Cracks from a Cobbler’s Seat

HERE’S A COUPLE OF CHAPTERS FROM THIS BOOK OF LOCAL TALES FIRST PUBLISHED AT CHRISTMAS 1887. THERE IS AN AUDIO FILE WITH EACH ONE, JUST DOWNLOAD THE FILE, HIDE THE SCREEN, YOU CAN THEN FOLLOW THE TEXT AND LISTEN TO ME AND SIMON READING THE STORY….

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Chapter I

Living in a village is pleasant enough in summer time, particularly if it is beautifully situated, with smiling orchards, the trees laden with luscious fruit, and myriads of wild flowers of every hue and shade, filling the air with rich perfume.  All this is charming and might give enjoyment to the veriest curmudgeon.  But how great is the contrast of country life in winter, when everything looks cold and cheerless – when short days and long nights prevail – how dreary is the aspect to those accustomed to the lively sights of a busy town.  Yet it does not appear so dull and dreary to village people, for when the labours of the day are concluded, they beguile the long dark nights in ‘camping’ in each others houses, telling funny stories, or ‘buzzes’ as they are called and having mutual larks, often involving serious risks, but these are considered glorious fun.

 In the village of Euxton, Old Adam Strong’s Shoemaker’s Shop was the principal place for retelling gossip, and a general rendezvous of scandal, being a common meeting place for the idle and inquisitive., the namesake of our first parent being considered a great authority, or, as some said, an ‘owd fashioned brid’.

Paying a visit to the village after a long absence, I called upon Old Adam, who looked as hearty as ever, and greeted me with –

‘Eh!  Is that yo?  Heaw gooa yo on?’

‘Oh, first rate,’ I replied.  ‘How are you?’

‘Neer better, bud once yunger, uz owd Billy Padgett. Th’ berber, olus ses.’

‘What, is old Billy living yet?’

‘Aye, bod he wer welly freeten’d to deeoth tothery week sen,’ said Old Adam, in a great fit of laughter.  ‘Eh my, it were a do, silly owd beggar!’

‘How’s that, Adam?’  what’s been to do with old Billy?’

‘Why yo known th’owd craytor lives be hissel i’th’ nook just up Dawber Looan, and wod should th’owd cracky do one neet bud come runnin’ deawn th’ looan in his shirt shaatin’ “morder, police”, uz herd uz ever he cud.  Ev’rybody put their ‘eods eawt o’th’ windas, thinking uz sumbry wur getting’ kilt, un theer owd Billy popt up, un sed uz his heawse wur full o’ robbers, shootin’ his hens, uz he kept i’th back place.  He’d only two though, un one on um wur blind.

‘Sooa a lot on uz geet drest, un wi o went together tort his heawse some wi pooakers, un some wi’ big pows, un owd Billy crept behint like a draant rat, for he’d nowt on bud his shirt, un id hed bod a varra short tail, un he sed he’d jumt eawt o’th’ back room winda un leet i’th’ rain tub, for he thowt uz they wur baan to blow his heyd off.  When we geet theer we o stood herk’nin’, nooan on uz bein’ bowd enuff to luk throot’ winda, bud one kept creepin’ ut th’ back o’th’ tother.  One on um sed –

“Adam, wodn’t id be th’ best to ged a ladder un gooa in throo th’ back winda?”

‘ “Tha may gooa in thisel’, wedg’eod; does ta think aw’m gooin’ to be popt off?”

‘Just after that, owd Wilson, th’ cunstable, coom up, un sed uz he’d gooa in if we’d o follow him; soa we sed we wod, un we o agreed to stick howd o’ one another for safety, those uz wur th’ last shuvin’ th’ fost afoor um.  Owd Wilson then brast th’ door hoppen, un herkened a bit.

‘ “Chaps,” he sed, “aw con hear summut up th’ stairs, aw’ll gooa un collar um.”

‘He’d no sooner getten up, then he wur heerd to say, “Wod are yo doin’ here?”  T’other said, “Aw’m after yo.”  Un then there sitch a row sterted: owd Wilson shaatin’ for a leet, saying he’d getten him deawn.  Sooa owd Billy put his breeches on, un tuk a candle up stairs, un popt it I’th’ chap’s face.  He’d no sooner sin who id wor, thun he sed to owd Wilson –

“Aw’ll go to hecky if it isn’t Abram Todd, dorn’t throttle him for he corn’t be a robber, he coom wi’ us, un’s getten in ut th’ front.”

