Ab-o'th'-Yate Sketches, Vol. III (II)
Home Up Marlocks of Merriton Spring Blossoms Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. I. Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. II. Waverlow Chronicles Yankeeland Short Stories etc. Main Index Site Search
 


 

[Previous Page]


TH' SHIP CANNELL.

A PROPHETIC DREAM OF 1893.  WRITTEN IN 1884.

TH' FUST SHIP.


WE'RN 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 Liverpool."

    "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 its dreeams.

    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' next wo'ld.

    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 poet!

    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 londin'.

    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, sheautin'—

    "Ab, Billy Softly wants thi'! "

    Hang it, hoo met ha' letten me ha' mi dinner fust!

    Mi dreeam wur o'er.

________

TH' REALITY.


    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 Seeal oppent?"

    "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 double Jonah!"

    "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' wayter.

    "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 declared oppent.


――――♦――――

 
A BREACH OF PROMISE CASE.


PLAIN Simon 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 driven!

    "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 cogitations.

    "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 half liked.

    "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!"

    "Heaw?"

    "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 thought.

    "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 yo' agen?"

    "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."

    "What for?"

    "Theau knows.  Didno' theau promise theau'd have me?"

    "Never."

    "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 me for?"

    "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 called.

    "You are a spinster?" said the Counsel.

    PLAINTIFF: "Nay, aw'm not."

    COUNSEL: "Married?"

    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 marry you?"

    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' hearthstone."

    DEFENDANT (interrupting): "Nay, aw didno' swear!" (A withering glance from the counsel.)

    PLAINTIFF: "Aw dunno' say theau did.  Dampt isno' swearin'."

    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?"

    PLAINTIFF: "Aye."

    COUNSEL: "Can you remember the lines?"

    PLAINTIFF: "Aye, every word."

    COUNSEL: "Let the court hear them."

    PLAINTIFF:


"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 proceedings?"

    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, neaw then."

    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 laughter.)

    DEFENDANT (again interrupting): "Aye, an' theau towd my wife ut aw'd said aw liked thee ten times betther nur her at th' same time."

    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 the plaintiff?"

    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 taken place.


――――♦――――

 

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 mak'?"

    "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 Sarah getten?"

    "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, dost think?"

    "Oh, aye—come in, if yo' wanten t' sit yo' deawn.  Yo' munno' think nowt at me not axin' yo' afore.  One is forgetful sometimes."

    "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 (lavender)?"

    "Aye; aw aulus do.  Neaw, be quiet, an' leeave loce o' mi arm!"

    "Theau's no' towd me yet whether aw con hang mi hat up or not."

    "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 dark."

    "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' done enoogh.

    "'Con theau see ony betther yet?' he sheauted.  But ther no answer.

    "'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 one another.

    "'Whatever it is,' Slivvin said, 'it must ha' bin wick sometime.'

    "'Wick be hanged!' Pronger said, 'it's a womman, mon.'

    "'Dost think so?' Slivvin said, an' he looked wilder nur ever.

    "'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 abeaut it.

    "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' company.

    "'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' well mentioned.

    "'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 equanimity.

    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.'


and—


'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 Apology."

    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 speech,
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 to settle.

    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 it.

    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 "Goose-grove-cum-Bumblethorp."

    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.


――――♦――――


[Next Page]

 


 

[Home] [Up] [Marlocks of Merriton] [Spring Blossoms] [Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. I.] [Ab-o'th'-Yate Vol. II.] [Waverlow Chronicles] [Yankeeland] [Short Stories etc.] [Main Index] [Site Search]
 

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk