Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 115
Publication Date: 1854
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A collection of six fairy tales. From the Introduction: 'You have read, my young friends, in your History of England, some accounts of the ancient Britons, and of the Druids, who were priests and judges among them. The Druids lived very much together, and formed schools, in which they taught such arts and learning as they were acquainted with; and they studied much the stars on heights and open places, such as those on Dartmoor, where a great many of them dwelt. They said it was unlawful to perform the rites and ceremonies of their religion within a covered temple or under a roof of any kind.'
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"BAD times! Master Trickett," said Betsy Humming, as she turned her wheel, at which she was most industriously spinning, "bad times! for tho' I be at work from morning to night, and do spin as fine Kersey, tho' I say it who ought not to say it, as any in Crediton, nobody comes to buy. Never had so little to do all the years I've worked for a living--'tis all along with the coming in of the Scotch King."
"Very bad times, neighbour," replied Trim Trickett, the tailor, "for nobody wears out their clothes as they used to do in the old Queen's time; or alters their fashions as the great folk did in the days of Elizabeth. Except a pair of trunk hose for master Justice, Sir Simon de Noodle, and a doublet for his young son; and a new gown for Dame Westcott, I have not had a job to keep my needle going for these two months. Never had such bad times, since I first crossed a leg in the way of business."
"You've as much as you deserve, and more too, Master Trickett; and so have you, Betsy Humming," said Gammer Guy, a cross-grained old crone, who was sitting in the easy chair by the chimney nook, leaning on her staff. She was one of those village gossips who do little themselves, and spend most of their time in hindering their neighbours.
"No thanks to you, Gammer Guy, if any good luck comes to me, or to any body else," said the tailor; "for if ill wishing be as bad as ill doing, as some folks think, a body need not go far to find it, when you be near. I know what some people do say of other people."
"And what do they say of other people?" asked Gammer Guy, "for I know you mean that hit for me, Master Trickett; but do you suppose every body means harm, or does it, because they be old and past work?"
"No, Mother Guy, I think no such thing," replied Trim. "There is old Anastatia Steer bed-ridden now; I never thought any ill of her, nor said it, tho' she be the oldest woman in the county; and may be in all England."
"Ah! poor old soul," said Betsy Humming, "I've spun the woollen for her shroud for her long ago, and that by her own desire to oblige her; tho' I'm not to be paid for it till she be dead, and calls for it."
"Then I reckon you won't much longer be out of pocket, Betsy," said the tailor.'
That's true enough, Trim," replied Betsy; "and if I be called on soon for the shroud, you'll have to make it;. and that will be grist, to your mill, Master Trickett. And then she has so many relations; and her great great grandchildren's children be so many, I reckon you'll have to make a mourning suit for them all, women and men; and what a wind-fall will that be for you! How your needle will go day and night to have the doublets, and hose, and the gowns, and the kirtles ready for the funeral! And I shall sell them some of my black kersies, and times will be better; and we shall have something else to do than to stand and talk about 'em."
"Well! if ever I heard the like!" said Gammer Guy, "You and Trim Trickett to go for to settle a poor harmless old neighbour's death after that fashion! And all to put money into your own pockets! O its a cruel and a very wicked thing! Who's ill-wishing now I trow?"
"Not I," said Trim, "I be sure."
"Nor I," said Betsy Humming.
"Did you not talk of old Anastatia Steer's death? and what a profit it would be to you both, before it comes?"
"Yes; but we did not say we'd kill her," said Betsy.
"Nor wish her dead neither," said Trim, "we only said she was like to die soon."
"And is not that bad enough," exclaimed Gammer Guy.. "What's the harm with old Anastatia that you should talk of her in such a way; and she only been bed-ridden these last six months?"
"Why, is she not said to be one hundred and forty years old complete? And don't folks come far and near to see her, as a cuerossity?" said the tailor. "And doesn't she fail faster and faster every day? She can't live for ever like the wandering Jew."
"But she has no doctor," said Gammer Guy," and so may last for many a year yet to come."
"She is blind," said Betsy Humming.
"And deaf," said Trim.
"And has never a tooth in her head, and can't feed her-self," said Betsy.
"And has lost her memory, and the use of her limbs," said Trim.
"But she's alive, and eats, drinks, and sleeps," said Gammer Guy.
"So she may," said Trim; "but I do say, for all that, old Anastatia Steer being one hundred and forty years complete, bed-ridden, blind, deaf, and helpless, may be supposed able to die soon, without anything going contrary to the rules of Natur, and without any ill-wishing from me and my neighbour, Betsy Humming; and we both wish her no harm."
Gammer Guy, who was given to have ill thoughts and suspicions of everybody, shook her head; and after taking a cup of warm spiced ale, with an egg beat up in it, at Betsy Humming's cost, repaid her hospitality by spreading at the next two or three neighbours where she called in for a gossip, that she was quite sure Betsy Humming, for the sake of selling some of her black kersies, and Trim Trickett, for the sake of having to make 'em up as mourning suits, were both of them ill-wishing poor old Anastatia Steer, who was comfortable in her bed, free from all sickness, and might last as long as the king himself, let alone their wicked wiles. But such ill-wishing was as bad as a downright murdering of her.