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that she might wait till the game was finished, as he had no time for his dinner. No game has an equal charm for the keen player. The cynic's sneer cannot dampen the spell-bound golfer :
"And still the Royal game maintains its place,
J. G. MCPHERSON.
PART II. In this crisis of her affairs, “Old
Old Lady" Bunting had her usual good fortune, or, perhaps it should be said, showed once more her usual adroitness in making the best use of what Fortune had seen fit to send. In spite of his fine livery and dandy suit of London" mufti,” which possibly had something to do with the impression produced upon Polly's too susceptible heart, Joseph Andrews was a good fellow enough, and he fell into his place in the little household with remarkable readiness. Indeed, before he became “ My Lady's Page,” he himself had a rural bringing up, and in consequence he was able to resume country occupations with great facility. He became overseer, road surveyor,
and discharged all those offices about a country parish which require a certain manner and readiness of speech which do not often belong to the genuine rustic of any class. Even so, Joseph Andrews did not find in Owlston enough to do to fill up all his time, especially as “his quiver filled" with more than usual rapidity, and ready money became indispensable. His first-born was a boy, and no rejoicings, like those which accompanied this birth had ever been known at the cottage on the common. As “Old Lady Bunting phrased it, “she never before had had a boy to nurse.
And to be the bairn's nursemaid was the delight of the old woman's life. Although she now had quite reached the limits of fourscore, she probably was oftener seen on the public road, carrying or watching the gambols of this great-grandchild than ever she had been before through all her days. She became quite lively and communicative, for the beauty and precocity of the boy tempted most of the passers-by to stop to ask, or to talk. She would have him called Will, after her original benefactor, and until Will was big enough to vote it slow to have someone always hanging about his steps, she toiled after him in all his freaks day by day. But Will was his mother's boy, and, as she had been, was an universal favourite at Owlston. He would have been a surly ploughman
indeed who did not pick up Will to sit astride his horse's neck as he trudged home from work, holding the child's frock. And when Will started for school in the morning, as he soon did, some one or other would be sure to mount him in cart, or on horse, or on his own shoulders, and so help the child on his way.
A more pleasant, playful, pretty little fellow was never seen. Of course everybody, in conventional phrase, “spoiled him ;" but then, the more he was spoiled the more charming he became. His father, finding his home duties not enough to fill up his time, was in the habit of going out with his horse to work with the smaller farmers round about, either for pay, or on the terms that a day of man and horse, which was given to a neighbour at one time of the year, was to be replaced by a similar service by that neighbour and his horse to Andrews in haytime or harvest, or at any season when more than one horse and more than one pair of hands at a time are necessary for agricultural work.
One bright day in early June, Andrews had gone with his horse to help a neighbour about half a mile distant to cart the hay. Little Will begged to be allowed to start alone to carry his father's dinner to the field. His mother, who besides the cares of a family, had now that of attending to a very old woman, unlike herself, raised no objection. For to make Will go to school and to keep him away from the horses had generally been one of her daily contests. But she was again pregnant; and the weather was hot, and the relief in having someone to send was real, and the child himself only too ready to play the truant. So Will started from the cottage at the noontime, with a basket containing his father's dinner. The two women stood at the gate watching his progress down the long lane, the child turning every now and then to wave his hand, by way of assuring them that he was not tired nor yet at all afraid.
When the hush and grateful cool of evening fell-never more delicious than in June, and nowhere more welcome than in the cottage homes of those who have all day been busy in strong exertion in the full sunshine-Joseph Andrews, sitting sideways on his harnessed horse, his well-knit figure swinging responsive to the animal's long stride, came riding leisurely up to the cottage door. “Old Lady” Bunting saw him first.
Why, where's Will ?" was the grandmother's greeting, having first closed the cottage door behind her.
" Will!” said the man, “I haven't seen him. Isn't he back from school?”
“Haven't you had your dinner?” panted out “Old Lady" Bunting
“Of course I have! Polly brought it into the field and put the basket, along with my jacket, under the first haycock. Here's the basket. Can't you see?”
“Oh, yes," said the old woman, “I see.” And speaking loud, as if to someone at a little distance, “ Willy, dear, wait a bit.
Father will come and fetch you." She motioned the man to be silent. She went into the cottage, and closing the door behind her, turned the key. “Oh, dear, what a lock this is !” she exclaimed; “I've hampered it.” She took out the key, and gave it through the open casement to the man, saying, “ Your hands are stronger than mine. You must undo the door from the outside ; but first go and bring Willy, poor little fellow! Set him on the horse's back; he always likes that.” Having crushed down into her own heart the astonishment and dread with which she was now filled for some mishap had evidently occurred-and speaking as steadily as she could, I feel so bad, Polly, with the flurry; make me a cup of tea, it will do me good. The mother was thrown off her guard, and for a few minutes busied herself about the kindly duties of the tea-tray, whilst the old grandmother got time to think. Anyhow, she knew she had made it certain that Polly could make no wild rush to look for her missing son, and she felt that, in what was coming, even this was something to have gained.
