Ab-o'th'-Yate Sketches, Vol. III (III)
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A RAINY DAY AT BLACKPOOL.


WHOEVER has experienced the misery of a wet day, especially Sunday, at Blackpool, might enjoy himself equally well at "Strangeways."  He would have a chance of keeping in-doors, and have his meals regularly, without being obliged to go out for his beer.  Another advantage he would have;—there would not be a piano next door, with a silly miss meandering among dismal sounds evoked with one finger.  And there would not be three candidates for one couch, and a substitute made of the hearth-rug.  He could stretch himself on his "plank bed," and be as happy as might be expected.

    It was my fortune not many days ago to be voluntarily evicted from my comfortable home, to be cast among the broad sands that stretch over the Irish Channel on the coast of wrecks, not inaptly named Blackpool.  My Faithful was with me, and mingled her dumps with mine, which added an appropriate charm to the prospect, for it rained all the Sunday, with as steady a downpour as if it had been regulated by clockwork.  The only breaks in this monotony were the passing of occasional bands of "trippers," wearing caps of many colours, the ladies vieing in dismal gaiety with the gentlemen; and making as much rude fun as the circumstances would permit.  The human geese and ganders waddled through the rain, and cast their eyes wistfully over the waste of sand, and seemed to be asking one another where "th' watter" had gone to.

    The day before was what one might have considered a promise for the morrow; a promise, alas! not to be fulfilled.  The day broke with a haze that I much preferred to see than a morn of delicate brightness.  "Are we to have rain?"  "Nay, aw think it's gleaumin' for yett."  Satisfied with this assurance, we looked forward to a glorious week-end, with lots of trips by sea; drives in the country; and crushing squeezes among promenaders, who, as a rule, are not over-ceremonious, or particular in their language.  My first intimation of probable disappointment was conveyed in the intimation that it was Burnley Wakes and Darwen Fair, and that about ten thousand people from those towns would be let loose upon us.  But we had secured lodgings, so would not have to take up quarters in a bathing-van, or have a plank bed on one of the piers.

    The train by which we left Manchester was a "Special Excursion," engaged to be up to time.  We had an exceedingly entertaining travelling companion in the person of an old woman, who slept and coughed alternately, now and then enquiring where we were; whether the train had reached Chorley when we were at Bolton; and whether the train had reached Bolton when we were at Chorley.  Then rolling her eyes about, she would take another wink.

    "This is a damp air, Tum," she more than once said, addressing her old man.  "My cough's wos nur it wur yesterday.  That's a sign it'll rain to-morn."

    We expressed a hope that it would not.

    "Yo'n nowt to do wi' th' weather," she said.  "If it thinks it'll rain it'll rain, speshly i' Blackpool.  Oh, dear my!  Aw wish aw'd a drop o' whisky, Tum!"  This she would say with her eyes closed, and with a seeming indifference as to whether it rained all Sunday or not.  With this and similar our journey continued and ended.

    On approaching Blackpool the old woman's weatherometer continued to fall; the haze or clouds increased in intensity, but no rain fell, and I had hopes that a clear sky would greet the coming morn.  But while awaiting an arrival at the Central Station, we saw that the tops of cabs were shining as if newly polished; and the rushing in of young women with handkerchiefs over their bonnets dispelled my hopes of a brighter morrow.  The trippers who had not secured lodgings were in a woful plight, especially the female portion of them.  The men did not seem to care, but with hands in trousers' pockets, and short pipes in mouths, they looked stolidly on, with their thoughts, no doubt, running on "booze."  They would get on better than the women, if they could get "shut out from the night anywhere."

    "Th' day's jiggered!" said one to a companion.

    "Just my luck," was the other's remark.  "It wur th' same last year.  It started when th' train geet in, an' it never left off as long as we're here.  My wife wouldno' goo witheaut a donkey ride, as weet as it wur; an' hoo had it to her heart's content.  What made things wurr, we geet on th' wrong train gooin' back, an' i'stead o' stoppin' at Preston, it went on to Chorley.  Aw yerd a mon sheautin' 'Chorley fust stop;' but th' wife said hoo took no notice o' what railroad chaps said; they'rn aulus sheautin' summat.  But when we geet to Chorley hoo changed her tune, an' said it wur o through me; if aw'd had mi ears open we shouldno ha' gotten i'th' wrung train.  But, heawever, then a train back to Preston, an' we geet whoam sometime.  It wur lucky they charged us nowt extry, becose aw're spent up, an' eaur Jane had spent her last shillin' on a blue cap.  But aw'll tell thi what, mate, stondin' here's no good.  Let's goo as far as th' Foxhall, an' yer some singin'.  They'd a woman theere last year ut sung like a mon; an' hoo could doance a clog doance wi' ony mon."

    Crowds had now begun to gather in the streets, and were dripping under imperfect shop-window awnings.  Others squeezed themselves beneath the roofs of oyster stalls, and were making deprecating remarks about the weather and the wind and the sea.  The sea, it would appear, had not yet got its usual quantity of water, but if the rain kept on it would be washing over the promenade.  I think that corner leading up to the Central Station a disgrace to Blackpool.  It is the narrowest and, generally speaking, the most crowded part, and on a wet day the most dangerous.  People in a hurry to get to the station, and who have hired a cab, ignore the public, and urge the driver to give his hack plenty of whip, so that they are not too late for the train.  The younger portion of the crowd have often to be scattered like a brood of chickens; but so long as there are no accidents, I suppose it matters nothing.  Why not pull down the whole block of miserable shanties, and make a grand opening to the station?  At present it is hid from view by something like the remnants of an old timber yard.

    The night fell upon a scene of desolation!  The piers were deserted; and if there was any life to be seen on the promenade it was a dog in search of its owner.  In vain the slice of moon struggled to find an aperture in the clouds.  It would not have discovered anyone to gaze upon, except the hilarious tripper, who was determined to take out his share of pleasure one way or another.

    When the curtains of sleep had been drawn over the human windows, there was something like a sigh mingling with dreams of better things.  It was the downpour of rain; and anyone looking out of a front window might have seen that the sea was full.

    "Is that the rain?" asks my Faithful.

    "It is, my dear."

    "I've a good mind to stay in bed all day to-morrow."

    "The fittest place on a rainy Sunday."

    It proved to be.  From five o'clock the rain never ceased; the wind blowing from the south-east made dismal music in the chimneys, and assisted by the rain against the windows, performed a duet such as we might imagine welcomed the shades of the unjust to the lowest depths of Hades.  I shut out the prospect as I would that of a battle-field, where the silent presence of death would make one feel that our earthly pleasures were fringed by the sombre trappings of mortality, and slipped into bed again.  At eight o'clock I could stand it no longer, so "did myself up," and went downstairs to inhale the spent fumes of last night's tobacco.  A bird perched on the window-sill looking as if it had just been rescued from a wreck, and had not got a change of clothes.  It was as piteous a sight as that of the trained monkey, who climbs up the spout to salute you at the third storey window, and seems to wish he had a cocoanut to brain the Italian villain who has him in a string, and who seesaws execrable tones out of an old accordion with all the stops out.  If he does I wish he would accomplish his purpose some day!

    Breakfast over, which we enjoyed (?) in silence, save the monotonous patter of the rain against the window, we sought our waterproofs and umbrellas, and borrowing a couple of 'varsity caps, faced the elements.  For convenience, and in order to avoid telling lies, and giving the police a chance of finding us out, I had supplied myself with a couple of "Sunday returns," lent by two fellow-lodgers, so that we could be "travellers" any time of the day, and if the rain kept on, we could get inside the best hotel in Blackpool.  It was well that I had provided myself with these "open sesames," for our waterproofs "let out," and our umbrellas were of no more use than a cabbage leaf would be.

    "Are you travellers?"

    "I think we are."

    "Let me see your return tickets."

    Tickets (borrowed ones) shown.

    "All right, you can come in."

    We accepted the invitation.

    Emerging from the hotel after we had refreshed, we were met by some half-dozen people at the door.

    "Con we have owt t' sup here?" asked th' tallest of the lot.

    "Are you travellers?" was the usual question.

    "Aye, by gum! aw think we are.  We're fro' Burnley."

    "Dud-oos?"

    "Aye, yo'r reet, measter."

    "Let me look at your return tickets."

    The spokesman pulled out a tobacco pouch.

    "Aw put it i' here for t' be safe," said the fellow, feeling inside the pouch.  "Aw corned find it," he said, looking quite glum.

