by Alfred H.
Tell you a story, Master 'Arry? Ah! there's only one story as ought
to be told in this yer stable, and that's the old un as allus hupsets
me to tell. But I don't mind a-goin' over the old ground once ag'in,
Master 'Arry, as you know werry well, if these yer gents 'as a mind to
listen to a hold man's yarn. It beats all the printed stories as ever I
see, but then, as I ain't no scholar, and can't see werry well neither,
p'raps that ain't no much wonder arter all. Reading ain't much in my
line, yer see, sir, and, as the old master used to say, Bring up yer
boys to the prerfishuns yer means 'em to foller. 'Osses is my
prerfishun, sir, and 'osses I was brought up to.
Excuse me just a minute, sir, if yer don't mind a-settin' on this
yer stool. I don't like to see nobody a-leanin' ag'in that there post.
That were Snowflake's stall, sir, in the old time, and Snowflake
were little Dora's pony.
My father were os'ler here, sir, afore I were born, and I growed up
to the stable, Master 'Arry, just as your ole father growed up to the
'All. It were in ole Sir Markham's time, this wereole Sir Markham,
whose picture hangs above the mantel in the dinin'-'all, as fine a hold
English gen'leman as ever crossed a 'unter and follered the 'ounds. The
first time as ever I see Sir Markham were when I were about four year
old. O' course, we lived on the estate, but I don't know as I'd ever
been up to the 'All till that partickler mornin', when I came wi' a
message for my father, and meets ole Sir Markham in the park. Now, yer
know, Sir Markham were a queer ole chap when he liked. He didn't take
no nonsens from nobody, he didn't. I've seen him thrash the keeper
afore now with his own ridin' whip, and he wouldn't 'a' stood
partickler about a boy or two, and as there'd been a deal of fruit
stole out o' the orchard about that time, he thought he'd jist up and
frighten me a bit. So he hollers outHi! there, you boy, what right
'a' you got in my park? but I see a sort o' twinkle in his eye, so I
knowed he weren't real cross, and so I up and says, Ain't boys got a
right to go where their fathers is? He didn't say nothing more to me
then, but when he sees my father he says, That's a smart boy o' yours,
Jim, he says, and when he's a bit older yer must 'ave 'im up 'ere to
Well, sir, I got a bit older in time, and I come up 'ere to 'elp,
and, 'ceptin' for a very little while, I've been 'ere ever since.
I were a boy of fourteen when the things 'appened as make up the
rest o' my story. Sir Markham he were a matter o' sixty year old, I
should say, and Miss Dora, as I see it said in a book, once, sweet,
wery sweet, wery, wery sweet seventeen.
I allus 'ad a hadmiration for Miss Dora. Darling Dora they called
'er at the 'All, and so did I, when nobody wasn't listenin'. Nobody
couldn't know 'er without admirin' 'er, but I 'ad a special sort of
hadmiration for 'er as 'ad made me do any mortal thing she asked me,
whatever it might 'ave costed.
Yer see, when I were quite a little chap, and she were no much
bigger, she ses to me one day, when I were a bit scolded, she ses,
Never mind, Jim, she ses, cheer up; you'll be a man o' some sort
some day; and I tell you, though I allus 'ad a hidea that way myself,
when she said it I grow'd a hinch straight off. If yer believes in
yourself, Master 'Arry, yer can do a lot, but if somebody else believes
in yer there ain't nothink in the whole world what yer can't do.
My particler business in the stable were Miss Dora's pony,
Snowflake, darling Dora's darling, as it got called o' times. She rode
out a great deal, did Miss Dora, and she rode well, and I generally 'ad
to foller 'er on the bay cob. She'd spend a lot o' time about this yer
stable, one way and another, and we got to be werry partickler friends.
Not as I presum'd, mind yer, nor as she forgot 'er station; she were
just a hangel, she were, what couldn't be spoilt by nobody's company,
and what couldn't 'elp a-makin' o' other people wish as they were
summut in the hangel line, too.
But yer a-gettin' impatient I see, gents, and I ax yer pardon for
a-ramblin' a bit.
Well, it were Chris'mas time, as it might be now, and young Markham
(that were your father, Master 'Arry) he were 'ome from Oxford for 'is
'olidays, with as nice a young fellow as ever stepped, as 'ad come with
him to spend Chris'mas at the 'All. They called 'im the Captain, not
that he were a harmy captain, or anythink of that, he were a captain of
summut at the collegemaybe football or summut else. Somehow he often
came 'ome with young Markham at 'oliday times, and 'im and Miss Dora
was partickler friendly like.
