A QUEER CURE
I awlus like to see Mrs. Oliver at eawr guild meetin’s. Hoo is sich a whoamly an’ motherly body. Hoo doesn’t come reg’lar, but when hoo does come, hoo generally lets folk know ‘at hoo’s theer. An’, mind yo’, hoo doesn’t do it in a beawncin’ or a swaggerin’ way. Hoo’s abeawt as quiet an’ as agreeable a woman as it’s possible to ﬁnd. An’ yet hoo’s a lot of inﬂuence i’ th’ guild. For instance, th’ other neet we wur talkin’ abeawt havin’ a party for th’ childer, an’ some o’ th’ members said as they thowt ‘at nob’dy owt to be alleawed to come to it nobbut childer o’ members o’ th’ guild.
When Mrs. Oliver yerd that hoo crack’d eawt o’ laughin’. “What?” hoo said. “An’ is that yo’r idea o’ spreading co-operation? Heaw are yo’ beawn t’ spread th’ glad tidin’s if yo’ keep ’em o to yo’rsels? Do’n yo’ think we should ever ha’ yerd o’ co-operation if th’ owd pioneers had been so narrow-minded an’ short-seeted as to have kept the’r shutters up an’ work’d i’ th’ dark? Aw’ll tell yo’ what it is. If we have a childer’s party i’ connection wi’ this guild, aw’st bring two o’ poor Widow Jones’ childer to it, an’ yo’ con ha’ th’ honour o’ refusin’ ’em if yo’ like.”
Of course, we couldn’t refuse Mrs. Jones’ childer, becose it wurn’t the’r fault, nor wur it the’r mother’s fault, oather, ‘at they wur poor. So Mrs. Oliver browt ’em, an’ other members browt some poor naybour’s childer, an’ a rare good do they had. They o went whoam thinkin’ what a grand thing co-operation wur. Aw believe ’at th’ guild did moore real good wi’ that one party nor they’d ha’ done wi’ putting hawve-a-dozen wimen on th’ store committee.
Someheaw or other, wi’ o her plain spakin’, o th’ members seem to have a likin’ for Mrs. Oliver. If hoo towd ’em o their faults, hoo awlus helped ’em eawt o their difficulties. An’ hoo wur th’ heart an’ soul o’ company. Hoo could sing a song or tell a tale wi’ most o’ folks. Th’ other neet some on us wur talkin’ abeawt this oppen-air treatment for weakly folks, an’ we axed her what hoo thowt abeawt it.
“Eh! bless yo’, wenches,” hoo said, “aw know nowt abeawt it misel’; but if yo’ like aw’ll tell yo a bit of an experience ‘at eawr Tom had wi’ a choilt of his.”
“Aye, do tell us, Mrs. Oliver,” we o said.
“Well,” began Mrs. Oliver, “aw dunnot think ’at yo’ know eawr Tom, but that doesn’t matter. He’s my brother, an’ aw’m reet preawd on him, for he’s as nice a felley as ever lived. He’s as true a co-operator as Mitchell wur, an’ that’s saying’ a good deeol, an’ it’s not so oft he misses attendin’ th’ store meetin’s i’ th’ teawn wheer he lives. He used to be on th’ committee, but he gan it up, becose his time wur so mich occupied wi’ these factories i’ connection wi’ what’s co’ed limited liability movement. He’s a manager neaw, so yo’ll understond ’at he’s pretty weel off as far as this world’s goods goo. But brass isn’t everything. It con do a lot, but it connot buy health, an’ strength, an’ love, an’ happiness. Eawr Tom had a nice heawse, an’ a good income; but he’d a dowter, a young woman ’at wur nobbut in a very poor way. He did o ’at he could for her, but hoo didn’t seem to mak’ mich progress. He sent her to Southport, an’ Blackpool, an’ th’ Isle o’ Man, an’ th’ Isle o’ Wight, an’ o sich like places; but they didn’t mak’ any difference. Hoo gradually went weaker. It wur a great trouble, aw con tell yo’, to her mother an’ fayther, an’ especially to her sweetheart, Bill Travis. He wur a gradely nice yung chap, wur Bill, an’, what wur better, ther’ wur every chance on him bein’ made into a manager someday. Aw used to feel so sorry for him when aw thowt abeawt him gooin’ a cooertin’, an’ ﬁndin’ his dear girl gooin’ less an’ less every time ’at he clipp’d her up. But Bill stuck true to his girl, an’ never leet her think ‘at he’d fund eawt owt different. Sometimes hoo reckon’d to tell him that hoo’d never get better, an’ that he’d better be lookin’ eawt for a fresh girl; but, bless yo’, hoo’d ha’ brokken her heart if he had done. But Bill wurno’ one o’ that sort. He used to kiss her, an’ tells her to cheer up, for hoo’d soon be o reet, an’ they’d be gettin’ wed before long. But Bill didn’t think so; nawe, poor lad. Bill didn’t think so. Th’ doctor towd ’em ’at he’d done o ’at he could for her, an’ he advised ’em to send her to one o’ these institutions ’at yo’ wur talkin’ abeawt, wheer they gi’ ’em nowt nobbut plenty o’ fresh air an’ a gradely bellyful o’ summat t’ eat. Bill an’ eawr Tom thowt th’ matter o’er very seriously, an’ at last, wi’ her consent, they decided ‘at hoo should goo. Booath Bill an’ eawr Tom went wi’ her. Aw dunnot know wheer they took her, but aw know they coom back lookin’ very melancholy, for they booath thowt ’at hoo’d never come back alive again. But they wur chetted, as we wur o chetted. Hoo hadn’t been theer lung before hoo started o’ pickin’ up, an’ i’ little o’er six months’ time hoo wur as fat as a pig. Aw remember it wur i’ th’ depth o’ winter when hoo come back; but hoo looked as fresh an’ as rosy as th’ fleawers i’ May. Hoo hadn’t a cloak on, wi’ a collar ‘at stood up as hee as th’ creawn of her yed, an’ hoo hadn’t a fur, nor muff, nor gloves. Hoo simply leet the wind of heaven blow abeawt her as it liked. Hoo didn’t fawer th’ same wench, hoo wur so plump an’ hearty an’ bonny. Her fayther wur so preawd an’ overjoyed, ’at he did what mooist o’ folks do i’ sich circumstances, an’ what they awlus used to do, according to Scriptures. He made a party, an’ invited a few of his friends an’ some of his dowter’s friends to rejoice with him.
