TH' SHIP CANNELL.
A PROPHETIC DREAM OF
1893. WRITTEN IN 1884.
TH' FUST SHIP.
just gettin' into a gradely state o' feelin', after havin' abeaut
hauve an heaur's dose o' eaur Sal's philosophy, 'at's generally
sarved eaut when aw've bin praichin' at th' "Owd Bell," when it
coome into mi yead aw'd have th' owd crayther on th' stick a bit.
We'd bin talkin'—owd Juddie an' 'me an' Jim Thuston—abeaut this big
Cannell they're goin' to mak' between Liverpool and Manchester, or
between Manchester and Liverpool—aw dunno' know which—an' a good
confab we'd had. Juddie offer't to give a pair ov his ears—an'
they're noan little uns—to be put in a glass bottle when th' fast
clod wur delved for a start. "They met as weel talk abeaut
flyin' to th' moon, or makkin' folk honest, as bringin' ships to New
Bailey Bridge." Aw aulus argy o'th' different side to him,
even if aw know aw'm lyin'; an' aw dunno' think aw'm th' only one
i'th' wo'ld ut does th' same. Aw maintained 'at th' job would
be done, an' 'at that youngest whelp o' mine'ud see it done, if he
didno' get hanged afore th' time, which wur moore nur likely, owd
Juddie said, if he tak's ov his feyther. This thing runnin' i'
mi yead amung th' essence of three whiskeys, aw started th' argyment
wi' th' owd rib, an' held mi own as weel as aw could.
"Theau wouldno' like to leeave th' Fowt, wouldta, Sarah?" aw
said, an' aw put a sollim look on, same as they dun at buryin's
afore th' drink has gone reaund.
"Nawe, an' aw'm noan gooin' to do," hoo said, "unless they
carten me off to Prestige."
"But what if theau'rt made to weigh th' anchor, an' find
fresh moorin's?" aw axt her.
"Aw wouldno' if aw're made," hoo said; an' that seem't sattle
th' question for a time; but hoo broke eaut again. "What mun
aw flit for, an' whoa'll mak' me to flit? Theau may goo, if
theau likes, an' welcome. It's but little we should miss if
theau wur gone. But for me, aw'm like owd Thuston's donkey,
aw've bin tethered to this stump for a good part ov a lifetime, an'
let onybody cut th' rope 'at dar!"
"Theau conno' swim, aw know," aw said, "an' owd Noah's noan
here for t' build an ark."
"Wheay, is they' gooin' to be another flood, Ab?"
"Aye, but not a rain flood. They're gooin' to bring th'
sae here! What dost think abeaut that?"
"Ab, hast bin atin' poork, as thi yead's gone a-woolgetherin'?
Aw know theau'rt subject to dreeamin' when theau's o'er-weighted thi
inside; but neaw theau'rt off at a corner, aw think. Are thi
brains gettin' flee-blown, or summat? Theau couldno' talk
crazier nonsense if theau wur stark mad."
"If theau lives to be ten year owder theau'll find it eaut
'at aw'm noather mad nor off at a corner," aw said, tryin' to get
back th' greaund aw'd fairly lost. "If little Marlor could be
here then, he'd have his dayleets oppent a great deeal wider nur
they wurn when he watched Bet Andrey walk through some slutch.
He said ther no tellin' th' ingenuity of a mon, nor limitin' th'
beauty ov a woman. Ten year, Sal, an' theau'll see sich an
awteration i' things theau could never dreeam abeaut. We shall
ha' no 'casion for railroads, nobbut fort' carry goods abeaut.
Someb'dy's sure to invent wings for us to fly fro' place to place.
Theau'll ha' no need to be feart o' dogs an' bulls then. Theau
con fly o'er 'em like a sparrow; an' lond onywheere theau likes.
Ten year'll do it o!"
"Me live ten year, Ab? If th' sae isno' browt here
afore that time aw shall ha' no 'casion to be feart o' bein' made to
flit. Aw shall be ready for it to wesh o'er me afore then."
An' th' owd ticket gan a soik. "But heaw will they bring th'
sae, Ab?" hoo wanted to know. "Will they bring it i' barrels,
an' squirt it eaut o' little holes i' a pipe, same as they dun eaut
o'th' local board cart?" Some folk con grapple wi' a
difficulty 'at others darno' look at; an' this wur one on 'em!
"Theau'd ha' worn mony a pair o wings eaut afore they could
fill owd Thuston's pit at that rate," aw said. Women, an'
childer's notions abeaut things are very strange sometimes.
"They'n cut a cannell abeaut thirty yard deep fro' Liverpool to
Wrigley Yead; an' let th' sae come up ov itsel', like abeaut a
theausant roarin' lions, or Niagara. Folk winno' know but th'
day o' judgment has coome'n; an' some 'at wur never known to be
charitable i' the'r life afore '"offer to gi'e up o they han for a
bit o' dry lond."
"An' wheere will they put o th' dirt they getten eaut on't,
Abram? Will they mak' meauntains on't?"
"They'll fill pits up wi' it," aw said, dooin' mi best for t'
get eaut ov a difficulty 'at'll bother moore folk nor me. "Owd
Thuston pit 'll be one; an' Dicky Pit i' Moston another.
Ther's bin some chaps measurin' heaw mich they'd howd. An' no
deaut ther' are theausants o' sich like pits between here and
"Ab," th' owd general said—an' hoo gan me a look 'at 'ud ha'
gone through a steel plate—"if a lot o' women wur to talk sich
nonsense as some of yo' great men dun, yo'd say we'd bin at a
tae-an'-rum baggin', an' had moore nur we could afford to pay for.
Ships comin' up to Wrigley Yead! Lorgus o' me! Get thi
clogs off an' go to bed after that!"
Nowt no moore wur said. Aw took th' owd gal's advice,
an' slipt eaut o' mi timber, feelin' sartin' 'at when mornin' coome
an' th' porritch dish botthomed, ther'd ha' to be summat moore said
abeaut this Ship Cannell.
But afore mornin' coome aw'd lived ten year; an' aw fancied
aw could remember everythin' 'at had takken place i'th' time
between. Aw'm a great dreeamer; an' if aw con live ten year i'
seven heaurs, mi life 'll be a ratcher! Owd Methusalum winno'
be in it. Aw've a notion sometimes 'at aw'd rayther dreeam nor
be wakken' if aw could choose mi soart o' dreeams. Aw've sin
nicer women nor ever wur i'th' flesh, an' raked up pockets-full o'
suvverins eaut o'th' gutter. Aw've seen greener lond and bluer
skies; an' th' fleawers hanno' bin th' fleawers o' this wo'ld.
Aw've had grand dinners, wi' yallow-necked "pop" to 'em, beaut it
costin' me a haup'ny! An' when th' owd rib has wakkent mi up
wi' givin' me an elbow touch amung t'other ribs, for t' remind me
aw'd promised t' fotch her th' weshin' wayter fro' owd Thuston pit,
aw've felt just then 'at life wurno' wo'th livin' unless it wur for
This neet aw'm spakin' on aw'd a grand exparience. Aw'd
seen th' slides o' history passin' one bi one, like thoose shadows i'
Macbeth. Ireland had threshed its human wheeat, an' fund a
good deeal on't wur chaff. This it had blown away, an' th'
winnowed grain garnered. Irishmen had begun to be talked
abeaut as bein' summat like other folk, noather betther nor wurr.
"Irish ideas," too, had getten a good deeal mixed up wi' English an'
Scotch an' Welsh ideas; an' i' sich a way 'at nob'dy could tell
which wur which. That farmer 'at had his lond rent free, an'
wanted it lowerin' ten per cent, wur deead, an' had laft noan of his
family beheend him. Everythin' wur changed; reform bi dynamite
wur forgetten; an' Paddy wur prosperous an' content.
A lot o' folk 'at wur livin' when aw went to bed had takken
fresh lodgin's, wheere the'r sugar would be safe fro' th' cat, an'
no latch-keighs wur alleawed. An' two or three o' these
departed mortals, England mourned. A creawn 'ad tumbl't off a
good woman's yead; an' "God save the King" rung fro' Jacky o' Groats
to th' Lond's End. Woodman Billy's axe wur laid by; an' the'r
a certain broad-brimmed hat 'at hummabees 'ad begun a buildin'
in—fit purpose for sich a noble bit o' yead cover, 'at had sarv't
one soart o' industry, an' neaw wur dedicated to th' sarvice of
another. Tories an' Radicals wur just th' same as they'd awlus
bin; one set couldno' do reet for t' tother, nor for nob'dy else
noather. Whichever party wur i' peawer they'rn ruinin' th'
country; an' it looks like it when one go's to th' saeside or to a
bazaar. Th' owd national boiler has bin tinkered at so mich,
an' i' sich different ways, 'at it's a wonder th' botthom hasno' bin
knock't eaut lung this. But it con get up steeam yet, an' mak'
"Owd Ned" wag his yead an' tail as brisk as ever.
Ther's wark i'th' owd lad yet. Th' British lion 'ad had
his yure comm'd a bit wi' Arabi's steel-toothed comm; but his own
teeth, after grindin' Egyptian cannon balls, wur as seaund as ever.
Owd Juddie 'ad gone grumblin' to oather one place or t'other—it isno'
for me to say which—but he desarves a betther shop nor moast folk aw
know 'at coen the'rsels sure of a front parlour i'th' Great Mansion.
Dunno' they wish they mun get it? Eaur Sal 'ad gan it up ever
havin' a chance o' seein' what another husband would be like, an'
made up her mind, like a satisfied woman, to be mine truly i'th'
Amung o these changes ther one i' partikler. Aw didno'
think at th' time aw went to sleep 'at ever it would ha' takken
place; but a mon mak's a foo o' hissel when he says—"Tut, tut, it
conno' be done!" He doesno' know what con be done, if ther's
brass to back it up.
This great change wur the makkin' of a Ship Cannell fro'
Liverpool to Manchester, an' back agen; an' aw watched o th' job,
fro' th' delvin' o'th' fust clod to th' fust ship londin' at th' New
Bailey Bridge. O, mon! heaw wondrous are thy works, fro' th'
makkin' of a needle to a cannon; fro' scatterin' plenty o'er a land
to blowin' a teawn up; fro' squeezin' a brother to thi breast to
cuttin' his throat!
Afore th' fust clod wur delved, ther' wur a good deeal o'
pooin' deawn an' shiftin' away to be done. Th' Manchester
Corporation did a wise thing for once, 'at even th' ratepayers gan 'em
credit for. They sowd th' Knot Mill Market to th' New Cannell
Company. Th' greaund wur wanted for a sort ov a human pen,
wheere intending emigrants could be stored in afore they'rn shipped
off to America's neaw great rival, th' far west o' Ireland. Th'
whul o' St. John's Ward war to be made into wharfin' greaund, an'
Livesley, Smith, an' Robinson wur made int' aldermen. Angel
Meadow wur to be coed Angel Bay. It had bin a good job for
thoose at' th' property belunged to, for nearly every heause wur
empty—th' tenants had gone to th' Green Land o' Promise! Up th'
Irk valley, an' branchin' off bi th' Moss Bruck, New Brightons,
Saecombs, an' Woodsides wur to be built; an' Siah-at-owd-Bob's could
have his cheese, an' bacon, an' eggs, londed at his dur. St.
