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IT was not often that anything happened to
enliven the village of Bleaburn, in Yorkshire:
but there was a day in the summer of 1811,
when the inhabitants were roused from their
apathy, and hardly knew themselves. A
stranger was once heard to say, after some
accident had compelled him to pass through
Bleaburn, that he saw nothing there but a
blacksmith asleep, and a couple of rabbits
hung up by the heels. That the blacksmith was
wholly asleep at midday might indicate that
there was a public house in the place; but,
even there, in that liveliest and most intellectual
spot in a country village of those days,
the ale-house kitchenthe people sat half
asleep. Sodden with beer, and almost without
ideas and interests, the men of the place
let indolence creep over them; and there
they sat, as quiet a set of customers as ever
landlord had to deal with. For one thing,
they were almost all old or elderly men. The
boys were out after the rabbits on the                                                                              neighbouring moor; and the young men were far
away. A recruiting party had met with unusual
success, for two successive years—(now some
time since)-- in inducing the men of Bleaburn
to enter the king's service. In a place where
nobody was very wise, and everybody was
very dull, the drum and fife, the soldierly
march, the scarlet coats, the gay ribbons, the
drink and the pay, had charms which can
hardly be conceived of by dwellers in towns,
to whose eyes and ears something new is
presented every day. Several men went from
Bleaburn to be soldiers, and Bleaburn was
declared to be a loyal place; and many who
had never before heard of its existence, spoke
of it now as a bright example of attachment
and devotion to the throne in a most disloyal
age. While, throughout the manufacturing
districts, the people were breaking machinery
while on these very Yorkshire hills they
were drilling their armed forceswhile the
moneyed men were grumbling at the taxes,
and at the war in Spain, whence, for a long
time, they had heard of many disasters and
no victories; and while the hungry labourers
in town and country were asking how they
were to buy bread when wheat was selling
at 95s. the quarter, and while there were
grave apprehensions of night-burnings of the
corn magazines, the village of Bleaburn, which
could not be seen without being expressly
sought, was sending up strong men out of its
cleft of the hills, to fight the battles of their

Perhaps the chief reason of the loyalty, as
well as the quietness of Bleaburn, was its lying
in a cleft of the hills; in a fissure so deep and
narrow, that a traveller in a chaise might
easily pass near it without perceiving that
there was any settlement at all, unless it was
in the morning when the people were lighting
their fires, or on the night of such a day as
that on which our story opens. In the one
case, the smoke issuing from the cleft might
hint of habitations: in the other, the noise
and ruddy light would leave no doubt of
there being somebody there. There was, at
last, a victory in Spain. The news of the
battle of Albuera had arrived; and it spread
abroad over the kingdom, lighting up
bonfires in the streets, and millions of candles in
windows, before people had time to learn at
what cost this victory was obtained, and how
very nearly it had been a fatal defeat, or                                                                       anything about it, in short. If they had known
the fact that while our allies, the Spaniards,
Portuguese, and Germans, suffered but                                                                         moderately, the British were slaughtered as
horribly as they could have been under
defeat: so that, out of six thousand men
who went up the hill, only fifteen hundred
were left standing at the top, the people
might have let their bonfires burn out as
soon as they would, and might have put out
their candles that mourners might weep in
darkness. But they burst into rejoicing first,
and learned details afterwards.

Every boy in Bleaburn forgot the rabbits
that day. All were busy getting in wood for the
bonfire. Not a swinging shutter, not a loose
pale, not a bit of plank, or ricketty gate, or
shaking footbridge escaped their clutches.
Where they hid their stock during the day,
nobody knew; but there was a mighty pile
at dusk. It was then that poor Widow
Slaney, stealing out to close her shutter,
because she could not bear the sound of
rejoicing, nor the sight of her neighbours
abroad in the ruddy light, found that her
shutter was gone. All day, she had been in