It were not a werry snowy Chris'mas that year, though there were
plenty of frost, and the lake in the park would 'a' borne the London
coach and four without a crack. Young Markham and the Captain and Miss
Dora did a deal o' skatin', and ole Sir Markham invited a lot o'
friends to come and stay Chris'mas for the sake o' the sport. They did
say as Aunt Dorothy as Miss Dora were called arter 'ad been a-preachin'
at 'im for a-neglectin' o' Miss Dora and a-keepin 'er at the 'All
without no society, and I s'pose that's why Sir Markham were
a-aggitatin' himself a bit cos' we never 'ad no fuss at Chris'mas as a
Well, we was werry busy at that time, I can tell yer; several of the
wisitors brought their own 'osses with them, and me and my father had
plenty to do a-lookin' arter 'em.
Among the wisitors as come from London were a real military
hofficer, a reg'lar scaff'ld pole he were, for length and breadth, with
mustaches as 'ud 'a' done for reins, if 'e'd only been a 'oss. He
weren't no favourite o' mine, not from the fust. He were a bit too
harbitry for me. He were a-thinkin' he were a-goin' to hintroduce 'is
harmy regerlations into our stables; but he allus 'ad to wait the
longest, for all 'is hinterferin'. But what used to rile me the most
with him were 'is nasty, sneerin' ways at young Markham's friend, the
Captain. Yer see, sir, he were a real harmy captain, and so I s'pose he
were a bit jealous o' our young Captain, as was a lot better than 'im,
arter all. O' course I didn't see it at the time, but I've said to
myself lots o' times since, it were a reg'lar plant, that's what it
were, that Aunt Dorothy 'ad brought the big soldier down o' purpose for
Miss Dora to fall in love with; but 'e were just a little bit too late.
Well, yer know, gents, I told yer as I were quite a youngster at the
time, and though ole Sir Markham said as I were werry sharp, I must
confess as I didn't quite understand 'ow things were a-goin' on. I
noticed that the two captains kept pretty clear of each other, and that
Miss Dora never came near the stables for three days together, which
were a werry unusual thing for 'er; and one of the ole servants at the
'All told me as the hofficer 'ad been hasking Sir Markham if he might
pay his addresses to Miss Dora, and that Sir Markham 'ad said he might.
My ole father were a-hactin' a bit queer about that time, too; he
kept a-hasken' me if I'd like to be a postboy, or drive the London
coach, or anything o' that, cos', he ses, Yer know, Jim, Miss Dora 'll
be marryin' somebody one o' these days, and maybe you'll 'ave to find
summut else to do when Snowflake's gone. Well, I ses, if Miss Dora
got married and go'd away, I reckon she'd take me with 'er to look
arter 'er 'osses, so I sha'n't want no postboy's place, nor coachun's
neither, as I sees. And father he seemed pretty satisfied, he did,
only 'e says, If ever you should want to drive to Scotland, Jim, he
ses, you go across the moor to the Burnley Beeches, and then yer bears
off to yer right by the Ambly Arms, three mile along you'll fine the
great North Road, and there yer are.
Well, I didn't take no notice of this, though father he kept on
sayin' o' summut o' the sort all day long, and when it came to evenin',
bein' Chris'mas Eve, we went up to the 'All to 'ave supper in the
kitchen, and drink ole Sir Markham's 'elth. Sir Markham come down in
the servants' 'all and made a speech, and some o' the gents come down
too; but while things were a-goin' at their 'ighest, my father he says
to me, Jim, 'e says, if ever you want to go to Scotland you go
across the moor to the Burnley Beeches, and then yer bears off to yer
right by the Ambly Arms, three mile along you'll fine the great North
Road, and there yer are. All right, I says, angry like, I don't
want no Scotland; what d'yer want to bother me for with yer Burnley
Beeches, and yer Ambly Arms? Jim, 'e ses solemn, yer never know how
useful a bit of hinformation may come in sometimes; now, he says,
you'd better run over to the stables, and see if all is a-goin' on
right. Well, I see it was no use argifyin', so off I starts. I sees as
I comes near the stables as there were a light there, as ought not to
be, and o' course, I run back'ard to tell my father, but lor, I thought
he were off 'is 'ed, for all he ses was, If ever you wants to go to
Scotland, Jim, it's across the moor to the Burnley Beeches, off to yer
right, by the Ambly Arms, three mile along you'll fine the great North
Road, and there yer are.
