On Greenhow Hill
To Love's low voice she lent a careless ear;
Her hand within his rosy fingers lay,
A chilling weight. She would not turn or hear;
But with averted face went on her way.
But when pale Death, all featureless and grim,
Lifted his bony hand, and beckoning
Held out his cypress-wreath, she followed him,
And Love was left forlorn and wondering,
That she who for his bidding would not stay,
At Death's first whisper rose and went away.
'Ohe, Ahmed Din! Shafiz Ullah ahoo! Bahadur Khan, where are you?
Come out of the tents, as I have done, and fight against the English.
Don't kill your own kin! Come out to me!'
The deserter from a native corps was crawling round the outskirts
of the camp, firing at intervals, and shouting invitations to his old
comrades. Misled by the rain and the darkness, he came to the English
wing of the camp, and with his yelping and rifle-practice disturbed
the men. They had been making roads all day, and were tired.
Ortheris was sleeping at Learoyd's feet. 'Wot's all that?' he said
thickly. Learoyd snored, and a Snider bullet ripped its way through
the tent wall. The men swore. 'It's that bloomin' deserter from the
Aurangabadis,' said Ortheris. 'Git up, some one, an' tell 'im 'e's
come to the wrong shop.'
'Go to sleep, little man,' said Mulvaney, who was steaming nearest
the door. 'I can't arise an' expaytiate with him. 'Tis rainin'
entrenchin' tools outside.'
''Tain't because you bloomin' can't. It's 'cause you bloomin'
won't, ye long, limp, lousy, lazy beggar, you. 'Ark to'im 'owlin'!'
'Wot's the good of argifying? Put a bullet into the swine! 'E's
keepin' us awake!' said another voice.
A subaltern shouted angrily, and a dripping sentry whined from the
''Tain't no good, sir. I can't see 'im. 'E's 'idin' somewhere down
Ortheris tumbled out of his blanket. 'Shall I try to get 'im, sir?'
'No,' was the answer. 'Lie down. I won't have the whole camp
shooting all round the clock. Tell him to go and pot his friends.'
Ortheris considered for a moment. Then, putting his head under the
tent wall, he called, as a 'bus conductor calls in a block, ''Igher
up, there! 'Igher up!'
The men laughed, and the laughter was carried down wind to the
deserter, who, hearing that he had made a mistake, went off to worry
his own regiment half a mile away. He was received with shots; the
Aurangabadis were very angry with him for disgracing their colours.
'An' that's all right,' said Ortheris, withdrawing his head as he
heard the hiccough of the Sniders in the distance. 'S'elp me Gawd,
tho', that man's not fit to live—messin' with my beauty-sleep this
'Go out and shoot him in the morning, then,' said the subaltern
incautiously. 'Silence in the tents now. Get your rest, men.'
Ortheris lay down with a happy little sigh, and in two minutes
there was no sound except the rain on the canvas and the all-embracing
and elemental snoring of Learoyd.
The camp lay on a bare ridge of the Himalayas, and for a week had
been waiting for a flying column to make connection. The nightly
rounds of the deserter and his friends had become a nuisance.
In the morning the men dried themselves in hot sunshine and cleaned
their grimy accoutrements. The native regiment was to take its turn of
road-making that day while the Old Regiment loafed.
'I'm goin' to lay for a shot at that man,' said Ortheris, when he
had finished washing out his rifle. ''E comes up the watercourse every
evenin' about five o'clock. If we go and lie out on the north 'ill a
bit this afternoon we'll get 'im.'
'You're a bloodthirsty little mosquito,' said Mulvaney, blowing
blue clouds into the air. 'But I suppose I will have to come wid you.
'Gone out with the Mixed Pickles, 'cause 'e thinks 'isself a
bloomin' marksman,' said Ortheris with scorn.
The 'Mixed Pickles' were a detachment of picked shots, generally
employed in clearing spurs of hills when the enemy were too
impertinent. This taught the young officers how to handle men, and did
not do the enemy much harm. Mulvaney and Ortheris strolled out of
camp, and passed the Aurangabadis going to their road-making.
'You've got to sweat to-day,' said Ortheris genially. 'We're going
to get your man. You didn't knock 'im out last night by any chance,
any of you?'
'No. The pig went away mocking us. I had one shot at him,' said a
private. 'He's my cousin, and I ought to have cleared our
dishonour. But good luck to you.'
They went cautiously to the north hill, Ortheris leading, because,
as he explained,'this is a long-range show, an' I've got to do it.'