Michael's Hotel wur to be made int' a hydropathic shop (limited),
an' th' Corporation Whitebait dinners wur to be held theere.
Gooin' lower deawn, rents had bin doubled i' Lower Broughton, an'
everybody livin' theere wur gettin' new furniture after weshin' th'
slutch eaut o'th' owd, an' sellin' it. That owd wyndymill
facin' Peel Park wur to be made int' a leetheause; an' owd Oliver
Crummell wur to have a creawn put on his yead, but it wur to be a
creawn o' foire, for one o' Edison's lamps wur to be put on his yead,
for t' guide ships to the'r harbour, an' sinners to th' Owd Church!
Ther's nowt no moore remarkable abeaut cuttin' this Cannell
nur ther' is abeaut makkin' a railroad. Ther one chief
difficulty to be getten o'er, an' that wur heaw to cross th' Duke's
Cut at Barton. They coed me in to see if aw could plan owt as
a meeans o' gettin' eaut o'th' mess. It 'ud be a big job, aw
thowt; but as aw'd yerd it said ther nowt but what brass could do,
this could be done. A leet coom into mi noddle just as aw're
puttin' mi hont up, an' aw said aw had it. As this new Ship
Cannell wur goin' to do o'th' wark between here an' Liverpool, what
wur th' use ov an owd gutter like th' Duke's? Let it off; blow
th' bridge up, an' theere yo' are! If money con do owt, it con
buy th' Company off, an' tak' the'r custom. Aw'd twenty shares
gan me for puttin' that thing straight, an' it's not unlikely aw may
have some letters put to th' end o' mi name, happen A.S.S.—Associate
of the Scientific Society.
I' some respects this job wur loike buildin' th' Teawer o'
Babel—it gan navvies a chance o' eddicatin' one another i' bad
language. Ther' wur two or three feaw words 'at wur gettin'
owd fashunt. Moore folk nor "roughs" used 'em, an' it wur time
the'r dictionary wur revised. This wur done as th' wark went
on, till by th' time th' Cannell wur finished th' Navvies' College
licked Owens into jamrags!
Ther's another thing owt to be mentioned. I' cuttin'
through Chat Moss we coome on a cotton mine. Aw awlus thowt
cotton grew on trees, like cherry blossom. But here it wur i'
bags, ready to be carted away. Aw reckon th' folk 'at bagged
it wur swept o'er by a shiftin' o' th' moss, an' dreawnt. But
we coome upo' no bodies noather.
Th' Cannell wur finished at last; an' neaw it coome to lettin'
th' wayter into it. This wurno' to be a straightforrad job.
Liverpool "gentlemen" said th' sae didno' belung to us, an' we mun
ha' no wayter eaut on't unless we paid for it. They couldno'
prove the'r title to it, becose owd Noah laft no will; so one neet a
gang o' wayter dogs, commanded by Commodore Mark Addy, scuttled th'
bank at Runcorn, an' th' rushin' o' wayter up to Throstle Neest, an'
fro' theere to th' New Quay, wur as if th' Sixth Seeal had bin
oppent. A squad o' policemen turned eaut o' Albert-street
Station, for t' see what wur up; but they made no prisoners, so went
back. Leechdin Boss, donned up as Neptune, rode on a raft o'
cotton, an' proclaimed th' glad tidings fro' th' steps o'th' Teawer
Hotel. Th' biggest undertakkin' o'th' nineteenth century wur
creawned wi' victory. Th' Teawn Hall bells—thoose 'at wurno'
cracked--rung a merry peeal; an' Mayors Potts an' Middlehurst dipt
theer geawns i' th' flood, an' broke a bottle upo' th' base o'
Crummell's moniment. Sawley B. had an order for a dozen oxen
to be roasted i' th' Owd Churchyard, an' th' mayte wur to be sawed
up at that porritch place at th' corner o' Owd Millgate. Th'
Carriage Company had order't a lot o' boats wi' wheels to 'em, so
'at they could be like ducks—travel by booath lond an' wayter.
But aw hadno' bin asleep! Aw morgished mi shares, an' wi' th' brass
aw bowt an owd barge belonging t' th' Health Committee, an' had it
rigged eaut like a new un—new paint; new sails; an' a figure-yead 'at
wur th' pictur' o' th' owd rib i' her whistlin'-eaut days. Aw'd
nam't th' booat after misel'; an' aw intended havin' th' honour o'
bein' th' fust arrival. This aw kept a saycret fro' everybody obbut
mi crew; an' thoose aw could trust. Manchester little knew what
another day would bring abeaut.
Didno' owd Irwell smile when he seed he'd a new bed? Above a bit! Yo'n seen a lad i' new breeches, gooin' reaund amung th' naybours,
a-showin' 'em heaw mony pockets they had in 'em, and th' broad,
healthy grin he had on his face every time he seed th' colour ov a
haupenny? It wur th' same wi' owd Irwell. It had bin so mony years
sin' his face an' his clooas wur wesht, 'at when he coome t' ha' th'
dirt shifted he hardly knew hissel! He seem't t' say he'd mak rents
to goo up i' Victoria street; for neaw 'at they could catch herein',
an' shrimps, an' oysters at the'r own dues, we mun oather ha' feesh
chepper, or londlords 'ud get th' benefit on't.
What a grand seet it wur that neet me an' mi crew stole off under th'
shadow o'th' Manchester side bank fur t' get mi boat deawn to
Throstle Neest, ready fur t' start i'th' mornin'! Th' windows o'th'
new wareheauses glitter't i'th' moonleet; an' waves coome ripplin'
up like bars o' gowd, brokken here an' theere wi' th' marlockin' o'
porpuses, an' th' jumpin' of a salmon 'at didno' know but it had
getten i' fresh wayter. Everythin' wur still; not a seaund to be
yerd nowheere, nobbut th' plashin' of a pair o' oars as Commodore
Addy's gig, manned bi a coastguardsmon, shot eaut o'th' harbour, fur
t' see if they' wur ony smugglers hoidin' the'r cargoes i'th' caves
of Pomona. We raiched Throstle Neest witheaut bein' seen; an' we
shipped a cargo o' Carrington apples, ut we intended passin' off for
forriners. Then we cabined it—me as captain, an' Jim Thuston first
mate, an' Jack o' Flunter's second; an' a rare time we had till
mornin'! Jim sung a new song he'd made abeaut bein' "On board of th'
Ab-o'th'-Yate"; an' talk abeaut findin' a new comet,—we fund a new
Th' mornin' broke wi' a grey sky, a good sign of a fine day. We'd th'
deck swabbed afore th' owd sun stole eaut ov his cover; an' afore
breakfast time we'd everythin' ready for weighin' anchor. Th' last
drop o' rum had fund a leetin' place; an' th' captain (that wur me)
gan orders 'at no moore mun come on board; he'd have a sober crew. When "Big Abel" twanged eight, th' anchor wur lifted; an' they sich
a sheaut set up bi hunderts o' folk, one met ha' thowt th' king wur
comin' to join us!
Th' tide wur just hee enoogh fur sailin'; an' it had browt some
queer things wi' it—deead cats an' dogs, owd hats an' bonnets,
bottles an' corks, cricket stumps an' brokken bats; one empty barrel
ut aw dar'say had come'n fro' Warrington an' empty cigar box, a peg
they oppen soda bottles wi' an' a bit o' sponge cake, laps up in a
leeaf o' Ben Brierley's Journal.
Th' sails filled like a pair o' Sunday shirt sleeves, an' th' wayter
curled up o' booath sides o'th' ship like winrows in a hay meadow,
an' seemed to follow us. As th' sheautin' deed away on eaur starn,
it wur takken up on eaur bows, till we geet a-facin' th' custom
heause, when th' sheaut for th' winner o'th' Darby wur a whisper i'
comparison. Th' Mayors o' Manchester an' Salford, it seemed, had
tossed up which side aw should be received on, an' Manchester had
won. Aw could see 'em wi' the'r fur-trimmed geawns; an' Alderman wi'
the'r red uns; an' Ceauncillors wi' the'r blue uns, lookin' as if
they could see i'th' distance a chance o' dock-due dinners, an'
trips i' the'r yachts abeaut th' coast o' Barton. As we drew up to th' dock side, a custom heause officer boarded us. Aw showed mi pappers, an' he nodded o reet; an' th' next minute aw're i'th' arms
o' mi owd mouffin-makker, ut wur on th' look-eaut for th' ship
What look't strange to me wur 'at th' Mayors an' Corporations o' th'
two big teawns had getten to know ut my ship wur comin'! They must
ha' bin expectin' some other ship, an' mistakken mine for it. Aw geet to know after ut it wur th' brig "Jack Reeves," Captain Peel,
beaun' for Owdham Street Pier, for a cargo o' stays an' underclooas
fur Ketchywayo to tak' wi' him to Zululond. They'd run ashore off Warrikin Gap; an' th' last news we yerd they'd bin boarded bi
savages. As aw're th' fust to lond aw mun ha' th' honour intended
fur someb'dy elze; an' a procession wur formed to th' Teawn Hall,
wheere a dinner wur waitin'. Mi fust an' second mate look't rayther
dropt on when aw towd um they mun stop on board, an' look after th'
cargo. They said aw wanted o th' green fat to misel'. Aw dunno' like
bein' thowt selfish; so aw alleawed 'em to drop into th' ranks, an'
th' cargo mun tak' care ov itsel'. Whether it wur th' noise o' th'
Teawn Hall bells, or summat had tickled mi ear aw conno' decide; but
aw started wakken just as aw're liftin' th' fust spoonful o' green
fat to mi lips; an aw yerd eaur Sal at botthom o' th' steears,
"Ab, Billy Softly wants thi'! "
Hang it, hoo met ha' letten me ha' mi dinner fust!
Mi dreeam wur o'er.
It coome wi' a rushin' seaund, causin' th' owd rib to hutch closer
to th' table, makkin' th' pots to jingle as if an earthquake had bin
letten loce an' browt deawn to eaur dur.
"Whatever's that, Ab?" th' owd stockin'-mender said.
"Is th' Sixth
"Aw think it's that black chap wi' that chariot rushin' reaund th'
wo'ld; he's snapt th' main link, an' neaw he's gooin' worryin' folk
bi theausants, just for a bit o' fun, like."
"Dost think he'll come here?"
