Lancashire Sketches Vol. 2 (III.)

Home Up Lancashire Songs Lancashire Life Lancashire Sketches I. Rambles in the Lakes The Cotton Famine Poems and Songs I. Poems and Songs II. Besom Ben Tufts of Heather I. Tufts of Heather II. The Chimney Corner The Limping Pilgrim The Barrel Organ Sheet Music Sheet Music Sheet Music Miscellanea Main Index Site Search
 


 

[Previous Page]


CHAPTER I.


"Aw'm not a woman 'at oft speaks,
     Or sings folk doleful songs,
 But aw con tell my mind to thee,—
     Thae knows what things belongs."

NATTERIN NAN.


"FO' EDGE," or Fall Edge, about five miles north of Bury, is one of the wildest moorland ridges in Lancashire.  It is a little lower than "Whittle Pike," the bleak cone of which stands about half a mile to the south-west, more than sixteen hundred feet above the sea.  The view from "Fo' Edge," looking westward, is very striking.  A deep, lonely clough, green only on the lower grounds, and almost treeless, save where some cherished bit of shade overhangs the gables of a solitary farmhouse, or where scanty patches of young plantation fringe the banks of the stream, which murmurs in many-mooded cadences down the rocky channel, hidden from view.  The clough is bounded on each side by wild hills, which, though not of immense height, have a solemn and imposing aspect, sloping and swelling down in grand billowly sweeps, and in some places falling away abruptly in steep bluffs of barren crag.  For about two miles the clough has a desolate appearance; and the only habitations visible are four or five moorland farmhouses, perched here and there, on green "coignes of vantage," far apart, upon the scene.  The plaintive bleat of scattered sheep, and the clucking cry of startled grouse, come wildly from those lonely wastes.  Further down, the hills die away in gentler slopes of greener land, into the rich valley through which the Irwell runs in freakish windings on its way to the sea, between banks studded with tall chimneys, that tell the busy tale of Lancashire industrialism.  The landscape then closes on the west with the steep side of Holcombe Hill, well cultivated, far up; streaked with white and winding roads, and sprinkled with farmhouses, little clustered folds, churches, and mansions; but crowned all along the summit with a dark tract of heathery desolation.  It is a fine moorland landscape, well known to those earnest students of botany and geology, who, not content with a lazy reliance upon other men's theories, go forth, with loving hearts and hungry minds, to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" here a leaf and there a leaf of Nature's old book for themselves.

    A little below the rocky crest of "Fo' Edge," on the west side, there is a quaint farmstead, where a family of kind-hearted, simple folk live.  It is the highmost, the last, and loneliest dwelling upon the mountain side.  A little companionship of friends—men of varied tastes and acquirements, who love to roam the moors together, "when summer days are fine," we have often wandered up to that old farmhouse, and always found a welcome there none the less because we were always accompanied by an old scientific friend, who had been nursed in his infancy by the farmer's wife.  The last time we were there was in the pride of the year.  We had spent some three hours of the sunniest part of the day in rambling up the rocky bed of the stream, toward its source on "Fo' Edge," stepping from stone to stone, slipping into the brook sometimes, and resting oft in cool nooks to chat, and watch the water play.  In that pleasant river ramble we lingered by many a delicious pool and by many a silvery fall.  But, when we got into the wild gorge, at the head of the clough, we had to clamber up slippery crags, and through watery crevices festooned with mist-powdered ferns, and cushioned with beds of the greenest moss, glittering with pearly spray.  Up the ragged ravine we clambered, from rock to rock, till we came out, at last, upon the unshaded moorland, a little below the "Edge," where the gables of "Bill o' Johnny's" mountain nest met our eyes, and we felt at home.  As we drew near the house the dogs rushed forth, barking furiously, till some familiar face met their eyes, when their fury died away, first into low growls, then into a whimpering welcome, as they came slowly up, wriggling their bodies and wagging their tails, in recognition of old friends; but, that done, they walked quietly round among the company, snuffing slyly at the legs of those least known to them, as if they were not willing to fondle every new comer without due examination.  The dogs had roused the family.  Out they came, one after another and heartily glad they were to see us.  Why hadn't we sent them word that we were coming?  They were sure we were hungry; and so we were.  And then a cheery bustle arose in the house; and we loitered about the farm till dinner was spread for us upon a green knoll, by the side of an old well, fed by a rindle of cold spring water.  And there, under the blue sky, we feasted, with wild plovers wheeling about us; and, high over our head, the skylark raining down his glad song upon our green table.  Black-faced sheep upon the mountain side stared at us with wondering eyes; and our noisy merriment startled the grouse from his heathery cover.  It was a hearty meal.  Oat-cake and "Oon-cake," new baked that day by homely old "Ann;" sweet moorland butter, cheese, crisp, young onions, dripping with well-water, new milk, warm from the cow; fried ham, and home-brewed ale.  It was a delicious feast, eaten in the grandest room man ever entered.  Fun, and song, and sage discourse went round freely; and that banquet under the blue sky will be long remembered by us amongst little things that light the past with gleams of joy.

    Long before sunset, we came down the mountain side, halting in twos and threes, now and then to share some burst of merriment; or to listen to some snatch of learned discourse upon the testimony of the rocks; or to ask our friend the "Antiquary," a question about relics of Roman occupation in the district.  It is three miles from "Fo' Edge" to "Mercer's" comfortable hostelry, at the foot of the hills, at Edenfield.  Here we rested, and regaled, for an hour or so; after which, we came away; some to take the train at Stubbins, and some to walk along the high road, five miles, to Bury.  My route was different to the others; and at the south end of the village I parted from my friends, taking a road on the left hand, which leads into the old highway from Burnley to Manchester.  This old road is lonely now, and a greater part of it is rugged and watery, and grown over with grass and weeds.  In some places it dives down steep banks, into deep cloughs, and crosses brawling streams, and then climbs again in slippery, toilsome windings, that make one think that if the horses of these days only knew what their ancestors had to go through, they would be thankful for railways.  In some parts of the road there are holes, and pools of water; in others, great masses of rock crop out, laid bare by heavy rains, and kept so by long neglect; and in others the banks have slipped into the path, leaving it so narrow that "two wheelbarrows would tremble if they met."  There is many an old house by this roadside, now roofless and ruined, which fifty years ago was a flourishing country inn, or some other brisk haunt of a great thoroughfare.  But, the lone highway has long since forgotten what a four-horse coach was like; and there is an air of desolation and decay all along, except down in the cloughs, where mills have been built by the water-sides.

    The rosy rays of evening fell grandly upon the silent road as I walked along, musing whether or not I should call to see "Owd Grunsel," the gardener, whose house I was approaching.  Owd Grunsel's little cot stands in a snug green nook, at the foot of a little ridge of woodland.  The rustling trees tell every changing mood of the wind to it all day long, and the ends of the wooded ridge curl in towards it lovingly, as if they wished to protect it from the troubles of the outer world.  All day long the birds sing jets of song to the old gardener's cottage; and, when night comes and the household lights are put out, the trees seem to whisper to one another, "Hush!  Sing low!  It is asleep!" and when, before the first lifting of the morning latch, the blue smoke begins to curl up from the chimney into the clear air, the leaves of the wood clap their little hands with glee to see it waken up again.  The old man's nest looks up at the wild moors, and a garden divides it from the lonely road.  About a mile down the hills there is a busy manufacturing village; but the intervening ridge of woodland hides that cosy cot from the noisy side of the world.

    As I drew near the place, I saw the door was open, as usual; and the cat was sitting at the threshold, looking dreamily out into the twilight.  And I could see Matty and her grand-daughter moving to and fro inside.  The old woman was a little deaf; but, before I had opened the gate, I heard little Jenny say, "Hey, gronny!  See yo who's coming!"

    "Well, iv ever!" said the old woman, turning round as she wiped a basin which she had just washed.  "Nell, iv ever!  Is that yo?  Come forrud, prayo!  It's good for sore e'en, is this. . . . Jenny, bring him a cheer, lass.  Thae stons theer as gawmless as a boother-stone! . . . Yo known this woman, dunnot yo?" continued she, pointing to a stout, sweet, apple-faced body, who sat at the opposite side of the fire, with a basket upon her knees, and a chocolate-coloured silk kerchief tied upon her head.  "It's Jim wife, at th' Nod.  They'n bin killin' a pig; an' hoo's brought me a bit o' spar-rib; an' a link o' black puddins,—an' a bit o' swine's graice to rub mi bakin'-tins wi'.  Aw say, aw dunnot know heaw aw'm to pay 'em, for they're al'ays bringing summit or another."

    "Eh, never name it, Matty," said the woman, shifting uneasily upon her chair, and the colour rising into her ruddy cheek; "Never name it!  It's nobbut good will an' ill, mon; a bit of a thing like that."

    "Well, Mary," said the old woman, "aw con nobbut thank tho, thae knows.  But yo see'n," continued she, turning to me, "I nurs't her, when hoo wur quite yung, at after her mother dee'd; an' hoo like taks to mo, as iv hoo're a lass o' my own,—doesn'to, Mary?"

    "Yigh, aw do," replied the woman; "an' so does eawr Jim."

    "Ay, he does," replied the old woman, sighing as she opened the oven door and shut it again; "ay, he does. . . . Yo see'n, aw'm bakin'," continued she, turning to me.  "Our Sam's gardenin' deawn at 'Thistley Knower' but he'll not be long afore he's here.  Sit yo deawn a bit," and then she scaled the fire, and set the kettle on.

    "Well, Matty," said I, pulling up my chair, "and how are yo gettin' on?"

    "Why," replied she, setting one hand upon her side, "but poorly, bless yo,—but poorly.  This rheumatic troubles me so.  An' my e'e-seet's gettin' warse.  Mon, age will tell,—it will tell. . . . An' aw feel quite knocked up to-day. . . . Eh, aw've had sich a trawnce!"

    "Why, where hap yo bin?"

    "Stop a minute," said the old woman, "I'll put th' dur to. . . . Come, puss!  Ch-ch-ch! . . . . Jenny, fotch yon mug in."

    When the door was shut she hobbled up to the oven and taking a cake out, she tapped upon it with her finger, and turned it over.  As she put it in again she muttered to herself, "Ay, it's doin' nicely."  Closing the oven, and setting her hands upon her hips, she gave a long sigh as she looked slowly round the house, and said, "I think I'll e'en drop it for to-day; for I'm clen done o'er.  Oh, this pain!  It taks me across th' smo' o' my back.  Jenny, reitch that knittin'.  An' poo th' cheer up to th' hob, for I'm as wake as a kitlin'."

    The old woman sat down; and, as she arranged her needles, she said, "I'm fain yo co'de, for it gets one-ly at neet, wi nobody to talk to.  An' I like a bit of a chat.  Our Sam says he wonders how it is that th' rheumatic never touches my tongue.  But I'll tell you where aw've bin to-day."

    "Do," said I, hatching my chair near to the hob.

    "I will," replied Matty, disentangling her worsted, and settling herself once more, in a way that convinced me she was going to begin a long story.

    "Yo see'n," she began, "yo see'n, our Sam went out yesterday a gettin' a burn o' nettles for th' owd mistress at The Split-Brid, yon.  He never cheep't a word to me.  But I knowed what he wor after, bless yo.  Yo seen hoo wur very good to him at th' time that he lee ill so long.  Why hoo's good to onybody,—an' that's where it is.  That woman's like as if hoo taks a pride i' helpin' folk that are a bit hamper't—hoo does for sure.  Doesn't hoo, Mary?"

    "Yigh, hoo does."

    "Ay.  Hoo's a very feelin' body, is Nanny,—hoo is, for sure.  An' as for our Sam; why, he's very thoughtless abeawt some things, reet enough; but, Lord bless yo, iv onybody does him a good turn, he never forgets it,—never. . . . Thae knows that; doesn'to, Mary?"

    "Yigh, aw do."

    "When he's th' sober side eawt, neaw," continued the old woman, "he's not a mon 'at's g'in to talkie' at o'.  He'll sit by the fire, hour after hour, an' never cheep. . . . But, eh, yo should yer him when he's had a gill or two!  Lord in heaven bless yo, he's as soft as my pocket.  An' he comes eawt wi' sich nonsense as one would expect that a mon at his time o' life should ha' forgetten. . . . Aw say to him, sometimes aw say, 'Sam, do houd thi tung, aw pritho!  That mak o' talk may do for yung folk at's new wed,—but it's noan becomin' in an owd body.'  An' then, he will ha 't that he's as yung as ever he wur. . . . But, aw known better, bless yo. . . . But then, what's th' use?  One's like to humour him a bit, yo known.  Thae's yerd him, Mary, when he's bin agate ov his bother, hasn'to?"

