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"Th' Owdest Member" by Mrs. Francis Blundell

 

Doctor Craddock rode slowly along the grassy track which led from Thornleigh to Little Upton, and as he rode he smiled to himself. Though he had been settled for more than a dozen years in this quiet corner of Lancashire, his Southern mind had not yet become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of his North Country patients. He had just been to see old Robert Wainwright, who was suffering from an acute attack of gout in his right foot, and who was, in consequence, unapproachable in every sense of the word, answering the Doctor's questions only by an unintelligible growl or an impatient jerk of the head. Moreover, on being informed that he must not expect to set foot to the ground for several days more, he had emitted a kind of incredulous roar, and had announced his opinion that his medical adviser was a gradely fool. Poor Mrs. Wainwright had subsequently apologised for her lord's shortness of temper, explaining in deprecating tones that he was apt to be took that way sometimes; adding that he had been moiderin ever sin' mornin' about Club Day.

"He reckons he's th' owdest member, ye know. Him an' Martin Tyrer, of Little Upton, is mich of an age, an' they'n walked same number of times--they're a bit jealous one o' th' t'other an' our Gaffer reckons if he bides awhoam, owd Martin 'ull be castin' up at him, an' sayin' he's beat him."

"There'll be no Club meeting for Tyrer, either, to-morrow," Doctor Craddock said; "he's laid up with a bad attack of bronchitis."

"Eh, is he?" exclaimed Mrs. Wainwright, with such visible satisfaction that the Doctor smiled now as he recalled it; she had barely patience to escort him to the door, and before he mounted his horse, he heard her joyfully informing her Gaffer that owd Martin Tyrer had getten th' 'titus, and she hoped that now he'd be satisfied and give ower frettin' hissel'.

"I shall have an equally warm reception here, I suppose," said the Doctor to himself, as he dismounted before Tyrer's door, "but, whatever happens, the old man must not think of going out to-morrow. It would be serious if he caught fresh cold."

Martin Tyrer was sitting, almost upright, in his bed, supported by many pillows, for when he lay down, as his wife explained to the Doctor, he fair choked. He was an immensely tall and stout man, with a large red face, and a stolid lack-lustre eye, which he brought solemnly to bear upon the Doctor as he entered the room.

"Well," said Craddock, "how are you to-day, Tyrer? Better, I hope."

Tyrer rolled his eyes in the direction of his wife, apparently as an intimation that she was to answer for him.

"Noan so well," said Mrs. Tyrer lugubriously, proceeding thereupon to give accurate, not to say harrowing, particulars of her master's symptoms; Tyrer, meanwhile, suffering his glance to wander from one to the other, and occasionally nodding or shaking his head. It was not until she paused from want of breath that he put in his word.

"I mun get up to-morrow," he remarked, apparently addressing no one in particular.

"If you do you'll make an end of yourself, my friend," returned the Doctor decidedly. "You stay where you are, and go on with your gruel and poultices--by-the-bye you needn't make those poultices quite so thick, Mrs. Tyrer--and I'll come and see you on Wednesday. You mustn't think of getting up. If you go out in this east wind, it will be the death of you. Really you people are mad about your Club Day--you should have seen old Robert Wainwright, when I told him just now that it would be quite impossible for him to go out."

"He's not goin' to walk!" cried husband and wife together, their faces lighting up much as Mrs. Wainwright's had done.

"He'd be very much astonished if he were to try," said Doctor Craddock; "he can't so much as put his foot to the ground."

[Illustration: THE OWDEST MEMBER "I mun get up to-morrow," he remarked]

"Coom," said Mrs. Tyrer, looking encouragingly at her spouse, "that's one thing as should mak' thee feel a bit 'appier. He were takkin' on terrible, ye know," she explained, "thinkin' Robert 'ud be crowin' ower him at not bein' able to walk. He's allus agate o' saucin our mester is yon--he reckons he's th' owdest member o' th' Club, an' my 'usband he's turned seventy, an' he's walked fifty-two times. Ah, fifty-two times it were last Club Day, weren't it, Martin?"

"It were," agreed Martin, endorsing the statement with a nod; "but Robert, he says he's walked fifty-two times, too, an' he's seventy-one last Lady-day, an' so he reckons he's th' owdest member, an' he's ever an' allus throwin' it i' my face."

