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Tom Brown at Oxford By Thomas Hughes Characters: 37016

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:05

Dame Winburn was not long after her son, and they sat down together to breakfast in their best Sunday clothes-she, in a plain large white cap which covered all but a line of grey hair, a black stuff gown reaching to neck and wrists, and small silk neckkerchief put on like a shawl; a thin, almost gaunt old woman, whom the years had not used tenderly, and who showed marks of their usage-but a resolute, high-couraged soul, who had met hard times in the face, and could meet them again if need were. She spoke in broad Berkshire, and was otherwise a homely body, but self-possessed and without a shade of real vulgarity in her composition.

The widow looked with some anxiety at Harry as he took his seat. Although something of a rustic dandy, of late he had not been so careful in the matter of dress as usual; but, in consequence of her reproaches, on this Sunday there was nothing to complain of. His black velveteen shooting coat, and cotton plush waistcoat, his brown corduroy knee-breeches and gaiters, sat on him well, and gave the world assurance of a well-to-do man, for few of the Englebourn labourers rose above smock-frocks and fustian trousers. He wore a blue bird's-eye handkerchief round his neck, and his shirt, though coarse in texture, was as white as the sun and the best laundress in Englebourn could manage to bleach it. There was nothing to find fault with in his dress, therefore, but still his mother did not feel quite comfortable as she took stealthy glances at him. Harry was naturally a reserved fellow, and did not make much conversation himself, and his mother felt a little embarrassed on this particular morning.

It was not, therefore, until Dame Winburn had finished her first slice of bread and butter, and had sipped the greater part of her second dish of tea out of her saucer, that she broke silence.

"I minded thy business last night, Harry, when I wur up at the Rectory about the washin'. It's my belief as thou'lt get t'other 'lotment next quarter-day. The Doctor spoke very kind about it, and said as how he heer'd as high a character o' thee, young as thee bist, as of are' a man in the parish, and as how he wur set on lettin' the lots to thaay as'd do best by 'em; only he said as the farmers went agin givin' more nor an acre to any man as worked for them; and the Doctor, you see, he don't like to go altogether agin the vestry folk."

"What business is it o' theirs," said Harry, "so long as they get their own work done? There's scarce one on 'em as hasn't more land already nor he can keep as should be, and for all that they want to snap up every bit as falls vacant, so as no poor man shall get it."

"'Tis mostly so with them as has," said his mother, with a half puzzled look; "Scriptur says as to them shall be given, and they shall have more abundant," Dame Winburn spoke hesitatingly, and looked doubtfully at Harry, as a person who has shot with a strange gun, and knows not what effect the bolt may have. Harry was brought up all standing by this unexpected quotation of his mother's; but, after thinking for a few moments while he cut himself a slice of bread, replied:-

"It don't say as those shall have more that can't use what they've got already. 'Tis a deal more like Naboth's vineyard for aught as I can see. But 'tis little odds to me which way it goes."

"How canst talk so, Harry?" said his mother reproachfully; "thou know'st thou wast set on it last fall, like a wasp on sugar. Why scarce a day past but thou wast up to the Rectory, to see the Doctor about it; and now thou'rt like to get th'lotment thou'lt not go anyst 'un."

