Are there any folk familiar with the Wiltshire dialect of English?
As for the four characters, William and Frome are upper middle class men from the city of Barchester who've gone into the country to hunt, John is William's servant and assistant, and Sam is a friend of John's. (Frome brought a man along, too, but he has no lines in this scene.)
The quartet stood there in uncertain silence for a moment. Just then, along the lane ahead came an old farmer leading a mule cart. His fashions predated the Crimean War and the man himself seemed to William to have been born early in the Napoleonic era.
John hailed him. “Good ev’nen, naighbor,” he said with a nod to the old farmer. Then he turned to William and Frome. “This be Sam Leadley.”
“A pleasure, Mr. Leadley,” William said.
“These be my employer William Wedgefield an Mr. Vincent Frome of tha town.”
“Good ev’nen ta ye, Measter Wedgefield, Measter Frome. Good ta meet ye, zirs,” Sam said, nodding slowly as he did.
John continued in a rather leisurely fashion. “We was talking juz now about tha old Abbey.”
Sam offered another slow nod.
“An I tell ye, Mr. William, there be no better ta tell ye about tha Abbey than Sam, not even if ye go ta London.”
“Is that so?” William asked Sam.
Sam rubbed his tiny, wrinkled jaw. “I knows a story ar two, zirs.”
“Do any happen to involve, say, ghosts?” William inquired.
“Zurely one da, zir. I hearded it from old Measter Bowey. ‘E wur in tha pay of tha High Zeriff of Barzetshere in old King Willum’s day. ‘E wur a smart one an that right ta tha end. I wur a boy when I hearded it. ‘E told me tha story hisself...” Sam trailed off, ruminating in silence.
After a moment or two, William said “What story did he tell you?”
Sam fixed him with a slightly reproving look. “About tha Abbey an what he zaw. It wur Walpurghsnight, when tha witches be about. Bowey, ‘e be about, too, ‘tween tha pub an his house, an that wur on tha lane – this lane.” The old farmer pointed one gnarled, stubby finger at the road ahead, then swept his arm over to the woods to their left, and the old Abbey ruins within them. As the sun began to set, the tall trees and stones – yes, William could just barely see the skeleton of the old Abbey, too – took on a slightly unsettling appearance, which embarrassed and irritated the explorer.
“He wur no fool, and zo he hurried on, but, an this zurely wur nigh weer we be standing now, ahh, the lights...” Sam stopped again to gather the memories, ar put them together – fortunately not for as long this time. “Blue lights, they wur, blue an red, an dancing, he zays ta me.”
“Dancing?” Frome interjected.
“Ay, dancing. Zo he zays ta me. That wur only tha start! He zays ta me, ‘I looked at them an they looked at me, Zam.’ An then, oh, then tha chase!”
“Chase?” William asked.
“Ay, chase! Tha lights, they da come out of tha woods an if he hadn’t run, who knowed what might happen? Tha lights may have taken him away –”
“Take him away? To where?” Frome asked.
Sam positively glared. “But he got away from tha lights,” he continued, ignoring the interruption. “And he ran all tha way back ta tha pub! As it wur closer, zurely, ar he wur just in a terryable steat a mind. Zo if ye want ta go by tha wood on Walpurghsnight, don’t! Measter Chriztopher Braidwood, he could have told ye, too, if...” The farmer trailed off with transparent expectation.
“If he weren’t taken away!” Sam concluded with a snap of his fingers. And with that, he headed on his way before.
William, who had lived in Barsetshire his entire life, was amazed he’d never heard the story before. Granted, Abbeyvale was in a rural eastern district of the county, far from the town, but still... Well, I suppose it’s not such a small world after all, William thought. He looked into the woods again with an open mind – but there were no lights.