“Aws’t never forget that party. It wur blowin’ enoof to lift th’ roofs off th’ heawses, an’ th’ snow wur driftin’, so that th’ heawses i’ th’ streets nobbo fawert snow walls. When we geet to eawr Tom’s, we fund th’ dur oppen, an’ th’ windows oppen, an’ th’ snow wur blowin’ in from o directions.
“‘Whatever dun yo’ meeon?’ aw said, as soon as aw could get my wynt, and get eawt o’ th’ road o’ th’ snow an’ th’ draft. ‘Yo’ll o catch yo’r deeoth o’ cowds if yo’ dunnot mind what yo’re doin’.”
“Eawr Tom nobbut laughed at this, but aw could see ‘at he had his tag on an’ a mufﬂer reawnd his neck, while his wife had a big shawl o’er her yed. As for Bill, he sit shiverin’ i’ one corner wi’ his girl, ’at look’d as warm an’ comfortable as if it ’ad been a midsummer’s day.
“‘Sit thee deawn, lass,’ eawr Tom said to me, ‘an’ poo thy bonnet off.’
“‘Nawe! that aw shannot. Not a stitch shall aw poo off as lung as that dur an’ thoose windows are oppen. Does ta’ want us to be o frozzen to deeoth?’
“‘Aw’m very, very sorry,’ he said to us o; ‘but when we invited yo’ to come to yo’r baggin’ here, we forgeet to tell yo’ ’at eawr ‘Liza connot do wi’ closed-up reawms neaw. Hoo mun ha’ plenty o’ fresh air.’
“‘Well,’ aw said, ’hoo con have as mich as hoo likes, but this is rayther too mich for one, an’ before aw’st stond this sort aw’m goin’ whoam again.’
“Aw could see ’at th’ other folks thowt th’ same, but they didn’t like sayin’ owt.
“‘Well, it’s quite a mistake,’ explained eawr Tom; ’but do try to put up with it this time. I hardly know what to do, becose, yo’ see, if we keep th’ windows an’ th’ dur oppen, yo’ connot stond it, an’ if we shut ’em, eawr Liza connot stond it.’
“Of course, it was rayther awkart, seein’ that we’d gone specially to see Liza, an’ to congratulate her upon her recovery. So we decided ’at we’d try to put up with it, an’ wi’ that th’ table wur set eawt, an’ we sit us deawn to eawr baggin’. But what a do it wur, for sure! Th’ women had o th’r cloaks, or shawls, or bonnets on, an’ th’ chaps wur o mufﬂe’t up same as if they’d been sit at a table ’at wur nail’d to th’ North Pole.
“Some o’ th’ men teed handkichers reawnd the’r yeds, an’ it made ’em look bonny objects, aw con tell yo’. Sam o’ Bobs kept his tall hat on as lung as he could, but it wurn’t for lung, aw con assure yo’. Just as eawr Tom’s wife wur pourin’ th’ tay eawt, ther’ coom an extra gust o’ wind, an’ it wapt Sam’s hat off in a crack. It ﬂew o’er th’ table like a footbo’, an’ as ‘Sam iump’d up an’ made a grab for it, he knocked th’ taypot eawt of eawr Tom’s wife’s honds, am’ it fell onto th’ pots ’at wur on th’ table wi’ a crash, while th’ tay wur o slatthert onto his wife’s best dress. Aw never seed sich a commotion as ther’ wur. Women screeom’d, an’ th’ wind blew, an’ pieces o’ turkey ﬂew off th’ plates same as if th’ birds had come to life again. Sam o’ Bob’s an’ his wife said ‘at they wouldn’t stop another minute unless booath th’ windows an’ th’ durs wur shut. Well, to pacify o on us, eawr Tom agreed to shut ’em. An’ then ther’ wur trouble with the’r Liza. Th’ reawm wur too stiﬂin’ for her. Hoo couldn’t get her wynt. Ther’ wur nowt for it nobbo’ ﬁxin’ up a table for her i’ th’ backyard, an’ lettin’ her have her baggin’ by hersel’. Hoo wur quite agreeable to this, but her felley didn’t like th’ thowts of her bein’ lonely, so he insisted on bein’ with her. We o thowt it wur very risky on him to do this, but then, yo’ known heaw foolish yung chaps are when they’re i’ love. So we lapp’d him up weel wi’ shawls, an’ took it for granted that hoo’d hutch close up to him an’ keep him warm.