Harry looked out at the open door, without answering. It was quite true that, in the last autumn, he had been very anxious to get as large an allotment as he could into his own hands, and that he had been for ever up towards the Rectory, but perhaps not always on the allotment business. He was naturally a self-reliant, shrewd fellow, and felt that if he could put his hand on three or four acres of land, he could soon make himself independent of the farmers. He knew that at harvest-times, and whenever there was a pinch for good labourers, they would be glad enough to have him; while at other times, with a few acres of his own, he would be his own master and could do much better for himself. So he had put his name down first on the Doctor's list, taken the largest lot he could get, and worked it so well that his crops, amongst others, had been a sort of village show last harvest-time. Many of the neighboring allotments stood out in sad contrast to those of Harry and the more energetic of the peasantry, and lay by the side of these latter only half worked and full of weeds, and the rent was never ready. It was worse than useless to let matters go on thus, and the question arose, what was to be done with the neglected lots. Harry, and all the men like him, applied at once for them; and their eagerness to get them had roused some natural jealousy amongst the farmers, who began to foresee that the new system might shortly leave them with none but the worst labourers. So the vestry had pressed on the Doctor, as Dame Winburn said, not to let any man have more than an acre, or an acre and a half; and the well-meaning, easy-going invalid old man couldn't make up his mind what to do. So here was May again, and the neglected lots were still in the nominal occupation of the idlers. The Doctor got no rent, and was annoyed at the partial failure of a scheme which he had not indeed originated, but for which he had taken much credit to himself. The negligent occupiers grumbled that they were not allowed a drawback for manure, and that no pigstyes were put up for them. "'Twas allers understood so," they maintained, "and they'd never ha' took to the lots but for that." The good men grumbled that it would be too late now for them to do more than clean the lots of weeds this year. The farmers grumbled that it was always understood that no man should have more than one lot. The poor rector had led his flock into a miry place with a vengeance. People who cannot make up their minds breed trouble in other places besides country villages. However quiet and out of the way the place may be, there is always some quasi public topic, which stands, to the rural Englishman, in the place of treaty, or budget, or reform-bill. So the great allotment question, for the time, was that which exercised the minds of the inhabitants of Englebourn; and until lately no one had taken a keener interest in it than Harry Winburn. But that interest had now much abated, and so Harry looked through the cottage door, instead of answering his mother.

"'Tis my belief as you med amost hev it for the axin'." Dame Winburn began again when she found that he would not re-open the subject himself. "The young missus said as much to me herself last night. Ah! to be sure, things'd go better if she had the guidin' on 'em."

"I'm not going after it any more, mother. We can keep the bits o' sticks here together without it while you be alive; and if anything was to happen to you, I don't think I should stay in these parts. But it don't matter what becomes o' me; I can earn a livelihood anywhere."

Dame Winburn paused a moment before answering to subdue her vexation, and then said, "How can 'ee let hankerin' arter a lass take the heart out o' thee so? Hold up thy head, and act a bit measterful. The more thow makest o' thyself, the more like thou art to win."

"Did you hear aught of her last night, mother?" replied Harry, taking advantage of this ungracious opening to speak of the subject which was uppermost in his mind.

"I heer'd she wur goin' on well," said his mother.

"No likelihood of her comin' home?"

"Not as I could make out. Why, she hevn't been gone not four months. Now, do 'ee pluck up a bit, Harry; and be more like thyself."

"Why, mother, I've not missed a day's work since Christmas; so there ain't much to find fault with."

"Nay, Harry, 'tisn't thy work. Thou wert always good at thy work, praise God. Thou'rt thy father's own son for that. But thou dostn't keep about like, and take thy place wi' the lave on 'em since Christmas. Thou look'st hagged at times, and folk'll see't, and talk about thee afore long."

"Let 'em talk. I mind their talk no more than last year's wind," said Harry, abruptly.

"But thy old mother does," she said, looking at him with eyes full of pride and love; and so Harry, who was a right good son, began to inquire what it was that was specially weighing on his mother's mind, determined to do anything in reason to re-place her on the little harmless social pinnacle from which she was wont to look down on all the other mothers and sons of the parish. He soon found out that her present grievance arose from his having neglected his place as ringer of the heavy bell in the village peal on the two preceding Sundays; and, as this post was, in some sort the corresponding one to stroke of the boat at Oxford, her anxiety was reasonable enough. So Harry promised to go to ringing in good time that morning, and then set about little odds and ends of jobs till it would be time to start. Dame Winburn went to her cooking and other household duties, which were pretty well got under when her son took his hat and started for the belfry. She stood at the door with a half-peeled potato in one hand, shading her eyes with the other, as she watched him striding along the raised footpath under the elms, when the sound of light footsteps and pleasant voices, coming up from the other direction, made her turn round and drop a curtsey as the rector's daughter and another young lady stopped at her door.

"Good morning, Betty," said the former; "here's a bright Sunday morning at last, isn't it?"

"'Tis indeed, miss; but where hev'ee been to?"

"Oh, we've only been for a little walk before school-time. This is my cousin, Betty. She hasn't been at Englebourn since she was quite a child; so I've been taking her to the Hawk's Lynch to see our view."

"And you can't think how I have enjoyed it," said her cousin; "it is so still and beautiful."

"I've heer'd say as there ain't no such a place for thretty mile round," said Betty, proudly, "But do'ee come in, tho', and sit'ee down a bit," she added, bustling inside her door, and beginning to rub down a chair with her apron; "'tis a smart step for gentlefolk to walk afore church." Betty's notions of the walking powers of gentlefolk were very limited.