‘Sooa owd Wilson left lose, un Abram geet up, starin’ like a powd cat, wi’ hevin’ his throat squeezed sooa, un he says –

“Aw say, next time as tha collars onybody, dorn’t thee stick thi fingers i’ ther throat uz ta dud mine, ur else tha’ll hear uv a berryin”

‘ “Neaw lads, shut yer meawths, un let’s see wheer they are,” said Owd Wilson.

‘ “Aw hardly con shut mine, sin tha’s throttled ma so,” sed Abram.

‘Sooa they luckt o reawnd th’hoyle, keeping’ weel ut th’ back o’th’ policeman, till they geet to th’ back place, uz ust to be a weyvin’ shop, when o ut wonct owd Billy sung eawt –

“Punch mo, chaps, punch mo, punch mo up un deawn.  To think uz aw should mek sitch a greyt foo o’ mysel’ un yo!  Corn’t yo see wod it is, chaps?  Aw’ve bin meckin’ some nettle beer, un aw’ve put to mitch berm in, un wod aw thowt wur guns gooin’ off, wur these corks bleawin’ eawt!”

‘ “Aw cud like to punch booath thee un that greight whacky wi’th’ long fingers,” sed Abram.  “An’, owd lad, tha’ll hev’ to stan’ treeot for o’th’ lot on us.”

‘ “Well, aw dorn’d mind ye hevin’ a sooap o’ thad nettle beer,” sed Billy.

‘ “Beggar thi nettle beer!  We’ve hed rayther to mitch o’ that oready.”

‘Sooa Billy tuck us o to th’aleheawse, un stood like a trump, un Abram geet fuddlet.  When he coom into haar shop th’ next mornin’, he sed –

“Eh chaps! Aw’ve geet in a bonny pickle last neet after aw left yo.”

‘ “What’s bin up wi’ tha?”

‘ “Why, yo known when aw geet hooam o wur i’ derkness, soon aw led mo deawn upo’th’ squab, un popt o’er asleep.  Aw dunnot know what time id wor when aw wackunt, but it wur still derk.  When aw geet up aw tumblet o’er a stoo’. Un leet o’ my sittin’ deawn part in a big mug full o’ fleawr un berm us th’ wife ud put to sponge.  Aw geet aat un groped for summut to wipe mysel’ wi’, un aw gi’ mysel’ a gradely good wipin’.  Aw’d finisht just uz it wur comin’ dayleet, un o ut wonct aw fun id eawt uz aw’d bin wipin’ mysel’ wi’th’ clean clooas uz wur on th’ maiden.  Eh, dudn’t aw ged a regular tung-walkin’ when th’owd woman geet up.  Hoo sed –

“ ‘To think uz aw’ve to wesh o’th clooas ageean throo thee.  Ther’s never no rest for my booans I’ this world.’  Sooa aw ses –

“ ‘Aw wish ther wur sum rest for thi jaw booans, fot tha’rt olus waggin’ um.’”

‘Old Adam gave a hearty laugh and said –

“Well, thi breeches ul feel rayther stiff aw should say; if th’ berm wur good they should rise.  But wod does ta think them yung wastrels hes dun?”

‘ “Hooa does ta meeun?  Them wheelreet lads?” enquired Abram.

‘ “Aye; aw see a chap starin’ up ut mi sign this forenoon, un he begun a grinnin; sooa aw sez –

“ ‘ Owd mon, tha’d be a reet un to grin throo a hoss’s collar.’

“ ‘ Aw may well grin, un luk ut yore sign.’ He sed.  Sooa aw lukt, un they’d otered it, un mek it read –

A DAM’D STRONG SHOEMAKER.’

It was now my time to leave, but Adam informed me that he had thought of a good plan to serve his tormentors out, and the next time I came that way he would let me know how he went on.

Chapter II

Once again going my rounds in Euxton, I naturally called to see old Adam Strong, the noted village shoemaker, for he always had something comical to relate to me.  Nearing his domicile, I heard his stentorian voice singing – or perhaps I should be nearer the mark in saying, bawling – the following parody, one of his own poetic effusions:

          Old Adam wur a good owd cock, as everybody knows,

          Un aw wur coed after him, un aw mends owd fermers’ shoes;

          So booath of uz owd Adam is, uz aw tell yo i’ my song,

          But he wur nowt but Adam coed, while aw’m coed Adam Strong;

Yet Adam wur a gentlemon, like him o’th’ present time.