    "Tha must ha' smooked it last neet," suggested a companion.

    "Think sooa?"

    "Aye, if tha cornd find it."

    "Well, you can't come in unless you do find it," said the landlord.  "These others may come in, if they can show their tickets."

    Tickets produced instanter; and the lot, with one exception, filed into the hotel.

    "Well, aw'm dickyed!" exclaimed the exception, "smookin' a railroad ticket! it's a good job it wurn't a five-pun nooate.  Aw'd ha' smooked that!  Never noa moore!" and he took out his pipe and smashed it on the flags.  Then putting his hands into his pockets, and hitching his shoulders up to his ears, walked with an uncertain gait down the street, dashing the wet out of his cap by striking his knee with it.

    We came upon a crowd who had crammed themselves under a piazza in front of the Beach Hotel.

    "This is a weary day, is not it, measter?" said an old woman, addressing a new-comer, whose buttoned coat was varnished all over.

    "Sorry I left Manchester," was the observation evoked.  "Did yo' come this morning?"

    "Yes."

    "An' heaw wur th' weather theere?"

    "As fine a hay-day as ever I saw."

    "Eh, yo' never say'n; an' we're stondin' here i' ' this plight!  Aw've a good mind to go whoam to-day.  Aw wish aw'd never come'n; but this snicket here would have me t' come.  Hoo said it would do my rhumatiz good; but it's made it wurr.  Dun yo' think it'll rain o day?"

    "Yes, and to-morrow, too."

    "Aw'm off to mi lodgin's then, rain or no rain.  Come, Sileena, theau browt me here, an' theau'll ha' to take me back," and the old woman waddled out of the crowd, followed by what I took to be her grand-daughter.

    Seeing that it was the time the dinner-bell ought to be sounding, we splashed away to our "diggings;" feeling as much benefited by our stroll through the rain, as was the old duck under the piazza, whom the gentleman from Manchester had been "having," as he told me afterwards, by representing that the weather at the latter place was all that could be wished.

    The afternoon was spent in cheating night of its slumber, as the rain never ceased of all day.


――――♦――――

 
A PIG BURIAL CLUB.

A TALE OF MILES PLATTING.


                        'Twas a jolly old time,
                        When the pig in its prime,
Squeaked and grunted, and snored in its stye
                        When colliers and weavers,
                        And makers of beavers,
Each grew their own "Kiss-i-mas" pie.—Toby Tinpot.


THOSE of the travelling community who only know Miles Platting by its railway station do not know Miles Platting proper.  That glorious architectural triumph known as the "Lamb Lane Sough," and which is dotted on the map as a railway bridge, is not within a quarter of a mile of the boundary line which gives the district its name.  Miles Platting is in Manchester, not in Newton Heath, and the inhabitants thereabouts of some forty years ago were socially distinct from their neighbours on all sides.  Whilst the thinly scattered dwellers north of the "White Hart" took their nightly penny gill in quiet, with old Ned Shirley, or with mine host of the "Cup," "Ryder's Row " was in constant ferment, and battle after battle usually brought to a close the work-a-day week.  But we must not confound all classes with the boisterous element.  There were those of the quiet school, and very knowing people they were.

    A rough kind of providence was the characteristic of some of these people.  Dingy as the neighbourhood may now appear, it had at the time of which I write, its numerous garden plots, but devoted more to vegetable culture than the growth of flowers.  The plot of land known as "Bone Hill Park," and which is now covered with bricks and mortar, I can remember being quite a community of "pot-yarb" raisers.  One-storey huts, or "shanties," some of which were used as dwellings, gave to the place the appearance of a well-ordered Indian settlement; I have seen something similar on the banks of the Ottawa, in Lower Canada.  Each hut had its "pig-cote," and seldom was it tenantless.  "Bacon-trees" were permitted to grow here in peace, only disturbed of their sluggish life a few days before Christmas, when they were unceremoniously "evicted," and lodgings found them in the kitchens of their owners.  But let it not be supposed that when the period of departing this life came, the funeral rites usually performed over individuals of the genus homo were administered to the porcine race.  They were permitted to stay longer above ground, their hearts embalmed with sage and onions, and their bodies preserved in salt.  Unlike our own poor humanity, they were considered to be worth more dead than when living, and their death, instead of being mourned over by friends who had known them longest—yea, from their very birth—was hailed with much rejoicing.  But for all that, and when undertakers, sextons, and parsons were cheated out of their fees, and tailors and dressmakers had to go without a "job," some of these pigs were entered in burial clubs.

    I have often thought that the grown-up people of forty years ago had not as much sentiment in their nature as those of the present time.  If a death had occurred in a family, the first question asked by a neighbour would have been, "Is he in a club?"  If the question was answered in the affirmative, it would be remarked, "Well, it's a good job; hoo'll be able to put him o' one side dacently."  There would be no questions asked as to how the widow was left, or how the children would be brought up.  Like other women similarly situated, she would have to "scrat," and that was all.  Now that the deceased could be buried "dacently," sorrow was out of the question; and what is implied in the observation "hoo'll soon clog agen," was generally the amount of sympathy accorded.

    This custom of dealing with the remains of a "dear departed" as if their orderly interment was of quite as much importance as the salvation of their soul, created in families a feeling of emulation; and which could treat the remains of a deceased relative in the most becoming manner encouraged habits of providence among the very poorest.  It was a social reproach not to belong to a "buryin' club;" and the inhabitants of Miles Platting were quite alive to this kind of degradation.  "Th' children's club" held at the "―― Arms" was a great institution; and almost everybody who had sons and daughters growing up had them entered in its books.  The quarterly club night was an event that caused nearly as much stir as the wakes; and several days of a drinking bout were too often the consequences; but it was thought nothing of at the time.

    The society had its officers, like other societies of a kindred purpose.  These were generally men whose characters for honesty were above suspicion.  Their worst attribute was their love of drink; and this failing sometimes put them to shifts that exposed them to strong temptations.  They had a command over the funds which could not be interfered with neither by the secretary nor the treasurer.  As "steward" they could demand that every "death ticket" they presented should be paid, and without inquiry as to the legality of the transaction.

    By some means or other Miles Platting was growing in population at an enormous rate.  It might be the healthiness of the situation that was the cause.  But certain it was that the quarterly entries in the club books were nearly doubled in a year's time; and every name represented, or was supposed to represent, a newly born child.  It was remarkable that a short time before one particular Christmas there was a great run on the burial club's funds.  But there were epidemics in those days that were of frequent occurrence; and they managed to carry off a good many members of the various benefit societies.  But the one held at the "――  Arms" suffered to an alarming extent; and what was still more remarkable, they were the youngest children that were reported dead.  The tickets were, however, endorsed as they were presented; and no inquiries or comments were made.  Little strangers continued to find their way to the club books, in a majority of instances to have them erased before a year had passed over.  How very singular!

    Not so very unaccountable, my dear reader, when the truth comes to be known.  The revelation of a cottage fireside not far from the "Coalpit Brow" would have made explanation a very easy matter.  Seated at this fireside one evening were two colliers, enjoying their pipes and their fourpenny in a way so comfortable that things must have been going well with them.  For the sake of identity we will give them the nicknames of "Cobbo," and "Neplin."

    "Hast' entered yon young un o' thine yet?" asked the latter, as he took with his fingers a red cinder from the firegrate, and applied it to the bowl of his pipe, in order to light the tobacco.

    "Nawe.  Aw missed last club neet through coin' at th' 'Flyin' Trumpeter,' when aw'd bin deawn th' teawn," replied Cobbo, who was perched on a low stool that threw his knees among his ears, a position that colliers like to squat in.  "Aw'll enter her next club neet if aw'm wick."

    "Oh, it's a her, is it?" said Neplin.  "What name art' gooin' t' give her?"

    "Aw'll kessun her after my wife, Fan.  It'll pleeas th' owd damsel, an' mak' her think aw care summat abeaut her."

    "Heaw is it comin' on?"

    "Hoo doesno' thrive mich.  Aw think hoo're weant to' soon.   Skrikes a deeal, and mak's a divul of a mess amung th' spoon mayte."

    "Hoo'll get o'er that afore lung, theau'll see!"

    And Neplin applied another cinder to his pipe.  "Mooest o' yung uns fretten at th' fuss when they're weant.  Aw dar'say theau did when theau missed thy mother."

    "No deaut aw did; it's nattural, aw reckon."

