MR. TOM HUGHES'S BERKSHIRE AND WILTSHIRE TALES.* NEITHER, of these
tales is new, though The Ashen Faggot has appeared only in a magazine, and never been published before in any other form ; while The Scouring of the White Horse, with the late Richard Doyle's admirable illustrations, has long been a favourite with the public. But the two stories are all the better for their association with each other, and, indeed, almost seem to belong to each other, each of them being intended for the illustration of county manners and local customs, and that, too, in neighbouring counties of closely allied physical and moral characteristics. Together they make a charming volume, and a delightfully living record of the older Berkshire and Wiltshire habits of speech and action. If in the first of the two tales the story is obviously invented for the sake of the traditions which it was the author's intention to embalm for us, and the customs to which these traditions had given rise, in the second the Wiltshire manners are completely subsidiary to the story, which has itself much beauty and grace. Indeed, there is something in each of them which, apart from the mere physical scenery, seems to remind the reader of the breezy chalk downs, with their fragrant turf and the beautiful curves of their swelling folds. The freshness of Mr. Hughes's style, the sense of sun and of sunny enjoyment which it contrives to embody, the racy flavour of provincial life, which has something analogous in it to Sir Walter Scott's picture of Scottish border-life, though the contrast is at least as well marked as the likeness, —the Southern flavour being at least as predominant in Mr. Hughes's pictures as the Northern is in Sir Walter Scott's,— all remind the reader of the mellow beauty of those graceful sweeps of down, crowned by beech-wood hangers, and broken here and there by the chalk that crops out in gleaming cliff or quarry, amidst which the scene is laid. The Northern reserve in the open-air life which Sir Walter depicts is marked enough in spite of its geniality; the Southern frankness is equally marked in Mr. Hughes's pictures of provincial manners, in spite of their roughness. Even what is uncouth in them is winning; even what is grotesque adds to the softness and shapeliness of the whole effect. The two stories contain something better than local and antiquarian studies, local and antiquarian studies of
• The Scouring of the White Horse ; or, the Long-Vacation Ramble of a London Clark, and What Came of It ; and The Ashen Faggot a Tale for Christmas. By the Author of "Tom Brown's Schooldays." Illustrated by Richard Doyle. London : Macmillan and Co.
which the vivacity is even more remarkable than the specific colour.
What, for instance, could embody with more graphic local vividness and vivacity the humour of a rustic pig-chase, and the incipient sense of shame with which the more refined pro- vincial mind regards it, than this admirable ballad containing the protest of a Berkshire pig against the custom P-
" Master George and I agreed, as we walked back to the Castle, that it is a shame to have a pig-race. No,' said he; let men run any risk they like of broken heads or limbs for themselves ; they may play or not, as they like. But Piggy has no choice, and to let him run the risk of having the legs pulled out of his body before he is wanted for pork, isn't fair.'—' He didn't seem to think it was, certainly, Sir,' I said.—` No,' said he, laughing; did you ever hear such a song as he made ? No animal can talk like a pig. He can scold or remonstrate just as well as a Christian. Any one who knows the language can tell you just what he is saying. Well,' he went on, I see you don't believe me; now I will go and hear what he has to say about this proceeding, and give you it word for word.' This is what he sent me afterwards, with the other songs he had promised me
'THE LAY OF THE HUNTED PIG.
Vathers, mothers, mothers' zone! You as loves yer little wane ! Happy pegs amon" the stubble, Listen to a tale of trouble; Listen, pegs in yeard and stye, How the Barkshire chaps zard I.
I wur barn at Kingstone-Lisle, Wher I vrolicked var a while, As vine a peg as e'er war seen (One of a litter o' thirteen) Till some chaps wi' cussed spite Aimed ov I to make a zite, And to have a 'bit o' vun,' Took I up to Ufilogton.
Up, vorights the Castle mound They did set I on the ground ; Then a thousand chaps, or nigh, Runned and hollered arter I— • Thar, then, I, till I wur bloomed, Ranned and hollered all I knowod, When, zo sure as pegs is pegs, Eight chaps ketched I by the legs, Two to each—'tit truth I tell 'ee- Dree more elapsed I round the belly ! Under all they fellers lyin— Pegs!—I thought as I wur dyin.
But the Squire (I thanks I zees un), Varmer Whitfield ridin' vri! nn, rot I out o' all thack caddie, Stretched athurt the varmer's saddle—
Bless 'em, pegs in yeard and stye, Them two vreuds as stuck to L Barkshire mon, vrom Hill and Vale, All as ever hears this tale, If to spwoort you be inclined,
Plaza to bear this here in mind—
Pegs beant made no race to win, Be zhart o' wind, and tight o' skin; Dwont 'ee hunt 'em, but instead At backswyrd break each other's yead- Cheeses down the manger rowl- Or try and slim the greasy powl.