His was an almost passionate devotion to his rifle, which, by
barrack-room report, he was supposed to kiss every night before
turning in. Charges and scuffles he held in contempt, and, when they
were inevitable, slipped between Mulvaney and Learoyd, bidding them to
fight for his skin as well as their own. They never failed him. He
trotted along, questing like a hound on a broken trail, through the
wood of the north hill. At last he was satisfied, and threw himself
down on the soft pine-needled slope that commanded a clear view of the
watercourse and a brown, bare hillside beyond it. The trees made a
scented darkness in which an army corps could have hidden from the
''Ere's the tail o' the wood,' said Ortheris. ''E's got to come up
the watercourse, 'cause it gives 'im cover. We'll lay 'ere. 'Tain't
not arf so bloomin' dusty neither.'
He buried his nose in a clump of scentless white violets. No one
had come to tell the flowers that the season of their strength was
long past, and they had bloomed merrily in the twilight of the pines.
'This is something like,' he said luxuriously. 'Wot a 'evinly clear
drop for a bullet acrost! How much d'you make it, Mulvaney?'
'Seven hunder. Maybe a trifle less, bekaze the air's so thin.'
WOP! WOP! WOP! went a volley of musketry on the rear face of the
'Curse them Mixed Pickles firin' at nothin'! They'll scare arf the
'Thry a sightin' shot in the middle of the row,' said Mulvaney, the
man of many wiles. 'There's a red rock yonder he'll be sure to pass.
Ortheris ran his sight up to six hundred yards and fired. The
bullet threw up a feather of dust by a clump of gentians at the base
of the rock.
'Good enough!' said Ortheris, snapping the scale down. 'You snick
your sights to mine or a little lower. You're always firin' high. But
remember, first shot to me. O Lordy! but it's a lovely afternoon.'
The noise of the firing grew louder, and there was a tramping of
men in the wood. The two lay very quiet, for they knew that the
British soldier is desperately prone to fire at anything that moves or
calls. Then Learoyd appeared, his tunic ripped across the breast by a
bullet, looking ashamed of himself. He flung down on the pine-needles,
breathing in snorts.
'One o' them damned gardeners o' th' Pickles,' said he, fingering
the rent. 'Firin' to th' right flank, when he knowed I was there. If I
knew who he was I'd 'a' rippen the hide offan him. Look at ma tunic!'
'That's the spishil trustability av a marksman. Train him to hit a
fly wid a stiddy rest at seven hunder, an' he loose on anythin' he
sees or hears up to th' mile. You're well out av that fancy-firin'
gang, Jock. Stay here.'
'Bin firin' at the bloomin' wind in the bloomin' tree-tops,' said
Ortheris with a chuckle. 'I'll show you some firin' later on.'
They wallowed in the pine-needles, and the sun warmed them where
they lay. The Mixed Pickles ceased firing, and returned to camp, and
left the wood to a few scared apes. The watercourse lifted up its
voice in the silence, and talked foolishly to the rocks. Now and again
the dull thump of a blasting charge three miles away told that the
Aurangabadis were in difficulties with their road-making. The men
smiled as they listened and lay still, soaking in the warm leisure.
Presently Learoyd, between the whiffs of his pipe—
'Seems queer—about 'im yonder—desertin' at all.'
''E'll be a bloomin' side queerer when I've done with 'im,' said
Ortheris. They were talking in whispers, for the stillness of the wood
and the desire of slaughter lay heavy upon them.
'I make no doubt he had his reasons for desertin'; but, my faith! I
make less doubt ivry man has good reason for killin' him,' said
'Happen there was a lass tewed up wi' it. Men do more than more for
th' sake of a lass.'
'They make most av us 'list. They've no manner av right to make us
'Ah; they make us 'list, or their fathers do,' said Learoyd softly,
his helmet over his eyes. Ortheris's brows contracted savagely. He was
watching the valley. 'If it's a girl I'll shoot the beggar twice over,
an' second time for bein' a fool. You're blasted sentimental all of a
sudden. Thinkin' o' your last near shave?'
'Nay, lad; ah was but thinkin' o' what had happened.'
'An' fwhat has happened, ye lumberin' child av calamity, that
you're lowing like a cow-calf at the back av the pasture, an'
suggestin' invidious excuses for the man Stanley's goin' to kill.
