They had reached the end of the second verse, and the fiddlers were doing the up bow-stroke previously to pouring forth the opening chord of the third verse, when, without a light appearing or any signal being given, a roaring voice exclaimed—
“Shut up, woll ‘ee! Don’t make your blaring row here! A feller wi’ a headache enough to split his skull likes a quiet night!”
Slam went the window.
“Hullo, that’s a’ ugly blow for we!” said the tranter, in a keenly appreciative voice, and turning to his companions.
“Finish the carrel, all who be friends of harmony!” commanded old William; and they continued to the end.
“Four breaths, and number nineteen!” said William firmly. “Give it him well; the quire can’t be insulted in this manner!”
A light now flashed into existence, the window opened, and the farmer stood revealed as one in a terrific passion.
“Drown en!—drown en!” the tranter cried, fiddling frantically. “Play fortissimy, and drown his spaking!”
“Fortissimy!” said Michael Mail, and the music and singing waxed so loud that it was impossible to know what Mr. Shiner had said, was saying, or was about to say; but wildly flinging his arms and body about in the forms of capital Xs and Ys, he appeared to utter enough invectives to consign the whole parish to perdition.
“Very onseemly—very!” said old William, as they retired. “Never such a dreadful scene in the whole round o’ my carrel practice—never! And he a churchwarden!”
“Only a drap o’ drink got into his head,” said the tranter. “Man’s well enough when he’s in his religious frame. He’s in his worldly frame now. Must ask en to our bit of a party to-morrow night, I suppose, and so put en in humour again. We bear no mortal man ill-will.”
They now crossed Mellstock Bridge, and went along an embowered path beside the Froom towards the church and vicarage, meeting Voss with the hot mead and bread-and-cheese as they were approaching the churchyard. This determined them to eat and drink before proceeding further, and they entered the church and ascended to the gallery. The lanterns were opened, and the whole body sat round against the walls on benches and whatever else was available, and made a hearty meal. In the pauses of conversation there could be heard through the floor overhead a little world of undertones and creaks from the halting clockwork, which never spread further than the tower they were born in, and raised in the more meditative minds a fancy that here lay the direct pathway of Time.
Having done eating and drinking, they again tuned the instruments, and once more the party emerged into the night air.
“Where’s Dick?” said old Dewy.
Every man looked round upon every other man, as if Dick might have been transmuted into one or the other; and then they said they didn’t know.
“Well now, that’s what I call very nasty of Master Dicky, that I do,” said Michael Mail.