Tales of the Ridings
by F. W. Moorman
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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?


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.


"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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