Ye'll have to wait another hour yet, little man. Spit it out, Jock,
an' bellow melojus to the moon. It takes an earthquake or a bullet
graze to fetch aught out av you. Discourse, Don Juan! The a-moors av
Lotharius Learoyd! Stanley, kape a rowlin' rig'mental eye on the
'It's along o' yon hill there,' said Learoyd, watching the bare
sub- Himalayan spur that reminded him of his Yorkshire moors. He was
speaking more to himself than his fellows. 'Ay,' said he, 'Rumbolds
Moor stands up ower Skipton town, an' Greenhow Hill stands up ower
Pately Brig. I reckon you've never heeard tell o' Greenhow Hill, but
yon bit o' bare stuff if there was nobbut a white road windin' is like
ut; strangely like. Moors an' moors an' moors, wi' never a tree for
shelter, an' gray houses wi' flagstone rooves, and pewits cryin', an'
a windhover goin' to and fro just like these kites. And cold! A wind
that cuts you like a knife. You could tell Greenhow Hill folk by the
red-apple colour o' their cheeks an' nose tips, and their blue eyes,
driven into pinpoints by the wind. Miners mostly, burrowin' for lead
i' th' hillsides, followin' the trail of th' ore vein same as a
field-rat. It was the roughest minin' I ever seen. Yo'd come on a bit
o' creakin' wood windlass like a well-head, an' you was let down i'
th' bight of a rope, fendin' yoursen off the side wi' one hand,
carryin' a candle stuck in a lump o' clay with t'other, an' clickin'
hold of a rope with t'other hand.'
'An' that's three of them,' said Mulvaney. 'Must be a good climate
in those parts.'
Learoyd took no heed.
'An' then yo' came to a level, where you crept on your hands and
knees through a mile o' windin' drift, an' you come out into a
cave-place as big as Leeds Townhall, with a engine pumpin' water from
workin's 'at went deeper still. It's a queer country, let alone
minin', for the hill is full of those natural caves, an' the rivers
an' the becks drops into what they call pot-holes, an' come out again
'Wot was you doin' there?' said Ortheris.
'I was a young chap then, an' mostly went wi' 'osses, leadin' coal
and lead ore; but at th' time I'm tellin' on I was drivin' the
waggon-team i' th' big sumph. I didn't belong to that country-side by
rights. I went there because of a little difference at home, an' at
fust I took up wi' a rough lot. One night we'd been drinkin', an' I
must ha' hed more than I could stand, or happen th' ale was none so
good. Though i' them days, By for God, I never seed bad ale.' He flung
his arms over his head, and gripped a vast handful of white violets.
'Nah,' said he, 'I never seed the ale I could not drink, the bacca I
could not smoke, nor the lass I could not kiss. Well, we mun have a
race home, the lot on us. I lost all th' others, an' when I was
climbin' ower one of them walls built o' loose stones, I comes down
into the ditch, stones and all, an' broke my arm. Not as I knawed much
about it, for I fell on th' back of my head, an' was knocked stupid
like. An' when I come to mysen it were mornin', an' I were lyin' on
the settle i' Jesse Roantree's houseplace, an' 'Liza Roantree was
settin' sewin', I ached all ovver, and my mouth were like a lime-kiln.
She gave me a drink out of a china mug wi' gold letters—"A Present
from Leeds"—as I looked at many and many a time at after. "Yo're to
lie still while Dr. Warbottom comes, because your arm's broken, and
father has sent a lad to fetch him. He found yo' when he was goin' to
work, an' carried you here on his back," sez she. "Oa!" sez I; an' I
shet my eyes, for I felt ashamed o' mysen. "Father's gone to his work
these three hours, an' he said he'd tell 'em to get somebody to drive
the tram." The clock ticked, an' a bee comed in the house, an' they
rung i' my head like mill-wheels. An' she give me another drink an'
settled the pillow. "Eh, but yo're young to be getten drunk an' such
like, but yo' won't do it again, will yo'?"—"Noa," sez I, "I wouldn't
if she'd not but stop they mill-wheels clatterin'."'
'Faith, it's a good thing to be nursed by a woman when you're
sick!' said Mulvaney. 'Dir' cheap at the price av twenty broken
Ortheris turned to frown across the valley. He had not been nursed
by many women in his life.
'An' then Dr. Warbottom comes ridin' up, an' Jesse Roantree along
with 'im. He was a high-larned doctor, but he talked wi' poor folk
same as theirsens. "What's ta big agaate on naa?" he sings out.
"Brekkin' tha thick head?" An' he felt me all ovver. "That's none
broken. Tha' nobbut knocked a bit sillier than ordinary, an' that's
daaft eneaf." An' soa he went on, callin' me all the names he could
think on, but settin' my arm, wi' Jesse's help, as careful as could
be. "Yo' mun let the big oaf bide here a bit, Jesse," he says, when he
hed strapped me up an' given me a dose o' physic; "an' you an' Liza
will tend him, though he's scarcelins worth the trouble. An' tha'll
lose tha work," sez he, "an' tha'll be upon th' Sick Club for a couple
o' months an' more. Doesn't tha think tha's a fool?"'
