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HOME > Biographical > Thomas Hardy's Dorset > CHAPTER XI
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With my beer
I sit,
While golden moments flit.
They pass
Unheeded by;
And, as they fly,
Being dry,
Sit idly here
My beer.
Oh, finer far
Than fame or riches are
The smoke-wreaths of this cigar!
Should I
Weep, , or sigh?
What if luck has passed me by?
What if my hopes are dead,
My pleasures fled?
Have I not still
My fill
Of right good cheer,—
Cigars and beer?
I like inns, and I like old ale, and all the old curious glasses, mugs and pewters which were so dear to our , and I begin this chapter in this way to any possible charges of that my may call . I would almost go further, and say that my affection for such things is wholly a private matter concerning only myself, or, at least, no more than a few very intimate friends. That, I think, is how sentimentalism should be conducted. When it is managed otherwise, when it becomes a public thing, it becomes a public nuisance, besides being . But, as I have gone so far, I might as well go the length of admitting that I am to the habit of collecting old drinking , and I have allowed the disease to get the upper hand. I cannot pass a curio shop in which willow-pattern mugs, glasses and "leather bottels" are displayed without a burning to possess them. I like to have these things about me, not merely as or to drink from, but for—— Well, when I come to think of it, I cannot quite say; there is not sufficient reason. That is enough to brand me an curio-hunter. Curios and ancient drinking vessels are to me what the sea is to a sailor. It is a passion which has become interwoven with my blood and fibre, and I can never again wholly break loose from it.
But all this is by the way; the point is, why do I commence this chapter by talking about such things?
For the reason that in this chapter I am going to tell of a singular adventure in which a "black " very solidly.
It happened at Morcombe Lake. I will not write of this place. You must get it out of a guide-book, for the village is not a thing for fine words; it stirred me in no way. But it shall not be said that Morcombe Lake has not a small share of fame, for in this village is produced the famous Dorset Knob Biscuit, without which no Dorset table is really complete. Mr Moores, who "magics" butter, milk and sugar in his small bake-house and brings forth these golden-brown "Knobs," informs me that his family has been busy sending them out in tins for over a hundred years.
I had walked from Bridport, passing through Chideock, with its venerable-looking church beside the Castle Inn, and coming to Morcombe, where there is a deep-eaved, comfortable, ramshackle, go-as-you-please kind of a little inn, I could hear somebody singing inside. It was a clear, voice, and I listened to the of the song with a thrill of pleasure. It was a humorous trio, and the lonely singer changed his voice for each verse with a largeness and confidence in his powers that quite carried me away. Indeed, it was a song which we all should know, which runs:
"A little farm well tilled,
A little barn well filled,
A little wife well willed—
Give me, give me.
A larger farm well tilled,
A bigger house well filled,
A taller wife well willed—
Give me, give me.
I like the farm well tilled,
And I like the house well filled,
But no wife at all—
Give me, give me."
Entering, I saw one of the kind of men God loves. He was of middle age, very honest and simple in the face, good-humoured and cheerful. He was sitting before a tall, leather black jack—one of the finest of the old-fashioned leather I have ever seen—quaffing his morning ale from it. He paused from his song and lifted his wide straw hat in a way.
"Good marning, sir! Fine marning's marning! Tez mortel 'ot ta-day," he said, in a mellow voice, and he looked up at me with large, china-blue eyes. I passed the time of day with him, but the fine leathern flagon had already claimed all my attention; I had no eyes for anything else at the moment. I dealt hotly with over the ownership of the flagon. Did it belong to the or the innkeeper? Did they know its value? This and a hundred other thoughts flashed through my mind. As I stood there I dwelt upon thought of possession. I said to myself: "I must have that flagon. I will buy. Beg it. Steal it, if necessary." The desire to possess it consumed my soul.
"Wantee plaize to take a seat? The cider here be a prime sort, I shuree!" said the rustic, breaking in upon my thoughts. He very slowly and, as I have said, had a nice mellow voice, and he did what only honest men do—looked straight at me when he spoke.
"Surely," I said, and sat down beside him. "Pray excuse me," I continued, waving my hand towards the leather jack, "but that is a old drinking ."
"Thickee there is the ownly I ever see like it," said he, holding it up and looking at it with . "Yes, sir, it be a brave good mug, and I have taken my cider and ale out of he for twenty year. It's just a fancy of mine to bring it along with me when I drink. I tellee that mug has been with my folk for two hundred years. Parson says it is just a 'miracle' of an old thing."
"Aha!" said I to myself, "the parson is after it too."
"They tell me," he said, "that it may be worth a pound or two. Well, well! It is an old friend, and I should be to part with the cheel, but——"
"But," I repeated eagerly.
"But," he continued, "things have been cruel bad with me o' late, and I have thought, whatever is the good o' keeping it when like 'nuff we can sell it for a pound or so and buy the chillern a few clothes against the winter."
"True, true!" I said, trying to keep my excitement undermost. "But you would only get a few shillings for it, I am afraid. Such things have no market value."
"No market value?" he answered. "Well, I suppose I dunnow much 't-al-'bout-et!"
He for a few moments. I narrowly watched him out of half-closed eyes—"Oh, yes; I was playing the old grey wolf, sure enough"—and said, very carelessly: "I should hate drinking my ale out of a 'leather bottel.' They may look , but I am certain the beer would taste . I have no sympathy with the who sang:
"'And I wish in heaven his soul may dwell
That first devised the leather bottel.'
However, I would not mind giving you a few shillings for it."
I happened to glance up as I said this. He sat there looking at me with a troubled expression in his blue eyes.
He then said a number of things in broad Dorset............
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