‘Well done, Adam,’ I said, entering the shop where he was battering away at a piece of sole leather, ‘you’ve a rare STRONG voice.’

‘Well rally, whoa wod o’ thowt o’ seein’ yo to-day?  Dorn’t yo know uz aw used to sing at LeylandChurch?  Eh! that olus brings to my mind abeawt owd Roger Piper, uz used to blow th’organ.  We’d bin singin’ a varra good piece one Sunday, un when th’ church losed, owd Roger coom up un sed,

“We did that varra weel, didn’t we?”

‘Sooa th’organist torned reawnd to owd Roger un sed,

“Whooa are yo wein’, yo owd cracky, dun yo think yo’d owt to do wi’ it?”

‘Sooa owd Roger give a bit ov a grunt un went hooam.  Next Sunda, when we wur reet i’th’ middle ov a good piece, th’organ stopt o ut once.  Th’organist shaated –

“Go on an’ blow, yo owd foo.”

‘ “Well say uz id wur we.”

‘ “Well, we, then, if that’ll do for yo, yo owd wastrel.”

‘Sooa we struck up ageon, un finished o reet.  Bud Roger geet secked through id.  Poor owd craytor, he’s bin deed mony a year.  He rung th’eight o’ clock bell to th’ last.’

‘Well, Adam, you said you would let me know how you went on with the Wheelwright lads when I came again this way.’

‘Oh, aye, sooa aw did; bud there’s no getting’ o’er that lot o’ varmint.  Well, yo know, aw heerd uz Billy – that’s him uz does th’ paintin’ work – wur gooin’ to teck a new barrow whooam to owd Snape’s, as lives close to Cuerden Green.  Sooa uz he wur passin’ th’ door, aw coed him in, un aw says, “Billy, aw want thee to do me a bit of a favour.”

‘ “Wod is id?” he said, “if it’s owt aw con do, aw’ll doo’t.”

‘ “Tha’rt gooin’ to Cuerden Green, aw suppoas?”

‘ “Aye, aw am.”

‘ “Well, tha knows owd Jemmy Baines, th’ shoemaker, uz lives ut th’ corner o’th’ looan?”

‘ “Aw do, varra weel,” he said.

‘ “Well, aw want thee to teck this bottle, un ax him to let tha hev some stirrup oil, un tell him to gi’ tha a good sooap.  Tha’ll happen feel th’ weight on’t, bud ne’er mind, aw’ll do summat for thee sometime.”

‘ “Oh, it’s o reet; aw’ll ged id, yo’ll see,” he sed, un off he started wi’ his new barrow.

‘Neaw aw couldn’t o sent him to a better chap, for aw knew id would just suit owd Jemmy to werm his hide.  Sooa it dud, for th’owd lad happened to be i’ gradely good fettle for it.  He sed to Bill,

“A sooap o’ stirrup oil tha wants, un a good sooap.”

‘Wi’ that owd Jemmy clutched his stirrup an’ gi’ him a reet deawn good leatherin’, follering him deawn th’ looan, shaating after him to ko ageon un he’d let him hev some moor ony time, for nowt.

‘Aw were hitchin’ to see him come back, for aw thowt aw’d paid him off for th’ sign job, bud he went reawnd another way, un aw nayther see him nor ony o’th’ lot.  Aw thowt theer wur summat brewin’, un it coom aat ut last.  Eh, mon, aw’s ne’er forget id.  To’three neets after th’ stirrup oil do, aw’d bin abed abeawt hofe an haar, when o ut once aw heerd one o’ my pigs, uz aw hev ut th’end a’th’ haase, skreetin’ uz herd uz ever it could.  Sooa aw thowt uz sumbry wur oather killin’ th’ pig or else steylin’ id, un aw jumpt eawt o’ bed un run deawn th’ stairs i’ my berfut feet as fast as aw could.  Aw hoppent th’ dor un run aat, bud aw wur bonny un fain to ged back ageon.  Yo know wod thoose prickly things is uz they cut fra th’ top o’ thorn hedges?  Well, theer wur abaat a donkey kert load spread afoor th’ dor, un aw run reight i’ my berfut feet i’th middle on um.  Aw’d a bonny job to ged aat, un it took me welly o neet to poo th’ thorns aat o’ my feet; un they festered mony a day after.  Id wur them young rascals uz poo’d th’ pig’s ears, un med id skrike, just to ged me among th’ prickles.  Aw knew uz aw should come off th’ loser if aw bothert wi’ ‘em ageon; sooa aw’ve done wi um.