"Nawe, ther's to' mony prayin' folk i' this fowt for him to venture
his horns amung 'em. He knows they'd put saut on his tail, like
childer used to do bi sparrows when they'd catcht one. But it
strikes me ut that noise is th' sae comin' up th' Ship Cannell!"
"Eh, it never is, surely! An' will it bring whales up with it?"
"Aye, theau may get ready for swallowin' one, an' then theau'll be a
"But aw shouldno' like t' swallow a whale!"
"Then it may swallow thee!"
That ended th' confab.
An' th' wayter coome rushin' up till aw thowt aw could yer it
gurglin' at eaur dur step; an' eaur Sal said hoo could yer a whale
rowlin. But when hoo looked hoo could see nowt but a great sheet o'
"Ha!" hoo said, "It's nobbut owd Juddy's pump ut's bin workin' wi'
that owd jiggerty-jig wyndymill.
It's fillin' th' mophole neaw, till aw believe it's full. Neaw aw
know what it is aw feel a bit yezzier."
But th' wayter kept risin' an' risin', an' neaw aw could see ships
i'th' distance, an' 'they come on an' on till aw could see th'
figure-yead o'th' leadin' ship; then aw could read th' name, ut
looked like Adamson painted i' blue an' red. Aw thowt aw knew th'
face o'th' figure-yead, th' Mayor o' Salford, but aw couldno' see
whoa wur at th' helm for th' riggin', but someb'dy said "Egerton."
"Ah! yo' con ha' yo'r realities," aw said to misel', "but gie me a
good dreeam!" Ther's some green fat, an' gowden-necked bottles o'
"pop" i' that. But i' reality ther's nowt but a band o' music an' a
clooas show! If th' Queen had come, an' slat th' fust bucket o'
wayter i'th' Cannell, ther' are folk ut wouldno' ha' cared if
they'd bin hauve dreawnt i'th' splash. They' ha' oppent the'r gills
like a feesh, an' swallowed every drop as if it had bin champagne. Thoose they coen "lick-slavvers." But "God Save the Queen" wur sung,
whether th' owd lass wur theere or not; an' th' Ship Cannell wur
A BREACH OF PROMISE CASE.
Ryecroft courted plain Ann Smith, and the pair had kept company for
years. I call them plain because neither of them had been
endowed with a fancy name more foreign than English in its sound.
Their courtship had not been of a hot-blooded nature such as
distinguished the amours of Romeo and Juliet. They had simply
walked out together on summer evenings; and in the winter stood at
the house end until separated by the cold. On these occasions
they found little to talk about, and simply bade each other "good
neet," without ever thinking of a parting kiss. It had been
this kind of cool-hearted courtship during the whole period of their
acquaintance; and if ever they thought of marriage the word was not
even whispered. It was come-day go-day with them, and each
seemed a "be-'t-need" to the other.
There is not much of such modesty left for the present
generation. The youth of fifteen will court his "girl" in the
sight of her parents; and talk about wedding before he has down upon
his lip. He looks upon a short courtship as the nearest way to
bliss; and ere he has attained the strength of manhood, we find him
pushing a perambulator with the first fruit of matrimony sucking its
thumbs between folds of "wraps." We lived in a slower age when
Simon and Ann discoursed of birds and weather, and retailed over and
again the dull gossip the country side. Still the pair walked
out together, sometimes not speaking for a quarter of an hour; and
when silence was broken it would perhaps be with a remark that
so-and-so had had a hen stolen, or that some other neighbour had had
a greater increase in the number of her kittens than she cared to
have. And the world went thus with them until something
happened that broke off their engagement for ever.
Simon had often wished that Ann had been possessed of a
little money. His love, if he had any for her, took that
mercenary shape. Money was so ready "to do arrands with," he
would reason with himself. Love might be very well when there
was plenty to back it with; and beauty was only "skin deep." I
daresay he might have preferred Ann Smith to any other girl under
the money conditions, for she was possessed of a fair share of
personal charms, besides having "good fingers." In fact, his
mother had said he might do worse than make her his wife, as she was
getting quite old enough to have a settled disposition.
Simon, however, would not commit himself too far. A
desire for money still held possession of his mind, and, not far off
there was a shopkeeper's daughter, marriageable, and, as he would
say of an empty house, "to let," whose heart had never had a tenant
and who was now getting into years. Patience Wilde was not the
handsomest woman in the village. To say the truth, she was
rather the reverse of handsome.
Simon had often heard it said that plain girls made the
comeliest middle-aged women. Probably it would be so with
Patience,—she would be a handsome woman when, perhaps, Ann Smith's
good looks had faded into ugliness. A match with her, he
thought, would be an extremely desirable one, for it might be the
means of removing him from the loom, and thereby emancipating him
from an occupation that he detested. He could help in the
shop; drive her father's cart; and possibly he might learn to bake.
He practised the art of making up sugar with damp sand, and tea with
dried thorn leaves: so there was nothing wanting now only
withdrawing from the firm of Ryecroft and Smith, and establishing
the firm of Ryecroft and Wilde. He would give notice at once
to leave his old partner. But stop;—had he not better be sure
that he could be on with the new love before he declared off with
the old? Perhaps he had. So he sought for an opportunity
of speaking to Patience, an opportunity he was not long in finding.
She stood one evening at the shop door, with curls unpapered, and
her white apron nicely crimped. Simon walked past her several
times before he durst venture on speech. At last he said:—
"Fine neet, Miss Wilde!" Then he stopped.
"Aye, it is," replied Miss Wilde in a sympathetic manner,
"A nice neet for walkin' eaut," said Simon.
"Aye, for abeaut six or seven," said Patience.
"Or for two," suggested Simon, with the intention of driving
the nail home. "Would yo' mind bein' one o't' two, like?"
"Folk met think we'rn cooartin'." The nail had been
"An' what if they did think so?"
"Aw shouldno' like it unless it wur so."
"Well, it con be."
Miss Wilde played with her watch chain; and the doorstep
being sanded, she made figures on it with her foot. All the
time she was making up her mind.
"What would Ann Smith think?" was the outcome of her
"Oh, never mind her!" said Simon, in a slighting way. "Hoo'll
care nowt abeaut it."
"Yo'd happen say th' same abeaut me in a year or two," said
Patience, still coquetting with the watch chain, and the sand.
"Nay, aw meean bein' wed to someb'dy afore lung," said Simon,
giving the nail another tap. "Aw've done o th' coortin' aw
ever shall do. We're booath on us gettin' on i' life."
"Hum!" was the response. The reference to age was not
"Aye, we are," said Patience. "Yo'n coorted wi'
Ann Smith ever sin aw're th' height o' this dur latch."
"Well, but it's off neaw," said Simon, feeling the
home-thrust Patience had given him. "So get yo'r bonnet on an'
let's be gooin' deawn th' lone while it's quiet."
"Mi hankycher'll do," said Patience. And she tripped
from the door, and in a few minutes returned, with a "hankycher"
tied loosely on, ready for the walk. The meantime was occupied
by Simon in peeping through the window, counting the cannisters, as
they were displayed on a shelf, and the sacks of flour that he hoped
ere long to place his back against.
The couple had got a long way down the lane before either
spoke a word. It was the old-fashioned style of courting, both
silently wondering what they should talk about. At length
Simon, with an outburst of love's enthusiasm, said:―
"Heaw dun they divide a peaund o' sugar i' two hauves?"
"By weighin' 'em; heaw else?"
"Aw could do it beaut weights!"
"Puttin' one hauve at one end o'th' weighs, an' t'other hauve
at t'other end, till they'rn equal."
"What a discovery!" thought Patience. He might have
been born a grocer. He had a shop window in his open face, and
her heart grew to him. The feeling was too much for words, and
she held her peace. In a few minutes the inspiration again
bubbled in Simon's throat.
"When yo'r feyther bakes does he put th' fleaur i'th' tub
fust or th' berm?"
"Why, th' fleaur to be sure." What a berm-yead! she
"Mi mother," said Simon in a boastful manner, "mak's a hole i'
th' middle o'th fleaur, an' teems th' berm in it. Then th'
fleaur begins o' risin'."
"Was that courting?" Patience wondered. She had read
novels, in which young people that were affianced talked of love,
and sat beneath the milk-white thorn "till the dewy eve" was rather
too damp for them, when Colin would throw his arm round the waist of
the shivering Phoebe, and hug her till she was hot. But such
common-place courtship as she had experienced for the half-hour they
had been walking—a fig for it! She had half a mind to give
Simon up, and no doubt would have done, had she not thought it might
be her only chance. So she made up her mind to love him as
much as she could, and suggested that they should return home.
"It's soon enoogh yet," said Simon. "When shall aw see
"Th' next bakin' day."
The courtship of Simon Ryecroft and Patience Wilde, which
commenced so coolly, and continued with the same apparent
indifference, was not of long duration. In a fit of disgust
with the sordid world, old Wilde had taken leave of it for another,
and his daughter was left alone. To manage the business
properly she found impossible. She had to close the shop when
she went to market, and that was inconvenient for the customers, who
would sometimes go elsewhere. She often thought of matrimony,
but was not going to name it herself; and the stupid fellow whom she
supposed was to be her partner for life never approached the subject
any nearer than wondering "heaw brids made it up wi' one another
when they couldno' talk." Patience thought they could talk as
well as he, but kept it to herself. But she drew him on by
hints that he could not at first see the drift of, until he found
himself confronted by a kind of matrimonial ultimatum—"now or
never"; and Simon had to make up his mind at once. But what of
Ann Smith? Had she retired broken-hearted from the field?
Not quite so, as will be seen hereafter.
Ann took everything in seeming good part—teased Simon
whenever she met him with such questions as "Heaw is traycle sellin'?"
"Has berm risen yet?" "Hast' ever sucked thi butter thumb?"
Which questions would bring the colour into Simon's face, without
giving him the courage to retort. But Ann had further mischief
in her heart, and was looking forward to a time when she could make
Simon regret that he had ever played with her feelings, if ever they
amounted to much, which could hardly have been the case, judging
from her conduct.
But there were signs that things were about being settled.
Simon Ryecroft neglected his loom, and was often seen coming out of
old Wilde's shop, dusted with flour. It was surmised by the
neighbours that Patience was teaching him the art of baking.
He stayed longer at nights than usual, which caused his mother to
put the question—"Why doesno' theau tak' thi shirt?" and she might
have added—"an' stop at neet, an' o." Why didn't he get
married? That was what it meant.
The frequent visits made by Patience to the little shop of a
spinster dressmaker raised suspicion in the gossip mind, and
convinced the curious in such matters, which means every woman in
the village, that a certain event was not far off. But when it
got abroad that a certain party had been "axed at church," the event
was more than foreshadowed. It came off at last; and Simon
Ryecroft became the proprietor of a snug grocery and bakery
business, and was accounted somebody in the village.