"No, thank you, we must be getting on," said Miss Winter; "but how lovely your flowers are! Look, Mary, did you ever see such double pansies? We've nothing like them at the Rectory."

"Do'ee take some," said Betty, emerging again, and beginning to pluck a handful of her finest flowers; "'tis all our Harry's doing; he's 'mazing partickler about seeds."

"He seems to make everything thrive, Betty. There, that's plenty, thank you. We won't take many, for fear they should fade before church is over."

"Oh, dwont'ee be afeard, there's plenty more; and you be as welcom' as the day."

Betty never said a truer word; she was one of the real open-handed sort, who are found mostly amongst those who have the least to give. They or anyone else were welcome to the best she had.

So the young ladies took the flowers, thanked her again, and passed on towards the Sunday-school.

The rector's daughter might have been a year or so older than her companion; she looked more. Her position in the village had been one of much anxiety, and she was fast getting an old head on young shoulders. The other young lady was a slip of a girl just coming out; in fact, this was the first visit which she had ever paid out of leading strings. She had lived in a happy home, where she had always been trusted and loved, and perhaps a thought too much petted.

There are some natures which attract petting; you can't help doing your best to spoil them in this way, and it is satisfactory, therefore, to know (as the fact is) that they are just the ones which cannot be so spoilt.

Miss Mary was one of these. Trustful, for she had never been tricked; fearless, for she had never been cowed; pure and bright as the Englebourn brook at fifty yards from its parent spring in the chalk, for she had a pure and bright nature, and had come in contact as yet with nothing which could soil or cast a shadow. What wonder that her life gave forth light and music as it glided on, and that every one who knew her was eager to have her with them, to warm themselves in the light and rejoice in the music!

Besides all her other attractions, or in consequence of them for anything I know, she was one of the merriest young women in the world, always ready to bubble over and break out into clear laughter on the slightest provocation. And provocation had not been wanting during the last two days which she had spent with her cousin. As usual she had brought sunshine with her, and the old doctor had half forgotten his numerous complaints and grievances for the time. So the cloud which generally hung over the house had been partially lifted, and Mary, knowing and suspecting nothing of the dark side of life at Englebourn Rectory, rallied her cousin on her gravity, and laughed till she cried at the queer ways and talk of the people about the place.

As soon as they were out of hearing of Dame Winburn, Mary began-

"Well, Katie, I can't say that you have mended your case at all."

"Surely you can't deny that there is a great deal of character in

Betty's face?" said Miss Winter.

"Oh, plenty of character; all your people, as soon as they begin to stiffen a little and get wrinkles, seem to be full of character, and I enjoy it much more than beauty; but we were talking about beauty, you know."

"Betty's son is the handsomest young man in the parish," said Miss Winter; "and I must say I don't think you could find a better-looking one anywhere."

"Then I can't have seen him."

"Indeed you have; I pointed him out to you at the post office yesterday. Don't you remember? He was waiting for a letter."

"Oh, yes! now I remember. Well, he was better than most. But the faces of your young people in general are not interesting-I don't mean the children, but the young men and women-and they are awkward and clownish in their manners, without the quaintness of the elder generation, who are the funniest old dears in the world."

"They will all be quaint enough as they get older. You must remember the sort of life they lead. They get their notions very slowly, and they must have notions in their heads before they can show them on their faces."

"Well, your Betty's son looked as if he had a notion of hanging himself yesterday."

"It's no laughing matter, Mary. I hear that he is desperately in love."

"Poor fellow! that makes a difference, of course. I hope he won't carry out his notion. Who is it, do you know? Do tell me all about it."

"Our gardener's daughter, I believe. Of course, I never meddle with these matters; but one can't help hearing the servant's gossip. I think it likely to be true, for he was about our premises at all sorts of times until lately, and I never see him now that she is away."

"Is she pretty?" said Mary, who was getting interested.

"Yes, she is our belle. In fact, they are the two beauties of the parish."

"Fancy that cross-grained old Simon having a pretty daughter. Oh,

Katie, look here! who is this figure of fun?"

