actually helped their mother to
"straighten" the bed, and ventured to draw the sheet lightly over
feyther's afflicted toe. The Gaffer, moreover, consented to swallow a
basin of gruel with just a dash of spirits in it to take away the
sickliness of it. Doctor Craddock had forbidden all stimulants, but,
as Mrs. Wainwright remarked, "a little taste like that, just to make
the gruel slip down, couldn't coom amiss." It certainly did not seem
to come amiss to Robert, who grew quite jovial as he scraped the
basin, and commiserated "owd Martin Tyrer, yon," with genuine

"Poor owd lad! To think of his being laid up just when Club Day cooms!
Eh, he will be takken to. Ye mind how he allus got agate o' boastin'
about bein' th' owdest member o' th' Club? an' he nobbut seventy! Eh,
I 'ad to get vexed wi' him soomtimes--he would have 't ye know, as
'twere him as were th' owdest, an' he'd get up, when th' folks had
called for me--eh, I could scarce stand it!"

"He'll be soom mad," cried our Tom, chuckling.

"Nay, thou munnot mak' game o' th' poor owd chap's misfortun'," said
his father with a tolerant air as he handed the empty basin to Annie.
"It's bad enough for him to be layin' theer wi'out havin' folks
crowin' ower him."

Tom, much abashed, grinned sheepishly, and old Robert continued, after
a pause, still evidently in high good-humour:--

"Well, wheer's thy cornet? Thou should be practisin' i'stead o'
standin' about findin' fault wi' thy neighbours."

Tom, who was a member of the Thornleigh band, had secretly resolved to
retire presently to the cartshed that he might prepare for the labours
of the morrow without being overheard. He was rejoiced, however, to
find that he might pursue his musical avocations in the house without
causing the old father chagrin or irritation.

"Mun I practise a bit i' th' kitchen?" he inquired joyfully.

Old Wainwright consented, and presently the somewhat husky tones of
Tom's cornet resounded through the house.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny, though the unseasonable east
wind still blew pitilessly keen. The Wainwright's house was only
divided from the main road by a little patch of garden, and old
Robert's bedroom window looked out upon the street. Beside this window
he insisted on establishing himself, being half carried thither by his
two stalwart sons, whose stout necks he encircled with either arm,
while he hopped with his sound leg across the floor; Mrs. Wainwright
supported the injured limb in front and Annie and Polly brought up the
rear carrying pillows and blankets. Thus, by the united exertions of
the whole family, old Bob was safely deposited in his straight-backed
arm-chair, a good deal redder in the face and shorter in the temper
than before the transit, but otherwise none the worse. Polly pushed
forward a chair under the limb which her mother was still embracing.
The pillows were put at feyther's back, the blankets over his knee,
his pipe and screw of 'baccy being placed handy on the window-sill;
then Tom and Bob withdrew to assume their Sunday suits in preparation
for the day, while Mrs. Wainwright and her daughters made the bed and
tidied the room. Presently the girls slipped away, and, after pausing
for a moment, hands on hips to make sure that her Gaffer was
coomfortable, Mrs. Wainwright remarked that she'd better be seeing to
things downstairs a bit, for they lasses 'ud be sure to be off arter
the Club as soon as her back was turned.

"If thou wants me, thou'll shout for me, wunnot thou?" she asked,
turning just at the door.

"I'll not want for aught," returned Bob gruffly. "I don't want no
doin' for, I'm out o' th' road up here, an' ye're fain enough, all on
ye'! Thou can be off arter th' Club thysel' if thou's a mind to."

With many protests Mrs. Wainwright withdrew, and her husband, left to
himself, proceeded to relieve his feelings by tossing his pillows over
the back of the chair, and extricating his suffering limb from the

"I'm welly smoored," he remarked indignantly, half aloud, "welly
smoored I am. They reckon I'm a babby to be croodled and cossetted
this gate. I'll be that nesh afore they'n done, I'll be fit for nought
when I get about again."

Leaning forward, and supporting himself on one leg, he threw open the
window. The air, fresh and invigorating if keen as a knife, circled
round the room, lifting his thick white hair, and making the prints on
the wall flap and rustle.

"That wakkens me up a bit," cried Bob; "does me good, that does. Our
missus may barge as hoo likes, I'll keep it oppen."

He could hear voices and hurrying feet in the road below; people were
beginning to assemble at the church; by-and-by the whole procession,
headed by the band, would go marching down the street and in at the
park gates to be refreshed and complimented at Thornleigh Hall; then
it would take its way across the fields to Upton, turning the big
banner so that the arms of the Squire of that place would be most _en
evidence_ when they halted for similar entertainment before the door
of _his_ mansion. Thence, through Upton village along the lane to the
Thornleigh Arms; then the dinner--mirth and jollity lasting till
evening. Old Bob, with knotted hands clasping the wooden arms of his
high-backed chair, saw it all in fancy, his memory conjuring up each
detail of the well-known scenes. He could see the grassy fields and
the hedges white with bloom; he could smell the fragrance of the
trampled earth; he could feel the sunshine and the brisk air; and then
the warmth, the brightness, the good cheer at the Thornleigh Arms--his
mouth watered at the thought of them. Would any one miss the oldest
member, and drink his health? Well, this time at least, old Martin
would not be there to dispute the honour.... Now he could hear the
gate of his little garden swing open and then bang; the lads were
starting. Bob, leaning on his elbow, craned his neck forward to see
them. A certain expression of gratified parental pride stole over his
face as he took note of the brave appearance presented by young Bob,
who with his be-ribboned hat placed a little aslant on his curly
locks, his Sunday suit brushed till not a speck of dust rested on its
glossy surface, and his white staff held jauntily in his sunburnt
hand, was indeed the picture of a comely young holiday-maker. When the
father glanced at "our Tom," however, his face darkened. There was Tom
with his ill-fastened shoelaces trailing, his smart bandsman's coat
buttoned awry over a pair of trousers which were neither his Sunday
best, nor the white-piped blue ones which formed part of his uniform
as musician--these were a shabby, shiny, pair of worn broad-cloth
usually kept for wet Sundays and Saturday expeditions to town; a suit,
in fact, which had long been considered by no means presentable.