The "newly-married pair," as newspapers describe such, could
not afford to spend their honeymoon as some people spend it,—going
to the seaside or to London. It had to be spent in the
shop—behind the counter, or in the bakehouse; but this Simon cared
little about. He was bent on making money, which was more
substantial than any romance that attended matters connubial.
And so the pair plodded on, Simon submitting to a mild sort
of henpeckedness, and Patience reminding him occasionally that he
must regard the shop as belonging to her, and that he must only pass
as a shopkeeper-consort, the same relationship that a prince-consort
has to a female inheritor of a crown. But what cared Simon?
He had got rid of the loom, and could stand a little petticoat
government on that account. He had made himself so proficient
in the business that he could weigh butter without tumbling it on
the counter; and could detect a "button-top" when presented by a
juvenile for a farthing humbug, or a stick of liquorice. He
would be at the top of the tree before long.
But whatever may be the course of "true love," we have
evidence that the course of matrimony does not always run smooth;
and it was proved to be so in Simon Ryecroft's case. This
individual had got comfortably settled in his new business when
something happened to interfere with the prospects of domestic
happiness. To paraphrase a passage in "Macbeth," I can imagine
him saying to the partner of his fortunes—
"Oh, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife,
Thou know'st that Ann Smith lives."
Ann Smith did live as was proved by his meeting her one day,
when instead of her asking "heaw traycle wur sellin'," said—
"Theau'rt o reet neaw theau's getten into a shop, an' con
bally a bit."
"An' what if aw have?" demand Simon.
"Aw'll let thee see afore lung. Theau'rt no' gooin' to
get off straight forrad. Theau's getten Patience, but theau'll
want a bit moore. Aw've had patience enoogh, God knows, but
aw'm no' gooin' to have it ony lunger." Ann was moving on as
she said this, but Simon called her back.
"Here, what doss' meean?" he said.
"Aw meeau this," said Ann, snapping her teeth, "aw meean
sendin' thi a bit o' papper."
"Theau knows. Didno' theau promise theau'd have me?"
"Theaur't lyin', an' theau knows it! Didno' theau say
one neet when we stood at th' end o' eaur heause very nee starved to
deeath, ut we lookt like two soft foos, stondin' theere i'th' cowd
when if we're wed we could sit, an' hutch t'gether o'th'
hearthstone; an' ut it rested wi' me when we wur to be wed."
"Aw dunno' remember it."
"Aw do, an' someb'dy else does too. Mi feyther wur at
th' corner wi' a hazel stick; but he thowt he'd hearken th' fuss
what wur gooin' on. Neaw, then!
This was a floorer for Simon. To be defendant in a
breach of promise case, for evidently that was what Ann meant by her
threatening to send him a "bit o' papper," might not be so pleasant
to a young wife and she held the reins with an ever-tightening grip.
Ann, however, looked in earnest, so he must make up his mind to face
it out. But could he compromise the matter before it went into
court? That would be the best thing if he could manage it.
He penned a letter that was meant to accomplish his purpose, but it
had the effect of doing the opposite. He wrote:—
"Deer Ann,—I wod like to see you befor the tryal is. I
think i can put yo up to something that wil make you win the day.
Meet me in Sheply field on wensday next at 8 of clock, and I will
tell you something. Keep it quiet, a frend."
Ann scarcely knew what to make of this communication.
Who was the "frend" that was disposed to assist her? The
writing was in an unknown hand. Well, for the matter of that,
almost any writing would be. But whoever had written it, she
would meet the writer at the time and place he had appointed.
The time came, as was expected of it; and it brought Ann
Smith to the place of rendezvous. A footpath flanked the
Shepley field; and it was about half-way through that the girl
discovered something that was partially concealed by darkness.
She paused until the figure came up. Judge of her surprise
when the figure turned out to be the familiar form of Simon Ryecroft!
"Theau'rt come'n!" he said, stopping.
"Aye," was the reply; "but aw didno' know it wur thee ut had
sent for me, or else aw should ha' bin skase. "What dost' want
"Aw want t' see if we conno' stop this law. Aw'm willin'
t' offer thi good terms if theau'll stop it. Three loaves a
week, an' a peaund o' butter. But theau munno' tell Patience.
If theau does hoo'll skelp booath on us."
"Three loaves a week, an' a peaund o' butter. Not for a
whul bakin' an' a whul churnin'. If theau'd gi'e me th' shop
aw wouldno'. Neaw then, Simon, aw'll have a bit someb'dy's
brass afore aw've done, so get ready for some papper."
It was about the time in the evening that the footpath could
not be altogether private; and Simon could not calculate upon the
interview being uninterrupted if it lasted much longer. One
person had passed who eyed them over rather more closely than Simon
liked; and the speed he went at afterwards was certainly alarming.
Seeing that he could make no impression on the obdurate girl before
him, Simon thought it was time to be "making tracks; " but still
something held him in the place where they stood. What move
should he make next on the chess-board of fickle love? They
were silent for a considerable time, when there was another
intrusion on their privacy.
"Oh!" said a woman's voice, "yo'r havin' it to yo'rsels very
nicely! Aw couldno' ha' believ't it if aw hadno' seen it.
An' what does this soart o' wark meean like?" It was Simon's
wife that spoke, and there was suppressed anger in her tones.
The supposed guilty parties were dumb. It was a
surprise that neither of them expected. At last Ann Smith came
to the rescue.
"Just hearken me, Patience," she said in a nervous voice,
"an' aw'll satisfy yo' ut aw'm noan i'th' fau't. Someb'dy sent
me a letter to meet him here, but aw didno' know it wur Simon, or
else aw'm sure aw should never ha' come'n. An' what dun yo'
think he wanted me for?"
A nod from Patience seemed to say "go on."
"He wanted to tell me," Ann continued, "ut he liked me ten
times betther nur he does yo'; an' if aw'd say nowt abeaut him givin'
me up, he'd alleaw me three loaves an' a peaund a butcher a week."
Ann had the discretion to retire after firing this shot,
which she did hastily, and left the husband and wife to adjust
matters as they could. She could hear in the distance that a
duet was being performed which sounded more noisy than musical, and
that she had calculated upon. The cat was among the pigeons,
and feathers would fly ere long!
There was some evidence of feathers having flown the morning
following. Simon appeared in the shop with a green shade over
one eye; and on anyone enquiring why he wore it, he said it was a
"shot o' cowd."
It was a shot from something more substantial than a puff of
wind. The cure was not accelerated by the visit one morning of
a man in blue, bearing a mandate that commanded Simon Ryecroft to
appear at a certain day to answer the charge of "breach of promise
to marry," at the suit of Ann Smith, and stated the penalty if he
failed to attend.
An idea of bolting was Simon's first thought. Perhaps,
if he did not, his other eye might become affected with cold.
But at last he resolved to face the difficulty like a man, and stand
between the two fires if they consumed him.
It was the best step he could take; and when he had made a
clean breast of the matter, and was expecting an explosion of
matrimonial dynamite, he was overwhelmed with sympathy and tears.
Had he given himself up to cowardly promptings, the result might
have been different. After the tears had been dried the wife
intimated to the husband that her purse was at his disposal, if it
was only to "take it eaut o' that saintish snicket" of an Ann Smith.
The day for the trial came, and both parties were in court,
with lots of friends that liked a bit of fun, and were there for the
purpose of enjoying it. When the case was called of "Smith
versus Ryecroft," there was a rustle in the court as if everyone had
got an uneasy seat and wished to change it. But there was
another rustle caused by a gown. Simon had employed counsel;
Ann had not.
The case having opened, "Ann Smith," the plaintiff, was
"You are a spinster?" said the Counsel.
PLAINTIFF: "Nay, aw'm not."
PLAINTIFF: "Nawe; aw shouldno' ha' bin here if aw'd bin wed."
COUNSEL: "what are you, then?"
PLAINTIFF: "Aw'm a wayver." (Laughter.)
COUNSEL: "But you are single?"
PLAINTIFF: "Aw must be if aw'm noane wed. Yo' conno'
get o'er that wi' o yo'r law."
COUNSEL: "Previous to his marriage, did the defendant pay his
addresses to you?"
PLAINTIFF: "Aw dunno' understood yo'."
COUNSEL: "Did Simon Ryecroft pay his addresses to you?"
PLAINTIFF: "Nawe, he never paid me nowt. He traited me
one Sunday neet to a glass o' fettled porter; that's o ut ever aw
geet eaut o' him." (Roars of laughter, in which the court joined.)
COUNSEL: "Did you keep company?"
PLAINTIFF: "Aye, we walked eaut."
COUNSEL: "You were supposed to be keeping company?"
PLAINTIFF: "Aye, like other lads and wenches."
COUNSEL: "Did the defendant on any occasion ever promise to
PLAINTIFF: "Aw dunno' know what yo' meean by occasion; but it
wur at eaur heause-end ut he promised me." (Loud laughter.)
COUNSEL: "Have you any idea what led to that promise?"
PLAINTIFF: "Aw've no idays o' nowt. But aw know it wur
a very cowd neet, an' he said we'rn two dampt foo's for stondin'
theere when if we'rn wed we could sit comfortably upo' th'
DEFENDANT (interrupting): "Nay, aw didno' swear!" (A
withering glance from the counsel.)
PLAINTIFF: "Aw dunno' say theau did. Dampt isno'
DEFENDANT: "Well but it meeans it." (Another look from the
counsel, who was getting fidgety.)
COUNSEL: "Did the defendant ever write any poetry to you?"
COUNSEL: "Can you remember the lines?"
PLAINTIFF: "Aye, every word."
COUNSEL: "Let the court hear them."
"My heart breaks for thee dearest Ann,
But my feyther says it's my liver;
Oh, would it not be the best plan
To wed, and keep it together?"
(The court was in uproar.)
COUNSEL: "Not the best rhyme; but the sentiment is forcible.
Has there been any overtures made to you to prevent this action?"
PLAINTIFF: "What are they?"
COUNSEL: "Have you been offered anything to stop
DEFENDANT (interrupting) "If theau tells, aw'll tell summat
theau winno' like!" (A fiery glance from the counsel.)
PLAINTIFF: "Aw'm no' feart o' owt theau con say abeaut me,
COUNSEL: "What was the offer made?"
PLAINTIFF: "He said he'd gi'e me three loaves a week an' a
peaund o' butther, if aw'd mak' it up. An' aw towd him aw
wouldno' mak' it up for a whul bakin' an' a whul churnin'." (Loud
DEFENDANT (again interrupting): "Aye, an' theau towd my wife
ut aw'd said aw liked thee ten times betther nur her at th' same
COUNSEL (to defendant): "Do you deny the offer?"
DEFENDANT: "Nawe; but hoo'd betther ha' kept her meauth shut
abeaut me sayin' ut aw liked her ten times betther nur mi wife."
JUDGE, to counsel: "Mr. Brevity, do you wish to cross-examine
COUNSEL: "No, your Honour."
