There is one thing to say which will make it worth while to trouble the reader with this preface. A small portion of the dialogue is written in a much modified form of the Cumbrian dialect. There are four variations of dialect in Cumberland, and perhaps the dialect spoken on the West Coast differs more from the dialect spoken in the Thirlmere Valley than the latter differs from the dialect spoken in North Lancashire. The patois problem is not the least serious of the many difficulties the novelist encounters. I have chosen to give a broad outline of Cumbrian dialect, such as bears no more exact relation to the actual speech than a sketch bears to a finished picture. It is right as far as it goes.
A word as to the background of history. I shall look for the sympathy of the artist and the forgiveness of the historian in making two or three trifling legal anachronisms that do not interfere with the interest of the narrative. The year of the story is given, but the aim has been to reflect in these pages the black cloud of the whole period of the Restoration as it hung over England’s remotest solitudes. In my rude sketch of the beginnings of the Quaker movement I must disclaim any intention of depicting the precise manners or indicating the exact doctrinal beliefs of the revivalists. If, however, I have described the Quakers as singing and praying with the fervor of the Methodists, it must not be forgotten that Quietism was no salient part of the Quakerism of Fox; and if I have hinted at Calvinism, it must be remembered that the “dividing of God’s heritage” was one of the causes of the first schism in the Quaker Society.
New Court, Lincoln’s Inn.
The city of Wythburn.
Tar-ry woo’, tar-ry
Tar-ry woo’ is ill to spin:
Card it weel, card it weel,
Card it weel ere you begin. Old Ballad.
The city of Wythburn stood in a narrow valley at the foot of Lauvellen, and at the head of Bracken Water. It was a little but populous village, inhabited chiefly by sheep farmers, whose flocks grazed on the neighboring hills. It contained rather less than a hundred houses, all deep thatched and thick walled. To the north lay the mere, a long and irregular water, which was belted across the middle by an old Roman bridge of bowlders. A bare pack-horse road wound its way on the west, and stretched out of sight to the north and to the south. On this road, about half a mile within the southernmost extremity of Bracken Water, two hillocks met, leaving a natural opening between them and a path that went up to where the city stood. The dalesmen called the cleft between the hillocks the city gates; but why the gates and why the city none could rightly say. Folks had always given them these names. The wiser heads shook gravely as they told you that city should be sarnty, meaning the house by the causeway. The historians of the plain could say no more.