"Eh, sich a to-do as he mak's about it you'd never believe," put in the wife, "he'll never let our Gaffer tak' a bit o' credit to hissel'--eh, it's terrible how he goes on! I b'lieve if he were fair deein' he'd get up an' walk sooner nor let poor Martin ha' th' satisfaction o' sayin' he'd walked once oftener nor him. An' th' folks has getten to laugh at 'em both, an' to set 'em on, one agin th' t'other. At th' dinner yonder, at th' Thornleigh Arms, soombry 'll allus get up an' call for th' 'ealth o' th' owdest member, an' then th' two owd lads 'ull get agate o' bargin' one another, an' Upton folks 'ull be backin' up Martin, an' th' Thornleigh folks 'ull be backin' up Robert, an' they mak' sich a din, they say as nobry can hear theirsel's speak."

The Doctor laughed loud and long. "Well, it must be a drawn battle this year," he said; "certainly Wainwright will not be able to go to the Club meeting unless he hops on one leg."

With a cheery nod he withdrew, chuckling all the way downstairs; Mrs. Tyrer duly escorted him to the door, and then climbed slowly up again, every step creaking beneath her weight. When she entered the sick room she found her husband drumming on the sheets with his fingers, and staring in front of him with a somewhat peculiar expression.

"Well," she cried, letting her ponderous person sink into the old-fashioned elbow chair that stood by the bedside, "owd Robert, yon, 'ull ha' to keep quiet for once! He'll noan be castin' up at thee this year as how 'tis."

Martin rolled his head from side to side, but said nothing.

"Ye'll be able to start fresh next Club Day," resumed his spouse cheerily. "Happen th' gout 'ull mak' an end on poor owd Robert first, though."

Martin looked at her with a startled air. "Happen it will," he assented doubtfully; "ah, it 'ud ha' been a fine thing if I could ha' stolen a march on th' owd lad this time! I never got the chance before, but theer he lays yon, fast by the leg! If I could ha' made shift to walk this year he could never ha' cotched me up--eh, I'd ha' had a gradely laugh at him."

"Well, well, ye'll happen ha' th' best on't another time," said Mrs. Tyrer soothingly. "Happen he'll noan be able to walk no more next year nor this--happen he'll noan be here! Dunnot thou go frettin' thysel' this road; nobry knows what's goin' to come about i' this world."

Martin's eyes travelled slowly from the ceiling to her face with a puzzled, discontented gaze.

"If th' owd lad dees afore next year it 'ull spile everything--'twouldn't be no satisfaction to walk oftener nor him if he were dead."

"Well, dunnot thou go frettin' thysel' as how 'tis," repeated his missus with a vague attempt at consolation.

Meanwhile old Wainwright had somewhat calmed down since his wife had imparted to him the welcome tidings that his rival had unwillingly "paired" with him for the morrow's festivities. He ceased roaring at his sons and daughters and throwing his bandages at his wife's head; it must be stated that he never employed any more dangerous missile even in moments of supreme irritation. Robert Wainwright's bark was on all occasions worse than his bite, and though recently his bark had been very loud indeed, no one in the little household was in the least scared by it. This evening, however, "our Tom" and "our Bob," who had of late satisfied themselves with screwing their bullet heads and a small portion of their persons round the angle of the door, walked boldly in, and cheerfully inquired how feyther felt hissel'; while "our Annie" and "our Polly" actually helped their mother to "straighten" the bed, and ventured to draw the sheet lightly over feyther's afflicted toe. The Gaffer, moreover, consented to swallow a basin of gruel with just a dash of spirits in it to take away the sickliness of it. Doctor Craddock had forbidden all stimulants, but, as Mrs. Wainwright remarked, "a little taste like that, just to make the gruel slip down, couldn't coom amiss." It certainly did not seem to come amiss to Robert, who grew quite jovial as he scraped the basin, and commiserated "owd Martin Tyrer, yon," with genuine sympathy.

"Poor owd lad! To think of his being laid up just when Club Day cooms! Eh, he will be takken to. Ye mind how he allus got agate o' boastin' about bein' th' owdest member o' th' Club? an' he nobbut seventy! Eh, I 'ad to get vexed wi' him soomtimes--he would have 't ye know, as 'twere him as were th' owdest, an' he'd get up, when th' folks had called for me--eh, I could scarce stand it!"

"He'll be soom mad," cried our Tom, chuckling.

"Nay, thou munnot mak' game o' th' poor owd chap's misfortun'," said his father with a tolerant air as he handed the empty basin to Annie. "It's bad enough for him to be layin' theer wi'out havin' folks crowin' ower him."