The figure of fun was a middle-aged man of small stature, and very bandy-legged, dressed in a blue coat and brass buttons, and carrying a great bass-viol bigger than himself, in a rough baize cover. He came out of a footpath into the road just before them, and, on seeing them, touched his hat to Miss Winter, and then fidgeted along with his load, and jerked his head in a deprecatory manner away from them as he walked on, with the sort of look and action which a favorite terrier uses when his master holds out a lighted cigar to his nose. He was the village tailor and constable, also the principal performer in the church-music which obtained in Englebourn. In the latter capacity he had of late come into collision with Miss Winter.

For this was another of the questions which divided the parish-The great church music question. From time immemorial, at least ever since the gallery at the west end had been built, the village psalmody had been in the hands of the occupiers of that Protestant structure. In the middle of the front row sat the musicians, three in number, who played respectively a bass-viol, a fiddle, and a clarionet. On one side of them were two or three young women, who sang treble-shrill, ear-piercing treble-with a strong nasal Berkshire drawl in it. On the other side of the musicians sat the blacksmith, the wheelwright, and other tradesmen of the place. Tradesmen means in that part of the country what we mean by artisan, and these were naturally allied with the laborers, and consorted with them. So far as church-going was concerned, they formed a sort of independent opposition, sitting in the gallery, instead of in the nave, where the farmers and the two or three principal shopkeepers-the great landed and commercial interests-regularly sat and slept, and where the two publicans occupied pews, but seldom made even the pretence of worshipping.

The rest of the gallery was filled by the able-bodied male peasantry. The old worn-out men generally sat below in the free seats; the women also, and some few boys. But the hearts of these latter were in the gallery-a seat on the back benches of which was a sign that they had indued the toga virilis, and were thenceforth free from maternal and pastoral tutelage in the matter of church-going. The gallery thus constituted had gradually usurped the psalmody as their particular and special portion of the service; they left the clerk and the school children, aided by such of the aristocracy below as cared to join, to do the responses; but, when singing time came, they reigned supreme. The slate on which the Psalms were announced was hung out from before the centre of the gallery, and the clerk, leaving his place under the reading-desk, marched up there to give them out. He took this method of preserving his constitutional connection with the singing, knowing that otherwise he could not have maintained the rightful position of his office in this matter. So matters had stood until shortly before the

time of our story.

The present curate, however, backed by Miss Winter, had tried a reform. He was a quiet man, with a wife and several children, and small means. He had served in the diocese ever since he had been ordained, in a hum-drum sort of way, going where he was sent for, and performing his routine duties reasonably well, but without showing any great aptitude for his work. He had little interest, and had almost given up expecting promotion, which he certainly had done nothing particular to merit. But there was one point on which he was always ready to go out of his way, and take a little trouble. He was a good musician, and had formed choirs at all his former curacies.

Soon after his arrival, therefore, he, in concert with Miss Winter, had begun to train the children in church-music. A small organ, which had stood in a passage in the Rectory for many years, had been repaired, and appeared first at the schoolroom, and at length under the gallery of the church; and it was announced one week to the party in possession, that, on the next Sunday, the constituted authorities would take the church-music into their own hands. Then arose a strife, the end of which had nearly been to send the gallery off, in a body, headed by the offended bass-viol, to the small red-brick little Bethel at the other end of the village. Fortunately the curate had too much good sense to drive matters to extremities, and so alienate the parish constable, and a large part of his flock, though he had not tact or energy enough to bring them round to his own views. So a compromise was come to; and the curate's choir were allowed to chant the Psalms and Canticles, which had always been read before, while the gallery remained triumphant masters of the regular Psalms.

My readers will now understand why Miss Winter's salutation to the musical constable was not so cordial as it was to the other villagers whom they had come across previously.

Indeed, Miss Winter, though she acknowledged the constable's salutation, did not seem inclined to encourage him to accompany them, and talk his mind out, although he was going the same way with them; and, instead of drawing him out, as was her wont in such cases, went on talking herself to her cousin.

The little man walked out in the road, evidently in trouble of mind. He did not like to drop behind or go ahead without some further remark from Miss Winter, and yet could not screw up his courage to the point of opening the conversation himself. So he ambled on alongside the footpath on which they were walking, showing his discomfort by a twist of his neck every few seconds, and perpetual shiftings of his bass-viol, and hunching up of one shoulder.

