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knife with which he was taking maggots out of the cow's back and sides, accompanied them towards the cottage. A big old lurcher got up slowly from the door-stone, stretching first one hind leg and then the other, and taking Tom's caresses and the presence of Toby, who kept however at a respectful distance, with equal indifference.
• Us be cum to pay'e a visit. I've a been long ininded to do't for old sake's sake, only I vinds I dwont get about now as I'd used to't. I be so plaguy bad with rumatiz in my back.” Benjy paused in hopes of drawing the farmer at once on the subject of his ailments without further direct application.
“Ah, I see as you bean't quite so lissom as you was,” replied the farmer with a grim smile, as he lifted the latch of his door ; " we bean't so young as we was, nother on us, wuss luck."
The farmer's cottage was very like those of the better class of peasantry in general. A snug chim. ney corner with two seats, and a small carpet on the hearth, an old flint gun and a pair of spurs over the fireplace, a dresser with shelves on which some bright pewter plates and crockeryware were arranged, an old walnut table, a few chairs and settles, some framed samplers, and an old print or two, and a bookcase with some dozen volumes, on the walls, a rack with flitches of bacon, and other stores fastened to the ceiling, and you have the best part of the furniture. No sign of occult art is to be seen, unless the bundles of dried herbs hanging to the rack and in the ingle, and the row of labelled phials on one of the shelves, betoken it.
Tom played about with some kittens who occupied the hearth, and with a goat who walked demurely in at the open door, while their host and Benjy spread the table for dinner, and was soon engaged in conflict with the cold meat to which he did much honour. The two old men's talk was of old comrades and their deeds, mute inglorious Miltons of the Vale, and of the doings of thirty years back, which didn't interest him much, except when they spoke of the making of the canal, and then indeed he began to listen with all his ears; and learned to his no small wonder that his dear and wonderful canal had not been there always — was not in fact so old as Benjy or farmer Ives, which caused a strange commotion in his small brain.
After dinner Benjy called attention to a wart which Tom had on his knuckles of his hand, and which the family doctor had been trying his skill on without success, and begged the farmer to charm it away. Farmer Ives looked at it, muttered something or another over it, and cut some notches in a short stick, which he handed to Benjy, giving him instructions for cutting it down on certain days, and cautioning Tom not to meddle with the wart for a fortnight. And then they strolled out and sat on a bench in the sun with their pipes, and the pigs came up and grunted sociably and let Tom scratch them; and the farmer seeing how he liked animals, stood up and held his arms in the air and gave a call, which brought a flock of pigeons wheeling and dashing through the birch trees. They settled down in clusters on the farmer's arms and shoulders, mak
WART-CHARMING AND BIRD-CHARMING.
ing love to him and scrambling over one another's backs to get to his face; and then he threw them all off, and they fluttered about close by, and lighted on him again and again when he held up his arms. All the creatures about the place were clean and fearless, quite unlike their relations elsewhere; and Tom begged to be taught how to make all the pigs and cows and poultry in our village tame, at which the farmer only gave one of his grim chuckles.
It wasn't till they were just ready to go, and old Dobbin was harnessed, that Benjy broached the subject of his rheumatism again, detailing his symptoms one by one. Poor old boy! He hoped the farmer could charm it away as easily as he could Tom's wart, and was ready with equal faith to put another notched stick into his other pocket, for the cure of his own ailments. The physician shook his head, but nevertheless produced a bottle and handed it to Benjy with instructions for use. « Not as ’ưll do'e much good - leastways I be afeard not," shading his eyes with his hand and looking up at them in the cart; “ there's only one thing as I knows on, as'll cure old folk like you and I o'th' rhumatis.”
“ Wot be that then, farmer?” inquired Benjy.
“ Churchyard mould,” said the old iron-gray man with another chuckle. And so they said their goodbyes and went their ways home. Tom's wart was gone in a fortnight, but not so Benjy's rheumatism, which laid him by the heels more and more. And though Tom still spent many an hour with him, as he sat on a bench in the sunshine, or by the chim
TOM'S ALLIES — JOB RUDKIN, JACOB DOODLE-CALF. 61
ney corner when it was cold, he soon had to seek elsewhere for his regular companions.
Tom had been accustomed often to accompany his mother in her visits to the cottages, and had thereby made acquaintance with many of the village boys of his own age. There was Job Rudkin, son of widow Rudkin, the most bustling woman in the parish. How she could ever have had such a stolid boy as Job for a child, must always remain a mystery. The first time Tom went to their cottage with his mother, Job was not in doors, but he entered soon after, and stood with both hands in his pockets staring at Tom. Widow Rudkin, who would have had to cross Madam to get at young Hopeful — a breach of good manners of which she was wholly incapable — began a series of pantomime signs, which only puzzled him, and at last, unable to contain herself longer, burst out with, “ Job! Job! where's thy cap ?”
" What! beant'e on ma’ head, mother?” replied Job, slowly extricating one hand from a pocket and feeling for the article in question; which he found on his head sure enough, and left there, to his mother's horror and Tom's great delight.
Then there was poor Jacob Dobson, the half-witted boy, who ambled about cheerfully, undertaking messages and little helpful odds and ends for every one, which, however, poor Jacob managed always hopelessly to embrangle. Every thing came to pieces in his hands, and nothing would stop in his head. They nicknamed him Jacob Doodle-calf.
But, above all, there was Harry Winburn, the
quickest and best boy in the parish. He might be a year older than Tom, but was very little bigger, and he was the Crichton of our village boys. He could wrestle, and climb, and run, better than all the rest, and learned all that the schoolmaster could teach him faster than that worthy at all liked. He was a boy to be proud of, with his curly brown hair, keen gray eye, straight active figure, and little ears and hands and feet, “ as fine as a lord's," as Charity remarked to Tom one day, talking as usual great nonsense. Lord's hands and ears and feet are just as ugly as other folks when they are children, as any one may convince themselves if they like to look. Tight boots and gloves, and doing nothing with them, I allow, make a difference by the time they are twenty.
Now that Benjy was laid on the shelf, and his young brothers were still under petticoat government, Tom, in search of companions, began to cultivate the village boys generally more and more. Squire Brown, be it said, was a true-blue Tory to the backbone, and believed honestly that the powers which be were ordained of God, and that loyalty and steadfast obedience were men's first duties. Whether it were in consequence or in spite of his political creed, I do not mean to give an opinion, though I have one ; but certain it is, that he held therewith divers social principles not generally supposed to be true-blue in color. Foremost of these, and the one which the Squire loved to propound above all others, was the belief that a man is to be valued wholly and solely for that which he is in