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"Surly Tim" A Lancashire Story
by [?]

But he shook his head–not after a surly fashion, but, as I thought, a trifle sadly or heavily–so I did not ask any more questions, or try to force the subject upon him.

But I noticed him pretty closely as time went on, and the more I saw of him the more fully I was convinced that he was not so surly as people imagined. He never interfered with the most active of his enemies, nor made any reply when they taunted him, and more than once I saw him perform a silent, half-secret act of kindness. Once I caught him throwing half his dinner to a wretched little lad who had just come to the factory, and worked near him; and once again, as I was leaving the building on a rainy night, I came upon him on the stone steps at the door bending down with an almost pathetic clumsiness to pin the woolen shawl of a poor little mite, who, like so many others, worked with her shiftless father and mother to add to their weekly earnings. It was always the poorest and least cared for of the children whom he seemed to befriend, and very often I noticed that even when he was kindest, in his awkward man fashion, the little waifs were afraid of him, and showed their fear plainly.

The factory was situated on the outskirts of a thriving country town near Manchester, and at the end of the lane that led from it to the more thickly populated part there was a path crossing a field to the pretty church and church-yard, and this path was a short cut homeward for me. Being so pretty and quiet the place had a sort of attraction for me; and I was in the habit of frequently passing through it on my way, partly because it was pretty and quiet, perhaps, and partly, I have no doubt, because I was inclined to be weak and melancholy at the time, my health being broken down under hard study.

It so happened that in passing here one night, and glancing in among the graves and marble monuments as usual, I caught sight of a dark figure sitting upon a little mound under a tree and resting its head upon its hands, and in this sad-looking figure I recognized the muscular outline of my friend Surly Tim.

He did not see me at first, and I was almost inclined to think it best to leave him alone; but as I half turned away he stirred with something like a faint moan, and then lifted his head and saw me standing in the bright, clear moonlight.

“Who’s theer?” he said. “Dost ta want owt?”

“It is only Doncaster, Hibblethwaite,” I returned, as I sprang over the low stone wall to join him. “What is the matter, old fellow? I thought I heard you groan just now.”

“Yo’ mought ha’ done, Mester,” he answered heavily. “Happen tha did. I dunnot know mysen. Nowts th’ matter though, as I knows on, on’y I’m a bit out o’ soarts.”

He turned his head aside slightly and began to pull at the blades of grass on the mound, and all at once I saw that his hand was trembling nervously.

It was almost three minutes before he spoke again.

“That un belongs to me,” he said suddenly at last, pointing to a longer mound at his feet. “An’ this little un,” signifying with an indescribable gesture the small one upon which he sat.

“Poor fellow,” I said, “I see now.”

“A little lad o’ mine,” he said, slowly and tremulously. “A little lad o’ mine an’–an’ his mother.’

“What!” I exclaimed, “I never knew that you were a married man, Tim.”

He dropped his head upon his hand again, still pulling nervously at the grass with the other.

“Th’ law says I beant, Mester,” he answered in a painful, strained fashion. “I conna tell mysen what God-a’-moighty ‘ud say about it.”