‘See yo, theer’s Abram gooin’ past.  Yon mon’s olus getting’ i’ some marlock ur another.’

‘What’s Abram’s last adventure?’ I asked.

‘He belongs to a club ut th’ Bay Hoss i’ Leylan’, un he welly olus gooas, becose ther’s a bit uv a fuddling do, un he’s abaat th’ last to gooa hooam.  Sooa one neet he tuck across th’ church yard, sooa to cut off a bit.  Ther wur a new med grave i’th’ rooad, un Abram, bein’ rayther muddlet, tumbled reet into id.  Id happent he dudn’t hort hissel, bud id dazed him a bit.  His next move wur to get aat, bud he couldn’t manidge that job, sooa he thowt he mut uz weel hev a nap till dayleet, un then sumbry ud be comin’ uz cud give him a bit uv a lift.  He hedn’t bin in so lung afoor he heerd sumbry comin’ un in less than a crack another chap coom tumbling’ deawn into th’ grave.

‘ “Eh, dear o’ me, wheer am aw?” says th’ newcomer, un tried to get eawt, bud, like Abram, he couldn’t manidge th’ job.  “Whatever mon aw do, aw connot get eawt,” said th’ chap.

‘ “Now, nor me nayther,’ Abram says, and brast eawt laffin.

‘Wi’ that, th’ chap give a great skrike, un beawnced eawt o’th’ grave like a pop-gun, un Abram could hear him runnin’ across th’ church yard as if Owd Scrat wur after him.

‘ “If one mon con get eawt, another may, sooa aw’ll een try to get up into th’ world ageon,” sed Abram to hissel.  Sooa he puncht his tooa into one side un then into th’ tother, un wi’ a bit o’ herd wark geet to th’ top.  He then torned into th’ looan, for he thowt if he went across th’ fields he’d ger into moor lumber.  He hedn’t getten so far afoor he could hear a noise like a hoss tramplin’ a bit afoor him, bud id torned eawt to be Dick Clapthung un Todger.  Dick’s clogs hed iron koakers reawnd th’ sides, un just seawnded like a hoss when he wur wokin’ o’th’ stooans.

‘ “Hello, Abram! is that thee?” said Dick.

‘ “It’s what’s left on mo.  Wheer’s ta bin, Dick?”

‘ “Aw’ve bin followin’ Farrington’s huntin’ heawnds o day un topt o’er asleep in a field, for huntin’ i’ these iron clogs is no joke.  Aw’m as dry as a lime brunner’s clog, sooa tha’rt just th’ mon we wanted, for aw know tha’ll stan’ treeat when we get to owd Dan’s.”

‘Abram sed nowt for a while, till they’d getten on a bit, when he stopt un sed –

“Well, chaps, aw heven’t a hawpenny i’ my pockut, but aw’ve bethowt mo a mank for getting’ a quert.”

‘ “Tha’rt just th’ mon for us,” Dick says, ‘let’s know thi dodge.”

‘ “Well, tha knows it’s varra derk, sooa a bit afoor we get to owd Dan’s we mon o stert o’ runnin’, un tha mon act like a hoss, blazin’ away wi’ thi clogs o’er the pavin’ stooans like a stallion afoor th’ heawse.  Bud tha mun keep aat o’t’ seet.  Aw’ll do th’ rest.”

‘Away they went, un Dick begun o’ caperin’ o’th’ pavement like a four-year owd, un med a blaze ageon, while Abram went to th’ dur un shaated –

“Lan’lord, bring us a quart uv ale.  Whoa, hoss, stan’ still.  Bring id uz soon uz yo con, my hoss is rayther rough.”

‘Sooa Dick kept plungin’ away o’th’ pavement, un Abram kept shaatin’ –

“Weigh, hoss, whoa!  Stan’ still, will ta?”  The lan’lord wur bringin’ th’ quert un a leet to th’ dor, when Abram sed –

“Fur goodness sake, tock that candle in, ur it’ll freeten my hoss woss than ever, un meck it teck boggart happen.”

