On the day of the dinner the new sign swung aloft. “It couldn’t dry better anywhere,” said Master Chuter.
Jan “found himself famous.” The whole parish assembled to admire. The windmiller, in his amazement, could not even find a proverb for the occasion, whilst Abel hung about the door of the Heart of Oak, as if he had been the most confirmed toper, saying to all incomers, “Have ’ee seen the new sign, sir? ’Twas our Jan did un.”
His fame would probably have spread more widely, but for a more overwhelming interest which came to distract the neighborhood, and which destroyed a neat little project of Master Chuter’s for running up a few tables amongst his kidney-beans, as a kind of “tea garden” for folk from outlying villages, who, coming in on Sunday afternoons to service, should also want to see the work of the boy sign-painter.
It is a curious instance of the inaccuracy of popular impressions that, when Master Linseed died three days after the Foresters’ dinner, it was universally believed that he had been killed by vexation at Jan’s success. Nor was this tradition the less firmly fixed in the village annals, that the disease to which he had succumbed spread like flames in a gale. It produced a slight reaction of sentiment against Jan. And his achievement was absolutely forgotten in the shadow of the months that followed.
For it was that year long known in the history of the district as the year of the Black Fever.
Sanitary inspectors.—The pestilence.—The parson.—The doctor.—The squire and the schoolmaster.—Desolation at the windmill.—The second advent.
I remember a “cholera year” in a certain big village. The activity of the sanitary authorities (and many and vain had been the efforts to rouse them to activity before) was, for them, remarkable. A good many heads of households died with fearful suddenness and not less fearful suffering. Several nuisances were “seen to,” some tar-barrels were burnt, and the scourge passed by. Not long ago a woman, whose home is in a court where some of the most flagrant nuisances existed, in talking to me, casually alluded to one of them. It had been ordered to be removed, she said, in the cholera year when the gentlemen were going round; but the cholera went away, and it remained among those things which were not “seen to,” and for aught I know flourishes still. She was a sensible and affectionate person. Living away from her home at that time, she became anxious at once for the welfare of her relatives if they neglected to write to her. But she had never an anxiety on the subject of that unremedied abomination which was poisoning every breath they drew. That “the gentlemen who went