'But whin was a young man, high or low, the other av a fool, I'd
like to know?' said Mulvaney. 'Sure, folly's the only safe way to
wisdom, for I've thried it.'
'Wisdom!' grinned Ortheris, scanning his comrades with uplifted
chin. 'You're bloomin' Solomons, you two, ain't you?'
Learoyd went calmly on, with a steady eye like an ox chewing the
'And that was how I come to know 'Liza Roantree. There's some tunes
as she used to sing—aw, she were always singin'—that fetches
Greenhow Hill before my eyes as fair as yon brow across there. And she
would learn me to sing bass, an' I was to go to th' chapel wi' 'em
where Jesse and she led the singin', th' old man playin' the fiddle.
He was a strange chap, old Jesse, fair mad wi' music, an' he made me
promise to learn the big fiddle when my arm was better. It belonged to
him, and it stood up in a big case alongside o' th' eight-day clock,
but Willie Satterthwaite, as played it in the chapel, had getten deaf
as a door- post, and it vexed Jesse, as he had to rap him ower his
head wi' th' fiddle-stick to make him give ower sawin' at th' right
'But there was a black drop in it all, an' it was a man in a black
coat that brought it. When th' Primitive Methodist preacher came to
Greenhow, he would always stop wi' Jesse Roantree, an' he laid hold of
me from th' beginning. It seemed I wor a soul to be saved, and he
meaned to do it. At th' same time I jealoused 'at he were keen o'
savin' 'Liza Roantree's soul as well, and I could ha' killed him many
a time. An' this went on till one day I broke out, an' borrowed th'
brass for a drink from 'Liza. After fower days I come back, wi' my
tail between my legs, just to see 'Liza again. But Jesse were at home
an' th' preacher—th' Reverend Amos Barraclough. 'Liza said naught,
but a bit o' red come into her face as were white of a regular thing.
Says Jesse, tryin' his best to be civil, "Nay, lad, it's like this.
You've getten to choose which way it's goin' to be. I'll ha' nobody
across ma doorstep as goes a-drinkin', an' borrows my lass's money to
spend i' their drink. Ho'd tha tongue, 'Liza," sez he, when she wanted
to put in a word 'at I were welcome to th' brass, and she were none
afraid that I wouldn't pay it back. Then the Reverend cuts in, seein'
as Jesse were losin' his temper, an' they fair beat me among them. But
it were 'Liza, as looked an' said naught, as did more than either o'
their tongues, an' soa I concluded to get converted.'
'Fwhat?' shouted Mulvaney. Then, checking himself, he said softly,
'Let be! Let be! Sure the Blessed Virgin is the mother of all religion
an' most women; an' there's a dale av piety in a girl if the men would
only let ut stay there. I'd ha' been converted myself under the
'Nay, but,' pursued Learoyd with a blush, 'I meaned it.'
Ortheris laughed as loudly as he dared, having regard to his
business at the time.
'Ay, Ortheris, you may laugh, but you didn't know yon preacher
Barraclough—a little white-faced chap, wi' a voice as 'ud wile a bird
off an a bush, and a way o' layin' hold of folks as made them think
they'd never had a live man for a friend before. You never saw him,
an'— an'—you never seed 'Liza Roantree—never seed 'Liza
Roantree.... Happen it was as much 'Liza as th' preacher and her
father, but anyways they all meaned it, an' I was fair shamed o'
mysen, an' so I become what they call a changed character. And when I
think on, it's hard to believe as yon chap going to prayer-meetin's,
chapel, and class-meetin's were me. But I never had naught to say for
mysen, though there was a deal o' shoutin', and old Sammy Strother, as
were almost clemmed to death and doubled up with the rheumatics, would
sing out, "Joyful! Joyful!" and 'at it were better to go up to heaven
in a coal-basket than down to hell i' a coach an' six. And he would
put his poor old claw on my shoulder, sayin', "Doesn't tha feel it,
tha great lump? Doesn't tha feel it?" An' sometimes I thought I did,
and then again I thought I didn't, an' how was that?'
'The iverlastin' nature av mankind,' said Mulvaney. 'An',
furthermore, I misdoubt you were built for the Primitive Methodians.
They're a new corps anyways. I hold by the Ould Church, for she's the
mother of them all—ay, an' the father, too. I like her bekaze she's
most remarkable regimental in her fittings. I may die in Honolulu,
Nova Zambra, or Cape Cayenne, but wherever I die, me bein' fwhat I am,
an' a priest handy, I go under the same orders an' the same words an'
the same unction as tho' the Pope himself come down from the roof av
St. Peter's to see me off. There's neither high nor low, nor broad nor
deep, nor betwixt nor between wid her, an' that's what I like. But
mark you, she's no manner av Church for a wake man, bekaze she takes
the body and the soul av him, onless he has his proper work to do. I
remember when my father died that was three months comin' to his
grave; begad he'd ha' sold the shebeen above our heads for ten
minutes' quittance of purgathory. An' he did all he could. That's why
I say ut takes a strong man to deal with the Ould Church, an' for that
reason you'll find so many women go there. An' that same's a
'Wot's the use o' worritin' 'bout these things?' said Ortheris.
'You're bound to find all out quicker nor you want to, any'ow.' He
jerked the cartridge out of the breech-block into the palm of his
hand. ''Ere's my chaplain,' he said, and made the venomous
black-headed bullet bow like a marionette. ''E's goin' to teach a man
all about which is which, an' wot's true, after all, before sundown.
But wot 'appened after that, Jock?'
'There was one thing they boggled at, and almost shut th' gate i'
my face for, and that were my dog Blast, th' only one saved out o' a
litter o' pups as was blowed up when a keg o' minin' powder loosed off
in th' store-keeper's hut. They liked his name no better than his
business, which were fightin' every dog he comed across; a rare good
dog, wi' spots o' black and pink on his face, one ear gone, and lame
o' one side wi' being driven in a basket through an iron roof, a
matter of half a mile.
'They said I mun give him up 'cause he were worldly and low; and
would I let mysen be shut out of heaven for the sake on a dog? "Nay,"
says I, "if th' door isn't wide enough for th' pair on us, we'll stop
outside, for we'll none be parted." And th' preacher spoke up for
Blast, as had a likin' for him from th' first—I reckon that was why I
come to like th' preacher—and wouldn't hear o' changin' his name to
Bless, as some o' them wanted. So th' pair on us became reg'lar
chapel-members. But it's hard for a young chap o' my build to cut
traces from the world, th' flesh, an' the devil all uv a heap. Yet I
stuck to it for a long time, while th' lads as used to stand about th'
town-end an' lean ower th' bridge, spittin' into th' beck o' a Sunday,
would call after me, "Sitha, Learoyd, when's ta bean to preach, 'cause
we're comin' to hear tha."— "Ho'd tha jaw. He hasn't getten th' white
choaker on ta morn," another lad would say, and I had to double my
fists hard i' th' bottom of my Sunday coat, and say to mysen, "If
'twere Monday and I warn't a member o' the Primitive Methodists, I'd
leather all th' lot of yond'." That was th' hardest of all—to know
that I could fight and I mustn't fight.'
Sympathetic grunts from Mulvaney.
'So what wi' singin', practising and class-meetin's, and th' big
fiddle, as he made me take between my knees, I spent a deal o' time i'
Jesse Roantree's house-place. But often as I was there, th' preacher
fared to me to go oftener, and both th' old man an' th' young woman
were pleased to have him. He lived i' Pately Brig, as were a goodish
step off, but he come. He come all the same. I liked him as well or
better as any man I'd ever seen i' one way, and yet I hated him wi'
all my heart i' t'other, and we watched each other like cat and mouse,
but civil as you please, for I was on my best behaviour, and he was
that fair and open that I was bound to be fair with him. Rare good
company he was, if I hadn't wanted to wring his cliver little neck
half of the time. Often and often when he was goin' from Jesse's I'd
set him a bit on the road.'
'See 'im 'ome, you mean?' said Ortheris.
'Ay. It's a way we have i' Yorkshire o' seein' friends off. You was
a friend as I didn't want to come back, and he didn't want me to come
back neither, and so we'd walk together towards Pately, and then he'd
set me back again, and there we'd be wal two o'clock i' the mornin'
settin' each other to an' fro like a blasted pair o' pendulums twixt
hill and valley, long after th' light had gone out i' 'Liza's window,
as both on us had been looking at, pretending to watch the moon.'
'Ah!' broke in Mulvaney, 'ye'd no chanst against the maraudin'
psalm- singer. They'll take the airs an' the graces instid av the man
nine times out av ten, an' they only find the blunder later—the
'That's just where yo're wrong,' said Learoyd, reddening under the
freckled tan of his cheeks. 'I was th' first wi' 'Liza, an' yo'd think
that were enough. But th' parson were a steady-gaited sort o' chap,
and Jesse were strong o' his side, and all th' women i' the
congregation dinned it to 'Liza 'at she were fair fond to take up wi'
a wastrel ne'er-do-weel like me, as was scarcelins respectable an' a
fighting dog at his heels. It was all very well for her to be doing me
good and saving my soul, but she must mind as she didn't do herself
harm. They talk o' rich folk bein' stuck up an' genteel, but for
cast-iron pride o' respectability there's naught like poor chapel
folk. It's as cold as th' wind o' Greenhow Hill—ay, and colder, for
'twill never change. And now I come to think on it, one at strangest
things I know is 'at they couldn't abide th' thought o' soldiering.
