Part 2 out of 5
kitchen and all its appurtenances bore witness to the same scrupulous
nicety. No floor in Thornleigh village was raddled so carefully, no
fire-irons glittered so bravely; the very walls seemed to shine; and
as for the pots and pans they positively winked at one another in the
ruddy glow. Ted rested a sunburnt hand on each of his knees, drew a
long breath, and remarked fervently--
"Ye mun be wonderful house-proud, Miss Heptonstall."
He could not have chosen a more pleasing theme; Margaret wrinkled up
her nose with a sniff and a smile.
"Well, I believe I'm reckoned to be," she remarked modestly; "theer's
nought else i' this world as I care for mich, but I'm wonderful fond
o' cleanin' and scrubbing', an' I've allus said I'd sooner do things
for mysel' nor let onybody do it for me."
Ted sighed and cast up his eyes.
"It seems a pity, Miss Heptonstall, as it's only yoursel' ye're doin'
"Why so?" interrupted Margaret snappishly.
"Well, it seems sich terrible waste, ye know. It seems a pity ye
shouldn't be doin' for soombry else at th' same time."
"I dunnot want to do for nobry, nobbut mysel'," returned Margaret with
a toss of her head. "Did ye think I'd be for takkin' lodgers at this
time o' day?" she added suspiciously. "Nay, nay, I'll noan ha'
strangers here, botherin' an' messin' about."
"Eh, I wasn't thinkin' o' strangers," explained Wharton, hitching his
chair a little nearer. "I were jest wonderin' to mysel', seein' you're
so manageable an' clever an' that, as you hadn't never thought o'
gettin' wed an' doin' for a husband as well as yoursel'. I raly do
wonder, Miss Heptonstall," he repeated insinuatingly, "as ye haven't
He expected Margaret to be surprised and flattered, but she gave no
indication of being either the one or the other. She fixed her steely
blue eyes sternly on the visitor, and inquired stiffly what he thought
she wanted a husband for, and what use he reckoned sich-like 'ud be to
her. Ted edged his chair yet a little nearer, and thrust forward his
face till it was within a yard of Margaret's.
"A good husband 'ud be a great comfort to ye, Miss Heptonstall," he
urged. "He'd--he'd love ye, ye know"--(hesitating)--"an' work for ye."
This last was said with more assurance. Margaret appeared unconvinced.
"Eh, he'd be more bother than he was worth," she remarked trenchantly.
"Think 'o th' litter alone he'd mak' coomin' in an' out o' th' house.
It's bad enough to be cleanin' up arter th' cats an' the dog--poor
dumb things, they knows no better! But a mon stumpin' in an' out wi's
dirty boots, an' clooes as 'ud allus want mendin', an' stockin's
weerin' at th' 'eel! Eh, theer'd be no end to 't! An' then th' doin' for;
gettin's mate an' that--turnin' up 's nose very like--ill-satisfied wi'
a washin'-day dinner! Nay, nay, I'd sooner bide as I am wi' nobbut mysel'
to look to."
Ted threw back his head and coughed behind his hand, nonplussed for
the moment; presently, noting that the practical side of the case was
the only one likely to meet with favour, he resumed artfully--"Think
how coomfortable it 'ud be of a rainy day, i'stead o' startin' out i'
th' wet to feed pig an' do for chickens, to say to your gaffer,
'Sitha, thou mun see to they things afore thou goes to thy wark'--an'
of an evening, when he' coom awhoam, ye could set him to get th'
'taters, an' chop wood an' that."
Margaret crossed her arms and appeared to reflect.
"An' of a Saturday--pay day, ye know--ye'd jest say: 'Hand o'er,
wilto?' An' he'd hand o'er."
A faint smile began to play about the lady's lips; she leaned back in
her chair and looked attentively at Ted.
"'Tisn't everybody as 'ud be willin' to do that," she remarked after a
pause; "theer's a mony as 'ud sooner spend their brass at th'
Ted privately thought this extremely likely, but he assumed an air of
"Theer's chaps an' chaps! I reckon if onybody was to ax to wed _you_,
Miss Heptonstall, he'd be a steady-goin' sort o' fellow as wouldn't be
up to they mak' o' games."
Margaret smiled outright. Ted thought he would follow up his advantage
and clinch the point at once.
"Now, Miss Heptonstall," said he, "for instance, if _I_ was to coom
coortin' ye, I wouldn't be thinkin' of onything but makkin' ye
coomfortable. I reckon ye'd mak' _me_ coomfortable"--(with an air of
great fairness and impartiality)--"that's wheer 'tis; it 'ud be 'give
an' take, give an' take.' I feel dreadful lonely of an evenin', an'
it's a sad thing when a man allus has to do for hissel'. I'd be
thankful if ye'd have me--"
"I reckon ye would," interrupted Margaret with disconcerting
frankness; "I've a good bit o' brass saved."
This was news to Ted, and he looked at her with genuine interest.
"Have ye?" said he. "I raly didn't know. Well, I'm doin' pratty well
too, an' I've got a nice little place--"
"Nay," put in Margaret, "it isn't mich of a place; this here's twice
th' size, an' a dale coomfortabler. Nay, if we was to get wed, ye'd
ha' to coom here--I wouldn't go yonder."
Ted started for a moment, somewhat taken back by the matter-of-fact
coolness with which his advances were received; he might as well
finish the job now however, he reflected, and as he did not mean the
business to proceed beyond the "shouting" stage, it would not hurt him
to make any concession that Margaret might please to exact.
"Ah, I could coom here," he remarked heroically; "my little nook isn't
sich an ill place for all that; but I'll do it, an' I'll gi' ye my
wage reg'lar an' do th' dirty work all round, an'--an' turn teetotal
if ye want it."
"Naw," said Miss Heptonstall, "I wouldn't go as far as that; I like a
glass o' beer mysel' at dinner-time--I allus keep a little cask i' th'
buttery yon--but you'll ha' to gi' o'er callin' at th' Thornleigh
"Tisn't like I'd want to be callin' at th' Thornleigh Arms if I'd a
coomfortable place like this to set in o' neets, and a missus o' my
own to look to."
He had for a moment contemplated qualifying the word "missus" with
some such adjective as "bonny," but a glance at Margaret's face nipped
this poetical flower in the bud. After a moment she sat upright,
gazing at him stolidly.
"I'll think on 't," she said. "Theer's things for it an' theer's
things agin it. One thing's agin it--I dunnot fancy your talk out o'
th' newspapers--speakin' ill o' th' Queen an' that--I reckon we'd ha'
words if ye carried on that road when we was mon an' wife."
Wharton rubbed his hands and looked embarrassed; he had hitherto had
no hesitation in perjuring himself, but he could not for the life of
him swallow his principles.
Margaret marched across the room and took down a framed photograph
from a shelf of the old-fashioned dresser. It represented Her Majesty
in royal robes.
"This here Canon give me at th' time o' th' Jubilee," she pursued.
"I've vallyed it--well, I couldn't say how mich I've vallyed it an'
_do_ vally it. See here, dunnot hoo look noble? I couldn't do wi'
onybody i' th' house as didn't respect this same as I do."
Ted cast a depreciating eye towards the portrait, but, after a glance
at it, suddenly regained his tongue and his spirits.
"See here, Miss Heptonstall," he cried eagerly, "th' Queen's not like
that! Theer now, it just shows how poor folks gets imposed upon! I've
seen the Queen mysel'--walked all the road to Liverpool when I didn't
know no better, an' I see her, an' hoo were nought but a wumman i'
black! Theer now, I'll tak' my oath on 't! Hoo hadn't no crown on, nor
yet no blue ribbon, an' none o' they fal-lals o' medals, an' nought i'
her hand. Hoo was jest an ord'nary wumman same 's ony other wumman.
'Well,' thinks I to mysel', 'if yon is to be stuck up at th' 'ead o'
Government, an' we all mun bow down afore a wuimman as isn't nought
different to ony other wumman, it's a shame,' I says. An' it _is_ a
shame, Miss Heptonstall."
Ted was working up into a fine declamatory vein, and would probably
have continued to hold forth for some time had not Margaret
indignantly interrupted him.
"Stop that! I'll ha' noan of it i' this 'ouse, an' so I tell ye. Did
ever a body hear sich talk! Ye ought to be ashamed o' yoursel', Edward
Wharton! If you was a mon ye should be ready to lay down your life for
"Lay down my life!" repeated Ted, who was getting slightly irate in
his turn. "I'd do no sich thing. I wouldn't put mysel' onyways out o'
my road for th' Queen, now I know what hoo is. Hoo's fools enough to
fight for her and wark for her. I wouldn't do nought for her."
"Ye would then," said Margaret, suddenly becoming calm again and
smiling grimly to herself. "Theer's one thing ye'd do for her, Edward
Wharton--ye'd drink her 'ealth."
Before he could retort she rose and went into the buttery, returning
after a moment or two with a foaming brown jug in one hand and a
quaintly shaped Toby-mug in the other. She placed them both on the
table in inviting proximity to Ted.
"Now then," she said persuasively, "ye'll drink Long Life to Her
The day was exceedingly warm, and if there was one thing on earth for
which Radical Ted had a weakness it was his native nut--brown ale. He
looked at Margaret and grinned--the grin of compromise. Margaret,
still smiling, slowly filled the beaker, a beautiful creamy head
bubbling over the brim.
"Coom," she said, "ye'll say: 'Her Majesty's 'ealth, an' long life to
Ted stretched out his hand and grasped the tempting handle; then,
averting his eyes, he hastily mumbled the prescribed words, burying
his face in the mug immediately after. While he slowly drained its
contents Margaret chanted the last verse of the National Anthem, to a
tune which might possibly have been like "God Save the Queen" if it
had not borne an equal resemblance to "The Dead March in Saul."
Music, we know, has charms to soothe the savage breast, and, whether
because of Margaret's patriotic outburst, or because the beer was of
excellent quality, Ted's face was wreathed in smiles when he set down
"Ah," he said, "we'se never ha' no words if ye tackle me this gate.
I'd drink the Queen's 'ealth again if you axed me."
"Enough's good as a feast," returned his hostess sententiously. "It'll
be tay-time afore aught's long."
"Mun I bide for tay?" inquired Ted, with his head on one side.
"Ye can if ye've a mind," said Margaret, accommodatingly. "Ye can be
lookin' round if ye like while I'm gettin' things ready."
Ted complied, nothing loth, and stalked about the place with his
thumbs in his armholes and an air of proprietorship. Everything
without was as snug, neat, and prosperous as everything within. The
garden was well-stocked and weedless; the potatoes seemed to be coming
on nicely; the pig was as fat as a self-respecting pig ought to be,
and the chickens were healthy and well-grown. Ted re-entered the
house, scraping his feet carefully this time, and looking at Margaret
with increased respect as she bustled about. The kettle already sung
merrily on the hob, a plateful of most inviting buttered toast was
keeping warm within the fender, and Miss Hep. was in the act of
placing on the table a smoking dish of nicely-browned sausages.
"I made 'em mysel'," she explained briefly. "I dunnot often have 'em
at this time o' day, but this here's an occasion."