They'd been a-drinkin' a bit 'ard some of 'em, and I ses to myself
father's been a'elpin' of 'em, and I tears off to the stables to see
what was up.
Well, when I gets here, I comes in at that there door behind yer,
sir, and what should I see, but Miss Dora in Snowflake's stall,
a-kissin' and a-cryin' over 'im like mad. She didn't take no notice o'
me no more'n if I hadn't been there at all, and I came and stood ag'in
that there post as you were a-leanin' ag'in just now, sir. Little Dora
were a-sobbin' as if 'er 'art would break, and she were a-tryin' to say
Good-bye. They're only little words, sir, at the most, but werry
often they're the 'ardest words in all the world to say.
Well, sir, to make a long story short, it were just this: Sir
Markham had told 'er as she mustn't think nothink of young Markham's
college friend, 'cos 'e were poor and 'adn't nothink but 'is wits and
'is learnin' to live on, and that the tall soldier 'ad been a-haskin'
for 'er, and he'd promised 'er to 'im; and it 'ad clean broke 'er 'art,
and so she 'ad come down to this yer stable where everythink loved 'er
to tell 'er sorrows to her old pet Snowflake, to bury her face in his
snowy neck, and wipe 'er eyes on his flowin' mane.
But, afore I 'ad time to say anythink, who should foller me in at
the door but the young Captain hisself, and 'e come and stood by me a
moment without sayin' a word. He were werry pale, and 'is eyes shone
like fire, and at last he ses, in a hoarse sort of a whisper, Jim, 'e
ses, they wants to marry darling Dora to the big swaggerin' soldier,
and I want yer to 'elp me prewent 'em. 'Elp yer prewent 'em, I ses;
why, I'll prewent 'em myself. I ain't werry big, p'r'aps, and maybe I
couldn't reach 'is bloated face, but a stone 'ud find 'is head as
quickly as it did the big Bible chap as David killed; and maybe I can
shie. I hadn't practised on ole Sir Markham's apples for nothink.
Well, sir, I needn't say as it didn't come to that. The fact is,
everythink were arranged. It were a matter o' seventy miles to Scotland
by the road, and they'd made up their minds to start for Gretna Green
as soon as the wisitors 'ad gone to bed. Father were in the swim, and
that's why he'd been a-'intin' to me all day and 'ad sent me to see
what the light meant. My father 'e were a artful ole man, 'e were; he
knowed better nor to 'ave anythink to do with it hisself. Why, I
b'leave Sir Markham 'ud a murdered 'im if he 'ad, but me, o' course,I
was only a boy, and did as I were told.
Well, sir, a-hactin' under horders, I were a-waitin' with the
post-chaise at them Burnley Beeches at eleven o'clock. I'd been
a-waitin' some time, and I begun to be afraid as they weren't a-comin'.
At last I see a white somethink comin' along, and in another minute
they was alongside. I shall never forget that night. Miss Dora fainted
directly she were inside the carriage, and to me she looked as if she
were dead. For God's sake, and for Dora's sake, drive for your life,
Jim! said the young Captain, and I just did drive for my werry life.
It was werry dark and I couldn't see much, and it must a bin a-rainin'
or summut else,anyhow there were a preshus lot o' water got in my
eyes, till I couldn't see nothink. Father had taken care to git the
'osses in good condition, and they went away as though they knew as
they were a-carryin' their darlin' Dora from death to life.
From the Burnley Beeches I drove as I 'ad been directed, past the
Ambly Arms, and three mile further I found the great North Road, and
there I wore. You never know how useful a bit o' information may come
in sometimes. It were pretty straight work now, and the only thing I
'ad to fear was a-wearin' out me 'osses afore we reached the Border. At
two o'clock we stopped and baited, and the young Captain he give me the
tip. He says, Don't go too fast, he ses; they won't be arter
us for an hour or two yet, if they come at all. I've given 'em summut
else to look for fust, 'e ses, and it'll take 'em all their time.
Weil, there ain't no need to make a long story out o' our run to
Scotland; we got there safe enough arter imaginin' as we was follered
by highwaymen, and goblins, and soldiers, and hall sorts o' other hevil
sperits, which were nothink but fancy arter all.
