A STRANGE RIDE
| “A Happy New Year to you, Mr. Marshall.”
“Same to yo,’ mesthur, an’ — What! is it yo’, Mesthur Jones? Sithee, Dinah, doesta see who’s here?”
“Aye! aw do,” said Dinah, “an’ awm fain to see him, an’ wish he may have mony a happy new year yet. Come in, Mesthur Jones, an’ warm yo’ a bit, for it’s a gradely cowd day. Theigher, neaw, sit yo’ deawn by th’ hob eend an’ mak’ yo’rsel’ comfortable. We’n no short stuff i’ th’ heause, but yo’re welcome to a sope o’ whoam brewed.”
“Neaw, neaw, Dinah, dunnot thee keep pufﬁn’ thy whoam brewed. It’s very nice for counthry folks same as thee an’ me, but theau munnot think ’at it suits everybody. Aw dar’say ’at Mesthur Jones would sooner go an’ have a glass deawn at th’ “Church.”
“Theau’rt sp’akin’ for thysel’, artno?” replied Dinah. “Thee let Mesthur Jones spake for hissel’. Neaw, what dun yo’ say?”
“Well, under the circumstances,” I said, “I prefer a gill of your home brewed.”
“Aw’m glad to yer yo’ say it. An’ it’s rare’n ripe, too, aw con tell yo’. It’s me as knows, for aw had to get eaut o’ bed twice last neet becose on it blowin’ th’ cork eaut.“
Whilst she went to draw the beer I cast a brief glance round the room. It was an old-fashioned cottage. There had been no attempt to shape or adorn the wood beams which supported the upper room, and the walls had never known what it was to be covered with paper. All the rooms were regularly whitewashed, and old Penky would declare that it was the best disinfector that anybody could use. “He made no ’ceawnt o’ th’ walls bein’ plestered o’er wi’ bab-heause papper an’ th’ ﬂoor covered wi’ carpet. What wur ther’ nicer he wanted to know, than a heause newly whitewashed, an’ th’ ﬂoor justmopp’d an’ stoned, an’ scattered o’er wi’ sond, an’ th’ hearthstone ornamented wi’ a bit o’ idle-back or pipe-clay? It smelt as sweet as a ﬁelt o’ newly-mown hay. But neaw-o-days folks put two or three fowds o’ paste an’ papper on their walls which had to last for six or seven years, an’ they put a carpet on th’ ﬂoor which wur never disturbed till th’ walls wanted re-papperin’. Heaw could they expect to be healthy i’ sich places? Let ’em be as they could see when ther’ wur owt i’ th’ heause ’at they hadn’t bargained for, an’ let ther’ be plenty o’ reawm for th’ winds o’ heaven to blow through it, an’ th’ doctorin’ trade wouldn’t be as brisk as it is.”
“I daresay that there is something in what you say,” I replied; “but I was not thinking of that. I was admiring your very simple but very pretty Christmas decorations.”
“Oh! that’s eaur Dinah’s doin’s. Hoo likes to see everything cheerful at Kesmus. Aw’ve just getten a bit o’ holly an’ such like i’ th’ Lea, an’ hoo’s tittivated th’ heause up hersel’.”
Just then Dinah came back with a jug of beer, which she proceeded to empty in two glasses, which she placed on the table.
“Neaw then,” she said, “just get a good dright o’ that, an’ get a pipe o’ ’bacco, an’ put yo’r feet upo’ th’ fender an’ mak’ yo’rsel’ awhoam.”
I thanked her heartily for her kind invitation, and soon Penky and I were enveloped in clouds of smoke which came curling from our pipes.
“Did yo’ yer o’ that bit of a ride at Donty had th’ other day?” inquired Penky.
“No, I never heard anything of it. Was it a peculiar ride?”
“Rayther! aw should think. An’ Donty thowt so too. Jameson’s ride wern’t in it. It happened o’ this road. One o’ Donty’s owd pals, Peter o’ th’ Bridge End, had deed i’ th’ Bastile, an’ as he’d noather kith or kin to bury him, he had to put up wi’ a pauper’s buryin’. Aw dunnot know ’at that would trouble th’ owd chap so mich, becose it doesno’ matter a very great deeol heaw we’re carried nor wheere we lie when we’re deeod. Eaur stripes dunno last lung when we get laid under th’ cowd clod. Owd P. an’ Donty had had mony a good fuddle together, but P. had tumbled off his cheear for th’ last time, an’ neaw he wur beaun t’ have a ride in—
‘A one horse hearse, in a jolly round trot.’