"Slovenly chap," growled the father with great irritation, "my word,
if I were near enough I'd larn thee to put on the reet mak' o' clooes
of a Club Day! I'd holler now, an' mak' thee coom back an' change 'em,
if our missus wasna so nigh, but if hoo chanced to look an' see me at
th' window, hoo'd be bargin' me for opening it.... Ha, th' owd lass
has called him back hersel'. Reet! hoo'll noan let him mak' sich a
boggart of hissel'--hoo'll fettle him up afore he goes."

He chuckled to himself, as Tom was hauled back, sheepish and sulky,
and pushed into the house by the womankind; presently emerging in full
bandsman's dress, tied shoe-laces--in every way as spick and span as
father or mother could desire. Brandishing his instrument, he ran
clattering down the street to overtake his brother, only just in time
apparently, for, a minute or two after he had disappeared, the distant
sounds of music could be heard.

"They're coomin'," said Bob, drawing a long breath, and rubbing his
withered hands together. His eyes grew suddenly very round and red,
and he felt a queer choking in his throat. Yes, they were coming; he
could distinguish the tune now, and the _tramp, tramp_ of many feet.
Bob again leaned forward, thrusting his head almost through the window
in his anxiety to see and hear. The missus and the lasses standing at
the gate were too intent on watching and listening to notice him. Now
they were rounding the corner--a brave sight; the big banner with its
gay streamers held well aloft, the stewards with their white wands
also decorated with ribbon; the fine old Thornleigh Arms were to the
front this time, and the Thornleigh folk too--there they came rolling
along, every man happy and merry, and here was "th' owdest member,"
who had walked his fifty-two times, laid by the heels in his solitary
upper chamber! His big, old, gnarled hands shook as they rested on the
sill, his underlip trembled and drooped like a child's, babyish tears
gathered in his eyes.

But what was this? The lads were pulling up, the big banner halted
right opposite his door, just as if it had been the Squire's--with a
sudden crash the band stopped short, and somebody called out loudly:--

"Three cheers for th' owdest member!" And thereupon ensued lusty "Hip,
hip, hurras," long kept up with vigour and enthusiasm by the
Thornleigh members, while the Upton folk, standing aloof and silent,
eyed each other askance and seemed rather glum.

Poor old Bob! His wrinkled rubicund face was a study as he leaned
forth, nodding to his cronies, and shouting at intervals, "Thank'ee
lads, thank'ee."

Mrs. Wainwright was too proud and jubilant to scold him for his
temerity, and stood smiling at her gate, calling to the neighbours to
"Jest see our Gaffer! Theer, he's gone an' oppened window all hissel',
an's lookin' out same's ony on us."

At last the procession moved on again, the band--at least that portion
of it which hailed from Thornleigh playing "He's a Jolly Good Fellow,"
while the Upton musicians tried to drown the efforts of their comrades
by striking up "See the Conquering Hero Comes."

The meaning of this last was presently made clear to Old Bob
Wainwright, whose triumph was of but short duration, for lo! beneath
his window, the second part of the procession suddenly halted, and
there in the middle of the Upton folk, stood his rival, Martin Tyrer!
Much enveloped, indeed, in wraps and comforters, rather pale as to
complexion, very hoarse as to voice, but nevertheless no other than
Martin Tyrer himself. Bob's face fell, and he stared vacantly forth
without attempting to move.

"Well," cried Tyrer huskily, but triumphantly, "thou'rt theer, art
thou, owd brid? I'm fain th' lads gave thee a cheer to keep thy
sperrits up--we'se drink thy health jest now. I've cotched thee at
last thou sees! This here's fifty-three times as I've walked.
Fifty-three times!" raising his voice to a bellow--"I'm th' owdest
member, now, as how 'tis. Good-day to thee, Robert, I hope thou'lt be
about wick an' hearty this time next year--thou'lt be _second_ owdest
member, an' we'se be fain to see thee among us."

With a cheer and a roar of laughter the party moved on, Martin,
turning after a few steps, to hold up all five fingers of one hand,
and three of the other, intending thereby, according to an
arithmetical system of his own, to denote the number of fifty-three.
Bob quite understood the exasperating allusion, and grew, if possible,
redder in the face than before, though, for the moment, his surprise,
anger, and humiliation left him absolutely dumb.