Tom, much abashed, grinned sheepishly, and old Robert continued, after a pause, still evidently in high good-humour:--

"Well, wheer's thy cornet? Thou should be practisin' i'stead o' standin' about findin' fault wi' thy neighbours."

Tom, who was a member of the Thornleigh band, had secretly resolved to retire presently to the cartshed that he might prepare for the labours of the morrow without being overheard. He was rejoiced, however, to find that he might pursue his musical avocations in the house without causing the old father chagrin or irritation.

"Mun I practise a bit i' th' kitchen?" he inquired joyfully.

Old Wainwright consented, and presently the somewhat husky tones of Tom's cornet resounded through the house.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny, though the unseasonable east wind still blew pitilessly keen. The Wainwright's house was only divided from the main road by a little patch of garden, and old Robert's bedroom window looked out upon the street. Beside this window he insisted on establishing himself, being half carried thither by his two stalwart sons, whose stout necks he encircled with either arm, while he hopped with his sound leg across the floor; Mrs. Wainwright supported the injured limb in front and Annie and Polly brought up the rear carrying pillows and blankets. Thus, by the united exertions of the whole family, old Bob was safely deposited in his straight-backed arm-chair, a good deal redder in the face and shorter in the temper than before the transit, but otherwise none the worse. Polly pushed forward a chair under the limb which her mother was still embracing. The pillows were put at feyther's back, the blankets over his knee, his pipe and screw of 'baccy being placed handy on the window-sill; then Tom and Bob withdrew to assume their Sunday suits in preparation for the day, while Mrs. Wainwright and her daughters made the bed and tidied the room. Presently the girls slipped away, and, after pausing for a moment, hands on hips to make sure that her Gaffer was coomfortable, Mrs. Wainwright remarked that she'd better be seeing to things downstairs a bit, for they lasses 'ud be sure to be off arter the Club as soon as her back was turned.

"If thou wants me, thou'll shout for me, wunnot thou?" she asked, turning just at the door.

"I'll not want for aught," returned Bob gruffly. "I don't want no doin' for, I'm out o' th' road up here, an' ye're fain enough, all on ye'! Thou can be off arter th' Club thysel' if thou's a mind to."

With many protests Mrs. Wainwright withdrew, and her husband, left to himself, proceeded to relieve his feelings by tossing his pillows over the back of the chair, and extricating his suffering limb from the blankets.

"I'm welly smoored," he remarked indignantly, half aloud, "welly smoored I am. They reckon I'm a babby to be croodled and cossetted this gate. I'll be that nesh afore they'n done, I'll be fit for nought when I get about again."

Leaning forward, and supporting himself on one leg, he threw open the window. The air, fresh and invigorating if keen as a knife, circled round the room, lifting his thick white hair, and making the prints on the wall flap and rustle.

"That wakkens me up a bit," cried Bob; "does me good, that does. Our missus may barge as hoo likes, I'll keep it oppen."

He could hear voices and hurrying feet in the road below; people were beginning to assemble at the church; by-and-by the whole procession, headed by the band, would go marching down the street and in at the park gates to be refreshed and complimented at Thornleigh Hall; then it would take its way across the fields to Upton, turning the big banner so that the arms of the Squire of that place would be most en evidence when they halted for similar entertainment before the door of his mansion. Thence, through Upton village along the lane to the Thornleigh Arms; then the dinner--mirth and jollity lasting till evening. Old Bob, with knotted hands clasping the wooden arms of his high-backed chair, saw it all in fancy, his memory conjuring up each detail of the well-known scenes. He could see the grassy fields and the hedges white with bloom; he could smell the fragrance of the trampled earth; he could feel the sunshine and the brisk air; and then the warmth, the brightness, the good cheer at the Thornleigh Arms--his mouth watered at the thought of them. Would any one miss the oldest member, and drink his health? Well, this time at least, old Martin would not be there to dispute the honour.... Now he could hear the gate of his little garden swing open and then bang; the lads were starting. Bob, leaning on his elbow, craned his neck forward to see them. A certain expression of gratified parental pride stole over his face as he took note of the brave appearance presented by young Bob, who with his be-ribboned hat placed a little aslant on his curly locks, his Sunday suit brushed till not a speck of dust rested on its glossy surface, and his white staff held jauntily in his sunburnt hand, was indeed the picture of a comely young holiday-maker. When the father glanced at "our Tom," however, his face darkened. There was Tom with his ill-fastened shoelaces trailing, his smart bandsman's coat buttoned awry over a pair of trousers which were neither his Sunday best, nor the white-piped blue ones which formed part of his uniform as musician--these were a shabby, shiny, pair of worn broad-cloth usually kept for wet Sundays and Saturday expeditions to town; a suit, in fact, which had long been considered by no means presentable.