Donty wur th’ only one ’at claimed friendship with him, an’ he said as he should go an’ see him safely put by. He would ha’ followed th’ hearse as th’ chief and only moumer but he couldn’t expect to keep up with it, so he set off i’ th’ forenoon, wi’ a shive or two o’ cheese an’ bread in his pocket, so’s he’d be i’ time. When he geet to Middleton he begun a feelin’ as if he wanted his dinner, so he stopp’d at a aleheause at th’ side o’ th’ Church an’ coed for a pint of ale to get his cheese an’ bread deawn wi’. Before he’d ﬁnished his meal one or two moore chaps popp’d in ‘at had let o’ Donty before, an’ as they wur on for a bit o’ fun they paid for one or two moore pints for him, an’ then one or two moore, till Donty began to hang his chin on his breast an’ show signs o’ goin’ off to sleep. This wur hardly what they wanted, so one o’ th’ chaps said:—
“Howd on a bit, Donty. Theau munno’ go to sleep yet. Theau’ll be too lat’ for th’ bur in’.”
“Never mind,” replied Donty, “never mind. It doesno’ ma — mather as aw — as aw know on. Aw’st be i’ time for my own, shan’t aw? Eh! What dun yo’ say? Aw’ll — aw’ll pay for a pint for th’ fust chap ’at’s too lat’ for his own buryin’.”
“But they’re buryin’ yo’r owd friend P. this afternoon, yo’ known.”
“Aye! so they are, yo’re reet, yo’re reet. Poor owd P! Poor owd P! Aw’d never mind payin’ for him a pint neaw. What dun yo’ say, chaps? Shall — shall we trate him to a pint neaw?”
“We conno’ trate him to a pint neaw, Donty, becose he’s deeod. An’ see yo’, they’re bringin’ him up th’ road neaw.”
“Are they? Well, just co’ on him in an’ ax him t’ have a pint wi’ me.”
They geet th’ owd mon on his legs an’ helped him into th’ churchyard, but he kept mutterin’ o th’ road, “P ‘owd pal, aw’m sorry theau’rt gone. Aye, aw’m sorry theau’rt gone. But theau met ha’ a pint wi’ me for th’ sake of owd times. We’n had some pints together, hanno’ we, owd pal? But theau’s signed teetotal neaw. Aye! theau’s signed teetotal neaw. He wur a good pal wur P. He awlus stood his corner; but he’s signed teetotal neaw.
“They’re lettin’ him deawn, neaw, Donty. Dunno’ yo’ want to see him for th’ last time?
They stuck to him while he looked deawn i’ th’ grave and bid his friend farewell.
“Farewell, owd pal, farewell. Theau’s getten in a dry shop neaw; farewell. Aw’st be teetotal same as thee some day, but theau mun let me have a pint neaw for th’ sake o’th’ good owd times. Come on, chaps, let’s turn back.”
They daded him back into th’ aleheause, an’ a part of another pint sent him fast asleep upo’ th’ form. Th’ next question wur, heaw to get him whoam. Th’ driver o’ th’ heeos wur theer, but he didn’t know Donty, an’ he wurnot inclined to help him mich. Beside, if they put Donty on th’ box he’d fo’ off before they’d gone mony yards. At last one on ‘em suggested on th’ quiet, ’at they should put Donty inside th’ heeos, an’ then he would get whoam safely. This wur thowt to be just the thing, but they wur feeart ’at if th’ driver knew abeaut it he met object, so they ’ticed him into another reaum wheer they promised him to have as much as he like’t eaut of a pot o’ ’bacco, an’ while he wur eaut o’ th’ road they managed to bundle Donty into th’ heeos.
When th’ driver coom back he wanted to know wheer Donty wur, an’ they towd him that as he wur fast asleep they’d ta’en him into another reaum. This just suited th’ driver, for he didn’t want to be bothered wi’ him, an’ he reckoned as he dursno’ be back late he’d better he makin’ his road short. Nob’dy tried to persuade him to stop, for they we’rn feeart, dunnot yo’ see ’at if Donty wurn’t getten away soon he met wakken an’ spoil o th’ fun.
As soon as th’ driver had getten his ’bacco he supp’d up an’ meaunted his box an’ darted off as fast as his poor owd hoss could tak’ ’em. For a while everythin’ went o reet. Th’ chap on th’ box smook’d his pipe an’ chuckled to hissel’ as he thowt heaw he’d trick’d owd Donty. But Donty wurno done wi’ yet. He wur very quiet for a bit; but yo’ remember th’ owd lines abeaut a pauper’s heeos:—
‘The road it is rough, and the hearse has no springs.’
Well, th’ jowtin’ o’ th’ heeos shak’d Donty up a bit, an’ just as th’ driver wur coin’ at th’ Rose o’ Lancaster to get another gill, Donty wur wakkenin’ up a bit, an’ then he began o’ talkin’ to hissel’.
“This is a cowd bed,” he said. “Shusanah, (that wur his dowter) put some moore clooas on.”
He turn’d o’er, an’ feelin’ noather pillow nor ﬂock bed, he thowt he must ha’ tumbled eaut o’ bed, so he tried to get up to get in again, but he slipp’d on one o’ th’ rollers, an’ went bang wi’ his feet again th’ dur.
