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ness, the earth like iron under your feet, the sky like steel above. The company collected in the great old kitchen,—they are a stern race in the hills,-tall and staid, and they looked like a band of Covenanters with their fierce gestures and shaggy gear, as by twos and threes they wound their way up through the snow. Methodism was rife in those outlying upland districts—indeed in some places it might be called the established religion fifty years ago : the church in those days was neglected and indifferent, poorly served and worse attended, and the stern Calvinism of the Wesleyans suited better the rather fierce manners and habits of the population.
German received them quietly and modestly—" wi' a deal o' discretion for such a young un," observed the company. The responsibilities which this terrible break in his life had brought upon him seemed to have turned him into a man at a stride ; and his mother and sister accepted him as such and as the head of the family at once. Every one came who was asked. Ashford was not popular, but to have been murdered and robbed of a large sum of money was evidently considered on the whole a dignified and interesting if not an honourable mode of exit hy his neighbours.
They discussed the deceased, his circumstances and his shortcomings, in an open way, very unlike our mealy-mouthed periphrases; and Lydia and Cassie as they came and went, serving the company, could not help hearing comments which no one seemed to think could pain them, being as they were perfectly true. Though in other places the truth of a libel is only supposed to make it worse.
“He couldn't keep off the drink couldn't Ashford. He mid ha' bin home safe enouch an he'd come back wi' us,” said the old miller Anthony.
“He'd a wonderful long tongue to be sure, and quarrolled wi' a very deal o' folk up and down. He'd had an upset with Joshua Stracey this dozen year or more,” observed his neighbour the master of the little public.
“We shall hae a baddish time gettin' across the Moor,” said a third, helping himself liberally to a large supply of “ vittles.”
“We're but poor soft creeturs now-a-days," answered the miller. “I've heerd tell how in th' auld times they used to run, stark naked across the snow, foot-races for two or three miles, wi' the bagpipes for to gi'e 'um courage.”
“Well, nobody couldu't call Ashford soft, nayther in his tempor nor in hisself; he were a hard and heavy un enough, so to speak; and yet they say as his yend were cracked all one as a chayney jug," put in his neighbour.
“ There was wonderful little blood for to be seen," observed a farmer; “ nothing would serve my missus but she mun go down and see the place, and she have a bin stericky ever sin’.”
“ Thero was a sight o wimmen went down,” said a cynical old bachelor who lived in the valley, “and they've all a bin stericky over
sin' an all tales be true! I b’lieve they likes it. They're greatish fools is wimmen most times; they's mostly like a cow, as is curis by natur', and when by reason o' it she's put herself i' th’ way o' harm, then they loses ther yeads."
Suddenly a tall miner arose,—he was a very handsome man with fine regular features, large grey eyes, and soft light hair ; but his cheeks were sunken and his eyes glittered with a sort of far-seeing look—the temperament which sees illuminations and signs, and dreams dreams.
“Dear friends, shall we part wi'out seekin' to improve the occasion ? Here were a drunken man—one as had lived wi'out God in the world-cut off wi'out a moment's warning in the midst of his sins, like King Herod, Acts 12th chapter and 23rd verse; or like Absalom, 2 Samuel 18th chapter and 14th verse; or like Sisera, as is told in Judges; and shall wo not-?"
“I mun speak my mind, as German's nobbut a young un," said Farmer Buxton, a good-natured giant, who stood six feet three in his "stocking feet” and was broad in proportion,-circumstances which add no little weight to one's arguments. He lived at the farm close to the little chapel below, and therefore took it as it were under his protection. "I dunno see, considerin' German Ashford were a good churchman, and allus come to church (leastways when he went onywheres), as the Methodecs has any call to be improvin' on him, and takin' o' him up and callin' him” [i. e. abusing him], “when he can't stand up as 'twere for hissen. We've a smartish bit of road to go, and 'twill be a sore heft to carry will Ashford; the days is short and it's bitter weather, and the sooner we're off the better."