Ted looked blank for a moment, then, suddenly remembering that this
was practically a betrothal-feast, responded heartily, and drew in his
chair to the table with pleased anticipation.
Miss Heptonstall, he remarked, had everything "gradely" about her. The
table-cloth was not only snow-white and beautifully mended, but of
fine quality; the spoons were silver, worn to egg-shell thinness, but
resplendently bright; the teapot, a heavy, old-fashioned Britannia
metal one, was polished till it might have been of the same precious
ore; the cups and plates were of delicate transparent china. Margaret
came of good old north-country stock, and these possessions were
heirlooms. Ted looked at her, and a queer feeling suddenly came over
him. Supposing--only _supposing_--that instead of a jest his wooing
had been undertaken in sober earnest, he would be doing rather well
for himself than otherwise. Now that he was at leisure to survey Miss
Heptonstall with an impartial eye, it appeared to him that she really
was not ill-looking, and he didn't believe she could be more than nine
or ten years older than he was. She certainly was a notable sort of
body; she kept her place wonderful nice, and she had a tidy bit of
brass laid by in the bank. There was a very comfortable ring about
this last item. It was odd that from the time these reflections took
possession of him Ted became pensive and serious. The conversation
flagged, and by-and-by he rose to take his leave. Margaret accompanied
him to the door.
"Ye'll be lookin' in again, I fancy, afore th' weekend?" she remarked
Ted cleared his throat and replied that very like he would. He walked
rather slowly till he reached the corner of the lane, and there he
paused, slapping his thigh as he suddenly remembered something.
"I haven't said a word about the shoutin'!" he cried in a vexed tone.
He retraced his steps more quickly, and presently re-entered
"Miss Heptonstall," he began, screwing his head insinuatingly round
"Well?" returned Margaret. She was standing with her back to him,
gazing meditatively into the fire.
"I were thinkin'," continued Wharton, "you an' me, ye know--theer
isn't much use in waitin', is theer?"
Margaret turned and looked at him, but did not speak.
"We met as well let Canon begin o' shoutin' us, dunnot ye think?"
Margaret reflected. "It 'ud be a pity for ye to gi' up your house
afore th' end o' th' year," she remarked. "Th' agent wouldn't let ye,
would he? Ye'll ha' to gi' six months' notice, wunnot ye? Theer's time
enough as how 'tis."
Ted bethought him of the cask of beer, and his face fell. If he was to
win his wager the banns must be published before the end of the month,
and but ten days of it remained to run.
"Well, I'd as soon as not hurry up things," he said, screwing a little
more of his person on the other side of the door. "I'm awful tired o'
livin' by mysel'. An' we met let my house an' turn o'er a bit o' money
that way. If we was to get wed at once ye'd be havin' the benefit o'
that as well's me. It 'ud be more to our mutual advantage," delivering
this phrase, culled from one of his favourite papers, with great
emphasis, "nor for both of us to remain single. That's what _I_ think,
Miss Heptonstall, but ye mun do as _you_ choose."
"Well, theer's summat i' what ye say," returned Margaret. "Happen
'twould be best to get the job done. Dear o' me, it seems sudden like!
I raly never thought o' changin' my state. Once before, ye may ha'
heerd, Mrs. Alty wanted me to wed her Thomas. I was again it, dreadful
again it at first, but hoo persuaded me, so I very nigh gave in. But
him an' me didn't agree so well at arter, and Betty didn't dee, so
that settled it. Well, then, I said to mysel', 'It's all for th'
best,' an' I reckoned to bide as I were. But raly now, as ye've coom,"
a sudden smile lit up her face, a smile less frosty, less sour, less
grim than any that had hitherto found their way there, "I dunno how it
is, but I seem to ha' taken a fancy to ye. I did fro' th' first. I
reckon ye'll mak' a good husband."
Ted left off embracing the lintel of the door and walked straight up
to her, quite forgetting to wipe his feet. His face was very red and
his eyes avoided hers; making a sudden dart at her hand, he shook it
"I will, Margaret, I will," he said huskily, "an' I reckon ye'll mak'
a good wife--better nor I deserve."
In another moment he was gone, walking very rapidly this time, almost
running indeed, as though to give himself no time for thought. When he
reached home, he shut the door hastily behind him and sat down on the
"Well," he said, scratching his head, with an exceedingly perturbed
expression, "this here's a queer kind o' business! I didn't quite know
what I were lettin' mysel' in for, it seems."
Once or twice during the week he called upon his lady-love, who, on
one occasion, permitted him to inspect her Savings Bank book, and, on
another, presented him with a handsome silver-mounted pipe, which her
father had won many years before at some village sports. It was
bestowed, it must be owned, on the understanding that it was never on
any account to be used, but Ted's pride of possession was none the
less great. At the conclusion of each visit she had not failed to make
him drink Her Majesty's health.
On the following Sunday, when the Canon with the portentous "Hem," and
solemn glance round which invariably preceded the announcement of
banns, began: "Be it known unto all here present," it was observed
that the corners of his mouth were twitching in a most peculiar
manner, and his voice actually trembled as he coupled the names of
Margaret Heptonstall and Edward Wharton.
Had any stranger chanced to enter Thornleigh church at that moment, I
fear he would have been much disedified; every single member of the
congregation was a-grin; the Canon himself was smiling; the only
person who preserved his entire seriousness being Radical Ted himself.
Those among his cronies who were in the secret of the wager considered
this gravity affected, and part of the joke; and greeted him
hilariously on quitting the church.
"Well done, owd bird! Thou's lost no time as how 'tis."
"Ah," replied Ted, still solemn, "I haven't lost mich time."
"Well, thou's won th' bet i' gradely style! When wilto coom to
Thornleigh Arms to have th' five shillin' paid over?"
"Eh, I doubt Ted 'ud sooner ha' th' five shillin' worth," suggested
one of Ted's boon companions.
"I dunno," replied Ted; "I reckon I'd as soon ha' th' brass."
"Ah, but thou'lt coom to Orme's for it?"
"Nay--I fancy one on you had best bring it to my place--hoo met get to
hear on 't, ye know," he explained with a sheepish smile.
There was a great guffawing and stamping of feet at this. Ted was
slapped on the shoulder, his friends declaring that nobry could beat
him. By-and-by he managed to make his escape, and walked pensively
homewards, shaking his head now and then, and muttering to himself:--
"Ah, hoo'd happen get to hear on 't if I went yonder; aye, the brass
'ull coom in reet 'nough. I'll say nought about that."
He continued his courting assiduously during the ensuing week, and on
the Sunday he and Margaret were "shouted" for the second time.
The ecstasy of his friends knew no bounds. Was there ever such a chap
as Ted for a marlock? How long would he keep it up? they wondered. In
a day or two the news flew from mouth to mouth that Ted had given the
agent six months' notice, and that he had announced his intention of
letting his house and taking up his abode at Margaret's after their
"Well! well!" cried the initiated, casting up their hands and eyes to
heaven; the more moderate among them were of the opinion that Ted was
carrying things a bit too far, particularly when' it became known that
Margaret was boiling hams and killing chickens--yes, Sophia and
Ernest, William and Augusta were laid low--in preparation for the
forthcoming nuptial feast.
On the third Sunday the general excitement reached fever-height, and
when once more the Canon linked the names of Edward Wharton and
Margaret Heptonstall, a kind of amazed murmur rippled from bench to
bench. All those who had been party to the plot against Margaret's
peace were totally at a loss to account for the conduct of the chief
conspirator. They made up their minds to take him to task at the
earliest possible opportunity; but, as on that particular morning he
did not come to church, they were forced to restrain their curiosity
till later in the day.
After dinner, therefore, a select deputation waited on Mr. Edward
Wharton at his own residence, but was again doomed to disappointment;
that gentleman having gone to call on his charmer, and not returning
till evening. However, the ardour of the deputation, though damped,
was not extinguished, and when the shades of night were falling, it
again betook itself to the abode of the bridegroom elect.
As the half-dozen members who made up the embassy walked at the usual
slow and somewhat shambling pace which the Lancashire rustic assumes
at times of leisure--pausing every now and then to emphasise the point
of some remark, switching at the hedge with their sticks, playfully
kicking up the dust, or sending a tempting pebble spinning along in
front of them--faint notes of music reached them, coming apparently
from the direction towards which they were bending their steps. These
notes were feeble and faltering, as though the player were practising
an unfamiliar air; in another moment or two it became evident that the
sounds proceeded from Ted's cottage, and that the musician was no
other than Mr. Wharton himself.
Quickening their pace, the hilarious party burst open the door,
discovering the master of the house seated astride a wooden chair,
concertina in hand; his face wore a most serious, not to say dismal,
expression, and his whole attitude betokened absorption.
Joe Lovelady advanced and clapped him on the shoulder with a loud
laugh; the others followed, less jubilantly; one or two of them,
indeed, felt themselves somewhat aggrieved at Ted's unaccountable
"Coom," cried Joe, "thou mun explain a bit, Ted, lad. We're gettin'
fair moidered wi' this job; how long dost thou mean to keep it up?"
"Haven't you and Margaret fallen out yet?" put in another. "Ye're
carryin' on th' coortin' longer nor we looked for."
"Ah, thou said thou'd content thysel' with bein' shouted, didn't thou?
Thou allus said thou didn't mean it to coom to wedlock."
Ted heaved a deep sigh, and looked solemnly from one to the other.
"Theer's no knowin' i' this warld what folks cooms to," he replied
seriously. "We says one thing an' we reckon we'se do it, an' when th'
time cooms it's impossible."
A blank silence fell upon the company, broken presently by Joe.
"Why," he said, "thou doesn't mean thou'rt goin' to carry out this
Ted nodded, seriously and regretfully.
There was a general shout.
"Thou'rt never goin' to wed owd Marg'ret Hep.?"
"Hoo's noan so owd as that cooms to," retorted Ted indignantly. "Her
an' me's mich of an age--I _am_ goin' to wed her. Now then! I've
coorted her, an' we'n been shouted, an' I'm goin' to let it go forrud.
Theer! I hope nobry hasn't got no objections."
Nobody hadn't none, it appeared, though from certain low murmurs and a
general shuffling of feet, it was evident that this unexpected outcome
of Ted's joke caused a good deal of dissatisfaction. Joe, indeed, gave
voice to the universal opinion when he observed that it wasn't what he
had looked for, and he couldn't think it altogether 'andsome of Ted.
Somebody else wanted to know what about their five shillin'?
"Well, an' what about the five shillin'?" repeated Ted, reddening,
however, a little uncomfortably.
"Well, this here isn't what we expected; nay, not by a long road. We
was lookin' for summat joy'al, a gradely marlock, thou knows. This
here's an ord'nary kind o' business."
"Ah, we all paid up--we did that, an' we'n been waitin' for thee to
look in yonder at Orme's! We was all expectin' a bit of a do, thou
knows--an' thou's never so much as coom nigh th' place. An' thou
settled to get wed an' all, wi'out namin' it to nobry! It's scarce
Ted scratched his jaw reflectively; the argument seemed to touch him.
