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P1-C6

By Anne Gray,2014-06-02 13:19
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P1-C6 CHAPTER VI THE CONVERSATION, WHICH WAS AT A HIGH PITCH OF ANIMATION WHEN SILAS APPROACHED TH...

CHAPTER VI

    The conversation, which was at a high pitch of animation when Silas

    approached the door of the Rainbow, had, as usual, been slow and

    intermittent when the company first assembled. The pipes began to

    be puffed in a silence which had an air of severity; the more

    important customers, who drank spirits and sat nearest the fire,

    staring at each other as if a bet were depending on the first man

    who winked; while the beer-drinkers, chiefly men in fustian jackets

    and smock-frocks, kept their eyelids down and rubbed their hands

    across their mouths, as if their draughts of beer were a funereal

    duty attended with embarrassing sadness. At last Mr. Snell, the

    landlord, a man of a neutral disposition, accustomed to stand aloof

    from human differences as those of beings who were all alike in need

    of liquor, broke silence, by saying in a doubtful tone to his cousin

the butcher--

    "Some folks 'ud say that was a fine beast you druv in yesterday,

Bob?"

    The butcher, a jolly, smiling, red-haired man, was not disposed to

    answer rashly. He gave a few puffs before he spat and replied,

"And they wouldn't be fur wrong, John."

    After this feeble delusive thaw, the silence set in as severely as

before.

    "Was it a red Durham?" said the farrier, taking up the thread of

discourse after the lapse of a few minutes.

    The farrier looked at the landlord, and the landlord looked at the

    butcher, as the person who must take the responsibility of

answering.

    "Red it was," said the butcher, in his good-humoured husky treble--

"and a Durham it was."

    "Then you needn't tell _me_ who you bought it of," said the

    farrier, looking round with some triumph; "I know who it is has got

    the red Durhams o' this country-side. And she'd a white star on her

    brow, I'll bet a penny?" The farrier leaned forward with his hands

    on his knees as he put this question, and his eyes twinkled

knowingly.

    "Well; yes--she might," said the butcher, slowly, considering

    that he was giving a decided affirmative. "I don't say

contrairy."

    "I knew that very well," said the farrier, throwing himself

    backward again, and speaking defiantly; "if _I_ don't know

    Mr. Lammeter's cows, I should like to know who does--that's all.

    And as for the cow you've bought, bargain or no bargain, I've been

at the drenching of her--contradick me who will."

    The farrier looked fierce, and the mild butcher's conversational

spirit was roused a little.

    "I'm not for contradicking no man," he said; "I'm for peace and

    quietness. Some are for cutting long ribs--I'm for cutting 'em

    short myself; but _I_ don't quarrel with 'em. All I say is, it's a

    lovely carkiss--and anybody as was reasonable, it 'ud bring tears

into their eyes to look at it."

    "Well, it's the cow as I drenched, whatever it is," pursued the

    farrier, angrily; "and it was Mr. Lammeter's cow, else you told a

lie when you said it was a red Durham."

    "I tell no lies," said the butcher, with the same mild huskiness

    as before, "and I contradick none--not if a man was to swear

    himself black: he's no meat o' mine, nor none o' my bargains. All I

    say is, it's a lovely carkiss. And what I say, I'll stick to; but

I'll quarrel wi' no man."

    "No," said the farrier, with bitter sarcasm, looking at the

    company generally; "and p'rhaps you aren't pig-headed; and p'rhaps

    you didn't say the cow was a red Durham; and p'rhaps you didn't say

    she'd got a star on her brow--stick to that, now you're at it."

    "Come, come," said the landlord; "let the cow alone. The truth

    lies atween you: you're both right and both wrong, as I allays say.

    And as for the cow's being Mr. Lammeter's, I say nothing to that;

    but this I say, as the Rainbow's the Rainbow. And for the matter o'

    that, if the talk is to be o' the Lammeters, _you_ know the most

    upo' that head, eh, Mr. Macey? You remember when first

    Mr. Lammeter's father come into these parts, and took the Warrens?"

    Mr. Macey, tailor and parish-clerk, the latter of which functions

    rheumatism had of late obliged him to share with a small-featured

    young man who sat opposite him, held his white head on one side, and

    twirled his thumbs with an air of complacency, slightly seasoned

    with criticism. He smiled pityingly, in answer to the landlord's

appeal, and said--

    "Aye, aye; I know, I know; but I let other folks talk. I've laid

    by now, and gev up to the young uns. Ask them as have been to

    school at Tarley: they've learnt pernouncing; that's come up since

my day."

    "If you're pointing at me, Mr. Macey," said the deputy clerk, with

    an air of anxious propriety, "I'm nowise a man to speak out of my

place. As the psalm says--

"I know what's right, nor only so,

But also practise what I know.""

    "Well, then, I wish you'd keep hold o' the tune, when it's set for

    you; if you're for prac_tis_ing, I wish you'd prac_tise_ that,"

    said a large jocose-looking man, an excellent wheelwright in his

    week-day capacity, but on Sundays leader of the choir. He winked,

    as he spoke, at two of the company, who were known officially as the

    "bassoon" and the "key-bugle", in the confidence that he was

    expressing the sense of the musical profession in Raveloe.

    Mr. Tookey, the deputy-clerk, who shared the unpopularity common to

    deputies, turned very red, but replied, with careful moderation--

    "Mr. Winthrop, if you'll bring me any proof as I'm in the wrong,

    I'm not the man to say I won't alter. But there's people set up

    their own ears for a standard, and expect the whole choir to follow

'em. There may be two opinions, I hope."

    "Aye, aye," said Mr. Macey, who felt very well satisfied with this

    attack on youthful presumption; "you're right there, Tookey:

    there's allays two 'pinions; there's the 'pinion a man has of

    himsen, and there's the 'pinion other folks have on him. There'd be

    two 'pinions about a cracked bell, if the bell could hear itself."

    "Well, Mr. Macey," said poor Tookey, serious amidst the general

    laughter, "I undertook to partially fill up the office of

    parish-clerk by Mr. Crackenthorp's desire, whenever your infirmities

    should make you unfitting; and it's one of the rights thereof to

    sing in the choir--else why have you done the same yourself?"

    "Ah! but the old gentleman and you are two folks," said Ben

    Winthrop. "The old gentleman's got a gift. Why, the Squire used

    to invite him to take a glass, only to hear him sing the "Red

    Rovier"; didn't he, Mr. Macey? It's a nat'ral gift. There's my

    little lad Aaron, he's got a gift--he can sing a tune off

    straight, like a throstle. But as for you, Master Tookey, you'd

    better stick to your "Amens": your voice is well enough when you

    keep it up in your nose. It's your inside as isn't right made for

music: it's no better nor a hollow stalk."

    This kind of unflinching frankness was the most piquant form of joke

    to the company at the Rainbow, and Ben Winthrop's insult was felt by

everybody to have capped Mr. Macey's epigram.

    "I see what it is plain enough," said Mr. Tookey, unable to keep

    cool any longer. "There's a consperacy to turn me out o' the

    choir, as I shouldn't share the Christmas money--that's where it

    is. But I shall speak to Mr. Crackenthorp; I'll not be put upon by

no man."

    "Nay, nay, Tookey," said Ben Winthrop. "We'll pay you your share

    to keep out of it--that's what we'll do. There's things folks 'ud

pay to be rid on, besides varmin."

    "Come, come," said the landlord, who felt that paying people for

    their absence was a principle dangerous to society; "a joke's a

    joke. We're all good friends here, I hope. We must give and take.

    You're both right and you're both wrong, as I say. I agree wi'

    Mr. Macey here, as there's two opinions; and if mine was asked, I

    should say they're both right. Tookey's right and Winthrop's right,

    and they've only got to split the difference and make themselves

even."

    The farrier was puffing his pipe rather fiercely, in some contempt

    at this trivial discussion. He had no ear for music himself, and

    never went to church, as being of the medical profession, and likely

    to be in requisition for delicate cows. But the butcher, having

    music in his soul, had listened with a divided desire for Tookey's

defeat and for the preservation of the peace.

    "To be sure," he said, following up the landlord's conciliatory

    view, "we're fond of our old clerk; it's nat'ral, and him used to

    be such a singer, and got a brother as is known for the first

    fiddler in this country-side. Eh, it's a pity but what Solomon

    lived in our village, and could give us a tune when we liked; eh,

    Mr. Macey? I'd keep him in liver and lights for nothing--that I

would."

    "Aye, aye," said Mr. Macey, in the height of complacency; "our

    family's been known for musicianers as far back as anybody can tell.

    But them things are dying out, as I tell Solomon every time he comes

    round; there's no voices like what there used to be, and there's

    nobody remembers what we remember, if it isn't the old crows."

    "Aye, you remember when first Mr. Lammeter's father come into these

parts, don't you, Mr. Macey?" said the landlord.

    "I should think I did," said the old man, who had now gone through

    that complimentary process necessary to bring him up to the point of

    narration; "and a fine old gentleman he was--as fine, and finer

    nor the Mr. Lammeter as now is. He came from a bit north'ard, so

    far as I could ever make out. But there's nobody rightly knows

    about those parts: only it couldn't be far north'ard, nor much

    different from this country, for he brought a fine breed o' sheep

    with him, so there must be pastures there, and everything

    reasonable. We heared tell as he'd sold his own land to come and

    take the Warrens, and that seemed odd for a man as had land of his

    own, to come and rent a farm in a strange place. But they said it

    was along of his wife's dying; though there's reasons in things as

    nobody knows on--that's pretty much what I've made out; yet some

    folks are so wise, they'll find you fifty reasons straight off, and

    all the while the real reason's winking at 'em in the corner, and

    they niver see't. Howsomever, it was soon seen as we'd got a new

    parish'ner as know'd the rights and customs o' things, and kep a

    good house, and was well looked on by everybody. And the young man--

    that's the Mr. Lammeter as now is, for he'd niver a sister--

    soon begun to court Miss Osgood, that's the sister o' the Mr. Osgood

    as now is, and a fine handsome lass she was--eh, you can't think--

    they pretend this young lass is like her, but that's the way wi'

    people as don't know what come before 'em. _I_ should know, for I

    helped the old rector, Mr. Drumlow as was, I helped him marry 'em."

    Here Mr. Macey paused; he always gave his narrative in instalments,

expecting to be questioned according to precedent.

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