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“Hello, Ailse!  Is that thee?  An’ heaw is th’ world usin’ thee?”

“Well, nobbut in a poor sort of a way at present, Dick.  Aw’ve bin laid up wi’ this influenza, or summat they co’ it, for above a week, an’ aw’ve hardly getten o’ my feet agen yet.”

The speakers were Dick o’ th’ Fowt and Ailse Yardley.  If the family Bible had been consulted no doubt the entry on the fly-leaf concerning Dick would have read Richard Dawson, &c., &c., but being the son of John Dawson, who had lived in the Fold all his life, and during the greater part of that time been designated “Jack o’ th’ Fowt,” he easily acquired the hereditary title of “Dick o’ th’ Fowt.”  His father and mother were hand-loom weavers, and he himself had been reared to the same occupation, but the decline of the silk industry, consequent upon the French Treaty, compelled him, amongst many others, to seek an entrance into some other branch of trade.  He was too old to become an apprentice, but he fortunately secured employment at Platt’s shop where, as an unskilled labourer, his duties were to attend to two machines that did the work of several mechanics.  In the course of a few years he naturally became an adept at his work, and being paid by piece, he was, at the time of our story, earning almost as much as the regular journeymen mechanics.  He had never married, but had lived with and supported his parents until they were called to visit that bourne from whence no traveller returns.  Since that time he had not removed from the old home where he and his sister seemed to live a comfortable life.

Ailse Yardley had been less fortunate.  She, too, had been brought up as a silk weaver, but when the trade collapsed there were but few other channels whereby women could earn a respectable livelihood.  After a long interval of waiting she obtained a situation as a reeler, and things went on happily for a time.  Then a change took place.  Her mother and father died within a few days of each other, and her brother married and left her and a sister to shift for themselves.  By dint of hard work they succeeded, until the sister sickened and died, and Ailse was left alone in the wide, wide world.  She sold the little furniture which was left, and went to live with a neighbour.  She soon realised the difference between lodgings and a home, but she was helpless.  She was buffeted about from pillar to post, with no one to assist or befriend her.  She stuck to her reeling, however, and was thus enabled to maintain herself.  At the time of our story she was living with old Matty Brown, who had been left a widow with a rather large family.  It is singular how those with the greatest cares are able to find room for the most practical sympathy with others.  Matty and Ailse agreed very well together, and Ailse made herself very useful in the household work.

Dick and Ailse had grown up together from childhood; and they never met without exchanging a word or two of friendly greeting.

“Aye, it’s a nasty disease is this influenza,
said Dick.  “Aw wish th’ Roosians would ha’ kept it to thersels; but aw reckon ther havin’ a bit o’ revenge neaw for Sebastipol.

“Aw dunnot know what ther havin’” replied Ailse, “but aw know that aw’ve had a very bad time on it.”

“Aw’m very sorry to yer it, Ailse.  But what did theau get for it?”

“Nowt particular,” said Ailse.  “Aw thowt it wur no use havin’ a doctor, becose they seem to know no moore abeawt it nor us.  Aw geet a good sweat, supped plenty o’ composition, and kept misel’ as warm as aw could.”

“They tell me ’at Scotch whiskey’s a fine thing for it,” suggested Dick.

“Aw darsay it is for thoose ’at like it, especially for thoose ’at want moore nor they con get.”

“By th’ mass!  Theau’rt reet, too, Ailse,” replied Dick.  “It’s a rare excuse for some folk.  Theau knows Jerry at th’ Lone End.  Well, he went whoam fuddle’t tother neet, an’ he said ’at he’d bin suppin’ Scotch whiskey becose-he felt as if he’d th’ influenza comin’ on.  His wife thowt nowt abeawt it that neet, but when he coom whoam fuddle’t again th’ neet after, becose he said ’at he felt it comin’ on again, hoo said ’at it wur o fudge.  Jerry, heawever, wur noane gooin’ t’ be put off like that.  He’re beawn t’ have a gradely cure, so he geet fuddle’t off Scotch whiskey every neet for a week, an’ he reckons ’at it wur chepper nor doctor’s physic.”

“Aye!  That fawers Jerry,” said Ailse.  “He’s smatches o’ th’ influenza, or summat, very often.  But aw mun be gooin’ or else Matty will be wonderin’ what’s become on me.  Aw’ve just been a buyin’ in at th’ store, an’ hoo axed me to get back as soon as aw could.”

“Well, theau munnot vex Matty, for hoo’s a daycent sort of a body.  But talkin’ abeawt store reminds me o’ summat.  Hasto yerd ’at Nancy Buckley’s beawn t’ be wed?”

“Nawe, aw hannot.”

“But it’s thrue.”

“Theau never says!  An’ whoever to?”

“Who dost think?”

“Nay, aw connot tell.”

“Why, to Tum o’ Ben’s.  They’re gooin’ to be ax’t up first time th’ next Sunday.”

“Well done Nancy,” said Ailse.  “But heaw has that come abeawt, Dick?”

“Aw’ll tell thee,” replied Dick.  “But let me carry thi fleaur, an’ aw’ll go thy road, an’ tell thee as we go on?”

So Dick got hold of Ailse’s flour, and told here how the engagement of Nancy Buckley had come to pass.

“Theau sees it wur this road,” said Dick.  “Tum works at th’ store, weighin’ fleaur an’ sich like, an’ of course he sees a lot o’ women, an’ has a good opportunity o’ judgin’ o’ the’r qualifications.  He con not only form an opinion as to the’r good looks, but he’s a chance o’ seein’ whether the’r careful, an’ so on.  Neaw, aw believe ’at Tum had had his eyes on Nancy a good while, but he oather couldn’t muster courage enoof, or couldn’t find an opportunity o’ tellin’ her what he wanted.  Heawever, tother week, as luck would have it, Nancy lost a sovereign.  That doesn’t look so lucky, does it?  But i’ this case it wur.  Nancy, theau sees, wur buyin’ in as usual, an’ when hoo’d getten o her stuff weighed eawt uppo’ th’ ceawnter hoo pood a sovereign eawt of her pocket to pay with.  Well, o’ some heaw hoo leet it slip, an’ it dropped on th’ floor, an wheer it rolled to nobody could tell.  Hoo looked o reawnd an’ reawnd, an’ Tum helped her, an’ tother folk ’at wur i’ th’ shop helped her, but th’ sovereign couldn’t be fund.  Hoo wur at her wits end.  Hoo’d o her stuff theer, but, hoo’d no brass to pay for it, an’ th’ store, theau knows, doesno’ sell oppo’ th’ strap.  Well, Tum, like th’ good natured chap ’at he wur, said ’at he’d pay for th’ stuff, as he’d be sure to find th’ sovereign i’ith’ course of a day or two.  But he never did.  Whether somebody else fund it or not he never knew.  But sithee, if he didno’ go deawn to Nancy’s a neet or two after, when he’d shut th’ shop up, an’ tell her ’at he’d fund th’ brass, an’ give her th’ sovereign.  Hoo thanked him o ’at hoo could, an’ hoo wur payin’ him for th’ stuff ’at hoo
d, had, but Tum wouldn’t have it.  He declared ’at he’re only too glad to have fund it, an’ he wanted nowt back.  Well, of course Nancy said that he’re very good to do sich a kind action for her, an’ he said ’at he hadn’t done hauve enoof, an’ he nobbo wished hoo’d let him do a lot moore.  An’ when hoo ax’d him heaw hoo could let him, he said ’at if hoo’d nobbo have him he’d do o ‘at he could to mak’ her happy an’ comfortable.  An’ sithee’ Ailse, if he didno’ sam howd on her, before hoo could say owt, an’ buss her as aw believe hoo’d never bin buss’d before, although it wur said ’at hoo courted wi’ Jack o’ Bill’s when hoo wur nobbut abeawt twenty yer owd.  They never bothered abeawt th’ lost sovereign ony moore, but Tum took her to th’ Store Tay Party th’ Seturday after, an’ neaw, as aw’ve towd thee, they’re bein’ ax’t up th’ first time at th’ Owd Church next Sunday.”

By the time this narrative was concluded they had reached the door of the cottage where Ailse lived.  Dick had never been in, notwithstanding that Matty and he were old friends; but as he was carrying the flour for Ailse he followed her into the house without hesitation.  There was no one else in, as Matty had just been called to a neighbour’s to give her advice in a case of sickness.  Dick put the flour upon the table, and was about to depart, when Ailse said:

“Aw’m very much obliged to thee, Dick, for carryin’ my fleaur.  Aw’m sure it’s very good an’ kind on thee.”

“Eh! say nowt abeawt it, wench.  Aw feel just abeawt like Tum o’ Ben’s this minute.  Aw feel as if aw hadn’t done hauve enoof for thee.”

“Ger off wi’ thee, Dick.”

“It’s thrue, Ailse; it is for sure.  Theau doesno’ know heaw mich aw’ve thowt abeawt thee.  Aw wish theau’d let me carry thy fleaur and buy it for thee reglar.”

“Theau’rt gammonin’ me neaw, Dick.”

“Nay, aw’m not, Ailse.  Aw like thee too weel for that.”  And putting his arm gently around her, and kissing her, he said:

“What dost say to livin’ in a cot o’ thy own, wheer aw’ll mak’ thee as happy as th’ day is lung?  Come lass, say the word, an’ we’ll be wed on th’ same day as Tum o’ Ben’s an’ Nancy Buckley, an’ it shall be a gradely double store wedding.”

Ailse said nothing then, but there was a Double Store Wedding after all.


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