After a pause he rose and crossed the room to a chest of drawers in
the corner. Unlocking an upper drawer he took out a greasy leathern
purse with which he returned to the expectant group. Opening it, with
a kind of groan, he extracted five shillings, which he handed over to
"Theer," he said, "it is but fair when all's said an' done. Theer! ye
can have a wet wi' that."
"Reet, I knowed ye wasn't one as 'ud play us a dirty trick. Coom
along, an' we'se have a drop all round, an' drink thy 'ealth an' th'
bride's too. Ho! ho! ho! Aye, we'se wish thee an' thy missus good
luck! Coom, we'se step out an' mak' up for lost time."
"Nay, nay," said Ted, shaking his head with gentle melancholy. "I'll
noan go wi' you--I met rue it at arter. Nay, I'll wish ye good-bye an'
good luck, all on you, but I'll bide wheer I am."
He returned thereupon to his concertina, meeting all further
persuasions by deep sighs and obdurate shakes of the head; and,
finding their efforts useless, the party withdrew at last, to drink
his health without him.
As they retraced their steps the uncertain notes of Ted's concertina
came floating after them, borne upon the evening breeze; gradually
these shaped themselves into a tune, a tune which their incredulous
ears were at last forced to identify. Joe Lovelady suddenly paused and
threw out his hand.
"'Ark, all on ye, 'ark at that! Do ye know the tune th' owd lad's
They all paused, holding their breaths; and then shouts of laughter
broke the stillness.
Radical Ted was playing _God Save the Queen_.
HEATHER IN HOLBORN
"I can scarce fancy her living here," said the man, pausing half-way
up the stairs to look upwards at the dusty length which remained to be
traversed. "Nay, she could never live here. I'm come on a fool's
errand, but I may as well see it through."
His tall, broad-shouldered figure disappeared behind another angle,
and halted at length on the fifth floor. On the door facing him a name
was neatly painted:--_Mr. Whiteside_.
"'Tis a Lancashire name, right enough," he said, "but there weren't
any Whitesides in our part when I was a lad. It'll be some stranger as
our Molly took up with--well, let's go for'ard."
His tap was answered by a fresh-coloured woman, neatly clad in a stuff
gown. The man surveyed her with a curious searching look, and she
stared back at him.
"What was you pleased to want, sir?" she inquired at length, growing
uncomfortable under his scrutiny. "Mr. Whiteside--that's my
"Does Mrs. Rigby live here? No, I'm sure she does not--I beg your
pardon--it is a mistake."
"No, sir, no mistake at all; it's quite right. Mrs. Rigby does live
here--she's my mother."
The stranger again darted a swift, eager glance at her.
"Right," he said. "I'll come in; I want to see her."
Mrs. Whiteside hesitated for a moment. "My mother doesn't often have
visitors," she said. "We've been here more nor ten year now, and
nobody's ever come lookin' for her."
"I've come a long way to look for her," said the man; "I've come from
Australia. I'm bringing her news of her son Will."
"Eh dear!" cried the woman, clapping her hands together, "ye don't say
so! My word, mother will be pleased. We didn't know rightly whether he
were alive or dead. Tis twenty-five year or more since he left home.
Tisn't bad news I hope, mester?" she added anxiously, for the brown
face, as much of it as could be seen under the thick dark beard, wore
a troubled look.
"Bad news? No," returned he with a gruff laugh. "It wouldn't matter
much anyway, would it? seein' as you'd lost sight of him for so long,
and by all accounts he wasn't worth much at the best o' times."
"He's my brother," said Mrs. Whiteside shortly. "Will ye please to
step in, sir?"
He followed her into a narrow passage, and thence into an odd, little
three-cornered room; a room furnished in mahogany and green rep, with
a few brightly-bound books on the shining round table in the centre,
framed oleographs on the walls, stuffed birds in glass cases on the
mantel-piece, and a pervading odour of paraffin.
"I'll call mother," said Mrs. Whiteside, backing towards the door and
eyeing her visitor suspiciously, for her mind misgave her as to
whether it would be safe to leave him alone with the Family Bible or
the stuffed birds. "Mother!" she cried, raising her voice, "will you
come for a minute? There's a visitor here."
"Nay, lass, I can't leave the bread," called back an old woman's
voice, shrill yet strong. "Ax the body to step in here, whoever 'tis."
"Will ye come into the kitchen?" said Mrs. Whiteside unwillingly. "My
mother, 'tis a notion she has, 'ull never set foot in this 'ere room.
We're Lancashire folk, ye see, mester, and tis the custom there to
live mostly in the kitchen."
The visitor followed her in silence across the passage and into the
opposite room. Hardly had he set foot inside the door before he
uttered an exclamation, looking down the while at the floor. The
boards were scrubbed to an immaculate whiteness and strewn with sand.
He rubbed his boot backward and forward over the gritty surface with
an odd smile; then, raising his eyes, he looked hastily round the
room, averting his glance quickly when it fell upon the figure bending
over the great brown pan in the fender. Walking to the window he stood
looking out without speaking.
"I hope the man's got all his wits," said Mrs. Whiteside to herself,
"I never did see a chap act so strange."
Through the open window a fine view could be had of tall grimy houses,
and sooty roofs, with scarce a glint of sky between the
chimney-stacks, and far down in the street below was the turmoil of
city life; the roar and rush of it came echoing up even to that odd,
peaceful little chamber. The man neither saw nor heard; as he stood
there it seemed to him that he was looking out upon the moorland, with
the smell of the heather strong and spicy and sweet in his nostrils,
and the cry of the peewit in his ears. His chest heaved; then he
turned about and faced the room again. Yes, it was no dream; here was
the house-place of a North Country cottage. The sturdy deal table in
the midst of the sanded floor, the oak dresser with its noble array of
crockery, the big chest in the corner, the screened settle on one side
of the hearth; and there, kneeling on the patchwork rug, the sturdy,
strong-backed old woman, in bedgown and petticoat and frilled white
cap, with lean, vigorous arms half-buried in a shining mass of dough.
"Well, what's to do?" inquired she, glancing sharply over her
"This 'ere gentleman says he's brought news of our Will," said Mrs.
The old woman uttered a cry, and, withdrawing her hands from the
dough, wiped them hastily in her apron, and ran towards the stranger.
"News indeed," she said. "Eh dear, and how is my poor lad? How is he,
sir? Eh, bless you for coomin'! I scarce reckoned he were wick, 'tis
so long sin' we'n had a word of him."
She was clasping the new-comer's hands now, and shaking them excitedly
up and down, her eyes searching his face the while.
"How is my lad?" she repeated. "He mun be a gradely mon now--a gradely
mon! Tis what he said hisself when he wur breeched. Dear o' me, I mind
it well. He come runnin' in so proud wi's hands in's pockets. 'I'm a
gradely mon now,' he says, 'same's my feyther.'"
She dropped his hands and wiped her eyes.
"My word, mother," said Mrs. Whiteside reprovingly, "how ye do run on!
Was my brother well, mester, when ye see him last?"
"Quite well," responded the stranger gruffly. "Well and hearty."
"Thank God for that!" cried the old woman.
"He told me," went on the other, and his voice still sounded rough and
harsh from behind his great beard; "he told me if I were anywhere in
Lancashire to look up the old place, and tell his folks he was alive
"Has he been doin' pretty well, sir, d'ye know?" inquired the younger
woman, politely, but with interest.
"Pretty well--lately; so I've been told," returned he.
"And he didn't send nothin' to his mother? Nothin' besides the
message?" she went on. "Well, I call it a sin and a shame; 'twas
scarce worth your while to seek us out for that."
"Howd thy din, Mary," cried Mrs. Rigby angrily. "Not worth while! Why,
I'll bless the gentleman for it, an' pray for him day an' neet while I
live. Wick an' hearty. My lad's wick an' hearty,--an' I was afeared he
wur dead. An' he took thought on his owd mother so fur away, an' sent
her word, bless him!"
"He might ha' sent ye somethin' else I think," said Mary wrathfully;
"I don't hold wi' makin' such a to-do about a chap as never did
nothin' for you in his life. There's others as is worth more nor him."
The old woman drew herself up, her eyes blazing in their sunken
"Mary," she said, "if ye mean to cast up as ye're keepin' me in my owd
age, I tell ye plain, though there are strangers here, I think no
shame on't. I brought ye into the world, an' I reared you an' worked
hard for you till ye was up-grown, an' kept a whoam o'er your head wi'
nought but the labour o' my two hands. An' now as I'm stricken in
years an' the owd place is gone, I think no shame o' being' behowden
to ye for mate an' shelter."
"La, mother," stammered Mary "whatever makes ye go for to say such
things?--I'm sure I wasn't castin' up--"
"Ye've no need to cast up," interrupted her mother fiercely. "I'm not
behowden to ye for mich, as how 'tis--I reckon I addle my mate."
The man turned upon the younger woman with a savage glance, but she
was too much absorbed in her own grievance to heed him. "I wasn't
castin' up, mother," she asseverated. "I nobbut meant it seemed a bit
hard as you should think as much of Will as of me."
"Eh," said the old woman, beginning to laugh and shaking her head,
"I'll not deny but what the lad was a great fav'ryite. The only lad
ever I had, and my first-born. Dear o' me, I mind how proud I was when
they telled me 'twas a lad. 'A fine lad,' said the woman as did for
me. Eh, I thought my heart 'ud fair burst wi' joy! An' he wur sech a
gradely little chap, so peart an' lively, crowin' an' laughin' from
morn till neet. Dear, yes--soon as ever leet coom he'd come creepin'
up to our bed an' pull at the sheet. 'Wakken up, mother,' he'd say;
'mother, it's time to wakken up!' Eh, mony a time I fancy I can hear
the little voice when I wak' up now, i' this dark dirty place. I keep
my e'en shut, an' hark at the birds chirrupin', an' think o' the
little hand pluckin' at the sheet, an' the little voice. An' then
clock strikes an' I oppen my e'en and see the smoke an' the black
chimnies--eh, I'm welly smoored among 'em all! I could fair go mad to
find mysel' so far away fro' whoam."
"But surely," said the visitor, with a dreamy glance round, "you've
made this place very home-like."
"'Tis, an' 'tisn't. Says I to Mary when she axed me to shift wi' her,
'I'll not coom,' says I, 'wi'out I bring th' clock an' chest, an' all
they bits o' things as I'm used to.' 'Eh, mother,' says she, 'what
would you be doin' wi' 'em down i' London town?'--'What should I be
doin' wi' 'em?' says I. 'Same as I do here,' says I. 'If I coom wi'
you, my lass I mun keep to the owd ways. I'm too owd mysel' for aught
else. I mun keep th' owd things an' th' owd fashions.'--Is that a bit
o' heather as ye've getten i' your hat, sir?"
"Yes," said the man deliberately; "'tis a bit of heather--and it comes
from Boggart Moor. I picked it last week when I went to look for you."
"'Twas wonderful kind of you to go all that way, I'm sure," said Mrs.
