The Conquest of
Radical Ted by
It was Saturday afternoon, and Ted Wharton and Joe Lovelady had left
off work early, as was their custom on that day of the week. They were
now betaking themselves with solemn satisfaction to the "Thornleigh
Arms," where a certain portion of their weekly wage would presently
transfer itself from their own pockets to that of its jovial landlord.
Joe Lovelady was a great, soft, lumbering fellow, who was considered
rather a nonentity in Thornleigh; but Ted Wharton was a very different
person. He was the village Radical--an adventurous spirit who, not
content with spelling out his newspaper conscientiously on Sunday, was
wont to produce, even on week-day afternoons, sundry small, ill-printed
sheets, from which he would read out revolutionary sentiments the like
of which had never before been heard in Thornleigh. For the most part
his neighbours considered it extremely foolish of Ted to be "weerin'
his brass on sich like," when a ha'porth of twist would have been so
much more satisfactory. They cared nothing at all about Home Rule, and
did not see that the labour question in any way bore upon their own
case. What they wanted to know was when Government was going to raise
the price of wheat, and what was the use of growing 'taters when it
wasn't worth while carting them to Liverpool?
But Ted was not only the village Radical: he was also the village
wag, with a reputation for humour which rendered him enormously
popular. He was about thirty-five years old; a small man with sandy
hair, a serious, not to say solemn, expression of countenance, and
twinkling light grey eyes, which he had a trick of blinking when about
to perpetrate a joke. His trousers were a little too short, his
coat-sleeves--when he wore a coat--a little too long. On ordinary
occasions his hat was tilted to the back of his head, and when in a
jocular humour he cocked it knowingly over one eye. Probably these
peculiarities, coupled with a certain dry method of enunciating, added
largely to Ted's renown.
As they walked briskly along this hot summer's afternoon, the two
men did not take the trouble to converse with each other. Joe, indeed,
was at all times a taciturn person, and Ted was probably reserving
himself for the delectation of the cronies whom he expected to meet at
the "Thornleigh Arms." When he had caught up Joe on the road he had
volunteered that he was steppin' up yonder, and Joe had replied that
that was reet, jerking his head forward at the same time as an
indication that he was steppin' up yonder too; thenceforth they had, as
a matter of course, proceeded together, Ted walking a pace or two in
advance and whistling to himself.
The village was now left behind, and on one side of the road, behind
the dusty hedge, some colts were keeping step with them, occasionally
starting and floundering forward after the manner of their kind, and
then wheeling and coming slowly back with foolish heads extended and
ears pricked, all ready for another bounce if either of the pedestrians
raised his hand or kicked a stone out of his path. To their left the
corn stood tall and yellow, almost ready for the harvest. Now they
approached some woods, familiarly known as "the Mosses," from the peaty
nature of the soil. A few weeks before the thick undergrowth of
rhododendrons had been ablaze with clustering purple blossoms, and many
wild flowers grew now on the borders of the deep ditch which surrounded
them. These woods lay cornerwise with the main road, a sandy lane
following the angle they described. On the grassy border of this lane a
flock of geese were tranquilly basking, and, as Ted approached, a
vigilant and pugnacious gander rushed towards him, flapping its wings
and extending its long neck with portentous hisses. Ted had been
carrying his coat over his arm for the sake of coolness, and now,
whether because he thought it would be a humorous thing to do, or
because he was secretly a little terrified at the rapid advance of the
bellicose gander, he struck with it at the luckless bird with such
force that he stretched it on the sod.
"Hello!" cried Ted, stopping short, astonished and perturbed at his
sudden victory, "I b'lieve I've done for th' owd chap."
"My word," commented Joe, "if thou has thou'll be like to hear on
it! That theer's Margaret Hep.'s gander; hoo thinks the world on't, hoo
Ted was meanwhile bending over his prostrate foe, which, to his
relief, was not absolutely dead, though it was gasping and turning up
its eyes in rather a ghastly manner. He took it up in his arms, still
enfolded in his coat.
