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Lavengro - The Scholar, The Gypsy, The Priest
by George Borrow
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'One night, after I had been reading to my wife a portion of Ellis Wyn, my wife said, "This is a wonderful book, and containing much true and pleasant doctrine; but how is it that you, who are so fond of good books, and good things in general, never read the Bible? You read me the book of Master Ellis Wyn, you read me sweet songs of your own composition, you edify me with your gift of prayer, but yet you never read the Bible." And when I heard her mention the Bible I shook, for I thought of my own condemnation. However, I dearly loved my wife, and as she pressed me, I commenced on that very night reading the Bible. All went on smoothly for a long time; for months and months I did not find the fatal passage, so that I almost thought that I had imagined it. My affairs prospered much the while, so that I was almost happy,—taking pleasure in everything around me,—in my wife, in my farm, my books and compositions, and the Welsh language; till one night, as I was reading the Bible, feeling particularly comfortable, a thought having just come into my head that I would print some of my compositions, and purchase a particular field of a neighbour—O God—God! I came to the fatal passage.

'Friend, friend, what shall I say? I rushed out. My wife followed me, asking me what was the matter. I could only answer with groans—for three days and three nights I did little else than groan. Oh the kindness and solicitude of my wife! "What is the matter husband, dear husband?" she was continually saying. I became at last more calm. My wife still persisted in asking me the cause of my late paroxysm. It is hard to keep a secret from a wife, especially such a wife as mine, so I told my wife the tale, as we sat one night—it was a mid-winter night—over the dying brands of our hearth, after the family had retired to rest, her hand locked in mine, even as it is now.

'I thought she would have shrunk from me with horror; but she did not; her hand, it is true, trembled once or twice; but that was all. At last she gave mine a gentle pressure; and, looking up in my face, she said—what do you think my wife said, young man?'

'It is impossible for me to guess,' said I.

"Let us go to rest, my love; your fears are all groundless."'



CHAPTER LXXVII

Getting late—Seven years old—Chastening—Go forth—London Bridge—Same eyes—Common occurrence—Very sleepy.

'And so I still say,' said Winifred, sobbing. 'Let us retire to rest, dear husband; your fears are groundless. I had hoped long since that your affliction would have passed away, and I still hope that it eventually will; so take heart, Peter, and let us retire to rest, for it is getting late.'

'Rest!' said Peter; 'there is no rest for the wicked!'

'We are all wicked,' said Winifred; 'but you are afraid of a shadow. How often have I told you that the sin of your heart is not the sin against the Holy Ghost: the sin of your heart is its natural pride, of which you are scarcely aware, to keep down which God in His mercy permitted you to be terrified with the idea of having committed a sin which you never committed.'

'Then you will still maintain,' said Peter, 'that I never committed the sin against the Holy Spirit?'

'I will,' said Winifred; 'you never committed it. How should a child seven years old commit a sin like that?'

'Have I not read my own condemnation?' said Peter. 'Did not the first words which I read in the Holy Scripture condemn me? "He who committeth the sin against the Holy Ghost shall never enter into the kingdom of God."'

'You never committed it,' said Winifred.

'But the words! the words! the words!' said Peter.

'The words are true words,' said Winifred, sobbing; 'but they were not meant for you, but for those who have broken their profession, who, having embraced the cross, have receded from their Master.'

'And what sayst thou to the effect which the words produced upon me?' said Peter. 'Did they not cause me to run wild through Wales for years, like Merddin Wyllt of yore; thinkest thou that I opened the book at that particular passage by chance?'

'No,' said Winifred, 'not by chance; it was the hand of God directed you, doubtless for some wise purpose. You had become satisfied with yourself. The Lord wished to rouse thee from thy state of carnal security, and therefore directed your eyes to that fearful passage.'

'Does the Lord then carry out His designs by means of guile?' said Peter with a groan. 'Is not the Lord true? Would the Lord impress upon me that I had committed a sin of which I am guiltless? Hush, Winifred! hush! thou knowest that I have committed the sin.'

'Thou hast not committed it,' said Winifred, sobbing yet more violently. 'Were they my last words, I would persist that thou hast not committed it, though, perhaps, thou wouldst, but for this chastening; it was not to convince thee that thou hast committed the sin, but rather to prevent thee from committing it, that the Lord brought that passage before thy eyes. He is not to blame, if thou art wilfully blind to the truth and wisdom of His ways.'

'I see thou wouldst comfort me,' said Peter, 'as thou hast often before attempted to do. I would fain ask the young man his opinion.'

'I have not yet heard the whole of your history,' said I.

'My story is nearly told,' said Peter; 'a few words will complete it. My wife endeavoured to console and reassure me, using the arguments which you have just heard her use, and many others, but in vain. Peace nor comfort came to my breast. I was rapidly falling into the depths of despair; when one day Winifred said to me, "I see thou wilt be lost, if we remain here. One resource only remains. Thou must go forth, my husband, into the wide world, and to comfort thee I will go with thee." "And what can I do in the wide world?" said I, despondingly. "Much," replied Winifred, "if you will but exert yourself; much good canst thou do with the blessing of God." Many things of the same kind she said to me; and at last I arose from the earth to which God had smitten me, and disposed of my property in the best way I could, and went into the world. We did all the good we were able, visiting the sick, ministering to the sick, and praying with the sick. At last I became celebrated as the possessor of a great gift of prayer. And people urged me to preach, and Winifred urged me too, and at last I consented, and I preached. I—I—outcast Peter, became the preacher Peter Williams. I, the lost one, attempted to show others the right road. And in this way I have gone on for thirteen years, preaching and teaching, visiting the sick, and ministering to them, with Winifred by my side heartening me on. Occasionally I am visited with fits of indescribable agony, generally on the night before the Sabbath; for I then ask myself, how dare I, the outcast, attempt to preach the word of God? Young man, my tale is told; you seem in thought!'

'I am thinking of London Bridge,' said I.

'Of London Bridge!' said Peter and his wife.

'Yes,' said I, 'of London Bridge. I am indebted for much wisdom to London Bridge; it was there that I completed my studies. But to the point. I was once reading on London Bridge a book which an ancient gentlewoman, who kept the bridge, was in the habit of lending me; and there I found written, "Each one carries in his breast the recollection of some sin which presses heavy upon him. Oh, if men could but look into each other's hearts, what blackness would they find there!"'

'That's true,' said Peter. 'What is the name of the book?'

'The Life of Blessed Mary Flanders.'

'Some popish saint, I suppose,' said Peter.

'As much of a saint, I daresay,' said I, 'as most popish ones; but you interrupted me. One part of your narrative brought the passage which I have quoted into my mind. You said that after you had committed this same sin of yours you were in the habit, at school, of looking upon your schoolfellows with a kind of gloomy superiority, considering yourself a lone monstrous being who had committed a sin far above the daring of any of them. Are you sure that many others of your schoolfellows were not looking upon you and the others with much the same eyes with which you were looking upon them?'

'How!' said Peter, 'dost thou think that they had divined my secret?'

'Not they,' said I, 'they were, I daresay, thinking too much of themselves and of their own concerns to have divined any secrets of yours. All I mean to say is, they had probably secrets of their own, and who knows that the secret sin of more than one of them was not the very sin which caused you so much misery?'

'Dost thou then imagine,' said Peter, 'the sin against the Holy Ghost to be so common an occurrence?'

'As you have described it,' said I, 'of very common occurrence, especially amongst children, who are, indeed, the only beings likely to commit it.'

'Truly,' said Winifred, 'the young man talks wisely.'

Peter was silent for some moments, and appeared to be reflecting; at last, suddenly raising his head, he looked me full in the face, and, grasping my hand with vehemence, he said, 'Tell me, young man, only one thing, hast thou, too, committed the sin against the Holy Ghost?'

'I am neither Papist nor Methodist,' said I, 'but of the Church, and, being so, confess myself to no one, but keep my own counsel; I will tell thee, however, had I committed, at the same age, twenty such sins as that which you committed, I should feel no uneasiness at these years—but I am sleepy, and must go to rest.'

'God bless thee, young man,' said Winifred.



CHAPTER LXXVIII

Low and calm—Much better—Blessed effect—No answer—Such a sermon.

Before I sank to rest I heard Winifred and her husband conversing in the place where I had left them; both their voices were low and calm. I soon fell asleep, and slumbered for some time. On my awakening I again heard them conversing, but they were now in their cart; still the voices of both were calm. I heard no passionate bursts of wild despair on the part of the man. Methought I occasionally heard the word Pechod proceeding from the lips of each, but with no particular emphasis. I supposed they were talking of the innate sin of both their hearts.

'I wish that man were happy,' said I to myself, 'were it only for his wife's sake, and yet he deserves to be happy for his own.'

The next day Peter was very cheerful, more cheerful than I had ever seen him. At breakfast his conversation was animated, and he smiled repeatedly. I looked at him with the greatest interest, and the eyes of his wife were almost constantly fixed upon him. A shade of gloom would occasionally come over his countenance, but it almost instantly disappeared; perhaps it proceeded more from habit than anything else. After breakfast he took his Welsh Bible and sat down beneath a tree. His eyes were soon fixed intently on the volume; now and then he would call his wife, show her some passage, and appeared to consult with her. The day passed quickly and comfortably.

'Your husband seems much better,' said I, at evening fall, to Winifred, as we chanced to be alone.

'He does,' said Winifred; 'and that on the day of the week when he was wont to appear most melancholy, for to-morrow is the Sabbath. He now no longer looks forward to the Sabbath with dread, but appears to reckon on it. What a happy change! and to think that this change should have been produced by a few words, seemingly careless ones, proceeding from the mouth of one who is almost a stranger to him. Truly, it is wonderful.'

'To whom do you allude,' said I; 'and to what words?'

'To yourself, and to the words which came from your lips last night, after you had heard my poor husband's history. Those strange words, drawn out with so much seeming indifference, have produced in my husband the blessed effect which you have observed. They have altered the current of his ideas. He no longer thinks himself the only being in the world doomed to destruction,—the only being capable of committing the never-to-be-forgiven sin. Your supposition that that which harrowed his soul is of frequent occurrence amongst children has tranquillised him; the mist which hung over his mind has cleared away, and he begins to see the groundlessness of his apprehensions. The Lord has permitted him to be chastened for a season, but his lamp will only burn the brighter for what he has undergone.'

