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´╗┐Title: Tales of the Ridings
Author: Moorman, Frederic William, 1872-1919
Language: English
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                   TALES OF THE RIDINGS
                           BY
                 F. W. MOORMAN 1872 - 1919

     LATE PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEEDS UNIVERSITY

            Editor of "Yorkshire Dialect Poems"

                WITH A MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR
                  By Professor C. VAUGHAN

             LONDON ELKIN MATHEWS, CORK STREET
                             1921



Contents:
MEMOIR
A LAOCOON OF THE ROCKS
THROP'S WIFE
THE INNER VOICE
B.A.
CORN-FEVER



MEMOIR


Frederic Moorman came of a stock which, on both sides, had struck deep
roots in the soil of Devon. His father's family, which is believed to
have sprung ultimately from "either Cornwall or Scotland"--a
sufficiently wide choice, it may be thought--had for many generations
been settled in the county.(1) His mother's--her maiden name was Mary
Honywill--had for centuries held land at Widdicombe and the
neighbourhood, in the heart of Dartmoor. He was born on 8th September
1872, at Ashburton, where his father, the Rev. A. C. Moorman, was
Congregational minister; and for the first ten years of his life he was
brought up on the skirts of the moor to which his mother's family
belonged: drinking in from the very first that love of country sights
and sounds which clove to him through life, and laying the foundation of
that close knowledge of birds and flowers which was an endless source of
delight to him in after years, and which made him so welcome a companion
in a country walk with any friend who shared his love of such things but
who, ten to one, could make no pretence whatever to his knowledge.

In 1882, his father was appointed to the ministry of the Congregational
Church at Stonehouse, in Gloucestershire; and Frederic began his formal
schooling at the Wyclif Preparatory School in that place. The country
round Stonehouse--a country of barish slopes and richly wooded
valleys--is perhaps hardly so beautiful as that which he had left and
whose memory he never ceased to cherish. But it has a charm all its own,
and the child of Dartmoor had no great reason to lament his removal to
the grey uplands and "golden valleys" of the Cotswolds.

His next change must have seemed one greatly for the worse. In 1884 he
was sent to the school for the sons of Congregational ministers at
Caterham; and the Cotswolds, with their wide outlook over the Severn
estuary to May Hill and the wooded heights beyond, were exchanged for
the bald sweep and the white chalk-pits of the North Downs. These too
have their unique beauty; but I never remember to have heard Moorman say
anything which showed that he felt it as those who have known such
scenery from boyhood might have expected him to do.

After some five years at Caterham, he began his academical studies at
University College, London; but, on the strength of a scholarship, soon
removed to University College, Aberystwyth (1890), where the
scenery--sea, heron-haunted estuaries, wooded down to the very shore,
and hills here and there rising almost into mountains--offered
surroundings far more congenial to him than the streets and squares of
Bloomsbury.

In these new surroundings, he seems to have been exceptionally happy,
throwing himself into all the interests of the place, athletic as well
as intellectual, and endearing himself both to his teachers and his
fellow-students. His friendship with Professor Herford, then Professor
of English at Aberystwyth, was one of the chief pleasures of his student
days as well as of his after life. Following his natural bent, he
decided to study for Honours in English Language and Literature, and at
the end of his course (1893) was placed in the Second Class by the
examiners for the University of London, to which the Aberystwyth College
was at that time affiliated. Those who believe in the virtue of infant
prodigies--and, in the country which invented Triposes and Class Lists,
it is hard to fix any limit to their number--will be distressed to learn
that, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge of such matters,
he was not at that time reckoned to be of "exceptionally scholarly
calibre." Perhaps this was an omen all the better for his future
prospects as a scholar.

It is a wholesome practice that, when the cares of examinations are once
safely behind him, a student should widen his experience by a taste of
foreign travel. Accordingly, in September, 1893, Moorman betook himself
to Strasbourg, primarily for the sake of continuing his studies under
the skilful guidance of Ten Brinck. The latter, however, was almost at
once called to Berlin and succeeded by Brandl, now himself of the
University of Berlin, who actually presided over Moorman's studies for
the next two years, and who thought, and never ceased to think, very
highly both of his abilities and his acquirements. It was only natural
that Moorman should make a pretty complete surrender to German ideals
and German methods of study. It was equally natural that, in the light
of subsequent experience, his enthusiasms in that line should suffer a
considerable diminution. He was not of the stuff to accept for ever the
somewhat bloodless and barren spirit which has commonly dominated the
pursuit of literature in German universities.

Into the social life of his new surroundings he threw himself with all
the zest that might have been expected from his essentially sociable
nature: making many friendships--that of Brandl was the one he most
valued--and joining--in some respects, leading--his fellow-students in
their sports and other amusements. His first published work, in fact,
was a translation of the Rules of Association Football into German; and
he may fairly be regarded as the godfather of that game on German soil.
Nor was this the end of his activities. During the two years he spent at
Strasbourg he acted as Lektor in English to the University, so
gaining--and gaining, it is said, with much success--his first
experience in what was to be his life's work as a teacher.

On the completion of his course at Strasbourg, where he obtained the
degree of Ph.D. in June 1895,(2) he returned to Aberystwyth, now no
longer as student but as Lecturer in the English Language and Literature
under his friend and former teacher, Professor Herford. There he
remained for a little over two years (September, 1895, to January,
1898), gradually increasing his stores of knowledge and strengthening
the foundations of the skill which was afterwards to serve him in good
stead as a teacher. During that time he also became engaged to the
sister of one of his colleagues, Miss Frances Humpidge, whom he had
known for some years and whose love was to be the chief joy and support
of his after life.

As a matter of prudence, the marriage was postponed until his prospects
should be better assured. The opportunity came sooner than could have
been expected. In January, 1898, he was appointed to the lectureship in
his subject--a subject, such is our respect for literature, then first
handed over to an independent department--in the Yorkshire College at
Leeds; and in August of the same year he was married. Four children,
three of whom survived and the youngest of whom was twelve at the time
of his death, were born during the earlier years of the marriage.

The life of a teacher offers little excitement to the onlooker; and all
that can be done here is to give a slight sketch of the various
directions in which Moorman's energies went out. The first task that lay
before him was to organise the new department which had been put into
his hands, to make English studies a reality in the college to which he
had been called, to give them the place which they deserve to hold in
the life of any institution devoted to higher education. Into this task
he threw himself with a zeal which can seldom, if ever, have been
surpassed. Within six years he had not only put the teaching of his
subject to Pass Students upon a satisfactory basis; he had also laid the
foundations of an Honours School able to compete on equal terms with
those of the other colleges which were federated in the then Victoria
University of the north. It was a really surprising feat for so young a
man--he was little over twenty-five when appointed--to have accomplished
in so short a time; the more so as he was working single-handed: in
other words, was doing unaided the work, both literary and linguistic,
which in other colleges was commonly distributed between two or three.
And I speak with intimate knowledge when I say that the Leeds students
who presented themselves for their Honours Degree at the end of that
time bore every mark of having been most thoroughly and efficiently
prepared.

In 1904, six years after Moorman's appointment to the lectureship, the
Yorkshire College was reconstituted as a separate and independent
university, the University of Leeds; and in the rearrangement which
followed, an older man was invited to come in as official chief of the
department for which Moorman had hitherto been solely responsible. This
invitation was not accepted until Moorman had generously made it clear
that the proposed appointment would not be personally unwelcome to him.
Nevertheless, it was clearly an invidious position for the new-comer:
and a position which, but for the exceptional generosity and loyalty of
the former chief of the department, would manifestly have been
untenable. In fact, no proof of Moorman's unselfishness could be more
conclusive than that, for the nine years during which the two men worked
together, the harmony between them remained unbroken, untroubled by even
the most passing cloud. Near the close of this time, in recognition of
his distinction as a scholar and of his great services to the
University, a separate post, as Professor of the English Language, was
created for him.

During the whole of his time at Leeds, his knowledge of his subject,
both on its literary and linguistic side, was constantly deepening and
his efficiency, as teacher of it, constantly increasing. With so keen a
mind as his, this was only to be expected. It was equally natural that,
as his knowledge expanded and his advice came to be more and more sought
by those engaged in the study of such matters, he should make the
results of his researches known to a wider public. After several smaller
enterprises of this kind,(3) he broke entirely fresh ground with two
books, which at once established his right to be heard in both the
fields for which he was professionally responsible: _Yorkshire Place
Names_, published for and by the Thoresby Society in 1911; and a study
of the life and poetry of Robert Herrick, two years later. The former,
if here and there perhaps not quite rigorous enough in the tests applied
to the slippery evidence available, is in all essentials a most solid
piece of work: based on a wide and sound knowledge of the linguistic
principles which, though often grossly neglected, form the corner-stone,
and something more, of all such inquiries; and lit up with a keen eye
for the historical issues--issues reaching far back into national
origins which, often in the most unexpected places, they may be made to
open out. The latter, to which he turned with the more zest because it
led him back to the familiar setting of his native county--to its moors
and rills and flowers, and the fairy figures that haunted them--is a
delightful study of one of the most unique of English poets(4); a study,
however, which could only have been written by one who, among many other
things, was a thorough-paced scholar. Many qualities--knowledge,
scholarship, love of nature, a discerning eye for poetic beauty--go to
the making of such a book. Their union in this _Study_ serves to show
that, great as was Moorman's authority in the field of language, it was
always to literature, above all to poetry, that his heart went naturally
out. The closing years of his life were to set this beyond doubt.

It would be absurd to close this sketch of Moorman's professional
activities without a reference, however slight, to what was, after all,
one of the most significant things about them. No man can, in the full
sense, be a teacher unless, in some way or other, he throws himself into
the life and interests of his students. And it was among the
secrets--perhaps the chief secret--of Moorman's influence as a teacher
that, so far from being mere names in a register, his students were to
him always young people of flesh and blood, in whose interests he could
share, whose companion he delighted to be, and who felt that they could
turn to him for advice and sympathy as often as they were in need. No
doubt his own youthfulness of temper, the almost boyish spirits which
seldom or never flagged in him, helped greatly to this result; but the
true fountain of it all lay in his ingrained unselfishness. The same
power was to make itself felt among the classes for older students which
he held in the last years of his life.

To fulfil all these academical duties in the liberal spirit, which was
the only spirit possible to Moorman, might well have been expected to
exhaust the energies of any man. Yet, amidst them all, he found time to
take part, both as lecturer and as trusted adviser, in the activities of
the Workers' Educational Association, attending summer meetings and,
during the last five or six winters of his life, delivering weekly
lectures and taking part in the ensuing discussions, at Crossgates, one
of the outlying suburbs of Leeds. To the students who there, year by
year, gathered round him he greatly endeared himself by his power of
understanding their difficulties and of presenting great poetry in a way
that came home to their experience and imagination. His growing sympathy
with the life of homestead and cottage made this a work increasingly
congenial to him; and, as a lecturer, he was perhaps never so happy, in
all senses of the word, as when, released from the "idols of the
lecture-room," he was seeking to awake, or keep alive, in others that
love of imaginative beauty which counted for so much in his own life and
in his discharge of the daily tasks that fell upon him: speaking freely
and from his heart to men and women more or less of his own age and his
own aspirations; "mingling leadership and _camaraderie_ in the happy
union so characteristic of him," and "drawing out the best endeavours of
his pupils by his modest, quietly effective methods of teaching and,
above all, by his great, quiet, human love for each and all."(5)

It is clear that such work, however delightful to him, meant a
considerable call upon his time and strength: the more so as it went
hand in hand with constant labours on behalf of the Yorkshire Dialect
Society, for which he was the most indefatigable of travellers--cycling
his way into dale after dale in search of "records"--and of which, on
the death of his friend, Mr Philip Unwin, he eventually became
president. Nor was this all. During the last seven years or so of his
life the creative impulse, the need of embodying his own life and the
lives of those around him in imaginative form was constantly growing
upon him, and a wholly new horizon was opening before him.

At first he may have thought of nothing more than to produce plays
suitable for performance either by the students of the University or by
young people in those Yorkshire dales with which his affections were
becoming year by year increasingly bound up. But, whatever the occasion,
it soon proved to be no more than an occasion. He swiftly found that
imaginative expression not only came naturally to him, but was a deep
necessity of his nature; that it gave a needed outlet to powers and
promptings which had hitherto lain dormant and whose very existence was
unsuspected by his friends, perhaps even by himself. _The May King_,
_Potter Thompson_, the adaptation of the _Second Shepherds' Play_ from
the fifteenth-century _Towneley Mysteries_ followed each other in swift
succession; and the two first have, or will shortly have, been performed
either by University students or by school children of "the Ridings."(6)
This is not the place to attempt any critical account of them. But there
are few readers who will not have been struck by the simplicity with
which the themes--now pathetic, now humorous, now romantic--are handled,
and by the easy unconsciousness with which the Professor wears his
"singing robes."