"It's wick still, as how 'tis," he remarked. "Eh! how it's kickin'
out with they ugly yaller legs! Now then, owd lad, what mun we do
wi'it, think'st thou? Mun I finish it off an' carry it wi' me to Jack
Orme's for a marlock? Eh! the lads 'ud laugh if they see me coomin' in
wi' it! I'll tell 'em I'd brought 'em a Crestmas dinner in July. My
word, it's tough enough! I reckon it 'ud want keepin'; it wouldn't be
ready mich afore Crestmas!"
Joe's wits, at no time very nimble, required some time to take in
this audacious proposal, and he was just beginning the preliminary
deprecating roll of the head, which he intended to precede a remark to
the effect that Margaret 'ud happen have summat to say about that, when
the angular figure of Miss Heptonstall herself appeared at the corner
of the lane. She paused a moment aghast at the sight of the struggling
gander, still enveloped in Ted's coat, and then, with extended hands
and wildly-flapping drapery, hastened towards him--her aspect being not
unlike that assumed by the unfortunate biped in question when he had
first advanced to the attack.
"Victoria!" she gasped, when she at last halted beside the men. "Eh!
whatever's getten Victoria?"
"Do ye mean this 'ere?" questioned Ted, hoisting the gander a little
higher up under his arm. "Well, I cannot think whatever coom to the
poor thing. Joe and me was goin' our ways along to Orme's when we heerd
it give a kind of skrike out, and we looked round, and it were
staggerin' along same as if it were fuddled, ye know, and all at once
it give another skrike an' tumbled down aside o' th' road. Didn't it,
Joe again rolled a deprecatory eye at his crony and cleared his
throat, but did not otherwise commit himself.
"It mun ha' been a fit or soom sich thing," continued Ted, cocking
his hat over his eye and glancing waggishly at Lovelady. "When Joe see
it, says he, 'My word, there'll be a pretty to do! This is Margaret
Hep.'s gander,' says Joe--no, I think he said, 'Miss Heptonstall's
gander.' Didn't thou, Joe? Joe's allus so respectful and civil-spoke,
pertic'larly when it's a lady as he's a-talking about."
Joe grinned and began to look jocular too. His friend's last
assertion pleased him better than the wild flights of a little time
"That's it," said Joe. "Ho, ho! Reet!"
"He'd never go for to call ony lady out o' their name," pursued Ted,
placing his hat yet a little more aslant; "never did that in's life.
He's quite a lady's mon, Joe is. Haw! haw!"
"Coom!" said Joe, grinning still more broadly.
At this juncture the invalid gander made a frantic struggle, and,
freeing one wing from Ted's encircling coat, began to flap it wildly.
"Ye've no need to stan' grinnin' an' makkin' merry theer when th'
poor dumb thing's goin' to dee, as like as not," cried Margaret
indignantly. "Hand him over to me this minute--theer, my beauty,
theer--missus'll see to thee."
"Well, an' ye ought to be very thankful to me," asserted Ted;
"didn't I pick him out o' th' road, an' put my own coat o'er him an'
fondle him mich same's if he was a babby? Why, he 'ud noan be wick now
if it hadn't ha' been for me. Theer, my boy, howd up! Theer, we'se tuck
in thy wing for thee, and cover thee up warm an' gradely--'tisn't
everybody as 'ud be dressin' up a gander i' their own clooes. Do you
know what 'ud do this 'ere bird rale good? Just a drop o' sperrits to
warm his in'ards for him--that's what he wants. See here, I'll carry
him awhoam for ye, and ye mun jest fotch him a glass o' whisky, and in
a two three minutes he'll be as merry as a layrock."
Margaret looked doubtfully at him.
"Do ye raly think it 'ud do the poor thing good?" she asked
"I'm sure on't," returned Ted, firmly pinioning the gander's
struggling legs, and setting off at a brisk pace towards Margaret's
cottage. "Theer's nought as is wick as wouldn't feel the benefit of a
drop o' sperrits now an' again."
Joe considered this a very proper sentiment, and gave a grunt by way
of endorsing it; he, too, followed Ted and the gander, being as much
amused at the transaction as it was in his nature to be at anything.
Margaret kept pace with Ted, every now and then uttering
lamentations over her favourite.
"He were as good a gander as a body need wish for; wonderful good
breed he were, an' as knowin'! Eh, dear, I never wanted for coompany
when Victoria were theer."
