`'Twould do a martel man no harm to have what's under her bonnet,' said Billy Smallbury, who had just entered, bearing his one tooth before him. `She can spaik real language, and must have some sense somewhere. Do ye foller me?'
`I do; but no baily - I deserved that place,' wailed Henery, signifying wasted genius by gazing blankly at visions of a high destiny apparently visible to him on Billy Smallbury's smock-frock. `There, 'twas to be, I suppose. Your lot is your lot, and Scripture is nothing; for if you do good you don't get rewarded according to your works, but be cheated in some mean way out of your recompense.
`No, no; I don't agree with 'ee there,' said Mark Clark. `God's a perfect gentleman in that respect.'
`Good works good pay, so to speak it,' attested Joseph Poorgrass.
A short pause ensued, and as a sort of entr'acte Henery turned and blew out the lanterns, which the increase of daylight rendered no longer necessary even in the malthouse, with its one pane of glass.
`I wonder what a farmer-woman can want with a harpsichord, dulcimer, pianner, or whatever 'tis they d'call it?' said the maltster. `Liddy saith she've a new one.'
`Got a pianner?'
`Ay. Seems her old uncle's things were not good enough for her. She've bought all but everything new. There's heavy chairs for the stout, weak and wiry ones for the slender; great watches, getting on to the size of clocks, to stand upon the chimbley-piece.'
`Pictures, for the most part wonderful frames.'
`And long horse-hair settles for the drunk, with horse-hair pillows at each end,' said Mr Clark. `Likewise looking-glasses for the pretty, and lying books for the wicked.'
A firm loud tread was now heard stamping outside; the door was opened about six inches, and somebody on the other side exclaimed--
`Neighbours, have ye got room for a few new-born lambs?'
`Ay, sure, shepherd,' said the conclave.
The door was flung back till it kicked the wall and trembled from top to bottom with the blow. Mr Oak appeared in the entry with a steaming face, haybands wound about his ankles to keep out the snow, a leather strap round his waist outside the smock-frock, and looking altogether an epitome of the world's health and vigour. Four lambs hung in various embarrassing attitudes over his shoulders, and the dog George, whom Gabriel had contrived to fetch from Norcombe, stalked solemnly behind.
`Well, Shepherd Oak, and how's lambing this year, if I mid say it?' inquired Joseph Poorgrass.
`Terrible trying,' mid Oak. `I've been wet through twice a-day, either in snow or rain, this last fortnight. Cainy and I haven't tined our eyes tonight.'
`A good few twins, too, I hear?'
`Too many by half. Yes; 'tis a very queer lambing this year. `We shan't have done by Lady Day.'
`And last year 'twer all over by Sexajessamine Sunday,' Joseph remarked.
`Bring on the rest, Cain,' said Gabriel, `and then run back to the ewes. I'll follow you soon.'
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