The conversation of the young ladies under these circumstances was of course forced; and Miss Mary, though infinitely delighted at the meeting, soon began to pity their involuntary companion. She was full of the sensitive instinct which the best sort of women have to such a marvellous extent, and which tells them at once and infallibly if any one in their company has even a creased rose-leaf next their moral skin.

Before they had walked a hundred yards she was interceding for the rebellious constable.

"Katie," she said softly in French, "do speak to him. The poor man is frightfully uncomfortable."

"It serves him right," answered Miss Winter in the same language; "you don't know how impertinent he was the other day to Mr. Walker. And he won't give way on the least point, and leads the rest of the old singers, and makes them as stubborn as himself."

"But look how he is winking and jerking his head at you. You really mustn't be so cruel to him, Katie. I shall have to begin talking to him if you don't."

Thus urged, Miss Winter opened the conversation by asking after his wife, and when she had ascertained "that his missus wur pretty middlin," made some other commonplace remark, and relapsed into silence. By the help of Mary, however, a sort of disjointed dialogue was kept up till they came to the gate which led up to the school, into which the children were trooping by twos and threes. Here the ladies turned in, and were going up the walk towards the school door, when the constable summoned up courage to speak on the matter which was troubling him, and, resting the bass-viol carefully on his right foot, calling out after them,

"Oh, please marm! Miss Winter!"

"Well," she said quietly, turning round, "what do you wish to say?"

"Why, please mann, I hopes as you don't think I be any ways unked 'bout this here quire singin', as they calls it I'm sartin you knows as there ain't amost nothing I wouldn't do to please ee."

"Well, you know how to do it very easily," she said when he paused. "I don't ask you even to give up your music and try to work with us, though I think you might have done that. I only ask you to use some psalms and tunes which are fit to be used in a church."

"To be sure us ool. 'Taint we as wants no new-fangled tunes; them as we sings be aal owld ones as ha' been used in our church ever since I can mind. But you only choose thaay as you likes out o' the book? and we be ready to kep to thaay."

"I think Mr. Walker made a selection for you some weeks ago," said Miss Winter; "did he not?"

"'Ees, but 'tis narra mossel o' use for we to try his 'goriums and sich like. I hopes you wun't be offended wi' me, miss, for I be telling nought but truth." He spoke louder as they got nearer to the school door, and, as they were opening it, shouted his last shot after them, "'Tis na good to try thaay tunes o' his'n, miss. When us praises God, us likes to praise un joyful."

"There, you hear that, Mary," said Miss Winter. "You'll soon begin to see why I look grave. There never was such a hard parish to manage. Nobody will do what they ought. I never can get them to do anything. Perhaps we may manage to teach the children better, that's my only comfort."

"But, Katie dear, what do the poor things sing? Psalms, I hope."

"Oh yes, but they choose all the odd ones on purpose, I believe.

Which class will you take?"

And so the young ladies settled to their teaching, and the children in her class all fell in love with Mary before church-time.

The bass-viol proceeded to the church and did the usual rehearsals, and gossiped with the sexton, to whom he confided the fact that the young missus was "terrible vexed." The bells soon began to ring, and Widow Winburn's heart was glad as she listened to the full peal, and thought to herself that it was her Harry who was making so much noise in the world, and speaking to all the neighborhood. Then the peal ceased as church-time drew near, and the single bell began, and the congregation came flocking in from all sides. The farmers, letting their wives and children enter, gathered round the church porch and compared notes in a ponderous manner on crops and markets. The labourers collected near the door by which the gallery was reached. All the men of the parish seemed to like standing about before church, until they had seen the clergyman safely inside. He came up with the school children and the young ladies, and in due course the bell stopped and the service began. There was a very good congregation still at Englebourn; the adult generation had been bred up in times when every decent person in the parish went to church, and the custom was still strong, notwithstanding the rector's bad example. He scarcely ever came to church himself in the mornings, though his wheelchair might be seen going up and down on the gravel before his house or on the lawn on warm days, and this was one of his daughter's greatest troubles.

