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NY PUBLIC LIBRARY T


HE BRANCH LIBRARIES



3 3333 08115 2072



.




*




Queen's Treasures Series



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE



The Queen's Treasures Series






Small Crown 8vo. With 8 Coloured Plates and Decorated

Title-Page, Covers, and End-Papers.

2S. 6d. net each.

COUSIN PHILLIS.

By MRS. GASKELL. Illustrated by M. V. WHEEL-
HOUSE. With an Introduction by THOMAS SECCOMBE.

LITTLE WOMEN.

By LOUISA M. ALCOTT. Illus. by M. V. WHEELHOUSE.

CRANFORD.

By MRS. GASKELL. Illus. by M. V. WHEELHOUSE.

SIX TO SIXTEEN.

By MRS. EWING. Illustrated by M. V. WHEELHOUSE.

A FLAT IRON FOR A FARTHING.

By MRS. EWING. Illustrated by M. V. WHEELHOUSE.

JAN OF THE WINDMILL.

By MRS. EWING. Illustrated by M. V. WHEELHOUSE.

MRS. OVERTHEWAY'S REMEMBRANCES.

By MRS. EWING. Illustrated by M. V. WHEELHOUSE,

THE BROWNIES AND OTHER TALES.

By MRS. EWING. Illustrated by ALICE B. WOODWARD.

LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE AND OTHER STORIES.

By MRS. EWING. Illustrated by ALICE B. WOODWARD.

Others to follow.

LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, YORK HOUSE.
PORTUGAL STREET, W.C.



Lob lie-by-the-fire (see p. 70)-



IOB UE-BYIHE-FIFE

OR

IHEECKOFHNGBOROUGH

AND OTHER




MEJ




JAMES BOYN M'COMBIE, ESQ.
OF ABERDEEN

THIS LITTLE BOOK IS VERY AFFECTIONATELY
DEDICATED

J. H. E.



< .. . **. ,

. '. '*- '



GLASGOW : PRINTED AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
BY ROBERT MACLEHOSE AND CO. LTD.






CONTENTS

PAGE

LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE, OR THE LUCK OF LING-

BOROUGH i

TIMOTHY'S SHOES 75

OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS 109

BENJY IN BEASTLAND .... ... 129

THE PEACE-EGG- ... . . . 161






LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE .... - . Frontispiece

SHE RUBBED NERVOUSLY AT THE DIAMOND BROOCH WITH HER

THIN LITTLE MITTENED HANDS 8

"PICK THE PRETTY F'OWERS, LOVE" ... 24

" YOU'VE GOT A RARE PERCH THIS TIME," SAID HE - - - 38

" YOU'VE BEEN IN THE MARSH, TIMOTHY," SAID THE DAME.

"PUT ON YOUR SHOES." - - 84

OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS - 120

BENJY AND THE NIGHTMARE- 144

THE OLD MAN AND THE MUMMERS 184



LOB LI E-BY-T HE-FIRE

OR THE

LUCK OF LINGBOROUGH



L.L.



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE



INTRODUCTORY

LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE the Lubber-fiend, as Milton
calls him is a rough kind of Brownie or House
Elf, supposed to haunt some north-country home-
steads, where he does the work of the farm J/tboaiefs,,

for no grander wages than

* * '
" to earn his cream-howl, diily set."

Not that he is insensible of the pleasures of rest, for






" When, in one night, ere glimpse of morn.

His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn



That ten day-labourers could no't end,
Then lies him down the Lubber-fiend,
And, stretched out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength.''






,



.



^
It was said that a Lob Lie-by-the-fire once,

haunted the little old Hall at Lingbofough.. It was
an old stone house on the Borders, and seemed to
have got its tints from the grey skies that hung
above it. It was cold-looking without, but cosy
within, 'like a north-country heart," said Miss
Kitty, who was a woman of sentiment, and kept a
commonplace book.

It was long before Miss Kitty's time that Lob
Lie-by-the-fire first came to Lingborough. Why
and whence he came is not recorded, nor when and
wherefore he withdrew his valuable help, which, as



4 LOB LTE-BY-THE-FIRE

wages rose, and prices rose also, would have been
more welcome than ever.

This tale professes not to record more of him than
comes within the memory of man.

Whether (as Fletcher says) he were the son of a
witch, if curds and cream won his heart, and new
clothes put an end to his labours, it does not pretend
to tell. His history is less known than that of any
other sprite. It may be embodied in some oral
tradition that shall one day be found ; but as yet the
mists of forgetfulness hide it from the story-teller
of to-day as deeply as the sea fogs are wont to lie
between Lingborough and the adjacent coast.