"Victoria!" ejaculated Ted, stopping short and facing her; "why,
that's a female name!"
"It's the Queen's name," rejoined Margaret, with a certain
"I thought it had been a gander; it is a gander, surely?"
"Oh, it's a gander reet 'nough. But I thought it were a goose to
begin wi'. It were the biggest o' th' clutch, an' the prattiest, an' so
I called it Victoria, an' it geet to know th' name, an' to coom when I
called it--eh, it 'ud coom runnin' up an' croodle down aside o' me,
turnin' its yead o' one side that knowin'! Eh, dear, theer never was
sich a bird. An' when it were upgrown, an' turned out to be a gander, I
'adn't it i' my 'eart to change th' name, seein' as it had getten to
know it so well, an' arter all, seein' as it's th' head of all th'
fowls i' my place, it doesn't seem to coom amiss. Canon, he wanted me
to call it Prince Consort, or else Albert Edward, but it didn't seem
natural like, an' I've allus been used to call my white drake Albert
Edward; and Prince Consort, he's th' owd rooster."
"Well," said Ted, hoisting up the gander again under his arm, and
chuckling as he walked forward, "well, that beats all! I never heerd
sich a tale i' my life. Coom, Victoria, howd up, owd lad; we'se soon be
theer now. An' so th' owd rooster is Prince Consort? An' the drake's
th' Prince o' Wales? Ho, ho! Have ye getten any more royalties yonder?"
"I've used up pretty near all th' royal fam'ly," replied Margaret,
with a recurrence of her former dolorous pride; "it's the only mark o'
respect as I can show my sovering. Every time Her Gracious Majesty gets
a new grandchild or great-grandchild, Canon, he cooms an' says,
'Margaret, have you any more chickens as wants names?' An' soomtimes
the one christening 'ull do for a whole brood; they royal childer has
sich a mony names, ye know."
Ted sneered and looked immensely superior; the loyalty of this
benighted woman filled his Radical mind with as much contempt as
amusement. He was about to utter some scathing remark, when his
attention was diverted by their arrival at Margaret's cottage.
Throwing open the little wicket-gate which divided her premises from
the lane, she pressed forward, and unlocked her door. Ted followed her
into the kitchen, while Joe stood without, craning forward his neck to
see what was going on in the interior of the cottage, and drawing the
back of his hand across his lips when he saw Miss Heptonstall produce a
small bottle of whisky.
"He looks a dale livelier now," remarked Ted, uncloaking the gander
and setting it on its legs on Margaret's immaculate table. "Whoa,
steady theer," as the bird began to struggle in his grasp, flapping
uneasy wings, and making a sickly attempt at a hiss.
Margaret, who had been about to uncork the bottle, paused, surveying
Victoria with her head on one side.
"Theer dunnot seem to be mich amiss, do theer?" she remarked; "it
seems a'most a pity to be givin' it sperrits. It'll upset it again as
like as not."
"Theer mun ha' been summat amiss i' th' first place, though,"
returned Wharton, with a judicial air, "else it wouldn't ha' been took
bad same as it were. If I was you, Miss Heptonstall, I'd give it a drop
to strengthen its in'ards a bit."
"Ah," agreed Joe from the doorway.
Ted fumbled in his pocket and produced a large red cotton
handkerchief, which he carefully spread on the table beneath the
"It 'ud be a pity to let this here table get dirty," he observed,
looking admiringly at its spotless surface. Margaret eyed him with more
favour than she had hitherto displayed; then, smiling sourly, began to
pour out the contents of her little black bottle.
"Fill up, Miss Heptonstall, fill up!" cried Ted, energetically; "eh,
if you dunnot gi' it no more nor that, Victoria met jest as well be a
bantam. He'll noan as mich as wet that great yaller beak of his wi'
Margaret smiled no more, but she filled up the glass. Joe, in the
doorway, cleared his throat reflectively. Ted, again encircling the
gander with his arm, forced open its beak.
"Now then," he whispered eagerly, "fotch a spoon, Miss Hep. Coom,
owd bird, this'll fettle thee up, an' no mistake."
