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
"Some folks 'ud say that was a fine beast you druv in yesterday,
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
"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
"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
"Well; yes--she might," said the butcher, slowly, considering
that he was giving a decided affirmative. "I don't say
"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
"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
"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
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
"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.