"Slovenly chap," growled the father with great irritation, "my word, if I were near enough I'd larn thee to put on the reet mak' o' clooes of a Club Day! I'd holler now, an' mak' thee coom back an' change 'em, if our missus wasna so nigh, but if hoo chanced to look an' see me at th' window, hoo'd be bargin' me for opening it.... Ha, th' owd lass has called him back hersel'. Reet! hoo'll noan let him mak' sich a boggart of hissel'--hoo'll fettle him up afore he goes."

He chuckled to himself, as Tom was hauled back, sheepish and sulky, and pushed into the house by the womankind; presently emerging in full bandsman's dress, tied shoe-laces--in every way as spick and span as father or mother could desire. Brandishing his instrument, he ran clattering down the street to overtake his brother, only just in time apparently, for, a minute or two after he had disappeared, the distant sounds of music could be heard.

"They're coomin'," said Bob, drawing a long breath, and rubbing his withered hands together. His eyes grew suddenly very round and red, and he felt a queer choking in his throat. Yes, they were coming; he could distinguish the tune now, and the tramp, tramp of many feet. Bob again leaned forward, thrusting his head almost through the window in his anxiety to see and hear. The missus and the lasses standing at the gate were too intent on watching and listening to notice him. Now they were rounding the corner--a brave sight; the big banner with its gay streamers held well aloft, the stewards with their white wands also decorated with ribbon; the fine old Thornleigh Arms were to the front this time, and the Thornleigh folk too--there they came rolling along, every man happy and merry, and here was "th' owdest member," who had walked his fifty-two times, laid by the heels in his solitary upper chamber! His big, old, gnarled hands shook as they rested on the sill, his underlip trembled and drooped like a child's, babyish tears gathered in his eyes.

But what was this? The lads were pulling up, the big banner halted right opposite his door, just as if it had been the Squire's--with a sudden crash the band stopped short, and somebody called out loudly:--

"Three cheers for th' owdest member!" And thereupon ensued lusty "Hip, hip, hurras," long kept up with vigour and enthusiasm by the Thornleigh members, while the Upton folk, standing aloof and silent, eyed each other askance and seemed rather glum.

Poor old Bob! His wrinkled rubicund face was a study as he leaned forth, nodding to his cronies, and shouting at intervals, "Thank'ee lads, thank'ee."

Mrs. Wainwright was too proud and jubilant to scold him for his temerity, and stood smiling at her gate, calling to the neighbours to "Jest see our Gaffer! Theer, he's gone an' oppened window all hissel', an's lookin' out same's ony on us."

At last the procession moved on again, the band--at least that portion of it which hailed from Thornleigh playing "He's a Jolly Good Fellow," while the Upton musicians tried to drown the efforts of their comrades by striking up "See the Conquering Hero Comes."

The meaning of this last was presently made clear to Old Bob Wainwright, whose triumph was of but short duration, for lo! beneath his window, the second part of the procession suddenly halted, and there in the middle of the Upton folk, stood his rival, Martin Tyrer! Much enveloped, indeed, in wraps and comforters, rather pale as to complexion, very hoarse as to voice, but nevertheless no other than Martin Tyrer himself. Bob's face fell, and he stared vacantly forth without attempting to move.

"Well," cried Tyrer huskily, but triumphantly, "thou'rt theer, art thou, owd brid? I'm fain th' lads gave thee a cheer to keep thy sperrits up--we'se drink thy health jest now. I've cotched thee at last thou sees! This here's fifty-three times as I've walked. Fifty-three times!" raising his voice to a bellow--"I'm th' owdest member, now, as how 'tis. Good-day to thee, Robert, I hope thou'lt be about wick an' hearty this time next year--thou'lt be second owdest member, an' we'se be fain to see thee among us."

With a cheer and a roar of laughter the party moved on, Martin, turning after a few steps, to hold up all five fingers of one hand, and three of the other, intending thereby, according to an arithmetical system of his own, to denote the number of fifty-three. Bob quite understood the exasperating allusion, and grew, if possible, redder in the face than before, though, for the moment, his surprise, anger, and humiliation left him absolutely dumb.