Sunday came, fine and glorious as the last. Again my friends and myself breakfasted together—again the good family of the house on the hill above, headed by the respectable master, descended to the meadow. Peter and his wife were ready to receive them. Again Peter placed himself at the side of the honest farmer, and Winifred by the side of her friend. 'Wilt thou not come?' said Peter, looking towards me with a face in which there was much emotion. 'Wilt thou not come?' said Winifred, with a face beaming with kindness. But I made no answer, and presently the party moved away, in the same manner in which it had moved on the preceding Sabbath, and I was again left alone.

The hours of the Sabbath passed slowly away. I sat gazing at the sky, the trees, and the water. At last I strolled up to the house and sat down in the porch. It was empty; there was no modest maiden there, as on the preceding Sabbath. The damsel of the book had accompanied the rest. I had seen her in the procession, and the house appeared quite deserted. The owners had probably left it to my custody, so I sat down in the porch, quite alone. The hours of the Sabbath passed heavily away.

At last evening came, and with it the party of the morning. I was now at my place beneath the oak. I went forward to meet them. Peter and his wife received me with a calm and quiet greeting, and passed forward. The rest of the party had broken into groups. There was a kind of excitement amongst them, and much eager whispering. I went to one of the groups; the young girl of whom I have spoken more than once was speaking: 'Such a sermon,' said she, 'it has never been our lot to hear; Peter never before spoke as he has done this day—he was always a powerful preacher, but oh, the unction of the discourse of this morning, and yet more of that of the afternoon, which was the continuation of it!' 'What was the subject?' said I, interrupting her. 'Ah! you should have been there, young man, to have heard it; it would have made a lasting impression upon you. I was bathed in tears all the time; those who heard it will never forget the preaching of the good Peter Williams on the Power, Providence, and Goodness of God.'



CHAPTER LXXIX

Deep interest—Goodly country—Two mansions—Welshman's Candle—Beautiful universe—Godly discourse—Fine church—Points of doctrine—Strange adventures—Paltry cause—Roman pontiff—Evil spirit.

On the morrow I said to my friends, 'I am about to depart; farewell!' 'Depart!' said Peter and his wife, simultaneously; 'whither wouldst thou go?' 'I can't stay here all my days,' I replied. 'Of course not,' said Peter; 'but we had no idea of losing thee so soon: we had almost hoped that thou wouldst join us, become one of us. We are under infinite obligations to thee.' 'You mean I am under infinite obligations to you,' said I. 'Did you not save my life?' 'Perhaps so, under God,' said Peter; 'and what hast thou not done for me? Art thou aware that, under God, thou hast preserved my soul from despair? But, independent of that, we like thy company, and feel a deep interest in thee, and would fain teach thee the way that is right. Hearken, to-morrow we go into Wales; go with us.' 'I have no wish to go into Wales,' said I. 'Why not?' said Peter, with animation. 'Wales is a goodly country; as the Scripture says—a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, that spring out of valleys and hills, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig lead.'

'I daresay it is a very fine country,' said I, 'but I have no wish to go there just now; my destiny seems to point in another direction, to say nothing of my trade.' 'Thou dost right to say nothing of thy trade,' said Peter, smiling, 'for thou seemest to care nothing about it; which has led Winifred and myself to suspect that thou art not altogether what thou seemest; but, setting that aside, we should be most happy if thou wouldst go with us into Wales.' 'I cannot promise to go with you into Wales,' said I; 'but, as you depart to-morrow, I will stay with you through the day, and on the morrow accompany you part of the way.' 'Do,' said Peter: 'I have many people to see to-day, and so has Winifred; but we will both endeavour to have some serious discourse with thee, which, perhaps, will turn to thy profit in the end.'

In the course of the day the good Peter came to me, as I was seated beneath the oak, and, placing himself by me, commenced addressing me in the following manner:—

'I have no doubt, my young friend, that you are willing to admit that the most important thing which a human being possesses is his soul; it is of infinitely more importance than the body, which is a frail substance, and cannot last for many years; but not so the soul, which, by its nature, is imperishable. To one of two mansions the soul is destined to depart, after its separation from the body, to heaven or hell; to the halls of eternal bliss, where God and His holy angels dwell, or to the place of endless misery, inhabited by Satan and his grisly companions. My friend, if the joys of heaven are great, unutterably great, so are the torments of hell unutterably so. I wish not to speak of them, I wish not to terrify your imagination with the torments of hell: indeed, I like not to think of them; but it is necessary to speak of them sometimes, and to think of them sometimes, lest you should sink into a state of carnal security. Authors, friend, and learned men, are not altogether agreed as to the particulars of hell. They all agree, however, in considering it a place of exceeding horror. Master Ellis Wyn, who by the bye was a churchman, calls it, amongst other things, a place of strong sighs, and of flaming sparks. Master Rees Pritchard, who was not only a churchman, but Vicar of Llandovery, and flourished about two hundred years ago—I wish many like him flourished now—speaking of hell, in his collection of sweet hymns called the "Welshman's Candle," observes,

'"The pool is continually blazing; it is very deep, without any known bottom, and the walls are so high, that there is neither hope nor possibility of escaping over them."

'But, as I told you just now, I have no great pleasure in talking of hell. No, friend, no; I would sooner talk of the other place, and of the goodness and hospitality of God amongst His saints above.'

And then the excellent man began to dilate upon the joys of heaven, and the goodness and hospitality of God in the mansions above; explaining to me, in the clearest way, how I might get there.

And when he had finished what he had to say, he left me, whereupon Winifred drew nigh, and sitting down by me began to address me. 'I do not think,' said she, 'from what I have observed of thee, that thou wouldst wish to be ungrateful, and yet, is not thy whole life a series of ingratitude, and to whom?—to thy Maker. Has He not endowed thee with a goodly and healthy form; and senses which enable thee to enjoy the delights of His beautiful universe—the work of His hands? Canst thou not enjoy, even to rapture, the brightness of the sun, the perfume of the meads, and the song of the dear birds which inhabit among the trees? Yes, thou canst; for I have seen thee, and observed thee doing so. Yet, during the whole time that I have known thee, I have not heard proceed from thy lips one single word of praise or thanksgiving to . . .'

And in this manner the admirable woman proceeded for a considerable time, and to all her discourse I listened with attention; and when she had concluded, I took her hand and said, 'I thank you,' and that was all.

On the next day everything was ready for our departure. The good family of the house came to bid us farewell. There were shaking of hands, and kisses, as on the night of our arrival.

And as I stood somewhat apart, the young girl of whom I have spoken so often came up to me, and holding out her hand, said, 'Farewell, young man, wherever thou goest.' Then, after looking around her, she said, 'It was all true you told me. Yesterday I received a letter from him thou wottest of; he is coming soon. God bless you, young man; who would have thought thou knewest so much!'

So, after we had taken our farewell of the good family, we departed, proceeding in the direction of Wales. Peter was very cheerful, and enlivened the way with godly discourse and spiritual hymns, some of which were in the Welsh language. At length I said, 'It is a pity that you did not continue in the Church; you have a turn for Psalmody, and I have heard of a man becoming a bishop by means of a less qualification.'

'Very probably,' said Peter; 'more the pity. But I have told you the reason of my forsaking it. Frequently, when I went to the church door, I found it barred, and the priest absent; what was I to do? My heart was bursting for want of some religious help and comfort; what could I do? as good Master Rees Pritchard observes in his "Candle for Welshmen":—

'"It is a doleful thing to see little children burning on the hot coals for want of help; but yet more doleful to see a flock of souls falling into the burning lake for want of a priest."'

'The Church of England is a fine church,' said I; 'I would not advise any one to speak ill of the Church of England before me.'

'I have nothing to say against the church,' said Peter; 'all I wish is that it would fling itself a little more open, and that its priests would a little more bestir themselves; in a word, that it would shoulder the cross and become a missionary church.'

'It is too proud for that,' said Winifred.

'You are much more of a Methodist,' said I, 'than your husband. But tell me,' said I, addressing myself to Peter, 'do you not differ from the church in some points of doctrine? I, of course, as a true member of the church, am quite ignorant of the peculiar opinions of wandering sectaries.'

'Oh the pride of that church!' said Winifred, half to herself; 'wandering sectaries!'

'We differ in no points of doctrine,' said Peter; 'we believe all the church believes, though we are not so fond of vain and superfluous ceremonies, snow-white neckcloths and surplices, as the church is. We likewise think that there is no harm in a sermon by the road-side, or in holding free discourse with a beggar beneath a hedge, or a tinker,' he added, smiling; 'it was those superfluous ceremonies, those surplices and white neckcloths, and, above all, the necessity of strictly regulating his words and conversation, which drove John Wesley out of the church, and sent him wandering up and down as you see me, poor Welsh Peter, do.'

Nothing farther passed for some time; we were now drawing near the hills: at last I said, 'You must have met with a great many strange adventures since you took up this course of life?'

'Many,' said Peter, 'it has been my lot to meet with; but none more strange than one which occurred to me only a few weeks ago. You were asking me, not long since, whether I believed in devils? Ay, truly, young man; and I believe that the abyss and the yet deeper unknown do not contain them all; some walk about upon the green earth. So it happened, some weeks ago, that I was exercising my ministry about forty miles from here. I was alone, Winifred being slightly indisposed, staying for a few days at the house of an acquaintance; I had finished afternoon's worship—the people had dispersed, and I was sitting solitary by my cart under some green trees in a quiet retired place; suddenly a voice said to me, "Good-evening, Pastor"; I looked up, and before me stood a man, at least the appearance of a man, dressed in a black suit of rather a singular fashion. He was about my own age, or somewhat older. As I looked upon him, it appeared to me that I had seen him twice before whilst preaching. I replied to his salutation, and perceiving that he looked somewhat fatigued, I took out a stool from the cart, and asked him to sit down. We began to discourse; I at first supposed that he might be one of ourselves, some wandering minister; but I was soon undeceived. Neither his language nor his ideas were those of any one of our body. He spoke on all kinds of matters with much fluency; till at last he mentioned my preaching, complimenting me on my powers. I replied, as well I might, that I could claim no merit of my own, and that if I spoke with any effect, it was only by the grace of God. As I uttered these last words, a horrible kind of sneer came over his countenance, which made me shudder, for there was something diabolical in it. I said little more, but listened attentively to his discourse. At last he said that I was engaged in a paltry cause, quite unworthy of one of my powers. "How can that be," said I, "even if I possessed all the powers in the world, seeing that I am engaged in the cause of our Lord Jesus?"

