Ah, heedless Enoch! What was parson, what was wife to him? Was he not soaring far above theologies and domesticities, over continents traversed only by memory, amid ideals seen only with the eye of hope? But a woman’s voice!—what is there it cannot shatter and dispel?
‘Enoch! Enoch! dun yo’ yer? Doesto see th’ parson?’
‘No, lass, I doan’t,’ said he, taking the flute from his lips.
‘I welly think he’s forgetten us this time, Enoch.’
‘Nod he, lass; he’s too fond o’ thi butter-cakes and moufins (muffins) to forgeet. He’s some fond o’ thi bakin’, I con tell thaa. Didn’t he say as when he geet wed he’d bring his missis to thee to larn haa to mak’ bread?’
‘Yi, he did, for sure!’
‘And so he will,’ said Mr. Penrose, stepping from behind the garden bush. ’You see your husband is right, Mrs. Ashworth. I’ve not forgotten it is baking-day, or that I was due at your house to tea.’
‘Theyer, Enoch, thaa sees what thi tootling on th’ owd flute’s done for thee,’ said the old woman, in her surprise and chagrin. ’Thaa cornd be too careful haa thaa talks. Thaa sees trees hes yers as weel as stoan walls.’
‘Ne’er mind, Mr. Penrose; I were nobbud hevin’ her on a bit. Hoo thinks a mighty lot o’ parsons, I con tell yo’. Hoo’s never reet but when hoo’s oather listenin’ to ’em or feedin’ ’em,’ and the old man quietly broke into a laugh.
‘An’ dun yo’ know what he sez abaat parsons, Mr. Penrose? I mud as weel tell tales abaat him naa he’s started tellin’ tales abaat me.’
Mr. Penrose declared he had no idea what old Enoch’s criticisms on the members of the cloth were, but expressed a strong desire to be made familiar with them.
‘Weel,’ continued Mrs. Ashworth, ’he sez as he never noather flatters parsons nor women, for noather on ’em con ston’ it. Naa, then, what dun yo’ mak’ o’ that?’
‘He’s very wise.’
’I only mean as far as the parsons are concerned. As to women—why, I suppose I must be silent.’
‘Ne’er mind, Mr. Penrose; tay’s waitin’, so come along. Yo’ cornd bridle women folks, and it’s happen as weel yo’ cornd; for if they mutn’t talk they’d scrat, and that ‘ud be a deal wur.’
During tea Mr. Penrose apologized for hiding behind the bushes in the garden while old Enoch was playing the flute: ‘But,’ continued he, ’the airs were so sweet that it would have been a sin to mar them by interruption.’
Upon hearing this Enoch’s eye brightened, and a flush of pride mantled on his cheek. These signs were at once detected by his quick-eyed wife, who broke out in a triumphant voice:
‘An’ that’s him as wouldn’t flatter parsons an’ women, cose, as he sez, they cornd ston’ it; and he’s aside hissel cose yo’ve cracked up his playin’, Mr. Penrose.’
‘All reet, owd lass,’ good-humouredly retorted Enoch, looking love through his mild blue eyes at his wife, who knew so well how to defend her own, ’all reet; but if thaa durnd mind I’ll tell Mr. Penrose abaat Dickey o’ Wams.’