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he would have expressed it, "a bit wummicky." There was also a queer sense of oppression about his chest, but he congratulated himself on the fact that his cough had altogether ceased. Joe crossed the room, pausing to peer through the unshuttered window. What a glorious morning! golden and silver with sunshine and dew. What a sky! cloudless save for the rosy and purple streaks at the horizon. The new budded trees were stirring in the the morning breeze; yonder in the field the dairy cows were trooping through the glistening grass to the gate, awaiting milking-time. This was a morning truly for folks to lie abed, with such a piece of business awaiting them too as the breaking up of the Sunnyfields! Eh, if Joe were only able to go out
A sudden idea struck him. Why should he not go out? Why should he lie there just because Mary and the doctor said so? Mary was not likely to know better than her own father when all was said and done; and as for the doctor, "young whippersnapper," as Richard said, who was he to be ordering about a man of seventy-six? Why, what Joe wanted was a good brisk walk, with a beefsteak and a tumbler of something hot when he came in.
"He doesn't understand my constitootion," said Joe, emphatically; "thot's where it is-and I'll ston' no more o' this mak' o' work!"
Creaking across the floor he went, moving unwieldily on tiptoe. There were his clothes in the cupboard-the familiar folds and creases of the well-worn garments greeting him like smiles on the face of an old friend. His fingers were stiff and trembling; but for all that, it did not take
more than two or three minutes to don them. Next came the socks; his clogs and wide-awake were in the hall below; out of the room now, and down the stairs. "Lord!" how that lazy Tom snored! Joe could even hear him through his closed door. There were the clogs, and yonder the hat; cautiously Joe withdrew the bolts of the back-door, standing at last under the free air of heaven. He made one or two faltering steps forward, and paused, hat in hand, his head tilted a little backwards so that the breezes lifted his ragged grey hair. His eyes were sparkling, his lips parted in a long breath of rapture.
"Coom, now, I'm a mon again!" he muttered, and thumped his chest. "Ay, I can feel mysel' wick."
The old yard-dog came limping to his feet, fawning on him with extravagant joy. Joe stooped and patted him. "Ay, Laddie, there's life i' th' owd mon yet! we're noan done for yet, neither of us! Coom, we'll have a bit of a do together afore onybody else is stirrin"."
He crossed the yard with feeble heavy steps, and opened the stabledoor. A gust of warm air greeted him, the familiar aroma being as incense to his nostrils.
There they stood, the great sleek beasts- Blossom and Daisy and Prince and Di'mond; thriving and hearty, every one, their shaggy manes plaited, their broad backs groomed till they shone, a simultaneous rattling and banging of ropes and weights sounding as they lifted their heads to look round at the newcomer. Joe made straight for his favourite mare, bestowing one or two resounding caresses on her round dappled flank; then going close up to her he fairly took her head in his arms.
"Eh, Blossom!" he said, "thou'rt here, arto? Coom, arto fain to see mester? I welly believe the poor owd lady knows me! Theer, Blossom, theer!"
Keeping one arm still round the creature's neck, he laid his cheek against her soft nose, whimpering a little, and uttering inarticulate phrases of endearment as the mare whinnied back. But recovering himself after a moment or two, he brushed his coat-sleeve across his eyes, and began to unfasten the animal's headstall.
"Thou an' me's bahn to do a bit o' wark afore breakfast," he observed. "Eh, an' Prince too. Ay, lad, we's addle our mate this mornin'."
One by one the horses came clattering forth, harnessed, ready for the plough. Joe followed, staggering but determined, and Laddie brought up the rear, sniffing uneasily at his master's heels, and turning up his old white muzzle inquiringly from time to time, as though to intimate his suspicion that something
amiss. But Joe's face beamed again with the rapture and triumph of his new-found freedom, and when the little company had crossed the yard, and passed through the gate, and found themselves fairly in the sandy lane which led to the Sunnyfields, he uttered a quavering whoop of joy.
"Coom, Blossom, lass, we'n stolen a march on 'em for once 'as how 'tis! We'll put 'em all to shame yonder! Ho! ho! theer'll be a bonny to-do when our Mary wakkens and finds 'at I've flitted! My word, Tom will be ashamed to look me i' th' face, I should think, when he sees me wortchin'! It'll larn him to lay abed, th' lazy lout! Now, Prince, step out, lad! eh, I could wish owd Richard could see me ! How th' owd lad would
stare! He'd scarce know what t' mak' on't."