    "Sure, aw have; mony a time."

    "Ay, thae has . . . . But yo'd be astonished to see heaw nee the wayter lies to his een, when he's o' that shap.  Iv aw happen to mention somebry 'at's been good to him, or some poor body 'at's ill off, aw con have him cryin' in a minute. . . But, aw cannot find i' my heart to try him wi sich things, for aw connot help thinkin' 'at it's a sign 'at he's breighkin up.  He al'ays wur a feelin' mon; but he gets war, he gets war. . . . It's me 'at knows.  We'n been teed together forty year come Ladymas; an' yo' known, owd wed folk finden one another's bits o' ways eawt, wi' livin', an' tewin', an' pooin', an' feightin' th' world together.  They're so like. . . . Jenny, th' cat's at that milk, sitho!"

    "Scat!" said Jenny, jumping up.  And then she put the bowl upon a shelf in the buttery, and closed the door.

    "Aw've my weddin' things i'th kist up stairs; an' there they mun stop to mi deein' day. . . . Aw go an' look at 'em sometimes, an' aw turn 'em o'er, an' air 'em, an' put fresh reps among 'em,—an' it brings owd days to mi mind, very strung. . . . Mary, reitch that tother bo' o' wusted off th' table, willto?"

    "Aw see noan," replied she, turning round.  "Oh, it's here," said she picking it up from the floor, and handing it to the old woman.

    "Aye, aye," continued Matty, sighing as she took the ball of worsted.  "Aye,—aye.  It isn't to tell what folk han to go through i' this world!  Sometimes, ov a Sunday mornin', when he's been donned in his haliday things,—at after aw've brush't him, an' teed his hankeycher on, aw've watch't him as he walked eawt at that very gate, an' aw've thought to mysel' that he wur the nicest mon 'at ever trode upo' God's greawnd!  An' he wur, too. . . . But come, winnot yo have a droight o' ale? . . . Jenny, fill him a tot.  It's noan so very strung; but it's my own brewin', an' there's no mak o' prowt in it.  Maut and hops, an' nought else,—nobbut spring wayter. . . . But, eh, bless my life!  Aw'm maunder—maunder—maunderin', an' clean forgettin' was aw meant to tell yo.  Aw have sich a memory! . . . Well, but,—see yo.  Th' last neet, good Sunday an' o' as it wur,—eawr Sam coom in abeawt six o'clock, just as th' chapel bell below yon wur tollin' in for the latter sarvice, an' he'd two blue lin hankeychers wi' him, cromfull o' green stuff.  Yo' know what a chap he is for yarbs.  Jenny took 'em on him, and laid 'em upo' top o'th drawers.  An', as he hanged his hat up a-back o'th dur, he says to me, 'I've bin gettin' some nettles for Owd Nanny, at Th' Split Brid, yon.  I wish thou'd tak 'em up i'th mornin'.  'Eh, Sam,' I said; 'thou's never bin nettlin' of a Sunday again, hasto?'  'Why, what for?' he said, as nattle as could be.  'They groon of a Sunday, donnot they?  Thou'll want to stop th' smo' drink fro' wortchin' of a Sunday in-now.  I believe if th' house wur a-fire thou wouldn't sleck it out if it wur Sunday.  It's forty years sin thee an' me geet wed one Sunday.  I wish, now, that I'd put that off while Monday.'  Eh, yo never yerd how he went on?  'Owd Limper's wife geet her bed th' last Sunday,' he said.  'How leets thou didn't go an' stop that?'  Eh, he did talk?  He axed me if I'd ony notion who it wur that made Setterday.  An' he as good as towd me that I were a Sunday saint an' Monday divvle.  But I took no notice.  Lord bless yo, we'n had mony a scog about th' same thing.  Men han ways o' their own, an' they winnot be said by sich as me.  They thinken they'n o'th' wit i'th world.  So aw leet it drop, an' set th' tay out. . . . Well, I made a bit of a fat cake, as it wur a Sunday; an' aw went into th' garden an' poo'd some sallet; an' nice an' crisp it wur.  As soon as he set e'en on it, he began a-laughin', an' he says, 'Eh thou's never bin pooin' sallet ov a Sunday, hasto?'  But I took no notice.  So, when we'd getten th' tay o'er, he poo'd up to th' fire, an' began asmokin; an' I donned my spectacles, an' read th' Bible while bed-time.  An' there wur no moor about it that neet."

    The old woman bent down to pick up her worsted, and, whilst she was doing that, Mary rose, and said that she must be going home.

    "What's o' thi hurry?" said the old woman.

    "Well, yo know," replied Mary, "aw shouldn't like to be eawt when he comes whoam."

    "Nawe, nawe, thae'rt reet, lass," answered the old woman.  "Go thi ways. . . . An' thae mun do as weel asto con, thae knows.  Everybody's summat to meet wi' i' this world. . . . An' mind thae keeps yon chylt warm, whatever thae does.  It'll get o'er it, thae's see."

    "Aw, aw will."

    "Well, good neet to tho, Mary."

    "Good neet! " said Mary, wiping her eyes.  "Aw'll come o' Sunday."



CHAPTER II.


"Heaven bless thee, woman; what a heap of stuff hast thou been twisting together, without head or tail."—SANCHO PANZA.


THE sun had gone down behind the western hills, and the hum of life from the village in the valley had died away.  In the wood, a few throstles were still tossing their rich gushes of responsive song from side to side, like choristers in an old cathedral; and they seemed to sing louder than ever, as if they had been neglecting their music till the last thing; or, like schoolboys at a late game of cricket, wished to crowd as much fun as possible into the lingering light, before they were called home to roost.  The wind was playing a quiet tune on its green harp behind the cottage, by way of gentle hint to all around that it was bedtime and the voices of day were gradually giving place to those mysterious minstrels who fill the dreamy midsummer night with melodies too fine for the ear of the sunlit hours.

    Mary's way home led up into the wild moors, which rolled away from the front of the cottage in great heathery billows of silent solitude.  As she slowly ascended the rugged by-path, the old gardener's wife stood in the doorway watching her; and she lifted her hands, and slowly shook her head as she said, in a low plaintive tone, "Aye, aye.  Go thi ways, Mary, my lass!  Go thi ways!  Thae's gettin' thi wark bi th' hond, God help tho!"  The old woman stood till Mary disappeared round a craggy knoll; and then she turned, and came into the house.  Taking up her knitting, she sat down by the fire again; and, as she arranged her worsted, she heaved a sigh, and said, "Aye.  Poor Mary!  Hoo's tried to some tune,—hoo is that!  An' a better lass never stepped shoe leather,—never.  God help her!  An' God help us o'—for we needen it,—we done so."  The old woman went on knitting in silence for a minute or two; and I was wondering what painful story was smouldering under this sad soliloquy when little Jenny broke the stillness by asking whether she should mend the fire or not.

    "Nawe, nawe," said Matty.  "It's warm enough; but thae may put th' dur to."

    Jenny closed the door, and sat down; and, as the old woman showed no disposition to speak further upon the subject that so evidently troubled her, I reminded her that she had broken off at the beginning of the story which she had promised a little while before.