'The same kind of sneer again came on his countenance, but he almost instantly observed, that if I chose to forsake this same miserable cause, from which nothing but contempt and privation was to be expected, he would enlist me into another, from which I might expect both profit and renown. An idea now came into my head, and I told him firmly that if he wished me to forsake my present profession and become a member of the Church of England, I must absolutely decline; that I had no ill-will against that church, but I thought I could do most good in my present position, which I would not forsake to be Archbishop of Canterbury. Thereupon he burst into a strange laughter, and went away, repeating to himself, "Church of England! Archbishop of Canterbury!" A few days after, when I was once more in a solitary place, he again appeared before me, and asked me whether I had thought over his words, and whether I was willing to enlist under the banners of his master, adding that he was eager to secure me, as he conceived that I might be highly useful to the cause. I then asked him who his master was; he hesitated for a moment, and then answered, "The Roman Pontiff." "If it be he," said I, "I can have nothing to do with him; I will serve no one who is an enemy of Christ." Thereupon he drew near to me, and told me not to talk so much like a simpleton; that as for Christ, it was probable that no such person ever existed, but that if He ever did, He was the greatest impostor the world ever saw. How long he continued in this way I know not, for I now considered that an evil spirit was before me, and shrank within myself, shivering in every limb; when I recovered myself and looked about me, he was gone. Two days after, he again stood before me, in the same place, and about the same hour, renewing his propositions, and speaking more horribly than before. I made him no answer; whereupon he continued; but suddenly hearing a noise behind him, he looked round and beheld Winifred, who had returned to me on the morning of that day. "Who are you?" said he, fiercely. "This man's wife," said she, calmly fixing her eyes upon him. "Begone from him, unhappy one, thou temptest him in vain." He made no answer, but stood as if transfixed: at length, recovering himself, he departed, muttering "Wife! wife! If the fool has a wife, he will never do for us."'



CHAPTER LXXX

The border—Thank you both—Pipe and fiddle—Taliesin.

We were now drawing very near the hills, and Peter said, 'If you are to go into Wales, you must presently decide, for we are close upon the border.'

'Which is the border?' said I.

'Yon small brook,' said Peter, 'into which the man on horseback who is coming towards us is now entering.'

'I see it,' said I, 'and the man; he stops in the middle of it, as if to water his steed.'

We proceeded till we had nearly reached the brook. 'Well,' said Peter, 'will you go into Wales?'

'What should I do in Wales?' I demanded.

'Do!' said Peter, smiling, 'learn Welsh.'

I stopped my little pony. 'Then I need not go into Wales; I already know Welsh.'

'Know Welsh!' said Peter, staring at me.

'Know Welsh!' said Winifred, stopping her cart.

'How and when did you learn it?' said Peter.

'From books, in my boyhood.'

'Read Welsh!' said Peter; 'is it possible?'

'Read Welsh!' said Winifred; 'is it possible?'

'Well, I hope you will come with us,' said Peter.

'Come with us, young man,' said Winifred; 'let me, on the other side of the brook, welcome you into Wales.'

'Thank you both,' said I, 'but I will not come.'

'Wherefore?' exclaimed both, simultaneously.

'Because it is neither fit nor proper that I cross into Wales at this time, and in this manner. When I go into Wales, I should wish to go in a new suit of superfine black, with hat and beaver, mounted on a powerful steed, black and glossy, like that which bore Greduv to the fight of Catraeth. I should wish, moreover, to see the Welshmen assembled on the border ready to welcome me with pipe and fiddle, and much whooping and shouting, and to attend me to Wrexham, or even as far as Machynllaith, where I should wish to be invited to a dinner at which all the bards should be present, and to be seated at the right hand of the president, who, when the cloth was removed, should arise, and, amidst cries of silence, exclaim—"Brethren and Welshmen, allow me to propose the health of my most respectable friend the translator of the odes of the great Ab Gwilym, the pride and glory of Wales."'

'How!' said Peter, 'hast thou translated the works of the mighty Dafydd?'

'With notes critical, historical, and explanatory.'

'Come with us, friend,' said Peter. 'I cannot promise such a dinner as thou wishest, but neither pipe nor fiddle shall be wanting.'

'Come with us, young man,' said Winifred, 'even as thou art, and the daughters of Wales shall bid thee welcome.'

'I will not go with you,' said I. 'Dost thou see that man in the ford?'

'Who is staring at us so, and whose horse has not yet done drinking? Of course I see him.'

'I shall turn back with him. God bless you.'

'Go back with him not,' said Peter; 'he is one of those whom I like not, one of the clibberty-clabber, as Master Ellis Wyn observes—turn not with that man.'

'Go not back with him,' said Winifred. 'If thou goest with that man, thou wilt soon forget all our profitable counsels; come with us.'

'I cannot; I have much to say to him. Kosko Divvus, Mr. Petulengro.'

'Kosko Divvus, Pal,' said Mr. Petulengro, riding through the water; 'are you turning back?'

I turned back with Mr. Petulengro.

Peter came running after me: 'One moment, young man,—who and what are you?'

'I must answer in the words of Taliesin,' said I: 'none can say with positiveness whether I be fish or flesh, least of all myself. God bless you both!'

'Take this,' said Peter, and he thrust his Welsh Bible into my hand.



CHAPTER LXXXI

At a funeral—Two days ago—Very coolly—Roman woman—Well and hearty—Somewhat dreary—Plum pudding—Roman fashion—Quite different—The dark lane—Beyond the time—Fine fellow—Such a struggle—Like a wild cat—Fair Play—Pleasant enough spot—No gloves.

So I turned back with Mr. Petulengro. We travelled for some time in silence; at last we fell into discourse. 'You have been in Wales, Mr. Petulengro?'

'Ay, truly, brother.'

'What have you been doing there?'

'Assisting at a funeral.'

'At whose funeral?'

'Mrs. Herne's, brother.'

'Is she dead, then?'

'As a nail, brother.'

'How did she die?'

'By hanging, brother.'

'I am lost in astonishment,' said I; whereupon Mr. Petulengro, lifting his sinister leg over the neck of his steed, and adjusting himself sideways in the saddle, replied, with great deliberation, 'Two days ago I happened to be at a fair not very far from here; I was all alone by myself, for our party were upwards of forty miles off, when who should come up but a chap that I knew, a relation, or rather a connection, of mine—one of those Hernes. "Aren't you going to the funeral?" said he; and then, brother, there passed between him and me, in the way of questioning and answering, much the same as has just now passed between me and you; but when he mentioned hanging, I thought I could do no less than ask who hanged her, which you forgot to do. "Who hanged her?" said I; and then the man told me that she had done it herself; been her own hinjiri; and then I thought to myself what a sin and shame it would be if I did not go to the funeral, seeing that she was my own mother-in-law. I would have brought my wife, and, indeed, the whole of our party, but there was no time for that; they were too far off, and the dead was to be buried early the next morning; so I went with the man, and he led me into Wales, where his party had lately retired, and when there, through many wild and desolate places to their encampment, and there I found the Hernes, and the dead body—the last laid out on a mattress, in a tent, dressed Romaneskoenaes in a red cloak, and big bonnet of black beaver. I must say for the Hernes that they took the matter very coolly; some were eating, others drinking, and some were talking about their small affairs; there was one, however, who did not take the matter so coolly, but took on enough for the whole family, sitting beside the dead woman, tearing her hair, and refusing to take either meat or drink; it was the child Leonora. I arrived at night-fall, and the burying was not to take place till the morning, which I was rather sorry for, as I am not very fond of them Hernes, who are not very fond of anybody. They never asked me to eat or drink, notwithstanding I had married into the family; one of them, however, came up and offered to fight me for five shillings; had it not been for them I should have come back as empty as I went—he didn't stand up five minutes. Brother, I passed the night as well as I could, beneath a tree, for the tents were full, and not over clean; I slept little, and had my eyes about me, for I knew the kind of people I was among.

'Early in the morning the funeral took place. The body was placed not in a coffin but on a bier, and carried not to a churchyard but to a deep dell close by; and there it was buried beneath a rock, dressed just as I have told you; and this was done by the bidding of Leonora, who had heard her bebee say that she wished to be buried, not in gorgious fashion, but like a Roman woman of the old blood, the kosko puro rati, brother. When it was over, and we had got back to the encampment, I prepared to be going. Before mounting my gry, however, I bethought me to ask what could have induced the dead woman to make away with herself—a thing so uncommon amongst Romanies; whereupon one squinted with his eyes, a second spirted saliver into the air, and a third said that he neither knew nor cared; she was a good riddance, having more than once been nearly the ruin of them all, from the quantity of brimstone she carried about her. One, however, I suppose rather ashamed of the way in which they had treated me, said at last that if I wanted to know all about the matter none could tell me better than the child, who was in all her secrets, and was not a little like her; so I looked about for the child, but could find her nowhere. At last the same man told me that he shouldn't wonder if I found her at the grave; so I went back to the grave, and sure enough there I found the child Leonora, seated on the ground above the body, crying and taking on; so I spoke kindly to her, and said, "How came all this, Leonora? tell me all about it." It was a long time before I could get any answer; at last she opened her mouth and spoke, and these were the words she said, "It was all along of your Pal"; and then she told me all about the matter—how Mrs. Herne could not abide you, which I knew before; and that she had sworn your destruction, which I did not know before. And then she told me how she found you living in the wood by yourself, and how you were enticed to eat a poisoned cake; and she told me many other things that you wot of, and she told me what perhaps you don't wot, namely, that finding you had been removed, she, the child, had tracked you a long way, and found you at last well and hearty, and no ways affected by the poison, and heard you, as she stood concealed, disputing about religion with a Welsh Methody. Well, brother, she told me all this; and, moreover, that when Mrs. Herne heard of it, she said that a dream of hers had come to pass. I don't know what it was, but something about herself, a tinker, and a dean; and then she added that it was all up with her, and that she must take a long journey. Well, brother, that same night Leonora, waking from her sleep in the tent where Mrs. Herne and she were wont to sleep, missed her bebee, and, becoming alarmed, went in search of her, and at last found her hanging from a branch; and when the child had got so far, she took on violently, and I could not get another word from her; so I left her, and here I am.'

{picture:'Sure enough there I found the child Leonora, seated on the ground above the body, crying and taking on.': page454.jpg}

'And I am glad to see you, Mr. Petulengro; but this is sad news which you tell me about Mrs. Herne.'

