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the furniture was scanty enough ; but everything in turn received its fair share of attention, and the little room, with its sunken tiled floor and yellow-washed walls, looked cheerful and homely. Then Harry turned his attention to the shed of his own contriving which stood beside the faggotstack, and from which expostulatory and plaintive grunts had been issuing ever since his first appearance at the door, telling of a faithful and useful friend who was sharp set on Sunday mornings, and desired his poor breakfast, and to be dismissed for the day to pick up the rest of his livelihood with his brethren porkers of the village on the green and in the lanes. Harry served out to the porker the poor mess which the wash of the cottage and the odds and ends of the little garden afforded; which that virtuous animal forthwith began to discuss with both fore-feet in the troughby way, I suppose, of adding to the flavour-while his master scratched him gently between the ears and on the back with a short stick till the repast was concluded. Then he opened the door of the stye, and the grateful animal rushed out into the lane, and away to the green with a joyful squeal and flirt of his hind quarters in the air ; and Harry, after picking a bunch of wallflowers, and pansies, and hyacinths, a line of which flowers skirted the narrow garden walk, and, putting them in a long-necked glass which he took from the mantelpiece, proceeded to his morning ablutions, ample materials for which remained at the bottom of the family bucket, which he had put down on a little bench by the side of the porch. These finished, he retired indoors to shave and dress himself.
wrists, and small silk neckerchief 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 this matter 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 rather 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 quarterday. The doctor spoke very kind about it, and said as how he heerd 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 they as'd do best by 'em ; only he said as the farmers went agin givin' more nor an
ENGLEBOURN VILLAGE. DAME WINBURN was not long after her son, and they sat down together to breakfast in their best Sunday clothesshe, in plain large white cap, which covered all but a line of grey hair, a black stuff gown reaching to neck and
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
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 neighbouring 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 come 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 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-theway 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,
“ How canst talk so, Harry?” said his mother reproachfully; “thou know'st thou wast set on it last fall, like a wapse 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 it, thou’lt not go aginst’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
was that which exercised the minds of more than last year's wind,” said Harry the inhabitants of Englebourn; and until abruptly. lately no one had taken a keener interest “But thy old mother does,” she said, in it than Harry Winburn. But that looking at him with eyes full of pride interest had now much abated, and so and love; and so Harry, who was a right Harry looked through the cottage-door, good son, began to inquire what it was instead of answering his mother.
which was specially weighing on his “Tis my belief as you med amost hev mother's mind, determined to do anyit for the axin',” Dame Winburn began thing in reason to replace her on the again, when she found that he would not little harmless social pinnacle from re-open the subject himself. “The young which she was wont to look down on all missus said as much to me herself last the other mothers and sons of the parish. night. Ah! to be sure, things 'd go He soon found out that her present better if she had the guidin on 'em.” grievance arose from his having neglected
“ I'm not going after it any more, his place as ringer of the heavy bell in mother. We can keep the bits o'sticks the village peal on the two preceding here together without it while you be Sundays; and, as this post was in some alive; and if anything was to happen to sort corresponding to stroke of the you, I don't think I should stay in these boat at Oxford, her anxiety was reasonparts. But it don't matter what becomes able enough. So Harry promised to go o me; I can earn a livelihood any- to ringing in good time that morning, where.”
and then set about little odds and ends Dame Winburn paused a moment, of jobs till it would be time to start. before answering, to subdue her vexa Dame Winburn went to her cooking tion, and then said, “How can 'ee let and other household duties, which were hankerin' arter a lass take the heart out pretty well got under when her son o thee so ? Hold up thy head, and act took his hat and started for the belfry. a bit measterful. The more thou makest She stood at the door with a half-peeled o thyself, the more like thou art to potato in one hand, shading her eyes
with the other, as she watched him "Did you hear ought of her, mother, striding along the raised footpath under last night ?" replied Harry, taking ad the elms, when the sound of light footvantage of this ungracious opening to steps and pleasant voices coming up speak of the subject which was upper from the other direction made her turn most in his mind.
round, and drop a curtsey as the rector's “I heered she wur going on well,” daughter and another young lady stopped said his mother.
at her door. “No likelihood of her comin' home?” “Good morning, Betty," said the
“Not as I could make out. Why, former; "here's a bright Sunday morning she hevn't been gone not four months. at last, isn't it?” Now, do'ee pluck up a bit, Harry; and “'Tis indeed, miss ; but where hev'ee be more like thyself.”
been to ?” “Why, mother, I've not missed a “Oh, we've only been for a little day's work since Christmas ; so there walk before school-time. This is my ain't much to find fault with.”
cousin, Betty. She hasn't been at “Nay, Harry, 'tisn't thy work. Thou Englebourn since she was quite a child ; wert always good at thy work, praise so I've been taking her to the Hawk's God. Thou’rt thy father's own son for Lynch to see our view.” that. But thou dostn't keep about like, “And you can't think how I have and take thy place wi’ the lave on 'em enjoyed it,” said her cousin ; “it is so since Christmas. Thou look’st hagged still and beautiful.” at times, and folk 'll see it, and talk “I've heer'd say as there ain't no such about thee afore long.”
a place for thretty mile round," said “Let 'em talk. I mind their talk no 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 mazin 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, dont'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 any one else were welcome to the best she had
So the young ladies took the flowers, and passed on towards the Sundayschool.
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 halfforgotten 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 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 servants' 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 bandylegged, 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 favourite 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 parishthe 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 bassviol, a fiddle, and a clarionet. On one side of them were two or three young women, who sang treble-shrill, earpiercing 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. Tradesman means in that part of the country what we mean by artizan, and these weré naturally allied more with the labourers, 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 worshiping.
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 churchgoing. 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