    Cobbo took a long pull at his fourpenny, and a longer pull at his pipe, giving thoughtful glances at the fire, and moving his head uneasily about.  The most indifferent observer might have seen that something of a serious nature was exercising his mind.  At last he broke out with—

    "Aw'll tell thee what, Neplin, aw dunno' like th' way ut yond club-books are bein' hondled an' skenned o'er.  Ther's summat i' hatchin' theau may depend on't.  These Boardman Square wayvers are as fause as boggarts.  If we're fund eaut, we shall be transported, as sure as sleck's sleck."

    "Aw'm getten rayther deawn on't misel'," said Neplin; and the heads of the two colliers went together as if they were afraid of listeners.  "But aw'm wurr feart o' yon Cropper Street nur aw am o' Boardman Square.  Ther's a lung yead or two theere ut han summat in 'em beside what they con catch; an' aw con see 'em together every club neet.  They sleepen like weasels, thoose dun."

    "Well, after o's said an' done, Neplin, aw conno' see ut we're dooin' th' club ony hurt," said Cobbo, and he spoke in a more confident tone.  Ther's a greater risk i' childer nur i' pigs.  A choilt may have th' maizles, or scarlet feyver; or it may get dreawnt, or brunt to deeath, or poisen't wi' swallowin' summat eaut o'th' cubbort; or it may get ridden o'er, but a pig never ails noane o' thoose disorders."

    "Well, it couldno' get to th' cubbort, so ther'd be no danger on it bein' poisen't, unless it geet to owd Aaron's vittril bottle ut he keeps in his shop.  If it geet its yead i'th' fire, an' hadno sense for t' poo it eaut afore it wur swithert off, sarve it reet!  But theau knows owd Shel had one ridden o'er once, becose it would play wi' dogs."  The native humour was breaking out, and Neplin's remark about the pig caused a smile.

    "Aye, aw know that," said Cobbo; "but doesno' theau see, it wur an odd pig; an' had bin suckled wi' owd Eckersley's bull bitch; so it wur nowt to go by.  It had naturally a likin' for t' kennel."

    "That's th' way aw ackeaunt for it, Cobbo.  It's a thing ut met no' happen in a hundert litters.  But puttin' that eaut o' seet, I agree wi' thee ut ther's moore risk i' childer nur ther' is i' pigs.  A pig doesno' get smoort wi' th' mother lyin' on it when hoo's drunken.  Nor it doesno' get clemmed till it's like a skeleton, not if a men cares for his bacon.  Nor it's no teethin' to go through, an' be in danger o' gettin' poisen't wi' paddygorrick.  It's a chance o' livin' fro' one Kesmas to another; an' that's what a good deeal o' childer hanno'."

    "If they're o like owd Jim Wiketer we could manage to cart on beaut danger o' law damp blowin' us up.  See ut he's fourpenny enoogh, an' a two-armed cheear for t' peawch an' snore in, an' we met enter a goose or two beaut him findin' us eaut.  But neaw they'rn for havin' what they coen auditors, they'n be wantin' t' know heaw it could be ut ther so mony moore childer deed at Kesmas nur at ony other time.  Aw yerd a Cropper- Streeter say ut he never could find eaut wheere a lot on 'em wur buried, nor what they deed on.  Aw towd him one o' mine wur scauden; but aw didno' say it wur after it wur deead, noather."

    "Theau met ha' towd him it wur hung, too; an' it wur buried wheere nob'dy could tak' it up," said Neplin, who had as many deaths to account for as his friend Cobbo.  "Aw aulus towd 'em mine deed o'th' steel feyver; an' ut it wur a disorder ut ran i'th' family.  They had to be buried soon, becose they wouldno' keep lung, unless they'rn put i' saut."

    What further conversation passed between the two colliers is not recorded; but as matters turned out it was found that the fears they were under that certain discoveries would be made were not without a cause.  Neplin had just drawn for the latest death from "steel feyver," and the corpse was then hanging in the kitchen.  Most of the money had been spent, as it usually was, over a spree; for it must not be thought that motives of greed were at the bottom of these transactions.  Drinking in those days was regarded as a laudable kind of pastime; but it was not heavy drinking.  A man will spend as much in one day at the present time, as would then have served a nest of tap-room roisterers a whole week.  The means of raising a "dooment" were not so accessible as they are now, or perhaps the pig swindle would never have been thought of.  However, while it lasted, Miles Platting was in a fever of public-house revelry; but laziness had more to do with it than downright fuddling.

    It was Christmas week, and the fourth day of a "to be continued" spree.  Neplin's pig's "buryin' brass" had been the means of supplying the "sinews of war," and the drinking engagement was fought on the field of the "White Hart," the "Black Horse," the "Heywood," the "Innocent," and the "Rompin' Kitlin'."  A dozen of these soldiers of St. Barleycorn were holding high revel at the latter place.  The frying-pan was loaded with steaks, and the appetite-provoking fragrance of onions could he inhaled by anyone who passed the door.  The chimney had been set on fire several times during the cooking operation, and the blaze had as often been extinguished by a "slat o' drink."

    But a stranger appeared on the scene.  He was not dressed in blue, nor in scarlet-braided brown.  Still he had the stamp of authority in his appearance, and there was silence outside the frying-pan.  The stranger counted the number of the party assembled—just twelve of them.  He then called out their names.  How strange that he should know them!  There was one, however, who was not called by his proper name, because nobody ever knew it.  He was only known by the nickname of "Yar Joe;" and this led to his claiming immunity from the operation of the summons that was at once read out.  The effect of the summons was that—"You are required to serve as jurymen on a coroner's inquest."  The case was one of supposed murder; and the strictest secrecy was enjoined for fear the alleged murderer might escape.

    "Murder!  Ther's bin no murder abeaut here as aw know on!" said Cobbo, who was no more surprised than were his companions.

    "You will be required to prove one or the other," said the man of authority.  "The coroner will be at the 'Lamb Inn,' the public-house nearest the scene of the supposed murder, at twelve o'clock.  It is now half-past eleven.  Fail not to attend at your peril."  Exit man of authority in feigned haste.

    "This 'as put th' damper upo' my stomach," said Neplin, and he cast his eyes on the frying-pan.

    "An' mine too," said Cobbo, whose eyes followed those of his particular crony.

    Others confessed to having a similar feeling,—in fact, the whole company, with the exception of "Yar Joe," who begged that his friends would not be uneasy on account of the steaks, as he could eat the whole "frizzle" himself, when it was ready.

    But there was a descent made on the frying-pan that was rather disappointing to "Yar Joe," and the steaks were dispatched quite in time for the re-assembling of the party at the "Lamb," or as it was mostly called, the "Innocent."  "Yar Joe" was prevailed upon not to desert his companions, and the "twelve good men and true" mustered to a man, but the coroner had not yet arrived.

    "A body has been found with its throat cut," said the man who had summoned the jury, "and the suspicion of foul play is well founded.  It is in the interests of the Children's Burial Society held at the '―― Arms' that this inquest is being held, as the deceased was a member.  In the absence of the coroner we will go and view the body."  The man of authority led the way, and the jury followed, some of the members describing a zig-zag line as they filed down Sycamore Street.

    "It strikes me, owd sinner," said Neplin, as he shouldered his friend Cobbo, "ut things are comin' to a crisus.  Theau may depend on't it's yon pig o' mine he's after."

    "Aw've bin thinkin' so o th' time," said Cobbo, who burst out laughing.  "If we bring it in murder, owd Jonty 'll be th' murderer, an' aw'll propose he's hung i'th' place o'th' pig."

    "Well, ther's one thing to be said, they conno' get that ut ther is noane on, con they?"

    "It 'ud be hard wark, aw think."

    "Well, it may be safely said ut ther's no buryin' brass."

    "That's bin swallowed; an' if they getten it fro' wheere it's gone ther'll ha' to be some better pumping nur ever ther' wur ut a coalpit.  But sithi, they'n stopped at yo'r dur!"

    "They'n find nowt nobbut some bacon sauted deawn, noather.  If eaur Sally plays her part weel we shall get eaut o' this mess as nice as ninepence."

    Sally did play her part well.  The jury were met at the door by a strong smell of burnt feathers; the housewife alleging that through putrefaction having set in, the corpse had been buried; so there was none to view.  The jury, nevertheless, sat and fuddled; and the verdict recorded was—"Died by the visitation of the butcher!"  The man of authority turned out to be one of their own companions, so completely disguised that not one of them had a suspicion that they were being sold.  The trick had the effect, however, of preventing any further entries of pigs as members of the "Miles Platting Children's Burial Society," as the secret had got wind.