The same qualities, perhaps in a yet higher degree, appear in the
dialect poems, written during the last three years of his life: _Songs
of the Ridings_. The inspiration of these was less literary; they sprang
straight from the soil and from his own heart. It was, no doubt, a
scholarly instinct which first turned his mind in this direction: the
desire of one who had studied the principles of the language and knew
every winding of its historical origins to trace their working in the
daily speech of the present. He has told us so himself, and we may
readily believe it. But, if he first came to the dales as learner and
scholar, he soon found his way back as welcome visitor and friend. The
more he saw of the dalesmen, the more his heart went out to them: the
more readily, as if by an inborn instinct, did he enter into their
manner of life, their mood and temper, their way of meeting the joys and
sorrows brought by each day as it passed. And so it was that the
scholar's curiosity, which had first carried him thither, rapidly gave
way to a feeling far deeper and more human. His interest in forms of
speech and fine shades of vowelling fell into the background; a simple
craving for friendly intercourse, inspired by a deep sense of human
brotherhood, took its place. And _Songs of the Ridings_(7) is the
spontaneous outgrowth of the fresh experience and the ever-widening
sympathies which had come to him as a man. The same is true of _Tales of
the Ridings_, published for the first time in the following pages.

The last five years of his life (1914-1919) had, to him as to others,
been years of unusual stress. Disqualified for active service, he had
readily undertaken the extra work entailed by the departure of his
younger colleagues for the war. He had also discharged the semi-military
duties, such as acting on guard against enemy aircraft, which fell
within his powers; and, both on the outskirts of Leeds and round his
Lytton Dale cottage, he had devoted all the time he could spare to
allotment work, so as to take his share--it was, in truth, much more
than his share--in increasing the yield of the soil. All this, with a
host of miscellaneous duties which he voluntarily shouldered, had put an
undue strain upon his strength. Yet, with his usual buoyancy, he had
seemed to stand it all without flagging; and even when warned by the
army medical authorities that his heart showed some weakness, he had
paid little heed to the warning, had certainly in no way allowed it
either to interfere with his various undertakings or to prey upon his
spirits.

The Armistice naturally brought some relief. Among other things, it
opened the prospect of the return of his colleagues and a considerable
lightening both of his professional and of his manifold civic duties. He
was, moreover, much encouraged--as a man of his modest, almost
diffident, nature was bound to be--by the recognition which _Songs of
the Ridings_ had brought from every side: not least from the dalesmen,
for whom and under whose inspiration they were written. And all his
friends rejoiced to think that a new and brighter horizon seemed opening
before him. Those who saw him during these last months thought that he
had never been so buoyant. They felt that a new hope and a new
confidence had entered into his life.

These hopes were suddenly cut off. He had passed most of August and the
first week of September (1919) at his cottage in Lytton Dale, keeping
the morning of his birthday (8th September), as he always delighted to
do, with his wife and children. In the afternoon he went down to bathe
in the river, being himself an excellent swimmer, and wishing to teach
his two younger children an art in which he had always found health and
keen enjoyment. He swam across the pool and called on his daughter to
follow him. Noticing that she was in some difficulty, he jumped in again
to help her, but suddenly sank to the bottom, and was never seen alive
again. An angler ran up to help from a lower reach of the stream, and
brought the girl safely to land. Then, for the first time learning that
her father had sunk, he dived and dived again in the hope of finding him
before it was too late. But the intense cold of the water baffled all
his efforts, and the body was not recovered until some hours later. It
is probable that the chill of the pool had caused a sudden failure of
Moorman's heart--a heart already weakened by the excessive strain of the
last few years--and it is little likely that, after he had once sunk, he
could ever have been saved.

The death of Moorman called forth expressions of grief and of grateful
affection, so strong and so manifestly sincere as to bring something of
surprise even to his closest friends. Much more surprising would they
have been to himself. They came from every side, from lettered and
unlettered, from loom and dale, from school and university. Nothing
could prove more clearly how strong was the hold he had won upon all who
knew him, how large the place he filled in the heart of his colleagues
and the county of his adoption. It was a fitting tribute to a literary
achievement of very distinctive originality. It was also, and above all,
a tribute, heartfelt and irrepressible, to the charm of a singularly
bright and winning spirit: to a life which had spent itself, without
stint and without one thought of self, in the service of others.

Endnotes (were footnotes):

(1) To this family is believed to have belonged John Moreman, Canon and
eventually Dean of Exeter (though he died, October, 1554, "before he was
presented to the Deanery"), of whom an account will be found in Prince's
_Worthies of Devon_ (ed. 1701, pp. 452-453), as well as in Wood's
_Athenoe_ and _Fasti Oxonienses_ and Foxe's _Book of Martyrs_. He was
"the first in those days to teach his parishioners to say the Lord's
Prayer, the Belief and the Commandments in the English tongue" (whether
the contrast is with Latin or Cornish, for he was then Vicar of
Menynhed, in East Cornwall, does not appear). He was imprisoned, as a
determined Catholic, in Edward VI.'s reign, but "enlarged under Queen
Mary, with whom he grew into very great favour," and was chosen to
defend the doctrine of Transubstantiation before the Convocation of
1553.

(2) His thesis for this degree, on _The Interpretation of Nature in
English Poetry from Beowulf to Shakespeare_, was published in 1905.

(3) He published editions of _The Faithful Shepherdess_, _The Knight of
the Burning Pestle_ and _The Two Noble Kinsmen_ in 1897, and an
elaborately critical edition of Herrick's _Poems_, in completion of his
_Study_, in 1915. He also contributed the chapter on "Shakespeare's
Apocrypha" to the _Cambridge History of English Literature_; and for
many years acted as English editor of the _Shakespeare Jahrbuch_.

(4) Dean Bourne, the parish to which Herrick was not very willingly
wedded, is within five miles of Ashburton, Moorman's birthplace.

(5) The words in inverted commas are quoted from the records of the
Class, kindly communicated by the secretary, Mr Hind. It is difficult to
imagine anything stronger than the expressions of affectionate respect
which recur again and again in them. I add one more, from the pen which
wrote the second quotation: "So quiet, yet so pervading, was his love
that each felt the individual tie; and our class, so diverse in spirit,
thought and training, has never heard or uttered an angry word. We felt
it would be acting disloyally to hurt anyone whom he loved."

(6) _The May King_, written in 1913, has been twice acted by school
children, once in the open air, once in the large hall of the
University. _Potter Thompson_, written in 1911-1912, was acted by
students of the University in 1913 and is at present in rehearsal for
acting by pupils of the Secondary School of Halifax. The Towneley
_Shepherds' Play_ was acted with slight modifications by University
students, under Moorman's guidance, in 1907. His adaptation of it,
written in 1919, has not yet been acted, but was written in the hope
that some day it might be. It may be added that he was largely
responsible for a very successful performance of Fletcher's _Elder
Brother_ by the University students in 1908.

(7) First published serially in _The Yorkshire Weekly Post_ of
1917-1918.



A LAOCOON OF THE ROCKS


The enclosure of the common fields of England by hedge or wall, whereby
the country has been changed from a land of open champaigns and large
vistas to one of parterres and cattle-pens, constitutes a revolution in
the social and economic life of the nation. Though extending over many
years and even centuries, this process of change reached its height in
the latter half of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century, and
thus comes into line with the industrial revolution which was taking
place in urban England about the same time. To some, indeed, the
enclosure of the open fields may appear as the outward symbol of that
enwalling of the nation's economic freedom which transformed the artisan
from an independent craftsman to a wage-earner, and made of him a link
in the chain of our modern factory system. To those economists who
estimate the wealth of nations solely by a ledger-standard, the
enclosure of the common fields has seemed a wise procedure; but to those
who look deeper, a realisation has come that it did much to destroy the
communal life of the countryside. Be that as it may, it is beyond
question that to the ancient and honoured order of shepherds, from whose
ranks kings, seers and poets have sprung, it brought misfortune and even
ruin.

Among the shepherds of the eastern slopes of the Pennine Hills few were
better known in the early years of the nineteenth century than Peregrine
Ibbotson. A shepherd all his life, as his father and grandfather had
been before him, he nevertheless belonged to a family that had once
owned wide tracts of land in Yorkshire. But the Ibbotsons had fought on
the losing side in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and the forfeiture of their
lands had reduced them to the rank of farmers or shepherds. But the
tradition of former greatness was jealously preserved in the family; it
lived on in the baptismal names which they gave to their children and
fostered in them a love of independence together with a spirit of
reserve which was not always appreciated by their neighbours. But the
spirit of the age was at work in them as in so many other families in
the dale villages. Peregrine's six sons had long since left him alone in
his steading on the moors: some had gone down to the manufacturing towns
of the West Riding and had prospered in trade; others had fought, and
more than one had fallen, in the Napoleonic wars. Peregrine, therefore,
although seventy-six years of age and a widower, had no one to share
roof and board with him in his shepherd's cottage a thousand feet above
the sea.

Below, in the dale, lay the villages with their clustered farmsteads and
their square-towered churches of Norman foundation. Round about his
steading, which was screened by sycamores from the westerly gales, lay
the mountain pastures, broken by terraces of limestone rock. Above,
where the limestone yields place to the millstone, were the high moors
and fells, where grouse, curlews and merlins nested among the heather,
and hardy, blue-faced sheep browsed on the mountain herbage.

It was Peregrine's duty to shepherd on these unenclosed moors the sheep
and lambs which belonged to the farmers in the dale below. Each farmer
was allowed by immemorial custom to pasture so many sheep on the moors
the number being determined by the acreage of his farm. During the
lambing season, in April and May, all the sheep were below in the crofts
behind the farmsteads, where the herbage was rich and the weakly ewes
could receive special attention; but by the twentieth of May the flocks
were ready for the mountain grass, and then it was that Peregrine's year
would properly begin. The farmers, with their dogs in attendance, would
drive their sheep and lambs up the steep, zigzagging path that led to
Peregrine's steading, and there the old shepherd would receive his
charges. Dressed in his white linen smock, his crook in his hand, and
his white beard lifted by the wind, he would take his place at the mouth
of the rocky defile below his house. At a distance he might easily have
been mistaken for a bishop standing at the altar of his cathedral church
and giving his benediction to the kneeling multitudes. There was dignity
in every movement and gesture, and the act of receiving the farmers'
flocks was invested by him with ritual solemnity. He gave to each farmer
in turn a formal greeting, and then proceeded to count the sheep and
lambs that the dogs had been trained to drive slowly past him in single
file. He knew every farmer's "stint" or allowance, and stern were his
words to the man who tried to exceed his proper number.

"Thou's gotten ower mony yowes to thy stint, Thomas Moon," he would say
to a farmer who was trying to get the better of his neighbours.

"Nay, Peregrine, I reckon I've nobbut eighty, and they're lile 'uns at
that."

"Eighty's thy stint, but thou's gotten eighty-twee; thou can tak heam
wi' thee twee o' yon three-yeer-owds, an' mind thou counts straight next
yeer."

Further argument was useless; Peregrine had the reputation of never
making a mistake in his reckoning, and, amid the jeers of his fellows,
Thomas Moon would drive his two rejected ewes with their lambs back to
his farm.

When all the sheep had been counted and driven into the pens which they
were to occupy for the night the shepherd would invite the farmers to
his house and entertain them with oatcakes, Wensleydale cheese and
home-brewed beer; meanwhile, the conversation turned upon the past
lambing season and the prospects for the next hay harvest. When the
farmers had taken their leave Peregrine would pay a visit to the pens to
see that all the sheep were properly marked and in a fit condition for a
moorland life. Next morning he opened the pens and took the ewes and
lambs on to the moors.

For the next ten months they were under his sole charge, except during
the short periods of time when they had to be brought down to the farms.
The first occasion was "clipping-time," at the end of June, before the
hay harvest began. Then, on the first of September, they returned to the
dale in order that the ram lambs might be taken from the flocks and sold
at the September fairs. Once again, before winter set in, the farmers
demanded their sheep of Peregrine in order to anoint them with a salve
of tar, butter and grease, which would keep out the wet. For the rest
the flocks remained with Peregrine on the moors, and it was his duty to
drive them from one part to another when change of herbage required it.

The moors seemed woven into the fabric of Peregrine's life, and he
belonged to them as exclusively as the grouse or mountain linnet. He
knew every rock upon their crests and every runnel of water that fretted
its channel through the peat; he could mark down the merlin's nest among
the heather and the falcon's eyrie in the cleft of the scar. If he
started a brooding grouse and the young birds scattered themselves in
all directions, he could gather them all around him by imitating the
mother's call-note. The moor had for him few secrets and no terrors. He
could find his way through driving mist or snowstorm, knowing exactly
where the sheep would take shelter from the blast, and rescuing them
from the danger of falling over rocks or becoming buried in snowdrifts.
The sun by day and the stars by night were for him both clock and
compass, and if these failed him he directed his homeward course by
observing how the cotton-grass or withered sedge swayed in the wind.

Except when wrapped in snow, the high moors of the Pennine range present
for eight months of the year a harmony of sober colours, in which the
grey of the rocks, the bleached purple of the heather blossom and the
faded yellows and browns of bent and bracken overpower the patches of
green herbage. But twice in the course of the short summer the moors
burst into flower and array themselves with a bravery with which no
lowland meadow can compare. The first season of bloom is in early June,
when the chalices or the cloud-berry and the nodding plumes of the
cottongrass spring from an emerald carpet of bilberry and ling. These
two flowers are pure white, and the raiment of the moors is that of a
bride prepared to meet her bridegroom, the sun. By July the white has
passed, and the moors have assumed once more a sombre hue. But August
follows, and once again they burst into flower. No longer is their
vesture white and virginal; now they bloom as a matron and a queen,
gloriously arrayed in a seamless robe of purple heather.

