The "Veast"

“And the King commandeth and forbiddeth, that from henceforth neither fairs nor markets be kept in Churchyards, for the honour of the Church.”

—Statutes: 13 Edw. I. Stat. II. cap. vi.

Church Door

As that venerable and learned poet (whose voluminous works we all think it the correct thing to admire and talk about, but don’t read often) most truly says, “The child is father to the man;” à fortiori, therefore, he must be father to the boy. So as we are going at any rate to see Tom Brown through his boyhood, supposing we never get any further (which, if you show a proper sense of the value of this history, there is no knowing but what we may), let us have a look at the life and environments of the child in the quiet country village to which we were introduced in the last chapter.

Tom, as has been already said, was a robust and combative urchin, and at the age of four began to struggle against the yoke and authority of his nurse. That functionary was a good-hearted, tearful, scatter- brained girl, lately taken by Tom’s mother, Madam Brown, as she was called, from the village school to be trained as nurserymaid. Madam Brown was a rare trainer of servants, and spent herself freely in the profession; for profession it was, and gave her more trouble by half than many people take to earn a good income. Her servants were known and sought after for miles round. Almost all the girls who attained a certain place in the village school were taken by her, one or two at a time, as housemaids, laundrymaids, nurserymaids, or kitchen-maids, and after a year or two’s drilling were started in life amongst the neighbouring families, with good principles and wardrobes. One of the results of this system was the perpetual despair of Mrs. Brown’s cook and own maid, who no sooner had a notable girl made to their hands than Missus was sure to find a good place for her and send her off, taking in fresh importations from the school. Another was, that the house was always full of young girls, with clean shining faces; who broke plates and scorched linen, but made an atmosphere of cheerful homely life about the place, good for every one who came within its influence. Mrs. Brown loved young people, and in fact human creatures in general, above plates and linen. They were more like a lot of elder children than servants, and felt to her more as a mother or aunt than as a mistress.

Tom’s nurse was one who took in her instruction very slowly,—she seemed to have two left hands and no head; and so Mrs. Brown kept her on longer than usual, that she might expend her awkwardness and forgetfulness upon those who would not judge and punish her too strictly for them.

Charity Lamb was her name. It had been the immemorial habit of the village to christen children either by Bible names, or by those of the cardinal and other virtues; so that one was for ever hearing in the village street, or on the green, shrill sounds of “Prudence! Prudence! thee cum’ out o’ the gutter;” or, “Mercy! drat the girl, what bist thee a doin’ wi’ little Faith?” and there were Ruths, Rachels, Keziahs, in every corner. The same with the boys; they were Benjamins, Jacobs, Noahs, Enochs. I suppose the custom has come down from Puritan times—there it is, at any rate, very strong still in the Vale.

Well, from early morning till dewy eve, when she had it out of him in the cold tub before putting him to bed, Charity and Tom were pitted against one another. Physical power was as yet on the side of Charity, but she hadn’t a chance with him wherever head-work was wanted. This war of independence began every morning before breakfast, when Charity escorted her charge to a neighbouring farm-house, which supplied the Browns, and where, by his mother’s wish, Master Tom went to drink whey, before breakfast. Tom had no sort of objection to whey, but he had a decided liking for curds, which were forbidden as unwholesome, and there was seldom a morning that he did not manage to secure a handful of hard curds, in defiance of Charity and of the farmer’s wife. The latter good soul was a gaunt, angular woman, who, with an old black bonnet on the top of her head, the strings dangling about her shoulders, and her gown tucked through her pocket-holes, went clattering about the dairy, cheese-room, and yard, in high pattens. Charity was some sort of niece of the old lady’s, and was consequently free of the farm- house and garden, into which she could not resist going for the purposes of gossip and flirtation with

  By PanEris using Melati.

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