――――♦――――

 
AB-O'TH'-YATE'S REVENGE.


HEAW to come straight wi' Sam Smithies for introducin' me to a sham queen, an' gettin' me laafed at throughout Windsor, beside a trick or two he'd played me afore, wur a piece o' business ut aw set mi mind on at once, an' aw begun o' thinkin' deeply an' mortifiedly abeaut it.  Me, a philosophic an' taicher ov owd ideas heaw to spreaut an' look green agen, to be made int' a common leatheryead by a mon ut hadno' sense enoogh to tee hissel' to a woman, an' no moore brains nur what's wanted fort' mak' money!  It wouldno' bear thinkin' on, witheaut feelin' for a whip or summat—it met be a moral whip, or one fit for droivin' pigs wi—but a whip o' some soart, weel knotted abeaut th' end, an' calkilated for raisin' blisters at every stroke.

    Th' owd rib sided wi' me when aw named it, an' agreed for t' help me as weel as hoo could, an' aw felt ut that would be no little if hoo fairly set her mind on't.  Someheaw women han betther invention nur men, speshly if ther's mischief to be done.  Aw dar'say if we could get to know th' truth abeaut it, Jimmy Watt didno' invent th' steeam engine.  Aw'd wager my carcase, an' that's a good stake, ut his mother had moore to do wi' it nur he had.  Eaur Sal had moore to do wi' what aw'm gooin' to tell yo' abeaut nur aw had, though aw reckon aw shall get th' credit ont'.  Mony a wife has made a fortin' for her husband i' his name, an' th' would has gone to bed wi' th' belief ut th' yorney has made it hissel'.  Aw dunno' see th' justice on't, noather.  Let's give even a woman her due.

    Well, to mi tale, an' yo'n say it is one afore yo' getten through it.

    After eaur Sal an' me had cooled eaur tempers a bit by lettin' eaut middlin' freely abeaut Sam, we begun a plannin' a campaign ut should bring a dacent victory to eaur side.  Aw must say ut for misel' aw're as numb as a jackass abeaut it at th' fust, an' mi revenge would ha' come to nowt if it hadno' bin for womanly help.  Trustin' to a wife is betther nur tamperin' wi' th' Owd Lad ony time, becose it's safer.  As we'rn marchin' up City Road eaur Sal gan a sudden stop, an' said—

    "Ab, aw have it!"

    "Stick to it, then, owd crayther! till we getten to a leet," aw said, thinkin' hoo'd happen fund a suvverin' or summat.  "Aw hope it'll turn eaut to be a good un."

    "Wait till we getten back to Ann at Isachar's," hoo said.  An' hoo gan eaut a crack o' laafin',—a regilar Walmsley Fowter, it wur, an' ut shook her sides till they made her stays rap like a pair o' new shoon!

    "Couldt' no' gi'e me an inklin' on it neaw?" aw said, feelin' like someb'dy ut wants to get to th' botthom ov a sacret at one dive.

    "Nawe," hoo said; "aw should ne'er be able to get thi whoam if aw did.  Theau'd be wantin' to co' somewheere, an' have a fuddle o'er it.  Yo' men con do nowt beaut gettin' drunken."

    "Well, put thi best Sunday foout fust," aw said, "an let's be knowin' summat.  Aw did think o' co'in at th' 'Aigle' for just a throttle-weetin', but aw dunno' feel as if aw wanted neaw."

    Aw thowt, after, it wur a rare plan o' gettin' me forrad.  If a woman wants to get her husband past a ale-heause dur, hoo's nowt to do but hint ut hoo's a sacret to tell him when they lond whoam.  He'll fly past like a railroad, as if he'd never known the heause afore!

    Well, we geet back to Ann at Isachar's, wheere we fund t'other lodger just navigatin' his shoon through th' shop for t' set eaut to his neet's wark.  Ann hersel' wur breeten't up like a window newly painted; an' when eaur Sal looked at her, an' said "Theau'll just do for a job aw want thi for," aw fancied aw geet a glimmer o' some trick hoo're gooin' to play on Sam Smithies.

    We held a keauncil o' war at once.

    "Ann," th' owd rib said, "is yon lodger o' thine ov a jealous turn?"

    "Why?" Ann said, lookin' as if it wur th' strangest question ut could be axt.

    "Oh, theau doesno' need to look so gawmless!" eaur Sal said; "aw con see fur nur th' end o' mi nose.  Theau'rt noan geared up so fine for nob'dy nobbut us to look at thi!"

    "There's nothing in that quarter, I can tell you, Sarah, if that's what you mean," Ann said, as sollitly as if hoo'd ha' sworn it upo' a betther book nur a shop-book.  "Mr. Jefferson Washington is too much of a gentleman to cast his eyes so low as me."  Though hoo looked, as hoo said it, as if hoo thowt th' Queen hersel'—th' gradely Queen aw meean—wur nobbut smo' drink at side on her.

    "Theau munno' tell me, Ann," th' owd rib said, givin' her a good broad stare," ut theau thinks dirt o' thisel'.  If aw're as young an' good lookin' as theau art, an' single like thee, an' nob'dy t' pleeas beside misel', aw should no' think ther a mon i' Lunnon to' good for me.  Would theau, fib?" an' hoo turned to me, an' trode upo' mi foout.

    "Nawe," aw said.  "If aw'd th' makkins o' her, aw should look eaut for high game.  A lord or a marquis met do, if aw could get nowt no betther; but aw'd try to hutch as nee a duke as aw could.  It's no use pluckin' a crab when ther's a apple within raich; is it hecky as like!"

    "Now, you really don't mean what you say," Ann said, swallowin' th' bait like a gudgeon.  But by th' way ut hoo squared hersel' i'th' front ov a lookin'-glass, aw knew hoo believed us.  "Misses Darley, as lives next door, often says to me, says she—'Misses Wiggins, why don't you marry?  I'm astonished at you being a widder all these years—which it isn't so very long after all, when you could marry the best gentleman in the land.'  Says I, 'It's them kids.  Stepfathers is my dread.  I had a stepfather once;' and you know, Sarah, the wollopings he used to give me, and the meals I used to go without, and which drove me to make a home for myself sooner than I should have, when I was only seventeen, and small for my age, because of the clemming and the loads of water I had to carry on my head.  If I did throw myself away, which Mister Wiggins was a good husband to me, I made the sacrifice for the sake of happiness, when p'raps I might have married rich."

    "Aye, an' a great pity, too, it is," eaur Sal said, "ut ony woman's driven to bein' comfortable when at th' same time hoo met ha' bin weel off if luck hadno' bin agen her.  It's quite heart-breakin'!"

    "It is!" Ann said, an' hoo gan a soik.

    "Well, neaw, Ann," th' owd un said, comin' to her business like a 'torney when he's had a guinea pottert into his hont, "what's past conno' be helped.  Happen th' best o' us han missed it.  We hanno' th' same chance as men.  A woman has to wait till a men spakes to her afore hoo con hook hersel' on.  If hoo're alleawed to throw a line in, whoa knows but hoo met catch as good feesh as ony ther' is i'th' sae?  But this hoo munno' do.  Hoo has to wait till hoo's hooked hersel', which, to my mind, is anythin' but reet an' gradely."

    Aw dar'say mi face wur th' colour ov her cloak while hoo're sayin' this.  Th' owd lass happen thinks hoo could ha' bin betther fitted hersel' nur havin' to put up wi' a yorney like me if hoo could ha' made a choice.  Aw cowght for t' let 'em know aw wurno' asleep, but aw said nowt.

    "To see the number of gentlemen as ogles me in the street," Ann said, "when I goes to the 'Eagle,' or the 'Wells,' as I do sometimes, being on the free list at both places!  It's really shaming!  I wonder what they take me to be?"

    "One o'th' aristocracy, no deaut," aw said.

    "But the nobs is very plain-looking people, as you'll see if you'll go to Hyde Park, and watch them drive, like imperent huzzies as they are."  An' Ann drew hersel' up as if hoo thowt hoo could put the'r leets eaut in a sniffier if hoo'd nobbut a chance o' gettin' amung 'em.