Whiteside. "I doubt our Will reckoned we was livin' there still. Tis
years an' years since we've had a word from him. He didn't know I'd
got wed, very like."
"No, he didn't," said the man. "He thought his mother and sister were
livin' still in the little cot up yonder. I had hard work to trace
"How does the little place look, sir?" asked the old woman, with a
"Much as usual," returned he, half absently. "They'n shifted the
horse-block, an' thrown the two shippons into one, an' tiled the
Mrs. Rigby clacked her tongue, and her daughter stared.
"How did ye know about the horse-block?" she inquired, "an' how did ye
guess the shippons was throwed into one? Did our Will tell you about
He paused a moment, and then laughed.
"Often and often. He said he could find his way there blindfold, an' I
doubt he made me know it as well as himself."
Mrs. Rigby stretched out her hand and touched the sprig of heather
"The moor mun be lookin' gradely now," she said; "all one sheet o'
bloom, I reckon. Eh, I mind how I used to leave windows open, summer
an' winter, an let the air come in, soomtimes hot an' soomtimes cowd,
but al'ays wi' the smell o' the moor in it. Dear, when I think on't I
can scarce breathe here."
"Come, mother, we're keepin' the gentleman standin' all this time,"
said Mary, suddenly recalled to a sense of her hospitable duties. "Sit
ye down, sir, and sup a cup o' tea with us. Kettle's boilin', isn't
it, mother? You're not in a hurry, are you, mester?"
"I reckon I can stop a twothree minutes," said the man.
Mrs. Whiteside glanced at him sharply, and her mother clapped her
"Ye're a Lancashire lad, for sure," cried she; "ye speak just same as
our own folks up on the moor yon."
He hesitated for a moment.
"Aye, I'll not deny the talk cooms natural to me," he said. "I thought
I'd forgot it, but my tongue seems to turn to it when I get agate o'
talkin' wi' Lancashire folks."
"I reckon you and our Will had many a crack together about the bonny
North," said Mrs. Rigby, as she spread the cloth, smoothing it
carefully with her wrinkled hands. "I'm fain to think my lad minds th'
owd place. Eh, I doubt he'd be nigh broken-hearted if he knowed we had
to leave it--I like as if I could be glad to think he knows nought
about it, poor lad. He didn't ever talk o' coomin' back, mester, did
"He met think on't," said the visitor slowly, "if he could be sure of
a welcome. But he run away, you see, again his father's will, an' he
wur allus reckoned a good-for-nothin' kind o' chap--so he seemed to
"Who said that?" cried the old woman, pausing with the teapot poised
in mid-air, and reddening all over her withered face.
"Well, 'twas a kind o' notion he seemed to have, and o' course, though
it's ill blamin' the absent"--here he uttered a queer little
laugh--"when all's said and done he hasn't acted so very well. Any
chap wi' a heart in's breast 'ud ha' took thought for his own mother,
and 'ud ha' seen as she was kept comfortable an' happy in her owd age,
and not forced to shift to a strange place."
"I'm sure," put in Mrs. Whiteside indignantly, "I can't think what
you're droppin' hints o' that mak' for, sir. A woman has to follow her
husband, an' when his business takes him to London he takes her too.
Doin' very well, he is, i' th' coal business, an' I'm sure I make my
mother as comfortable an' as happy as I can. Turn London into the
moorside is what I cannot do, an' I'm not to be blamed for that. As
you said jest now if any one was to blame 'twas my brother."
"Well, I'll not have nobody blamin' my lad," cried the old woman.
"He's not to be faulted for what he knowed nought about. If he'd
knowed I doubt it 'ud ha' been different."
"That's true," interrupted the man; "if he'd knowed it 'ud ha' been
different. He'd ha' kept his mother on the moor. If he was to come
back now he'd have her awhoam again afore aught were long."
"Tis wonderful to hear you takin' up wi' that homely talk," said Mrs.
Whiteside, with a laugh, as she set a crusty loaf upon the table. "It
fair brings me back. I scarce ever talk i' th' owd fashion now, wi'out
'tis a twothree words now an' then to please mother. Pull up, sir.
Will ye pour out the tea, mother? All's ready now."
"Nay, fetch me a pot of the wimberry jam," said Mrs. Rigby. "Theer's
jest two of 'em left. My son-in-law," she explained to the visitor,
"he's oncommon kind about humourin' my fancies, an' every year he
fetches me a peck or two o' wimberries--you can get 'em reet enough
here i' th' market, an' I make us a few pots o' jam--'tis the only
kind as ever I could fancy. Eh, what baskets-full the childer used to
bring me in i' th' owd days! Will ye cut yourself a bit o' bread, sir?
Tis a bit hard, I doubt; 'tis the end o' the last bakin'. I wur jest
agate with the next lot when ye coom in."
He cut off a piece, and spread it with the wimberry jam, and ate a
mouthful or two in silence; he seemed to swallow with difficulty, not
because of the hardness of the fare, but because of a certain stirring
at his heart. How long was it since he had sat him down at such a
board as this, and tasted bread, pure and sweet and wholesome, such as
cannot be bought in shops, with the fruit of the moor for condiment?
"I doubt it's hard," said Mrs. Whiteside commiseratingly, "and you're
not eatin' a bit neither, mother. Come, fall to."
"Eh, I canna eat nought fur thinkin' o' yon lad o' mine. How could he
go for to think he'd not be welcome! Ye'll write and an' tell him
he'll be welcome, sir, wunnot ye?"
"Eh, I'd be fain to see him, I would that! Ye'll tell him kind an'
careful, mester, about me havin' to shift here, an' dunnot let him
think I'm axing him to do mich for me."
"It's time for him to do summat for ye, though," said Will's friend
"Nay, I don't ax it--I don't ax for nought. I nobbut want to see his
bonny face again."
"Happen you wouldn't know it," said Mrs. Whiteside; "he mun be awful
"Know it? Know my own lad! I'd pick him out among a thousand."
"I'm not so sure o' that," persisted her daughter. "Ye've seen our
Will lately, I s'pose, mester? Can ye tell us what like he is?"
"He's rather like me," said the stranger.
"My word, ye don't say so!" gasped Mrs. Whiteside, while her mother,
leaning forward, gazed eagerly into his face.
"He is very like me," he said brokenly, and then, of a sudden,
stretching out his hand he plucked the old woman by the sleeve:
"Wakken up, mother," he cried; "mother, 'tis time to wakken up!"
SENTIMENT AND "FEELIN'"
As a rule our Lancashire peasants are not sentimental; in fact,
degenerate south-countrymen frequently take exception to their blunt
ways and terrible plain-speaking. But occasionally they display an
astonishing impressibility, and at all times know how to appreciate a
bit of romance.
When three months after his wife's death, for instance, Joe Balshaw
married her cousin, because, as he explained, "hoo favoured our Mary,"
all the neighbours thought such fidelity extremely touching.
I remember once when our little church was gaily decorated for the
harvest festival some one had the happy thought of placing among the
garlands of flowers and masses of fruit and vegetables--thank-offerings
from various parishioners--which were heaped on each side of the
chancel, a miniature hayrick beautifully made and thatched, and a tiny
cornstack to correspond. The sermon was over, and the service
proceeding as usual, when suddenly a burst of sobs distracted the
congregation, and Robert Barnes, the bluffest and burliest farmer in
the whole property, was observed to be wiping his eyes with a red
cotton handkerchief. In vain did his scandalised wife nudge and
reprove him; he sobbed on, and she grew alarmed. "Wasn't he well?" she
"Aye, well enough," groaned Robert; "but it's so beautiful. I cannot
choose but cry!"
"Is't th' music, feyther?" inquired his daughter.
"Nay, nay--it's them there little stacks. Eh, they're--they're
gradely. I never see sich a seet i' my life."
If this was not susceptibility, I don't know where to look for it.
No doubt a certain roughness of speech, an almost brutal frankness, is
a noticeable northern characteristic. It strikes a stranger painfully,
but is accepted and even appreciated by those accustomed to it from
A sick man expects to be told he looks real bad, and preserves an
unmoved tranquillity on hearing how small a likelihood there is of his
ever looking up again, and what a deal of trouble he gives. The
visitor unused to our ways shrinks from hearing these subjects
discussed in the presence of the patient, but he himself listens
philosophically, and, it would occasionally appear, with an odd
pleasure in his own importance.
"Eh, I sometimes think it 'ud be a mercy if th' Lord 'ud tak' him,"
says the middle-aged daughter of a paralysed labourer, eyeing him
dispassionately. "Doctor says he'll never be no better, an' I'm sure
he's a misery to hissel', as well's every one else. Aren't ye,
"Ah," grunts feyther. "I'd be fain to go. I would--I'd be fain."
"What wi's restin' so bad o' neets, an' th' gettin' up an' down to
him, an' feedin' him, an' shiftin' him--he's that 'eavy I cannot stir
him mysel'--I 'ave to wait till th' lads comes back fro' work--eh,
it's weary work! I'm very nigh killed wi't."
"Well, but if he gets better, you know," suggests the visitor, "you'll
be glad to have nursed him so well."
"Eh, he'll noan get better now; doctor says he hasn't a chance."
The patient, who has been listening with close attention, and not a
little satisfaction, to his daughter's report, now rolls his eyes
towards his interlocutor.
"Nay, nay, I'll noan get better," he observes somewhat resentfully.
"Tisn't to be expected. I'm gettin' on for seventy-eight, an' this
here's my second stroke."
"Ah, his constitution's worn out," adds the woman; "that was what
doctor said. ''Tisn't to be expected as he could recover,' says he;
'his constitution's worn out.'"
The rugged old face on the pillow is indeed lined and wrinkled; the
one big hand lying outside the coverlet is gnarled and knotted, like
the branch of an ancient tree; the form outlined by the bedclothes is
of massive proportions. A fine wreck of a man this useless cumberer of
"I shouldn't be worth my mate if I did get better," he says,
reflectively, and without the faintest trace of bitterness. "Nought
but lumber--in every one's road. Nay, I'd a deal sooner shift
a'together. I've allus worked 'ard--it 'ud not coom nat'ral to be
idle. I'm ready to go, if it's the A'mighty's will."
"Eh, He'll be like to tak' ye soon, feyther. He will--He'll tak' ye
afore aught's long," says the daughter. "Raly," she adds, as she
pilots her visitor downstairs after this consolatory remark, "it's
a'most to be 'oped as He will."
Yet when He does, and poor feyther is carried away to his long home by
his sons and cronies, there is genuine distress in the little
household. When the daughter has got her "blacks," and drawn the club
money, and the excitement of the funeral is over, she has leisure to
miss the quiet presence, the familiar voice. She starts up at night
many a time fancying she hears it, and weeps as she falls back on her
pillow again. She polishes "feyther's cheer" reverently, and treasures
his pipe, and sobs as she cuts up his clothes for suits for her little
lads, and takes in his great-coat to make it fit her gaffer.
"It was a blessed release," she says, wiping her eyes, "an' we had a
nice funeral, but it's lonely wi'out him."