‘So th’ lan’lord left th’ quert un tuk th’ leet in, un th’ three supped th’ale, un Abram sed –

“Na, Dick, fire away wi’ thi clogs, un when th’ lan’lord comes back un aw’m givin’ him th’ jug, dert off uz if tha’d a hot pratoe under thi tail.”

‘Sooa when Abram wur pretendin’ to feel in his pocket fur th’ brass to pay, Dick cluntered off uz herd uz ever he could, un Abram sed –

“By George, bud id’s off,” un then he seet off runnin’ after Dick, shaatin’ – “Whey, whey,” un left th’ lan’lord stannin’ at th’ public-heawse dor wi’ th’empty jug, sayiin’ –

“Poor fellow, aw deawt he’s lost his hoss for this neet.”

‘Bud Abram soon o’ertuk Dick, un Todger comin’ up soon after, they’d a gradely good laugh at hevin’ done Dan so nicely eawt uv a quert uv ale.  Sumbry towd Dan th’ day after, how he’d been done, un he’d a jolly laugh, un sed they deserved th’ quert, they’d done it so weel.’

Being now train time, I bid Adam good day, really amused with his humorous account of this practical joke, and in answer to his interrogation, ‘Yo’ll happen be givin’ us another luk in afoor lung?’ promised to call next time I was in Euxton.

Chapter III

A bright, sunny September day found me once again, in the course of my customary perambulations, in the rustic village of Euxton; and almost the first Euxtonian that met my sight was old Adam Strong, ‘airing himself’ before his little shop door, and smoking a cutty pipe, as short as his awl, and as black as his well-worn leather apron.  He appeared quite ready for a ‘crack’ with any chance passer-by, so I saluted him with –

‘Good morning, Adam, you seem to be taking it easy today.’

‘Well aw mud as weel, for warking neaw-a-days is welly like labber i’ vain, uz Lolly Wells sed when he’d done churnin’; for he’d churned abaat eight haars till he went herd o’ hearin’, un when he lookt i’th’ churn, th’ butter hed gone i’th’ milk ageon.

‘Talkin’ abeawt owd Lolly puts mo i’th’ mind o one o’ yore Preston travelling chaps, uz we hed here a neet or two sin.  He wur after orders for weshin’ un wringin’ machines – those new fanglet things to save lazy booans.  Folk ut t’ Red Lion ordered one, un owd Jacky Walmsley another, sooa th’ chap sed he’d pay for glasses reawnd, un he’d just a reet lot for th’ job.  Eh, dudn’t they praise him up.

‘ “He’s th’ smartest chap aw’ve sin uv a long time,” Abram Todd sed, winkin’ ut Dick Clapthung.

‘ “He’s nowt else, lad; he’s a regular cockolorum,’ says Dick.

‘Id just suited th’ chap, un he treoted till they geet welly fuddlet.  At last th’ chap sed –

“Well, mates, aw mon be off, for aw’ve to co ut a place ut this side o’ Leylan’, un aw’s hev to gooa o’er th’ fields, un it’s derkish.”

‘When Abram heerd him say uz he wur gooin’ th’ field rooad, he went i’th’ kitchen un sed he’d give th’ swell a good freetenin if they’d lend him a white sheet.  Sooa they lent him one, un he bundlet id up then took a cross cut sooa uz he’d be a field or two afoor th’ chap, then squat deawn i’th’ dytch, un rise up like a ghost, just as he wur comin’ up.

‘We wur talkin’ abaat owd Lolly Wells ut stert.  Ther wur him un his brother uz lived i’th’owd thatched cottage gooin’ on th’ field rooad to Leylan’.  They booath catcht fever, un owd Lolly turned up his tooas, but Peter geet better; sooa id just happened to be this neet when two o’ them wheelreet lads wur teckin’ th’owd crayter’s coffin hooam.  Sooa when they’d getten a field or two on th’ rooad, they put th’ coffin deawn to rest a bit, un as it wur a bit moonleet, Billy sed,

“Unloose th’ rooap un let’s caar deawn i’th’ dytch, for aw con hear sumbry comin’, un we’ll freeten his wits eawt.”