But whether Victoria's struggles were more lively than he had
anticipated, or whether Ted purposely relaxed his hold, certain it was
that the gander, with a scream of fury, backed out of his grasp and
fluttered on to the floor; proceeding to waddle with great speed and
evident indignation across the kitchen into the yard without.
"He's teetotal," said Ted, gazing at Margaret with a twinkle in his
eye. "I met ha' knowed he'd be, seein' as he's bin brought up so
careful, an' took to water nateral fro' th' first."
Miss Heptonstall had been about to restore the liquor to its bottle,
but she now hesitated, looking towards Ted with a grim smile; his style
of humour tickled her. Seized with a sudden fit of generosity, she
extended the glass to him.
"You're noan teetotal, I'll be bound," she observed. "Theer! Sup it
"Your 'ealth!" said Ted, nodding towards her, much elated. Joe again
cleared his throat tentatively, but Margaret ruthlessly corked the
bottle, and, assuming her usual frosty air, remarked with somewhat
scant politeness that it was time for her to be setting about her
business, and there was no need for other folks to be waiting.
Thereupon the "other folks" were constrained to depart, Ted being
still jubilant and Joe very glum.
"Well," began the former, as soon as they had advanced some paces,
"t' folks up yon 'ull laugh fit to split when they hear this tale! Th'
owd lady is a dacent sort o' body when all's said an' done. Hoo behaved
uncommon 'andsome to me."
"Ah," returned Joe with surly sarcasm, "uncommon 'andsome. Hoo gave
thee th' gander's leavin's, didn't hoo? Ho, ho! gander's leavin's."
Joe so seldom made a joke that he was quite astonished at himself,
and after three or four repetitions of the same, with much wagging of
the head, and a few knowing jerks of his thumb over his shoulder,
apparently to accentuate the point of the jest, he became quite
good-humoured again, and the pair walked on in amicable silence, each
preparing to astonish his cronies with the recital of his own prowess.
The Thornleigh Arms was a snug old-fashioned hostelry standing a
little back from the high-road. An air of homely jollity and comfort
seemed to pervade the place; the ruddy afternoon sun lit up the
small-paned windows with as cheerful a glow as that which in winter was
reflected from the roaring fire piled by old Jack half up the wide
chimney; the very Thornleigh lion of the imposing sign seemed to lean
confidentially on his toe and to grin affably, as though to assure the
passers-by of the good cheer within.
Ted and Joe found the usual Saturday customers already there, and
presently shouts of laughter made the very rafters ring as he recounted
his adventures with Margaret Heptonstall and her gander; his companion
meanwhile sipping his beer with an air of suppressed importance.
By-and-by he, too, would add his quota to the evening's entertainment,
but he would wait till the culminating point of Ted's story was
reached, and the company was, so to speak, ripe for it.
"Me an' Miss Hep. is meeterly thick now, I tell ye," summed up Ted
at the conclusion of his tale. "Hoo thinks a dale o' me, if hoo doesn't
think mich o' menfolk in general."
"Hoo gived Ted the gander's leavin's," put in Joe, seizing his
opportunity, and bringing out his joke with a great shout and a
vigorous nudge to his nearest neighbour. "Th' owd lad needn't be that
set up--hoo give him nought but the gander's leavin's, when all's said
"Hoo didn't give thee a drop as how 'tis," retorted Ted.
"Poor Joe were stood i' th' doorway, ye know, an' he sighed an' licked
his lips, th' poor chap, but he didn't get nought. Miss Hep. didn't
fancy nobody but me."
"Thou'll be for coortin' her next," suggested somebody humorously.
"Nay, nay," said an odd little short man with comically uplifted
eyebrows. "'T wouldn't be no use coortin' Margaret Heptonstall. Eh, I
remember when our missus reckoned hoo were deein' an' took a notion to
mak' up a match between Margaret an' me--"
The rest of his narrative was drowned in a roar of laughter. Every
one knew that story.
"Hoo wouldn't ha' noan o' thee, would hoo Tom?" cried one.
"Thy missus couldn't bear the notion of havin' all they dumb things
about as Margaret sets sich store by?" queried another.
"Nay, 'twas me as couldn't bear the notion of her," rejoined Tom
stoutly. "I'd be hard put-to to do wi' onybody at arter our Betty.