"A nice funeral" is the most important of all desiderata, and many are
the privations which the living cheerfully endure, that the dead may
be interred with due respect and decorum. The most improvident of
these people look forward to and prepare for the contingency,
inevitable indeed, and yet deemed by other folk unutterably remote.
"Ah! it's bin a struggle to keep 'em," said a poor woman once,
speaking of her little flock of ten healthy hearty children. "I've
noan bin able to put by much, but theer's wan thing, I've got 'em all
in a buryin'-club."
Now and then when the death has been preceded by a long illness, and
the family exchequer has sunk low, the neighbours come to the rescue,
and with characteristic straightforwardness and goodnature avert
impending disgrace. One such case occurred here recently. The father
of the family had been hovering for months between life and death, and
when he "drew away" at last, wife and children were left absolutely
without means. Nevertheless the funeral was beautiful, it was
universally agreed. The wheelwright made a coffin free of charge, one
of the farmers sent the necessary refection; each household in the
village did something, one supplying a whole dress, one merely a
hatband. When the time came for the procession to start, every child
had its decent blacks, and though the question of how to live
to-morrow was still unanswered, the poor widow, wiping her eyes behind
her flowing veil, felt soothed and in a manner elated. No one could
say but what her master had a gradely buryin'. She could not repress a
certain honest pride, and, oddly enough, though the neighbours were
quite aware that without their assistance this desirable appearance
would never have been presented, they were none the less impressed,
and felt that Mrs. ---- deserved great credit.
If sentiment be not common among us, there is no dearth of "feelin',"
though it is sometimes exhibited in unusual and rather startling
fashion. The doctor, for instance, was somewhat taken aback one day by
the reply of a poor man with whom he had been condoling over the death
of an only son.
"I tell ye," sobbed the inconsolable parent, "if it hadn't bin for
what neighbours 'ud say, I'd ha' had th' little divil stuffed."
There is no rule without its exception, and, though our people are for
the most part affectionate and tender-hearted in their own rugged way,
I am bound to own there are some Stoics in our midst.
One old woman, in particular, whom I have known to be afflicted in a
variety of ways, has never betrayed the least sign of emotion; whether
she is incapable of it, or whether she heroically conceals it, I have
been unable to discover.
She lost two sons in rapid succession after a few hours' illness.
"What did they die of?" asked some one sympathetically.
As a rule such a remark would have led to a flood of tearful and
affectionate reminiscences, but this old lady was laconic.
"One deed of a Tuesday, and one of a Thursday," she replied.
The third son a short time afterwards, returning home from market
slightly hazy in his ideas, was run over by an express train as he
endeavoured to cross the line.
Next morning the body was found, horribly mutilated, and a porter was
despatched to break the tidings to the bereaved mother. The man,
overcome with the horror of the event, and full of compassion for the
white-haired woman--who stood stolidly awaiting his message, evidently
unsuspicious of its tenor--could scarcely find words with which to
tell the news.
"There's bin an accident," he faltered, "we'n foun' a mon o' th'
rails--dead--cut t' pieces by a train."
Old Lizzie stared at him in silence; then a light seemed to break in
"Ah," she said. "Happen it's our Bill!"
And with that she turned on her heel and went upstairs to select a
winding-sheet for him.
Some of our folks like to talk about their troubles. Over and over
again they tell you, almost in the same words, exactly how it all came
about. A poor woman pleats her apron and gazes at you with pathetic
eyes, which she stops to wipe occasionally. The story has grown
familiar to both relater and listener, and sometimes you are regaled
not only with the tale itself, but with the repetition of your own
"I mind ye said so and so," she says, "an' it's often seemed to
Clearly there is nothing for it but immediately to say it again, and
you are rewarded by seeing the face brighten perceptibly, much as a
child's brightens as it hears a well--known point in a familiar tale.
These simple people are very like children.
But sometimes the pain is too great to be dilated on, and then a
chance phrase or word, infinitely pathetic, betrays the depth of
sorrow; sometimes there is silence more pathetic still.
Looking into a cottage, one day, where the week before a little child
had been carried to the churchyard, I found the mother hard at work,
"I will not come in," I said. "You are busy."
"Nay, ma'am, coom your ways in an' sit ye down. There's no hurry. I'm
nobbut puttin' away our Teddy's little clothes."
Not another word did she say in allusion to her sorrow, and no tears
fell on the little worn garments. Poor little garments, so
pathetically bringing to mind the wee lost personality! Darned socks
which had covered active little feet; tiny short "knickers" patched at
the knees; shabby coat--moulded, it would seem, into the very shape of
the chubby figure--the mother ironed and polished them, and laid them
in a tidy heap. As she worked she tried to talk of other things, but
her face told its own tale, and I went away with an aching heart.
The men carry their troubles afield; manual labour dulls, if it does
not altogether exorcise, them; some have other less creditable means
of seeking oblivion. But the poor women, shut in in their little
houses, with their anxieties and sorrow staring them in the face--God
help them! So narrow are their lives, so few their experiences, that
their thoughts must run perpetually in the same groove; everything
which surrounds them, their "sticks" of furniture, their little
household gods, are reminders of lost joys and present grief.
"Eh, I can scarce 'bide to see my mother's cheer," said a poor
crippled girl to me. "Her 'an me was allus sat one aside o' t'other,
an' now hoo's gone. Eh, I know I shouldn't complain, an' hoo's in a
better place; but hoo's gone, ye see, an' I'm awful lonely. I keep
settin' here all day, an' thinkin' of her, and fancyin' I hear her
moanin'. Eh dear, yes, it's a shame for me, an' I know I ought to be
glad hoo isn't sufferin' no longer. Eh, at th' last, ye know, Mrs.
Francis, it were summat awful what hoo suffered. Oh yes, I _know_.
But, ye see, when I'm sat here all day by mysel', an' when I see th'
empty cheer, an' o' neets when I dream hoo's layin' aside o' me, an'
then wakken up an' stretch out my arms--eh, dear o' me!"
Some of the neighbours thought this poor girl's grief excessive. Nancy
indeed, who buried her own exceedingly ancient parent comparatively
recently, bade her remember that she was not the only one who knew
what it is to lose a mother. It is not, as a rule, considered quite
decent to speak in other than cheerful tones of a bereavement which
has occurred more than a year ago,--unless, of course, you are taking
a general survey of your troubles, in which case it is allowable to
include it as a proof the more that you have "supped sorrow." But Mary
set etiquette at defiance. Out of the fulness of her heart her mouth
spake. To all corners she must needs tell her loneliness and her
One day, however, she received me with a bright face and a certain air
of mysterious joy.
"Mrs. Francis, I scarce know how to tell ye, but it seems as if th'
Lord Hissel sent me a bit o' comfort. Ye see, nobry had no feelin' for
me here in village; they all towd me to resign mysel', an' that, an'
it were wicked o' me to be ill-satisfied wi' th' A'mighty's will. But,
ye see, I wouldn't seem able to give ower frettin'--I raly couldn't.
Well but, last neet--I haven't towd nobry, because I didn't want to
have 'em laughin', ye know, and, o' course, I dunnot set mich store by
dreams; but still, it seemed to comfort me."
She looked at me appealingly, and, being assured of my sympathy,
"Well, last neet I were very lonesome when I geet into bed, an' I
began o' thinkin' o' my mother, an' wonderin' where hoo was. An' 'Eh,
mother,' I says out loud, 'wheer _are_ ye, an' are ye thinkin' o' me,
an' are ye in heaven?' An' I geet agate o' cryin' an' axin' mysel wheer
was heaven, an' was hoo raly theer. Well, at last I dozed off, an' I
had a dream. I thought I saw my mother, in her cap an' apron, an' wi'
her sleeves rolled up--just same as hoo used to look when hoo was busy
about th' house. An' I thought hoo coom along, lookin' fro' one side
to t'other, as if hoo were seechin' soombry; an' I said, 'Here I am,
mother.' An' hoo stood a moment, an' smiled. An' then"--sinking her
voice and speaking hurriedly and excitedly--"I looked up at sky (we
was out o' doors i' my dream), an' then I saw it all full o' light,
and rays coomin', goldy rays, same as--same as ye see sometimes on a
Christmas card; an' they coom down, an' gathered all about my mother,
an' lapped her round. An' then I see her goin' up, up--reet into th'
leet; an' then I wakkened. Eh, Mrs. Francis, dunnot ye think--dunnot
ye raly think--as th' Lord sent me that dream to comfort me? Eh, I
feel sure hoo's in heaven now, an' hoo's thinkin' o' me. I cannot tell
ye how 'appy it mak's me."
"Eye hath not seen," says St. Paul, "ear hath not heard." Very
different was poor Mary's vision. Think of it: the little old woman in
her working dress, with the sleeves rolled up on her skinny arms--the
"goldy rays, same as ye see on Christmas cards." But, nevertheless,
even in her attic room she has had a glimpse of Paradise.
THE ROMANCE OF BROTHER JOHN
Mrs. Cross was gardening; it was an occupation in which she took great
pleasure, not merely on account of her affection for the little plot
of ground which she miraculously contrived to render bright at all
seasons, but because it afforded her ample opportunities for
supervising her neighbours' affairs. While she watered her stocks, or
tied up her carnations, she was enabled to throw an occasional keen
glance in at the open doorway on either side of her; she knew
precisely what Mrs. Barnes had for dinner, and how large was Mrs.
Frizzel's wash. Squatting back on her heels in the intervals of her
labours, and negligently scratching her elbows or retwisting her
untidy coil of hair, she would even hearken discreetly to such scraps
of conversation as enlivened meal or toil. She knew all about Mrs.
Frizzel's last letter from her daughter Susan, and could give the
precise details of young Barnes' encounter with the stalwart yeoman
who had supplanted him in the affections of his sweetheart. She would
also hail from over the hedge the driver of any passing tradesman's
cart, and was thus enabled to possess herself of the latest news from
"town" a mile away. By craning her neck a little to the right she
could catch a glimpse of the walls and roofs of this centre of
activity, and by extending it in the other direction she had a peep of
the high road, where sometimes as many as a dozen vehicles passed of
Her eyes were strained towards this favourite point of view on one
particularly sultry August evening; her own hedge, even, was sprinkled
with dust, while the double row which guarded the glaring stretch
yonder was absolutely white.
Mrs. Cross's little garden was, however, a pleasant spot, even on this
glowing, breathless afternoon. She had been watering her borders, and
a delicious smell of damp earth mingled with the fragrance of the
old-fashioned flowers beneath the mellow old walls of her cottage. A
fine array of sweet-williams and larkspurs and hollyhocks stood in a
row before them; jessamine and honeysuckle clung to the old brick and
festooned themselves over the rickety porch. Between the green
tendrils one got a glimpse of the picture within--the dresser with its
wealth of shining crockery, the log-fire leaping merrily on the
hearth, a little brown teapot winking in the glow, the table spread
with a clean white cloth and set out for two. It made a pretty
picture, yet, as has been said, Mrs. Cross perpetually turned her eyes
towards the patch of high road which climbed painfully up between the
dusty hedges. At last she was constrained to rise from her knees and
take her stand by her little gate, where, with knitted brows and
pursed-up lips, she remained on the watch, until at last her patience
was rewarded by the sight of a woman's figure, clad in deep black,
suddenly rounding the corner. She immediately smoothed her brow and
composed her features to a becoming melancholy. Mrs. Cross was ever as
ready to sympathise with her neighbours' misfortunes to their faces as
she was to declare behind their backs that they were well-deserved.