‘Id happent to be th’ Preston chap, un when he geet a yerd or two off th’ coffin, he med a full stop, un stared like a haaf-throttlet monkey.  Th’ lads pood th’ rooap un when th’ chap seed th’ coffin goin’ along with nobery near id, he gave a greyt howl, un set off back like Flying Clogger.

‘Abram wur i’th’ next field fur on, un when he heerd th’ chap skrike, coom runnin’ to see wod wur to do, un when he seed th’ coffin stor, his yure stood streight up.  he dropped th’ ghost sheet un beawnced through th’hedge, un run for his life back to th’ Red Lion, wi’ a face as white as chalk; sooa yo sin th’ freetner geet freetent.  An’ as for th’ Preston chap, aw dorn’t know what become of him.

‘Eh, it dud suit them young wheelreet beggars, they laughed oth’ way to owd Lolly’s, un when they geet theer they fun nobery but owd Betty, th’owd woman uz kept th’heawse.

‘ “Lads,” hoo says, “yo’ll hev to teck id up stairs and help me to put him in.”

‘Sooa they carried th’ coffin upstairs, un when they geet to th’ top they see a thin owd mon wi’ a neet cap on laid i’ bed, un thowt it wur th’ corpse.  Sooa they wur gooin’ tort id when id begun slowly to rise up an says –

“Oh, yo’ve browt it, hev yo?”

‘Deawn went th’ coffin wi a crash, un th’ lads rolled one o’er th t’other deawn stairs, knockin’ owd Betty uv her back, un hoo skriked eawt “morder” uz herd uz ever hoo cud.  This med th’ lads think uz th’owd mon wur comin’ deawn th’ stairs after um, un they seet off like wild fire, every na un then lukin’ o’er their shooders to see if owd Lolly wur followin’.  When they geet hooam they brast dor open, run upstairs, un geet i’ bed wi’ their clooas on.

‘Freeteners ageon freetent, yo sin.  Yo know th’ young rascots ne’er thowt about owd Peter bein’ ill, fur id wur him uz spooak to um.  Owd Lolly were laid quaat enough i’th’ back room, poor owd craytor; he’d bin plagued mony a time wi’ thoose wheelreet lot, bud they’ll hev to bother sumbry else neaw.

‘Aw’ll tell yo wod they did one neet.  Owd Lolly hed a donkey kert uz he kept ut th’heawse; sooa one neet after he’d gone to bed these lads went and tuk one of his wheels off un reared id afoor his door, uz when he geet up he couldn’t get aat.  Owd Peter olus geet up th’ fost, un when he hoppent th’ door he sed –

“What the filikins is there afoor th’ door?  Why, sumbry’s browt a kert wheel.  It’ll be thoose imps, aw’ll be bun.”  Owd Lolly wur olus moor fiery thun Peter, un he geet up in a bit uv a peyle, un went to see wod id wur.

‘ “Oh, aw see, they’ve browt one o’ ther owd wheels,” he sed.  “Aw’ll soon settle this game.  Aw wanted a bit o’ firewood.”  Un wi’ that he browt his axe un masht th’ spooaks aat o’th’ wheel, un put um on th’ fire, un a rare good blaze they med.  Sooa when it come dayleet, owd Lolly went to luck for his jackass, un th’ fost thing uz he see wur his kert beawt one wheel.

‘ “Sartinlee, id connot be my wheel uz aw’ve burnt.”

‘Bud id wor, un he went to th’ wheelreet’s un kicked up sitch a row uz th’ wheelreet hed to put him another wheel on to quieten him.

‘ “A neet or two after, owd Lolly wur gooin’ fur some swill for his pig, un he said to Peter –

“Pee, just keep thi eye o’th’ kert, fur ther’s yon imps uv Owd Scrat abeawt, un ther’s no tellin’ what they mut do,”

‘ “O reet,” sez Peter, “aw’ll wheel th’ kert afore th’ dor, un it’ll tek a sherp chap to touch it beawt me oather seein’ or hearin’ um.”

‘Th’ young whelps heerd this, un uz soon uz Lolly wur gone they pood ther shoon off, un crept up to th’ kert, one on um geet howd o’th’ shafts, un one howd uv aither wheel, un they carried id away deawn th’ looan, while Peter wur quietly smookin’ his pipe bith’ fire.  They run id i’th’ dytch, un left th’ shafts stickin’ eawt o’er th’ pad.  When Lolly wur comin’ back he fell reet o’er th’ shafts, un shed o his swill.  Getherin’ hissel up, he said –

“This is a nice place to leev a kert.  It’s that drunken Todger’s wark – too lazy to put it i’th’ reet place, un meckin’ fooak welly breyk their necks.”

