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Story Title: The Old men of Painswick
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Submitted by: Tabitha
Country: Gloucestershire, England
A pilgrim was travelling across the Cotswold Hills when he reached the village of Painswick, which is well known for its pure air and the tall yew trees in its churchyard. As he was climbing along the hill towards the village, he chanced upon an old, old man sitting upon a stone and crying his eyes out.
“What’s the matter, father?” asked the courteous young pilgrim.
“Why, my old father’s given me such a lathering!” came the reply. “He’s beaten me so hard I can’t hardly stand upright.”
The pilgrim, naturally, thought the old man a little mixed in the head. But understanding the old fellow to be getting a little too elderly for his good, he said “You oughtn’t to be out be yourself on your lonesome. I’ll help you get back to your home.” And the pilgrim hoisted the old man up onto his back and carried him off over the hill to Painswick.
Presently they reached a neat little farmhouse. The little old man squirmed uncomfortably upon the pilgrim’s back. “This would be my home,” he said uncertainly. “But I’m most afeared of father.”
“I’m sure your father won’t hurt you,” replied the pilgrim, certain that fathers surely dead can’t hurt their old children, and he knocked upon the door.
Almost instantaneously the door was opened, and who should open it but an even older old man, with bright black suspicious eyes and a beard longer than his arm. He held the doorknob in his hand, and a big ash stick in his other, and the little old man upon the pilgrim’s back flinched in horror. The pilgrim felt his passenger stirring, and said, to smooth the situation and bring the world to order: “Why, grandfather, surely you mean this little fellow no harm? He’s been running away from home, and crying something pitiful upon the hills, saying his father’s lamming him.”
“Why should I not lam him, dreadful creature that he is?” cried the old man. “Look into our garden and espy his poor old granfer up there in the tree, risking his old tender neck to get us cherries, while this rascal here tosses stones at him! And all in some manner of fun…this ash stick has some words to say to this delinquent!”
With that the old fellow leaped from the pilgrim’s back and took off fast as a galloping hare, with his old sire in hot pursuit. The pilgrim stood, left alone, not daring to peer into the garden to find the cherry tree, or its ancient harvester, before setting quickly back on his way. “Surely,” he said to himself as he tried to ignore the bellowing father and his son speeding away into the distance “they must live forever at Painswick.”