    "That's as things should be," eaur Sal said.  "It wouldno' be fair for rich folk to have everythin'; so Providence has shared eaut th' good things o' this life more equally nur we sometimes alleaw on,—riches to big folk, an' beauty to th' poor!  But aw think aw con put thee i'th' way o' havin' boath."

    Ann looked then as if owt less nur a lord spoke to her hoo'd have him put i' prison.

    "You surely don't mean it!" hoo said.

    "But aw do," th' owd rib said.  "It nobbut wants a bit o' good actin', an' if theau'rt a woman theau con manage that."

    "Well, I've been on the stage several times at the 'Wells,'" Ann said, "and know as much about the business as many a one."

    "Aye, that may be," th' owd un said; "but it isno' stage actin' ut 'll get thi a grand husbant; it's a purtendin' to be summat moore nur what theau art; a soart ov actin' ut's done every day, an' i' very nee every heause."

    "If you'll give me my part I'll see if I can do it," Ann said, quite impatiently.

    "Well, it's just here," eaur Sal said, makkin' hersel' into a soart ov a matrimonial stage manager.  "Ther's a friend o' eaurs ut's ne'er bin wed yet.  Aw know he's noan beaut brass; but he happen hasno' as mich as theau'd want.  Theau met try for him, just to get thi hont i'th' business.  If he wurno' quite up to thy mark theau could behave thisel' so as he'd gi'e thee up; an' then theau could have a breach o' promise, like mony o' one beside thi, wi' abeaut as little love t' lose.  If theau catcht him, an' didno' care for thi bargain, theau could turn him int' th' wayter agen, and lay in for betther feesh.  It ud show what theau could do if theau tried."

    Ann breetened up at this, like a bit o' new moon tryin' t' put th' owd sun eaut.  Ther's no tellin' heaw one woman con humbug another when hoo's fund her soft side.

    "Well," hoo said, "it isn't that care for another husband, or even putting myself out of the way to encourage a gentleman's attentions, only for the lark of the thing.  It would be such fun, when he proposed in earnest, to pretend didn't know what he meant, and leave him making a fool of himself.  Oh, I should enjoy it!"

    "Aye, aw'm sure theau would," th' Owd Rib said.  "Theau looks just calkilated for a job o' that soart.  If theau could bring him up for a breach o' promise, an' get a hundert or two eaut on him, it ud just sarve him reet for setten so leet o' women, as aw know he does."

    "But how am to be introduced to him?" Ann said, "when he's quite a stranger?"

    "Leave that to me," eaur Sal said.  "Eaur Ab an' him han made it up for t' goo t'—wheere is it, Ab, yo'r gooin' to i'th' mornin'?"

    "Well, ween made it up for t' goo t' Hampton Court, aw said, if it's that theau meeans.  But considerin'—"

    "Aye, Hampton Court," an' th' owd un trode o' mi foout agen.  If theau con shap it," hoo said to Ann, "thee goo too, an' me, an' Misses Jarley, or Barley, as theau coes her, con happen look after th' shop while theau'rt away."

    "What shall do when get theere?" Ann said.  "Throw in thi line, an' begin a-feeshin'."

    "But no one is allowed to fish at 'Ampton Court."

    "Theau Swetty! they conno' stop thi fro' feeshin' for a husbant."

    "Oh, I see."  An' Ann oppent her een as if hoo did see—a lung way, an' very clearly.

    "Theau munno' know eaur Ab at o," th' owd un said.  "That ud spoil everythin'.  But he could put this mon i' thi road; an' if theau couldno' manage t'other part o'th' business thisel', theau'rt a deeal different to other women.  If it coome to spakin', theau met co' thisel' Lady Mary, or some other grand name! an' mak him swallow as mich soft sooap as would cleean a heause through.  If aw had him i' hond aw'd turn him inside eaut afore aw'd done wi' him; that aw would."

    "Theau's had me i' hond mony a time, owd crayther!" Aw said.  "But theau'll happen no' find ev'rybody as soft as aw am."

    "Yo'r mich of a brun," hoo said; "an' as for bein' th' lords o' creation, as yo' co'n yo'rsel's, it's nowt nobbut aleheause brag.  Yo' never wur a match for a woman sin' th' owd mother of o geet her husbant sowd up, an' turned eaut o' heause an' harbour.  Empty words, Ab, empty words!"

    Aw felt ther' some truth i' what hoo said.  Well, afore bedtime we'd made up as nice a bit o' play as ever wur acted; an' th' mornin' after we set abeaut practisin' it, so ut ther'd be no blunderin' when it coome to be done at Hampton Court.  Aw acted Sam's part, an' Ann did her own; an' a rare bit o' fun we had.  Whether Sam would ha' takken his part as aw did, aw couldno' say at th' time; but eaur Sal said aw held eaut lunger nur hoo expected ony mon would i' reality.

    For a start, th' parlour wur t' bi co'ed "Hampton Court Gardens."  Aw wur to be seen shammokin' abeaut i'th' gardens as if aw hardly knew heaw to get time on.  This aw did for two minutes or so; lookin' up at th' ceilin', as if it wur th' sky, an' reaund abeaut me, as if they trees an' fleawers to be seen.

    Then Ann coome eaut o'th' shop, an' sneezed, for t' mak' colour come int' her face, tho' hoo'd laid some on wi' a little mop afore that.  This wur for t' raise a blush; best soart o' bait a woman con put on her hook when hoo's feeshin' for a mon.  Aw felt ut if aw'd bin Sam, aw'd ha' dragged th' flatter (float) o'er th' yead th' fust nibble; but as it wur, aw shied off a bit, an' purtended t' be lookin' at summat.  Then Ann brushed past me, an' said "Hem!"  Aw turned misel' reaund in a numb soart ov a way, an' catcht her gettin' up another artificial blush.  Seein' ut aw wouldno' bite yet, hoo dropped her napkin upo' th' floore, an' seemed to be takken wi' a pain i' her side, ut made her hoo couldno' stoop for t' gether it up hersel'.  Seein' as heaw aw'd ha' no truck still, eaur Sal said—

    "Theau may be a mon, hut theau'rt no woman's friend, or else theau'd ha' had that napkin piked up afore neaw.  Gether it up, theau foo', an' mak th' best theau con ov a good hint.  It's a better hint nur ever theau geet fro' me!"

    "Wheay, what mun aw do?" aw said, for aw du'stno' be too forrad, an' it ud be coed bad actin' if aw're to' backort.

    "Mak' it up to meet her agen, what else?" eaur Sal said.  "Squeeze her hont when theau'rt givin' her th' napkin an' hoo'l help thee eaut wi' t'other, if theau conno' find a road thisel'.  Aw see whoa had to do eaur cooartin'!"

    Well, aw piked th' napkin up, an' gan it to Ann, an' squose her hont, as awd bin towd.  For want o' summat moore lovin', aw said it wur a fine day.  We agreed abeaut th' weather straight forrad, an' then aw're fast for summat else to say.  Ann axt me if aw thowt it ud be fine th' day after; an aw said if th' weather kept on as it wur, aw'd no deaubt it would be a fine day.  Hoo agreed wi' mi so far.  Then aw axt her wheere hoo lived.  Hoo're some time afore hoo'd tell me; but at last when hoo seed eaur Sal wur getten impatient, hoo said—

    "Glos'ter Terrace, Hyde Park."

    "That's a grand pleck!  Th' middle soart o' aristocracy liven theere," aw said.  "What's yo'r name, if aw may be so bowd? "

    "Lady Mary Constance Stanhope," hoo said, "May ask yours?"

    "O' someheaw aw'd forgetten ut aw're actin' Sam Smithies' part, so aw said—

    "Ab-o'th'-Yate."

    "Indeed!  I've heard that name before," Ann said.

    "Aw've no deaut yo' han," aw said.  "Aw belung to a great Lancashire family.  Lord Derby's estate is nobbut a cabbage garden at th' side o' eaurs."

    "Really!"

    "An' it's noan encumbered, noather, an' that's best on't," aw said.

    "But—but—you're married, ain't you?" Ann said.  An' hoo looked deawn an' favvort bein' a bit flusterfied.

    "Aw dunno' want to deceive you," aw said.  "Aw'm wed at present; but yon owd hen o' mine's gettin' wur for wear, an' may turn up her toes ony day.  As soon as ever aw've getten shut on her, aw shall hang a besom eaut o'th' chamber window, wi' her neetcap stuck at th' end on't, as a sign aw'm to let, furnished or unfurnished, just to suit a tenant, an'—"

    Aw'd no sooner letten that eaut nur aw wur stopt short by a soft' pillow comin' wizzin' at mi yead, ut put off ony furr actin'!