JUDGE: "Gentlemen of the jury—"
FOREMAN (in a hurry): "Twenty shillings and costs, as there
is no broken heart to piece."
Thus ended a local breach-of-promise case which caused no
little stir in the neighbourhood where the parties in the case
resided. Whether Ann ever regretted the step she took in
punishing her false lover, we cannot say. We only know that
Simon Ryecroft and his wife were made none the happier by what had
A LANCASHIRE FOWT
SAM O' DUCKY'S COURTSHIP
IN the quiet
village where "Tommy Trotter" sleeps in his still quieter grave,
stands a detached cottage, with a triangular-shaped garden in front,
entered by a small wicket of such an odd construction that you might
safely have concluded that an eccentric lived, or had lived, there.
The garden at the time these incidents took place was suffering from
neglect, and the creepers which climbed about the cottage walls had
been allowed to have so much of their own way as almost to shut out
what little light the windows, in even their unobstructed nudity,
were calculated to admit. There was a swarm of poultry about
the premises, presided over by a venerable-looking donkey, whose
worn and ragged coat was seamed in places so as to resemble the
rough and wrinkled exterior of a rhinoceros, and who amused himself
occasionally by presenting his heels to the impertinences of a
game-cock, who would not consent quietly to have his domain
interfered with. A cart of very homely construction was
up-ended at one corner of the dwelling; and sundry black and much
worn sacks hung from nails that had been driven into the walls.
A litter of hay, straw, and potato-peelings was strewn about the
door of a small box of a place intended for, and, in fact, doing the
duty of, a palace for the long-eared potentate who was lording it
over the garden. The cottage appeared to have been brought up
in an atmosphere of coal-dust, judging from its grimy exterior; but
the interior was neat and comfortable, notwithstanding, as most
cottages are, where want or habits of drunkenness do not prevail.
Towards this cottage Sam o' Ducky's bent his legs after
taking leave of his friends at the workhouse. Arriving at the
gate, he looked round to reconnoitre, paying particular attention to
the donkey and the fowls, and wondering if the garden would have
been in its then neglected state if "Coal Jimmy" had been living.
He thought not, and mused upon the change. Then casting his
eyes towards the door, he beheld something that brought out grins
and chuckles in abundance.
A middle-aged woman, habited in a blue printed bed-gown, with
under-garments that were not too long to display a good development
of ankle, which a tight-fitting white stocking did its best to set
off, was slushing and mopping the floor. She wore ringed
pattens, and clinked about in them as if performing some kind of
figure allied to a Scotch sword dance. As she approached the
door, Sam sang out—
"Theau'rt swillin' thi cote eaut, owd crayther!"
The dame brought her mop to a stand, and, stroking back the
hair which had fallen over her face, said—
"Is that yo', Sam?"
"A bit o'th' owd turmit," Sam replied, opening the gate and
walking forward. "Heaw arta, owd wench?"
"Aw'm as reet as fourpenn'oth o' copper," said the dame, who
rejoiced in the cognomen of "Coal Betty." "Heaw are yo', Sam!"
"Well, theau sees," replied the weaver, "mi chin's getten nar
mi gartars nur it used to be, an' aw feel a bit shaky upo' mi props.
But aw'm seaund abeaut th' karnel an' quite laddish abeaut th' yead.
Theau looks prime, owd damsel! Heaw are th' childer?"
"Eh! they'n o getten wed obbut eaur Sarah, an' hoo'll no' be
lung, for hoo's cooartin' very dree," said Betty, motioning with her
head towards the interior of the cottage.
"Aye, aye!" said the weaver, musingly. "What soart o'
sons an' dowters-in-law hast' getten? Are they ov a farrantly
"Middlin'," replied Betty. "Two ov eaur wenches are wed
to colliers, gettin' good wage, but they con ate welly o they getten.
An eaur Joe has wed a manty-makker; but hoo hasno' mich wark, becose
wenches abeaut here han begun o doin' the'r own sewin'."
"Oh! theau'rt getten quite amung th' quality, aw yer!
Theau'll be larnin' to talk fine th' next, an' gettin' a tinklin'
box i'th' heause; tho' aw think thy fingers are rayther to' wark
preaud for t' do mich music o' that soart. Kayther (cradle)
music has bin moore thy road. What soart ov a chap has yo'r
"Oh! he's a quality, gradely, eaur Sarah's felly is! He
wears a watch, an' goes into bar-parlours!"
"Aye! does he wear a watch? Aw dunno' like that.
Aw never knew a mon yet ut wore a watch but he went to' fast.
He're sure to gallop when he should ha' walked, an' get to th' end
ov his bant i' no time. An' as for goin' into bar-parlours—aw
never knew mich sense come eaut o' theere. If they getten a
bit o' yure upo' the'r top lip, an' a fine word or two i' the'r
meauth, an' con tickle a bar-maid beaut gettin' a cleaut o'th' side
o'th' yead, they thinken they're everybody, when they're nob'dy at
th' same time. Aw'm deawn on 'em, speshly if the'r hats are
greasy, an' the'r yure as oily as th' middle ov a cartwheel, an'
the'r treausers clattert at th' botthom, an' the'r dickies abeaut th'
colour ov a marigowd, an' as mony rings on the'r fingers as ud mak'
a dog cheean. Aw wouldno' give a scaudin' o' crabs for a whul
kennelful o' sich like whelps. Is thi hearthstone getten dry,
"Oh, aye—come in, if yo' wanten t' sit yo' deawn. Yo'
munno' think nowt at me not axin' yo' afore. One is forgetful
"Well, aw'll just have a bit ov a cank wi' thi as theau mak's
so mich trouble. Theau looks weel i' pattens, owd craythur!
Heaw owd dost co' thisel'?"
"Aw'm gettin' on for fifty, Sam, if aw dunno' look so owd."
"Aye, theau'll be turnin' back to abeaut forty i' ten year
fro' neaw, aw reckon. Women aulus gooan backort wi' the'r age
as soon as the'r leaves begin o' droppin'. But theau's plenty
o' summer time in thi yet, owd wench! Aw reckon theau wears
white stockin's so as nob'dy ull look at thi? Eh, whorr!
Heigh, heigh heigh!"
"Eh, Sam, yo'n never mend!" said Betty, twisting herself
round and displaying such a broadside of personal charms as put the
old weaver in quite an ecstasy of admiration.
The two then entered the cottage. Betty took down her
pinned-up skirts, sprinkled a few handfuls of sand over the floor,
made a hasty washing of her face, adjusted her hair in about half
the time it would have taken mylady to unpaper a single curl, put on
a clean white cap and apron, shuffled her pattens into the nook, and
placing a chair on the opposite side of the hearth to that on which
her visitor had taken up position, said—
"Heaw dun we look neaw, Sam?"
"Just like a picthur," said the weaver, looking round, and
finishing his survey by a particular inspection of the hearth, and
all about it.
"Aw thowt aw'd have an afternoon to misel' to-day," said the
widow, "fettling" about her gown, "so aw went to th' coal pit by six
o'clock this mornin', eaur Bill an' me—that's th' jackass, an' we
tem'd two jags o' coal by breakfast time. What dun yo' think
abeaut that for th' beginnin' of a day's wark?"
"Well, aw think it's a shawm theau hadno' someb'dy to do it
for thi," said Sam, giving a meaning glance at Betty. "But aw
reckon theau's no notion o' gettin' someb'dy for t' fill thoose
empty clogs o' yore Jimmy's?"
"Eh! Sam?" sighed the widow.
"Very likely," said the other; "it shows theau's a bit o'
thowt abeaut thi."
"Well aw did say once," Betty observed, looking thoughtfully
at the fireplace; "ut aw'd never have a felly agen as lung as aw
drew breath. But yo' seen, if eaur Sarah gets wed, aw'st be
laft by misel'; an' aw feel as if th' heause 'ud be too big for
nobbut one body to live in."
"Aye, just as mich to' big, as yon cote o' mine is to'
little. Things are awk'ardly shap't, areno' they?"
"Well, they conno' be helped sometimes."
"Aw reckon," said Sam, prefacing his remark with a cough, "it
isno' sich very hard wark droivin' a donkey cart?"
"Eh, nawe! It wants a bit o' strength when yo'r teemin';
but besides that, if yo'n a good jackass, ut doesno' lay his ears
deawn to' oft, nor throw his heels up to' mich; it's wark ut onybody
could follow. Eaur Bill's as quiet as an owd sheep, an' draws
like a waggin-hawse."
"Dost think yo'r Bill an' me could agree wi' one another if
we wur t' try?"
"What dun yo' meean by that, Sam?"
"Nowt! nobbut aw aulus thowt coal cartin' wur a nice soart of
a job, an' pays betther nur knockin' a shuttle backort an' forrad."
"Dun yo' think o' startin', then?"
"Well, it depends. Theau winno' be vexed, wilta, if aw
tell thi what it depends on?"
"Eh, nawe, Sam,—yo' couldno' vex me, chus what yo' said,
becose aw know yo' aulus meean weel."
"Just so, just so,—theau'rt clearin' mi road bravely, owd
craythur! But aw're just gooin' to ax thi if theau thowt yo'r
Jimmy's clogs 'ud fit me. Theau munno' say aye o at once;
becose it 'ud mak' thi look to' keen an' to' chep. Tak' thi
time, an' dunno' goo in a fit o'er it."
"Eh, Sam!" exclaimed Betty, raising her hands in
astonishment, and letting them fall very demonstratively upon her
apron; "whoever would ha' thowt at that? Wheay, yo're above
twenty year owder nur me!"
"Aw know that," replied the old gallant; "theau'd be so mich
th' sooner ready for another, an' that's summat when ther's a bit o'
buryin' brass at th' eend of o! Beside, aw've a bit o' summat
cumin' in ut 'ud keep yo'r Bill i' clooas an' provant, an' a bit
o'er for Sunday dinners, an' sicH like. What sesta?"
"Yo'r never i' good matter, surely, Sam?"
"Dost think aw should ha' come so far if aw hadno' bin i'
good yearnest? Come what dost say? Aw'm not to a two-thri
copper at a bargain."
"Aw hardly know what to say. Yo'r a great age!"
"Well, ther's this satisfaction abeaut it, theau'll be my age
afore aw'm thine."
"Heaw dun yo' mak' that eaut?"
"It's as plain as a pikestaff. An' beside that,
theau'll hanno' 'casion to be jealous o' onybody else, an' that's a
good deeal to'art makkin' a hearthstone comfortable. Aw see
theaur't makkin' thi mind up as fast as egg-boilin'. Aw'st ha'
no chance o' gettin' eaut o' th' road eenneaw, if aw wanted."
"Dunno' talk so loud, Sam; eaur Sarah's upsteears.
Sarah!" shouted Betty, turning towards the foot of the stairs.
"Aw'm comin'," responded a voice from overhead.