    "Aye, aye," said she.  "So aw did; so aw did.  Well, as aw wur tellin' yo, this mornin' as soon as the breakfast wur sided, aw teed a bit o' stuff up for eawr Sam's dinner, an' off he seet to th' 'Thistley Knows' a-doin' some gardenin' jobs.  Well, he hadn't bin gwon mony minutes afore who should come in but eawr Jonathan's daughter. . . . Sarah's getten a fine, strung lass, neaw.  Hoo wove at Scutcher's, while they wur agate; but sin they stopped hoo's helped her mother wi' th' clooas.  Her mother taks in weshin'.  Eawr Jonathan's a greight family.  The Lord knows heaw he manages to scrat for a livin' these times, for he's bin eawt o' wark nine months, an' Nanny's nee th' deawn-lyin' again. . . . But, as aw wur tellin' yo, Sarah's a fine, hearty lass.  Hoo'll be nineteen come Rushbearin' Sunday.  But what thinken yo?  That monkey ov a lad o' Snapper's is after her,—as yung as hoo is! . . . Eh; but iv aw wur her mother, see yo, aw'd tak that pouse at top o' th' yed wi' th' fire-pote iv ever he darken't my dur-hole upo' sich an' arran' as that; aw would! . . . He'll never do her a smite o' good; for he thinks o' nought i' th' world but race-runnin', an' wrostlin', an' pigeon-flyin', an' single-step doancin', an' sich like sleeveless wark as that.  An' he's as mischievous a little twod as ever broke brade. . . . One neet aw sit knittin' at th' table under th' window theer, as it met be to-neet, nobbut it wur darker, an' o' at once, my ear gated o' ticklin' like hey-go-mad; an' weet began o' runnin' eawt on it.  Well; aw shaked my yed; an' aw wiped my ear, an' better wiped it; but it made no mends.  At last am geet freeten't, for aw began o' thinkin' some new ailment had taen howd on mo.  So am laid deawn my knittin' and aw said, 'Jenny, run for thi gron-fayther.  There's summat uncuth agate i' this yed o' mine.  Aw believe aw'm beawn to have a fit.'  But as soon as hoo oppen't th' dur, there wur a great crack o' laughin' an' a scatter o' feet i'th' garden. . . . An' what war it, thinken yo? . . . It war nought i'th world but that ill-getten whelp o' Snapper's that had bin squirtin' wayter into my ear through a hole i'th corner o'th window. . . Eh, aw war some mad. . . . But, that's nought, bless yo. . . . Aw'll tell yo heaw he sarv't owd Ailse 'at keeps th' toffy-shop deawn i'th fowd yon.  Yo known Ailse is a lone woman.  Hoo lives in a little low cot 'at stons by itsel'; a bit past 'Th' Noon Sun Well.'  It's a less heawse nor this.  Why; yo may touch th' bottom o'th chamber window wi' yo'r hoed nearly. . . . Well, as this ill-mixt' cowt o' Snapper's war trailin' whoam late one winter's neet, when he'd bin drinkin' an' doin' wi' a rackety swarm at gwos to th' sign o'th 'Twitchelt Boggart,' a-playin' at dominoes, an' sich like, he sees a mug 'at Ailse had laft eawt o'th dur, 'at after hoo'd getten to bed. . . . O' wur dark an' still; an' there wur nought stirring but sich like rackless neetcrows as his'sel'. . . . Well; what does he do, but starts a-roggin' at th' dur, as iv th' heawse wur a-fire.  Well; Ailse coom to th' window in her neet-geawn; and hoo code eawt 'whatever's to do?'  'Mistress,' he said; 'dun yo know 'at yo'n laft a mug eawt?'  'Eh, ay,' hoo says, 'aw have.'  'Well,' he said; 'hadn't yo better tak it in?  There's a rook o' chaps bin cloddin at it.  Aw thought aw'd tell yo.'  'Thank yo, maister,' said Ailse; 'thank yo mony a toime.  Aw'll come deawn an' fotch it in.'  Well; th' ill-contrive't divvle—'at aw should say sich a thing,—he see'd that th' chamber-window wur a very little un; so he said, 'Here, mistress; y'on no 'casion to come deawn.  Aw'll reitch it up to yo.'  So without givin' it a thought, hoo thanked him again, an' then hoo leant forrud eawt o'th window, while he hove th' mug up to her.  An' as soon as hoo'd getten howd on't, he bad her good neet; an' walked off.  'Good neet, maister!' said Ailse; 'an, thank yo!' an' then hoo began a twistin' an' twinin' to get th' mug in.  But th' window wur too little,—dunnot yo see; an' theer hoo wur, in her neet-geawn, th' hauve road eawt o'th window, ov a snowy neet,—grinnin' an' gruntin' an' feightin' wi' th' mug, till her arms warch't again. . . . But it wur no use.  So at last hoo sheawted after him, 'Hey! Maister!  Aw say!  Tak th' mug deawn again!  Aw connot get it in!'  But there wur no onswer. . . .Th' pousement wur watchin' her off at th' heawse-end o' th' time, bless yo but he never cheept.  Well; yo known, hoo couldn't stop shiverin' theer o' neet, wi' th' mug in her arms.  An' there wur nobody to help her.  So, at last, hoo let it go to th' floor wi' a crash.  'Thire!' said Ailse, looking deawn after th' mug, 'that's ninepence! . . . But th' felly's noan to blame.  He did it with a good thowt.'  'Ay, aw did, Ailse,' said he, peepin' off at th' corner.  'Good neet, owd crayther!'  Ailse see'd in a minute that hoo'd bin taen in; and hoo gave him a good tung-lashin' as he walked off.  'Thaer't some mak ov a mismanner't waistril,' hoo said; 'that theaw art.  But, i'tho'll reitch me a good-sized lump o' that mug up, neaw, aw'll tay tho a-top o'th nob wi't, seawndly; an' soon, too; for theaw't an ill whelp o' sombory's.  But, aw'll fot law on tho, iv aw live while mornin', see iv aw dunnot!'  An' so hoo went on.  But hoo met as well ha' talked to a stoo-fuut, bless yo.  He took no moor notice nor if it had bin an owd cat meawin'! . . . Eh, he's an ill un,—pile't-up an' deawn-thrutch't.  He dasarves whippin' fro teawn to teawn at a cart-tail,—an' he'll get it yet,—iv he's luck. . . . But, aw'm missin' my tale.  As aw're tellin' yo,—this mornin', eawn Jonathan daughter coom to th' dur wi' a basket-full o' clooas ov her yed, an' hoo code eawt, 'Is my Aint Mattie in?'  An' aw said, 'Ay; come in, witho, what arto stonnin' theer for?'  So hoo set th' basket deawn at th' dur, an' hoo coom in; an' hoo said 'at her mother had towd her to co' a-seein' heaw aw wur.  An' aw said to her, 'Well, lass; thae mun tell her 'at aw'm nobbut thus an' so.  Tell her 'at aw've had a smatch o'th rheumatic again.  An' th' spine o' my back troubles me badly.  An' aw'm ill o' my yed betimes.  This weather's again me. . . . Thi Uncle Sam's wortchin' up at the Thistley Knowe. . . . Hasto had thi breakfast?'  An' hoo said, 'Eh, ay.  Lung sin.' . . . At th' same time aw know that they're clemmed like wedge-wood. . . . Aw don't know heaw it is.  That lass would ha' had a bite wi' us neaw an' then, when times wur good; but aw connot get her to taste, neaw.  Hoo like as iv hoo shames to own 'at they're ill off.  An' hoo looks hungry; an' her face is nipped wi' stomach-frost.'  But, hoo's preadwer nor ever, aw believe. . . . An' the're o' like, except th' very little uns. . . . Eawr Sam sent two shillin' up tother day; but Jonathan sent it back, an' said it wur a shame iv they couldn't feight through beawt lyin' upon two owd folk like us. . . . My heart bleeds for 'em, see yo,—for aw know they're ill pincer't.  But, aw geet the brass to Nanny at after, beawt lettin Jonathan know, dunnot yo see.  Well; hoo're nearly as ill as tother; for hoo cried, like an owd foo, an' boo said hoo wouldn't ha' touched it, but for th' sake o'th childer. . . . But, Lord bless my life! aw'm maunderin', an' missin' my tale again.  This yed o' mine isn't worth a row o' pins. . . . As aw're tellin' yo abeawt eawr Jonathan lass:—'Well, Sarah,' aw said to her; 'an' wheer hasto bin?'  So, hoo towd mo that hoo'd bin up to th' Ho' for some weshin', and hoo're gooin' whoam wi't.  So, aw towd her aw had to go deawn to th' fowd wi' a burn o' nettles, an' iv hoo'd watch two or three minutes, we'd go together part o' th' gate. . . . Well; in a bit we set off,—hur wi her basket, an' me wi' my nettles; an' a bonny marlock hoo played upo th' road.  But, yo'st yer. . . . When we geet to th' corner o'th lone, at th' side o' Amos o' Rapper shop, there wur some stone-carts gooin' by; an' th' owd mistress at th' Parsonage, an' two young ladies, very nicely donned, stoode upo th' foot-gate, waitin' till they'd getten by.  As soon as Sarah see'd 'em, hoo said, 'Aint Matty; aw'm tire't.'  So I said, 'Put this basket down, then.  Well, see yo, hoo'd no sooner set th' basket upo' Amos durstep, than hoo begins a-starin' at these dresses, an' hoo made no more ado but went an' geet howd o' one o'th young ladies' skirts, an' hoo says, 'See, yo, Aint Matty!  Come here!  That's same mak o' stuff as we use't to weighve at Owd Scutcher's.  Aw could like one off it mpsel'.  It's nobbut chep stuff.'  Well; yo should ha' sin that young woman turn round!  Her face wur as red as a yetter!  Hoo nipt th' skirt out o' Sarah's hond, an' hoo said, 'Well, I'm sure!  Sich impidence!' an' then, they o' three whisks off to th' tother side o'th road,—as peeart as pynots.  Eh, I wur sum mad at Sarah,—th' little snicket!  Aw didn't know which gate to turn my een.  To be sure, th' lass did it without a thought; but then folk like thoose dunnot look at things th' same as sich as me does.  'Eh, Sarah,' I said, 'thou shouldn't ha' done so!'  Well; hoo looks at me as innocent as a flea, an' hoo says, 'What's to do, Aint Matty?  It's quare if one mun go by their own wark beawt oppenin' their mouth to 't.'  But, I pike't up my nettles, an' Sarah took th' basket, an' we geet out o' seet as fast as we could.  An' I gav her a good talkin' to as we walked away.  When we coom to th' corner where I had to turn up, hoo wiped her een with hur brat, an' hoo said, 'Well, Aint Matty; yo dunnot need to sauce me so mich.  Aw want noan of her clooas.  But, aw couldn't help speighkin when aw see'd that stuff,—for aw'm nearly sure aw've woven it, iv hoo wears it.' . . . An', raylee o' me; aw felt soory for th' lass after o'—for th' chylt thought nought wrang,—not hoo.  But, they han sich awvish ways in a country place, mon. . . . When we parted at th' corner o' th' road, aw said, 'Neaw, Sarah, thae'll be a good lass, winnot tho?'  An' hoo said hoo would.  An' then hoo took off whoam, an' aw went forrud to th' sign o' Th' Split-Brid wi' my nettles—"

    An' now, to my great relief, the old woman paused and rose to stir the fire.  Her little grand-daughter, who had been turning over the pictures in an old copy of Culpepper's Herbal, had dropped asleep, with her head on the book, "Come, my lass," said Matty, patting her on the head; "th' gron-dad winnot be lung, neaw.  Thae's go to bed as soon as he comes."  The kettle was boiling furiously; and as the old woman lifted it on to the hob, I took advantage of her momentary silence, which I knew would not last long—and rose to go home.

    "Nay, what's yo'r hurry?" said Matty.  "Stop till eawr Sam comes.  I haven' towd yo heaw aw went on at Th' Split-Brid, yet."

    But, "enough is as good as a feast;" and I had heard more than enough of old Matty's twaddle for one sitting; so I told her that I would hear it at some more convenient time.

    "Well," said she, following me to the door, "drop in some day th' next week, iv yo'r this gate on.  Yo known aw've no neighbours to have a bit ov a cample to.  An' aw connot talk to eawr Sam; for it mays him as crampt as a wiskit.  It wur nobbut tother day, aw began tellin' a tale 'at's getten eawt abeawt Tummy Clapper an' his wife, an' he said to that lass, he said, 'Jenny, run deawn to Billy Peighswad's as fast as tho con for some wool to put i' my ears.  An' tell 'em 'at thi gron-mother's in a scandil-fit.'  He like as iv he connot abide to yer one speighk, sometimes.  An' it's very awker't, for aw've nobry to talk to, nobbut this bit ov a lass ov eawrs; an' hoo's noan like an up-groon body, yo known.  But, one's like to humour him."

    It was a cloudless summer night; and the moon was beginning to tinge the moorland hills with silvery light.  I should not have known that there was any wind astir but for a sleepy rustle in the grove behind the cottage, which sounded distinctly in the deep stillness around.

    "Good neet, Matty," said I, walking out at the garden gate.

    "Good neet to yo!" replied the old woman.  "Iv yo leeten ov eawr Sam upo' th' road, hasten him whoam."


――――♦――――

 
THE STORM.

(A TALE OF THE COTTON FAMINE.)
______

CHAPTER I.


    Hopdance cries in poor Tom's belly for two white herring.  Croak not, black angel; I have no food for thee.

KING LEAR.


Summer afternoon. TOM BOCKIN and RONDLE O'DOTHERIN JOHNNY'S, on the highway from Blackpool to Poulton-in-the-Fylde, talking about the Cotton Famine of 1861-2.


"AY, ay, lad.  That wur about th' hardest nip that ever I went through!  We wur seven of a family o'together.  It brought my wife to her grave an' if it had gone on mich lunger, we should every one ha' bin clemmed to deeoth. . . . Talk about hard times! . . . Eh, the scenes that I seed amung th' factory folk while that famine wur agate!  When I think about it now, it looks like a dream!  But thou'll not remember mich about it Rondle,—thou'd be too yung."

    "Oh,—don't I remember it? . . . We lived at Preston at th' time o'th Cotton Famine; an' my faither wur manager o' one o'th biggest mills i'th town.  Both mi faither and mi mother wur of a religious turn; an' up to that time we'd bin weel brought up, an' we'd never known want nor scant,—nor we never expected to know it.  But no mortal con tell what there is afore 'em.  When that famine began, we wur amung th' first that wur thrut out o' wark,—for they spun fine counts at mi faither's mill,—an' afore it wur o'er we'd about as hard a poo through as ony poor souls i' Lancashire.  We stoode it middlin' th' first year, for mi faither spent his bit o' brass to keep us gooin'—an' he wur very free-honded wi' thoose that wur worse off than his sel',—for he kept thinkin' times would mend.  But when th' second year o'th famine began we wur dished up, an' as close to th' floor as th' poorest o'th poor, that wur gooin' shiverin' for their breakfast every mornin' wi' a soup-ticket i' one hond an' a borrowed pitcher i'th tother. . . . Remember it?  I should think I do,—an' ever shall! . . . I wur twelve year owd on th' 10th o' April, 1862,—an' that wur about th' time o'th keenest nip o'th famine.  I remember that I wur very tall o' mi age,—an' I'd never been breeched,—an' our folk couldn't afford to breech me, noather.  So I had to wear one o' mi sister's owd black frocks, to cover mi lung thin legs wi'.  It wur a greight trouble to me, I con tell yo, for I couldn't for shame goo out o'th house. . . . An' then mi mother begged a bit o' cloth o' some o'th neighbours, to make into a Scotch cap for me,―but hoo'd no ribbin to make a tail on.  Well,—when it wur finished, it looked like a dunce cap,—an' what wi' this cap, an' mi sister's frock, an' mi long black yure, an' mi thin clemmed jib, I wur one o'th comicalist figures 'at ever een wur claps on! . . . I remember one day,—th' first thing i'th mornin', as soon as we geet up, three o'th yungest childer begun a-cryin' for some'at to heyt,—an' th' little things wondered how it wur that they couldn't get it,—for they didn't underston' this famine business at o'.  But, cry or no cry, there wur not a crumb o' meight o' no sort i'th house for noan on us,—an' we wur every one clemmin' (starving) like wedgewood.  I looked at mi mother, an' her face wur as thin an' white as a corpse,—but hoo never complaint, though th' tears trickle't down her cheeks as hoo tried to sattle these little uns 'at wur cryin' for their breakfast.  At last, I could stop' it no longer, so I said, 'Mother, I'll goo out, an' try if I con get some'at to do!'  So off I set, i' mi black frock an' mi cap,—for I wur gettin' quite desperate,—an' I'd th' whole world before me, but I no more knew what to do, nor which way to turn mysel', than th' mon i'th moon; but, after I'd maunder't about a while, wi' a heart as heavy as a lapstone, I happen't to spy a swillin'-tub close to a little back-garden gate.  Well,—this swillin'-tub wur full o' fresh potito-pillin's,—an' as soon as I set e'en on 'em I wur as fain as if I'd fund a sovereign,—for, thou knows, i' that hard time, there wur salvation, now an' then, even in a hondful o' potito-pillin's,—an' I thought these pillin's would be good when boiled.  Well, I hanged an' swither't about a bit, for I wur quite asham't o'th job; but at last I pluck't up, an' I went an' axed the woman 'at belonged this swillin'-tub if hoo'd let me tak these potito-pillin's whoam wi' me,—an' hoo said that I met tak 'em if I'd a mind.  Well,—I gathered these pillin's together,—some i' mi cap, an' some i'th skirt o' mi frock,—an' off I ran whoam wi' 'em,—an' if thou'll believe me, there wur as much rejoicin' i' that hole as if I'd brought a quarter o' lamb wi' me!  Well,—mi mother wiped her een, an' hoo set to an' weshed these pillin's,—again an' again hoo weshed 'em an' better weshed 'em,—for hoo wur as clen a body as ever drew breath,—an' then hoo unbethought her of a bit o' meal that there wur laft i'th nook, of a poke,—it wur nobbut a hondful, but it wur a God-send,—an' hoo mixed th' meal and these pillin's together, an' boiled 'em weel, wi' a bit o' saut,—an' between thee an' me, Tom, I never relished a meal i' o' mi days as I relished that!  As soon as this dish o' pillin's wur ready, mi mother sat 'em out for us, an' then hoo put us o' i' our places round th' table, an hoo made us every one say 'grace' o'er these potito-pillin's, one after another,—an' then we fell to with a will, I can tell tho!  Well,—while this meal wur agate, first one then another said how good it wur.  'Eh, mother! this is good!'  'Eh, mother! this is th' best dinner we've had this year!'  'Eh, mother! if it hadn't bin for me, we should never ha' bin sittin' here havin' this!'  Well,—thou never see'd a dish better clear't than that wur, for there weren't enough for us o'; an', when we'd finish't, I said to my mother, 'Eh, mother!  I'll watch yon tub; an' if ever I see ony moore pillin's in it, I'll ax yon woman for 'em!'  Well, we wur happy for that day; an' th' yungest childer went up, an' down among th' starvin' neighbours tellin' what a good dinner we'd had."