Hoo's wick an' 'earty, an' I dunnot want nobry; but if I did have to
pick a second missus, it shouldn't be Margaret Hep."
"Hoo's reg'lar set in her ways, isn't hoo?" put in old Jack. "Ah,
hoo's reg'lar cut out for a single life, Marg'ret is. I reckon
nobody'll want to coort her at this time o' day, an' if onybody did,
hoo'd send him packin'."
"I haven't tried my hand yet, ye see," remarked Ted, looking round
for applause. "If I was to get agate o' coortin' Margaret Hep., hoo'd
be fain enough."
There was general laughter at this statement, which nearly every one
present hastened to deny. All agreed that were Ted to urge his
pretensions he would be very soon sent to the right-about.
"Well, then," cried Ted when the uproar had somewhat subsided, "I'll
bet you a nine-gallon cask of owd Jack's best to a five-shillin' bit
that Margaret Hep. an' me 'ull be shouted before the month's out."
The din at this point reached such a height that Mrs. Jack hastened
in from the back premises to inquire what was to-do, and Ted himself
was obliged to hammer on the table with his knuckles before he could
make himself heard.
"Well," he resumed, "I've said it, an' I'll stick to it. You'll see,
Margaret an' me 'ull be keeping coompany afore aught's long, an' Canon
'ull be shoutin' us at th' end o' th' month."
"Mon, you're noan goin' to wed sich an owd, tough, dried-up body as
yon, for sure?" cried comfortable Mrs. Orme incredulously. "Ye mun be a
good ten or fifteen year younger nor her."
"I didn't say we'd go as fur as wedlock," explained Ted, with a
wicked leer. "I said we'd be shouted. Eh, theer's mony a slip 'twixt
cup an' lip, ye know. Margaret an' me 'ull happen fall out afore
weddin' day cooms; but once Canon shouts us ye mun down wi' your five
"Ah, th' marlock 'ull be cheap enough at five shillin'," cried some
jovial spirit. "My word, I would laugh to hear the names called! I
reckon Canon hisself 'ud scarce keep a straight face."
"Nay, but think of th' poor wench," cried Jack, with an explosion of
mirth. "Ted, it's rale cruel o' thee to play an innicent trustin' lass
sich a trick."
"I reckon Margaret Hep. can take care of herself," put in Mrs. Jack.
"Hoo can keep her e'en oppen as weel's onybody. I don't know but what
it 'ull be Ted as 'ull ha' to pay for th' nine-gallon cask. Ye'd best
be savin' up your brass, Ted, for we wunnot give no credit for 't."
With this professional sally she retired. Thomas Alty, remarking in
an undertone that his Betty would be coming to look for him if he
didn't make haste home, withdrew also, after a good-humoured nod to the
friend who had treated him; for, as Mrs. Alty invariably impounded
Tom's wage, it was only when he met with a crony in a generous humour
that he visited the Thornleigh Arms.
It was not till considerably later that Ted betook himself
homewards; the plan which he had at first proposed out of a mere spirit
of bravado having now, owing to the gibes of Jack and the rest, become
a fixed resolution.
On the following afternoon, just at the time when young Thornleigh
went a-coortin', and elderly Thornleigh took off its boots and coat, or
put a clean white handkerchief over its cap, the better to enjoy its
Sabbath snooze in the ingle-nook, Ted Wharton cocked his hat over his
eye, put a posy in his coat, and set off to call on Margaret
Heptonstall. He found that damsel engaged in neither of the avocations
already stated, but, with her Sunday gown pinned behind her, and her
week-day sun-bonnet hanging limply over her face, feeding her numerous
family in the middle of her yard.
"Good day to ye, Miss Heptonstall," remarked Ted, approaching with a
jaunty air, "I thought I'd just call round to ax how Victoria finds
hissel this morning."
"Mich the same as us'al, thank ye," replied Miss Hep. with a
starched air. "Get out o' the road, Alice," addressing an adventurous
pullet. "Thou'rt allus runnin' under a body's feet. Chuck! chuck!
chuck! Coom G'arge, coom Adylaide, coom Maud! Now then, Alexandra!