It would be a long and sad tale to narrate in detail all the events of the next miserable hours. The father hurried back to the field, calling some of the neighbours to help him as he passed. The whole village was soon astir, and they found that little Will, having carried the dinner to the field, and deposited it safely by the side of his father's coat, had—either to hide in play or from fatigue-crouched under the windrow nearest the gate, and that, whilst the child was in this concealed condition or asleep, the loaded wain, driven by Andrews, making a wide sweep to get the high-piled load safe through the gateway, had passed over his head, and crushed out his
life. The events which followed this terrible accident must be summarised even more curtly than those which preceded it, Before the sad procession which brought home little Will's body-cold before it was found—had reached the common, one or two people, more far-seeing than their fellows, had hurried up to help the living, instead of swelling the useless wail over the dead. Who first spoke the tidings at the cottage was never known. The women's hearts there had told them what must have befallen, long before the actual cause of the death was framed in words. Polly passed from hysterical fit into hysterical fit, and by kind, if somewhat rough hands, had been put to bed. When the body came she lifted out her arms for the bundle, shawled by some kindly hand, so that the child might have been asleep. She opened the folds, gave one glance at the crushed head, and seemed turned into stone. She neither screamed nor sobbed. All night through she sat, dryeyed, without a word, the bundle on her knees. The speech of
her husband and her other children called forth no response, and the peasant women slunk away aghast at such a grief. The one companion of her sleepless watch was the old grandmother, sitting silent with Polly's hand in hers. Morning brought the doctor, the clergyman, the coroner, but Polly would answer no questions from any of them, nor suffer to lay hand upon her charge. She had ' gone out of her mind”; at one minute she was bewailing, “It's all my doing; he would have gone to school if I'd have let him !”—and next exclaiming in bitter reproaches against her husband, heartbroken enough already. All that was wild and lawless in the woman came to the front if she was touched or even spoken to. In the fierce maniac whom three strong “ daughters of the plough ” could scarce restrain, no one could have recognised the decent matron of twenty-four hours before. The doctor suggested an immediate removal to the asylum, and the minister was wise enough to hold his tongue. The coroner did not insist on the jury viewing the body. Half of them had seen it already, in their private capacities, as the procession bore it homewards, and were not likely to forget it. They did not need to have the sight recalled to them. Law, Physic, and Divinity, all were baffled. Between Polly Andrews and utter madness there was one shelter—the same which had received her at her inauspicious birth-i.e., one slight, thin, pale, old woman, more white in the hair, perhaps, and with more stooping figure, but facing this new trouble with the same clear head and unshrinking heart, which had carried her through so many difficulties. But what an incident was this! Poor little Will, impelled to his fate by two women, either of whom would readily have given her life for his; and “done to death" by the act of the man who, in all the world, was the one who loved him best!
It was “Old Lady” Bunting who refused to allow Polly's removal. It was by her pious thought that none of the people were suffered to put on a vestige of black. By the help of an opiate, the corpse was removed without Polly knowing it; and a dummy in its stead wrapped in the shawl, and placed before the crazed woman's eyes. The deceit was the easier to effect, as after the first glance Polly never again attempted to uncover the face. The church bells were not allowed to toll, nor the mourners to join in procession till the coffin had been carried one hundred yards away from the cottage, and it was fastened down in the road. By “Old Lady” Bunting's instructions and help, everything continued to be done about the house as when a woman was in childbed. Everything was kept as quiet as possible—the very children were hushed; but there was no sound of grief, nor any reference to a funeral. This went on for nearly a month; and when the woman's time came that she should be delivered, it was of a living male child. Whilst
everyone else was wondering what this should mean, “Old Lady” Bunting stepped up to the bed's head, and bending over Polly, kissed her, and said : “Look, Polly ; Willy is given back to you; he wants you to nurse him.”
By what confusion of thought it happened, cannot here be stated; but it is a fact that the woman's weary brain and broken heart caught eagerly at the idea thus suggested.
She gradually recovered, and made as much of the new baby as of the first Willy. She began to speak freely of the new-born as being Willy, and inquired for her other little children (girls both), and asked kindly for her husband. Gradually, by treating her as a woman making a recovery from a confinement, Mrs. Andrews regained slowly both strength and reason. She once more resumed her place as the wife and mother of a poor man's household. She attended to everyone's wants with almost as much of energy and perseverance and ingenuity as before. She did not even wear the aspect of a sad woman, and never wore mourning, though she became very reticent, and aged very rapidly. She rarely spoke to anyone outside the family circle; and never, within or out of it, did she speak of her first-born as such. She called the new child Willy; she would talk of his old clothes as “ being big for him now, but you'll see he'll grow into 'em again.” She would not suffer him out of her sight, except with the grandmother, whose duties as nurse-girl had all to begin over again once more. This time poor
“Old Lady” Bunting fairly broke down, and after a struggle to keep up, with the same curious quietness, leisureliness, and pertinacity which had characterised her throughout her life, she, in popular saying, “took to her bed,” and for the rest of her days she never left it. She was always cheerful, and liked to have the children playing about the room and on the bed ; but she could not be induced to get up any more, winter or summer, for several years. She lived to be more than ninety; she was carefully nursed by daughters and granddaughters; and when she died, all these things with truth could be said of her:-It could be said that she had never, in the long years that elapsed after Will Fairman brought her in his coat to his cottage—i.e., eighty-five or eighty-six years -slept one night out it. She had never in all that time spent a day without working, and had never in her long life received one day's wages.
She had served all her time, and served generously and well; but it had been for love and duty, and not for hire. She probably had never had five sovereigns of her own in cash at one time in her life; but she and hers had never gone unfed or untidy, nor had she owed any man a penny. She had never failed to make the produce in the year of her little fields and gardens support the wants of her household for the year, and no beggar at her gate went hungry or thirsty away. She had never in her life read a paragraph