His family had a bad time of it during all the remainder of that day:
bandages were flying, pillows were pitched aside, food was spurned and
upset, and plates were broken. The choice language, however, which
usually accompanied these tokens of displeasure was not heard to-day.
Since the insult which had followed so close upon the heels of the old
man's triumph, he had continued vengefully mute.

The lads came home at nightfall, not quite perhaps as hilarious as
usual after a Club Day dinner, but with their tongues sufficiently
loosened by Jack Orme's good beer to make them less cautious and more
garrulous than was their custom when within earshot of their father.
Old Bob, sitting up in bed and clutching wrathfully at the blankets,
heard them relate how they had been told that Martin Tyrer was that
set on walking that day, that though his missus had locked up his hat
and boots, he had managed to give her the slip, and had run across the
road and had got Tom Lupton's Sunday hat off him and also his best
boots. Mrs. Tyrer was in an awful to-do, and had come to fetch him at
the Thornleigh Arms. The doctor said it would be the death of her
Gaffer, she declared--but old Martin wouldn't go. He had stayed till
the very end, drinking healths with everybody, and boasting and
bragging he had beaten Bob Wainwright, and _he_ was th' owdest member
now. At this point of the narrative Bob senior overturned his
gruel--which till now he had respected on account of the
flavouring--and kicked so hard at the bed-clothes that he hurt his
gouty foot, and uttered a roar of rage and pain which caused his sons
to lower their voices to a discreet whisper.

Next morning news came that Martin Tyrer had been taken very bad, and
that the doctor had a poor opinion of him. When Doctor Craddock,
indeed, called later in the day to see Bob Wainwright, he confirmed
the report with a sigh and a shake of the head:

"I am afraid the poor old fellow has done for himself," he said
gravely. "It is astonishing how obstinate some of these people are. I
am glad that you at least have had more sense, Wainwright"--turning
with a smile to Bob.

"I sh'd ha' gone if I could ha' getten foot to th' ground," returned
Bob, glowering at him.

"Well, well, luckily for you you couldn't, though it might not have
been quite so serious with you. But Tyrer was very ill indeed when he
went, and now naturally he is very much worse."

"Raly, it looks like a judgment," observed Mrs. Wainwright, with an
air of pious regret, "soom people might say it was, ye know, Doctor.
Martin, he's been goin' on awful to my husband--that set up he were--"

"Howd thy din!" interposed Bob, wrathfully; whereupon Mrs. Wainwright
retired outside the door, waiting to pursue the conversation till the
doctor should be ready to go downstairs.

When, a day or two after, Martin Tyrer died, Mrs. Wainwright received
the tidings with the same mournful satisfaction. It was what she had
looked for, she remarked; she "couldn't but feel that Martin was
callin' down a judgment on hissel! Well, it was to be 'oped that th'
A'mighty wouldn't be 'ard with him, not but what he was 'ard enough,
Martin was, wi' other folks. A body would ha' thought that when he see
the Gaffer laid up in's chamber on Club Day he wouldn't 'ave 'ad it
in's 'eart to go castin' up at him, same's he did." But Mrs.
Wainwright would say no more, Martin Tyrer was gone, poor man, an' it
did not become her to judge him. Upon which she proceeded to say a
great deal more, in exactly the same strain, until her Gaffer hammered
on the floor with his stick, and requested her to stop that.

The whole family were much astonished on receiving invitations to
Martin Tyrer's funeral. They had, indeed, heard that Mrs. Tyrer was
going to give him a very nice burying--that all Upton folks were going
and a good many from Thornleigh too--it was to be "summat gradely"
every one said. It was the kind of festivity which, as a rule, the
Wainwrights much appreciated, but on this occasion they were rather
affronted at being bidden to assist, and both the young men declared
stoutly that they'd noan go if they knew it.

"Why not?" growled feyther from his big chair in the corner. (He was
now well enough to hobble down stairs.) "You yoong chaps thinks too
mich o' yoursels--_I'm_ goin' as how 'tis."

Mrs. Wainwright positively gasped. "Gaffer, thou'll noan think o' sich
a thing--thou as couldn't so mich as walk on Tuesday! I'm sure thou
needn't be puttin' thysel' out for Martin Tyrer!"

"I'm goin' as how 'tis," repeated Bob gloomily; he had been very
gloomy all these days. "I'm goin' to foller Martin Tyrer to his long
home, if I ha' to hop," he added sternly. "Him an' me has walked
together for fifty-two year, an' I'll walk at Martin Tyrer's buryin'!
Theer now, my mind's made up."

Young Bob and Tom stared at each other, then they remarked,
unwillingly, that if he went of course they would go too; upon which
old Bob returned that they might please theirsel's--_he_ was going.

When Doctor Craddock was told of this decision, he said that now
Robert was so much better it might not do him any harm, adding that he
thought it showed very good feeling on his part. Mrs. Wainwright was
much elated at the compliment, but Robert himself received it in stony
silence. When the report circulated round the village every one was
touched and edified. Wasn't it beautiful, people said, and who'd have
thought Robert Wainwright had that much feeling! He had a wonderful
good heart, Robert had--he wasn't one to say much, but he felt the
more. Mrs. Wainwright went about shaking her head and casting up her
eyes. She had begun by being exasperated at this sudden determination,
but finding how very much other folks admired and respected her Robert
for it, she had gradually become infected by the general enthusiasm;
and, indeed, when she hunted out and carefully brushed her husband's
Sunday clothes, she murmured tearfully to her daughters that "Feyther
was a'most too good for this warld," and that "it 'ud be mich"--with a
sniff--"if they weren't gettin' ready blacks to weer for him next!"