{picture:'Leonora, waking from her sleep, missed her bebee, and, becoming alarmed, went in search of her, and at last found her hanging from a branch.': page456.jpg}

'Somewhat dreary, brother; yet, perhaps, after all, it is a good thing that she is removed; she carried so much Devil's tinder about with her, as the man said.'

'I am sorry for her,' said I; 'more especially as I am the cause of her death—though the innocent one.'

'She could not bide you, brother, that's certain; but that is no reason'—said Mr. Petulengro, balancing himself upon the saddle—'that is no reason why she should prepare drow to take away your essence of life; and, when disappointed, to hang herself upon a tree: if she was dissatisfied with you, she might have flown at you, and scratched your face; or, if she did not judge herself your match, she might have put down five shillings for a turn-up between you and some one she thought could beat you—myself, for example—and so the matter might have ended comfortably; but she was always too fond of covert ways, drows, and brimstones. This is not the first poisoning affair she has been engaged in.'

'You allude to drabbing bawlor.'

'Bah!' said Mr. Petulengro; 'there's no harm in that. No, no! she has cast drows in her time for other guess things than bawlor; both Gorgios and Romans have tasted of them, and died. Did you never hear of the poisoned plum pudding?'

'Never.'

'Then I will tell you about it. It happened about six years ago, a few months after she had quitted us—she had gone first amongst her own people, as she called them; but there was another small party of Romans, with whom she soon became very intimate. It so happened that this small party got into trouble; whether it was about a horse or an ass, or passing bad money, no matter to you and me, who had no hand in the business; three or four of them were taken and lodged in—Castle, and amongst them was a woman; but the sherengro, or principal man of the party, and who it seems had most hand in the affair, was still at large. All of a sudden a rumour was spread abroad that the woman was about to play false, and to 'peach the rest. Said the principal man, when he heard it, "If she does, I am nashkado." Mrs. Herne was then on a visit to the party, and when she heard the principal man take on so, she said, "But I suppose you know what to do?" "I do not," said he. "Then hir mi devlis," said she, "you are a fool. But leave the matter to me, I know how to dispose of her in Roman fashion." Why she wanted to interfere in the matter, brother, I don't know, unless it was from pure brimstoneness of disposition—she had no hand in the matter which had brought the party into trouble—she was only on a visit, and it had happened before she came; but she was always ready to give dangerous advice. Well, brother, the principal man listened to what she had to say, and let her do what she would; and she made a pudding, a very nice one, no doubt—for, besides plums, she put in drows and all the Roman condiments that she knew of; and she gave it to the principal man, and the principal put it into a basket and directed it to the woman in—Castle, and the woman in the castle took it and—'

'Ate of it,' said I; 'just like my case!'

'Quite different, brother; she took it, it is true, but instead of giving way to her appetite, as you might have done, she put it before the rest whom she was going to impeach; perhaps she wished to see how they liked it before she tasted it herself; and all the rest were poisoned, and one died, and there was a precious outcry, and the woman cried loudest of all; and she said, "It was my death was sought for; I know the man, and I'll be revenged." And then the Poknees spoke to her and said, "Where can we find him?" and she said, "I am awake to his motions; three weeks from hence, the night before the full moon, at such and such an hour, he will pass down such a lane with such a man."'

'Well,' said I, 'and what did the Poknees do?'

'Do, brother! sent for a plastramengro from Bow Street, quite secretly, and told him what the woman had said; and the night before the full moon, the plastramengro went to the place which the juwa had pointed out, all alone, brother; and in order that he might not be too late, he went two hours before his time. I know the place well, brother, where the plastramengro placed himself behind a thick holly tree, at the end of a lane, where a gate leads into various fields, through which there is a path for carts and horses. The lane is called the dark lane by the Gorgios, being much shaded by trees. So the plastramengro placed himself in the dark lane behind the holly tree; it was a cold February night, dreary though; the wind blew in gusts, and the moon had not yet risen, and the plastramengro waited behind the tree till he was tired, and thought he might as well sit down; so he sat down, and was not long in falling to sleep, and there he slept for some hours; and when he awoke the moon had risen, and was shining bright, so that there was a kind of moonlight even in the dark lane; and the plastramengro pulled out his watch, and contrived to make out that it was just two hours beyond the time when the men should have passed by. Brother, I do not know what the plastramengro thought of himself, but I know, brother, what I should have thought of myself in his situation. I should have thought, brother, that I was a drowsy scoppelo, and that I had let the fellow pass by whilst I was sleeping behind a bush. As it turned out, however, his going to sleep did no harm, but quite the contrary: just as he was going away, he heard a gate slam in the direction of the fields, and then he heard the low stumping of horses, as if on soft ground, for the path in those fields is generally soft, and at that time it had been lately ploughed up. Well, brother, presently he saw two men on horseback coming towards the lane through the field behind the gate; the man who rode foremost was a tall big fellow, the very man he was in quest of; the other was a smaller chap, not so small either, but a light, wiry fellow, and a proper master of his hands when he sees occasion for using them. Well, brother, the foremost man came to the gate, reached at the hank, undid it, and rode through, holding it open for the other. Before, however, the other could follow into the lane, out bolted the plastramengro from behind the tree, kicked the gate to with his foot, and, seizing the big man on horse- back, "You are my prisoner," said he. I am of opinion, brother, that the plastramengro, notwithstanding he went to sleep, must have been a regular fine fellow.'

'I am entirely of your opinion,' said I; 'but what happened then?'

'Why, brother, the Rommany chal, after he had somewhat recovered from his surprise, for it is rather uncomfortable to be laid hold of at night-time, and told you are a prisoner; more especially when you happen to have two or three things on your mind which, if proved against you, would carry you to the nashky,—the Rommany chal, I say, clubbed his whip, and aimed a blow at the plastramengro, which, if it had hit him on the skull, as was intended, would very likely have cracked it. The plastramengro, however, received it partly on his staff, so that it did him no particular damage. Whereupon, seeing what kind of customer he had to deal with, he dropped his staff and seized the chal with both his hands, who forthwith spurred his horse, hoping, by doing so, either to break away from him or fling him down; but it would not do—the plastramengro held on like a bull-dog, so that the Rommany chal, to escape being hauled to the ground, suddenly flung himself off the saddle, and then happened in that lane, close by the gate, such a struggle between those two—the chal and the runner—as I suppose will never happen again. But you must have heard of it; every one has heard of it; every one has heard of the fight between the Bow Street engro and the Rommany chal.'

'I never heard of it till now.'

'All England rung of it, brother. There never was a better match than between those two. The runner was somewhat the stronger of the two—all those engroes are strong fellows—and a great deal cooler, for all of that sort are wondrous cool people—he had, however, to do with one who knew full well how to take his own part. The chal fought the engro, brother, in the old Roman fashion. He bit, he kicked, and screamed like a wild cat of Benygant; casting foam from his mouth and fire from his eyes. Sometimes he was beneath the engro's legs, and sometimes he was upon his shoulders. What the engro found the most difficult was to get a firm hold of the chal, for no sooner did he seize the chal by any part of his wearing apparel, than the chal either tore himself away, or contrived to slip out of it; so that in a little time the chal was three parts naked; and as for holding him by the body, it was out of the question, for he was as slippery as an eel. At last the engro seized the chal by the Belcher's handkerchief, which he wore in a knot round his neck, and do whatever the chal could, he could not free himself; and when the engro saw that, it gave him fresh heart, no doubt: "It's of no use," said he; "you had better give in; hold out your hands for the darbies, or I will throttle you."

'And what did the other fellow do, who came with the chal?' said I.

'I sat still on my horse, brother.'

'You!' said I. 'Were you the man?'

'I was he, brother.'

'And why did you not help your comrade?'

'I have fought in the ring, brother.'

'And what had fighting in the ring to do with fighting in the lane?'

'You mean not fighting. A great deal, brother; it taught me to prize fair play. When I fought Staffordshire Dick, t'other side of London, I was alone, brother. Not a Rommany chal to back me, and he had all his brother pals about him; but they gave me fair play, brother; and I beat Staffordshire Dick, which I couldn't have done had they put one finger on his side the scale; for he was as good a man as myself, or nearly so. Now, brother, had I but bent a finger in favour of the Rommany chal, the plastramengro would never have come alive out of the lane; but I did not, for I thought to myself fair play is a precious stone; so you see, brother—'

'That you are quite right, Mr. Petulengro, I see that clearly; and now, pray proceed with your narration; it is both moral and entertaining.'

But Mr. Petulengro did not proceed with his narration, neither did he proceed upon his way; he had stopped his horse, and his eyes were intently fixed on a broad strip of grass beneath some lofty trees, on the left side of the road. It was a pleasant enough spot, and seemed to invite wayfaring people, such as we were, to rest from the fatigues of the road, and the heat and vehemence of the sun. After examining it for a considerable time, Mr. Petulengro said, 'I say, brother, that would be a nice place for a tussle!'

'I daresay it would,' said I, 'if two people were inclined to fight.'

'The ground is smooth,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'without holes or ruts, and the trees cast much shade. I don't think, brother, that we could find a better place,' said Mr. Petulengro, springing from his horse.

'But you and I don't want to fight!'

'Speak for yourself, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro. 'However, I will tell you how the matter stands. There is a point at present between us. There can be no doubt that you are the cause of Mrs. Herne's death, innocently, you will say, but still the cause. Now, I shouldn't like it to be known that I went up and down the country with a pal who was the cause of my mother-in-law's death, that's to say, unless he gave me satisfaction. Now, if I and my pal have a tussle, he gives me satisfaction; and, if he knocks my eyes out, which I know you can't do, it makes no difference at all, he gives me satisfaction; and he who says to the contrary knows nothing of gypsy law, and is a dinelo into the bargain.'

'But we have no gloves!'

'Gloves!' said Mr. Petulengro, contemptuously, 'gloves! I tell you what, brother, I always thought you were a better hand at the gloves than the naked fist; and, to tell you the truth, besides taking satisfaction for Mrs. Herne's death, I wish to see what you can do with your mawleys; so now is your time, brother, and this is your place, grass and shade, no ruts or holes; come on, brother, or I shall think you what I should not like to call you.'



CHAPTER LXXXII

Offence and defence—I'm satisfied—Fond of solitude—Possession of property—Chal Devlehi—Winding path.