    Well, we set eaut for Hampton Court, an' th' day wur just a reet un for th' job we had i' hond.  Ann wur as fine as a buzzart; an' wheere hoo'd getten her clooas fro', aw couldno' tell, for they wurno' ov a common soart o' finery.  Hoo'd a hat on ut favvort flyin' away, becose it had a pair o' i pigeon's wings at th' top, ut made her look quite gallus.  Aw felt as if aw wouldno' give a straw for Sam's peeace o' mind after they'd met; an' aw could hardly howd i' mi skin wi' th' thowts o' bein' straight wi' him, an' happen havin' a bit ov a balance to my credit.  When we geet to Cannon Street Station we parted; becose Sam met ha' bin waitin' at th' furr end; an' it wouldno' do for Ann an' me t' be seen gettin' eaut o'th' same carriage.  Hoo went fust-class an' aw went third; an' aw fund it eaut ut it wur a good job we did so, for Sam wur waitin' at Hampton Station, as aw expected he would be.

    "Well, Sir Abraham," he said, remindin' me o' mi Brummagham honour, "theau's kept thi word, aw see.  Heaw is it th' Owd Rib's noane come wi' thi?"

    "Hoo's gone to Buckingham Palace, to a doancin' do, or a ball, as they co'en it," aw said.

    Aw didno' leet on ut aw knew what a yorney he'd made on me th' day afore.  It ud ha' spoilt mi gam' if aw had done.

    "Hoo's summat to thank me for," he said.  "If it hadno' bin for me introducin' her t' th' Queen yesterday, hoo'd never have had that honour paid her."

    "No moore hoo would," aw said.  "We'en booath on us a greeat deeal to thank thee for; an' when we'se be eaut o' thi debt aw conno' tell.  Happen afore lung."

    "Well, never mind that," he said.  "Theau's no 'casion to think theau'rt under ony obligation to me.  Theau'rt quite welcome t' onythin' aw've done for thi."

    "Aye, aw dar'say; but theau knows aw like bein' straight wi' folk," aw said, "so ut aw con howd up mi yead, an' look th' wo'ld i'th' face.  It's a honest mon's principle."

    While we'rn talkin' aw could see ut Ann at Isachar's wur takkin stock o' Sam, so as hoo'd know him agen when th' time wur ripe for throwin' her net.  Sam gan me mony a good look, but he couldno' see what wur passin' through mi yead, tho' aw felt very nee splittin' at th' time.  Ann took th' leead o'er th' bridge; just stoppin' to look o'er th' wall, wheer ther some chaps feeshin' i'th' river.  Hoo didno' forget to show hersel' off, aw con tell yo'; an' ther lots o' folk turned reaund for t' have a peep at her.  Sam had his een abeaut him, too, aw fund, for in a bit he said―

    "A nice pair o' ankles yonder, Ab!"

    "Aye," aw said; "there's no dirt abeaut 'em."

    "As nicely turned as a shuttle tip!" he said.

    "Aye, or a cage nob," aw said.  "Owd Marlor would ha' gone ten mile to ha' seen thoose."

    "Th' face isno' a bad un, noather," said Sam.

    "It isno'," aw said, "as nice a bit a pink an' white as aw've seen for mony a bakin' day."

    "An' look at her clooas," he said (we'rn gettin' close to her then); "that dress isno' a everyday thing.  Theau may depend on't hoo's someb'dy o' some consequence."

    "No deaut hoo is," aw said.  "Aw seed her gettin' eaut ov a fust class carriage; an' aw believe yon's her footman gooin' i'th' hotel.  Aw seed her givin' him orders abeaut summat."

    By this time we'd getten up to Ann, an' hoo'd her face turned part to'ard us.  Sam skenned at her like a soft lad at a penny; an' Ann looked as if he'd 'lectrified her, for hoo went int' sich a flutter ut th' pigeon wings on her hat fairly flapped.

    "Theau's bin givin' her one o' thy gallus looks," aw said; "for summat set her o ov a tremble.  Just look at her!"

    "Did t' ever see owt like it?" Sam said.  "Hoo's fairly smitten, or a woman never wur yet!  Sithee heaw hoo's lookin' eaut o'th' corners ov her een at me neaw!"

    "Theau's made a job o' that lot!" aw said.  "If theau doesno' follow it up aw'st think theau'rt a bigger yorney nur aw took thi to be."

    "Ab," he said, an' he looked straight i' my face, "aw'll see th' end o' this.  Who knows but hoo may be as rich as a Jew?"

    "Whatever hoo may be," aw said, "hoo's strucken wi' thi; an' hoo'll do no moore good till theau's spokken to her.  Mind if hoo doesno' throw hersel' i' thi way wheerever theau goes!  Aw con see ut my company isno' wanted neaw."

    "Well, owd chap!—it's just here," Sam said, "aw aulus liked stickin' to a chum; but if theau'll think nowt at it, but quietly tak' thisel' eaut o'th' road for a while, aw'll stond a bottle o' wine."

    "Aw never wur one to spoil a good thing," aw said; "so dunno' put thisel' abeaut o'er me.  Aw couldno' put misel' abeaut o'er thee if we'd swapt shops, aw con tell thee.  So goo in an' win, an' aw'll have a quiet strowl by misel'."

    He thanked me, an' said summat abeaut a second bottle, an' a quality dinner, if things turned eaut reet.

    "Theau knows what time eaur train starts, if aw dunno' meet thi before," he said, rubbin' his honds wi' great glee; for Ann had just passed us, an' they'd had another look at one another.

    "O reet!—away reet!—away' thi!" aw said; an' a dandycock never walked i' sich majesty as Sam did when he struck eaut for th' palace.

    Aw lost seet o' booath him an' Ann directly, for aw tumbled into a aleheause, an' had a wettin' o' mi whistle, an' a good crack o' laafin,; booath on 'em at Sam's expense.

    Well, after aw'd sleet mi throttle, an' had mi sly bit o' fun, aw went into th' palace, an' had a slunter through th' reaums, looked at th' pictur's, an' at the beds wheere kings an' queens had slept, an' had a peep at misel' i' that lookin'-glass wheere a mon con see reaund his own yead; an' when aw're tired o' slurrin' abeaut upo' th' slippy floor, aw coome eaut, an' went into th' garden.

    Th' fust body aw seed, when aw'd getten eautside, wur Sam Smithies stondin' like a clooas-prop at th' end ov a lung walk, an' starin' to'ard a tree ut Ann at Isachar's wur sittin' under waftin' her face wi' a fan, quite ladylike, an' neaw an' then turnin' her yead for t' look at Sam.

    "Heaw goes?" aw said.  "Spokken yet?"

    "Nawe, but aw've bin very nee spakin'," he said.  "Th' next time aw pass her aw'st let eaut."

    "Aw never seed nob'dy as strukken i' mi life," aw said.  "Aw towd thee hoo wouldno' lose seet on thi."

    "Well, aw conno' tell heaw it is," he said.  "Ther's nowt hoo con see i' me, aw'm sure."

    "It's thi ways, mon!" aw said.  "Theau con give a look ut would fotch a duck off th' wayter.  Aw conno' see heaw ony woman could stand it."

    He set his een at me then i' sich a wheedlin' fashion, as he thowt, ut aw could hardly howd fro' brastin' eaut.  Owd Blucher, skeawlin' at a pint pot, wur a foo' to it.

    "Howd a leet, Ab!" he said, "hoo's getten' up off her seeat, an' hoo favvors as if hoo're for coomin' this road.  Ther's some nice feesh i' yond wayter at th' end o' this walk.  Just thee goo an' look at 'em."

    "Ther's some nice feesh eaut o'th' wayter, an' someb'dy's gooin' to catch one," aw said givin' him a sly wink.

    "Trust Samuel!" he said, an' motioned me off; a hint ut aw took beaut ony moore bother.