Such were the surroundings amid which Peregrine Ibbotson had spent three
quarters of a century, and he asked for nothing better than that he
should end his days as a Yorkshire shepherd. But now a rumour arose that
there was a project on foot to enclose the moors. The meadows and
pastures in the valley below had been enclosed for more than
half-a-century, and this had been brought about without having recourse
to Act of Parliament. The fields had been enclosed by private
commission; the farmers had agreed to refer the matter to expert
arbitrators and their decisions had been accepted without much
grumbling. The dalesmen were proud of their freehold property and were
now casting their eyes upon the moorland pastures above. They agreed
that the sheep would crop the grass more closely if confined by walls
within a certain space, and the fees paid to the shepherd for his labour
would be saved; for each farmer would be able to look after his own
sheep. But what weighed with them most was the pride of individual
possession compared with which the privilege of sharing with their
neighbours in communal rights over the whole moor seemed of small
account. Moreover, stones for walling were plentiful, and the disbanding
of the armies after the French wars had made labour cheap.

At first Peregrine refused to believe the rumour; the moors, he argued
with himself, had always been commons and commons they must remain. Yet
the rumour persisted and gradually began to work like poison in his
mind. He was too proud to mention the matter to the farmers when they
came up for the autumn salving of the sheep, but a constraint in their
manner deepened his suspicions, and all through the winter a pall of
gloom enshrouded his mind like the pall of gloom on the moors
themselves. Spring brought dark foreboding to yet darker certainty. From
his mountain eyrie Peregrine could now see bands of men assembling in
the village below. They were wallers, attracted thither by the prospect
of definite work during the summer months, and on Easter Monday a start
was made. Peregrine watched them from the fells, and as he saw them
carrying the blocks of limestone in their hands they seemed to him like
an army of stinging ants which had been disturbed in their ant-hill and
were carrying their eggs to another spot.

Slowly but surely the work advanced. At first the walls took a beeline
track up the hillside, but when they reached the higher ground, where
scars of rock and patches of reedy swamp lay in their path, their
progress became serpentine. But whether straight or winding, the white
walls mounted ever upwards, and Peregrine knew that his doom was sealed.
The moors which Ibbotsons had shepherded for two hundred years would
soon pass out of his charge; the most ancient of callings, which
Peregrine loved as he loved life itself, would be his no more; his
mountain home, which had stood the shock of an age-long battle with the
storms, would pass into the hand of some dalesman's hind, and he would
be forced to descend to the valley and end his days in one or other of
the smoky towns where his remaining sons were living.

There was no human being to whom he could communicate his thoughts, yet
the pent-up anguish must find outlet somehow, lest the heart-strings
should snap beneath the strain. It was therefore to his sheepdog, Rover,
that he unburdened his mind, as the dog lay with its paws across his
knees in the heather, looking up to its master's face. "Snakes, Rover,
doesta see t' snakes," he would mutter, as his eye caught the
serpent-like advance of the walls. The dog seemed to catch his meaning,
and responded with a low growl of sympathy. "Aye, they're snakes," the
old man went on, "crawlin's up t' fell-side on their bellies an' lickin'
up t' dust. They've gotten their fangs into my heart, Rover, and seean
they'll be coilin' thersels about my body. I niver thowt to see t'
snakes clim' t' moors; they sud hae bided i' t' dale and left t' owd
shipperd to dee in peace."

When clipping-time came the walls had almost reached the level of the
shepherd's cottage. It was the farmers' custom to pay Peregrine a visit
at this time and receive at his hands the sheep that were to be driven
down to the valley to be clipped and earmarked. But this year not a
single one appeared. Shame held them back, and they sent their hinds
instead. These knew well what was passing in the shepherd s mind, but
they stood in too much awe of him to broach the subject; and he, on his
side, was too proud to confide his grievance to irresponsible farm
servants. But if nothing was said the dark circles round Peregrine's
eyes and the occasional trembling of his hand betrayed to the men his
sleepless nights and the palsied fear that infected his heart.

At times, too, though he did his utmost to avoid them, the shepherd
would come upon the bands of wallers engaged in their sinister task.
These were strangers to the dale and less reticent than the men from the
farms.

"Good-mornin', shipperd. Thou'll be noan sae pleased to set een on us
wallers, I reckon," one of them would say.

"Good-mornin'," Peregrine would reply. "I weant say that I's fain to see
you, but I've no call to threap wi' waller-lads. Ye can gan back to them
that sent you and axe 'em why they've nivver set foot on t' moor this
yeer."

"Mebbe they're thrang wi' their beasts and have no time to look after t'
yowes."

"Thrang wi' beasts, is it? Nay, they're thrang wi' t' devil, and are
flaid to look an honest man i' t' face."

The old man's words, and still more the lines of anguish that seamed his
weather-beaten face, touched them to the quick. But what could they do?
They were day-labourers, with wives and children dependent on the work
of their hands. Walling meant tenpence a day and regular work for at
least six months, and the choice lay between that and the dreaded
"Bastile," as Yorkshiremen in the years that succeeded the French
Revolution had learnt to call the workhouse.

So the work went on, and each day saw "the snakes" approaching nearer to
their goal on the crest of the fells. Peregrine still pursued his
calling, for the farmers, partly to humour the old man, gave orders that
a gap here and there should be left in the walls through which he could
drive his flocks. The work slackened somewhat during the hay harvest,
and the services of the wallers were enlisted in the meadows below. But
when the hay was gathered into the barns--there are no haystacks in the
Yorkshire dales--walling was resumed with greater vigour than before.
The summer was advancing, and the plan was to finish the work before the
winter storms called a halt. All hands were therefore summoned to the
task, and the farmers themselves would often join the bands of wallers.
Peregrine kept out of their way as far as possible, hating nothing so
much as the sound of their hammers dressing the stone. But one day, as
he rounded a rocky spur, he came upon the chief farmer of the district,
as he was having dinner with his men under the lee of the wall he was
building. Seeing that an encounter was unavoidable, the shepherd
advanced boldly to meet his adversary.

"I've catched thee at thy wark at last have I, Timothy?" were his words
of greeting, and Timothy Metcalfe cowered before a voice which seared
like one of his own branding-irons. "Enclosin' t' freemen's commons is
nobbut devil's wark, I's thinkin'," Peregrine went on relentlessly, "and
I've marked thee out for devil's wark sin first thou tried to bring more
nor thy stint o' Swawdill yowes on to t' moor."

The wallers received this home-thrust with a smile of approval, and
Timothy, roused by this, sought to defend himself.

"It's noan devil's wark," he retorted. "Enclosure was made by order o'
t' commissioners."

"Aye, I know all about t' commissioners--farmers hand i' glove wi' t'
lawyers frae t' towns, and, aboon all, a government that's i' t'
landlords' pockets. What I say is that t' common land belongs iverybody,
an' sike-like as thee have gotten no reight to fence it in."

"Happen we're doin' it for t' good o' t' country," argued Timothy.
"There's bin a vast o' good herbage wasted, wi' sheep hallockin' all
ower t' moors, croppin' a bit here and a bit theer, and lettin' t' best
part o' t' grass get spoilt."

"Thou's leein', and thou knows it," replied Peregrine, with the
righteous indignation of one whose professional honour is impugned.
"I've allus taen care that t' moors hae bin cropped fair; thou reckons
thou'll feed mair yowes an' lambs on t' moors when thou's bigged thy
walls; but thou weant, thou'll feed less. I know mair about sheep nor
thou does, and I tell thee thou'll not get thy twee hinds to tend 'em
same as a shepherd that's bred an' born on t' moors."

"We sal see about that," Metcalfe answered sullenly.

"An' what wilta do when t' winter storms coom?" Peregrine continued.
"It's not o' thee an' thine, but o' t' yowes I's thinkin'; they'll be
liggin theer for mebbe three week buried under t' snow. It's then
thou'll be wantin' t' owd shipperd back, aye, an' Rover too, that can
set a sheep when shoo's under six foot o' snow."

"Thou's despert proud of what thou knows about sheep an' dogs,
Peregrine, but there's mony a lad down i' t' dale that's thy marrow."

"Aye, I's proud o' what I've larnt misel through tendin' sheep on t'
Craven moors for mair nor sixty year; and thou's proud o' thy meadows
and pasturs down i' t' dale, aye, and o' thy beasts an' yowes and all
thy farm-gear; but it's t' pride that gans afore a fall. Think on my
words, Timothy Metcalfe, when I's liggin clay-cowd i' my grave. Thou's
tramplin' on t' owd shipperd an' robbin' him o' his callin'; and there's
fowks makkin' brass i' t' towns that'll seean be robbin' thee o' thy
lands. Thou's puttin' up walls all ower t' commons an' lettin' t' snakes
wind theirsels around my lile biggin; and there's fowks'll be puttin' up
bigger walls, that'll be like a halter round thy neck."

As he uttered these words, Peregrine drew himself up to his full height,
and his flashing eyes and animated gestures gave to what he said
something of the weight of a sibylline prophecy. Then, calling his dog
to heel, he moved slowly away.

By the end of August the walls had reached the top of the fells and
there had joined up with those which had mounted the other slope of the
moors from the next valley. And now began the final stage in the process
of enclosure--the building of the cross-walls and the division of the
whole area into irregular fields. This work started simultaneously in
the dale-bottoms and on the crests, so that Peregrine's cottage, which
was situated midway between the valley and the mountain-tops, would be
enclosed last of all. The agony which the shepherd endured, therefore,
during these weeks of early autumn was long-drawn-out. He still pursued
his calling, leading the sheep, when the hot sun had burnt the short
wiry grass of the hill-slopes, down to the boggy ground where runnels of
water furrowed their courses through the peat and kept the herbage
green. But go where he might, he could not escape from the sound of the
wallers' tools. It was a daily crucifixion of his proud spirit, and
every blow of the hammer on the stones was like a piercing of his flesh
by the crucifiers' nails.

October brought frost, followed by heavy rains, and the moors were
enshrouded in mist. But the farmers, eager that the enwalling should be
finished before the first snows came, allowed their men no respite. With
coarse sacking over their shoulders to ward off the worst of the rain,
they laboriously plied their task, but the songs and jests and laughter
which had accompanied their work in summer gave way to gloomy silence.
They rarely met Peregrine now, though they often saw him tending his
flocks in the distance, and noticed that his shoulders, which six months
before had been erect, were now drooping heavily forward and that he
walked with tottering steps. They reported this in the farm-houses where
they were lodging, and two of the farmers wives, who in happier days had
been on friendly terms with Peregrine, paid a visit to the old man's
cottage in order to try to induce him to come down to the dale for the
winter or go and stay with one of his sons in the towns. The shepherd
received them with formal courtesy, but would not listen to their
proposal.

"Nay," he said, "I'll bide on t' moors; t' moors are gooid enif to dee
on."

Early in November a party of wallers were disturbed at their work by the
persistent barking of a dog. Thinking that the animal was caught in a
snare, they followed the sound, with the intention of setting it free.
On reaching the spot they found it was Rover, standing over the
prostrate figure of the shepherd. The old man had fainted and was lying
in the heather. The wallers brought water in their hats and, dashing it
in his face restored him to consciousness. He was, however, too weak to
talk, so they carried him in their arms to his cottage and laid him on
his bed while one of them raced down the hill to summon the nearest
doctor.

A few hours later fever set in, and the patient became delirious. A
tumult of ideas was surging through his brain, and found vent in broken
speech, which struck awe to the wallers' hearts as they bent over his
bed.

"_Ein-tein-tethera-methera-pimp_; _awfus-dawfus-deefus-dumfus-dik_." The
old man was counting his sheep, using the ancient Gaelic numerals from
one to ten, which had been handed down from one shepherd to another from
time immemorial. And as he called out the numbers his hand fumbled among
the bed-clothes as though he were searching for the notches on his
shepherd's crook.

Then his mind wandered away to his three sons who had fallen in their
country's wars. "Miles! Christopher! Tristram!" he cried, and his glazed
eyes were fastened on the door as if he expected them to enter. Then,
dimly remembering the fate that had befallen them, he sank slowly back
on the pillow. "They're deead, all deead," he murmured; "an' their bones
are bleached lang sin. Miles deed at Corunna, Christopher at Waterloo,
and I--I deant know wheer Tristram deed. They sud hae lived--lived to
help me feight t' snakes." As he uttered the dreaded word his fingers
clutched his throat as though he felt the coils of the monsters round
his neck, and a piercing shriek escaped his lips.

After a time he grew quieter and his voice sank almost to a whisper. "He
makketh me to lie down i' green pasturs," he gently murmured, and, as he
uttered the familiar words, a smile lit up his face. "There'll be nea
snakes i' yon pasturs. I's thinkin'. ... He leadeth me beside t' still
watters.... I know all about t' still watters; they flows through t'
peat an' t' ling away on t' moor."

Later in the day the doctor came, but a glance showed him that recovery
was out of the question; and next morning, as the sun broke over the
eastern fells, Peregrine Ibbotson passed away. The snakes had done their
work; their deadly fangs had found the shepherd's heart.