He walked a little faster now, upheld by his inward excitement, and further exhilarated by the brisk keen morning air. The hedgerow beside him, white in patches with blossoming blackthorn, or sown with little folded green-tipped leaf-buds, was all asheen with glistening drops. Birds rose twittering from it as he passed; yonder on a newly fledged elder sapling a thrush was singing: a delicious smell of moist and fresh-bruised grasses greeted his nostrils as the heavy feet of Blossom and Prince fell rhythmically on the strip of sod that bordered the lane. The ditch alongside was golden with marshmallows flaming in the morning sunshine. Beyond the hedge lay the Sunnyfields, the yellowish mossy surface of the wide expanse veiled, as it were, in parts, with ethereal greyish green. The unreal aspect thus produced by the heavy dew was broken here and there by streaks of darker green, where the rabbits or pheasants had left tracks. At one end of the field two long narrow brown stripes marked the scene of Tom's labours of the preceding day. Joe glanced at them contemptuously from time to time, and when they reached the gate, and entered the field, he paused, the better to consider them.
"Jist same as Richard said," he observed with a disgusted air, "not a straight line between 'em! Coom, Prince an' Blossom, we's show 'em what we can do. Coom, we's start o' this side o' field so's Tom can see a bit of the better mak' o' work."
There lay the plough under the hedge. With a good deal of panting, and at the cost of more fatigue than he would have cared to own,
Joe fastened the horses to it and began operations.
"Now then! steady! off we go." Off they went, the ploughshare cutting into the sod with unerring accuracy, Joe plodding behind, crooning some old-time ditty for very lightness of heart. The far ther end of the field was reached, and Blossom and Prince strained their huge limbs as the plough creaked round. Now down they came, cutting a parallel line a few paces from the other; then they turned once more, Joe's feet sinking deep into the uncovered earth. He was not singing now, for his breath came rather short, and it required all his energy and resolution to withstand a gathering sense of weakness. The end of the field was regained, however, and, throwing down the reins, he drew himself up and looked back, rubbing his hands and chuckling faintly. There was a furrow! clean and shapely-and straight as a dart.
"Theer, Mester Tom, match me thot if thou con! Coom, Blossom, we's rest a bit, and then we'll be gettin' on again."
He walked to the horses' heads, flinging an arm about the neck of each. Laddie, who had been pacing up and down in his wake, now squatted on his haunches, surveying the scene with a grave and judicial air. Suddenly he sprang forward. Joe's head had sunk on his chest, his hands were slipping slowly from the supporting crests, and all at once he fell heavily to the ground almost under Blossom's feet.
Old Richard Woodcock, comfortably jogging along the road an hour or so later, became suddenly aware that an old collie dog was limping after his low trap, uttering snuffling barks and
whines as though to attract his attention.
"Well, an' what dosto want, eh?" he said, looking back lazily. "Poor fellow, thou'rt lame enough! Wilto have a ride?"
But the dog, turning, hobbled a few steps in the contrary direction, and with a piteous backward glance whined again.
"Why, it's Laddie, I believe— Laddie o' th' Gate Farm! What brings thee here? Hasto lost thy road? Coom, jump in wi' thee, an' we's bring thee awhoam again."
He pulled up, patting his knee and whistling; but Laddie did not approach.
"Well, then, stay theer if thou wonnot," ejaculated Richard, irritably; and he whipped up his pony, leaving the dog standing mournfully in the road, its tail drooping, its face wistful.
Farmer Woodcock glanced back and shook his head.
"Soombry's bin ill-usin' yon poor beast," he muttered. "I've a mind to go round by Orrells' an' tell Joe about it. It's a shame- -as faithful as it's allus bin!"
He turned back, Laddie hobbling eagerly forward, and preceding the gig for some little way; but when they reached the lane which led to the Sunnyfields the animal again paused, barking.
Richard, looking over the hedge, discerned the plough and team of horses motionless in the far corner: no driver was to be seen.
"Well, to be sure! Did anybody iver hear owt so knowin'? The poor brute's fur tellin' me as horses is left stonnin' 'ere wi' nobry to see to 'em. He knows th' owd gaffer 'ud niver ha' had sich doin's. It 'ull be yon wastril, Will'um o' th' Lone End-Mester Tom's too lazy t' be agate himsel' so early,— it 'ull be Will'um, for sure, on the
fuddle again! Theer, Laddie, we's see to't, mon! Hie thee yon, an' ston' by they 'orses till soombry cooms. Ha, ha! how th' poor owd fellow hobbles off! Now he's lookin' back. Reet, mon, I'm bahn to fetch soombry."
He drove on, smiling to himself, and, turning into the yard of the Gate Farm, hallooed sturdily for Tom.
But his face changed when Mary, rushing out pale and distracted, announced that her father was nowhere to be found; and Tom, coming up breathless from the stackyard, added that he had hunted everywhere he could think of about the place, and could not find a trace of him.
"He connot ha' gone far," wept Mary.
"As wake as a kitlin he was, it's more nor a fortneet sin' he took to 's bed, an' he hasn't bin out o' th' 'ouse all winter."