And when I heard Mr. Petulengro talk in this manner, which I had never heard him do before, and which I can only account for by his being fasting and ill-tempered, I had of course no other alternative than to accept his challenge; so I put myself into a posture which I deemed the best both for offence and defence, and the tussle commenced; and when it had endured for about half an hour, Mr. Petulengro said, 'Brother, there is much blood on your face; you had better wipe it off'; and when I had wiped it off, and again resumed my former attitude, Mr. Petulengro said, 'I think enough has been done, brother, in the affair of the old woman; I have, moreover, tried what you are able to do, and find you, as I thought, less apt with the naked mawleys than the stuffed gloves; nay, brother, put your hands down, I'm satisfied; blood has been shed, which is all that can be reasonably expected for an old woman who carried so much brimstone about her as Mrs. Herne.'

So the struggle ended, and we resumed our route, Mr. Petulengro sitting sideways upon his horse as before, and I driving my little pony-cart; and when we had proceeded about three miles, we came to a small public-house, which bore the sign of the Silent Woman, where we stopped to refresh our cattle and ourselves; and as we sat over our bread and ale, it came to pass that Mr. Petulengro asked me various questions, and amongst others, how I intended to dispose of myself; I told him that I did not know; whereupon, with considerable frankness, he invited me to his camp, and told me that if I chose to settle down amongst them, and become a Rommany chal, I should have his wife's sister Ursula, who was still unmarried, and occasionally talked of me.

{picture:We came to a small public-house, which bore the sign of the Silent Woman, where we stopped to refresh our cattle and ourselves: page463.jpg}

I declined his offer, assigning as a reason the recent death of Mrs. Herne, of which I was the cause, although innocent. 'A pretty life I should lead with those two,' said I, 'when they came to know it.' 'Pooh,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'they will never know it. I shan't blab, and as for Leonora, that girl has a head on her shoulders.' 'Unlike the woman in the sign,' said I, 'whose head is cut off. You speak nonsense, Mr. Petulengro; as long as a woman has a head on her shoulders she'll talk,—but, leaving women out of the case, it is impossible to keep anything a secret; an old master of mine told me so long ago. I have moreover another reason for declining your offer. I am at present not disposed for society. I am become fond of solitude. I wish I could find some quiet place to which I could retire to hold communion with my own thoughts, and practise, if I thought fit, either of my trades.' 'What trades?' said Mr. Petulengro. 'Why, the one which I have lately been engaged in, or my original one, which I confess I should like better, that of a kaulo-mescro.' 'Ah, I have frequently heard you talk of making horse-shoes,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'I, however, never saw you make one, and no one else that I am aware; I don't believe—come, brother, don't be angry, it's quite possible that you may have done things which neither I nor any one else has seen you do, and that such things may some day or other come to light, as you say nothing can be kept secret. Be that, however, as it may, pay the reckoning and let us be going; I think I can advise you to just such a kind of place as you seem to want.'

'And how do you know that I have got wherewithal to pay the reckoning?' I demanded. 'Brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'I was just now looking in your face, which exhibited the very look of a person conscious of the possession of property; there was nothing hungry or sneaking in it. Pay the reckoning, brother.'

And when we were once more upon the road, Mr. Petulengro began to talk of the place which he conceived would serve me as a retreat under present circumstances. 'I tell you frankly, brother, that it is a queer kind of place, and I am not very fond of pitching my tent in it, it is so surprisingly dreary. It is a deep dingle in the midst of a large field, on an estate about which there has been a lawsuit for some years past. I daresay you will be quiet enough, for the nearest town is five miles distant, and there are only a few huts and hedge public-houses in the neighbourhood. Brother, I am fond of solitude myself, but not that kind of solitude; I like a quiet heath, where I can pitch my house, but I always like to have a gay stirring place not far off, where the women can pen dukkerin, and I myself can sell or buy a horse, if needful—such a place as the Chong Gav. I never feel so merry as when there, brother, or on the heath above it, where I taught you Rommany.'

Shortly after this discourse we reached a milestone, and a few yards from the milestone, on the left hand, was a crossroad. Thereupon Mr. Petulengro said, 'Brother, my path lies to the left if you choose to go with me to my camp, good; if not, Chal Devlehi.' But I again refused Mr. Petulengro's invitation, and, shaking him by the hand, proceeded forward alone; and about ten miles farther on I reached the town of which he had spoken, and, following certain directions which he had given, discovered, though not without some difficulty, the dingle which he had mentioned. It was a deep hollow in the midst of a wide field; the shelving sides were overgrown with trees and bushes, a belt of sallows surrounded it on the top, a steep winding path led down into the depths, practicable, however, for a light cart, like mine; at the bottom was an open space, and there I pitched my tent, and there I contrived to put up my forge. 'I will here ply the trade of kaulomescro,' said I.



CHAPTER LXXXIII

Highly poetical—Volundr—Grecian mythology—Making a petul—Tongues of flame—Hammering—Spite of dukkerin—Heaviness.

It has always struck me that there is something highly poetical about a forge. I am not singular in this opinion: various individuals have assured me that they can never pass by one, even in the midst of a crowded town, without experiencing sensations which they can scarcely define, but which are highly pleasurable. I have a decided penchant for forges, especially rural ones, placed in some quaint quiet spot—a dingle, for example, which is a poetical place, or at a meeting of four roads, which is still more so; for how many a superstition—and superstition is the soul of poetry—is connected with these cross roads! I love to light upon such a one, especially after nightfall, as everything about a forge tells to most advantage at night; the hammer sounds more solemnly in the stillness; the glowing particles scattered by the strokes sparkle with more effect in the darkness, whilst the sooty visage of the sastramescro, half in shadow and half illumed by the red and partial blaze of the forge, looks more mysterious and strange. On such occasions I draw in my horse's rein, and, seated in the saddle, endeavour to associate with the picture before me—in itself a picture of romance—whatever of the wild and wonderful I have read of in books, or have seen with my own eyes in connection with forges.

I believe the life of any blacksmith, especially a rural one, would afford materials for a highly poetical history. I do not speak unadvisedly, having the honour to be free of the forge, and therefore fully competent to give an opinion as to what might be made out of the forge by some dexterous hand. Certainly, the strangest and most entertaining life ever written is that of a blacksmith of the olden north, a certain Volundr, or Velint, who lived in woods and thickets, made keen swords—so keen, indeed, that if placed in a running stream they would fairly divide an object, however slight, which was borne against them by the water, and who eventually married a king's daughter, by whom he had a son, who was as bold a knight as his father was a cunning blacksmith. I never see a forge at night, when seated on the back of my horse, at the bottom of a dark lane, but I somehow or other associate it with the exploits of this extraordinary fellow, with many other extraordinary things, amongst which, as I have hinted before, are particular passages of my own life, one or two of which I shall perhaps relate to the reader.

I never associate Vulcan and his Cyclops with the idea of a forge. These gentry would be the very last people in the world to flit across my mind whilst gazing at the forge from the bottom of the dark lane. The truth is, they are highly unpoetical fellows, as well they may be, connected as they are with the Grecian mythology. At the very mention of their names the forge burns dull and dim, as if snowballs had been suddenly flung into it; the only remedy is to ply the bellows, an operation which I now hasten to perform.

I am in the dingle making a horse-shoe. Having no other horses on whose hoofs I could exercise my art, I made my first essay on those of my own horse, if that could be called horse which horse was none, being only a pony. Perhaps, if I had sought all England, I should scarcely have found an animal more in need of the kind offices of the smith. On three of his feet there were no shoes at all, and on the fourth only a remnant of one, on which account his hoofs were sadly broken and lacerated by his late journeys over the hard and flinty roads. 'You belonged to a tinker before,' said I, addressing the animal, 'but now you belong to a smith. It is said that the household of the shoemaker invariably go worse shod than that of any other craft. That may be the case of those who make shoes of leather, but it shan't be said of the household of him who makes shoes of iron; at any rate it shan't be said of mine. I tell you what, my gry, whilst you continue with me, you shall both be better shod and better fed than you were with your last master.'

I am in the dingle making a petul; and I must here observe that whilst I am making a horse-shoe the reader need not be surprised if I speak occasionally in the language of the lord of the horse-shoe—Mr. Petulengro. I have for some time past been plying the peshota, or bellows, endeavouring to raise up the yag, or fire, in my primitive forge. The angar, or coals, are now burning fiercely, casting forth sparks and long vagescoe chipes, or tongues of flame; a small bar of sastra, or iron, is lying in the fire, to the length of ten or twelve inches, and so far it is hot, very hot, exceeding hot, brother. And now you see me prala, snatch the bar of iron, and place the heated end of it upon the covantza, or anvil, and forthwith I commence cooring the sastra as hard as if I had been just engaged by a master at the rate of dui caulor, or two shillings, a day, brother; and when I have beaten the iron till it is nearly cool, and my arm tired, I place it again in the angar, and begin again to rouse the fire with the pudamengro, which signifies the blowing thing, and is another and more common word for bellows; and whilst thus employed I sing a gypsy song, the sound of which is wonderfully in unison with the hoarse moaning of the pudamengro, and ere the song is finished, the iron is again hot and malleable. Behold, I place it once more on the covantza, and recommence hammering; and now I am somewhat at fault; I am in want of assistance; I want you, brother, or some one else, to take the bar out of my hand and support it upon the covantza, whilst I, applying a chinomescro, or kind of chisel, to the heated iron, cut off with a lusty stroke or two of the shukaro baro, or big hammer, as much as is required for the petul. But having no one to help me, I go on hammering till I have fairly knocked off as much as I want, and then I place the piece in the fire, and again apply the bellows, and take up the song where I left it off; and when I have finished the song, I take out the iron, but this time with my plaistra, or pincers, and then I recommence hammering, turning the iron round and round with my pincers: and now I bend the iron and, lo and behold! it has assumed something of the outline of a petul.

I am not going to enter into farther details with respect to the process—it was rather a wearisome one. I had to contend with various disadvantages; my forge was a rude one, my tools might have been better; I was in want of one or two highly necessary implements, but, above all, manual dexterity. Though free of the forge, I had not practised the albeytarian art for very many years, never since—but stay, it is not my intention to tell the reader, at least in this place, how and when I became a blacksmith. There was one thing, however, which stood me in good stead in my labour, the same thing which through life has ever been of incalculable utility to me, and has not unfrequently supplied the place of friends, money, and many other things of almost equal importance—iron perseverance, without which all the advantages of time and circumstance are of very little avail in any undertaking. I was determined to make a horse-shoe, and a good one, in spite of every obstacle—ay, in spite of dukkerin. At the end of four days, during which I had fashioned and refashioned the thing at least fifty times, I had made a petul such as no master of the craft need have been ashamed of; with the second shoe I had less difficulty, and, by the time I had made the fourth, I would have scorned to take off my hat to the best smith in Cheshire.