THE LITTLE OLD LADIES. ALMS DONE IN SECRET.

The little old ladies of Lingborough were
heiresses.

Not, mind you, in the sense of being the children
of some mushroom millionaire, with more money
than manners, and (as Miss Betty had seen with her
own eyes, on the daughter of a manufacturer who
shall be nameless) dresses so fine in quality and
be-furbelowed in construction as to cost a good
quarter's income (of the little old ladies), but trailed
in the dirt from " beggarly extravagance," or kicked
out behind at every step by feet which fortune (and
a very large fortune too) had never taught to walk
properly.

"And how should she know how to walk?" said
Miss Betty. " Her mother can't have taught her,
poor body ! that ran through the streets of Leith,
with a creel on her back, as a lassie ; and got out of
her coach (lined with satin, you mind, sister Kitty ?)
to her dying day, with a bounce, all in a heap, her
dress caught, and her stockings exposed (among



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE 5

ourselves, ladies !) like some good wife that's afraid
to be late for the market. Aye, aye ! Malcolm
Midden good man ! made a fine pocket of silver
in a dirty trade, but his women '11 jerk, and toss,
and bounce, and fuss, and fluster for a generation
or two yet, for all the silks and satins he can buy



em.



From this it will be seen that the little old ladies
inherited some prejudices of their class, and were
also endowed with a shrewdness of observation
common among all classes of north-country women.

But to return to what else they inherited. They
were heiresses, as the last representatives of a family
as old in that Border country as the bold blue hills
which broke its horizon. They \vere heiresses also
in default of heirs male to their father, who got the
land from his uncle's dying childless sons being
scarce in the family. They were heiresses, finally,
to the place and the farm, to the furniture that was
made when folk seasoned their wood before they
worked it, to a diamond brooch which they wore by
turns, besides two diamond rings, and two black
lace shawls, that had belonged to their mother and
their Auntie Jean, long since departed thither where
neither moth nor rust corrupt the true riches.

As to the incomings of Lingborough, "It was
nobody's business but their own," as Miss Betty
said to the lawyer who was their man of business,
and whom they consulted on little matters of rent
and repairs at as much length, and with as much
formal solemnity, as would have gone elsewhere to
the changing hands of half a million of money.
Without violating their confidence, however, we
may say that the estate paid its way, kept them in
silk stockings, and gave them new tabbinet dresses
once in three years. It supplied their wants the



6 LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE

better that they had inherited house plenishing from
their parents, ' which they thanked their stars was
not made of tag-rag, and would last their time,"
and that they were quite content with an old home
and old neighbours, and never desired to change
the grand air that blew about their native hills for
worse, in order to be poisoned with bad butter, and
make the fortunes of extortionate lodging-house
keepers.

The rental of Lingborough did more. How much
more the little old ladies did not know themselves,
and no one else shall know, till that which was done
in secret is proclaimed from the housetops.

For they had had a religious scruple, founded
upon a literal reading of the scriptural command
that a man's left hand should not know what his
right hand gives in alms, and this scruple had been
ingeniously set at rest by the parson, who, failing
in an attempt to explain the force of eastern hyper-
bole to the little ladies' satisfaction, had said that
Miss Betty, being the elder, and the head of the
house, might be likened to the right hand, and Miss
Kitty, as the younger, to the left, and that if they
pursued their good works without ostentation, or
desiring the applause even of each other, the spirit
of the injunction would be fulfilled.

The parson was a good man and a clever. He
had (as Miss Betty justly said) a very spiritual
piety. But he was also gifted with much shrewd-
ness in dealing with the various members of his
flock. And his word was law to the sisters.

Thus it came about that the little ladies' charities
were not known even to each other that Miss Betty
turned her morning camlet twice instead of once,
and Miss Kitty denied herself in sugar, to carry out
benevolent little projects which were accomplished



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE 7

in secret, and of which no record appears in the
Lingborough ledger.

AT TEA WITH MRS. DUNMAW.

The little ladies of Lingborough were very soci-
able, and there was, as they said, ;< as much gaiety
as was good for anyone " within their reach. There
were at least six houses at which they drank tea
from time to time, all within a walk. As hosts or
guests, you always met the same people, which was
a friendly arrangement, and the programmes of the
entertainments were so uniform, that no one could
possibly feel awkward. The best of manners and
home-made wines distinguished these tea parties,
where the company was strictly genteel, if a little
faded. Supper was served at nine, and the parson
and the lawyer played whist for love with different
partners on different evenings with strict impartiality.