Old Dick flung the reins on the pony's back, and climbed out of the trap, his face redder than ever with consternation.
"Eh!" he said, e-e-eh! Poor owd lad! Wheer con he ha' getten to? I allus thought yo' was too 'ard wi' him-yo' kept him shut up too fast. He's bruk loose fur onst-thot's what he's done!"
Just then "Will'um o' th' Lone End," with his eyes starting out of his head, but otherwise to all appearances as sober as ever he had been in his life, came running from the stable, announcing that Blossom and Prince were stolen. It never occurred to the honest fellow to connect their disappear ance with that of his master; but Richard Woodcock clapped his hands together.
Why!" he cried, "th' owd lad's takken them-thot's what he's done. He's takken them off to Sunnyfields!-I see 'em mysel'
theer a two-three minutes ago. He's started ploughin'-eh, he's a gradely owd chap! he would 'ave a finger i' th' poy, see'n yo'? Thot's where he is-an' Laddie wi' him. Laddie coom runnin' arter my trap quite takken-to, poor dog! he knowed his mester oughtn't to ha' bin theer, an' he coom runnin' and yowlin' arter me to fetch me to him. Ah, I see Blossom an' Prince mysel'."
"Eh, but did yo' see feyther?" cried Mary; "it's enough to gi' him his death, it is. Did yo' noan see nobory theer, Mester Woodcock?"
No, Richard had certainly not seen anybody. The jubilant expression left his face, and he looked from one to the other with a kind of fear. All began running, by a common impulse, in the direction of the Sunnyfields, Mary leading the way.
"Yon's th' 'orses," gasped Tom, breathlessly, "an' yon's Laddie."
"Eh-what!-what's thot o' th' ground theer?" cried the woman, straining her eyes.
Almost under the horses' feet lay a dark heap, which Laddie sniffed and pulled at, but which did not move, even when every now and then Blossom, craning forward her long neck, touched it with her pendulous under-lip.
Mary stopped suddenly, clutching her husband's arm, and Richard pushing past her, hastened forward.
"Mate!" he cried, and fell a-sobbing.
There lay his old crony, prone on the upturned soil, his grey head pillowed on the dewy sod, and a smile of triumph still on his upturned face; and yonder stretched his last furrow, clearcut and straight, cleaving the field from end to end.
M. E. FRANCIS.
SOME half a century ago the late Dr Scoresby formerly Captain Scoresby of the Arctic Seas used to tell a story of a soiree to which he had once been invited in Paris at the house of the celebrated savant, M. Arago. The company embraced an extraordinary group of travellers. Scoresby himself had at that time been nearer the north pole than any navigator, so that it was quite natural that he should be introduced to the sailor who had been nearer to the south. There were present likewise the aeronaut who had reached the highest point above, and the mining engineer who had penetrated to the greatest depth below the surface. But the star of the company was a lady-the only lady at that time who had circumnavigated the globe. In accomplishing this feat she had shown remarkable pluck. She had been married to a commander in the French navy, who, almost immediately after, was ordered off on a two-years' cruise round the world. The regulations of the service at that time forbade any woman to be on board, though they must have been relaxed since then to allow Miss Gordon Cumming to give us the story of A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.' Madame, however, was determined not to be balked of her marriage trip. When the ship had made some way, she astonished her husband one morning by appearing on deck. Loyal to his orders, he was obliged to send her ashore, which he did at Madeira, and to make all sure, he committed her to the charge of the French consul at Funchal. But a new surprise awaited him. A few days later, when the ship was
VOL. CLX.-NO. DCCCCLXIX.
well on its way, my lady appeared on deck again. How she achieved it we do not know, unless she had changed clothes with one of the sailors. The captain was now helpless and compelled to surrender, and, in spite of the navy regulations, his plucky wife circumnavigated the globe.
But since her day we have had lady travellers whose adventurous spirit has defied far more formidable powers than the French Admiralty-defied hurricanes, shipwreck, arctic cold and darkness, and all other dangers and discomforts of the sea; and by land, fatigue, hunger and sickness, robbers and extortioners, wild beasts, scorpions and mosquitoes, heat and cold, filth and fever, besides the nameless terrors of savage races, on whose whims they could not count, and whose greed and ferocity shrank from no crime. In such an age as this we need wonder at nothing that women will dare. In some cases the impelling motive may have been simply curiosity, coupled with the love of adventure. But in other cases higher considerations also have been at work. A genuine desire to add to our knowledge of the earth and its people has had a strong influence on some. Others have been moved by a philanthropic wish to improve the condition of the race, both materially and spiritually. The study of their books has a double interest. From a physical point of view it is interesting as exemplifying the fitness of women, or at least some women, to rival the rougher sex in a field which till now it has monopolised. Intellectually it reveals the features of life and scenery that most attract the female eye,