There's a vast o' fightin' i' th' Bible, and there's a deal of
Methodists i' th' army; but to hear chapel folk talk yo'd think that
soldierin' were next door, an' t'other side, to hangin'. I' their
meetin's all their talk is o' fightin'. When Sammy Strother were stuck
for summat to say in his prayers, he'd sing out, "Th' sword o' th'
Lord and o' Gideon." They were allus at it about puttin' on th' whole
armour o' righteousness, an' fightin' the good fight o' faith. And
then, atop o' 't all, they held a prayer-meetin' ower a young chap as
wanted to 'list, and nearly deafened him, till he picked up his hat
and fair ran away. And they'd tell tales in th' Sunday-school o' bad
lads as had been thumped and brayed for bird- nesting o' Sundays and
playin' truant o' week-days, and how they took to wrestlin',
dog-fightin', rabbit-runnin', and drinkin', till at last, as if 'twere
a hepitaph on a gravestone, they damned him across th' moors wi', "an'
then he went and 'listed for a soldier," an' they'd all fetch a deep
breath, and throw up their eyes like a hen drinkin'.'
'Fwhy is ut?' said Mulvaney, bringing down his hand on his thigh
with a crack.' In the name av God, fwhy is ut? I've seen ut, tu. They
cheat an' they swindle an' they lie an' they slander, an' fifty things
fifty times worse; but the last an' the worst by their reckonin' is to
serve the Widdy honest. It's like the talk av childher—seein' things
'Plucky lot of fightin' good fights of whatsername they'd do if we
didn't see they had a quiet place to fight in. And such fightin' as
theirs is! Cats on the tiles. T'other callin' to which to come on. I'd
give a month's pay to get some o' them broad-backed beggars in London
sweatin' through a day's road-makin' an' a night's rain. They'd carry
on a deal afterwards—same as we're supposed to carry on. I've bin
turned out of a measly arf-license pub down Lambeth way, full o'
greasy kebmen, 'fore now,' said Ortheris with an oath.
'Maybe you were dhrunk,' said Mulvaney soothingly.
'Worse nor that. The Forders were drunk. I was wearin' the
'I'd no particular thought to be a soldier i' them days,' said
Learoyd, still keeping his eye on the bare hill opposite, 'but this
sort o' talk put it i' my head. They was so good, th' chapel folk,
that they tumbled ower t'other side. But I stuck to it for 'Liza's
sake, specially as she was learning me to sing the bass part in a
horotorio as Jesse were gettin' up. She sung like a throstle hersen,
and we had practisin's night after night for a matter of three
'I know what a horotorio is,' said Ortheris pertly. 'It's a sort of
chaplain's sing-song—words all out of the Bible, and hullabaloojah
'Most Greenhow Hill folks played some instrument or t'other, an'
they all sung so you might have heard them miles away, and they were
so pleased wi' the noise they made they didn't fair to want anybody to
listen. The preacher sung high seconds when he wasn't playin' the
flute, an' they set me, as hadn't got far with big fiddle, again
Willie Satterthwaite, to jog his elbow when he had to get a' gate
playin'. Old Jesse was happy if ever a man was, for he were th'
conductor an' th' first fiddle an' th' leadin' singer, beatin' time
wi' his fiddle-stick, till at times he'd rap with it on the table, and
cry out, "Now, you mun all stop; it's my turn." And he'd face round to
his front, fair sweating wi' pride, to sing th' tenor solos. But he
were grandest i' th' choruses, waggin' his head, flinging his arms
round like a windmill, and singin' hisself black in the face. A rare
singer were Jesse.
'Yo' see, I was not o' much account wi' 'em all exceptin' to 'Liza
Roantree, and I had a deal o' time settin' quiet at meetings and
horotorio practises to hearken their talk, and if it were strange to
me at beginnin', it got stranger still at after, when I was shut on
it, and could study what it meaned.
'Just after th' horotorios come off, 'Liza, as had allus been
weakly like, was took very bad. I walked Dr. Warbottom's horse up and
down a deal of times while he were inside, where they wouldn't let me
go, though I fair ached to see her.
'"She'll be better i' noo, lad—better i' noo," he used to say.