"It mak's me go all of a shake," the good woman added. "Eh, I cannot
tell ye! It seems onnatural-like. Yer Feyther's noan like 'issel'. To
think of his takkin' on that gate about owd Martin Tyrer; mony a one
'ud be fain enough as he were out o' the road!"

Meanwhile Robert himself certainly did not say much, as the neighbours
observed; in fact, he said nothing at all. When his friends came and
stared at him after the manner of their kind, and made remarks to each
other or to Mrs. Wainwright about how strange it was that he should be
that taken to about Martin Tyrer--though some of them added,
sympathetically, that he _would_ be like to miss him, he _would_, when
all was said and done; him and Martin had walked together such a many
years--"rale cronies ye know for all their fallin's out"--Robert would
stare at them and heave a deep sigh; occasionally he would take his
pipe out of his mouth as though about to make a remark, but invariably
put it in again without uttering a syllable. Then his friends would go
away, shaking their heads and sighing, after pausing to impart to Mrs.
Wainwright their conviction that her Gaffer was failing.

When the day of Martin's funeral came Robert was, with the assistance
of his wife and daughters, attired in his best "blacks"; he himself
saw to his foot-gear, having possessed himself of a pair of shears
with which he cut a large piece out of the top of one boot. Mrs.
Wainwright had been tearful enough with sentimental foreboding all the
morning, and, when she saw the irreparable damage wrought by Feyther's
ruthless hands, she began to cry in good earnest.

"I knowed as summat was boun' to happen," she groaned; "dear o' me,
seventeen-an'-six, no less--an' the soles scarce soiled! Eh,
Gaffer!--it's downright flyin' i' th' face o' Providence to be so

Gaffer, meanwhile, purple in the face with suppressed anguish, had
forced his foot into the mutilated boot, and now silently and
frowningly pointed to his hat.

The Wainwrights started early, for, though many neighbours had offered
to give Bob a lift, the old man had insisted on walking all the way.
It was a very painful pilgrimage, but he set his teeth and leaned hard
on his stick, and hobbled along dauntlessly, though every now and then
his injured foot would give a twinge which made him snarl to himself
and stagger.

They arrived just as the mourning procession was setting forth from
the widow's door. Bob had counted upon being refreshed by a short rest
and a glass of "summat"; but there was no time for that now, so he
merely wiped his face, drew a deep breath, and fell into line. The
Upton folk were surprised and gratified by his presence; many of them
nodded to him in a friendly way, and a few came up and spoke to him.
One or two told him they considered it "rale 'andsome" of him to come.
Bob nodded back, and said nothing.

He stood by, solemnly, while the final sad rites were being performed,
and lingered even after all was over. At last, however, he heaved a
deep sigh and turned to go. Mrs. Wainwright tenderly supported his
left elbow and cast a tragic glance round.

"I doubt it's been too mich for him," she sobbed--she always sobbed at
funerals, being a very feeling woman, but on this occasion she
surpassed herself, some of the Upton folk indeed thought it was scarce
decent. Young Bob and Tom began to blubber too; Polly remarked to
Annie that "Feyther'd go next for sure." Friends and neighbours
gathered round with long faces and sympathetic murmurs. Robert
Wainwright, however, pushed them aside and hobbled forward a few paces
without speaking; then he suddenly halted and jerked his thumb over
his shoulder.

"Well," he said with a chuckle, "_he_ walked on Club Day--ah, he
did--but I've walked to his buryin', so I reckon I've cotched him up.
I wonder who's th' owdest member now!"


It was Saturday afternoon, and Ted Wharton and Joe Lovelady had left
off work early, as was their custom on that day of the week. They were
now betaking themselves with solemn satisfaction to the "Thornleigh
Arms," where a certain portion of their weekly wage would presently
transfer itself from their own pockets to that of its jovial landlord.
Joe Lovelady was a great, soft, lumbering fellow, who was considered
rather a nonentity in Thornleigh; but Ted Wharton was a very different
person. He was the village Radical--an adventurous spirit who, not
content with spelling out his newspaper conscientiously on Sunday, was
wont to produce, even on week-day afternoons, sundry small,
ill-printed sheets, from which he would read out revolutionary
sentiments the like of which had never before been heard in
Thornleigh. For the most part his neighbours considered it extremely
foolish of Ted to be "weerin' his brass on sich like," when a ha'porth
of twist would have been so much more satisfactory. They cared nothing
at all about Home Rule, and did not see that the labour question in
any way bore upon their own case. What they wanted to know was when
Government was going to raise the price of wheat, and what was the use
of growing 'taters when it wasn't worth while carting them to

But Ted was not only the village Radical: he was also the village wag,
with a reputation for humour which rendered him enormously popular. He
was about thirty-five years old; a small man with sandy hair, a
serious, not to say solemn, expression of countenance, and twinkling
light grey eyes, which he had a trick of blinking when about to
perpetrate a joke. His trousers were a little too short, his
coat-sleeves--when he wore a coat--a little too long. On ordinary
occasions his hat was tilted to the back of his head, and when in a
jocular humour he cocked it knowingly over one eye. Probably these
peculiarities, coupled with a certain dry method of enunciating, added
largely to Ted's renown.