To-day, however, her countenance wore an expression of tempered woe,
and her voice was only moderately dolorous, for the trouble which she
was about to lament was a vicarious one.
"I've a-been on the look-out for you ever since tea-time, Mrs. Domeny,
my dear. Thinks I constant, 'I wonder how Mrs. Domeny be a-gettin' on,
and I wonder how the poor widow-man be a-bearin' up.' Come in an' sit
ye down, do; ye must be mortal hot and tired, walkin' so far in your
Mrs. Domeny, a chubby, buxom little woman, who found it hard to
eliminate from her rosy face all trace of a cheerfulness which,
however habitual, would have been unbecoming on the occasion of a
sister-in-law's funeral, checked the smile with which she had been
about to respond to her friend's invitation, and heaved a sigh
"Well, jist for a minute, Mrs. Cross. There, to tell 'ee the truth,
I'm fair wore out, what with a body's feelin's and a-walkin' so far i'
the sun, and the dust a-gettin' down one's throat wi' every sob, so to
speak. 'Ees, my dear, I'm terrible dry, an' I would like a cup o' tea,
jist about! They hadn't nothin' but ham," she added, "yonder at
Brother John's. 'Twas a bit salt. I always told poor Sarah as I did
think she salted her hams too much; but, there! she be gone, poor
soul, and it wouldn't become me to speak ill of her ham now."
"Ah, my dear," groaned Mrs. Cross, pouring out a cupful of the
inky-looking fluid that had been stewing on the hob for the last hour
and a-half. "Ah, my dear, all flesh is grass, as we do know. She was a
dried-up-looking poor body, your sister-in-law; I al'ays did say so,
ye mid remember. An' how did ye leave poor John?"
"He was in floods," responded Mrs. Domeny, her eyes filling with
sympathetic tears. "In floods, I do assure 'ee. I did feel for en, I
can tell 'ee. 'Twas through me as they did first get to know each
other. 'Twas a very romantic marriage theirs was, Mrs. Cross; a real
romance me an' Robert al'ays did call it."
"Ah!" commented her neighbour, half sympathetically, half
interrogatively. She kicked the logs together with her flat shoe, drew
a chair close to her visitor's, filled her own cup, and sat down with
an expectant expression.
"'Ees, my dear, quite a romance, as you'll say when I've a-told 'ee.
When my sister Susannah was laid up wi' her ninth, which was a twin,
my dear, an' her husband out of work, and the other eight scarce able
to do a hand's turn for themselves, she wrote to me an' axed me to
come an' look after things a bit till she got about again. Well, I
couldn't say no, ye can understand, so Robert got Janie Domeny,
brother Tom's oldest girl, to come of a marnin' to see to en, an' I
did go to poor Susannah. Well, 'twas at Susannah's, if you'll believe
me," said Mrs. Domeny, with a solemnity which would have befitted the
announcement of an event of national importance, "as I first came
across poor Sarah."
"Well!" ejaculated Mrs. Cross, pausing with a large bite of bread and
butter distending her cheek, and uplifting her hands. "Well, to think
"'Ees, as I often did say," resumed Mrs. Domeny, "it did seem from the
very beginnin' as though 'twas meant to be. She was a-livin' next door
to Susannah--hadn't long come, d'ye see, and didn't know any of the
neighbours to speak on. But she an' me took to each other fro' the
beginnin'. She were a staid women then, an' not over an' above
well-lookin'--nay, I can't say as she was. But she was dressed very
fayshionable an' nice, an' she was very pleasant to speak to, an' as
for me, you know I'm of a very affectionate disposition; 'tis my
natur' to cling, d'ye see. 'Ees, as I often do say to my 'usband, I am
as clingin' as--as a worm. So, as I tell ye, we did take to each other
fro' the first. Well, when Susannah was a-gettin' about, after the
ninth day, ye know, I went home along, and Sarah did say to I, 'I'll
come and see you, Mrs. Domeny, if I mid make so bold,' she says in her
"'To be sure, Mrs. Maidment,' says I--"
"Oh, she was a widow then?" interrupted Mrs. Cross. "There now, what
notions folks do get in their heads. I al'ays made sure and certain as
your sister-in-law was a single woman afore she was your
"No, my dear," said Mrs. Domeny impressively. "She was a widow, Mrs.
Cross, that's what she was. She'd a-buried her first poor husband--an'
a very fine man he was by all accounts--nigh upon six year afore ever
she took up wi' brother John."
"Indeed!" ejaculated Mrs. Cross, in a tone which signified that the
fact redounded greatly to the credit of the late Mrs. John Domeny.
"'Ees, indeed," repeated the narrator triumphantly. "But where was I?
'To be sure, Mrs. Maidment,' says I, 'I'll be main glad to see you
whenever ye can anyway make it convenient to come.' Well, one Sunday
she did drap in just as my husband and myself was a-sitting down to
our tea. So of course I did make her so welcome as I could, and did
get out the best cups an' heat up a bit o' toast, and we was all as
comfortable an' friendly as could be. But I noticed, Mrs. Cross, as
how Mrs. Maidment's eyes was a-fixed constant on my husband; there, I
couldn't choose but notice it, it seemed as if she had to look at him,
d'ye understand. I thought at first maybe he had a spot on his face or
some sich thing, but, no, it weren't that; and she did speak to en so
respectful, and hearken so interested-like when he did say a word,
which warn't often, ye mid be sure, for Robert bain't no talker."
"Dear to be sure, how strange," put in Mrs. Cross, again pausing in
the act of mastication, and preparing to listen to further details
with heightened interest.
"Strange!" echoed the other. "Wait till ye hear the rest, then ye'll
think it strange. By-and-by Robert pushed away his cup, 'I think I'll
step out for a bit of a pipe, Mary,' says he to I. 'I wish ye good
day, ma'am,' says he, noddin' his head at Mrs. Maidment. The door had
no sooner shut behind en," she continued, leaning forward and speaking
slowly and with great unction, "than Sarah she looks me full in the
face, and says she, 'Mrs. Domeny,' she says, 'I do admire your
husband. I think,' she says, 'he be a beautiful man.'"
"T'ch, t'ch, t'ch," commented the listener, clicking her tongue, for
her astonishment at the sudden development was too great to find vent
in mere words.
"'I do admire your husband,'" repeated Mrs. Domeny impressively. "That
was what she said, 'he be a beautiful man.' 'Well,' said I, 'I'll not
say nay to that, Mrs. Maidment. Him an' me have been married now goin'
on fifteen year, an' all I can say about en is as if I were free to
choose again, I'd choose the same.'
"'Ah,' says she, giving a kind of sigh, this way, ye know" (here Mrs.
Domeny sighed noisily). "'Ah, I knowed he was good by the very looks
of him. I am sure,' says she, 'he must come of a very respectable
family.' So of course I did tell her as the Domenys was well known and
respected in all the country round, and was real good old Darset
stock. 'There never was a Domeny yet,' says I, 'as wasn't a credit to
the country.' 'Ah,' says she, sighin' again, 'and I d' 'low, ma'am,
they do make very good husbands.'
"'Ye mid be sure they do,' says I; 'I can speak up for my own man, and
I think Mrs. Tom and Mrs. Ned can do the same for theirs.'
"'Be they all married?' axes she, very quick.
"Well, I looked at her--it did seem a particular kind of question, so
to speak, an' she took a fit of coughin'" (here Mrs. Domeny simulated
a genteel and hesitating attack of the infirmity in question), "an' at
last, says she, very earnest, 'Bain't there one of them at all as
hasn't got a wife?'
"'There is Brother John,' says I; 'his missus died two years ago, come
Michaelmas. He's a very quiet man,' says I, 'very quiet.'
"'Has he got a nice place?' says she.
"'Dear, to be sure,' says I, 'Brother John be very comfortable. He's
got a good-sized house wi' a big garden, an' he do bring up a sight o'
pigs an' chicken.'
"'That 'ud do me very well,' says Sarah. 'I've got a bank-book what is
worth lookin' at!' And then she stood up. 'I should like to meet your
brother John,' she did say; 'perhaps ye'll think it over, Mrs.
"'Oh, 'e--es, I'll do that,' said I. She did bid me good-bye then, an'
so soon as ever she was gone I called Robert in and telled en the
"I d' 'low he were pleased," put in Mrs. Cross, "about her admirin' of
en, ye know."
"Well, he be a very modest man, Robert be; he didn't take much notice.
'Fancy that!' says he, when I did tell en."
"Fancy that!" had also been Mrs. Cross's inward comment, on first
hearing of the effect produced by Mr. Robert Domeny on the
impressionable Mrs. Maidment; for if truth be told he was anything but
an Adonis. But she wisely kept her surprise to herself, and now once
more clicked her tongue in token of appreciation.
"'Now, Robert,' says I," continued Mrs. Domeny, resuming her narrative
tone, "'how would it be if we was to write to Brother John?'
"'What 'ud ye tell en?' says he; 'he'd mayhap not quite fancy the
notion o' takin' up wi' a woman he did never set eyes on.' 'You just
leave it to I,' says I; 'I bain't a-goin' to say nothin' at all about
wedlock. I'll jist ax en to come to tea next Sunday, and I'll tell en
as a very nice body what we've lately got acquainted wi' be a'
a-comin' to tea, too; an' I'll jist set down, careless-like, as she
have got a bank-book what is worth seein'. Jist no more nor that.'
"'Ah, that 'ud maybe do very well,' says Domeny, and we did put our
heads together, and between us the letter was wrote. Brother John sent
us word by the carrier as he was a-comin', and I did send off Janie
that same day to let Mrs. Maidment know, and Janie said her face did
fair flush up wi' j'y. She kissed the maid so affectionate, an' says
she, 'You be another Domeny, my dear. You must favour your Pa, I'm
sure, for you be a very vitty maid.'
"Well, Sunday did come, an' I did have a beautiful tea ready; muffins
and a bit o' cold ham--not so salt as poor Sarah's--and a pot o'
blackberry-an'-apple jam. Brother John were the first to come. He fair
give me a start, for I didn't expect en so early; he did put his head
in at the door, an' beckon this way, so secret-like." (Here there was
the usual accompaniment of appropriate gesture.)
"'Mary,' he whispered, 'Mary, be she come?'
"'Not yet, John,' says I.
"He did squeeze hisself very cautious round the door, lookin' to right
an' left, this way" (further pantomime). "'Mary,' says he, right in my
ear, 'have 'ee seen the bank-book?'
"'Nay, John,' says I; 'nay; 'twasn't to be expected, but I did hear,
John,' says I, 'as it were worth lookin' at.'