"Theau's no 'casion to come deawn yet," said the mother; "aw
nobbut want to tell thi theau mun mak' a pottito-pie for th' dinner,
an' mak' it i'th' biggest deesh." Then turning to her suitor,
said—"Yo' liken pottito-pie, dunno' yo' Sam?"
"Aw do, owd wench, when aw con get howd on't," was the reply.
"An' yo'n stop to dinner
"If theau thinks aw'd best aw've no objection."
"An' mak' a bit of a custart, too, Sarah," was shouted to the
girl upstairs. "Yo' liken custart, too, dunno' yo', Sam?"
"Yoi; aw think aw like owt ut theau likes."
"An' mak' a fayberry cake, too, Sarah. Yo' liken
fayberry cake, too, dunno' yo', Sam?"
"Aye; made wi' berm crust, an' sweeten't wi' traycle."
"Win yo' just shift back a bit, while aw put a bit o' foire
under th' oon?"
"Aw dunno' mind bein' dusted a bit, owd crayther; so powse
away; wheay theau's an arm as hard as a hommer stail."
"It's a deeal o' wark to go through, Sam. Neaw, just
leeave loce; yo'r as ill as a young lad."
"If theau flutters thi capstrings abeaut my yead, theau mun
tak' th' consequence. Dost keep thi clooas i' neps
"Aye; aw aulus do. Neaw, be quiet, an' leeave loce o'
"Theau's no' towd me yet whether aw con hang mi hat up or
"Aw'll tell yo' sometime else. Yo'n be comin' agen
happen in a day or two. Aw'st be awhoam o' Sunday neet; an'
aw'st have a new dress on ut eaur Joe's wife has made me. Yo'
never seed me in a dress?"
"Nawe, but aw will do. Aw hope theau hasno' had it made
to' lung for thi."
"Aw con have tucks put on, if it is."
"Dost wear boots ov a Sunday?"
"To be sure aw do."
"Aw'st come, then. But theau met as weel tell me neaw
whether aw'st be alleawed to t' use yon empty hat peg or not.
A dar'say thi mind's made up just neaw. If t' meeans aye, gie
me a buss; if t' meeans nawe, gie me a smack i'th' face. Whorr?—oh,
aye; aw thowt theau'd be feeart o' hurtin' me. Theigher,
that's a sattler! Nowt like a smeawch for puttin' a finish upo'
things. It's like a tabbin' at th' end ov a cut.
Polishes a bit o' cooartin' off like sweet milk to Friday porritch.
Neaw then, aw'll goo an' see if yo'r Bill con agree wi' me as well
as theau con, while theau gets th' dinner ready." Saying
which, Sam o' Ducky's got up from his chair, and drawing his sleeve
across his beard as he turned the corner of the "speer," added—"If
theau looks as weel i' boots as theau does i' pattens, owd brid!
we'n ha' some merry church-bells afore lung! But stop," he
said, turning back a step or two—"aw're forgettin' part o' mi arrand.
Has theau a shoo (spade) theau'd land me a bit?"
"What for?" Betty inquired.
"Never mind—hast one?"
"Aye, aw've a garden shoo."
"That's just what aw want."
"Well aw'll find it yo' in a minute."
"Theau's no 'casion to be in a hurry; aw shanno' want it till
"Then yo'n stop to yo'r baggin'?"
"Aye, my duck! if theau's an odd cup an' saucer to spare, an'
a corner o' thi table ut wants fillip' up."
"Well, aw con find yo' th' shoo at after. But yo' met
as weel tell me what yo' wanten it for."
Sam put on a mysterious grimace, shook his head, and strode
out of the house. The next minute he was heard to salute the
donkey with "Wo-up, Billy! Keep thi heels off mi shins, an'
theau shall ha' summat betther nor thistles afore lung."
TH' DULE'S CUBBORT.
"NEAW, this's a
tale," Robin said, "ut used to be towd bi mi great-gronfeyther—owd
Thrutcher o' Thrutchers'; an' sin' then bi mi gronfeyther, Thrutcher
o' Thrutcher's; an' after him bi mi' feyther, Young Thrutcher, an'
th' last o'th' Thrutchers; for eaur folk thowt they'd change th'
name, an' kessun me plain Robin. Well, yo' known wheere th'
Sondy Well is; as nice a spot neaw, aw dar'say, as ony within th'
seaund o'th' Trindle'orth bells. I' mi gronfeyther's days it
wur a wild pleck. Th' trees abeaut it grew like boggarts; an'
when th' wynt blew amung 'em, it made sich yellin' noises ut th'
country reaund wur feeart eaut o' the'r wits wi' it at th' time.
"It happen't one summer neet ut a couple o' cooarters went
eaut a-walking an' as ther'n comin' back deawn bi th' Sondy Well, a
storm coom on, an' sich a storm, too, as they'd never sin afore,
folk said. A men ut wur watchin' a pottato fielt at th' time
(they' wur stalin' i' thoose days, yo' seen,) swore he yerd 'em
havin' hee words wi' one another, an' he see'd em tak' shelter under
a tree close bi th' well. That wur o he seed, for he run whoam
as fast as he could to get eaut o'th' rain.
"Someb'dy spoke," said Sprogger. "What has set
that rack-an'-hook agate o' swinin', aw wonder? Ther's some
soart o' divulment abeaut to-neet, aw'm sure."
"Well," said Robin, "if th' Owd Lad's abeaut, we may thank
Sprogger theere for raisin' him, as if he didno' come amung us oft
enoogh, beaut axin'. But, as aw're sayin', this couple took
shelter under a tree ut stood close to th' well; an' th' thunner
cracked abeaut the'r yeds like a lot o' big rip-raps, an' th'
leetenin' kept dartin' at th' tree same as a midge at a candle.
At last—crash it went! Th' tree oppent o' one side like a pair
o' cubbort durs, an' shut itsel' up agen afore onybody could say
Jack Robi'son. Th' woman wur seen no moore after that neet;
an' her chap wur takken up an' tried for murder; but as they couldno'
find th' body he geet off, an' went crazy. He'd goo maunderin'
abeaut th' Sondy Well, an' lookin' into it, as if he thowt his
sweetheart wur theere, an' couldno' get eaut. Then he'd walk
reaund th' tree like a gin-hawse, as if he thowt hoo're hoidin' at
back on't, an' kept slippin' him.
"Well, that tree dropped its leeaves straight forrad an' th'
summer after, when it should ha' bin green again, it wur as bare as
an owd besom, an' as feaw as a curnboggart. Th' farmer it
belunged to 'ud have it cut deawn, an' a cart or two made eaut o'th'
wood, for it wur a big tree, wi' boofs branchin' eaut as thick as a
pig's middle at Kesmas. Two good axes were browt, an' two
strung chaps, 'at they coed 'Pronger' an' 'Camille,' begun o' hackin'
at th' tree, while another, ut they coed 'Slivvin,' watched fur t'
see which road it 'ud tumble.
"They'd getten abeaut th' hauve road through the'r wark when
th' crack as th' thunner-bowt had made oppent a bit."
"'Howd, stop chaps,' Slivvin said, 'ther's a brid neest or
summat here. Let's feel if ther's ony eggs or young uns in
it.' An' he put his hont i'th' crack, but drew it back agen as
sharply as if summat had bitten him; an' weel he met, for ther three
or four teeth coom tumblin' eaut after it.
"'Is th' owd brid on th' neest, as theau'rt so wakken?'
Pronger said, an' cracked eaut o' laafin'.
"'Aw dunno' know that,' Slivvin said, shakin' his hont as if
a rottan ud had howd ov his fingers. 'Aw never knew ut brids
had teeth afore; but this is happen ov a foreign mak'. If we
can tak' her, it'll be a rare thing fur Owd Chuck to stuff. We
may happen get a peaund or two for it. Strike another blow or
two, chaps, so ut aw con see betther what it is.'
"They set to agen wi' the'r axes, an' after they'd hacked
away for abeaut five minutes, Cample wanted to know if they hadno'
"'Con theau see ony betther yet?' he sheauted. But ther
"'We'st be through eenneaw,' Pronger said. An' he gan
another blow ut made th' tree crake same as if it wur givin' warnin'
for tumblin'. Then he turned reaund fort' spake to Slivvin.
But no Slivvin were theere. He'd dashed into th' cloof, an'
wur throwin' his heels up o' t'other side as if th' Owd Lad hissel',
and one or two young uns were after him.
"'Well,' Pronger said, as if he're talkin' to Slivvin, 'theau'rt
a fine men to come a-cuttin' timber, an' feeart it'll tumble onto
thi so far off. Look heaw he's palin' away, Cample.'
"'He's smelt his dinner, aw dar'say,' Cample said; an' he
spit ov his honds, fur t' have another whack at th' tree. But just
as he're liftin' his axe, he see'd Pronger dart off th' same road as
Slivvin had gone, an' here leeavin' as mich greaund beheend him as
he weel could i'th' time.
"'Ther's summat queer abeaut this,' Cample said to hissel',
as he watched Pronger skim deawn th' broo-side like a new started
hare. 'Has this brid feeart 'em, aw wonder?' An' he took
a sly peep o't' t'other side o'th' tree, as if he're peepin' int' a
hummabee neest, or a foumart kennel.
"He're as soon satisfied as t'other chaps had bin, fur one
look wur quite plenty. He seed enoogh i' that one peep as
filled his een for ye'rs after. A skeleton stood theere, wi' a
red napkin teed reaund it yed; an' a shawl an' a check appron on an'
a pair o' shoon wi' meault tops an' reausty buckles an' a pair o'
stockin's ut looked as if they'rn drawn onto two mopstails. He
said he'd see'd th' botthom jaw wag, an' th' teeth shift abeawt like
th' keighs of a spinnet. He didno' stop for t' see owt ony
moore, but shifted hissel' as sharply as t'other chaps had done; an'
th' tree wur laft stondin' theere, like a giant o' one leg, wi' a
coffin, ready furnished, for his waistcoat.
"'Did yo' ever see owt like yond sin yor'n wick?" said
Slivven, when t'other two geet up to him.
"'Nawe,' Pronger said, an' he hoped he never must do again.
"Cample said th' same; an' they sit 'em deawn, an' stared at
"'Whatever it is,' Slivvin said, 'it must ha' bin wick
"'Wick be hanged!' Pronger said, 'it's a womman, mon.'
"'Dost think so?' Slivvin said, an' he looked wilder nur
"'To be sure it is,' Cample said. 'Aw see'd a red napkin, an'
a shawl, an' a check appron. But hoo couldno' be this country
womman, noather, for the face wur as black as mi hat.'
"'Oh, hoo met be for that,' Pronger said. 'If yon
tree's a theausant yer owd, as they sen it is, we should be a queer
soart o' folk when it wur planted. Owd Chuck says it isno'
mony hundert yer sin we'rn like monkeys, for ther's an owd stop' at
Ringwood Ho' neaw wi' a hole at th' back o'th' seeat fort' drop
the'r tails through. Aw dunno' think we should be so
leet-colour't at that time.'