“Wo! Donty, Wo!” he said to hissel’. “Theau’s bin havin’ too mich corn, theau has. Steady, lad, steady.”
Just then a woman wur goin’ past, an’ when hoo yerd th’ bang an’ th’ seaund o’ someb’dy talkin’ inside th’ heeos, hoo darted into th’ aleheause, an’ sheauted eaut:—
“Wheer’s th’ driver o’ yon heeos? Ther’s a wick corpse in it!”
Everybody jump’d up same as if they’d had a galvanic shock.
“That’s him, theer!” they said, an’ they stared at one another, an’ looked as if they wur feeart o’ th’ corpse walkin’ into th’ heause ony minute. Th’ driver stood theer same as if he’d been petriﬁed, an’ could noather lift th’ gill pot to his lips nor put it deawn upo’ th’ table. At last he muttered:
“What’s that yo’ say’n, missis?”
But th’ woman wur gone, an’ th’ news wur spreadin’ like wildﬁre reaund th’ neighbourhood. Well, yo’ known, the driver hardly knew what to do. He wondered if he’d browt th’ corpse back, an’ he went o of a swat wi’ thowts on it. He dursno’ tak’ it back to th’ warkheause becose ther’d be the hangmont to play if he did. Ther wur nowt for it nobbo’ takin’ it back to Middleton, an’ though he didn’t relish th’ idea o’ goin’ o’er o that greaund again, he made up his mind at once to get it done. So he supp’d up an’ went eaut o’ th’ heause an’ th’ other chaps after him. Ther’ wur quite a little creawd o’ folks eautside, but they stood far enoof off th’ heeos, aw con assure yo’. Donty wur still talkin’ to hissel’, nu’ they could yer him sayin’, “Aye! P. owd lad, theau’rt teetotal, neaw. No moore fourpenny. What? Gone to glory, eh? Noane so mich glory wheere’s ther’s no fourpenny. Eh! but this is a funny bed. It’s — it’s noane bin shak’d up as weel as it should be. Hey! Shusanah! oppen that chamber dur an’ bring th’ candle here.”
When th’ folks seed th’ driver they coed eaut, “Here, owd mon, thy corpse is wick. Let him eaut.“ But th’ chap wur havin’ noane.
“Let him eaut yo’rsel’ if yo’ want him eaut. He’ll look a bonny object, will not he, wi’ nowt nobbut a shreaud pinn’d i’ th’ front on him. Beside, it wur my duty to leeov him i’ Middleton churchyard, an’ he’s gooin’ back theer wick or deeod.”
When it wur mentioned abeaut th’ corpse comin’ eaut wi’ nowt nobbut a shreaud pinned on it th’ creawd fell back an’ gan th’ heeos a wide berth. Th’ driver started o’ shapin’ for gettin’ on to his box, an’ Donty kept talkin’ to hissel’.
“It’s a dark hole this is, an’ that candle’s a lung time i’ comin’. Aw’ll get up an’ see what ther is to do.”
He made another attempt to get up, but he slipp’d on th’ rollers again, an’ his clogs went bang again th’ heeos dur an’ brasted it oppen. Eh! what a scutter ther wur i’ that creawd for sure. Th’ women ran i’ o directions, screeomin’ murder as hard as they could, an’ th’ childer wur skrikin’ after the’r mothers. Th’ chaps darted back i’ th’ aleheause an’ locked th’ dur, an’ wouldn’t oppen it again till someb’dy coom in at th’ back, awhile after, an’ said as o had been fund eaut. It appears ’at they couldn’t o get i’ th’ aleheause before th’ dur wur shut, an’ when thoose ’at wur laft eautside turned ’em reaund they seed Donty’s legs hangin’ eaut o’ th’ end o’ th’ heeos.
“Howd on, chaps! howd on!” one on ’em said. “Ther’s summat rung here. Yon corpse has getten breeches on. Howd on a bit, driver. Ther’s bin a bit o’ mischief here.” So th’ chap went up to th’ heeos an’ geet howd o’ Donty’s legs, but th’ other fellies hung back. He oppen’t th’ heeos dur an’ looked, but he no sooner seed who it wur nur he leet th’ dur go deawn again an’ cracked eaut o’ laughin’. “Eh! chaps, come here. This is a go for sure! It’s owd Donty ’at’s bin havin’ a chep ride inside th’ heeos.”
When they yerd this they clustered reaund an’ th’ women an’ childer coom back, for they wanted to see Donty in his new turn eaut. Th’ driver geet deawn fro’ his box an’ swore o mak’s o’ vengeance again Donty for th’ trick ’at had bin played on him, but he’re fain, i’ th’ bottom, ’at it had turned eaut as it had done. They geet Donty eaut an’ took him into th’ uleheause an’ paid for a pint for him, an’ he said they met tak’ him back to Middleton, th’ same road, for another pint.
“Neaw, that wur a strange ride, wurn’t it, Mesthur Jones?”
“Yes, and one that Donty will remember I have no doubt.”