    Well i'stead o' gooin' to th' feesh-pond, aw spied mi opportunity, an' slipped mi carcase at back of a tree no far off wheere Sam stood.  Aw knew he couldno' see me becose whichever way he stirred, aw could ha' moved reaund an' kept th' tree between us.  Sam turned his back on me, an' looked up at th' palace windows, as if he'd spotted summat theere ut he couldno' tak' his een off beaut bein' throttled.  Ann at Isachar's coome sidlin' to'ard him; an' when hoo'd getten two-thri yard off, he turned reaund for t' face her.  This seemed for t' tak' her aback a bit, an' hoo gap a sudden turn, as if hoo're feart o' Sam spakin' to her.  Aw noticed then ut hoo dropped her glove, an' catcht howd o' her side wi' her honds, as if a pain had shot through her.  This wur just what wur wanted; Sam had howd o'th' glove in a jiffy an' wur hondin' it to her.

    "Neaw for it!" aw thowt.  An' aw plankt misel' deawn o' mi hunkers, for t' see as mich as aw could.

    "Oh, thank you!" Ann said, as if hoo'd nobbut just wynt enough laft for to get th' words eaut.  "You're very kind."

    "Don't name it," Sam said.  An' he waved his hont, an' turned a bit away, as if his modesty wur gettin' th' best on him.  "But if it is not too much to ask, may I have the pleasure of knowing who I have the honour of addressing?"

    "A very humble person, I can assure you, sir," Ann said, pooin' eaut a leather puss, an' feelin' in it.  "I haven't my card; but—well, we need not stand on ceremony.  Do you particularly wish to know?"

    "I do," Sam said, "I feel deeply interested in you."

    "Our family name," Ann said, lookin' at th' floor, an' turnin' o'er some gravel wi' her foout "is Stanhope—mine, Lady Mary Constance."

    "Your address?"

    Ann looked as if hoo thowt hoo're tellin' to' mich at once to a stranger, but at last simpered eaut—

    "Number ―― Glo'ster Terrace, Hyde Park."

    Sam had it deawn in his pocket book i' no time.

    "My card," he said slippin' a pastebooart into her tremblin' hont.

    "Thank you!  Manchester, I see."

    "Merchant and shipper," Sam said.

    Ann bowed an' smiled.

    "I feel highly honoured.  You Manchester merchants, they say are princes," hoo said, as if hoo felt dazzled wi' Sam's greatness.

    "Hem!" Sam said, in a modest way.  "Very humble people, I can assure you."

    "You will underrate your importance," Ann said.  "We London people are well aware of that."

    "Hem!" Sam went agen.

    "Well,—good day, sir, an' thank you again!"  This wur said wi' such a soik at the end on't ut Sam couldno' help layin' howd of her hont an' stickin' to it as if he meant to tak' it whoam with him.

    "One moment!" he said.  "You cannot think, my lady, what happiness it would give me to meet you again.  You know not how I feel towards you."

    "I am afraid that cannot be," Ann said, lookin' as if hoo thowt hoo must never see dayleet no moore.

    "Oh don't say so!  I must see you again."  An' Sam took a meauthful of her hont an' favvort relishin' it.

    Ann bit her glove a bit, an' then hoo said—

    "To-morrow I go to Leamington for a month.  This evening—"

    "You will be at home.  May I be permitted to call?"

    "Pa will be away but—"

    "That will do.  Expect me.  Good-bye, my lady!  Adieu!"

    "Good-bye, sir!" Ann said; but hoo favvort hoo could like to ha' stopt a bit lunger.  "I have a call to make in the palace; and this is about the time I shall be expected.  Good-bye, sir!  You will excuse me!"

    "Good-bye, my lady!"

    Wi' that they parted, like lads an' wenches after th' fust meetin' at a heause end; Ann gooin' into th' palace, an' Sam to look after me to'ard th' feesh pond.

    Aw bowted eaut o' mi hoidin' place as soon as th' coast wur clear, an' coome up wi' Sam just as here leanin' o'th' palisades for t' look at th' feesh."

    "Well, heaw hast gone on?" aw said, givin' him a clap on th' shoother, ut made dust fly.

    "Spiffin, Ab,—glorious!" he said, starin' at me wi' een as wild as if he'd seen a boggart.  "O straight forrad, owd lad!"

    "Aw towd thi heaw it would be if theau'd lie up," aw said.  "Aw'm never so far wrung abeaut a job o' that soart."

    "Aw have to see her agen to-neet, an' awhoam, too!" he said.  "Dost co that nowt?"

    "Some folks han oath' luck i'th' wo'ld," aw said; "but if aw'd bin sengle theau wouldno' ha' had th' job to thisel' quietly, aw con tell thi."

    "What, thee?  Phew!  Theau'd ha' bin nowheere.  Hoo's a title mon!"

    "Oh, then aw should ha' bin eaut o'th' bettin'; but ther's that bottle o' wine theau knows."

    "Aye come, an' let's have it in," he said, "we'n have two.  One 'ud do nowt neaw.  We'n ha' th' best dinner, too, ut we con get;—champagne pop, Ab.  Come on, owd smoothin'-iron!"

    A day or two after, aw happened to be lookin' through a newspapper, an' bobbed upo' this—


DRUNK AND DISORDERLY.—Yesterday, at the Marlborough Street Police Court, a respectably dressed man, who gave his name as Samuel Smithies, and who said he was a Manchester merchant, was brought before Mr. Tyrwhitt, charged with creating a disturbance at number ――, Gloster Terrace, Hyde Park, on the previous evening.  The particulars of the case were not gone into.  Defendant, who appeared to feel his position, admitted the charge, and expressed himself as exceedingly sorry for what he had done.  He had no doubt he was slightly in liquor at the time, but said he had been the victim of a cruel hoax that had excited his feelings beyond control.  He offered every apology for the annoyance he had caused to the complainant, and hoped the bench would deal as leniently as possible.  The apology was accepted, and the defendant was discharged upon paying costs.


    When aw read that aw said to misel', "Theigher Sam!—aw'm straight wi' thee neaw!"


――――♦――――

 
THE QUEEN AND SIR AB-O'TH'-YATE.


AW dreamt aw'd takken mi seeat upo' th' local board, an' had tasted th' fust sweets o' office.  Aw fund it wur like atin' sugar—th' fust suck wur th' best!  Th' seeds o' disagreement wur sown directly; an' they coome up i' little bickerin's ut grew into summat moore savage as meetin' after meetin' wur held.  Then jealousies crept in, an' intrigues begun, an' th' board wur soon divided into parties.  This wur to be a great ye'r on ackeaunt o'th' Teawn Hall bein' oppent.  It had bin whisper't ut the "Honourable John Reeves" wur to do th' oppenin' ceremony; an' th' Foresters an' th' Oddfellows wur to walk.  Some folk, ut dunno' reverence title, co'en him simply "Jack Reeves," but aw think that's hardly becomin' to'ard so useful an' popilar a mon.

    Wi' this job i' view we must choose a cheearman ut wouldno' disgrace his post by bein' to' poor for t' mak' a good show.  Fause Juddie wur put up, an' he promised ut if he're elected he'd goo as far as three peaund for a pottito-pie "do" at th' "Owd Bell," an' a bit o' summat moore when th' Teawn Hall wur oppent.  Upo' th' strength o' that promise he're elected, wi' nobbut one vote agen him, an' that wur gan by a member ut wanted to be th' cheearman hissel'.  That mon's sure to dee brokken hearted if he doesno' get a bigger title nur lokymon."

    We'd two soarts o' members on th' board—workers an' orniments.  Some worked too hard; for the'r bizzy habits led 'em to poke the'r noses into things ut didno' consarn 'em; an' they'rn aulus gettin' i' hot wayter through it.  Then they went abeaut th' neighbourhood axin folk what they wanted doin', an' they'd see it wur done, an' at no cost to th' ratepayers.  But promisin' wur o', becose they knew at th' same time ut they hadno' peawer to carry eaut what they'd promised.  Beside this, they'rn aulus makkin' a big noise abeaut summat, an' lost what bit o' influence they ever had through meddlin' an' muddlin' an messin' abeaut things, to mak' eautsiders believe nowt could go reet witheaut 'em.  Th' orniments, if they did no mischief, did no good.  They'd just show up at a meetin'; stretch the'r collars; sit deawn as if they'rn sittin' upo' eggs; purtend to look some pappers o'er; show abeaut three inches o' the'r shirt sleeves, an' then walk eaut agen.  These wur generally made eaut o' folk ut wanted to be thowt summat on above what they wur, an' would tak' it as an insult if onybody axt 'em heaw mich so-an'-so wur payin' for the'r figured wark.