"'Well, aw dunno' care,' Pronger said; 'Yon tree may stond
till th' wo'ld cracks afore aw help to cut it deawn. Aw shanno'
go' past it, noather, till someb'dy else has sin it.'
"'Nor me,' Slivvin said.
"'An' aw shanno' be in a hurry,' Cample said.
"Just then a lot o' chaps coome up.
"Th' tale wur towd to these, an' in a heaur's time ther'
wurno' a choilt o' three ye'r owd i' o Trindle'oth ut didno' know
"It wur weeks after afore onybody du'st go past th' Sondy
Well, an' when they did goo, ther' wur abeaut a dozen on 'em stuck
to honds, an' they'rn so feeart they couldno' spake to one another.
"Well, one day ther a strange chap coed at th' Throstle Neest,
an' he said here upo' th' tramp.
"'What do you call this place? ' he said.
"'Trindle'orth,' Slivvin said, for he happen't to be one o'th'
"'Well, you've some queer customs,' th' stranger said.
"'What dun yo' meean bi that?' Slivvin said.
"'Well,' th' stranger said, 'you've a way of burying people
that I don't like,' an' he filled his pipe wi' baccy, an' looked at
th' foire, same as if he see'd a ghost in it.
"'Wheay, heaw dun we bury 'em?' Slivvin said, an' his yure
begun o' risin'.
"'Well,' th' stranger said, an' he kept starin' at th' foire,
'I was coming through the Clough, yonder, just now, and as I felt
rather thirsty, I stopped at a well to drink.'
"Slivvin's yed bristled up like a pincushin, when he yerd th'
"'Just as I was coming away,' th' stranger said, 'I saw a
corpse inside the trunk of a tree, all exposed to the weather.
I looked about to see if there were any more, but this was the only
one I could find. I thought it strange that they should bury
people in that fashion, when there was a church not far off. I
examined the corpse, and found this necklace; and as I thought it
could be of no use to the dead, I'd see if the living could make
something of it, for I'm very poor, friends, and I hope you'll
forgive me; but I'll take it back if you wish me, as I don't feel
comfortable over it.'
"'Let's look at it,' Slivvin said, an' he geet howd o'th'
necklace wi' th' tongs.
"'Wheay,' he said, when he looked at it a bit, 'aw could
welly swear this belunged to Betty Thorp!'
"Everybody i'th' heause said—'Eh!' An' th' londlady
said hoo du'st lay her life deawn it wur Betty ut had bin shut up
i'th' tree—God knew how! An' when Slivvin said th' check
appron, an' th' shawl, wur just like thoose ut Betty wore when hoo
wur missed, everybody made sure it wur Betty.
"'An' what a bonny wench hoo wur!' th' londlady said, 'an'
heaw her mother took it to heart, an' deed through it! an' heaw it's
bin th' wonder of o Trindle'orth what had become on her!'
"It wur no wonder then."
GOOSE GROVE PENNY READINGS.
IN common with
many others of our kidney, we had hit upon the discovery of the
means whereby we might counteract the growing influence of singing
rooms, and other questionable places of amusement, upon the minds of
our youth. We fell in with the penny reading mania, and
floundered over two winters with such decided success as to lead us
to venture upon a third session. We had been in the habit of
engaging such professional talent for these entertainments as our
limited income would afford; and ladies and gentlemen, to their
credit be it said, were never hard upon our exchequer.
The readings were interspersed with music—vocal and
instrumental—after the approved fashion; and nobody could complain
of not having their money's worth, if a lengthy programme was the
thing desired. Lancashire pieces were the greatest favourites;
and these were frequently read by the authors themselves, which
afforded an additional attraction. Next in the scale of
popularity were the Irish; and the selections from the latter were
given with such a racy rendering of the "brogue" as to leave a
suspicion in the minds of many that the reader was to the manner
born, but which he disclaimed to be. We spent many delightful
evenings; and I cannot help looking back with a feeling of regret
that we cannot spend them over again. I feel sure we did
much good during those two winters. One singing-room we had
closed, and so damaged a "twopenny hop" that it could not have
survived another season had our own prosperity continued unchecked.
But the fate of the music-hall was in store for us. Our
Shepherd was "called" to another fold. A good man he was and
broad in his views. He could tell a good story; read a
humorous sketch so as to make us roar; accompany on the piano, and
please in a variety of ways. He seemed to think that this
world was not made for a "vale of tears;" and all his sermons and
discourses were dashed with this liberal sentiment. A man with
such a disposition and such endowments could never be unpopular in
any sphere; and I can assure the reader that the good parishioners
of "Goosegrove-cum-Bumblethorp" did not meet the change with mental
The successor of this pattern of a clergyman was a man of a
far different spirit. He was a Cambridge scholar, and
excessively puritanical. He would not tolerate the slightest
departure from the narrow course he had himself marked out; and at
the preliminary meeting held prior to the first night of the third
penny reading season, he insisted upon every piece intended to be
read during the season, being first submitted to his censorship.
The consequence was that all the humorous selections, and especially
the Lancashire pieces were struck out, and very tedious ones
substituted. The whole affair, as I had predicted, fell as
flat as nothing,—if we except a remarkable incident at the
commencement,—and the audience went away tired and disgusted.
Being the opening night of the season, we were at extra pains
in getting up the entertainment. We had the Mayor for
chairman: and whether he had received his cue from another
authority, or gave utterance to his own sentiments, I cannot say,
but the views he expressed were quite as narrow as those held by the
minister himself. He was a large employer of labour; and the
fact that he was so, gave him authority to sit in judgment over the
tastes and doings of his neighbours; an assumption that we would not
have quarrelled with had we not known many an influential man to be
a downright fool in matters intellectual. To "Mayor Macksarkin"
this charge could not be brought. He hailed from the wrong
country to be much tainted with folly, being an Aberdeen man, and
knowing the value of "saxpence" as well as the keenest North Briton.
It was said of him, however, that, previous to his elevation to the
civic chair, he had danced upon a table at a Burns anniversary, and
paid a piper a day's wages for a three hours' rendering of "Tullochgorum"
in the "West End" of Goosegrove.
But these were pardonable eccentricities, and may be
attributed to the possession of strong national feeling; a weakness
shared by most people, as if a different sky smiled upon them, or a
different sun lighted their paths through life. In other
matters our chief magistrate was strict to a nicety; and the
slightest indulgence would meet with his stern reproof. To
many frequenters of our penny readings his chairmanship augured
unpromisingly; and these would have kept away had it not been for
the natural instinct that prompts one man to give another a fair
trial; so they came on the opening night, and lent us their
patronage in no very niggardly manner.
The room was decorated and profusely mottoed for the purpose;
many obscure sentences being set forth in undecipherable characters;
a custom exceedingly instructive to the young idea. The
platform was carpeted, and provided with a mahogany reading-desk,
the gift of an enthusiastic admirer of Tennyson, who read "Dora,"
"Lady Vere," and "The Charge of the Light Brigade," in an accent
unmistakably western. Six rows of seats in front were
cushioned, for which an extra charge of fivepence was levied.
Threepenny seats were mooted, but the snobbery of Goosegrove would
not hear of an intermediate class. The step from themselves to
the lower order must be an abrupt one; so we had sixpenny "grands"
and penny "commons."
The opening night was honoured with a good house. Whole
families of "respectables" were in the front seats; and their
appreciation of the proceedings was such that they kept up an
enfilade of whispering during the whole of the evening; occasionally
applauding a favourite performer by the lightest tapping of their
gloves and an approving smirk. The pennies were in strong
force; unruly at times, when a head was raised too high to be seen
over, and demonstrative at both ends when required to be so.
The vocal aid they gave to each chorus during the previous winters
would have beaten any music-hall; but, unhappily, "on this occasion"
there was nothing on the programme in which they could join, their
lyric acquaintance being limited to "Up in a balloon," "Champagne
Charlie," "Not for Joe," and a few others of a similar stamp, sung
with "admiral effect " by a Sunday school teacher who must have
picked them up somewhere.
An additional attraction was provided in the person of the
pianist, who happened to be the chairman's eldest daughter, a tall,
affected piece of scrag work, wearing a helmet of hair large enough
to have crowned a foot-guardsman. A considerable pattering of
applause from the gloves greeted this lady's ascension to the music
stool; an ovation that was acknowledged by the very slightest
inclination of the hairy helmet, and a display of facial contortion
that was doubtlessly intended for a smile. The pennies
expressed their appreciation of this addition to their amusement
after a manner of their own, and which resolved itself into playful
allusion to a "pump," "farthin' candle," "clooas-prop," and other
elegant similitudes dropped about like crackers in least-to-be
detected places. The chairman fidgetted; looked pleased, then
frowned, and signified his displeasure by a vigorous rapping on the
table. It was time to commence proceedings. Rising like
a tilted cask from his chair, the civic dignitary said:—
Ladies and Gentlemen,—On the occasion of inaugrating oor
third session of penny readings, I wish it to be understid that waur
gaup to be mair classical in oor selections of readings and music
than we hae bin on either of the twa privous occasions. It has
been remarked by many people that I hae met, that on the twa privous
occasions we have had oor muckle o' the Lancasheere dialect.
Noo I may just tell ye that I am apoosed to a dialect, an' mair
especially the Lancasheere; an' by my ain adveighs the committee hae
resoalved to hae no mair dialuctal readings given on this platforum.
Iverything must be in proaper Henglish, sic as is written by our
Scoatts, oor Burnses, an' oor Shaksperes; mair parteclarly the first
twa. The same spirit shall gueide us in the selaction of the
music,—nae 'Cam name to thy childer an' a';' 'The deil's i' this
bonnet sae brave;' nor ither Lancasheere sangs o' the same ilk; but
we'll hae sic classical sangs as—
'Doon i' the glen by the lown o' the trees,
Lies o weel-thecket bield, like a bike for the bees.'
'I coft a stave o' haselock woo',
To mak' a coat for Johnny o't.'
(a voice: "Dun yo' co' that English?")
"We'll hae nae interrooption. The sangs are British
classics, an' every Brition ought to understand his ain language.
(Another voice: 'Talk gradely, an' then we con understood yo'.')
Weel, noo let this be understid, that if there be any main
interrooption the parties will be turned oot, as they deserve to be.
D'ye understand me noo? The first part of the programme is an
overture by Miss Macsarkin—the Edinboro' Quadrilles."
His worship hereupon sat down amidst the applause of some,
and strong expressions of disapprobation from others.
