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APPROACH OF VEAST-DAY.
or no veast,” and on the whole, the effect was humanizing and Christian. In fact, the only reason why this is not the case still, is that gentlefolk and farmers have taken to other amusements, and have as usual forgotten the poor. They don't attend the feasts themselves and call them disreputable, whereupon the steadiest of the poor leave them also, and they become what they are called. Class amusements, be they for dukes or ploughboys, always become nuisances and curses to a country. The true .charm of cricket and hunting is, that they are still more or less sociable and universal; there's a place for every man who will come and take his part.
No one in the village enjoyed the approach of 6 veast-day” more than Tom, in the year in which he was taken under old Benjy's tutelage. The feast was held in a large green field at the lower end of the village. The road to Farringdon ran along one side of it, and the brook by the side of the road; and above the brook was another large gently sloping pasture-land, with a footpath running down it from the churchyard; and the old church, the originator of all the mirth, towered up with its gray walls and lancet windows, overlooking and sanctioning the whole, though its own share therein had been forgotten. At the point where the footpath crossed the brook and road, and entered on the field where the feast was held, was a long, low, road-side inn, and on the opposite side of the field was a large white thatched farm-house, where dwelt an old sporting farmer, a great promoter of the revels.
Past the old church and down the footpath, pot
tered the old man and the child, hand-in-hand, early on the afternoon of the day before the feast, and wandered all round the ground, which was already being occupied by the “cheap Jacks," with their green covered carts and marvellous assortment of wares, and the booths of more legitimate small traders with their tempting arrays of fairings and eatables ; and penny peep-shows and other shows, containing pink-eyed ladies, and dwarfs, and boaconstrictors, and wild Indians. But the object of most interest to Benjy, and of course to his pupil also, was the stage of rough planks some four feet high, which was being put up by the village carpenter for the backswording and wrestling; and after surveying the whole tenderly, old Benjy led his charge away to the road-side inn, where he ordered a glass of ale and a long pipe for himself, and discussed these unwonted luxuries on the bench outside in the soft autumn evening with mine host, another old servant of the Browns, and speculated with him on the likelihood of a good show of old gamesters to contend for the morrow's prizes, and told tales of the gallant bouts of forty years back, to which Tom listened with all his ears and eyes.
But who shall tell the joy of the next morning, when the church bells were ringing a merry peal, and old Benjy appeared in the servants' hall resplendent in a long blue coat and brass buttons, and a pair of old yellow buckskins and top-boots, which he had cleaned for and inherited from Tom's grandfather; a stout thorn stick in his hand, and a nosegay of pinks and lavender in his button-hole, and
MORNING OF THE VEAST.
led away Tom in his best clothes, and two new shillings in his breeches-pockets? Those two, at any rate, look like enjoying the day's revel.
They quicken their pace when they get into the churchyard, for already they see the field thronged with country folk, the men in clean white srnocks or velveteen or fustian coats, with rough plush waistcoats of many colours, and the women in the beautiful long crimson cloak, the usual out-door dress of west-country women in those days, and which often descended in families from mother to daughter, or in new-fashioned stuff shawls, which, if they would but believe it, don't become them half so well.
The air resounds with the pipe and tabor, and the drums and trumpets of the showmen shouting at the doors of their caravans, over which tremendous pictures of the wonders to be seen within hang temptingly; while through all rises the shrill “ roottoo-too-too” of Mr. Punch, and the unceasing pan. pipe of his satellite.
" Lawk a' massey, Mr. Benjamin," cries a stout motherly woman in a red cloak, as they enter the field, “ be that you? Well I never! you do look purely And how's the Squire, and Madam and the family ?"
Benjy graciously shakes hands with the speaker, who has left our village for some years, but has come over for Veast-day on a visit to an old gossip, and gently indicates the heir apparent of the Browns.
« Bless his little heart? I must gi' un a kiss. Here, Susannah, Susannah!” cries she, raising her
self from the embrace,“ come and see Mr. Benjamin and young Master Tom. You minds our Sukey, Mr. Benjamin, she be growed a rare slip of a wench since you seen her, tho’ her'll be sixteen come Martinmas. I do aim to take her to see Madam to get her a place.”
And Sukey comes bouncing away from a knot of old school-fellows, and drops a curtsy to Mr. Benjamin. And elders come up from all parts to salute Benjy, and girls who have been Madam's pupils to kiss Master Tom. And they carry him off to load him with fairings; and he returns to Benjy, his hat and coat covered with ribbons, and his pockets crammed with wonderful boxes which open upon ever new boxes and boxes, and popguns, and trumpets, and apples, and gilt gingerbread from the stall of Angel Heavens, sole vendor thereof, whose booth groans with kings and queens, and elephants, and prancing steeds, all gleaming with gold. There was more gold on Angel's cakes than there is ginger in those of this degenerate age. Skilled diggers might yet make a fortune in the churchyards of the Vale, by carefully wåshing the dust of the consumers of Angel's gingerbread. Alas! he is with his namesakes, and his receipts have, I fear, died with him.
And then they inspect the penny peep-show, at least Tom does, while old Benjy stands outside and gossips, and walks up the steps, and enters the mysterious doors of the pink-eyed lady, and the Irish giant, who do not by any means come up to their pictures, and the boa will not swallow his rabbit,
but there the rabbit is waiting to be swallowed — and what can you expect for tuppence? We are easily pleased in the Vale. Now there is a rush of the crowd, and a tinkling bell is heard, and shouts of laughter; and Master Tom mounts on Benjy's shoulders and beholds a jingling match in all its glory. The games are begun, and this is the opening of them. It is a quaint game, immensely amusing to look at, and as I don't know whether it is used in your counties, I had better describe it. A large roped ring is made, into which are introduced a dozen or so of big boys and young men who mean to play; these are carefully blinded and turned loose into the ring, and then a man is introduced not blindfolded, with a bell hung round his neck, and his two hands tied behind him. Of course every time he moves, the bell must ring, as he has no hand to hold it, and so the dozen blindfolded men have to catch him. This they cannot always manage if he is a lively fellow, but half of them always rush into the arms of the other half, or drive their heads together, or tumble over; and then the crowd laughs vehemently, and invents nicknames for them on the spur of the moment, and they, if they be choleric, tear off the handkerchiefs which blind them, and not unfrequently pitch into one another, each thinking that the other must have run against him on purpose. It is great fun to look at a jingling match certainly, and Tom shouts and jumps on old Benjy's shoulders at the sight, until the old man feels weary and shifts him to the strong young shoulders of the groom who has just got down to the fun.