But I had not yet shod my little gry: this I proceeded now to do. After having first well pared the hoofs with my churi, I applied each petul hot, glowing hot, to the pindro. Oh, how the hoofs hissed! and, oh, the pleasant pungent odour which diffused itself through the dingle!—an odour good for an ailing spirit.

I shod the little horse bravely—merely pricked him once, slightly, with a cafi, for doing which, I remember, he kicked me down; I was not disconcerted, however, but, getting up, promised to be more cautious in future; and having finished the operation, I filed the hoof well with the rin baro, then dismissed him to graze amongst the trees, and, putting my smaller tools into the muchtar, I sat down on my stone, and, supporting my arm upon my knee, leaned my head upon my hand. Heaviness had come over me.



CHAPTER LXXXIV

Several causes—Frogs and eftes—Gloom and twilight—What should I do?—'Our Father'—Fellow-men—What a mercy!—Almost calm—Fresh store—History of Saul—Pitch dark.

Heaviness had suddenly come over me, heaviness of heart, and of body also. I had accomplished the task which I had imposed upon myself, and now that nothing more remained to do, my energies suddenly deserted me, and I felt without strength, and without hope. Several causes, perhaps, co-operated to bring about the state in which I then felt myself. It is not improbable that my energies had been overstrained during the work the progress of which I have attempted to describe; and every one is aware that the results of overstrained energies are feebleness and lassitude—want of nourishment might likewise have something to do with it. During my sojourn in the dingle, my food had been of the simplest and most unsatisfying description, by no means calculated to support the exertion which the labour I had been engaged upon required; it had consisted of coarse oaten cakes and hard cheese, and for beverage I had been indebted to a neighbouring pit, in which, in the heat of the day, I frequently saw, not golden or silver fish, but frogs and eftes swimming about. I am, however, inclined to believe that Mrs. Herne's cake had quite as much to do with the matter as insufficient nourishment. I had never entirely recovered from the effects of its poison, but had occasionally, especially at night, been visited by a grinding pain in the stomach, and my whole body had been suffused with cold sweat; and indeed these memorials of the drow have never entirely disappeared—even at the present time they display themselves in my system, especially after much fatigue of body and excitement of mind. So there I sat in the dingle upon my stone, nerveless and hopeless, by whatever cause or causes that state had been produced—there I sat with my head leaning upon my hand, and so I continued a long, long time. At last I lifted my head from my hand, and began to cast anxious, unquiet looks about the dingle—the entire hollow was now enveloped in deep shade—I cast my eyes up; there was a golden gleam on the tops of the trees which grew towards the upper parts of the dingle; but lower down all was gloom and twilight—yet, when I first sat down on my stone, the sun was right above the dingle, illuminating all its depths by the rays which it cast perpendicularly down—so I must have sat a long, long time upon my stone. And now, once more, I rested my head upon my hand, but almost instantly lifted it again in a kind of fear, and began looking at the objects before me—the forge, the tools, the branches of the trees, endeavouring to follow their rows, till they were lost in the darkness of the dingle; and now I found my right hand grasping convulsively the three fore-fingers of the left, first collectively, and then successively, wringing them till the joints cracked; then I became quiet, but not for long.

Suddenly I started up, and could scarcely repress the shriek which was rising to my lips. Was it possible? Yes, all too certain; the evil one was upon me; the inscrutable horror which I had felt in my boyhood had once more taken possession of me. I had thought that it had forsaken me—that it would never visit me again; that I had outgrown it; that I might almost bid defiance to it; and I had even begun to think of it without horror, as we are in the habit of doing of horrors of which we conceive we run no danger; and lo! when least thought of, it had seized me again. Every moment I felt it gathering force, and making me more wholly its own. What should I do?—resist, of course; and I did resist. I grasped, I tore, and strove to fling it from me; but of what avail were my efforts? I could only have got rid of it by getting rid of myself: it was a part of myself, or rather it was all myself. I rushed amongst the trees, and struck at them with my bare fists, and dashed my head against them, but I felt no pain. How could I feel pain with that horror upon me? And then I flung myself on the ground, gnawed the earth, and swallowed it; and then I looked round; it was almost total darkness in the dingle, and the darkness added to my horror. I could no longer stay there; up I rose from the ground, and attempted to escape. At the bottom of the winding path which led up the acclivity I fell over something which was lying on the ground; the something moved, and gave a kind of whine. It was my little horse, which had made that place its lair; my little horse; my only companion and friend in that now awful solitude. I reached the mouth of the dingle; the sun was just sinking in the far west behind me, the fields were flooded with his last gleams. How beautiful everything looked in the last gleams of the sun! I felt relieved for a moment; I was no longer in the horrid dingle. In another minute the sun was gone, and a big cloud occupied the place where he had been: in a little time it was almost as dark as it had previously been in the open part of the dingle. My horror increased; what was I to do?—it was of no use fighting against the horror—that I saw; the more I fought against it, the stronger it became. What should I do: say my prayers? Ah! why not? So I knelt down under the hedge, and said, 'Our Father'; but that was of no use; and now I could no longer repress cries—the horror was too great to be borne. What should I do? run to the nearest town or village, and request the assistance of my fellow-men? No! that I was ashamed to do; notwithstanding the horror was upon me, I was ashamed to do that. I knew they would consider me a maniac, if I went screaming amongst them; and I did not wish to be considered a maniac. Moreover, I knew that I was not a maniac, for I possessed all my reasoning powers, only the horror was upon me—the screaming horror! But how were indifferent people to distinguish between madness and the screaming horror? So I thought and reasoned; and at last I determined not to go amongst my fellow-men, whatever the result might be. I went to the mouth of the dingle, and there, placing myself on my knees, I again said the Lord's Prayer; but it was of no use—praying seemed to have no effect over the horror; the unutterable fear appeared rather to increase than diminish, and I again uttered wild cries, so loud that I was apprehensive they would be heard by some chance passenger on the neighbouring road; I therefore went deeper into the dingle. I sat down with my back against a thorn bush; the thorns entered my flesh, and when I felt them, I pressed harder against the bush; I thought the pain of the flesh might in some degree counteract the mental agony; presently I felt them no longer—the power of the mental horror was so great that it was impossible, with that upon me, to feel any pain from the thorns. I continued in this posture a long time, undergoing what I cannot describe, and would not attempt if I were able. Several times I was on the point of starting up and rushing anywhere; but I restrained myself, for I knew I could not escape from myself, so why should I not remain in the dingle? So I thought and said to myself, for my reasoning powers were still uninjured. At last it appeared to me that the horror was not so strong, not quite so strong, upon me. Was it possible that it was relaxing its grasp, releasing its prey? Oh what a mercy! but it could not be; and yet—I looked up to heaven, and clasped my hands, and said, 'Our Father.' I said no more—I was too agitated; and now I was almost sure that the horror had done its worst.

{picture:I knelt down under the hedge and said, 'Our Father'; but that was of no use: page472.jpg}

After a little time I arose, and staggered down yet farther into the dingle. I again found my little horse on the same spot as before. I put my hand to his mouth—he licked my hand. I flung myself down by him, and put my arms round his neck; the creature whinnied, and appeared to sympathise with me. What a comfort to have any one, even a dumb brute, to sympathise with me at such a moment! I clung to my little horse, as if for safety and protection. I laid my head on his neck, and felt almost calm. Presently the fear returned, but not so wild as before; it subsided, came again, again subsided; then drowsiness came over me, and at last I fell asleep, my head supported on the neck of the little horse. I awoke; it was dark, dark night—not a star was to be seen—but I felt no fear, the horror had left me. I arose from the side of the little horse, and went into my tent, lay down, and again went to sleep.

I awoke in the morning weak and sore, and shuddering at the remembrance of what I had gone through on the preceding day; the sun was shining brightly, but it had not yet risen high enough to show its head above the trees which fenced the eastern side of the dingle, on which account the dingle was wet and dank from the dews of the night. I kindled my fire, and, after sitting by it for some time to warm my frame, I took some of the coarse food which I have already mentioned; notwithstanding my late struggle, and the coarseness of the fare, I ate with appetite. My provisions had by this time been very much diminished, and I saw that it would be speedily necessary, in the event of my continuing to reside in the dingle, to lay in a fresh store. After my meal, I went to the pit and filled a can with water, which I brought to the dingle, and then again sat down on my stone. I considered what I should next do: it was necessary to do something, or my life in this solitude would be insupportable. What should I do? rouse up my forge and fashion a horse- shoe? But I wanted nerve and heart for such an employment; moreover, I had no motive for fatiguing myself in this manner; my own horse was shod, no other was at hand, and it is hard to work for the sake of working. What should I do? read? Yes, but I had no other book than the Bible which the Welsh Methodist had given me. Well, why not read the Bible? I was once fond of reading the Bible; ay, but those days were long gone by. However, I did not see what else I could well do on the present occasion—so I determined to read the Bible—it was in Welsh; at any rate it might amuse me. So I took the Bible out of the sack, in which it was lying in the cart, and began to read at the place where I chanced to open it. I opened it at that part where the history of Saul commences. At first I read with indifference, but after some time my attention was riveted, and no wonder, I had come to the visitations of Saul—those dark moments of his, when he did and said such unaccountable things; it almost appeared to me that I was reading of myself; I, too, had my visitations, dark as ever his were. Oh, how I sympathised with Saul, the tall dark man! I had read his life before, but it had made no impression on me; it had never occurred to me that I was like him; but I now sympathised with Saul, for my own dark hour was but recently passed, and, perhaps, would soon return again; the dark hour came frequently on Saul.