“Then, when we’d sattlet ’em booath eawtside — tho’ aw must ‘say ’at aw felt gradely sorry for th’ lad — we shut th’ durs an’ th’ windows, an’ byet th’ foire up, an’ tried to mak’ eawrsel’s comfortable.
“Aw thowt it wur booath funny doctorin’ an’ queer cooartin’, an’ I axed eawr Tom what he thowt abeawt it.
“‘Well, Dinah,’ he said, ‘to tell thee th’ truth, aw’ve hardly had time to collect my thowts abeawt it yet, but it’s makkin’ weary wark wi’ us. They co’en it goin’ back to nature, an’ aw’m feeart, if things dunnot awther, ’at some on us will be goin’ back for good. Yo’ see what yon lad has to put up wi’ to-neet. We’, it’s nobbut a ﬂea-bite to what we o ha’ to go through. Th’ ﬁrst neet hoo coom whoam we had to get up i’ th’ middle o’ th’ neet an’ oppen o th’ windows, becose hoo said ’at hoo wur almost suffocatin’. Talk abeawt drafts! They wur whistlin’ an’ chasin’ one another through th’ chambers an’ reawnd th’ corners same as if they wur playin’ at whip. Ther’ wur no sleep for th’ remainder o’ th’ family that neet. It wur worse inside th’ heawse nor eawt, so we walk’d up an’ deawn th’ lone to keep th’ blood circulatin’. Aw towd th’ wife to imagine ’at hoo wur havin’ her cooartin’ days o’er again. As for Bill, poor lad, aw dunnot know what’ll become of him. He likes his girl as weel as ony mon ever liked his sweetheart, but he’ll never be able to stond her ways. Hoo hardly dar let him clip her for fear ‘at her temperature should rise above a certain point. Hoo has to carry a thermometer abeawt with her, an’ if hoo ﬁnds hersel’ gettin’ too warm, hoo has to plank hersel’ deawn oather i’ th’ ﬁelds or by th’ roadside while hoo cools deawn again. It doesn’t matter whether it’s weet or dry, deawn hoo has to goo. This is rayther hard lines for Bill, becose if he doesn’t want to sit on th’ weet grass he has to stond at th’ side on her, or else walk backar’d or forra’d i’ th’ front on her, same as if he wur keepin’ th’ sentry. If it rains, hoo winnot have an umbrell, becose umbrells are nobbut a modern invention, an’ aren’t required by nature. If hoo gets weet, hoo simply walks abeawt till hoo gets dry again. Aw’m sure ’at Bill doesn’t like this, becose onybody knows heaw nice it is cooartin’ under an umbrell. Why, even when he went to fotch her whoam, after hoo’d been away so lung, he geet sich a cowd as made him bark like a dog for mony a day. Yo’ see they had a compartment o’ th’ train to the’rsels, th’ biggest part o’ th’ road, an’ Bill thowt they wur beawn to have it very nice. But hoo would have th’ carriage windows oppen, altho’ it wur blowin’ an’ rainin’ sommat fearful. He’ll be knock’d o’er yet, as sure as aw’m here, will Bill, an’ heaw we’st ha’ to go on i’ th’ heawse aw connot tell. Hoo seems to have a constitution like a horse, an’ hoo con ate like one, too.’”
“Well, an’ heaw did hoo go on after that, Mrs. Oliver?” we axed.
“Aw con hardly tell yo’,” hoo answert. “Aw gen that heawse, an’ o’ its healthy breezes a wide berth. It wurn’t lung before aw yerd ’at Bill had brokken deawn, an’ that he’d been ta’en to th’ same place as his girl had been to to recruit his strength an’ revert to Nature’s methods. He coom back just i’ th’ same condition as hoo coom back, an’ it wur happen just as weel ’at it wur so, for nob’dy else could live with em. It spoilt ’em for their ordinary work, too, as they wur ﬁt for nowt nobbut farmers or nawies.
“Eawr Tom said ‘at he’d furnish ’em a farmhouse, on th’ top o’ Saddleworth Moors, if they’d only get wed, an’ they said they would.
“If ever yo’re up that road, some Kesmus, an’ yo’ see a weel-furnished farmhouse, wi’ o th’ windows an’ o th’ durs wide oppen, yo’ may be sure ’at eawr Tom’s wench lives theer.”