Chuck! chuck! coom lovies! That theer vicious Frederick has been
a-chivying of you till you're freetened to death, you are."
Ted stood by with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, smiling to
"Yon's gradely chickens," he remarked presently. "Ye never eat 'em
do ye? 'Twouldn't be respectful, I shouldn't think."
[Illustration: THE CONQUEST OF RADICAL TED "Yon's gradely chickens,"
Margaret vouchsafed no reply. Ted resumed, with bitter sarcasm.
"H'm, mich the same as their r'yal namesakes, I reckon--kept for
show an' no manner o' use to nobry."
Margaret hastily scattered the remainder of the grain in her apron,
and whisked round.
"Howd your din," she cried angrily, "or else tak' yoursel' off. I'll
noan stand by an' hear sich talk i' my place."
Ted, feeling he had made rather an inauspicious beginning, suddenly
"No offence," he pleaded humbly. "Mun I carry your basin for you
into th' house?"
Margaret looked over her shoulder and snorted; then, without
returning yea or nay, she stalked over the cobble-stones and entered
her kitchen, followed meekly by her visitor. Miss Heptonstall did not
turn her head until the sound of Ted's boots, falling upon her tiled
floor, made her look round sharply.
"If ye're for coomin' in ye'd best wipe your feet," she announced
Ted obediently retraced his steps and polished his boots on the mat
outside the door. Then he re-entered, walking gingerly on the tips of
his toes, and casting about in his mind for a suitable topic with which
to inaugurate the conversation. Margaret's spare angular figure and
sharp-featured face did not look encouraging; but surely never before
was seen such a dazzling white apron, such a stiffly starched collar,
such spotless cuffs. Margaret's cleanliness had in it, it was true, an
aggressive quality, but Ted admired it nevertheless. The kitchen and
all its appurtenances bore witness to the same scrupulous nicety. No
floor in Thornleigh village was raddled so carefully, no fire-irons
glittered so bravely; the very walls seemed to shine; and as for the
pots and pans they positively winked at one another in the ruddy glow.
Ted rested a sunburnt hand on each of his knees, drew a long breath,
and remarked fervently--
"Ye mun be wonderful house-proud, Miss Heptonstall."
He could not have chosen a more pleasing theme; Margaret wrinkled up
her nose with a sniff and a smile.
"Well, I believe I'm reckoned to be," she remarked modestly;
"theer's nought else i' this world as I care for mich, but I'm
wonderful fond o' cleanin' and scrubbing', an' I've allus said I'd
sooner do things for mysel' nor let onybody do it for me."
Ted sighed and cast up his eyes.
"It seems a pity, Miss Heptonstall, as it's only yoursel' ye're
doin' it for--"
"Why so?" interrupted Margaret snappishly.
"Well, it seems sich terrible waste, ye know. It seems a pity ye
shouldn't be doin' for soombry else at th' same time."
"I dunnot want to do for nobry, nobbut mysel'," returned Margaret
with a toss of her head. "Did ye think I'd be for takkin' lodgers at
this time o' day?" she added suspiciously. "Nay, nay, I'll noan ha'
strangers here, botherin' an' messin' about."
"Eh, I wasn't thinkin' o' strangers," explained Wharton, hitching
his chair a little nearer. "I were jest wonderin' to mysel', seein'
you're so manageable an' clever an' that, as you hadn't never thought
o' gettin' wed an' doin' for a husband as well as yoursel'. I raly do
wonder, Miss Heptonstall," he repeated insinuatingly, "as ye haven't
He expected Margaret to be surprised and flattered, but she gave no
indication of being either the one or the other. She fixed her steely
blue eyes sternly on the visitor, and inquired stiffly what he thought
she wanted a husband for, and what use he reckoned sich-like 'ud be to
her. Ted edged his chair yet a little nearer, and thrust forward his
face till it was within a yard of Margaret's.
"A good husband 'ud be a great comfort to ye, Miss Heptonstall," he
urged. "He'd--he'd love ye, ye know"--(hesitating)--"an' work for ye."
