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attempting to converse with him, more particularly if touching on anything regarding himself, he found him repulsively cold and reserved. His brows were often contracted as with mental or physical suffering, and a cloud of gloom would sometimes settle upon his dark, pale face.
"Meadows is not a pleasant fellow," said Christopher, in vexation. "I can't understand him!"
Meanwhile he did not complain of anything; was scrupulously attentive to his duties, irreproachably exact in fulfilling all Mr Harebell's orders, and indefatigable in studying to make himself master of the language spoken by the workpeople,* and in which he was already making rapid progress; retiring to his room to study at every spare moment. For as they had a room at liberty, and as Mr Harebell thought it would be advisable for the overlooker to be as near the works as possible, he had provided him with one in his own house.
* The peasantry speak a German patois, and the educated people, mostly French; but in this narrative, conversations with either will be rendered in English.
"For the violet's breath perfumeth
And the gentle snowdrop bloometh
ESCENDING Mossdale, and passing out at the lower end, the entrance to another and much wider valley is immediately approached, where the contiguous mountains are no longer so rugged, and are clothed with pine forests on the one side, and on the other with vineyards and other cultivated ground, above which are wild tracts of land stretching far and wide, covered with heath and gorse in flower. Amongst the cultivated ground, some is allotted to corn, and some to colza, with its bright yellow blossoms, whose strong perfume scents the air all around for some distance. The fresh green of the vines, the wavy corn, the gay colza blossoms, and the varied colours of the heath and gorse in flower, form indeed a most pleasing whole; more especially when contrasted with the dark pine forests on the opposite side of the valley.
Passing along this wider valley, and at the distance of about a mile from Mossdale, is a village we will call Gemsendorph, and which, seen from a distance, looks pretty and picturesque, with its church on an eminence, plots of cultivated land and trees interspersed amongst its cottages; but it only looks pleasing when viewed from a considerable distance; for, alas! any such idea is quickly dispelled on a nearer inspection.
But let us now in fancy accompany Mr Harebell, as, with his son Christopher, he enters the village and takes his way to one of the cottages, where resided a numerous family, comprising several grown-up sons and daughters, of whom Mr Harebell wished to engage one or more to work in the factory; the rather, as he had been informed that they were in great poverty, and therefore thought it would be doing them a benefit.
They had now entered the village; a narrow road, very uneven and dirty, being littered with refuse of various kinds. On each side of this narrow road were houses and vegetable gardens; but many of the gardens were in great disorder, and the houses irregularly built and awkwardly placed. One would stand so forward as to very inconveniently encroach upon the road, already too narrow; its next neighbour, on the contrary, retreated so much as to leave an untidy open space, which, instead of forming a small flowergarden or anything of that kind, served only as an additional receptacle for dirt and disorder, besides containing a pig-sty and dunghill; whilst the third house would present only a gable end jutting out into
A KIND EMPLOYER.
the road; and the fourth would perhaps stand quite crookedly, as if the builder, unable to decide how to place it, had at length cast it down at random, neither lengthwise nor endwise to the road, but aslant. Some of the houses were only approachable by traversing a small yard, partly inclosed by a half broken-down wall or other fence, which intervened between them and the road, containing a stable or cow-shed, and perhaps also a pig-sty, and furnished in the centre with a sort of pit filled with manure, slightly covered over with branches of fir—the miasma from which was, of course, exceedingly unpleasant-and over which it was necessary to pass in order to gain the door of entrance.
It was to such a house as this that Mr Harebell and his son now approached, picking their way as best they could across the littered yard, and feeling at every step the fir branches give way under their weight, and their feet come into contact with the unpleasant compound beneath.
Mr Harebell might have done the errand by deputy, and so have spared himself the annoyance of this disagreeable visit, if he had only consulted his own inclination; but on former the like occasions, he had found that plan very unsuccessful, and, being a humane man, and therefore having really at heart to better the condition of the people-for it so happened that he was not now in want of work-people, the case being merely that if he had more, he could find them some employment;-consequently he had come to do the errand for himself, in order to see whether he might not succeed better.
An ill-clad, dejected, emaciated, and dirty-looking woman stood idly at the door. She might be about forty-eight, but looked more like seventy, and only just sufficiently made room, so that by brushing past her they could enter; whilst she told them—not very civilly-that her husband was within, and they could speak with him if such was their wish.
On entering, they found themselves in a low room, in which the air was very stifling, the flooring of boards quite black with dirt, the ceiling also black. In one corner was a stove, on which some kind of mess was simmering in a brown earthenware pan, and the apartment was filled with smoke from the green wood and fir branches burning in the stove; by the side of which-although the weather was very warm— cowered the husband of the woman at the door, apparently a feeble old man, much bent with age, though in truth he was but little more than fifty. On the other side of the stove sat-on a bench that was propped against the wall because one of the legs was gone, his clothing very ragged—a lubberly young man of seventeen or eighteen years of age, in perfect idleness; whilst a sickly-looking, ragged girl of thirteen or fourteen was rocking à cradle, in which lay a child of at least two years old; which, although of that age, could yet hardly walk, no one having taken the trouble to teach it, but, on the contrary, having kept it almost constantly in bed, to be out of the way, and, as much as possible, asleep; consequently, the poor little creature's limbs had no strength, and its head had grown quite disproportionately large.