Pegs! in stubble yeard and stye, May you be never zard like I, Nor dray wi' greasy e irs and tail, By men and bwoys though White Horse W6.'1"
And what can be more effective than this picture of a Wilt- shire shepherd, and the pride he takes in his youthful feats P-
" Shepherd stops smoking, and opens his eyes, Vifty pound a year an' aal found !'—' Ay, every penny of it, and not a bit too much. I should like to know who ought to be well paid if the shepherd isn't-
" If 'twasut for the sheep and the poor shepherd, The world would be starved and naked—" you know.'—' So you knows th' owld shearing song ?'—' No, I only know a line or two that I've picked up from my friend here. I should like to hear it of all things. Can't you give it us ? '— Jonas looks shy, but, after a little persuasion from his wife, who declares that he is noted for singing, he clears his throat and croons out Zang, bwoys, song, a zhepherd's as happy as a lord, And a shop's the vinest creetar owld England can afford And, if you listens vor a while, the truth I soon will tell 'ee, 'Tis clothin' to the back, my bwoys, and linin' to the belly. The shepherd stands beneath the bush, a-shiverin' and shakin, Ef 'twasn't vor th' shop and th' poor zhepherdth' world'd go starved and naked. All along the winter time we gives our shop some hay, Reps fodderin' and fodderin' on until the month of May. And, when the month of May cams in, if the weather should prove fine, The little lambs will skip and play, and please the shepherd's mind. And, when the month of June cams in, if the weather should prove hot, We teks the clothin' off their backs, while the pudding's in the pot. And then agen at night, my bwoys, together we will zeng, For a shepherd lives as happy as ever a prince or king.'
Thank you. I shall carry the old song back to the other side of the world. Now, shepherd, come, take another glass. The brandy isn't out, you see.'—The shepherd, after some coquetting, makes another mixture in his cup, and hands it to his wife, who puts down her knitting, and gets up to make a little curtsey, and say, Your health, gentl'men.' The shepherd takes a drink. Ah it zims to do a body good, that do, now—to put the heart into 'un, zur.'—' I'm glad you like it. You must have a hard life of it up here on the downs at times.'—' Ah, 'tis, zur, I assure 'ee, and I had ought to know. Nigh warty year, man and bwoy, I've bon a zheperdin' and afore that I wur bird-kepin', when I wur quite a halal 'un. I allus liked bird-kepin', and I've zhot a zits on 'em
wi' th' owld king's-arm as maester kep vorl.'—` What was the best shot you ever made, now 2'—` Well, zur, I'll tell 'ee. It wur at th' rooks, and of you knows about bird-kepin', you minds how keen the rooks be at seedin' time, to light and snicker about wher' thaay can see arra bit ov a scratch, specially in the mornin's. So I casts about in my yead—I hain't got much book-larnin', but I got a yead on m' shoulders as answers to't—how to crotch 'em, cos' 'em be aggravatin' birds, plaguey cunnin' um be let 'em be never zo lear. And zo one mornin' afore light I hucks up a bit o' ground right afore the barn ther', and drows a handful o' teed corn auver the scratch, and gets inside zo as um medn't zee m', and then puts two pipes-full o' powder, and a'mwoast all the shot as I'd got, into the gun, and waits. Arter a bit I hears one on 'em a cawin' up above, and then down a cams, plump. Th' owld wosbird teks a look at th' barn, but both doors wuz wide open, zo as a' could zee right droo. Zo a gees a caw as tho' twur all right (a couldn't zee I, for a bit o' straw as I'd got round m') and falls to hisself, and, a'most afore you could look, the scratch wur all black wi"em, scrouging and cawin' together. Then I sets up softly, and teks a long breath, and shuts m' eyes, and pulls. A went off wi' th' mwost all-fired noise, and kicked I fit to bust. When I cum to, and set up in the straw, and could look out, " Lord," sez I, "watt ! hain't I killed not one on 'em ?" Then I hears a floppeting behind m', and turns round. You zee, zur, th' owld king's-arm had took and kicked I right round, zo as I wur looking out o' t'other door o' the barn wen I cum to.'—' Oh, yes, shepherd, I dare say,' laughed Herbert. 'Well, but when you got faced round again to the right door, what had you done ?'—` Lord, zur,' the ground wur all black wi"em, mostly dead, but sum on 'em hobblin' about— more nor dreescore on 'em—' The shepherd is interrupted by an explosion of laughter of the younger of his guests. You med b'leeve m' or not, as you plazes, zur.'—' Threescore rooks at a shot What do you say to that, ma'am?' asked Herbert.—"Twur afore my time, zur, but I never heerd Jonas tell it no other waay, —'cept ez a'd used to zaay one score.'—' Well, it would take a big whale to swallow you, Jonas, said Herbert.—' Poor owld mother,' the shepherd went on, tuk and put sum on 'em into a pie. But 'em did yeat terrible runk—I wun't deny but 'em wur terrible runk.' " These are but random illustrations of the admirable pictures of provincial life in Mr. Hughes's charming volume. Let us add that the second of the two tales has a special beauty of its own quite apart from the bright picture of provincial life which it contains. It is a telling Christmas story, without any of that tendency to overdo edification which is the fault of most Christmas stories. For Mr. Hughes is always manly as well as buoyant, and never indulges in either moral or religious sentimentalism. The custom which suggests the title of the story of The Ashen Faggot deserved to be recorded in more permanent shape ; and it is recorded with all the imaginative liveliness, though none of the too emphatic physical joviality, with which Dickens always dwelt on the benignant associations of Christmastide. A more taking Christmas present it would not be easy to find in a pleasanter form, for the whole get-up of the volume is quite worthy of both the author and the admirable illustrations.