‘He went hooam in a bonny peyle, un just afoor they went to bed, Peter missed th’ kert un asked Lolly wheer id wur.

‘ “If id’s not theer tha’s bin asleep, un let them young rascots teck id away.  Aw’ll bet my Sunda shirt to a hayseed yon’s id aw’ve crackt mi shins o’er daan th’ looan.” ‘

Adam for some time had all the talk to himself, but just as he got to this part of his narrative, a large sod, hurled by some unseen hand, bespattered his face, and sent his short pipe whirling into the far distance.

Clearing his mouth with a splutter, he exclaimed –

‘That wur a good aim; a regular bull’s eyer, un aw’ll just try iv aw con’t mek uz good a shot wi’ my foot ut a wheelreet’s kerkus.’

He then darted over the hedge in quest of the aggressor.

Chapter IV

At the commencement of these Cracks, it was attempted to describe how beautiful the country appeared in summer time.  The scene is now changed; the end of the year is approaching.  How dreary the country looks in December; nothing but barrenness meets the eye; naked trees and falling leaves are in abundance; even the very poultry looked forlorn, and one is forcibly reminded of the approach of Christmas by occasionally seeing a flock of fat geese near the margin of a pond, unconscious of their near approaching fate.  Holly trees are now looking their best, with bright red berries, that help so much to adorn ‘festive halls’ at Christmas.  Such was the time of year when I paid my last visit to old Adam Strong, who greeted me in the old country style.

 ‘Well, aw wur thinkin’ abaat yo to-day.  Let me see, th’ last time yo wur here wor when aw geet a bull’s eyer with that weet sod.’

‘It was, Adam, how did you go on?’

‘Gooa on!  Aw olus coom off loser wi’ that lot.  Yo see me after him raand th’ corner ut barn; well he popt into th’ shippon, wheer a yung thing between a kaa and a cofe hed getten lose, un wi’ him runnin’ in id med id bolt aat just as aw geet to th’ door, un id run wi’ id heod slap bang i’ me stumack, un sent me heod o’er heels into a clap o’ kaashern.  Sooa aw geet booath a bull’s eyer un a heifer’s heoder i’th’ bergin.  That just puts me in mind uv a lift owd Nat Jolly geet.  Owd Nat hed bin a man-o’-war’s man, un getten booath uv his legs ten off in a do wi’ th’ French.  He coom to live wi’ his sister i’th’ row yon, un geet two wooden legs med, un mony a quare do he hed wi’ um, for nobery liked a bit o’ fun better than owd Nat.

‘He’d one time bin helpin’ owd Chernuck to set pratos; Nat wur a reet un for that job; he’d nowt to do bud walk deawn th’ buts un his peg leg med th’holes un sumbry followed un popt a prato in uz nice uz ninepence.  They could do a field i’ no time when they’d owd Nat.  When they’d done, owd Chernuck give a bit ov a supperin’ do, un some ‘lowance after.  Wod wi’ spinnin’ yarns un drinkin’ grog, owd Nat geet o’er the line a bit.  Gooin’ aat o’th’ back door, he mawpt abeawt till he geet into th’ dairy, un deawn he went uv his seeat into a mug o’ buttermilk, un geet wedg’d fast wi’ his wooden legs stickin’ streight up, un uz he couldn’t ged aat, he popt o’er asleep.  Well, th’owd woman happent to want some butter, un gooin’ for id i’th’ derk, hoo banged ageon owd Nat’s wooden legs.

‘ “Drod id,” hoo says, “wod greyt thickhead put th’ truck i’th’ dairy.”  Sooa hoo went back un says to th’ sarvent,

“Sally, gooa thi ways un fot you truck aat o’th’ dairy; some foo’s bin varra busy to pud id theer.”

‘Sally went un groped till hoo geet howd o’ wod hoo thowt wur th’ shafts, un pood, un daan comes owd Nat wi’ a crash, shaatin’

“Avast, avast, theer!”