Small jealousies are apt to be weak points in small
societies, but there was a general acquiescence in
the belief that the parson had a friendly preference
for the little ladies of Lingborough.

He lived just beyond them, too, which led to his
invariably escorting them home. Miss Betty and
Miss Kitty would not for worlds have been so in-
delicate as to take this attention for granted, though
it was a custom of many years' standing. The
older sister always went through the form of asking
the younger to "see if the servant had come," and
at this signal the parson always bade the lady of
the house good night, and respectfully proffered his
services as an escort to Lingborough.

It was a lovely evening in June, when the little
ladies took tea with the widow of General Dunmaw
at her cottage, not quite two miles from their own
home.



8 LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE

It was a memorable evening. The tea party was.
an agreeable one. The little ladies had new tabbi-
nets on, and Miss Kitty wore the diamond brooch.
Miss Betty had played whist with the parson, and
the younger sister (perhaps because of the brooch)
had been favoured with a good deal of conversation
with the lawyer. It was an honour, because the
lawyer bore the reputation of an esprit fort, and was
supposed to have, as a rule, a contempt for feminine
intellects, which good manners led him to veil
under an almost officious politeness in society. But
honours are apt to be uneasy blessings, and this
one was at least as harassing as gratifying. For a
somewhat monotonous vein of sarcasm, a painful
power of producing puns, and a dexterity in sug-
gesting doubts of everything, were the main foun-
dation of his intellectual reputation, and Miss Kitty
found them hard to cope with. And it was a warm
evening.

But women have much courage, especially to
defend a friend or a faith, and the less Miss Kitty
found herself prepared for the conflict the harder
she esteemed it her duty to fight. She fought for
Church and State, for parsons and poor people, for
the sincerity of her friends, the virtues of the Royal
Family, the merit of Dr. Drugson's prescriptions,
and for her favourite theory that there is some good
in everyone and some happiness to be found every-
where.

She rubbed nervously at the diamond brooch with
her thin little mittened hands. She talked very
fast; and if the lawyer were guilty of feeling any
ungallant indifference to her observations, she did
not so much as hear his, and her cheeks became so
flushed that Mrs. Dunmaw crossed the room in her
China crape shawl and said, " My dear Miss Kitty,



She rubbed nervously at the diamond brooch with her thin
little mittened hands (p. 8).



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE 9

I'm sure you feel the heat very much. Do take my
fan, which is larger than yours."

But Miss Kitty was saved a reply, for at this
moment Miss Betty turned on the sofa, and said,
" Dear Kitty, will you kindly see if the servant-

And the parson closed the volume of * Friend-
ship's Offering ' which lay before him, and ad-
vanced towards Mrs. Dunmaw and took leave in
his own dignified way.

Miss Kitty was so much flustered that she had
not even presence of mind to look for the servant,
who had never been ordered to come, but the parson
relieved her by saying in his round, deep voice, " I
hope you will not refuse me the honour of seeing
you home, since our roads happen to lie together."
And she was glad to get into the fresh air, and
beyond the doubtful compliments of the lawyer's
nasal suavity " You have been very severe upon
me to-night, Miss Kitty. I'm sure I had no notion
I should find so powerful an antagonist," etc.

MIDSUMMER EVE. A LOST DIAMOND.

It was Midsummer Eve. The long light of the
North was pale and clear, and the western sky shone
luminous through the fir-wood that bordered the
road. Under such dim lights colours deepen, and
the great bushes of broom, that were each one mass
of golden blossom, blazed like fairy watch-fires up
the lane.

Miss Kitty leaned on the left arm of the parson
and Miss Betty on his right. She chatted gaily,
which left her younger sister at leisure to think of
all the convincing things she had not remembered
to say to the lawyer, as the evening breeze cooled
her cheeks.

"A grand prospect for the crops, sir," said Miss



io LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE

Betty; ' I never saw the broom so beautiful." But
as she leaned forward to look at the yellow blaze
which foretells good luck to farmers, as it shone in
the hedge on the left-hand side of the road, she
caught sight of the brooch in Miss Kitty's lace
shawl. Through a gap in the wood the light from
the western sky danced among the diamonds. But
where one of the precious stones should have been,
there was a little black hole.

;< Sister, you've lost a stone out of your brooch !"
screamed Miss Betty. The little ladies were well-
trained, and even in that moment of despair Miss
Betty would not hint that her sister's ornaments
were not her sole property.