This last was said with more assurance. Margaret appeared
"Eh, he'd be more bother than he was worth," she remarked
trenchantly. "Think 'o th' litter alone he'd mak' coomin' in an' out o'
th' house. It's bad enough to be cleanin' up arter th' cats an' the
dog--poor dumb things, they knows no better! But a mon stumpin' in an'
out wi's dirty boots, an' clooes as 'ud allus want mendin', an'
stockin's weerin' at th' 'eel! Eh, theer'd be no end to 't! An' then
th' doin' for; gettin's mate an' that--turnin' up 's nose very
like--ill-satisfied wi' a washin'-day dinner! Nay, nay, I'd sooner bide
as I am wi' nobbut mysel' to look to."
Ted threw back his head and coughed behind his hand, nonplussed for
the moment; presently, noting that the practical side of the case was
the only one likely to meet with favour, he resumed artfully--"Think
how coomfortable it 'ud be of a rainy day, i'stead o' startin' out i'
th' wet to feed pig an' do for chickens, to say to your gaffer, 'Sitha,
thou mun see to they things afore thou goes to thy wark'--an' of an
evening, when he' coom awhoam, ye could set him to get th' 'taters, an'
chop wood an' that."
Margaret crossed her arms and appeared to reflect.
"An' of a Saturday--pay day, ye know--ye'd jest say: 'Hand o'er,
wilto?' An' he'd hand o'er."
A faint smile began to play about the lady's lips; she leaned back
in her chair and looked attentively at Ted.
"'Tisn't everybody as 'ud be willin' to do that," she remarked after
a pause; "theer's a mony as 'ud sooner spend their brass at th'
Ted privately thought this extremely likely, but he assumed an air
of virtuous indignation.
"Theer's chaps an' chaps! I reckon if onybody was to ax to wed
you, Miss Heptonstall, he'd be a steady-goin' sort o' fellow as
wouldn't be up to they mak' o' games."
Margaret smiled outright. Ted thought he would follow up his
advantage and clinch the point at once.
"Now, Miss Heptonstall," said he, "for instance, if I was to
coom coortin' ye, I wouldn't be thinkin' of onything but makkin' ye
coomfortable. I reckon ye'd mak' me coomfortable"--(with an air
of great fairness and impartiality)--"that's wheer 'tis; it 'ud be
'give an' take, give an' take.' I feel dreadful lonely of an evenin',
an' it's a sad thing when a man allus has to do for hissel'. I'd be
thankful if ye'd have me--"
"I reckon ye would," interrupted Margaret with disconcerting
frankness; "I've a good bit o' brass saved."
This was news to Ted, and he looked at her with genuine interest.
"Have ye?" said he. "I raly didn't know. Well, I'm doin' pratty well
too, an' I've got a nice little place--"
"Nay," put in Margaret, "it isn't mich of a place; this here's twice
th' size, an' a dale coomfortabler. Nay, if we was to get wed, ye'd ha'
to coom here--I wouldn't go yonder."
Ted started for a moment, somewhat taken back by the matter-of-fact
coolness with which his advances were received; he might as well finish
the job now however, he reflected, and as he did not mean the business
to proceed beyond the "shouting" stage, it would not hurt him to make
any concession that Margaret might please to exact.
"Ah, I could coom here," he remarked heroically; "my little nook
isn't sich an ill place for all that; but I'll do it, an' I'll gi' ye
my wage reg'lar an' do th' dirty work all round, an'--an' turn teetotal
if ye want it."
"Naw," said Miss Heptonstall, "I wouldn't go as far as that; I like
a glass o' beer mysel' at dinner-time--I allus keep a little cask i'
th' buttery yon--but you'll ha' to gi' o'er callin' at th' Thornleigh
"Tisn't like I'd want to be callin' at th' Thornleigh Arms if I'd a
coomfortable place like this to set in o' neets, and a missus o' my own
to look to."
He had for a moment contemplated qualifying the word "missus" with
some such adjective as "bonny," but a glance at Margaret's face nipped
this poetical flower in the bud. After a moment she sat upright, gazing
at him stolidly.
"I'll think on 't," she said. "Theer's things for it an' theer's
things agin it. One thing's agin it--I dunnot fancy your talk out o'
th' newspapers--speakin' ill o' th' Queen an' that--I reckon we'd ha'
words if ye carried on that road when we was mon an' wife."