"Tha mun ha' patience." Then they said if I was quiet I might go in,
and th' Reverend Amos Barraclough used to read to her lyin' propped up
among th' pillows. Then she began to mend a bit, and they let me carry
her on to th' settle, and when it got warm again she went about same
as afore. Th' preacher and me and Blast was a deal together i' them
days, and i' one way we was rare good comrades. But I could ha'
stretched him time and again with a good will. I mind one day he said
he would like to go down into th' bowels o' th' earth, and see how th'
Lord had builded th' framework o' th' everlastin' hills. He were one
of them chaps as had a gift o' sayin' things. They rolled off the tip
of his clever tongue, same as Mulvaney here, as would ha' made a rare
good preacher if he had nobbut given his mind to it. I lent him a suit
o' miner's kit as almost buried th' little man, and his white face
down i' th' coat-collar and hat-flap looked like the face of a
boggart, and he cowered down i' th' bottom o' the waggon. I was
drivin' a tram as led up a bit of an incline up to th' cave where the
engine was pumpin', and where th' ore was brought up and put into th'
waggons as went down o' themselves, me puttin' th' brake on and th'
horses a-trottin' after. Long as it was daylight we were good friends,
but when we got fair into th' dark, and could nobbut see th' day
shinin' at the hole like a lamp at a street- end, I feeled downright
wicked. Ma religion dropped all away from me when I looked back at him
as were always comin' between me and 'Liza. The talk was 'at they were
to be wed when she got better, an' I couldn't get her to say yes or
nay to it. He began to sing a hymn in his thin voice, and I came out
wi' a chorus that was all cussin' an' swearin' at my horses, an' I
began to know how I hated him. He were such a little chap, too. I
could drop him wi' one hand down Garstang's Copper-hole—a place where
th' beck slithered ower th' edge on a rock, and fell wi' a bit of a
whisper into a pit as no rope i' Greenhow could plump.'
Again Learoyd rooted up the innocent violets. 'Ay, he should see
th' bowels o' th' earth an' never naught else. I could take him a mile
or two along th' drift, and leave him wi' his candle doused to cry
hallelujah, wi' none to hear him and say amen. I was to lead him down
th' ladder-way to th' drift where Jesse Roantree was workin', and why
shouldn't he slip on th' ladder, wi' my feet on his fingers till they
loosed grip, and I put him down wi' my heel? If I went fust down th'
ladder I could click hold on him and chuck him over my head, so as he
should go squshin' down the shaft, breakin' his bones at ev'ry
timberin' as Bill Appleton did when he was fresh, and hadn't a bone
left when he wrought to th' bottom. Niver a blasted leg to walk from
Pately. Niver an arm to put round 'Liza Roantree's waist. Niver no
more—niver no more.'
The thick lips curled back over the yellow teeth, and that flushed
face was not pretty to look upon. Mulvaney nodded sympathy, and
Ortheris, moved by his comrade's passion, brought up the rifle to his
shoulder, and searched the hillside for his quarry, muttering ribaldry
about a sparrow, a spout, and a thunder-storm. The voice of the
watercourse supplied the necessary small talk till Learoyd picked up
'But it's none so easy to kill a man like yon. When I'd given up my
horses to th' lad as took my place and I was showin' th' preacher th'
workin's, shoutin' into his ear across th' clang o' th' pumpin'
engines, I saw he were afraid o' naught; and when the lamplight showed
his black eyes, I could feel as he was masterin' me again. I were no
better nor Blast chained up short and growlin' i' the depths of him
while a strange dog went safe past.
'"Th'art a coward and a fool," I said to mysen; an' I wrestled i'
my mind again' him till, when we come to Garstang's Copper-hole, I
laid hold o' the preacher and lifted him up over my head and held him
into the darkest on it. "Now, lad," I says "it's to be one or t'other
on us— thee or me—for 'Liza Roantree. Why, isn't thee afraid for
thysen?" I says, for he were still i' my arms as a sack. "Nay; I'm but
afraid for thee, my poor lad, as knows naught," says he. I set him
down on th' edge, an' th' beck run stiller, an' there was no more
buzzin' in my head like when th' bee come through th' window o'
Jesse's house. "What dost tha mean?" says I.
'"I've often thought as thou ought to know," says he, "but 'twas
hard to tell thee. 'Liza Roantree's for neither on us, nor for nobody
o' this earth. Dr. Warbottom says—and he knows her, and her mother
before her— that she is in a decline, and she cannot live six months
longer. He's known it for many a day. Steady, John! Steady!" says he.
And that weak little man pulled me further back and set me again' him,
and talked it all over quiet and still, me turnin' a bunch o' candles
in my hand, and counting them ower and ower again as I listened. A
deal on it were th' regular preachin' talk, but there were a vast lot
as made me begin to think as he were more of a man than I'd ever given
him credit for, till I were cut as deep for him as I were for mysen.