As they walked briskly along this hot summer's afternoon, the two men
did not take the trouble to converse with each other. Joe, indeed, was
at all times a taciturn person, and Ted was probably reserving himself
for the delectation of the cronies whom he expected to meet at the
"Thornleigh Arms." When he had caught up Joe on the road he had
volunteered that he was steppin' up yonder, and Joe had replied that
that was reet, jerking his head forward at the same time as an
indication that he was steppin' up yonder too; thenceforth they had,
as a matter of course, proceeded together, Ted walking a pace or two
in advance and whistling to himself.

The village was now left behind, and on one side of the road, behind
the dusty hedge, some colts were keeping step with them, occasionally
starting and floundering forward after the manner of their kind, and
then wheeling and coming slowly back with foolish heads extended and
ears pricked, all ready for another bounce if either of the
pedestrians raised his hand or kicked a stone out of his path. To
their left the corn stood tall and yellow, almost ready for the
harvest. Now they approached some woods, familiarly known as "the
Mosses," from the peaty nature of the soil. A few weeks before the
thick undergrowth of rhododendrons had been ablaze with clustering
purple blossoms, and many wild flowers grew now on the borders of the
deep ditch which surrounded them. These woods lay cornerwise with the
main road, a sandy lane following the angle they described. On the
grassy border of this lane a flock of geese were tranquilly basking,
and, as Ted approached, a vigilant and pugnacious gander rushed
towards him, flapping its wings and extending its long neck with
portentous hisses. Ted had been carrying his coat over his arm for the
sake of coolness, and now, whether because he thought it would be a
humorous thing to do, or because he was secretly a little terrified at
the rapid advance of the bellicose gander, he struck with it at the
luckless bird with such force that he stretched it on the sod.

"Hello!" cried Ted, stopping short, astonished and perturbed at his
sudden victory, "I b'lieve I've done for th' owd chap."

"My word," commented Joe, "if thou has thou'll be like to hear on it!
That theer's Margaret Hep.'s gander; hoo thinks the world on't, hoo

Ted was meanwhile bending over his prostrate foe, which, to his
relief, was not absolutely dead, though it was gasping and turning up
its eyes in rather a ghastly manner. He took it up in his arms, still
enfolded in his coat.

"It's wick still, as how 'tis," he remarked. "Eh! how it's kickin' out
with they ugly yaller legs! Now then, owd lad, what mun we do wi'it,
think'st thou? Mun I finish it off an' carry it wi' me to Jack Orme's
for a marlock? Eh! the lads 'ud laugh if they see me coomin' in wi'
it! I'll tell 'em I'd brought 'em a Crestmas dinner in July. My word,
it's tough enough! I reckon it 'ud want keepin'; it wouldn't be ready
mich afore Crestmas!"

Joe's wits, at no time very nimble, required some time to take in this
audacious proposal, and he was just beginning the preliminary
deprecating roll of the head, which he intended to precede a remark to
the effect that Margaret 'ud happen have summat to say about that,
when the angular figure of Miss Heptonstall herself appeared at the
corner of the lane. She paused a moment aghast at the sight of the
struggling gander, still enveloped in Ted's coat, and then, with
extended hands and wildly-flapping drapery, hastened towards him--her
aspect being not unlike that assumed by the unfortunate biped in
question when he had first advanced to the attack.

"Victoria!" she gasped, when she at last halted beside the men. "Eh!
whatever's getten Victoria?"

"Do ye mean this 'ere?" questioned Ted, hoisting the gander a little
higher up under his arm. "Well, I cannot think whatever coom to the
poor thing. Joe and me was goin' our ways along to Orme's when we
heerd it give a kind of skrike out, and we looked round, and it were
staggerin' along same as if it were fuddled, ye know, and all at once
it give another skrike an' tumbled down aside o' th' road. Didn't it,

Joe again rolled a deprecatory eye at his crony and cleared his
throat, but did not otherwise commit himself.

"It mun ha' been a fit or soom sich thing," continued Ted, cocking his
hat over his eye and glancing waggishly at Lovelady. "When Joe see it,
says he, 'My word, there'll be a pretty to do! This is Margaret Hep.'s
gander,' says Joe--no, I think he said, 'Miss Heptonstall's gander.'
Didn't thou, Joe? Joe's allus so respectful and civil-spoke,
pertic'larly when it's a lady as he's a-talking about."

Joe grinned and began to look jocular too. His friend's last assertion
pleased him better than the wild flights of a little time before.

"That's it," said Joe. "Ho, ho! Reet!"

"He'd never go for to call ony lady out o' their name," pursued Ted,
placing his hat yet a little more aslant; "never did that in's life.
He's quite a lady's mon, Joe is. Haw! haw!"

"Coom!" said Joe, grinning still more broadly.

At this juncture the invalid gander made a frantic struggle, and,
freeing one wing from Ted's encircling coat, began to flap it wildly.

"Ye've no need to stan' grinnin' an' makkin' merry theer when th' poor
dumb thing's goin' to dee, as like as not," cried Margaret
indignantly. "Hand him over to me this minute--theer, my beauty,
theer--missus'll see to thee."