His family had a bad time of it during all the remainder of that day: bandages were flying, pillows were pitched aside, food was spurned and upset, and plates were broken. The choice language, however, which usually accompanied these tokens of displeasure was not heard to-day. Since the insult which had followed so close upon the heels of the old man's triumph, he had continued vengefully mute.

The lads came home at nightfall, not quite perhaps as hilarious as usual after a Club Day dinner, but with their tongues sufficiently loosened by Jack Orme's good beer to make them less cautious and more garrulous than was their custom when within earshot of their father. Old Bob, sitting up in bed and clutching wrathfully at the blankets, heard them relate how they had been told that Martin Tyrer was that set on walking that day, that though his missus had locked up his hat and boots, he had managed to give her the slip, and had run across the road and had got Tom Lupton's Sunday hat off him and also his best boots. Mrs. Tyrer was in an awful to-do, and had come to fetch him at the Thornleigh Arms. The doctor said it would be the death of her Gaffer, she declared--but old Martin wouldn't go. He had stayed till the very end, drinking healths with everybody, and boasting and bragging he had beaten Bob Wainwright, and he was th' owdest member now. At this point of the narrative Bob senior overturned his gruel--which till now he had respected on account of the flavouring--and kicked so hard at the bed-clothes that he hurt his gouty foot, and uttered a roar of rage and pain which caused his sons to lower their voices to a discreet whisper.

Next morning news came that Martin Tyrer had been taken very bad, and that the doctor had a poor opinion of him. When Doctor Craddock, indeed, called later in the day to see Bob Wainwright, he confirmed the report with a sigh and a shake of the head:

"I am afraid the poor old fellow has done for himself," he said gravely. "It is astonishing how obstinate some of these people are. I am glad that you at least have had more sense, Wainwright"--turning with a smile to Bob.

"I sh'd ha' gone if I could ha' getten foot to th' ground," returned Bob, glowering at him.

"Well, well, luckily for you you couldn't, though it might not have been quite so serious with you. But Tyrer was very ill indeed when he went, and now naturally he is very much worse."

"Raly, it looks like a judgment," observed Mrs. Wainwright, with an air of pious regret, "soom people might say it was, ye know, Doctor. Martin, he's been goin' on awful to my husband--that set up he were--"

"Howd thy din!" interposed Bob, wrathfully; whereupon Mrs. Wainwright retired outside the door, waiting to pursue the conversation till the doctor should be ready to go downstairs.

When, a day or two after, Martin Tyrer died, Mrs. Wainwright received the tidings with the same mournful satisfaction. It was what she had looked for, she remarked; she "couldn't but feel that Martin was callin' down a judgment on hissel! Well, it was to be 'oped that th' A'mighty wouldn't be 'ard with him, not but what he was 'ard enough, Martin was, wi' other folks. A body would ha' thought that when he see the Gaffer laid up in's chamber on Club Day he wouldn't 'ave 'ad it in's 'eart to go castin' up at him, same's he did." But Mrs. Wainwright would say no more, Martin Tyrer was gone, poor man, an' it did not become her to judge him. Upon which she proceeded to say a great deal more, in exactly the same strain, until her Gaffer hammered on the floor with his stick, and requested her to stop that.

The whole family were much astonished on receiving invitations to Martin Tyrer's funeral. They had, indeed, heard that Mrs. Tyrer was going to give him a very nice burying--that all Upton folks were going and a good many from Thornleigh too--it was to be "summat gradely" every one said. It was the kind of festivity which, as a rule, the Wainwrights much appreciated, but on this occasion they were rather affronted at being bidden to assist, and both the young men declared stoutly that they'd noan go if they knew it.

"Why not?" growled feyther from his big chair in the corner. (He was now well enough to hobble down stairs.) "You yoong chaps thinks too mich o' yoursels--I'm goin' as how 'tis."

Mrs. Wainwright positively gasped. "Gaffer, thou'll noan think o' sich a thing--thou as couldn't so mich as walk on Tuesday! I'm sure thou needn't be puttin' thysel' out for Martin Tyrer!"

"I'm goin' as how 'tis," repeated Bob gloomily; he had been very gloomy all these days. "I'm goin' to foller Martin Tyrer to his long home, if I ha' to hop," he added sternly. "Him an' me has walked together for fifty-two year, an' I'll walk at Martin Tyrer's buryin'! Theer now, my mind's made up."