"He did sit him down then, an' did begin to whistle to hisself, an' to
rub his knees up and down. He had his best clothes on, an' the big
tall hat as he'd a-bought for the first poor Mrs. John's funeral. He
took it off after a while, and did keep turnin' it round and round in
his hands. 'Where's Robert?' says he, all to once.
"'Cleaning up a bit i' the bedroom,' says I.
"'I think I'll go to en,' says he.
"'Not you,' says I, determined-like. 'Sit you there, that's a good
man. She'll be here in a minute.'
"But Robert come down first, an' we was gettin' a bit anxious when
Mrs. Maidment did tap at the door. She was lookin' real well an'
genteel, in a black silk dress, and wi' one o' them little black bags
as they did use to call ridicules in her hand. Poor Brother John could
scarce take his eyes off it, for he made sure, d'ye see, as she'd
a-brought the bank-book inside. Well, the tea did pass off so pleasant
as could be, and so soon as it was over I did make a sign to Robert.
"'I've summat to show 'ee' says I, an' so soon as I did get en
outside, I did sauce en for bein' so stupid.
"'How be they ever to get things settled wi' us two a-lookin' at 'em?'
"We did stay outside a-kickin' of our heels for above half-an-hour,
an' then we did come in--an' there they was a-settin' one on each side
of the fire so comfortable as you could wish. Sarah looked up when I
opened the door, an' she says straight out, 'We've pretty nigh settled
things, but I shan't give my promise until I've had a look round Mr.
Domeny's place. I'd like to make sure as it 'ud suit me,' says she.
"'To be sure,' says John, who was lookin' a bit puzzled, but very
pleasant. 'To be sure. Next Thursday--now what 'ud ye say to makin' up
a party next Thursday, all on ye, an' drivin' over in the arternoon?
I'd have kettle bilin',' says he, 'an' all set out so well as a poor
lone man can do it, an' maybe one o' you ladies 'ud make tea?'"
Mrs. Cross sucked in her breath in token of intensifying enjoyment,
and turned her head yet a little more on one side.
"And so?" prompted she, as Mrs. Domeny paused.
"And so, Thursday come, an' we did get a trap off Mr. Sharpe, an' we
set off. Brother John was a-standin' on the doorstep on the look-out
for us, and he did lead Mrs. Maidment in and sit her down at the head
of the table.
"'Let's hope,' says he, 'it may be your nat'ral place afore long.'
"She jist smiled back wi'out speakin'; an' all the time we was havin'
our tea, I could see her eyes a-rovin' round the room, here an' there
an' everywhere. The teapot had a chip out of the spout, an' she did
jist pass her finger along it.
"'T'ud be easy to get a new un,' says Brother John, for he knowed what
she meant. An' then she looks down at the table-cloth--'It wants
darnin',' says she. "Tis easy seen as a woman's hands be needed here.'
"'They are, truly,' says he, lookin' at her so wistful-like.
"'Well, we'll see,' says she, noddin' at him very kind."
"An' did she really look over everything Mrs. Domeny, my dear?"
interrupted Mrs. Cross eagerly. "She must ha' been a wonderful
"You'd ha' said so if you could ha' seen her. There! there wasn't so
much as a pan as she didn't look into. Behind the doors, and under the
bed; she turned over the very blankets, I do assure 'ee. Upstairs an'
down she went, an' roun' the yard, an' down the garden, an' into the
shed. Poor Brother John kep' a-trottin' after her, an' at last she
come back to the kitchen again."
[Illustration: THE ROMANCE OF BROTHER JOHN
"Poor Brother John kep a trottin' after her"]
"'Well, Mr. Domeny,' says she, 'if ye'll go to the expense of a few
buckets of whitewash, an' give a lick o' paint to the door here, I
think it 'ull do very well.' So they settled the day an' everythin'
there an' then."
"Well, to be sure!" ejaculated Mrs. Cross. "It do sound jist like a
book; an' talkin' o' that, I suppose she did show en the bank-book?"
"She never gave en so much as a sight o' it, Mrs. Cross, if you
believe me. Kep' it locked up, she did, and never let him throw his
eye over it till the day of her death. I went up to see en so soon as
I heard as all were over, an' found en cryin' fit to break his heart.
"'Come, Brother John,' says I, ''tis a sad loss, as we do all know,
but you must bear up.'
"''Tisn't only the loss o' poor Sarah,' says he, ''tis--'tis,' an' his
'eart were that full he couldn't say no more, but jist held out the
bank-book to me. My dear, there weren't above three pound in it!"
"Dear heart alive!" ejaculated Mrs. Cross, clapping her hands
together, "I never heerd o' such a thing i' my life. Why," she added
energetically, "it 'ud scarce pay for the whitewash! An' yet he gave
her a nice funeral, ye tell me?"
"'E--es, my dear. Ye see, 'tis this way. Brother John be a very just
man, an' so soon as he did get over his first disappointment, he did
say to I, m'urnful like, but very patient--
"'Mary,' he says, 'it weren't what I did look for, an' it weren't what
I were led to expect, but takin' one thing wi' another,' says he, 'I
don't regret it. Poor Sarah was a wonderful hand at managin' pigs,'
says he, 'an I never see'd her equal for bringin' up chicken. No!' he
says, 'I don't regret it.'"
"Well, he couldn't say no fairer than that," commented Mrs. Cross
admiringly. "Yes," she added, drawing a long breath, "'tis just what
you do say, Mrs. Domeny--it be a reg'lar romance."
GILES IN LUCK
Giles Maine sat in the middle of the ward, his hands crossed on his
new umbrella, while his fellow-inmates gathered together in knots and
stared at him, some curiously, some enviously, some a little
regretfully, though all were ready to wish him God-speed when the
moment of parting came.
By a strange turn of Fortune's wheel, Giles Maine, the oldest inmate
of Branston Union, who had in truth for twenty years known no other
home, now found himself, at the age of seventy-eight, a comparatively
wealthy man. A distant relative, a relative so distant indeed that
Giles had been unaware of his existence, had recently died intestate,
and Giles proved to be his next-of-kin.
It had taken him some time to grasp the situation, and to understand
that he was now free to live where he would, in a position of comfort,
not to say affluence. Everybody had taken him in hand, however; the
master had ordered a brand-new suit of clothes for him; the matron had
engaged rooms in the village, and had put him under the charge of his
future landlady, who was a motherly sort of woman, and could be
trusted to look after him; the clergyman had given him much kind
advice, and many friendly warnings; and at length the old man found
himself ready to depart. He was now, in fact, only waiting to say
good-bye to the matron before turning his back for ever on the bare
room where he had spent so many monotonous hours.
The prospect ought surely to have elated him, yet his face wore a very
blank expression as he sat awaiting the expected summons; his new
clothes felt strange and stiff, the high collar of his fine white
shirt hurt his neck, his shiny new boots pinched his feet, the knobby
handle of his massive umbrella was not so comfortable to grasp as the
familiar crook of his battered old stick.
"First turn at the end of the lane, then third house on the right, and
ax for Mrs. Tapper," he repeated to himself from time to time. "First
turn, and third house--'e-es I can mind it right enough--third house
and ax for Mrs. Tapper."
"'Tis a pity," said some one for the fortieth time that day, "'tis a
pity, Mr. Maine, as you ain't got no folks o' your own. Ah, 'tis a
pity, sure. 'Twould ha' been more cheerful like if you'd ha' been
"'E-es," agreed Giles, also for the fortieth time, "'e-es I d' 'low it
would, but I ain't had no folk--there! I can scarce mind when I had
any. I never so much as heerd the name o' this 'ere chap what has left
me his fortun'. Never heerd his name--never so much as knowed he were
"Dear to be sure! It seems strange, don't it? And him to leave ye his
money and all. I wonder where ye'll go, Mr. Maine. P'r'aps ye'll go to
"To Lunnon?" gasped Giles, his jaw dropping. "What should I go to
"Oh, I don't know--ye can go where ye like, d'ye see. I reckon I'd go
to Lunnon if I was in your shoes."
"Would 'ee?" queried Giles, interested, but still aghast. "Nay now, ye
see, I never was one for travellin'--I've never been so far as
Darchester, not once all the time I were"--he jerked his thumb over
"Well, your lodgin' be only took on trial, so to speak, to see how ye
do like it," said another man. "Ye can change it so soon as ye please,
and move here and there just as ye fancy. A fine life--I'd give summat
to be you."
"I never was one for movin' much," said the old man, uneasily. "Nay,
movin' weren't in my line. I did use to work for the same master
pretty near all my life, till I were took bad wi' the rheumatiz.
'E-es, he were a good master to I. I could be fain to see en again,
but he's dead, they tell me, and the family ha' shifted. There bain't
nobody out yonder as I ever had acquaintance wi' in the wold times.
Nay, all 'ull be new, and a bit strange."
"A pleasant change, I should think," a gruff man was beginning--an
unattractive person this, with a week-old beard and a frowning brow,
when an old fellow, who had been sitting disconsolately in the corner
of the room, suddenly struck in:
"I d' 'low, Giles, ye'll be like to miss we when ye're all among
strangers, I d' 'low ye will. 'E-es, ye'll be like to miss we just so
much as us'll miss you."
Giles rolled his eyes towards him with a startled expression, but said
nothing for a moment or two; then he remarked, in a somewhat dolorous
"I d' 'low I'll miss you, Jim; you and me has sat side by side this
fifteen year--'tis fifteen year, bain't it, since ye come?"
"Ah! fifteen year," agreed Jim. "I'll be the woldest inmate in th'
Union when you do leave."
"'E-es, Jim, thee 'ull be gettin' all the buns and all the baccy now,"
cried one of the others, laughing. "He'll have to stand up and say
'Good marnin'' to the gentry when they comes round, and tell his age,
and how long he've a-been here, and all. I d' 'low he'll do it just so
well as you."
Giles gazed at the speaker frowningly; he did not seem to like the
idea, but if he meditated a retort he was prevented from uttering it
by the advent of a messenger from the matron, which was the signal for
his own departure. He stood up, and went shuffling from one to the
other of his former cronies, shaking hands with them all, but without
speaking. He gripped Jim's hand the hardest, and pumped it up and down
for so long a time that the messenger grew impatient; and then he went
stumbling along the passage, and down the stone stairs to the door,
where the master and matron both stood awaiting him. He received the
money which had been placed in the master's hands for his actual
needs, and scraped his rickety old foot, and pulled his forelock,
after a forgotten fashion, as he listened to their kindly words. Then
they, too, shook hands with him, and accompanied him to the gate,
looking after the feeble old figure until it disappeared.
"I do hope Mrs. Tapper will look after him," said the matron. "He's no
more fit to take care of himself than a baby."
Giles tottered on down the hill, his eyes roaming vaguely over the
landscape, which was looking its fairest on this mellow June
afternoon. Yonder rolled the downs, all golden green in the light of
the sinking sun, nearer at hand lay the meadows, very sheets of
buttercup gold; every leaf and twig of the hedgerow was a-glitter,
too--all Nature, it seemed, had arrayed itself in splendour to
correspond with the old pauper's sudden access of wealth. Not that any
such fancy crossed his dazed mind. As he shuffled along he thought of
how he had walked this way last year, with Jim at his side, on one of
their rare outings. They had, in fact, been on their way to the
parsonage, and Jim, who had been a farm labourer in a previous state
of existence, had called his attention to the "for'ardness" of the
potatoes which were growing where the hay grew now.