THROP'S WIFE


In Yorkshire, when a man is very busy, we say he is "despert thrang";
but when he is so busy that "t' sweat fair teems off him," we say that
he is as "thrang as Throp's wife." Now I had always been curious to know
who Throp's wife was, and wherein her "thrangness" consisted, and what
might be Throp's view of the matter; but all my inquiries threw no light
upon the problem, and it seemed as though Throp's wife were going to
prove as intangible as Mrs Harris. But I am not the man to be put off by
feminine elusiveness, so I made a vow that I would give up smoking until
I had found Throp's wife and made her mine. My summer holiday was coming
on, and I decided that, instead of spending the week in Scarborough, I
would make a tour through the towns and villages of the West Riding in
search of Throp's wife. I took the matter as much to heart as if I had
been a mediaeval knight setting forth to rescue some distressed damsel
from the clutches of a wicked magician or monstrous hippogriff, and I
called my expedition "the quest of Throppes wife"; as my emblem I chose
the words "_Cherchez la femme_."

I first of all turned my steps in the direction of Pudsey, for I knew
that it had the reputation of being the home of lost souls. To my
delight I found that Pudsey professed first-hand acquaintance with the
lady.

"Throp's wife," said Pudsey; "ay, iverybody has heerd tell abaat Throp's
wife. Thrang as Throp's wife is what fowks allus say."

"Yes, yes," I replied; "but what I want to know is who Throp's wife
really was."

"Why," answered Pudsey, "shoo'll happen hae bin t' wife o' a chap they
called Throp."

Now that was just the answer I might have expected from Pudsey, and I
decided to waste no more time there. So I made for the Heavy Woollen
District--capital letters, if you please, Mr Printer--- and straightway
put my question. But the Heavy Woollen District was far too thrang
itself to take interest in anybody else's thrangness; it knew nothing
about quests or emblems, cared little about Throp's wife, and less about
me. So I commended the Heavy Woollens to the tender mercies of the
excess profits taxers and sped on my way. I struck across country for
the Calder Valley, but neither at Elland, which calls itself Yelland,
nor at Halifax, which is said to be the pleasantest place in England to
be hanged in, could I obtain any clue as to the lady's identity. "Thrang
as Throp's wife" was everywhere a household phrase, but that was all. I
was beginning to grow weary; besides, I wanted my pipe.

"What is the use," I asked Halifax, "of your establishing Literary and
Philosophical Societies, Antiquarian Societies, and a local branch of
the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, if you cannot get to the
bottom of Throp's wife?"

Halifax was somewhat taken aback at this, and its learned antiquaries,
in self-defence, assured me that, if she had been a Roman remain they
would have known all about her.

"But how do you know that she is not a Roman remain?" I asked. "Nobody
can tell a woman's age. She may even be a solar myth."

Say what I might, I could not induce Halifax to join in "the quest of
Throppes wife"; it savoured too much of quixotry for sober-minded
Halifax.

I now realised that the quest must be a solitary one, and I consoled
myself with the thought that, if the ardours of the pilgrimage were
unshared, so would be the glory of the prize. Fired with new enthusiasm,
I shouted the name of Throp's wife to the everlasting hills, and the
everlasting hills gave back the slogan in reverberating echoes--"Throp's
wahfe." By midday I had reached the summit of Stanbury Moor, and the
question was whether I should descend the populous Worth Valley to
Keighley or strike northwards across the hills. Instinct impelled me to
the latter course, and instinct was right. Late in the afternoon, faint
but pursuing, I reached a hill-top village which the map seemed to
identify with a certain Cowling Hill, but which was always spoken of as
Cohen-eead.

I made my way to "The Golden Fleece," and there, in the bar parlour, I
met an old man and a merry. His face was as round and almost as red as a
Dutch cheese, and many a year had passed since he had last seen his
feet. I felt drawn to this old man, whose baptismal name was Timothy
Barraclough, but who always answered to the by-name of Tim o' Frolics;
and when we had politely assured one another that it was grand weather
for the hay and that lambs would soon be making a tidy price at Colne
market, I spoke to him of the quest.

At first he remained silent, but after a few moments his blue eyes began
to twinkle like stars in the firmament, and then, slapping his knees
with both hands, he broke into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

"Ay, ay," he said, "I know all about Throp's wife. Shoo lived at
Cohen-eead, an' my mother telled me t' tale when I were nobbut a barn."

As I heard these words, I almost leaped for joy, and could have thrown
my arms about the old man's neck, and embraced him. Remembering Pudsey,
however, I refrained, but urged Tim o' Frolics to tell me all he knew.

"Throp was a farmer," he began, "and lived out Cornshaw way. He was a
hard-workin' man, was Throp, but I reckon all his wark were nobbut
laikin' anent what his wife could do. You see, her mother had gien her a
spinnin'-wheel when shoo were wed, and eh! but shoo were a gooid 'un to
spin. Shoo'd get t' house sided up by ten o'clock, an' then shoo'd set
hersen down to t' wheel. Throp would sam up all t' bits o' fallen wool
that he could find, an' Throp's wife would wesh 'em an' card 'em an'
spin 'em into yarn, an' then shoo'd knit t' yarn into stockin's an' sell
'em at Keighley an' Colne. Shoo were that thrang shee'd sooin getten
shut o' all t' wool that Throp could get howd on, an' then shoo axed t'
farmers to let t' barns out o' t' village go round t' moors an' bring
her t' wool that had getten scratted off t' yowes' backs for ten mile
around. Shoo were a patteren wife, and sooin fowks began to say to one
another: 'I've bin reight thrang to-day; I've bin well-nigh as thrang as
Throp's wife.' So 'thrang as Throp's wife' gat to be a regular nominy,
an' other fowks took to followin' her example; it were fair smittlin'!
They bowt theirsens spinnin'-wheels, an' gat agate o' spinnin', while
there were all nations o' stockins turned out i' Cohen-eead an'
Cornshaw, enough for a whole army o' sodgers. Ay, an' t' women fowks gat
their chaps to join i' t' wark; there were no settin' off for t' public
of a neet, an' no threapin' or fratchin' at t' call-hoils. It was wark,
wark, wark, through morn to neet, an' all on account o' Throp's wife an'
her spinnin'-wheel.

"Well, after a time Cohen-eead had getten that sober an' hard-workin',
t'owd devil began to grow a bit unaisy. He'd a lot o' slates, had t'
devil; there was one slate for iverybody i' Cohen-eead. He'd had t'
slates made i' two sizes, one for t' men an' one for t' women."

"The big slates were for the men and the little slates for the women, I
suppose."

"I'm noan so sure o' that," Timothy rejoined, and his eyes began to
twinkle again. "Well," he continued, "t' devil began to look at t'
slates, an there was onmost nowt written on 'em; nobody had getten
druffen, or illified his neighbour; there was nobbut a two-three grocers
that had bin convicted o' scale-sins. So t' devil sends for t' god o'
flies, and when he were come, he says to him: 'Nah then, Beelzebub,
what's wrang wi' Cohen-eead? There's no business doin' there'; and he
shows him t' slates. So Beelzebub taks t' slates and looks at 'em, an'
then he scrats his heead an' he says: 'I can't help it, your Majesty.
It's Throp's wife; that's what's wrang wi' Cohen-eead.'

"'Throp's wife! Throp's wife!' says Satan; 'an' who's Throp's wife to
set hersen agean me?'

"'Shoo's made fowks i' Cohen-eead that thrang wi' wark they've no time
to think o' sins.'

"'An' what have thy flies bin doin' all t' time?' asks Satan. 'They've
bin laikin', that's what they've bin doin'. They ought to hae bin
buzzin' round fowks' heeads an' whisperin' sinful thowts into their
lug-hoils. How mony flies does thou keep at Cohen-eead?'

"T' god o' flies taks out his book an' begins to read t' list: 'Five
hunderd mawks, three hunderd atter-cops, two hunderd an' fifty
bummle-bees.' 'Bummle-bees! Bummle-bees!' says Satan. 'What's t' gooid
o' them, I'd like to know? How mony house-flies, how mony blue-bottles
hasta sent?' and wi' that he rives t' book out o' Beelzebub's hands and
turns ower t' pages hissen.

"At lang length he gies him back his book, and he says: 'I sal hae to
look into this misen. Throp's wife! I'll sooin sattle wi' Throp's wife.
I'll noan have her turnin' Cohen-eead intul a Gardin o' Eden. I reckon
I'm fair stalled o' that mak o' place.'

"So Satan gav out that he were baan for Cohen-eead an' wouldn't be back
while to-morn. 'Twere lat i' t' afternooin when he'd getten theer, an'
t' first thing he did were to creep behind a wall and change hissen
intul a sarpint. An' as he were set theer, waitin' for it to get dark,
he saw five blue-bottles that were laikin' at tig i' t' sunshine anent
t' wall. Well, that made t'owd devil fair mad, for they ought to hae bin
i' t' houses temptin' fowks to sin; so he oppened his cake-hoil, thrast
out his forked tongue, an' swallowed three on 'em at one gulp. After
that he felt a bit better. When it were turned ten o'clock, he crawled
alang t' loans an' bridle-stiles, while he gat to Throp's farm. He
sidled under t' door and into t' kitchen. It were as dark as a booit i'
t' kitchen, an' he could hear Throp snorin' i' bed aboon t' balks. So he
crawled up t' stairs, an' under t' chamer door, an' up on to t' bed. Eh!
but Throp's wife would hae bin flustered if shoo'd seen a sarpint
liggin' theer on t' pillow close agean her lug-hoil. But shoo were fast
asleep, wi' Throp aside her snorin' like an owd ullet i' t' ivy-tree. So
t' devil started temptin' her, and what doesta think he said?"

"I suppose he told her not to work so hard," I replied, "but take life
more easily and quarrel a bit with her neighbours."

Tim o' Frolics paused for a moment to enjoy the luxury of seeing me fall
into the pit that he had dug for me, and then went on:

"He said nowt o' t' sort. That's what t' blue-bottles had bin sayin' to
her all t' time, an' all for nowt. Nay, t'owd devil were a sly 'un, an'
knew more about Throp's wife nor all t' blue-bottles i' t' world. So he
says to her: 'Keziah'--they called her Keziah after her
grandmother--'thou's t' idlest dawkin' i' Cohen-eead. When arta baan to
get agate o' workin'?'"

"But surely," I interrupted, "there was no temptation in telling her to
work harder."

Timothy paused, and then, in a reproving voice, asked: "Who's tellin' t'
tale, I'd like to know? Thou or me?"

I stood rebuked, and urged him to go on with his story, promising that I
would not break in on the narrative again.

"Well, as I were sayin'," he continued, "t' devil kept tellin' her that
shoo mun be reight thrang, an' not waste time clashin' with her
neighbours; an' when he thowt he'd said enough he crawled down off t'
bed an out o' house and away back to wheer he com frae.

"Next mornin' Throp's wife wakkened up at t' usual time an' crept out o'
bed. There was nowt wrang wi' her, and o' course shoo knew nowt about t'
royal visit that shoo'd bin honoured wi'. Shoo gat all t' housewark
done, fed t' hens and t' cauves, an' was set down to her wheel afore ten
o'clock. There shoo sat an' tewed harder nor iver. It were Setterday,
an' shoo looked at t' bag o' wool and said to hersen that shoo'd have it
all carded an' spun an' sided away afore shoo went to bed that neet.
Shoo wouldn't give ower when t' time com for dinner or drinkins or
supper, but shoo made Throp bring her a sup o' tea and summat to eat
when he com in through his wark. An' all t' time shoo called hersen an
idle dollops 'cause shoo weren't workin' hard enough. That were t'
devil's game. But for all shoo tewed so hard, there was a gey bit o'
wool left i' t' bag when ten o'clock com and 'twere time to get to bed.
You see, 'twere bad wool; 'twere all feltered an' teed i' knots. But
Throp's wife were noan baan to bed while shoo'd finished t' bag. So
Throp said, if that were so, he mun set hissen down an' help wi' t'
wark. So Throp carded an' Throp's wife spun, an' that set things forrad
a bit. But t' hands o' t' clock went round as they'd niver done afore;
eleven o'clock com and hauf-past eleven, and then a quairter to twelve.
Throp's wife looked at t' clock, an' then at bag, an' then at Throp.

"'Throp,' shoo said, 'we'll noan be through wi t' wark by midneet.'

"'Then we sal hae to give ower,' said Throp. 'It'll be Sunday morn i' a
quairter of an hour, an' I'm noan baan to work o' Sunday.'

"When Throp's wife heerd that shoo burst out a-roarin'. 'I'm an idle
good-for-nowt,' shoo said. 'Eh! but I mun finish t' bag; I mun, I mun.'

"'I'm noan baan to work when t' clock has struck twelve,' Throp said
agean, 'nor let thee work, nowther. I'm a deacon at t' Independent
Chapil, an' I'll noan let fowks say that they saw a leet i' wer kitchen,
an' heerd thy wheel buzzin' of a Sunday morn.'

"When Throp's wife heerd that, shoo fell to roarin' agean, for shoo knew
they'd noan be through wi' t' spinnin' while a quairter past twelve. But
at lang length shoo turned to Throp an' shoo said: 'Let's put t' clock
back, an' then, if onybody's passin' an' looks in on us, an' wants to
know why we're workin' of a Sunday morn, we can show 'em t' clock.'