There was a burr of agreement in the company and a general move, and in a few minutes the funeral procession had streamed from the door, German leading the way. The sudden stillness which fell on the house was almost startling after the noise and confusion. Lydia, quite worn out, sat down in the great chair and leant her head against the chimney ; Cassie was still looking out of the door to see the last of them.
Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, wo will fear no evil,'” said Lydia, half aloud. - God is more mercifu' nor man, my darlin',” she added, as Cassie knelt down by her and hid her face on her knees, while sho kissed the girl's head fondly; "• for as the heavens are high above the earth, so is the Lord's mercy. Man sces but a little way and is very hard, God's a deal more tender than a mother and he sees everything-yea, we will put our trust in the Lord.'”
The old woman who had come in to help now returned from watching the train depart with extreme enjoyment. “To be sure it have a been a very fine funeral," said she, " and now we mun begin for to straighten things a bit.”
THE LAST OF THE OLD HOUSE.
The next day German received a message from the Squire to come to him. He was a little wizened old man with a shrewd business-like
of doing things, and very intent upon improving his property—a most unpopular proceeding in those days as tending to raise rents. Indeed he was by no means so well liked as his spendthrift predecessor, who had “had a pleasant way wi' him and a kind word wi' folk, and very openhanded” (with other poople's property as it turned out, but this was forgotten). “ But this un is so close-fisted, and as sour as a bit o' stale oatcake.” The manner of doing a thing signifies generally much more than the matter in public estimation : as far as a man's reputation is concerned, it is almost safer to injure great interests than to wound small feelings. And there is that amount of truth in public opinion that the small feelings turn up every hour while the great interests are perhaps years in coming.
German was ushered into the fine old room reserved for the squire when he came to collect his rents. There was a curious mixture in it of ancient stateliness (though his predecessor had hardly lived there) and present thrift. A beautiful panelled ceiling, and a carpet to match, only torn and threadbare ; three or four chairs wanting a leg or otherwise maimed, their red damask covers hanging in tatters about them, leaned helplessly against the wall; a great settee, with the crest of the family carved on the back, stood on one side the fire, and two rush-bottomed chairs on the other. The old man himself, with one of the last queues left in England on one end of him, and shorts and blue stockings on the other, was sitting before a mass of papers at the table. After all, however, he was the squire, and German felt a certain “ as he entered.
“ Well, Ashford,” said he, as the young man came in and made his obedience,' “ how did you get over the Lone Moor yesterday with the funeral ? It must have been a sore pull for you all.”
“They thought they shouldn't hardly ha' got through at the Old Mare's Bottom," said the lad.
what's to be done about you, my man ? It's a great misfortune, a very great misfortune indeed. I'm sure I feel it—the rent and the arrears all gone. They say your father got the back-rent in his pocket too?"
“It were my sister's money,” said German in a low voice ; "she'd gived him every penny she had.”
“ And quite right of her too, but most unfortunate; why didn't he take it to the bankers ? Then, you know, if anything had happened to your father, that would have been safe. And I can't afford to lose back-rent and present rent, and arrears for soughing * and all, I can tell you.” And
the old man began to walk irritably about the room.
" What do you and your mother intend to do ?” he asked at last, as German remained silent.
“ We should like to keep on the farm, sir : we've had it now, father and son, this two hundred year, they say. I think we mid mak’ a shift to get on, if so be ye'd be patient with the rent."
“But I can't afford to be patient,” said the old man, fretfully. “ You've no capital and no stock, I hear. You'll just ruin me and the farm and yourselves all together. It's out of the case, I tell you. You won't do yourselves a morsel of good ; the sooner you go out of the farm the better for everybody."
German's colour rose; he went out of the room, his blood boiling. “ 'Tother squire wouldn't ha' done it,” he said to himself; but there was truth he knew in the old man's unpalatable words : he could not farm properly, and it would be starvation to attempt to pay the future rent, let alone the past.
The two women sat waiting to learn their fate in the stillness of a house where a death has lately been. He flung his hat angrily down on the ground as he entered.