Young Bob and Tom stared at each other, then they remarked, unwillingly, that if he went of course they would go too; upon which old Bob returned that they might please theirsel's--he was going.

When Doctor Craddock was told of this decision, he said that now Robert was so much better it might not do him any harm, adding that he thought it showed very good feeling on his part. Mrs. Wainwright was much elated at the compliment, but Robert himself received it in stony silence. When the report circulated round the village every one was touched and edified. Wasn't it beautiful, people said, and who'd have thought Robert Wainwright had that much feeling! He had a wonderful good heart, Robert had--he wasn't one to say much, but he felt the more. Mrs. Wainwright went about shaking her head and casting up her eyes. She had begun by being exasperated at this sudden determination, but finding how very much other folks admired and respected her Robert for it, she had gradually become infected by the general enthusiasm; and, indeed, when she hunted out and carefully brushed her husband's Sunday clothes, she murmured tearfully to her daughters that "Feyther was a'most too good for this warld," and that "it 'ud be mich"--with a sniff--"if they weren't gettin' ready blacks to weer for him next!"

"It mak's me go all of a shake," the good woman added. "Eh, I cannot tell ye! It seems onnatural-like. Yer Feyther's noan like 'issel'. To think of his takkin' on that gate about owd Martin Tyrer; mony a one 'ud be fain enough as he were out o' the road!"

Meanwhile Robert himself certainly did not say much, as the neighbours observed; in fact, he said nothing at all. When his friends came and stared at him after the manner of their kind, and made remarks to each other or to Mrs. Wainwright about how strange it was that he should be that taken to about Martin Tyrer--though some of them added, sympathetically, that he would be like to miss him, he would , when all was said and done; him and Martin had walked together such a many years--"rale cronies ye know for all their fallin's out"--Robert would stare at them and heave a deep sigh; occasionally he would take his pipe out of his mouth as though about to make a remark, but invariably put it in again without uttering a syllable. Then his friends would go away, shaking their heads and sighing, after pausing to impart to Mrs. Wainwright their conviction that her Gaffer was failing.

When the day of Martin's funeral came Robert was, with the assistance of his wife and daughters, attired in his best "blacks"; he himself saw to his foot-gear, having possessed himself of a pair of shears with which he cut a large piece out of the top of one boot. Mrs. Wainwright had been tearful enough with sentimental foreboding all the morning, and, when she saw the irreparable damage wrought by Feyther's ruthless hands, she began to cry in good earnest.

"I knowed as summat was boun' to happen," she groaned; "dear o' me, seventeen-an'-six, no less--an' the soles scarce soiled! Eh, Gaffer!--it's downright flyin' i' th' face o' Providence to be so wasteful."

Gaffer, meanwhile, purple in the face with suppressed anguish, had forced his foot into the mutilated boot, and now silently and frowningly pointed to his hat.

The Wainwrights started early, for, though many neighbours had offered to give Bob a lift, the old man had insisted on walking all the way. It was a very painful pilgrimage, but he set his teeth and leaned hard on his stick, and hobbled along dauntlessly, though every now and then his injured foot would give a twinge which made him snarl to himself and stagger.

They arrived just as the mourning procession was setting forth from the widow's door. Bob had counted upon being refreshed by a short rest and a glass of "summat"; but there was no time for that now, so he merely wiped his face, drew a deep breath, and fell into line. The Upton folk were surprised and gratified by his presence; many of them nodded to him in a friendly way, and a few came up and spoke to him. One or two told him they considered it "rale 'andsome" of him to come. Bob nodded back, and said nothing.

He stood by, solemnly, while the final sad rites were being performed, and lingered even after all was over. At last, however, he heaved a deep sigh and turned to go. Mrs. Wainwright tenderly supported his left elbow and cast a tragic glance round.

"I doubt it's been too mich for him," she sobbed--she always sobbed at funerals, being a very feeling woman, but on this occasion she surpassed herself, some of the Upton folk indeed thought it was scarce decent. Young Bob and Tom began to blubber too; Polly remarked to Annie that "Feyther'd go next for sure." Friends and neighbours gathered round with long faces and sympathetic murmurs. Robert Wainwright, however, pushed them aside and hobbled forward a few paces without speaking; then he suddenly halted and jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

"Well," he said with a chuckle, "he walked on Club Day--ah, he did--but I've walked to his buryin', so I reckon I've cotched him up. I wonder who's th' owdest member now!"