‘Sally run skriking into th’ haase, sayin’ uz th’ truck hed bin talking, un they o run to see wod wur up, un theer lay owd Nat splutterin’ among brokken mugs un buttermilk.  They dud laugh.  One on um said.

“Mind, Nat, uz tha doesn’t cut thi feet wi’ brokken pots.”

‘Another says, “Nat, tha’ll nod need thi stockins dryin’.”

‘ “Heave uz aat o’ this, un don’t stan’ grinnin’ like a lot o’ porpoise pigs ut a fellow i’ distress.”

‘Sooa they geet him up, un toddelt him off hooam, tekin’ care uz he dudn’t treyd o’ ther corns.

‘Another time he wur gooin’ deawn th’ fields to see heaw they wur gettin’ on wi’th’ ploughin’.  Nat wur stumpin’ quietly along th’ pad bi th’hedge side, when o ut once he heerd a terrible “boo-oo” behint him, so he torned reawnd to see wod id wur, and theer id wur owd Chernuck’s bull uz wur comin’ trottin’ uz herd uz it could after him.

‘ “Shiver my timbers, bud aw’m dun for this cruise,” he said; “sooa ony port in a storm.”

‘Wi’ that he left th’ pad un run tort a gate uz ther wur into another field.  Id wur soft just befoor they geet to th’ gate, un wi’ owd Nat goin’ sherp, un th’ graand bein’ puddly, his stumps sunk ore heod, un theer he stuck.  Herder uz he tried to poo one leg aat tother went further in, till at last he geet uz fast uz a gate stoop.

‘ “Oh my poor owd ship,” he said, “it’s run agraand at last.  Poor owd Nat, tha’s getten into a bonny pickle.”

‘Th’ bull lookt uz if it thowt sooa too, for it stopt just behint him, starin’ at him as if it wondert weer his legs wur.  Nat lookt o’er his shuder, un sed,

“Poor Billy, nice bully.  Go thi ways then.”

‘ “Boo-oo,” went th’ bull.

‘ “Thunder un turf!  It’s o up wi’ mo at last.  Poor howpy!  Bonny Billy.  Bad scran to yo, tha big black lookin’ villain.”

‘ “Boo-oo,” ageean went th’ bull.

Nat felt drops o’ sweeat comin’ un he pood a red un white hankicher aat of his breast to wipe his face, when o ut once he wur lifted by th’ starn un pitched slap-bang into th’ hedge.  Comin’ to hissel, he sez,

“Well, Nat, tha’s cruised welly forty years ut say, bud never landed in a pooart like this afoor.”

‘Un theer th’ bull stood lookin’ up at him.

‘ “Boo-oo,” th’ bull went ageon, starin’ up at him.

‘ “Oh, it’s theer yo are, yo greyt cowardly landlubber.  Come up here, un aw’ll give yo a broadside i’ yer ugly carcas.”

‘Un theer he wur meckin’ marlocks, un quiverin’ his wooden legs i’th’ bull’s face, when o ut once th’ bough uz he wur on begun to breyk, un uz he wur comin’ deawn he changed his tune ageon, sayin’ –

“Oh Moses!  Aw’m founderin’ reet afore th’enemy.  Poor howpy!  Good Billy!  Aw wur bud id fun just naa.”

‘Well, uz luck would hev id, owd Chernuck un one o’ his men hed sin how things wur, un coom runnin’ up, an axt Nat wod wur up.

‘ “Up!” he sez, lookin’ varra brave naa, when he thowt he wur safe, ‘that greyt piratin’ black villain just took me bith’ starn, un pitched me up here; un aw wur just comin’ daan to stave his figure-heod in for him.”

‘ “Oh, if that bith’ case, we’ll fot him back un si fair play.”

‘Th’ bull seet off tort middle o’th’ field when id see owd Chernuck, bud beein’ in a nasty temper, torned raand un coom gallopin’ wi’ id tail streight up, reet tort place wheer they wur stannin’.  Dudn’t they mek a scutter for th’ gate, un they wur just pooin’ Nat through when th’ bull coom up at full bat, run owd Nat sprawlin’ among th’ slutch.  When they wur safe wi’th’ gate shut, Chernuck sed –

“By guy, Nat, if tha didn’t stave Billy’s figure-heod in, he wur vast near stavin’ thi stern in.”

‘Nat said nowt, sooa they gathered him up, un he stumpt off hooam, un took good care never to gooa that rooad ageon.’