Here they came to a stop and endeavoured to ascertain its width, but the little reflected light they had was deceptive, and it did not appear so broad as it was.
“Oh, I can jump it,” exclaimed one.
“And so can I,” said another. “I have done so before, and why should I not do so now.”
This was unanswerable, and as there were many present, at least a dozen were eager to jump.
“If thee can do it, I know I can,” said a brawny countryman; “so I’ll do it at once.
“The sooner the better,” shouted some one behind, “or you’ll have no room for a run, here’s a lot of ’em coming up; push over as quickly as you can.”
Thus urged, the jumpers at once made a rush to the edge of the ditch, and many jumped, and many more, from the prevailing darkness, did not see exactly where the ditch was, and taking one or two steps too many, found themselves up above the waist in muddy water.
Nor were those who jumped much better off, for nearly all jumped short or fell backwards into the stream, and were dragged out in a terrible state.
“Oh, lord! oh, lord!” exclaimed one poor fellow, dripping wet and shivering with cold, “I shall die! oh, the rheumatiz, there’ll be a pretty winter for me: I’m half dead.”
“Hold your noise,” said another, “and help me to get the mud out of my eye; I can’t see.”
“Never mind,” added a third, “considering how you jump, I don’t think you want to see.”
“This comes a hunting vampyres.”
“Oh, it’s all a judgment; who knows but he may be in the air: it is nothing to laugh at as I shouldn’t be surprised if he were: only think how precious pleasant.”
“However pleasant it may be to you,” remarked one, “it’s profitable to a good many.”
“Why, see the numbers, of things that will be spoiled, coats torn, hats crushed, heads broken, and shoes burst. Oh, it’s an ill-wind that blows nobody any good.”
“So it is, but you may benefit anybody you like, so you don’t do it at my expence.”
In one part of a field where there were some stiles and gates, a big countryman caught a fat shopkeeper with the arms of the stile a terrible poke in the stomach; while the breath was knocked out of the poor man’s stomach, and he was gasping with agony, the fellow set to laughing, and said to his companions, who were of the same class—
“I say, Jim, look at the grocer, he hasn’t got any wind to spare, I’d run him for a wager, see how he gapes like a fish out of water.”
The poor shopkeeper felt indeed like a fish out of water, and as he afterwards declared he felt just as if he had had a red hot clock weight thrust into the midst of his stomach and there left to cool.
However, the grocer would be revenged upon his tormentor, who had now lost sight of him, but the fat man, after a time, recovering his wind, and the pain in his stomach becoming less intense, he gathered himself up.