"Throp said nowt for a bit; he was a soft sort o' a chap, an' didn't
want to start fratchin' wi' his wife. So just to please her, he gat up
on to t' stooil an' put back t' hands o' t' clock twenty minutes. An' t'
clock gave a despert gert groan; 'twere summat atween a groan an' a
sweer, an' it went straight to Throp's heart, an' he wished he'd niver
melled wi' t' clock. Howiver, he com back to his cardin', an' when t'
clock strack twelve, t' bag o' wool were empty, an' there were a gert
hank o' spun yarn as big as a man's heead. Throp looked at his wife, an'
there were a glint in her een that he'd niver seen theer afore; shoo
were fair ditherin' wi' pride an' flustration. 'Fowks san't say "Thrang
as Throp's wife" for nowt,' shoo said, and shoo gat up off t' stooil,
sided away t' spinnin'-wheel, an' stalked off to bed wi' Throp at her
heels. Eh! mon, but 'twere a false sort o' pride were yon."

"Did people find out about putting the clock back?" I asked.

"Nay, 'twere worse nor that," Timothy replied. "That neet there was a
storm at Cohen-eead the likes o' which had niver bin seen theer afore.
There was thunner an' leetnin', and a gert sough o' wind that com
yowlin' across t' moor an' freetened iverybody wellnigh out o' their
five senses. Fowks wakkened up an' said 'twere Judgment Day, an' T' Man
Aboon had coom to separate t' sheep frae t' goats. When t' cockleet com,
t' storm had fallen a bit, an' fowks gat out o' bed to see if owt had
happened 'em. Slates, and mebbe a chimley or two, had bin rived off t'
roofs, but t' beasts were all reight i' t' mistals, an' then they went
up on to t' moors to look for t' sheep. When they got nigh Throp's farm,
they noticed there was a gert hoil in his riggin' big enough for a man
to get through. So they shouted to Throp, but he niver answered. Then
they oppened t' door an' looked in. There was nobody i' t' kitchen, but
t' spinnin'-wheel were all meshed to bits and there were a smell o'
burnin' wool. They went all ower t' house, but they could see nowt o'
Throp nor o' Throp's wife, nor o' Throp's wife's chintz-cat that shoo
called Nimrod, nor yet o' Throp's parrot that he'd taught to whistle
_Pop goes t' Weazel_. They lated 'em ower t' moors an' along t' beck
boddom, but 'twere all for nowt, an' nobody i' Cohen-eead iver set een
on 'em again."

Such was Timothy Barraclough's story of Throp's wife and of the terrible
fate which befell her and her husband. I spent the night at the inn, and
next morning made further inquiries into the matter. There was little
more to be learnt, but I was told that farmers crossing the moors on
their way home from Colne market had sometimes heard, among the rocks on
the crest of the hills, the sound of a spinning-wheel; but others had
laughed at this, and had said that what they had heard was only the cry
of the nightjar among the bracken. It was also rumoured that on one
occasion some boys from the village had made their way into a natural
cavern which ran beneath the rocks, and, after creeping some distance on
hands and knees, had been startled by ghostly sounds. What they heard
was the mournful whistling of a popular air, as it were by some caged
bird, and then the strain was taken up by the voices of a man and woman
singing in unison:

   Up and down the city street
      In and out the "Easel,"
   That's the way the money goes,
      Pop goes the weazel.



"IT MUN BE SO"


I met her on her way through the path-fields to the cowshed; she was
gathering, in the fading light of an October evening, the belated stars
of the grass of Parnassus, and strapped to her shoulders was the
"budget," shaped to the contour of the back, and into which the milk was
poured from the pails. It was a heavy load for a girl of twelve, but she
was used to it, and did not grumble. Her father was dead, all the
day-tale men had been called up, and her mother, she assured me, "was
that thrang wi' t' hens an' t' cauves, shoo'd no time for milkin' cows."

In the village she was subjected to a good deal of ridicule. The
children made fun of her on her way home from school, and called her
"daft Lizzie"; the old folks, when they heard her muttering to herself,
would shrug their shoulders and pass the remark that she was "nobbut a
hauf-rocked 'un"--an insult peculiarly galling to her mother.

"A hauf-rocked 'un!" she would exclaim. "Nay, I rocked her misel i' t'
creddle while my shackles fair worked. Shoo taks after her dad, that's
what's wrang wi' Lizzie. A feckless gowk was Watmough; he couldn't frame
to do owt but play t' fiddle i' t' sky-parlour, or sit ower t' fire
eatin' fat-shives."

Lizzie's daftness was not a serious matter; it consisted partly in a
certain dreaminess, which brought a yonderly look into her eyes, and
made her inattentive to what was going on around her, and partly in that
habit of talking to herself which has already been referred to. I had
won her confidence and friendship from the time when I rescued her
"pricky-back urchin" from being kicked to death by the farm boys, who
declared that hedgehogs always made their way into the byres and milked
the cows. Since then we had had many talks together, but this was the
first time that I had accompanied her when she went to milk.

Milking in summer-time, when the cows are out at grass, is pleasant
enough, but it is different of a winter evening. Then one gropes one's
way by the light of the stable lantern through the rain-sodden fields to
the cowshed, the reeking atmosphere of which often makes one feel faint
as one plunges into it from out of the frosty air. But Lizzie liked the
work at all seasons, and was never so much at ease as when she was
firmly planted on her stool, her curly head butting into a cow's ribs,
and the warm milk swishing rhythmically into her pail. There were three
cows in the byre, and she had called them after her aunts. Eliza, like
her namesake, was "contrairy," and had to have her hind legs hobbled
lest she should kick over the pail. Molly and Anne were docile beasts
that chewed the cud with bovine complacency. It was Lizzie's habit to
tell the cows stories as she milked, making them up as she went along;
but to-day she found a better listener in myself.

Our talk was at first of cows; thence it passed to village gossip, pigs,
hedgehogs, and so back to cows once more. Knowing the imaginative bent
of her mind, I put the question to her: "Wouldn't you like to know just
what becomes of the milk you send off to Leeds by train every day?"

"Aye, I like to know who sups t' milk," she answered, "an' so does t'
cows."

"But you can't know that," I said. "You don't take it round to the
houses."

"Nay, I don't tak it round to t' houses, but I reckon out aforehand
who's to get it."

It was evident that Lizzie had some private arrangement for the disposal
of her milk, and I encouraged her to let me share her secret.

"I've milked for all maks o' fowks sin' father deed," she went on,
"bettermy fowks and poor widdies. Once I milked for t' King."

"Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle?"

Lizzie knew nothing about pleasantry, and was not put out by my
frivolous question.

"'Twern't nowther o' them places," she continued; "'twere Leeds Town
Hall. Mother read it out o' t' paper that he was comin' to Leeds to go
round t' munition works, and would have his dinner wi' t' Lord Mayor. So
I said to misel: 'I'll milk for t' King.' He's turned teetotal, has t'
King, sin t' war started, and I telled t' cows all about it t' neet
afore. 'Ye mun do your best, cushies, to-morn', I said. 'T' King'll be
wantin' a sup o' milk to his ham and eggs, and I reckon 'twill do him
more gooid nor his pint o' beer, choose how. An' just you think on that
gentle-fowks has tickle bellies. Don't thou go hallockin' about i' t'
tonnup-field, Eliza, and get t' taste o' t' tonnups into thy cud same as
thou did last week.' Eh! they was set up about it, was t' cows; I'd
niver seen 'em so chuffy. So next day, just to put 'em back i' their
places, I made em gie their milk to t' owd fowks i' t' Union."

"Who else have you milked for?" I asked, after a pause, during which she
had moved her stool from Eliza to roan Anne.

"Nay, I can't reckon 'em all up," she replied. "Soomtimes it's weddin's
an' soomtimes it's buryin's; then there's lile barns that's just bin
weaned, and badly fowks i' bed."

"And will you sometimes milk for a lady I know that lives in Leeds?"

Lizzie was silent for a moment, and then asked: "Is shoo a taicher, an'
has shoo gotten fantickles and red hair?"

"No," I replied, and I thought with some amusement of the freckled face
and aureoled head of the village schoolmistress, who had got across with
Lizzie on account of her inability to do sums and speak "gradely
English." "She's an old lady, with white hair; she's my mother."

"Aye, I'll milk for thy mother," Lizzie answered; "but I'm thrang wi'
sodgers this week an' next."

"Soldiers in camp?" I asked.

"Nay, sodgers i' t' hospital. Poor lads, they're sadly begone for want
o' a sup o' milk. I can see 'em i' their beds i' them gert wards, and
there's country lads amang 'em that knows all about cows an' plooin'.
Their faces are as lang as a wet week when they think on that they've
lossen an arm or a leg, an' will niver milk nor ploo no more. Eh! but
I'm fain to milk for t' sodgers."

"But how can you be sure that the right people get your milk?" I asked
at last.

She did not answer at once, and I knew that she was wondering at my
stupidity, and considering how best she could make me understand. But
she could find no words to bring home to my intelligence the confidence
that was hers. All that she could say was: "It mun be so."

"It mun be so." At first I thought it was just the usual game of
make-believe in which children love to indulge. But it was much more
than this, and the simple words were an expression of her sure faith
that what she willed must come to pass. "It mun be so." Why not? "If ye
have faith, and shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be
thou cast into the sea, it shall be done."



THE INNER VOICE


Fear is a resourceful demon, with whom we are engaged in perpetual
conflict from the cradle to the grave. Fear assumes many forms, and has
always a shrewd eye for the joints in that armour of courage and
confidence which we put on in self-defence. One man conquers fear of
danger only to fall a prey to fear of public opinion; another succumbs
to superstitious fear, while a third, steadfast against all these, comes
under the thraldom of the most insidious and malign of all forms of
fear--the fear of death.

The power of fear has of late been forcibly impressed on my mind by
hearing from his own lips the story of my friend, Job Hesketh. Six
months ago I should have said that Job was entirely unconscious of fear.
I have never known a man so good-humouredly indifferent to public
opinion. "Say what thou thinks and do what thou says" was the golden
rule upon which he acted, and which he commended to others.
Superstition, in its myriad forms, was for him a lifelong jest. Thirteen
people at table had never been known to take the keen edge off his
Yorkshire appetite, and he liked to make fun of his friends' dread of
ghosts, witches and "gabbleratchets." Nothing pleased him better than to
stroll of an evening round the nearest cemetery, and he had often been
heard to declare: "I'd as sooin eat my supper off a tombstone as off wer
kitchen table."

He faced danger with reckless unconcern every day of his life. He was
employed as a "vessel-man" at the Leeds Steel Works, working on a
twelve-hours' shift, and his duty was to attend to the huge "vessels" or
crucibles in which the molten pig-iron is converted by the Bessemer
process into steel. The operation is one of enthralling interest and
beauty, and Job Hesketh's soul was in his work. The molten iron from the
blast furnaces flows along its channel into huge "ladles" or cauldrons,
and from there it is conveyed into a still larger reservoir or "mixer,"
where the greater part of the slag--which floats as a scum on the
surface--is drawn off. Then the purified metal passes into other
cauldrons, which are borne along by hydraulic machinery and their
contents gently tipped into the crucibles, which lower their gaping
mouths to receive the daffodil stream of molten iron. When their maws
are full, the crucibles are once more brought into an erect position,
and the process of converting iron into steel begins. A blast of air is
driven through the liquid metal, and the "vessels" are at once changed
into fountains of fire. A gigantic spray of flame and sparks rises from
their gaping mouths and ascends to a height of twenty feet, changing its
colour from green to gold and from gold to violet and blue as the impure
gases of sulphur and phosphorus are purged by the blast. For twenty
minutes this continues, and then the roar of the blast and the fiery
spray die down. What entered the crucible as iron is now ready to be
poured forth as steel. Once more the "vessels" are lowered and made to
discharge their contents. First comes a molten cascade of basic slag
which is borne away to cool, then to be ground to finest powder, before
its quickening power is given to pasture and cornfield, imparting a
deeper purple to the clover and a mellower gold to the rippling ears of
wheat. When all the slag has been drawn off, there is a moment's pause,
and then a new cascade begins. The steel is beginning to flow, not in a
daffodil stream like the slag, but in a cascade of exquisite turquoise
blue, melting away at the sides into iridescent opal. Sometimes a great
cloud of steam from the pit below passes across the mouth of the
crucible, and then the torrent of molten steel takes on all the colours
of the rainbow, and the great shed, with its alert, swiftly moving
figures, is suffused with a radiance of unearthly beauty.

When the vessels have discharged all their precious liquid, the cauldron
into which the metal has been poured is swung in mid-air by that unseen,
effortless power which we know as hydraulic pressure, through the arc of
a wide circle, until it reaches the point where the great ingot-moulds
stand ready to receive the molten steel. Then the cauldron is tapped,
and once more the stream of turquoise flows forth, until the ladle is
empty and the moulds are filled to the brim with liquid fire. Such was
the work in which Job Hesketh was engaged, and it absorbed him body and
soul from year's end to year's end.