Why, bless yer, we 'adn't no real need to fear; the young Captain he
were one too many for 'em, he were, in more ways nor one. Afore he came
away he smashed a big hole in the ice, in the middle of the lake, and
put 'is 'at and Miss Dora's muff on the edge of the hole; and they were
a-breaking up the ice and dragging the lake all Chris'mas Day instead
of a-follerin' us.
Next thing came the weddin' in the blacksmith's shop, where the
young Captain took our darling Dora all to hisself, with ne'er a
bridesmaid but me to give 'er away and everythink else. Poor little
Dora, she fainted right off ag'in directly it were all over; and the
young Captain he flushed up regular, like one o' them hero chaps as
they put in books. I never see such a change in any one afore or since.
'E seemed as if 'e could do anything now Miss Dora were hall 'is own. I
tell yer, sir, you can't fight nothing like 'arf so 'ard for yourself
as yer can if you've got some one else to fight for.
After the weddin', the Captain put up at the Blacksmith's Arms,
where 'e writes a long letter to ole Sir Markham, and one to your
father, Master 'Arry, which he give me to deliver, and with which I
started 'ome ag'in.
Ole Sir Markham never forgave the young Captain for a-runnin' off
wi' Miss Dora, and if it 'adn't 'a' bin for your father, Master 'Arry,
I shouldn't never 'a' come back to the 'All. Arter that they went
abroad to some foreign place as I never heerd of, and they lost track
of 'em up at the 'All too arter a bit; though I know as your father,
Master 'Arry, used to send 'em lots o' things without Sir Markham
a-knowin' anythink about it. And then came the letter with the black
edge as said as our Dora 'ad died o' one of them furren fevers as I
didn't even know the name of, and arter that we never heard no more.
Poor ole Sir Markham began to break up werry soon arter that. He were
not like the same man arter Miss Dora went, and werry soon 'e kept to
the 'ouse altogether, and we never saw nothink of 'im out o' doors.
Next thing we 'eard as he were ill, and everybody were a-wishin' as
Miss Dora 'ud come back and comfort 'im. At last, when he were really
a-dyin', 'e kep' on a-callin' her, Dora, Dora, in 'is wanderin's
like, and nobody couldn't answer 'im, their 'arts was that full as
there weren't no room for words. I remember that night, sir, as if it
were yesterday, and yet it were forty year ago, Master 'Arry, ten year
afore you were born. It were Chris'mas Eve, and ole Sir Markham he were
keepin' on a-haskin' for Miss Dora, and I couldn't stand it no longer,
so I come over 'ere to smoke my pipe and be to myself, yer see, and
bide my feelin's like. Well, I were a-sittin' on a stool in that there
corner, a-thinkin' about ole Sir Markham and our darlin' Dora, when I
looks up, and as true as I ever see anythin' in my life I see her
a-standin' there afore me. She didn't take no notice of me, though, but
she run into Snowflake's stall there, sir, and buried her pretty face
in 'is neck and stroked his mane and patted his sides, then she laughed
one o' her silv'ry laughs and clapped 'er 'ands and calls out, 'Ome
again, 'ome again at last; happy, happy 'ome. Jim, Jim, where's that
lazy Jim? But lor', sir, she were gone ag'in afore I could get up off
the stool. I rushed up to the 'All like lightnin', I can tell yer, and
I see a bright light a-shinin' in ole Sir Markham's bedroom. I never
knowed 'ow I got up them stairs, but I heerd ole Sir Markham cry out as
loud as ever I heerd 'im in my life, Dora, Dora, come at last; darling
Dora, darling! 'E never said no more, did ole Sir Markham, she had
taken 'im away.
* * * * *
You'll excuse me a-haskin' you not to lean ag'in that post, won't
you, sir? It's a kind o' sort o' friend o' mine. There ain't a sorrow
as I've ever had these forty year that I haven't shared with that post.
It 'ave been watered by little Dora's tears, and it 'ave been watered
by mine, and there ain't nothink in the 'ole world as I walues more. It
ain't for the likes o' me to talk o' lovin' a hangel like 'er, sir, but
I 'av'n't never loved no one else from that day to this, and maybe when
my turn comes at last, Master 'Arry, to go where there ain't no
difference between rich and poor, I may 'ear 'er bright sweet voice cry
out ag'in to me: 'Ome ag'in, Jim: happy, happy 'ome!