    "Ay, ay; an' I should ha' bin fain of a meal o'th same mak mysel' at the same time.  There's nobody had a harder draw through than we had at our house.  We'd noather a bed to lie on, nor a cheer to sit on, nor a bit o' firin', nor a bit o' mate o' no mak,—an', if it hadn't bin for th' soup kitchen, we should every one ha' bin clemmed to deeoth.  Me an' three o'th owd'st lasses went out a-singin' i'th streets for four or five times,—an' we geet a bit o' brass that road,—but we didn't like it; an', at last, we made it up that we'd dee afore we'd goo out again."

    "Eh, I know lots that had to goo into th' streets a-singin',—an' amung 'em there wur one or two that did it a year or two lunger than there wur ony occasion for. . . . I remember my faither use't to start off every mornin',—an' generally with an empty stomach,—a-seechin' wark,—ony mak o' jobs that he could get,—howdin' horses or carryin' parcels, or gettin' coals in, or ought else that coom first. . . . Well,—one day he dropt into a bit o' good luck.  First he geet a job to howd a horse, an' then he geet a lot o' windows to clean, an' a back-yard to swill,—an' at th' end of o' he coom whoam at neet as merry as a cricket, wi' three-and-sixpence in his pocket.  Well,—by th' mass,—we thought we should never look beheend us again.  There wur ten on us o'together, an' the childer danced round my faither,—an mi mother begun a-cryin', hoo wur so fain,—an' there wur sich a do i'th hole as never!  At th' end of o', my mother sent me out a-marketin' wi' this three-and sixpence.  An' I had to buy a pound o' traycle, two pound o' meal, five pound o' potatoes, a quarter of a pound o' bacon cut i' slices, an ounce o' tay, hauve-a-pound o' threepenny sugar,—an' a pen'oth o' onions, to help to make a bit o' lobscouse, wi' some drippin' that Sally had gan us. . . . That wur th' grandest do we'd had at our house for aboon two year! . . . But, when I come back wi' this stuff, my mother wouldn't let us taste till we'd every one kneeled down an' thanked God for this three-an'-sixpence that mi faither had getten. . . . An' weel we met (might) be thankful, for my faither suffer't moore than ony on us. . . . The very day before he geet his three-an'-sixpence he'd bin out, as usual, fro' morn to neet, lookin' for some'at to do,—an' he hadn't tasted o' meight o' that day,—an' I'm not sure that he'd had aught th' day before.  Well,—when he'd trail't about like a ghost o' day, seechin' wark, an' findin' noan, he turn't towards whoam again, when neet coom on, with a heavy heart, an' sich as a dog.  It wur th' only place i'th world he had to go to,—an' he wur freeten't o' gooin' theer, for he knew that we wur o' starvin to deeoth, an' as soon as ever he showed his face we should o' look at him, to see if he'd brought us ony relief.  Well,—I've yerd him say that he stopt afore he enter't th' house, an' sat down on a step to rest a minute, for he could hardly trail one limb after another,—an', but for his wife an' family, he would ha' bin fain to lay him down an' dee just wheer he wur.  At last, he pluck't up a bit, an' he paddle't on to his own house; but, he no sooner reitched th' dur-hole, an' see'd a lot o' thin white faces gathered about th' empty fire-grate, than he dropt down to the floor, as dateless as a stone.  He'd fainted; an' we'd a good deal to do to bring him to again."

    "Poor fellow! . . . When th' cotton famine began a-tellin' upo' th' factory folk, I live't up a bit of a ginnel among a lot o' poor neighbours; but long afore things had getten th' warst, there weren't a soul i' this ginnel that had a chip o' furniture nor a rag o' bed-clooas laft.  Th' next dur to us there wur an owd couple live't, that had three groon-up daughters,—they wur o' factory folk; an', afore th' first year o'th famine wur o'er, they wur welly clemmed to deeoth, an' perish't wi' cowd,—for they'd noather bed nor bed-clooas, nor firin', nor furnitur', nor meight, nor money.  Well,—it wur i' winter time,—an' a hard winter it wur,—an' th' owd chap wur takken very ill,—an' they geet a bit o' strae somewheer, an' laid him down on it in a corner.  An' theer he deed.  I seed him dee, i' that cowd nook, wi' th' owd woman an' th' three daughters kneelin' round him to keep th' cowd wind off."

    "Ay, I seed mony a heart-breakin' seet mysel' durin' that time. . . . Hello! it's startin' a-rainin'!  Hadn't we better house a bit?  Let's goo into th' Red Cat, yon!"

    "Come on; it's gooin' to be a pelter!"


(They run into the Red Cat, at Bispham.)


    "Hello, theer!  Where's th' lonlord?"


(The Landlady comes.)


    "Sha'not I do?  Our John's gone o'er th' Shard to a churn supper."

    "Well, well,—yo'n do, I dar say.  Bring us some'at to sup. . . . Here, stop!  Tom, what mun we have?"

    "Ale, I guess."

    "Ay; bring us two pints o'th best ale."

    "We have nought but th' best here; we brew'n it ersels."

    "Well,—bring it, as what it is,—it'll be good, I dar say."


(She brings the ale.  TOM drinks.)


    "That is a saup o' very fair ale, Rondle!"

    "Aye, it's noan bad takkin', for a dry throttle!"

    "Nawe, it isn't. . . . Well,—here's luck!"

    "Th' same to thee, owd brid! . . . Eh, sitho how the rain's cumin' down!"

    "Ay, it's grand, is this!  It's bin wanted a good while!  There's a good deal o' sallet i' this wayter!"

    "Ay, if it'll nobbut keep agate lung enough, it'll awter th' shap (shape) o' little potitos. . . . I think we's ha' thunner afore lung."

    "I'm sure there's thunner about,—I can tell bi mi yed. . . . I'll tell tho what, Rondle,—thinkin' o' that cotton famine again,—it weren't thoose who skrike't th' hardest that suffered th' most!"

    "Eh, dear, nawe!  I know many a one that would ha' deed at that time afore they'd ha' gone a-beggin',—an' they'd hard wark to get some of 'em to have aught fro th' relief committee.  I never knew, till then, how proud poor folk con be. . . . Now, I weren't so mysel'; for, if I had bin, we should every one ha' deed at our house,—as who'd buried us. . . . I remember one day, when I wur up afore th' relief committee, an owd chap coom in, seemin'ly between seventy an' eighty year owd,—an' his face wur pinch't an' shrunken,—an' his yed wur as white as a moss-crop.  Beheend him there wur a good-lookin' young woman, about eighteen year owd; but he couldn't get her to come in, so hoo stoode i'th dur-hole, blushin', an' coverin' her face up.  So they axed th' owd chap what he wanted, an' he said, 'I want to see if yo con do a bit o' some'at to help this lass till sich times as hoo can get wark again.  I couldn't get her to come hersel', an' I'm freeten't on her bein' ill.  If yo can help her a bit, I'm sure hoo'll pay yo back.'  So they axed him if hoo wur his daughter; an' he said, 'Nawe; I'm uncle to her.  Hoo's noather faither nor mother; nor nought i'th world to tak to,—but what I con spare for her.'  Then they axed th' owd chap if he couldn't manage to keep her his sel'; an' he said, 'Eh, God bless yo!  I connot keep mysel'!  I'll howd out as lung as there's ony chance; but, yo known, what's hardly enough to keep life i' one would clem two; an' I should he thankful if yo could give her a bit o' some'at, if it's ever so little, to help her while things are as they are.'  Well,—they granted some relief for this lass; but, for o' that,—afore a month had gone by, th' owd chap wur fund deeod in a nook a-whoam; an' th' doctors said that he'd deed o' starvation."

    "Poor owd fellow!  Hello, Tom,—isn't that leetenin'?"

    "It's leetenin', for sure! . . . There it is again!  Eh, what a flash!  Put that dur to!"

    "Nawe, nawe; throw it oppen,—an' oppen th' window wide.  This is a grand storm! . . . Eh, how it rains!"

    "We'd better have a saup moore, I guess."

    "Ay; we connot goo out while it's cumin' down thus. . . . Ring that bell!"



CHAPTER II.


Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you,
From seasons such as these?

SHAKESPEARE.


Midsummer afternoon. TOM BOCKIN and RONDLE O' DOTHERIN' JOHNNY'S seated at an open window, in the Red Cat, at Bispham, in the Fylde.  A thunderstorm raging outside.


"WELL, thou knows, when he said that, he raither took me bi th' face.  So, I gav o'er talkin'; an' I lean't up again a wole a bit, an thought some thoughts."

    "Thou met weel (might well)!  Folk han to think a bit, now an' then, Rondle, whether they liken it or not."

    "They han, Tom,—but I connot say that it agrees wi me, so much on't,—it makes my yed bad."

    "I dar say. . . . Some folk are noan cut out for that mak o' wark, Rondle."

    "They are not, Tom,—an' I'm one on 'em.  Now there's nought suits me as weel as a bit o' straight-forrad hommerin' an' thumpin',—but if it comes to aught wi' curls in it I'm noather here nor there, nor nowheer else. . . (Lightens.)  Hello,—another flash!  By Guy, that wur a switcher!  Come away fro' that window!"

    "Not I! . . . Don't thee stir!  Thou'll be no safer than I am here, if thou runs up th' chimbley!  Beside, I like to see it, it's a grand seet!"

    "I see nought pratty about it.  One con run out o'th road o'th rain, but leetenin's like some'at belungin' another world,—there's no knowin' wheer it comes fro', nor wheer it's gooin' to, nor what it's gooin' to do; an' as fur as I'm consarn't I'd raither ha' mi yed in a seck while it's agate."

    "Well, I dar say they'n find tho a seck i'th house here.  But if thou gets thi yed into't thou'll lev tother end out,—what's to become o' that?"

    "I care nought about tother end so that I don't see it."

    "Thou met as weel ston thi ground, Rondle.  Thou'rt noather safe in a seck nor out of a seck.  Folk never are safe i' this world, till they're in a grave."

    "Ay, ay, bi'th mass!  That seck'll ston' some leetenin' (It lightens again.)  Theer it goes again!  Eh, what a flash!  Theer'll be some lumber done afore this is o'er . . . I'll tell tho what, Tom, it's a good job for folk that's getten their hay in."

    "Ay; it'll be ill for ony hay that's laft out i' this pash, whether it's cut or uncut; for if it's uncut it'll be laid, an' if it's cut it'll have o'th life stewed out on't, till it'll be as tasteless as beggar-berm, an' fit for nought but beddin'."


(Enter MALLY, the landlady, in a passion, with the drink.)


    "Two pints, did yo say?"

    "Ay."