Job was a giant in stature and strength. Born on a farm in the very
heart of the Yorkshire wolds, he had drifted, as a boy of sixteen, to
Leeds, and had found the life and activities of the forge as congenial
as those of the farmstead. He had reached the age of fifty without
knowing a day's illness, and he would have been the first to admit that
fortune had smiled on him. His home life had been smooth, his wages had
been sufficient for his simple needs, and the good health that he
enjoyed was shared by his wife and five children. It is true that, in
spite of his long years of service, he had never risen to be a foreman;
but that, he knew quite well, was his own fault. During the summer
months his conduct at the forge was exemplary, but as soon as November
set in it was another matter. Fox-hunting was the passion of his life,
and with the fall of the leaf in the last days of October, Job grew
restless. He would eagerly scan the papers for news of the doings of the
Bramham Moor Hunt, and from the opening of the season to its close he
would play truant on at least one day a week. He knew every cover for
leagues around, and thought nothing of tramping six or eight miles to be
ready for the meet before following the hounds and huntsman all day on
foot across the stubble fields. In vain did foremen and works-managers
remonstrate with him; he promised to reform, but never kept his word.
The blood of many generations of wold farmers ran in his veins, and
everyone of them had been a keen sportsman. The cry of the hounds rang
in his dreams of a night, and when Mary Hesketh, lying by her husband's
side, heard him muttering in his sleep: "Tally-ho! Hark to Rover! Stown
away!" she knew that, when the hooter sounded at half-past five, it
would summon him, not to work, but to a day with the hounds. He would
return home between four and five, mud-stained from head to foot,
triumphant at heart, but with an amusingly cowed expression on his face,
as of a dog that expects a whipping.

The only whipping that Mary Hesketh could administer to her repentant
Job was that of the tongue. In her early matrimonial life she had
wielded this like a flail, and Job had winced before the blows which she
delivered. But in course of time she had come to realise that her
husband's passion for the chase was incurable, and, like a wise woman,
she accepted it as part of her destiny. "Thou's bin laikin' agean, thou
gert good-for-nowt," was her usual greeting for Job on these occasions.

"Ay, ay, lass," he would reply; "I've addled nowt all t' day. But thou
promised, when we wed, to tak me for better or worse; an' if t' worse
wasn't t' hounds, it would happen be hosses or drink. Sithee, Mally,
I've browt thee a two-three snowdrops; thou can wear 'em o' Sunday."

Such was the Job Hesketh that I had known and loved for many years, and
I saw no reason why his genial temper and buoyant heart should not
remain with him to the end of his life. Yet within six months the man
changed completely. He grew suddenly old and shrunken; the great blithe
laugh that pealed through the house was silenced, the look of suave
contentment with himself and with the world about him vanished from his
face, and in its place I saw a nervous, troubled glance as of one who
suspects a lurking foe ready to spring at his throat. The change which
came over Job was like that which sometimes comes over a city sky in
autumn. The morning breaks fair, and the sun rises from out a cloudless,
frosty sky, promising a day of sunshine. But then, with the lighting of
a hundred thousand fires, a change takes place. The smoke cannot escape
in the windless air, but hangs like a pall over the houses. The sun
grows chill, coppery and rayless, and soon a fog, creeping along the
river, silently encloses each particle of smoke within a watery shroud,
and a mantle of murky gloom invests the city.

What was it that wrought this sudden change in the mind of Job Hesketh?
The story is soon told. For a long time there had been no serious
accident at the Leeds Steel Works, and the workmen, almost without being
aware of it, had grown somewhat reckless of the dangers which they had
to face. They knew quite well that in many of the operations which the
metal undergoes in its passage from crude ore to ingots of steel, a
false step meant instant death. But they had known this so long that the
knowledge had lost its terrors.

There are many moments of enforced idleness for the vesselmen as they
stand on their raised platform in front of the crucibles; but, even
during these moments of inactivity, alertness of mind is required. One
morning their minds were not alert, and one of the workmen, Abe Verity
by name, seated on the railing which separates the platform from the pit
in which stand the ingot-moulds, had snatched the cap from the head of
one of his fellows. The latter, in response to this, had raised his
crowbar, as if he meant to strike Abe on the head, and Abe, lurching
backward on the railing in order to avoid the blow, had lost his balance
and fallen backwards. Under ordinary circumstances this would have meant
nothing worse than a drop into the pit below, but, as ill-luck would
have it, one of the cauldrons of molten steel was being swung along the
arc of the pit by a hydraulic crane, and, at the very moment when Abe
lost his balance, it had reached the point beneath which he was sitting.
There was an agonised cry from the vesselmen on their platform, a
hissing splash with great gouts of liquid fire flying in all directions,
a sickening smell, and then, a few minutes later, a clergyman, hastily
summoned from the adjoining church, was reciting the burial service over
the calcined body of Abe Verity.

Blank terror gleamed in the eyes of the men who had been witnesses of
this grim holocaust. All work was suspended for the day, and Job Hesketh
was led home, dazed and trembling in every joint, by his two eldest
sons, who worked in another part of the forge. Huddled together in his
chair by the kitchen fire, perspiration streamed from his face. He was
in a state bordering on delirium, and the answers which he gave to the
questions put to him were wildly incoherent.

Abe Verity was his friend. They had been boys together in the little
wold village where they had been born, and it was at Job's earnest
entreaty that Abe had quitted farm work and joined his friend at the
Leeds Steel Works. Their tastes had been similar, and the Veritys had
often joined the Heskeths in their summer holiday at the seaside. And
now, in one fell moment, the lifelong friendship had been severed, and
Abe, the glad, strong, heart-warm man, had plunged from life to death.

Job refused to go to bed that night, but sat in his chair by the
flickering embers of his kitchen fire. His wife, lying awake in the
bedroom above, listened to his hard breathing and to the half-stifled
words which now and again fell from his lips. He was brooding over the
terrible scene he had witnessed. Every detail had bitten itself into his
brain like acid into metal. He saw the waves of liquid steel closing
over his friend, the greedy swirl of the molten metal, and then the
little tongues of red fire playing upon the surface. They reminded him
of the red tongues of wolves which he had once seen in a cage, as they
licked their chops after their feed of horse-flesh. Then it was the
clergyman reading from his Prayer Book in the garish light of the forge
that fastened itself on his mind. The words seemed charged with bitter
mockery: "We give Thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased Thee to
deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world."
"Hearty thanks"! he muttered scornfully. "I'll gie God nowt o' t' sort.
Life tasted gooid to Abe. He knew nowt about t' miseries o' t' sinful
world. He led a clean life, did Abe; an' he were fain o' life, same as I
am."

Time gradually assuaged the first horror of the tragedy which Job had
witnessed, but it failed to bring him peace of mind. Fear of death,
which up to the moment of the tragedy at the forge had never given him
an uneasy moment, now entered into possession of his mind and haunted
him awake or asleep. His work at the forge, once a joy to him, was now
an unbroken agony. He saw death lying in wait for him every time he
climbed a ladder or lifted a crowbar. Nor could he wholly escape from
the terror in what had always seemed to him the security of his home.
The howling of the wind in the chimney, the muttering of a distant
thunderstorm, even the sight of his razor on the dressing-table, were
enough to arouse the morbid fear and strike terror to his heart.

He said little of the agony that he suffered, but it was written plainly
in his eyes, in his ashen face and in the trembling of his hand. I did
my best to induce him to speak his mind to me, but with poor success.
One Sunday evening, however, when I found him and his wife seated by
themselves over the fire, I found him more communicative, and I realised
that what he dreaded most of all in the thought of death was loss of
personality. Of the unelect Calvinist's fear of hell he knew nothing.
What troubled him was, rather, dissatisfaction with heaven. Job was not
much of a theologian, though he attended chapel regularly of a Sunday
evening. His ideas of heaven were drawn mainly from certain popular
hymns, which depicted the life of the redeemed as a perpetual practice
of psalmody.

"What sud I be doin' i' heaven," he asked, "wi' a crown o' gowd on my
heead and nowt to do all day but twang a harp, just as if I were one o'
them lads i' t' band? What mak o' life's yon for a chap like me, that's
allus bin used to tug an' tew for his livin'!"

"Nay, Job," his wife replied, "but thou'll be fain o' a bit o' rest when
thy turn cooms. It's a place o' rest, that's what heaven is; thou'll
noan be wanted to play on t' harp without thou's a mind to."

"I can't sit idle like thee, Mary," Job answered. "I mun allus be doin'
summat. If it isn't Steel Works, it's fox-huntin'; and if it isn't
fox-huntin' it's fettlin' up t' henhouse, or doin' a bit o' wark wi' my
shool i' t' tatie-patch."

"Thou'll happen change thy mind when thou's a bit owder," was Mary
Hesketh's answer to this. "When I'm ower thrang wi' wark on a
washin'-day, I just set misen down on t' chair and think o' t' rest o'
heaven, an' I say ower to misen yon lines that I larnt frae my muther:

   "I knew a poor lass that allus were tired,
   Shoo lived in a house wheer help wasn't hired.
   Her last words on earth were, 'Dear friends, I am goin'
   Wheer weshin' ain't doon, nor sweepin', nor sewin',
   Don't weep for me now, don't weep for me niver,
   I'm boun' to do nowt for iver an' iver.'"


"Ay, lass," Job replied, "that's reight enif for thee. Breedin' barns
taks it out o' a woman. But it'll noan suit me so weel."

I did my best to reason with Job and to enlarge his conception of the
life to come and of the progress of the soul after death, but I made
little impression on his mind. A heaven without forges, fox-hunting and
hen-coops offered him no possible attraction.

"What thou says may be true," he would answer, "but it'll noan be Job
Hesketh that's sittin' theer. It'll be somebody else o' t' same name."

Thus did he fall back upon his ever-besetting fear of loss of
personality in the life hereafter, and, like his Biblical namesake, he
refused to be comforted.

The agony which Job Hesketh was enduring did not make him listless. On
the contrary, it seemed to give him new energy. It is true that the old
pleasure had gone out of his work and play, but to him work and play
meant life, and to life he clung with the energy of one who lived in
constant fear lest it should be suddenly snatched from him. It was
January when Abe Verity had met with his fatal accident, and all through
the next six months Job toiled like a galley-slave.

It was the practice of the Heskeths to spend the first ten days of
August at the seaside. It was their annual holiday, long talked of and
long prepared, and it was invariably spent at Bridlington. There Job
could indulge to the full in his favourite holiday pastime of swimming,
and there he was in close touch with the undulating wold country where
his boyhood had been spent. He could renew old acquaintances, lend a
hand to the farmers, or wander at will along the chalk beds of the
_gipsies_ or dry water-courses which wind their way from the hills to
the sea. Years ago he and his wife had given a trial to Scarborough,
Blackpool and Morecambe as seaside resorts, but they felt like
foreigners there and had come back to Bridlington as to an old home.

"There's nowt like Bridlington sands," he would say, in self-defence.
"I'm noan sayin' but what there's a better colour i' t' watter at
Blackpool, but there's ower mich wind on' t sea. Sea-watter gits into
your mouth when you're swimmin' and then you've to blow like a grampus.
Scarborough's ower classy for t' likes o' Mary an' me; it's all reight
for bettermy-bodies that likes to dizen theirselves out an' sook cigars
on church parade. But me an' t' owd lass allus go to Bridlington. It's
homely, is Bridlington, an' you're not runnin' up ivery minute agean
foreign counts an' countesses that ought to bide wheer they belang, an'
keep theirsens to theirsens."

There had been no improvement in Job's state of mind during the long
summer days that preceded his holiday. In his most robust days inquiries
as to his health always elicited the answer that he was "just middlin',"
which is the invariable answer that the cautious Yorkshireman vouchsafes
to give. Now, with a shrunken frame, and fever in his eye, he was still
"just middlin'," and, only when hard pressed would he acknowledge the
carking fear that was gnawing at his heart. I was, however, not without
hope that change of air and sea-bathing, for which Job had a passion
almost equal to that for fox-hunting, would restore him to health and
tranquillity of mind.

The Heskeths started for Bridlington on a Friday, and on the following
Sunday the news reached me that my old friend had been drowned while
bathing. I was stunned by the blow, and a feeling of intense gloom
pervaded my mind all day. But next morning the rumour was corrected.
Job, it seems, had gone for a long swim on the Saturday morning, and,
not realising that he had lost strength during the last six months, had
swum too far out of his depth. His strength had given out on the return
journey, and only the arrival of a boatman had saved him from death by
drowning. Relieved as I was by this second account of what had happened,
I was, nevertheless, a prey to the fear that this second encounter with
death would have enhanced that agony of mind which he had endured ever
since the moment when his friend, Abe Verity, had fallen into the
cauldron of molten steel. I waited anxiously for Job's return home and
determined to go and see him on the evening following his arrival.

I was in my bedroom, preparing to start off, when, to my surprise, I
heard Job's voice at my front door. I ran downstairs and was face to
face with a Job Hesketh that I had not known for six months. His head
and shoulders were erect, he had put on flesh, and the cowed look had
entirely vanished from his eyes. I at once congratulated him on his
improved appearance.

"Aye, aye," he answered, "there's nowt mich wrang wi' me."

"Bridlington, I see, has done you a world of good."

"Nay, I've bin farther nor Bridlington," he replied, and the old merry
twinkle, that I knew so well and had missed so long, came into his eyes.

"What do you mean?" I asked. "Have you been on board one of the Wilson
liners in the Humber and crossed over to Holland?"

"Farther nor Holland," he replied, with a chuckle. "I've bin to heaven.
I reckon I'm t' first Yorkshireman that's bin to heaven an' gotten a
return ticket given him."

"Sit down, Job," I said, "and stop that nonsense. What do you mean?"

Job seated himself by my study fire, leisurely took from his pocket a
dirty clay pipe and a roll of black twist, which he proceeded to cut and
pound. As he was thus engaged he would look up from time to time into my
face and enjoy to the full the look of impatience imprinted on it.

"Aye, lad," he began at last, "I've bin to heaven sin I last saw thee,
an' heaven's more like Leeds nor I thowt for."