When Miss Kitty burst into tears the parson was
a little astonished as well as distressed. Men are
apt to be so, not perhaps because women cry on
such very small accounts, as because the full reason
does not always transpire. Tears are often the
climax of nervous exhaustion, and this is commonly
the result of more causes than one. Ostensibly
Miss Kitty was " upset " by the loss of the diamond,
but she also wept away a good deal of the vexation
of her unequal conflict with the sarcastic lawyer,
and of all this the parson knew nothing.

Miss Betty knew nothing of that, but she knew
enough of things in general to feel sure the diamond
was not all the matter.

What is amiss, sister Kitty ?" said she. " Have
you hurt yourself ? Do you feel ill ? Did you
know the stone was out? I hope you're not going
to be hysterical, sister Kitty," added Miss Betty
anxiously ; ' there never was a hysterical woman in
our family yet."

;< Oh dear no, sister Betty," sobbed Miss Kitty;
" but it's all my fault. I know I was fidgeting with



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE n

it whilst I was talking; and it's a punishment on
my fidgety ways, and for ever presuming to wear it
at all, when you're the head of the family, and
solely entitled to it. And I shall never forgive
myself if it's lost, and if it's found I'll never, never
wear it any more." And as she deluged her best
company pocket-handkerchief (for the useful one
was in a big pocket under her dress, and could not
be got at, the parson being present), Church, State,
the Royal Family, the family Bible, her highest
principles, her dearest affections, and the diamond
brooch, all seemed to swim before her disturbed
mind in one sea of desolation.

There was not a kinder heart than the parson's
towards women and children in distress. He tucked
the little ladies again under his arms, and insisted
upon going back to Mrs. Dunmaw's, searching the
lane as they went. In the pulpit or the drawing-
room a ready anecdote never failed him, and on this
occasion he had several. Tales of lost rings, and
even single gems, recovered in the most marvellous
manner and the most unexpected places dug up
in gardens, served up to dinner in fishes, and so
forth. "Never," said Miss Kitty, afterwards,
" never, to her dying day, could she forget his
kindness."

She clung to the parson as a support under both
her sources of trouble, but Miss Betty ran on and
back, and hither and thither, looking for the dia-
mond. Miss Kitty and the parson looked too, and
how many aggravating little bits of glass and silica,
and shining nothings and good-for-nothings there
are in the world, no one would believe who has not
looked for a lost diamond on a high road.

But another story of found jewels was to be added
to the parson's stock. He had bent his long back



12 LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE

for about the eighteenth time, when such a shimmer
as no glass or silica can give flashed into his eyes,
and he caught up the diamond out of the dust, and
it fitted exactly into the little black hole.

Miss Kitty uttered a cry, and at the same moment
Miss Betty, who was farther down the road, did the
same, and these were followed by a third, which
sounded like a mocking echo of both. And then
the sisters rushed together.

' A most miraculous discovery!" gasped Miss
Betty.

You must have passed the very spot before,"
cried Miss Kitty.

" Though I'm sure, sister, what to do with it now
we have found it I don't know," said Miss Betty,
rubbing her nose, as she was wont to do when
puzzled.

' It shall be taken better care of for the future,
sister Betty, " said Miss Kitty, penitently. " Though
how it got out I can't think now."

Why, bless my soul ! you don't suppose it got
there of itself, sister?" snapped Miss Betty. " How
it did get there is another matter."

1 1 felt pretty confident about it, for my own
part," smiled the parson as he joined them.

' Do you mean to say, sir, that you knew it was
there?" asked Miss Betty, solemnly.

" I didn't know the precise spot, my dear madam,

but "

You didn't see it, sir, I hope?" said Miss Betty.

'Bless me, my dear madam, I found it!" cried
the parson.

Miss Betty bridled and bit her lip.

'I never contradict a clergyman, sir," said she,
" but I can only say that if you did see it, it was not
like your usual humanity to leave it lying there."



" Why [



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE 13

I've got it in my hand, ma'am !
, He's got it in his hand, sister !"
cried the'parson and Miss Kitty in one breath.
Miss Betty was too much puzzled to be polite.
"What are you talking about?" she asked.
" The diamond, oh dear, oh dear ! The dia-
mond!" cried Miss Kitty. " But what are you talk-
ing about, sister?"

" The Baby," said Miss Betty.

WHAT Miss BETTY FOUND.

It was found under a broom-bush. Miss Betty
was poking her nose near the bank that bordered
the wood, in her hunt for the diamond, when she
caught sight of a mass of yellow of a deeper tint
than the mass of broom-blossom above it, and this
was the baby.