    "Theer, see yo! (Sets the ale down.) . . . Careless, little snickett that hoo is!  Hoo does more lumber than her wage comes to,—ten times o'er!  I declare I'd sooner do every smite o'th wark mysel' than I'd be bother't wi' sarvants!  Hoo takes no delight i' nought but guttlin', an' sleepin', an' sich like!  If yo arent' watchin' her, hoo stops hangin' her knockles like somebry that's dateless,—an' if one sets her agate of aught, hoo'll oather break it or spoil it, or else hoo'll sweat."

    "What's th' matter, Mally?"

    "Matter? marry, matter enough I think!  I sent yon lass down into th' cellar a-drawin' some ale, about a quarter of an hour sin', an' hoo coom up again, an' laft it runnin',—an' th' cellar's o' in a swim, yon!"

    "That's a nice caper, Mally!  Th' lass mun be thrutched in her mind about some'at."

    "Thrutched in her mind!  Devil thrutch her,—hoo has no mind about nought. . . . If there's one drop there's a dozen gallon o'th best ale lyin' upo' th' cellar floor this minute!  It is yon,—if onybody wants to sup it they're welcome! . . . I wish to th' Lord our John would stop a-whoam, an' look after things his sel'!  For two pins I'd fling o' down an' run mi country!"

    "Wheer's he gone to, say'n yo, Mally?"

    "Gone to?  He's gone ower th' Shard a-junkettin'! . . . He con go onywheer, bless yo! . . . An' here I am,—fro morn to neet, fro day to day, fro year end to year end,—tether't like an owd mill-horse,—an' never a bit o' change o' no mak!  But it connot last so lung,—that's one blessin'.  If he'd some women, they'd larn him a different rub o'th spindle,—they would that!"

    "He'll be back to-neet, winnot he?"

    "Back to-neet?  The Lord knows whether he'll be back to-neet or not!  An' if he does come back to-neet he'll be so crow-full o' snig pie, an' Shard mussels, an' sour ale, an' sich like, that he'll not be fit to do a hond's-turn for a week to come.  An' as soon as he gets reet, he'll be off again.  Oh, let him alone for lookin' after his sel'! . . . If ever ony poor soul i' this world had a weary life on't, it's me!  Just this minute, I'm moider't to that degree that I dunnot know which gate to turn, an' so ill that I con hardly set one fuut afore another!  It wur nobbut yesterday,—I'd just gone into th' garden a-hangin' some clooas upo' th' hedge,—an' I hadn't turn't mi back aboon two minutes afore (A sound of pots breaking comes from the kitchen.)  Theer hoo is again, yer yo!  What the dule has hoo agate now?"


(She runs away to the kitchen.)


    "I think I've sin this woman afore, Rondle.  Who is hoo?"

    "Hoo's th' lon'lort's wife."

    "I know that; but wheer does hoo come fro?"

    "Hoo comes fro Preston.  Her mother used to go up an' down a-sellin' alikar (alegar) wi' a greight tin can on her back."

    "What! that broad-set paum-peckle't owd woman, that wore a blue bedgown?"

    "Th' same owd lass, Tom,—an' a daicent, hard-wortchin' owd body hoo wur, too.  Hoo'd three more daughters, beside this,—o' good-lookin' lasses,—an' they o' worch't at th' same factory as me.  Their faither wur a cripple; an' they had to keep th' owd lad as weel as they could amung 'em.  An' I don't think there wur a family i' Lancashire that suffer't moore than they did while th' cotton famine wur agate.  They live't i'th same ginnel as me; an' like th' rest on us, their bits o' furnitur', an' one thing after another, dribble't away, to get a bite o' meight to go on wi', till they'd nought i'th world left but four bare woles, an' a three-legged stoo', and some strae for th' owd chap to lie on.  Owd Abram had bin bed-ridden aboon ten year; but, at th' lung-length, he geet rid of his bed, for th' last pinch o'th famine wur comin' on,—an' they had to sell it fro under him to geet a bit o' some'at to keep 'em alive.  Th' bed wur th' last thing they sowd, o' tother had gone before, bit by bit.  They lived nearly three week out o'th price of an arm-cheer that had bin i'th family forty year.  I went in one day, an' I fund th' table gone fro' under the window, an' I said, 'Hello! what's getten th' table?'  An' th' owd woman said hoo'd sowd it th' day before for hauve-a-crown, an' bought another bit of a rickety thing for ninepence,—'becose our Abram's a deeol worse, an' I want to get him some nourishment.'  Then I axed her how leets hoo didn't get some relief fro' th' committee; an' hoo said, 'Eh, bless yo! our lasses wouldn't hear tell on it.  An' as for mysel', I don't like troublin' folk for charity.'  An' thus it wur that they sowd first one thing, then another,—an' they geet poorer an' thinner fro' day to day, till, at last, they hadn't a stick nor a stone left,—but four bare woles, an' an empty fire-grate, wi' th' owd chap lyin' upo' some strae in a corner.  I happen't to pop in the very day after they'd sowd th' bed,—an' there he lee i'th nook,—thin, an' white, an' still, an' as like a corpse as aught I ever clapt e'en on.  But there wur a great deeol o' corpses walkin' about this part o'th world while that famine wur agate. . . . Well,—it wur a chill wintry day, an' very little leet coom fro' th' sky,—an' there weren't a spark o' fire, nor a chip o' furnitur', nor a rag o' clooas i' that dingy, comfortless cote,—an' th' first glent I geet through th' gloom o' that pale face amung th' strae i'th corner, I thought, 'th' owd lad's gone at last!'  Th' lasses wur out, lookin' for wark,—but they met as weel ha' looked for holy wayter in an Orange Lodge, just then,—an' th' owd woman wur sit on a stone under th' window, petchin' her bedgown.  So I whisper't to her, 'How is he to-day!'  An' hoo said he wur raither worse, of oather, an' hoo wanted him to get a bit o' sleep.  An' I wur creepin' out again as quietly as I could,—to let him have a rest,—but he'd yerd us talkin', an' he said, 'Who's theer?'  An' th' owd woman towd him that it wur me that had come'd in a seein' him.  An' he put out a bit of shrivel't white hond that didn't look much bigger than a brid's claw, an' said, 'Come a bit nar.'  So I went an' sit down upo' th' floor aside o'th strae wheer he wur lyin', an' I axed him how he wur.  'Well, Rondle, my lad,' said he, 'I'm gettin' a bit nar whoam every day, thou sees.'  Well, I didn't just catch what he meant at th' minute, so I said, 'How so, Abram?'  'Well,' he said, 'thou sees,' I've getten down to th' floor,—an' th' next thing, I's be under it!'  So I towd him to cheer up, for times would be sure to mend before lung,—they couldn't last lung as they wur,—an' he'd happen get better.  An' he said, 'I don't want to get better, Rondle,—I don't want!  I shall be fain to get out o'th gate!  I see everybody is clemmin' to deeoth around me,—an' I connot help 'em!  I've bin nought but a weight an' a burden, an' it grieves me to th' heart, Rondle!  I shall be fain when it's o'er,—it'll be a blessin' both to me an' everybody else!'  Well, if thou'll believe me, Tom, it brought th' wayter into my e'en when I yerd th' owd lad talk this way; but I turn't my yed o' one side a bit; an' then I put a good face on, an' I towd him not to talk sich stuff as that; for it wur a lung lone that had never a turn; an', come what would, he couldn't get no lower i' this world.  But he said, 'Yigh, mi lad,—a little bit.  Ten feet lower, Rondle,—an' I's be at rest!'  Well,—do what I would, I couldn't raise his spirits.  An', sure enough, th' owd lad wur reet.  It wur a hard winter; an' what wi' clemmin' an' starvin', inside an' out, an' frettin' to see other folk clemmin' an' starvin' about him, it wur to mich for him; an' afore a fortnit had gone by he wur buried bith' parish,—as mony a score daicent folk wur at that time, that never dreamt o' comin' to sich a pass as that i' this world. . . . I went in a twothre days after th' funeral; an' I fund th' owd woman an' th' lasses strugglin' on i'th empty house, just i'th owd way.  They fretted terribly about th' owd chap; an' I tried to cheer 'em up, an' I did what I could to help 'em,—an' that wur not mich, God knows; for I wur clemmed like wedge-wood mysel',—an' I didn't know where th' next meal wur to come fro'.  I remember that day very weel.  They'd brought some stones into th' house to sit on,—an' there they wur, huddle's round th' empty fire-grate, to keep theirsel's warm,—for th' snow lee thick upo' th' ground, an' th' leet that coom through th' little window looked cowd an' ghastly.  It looked moore like a tomb than a place for wick folk.  Well,—I axed th' owd woman how they wur gettin' on; an' hoo said, 'Oh,— middlin'.'  Well,—I knew what that meant.  They wouldn't ha' complain't if they'd bin at th' last gasp.  At last hoo turn't, an' hoo said again, 'I yer they're for sellin' these houses.'  Well,—I knew that; for th' lonlort had bin so poo'd down bith' hard times that he wur gettin' nearly as ill off as onybody else; so I said I believe't they wur.  'Ay!' hoo said, 'they are. . . . They'n sell th' floor fro' under us next,—an' then there'll be nought laft for us but th' cowd sky,—an' I wish to th' Lord I wur theer!'  An' then every one brast out a cryin'.  An' between thee an' me, I believe it did 'em good.  But I couldn't stond it no lunger; so I coom off, wi' a heavy heart,—for our folk wur noan so mich better off a-whoam."

    "Poor things! . . . An' wur that owd woman this londlady's mother?"

    "Hoo wur nought else."

    "I connot remember her."

    "Ay; but I con. . . . This woman here wur th' owdest lass, an' a hondsomer lass never bote off th' edge of a cake than hoo wur!"

    "Hoo nobbut looks ill now."

    "Oh, weddin's poo'd her down terribly; an' hoo's had a deeol o' childer,—an' alehouse life's nobbut a hard job.  It doesn't do for folk 'at's a family to bring up."

    "It's a rough schoo', for sure. . . . Th' rain's comin' down as hard as ever, thou sees."

    "Ay; an' it'll bate noan yet, bith' look on't.  We are where we mun be for a bit, I doubt. . . What saysto to a bit o' somewhat to heyt?"

    "I'm willin'."

    "Ring that bell, then."


(He rings, and the landlady enters.)


    "Wur yo ringin'?"

    "Con yo find us a bit o' cheese an' brade?"

    "Ay; an' there's some cowd beef, too, if yo'd like it."

    "That's reet!  Let's make ersel's comfortable!"



CHAPTER III.


                                                      My wits begin to turn.
Come on, my boy.   How dost, my boy?   Art cold?
I am cold myself.   Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange.
That can make vile things precious.   Come, your hovel.
Poor fool and knave.   I have one part in my heart
That's sorry yet for thee.                               S
HAKESPEARE.


Midsummer afternoon.  TOM BOCKIN and RONDLE O'DOTHERIN' JOHNNY'S seated by an open window in the Red Cat, at Bispham, in the Fylde, watching a thunderstorm, and talking about the Cotton Famine.


"AY, ay, Tom! when I think o' that dreary time when th' famine wur agate it seems to me like lookin' back into another world,—for I never seed nought like it afore,—an' I hope I shall never see nought like it again.  A deeol o' folk geet it into their yeds that th' day o' judgment wur drawin' on.  An' weel they met (might), for it wur a black look-out.  I know it sent mony a hundred to their graves that would ha' bin livin' this day but for what they went through then.  An' when I remember th' strange change that coom o'er everythin', as mill after mill stopt,—mill after mill,—till, at last, there weren't a wheel runnin', an' th' insides o'th factories, that used to be full o' buzzin' din, an' lasses singin' at their wark, wur as still as tombstones.  I don't wonder that folk should think th' world wur comin' to an end.  I used to peep in at our factory window now an' then, at that time, an' I could see every wheel, an' drum, an' strap, stonnin' still, an' th' bits o' fluzz lyin' about th' floor, where so mony busy feet used to run back an' forrad; an' I've looked till mi yure's begun a-bristlin' up,—for it seemed to me as if th' place wur full o' ghosts.  When I wur a lad, folk used to grumble about th' air bein' smooky i' Lancashire; but it geet pure enough at that time, for, at last, every factory chimbley wur clear an' cowd, an' there weren't one that sent a reech up.  Ay,—th' air wur clear enough just then,—an' a deeol o' folk had very little else to live on.  Lancashire used to be famous for bell-ringin', too, o' one sort an' another,—but there wur very few bells stirrin' while th' famine wur agate, except passin'-bells.  An' th' streets had a terrible doleful look.  There wur no merrymen wanderin' about Lancashire at that time, I can tell tho.  Nawe,—it wur a bad trade while that famine lasted.  Th' streets, that used to be crom-full o' heavy carts an' lurries, an' rattlin' wheels of o' sorts, wur as still, at last, as a moor-top; an' there wur nought stirrin' but, here an' there, some poor clemmed soul, creepin' off through th' cowd to the soup-kitchen, wi' a pitcher in her hond; or a knot o' factory chaps, wi' thin pale faces, an' nipt noses, loungin' again a wole to keep one another warm; an' starin' into th' wide world, as if they wur watchin' a funeral.  An I' wur as ill as ony on 'em,—for I noather knew wheer to go nor what to do, but hang about an' clem th' time out, same as everybody else.  I used to goo an' sit mi down i'th market-place sometimes; but I met as weel ha' gone into th' churchyard, for there wur very little to sell, an' I hadn't a hawp'ny to buy nought wi' how much there had bin. . . . Now for it!  What han we here?"