"Like Leeds!" I exclaimed, and, as Job seemed in a jesting mood, I
decided to humour him. "I fancy it must have been the other place you
got to. To think of you not being able to tell heaven from hell."

"Nay, 'twere heaven, reight enif," he continued, undisturbed. "I could
tell it by t' glint i' t' een o' t' lads an' lasses."

I could see that Job had a story to tell of more than ordinary interest.
His changed appearance and buoyant manner showed clearly that something
had happened to him which had dispelled the pall of gloom which had
settled on him since Abe Verity's death. I was determined to hear the
story in full.

"Now then, Job," I said, "let us get to business. Take that pipe out of
your mouth and tell me what you have been doing at Bridlington."

Job laid down his clay pipe, cleared his throat, and polished his face
till it shone, with a large red handkerchief, and began his story.

"Well, you see, t' missus an' me got to Bridlington Friday afore Bank
Holiday, an' next mornin' I went down to t' shore for my swim same as
I'd allus done afore. 'Twere a breet mornin', an t' chalk cliffs o'
Flamborough were glistenin' i' t' sun-leet. T' fishin' boats were out at
sea, an' t' air were fair wick wi' kittiwakes an' herrin' gulls. So I
just undressed misen, walked down to t' watter an' started swimmin'. Eh!
but t' sea were bonny an' warm, an' for once I got all yon dowly thowts
o' death clean out o' my head. So I just struck out for t' buoy that
were anchored out at sea, happen hafe a mile frae t' shore. That had
allus bin my swim sin first we took to comin' to Bridlington, and I'd
niver had no trouble i' swimmin' theer an' back. I got to t' buoy all
reight an' rested misen a bit an' looked round. Gow! but 'twere a grand
seet. I could see t' leet-house at Spurn, and reight i' front o' me were
Bridlington wi' t' Priory Church and up beyond were fields an' fields of
corn wi' farm-houses set amang t' plane-trees an' t' sun-leet glistenin'
on their riggins. Efter a while I started to swim back. But it were noan
so easy. Tide were agean me an' there were a freshish breeze off t'
land. Howiver, I'd no call to hurry misen, so when I got a bit tired I
lay on my back, an' floated an' looked up at t' gulls aboon my head. But
then I fan' out 'twere no use floatin'; t' tide were driftin' me out to
sea. So I got agate o' swimmin' an' kept at it for wellnigh ten minutes.
But t' shore were a lang way off, an' then, sudden-like, I began to
think o' Abe Verity, an' t' fear o' death got howd on me an' clutched me
same as if I'd bin taen wi' cramp. There were lads fishin' frae boats
noan so far off, an' I hollaed to 'em; but they niver heerd. I tewed an'
better tewed, but I got no forrarder; an' then I knew I were boun' to
drown."

As Job got to this point in his story something of the old terror crept
into his eyes, and I did my best to cheer him.

"Well, Job," I said, "they tell me that drowning is the pleasantest kind
of death that there is."

His face brightened up immediately, and he replied: "Thou's tellin'
true, lad, an' what's more, I know all about it. If anybody wants to
know what it's like to be drowned, send 'em to Job Hesketh. If I'd as
mony lives as an owd tom-cat, I'd get shut on 'em all wi' drownin'."

Job's spirits were evidently restored, so I urged him to get on with his
story.

"Well," he continued, "I tugged an' tewed as lang as I could, but my
mouth began to get full o' watter, my legs an' airms were dead beat, an'
I reckoned that 'twere all ower wi' me. An' then a fearful queer sort o'
thing happened me. I were i' my father's farm on t' wold, laikin' wi' my
brothers same as I used to do when I were a lile barn. An', what's more,
I thowt it were my ninth birthday. You see, when I were nine yeer owd,
my father gave me two gimmer lambs an' I were prouder yon day nor iver
I'd bin i' my life afore. Weel, that were t' day that had coom back; I
knew nowt about drownin', but theer was I teein' a bit o' ribbin' about
t' lambs' necks an' givin' 'em a sup o' milk out o' a bottle. An' then I
were drivin' wi' my father an' mother i' t' spring-cart to Driffield
markit. I'd donned my best clothes and my nuncle had gien me a new
sixpenny-bit for a fairin', an' I were to buy choose-what I liked. Well,
I were aimin' to think how I sud spend t' brass when I got to Driffield,
when suddenly I weren't a lile barn no more. I were Job Hesketh,
vesselman at Leeds Steel Works, and I were drownin' i' t' sea. I saw a
boat noan so far away and I tried to holla to t' boatman, but 'twere no
use; all my strength had given out, an' my voice were nobbut a groan.
An' then----"

Job paused, and I looked up into his face. A strange radiance had come
over it, such as I had never seen there before. I had heard it said that
all that was brightest in a man's past life rises like a vision before
his eyes when, in the act of drowning, his body sinks once, and then
again, beneath the water, but I had never before confronted a man who
could relate in detail what had happened to him. Then there was Job's
story about his return ticket to heaven, which puzzled me, and I urged
him to continue his story.

"Thou'll reckon I'm talkin' blether," he went on, "but I tell thee it's
true, ivery word on it. I'll tak my Bible oath on it. All on a sudden I
were stannin' i' a gert park, and eh! but there were grand trees. They
were birk-trees, an' their boles were that breet they fair glistened i'
t' sunleet. An' underneath t' birks were bluebells, yakkers an' yakkers
o' bluebells, an' I thowt they were bluer an' breeter nor ony I'd seen
afore. There were all maks o' birds i' t' trees--spinks an' throstles
an' blackbirds--an' t' air aboon my head were fair wick wi' larks an'
pipits singin' as canty as could be. Weel, I followed along t' beck-side
while I com to a gert lake, wi' lads an' lasses sailin' boats on it. So
I said to misen: 'My word! but it's Roundhay Park an' all.' But it
wern't nowt o' t' sort. For one thing there were no policemen about,
same as you'd see at Roundhay on a Bank Holiday, an' at low side o' t'
lake there was a town wi' all maks an' manders o' buildin's; an', what's
more, a steel works wi' blast-furnaces. Weel, I were stood there,
watchin' t' childer paddlin' about i' t' watter, when somebody clapped
his hand on my showder an' sang out: 'Hullo! Job, how long hasta bin
here?' I looked round an', by t' Mass! who sud I see but Abe Verity."

"Abe Verity!" I exclaimed.

"Ay, 'twere Abe hissen, plain as life.

"So I said: 'Hullo! Abe, how ista?'

"'Just middlin',' says Abe, 'an' how's thisen? How long hasta bin here?'

"Well, I didn't hardlins know what to say to him. You see I didn't
fairly know where I was, so I couldn't tell him how lang I'd bin theer.
So I says to him: 'Sithee, Abe, is this Roundhay Park?'

"'Raandhay Park,' says Abe. You see Abe allus talked a bit broad. He
couldn't talk gradely English same as you an' me. 'Twere all along o'
him livin' wi' them Leeds loiners up at Hunslet Carr. 'Raandhay Park!'
he says. 'Nay, lad, you'll noan see birk-trees like yon i' Raandhay
Park.' And he pointed to t' birk-trees by t' lake-side, wi' boles two
foot through.

"'What is it then?' I asked. 'Have I coom to foreign parts? I'm a bad
'un to mell wi' foreigners.'

"'Nay,' said Abe, 'thou's i' heaven.'

"'Heaven!' I shouted out, an' I looked up at Abe to see if he were
fleerin' at me. He looked as grave as a judge, did Abe, but then I
noticed that he were donned i' his blue overalls, same as if he'd just
coom frae his wark. So I said to him: 'Heaven, is it? I can't see mich
o' heaven about thee, Abe. Wheer's thy harp an' crown o' gowd?'

"'Harp an' crown o' gowd,' said Abe, an' he started laughin'. 'Who is
thou takkin' me for? I'm noan King David. I'm a vesselman at t' steel
works,' an' he pointed wi' his hand across t' lake to wheer we could see
t' forge.

"Gow! but I were fair flustrated. There was Abe Verity tellin' me one
minute that I were in heaven, and next minute he were sayin' that he
were workin' at t' steel works. You see I had allus thowt that i' heaven
iverything would be different to what it is on earth. So I said: 'Does
thou mean to tell me, Abe, that lads i' heaven do t' same sort o' wark
that they've bin doin' all their lives on earth?'

"'Nay,' says Abe, 'I'll noan go so far as to say just that. What I say
is that they start i' heaven wheer they've left off on earth; but t'
conditions is different.'

"'How's that?' I axed.

"'Well, for one thing, a lad taks more pride i' his wark; an', what's
more, he's freer to do what he likes. When I were at Leeds Steel Works I
had to do choose-what t' boss telled me. Up here I'm my own boss.'

"When I heerd that, I knew that Abe were weel suited. You see he were a
bit o' a Socialist, were Abe; he used to wear a red tie an' talk
Socialism of a Setterday neet on Hunslet Moor. So I said to him: 'Doesta
mean that heaven stands for Socialism, Abe?'

"But Abe laughed an' shook his heead. 'Nay, lad,' he said, 'we haven't
gotten no 'isms i' heaven. We've gotten shut o' all that sort o' thing.
There's no argifying i' heaven. There's plenty o' discipline, but it's
what we call self-discipline; an' I reckon that's t' only sort o'
discipline that's worth owt.'

"'That'll niver do for me, Abe,' I said. 'If it were a case o'
self-discipline, I reckon I'd niver do a stroke o' wark.'

"'Nay, lad,' he said; 'thou'll think different now thou's coom to
heaven. Thou'll hark to t' inner voice an' do what it tells thee.'

"'Inner voice,' I said; 'what's that?'

"'It's a new sort o' boss,' says Abe; 'an' a gooid 'un an' all. When
thou wants to know what to do or how to do it, thou just sets thisen
down, an' t' inner voice starts talkin' to thee an' keeps on talkin',
while thou gets agate o' doin' what it tells thee.'"

Job's story was gripping my imagination as nothing had done before.
Heaven was a place of activity and not of rest; a place where the
labours of earth were renewed at the point at which they had ceased on
earth, but under ideal conditions; so that labour, under the guidance of
self-discipline, became service. Job's account of his conversation with
Abe made all this as clear as sunlight, but I was still somewhat puzzled
by the story of the inner voice.

"What do you think Abe meant by the inner voice?" I asked.

"Nay," replied Job, "I can't tell. But what he said were true. I'm sure
o' that. There were a look in his een that I'd niver seen theer afore;
'twere as if t' inner voice were speakin' through his een as well as
through his mouth."

"It's something more than conscience," I went on, speaking as much to
myself as to Job. "Conscience tells a man what it is his duty to do, but
conscience does not teach him how to do things."

We were both silent for a few moments, pondering over the problem of the
inner voice. Then a thought flashed through my mind and, rising from my
seat, I went to my bookshelves and took down a volume of Browning's
poems. I eagerly turned over the pages of _Paracelsus_, read a few
verses to myself, and then exclaimed:

"I know what it is, Job. The inner voice is the voice of truth." And I
read aloud the verses in which Paracelsus, that eager quest after truth,
speaks his mind to his friend Festus:

   Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
   From outward things, whate'er you may believe.
   There is an inmost centre in us all,
   Where truth abides in fullness; and around,
   Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
   This perfect, clear perception--which is truth.
   A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
   Binds it and makes all error: and to KNOW
   Rather consists in opening out a way
   Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,
   Than in effecting entry for a light,
   Supposed to be without.

Browning was, perhaps, somewhat beyond the comprehension of Job Hesketh,
but he liked to hear me reading poetry aloud.

"Whativer it is," he said, "Abe Verity knows all about it. He were allus
a better scholar nor me, were Abe, sin first we went to schooil
together; but I reckon I'll know all about it, too, when I've slipped t'
leash an' started work at Heaven Steel Works."

It was evident that a great change had come over Job's mind, and that
the wonderful vision of a future life that had been granted to him
during that second immersion beneath the waves of the North Sea had
wholly taken away from him his old fear of death. But I wanted to hear
the conclusion of the story, and pressed him to continue.

"Nay," he said, "there's noan so mich more to tell. There was summat i'
Abe that made me a bit flaid o' axin' him ower mony questions. He were
drissed like a plain vesselman, sure enif; but he talked as if he were a
far-learnt man, an' his own maister. I axed him how lang t' shifts
lasted i' heaven, an' he said: 'We work as lang as t' inner voice tells
us to.' You see 'twere allus t' inner voice, an' I couldn't hardlins mak
out what he meant by that.

"Then a thowt com into my heead, but I didn't fairly like to out wi' it,
for fear T' Man Aboon were somewheer about an' sud hear me. So I just
leaned ovver and whispered i' Abe's lug:

"'Doesta tak a day off nows an' thens an' run wi' t' hounds or t'
harriers?'

"Abe laughed as if he were fit to brust hissen, an' then, afore he'd
time to answer, iverything went as dark as a booit. I saw no more o'
Abe, nor o' t' lake, nor o' t' birk-trees; an' t' next time I oppened my
een there were a doctor chap stannin' ower me wi' a belly-pump in his
hand, an' I were liggin' on a bed as weak as a kitlin."