    At every meetin' we'd a row abeaut summat, for it's no use sayin' ut one mon's interest is another's.  Someb'dy ud be slattin' the'r slop wayter i' the'r neighbour's fowt just to get rid on't as weel as they could.  This neighbour would sweep it to th' next, till when it geet to th' botthom o'th' lone it wur a big stinkin' mess ut nob'dy could stond.  If a gutter wur made it wur t' same thing, for it had to oppen eaut somewheere; an' th' next local board to eaurs wur gettin' the'r backs up at us.  Like two women fo'in eaut, we'rn aulus at it; an' aw reckon we shall be till doomsday!

    But th' Teawn Hall wur gettin' abeaut bein' finished, so aw thowt i' mi dreeam; an' like other buildin's o'th' same character, but ov a bigger size, it had cost a deeal moore nur th' price it wur fixed at ut fust.  If onybody con mention a case wheere a public buildin' has cost less nur th' contract wur made for, aw shall think th' wo'ld's gooin' to mend it ways a bit.  As time went on ther one or two begun to have a feelin' ut owd Juddie wurno' th' fittest mon for t' find mayte an' drink an' snoozin' quarters for th' Hon. John Reeves, as th' honour wur to' big for him to carry; an' ther some quiet plottin' agen him i' favour o' nob'dy particklar, but for t' give th' chance ov a general scramble.  "Come, Abram," aw thowt to misel' (aw're still dreeamin', yo' seen), "theau met as weel chuck thi chance in amung th' rook," so aw'd name it to th' yeadquarters awhoam.

    "Ab," th' owd rib said, puttin' on that look hoo aulus carries when hoo's playin' for a big stake wi' th' full determination o' winnin', "aw've a notion bigger nur thine."

    "Theau aulus had," aw said; for ideas o' family greatness hoo'd ever th' upper hond o' me.  "But what is it this time?"

    "Theau desarves o th' honour theau gets, if it wur ten times moore," hoo said; an' aw believed her.

    "Reet, owd ticket!" aw said.

    "Look heaw theau's sawed thi neighbours—gettin' th' sink soofed o'er; had owd Thuston's duck-cote shifted; had th' owd fowt-yate made as good as a new un; done away wi' a midden ut bred flees an' feyvers; an' whoa could ha' done moore?"

    "Nob'dy!" aw said.

    "No moore they could; an' aw think it's as little as they con do neaw for t' get thee a title bigger nur a lokymon."

    "But that's th' biggest title ther' is i'th' fowt," aw said.

    "Aye, Walmsley Fowt, but ther's a bigger fowt nur that, if theau'll nobbut bethink thisel'."

    "Sartinly, ther's Manchester Fowt, but aw should get punted eaut o' that pleck if aw tried to plant mi clogs in it."

    "But ther's Lunnon Fowt!" hoo said; an' th' owd damsel looked like Lady Macbeth when hoo's eggin her husbant on to fettle th' king's windpipe.

    "Theau tak's mi wynt neaw theau mentions Lunnon," aw said.  "Whatever is ther' i' thi yead now?"

    "Aw'd like to see thee wi' 'Sir' to thi name, just to vex Jack o' Flunter's wife, an' one or two moore."

    Aw rose i' mi throne three or four inches.

    "But heaw is it to be come at?" aw wanted to know.  "By gettin' th' Queen to come a oppenin' th' Red Heause."

    "Th' Teawn Hall, theau meeans.  Thee dunno' co it th' Red Heause agen.  It's below thy dignity!"

    "Well, Teawn Hall, then; aw'd forgetten.  This comes o' talkin' wi' folk ut are below onessel'."

    "Dost think hoo'd come?" aw said.

    "If theau'd ax her, hoo would.  Thee go to Lunnon, unbeknown to onybody, an' see her thisel'."

    "Will th' owd stockin' afford it?"

    "We con put off th' next summer's eaut, an' then.  If theau could just get a word i'th' Queen's ear, an' tell her ther's a lot ov her subjects hoo's never sin yet, an' ut would like to see her, aw'm sure hoo'd come.  We'd ha' th' best taepot eaut, an' a drop o' red caper i'th' tae; some new-baked curran mowffins; an' that ud be sich a baggin' as hoo never had yet, aw know."

    "Well done, Sarah! said like a lady.  Aw'll goo."

    "Sooner an' th' betther," hoo said.  "Goo at once!  Borrow Jim Thuston's best buryin' treausers, an' goo i' thoose.  Th' Queen ud think theau'd brokken eaut o' somewheere if theau went i' thi knee-buttoners.  Get ready neaw!"

    Aw did get ready, as if bi magic.  One con get through a deeal o' wark in a short time when they're dreeamin'; an' aw dar'say ut before th' clock had wagged through a quarter ov an' heaur, aw fund misel' i' Lunnon, tryin' th' dur at Buckingham Palace.

    "Is th' Queen awhoam?" aw said to a mon ut oppent th' dur, an' ut said aw should ha' rung th' bell.  He'd a pair o' cauves to his legs ut aw darsay they met ha' stuck pins in beaut him feelin' owt.

    "Just a-gettin' her dinner," he said.  "What name?"

    "Ab-o'th'-Yate," aw towd him.

    He flew up th' lobby as if he'd bin lifted wi' a clog when he yerd that; an' he wurno' a minute afore he're back wi' th' news ut aw met walk in.  Th' owd mother o' princes met me like a noble woman ut hoo is; an' hoo'd a lot abeaut her ut had a way o' turnin' up the'r noses at me ut th' Queen couldno' imitate.

    "Your business?" hoo said, catchin' me starin' reaund at th' grand things ther' wur abeaut.

    "Aw'm a depitation sent by me an' my wife to see if yo'd come an' have a cup o' tae, an' a new baked curran' mowffin, wi' her some day," aw said.

    Hoo looked at me for a bit, as if hoo're tryin' to remember what soart ov an animal aw wur; then hoo said—

    "I should be only too glad, if it isn't far.  You seem so open and frank that I am rather pleased with you, as honesty in appearance and purpose, with those about me, I am little acquainted with."

    "Yo'n find me jannock!" aw said.

    "What is the occasion?" hoo said, lookin' at me agen.

    "Oppenin' a Teawn Hall."

    "Where—in Manchester?"

    "Nawe; but no' far off."

    "I'm glad it isn't Manchester, as I don't care for the cotton city at all.  People there are too fussy; and too many shoulders are itching for knighthood.  If I was sure they cared as little for being called 'Sir' as I care for the title of 'Empress' I would gladly pay them a visit.  What is the name of the town you represent?"

    "Walmsley Fowt."

    "I have heard of it before.  Celebrated for cheap beef, if I'm not mistaken."

    "Exactly."

    "I'll come!"

    "Thank yo'!  Aw'm sure eaur Sal—Sarah, aw meean, will be preaud to see yo' at her table.  Rum an'—".

    "Don't mention it.  The simpler the fare and the better I shall be pleased with it.  I am simplicity's self in all things, and would rather dance a reel with the Scottish rustics than saunter through a quadrille with the noblest in the land.  Anything I can do for you?"

    "One o' mi shoothers itches a bit," aw said.  "If you'd scrat it wi' a sword it ud happen feel yezzier!"

    Her Majesty smiled, an' ordered one ov her attendants to fetch a body-pricker.  Then hoo towd me to go deawn o' one knee, which aw did.

    Th' sword wur browt; an' aw'd a bit ov a misgivin'— though why aw should ha' felt it aw dunno' know—ut th' Queen met cut mi yead off for bein' so impident as to goo an' see her.  But aw hadno' lung to be feart, for hoo laid th' sword gently on mi shoother, ut made me feel quite ov a dithery-whack, an' then said, in a voice aw shall never forget—

    "Rise, Knight of the Bobbin-wheel, Sir Abram-of-the Gate!"

    Aw did rise, too, an' wi' rayther to' mich uv a jump for my dignity, for i'stead o'th Queen's sword bein' laid on mi shoother, it wur a pair o' tung's, wi' eaur Sal's hont at th' knob end on 'em.

    "Art' gooin' to sleep, an' snaffle, an' snoore theere o neet?" th' owd rib said, layin' th' tungs deawn upo' th' fender.  "Theau's had thi yead laid back an heaur, as sure as a minute!"

    Mi greatness coome deawn wi' a tumble; but aw'd th' satisfaction o' feelin' ut, if aw wurno' Sir Ab i' reality, aw'd bin so i' mi dreeam, an' that wur th' same thing.  Life's nobbut a dreeam!


――――♦――――


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