Time wore away; I finished the book of Saul, and, closing the volume, returned it to its place. I then returned to my seat on the stone, and thought of what I had read, and what I had lately undergone. All at once I thought I felt well-known sensations, a cramping of the breast, and a tingling of the soles of the feet; they were what I had felt on the preceding day—they were the forerunners of the fear. I sat motionless on my stone, the sensations passed away, and the fear came not. Darkness was now coming again over the earth; the dingle was again in deep shade; I roused the fire with the breath of the bellows, and sat looking at the cheerful glow; it was cheering and comforting. My little horse came now and lay down on the ground beside the forge; I was not quite deserted. I again ate some of the coarse food, and drank plentifully of the water which I had fetched in the morning. I then put fresh fuel on the fire, and sat for a long time looking on the blaze; I then went into my tent.

I awoke, on my own calculation, about midnight—it was pitch dark, and there was much fear upon me.



CHAPTER LXXXV

Free and independent—I don't see why—Oats—A noise—Unwelcome visitors—What's the matter?—Good-day to ye—The tall girl—Dovrefeld—Blow on the face—Civil enough—What's this?—Vulgar woman—Hands off—Gasping for breath—Long Melford—A pretty manoeuvre—A long draught—Signs of animation—It won't do—No malice—Bad people.

Two mornings after the period to which I have brought the reader in the preceding chapter, I sat by my fire at the bottom of the dingle; I had just breakfasted, and had finished the last morsel of food which I had brought with me to that solitude.

'What shall I now do?' said I to myself; 'shall I continue here, or decamp?—this is a sad lonely spot—perhaps I had better quit it; but whither shall I go? the wide world is before me, but what can I do therein? I have been in the world already without much success. No, I had better remain here; the place is lonely, it is true, but here I am free and independent, and can do what I please; but I can't remain here without food. Well, I will find my way to the nearest town, lay in a fresh supply of provision, and come back, turning my back upon the world, which has turned its back upon me. I don't see why I should not write a little sometimes; I have pens and an ink-horn, and for a writing-desk I can place the Bible on my knee. I shouldn't wonder if I could write a capital satire on the world on the back of that Bible; but, first of all, I must think of supplying myself with food.'

I rose up from the stone on which I was seated, determining to go to the nearest town, with my little horse and cart, and procure what I wanted. The nearest town, according to my best calculation, lay about five miles distant; I had no doubt, however, that, by using ordinary diligence, I should be back before evening. In order to go lighter, I determined to leave my tent standing as it was, and all the things which I had purchased of the tinker, just as they were. 'I need not be apprehensive on their account,' said I to myself; 'nobody will come here to meddle with them—the great recommendation of this place is its perfect solitude—I daresay that I could live here six months without seeing a single human visage. I will now harness my little gry and be off to the town.'

At a whistle which I gave, the little gry, which was feeding on the bank near the uppermost part of the dingle, came running to me, for by this time he had become so accustomed to me that he would obey my call, for all the world as if he had been one of the canine species. 'Now,' said I to him, 'we are going to the town to buy bread for myself and oats for you—I am in a hurry to be back; therefore I pray you to do your best, and to draw me and the cart to the town with all possible speed, and to bring us back; if you do your best, I promise you oats on your return. You know the meaning of oats, Ambrol?' Ambrol whinnied as if to let me know that he understood me perfectly well, as indeed he well might, as I had never once fed him during the time that he had been in my possession without saying the word in question to him. Now, Ambrol, in the gypsy tongue, signifieth a pear.

So I caparisoned Ambrol, and then, going to the cart, I removed two or three things from it into the tent; I then lifted up the shafts, and was just going to call to the pony to come and be fastened to them, when I thought I heard a noise.

I stood stock still, supporting the shaft of the little cart in my hand, and bending the right side of my face slightly towards the ground, but I could hear nothing; the noise which I thought I had heard was not one of those sounds which I was accustomed to hear in that solitude—the note of a bird, or the rustling of a bough; it was—there I heard it again, a sound very much resembling the grating of a wheel amongst gravel. Could it proceed from the road? Oh no, the road was too far distant for me to hear the noise of anything moving along it. Again I listened, and now I distinctly heard the sound of wheels, which seemed to be approaching the dingle; nearer and nearer they drew, and presently the sound of wheels was blended with the murmur of voices. Anon I heard a boisterous shout, which seemed to proceed from the entrance of the dingle. 'Here are folks at hand,' said I, letting the shaft of the cart fall to the ground; 'is it possible that they can be coming here?' My doubts on that point, if I entertained any, were soon dispelled; the wheels, which had ceased moving for a moment or two, were once again in motion, and were now evidently moving down the winding path which led to my retreat. Leaving my cart, I came forward and placed myself near the entrance of the open space, with my eyes fixed on the path down which my unexpected, and I may say unwelcome, visitors were coming. Presently I heard a stamping or sliding, as if of a horse in some difficulty; then a loud curse, and the next moment appeared a man and a horse and cart; the former holding the head of the horse up to prevent him from falling, of which he was in danger, owing to the precipitous nature of the path. Whilst thus occupied, the head of the man was averted from me. When, however, he had reached the bottom of the descent, he turned his head, and perceiving me, as I stood bareheaded, without either coat or waistcoat, about two yards from him, he gave a sudden start, so violent that the backward motion of his hand had nearly flung the horse upon his haunches.

'Why don't you move forward?' said a voice from behind, apparently that of a female; 'you are stopping up the way, and we shall be all down upon one another'; and I saw the head of another horse overtopping the back of the cart.

'Why don't you move forward, Jack?' said another voice, also a female, yet higher up the path.

The man stirred not, but remained staring at me in the posture which he had assumed on first perceiving me, his body very much drawn back, his left foot far in advance of his right, and with his right hand still grasping the halter of the horse, which gave way more and more, till it was clean down on its haunches.

'What's the matter?' said the voice which I had last heard.

'Get back with you, Belle, Moll,' said the man, still staring at me; 'here's something not over canny or comfortable.'

'What is it?' said the same voice; 'let me pass, Moll, and I'll soon clear the way'; and I heard a kind of rushing down the path.

'You need not be afraid,' said I, addressing myself to the man, 'I mean you no harm; I am a wanderer like yourself—come here to seek for shelter—you need not be afraid; I am a Roman chabo by matriculation—one of the right sort, and no mistake—Good-day to ye, brother; I bid ye welcome.'

The man eyed me suspiciously for a moment—then, turning to his horse with a loud curse, he pulled him up from his haunches, and led him and the cart farther down to one side of the dingle, muttering, as he passed me, 'Afraid! Hm!'

I do not remember ever to have seen a more ruffianly-looking fellow; he was about six feet high, with an immensely athletic frame; his face was black and bluff, and sported an immense pair of whiskers, but with here and there a gray hair, for his age could not be much under fifty. He wore a faded blue frock-coat, corduroys, and highlows; on his black head was a kind of red nightcap, round his bull neck a Barcelona handkerchief—I did not like the look of the man at all.

'Afraid!' growled the fellow, proceeding to unharness his horse; 'that was the word, I think.'

But other figures were now already upon the scene. Dashing past the other horse and cart, which by this time had reached the bottom of the pass, appeared an exceedingly tall woman, or rather girl, for she could scarcely have been above eighteen; she was dressed in a tight bodice and a blue stuff gown; hat, bonnet, or cap she had none, and her hair, which was flaxen, hung down on her shoulders unconfined; her complexion was fair, and her features handsome, with a determined but open expression—she was followed by another female, about forty, stout and vulgar-looking, at whom I scarcely glanced, my whole attention being absorbed by the tall girl.

'What's the matter, Jack?' said the latter, looking at the man.

'Only afraid, that's all,' said the man, still proceeding with his work.

'Afraid at what—at that lad? why, he looks like a ghost—I would engage to thrash him with one hand.'

'You might beat me with no hands at all,' said I, 'fair damsel, only by looking at me—I never saw such a face and figure, both regal—why, you look like Ingeborg, Queen of Norway; she had twelve brothers, you know, and could lick them all, though they were heroes:—

On Dovrefeld in Norway Were once together seen The twelve heroic brothers Of Ingeborg the queen.'

'None of your chaffing, young fellow,' said the tall girl, 'or I will give you what shall make you wipe your face; be civil, or you will rue it.'

'Well, perhaps I was a peg too high,' said I; 'I ask your pardon—here's something a bit lower:—

As I was jawing to the gav yeck divvus I met on the drom miro Rommany chi—'

None of your Rommany chies, young fellow,' said the tall girl, looking more menacingly than before, and clenching her fist; 'you had better be civil, I am none of your chies; and though I keep company with gypsies, or, to speak more proper, half-and-halfs, I would have you to know that I come of Christian blood and parents, and was born in the great house of Long Melford.'

'I have no doubt,' said I, 'that it was a great house; judging from your size I shouldn't wonder if you were born in a church.'

'Stay, Belle,' said the man, putting himself before the young virago, who was about to rush upon me, 'my turn is first'—then, advancing to me in a menacing attitude, he said, with a look of deep malignity, '"Afraid," was the word, wasn't it?'

'It was,' said I, 'but I think I wronged you; I should have said, aghast; you exhibited every symptom of one labouring under uncontrollable fear.'

The fellow stared at me with a look of stupid ferocity, and appeared to be hesitating whether to strike or not: ere he could make up his mind, the tall girl started forward, crying, 'He's chaffing; let me at him'; and before I could put myself on my guard, she struck me a blow on the face which had nearly brought me to the ground.

{picture:The fellow stared at me with a look of stupid ferocity, and appeared to be hesitating whether to strike or not: page480.jpg}

'Enough,' said I, putting my hand to my cheek; 'you have now performed your promise, and made me wipe my face: now be pacified, and tell me fairly the grounds of this quarrel.'

'Grounds!' said the fellow; 'didn't you say I was afraid; and if you hadn't, who gave you leave to camp on my ground?'

'Is it your ground?' said I.

'A pretty question,' said the fellow; 'as if all the world didn't know that. Do you know who I am?'

'I guess I do,' said I; 'unless I am much mistaken, you are he whom folks call the "Flaming Tinman." To tell you the truth, I'm glad we have met, for I wished to see you. These are your two wives, I suppose; I greet them. There's no harm done—there's room enough here for all of us—we shall soon be good friends, I daresay; and when we are a little better acquainted, I'll tell you my history.'

'Well, if that doesn't beat all!' said the fellow.

'I don't think he's chaffing now,' said the girl, whose anger seemed to have subsided on a sudden; 'the young man speaks civil enough.'

'Civil!' said the fellow, with an oath; 'but that's just like you; with you it is a blow, and all over. Civil! I suppose you would have him stay here, and get into all my secrets, and hear all I may have to say to my two morts.'

'Two morts!' said the girl, kindling up, 'where are they? Speak for one, and no more. I am no mort of yours, whatever some one else may be. I tell you one thing, Black John, or Anselo,—for t'other ain't your name,—the same thing I told the young man here, be civil, or you will rue it.'

The fellow looked at the girl furiously, but his glance soon quailed before hers; he withdrew his eyes, and cast them on my little horse, which was feeding amongst the trees. 'What's this?' said he, rushing forward and seizing the animal. 'Why, as I am alive, this is the horse of that mumping villain Slingsby.'

'It's his no longer; I bought it and paid for it.'

'It's mine now,' said the fellow; 'I swore I would seize it the next time I found it on my beat; ay, and beat the master too.'

'I am not Slingsby.'

'All's one for that.'

'You don't say you will beat me?'

'Afraid was the word.'

'I'm sick and feeble.'

'Hold up your fists.'

'Won't the horse satisfy you?'

'Horse nor bellows either.'

'No mercy, then?'

'Here's at you.'

'Mind your eyes, Jack. There, you've got it. I thought so,' shouted the girl, as the fellow staggered back from a sharp blow in the eye; 'I thought he was chaffing at you all along.'

'Never mind, Anselo. You know what to do—go in,' said the vulgar woman, who had hitherto not spoken a word, but who now came forward with all the look of a fury; 'go inapopli; you'll smash ten like he.'

The Flaming Tinman took her advice, and came in bent on smashing, but stopped short on receiving a left-handed blow on the nose.

'You'll never beat the Flaming Tinman in that way,' said the girl, looking at me doubtfully.

And so I began to think myself, when, in the twinkling of an eye, the Flaming Tinman, disengaging himself of his frock-coat, and dashing off his red night-cap, came rushing in more desperately than ever. To a flush hit which he received in the mouth he paid as little attention as a wild bull would have done; in a moment his arms were around me, and in another he had hurled me down, falling heavily upon me. The fellow's strength appeared to be tremendous.

'Pay him off now,' said the vulgar woman. The Flaming Tinman made no reply, but, planting his knee on my breast, seized my throat with two huge horny hands. I gave myself up for dead, and probably should have been so in another minute but for the tall girl, who caught hold of the handkerchief which the fellow wore round his neck, with a grasp nearly as powerful us that with which he pressed my throat.

'Do you call that fair play?' said she.

'Hands off, Belle,' said the other woman; 'do you call it fair play to interfere? hands off, or I'll be down upon you myself.'

But Belle paid no heed to the injunction, and tugged so hard at the handkerchief that the Flaming Tinman was nearly throttled; suddenly relinquishing his hold of me, he started on his feet, and aimed a blow at my fair preserver, who avoided it, but said coolly:—

'Finish t'other business first, and then I'm your woman whenever you like; but finish it fairly—no foul play when I'm by—I'll be the boy's second, and Moll can pick up you when he happens to knock you down.'

The battle during the next ten minutes raged with considerable fury, but it so happened that during this time I was never able to knock the Flaming Tinman down, but on the contrary received six knock-down blows myself. 'I can never stand this,' said I, as I sat on the knee of Belle, 'I am afraid I must give in; the Flaming Tinman hits very hard,' and I spat out a mouthful of blood.

'Sure enough you'll never beat the Flaming Tinman in the way you fight—it's of no use flipping at the Flaming Tinman with your left hand; why don't you use your right?'

'Because I'm not handy with it,' said I; and then getting up, I once more confronted the Flaming Tinman, and struck him six blows for his one, but they were all left-handed blows, and the blow which the Flaming Tinman gave me knocked me off my legs.

'Now, will you use Long Melford?' said Belle, picking me up.

'I don't know what you mean by Long Melford,' said I, gasping for breath.

'Why, this long right of yours,' said Belle, feeling my right arm; 'if you do, I shouldn't wonder if you yet stand a chance.' And now the Flaming Tinman was once more ready, much more ready than myself. I, however, rose from my second's knee as well as my weakness would permit me. On he came, striking left and right, appearing almost as fresh as to wind and spirit as when he first commenced the combat, though his eyes were considerably swelled, and his nether lip was cut in two; on he came, striking left and right, and I did not like his blows at all, or even the wind of them, which was anything but agreeable, and I gave way before him. At last he aimed a blow which, had it taken full effect, would doubtless have ended the battle, but owing to his slipping, the fist only grazed my left shoulder, and came with terrific force against a tree, close to which I had been driven; before the Tinman could recover himself, I collected all my strength, and struck him beneath the ear, and then fell to the ground completely exhausted; and it so happened that the blow which I struck the Tinker beneath the ear was a right-handed blow.

{picture:His eyes were considerably swelled, and his nether lip was cut in two: page483.jpg}

'Hurrah for Long Melford!' I heard Belle exclaim; 'there is nothing like Long Melford for shortness, all the world over.' At these words I turned round my head as I lay, and perceived the Flaming Tinman stretched upon the ground apparently senseless. 'He is dead,' said the vulgar woman, as she vainly endeavoured to raise him up; 'he is dead; the best man in all the north country, killed in this fashion, by a boy!' Alarmed at these words, I made shift to get on my feet; and, with the assistance of the woman, placed my fallen adversary in a sitting posture. I put my hand to his heart, and felt a slight pulsation—'He's not dead,' said I, 'only stunned; if he were let blood, he would recover presently.' I produced a penknife which I had in my pocket, and, baring the arm of the Tinman, was about to make the necessary incision, when the woman gave me a violent blow, and, pushing me aside, exclaimed, 'I'll tear the eyes out of your head if you offer to touch him. Do you want to complete your work, and murder him outright, now he's asleep? you have had enough of his blood already.' 'You are mad,' said I, 'I only seek to do him service. Well, if you won't let him be blooded, fetch some water and fling it in his face, you know where the pit is.'

{picture:It so happened that the blow which I struck the Tinker beneath the ear was a right-handed blow: page485.jpg}

'A pretty manoeuvre!' said the woman; 'leave my husband in the hands of you and that limmer, who has never been true to us—I should find him strangled or his throat cut when I came back.' 'Do you go,' said I to the tall girl; 'take the can and fetch some water from the pit.' 'You had better go yourself,' said the girl, wiping a tear as she looked on the yet senseless form of the Tinker; 'you had better go yourself, if you think water will do him good.' I had by this time somewhat recovered my exhausted powers, and, taking the can, I bent my steps as fast as I could to the pit; arriving there, I lay down on the brink, took a long draught, and then plunged my head into the water; after which I filled the can, and bent my way back to the dingle. Before I could reach the path which led down into its depths, I had to pass some way along its side; I had arrived at a part immediately over the scene of the last encounter, where the bank, overgrown with trees, sloped precipitously down. Here I heard a loud sound of voices in the dingle; I stopped, and laying hold of a tree, leaned over the bank and listened. The two women appeared to be in hot dispute in the dingle. 'It was all owing to you, you limmer,' said the vulgar woman to the other; 'had you not interfered, the old man would soon have settled the boy.'

'I'm for fair play and Long Melford,' said the other. 'If your old man, as you call him, could have settled the boy fairly, he might for all I should have cared, but no foul work for me, and as for sticking the boy with our gulleys when he comes back, as you proposed, I am not so fond of your old man or you that I should oblige you in it, to my soul's destruction.' 'Hold your tongue, or I'll—' I listened no farther, but hastened as fast as I could to the dingle. My adversary had just begun to show signs of animation; the vulgar woman was still supporting him, and occasionally cast glances of anger at the tall girl, who was walking slowly up and down. I lost no time in dashing the greater part of the water into the Tinman's face, whereupon he sneezed, moved his hands, and presently looked round him. At first his looks were dull and heavy, and without any intelligence at all; he soon, however, began to recollect himself, and to be conscious of his situation; he cast a scowling glance at me, then one of the deepest malignity at the tall girl, who was still walking about without taking much notice of what was going forward. At last he looked at his right hand, which had evidently suffered from the blow against the tree, and a half-stifled curse escaped his lips. The vulgar woman now said something to him in a low tone, whereupon he looked at her for a moment, and then got upon his legs. Again the vulgar woman said something to him; her looks were furious, and she appeared to be urging him on to attempt something. I observed that she had a clasped knife in her hand. The fellow remained standing for some time as if hesitating what to do; at last he looked at his hand, and, shaking his head, said something to the woman which I did not understand. The tall girl, however, appeared to overhear him, and, probably repeating his words, said, 'No, it won't do; you are right there; and now hear what I have to say,—let bygones be bygones, and let us all shake hands, and camp here, as the young man was saying just now.' The man looked at her, and then, without any reply, went to his horse, which was lying down among the trees, and kicking it up, led it to the cart, to which he forthwith began to harness it. The other cart and horse had remained standing motionless during the whole affair which I have been recounting, at the bottom of the pass. The woman now took the horse by the head, and leading it with the cart into the open part of the dingle, turned both round, and then led them back, till the horse and cart had mounted a little way up the ascent; she then stood still and appeared to be expecting the man. During this proceeding Belle had stood looking on without saying anything; at last, perceiving that the man had harnessed his horse to the other cart, and that both he and the woman were about to take their departure, she said, 'You are not going, are you?' Receiving no answer, she continued: 'I tell you what, both of you, Black John, and you Moll, his mort, this is not treating me over civilly,—however, I am ready to put up with it, and to go with you if you like, for I bear no malice. I'm sorry for what has happened, but you have only yourselves to thank for it. Now, shall I go with you, only tell me?' The man made no manner of reply, but flogged his horse. The woman, however, whose passions were probably under less control, replied, with a screeching tone, 'Stay where you are, you jade, and may the curse of Judas cling to you,—stay with the bit of a mullo whom you helped, and my only hope is that he may gulley you before he comes to be . . . . Have you with us, indeed! after what's past! no, nor nothing belonging to you. Fetch down your mailia go-cart and live here with your chabo.' She then whipped on the horse, and ascended the pass, followed by the man. The carts were light, and they were not long in ascending the winding path. I followed to see that they took their departure. Arriving at the top, I found near the entrance a small donkey-cart, which I concluded belonged to the girl. The tinker and his mort were already at some distance; I stood looking after them for a little time, then taking the donkey by the reins I led it with the cart to the bottom of the dingle. Arrived there, I found Belle seated on the stone by the fireplace. Her hair was all dishevelled, and she was in tears.

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