The little choir of children sang admirably, led by the schoolmistress, and Miss Winter and the curate exchanged approving glances. They performed the liveliest chant in their collection, that the opposition might have no cause to complain of their want of joyfulness. And in turn Miss Winter was in hopes that, out of deference to her, the usual rule of selection in the gallery might have been modified. It was with no small annoyance, therefore, that, after the Litany was over, and the tuning finished, she heard the clerk give out that they would praise God by singing part of the ninety-first Psalm. Mary, who was on the tiptoe of expectation as to what was coming, saw the curate give a slight shrug with his shoulders and lift of his eyebrows as he left the reading-desk, and in another minute it became a painful effort for her to keep from laughing as she slyly watched her cousin's face; while the gallery sang with vigour worthy of any cause or occasion-

"On the old lion He shall go,

The adder fell and long;

On the young lion tread also,

With dragons stout and strong."

The trebles took up the last line, and repeated-

"With dragons stout and strong;"

and then the whole strength of the gallery chorused again-

"With dra-gons stout and strong;"

and the bass-viol seemed to her to prolong the notes and to gloat over them as he droned them out, looking triumphantly at the distant curate. Mary was thankful to kneel down to compose her face. The first trial was the severe one, and she got through the second psalm much better; and by the time Mr. Walker had plunged fairly into his sermon she was a model of propriety and sedateness again. But it was to be a Sunday of adventures. The sermon had scarcely begun when there was a stir down by the door at the west end, and people began to look round and whisper. Presently a man came softly up and said something to the clerk; the clerk jumped up and whispered to the curate, who paused for a moment with a puzzled look, and, instead of finishing his sentence, said in a loud voice, "Farmer Groves' house is on fire!"

The curate probably anticipated the effect of his words; in a minute he was the only person left in the church except the clerk and one or two very infirm old folk. He shut up and pocketed his sermon, and followed his flock.

It proved luckily to be only Farmer Groves' chimney and not his house which was on fire. The farmhouse was only two fields from the village, and the congregation rushed across there, Harry Winburn and two or three of the most active young men and boys leading. As they entered the yard, the flames were rushing out of the chimney, and any moment the thatch might take fire. Here was the real danger. A ladder had just been raised against the chimney, and, while a frightened farm-girl and a carter-boy held it at the bottom, a man was going up it carrying a bucket of water. It shook with his weight, and the top was slipping gradually along the face of the chimney, and in another moment would rest against nothing. Harry and his companions saw the danger at a glance, and shouted to the man to stand still till they could get to the ladder. They rushed towards him with the rush which men can only make under strong excitement. The foremost of them caught a spoke with one hand, but before he could steady it, the top slipped clear of the chimney, and, ladder, man, and bucket came heavily to the ground.

Then came a scene of bewildering confusion, as women and children trooped into the yard-"Who was it?" "Was he dead?" "The fire was catching the thatch." "The stables were on fire." "Who did it?"-all sorts of cries and all sorts of acts except the right ones. Fortunately two or three of the men, with heads on their shoulders, soon organized a line for handling buckets; the flue was stopped below, and Harry Winburn standing nearly at the top of the ladder, which was now safely planted, was deluging the thatch round the chimney from the buckets handed up to him. In a few minutes he was able to pour water down the chimney itself, and soon afterwards the whole affair was at an end. The farmer's dinner was spoilt, but otherwise no damage had been done, except to the clothes of the foremost men; and the only accident was that first fall from the ladder.

The man had been carried out of the yard while the fire was still burning; so that it was hardly known who it was.

Now, in answer to their inquiries, it proved to be old Simon, the rector's gardener and head man, who had seen the fire, and sent the news to the church, while he himself went to the spot, with such result as we have seen.

The surgeon had not yet seen him. Some declared he was dead; others, that he was sitting up at home, and quite well. Little by little the crowd dispersed to Sunday's dinners; when they met again before the afternoon's service, it was ascertained that Simon was certainly not dead, but all else was still nothing more than rumor. Public opinion was much divided, some holding that it would go hard with a man of his age and heft; but the common belief seemed to be that he was of that sort "as'd take a deal o' killin'," and that he would be none the worse for such a fall as that.

The two young ladies had been much shocked at the accident, and had accompanied the hurdle on which old Simon was carried to his cottage door; after afternoon service they went round by the cottage to inquire. The two girls knocked at the door, which was opened by his wife, who dropped a curtsey and smoothed down her Sunday apron when she found who were her visitors.

She seemed at first a little unwilling to let them in; but Miss Winter pressed so kindly to see her husband, and Mary made such sympathizing eyes at her, that the old woman gave in, and conducted them through the front room into that beyond, where the patient lay.

