“Now,” continued the tranter, dispersing by a new tone of voice these digressions about Leaf; “as to going to see the pa’son, one of us might call and ask en his meaning, and ’twould be just as well done; but it will add a bit of flourish to the cause if the quire waits on him as a body. Then the great thing to mind is, not for any of our fellers to be nervous; so before starting we’ll one and all come to my house and have a rasher of bacon; then every man-jack het a pint of cider into his inside; then we’ll warm up an extra drop wi’ some mead and a bit of ginger; every one take a thimbleful—just a glimmer of a drop, mind ye, no more, to finish off his inner man—and march off to Pa’son Mayble. Why, sonnies, a man’s not himself till he is fortified wi’ a bit and a drop? We shall be able to look any gentleman in the face then without shrink or shame.”
Mail recovered from a deep meditation and downward glance into the earth in time to give a cordial approval to this line of action, and the meeting adjourned.
At six o’clock the next day, the whole body of men in the choir emerged from the tranter’s door, and advanced with a firm step down the lane. This dignity of march gradually became obliterated as they went on, and by the time they reached the hill behind the vicarage a faint resemblance to a flock of sheep might have been discerned in the venerable party. A word from the tranter, however, set them right again; and as they descended the hill, the regular tramp, tramp, tramp of the united feet was clearly audible from the vicarage garden. At the opening of the gate there was another short interval of irregular shuffling, caused by a rather peculiar habit the gate had, when swung open quickly, of striking against the bank and slamming back into the opener’s face.
“Now keep step again, will ye?” said the tranter. “It looks better, and more becomes the high class of arrant which has brought us here.” Thus they advanced to the door.
At Reuben’s ring the more modest of the group turned aside, adjusted their hats, and looked critically at any shrub that happened to lie in the line of vision; endeavouring thus to give a person who chanced to look out of the windows the impression that their request, whatever it was going to be, was rather a casual thought occurring whilst they were inspecting the vicar’s shrubbery and grass-plot than a predetermined thing. The tranter, who, coming frequently to the vicarage with luggage, coals, firewood, etc., had none of the awe for its precincts that filled the breasts of most of the others, fixed his eyes firmly on the knocker during this interval of waiting. The knocker having no characteristic worthy of notice, he relinquished it for a knot in one of the door-panels, and studied the winding lines of the grain.
“O, sir, please, here’s Tranter Dewy, and old William Dewy, and young Richard Dewy, O, and all the quire too, sir, except the boys, a-come to see you!” said Mr. Maybold’s maid-servant to Mr. Maybold, the pupils of her eyes dilating like circles in a pond.