Under the Greenwood Tree HTML version

PART I: 3. The Assembled Quire
William Dewy--otherwise grandfather William--was now about seventy; yet an ardent
vitality still preserved a warm and roughened bloom upon his face, which reminded
gardeners of the sunny side of a ripe ribstone-pippin; though a narrow strip of forehead,
that was protected from the weather by lying above the line of his hat-brim, seemed to
belong to some town man, so gentlemanly was its whiteness. His was a humorous and
kindly nature, not unmixed with a frequent melancholy; and he had a firm religious faith.
But to his neighbours he had no character in particular. If they saw him pass by their
windows when they had been bottling off old mead, or when they had just been called
long-headed men who might do anything in the world if they chose, they thought
concerning him, "Ah, there's that good-hearted man--open as a child!" If they saw him
just after losing a shilling or half-a-crown, or accidentally letting fall a piece of crockery,
they thought, "There's that poor weak-minded man Dewy again! Ah, he's never done
much in the world either!" If he passed when fortune neither smiled nor frowned on
them, they merely thought him old William Dewy.
"Ah, so's--here you be!--Ah, Michael and Joseph and John--and you too, Leaf! a merry
Christmas all! We shall have a rare log-wood fire directly, Reub, to reckon by the
toughness of the job I had in cleaving 'em." As he spoke he threw down an armful of logs
which fell in the chimney-corner with a rumble, and looked at them with something of
the admiring enmity he would have bestowed on living people who had been very
obstinate in holding their own. "Come in, grandfather James."
Old James (grandfather on the maternal side) had simply called as a visitor. He lived in a
cottage by himself, and many people considered him a miser; some, rather slovenly in his
habits. He now came forward from behind grandfather William, and his stooping figure
formed a well-illuminated picture as he passed towards the fire-place. Being by trade a
mason, he wore a long linen apron reaching almost to his toes, corduroy breeches and
gaiters, which, together with his boots, graduated in tints of whitish-brown by constant
friction against lime and stone. He also wore a very stiff fustian coat, having folds at the
elbows and shoulders as unvarying in their arrangement as those in a pair of bellows: the
ridges and the projecting parts of the coat collectively exhibiting a shade different from
that of the hollows, which were lined with small ditch-like accumulations of stone and
mortar-dust. The extremely large side-pockets, sheltered beneath wide flaps, bulged out
convexly whether empty or full; and as he was often engaged to work at buildings far
away--his breakfasts and dinners being eaten in a strange chimney-corner, by a garden
wall, on a heap of stones, or walking along the road--he carried in these pockets a small
tin canister of butter, a small canister of sugar, a small canister of tea, a paper of salt, and
a paper of pepper; the bread, cheese, and meat, forming the substance of his meals,
hanging up behind him in his basket among the hammers and chisels. If a passer-by
looked hard at him when he was drawing forth any of these, "My buttery," he said, with a
pinched smile.