“He wunna let us hae the farm, a' talked o' his back-rent. A black curse be wi' him ;-he's a very having man,” said he.
Neither Lydia nor Cassie uttered a word ; they took their doom in perfect silence. There was a pathetic sort of leave-taking in the way they looked round on the old walls, and then they turned to their work again.
Towards evening Cassie, having thought it over and over in her mind, felt indeed that on the whole it was a relief to go. The intense isolation was almost more than she could now bear; she felt as if she might “hear something " if she were more within reach of the outer world.
“Shall thee mind very much flitting, Lydia ?” said she at last, suddenly.
“I mind thee and German being turned out i' th' cold world as it were."
“ Then dunna heed it, dearie, for me; I think I'd be best down where there's a bit more moving.”
And Lydia's view of the matter altered entirely from that moment. German indeed felt the change much the most of the three.
As they sat at the bare board that evening eating the remains of the funeral feast, and calculating in a sort of family council how little there was left to them for bare existence now that everything saleable had been sold, Lydia observed,
“Dostna think, German, that 'twere best done at once an we are to go? Thee'st better leave the squire all and everythink, and get theo a quittance. He canna say aught an he have it a'.”
“ He'd a squoze blood out o' a flint, I raly do believe, if it could ha been done anyhow," said German, angrily. “I canna bear a leavin' the old walls, as we've a held such a many year i' th' family; but an we mun
we mun,” he ended, with a touch of the resigned fatalism which forms so large a part of the wonderful “ patience of the poor.”
“ And ye mun hearken for a cottage, German, up and down i' th' town"* (it was the smallest possible hamlet). “ Thou canst axe the squire for so mich. Surely he'll make a bit o' a push to gi'e us one, so be he has one empty, an he turns us out here just to fight along for oursen. I heerd ’um say yesterday as old Sammy were dead; mebbe his widder 'll be wishful to get shut o' that place up the steps."
“I canna think what for we havena heerd owt o' yer uncle,” said Lydia ; " and he as allus thowt so much o'ye both.” “ They say Martha's gone for to be with him ; and she's one as would
; be sure set upo' kippin' him to hersen and lettin' nobody else hae speech nor business of him. I saw that when I were there,” returned German.
The next morning the old squire was a little surprised when German called to say they should be ready to go whenever convenient. He had not expected so ready an acquiescence. “On ne peut pas tondre un pelé qui n'a pas de cheveux,” however, and his best chance was for a share of the stock before the inevitable smash-—so he took heart and began to make the arrangements necessary.
German suffered a good deal: he had a sort of feeling for the old place which made it as distressing for him to leave it as if the land had been his own patrimony. The day of their moving came; the little cart stood before the door which was to do its last office for its masters that day in removing their bits o' things. Lydia was sitting on a bundle of bedding-everything was packed in the dismantled kitchen—while Cassie wandered round the place taking a last look at all. The last time !—it has a dreary sound, even when it is a little-loved place.
They were waiting for German, who was going once more round the farm-buildings, delivering up the place to the man put in charge by the quire, when old Nathan appeared at the door.
" I've been so bad as I couldn't get up this long way afore now, and I never thought as you'd be off so soon. I'm a'most glad yer aunt Bessie ain't here for to see the like o' this,” said he, looking grimly round, “ She never could ha' beared to think ye was turned adrift ; it's a dolesome thing to see ye going out o' this fashion. Ye'd as pritty a look-out as any lad or lass i' th' county, one mid say, half a year agono," added the old man with a groan. “ Misfortines is very hasty o' foot, and comes most times in swarms like bees."
“ I'm hoping as you're better, Master Nathan," observed Lydia, rising from her bundles with her usual quiet courteous greeting, while Cassie set the only stool that was left to sit on.
“ Matters is mostly packed by now, but Cassie'll be fine and pleased for to get ye a sup o' summat an ye'll think well to tak’ anything arter your long toil.” And she did the honours of her empty kitchen like a truo lady. Some of the best manners in England are to be found among those
* Town-an inclosure from tho waste.