"Well, an' ye ought to be very thankful to me," asserted Ted; "didn't
I pick him out o' th' road, an' put my own coat o'er him an' fondle
him mich same's if he was a babby? Why, he 'ud noan be wick now if it
hadn't ha' been for me. Theer, my boy, howd up! Theer, we'se tuck in
thy wing for thee, and cover thee up warm an' gradely--'tisn't
everybody as 'ud be dressin' up a gander i' their own clooes. Do you
know what 'ud do this 'ere bird rale good? Just a drop o' sperrits to
warm his in'ards for him--that's what he wants. See here, I'll carry
him awhoam for ye, and ye mun jest fotch him a glass o' whisky, and in
a two three minutes he'll be as merry as a layrock."

Margaret looked doubtfully at him.

"Do ye raly think it 'ud do the poor thing good?" she asked dolefully.

"I'm sure on't," returned Ted, firmly pinioning the gander's
struggling legs, and setting off at a brisk pace towards Margaret's
cottage. "Theer's nought as is wick as wouldn't feel the benefit of a
drop o' sperrits now an' again."

Joe considered this a very proper sentiment, and gave a grunt by way
of endorsing it; he, too, followed Ted and the gander, being as much
amused at the transaction as it was in his nature to be at anything.

Margaret kept pace with Ted, every now and then uttering lamentations
over her favourite.

"He were as good a gander as a body need wish for; wonderful good
breed he were, an' as knowin'! Eh, dear, I never wanted for coompany
when Victoria were theer."

"Victoria!" ejaculated Ted, stopping short and facing her; "why,
that's a female name!"

"It's the Queen's name," rejoined Margaret, with a certain melancholy

"I thought it had been a gander; it _is_ a gander, surely?"

"Oh, it's a gander reet 'nough. But I thought it were a goose to begin
wi'. It were the biggest o' th' clutch, an' the prattiest, an' so I
called it Victoria, an' it geet to know th' name, an' to coom when I
called it--eh, it 'ud coom runnin' up an' croodle down aside o' me,
turnin' its yead o' one side that knowin'! Eh, dear, theer never was
sich a bird. An' when it were upgrown, an' turned out to be a gander,
I 'adn't it i' my 'eart to change th' name, seein' as it had getten to
know it so well, an' arter all, seein' as it's th' head of all th'
fowls i' my place, it doesn't seem to coom amiss. Canon, he wanted me
to call it Prince Consort, or else Albert Edward, but it didn't seem
natural like, an' I've allus been used to call my white drake Albert
Edward; and Prince Consort, he's th' owd rooster."

"Well," said Ted, hoisting up the gander again under his arm, and
chuckling as he walked forward, "well, that beats all! I never heerd
sich a tale i' my life. Coom, Victoria, howd up, owd lad; we'se soon
be theer now. An' so th' owd rooster is Prince Consort? An' the
drake's th' Prince o' Wales? Ho, ho! Have ye getten any more royalties

"I've used up pretty near all th' royal fam'ly," replied Margaret,
with a recurrence of her former dolorous pride; "it's the only mark o'
respect as I can show my sovering. Every time Her Gracious Majesty
gets a new grandchild or great-grandchild, Canon, he cooms an' says,
'Margaret, have you any more chickens as wants names?' An' soomtimes
the one christening 'ull do for a whole brood; they royal childer has
sich a mony names, ye know."

Ted sneered and looked immensely superior; the loyalty of this
benighted woman filled his Radical mind with as much contempt as
amusement. He was about to utter some scathing remark, when his
attention was diverted by their arrival at Margaret's cottage.

Throwing open the little wicket-gate which divided her premises from
the lane, she pressed forward, and unlocked her door. Ted followed her
into the kitchen, while Joe stood without, craning forward his neck to
see what was going on in the interior of the cottage, and drawing the
back of his hand across his lips when he saw Miss Heptonstall produce
a small bottle of whisky.

"He looks a dale livelier now," remarked Ted, uncloaking the gander
and setting it on its legs on Margaret's immaculate table. "Whoa,
steady theer," as the bird began to struggle in his grasp, flapping
uneasy wings, and making a sickly attempt at a hiss.

Margaret, who had been about to uncork the bottle, paused, surveying
Victoria with her head on one side.

"Theer dunnot seem to be mich amiss, do theer?" she remarked; "it
seems a'most a pity to be givin' it sperrits. It'll upset it again as
like as not."

"Theer mun ha' been summat amiss i' th' first place, though," returned
Wharton, with a judicial air, "else it wouldn't ha' been took bad same
as it were. If I was you, Miss Heptonstall, I'd give it a drop to
strengthen its in'ards a bit."

"Ah," agreed Joe from the doorway.

Ted fumbled in his pocket and produced a large red cotton
handkerchief, which he carefully spread on the table beneath the

"It 'ud be a pity to let this here table get dirty," he observed,
looking admiringly at its spotless surface. Margaret eyed him with
more favour than she had hitherto displayed; then, smiling sourly,
began to pour out the contents of her little black bottle.

"Fill up, Miss Heptonstall, fill up!" cried Ted, energetically; "eh,
if you dunnot gi' it no more nor that, Victoria met jest as well be a
bantam. He'll noan as mich as wet that great yaller beak of his wi'
that drop."