This vivid colour, less opaque than ; ' deep
chrome " and a shade more orange, seems to have
a peculiar attraction for wandering tribes. Gipsies
use it, and it is a favourite colour with Indian
squaws. To the last dirty rag it is effective, whether
it flutters near a tent on Bagshot Heath, or in some
wigwam doorway makes a point of brightness
against the grey shadows of the pine forest.

A large kerchief of this, wound about its body,
was the baby's only robe, but he seemed quite com-
fortable in it when Miss Betty found him, sleeping
on a pillow of deep hair moss, his little brown fists
closed as fast as his eyes, and a crimson toadstool
grasped in one of them.

When Miss Betty screamed the baby awoke, and
his long black lashes tickled his cheeks and made
him wink and cry. But by the time she returned
with her sister and the parson, he was quite happy
again, gazing up with dark eyes full of delight into



14 LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE

the glowing broom-bush, and fighting the evening
breeze with his feet, which were entangled in the
folds of the yellow cloth, and with the battered toad-
stool which was still in his hand.

"And, indeed, sir," said Miss Betty, who had
rubbed her nose till it looked like the twin toadstool
to that which the baby was flourishing in her face,
" you won't suppose I would have left the poor little
thing another moment, to catch its death of cold on
a warm evening like this; but having no experience
of such cases, and remembering that murder at the
inn in the Black Valley, and that the body was not
allowed to be moved till the constables had seen it,
I didn't feel to know how it might be with found-
lings, and "

But still Miss Betty did not touch the bairn. She
was not accustomed to children. But the parson
had christened too many babies to be afraid of
them, and he picked up the little fellow in a
moment, and tucked the yellow rag round him, and
then addressing the little ladies precisely as if they
were sponsors, he asked in his deep round voice,
" Now where on the face of earth are the vagabonds
who have deserted this child ?"

The little ladies did not know, the broom bushes
were silent, and the question has remained unan-
swered from that day to this.



THE BABY, THE LAWYER, AND THE PARSON.

There were no railways near Lingborough at this
time. The coach ran three times a week, and a
walking postman brought the letters from the town
to the small hamlets. Telegraph wires were un-
known, and yet news travelled quite as fast then as
it does now, and in the course of the following
morning all the neighbourhood knew that Miss



LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE 15

Betty had found a baby under a broom bush, and
the lawyer called in the afternoon to inquire how
the ladies found themselves after the tea party at
Mrs. General Dunmaw's.

Miss Kitty was glad on the whole. She felt ner-
vous, but ready for a renewal of hostilities. Several
clinching arguments had occurred to her in bed last
night, and after hastily looking up a few lines from
her commonplace book, which always made her cry
when she read them, but which she hoped to be able
to hurl at the lawyer with a steady voice, she fol-
lowed Miss Betty to the drawing-room.

It was half a relief and half a disappointment to
find that the lawyer was quite indifferent to the sub-
ject of their late contest. He overflowed with com-
pliments ; was quite sure he must have had the
worst of the argument, and positively dying of
curiosity to hear about the baby.

The little ladies were very full of the subject
themselves. An active search for the baby's rela-
tions, conducted by the parson, the clerk, the farm-
bailiff, the constable, the cowherd, and several
supernumeraries, had so far proved quite vain.
The country folk were most anxious to assist,
especially by word of mouth. Except a small but
sturdy number who had seen nothing, they had all
seen 'tramps," but unluckily no two could be got
together whose accounts of the tramps themselves,
of the hour at which they were seen, or of the direc-
tion in which they went, would tally with each other.

The little ladies were quite alive to the possibility
that the child's parents might never be traced, in-
deed the matter had been constantly before their
minds ever since the parson had carried the baby to
Lingborough, and laid it in the arms of Thomasina,
the servant.



16 LOB LIE-BY-THE-FIRE

Miss Betty had sat long before her toilette-table
that evening, gazing vacantly at the looking-glass.
Not that the reflection of the eight curl-papers she
had neatly twisted up was conveyed to her brain.
She was in a brown study, during which the follow-
ing thoughts passed through her mind, and they all
pointed one way :

That that fine little fellow was not to blame for
his people's misconduct.

That they would never be found.

That it would probably be the means of the poor
child's ruin, body and soul, if they were.

That the master of the neighbouring workhouse
bore a bad character.

That a child costs nothing to keep where cows
are kept too for years.

That just at the age when a boy begins to eat
dreadfully and wear out his clothes, he is very
useful on a farm (though not for these reasons).

That Thomasina had taken to him.

That there need be no nonsense about it, as he


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