'Six candles we had, and we crawled and climbed all that day while
they lasted, and I said to mysen, "'Liza Roantree hasn't six months to
live." And when we came into th' daylight again we were like dead men
to look at, an' Blast come behind us without so much as waggin' his
tail. When I saw 'Liza again she looked at me a minute and says,
"Who's telled tha? For I see tha knows." And she tried to smile as she
kissed me, and I fair broke down.
'Yo' see, I was a young chap i' them days, and had seen naught o'
life, let alone death, as is allus a-waitin'. She telled me as Dr.
Warbottom said as Greenhow air was too keen, and they were goin' to
Bradford, to Jesse's brother David, as worked i' a mill, and I mun
hold up like a man and a Christian, and she'd pray for me. Well, and
they went away, and the preacher that same back end o' th' year were
appointed to another circuit, as they call it, and I were left alone
on Greenhow Hill.
'I tried, and I tried hard, to stick to th' chapel, but 'tweren't
th' same thing at after. I hadn't 'Liza's voice to follow i' th'
singin', nor her eyes a-shinin' acrost their heads. And i' th'
class-meetings they said as I mun have some experiences to tell, and I
hadn't a word to say for mysen.
'Blast and me moped a good deal, and happen we didn't behave
ourselves over well, for they dropped us and wondered however they'd
come to take us up. I can't tell how we got through th' time, while i'
th' winter I gave up my job and went to Bradford. Old Jesse were at
th' door o' th' house, in a long street o' little houses. He'd been
sendin' th' children 'way as were clatterin' their clogs in th'
causeway, for she were asleep.
'"Is it thee?" he says; "but you're not to see her. I'll none have
her wakened for a nowt like thee. She's goin' fast, and she mun go in
peace. Thou'lt never be good for naught i' th' world, and as long as
thou lives thou'll never play the big fiddle. Get away, lad, get
away!" So he shut the door softly i' my face.
'Nobody never made Jesse my master, but it seemed to me he was
about right, and I went away into the town and knocked up against a
recruiting sergeant. The old tales o' th' chapel folk came buzzin'
into my head. I was to get away, and this were th' regular road for
the likes o' me. I 'listed there and then, took th' Widow's shillin',
and had a bunch o' ribbons pinned i' my hat.
'But next day I found my way to David Roantree's door, and Jesse
came to open it. Says he, "Thou's come back again wi' th' devil's
colours flyin'—thy true colours, as I always telled thee."
'But I begged and prayed of him to let me see her nobbut to say
good- bye, till a woman calls down th' stairway, "She says John
Learoyd's to come up." Th' old man shifts aside in a flash, and lays
his hand on my arm, quite gentle like. "But thou'lt be quiet, John,"
says he, "for she's rare and weak. Thou was allus a good lad."
'Her eyes were all alive wi' light, and her hair was thick on the
pillow round her, but her cheeks were thin—thin to frighten a man
that's strong. "Nay, father, yo mayn't say th' devil's colours. Them
ribbons is pretty." An' she held out her hands for th' hat, an' she
put all straight as a woman will wi' ribbons. "Nay, but what they're
pretty," she says. "Eh, but I'd ha' liked to see thee i' thy red coat,
John, for thou was allus my own lad—my very own lad, and none else."
'She lifted up her arms, and they come round my neck i' a gentle
grip, and they slacked away, and she seemed fainting. "Now yo' mun get
away, lad," says Jesse, and I picked up my hat and I came downstairs.
'Th' recruiting sergeant were waitin' for me at th' corner
public-house. "Yo've seen your sweetheart?" says he. "Yes, I've seen
her," says I. "Well, we'll have a quart now, and you'll do your best
to forget her," says he, bein' one o' them smart, bustlin' chaps. "Ay,
sergeant," says I. "Forget her." And I've been forgettin' her ever
He threw away the wilted clump of white violets as he spoke.
Ortheris suddenly rose to his knees, his rifle at his shoulder, and
peered across the valley in the clear afternoon light. His chin
cuddled the stock, and there was a twitching of the muscles of the
right cheek as he sighted; Private Stanley Ortheris was engaged on his
business. A speck of white crawled up the watercourse.
'See that beggar? . . . Got 'im.'
Seven hundred yards away, and a full two hundred down the hillside,
the deserter of the Aurangabadis pitched forward, rolled down a red
rock, and lay very still, with his face in a clump of blue gentians,
while a big raven flapped out of the pine wood to make investigation.
'That's a clean shot, little man,' said Mulvaney.
Learoyd thoughtfully watched the smoke clear away.
'Happen there was a lass tewed up wi' him, too,' said he.
Ortheris did not reply. He was staring across the valley, with the
smile of the artist who looks on the completed work.