A Royal Invitation

Although I had, for the most part, so very stout an appetite, that none but mother saw any need of encouraging me to eat, I could only manage one true good meal in a day, at the time I speak of. Mother was in despair at this, and tempted me with the whole of the rack, and even talked of sending to Porlock for a druggist who came there twice in a week; and Annie spent all her time in cooking, and even Lizzie sang songs to me; for she could sing very sweetly. But my conscience told me that Betty Muxworthy had some reason upon her side.

‘Latt the young ozebird aloun, zay I. Makk zuch ado about un, wi’ hogs’-puddens, and hock-bits, and lambs’-mate, and whaten bradd indade, and brewers’ ale avore dinner-time, and her not to zit wi’ no winder aupen—draive me mad ‘e doo, the ov’ee, zuch a passel of voouls. Do ‘un good to starve a bit; and takk zome on’s wackedness out ov un.’

But mother did not see it so; and she even sent for Nicholas Snowe to bring his three daughters with him, and have ale and cake in the parlour, and advise about what the bees were doing, and when a swarm might be looked for. Being vexed about this and having to stop at home nearly half the evening, I lost good manners so much as to ask him (even in our own house!) what he meant by not mending the swing-hurdle where the Lynn stream flows from our land into his, and which he is bound to maintain. But he looked at me in a superior manner, and said, ‘Business, young man, in business time.’

I had other reason for being vexed with Farmer Nicholas just now, viz. that I had heard a rumour, after church one Sunday—when most of all we sorrow over the sins of one another—that Master Nicholas Snowe had been seen to gaze tenderly at my mother, during a passage of the sermon, wherein the parson spoke well and warmly about the duty of Christian love. Now, putting one thing with another, about the bees, and about some ducks, and a bullock with a broken knee-cap, I more than suspected that Farmer Nicholas was casting sheep’s eyes at my mother; not only to save all further trouble in the matter of the hurdle, but to override me altogether upon the difficult question of damming. And I knew quite well that John Fry’s wife never came to help at the washing without declaring that it was a sin for a well-looking woman like mother, with plenty to live on, and only three children, to keep all the farmers for miles around so unsettled in their minds about her. Mother used to answer ‘Oh fie, Mistress Fry! be good enough to mind your own business.’ But we always saw that she smoothed her apron, and did her hair up afterwards, and that Mistress Fry went home at night with a cold pig’s foot or a bowl of dripping.

Therefore, on that very night, as I could not well speak to mother about it, without seeming undutiful, after lighting the three young ladies—for so in sooth they called themselves—all the way home with our stable-lanthorn, I begged good leave of Farmer Nicholas (who had hung some way behind us) to say a word in private to him, before he entered his own house.

‘Wi’ all the plaisure in laife, my zon,’ he answered very graciously, thinking perhaps that I was prepared to speak concerning Sally.

‘Now, Farmer Nicholas Snowe,’ I said, scarce knowing how to begin it, ‘you must promise not to be vexed with me, for what I am going to say to you.’

‘Vaxed wi’ thee! Noo, noo, my lad. I ‘ave a knowed thee too long for that. And thy veyther were my best friend, afore thee. Never wronged his neighbours, never spak an unkind word, never had no maneness in him. Tuk a vancy to a nice young ‘ooman, and never kep her in doubt about it, though there wadn’t mooch to zettle on her. Spak his maind laike a man, he did, and right happy he were wi’ her. Ah, well a day! Ah, God knoweth best. I never shall zee his laike again. And he were the best judge of a dung- heap anywhere in this county.’

‘Well, Master Snowe,’ I answered him, ‘it is very handsome of you to say so. And now I am going to be like my father, I am going to speak my mind.’

‘Raight there, lad; raight enough, I reckon. Us has had enough of pralimbinary.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.