Margaret smiled no more, but she filled up the glass. Joe, in the
doorway, cleared his throat reflectively. Ted, again encircling the
gander with his arm, forced open its beak.

"Now then," he whispered eagerly, "fotch a spoon, Miss Hep. Coom, owd
bird, this'll fettle thee up, an' no mistake."

But whether Victoria's struggles were more lively than he had
anticipated, or whether Ted purposely relaxed his hold, certain it was
that the gander, with a scream of fury, backed out of his grasp and
fluttered on to the floor; proceeding to waddle with great speed and
evident indignation across the kitchen into the yard without.

"He's teetotal," said Ted, gazing at Margaret with a twinkle in his
eye. "I met ha' knowed he'd be, seein' as he's bin brought up so
careful, an' took to water nateral fro' th' first."

Miss Heptonstall had been about to restore the liquor to its bottle,
but she now hesitated, looking towards Ted with a grim smile; his
style of humour tickled her. Seized with a sudden fit of generosity,
she extended the glass to him.

"You're noan teetotal, I'll be bound," she observed. "Theer! Sup it

"Your 'ealth!" said Ted, nodding towards her, much elated. Joe again
cleared his throat tentatively, but Margaret ruthlessly corked the
bottle, and, assuming her usual frosty air, remarked with somewhat
scant politeness that it was time for her to be setting about her
business, and there was no need for other folks to be waiting.

Thereupon the "other folks" were constrained to depart, Ted being
still jubilant and Joe very glum.

"Well," began the former, as soon as they had advanced some paces, "t'
folks up yon 'ull laugh fit to split when they hear this tale! Th' owd
lady is a dacent sort o' body when all's said an' done. Hoo behaved
uncommon 'andsome to me."

"Ah," returned Joe with surly sarcasm, "uncommon 'andsome. Hoo gave
thee th' gander's leavin's, didn't hoo? Ho, ho! gander's leavin's."

Joe so seldom made a joke that he was quite astonished at himself, and
after three or four repetitions of the same, with much wagging of the
head, and a few knowing jerks of his thumb over his shoulder,
apparently to accentuate the point of the jest, he became quite
good-humoured again, and the pair walked on in amicable silence, each
preparing to astonish his cronies with the recital of his own prowess.

The Thornleigh Arms was a snug old-fashioned hostelry standing a
little back from the high-road. An air of homely jollity and comfort
seemed to pervade the place; the ruddy afternoon sun lit up the
small-paned windows with as cheerful a glow as that which in winter
was reflected from the roaring fire piled by old Jack half up the wide
chimney; the very Thornleigh lion of the imposing sign seemed to lean
confidentially on his toe and to grin affably, as though to assure the
passers-by of the good cheer within.

Ted and Joe found the usual Saturday customers already there, and
presently shouts of laughter made the very rafters ring as he
recounted his adventures with Margaret Heptonstall and her gander; his
companion meanwhile sipping his beer with an air of suppressed
importance. By-and-by he, too, would add his quota to the evening's
entertainment, but he would wait till the culminating point of Ted's
story was reached, and the company was, so to speak, ripe for it.

"Me an' Miss Hep. is meeterly thick now, I tell ye," summed up Ted at
the conclusion of his tale. "Hoo thinks a dale o' me, if hoo doesn't
think mich o' menfolk in general."

"Hoo gived Ted the gander's leavin's," put in Joe, seizing his
opportunity, and bringing out his joke with a great shout and a
vigorous nudge to his nearest neighbour. "Th' owd lad needn't be that
set up--hoo give him nought but the gander's leavin's, when all's said
an' done."

"Hoo didn't give _thee_ a drop as how 'tis," retorted Ted. "Poor Joe
were stood i' th' doorway, ye know, an' he sighed an' licked his lips,
th' poor chap, but he didn't get nought. Miss Hep. didn't fancy nobody
but me."

"Thou'll be for coortin' her next," suggested somebody humorously.

"Nay, nay," said an odd little short man with comically uplifted
eyebrows. "'T wouldn't be no use coortin' Margaret Heptonstall. Eh, I
remember when our missus reckoned hoo were deein' an' took a notion to
mak' up a match between Margaret an' me--"

The rest of his narrative was drowned in a roar of laughter. Every one
knew that story.

"Hoo wouldn't ha' noan o' thee, would hoo Tom?" cried one.

"Thy missus couldn't bear the notion of havin' all they dumb things
about as Margaret sets sich store by?" queried another.

"Nay, 'twas me as couldn't bear the notion of her," rejoined Tom
stoutly. "I'd be hard put-to to do wi' onybody at arter our Betty.
Hoo's wick an' 'earty, an' I dunnot want nobry; but if I did have to
pick a second missus, it shouldn't be Margaret Hep."

"Hoo's reg'lar set in her ways, isn't hoo?" put in old Jack. "Ah,
hoo's reg'lar cut out for a single life, Marg'ret is. I reckon
nobody'll want to coort her at this time o' day, an' if onybody did,
hoo'd send him packin'."

"I haven't tried my hand yet, ye see," remarked Ted, looking round for
applause. "If I was to get agate o' coortin' Margaret Hep., hoo'd be
fain enough."

