scampering

They were now in the open country; the houses were very few and scattered at long intervals, often miles apart. Occasionally they came upon a cluster of poor cottages, some with a chair or low board put across the open door to  runescape gold farming      keep  the scrambling children from the road, others shut up close while all the family were working in the fields. These were often the commencement runescape accounts           of a little village: and after an interval came a wheelwright’s shed or perhaps a blacksmith’s forge; then a thriving farm with sleepy cows lying about the yard, and horses peering over the low wall and scampering away when harnessed horses passed upon the road, as though in triumph runescape money              at their freedom. There were dull pigs too, turning up the ground in search of dainty food, and grunting their monotonous grumblings as they prowled about, or crossed each other in their quest; plump pigeons skimming round the roof or strutting on the eaves; and ducks and geese, far more graceful in their own conceit, waddling awkwardly about the edges of the pond or sailing glibly on its surface. The farm-yard passed, then came the little inn; the humbler beer-shop; and the village tradesman’s; then the lawyer’s and the parson’s, at whose dread names the beer-shop trembled; the church then peeped out modestly from a clump of trees; then there were a few more cottages; then the cage, and pound, and not unfrequently, on a bank by the way-side, a deep old dusty well. Then came the trim-hedged fields on either hand, and the open road again.

They walked all day, and slept that night at a small cottage where beds were let to travellers. Next morning they were afoot again, and though jaded at first, and very tired, recovered before long and proceeded briskly forward.

They often stopped to rest, but only for a short space at a time, and still kept on, having had but slight refreshment since the morning. It was nearly five o’clock in the afternoon, when drawing near another cluster of labourers’ huts, the child looked wistfully in each, doubtful at which to ask for permission to rest awhile, and buy a draught of milk.

It was not easy to determine, for she was timid and fearful of being repulsed. Here was a crying child, and there a noisy wife. In this, the people seemed too poor; in that, too many. At length she stopped at one where the family were seated round the table– chiefly because there was an old man sitting in a cushioned chair beside the hearth, and she thought he was a grandfather and would feel for hers.

There were besides, the cottager and his wife, and three young sturdy children, brown as berries. The request was no sooner preferred, than granted. The eldest boy ran out to fetch some milk, the second dragged two stools towards the door, and the youngest crept to his mother’s gown, and looked at the strangers from beneath his sunburnt hand.

‘God save you, master,’ said the old cottager in a thin piping voice; ‘are you travelling far?’

‘Yes, Sir, a long way’–replied the child; for her grandfather appealed to her.

‘From London?’ inquired the old man.

The child said yes.

Ah! He had been in London many a time–used to go there often once, with waggons. It was nigh two-and-thirty year since he had been there last, and he did hear say there were great changes. Like enough! He had changed, himself, since then. Two-and-thirty year was a long time and eighty-four a great age, though there was some he had known that had lived to very hard upon a hundred–and not so hearty as he, neither–no, nothing like it.

‘Sit thee down, master, in the elbow chair,’ said the old man, knocking his stick upon the brick floor, and trying to do so sharply. ‘Take a pinch out o’ that box; I don’t take much myself, for it comes dear, but I find it wakes me up sometimes, and ye’re but a boy to me. I should have a son pretty nigh as old as you if he’d lived, but they listed him for a so’ger–he come back home though, for all he had but one poor leg. He always said he’d be buried near the sun-dial he used to climb upon when he was a baby, did my poor boy, and his words come true–you can see the place with your own eyes; we’ve kept the turf up, ever since.’

He shook his head, and looking at his daughter with watery eyes, said she needn’t be afraid that he was going to talk about that, any more. He didn’t wish to trouble nobody, and if he had troubled anybody by what he said, he asked pardon, that was all.

The milk arrived, and the child producing her little basket, and selecting its best fragments for her grandfather, they made a hearty meal. The furniture of the room was very homely of course– a few rough chairs and a table, a corner cupboard with their little stock of crockery and delf, a gaudy tea-tray, representing a lady in bright red, walking out with a very blue parasol, a few common, coloured scripture subjects in frames upon the wall and chimney, an old dwarf clothes-press and an eight-day clock, with a few bright saucepans and a kettle, comprised the whole. But everything was clean and neat, and as the child glanced round, she felt a tranquil air of comfort and content to which she had long been unaccustomed.

‘How far is it to any town or village?’ she asked of the husband.

‘A matter of good five mile, my dear,’ was the reply, ‘but you’re not going on to-night?’

‘Yes, yes, Nell,’ said the old man hastily, urging her too by signs. ‘Further on, further on, darling, further away if we walk till midnight.’

‘There’s a good barn hard by, master,’ said the man, ‘or there’s travellers’ lodging, I know, at the Plow an’ Harrer. Excuse me, but you do seem a little tired, and unless you’re very anxious to get on–‘

‘Yes, yes, we are,’ returned the old man fretfully. ‘Further away, dear Nell, pray further away.’

‘We must go on, indeed,’ said the child, yielding to his restless wish. ‘We thank you very much, but we cannot stop so soon. I’m quite ready, grandfather.’

But the woman had observed, from the young wanderer’s gait, that one of her little feet was blistered and sore, and being a woman and a mother too, she would not suffer her to go until she had washed the place and applied some simple remedy, which she did so carefully and with such a gentle hand–rough-grained and hard though it was, with work–that the child’s heart was too full to admit of her saying more than a fervent ‘God bless you!’ nor could she look back nor trust herself to speak, until they had left the cottage some distance behind. When she turned her head, she saw that the whole family, even the old grandfather, were standing in the road watching them as they went, and so, with many waves of the hand, and cheering nods, and on one side at least not without tears, they parted company.

They trudged forward, more slowly and painfully than they had done yet, for another mile or thereabouts, when they heard the sound of wheels behind them, and looking round observed an empty cart approaching pretty briskly. The driver on coming up to them stopped his horse and looked earnestly at Nell.

‘Didn’t you stop to rest at a cottage yonder?’ he said.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied the child.

‘Ah! They asked me to look out for you,’ said the man. ‘I’m going your way. Give me your hand–jump up, master.’

This was a great relief, for they were very much fatigued and could scarcely crawl along. To them the jolting cart was a luxurious carriage, and the ride the most delicious in the world. Nell had scarcely settled herself on a little heap of straw in one corner, when she fell asleep, for the first time that day.

She was awakened by the stopping of the cart, which was about to turn up a bye-lane. The driver kindly got down to help her out, and pointing to some trees at a very short distance before them, said that the town lay there, and that they had better take the path which they would see leading through the churchyard. Accordingly, towards this spot, they directed their weary steps.

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