Without the excuse of its coming in the column of spelling set by herself, Abel dared not ask her to solve his puzzle; for never did teacher more warmly resent questions which she was unable to answer than Dame Datchett.
Abel could not fully make up his mind whether it should be looked up among two-syllabled or three-syllabled words. He decided for the former, and one day brought his spelling-book to George in the round-house.
“I’ve been a looking for that yere word, Gearge,” said he. “There’s lots of Mo’s, but it bean’t among ’em. Here they be. Words of two syllables; M, Ma, Me, Mi; here they be, Mo.” And Abel began to rattle off the familiar column at a good rate, George looking earnestly over his shoulder, and following the boy’s finger as it moved rapidly down the page. “Mocking, Modern, Mohawk, Molar, Molly, Moment, Money, Moping, Moral, Mortal, Moses, Motive, Movement.”
“Stop a bit, mun,” cried George; “what do all they words mean? They bothers me.”
“I knows some of ’em,” said Abel, “and I asked Dame Datchett about the others, but she do be so cross; and I thinks some of ’em bothered she too. There’s mocking. I knows that. ’What’s a modern, Dame?’ says I. ‘A muddle-headed fellow the likes of you,’ says she. ‘What’s a mohawk, Dame?’ says I. ’It’s what you’ll come to before long, ye young hang-gallus,’ says she. I was feared on her, Gearge, I can tell ’ee; but I tried my luck again. ’What’s a molar, Dame?’ says I. ‘’Tis a wus word than t’other,’ says she; ’and, if ’ee axes me any more voolish questions, I’ll break thee yead for ‘ee.’ Do ’ee think ’tis a very bad word, Gearge?” added Abel, with a rather indefensible curiosity.
“I never heard un,” said George. And this was perhaps decisive against the Dame’s statement. “And I don’t believe un neither. I think it bothered she. I believe ’tis a genteel word for a man as catches oonts. They call oonts moles in some parts, so p’r’aps they calls a man as catches moles a molar, as they calls a man as drives a mill a miller.”
“’Tis likely too, Gearge,” said Abel. “Well! Molly we knows. And moment, and moping, and moral.”
“What’s moral?” inquired George.
“’Tis what they put at the end of Vables, Gearge. There’s Vables at the end of the spelling-book, and I’ve read un all. There’s the Wolf and the Lamb, and” —
“I knows now,” said George. “’Tis like the last verse of that song about the Harnet and the Bittle. Go on, Abel.”
“Mortal. That’s swearing. Moses. That’s in the Bible, Gearge. Motive. I thought I’d try un just once more. ’What’s a motive, Dame?’ says I. ‘I’ve got un here,’ says she, quite quiet-like. But I seed her feeling under ’s chair, and I know’d ’twas for the strap, and I ran straight off, spelling-book and all, Gearge.”
“So thee’ve been playing moocher, eh?” said George, with an unpleasant twinkle in his eyes. “What’ll Master Lake say to that?”