Order being somewhat restored, Miss Macsarkin turned like a
silken spit to the piano, the keys of which she punished with a
series of spiteful thumps, as if they had somehow provoked her
anger. Presently she got into the music of the quadrille,
which embraced snatches from "Caller Herrin," "Rothiemurchus Rant,"
"Come o'er the stream, Charlie," "Maggie Lauder," "Bonnie Dundee,"
and other tunes of a similar character and nationality, getting into
the warmth of her work about the middle, and promising to come out
brilliantly at the finish. Her success, however, became
somewhat jeopardised by the consciousness that there was tittering
going on among the sixpennies, which was getting more disagreeably
audible every moment. This was unfortunately the precursor of
a more vigorous demonstration. A peal of laughter broke forth
from the pennies, taken up and continued by the sixpennies, and did
not allow itself to subside until the fair debutante threw up
the sponge, and precipitately retired. What had been the fault
of her playing she could not conceive, and her deep mortification
would not permit her to inquire. Explanations were, however,
given, and these were of such a nature as to appease her anger, and
induce her to return to her duties after a decent term of absence.
Had the young lady been in the position of one of the
audience she would have known that this unexpected fund of amusement
had been furnished by the conduct of her distinguished parent, whose
head, arms, and legs had been jerking and plunging about in a very
wild and, so far as other people were concerned, dangerous manner
during the whole time occupied by the overture. The worthy
mayor declared in apology that "he could nae help it." His
"Scotch bluid was up," and his "hale body must aye gang to the
music." It was glorious fun for the time, and beat the whole
programme into nothing. After this episode a Shakesperian
reading, by the Rev. Stiltford Priggins, was announced—"Othello's
With hair parted in the middle, his whiskers trimmed so as to
give them a waxy appearance, and his personal bearing being so
stiffly precise as to provoke the suggestion that his movements were
regulated by a kind of intellectual clock-work, the reverend and
learned gentleman made his appearance behind the reading-desk, and
took a glance at the ceiling. After carefully smoothing down
the leaves of a pocket copy of Shakespere, and prefacing his
elocutionary attempts by sundry "haws" and "hems," this model
student in English literature began:—
Mowest powtent, gwave, and wevewend Seignyaws.
My vewy nowble and appwoved good mawstaws,
That I have teighn aweigh this old man's daughtaw
Is most twue; twue, I have mawied haw;
The vewy hade and fwont of my offending
Hath this extent, now maw. Wude am I in
And littal blest with the set phwase of peace;
Faw since these awms of mine had seven yaw pith,
Till nawe sam nine moons weighsted, they have used
Thyaw dyawest action in the tented field;
And littal of this gweat weauld can I speak
Maw than pawtains to feats of bwoil and battle;
And theawfaw little shall I gwase my cause
In speaking for myself; yet by yaw gwacious patience
I will a wound onvawnished teighl delivaw
Of my howl cause of love; what dwugs, what chawms,
What conjawations, and what mighty magic
(Faw such pwoceeding I am chawged withal)
I won his daughtaw with.
And so on to the end; and no sooner had the reader declared
upon his oath that "this ownly was the witchcwaft he had used," than
the gloves went into ecstasies of delight. They were evidently
entering upon a new era of Penny Readings, since they had been
favoured with eloquence so masterly; but whether they were not more
captivated by the gentleman's hair and whiskers, and to the
unlearned ear the insufferable drawl that had marked his delivery,
than they were with his general interpretation of the great
dramatist, may safely be left for their less pretentious neighbours
The pennies appeared for some moments to be held under a
spell of indecision, and seemed to ask each other by their looks as
to whether the reading they had listened to with such extraordinary
patience was intended to be sentimental, pathetic, or comic.
They decided at length upon the latter, and a burst of applause,
intermingled with a considerable dash of merriment, startled the
sedate sixpennies into a rustle of commotion, and so confounded the
reverend reader that he was at a loss to understand whether the
plaudits were genuine or ironical. "Hangcore! hangcore!" they
shouted. "Give us 'Pall Mall Sall,' 'Pat an' his Breeches,'
'Little Dawg,'" and sundry other well-meant suggestions were freely
sent up for the worthy gentleman's consideration but when these were
supplemented by such calls as "Walkin' in the Zoo," "Love in a
Coalhole," "Nobody's Cheeild," it did not require much keenness of
perception to discover that the enthusiasm of the "gods," was
intended to be derisive.
This was a difficulty that the platform was not prepared to
meet. The chairman rapped for silence, and gesticulated
vigorously. The reverend offender looked sheepish, and toyed
with his eye-glass; and a few representatives of the "Committee" who
were present held a brief consultation, and resolved upon letting
the storm waste itself out rather than attempt to restrain its
violence. This proved to be the wisest course they could have
adopted. The tumult, after continuing about three minutes,
subsided to a few intermittent explosions, and the chairman
proceeded with the programme.
"I am happy to hear," he said, "that our respected meenister
has met with sic a gude reception; but at the same time, I am sorry
to learn that he is not just noo prepared till give us anither
specimen of the Henglish poets, because it must be a treat to
iveryone present to have an opportunity of listening to their pure
and undefiled mither tongue fra ane wha is sae able to give it.
Hooiver, I hae noo doubt ye'll be delighted to hear the next reading
on the programme, which happens to be a trio—'Wullie brewed a peck
o' maut,' by members of the choir."
This announcement rather startled the sixpennies, several of
whom were members of the "Goosegrove Temperance Society," and of
which the mayor was an active, if not a consistent patron. The
only way to account for such a proceeding was by supposing that the
worthy gentleman's admiration of the British classics was stronger
than his devotion to the temperance cause. Still they could
not rid themselves of the impression that a more judicious selection
might have been made. A mayor, however, can hardly be expected
to do wrong, even in the eyes of the "unco gude;" so the company
applauded the announcement in the usual manner, notwithstanding that
it was a little distasteful.
The three young gentlemen elected to make a night of it,
after the fashion of Scotch bacchanalians, appeared, music in hand,
in front of the platform, the piano rang out the introduction, and
the spree commenced; but before the thirsty souls had an opportunity
of proclaiming that they were "three merry boys," it was made
painfully evident that the trio had become a quartet, the chairman
himself contributing the fourth voice, which was a lusty bass, that
had the effect of considerably "bottling" the rest. In vain
did "Rab" and "Allan" look remonstrance across the table. The
notes rolled out of the civic organ like extemporised thunder, and
were only silenced when the chorus declared for the last time, come
what might, they still would "taste the barley bree."
"Ye hae dune it brawley," remarked the chairman, as the three
young gentlemen retired; but whether this flattering observation was
sufficient to compensate for the injury he had inflicted on their
reputation as singers, might be gathered from the expression of each
countenance as the owner thereof took his seat behind the chair.
It is enough to say that the whole body struck work for the evening,
a resolution that no kind of cajolery could shake. It will be
seen further on that subsequent proceedings rendered this act on the
part of the incensed trio quite unnecessary.
To keep the ball rolling, the chairman gave out that he had a new
candidate for elocutionary honours to introduce to the audience, in
the person of a very promising young man, who had taken several
prizes in connection with science-class examinations. That youth was
Mr. Brinsley Sheridan O'Brien, no doubt a descendant of the great
Sheridan, and possibly an inheritor of that distinguished orator's
genius. He (the chairman) was not in possession of the name of the
piece Mr. O'Brien would read, but the gentleman could announce it
himself. This the latter did, and in a manner too, that was intended
to overawe the pennies, but which, from some cause or other, had
quite the opposite effect. He was a slight built young fellow, and
appeared to be suffering from hair on the brain, as he ran his
fingers through the oily and matted covering with painful industry.
The movement elicited an observation from one of the pennies, which
we not need here record, that caused much merriment among his
companions, quite inexplicable to the sixpennies. "Give us 'Larry Doolan,'" shouted another of the jubilant party. "Mickey's Wake,"
suggested a third. But the hand that had been so assiduously
employed as a comb shot itself out like the limb of a semaphore, and
in tones that rang above the clamour of the gods Mr. O'Brien gave
out that he was about to read the "Drame of Eugane Arum." With
another working of the semaphore, the aspirant to elecutionary
greatness proceeded to put his threat into execution by telling us,
in the strongest Hibernian accent, that—
'Twas in the proime of summer toime,
An evening calm and cool,
And four-and-twinty happy bhoys
Came bounding out of school
There were some that ran, and some that laped,
Like throutlets in a pool."
The reader had got no farther than the third stanza of Hood's
graphic poem before he was assailed with such cries as, "When are we
to have some English?" "Shut up." Let's have 'Hopposeeshun.' Neaw
Bill Toddy get up an' give us 'Th' Rallies,' 'Owd Pindthar,' 'Barrel
Orgin,' 'Billy Armitidge,' 'Soup for a sick Mon,' 'Atin' a
Bootjack.'" Then followed quite a storm of suggestions, well-meant,
no doubt, but given with such over-strained politeness that the
chairman felt himself called upon to interpose his good offices by
desiring the reader to resume his seat, and give a week's respite to
the Yorkshire homicide. The request was reluctantly complied with,
and Mr. O'Brien sat down amidst quite a roar of derisive laughter.
The mayor expressed himself as deeply incensed at the conduct of the
audience, and even threatened to leave the chair if such proceedings
were not at once put a stop to. This notification had the effect of
bringing about a temporary lull; but as the next item on the
programme was a glee, and the singers had struck work, it required all the patience of one class, and the watchfulness of the
other, to keep the rebelliously disposed in subjection whilst a
substitute was obtained. The rector, on being appealed to, assured
the chairman that he was not prepared with anything more lively than
the Church of England funeral service; and as such a reading would
be quite out of place in that assembly he could not consent to give
Luckily there was a volunteer ready in the person of the
schoolmaster, who came promptly on the platform, and at once
proceeded to edify his hearers with a passage from the "School
History of England." This, at the commencement, was the dreariest
piece of work that had yet been attempted. The light being bad, and
the pedagogue's eyesight none of the best he was continually losing
himself, and jumbling passages together that had no relationship
with each other, and making the whole a complete mystification. The
ready inventiveness of the chairman, however, was brought to the
rescue. He immediately ordered up a boy; a candle was procured, and
the youngster was instructed to stand behind the schoolmaster's
shoulder, and hold the light so that it would fall upon the book. This arrangement became the signal for an immediate collapse. The
boy squinted, and in his efforts to conceal his infirmity, made the
thing ten times worse, and grinned so horribly that not even the sixpennies could retain their gravity, but joined the pennies in the
loudest bursts of laughter that were ever heard in the school. It
was all over! Nobody would sit on the platform after that ebullition
of merriment, and we had "God save the Queen!" at least an hour
earlier than usual; but not before the rector had made the
announcement that, through the behaviour of the cheaper portion of
the audience, that would be the last penny reading that would ever
be permitted to take place in the National School of
Thus was a cheap and wholesome kind of pastime brought to a close by
the overweening priggishness of a class of people who refuse to
attend popular entertainments, and by their non-support of such give
up to the mercenary and licentious the charge of providing
amusements for the multitude.