(Three wet travellers rush in at the doorway, from the rain.  One of their company trudges on through the shower.  They shout after him.)


    "Now then, Bill!  Wheerto for?  Arto noan dry?"

    "Nawe.  I wish I wur."

    "Come in a minute,—out o'th rain!"

    "Nawe.  I'll be joggin' on.  It'll not harm me, now, for I'm as weet as I con be."

    "Well, but thou'd better have a gill."

    "Nay; I've done bucketin' enough for one day.  I'll be gooin' forrad."

    "Off witho, then,—an' fill thi bally wi' rain-wayter!"
              .                           .                           .                           .                           .

    "Is he gone?"

    "Ay, he's for wadin' on, he says."

    "Why, he'll be as weet as a wayter-dog."

    "Well, he says he likes it."

    "Oh, ay!  Why, then,—let him help his sel'—there's plenty on it. . . . Here, keawer tho down."

    "Nawe.  I connot sit."

    "How's that?"

    "A bit of a boil."

    "Oh,—I see. . . . Well, an' who is yon chap, saysto?"

    "Well, they co'n him Bill o' Bess's, for a bye-name; but his gradely name's Peighswad."

    "Bill o' Bess's, saysto?  Bill o' what Bess's?"

    "Why, Bess o' Bab-rag's."

    "What, owd Amos o' Fettler's widow?"

    "Ah, sure.  They co'n her Bess o' Bab-rags, because hoo's al'ays getherin' bits o' stuff to make babbies' clooas on."

    "It's her 'at keeps th' pie-shop i'th owd market-place?"

    "T' same woman, I tell tho."

    "Never, sure! . . . What! an' is this her lad, saysto?"

    "He's nought else."

    "Ay, ay!  Well, an' hoo's a farrantly owd lass, too!"

    "Hoo is that! . . . Hoo's a widow; an' this lad wur by her first husban'.  Hoo's bin wed twice."

    "I don't care if hoo's bin wed a hundred times,—hoo'll clog again, will yon woman,—bi th' look on her!"

    "Ay, an' hoo'd make a rare wife yet!"

    "Hoo would, owd lad. . . . Well,—aren't we to have an odd toothful, o' some mak?"

    "Ay; ring that bell."


(The landlady conies in).


    "Bring us a pint a-piece. . . . Ay, I remember Amos o' Fettler's, that wur this woman's last husban'.  I remember him very weel.  He wur th' manager at that owd mill, down bi th' wayter-side; an' he'd bin at th' same place o' his life very near.  But th' owd lad thought a great deal of his sel', and he geet it into his yed that th' folk he wortched for couldn't get on without him; an', sometimes, he took sich liberties that they'd hard wank to bide with him.  Oh, he wur a very consaited chap. . . . One day th' owd maister happen't to say that he'd a good mind to goo away somewheer for a change.  Well,—Amos wur a bit nettle't about some'at at th' time, so he turn't to th' owd maister, an' he said, 'Well, if yo'n goo soon enough, an' goo far enough,—an' stop lung enough,—it'll be reet enough!'  Another time th' owd maister an' Amos had bin havin' a bit of a dispute about some'at or another, and Amos said, 'Well, I've wortched at this place forty year; an' I consider I've done a great deal to make this firm what it is.'  'Well,' said th' owd maister, 'thou happen has, Amos; an' now, when I come to think on it, I wonder how it is that everybody has manage't to get on without thee,—except me!'"

    "Some folk would ha' bagged him upo' th' spot."

    "Ay, but they didn't.  They kept th' owd lad on till he deed. . . . Well,—I guess we'd better be gooin'?"

    "Ay, we mun jog on, rain or fair!"

    "Dive into't, then."


(They run out into the rain.)


    "Yon's a quare lot, Rondle."

    "Oh,—they're reet enough.  I see nought ails 'em.  They favvor'n wortchin'-folk.  I like as if I should know that redyure't un.  I've getten it into my yed that he's a jobber at owd Peawch's factory."

    "By th' mass, thou's hit it Rondle!  I remember him, now!  He wed that lass o' Jenny Pepper's!"

    "It's th' very mon! . . . Yon could tell some tales about th' famine, if he'd a mind."

    "No doubt he could,—for he wur i'th thick on't. . . . Oh,—but I didn't finish my own story."

    "Nawe, thou wur among some potato-pillin's when thou left off."

    "Oh, ay,—I remember. . . . Well,—I think things geet to th' worst wi' us, at our house, about the back-end of 1862.  Th' keenest nip o'th famine, wi' us, wur about that time; an' th' tide begun a-turnin' soon after.  I wur not quite twelve year owd,—a thin, gawky, shame-facet lad, wearin' one o' my sister's owd black frocks, becose I'd no breeches to put on; an' it wur i'th autumn o' that year that I begged those potito-pillin's, that kept four on us alive nearly two days.  I shall never forget how we gather't round my mother, yammerin' an' watchin' her as hoo wesh'd these pillin's, an' shook a bit o' meal out o'th bottom of a poke, to boil wi' 'em.  That wur a grand day for us poor craiters, I can tell tho,—for we're welly (wellnigh) famish't to deeoth.  There's an owd sayin', that 'Hungry dogs 'll eat dirty puddin','—but if onybody had towd my faither, two year afore that time, that ever his family would be brought to be fain to make a meal of a hondful o' potito-pillin's, piked out of a swillin'-tub, he'd ha' said they' bin lyin'.  But it's a dangerous thing for onybody to swagger i' sich a world as this is,—for there's nobody con tell what they han to go through. . . . Well, as I said afore, I wur a thin, awkward, shy sort of a lad,—an' I wur so asham't of onybody seein' me wi' this nasty owd black frock of our Mary's on, that it wur a good while afore they could get me to put my yed out o'th dur at o'.  But, lo an' behold! th' first time that I ventur't out, what should I leet on but these potito-pillin's!  Well,—that wur a godsend,—an' it gav me sich encouragement, that i' spite o' my black frock, I begun a-creepin' about th' neighbourhood to see if I could get to goo an arrand or aught, that would bring a meal in.  I wur a quire figure, thou may depend, wi' my clemmed face, an' my thin legs, an' my black frock.  I believe I looked moore like a ghost than aught belongin' this world,—an' th' neighbours begun to notice me; an' some on 'em co'de their childer in when they see'd me comin',—as if I'd bin a wild animal prowlin' about.  I remember one day, when I wur trailin' down a back street, hardly able to poo one leg after tother, I yerd a little lass shout out, 'Heigh, mother! that crazy lad's comin' again!'  Well,—that wur quite enough.  I turned back, an' went whoam, an' I coom out no moore that day.  Another time, when I wur hangin' about a corner o'th market-place, turnin' o'er bits o' cabbage levs, an' sich like, a gentleman coom across th' street, an' offered me a sixpence; an' I blushed to th' roots o' mi ears, an' towd him that I weren't beg-in'.  'Poor lad!' said he.  But I slunk off whoam; an' he followed me a bit, as if he wanted to see where I went to.  I slipt up a ginnel, out o'th road,—an' I've never sin him again fro' that day to this. . . . At last, when th' house wur stripped of everything, an' we wur getten as near th' floor as we could be without gooin' into it, things begun to mend, an' mi faither geet a place at a pound a week.  Well, that wur like th' beginnin' of a new world to us, after what we'd gone through.  Didn't we sing,  'Oh, be joyful!'  Thou never seed sich rejoicin' among a lot o' starve't craiters, as there wur i' that house.  We'd bin brought so low that we'd very near gan o'er expectin' aught but starvation i' this world again.  But as soon as this bit o' good luck turned up, we thought we wur gooin' to have everythin' back at once,—an' one cried out, 'Mother, let's have this! ' an' another said, 'Mother, let's have that.'  But,—I remember it as weel as if it wur yesterday,—I remember my mother sayin', 'Now, childer; we connot have so mich yet, yo know, becose our Tom has to be breeched, before we get aught else.'  Well,—if thou'll believe me, Rondle,—that wur music i' my ears, for never poor soul wur fainer to get out o' prison than I wur to get out o' that black frock! . . . Well,—there wur grand doin's i'th' hole, thou may depend. . . But th' first thing,—afore one bodle o'th brass wur spent,—my mother made us knell down, an' pray, an' thank God.  An' then, we dance't an' sung hymns, an' caper't about, like wild things,—for we thought we should never look beheend us again. . . . Well,—'it never rains but it pours,' as th' sayin' is; an' this bit o' luck o' my faither's put us o' into good heart; an' as soon as hoo could muster a bit o' some'at to go out in, our Mary Ann determine't that hoo'd get a place o' some sort, to help to make a livin'.  Hoo'd be between eighteen an' nineteen, then,—an' John an' her wur cwortin' at that time.  They'n bin wed a good while now, an' they'n getten a fine family about 'em.  But at that time John wur one o'th yed book-keepers at th' mill,—an' he wur as daicent a chap as ever stept shoo-leather,—but he wur out o' wark, an' stagged up, th' same as everybody else.  Well,—our Mary Ann never said a word to nobody, but off hoo set a-seechin' a place; an' afore a week wur o'er hoo geet a place as a waiter at a refreshment-room i' Manchester,—an hoo brought every penny of her wage to mi mother at week-end.  Hoo didn't want John to know that hoo wur theer,—for hoo didn't think o' stoppin' no lunger than till we could turn ersels round a bit.  But, lo an' behold! one day, when John wur i' Manchester, he happen't to drop into this very refreshment-room where Mary Ann wur waitin' on; an' he rang th' bell for a cup o' tay, an' who should bring his tay but our Mary Ann hersel'!  Well,—I've yerd him say that yo might ha' knock't him o'er wi' a pin-yed.  An' our Mary Ann wur just as ill.  Well,—as soon as John could get his breath he made her pack up her box, an' come off whoam wi' him; an' nought would sattle him but they mut (must) get wed at once.  So they geet wed straight off th' reel, an' they'n never had an ill day sin'.  An', mind tho', didn't I cry my e'en up, becose I couldn't goo into th' room amung th' weddin'-folk, becose o' mi black frock. . . . But I slipt out at th' back dur; an' when th' cab started off, to tak 'em to church, I jumped up beheend, an' I rode to church wi' 'em,—i' mi black frock, too! . . . Hello! it's clearin' up!"

    "Ay,—let's be gooin'!"


――――♦――――

 
Among the Preston Operatives.
__________


Ed.—as an alternative to the following account of the 'Preston Operatives', readers may prefer to refer to Chapter III et al of my edited edition of Waugh's account of the Cotton Famine, in which I have introduced paragraphs into the exceedingly long passages that appear in the following text, and I have also added a selection of contemporary poems, news-clips and illustrations.  See . . . . HOME-LIFE OF THE LANCASHIRE FACTORY FOLK DURING THE COTTON FAMINE.



CHAPTER I.


