Page images

the inspection of the assessor was left in George's charge by his father, who had him educated sufficiently to qualify him for making the necessary entries of sales. George was perpetually warmed of the heavy penalties to which his father would be liable if the due entries were not made, if the book was not always kept open to the observation of the assessor, and regularly delivered in, every quarter, for examination and discharge; but it is probable that his father would more than once have been compelled to disburse the penalty. if Anne and Sarah had not been on the watch to guard against his carelessness. It was indeed a pity that they were absent now. George was so busy forming friendships with the dogs that his father's coughs and winks were disregarded; and package after package was brought out and left within sight and scent, while room was being made for each in the van. In vain did Swallow interpose his broad shoulders and offer snuff. The huntsman was mounted, and could see what was passing in the rear; and he was moreover not to be persuaded to take a pinch. Swallow saw that his new acquaintance had picked up a motion at the Paddock which would not be long in reaching the owner of the Fellbrow preserves. George's mind had risen a flight too high to be brought down this morning by usual influences. He was off with the harriers, in the midst, and almost as fleet as any of them, before his father's angry voice roused his ear. He looked back a moment, saw the assessor entering the gateway, supposed his father would find the * if it was D

wanted, and immediately heard nothing more than the greetings of the dogs. “There is no knowing now,” growled his father, “when we shall get the lad back again. He had rather kennel with the dogs than come home to his business, any day of the year.—The book O, it is at your service, I don't doubt.— Let me see: where can the boy have hid it ! My family are all out, you see, sir. If it is equally convenient, I will send one of them with the book, this afternoon.” “Show it me now, Swallow. I don't call this keeping the book open for my inspection at all times. Make haste, and find it, if you please. Your boy is not the only one of the family, I fancy, who has the taste you describe, for sport rather than business. Hey, Swallow But you will remember the gentlemen are on the spot now, and take care of yourself, I suppose. Remember they are on the spot, I advise you.” “It would be rather hard to forget it,” replied the horse-dealer; “so many shows as they have brought into this quiet place. There is not a soul in A but is watching them from morning till might, except, indeed, the people (and they are not few) that are swarming about the Fellbrow house, like bees building their comb. Here's the book, sir; and when I have added the sale I made half-an-hour ago 3 x While Swallow was laboriously scrawling his two lines, the assessor walked off. There was no room for talk of penalties in his department this day. He would come again when all the Mr. Cranstons' riding-horses should have arrived, and would want to be discussed. Swallow looked after Mr. Taplin, saying to himself, “Fine talk that, of my taking care of myself against the gentlemen, when he himself is in as deep as any of us ! If he threatens me, I can bid him look to his own share.”


October was not half gone before a sufficient portion of the Fellbrow house was made habitable to accommodate the family. Fanny's rapture was great when the ugly high wall was in process of being demolished, to give place to the light fence which would not exclude such a view as her eyes desired to rest upon as long as the sun was above the horizon. These October mornings were glorious. One especially, when the whole family were anxious for fine weather, equalled any that she had enjoyed in a southern climate. It was to be a morning of fishing, the first regular fishing party since their arrival; and Fanny was at her window before the rich hues of the sunrise had melted from the northern mountain tops, or the white frost evaporated from the unsunned lawn. The face of the limestone rocks opposite was grey in the shadow, and the stream below was yet black as if it had no bottom; but the rays were abroad

which would soon make it gleam at every bend, and paint in it the reflection of the autumn leaves that yet danced above it when the breeze sported in the overhanging coppice on the hither side. Some of the loftiest trees in the park already began to be lighted up; and on a green platform of the retiring rocks, the blue roofs of a little hamlet glistened in the gush of sunshine poured upon them through the chasm which brought the waters from the heights to the cisterns at the doors of the inhabitants. Already might the hind be distinguished, pacing forthwarily from the thicket, and looking from side to side, while her fawn bounded past her, breast-high in the hoar grass. Already might the shepherd and his dog be distinguished on the faint track of the sheep-walk, now driving their scudding flock, and now letting them disperse themselves over the upland. Already were lively voices heard below the window, and already were busy hands making a picturesque display of mets and wicker baskets on the grass. Never was there a lovelier morning seen; and Fanny's spirits were braced to their highest pitch when she threw open her lattice, (how much more willingly than she would have thrown up the sash () and sent a greeting down to her brother James who was talking with one of the men. “Who is going to ride 7” she asked, seeing that a groom was leading a saddled horse. “Who wants Diamond this morning, James?” “I do. Ah! it is a great plague that anybody should want to be buried this morning, of all mornings. But I put the people off before, and I cannot do it again. I can get it over, with what else I have to do, before you have finished your sport, if you will only make me sure where I may find you. That is what I am settling now; and then I am off.” “But what else have you to do? A marriage or two, perhaps?” “Very likely; and three or four-more funerals. They find they must make the most of me when they can catch me. But the business I mean is, looking about to see where I shall build my house. You ought to be with me for that. If your mare was but here, I would make you give up the fishing for to-day, and ride over with ... line. “I will do that when you know there is to be a wedding or two. The little brides will not object to my seeing them married, I dare say; and I should like to make acquaintance with these mountain brides that you used to talk so finely about before 32 “Before I saw them —before I knew how confoundedly they would come in the way of sport. I have seen none yet that it would be worth your while to ride seven miles to make acquaintance with. I don't see how they are better than the Easter-Monday brides in Birmingham, in tawdry shawls and flying ribbons. If they have not such gay shawls, they are ten times more dull and silly: so, if you mean to keep your romance about them, you must keep your distance too. Good-bye : only be so good as not to leave Moystarn before two, unless you see me sooner.

« PreviousContinue »