"I hope as you'll excuse it, miss, for I knows the place do smell terrible bad of baccer; only my old man he said as how-"

"Oh, never mind, we don't care at all about the smell. Poor Simon! I'm sure if it does him any good, or soothes the pain, I shall be glad to buy him some tobacco myself."

The old man was lying on the bed, with his coat and boots off, and a worsted nightcap of his wife's knitting pulled on to his head. She had tried hard to get him to go to bed at once, and take some physic, and his present costume and position was the compromise. His back was turned to them as they entered, and he was evidently in pain, for he drew his breath heavily and with difficulty, and gave a sort of groan at every respiration. He did not seem to notice their entrance; so his wife touched him on the shoulder, and said, "Simon, here's the young ladies come to see how you be."

Simon turned himself round, and winced and groaned as he pulled off his nightcap in token of respect.

"We didn't like to go home without coming to see how you were,

Simon. Has the doctor been?"

"Oh, yes, thank'ee, miss. He've a been and feel'd un all over, and listened at the chest on un," said his wife.

"And what did he say?"

"He zem'd to zay as there wur no bwones bruk-ugh, ugh," put in Simon, who spoke his native tongue with a buzz, imported from farther west, "but a couldn't zay wether or no there warn't som infarnal injury-"

"Etarnal, Simon, etarnal!" interrupted his wife; "how canst use such words afore the young ladies?"

"I tell'ee wife, as 'twur infarnal-ugh, ugh," retorted the gardener.

"Internal injury?" suggested Miss Winter. "I'm very sorry to hear it."

"Zummut inside o' me like, as wur got out o' place," explained Simon; "and I thenks a must be near about the mark, for I feels mortal bad here when I tries to move;" and he put his hand on his side. "Hows'm'ever, as there's no bwones bruk, I hopes to be about to-morrow mornin', please the Lord-ugh, ugh."

"You mustn't think of it, Simon," said Miss Winter. "You must be quite quiet for a week, at least, till you get rid of this pain."

"So I tells un, Miss Winter," put in the wife. "You hear what the young missus says, Simon?"

"And wut's to happen to Tiny?" said the contumacious Simon, scornfully. "Her'll cast her calf, and me not by. Her's calving maybe this minut. Tiny's time were up, miss, two days back, and her's never no gurt while arter her time."

"She will do very well, I dare say," said Miss Winter, "One of the men can look after her."

The notion of anyone else attending Tiny in her interesting situation seemed to excite Simon beyond bearing, for he raised himself on one elbow, and was about to make a demonstration with his other hand, when the pain seized him again, and he sank back groaning.

"There, you see, Simon, you can't move without pain. You must be quiet till you have seen the doctor again."

"There's the red spider out along the south wall-ugh, ugh," persisted Simon, without seeming to hear her; "and your new g'raniums a'most covered wi' blight. I wur a tacklin' one of 'em just afore you cum in."

Following the direction indicated by his nod, the girls became aware of a plant by his bedside, which he had been fumigating, for his pipe was leaning against the flower-pot in which it stood.

"He wouldn't lie still nohow, miss," explained his wife, "till I went and fetched un in a pipe and one o' thaay plants from the greenhouse."

"It was very thoughtful of you, Simon," said Miss Winter; "you know how much I prize these new plants; but we will manage them; and you mustn't think of these things now. You have had a wonderful escape to-day for a man of your age. I hope we shall find that there is nothing much the matter with you after a few days, but you might have been killed you know. You ought to be very thankful to God that you were not killed in that fall."

"So I be, miss, werry thankful to un-ugh, ugh;-and if it please the Lord to spare my life till to-morrow mornin',-ugh, ugh,-we'll smoke them cussed insects."

This last retort of the incorrigible Simon on her cousin's attempt, as the rector's daughter, to improve the occasion, was too much for Miss Mary, and she slipped out of the room, lest she should bring disgrace on herself by an explosion of laughter. She was joined by her cousin in another minute, and the two walked together toward the Rectory.

"I hope you were not faint, dear, with that close room, smelling of smoke?"

"Oh, dear, no; to tell you the truth, I was only afraid of laughing at your quaint old patient. What a rugged old dear he is. I hope he isn't much hurt."

"I hope not, indeed; for he is the most honest, faithful old servant in the world, but so obstinate. He never will go to church on Sunday mornings; and, when I speak to him about it, he says papa doesn't go, which is very wrong and impertinent of him."

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