PROUD Preston, or Priest-town, on the banks of the beautiful Ribble, is a place of many quaint customs, and of great historic fame.  Its character for pride is said to come from the fact of its having been, in the old time, a favourite residence of the local nobles and gentry, and of many penniless folk with long pedigrees.  It was here that Richard Arkwright shaved chins at a halfpenny each, in the meantime working out his bold and ingenious schemes, with patient faith in their ultimate success.  It was here, too, that the teetotal movement first began, with Anderson for its rhyme-smith.  Preston has had its full share of the changeful fortunes of England, and, like our motherland, it has risen strongly out of them all.  War's mad havoc has swept over it in many a troubled period of our history.  Plague, pestilence, and famine have afflicted it sorely; and it has suffered from trade riots, "plug-drawings," panics, and strikes of most disastrous kinds.  Proud Preston ― the town of the Stanleys and the Hoghtons, and of


Many a crest that is famous in story―


the town where silly King Jamie disported himself a little, with his knights and nobles, during the time of his ruinous visit to Hoghton Tower, ― Proud Preston has seen many a black day.  But, from the time when Roman sentinels kept watch and ward in their old camp at Walton, down by the Ribble side, it has never seen so much wealth and so much bitter poverty together as now.  The streets do not show this poverty; but it is there.  Looking from Avenham Walks, that glorious landscape smiles in all the splendour of a rich spring-tide.  In those walks the nursemaids and children, and dainty folk, are wandering as usual airing their curls in the fresh breeze; and only now and then a workless operative trails by with chastened look.  The wail of sorrow is not heard in Preston market-place; but destitution may be found almost anywhere there just now, cowering in squalid corners, within a few yards of plenty ― as I have seen it many a time this week.  The courts and alleys behind even some of the main streets swarm with people who have hardly a whole nail left to scratch themselves with.

    Before attempting to tell something of what I saw whilst wandering amongst the poor operatives of Preston, I will say at once, that I do not intend to meddle with statistics.  They have been carefully gathered, and often given elsewhere, and there is no need for me to repeat them.  But, apart from these, the theme is endless, and full of painful interest.  I hear on all hands that there is hardly any town in Lancashire suffering so much as Preston.  The reason why the stroke has fallen so heavily here, lies in the nature of the trade.  In the first place, Preston is almost purely a cotton town.  There are two or three flax mills, and two or three ironworks, of no great extent; but, upon the whole, there is hardly any variety of employment there to lighten the disaster which has befallen its one absorbing occupation.  There is comparatively little weaving in Preston; it is a town mostly engaged in spinning.  The cotton used there is nearly all what is called "Middling American," the very kind which is now most scarce and dear.  The yarns of Preston are known by the name of "Blackburn Counts."  They range from 28's up to 60's, and they enter largely into the manufacture of goods for the India market.  These things partly explain why Preston is more deeply overshadowed by the particular gloom of the times than many other places in Lancashire.  About half-past nine on Tuesday morning last, I set out with an old acquaintance to call upon a certain member of the Relief Committee, in George's Ward.  He is the manager of a cotton mill in that quarter, and he is well known and much respected among the working people.  When we entered the mill-yard, all was quiet there, and the factory was still and silent.  But through the office window we could see the man we wanted.  He was accompanied by one of the proprietors of the mill, turning over the relief books of the ward.  I soon found that he had a strong sense of humour, as well as a heart welling over with tenderness.  He pointed to some of the cases in his books.  The first was that of an old man, an overlooker of a cotton mill.  His family was thirteen in number; three of the children were under ten years of age; seven of the rest were factory operatives; but the whole family had been out of work for several months.  When in full employment the joint earnings of the family amounted to 80s. a week; but, after struggling on in the hope of better times, and exhausting the savings of past labour, they had been brought down to the receipt of charity at last, and for sixteen weeks gone by the whole thirteen had been living upon 6s. a week from the relief fund.  They had no other resource.  I went to see them at their own house afterwards, and it certainly was a pattern of cleanliness, with the little household gods there still.  Seeing that house, a stranger would never dream that the family was living on an average income of less than sixpence a head per week.  But I know how hard some decent folk will struggle with the bitterest poverty before they will give in to it.  The old man came in whilst I was there.  He sat down in one corner, quietly tinkering away at something he had in his hands.  His old corduroy trousers were well patched, and just new washed.  He had very little to say to us, except that "He could like to get summat to do; for he wur tired o' walkin' abeawt."  Another case was that of a poor widow woman, with five young children.  This family had been driven from house to house, by increasing necessity, till they had sunk at last into a dingy little hovel, up a dark court, in one of the poorest parts of the town, where they huddled together about a fireless grate to keep one another warm.  They had nothing left of the wreck of their home but two rickety chairs, and a little deal table reared against the wall, because one of the legs was gone.  In this miserable hole ― which I saw afterwards ― her husband died of sheer starvation, as was declared by the jury on the inquest.  The dark, damp hovel where they had crept to was scarcely four yards square; and the poor woman pointed to one corner of the floor, saying, "He dee'd i' that nook."  He died there, with nothing to lie upon but the ground, and nothing to cover him, in that fireless hovel.  His wife and children crept about him, there, to watch him die; and to keep him as warm as they could.  When the relief committee first found this family out, the entire clothing of the family of seven persons weighed eight pounds, and sold for fivepence, as rags.  I saw the family afterwards, at their poor place; and will say more about them hereafter.  He told me of many other cases of a similar kind.  But, after agreeing to a time when we should visit them personally, we set out together to see the "Stone Yard," where there are many factory hands at work under the Board of Guardians.

    The "Stone Yard" is close by the Preston and Lancaster Canal.  Here there are from one hundred and seventy to one hundred and eighty, principally young men, employed in breaking, weighing, and wheeling stone, for road mending.  The stones are of a hard kind of blue boulder, gathered from the land between Kendal and Lancaster.  The "Labour Master" told me that there were thousands of tons of these boulders upon the land between Kendal and Lancaster.  A great deal of them are brought from a place called "Tewhitt Field," about seven mile on "t' other side o' Lancaster."  At the "Stone Yard" it is all piece-work, and the men can come and go when they like.  As one of the Guardians told me, "They can oather sit an' break 'em, or kneel an' break 'em, or lie deawn to it, iv they'n a mind."  The men can choose whether they will fill three tons of the broken stone, and wheel it to the central heap, for a shilling, or break one ton for a shilling.  The persons employed here are mostly "lads an' leet-timber't chaps."  The stronger men are sent to work upon Preston Moor.  There are great varieties of health and strength amongst them.  "Beside," as the Labour Master said, "yo'd hardly believe what a difference there is i'th wark o' two men wortchin' at the same heap, sometimes.  There's a great deal i'th breaker, neaw; some on 'em's more artful nor others.  They finden out that they con break 'em as fast again at after they'n getten to th' wick i'th inside.  I have known an' odd un or two, here, that could break four ton a day, ― an' many that couldn't break one, ― but then, yo' know, th' men can only do accordin' to their ability.  There is these differences, and there always will be."  As we stood talking together, one of my friends said that he wished "Radical Jack" had been there.  The latter gentleman is one of the guardians of the poor, and superintendent of the "Stone Yard."  The men are naturally jealous of misrepresentation; and, the other day, as "Radical Jack" was describing the working of the yard to a gentleman who had come to look at the scene, some of the men overheard his words, and, misconceiving their meaning, gathered around the superintendent, clamorously protesting against what he had been saying.  "He's lying!" said one.  "Look at these honds!" cried another; "Wi'n they ever be fit to go to th' factory wi' again?"  Others turned up the soles of their battered shoon, to show their cut and stockingless feet.  They were pacified at last; but, after the superintendent had gone away, some of the men said much and more, and "if ever he towd ony moor lies abeawt 'em, they'd fling him into th' cut."  The "Labour Master" told me there was a large wood shed for the men to shelter in when rain came on.  As we were conversing, one of my friends exclaimed, "He's here now!"  "Who's here?"  "Radical Jack."  The superintendent was coming down the road.  He told me some interesting things, which I will return to on another occasion.  But our time was up.  We had other places to see.  As we came away, three old Irishwomen leaned against the wall at the corner of the yard, watching the men at work inside.  One of them was saying, "Thim guardians is the awfullest set o' min in the world!  A man had better be transpoorted than come under 'em.  An' thin, they'll try you, an' try you, as if you was goin' to be hanged."  The poor old soul had evidently only a narrow view of the necessities and difficulties which beset the labours of the Board of Guardians at a time like this.  On our way back to town one of my friends told me that he "had met a sexton the day before, and had asked him how trade was with him.  The sexton replied that it was "Varra bad ― nowt doin', hardly."  "Well, how's that?" asked the other.  "Well, thae sees," answered the sexton, "Poverty seldom dees.  There's far more kilt wi' o'er-heytin' an' o'er-drinkin' nor there is wi' bein' pinched."



CHAPTER II.


LEAVING the "Stone Yard," to fulfil an engagement in another part of the town, we agreed to call upon three or four poor folk, who lived by the way; and I don't know that I could do better than say something about what I saw of them.  As we walked along, one of my companions told me of an incident which happened to one of the visitors in another ward, a few days before.  In the course of his round, this visitor called upon a certain destitute family which was under his care, and he found the husband sitting alone in the house, pale and silent.  His wife had been "brought to bed" two or three days before; and the visitor inquired how she was getting on.  "Hoo's very ill," said the husband.  "And the child," continued the visitor, "how is it?"  "It's deeod," replied the man; "it dee'd yesterday."  He then rose, and walked slowly into the next room, returning with a basket in his hands, in which the dead child was decently laid out.  "That's o' that's laft on it neaw," said the poor fellow.  Then, putting the basket upon the floor, he sat down in front of it, with his head between his hands, looking silently at the corpse.  Such things as these were the theme of our conversation as we went along, and I found afterwards that every visitor whom it was my privilege to meet, had some special story of distress to relate, which came within his own appointed range of action.  In my first flying visit to that great melancholy field, I could only glean such things as lay nearest to my hand, just then; but wherever I went, I heard and saw things which touchingly testify what noble stuff the working population of Lancashire, as a whole, is made of.  One of the first cases we called upon, after leaving the "Stone Yard," was that of a family of ten ― man and wife, and eight children.  Four of the children were under ten years of age, ― five were capable of working; and, when the working part of the family was in full employment, their joint earnings amounted to 61s. per week.  But, in this case, the mother's habitual ill-health had been a great expense in the household for several years.  This family belonged to a class of operatives ― a much larger class than people unacquainted with the factory districts are likely to suppose ― which will struggle, in a dumb, enduring way, to the death, sometimes, before they will sacrifice that "immediate jewel of their souls" ― their old independence, and will keep up a decent appearance to the very last.  These suffer more than the rest; for, in addition to the pains of bitter starvation, they feel a loss which is more afflicting to them even than the loss of food and furniture; and their sufferings are less heard of than the rest, because they do not like to complain.  This family of ten persons had been living, during the last nine weeks, upon relief amounting to 5s. a week.  When we called, the mother and one or two of her daughters were busy in the next room, washing their poor bits of well-kept clothing.  The daughters kept out of sight, as if ashamed.  It was a good kind of cottage, in a clean street, called "Maudland Bank," and the whole place had a tidy, sweet look, though it was washing-day.  The mother told me that she had been severely afflicted with seven successive attacks of inflammation, and yet, in spite of her long-continued ill-health, and in spite of the iron teeth of poverty which had been gnawing at them so long, for the first time, I have rarely seen a more frank and cheerful countenance than that thin matron's, as she stood there, wringing her clothes, and telling her little story.  The house they lived in belonged to their late employer, whose mill stopped some time ago.  We asked her how they managed to pay the rent, and she said, "Why, we dunnot pay it; we cannot pay it, an' he doesn't push us for it.  Aw guess he knows he'll get it sometime.  But we owe'd a deal o' brass beside that.  Just look at this shop book.  Aw'm noan freetend ov onybody seein' my acceawnts.  An' then, there's a great lot o' doctor's-bills i' that pot, theer.  Thoose are o' for me.  There'll ha' to be some wark done afore things can be fotched up again. . . . Eh; aw'll tell yo what, William, (this was addressed to the visitor,) it went ill again th' grain wi' my husband to goo afore th' Board.  An' when he did goo, he wouldn't say so mich.  Yo known, folk doesn't like brastin' off abeawt theirsel' o' at once, at a shop like that. . . . Aw think sometimes it's very weel that four ov eawrs are i' heaven, ― we'n sich hard tewin' (toiling), to poo through wi' tother, just neaw.  But, aw guess it'll not last for ever."  As we came away, talking of the reluctance shown by the better sort of working people to ask for relief, or even sometimes to accept it when offered to them, until thoroughly starved to it, I was told of a visitor calling upon a poor woman in another ward; no application had been made for relief, but some kind neighbour had told the committee that the woman and her husband were "ill off."  The visitor, finding that they were perishing for want, offered the woman some relief tickets for food; but the poor soul began to cry, and said; "Eh, aw dar not touch 'em; my husban' would sauce me so!  Aw dar not take 'em; aw should never yer the last on't!"  When we got to the lower end of Hope Street, my guide stopped suddenly, and said, "Oh, this is close to where that woman lives whose husband died of starvation."  Leading a few yards up the by-street, he turned into a low, narrow entry, very dark and damp.  Two turns more brought us to a dirty, pent-up corner, where a low door stood open.  We entered there.  It was a cold, gloomy-looking little hovel.  In my allusion to the place last week I said it was "scarcely four yards square."  It is not more than three yards square.  There was no fire in the little rusty grate.  The day was sunny, but no sunshine could ever reach that nook, nor any fresh breezes disturb the pestilent vapours that harboured there, festering in the sluggish gloom.  In one corner of the place a little worn and broken stair led up to a room of the same size above, where, I was told, there was now some straw for the family to sleep upon.  But the only furniture in the house, of any kind, was two rickety chairs and a little broken deal table, reared against the stairs, because one leg was gone.  A quiet-looking, thin woman, seemingly about fifty years of age, sat there, when we went in.  She told us that she had buried five of her children, and that she had six yet alive, all living with her in that poor place.  They had no work, no income whatever, save what came from the Relief Committee.  Five of the children were playing in and out, bare-footed, and, like the mother, miserably clad; but they seemed quite unconscious that anything ailed them.  I never saw finer children anywhere.  The eldest girl, about fourteen, came in whilst we were there, and she leaned herself bashfully against the wall for a minute or two, and then slunk slyly out again, as if ashamed of our presence.  The poor widow pointed to the cold corner where her husband died lately.  She said that "his name was Tim Pedder.  His fadder name was Timothy, an' his mudder name was Mary.  He was a driver (a driver of boat-horses on the canal); but he had bin oot o' wark a lang time afore he dee'd."  I found in this case, as in some others, that the poor body had not much to say about her distress; but she did not need to say much.  My guide told me that when he first called upon the family, in the depth of last winter, he found the children all clinging round about their mother in the cold hovel, trying in that way to keep one another warm.  The time for my next appointment was now hard on, and we hurried towards the shop in Fishergate, kept by the gentleman I had promised to meet.  He is an active member of the Relief Committee, and a visitor in George's ward.  We found him in.  He had just returned from the "Cheese Fair," at Lancaster.  My purpose was to find out what time on the morrow we could go together to see some of the cases he was best acquainted with.  But, as the evening was not far spent, he proposed that we should go at once to see a few of those which were nearest.  We set out together to Walker's Court, in Friargate.  The first place we entered was at the top of the little narrow court.  There we found a good-tempered Irish-woman sitting without fire, in her feverish hovel.  "Well, missis," said the visitor, "how is your husband getting on?"  "Ah, well, now, Mr. T――," replied she, "you know, he's only a delicate little man, an' a tailor; an' he wint to work on the moor, an' he couldn't stand it.  Sure, it was draggin' the bare life out of him.  So, he says to me, one morning, "Catharine," says he, "I'll lave off this a little while, till I see will I be able to get a job o' work at my own trade; an' maybe God will rise up some thin' to put a dud o' clothes on us all, an' help us to pull through till the black time is over us."  So, I told him to try his luck, any way; for he was killin' himself entirely on the moor.  An' so he did try; for there's not an idle bone in that same boy's skin.  But, see this, now; there's nothin' in the world to be had to do just now ― an' a dale too many waitin' to do it ― so all he got by the change was losin' his work on the moor.  There is himself, an' me, an' the seven childer.  Five o' the childer is under tin year old.  We are all naked; an' the house is bare; an' our health is gone wi' the want o' mate.  Sure it wasn't in the likes o' this we wor livin' when times was good."  Three of the youngest children were playing about on the floor.  "That's a very fine lad," said I, pointing to one of them.  The little fellow blushed, and smiled, and then became very still and attentive.  "Ah, thin," said his mother, "that villain's the boy for tuckin' up soup!  The Lord be about him, an' save him alive to me, ― the crayter! . . . An' there's little curly there,―the rogue!  Sure he'll take as much soup as any wan o' them.  Maybe he wouldn't laugh to see a big bowl forninst him this day."  "It's very well they have such good spirits," said the visitor.  "So it is," replies the woman, "so it is, for God knows it's little else they have to keep them warm thim bad times."