Job was silent for a while, after finishing his story and relighting his
pipe, and his silence gave me a chance of looking at him closely.
Physically he was none the worse for his adventure; mentally,
spiritually, he was a new man. The fear of death had gone from his eyes,
and in its place was the joy of life, together with a sure faith in the
triumph of personality when, to use his own coursing phrase, he had
slipped the leash. His vision of heaven was somewhat too material to
satisfy me, but there could be no doubt that it had brought to his
terror-swept soul the peace of mind which passeth all understanding.

After a while Job rose, knocked the ashes from his pipe, and took his
leave. I accompanied him to the door and watched him as he walked down
the street. There was something buoyant in his tread, and his gigantic
shoulders rolled from side to side like a seaman's on the quarter-deck.
Soon he started whistling, and I smiled as I caught the tune. It was one
of his chapel hymns, and there was a note of exultation in the closing
bars:

   "O grave! where is thy victory?
   O death! where is thy sting?"

My mind was full of Job's story all that day. I somehow refused to
believe that what he had related was mere imagination, and it was
evident that he could not have invented the story of the inner voice,
for this remained a mystery to him. The inner voice haunted me all the
time, and, as I lay in bed that night, I asked myself again and again
the question: Why must we wait for a future life to hear this inner
voice?



B.A.


They met at the smithy, waiting for "The Crooked Billet" to open for the
evening. There was Joe Stackhouse the besom-maker, familiarly known as
Besom-Joe, William Throup the postman, Tommy Thwaite the "Colonel," so
called for his willingness to place his advice at the service of any of
the Allied Commanders-in-Chief, and Owd Jerry the smith, who knew how to
keep silent, but whose opinion, when given, fell with the weight of his
hammer on the anvil. He refuted his opponents by asking them questions,
after the manner of Socrates. The subject of conversation was the
village school-mistress, who had recently been placed in charge of some
thirty children, and was winning golden opinions on all sides.

"Shoo's a gooid 'un, is schooil-missus, for all shoo's nobbut fower foot
eleven," began Stackhouse; "knows how to keep t' barns i' their places
wi'out gettin' crabby or usin' ower mich stick."

"Aye, and shoo's gotten a vast o' book-larnin' intul her heead," said
Throup. "I reckon shoo's a marrow for t' parson, ony day."

"Nay, shoo'll noan best t' parson," objected Stackhouse who, as
"church-warner" for the year, looked upon himself as the defender of the
faith, the clergy, and all their works. "Parson's written books abaat t'
owd churches i' t' district, who's bin wedded in 'em, and who's liggin'
i' t' vaults."

"Well," rejoined the Colonel, "and didn't Mary Crabtree, wheer shoo
lodges, insense us that t' schooil-missus had gotten well-nigh a dozen
books in her kist, and read 'em ivery eemin?"

"Aye, but shoo's noan written 'em same as t' parson has," retorted
Stackhouse.

"I reckon it's just as hard to read a book thro' cover to cover as to
write one," retorted the Colonel.

"An' shoo can write too," the postman joined in, "better nor t' parson.
I've seen her letters, them shoo writes and them shoo gets sent her. An'
there's a queer thing abaat some o' t' letters at fowks writes to her;
they put B.A. at after her name."

"Happen them'll be her Christian names," suggested Stackhouse. "There's
a mak o' fowks nowadays that gets more nor one name when they're
kessened."

"Nay," replied Throup, "her name's Mary, and what fowks puts on t'
envelope is Miss Mary Taylor, B.A."

"Thou's sure it's 'B.A.,' and not 'A.B.,'" said Stackhouse. "I've a
nevvy on one o' them big ships, and they tell me he's registered 'A.B.,'
meaning able-bodied, so as t' Admirals can tell he hasn't lossen a
limb."

"Nay, it's 'B.A.,' and fowks wodn't call a lass like Mary Taylor
able-bodied; shoo's no more strength in her nor a kitlin."

"I reckon it's nowt to do wi' her body, isn't 'B.A.,'" interposed the
Colonel. "Shoo'll be one o' yon college lasses, an' they tell me they're
all foorced to put 'B.A.' at after their names."

"What for?" asked the smith, who was always suspicious of information
coming from the Colonel.

"Happen it'll be so as you can tell 'em thro' other fowks. It'll be same
as a farmer tar-marks his yowes wi' t' letters o' his name."

"Doesta mean that they tar-mark lasses like sheep?" asked William
Throup, his mouth agape with wonder.

"Nay, blether-heead," replied Stackhouse, "they'll be like t' specials,
and have t' letters on one o' them armlets. But doesta reckon, Colonel,
that B.A. stands for t' name o' t' chap that owns t' college?"

"Nay, they tell me that it stands for Bachelor of Arts, choose-what that
means."

The smith had listened to the Colonel's explanation of the mysterious
letters with growing scepticism. He had scarcely spoken, but an
attentive observer could have divined his state of mind by the short,
petulant blows he gave to the glowing horseshoe on the anvil. Now he
stopped in his work, rested his arms on his hammer-shaft, and proceeded,
after his fashion, to test the Colonel by questions.

"Doesta reckon, Colonel," he began, "that t' schooil-missus is a he-male
or a she-male?"

"Her's a she-male, o' course. What maks thee axe that?"

The smith brushed the query aside as though it had been a cinder, and
proceeded with his own cross-examination.

"An' doesta think that far-learnt fowks i' colleges can't tell a he-male
thro' a she-male as well as thee?"

"O' course they can. By t' mass, Jerry, what arta drivin' at?"

"An' hasta niver bin i' church, Colonel," the smith continued,
unperturbed, "when t' parson has put spurrins up? Why, 'twere nobbut a
week last Sunday sin he axed if onybody knew just cause or 'pediment why
Tom Pounder sudn't wed Anne Coates."

"I mind it, sure enough," interjected Stackhouse, "and fowks began to
girn, for they knew there was ivery cause an' 'pediment why he sud wed
her."

"Hod thy din! Besom-Joe, while I ve sattled wi' t' Colonel" said the
smith, and he turned once more on his man. "What I want to know is if
parson didn't say: 'I publish t' banns o' marriage between Tom Pounder,
bachelor, and Anne Coates, spinster, both o' this parish.'"

"Aye, that's reight," said the Colonel, "an' I see what thou's drivin'
at. Thou means Mary Taylor ought to be called spinster. Well, for sure,
I niver thowt o' that."

"It's not likely thou would; thou's noan what I sud call a thinkin' man.
Thy tongue is ower fast for thy mind to keep up wi' it."

"Then what doesta reckon they letters stand for?" asked Besom-Joe.

"There's nowt sae difficult wi' t' letters when you give your mind to
'em," the smith replied. "What I want to know is, if Mary Taylor came
here of her own accord, or if her was putten into t' job by other
fowks."

"I reckon shoo was appointed by t' Eddication Committee."

"Appointed, was shoo? I thowt as mich. Then mebbe 'B.A.' will stand for
'By appointment.'"

The smith's solution of the problem was received with silence, but the
silence implied approval. The Colonel, it is true, smarting under a
sense of defeat, would have liked to press the argument further; but
just then the front door of "The Crooked Billet" was thrown open by the
landlord, and the smithy was speedily emptied of its occupants.



CORN-FEVER


"Sithee, lass, oppen t' windey a minute, there's a love."

"What do you want t' windey openin' for, mother? You'll give me my death
o' cowd."

"I thowt I heerd t' soond o' t' reaper."

"Sound o' t' reaper! Nay, 'twere nobbut t' tram coomin' down t' road.
What makes you think o' reapers? You don't live i' t' country any
longer."

"Happen I were wrang, but they'll be cuttin' corn noan sae far away, I
reckon."

"What have you got to do wi' corn, I'd like to know? If you wanted to
bide i' t' country when father deed, you sud hae said so. I gave you
your choice, sure enough. 'Coom an' live wi' me i' Hustler's Court,' I
said, 'an' help me wi' t' ready-made work, or else you can find a place
for yourself 'i Thirsk Workhouse.'"

"Aye, I've had my choice, Mary, but it's gey hard tewin' all t' day at
button-holes, when September's set in and I think on t' corn-harvist."

There was a pause in the conversation, and Mary, to humour her mother,
threw up the window and let in the roar of the trams, the far-off clang
of the steel hammers at the forge, and the rancid smell of the
fried-fish shop preparing for the evening's trade. The old woman
listened attentively to catch the sound which she longed for more than
anything else in the world, but the street noises drowned everything.
She sank back in her chair and took up the garment she was at work on.
But her mind was busy, and after a few minutes she turned again to her
daughter.

"Thoo'll not be thinkin' o' havin' a day i' t' coontry this month,
Mary?"

"Nay, I'm noan sich a fool as to want to go trapsin' about t' lanes an'
t' ditches. I've my work to attend to, or we'll not get straight wi' t'
rent."

"Aye, we're a bit behind wi' t' rent sin thoo com back frae thy week i'
Blackpool."

"Now don't you be allus talkin' about my week i' Blackpool; I reckon
I've a right to go there, same as t' other lasses that works at
Cohen's."

"I wasn't complainin', Mary."

"Eh! but I know you were; and that's all t' thanks I get for sendin' you
them picture postcards. You want me to bide a widdy all my life, and me
nobbut thirty-five."

"Is there sae mony lads i' Blackpool, that's thinkin' o' gettin' wed?"

"By Gow! there is that. There's a tidy lot o' chaps i' them Blackpool
boarding-houses, an' if a lass minds her business, she'll have hooked
one afore Bank Holiday week's out."

Again there was silence in the workroom, and the needles worked busily.
The daughter was moodily brooding over the matrimonial chances which she
had missed, while the mother's thoughts were going back to her youth and
married life, when she lived at the foot of the Hambledon Hills, in a
cottage where corn-fields, scarlet with poppies in summer-time, reached
to her garden gate. At last the old woman timidly re-opened the
conversation.

"We couldn't tak a hafe-day off next week, I suppose, and gan wi' t'
train soomwheer oot i' t' coontry, wheer I could see a two-three fields
o' corn? Rheumatics is that bad I could hardlins walk far, but mebbe
they'd let me sit on t' platform wheer I could watch t' lads huggin' t'
sheaves or runnin' for t' mell."(1)

"Lor'! mother, fowks don't do daft things like that any longer; they've
too mich sense nowadays."

"Aye, I know t' times has changed, but mebbe there'll be farms still
wheer they keep to t' owd ways. Eh! it were grand to see t' farm-lads
settin' off i' t' race for t' mell-sheaf. Thy gran'father has gotten t'
mell mony a time. I've seen him, when I were a lile lass, bringin' it
back in his airms, and all t' lads kept shoutin' oot:

   "Sam Proud's gotten t' mell o' t' farmer's corn,
   It's weel bun' an' better shorn;
      --Shout 'Mell,' lads, 'Mell'!"

Mary had almost ceased to listen, but the mother went on with her story:
"A canty mon were my father, and he hadn't his marra for thackin' 'twixt
Thirsk an' Malton. An' then there was t' mell-supper i' t' gert lathe,
wi' singin' an' coontry dances, an' guisers that had blacked their
faces. And efter we'd had wer suppers, we got agate o' dancin' i' t'
leet o' t' harvist-moon; and reet i 't' middle o' t' dancers was t'
mell-doll."

"Mell-doll!" exclaimed Mary, roused to attention by the word. "Well, I'm
fair capped! To think o' grown-up fowks laikin' wi' dolls. Eh! country
lads an' lasses are downright gauvies, sure enough."

"Nay, 'twern't a proper doll, nowther. 'Twere t' mell-sheaf, t' last
sheaf o' t' harvist, drissed up i' t' farmer's smock, wi' ribbins set
all ower it. A bonnie seet was t' mell-doll, an' if I could nobbut set
een on yan agean, I'd be happy for a twelmonth."

"You'll see no more mell-dolls, mother, so long as you bide wi' me. I'm
not going to let t' lasses at Cohen's call me a country gauvie, same as
they did when I first came to Leeds. But I'll tell you what I'll do.
Woodhouse Feast'll be coomin' on soon, and I'll take you there, sure as
my name's Mary Briggs. There'll be summat more for your brass nor
mell-suppers, an' guisers an' dolls. There'll be swings and steam
roundabouts, aye, an' steam-organs playin' all t' latest tunes thro' t'
music-halls--a lot finer than your daft country songs. An' we'll noan
have to wait for t' harvest-moon; there'll be naphtha flares ivery night
lightin' up all t' Feast."

"Nay, lass, I reckon I'se too owd for Woodhouse Feast; I'll bide at yam.
I sal be better when September's oot. It's t' corn-fever that's wrang
wi' me."

"Corn-fever! What next, I'd like to know! You catch a new ailment ivery
day. One would think we kept a nurse i' t' house to do nowt but look
after you."

"A nuss would hardlins be able to cure my corn-fever, I's thinkin'. I've
heerd tell about t' hay-fever that bettermy bodies gets when t'
hay-harvest's on. It's a kind o' cowd that catches 'em i' t' throat. So
I call my ailment corn-fever, for it cooms wi' t' corn-harvest, and eh,
deary me! it catches me i' t' heart. But I'll say nae mair aboot it.
Reach me ower yon breeches; I mun get on wi' my wark, and t'
button-holes is bad for thy een, lass. Thoo'll be wantin' a bit o' brass
for Woodhouse Feast, an' there's noan sae mich o' my Lloyd George money
left i' t' stockin' sin thoo went to Blackpool. Nay, don't start
fratchin', there's a love. I's not complainin'."

(1) The mell, or mell-sheaf, is the last sheaf of corn left in the
harvest field.





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