Giles paused mechanically, and gazed at the billowing grass; and then
he went on a little, and stopped again at the next gap in the hedge,
where Jim had pointed out the splendid view of Branston.
"I could wish," he muttered, as he turned away, "we was goin' to tea
at the rectory now."
Farther down the road was a bench where it was the old paupers' custom
to sit awhile on their return journey, before beginning the steep
ascent of the hill; Giles sat stiffly down now, and once more stared
about him. By-and-by the town clock struck seven and he instinctively
rose to his feet, and began hurriedly to retrace his steps, but pulled
himself up of a sudden.
"Seven o'clock! It 'ud seem more nat'ral to be goin' up-along. I was
nigh forgettin' I be comed away! Mrs. Tapper 'ull think I bain't
a-comin' if I don't hurry up."
This time he made up his mind to continue his journey without further
interruptions, and very soon arrived at the end of the lane, and even
at the third house on the right, where he was duly received by Mrs.
Tapper. She was most civil, not to say respectful; called him "Sir"
and "Mr. Maine," hustled her children out of his way, installed him in
the elbow-chair in the corner, and waited upon him at tea-time as
though he had been a gentleman born.
At first Giles rather enjoyed it, but presently the feeling of
loneliness and strangeness, against which he had been struggling all
day, returned with redoubled force; and when he was finally ushered
into his clean tidy little room, and Mrs. Tapper, after calling his
attention to the various preparations she had made for his comfort,
left him to himself, he sat down on the side of the bed and groaned
[Illustration: GILES IN LUCK
"Waited upon him at tea time as though he had been a gentleman born"]
They would just be about "turnin' in" at the Union, and Jim, laying
himself down on the pallet next to his, would be making the
time-honoured joke about the absence of spring-mattresses and
feather-beds, with which he was usually wont to regale the other
inmates at this hour. As Giles turned down the spotless
lavender-scented sheets he thought longingly of the workhouse twill.
A week later Giles was permitted to visit his former friends, laden
with such a store of buns and baccy as would have ensured his welcome,
even had not most of his cronies been genuinely glad to see him.
"Dear heart alive!" cried Jim, receiving his modicum of twist with a
delighted chuckle, "these be new times, these be. Who'd ever ha'
thought o' Giles Maine walkin' in like a lard wi' presents for us
But Giles was looking round with a foolish wavering sort of smile.
"It'd seem real homely in here," he remarked. "Ah! it do fur sure.
There be the papers as us'al, I see--I do miss papers awful out
"Why, to be sure," cried one of the younger men, "you can buy 'em for
yourself now. I'm blowed if I wouldn't have all the papers as comes
out if I was you."
"I did go to a shop onest," said the old man, "and I did ax, but they
didn't seem able to gi' me the right 'uns. 'I want pictur's o' the
snow and folks huntin' and that,' says I. 'Not this time o' year,'
says the young lady; 'them's in Christmas numbers.' 'That's what I've
bin used to,' says I. 'Well, we can order 'em for you,' says she, but
I couldn't mind the names. I knowed one did begin 'G--r--a--p--' so I
did ax if they had one about 'Grape--summat,' and they did give I the
_Gardener_--ah, that was what they did call it; but there weren't no
pictur's in it at all, only flowers and mowing machines, and
"Why, ye mean the _Graphic_" cried some one with a laugh; "no wonder
the maid couldn't make out what you was a-drivin' at."
But Giles did not heed him; he was gazing hungrily at the greasy pack
of cards which lay on the deal table.
"It d' seem a martal sight of time since I've had a game," he
exclaimed. "Light up, Jim; you and me 'ull jist have time for one
When the bell rang for this last-named meal Giles rose with the rest,
and was preparing to walk with them down the well-known stairs, when
he was astonished by receiving an invitation to tea with no less a
person than the matron herself.
He smoothed his hair with the palms of his hands, pulled up his
shirt-collar, and followed the messenger with an odd mixture of pride
and reluctance. It was no doubt highly gratifying to be thus honoured
before all his former mates, but he was conscious of a secret yearning
to sit down once more in the old place, and munch his allotted portion
of bread and cheese with a friend at either elbow.
The matron received him cordially.
"Come in, Mr. Maine, and sit down; I am glad to have an opportunity of
chatting with you. It would never do for you to have tea with the
others now, you know."
"No, to be sure," agreed Giles blankly.
"Well, and how are you, Mr. Maine? Most comfortable and happy, Mrs.
Tapper tells me."
"'E-es, mum," returned Giles mournfully.
"Sugar and milk, Mr. Maine?"
"Thankee, mum, I likes it best pure naked. I'd be thankful to 'ee,
mum, if ye wouldn't call me Mr. Maine; it don't seem naitral like."
"Perhaps not," agreed the matron, with a kindly laugh. "Well,
Giles--I'll say Giles, then--Giles, do you know that you are quite a
remarkable person? They have been writing about you in the papers. 'A
lucky pauper,' they call you."
"Have they now, mum?" returned Maine, staring at her over the rim of
"Yes, indeed, and people have been writing to me to know the
particulars. 'Tis not often, you see, such a stroke of good fortune
befalls an inmate of the Union."
"I s'pose not," he agreed, between two gulps of tea.
The matron continued to speak in this congratulatory vein while the
old man ate and drank; but though he occasionally muttered a word or
two which would seem to endorse her statements, his countenance was
far from wearing the joyful self-satisfied expression which she had
All at once he pushed away plate and cup.
"Mum," he said, "if I mid make so bold I'd like to say summat. I've
been a-thinkin'--couldn't I come back here?"
"Here!" echoed she in astonishment. "Here! to the workhouse?"
"Why, are you not happy at Mrs. Tapper's?"
"'E--es, oh, 'e--es, I haven't got no fault to find wi' she nor
naught; but I--I'd like the Union best."
"Well, but you see, my dear Giles, the Union is meant for people who
cannot live anywhere else. You have got plenty of money now, and--"
"I'd be willin' to pay," said Giles.
"Good gracious!" exclaimed the matron.
The old man looked at her stolidly, but made no further remark.
"I'm sure I don't know what to say," she went on, after a pause. "I
don't suppose such a thing has ever been heard of--I'm sure the
guardians would never allow it."
"I'd pay handsome," said Giles. "You ax 'em, mum."
"Well, I will if you like; but don't you think you are very foolish?
There you are, a man of property, who can hold up your head with the
best, and pay your way, and you want to come back here among a lot of
"I've a-been twenty year here," observed Giles, making the statement
in a dispassionate tone. "I know 'em all here, and I'm used to the
ways. I couldn't never get used to no other ways, and no other folks.
I'd sooner bide, mum, if ye'd ax 'em to let me. I'd not give no
trouble--no more n' I ever did, an' I'd pay for my keep."
"Well, well," said the matron, staring at him in puzzled amazement.
"Can I go up to 'em again for a bit?" queried the old man. "Me and Jim
was in the middle of a game."
"Oh, yes, you can go up to them."
He rose, scraped his leg and pulled his forelock as usual, and backed
out of the room, leaving his fine new hat on the ground beside his
Coming upon it presently, the matron decided to return it herself to
the owner; perhaps she was a little curious to see how he comported
himself among his mates.
She opened the door of the old men's ward so quietly that no one
noticed her entrance; the room was full of tobacco smoke, and the
inmates were sitting or standing about as usual. Giles sat in his old
corner, with Jim opposite to him; both had removed their coats, and
the grizzled heads were bent together over the battered cards.
"You be in luck, Jim," Giles exclaimed as the matron closed the door.
"You've turned up a Jack!"
"THE WOLD LOVE AND THE NOO"
"Have ye heard the noos?" said Betty Tuffin, thrusting in her head at
old Mrs. Haskell's open door.
"Lard, no, my dear," returned her crony, hastily dropping the crooked
iron bar with which she had been drawing together the logs upon her
hearthstone. "There, I never do seem to hear anything nowadays, my
wold man bein' so ter'ble punished wi' the lumbaguey and not able to
do a hand's turn for hisself. Why, I do assure 'ee I do scarce ever
set foot out o' door wi'out it's to pick up a bit o' scroff, or a few
logs--an' poor ones they be when I've a-got 'em. I can hardly see my
own hand for the smoke. Step in, do, Betty love, an' tell I all what's
to be told."
Betty had stepped in long before Mrs. Haskell had concluded her
harangue, and had, by this time, taken possession of a comfortable
corner of the screened settle, deposited her basket by her side,
folded her arms, and assumed that air of virtuous indignation which
denoted that she was about to relate the shortcomings of some third
"Dear, to be sure! Souls alive! Lard ha' mercy me, ye could ha'
knocked I down wi' a feather when Keeper told I--"
"A-h-h-h, them bwoys o' Chaffey's has been poachin' again I d' 'low,"
interrupted Mrs. Haskell eagerly. "Never did see sich chaps as they be.
A body 'ud think they'd know better nor to act so unrespectable-like.
Why, as my wold man do say sometimes, 'ye mid as well put your hand in
Squire's pocket as go a-layin' snares for his hares an' rabbits--'tis
thievin' whichever way ye do look at it,' he do say."
"Well, I don't agree wi' he," responded Betty with some heat. She had
sons of her own who were occasionally given to strolling abroad on
moonlight nights, and usually returned with bulging pockets. "I don't
agree at all. The Lard made they little wild things for the poor so
well as for the rich--same as the water what runs through Squire's
park an' down along by the back o' my place. Who's to tell who they
belongs to. A hare 'ull lep up on one side o' the hedge, an' then
it'll be Squire's, an' it'll run across t'other side, an' then it's
Maister's, an' then it'll come an' squat down in my cabbage
garden--then I d' 'low 'tis mine if I can catch it."
Mrs. Haskell, who was too anxious to gossip to dally by the way in a
disquisition on the Game Laws, assented to her friend's argument with
somewhat disappointing promptness, and returned to the original
subject of discussion.
"I be real curious to hear that there bit o' noos."
"You'll be surprised I d' 'low," said Mrs. Tuffin. "Ye mind Abel Guppy
what went off to the war out there abroad wi' the Yeomanry? Well, they
d' say he be killed."
"Dear, now, ye don't tell I so," said the other in a dispassionate,
and if truth be told, somewhat disappointed tone. A death, though
always exciting, was not after all so very uncommon, and when a man
"'listed for a soldier," most of the older village folk looked upon
his destruction as a foregone conclusion. "Killed, poor young chap!
His aunt Susan 'ull be terrible opset."
"I d' 'low she will be opset," said Betty meaningly, "and it bain't
only along of him bein' killed, poor feller, but you'd never think,
Mrs. Haskell, how things have a-turned out. Ye mind that maid up to
Bartlett's what he was a-courtin'?"
"'E-es, to be sure I do. A great big bouncin' wench as ever I did see,