CHAPTER III.


The next house we called at in Walker's Court was much like the first in appearance ― very little left but the walls, and that little, such as none but the neediest would pick up, if it was thrown out to the streets. The only person in the place was a pale, crippled woman; her sick head, lapped in a poor white clout, swayed languidly to and fro. Besides being a cripple, she had been ill six years, and now her husband, also, was taken ill. He had just crept off to fetch medicine for the two. We did not stop here long. The hand of the Ancient Master was visible in that pallid face; those sunken eyes, so full of deathly languor, seemed to be wandering about in dim, flickering gazes, upon the confines of an unknown world. I think that woman will soon be


Where the weary are at rest.


As we came out, she said, slowly, and in broken, painful utterances, that "she hoped the Lord would open the heavens for those who had helped them."  A little lower down the court, we peeped in at two other doorways.  The people were well known to my companion, who has the charge of visiting this part of the ward.  Leaning against the door-cheek of one of these dim, unwholesome hovels, he said, "Well, missis; how are you getting on?"  There was a tall, thin woman inside.  She seemed to be far gone in some exhausting illness.  With slow difficulty she rose to her feet, and, setting her hands to her sides, gasped out, "My coals are done."  He made a note, and said, "I'll send you some more."  Her other wants were regularly seen to on a certain day every week.  Ours was an accidental visit.  We now turned up to another nook of the court, where my companion told me there was a very bad case.  He found the door fast.  We looked through the window into that miserable man-nest.  It was cold, gloomy, and bare.  As Corrigan says, in the "Colleen Bawn," "There was nobody in ― but the fire ― and that was gone out."  As we came away, a stalwart Irishman met us at a turn of the court, and said to my companion, "Sure, ye didn't visit this house."  "Not to-day;" replied the visitor.  "I'll come and see you at the usual time."  The people in this house were not so badly off as some others.  We came down the steps of the court into the fresher air of Friargate again.  Our next walk was to Heatley Street.  As we passed by a cluster of starved loungers, we overheard one of them saying to another, "Sitho, yon's th' soup-maister, gooin' a-seein' somebry."  Our time was getting short, so we only called at one house in Heatley Street, where there was a family of eleven ― a decent family, a well-kept and orderly household, though now stript almost to the bare ground of all worldly possession, sold, bitterly, piecemeal, to help to keep the bare life together, as sweetly as possible, till better days.  The eldest son is twenty-seven years of age.  The whole family has been out of work for the last seventeen weeks, and before that, they had been working only short time for seven months.  For thirteen weeks they had lived upon less than one shilling a head per week, and I am not sure that they did not pay the rent out of that; and now the income of the whole eleven is under 16s., with rent to pay.  In this house they hold weekly prayer-meetings.  Thin picking ― one shilling a week, or less ― for all expenses, for one person.  It is easier to write about it than to feel what it means, unless one has tried it for three or four months.  Just round the corner from Heatley Street, we stopped at the open door of a very little cottage.  A good-looking young Irishwoman sat there, upon a three-legged stool, suckling her child.  She was clean; and had an intelligent look.  "Let's see, missis," said the visitor, "what do you pay for this nook?"  "We pay eighteenpence a week ― and they will have it ― my word."  "Well, an' what income have you now?"  "We have eighteenpence a head in the week, an' the rent to pay out o' that, or else they'll turn us out."  Of course, the visitor knew that this was true; but he wanted me to hear the people speak for themselves.   "Let's see, Missis Burns, your husband's name is Patrick, isn't it?"  "Yes, sir; Patrick Burns."  "What!  Patrick Burns, the famous foot-racer?"  The little woman smiled bashfully, and replied, "Yes, sir; I suppose it is."  With respect to what the woman said about having to pay her rent or turn out, I may remark, in passing, that I have not hitherto met with an instance in which any mill-owner, or wealthy man, having cottage property, has pressed the unemployed poor for rent.  But it is well to remember that there is a great amount of cottage property in Preston, as in other manufacturing towns, which belongs to the more provident class of working men.  These working men, now hard pressed by the general distress, have been compelled to fall back upon their little rentals, clinging to them as their last independent means of existence.  They are compelled to this, for, if they cannot get work, they cannot get anything else, having property.  These are becoming fewer, however, from day to day.  The poorest are hanging a good deal upon those a little less poor than themselves; and every link in the lengthening chain of neediness is helping to pull down the one immediately above it.  There is, also, a considerable amount of cottage property in Preston, belonging to building societies, which have enough to do to hold their own just now.  And then there is always some cottage property in the hands of agents.  Leaving Heatley Street, we went to a place called "Seed's Yard."  Here we called upon a clean old stately widow, with a calm, sad face.  She had been long known, and highly respected, in a good street, not far off, where she had lived for twenty-four years, in fair circumstances, until lately.  She had always owned a good houseful of furniture; but, after making bitter meals upon the gradual wreck of it, she had been compelled to break up that house, and retire with her five children to lodge with a lone widow in this little cot, not over three yards square, in "Seed's Yard," one of those dark corners into which decent poverty is so often found now, creeping unwillingly away from the public eye, in the hope of weathering the storm of adversity, in penurious independence.  The old woman never would accept relief from the parish, although the whole family had been out of work for many months.  One of the daughters, a clean, intelligent-looking young woman, about eighteen, sat at the table, eating a little bread and treacle to a cup of light-coloured tea, when we went in; but she blushed, and left off until we had gone ― which was not long after.  It felt almost like sacrilege to peer thus into the privacies of such people; but I hope they did not feel as if it had been done offensively.  We called next at the cottage of a hand-loom weaver ― a poor trade now in the best of times ― a very poor trade ― since the days when tattered old "Jem Ceawp" sung his pathetic song of "Jone o' Greenfeelt" ―


Aw'm a poor cotton weighver, as ony one knows;
We'n no meight i'th heawse, an' we'n worn eawt er clothes;
We'n live't upo nettles, while nettles were good;
An' Wayterloo porritch is th' most of er food;
                   This clemmin' and starvin',
                   Wi' never a farthin' ―
    It's enough to drive ony mon mad.


This family was four in number ― man, wife, and two children.  They had always lived near to the ground, for the husband's earnings at the loom were seldom more than 7s. for a full week.  The wife told us that they were not receiving any relief, for she said that when her husband "had bin eawt o' wark a good while he turn't his hond to shaving;" and in this way the ingenious struggling fellow had scraped a thin living for them during many months.  "But," said she, " it brings varra little in, we hev to trust so much.  He shaves four on 'em for a haw-penny, an' there's a deal on 'em connot pay that.  Yo know, they're badly off ― (the woman seemed to think her circumstances rather above the common kind); an' then," continued she, "when they'n run up a shot for three-hawpence or twopence or so, they cannot pay it o' no shap, an' so they stoppen away fro th' shop.  They cannot for shame come, that's heaw it is; so we lose'n their custom till sich times as summat turns up at they can raise a trifle to pay up wi'. . . . He has nobbut one razzor, but it'll be like to do."  Hearken this, oh, ye spruce Figaros of the city, who trim the clean, crisp whiskers of the well-to-do!  Hearken this, ye dainty perruquiers, "who look so brisk, and smell so sweet," and have such an exquisite knack of chirruping, and lisping, and sliding over the smooth edge of the under lip, ― and, sometimes, agreeably too, ― "an infinite deal of nothing," ― ye who clip and anoint the hair of Old England's curled darlings!  Eight chins a penny; and three months' credit!  A bodle a piece for mowing chins overgrown with hair like pin-wire, and thick with dust; how would you like that?  How would you get through it all, with a family of four, and only one razor?  The next place we called at was what my friend described, in words that sounded to me, somehow, like melancholy irony, ― as "a poor provision shop."  It was, indeed, a poor shop for provender.  In the window, it is true, there were four or five empty glasses, where children's spice had once been.  There was a little deal shelf here and there; but there were neither sand, salt, whitening, nor pipes.  There was not the ghost of a farthing candle, nor a herring, nor a marble, nor a match, nor of any other thing, sour or sweet, eatable or saleable for other uses, except one small mug full of buttermilk up in a corner ― the last relic of a departed trade, like the "one rose of the wilderness, left on its stalk to mark where a garden has been."  But I will say more about this in the next chapter.



[Next Page]

 


[Home] [Up] [Lancashire Songs] [Lancashire Life] [Lancashire Sketches I.] [Rambles in the Lakes] [The Cotton Famine] [Poems and Songs I.] [Poems and Songs II.] [Besom Ben] [Tufts of Heather I.] [Tufts of Heather II.] [The Chimney Corner] [The Limping Pilgrim] [The Barrel Organ] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

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