There was general laughter at this statement, which nearly every one
present hastened to deny. All agreed that were Ted to urge his
pretensions he would be very soon sent to the right-about.

"Well, then," cried Ted when the uproar had somewhat subsided, "I'll
bet you a nine-gallon cask of owd Jack's best to a five-shillin' bit
that Margaret Hep. an' me 'ull be shouted before the month's out."

The din at this point reached such a height that Mrs. Jack hastened in
from the back premises to inquire what was to-do, and Ted himself was
obliged to hammer on the table with his knuckles before he could make
himself heard.

"Well," he resumed, "I've said it, an' I'll stick to it. You'll see,
Margaret an' me 'ull be keeping coompany afore aught's long, an' Canon
'ull be shoutin' us at th' end o' th' month."

"Mon, you're noan goin' to wed sich an owd, tough, dried-up body as
yon, for sure?" cried comfortable Mrs. Orme incredulously. "Ye mun be
a good ten or fifteen year younger nor her."

"I didn't say we'd go as fur as wedlock," explained Ted, with a wicked
leer. "I said we'd be shouted. Eh, theer's mony a slip 'twixt cup an'
lip, ye know. Margaret an' me 'ull happen fall out afore weddin' day
cooms; but once Canon shouts us ye mun down wi' your five shillin's."

"Ah, th' marlock 'ull be cheap enough at five shillin'," cried some
jovial spirit. "My word, I would laugh to hear the names called! I
reckon Canon hisself 'ud scarce keep a straight face."

"Nay, but think of th' poor wench," cried Jack, with an explosion of
mirth. "Ted, it's rale cruel o' thee to play an innicent trustin' lass
sich a trick."

"I reckon Margaret Hep. can take care of herself," put in Mrs. Jack.
"Hoo can keep her e'en oppen as weel's onybody. I don't know but what
it 'ull be Ted as 'ull ha' to pay for th' nine-gallon cask. Ye'd best
be savin' up your brass, Ted, for we wunnot give no credit for 't."

With this professional sally she retired. Thomas Alty, remarking in an
undertone that his Betty would be coming to look for him if he didn't
make haste home, withdrew also, after a good-humoured nod to the
friend who had treated him; for, as Mrs. Alty invariably impounded
Tom's wage, it was only when he met with a crony in a generous humour
that he visited the Thornleigh Arms.

It was not till considerably later that Ted betook himself homewards;
the plan which he had at first proposed out of a mere spirit of
bravado having now, owing to the gibes of Jack and the rest, become a
fixed resolution.

On the following afternoon, just at the time when young Thornleigh
went a-coortin', and elderly Thornleigh took off its boots and coat,
or put a clean white handkerchief over its cap, the better to enjoy
its Sabbath snooze in the ingle-nook, Ted Wharton cocked his hat over
his eye, put a posy in his coat, and set off to call on Margaret
Heptonstall. He found that damsel engaged in neither of the avocations
already stated, but, with her Sunday gown pinned behind her, and her
week-day sun-bonnet hanging limply over her face, feeding her numerous
family in the middle of her yard.

"Good day to ye, Miss Heptonstall," remarked Ted, approaching with a
jaunty air, "I thought I'd just call round to ax how Victoria finds
hissel this morning."

"Mich the same as us'al, thank ye," replied Miss Hep. with a starched
air. "Get out o' the road, Alice," addressing an adventurous pullet.
"Thou'rt allus runnin' under a body's feet. Chuck! chuck! chuck! Coom
G'arge, coom Adylaide, coom Maud! Now then, Alexandra! Chuck! chuck!
coom lovies! That theer vicious Frederick has been a-chivying of you
till you're freetened to death, you are."

Ted stood by with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, smiling to

"Yon's gradely chickens," he remarked presently. "Ye never eat 'em do
ye? 'Twouldn't be respectful, I shouldn't think."

"Yon's gradely chickens," he remarked]

Margaret vouchsafed no reply. Ted resumed, with bitter sarcasm.

"H'm, mich the same as their r'yal namesakes, I reckon--kept for show
an' no manner o' use to nobry."

Margaret hastily scattered the remainder of the grain in her apron,
and whisked round.

"Howd your din," she cried angrily, "or else tak' yoursel' off. I'll
noan stand by an' hear sich talk i' my place."

Ted, feeling he had made rather an inauspicious beginning, suddenly
became lamb-like.

"No offence," he pleaded humbly. "Mun I carry your basin for you into
th' house?"

Margaret looked over her shoulder and snorted; then, without returning
yea or nay, she stalked over the cobble-stones and entered her
kitchen, followed meekly by her visitor. Miss Heptonstall did not turn
her head until the sound of Ted's boots, falling upon her tiled floor,
made her look round sharply.

"If ye're for coomin' in ye'd best wipe your feet," she announced

Ted obediently retraced his steps and polished his boots on the mat
outside the door. Then he re-entered, walking gingerly on the tips of
his toes, and casting about in his mind for a suitable topic with
which to inaugurate the conversation. Margaret's spare angular figure
and sharp-featured face did not look encouraging; but surely never
before was seen such a dazzling white apron, such a stiffly starched
collar, such spotless cuffs. Margaret's cleanliness had in it, it was
true, an aggressive quality, but Ted admired it nevertheless. The

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