Wharton rubbed his hands and looked embarrassed; he had hitherto had
no hesitation in perjuring himself, but he could not for the life of
him swallow his principles.
Margaret marched across the room and took down a framed photograph
from a shelf of the old-fashioned dresser. It represented Her Majesty
in royal robes.
"This here Canon give me at th' time o' th' Jubilee," she pursued.
"I've vallyed it--well, I couldn't say how mich I've vallyed it an'
do vally it. See here, dunnot hoo look noble? I couldn't do wi'
onybody i' th' house as didn't respect this same as I do."
Ted cast a depreciating eye towards the portrait, but, after a
glance at it, suddenly regained his tongue and his spirits.
"See here, Miss Heptonstall," he cried eagerly, "th' Queen's not
like that! Theer now, it just shows how poor folks gets imposed upon!
I've seen the Queen mysel'--walked all the road to Liverpool when I
didn't know no better, an' I see her, an' hoo were nought but a wumman
i' black! Theer now, I'll tak' my oath on 't! Hoo hadn't no crown on,
nor yet no blue ribbon, an' none o' they fal-lals o' medals, an' nought
i' her hand. Hoo was jest an ord'nary wumman same 's ony other wumman.
'Well,' thinks I to mysel', 'if yon is to be stuck up at th' 'ead o'
Government, an' we all mun bow down afore a wuimman as isn't nought
different to ony other wumman, it's a shame,' I says. An' it is
a shame, Miss Heptonstall."
Ted was working up into a fine declamatory vein, and would probably
have continued to hold forth for some time had not Margaret indignantly
"Stop that! I'll ha' noan of it i' this 'ouse, an' so I tell ye. Did
ever a body hear sich talk! Ye ought to be ashamed o' yoursel', Edward
Wharton! If you was a mon ye should be ready to lay down your life for
"Lay down my life!" repeated Ted, who was getting slightly irate in
his turn. "I'd do no sich thing. I wouldn't put mysel' onyways out o'
my road for th' Queen, now I know what hoo is. Hoo's fools enough to
fight for her and wark for her. I wouldn't do nought for her."
"Ye would then," said Margaret, suddenly becoming calm again and
smiling grimly to herself. "Theer's one thing ye'd do for her, Edward
Wharton--ye'd drink her 'ealth."
Before he could retort she rose and went into the buttery, returning
after a moment or two with a foaming brown jug in one hand and a
quaintly shaped Toby-mug in the other. She placed them both on the
table in inviting proximity to Ted.
"Now then," she said persuasively, "ye'll drink Long Life to Her
The day was exceedingly warm, and if there was one thing on earth
for which Radical Ted had a weakness it was his native nut--brown ale.
He looked at Margaret and grinned--the grin of compromise. Margaret,
still smiling, slowly filled the beaker, a beautiful creamy head
bubbling over the brim.
"Coom," she said, "ye'll say: 'Her Majesty's 'ealth, an' long life
Ted stretched out his hand and grasped the tempting handle; then,
averting his eyes, he hastily mumbled the prescribed words, burying his
face in the mug immediately after. While he slowly drained its contents
Margaret chanted the last verse of the National Anthem, to a tune which
might possibly have been like "God Save the Queen" if it had not borne
an equal resemblance to "The Dead March in Saul."
Music, we know, has charms to soothe the savage breast, and, whether
because of Margaret's patriotic outburst, or because the beer was of
excellent quality, Ted's face was wreathed in smiles when he set down
"Ah," he said, "we'se never ha' no words if ye tackle me this gate.
I'd drink the Queen's 'ealth again if you axed me."
"Enough's good as a feast," returned his hostess sententiously.
"It'll be tay-time afore aught's long."
"Mun I bide for tay?" inquired Ted, with his head on one side.
"Ye can if ye've a mind," said Margaret, accommodatingly. "Ye can be
lookin' round if ye like while I'm gettin' things ready."
Ted complied, nothing loth, and stalked about the place with his
thumbs in his armholes and an air of proprietorship. Everything without
was as snug, neat, and prosperous as everything within. The garden was
well-stocked and weedless; the potatoes seemed to be coming on nicely;
the pig was as fat as a self-respecting pig ought to be, and the
chickens were healthy and well-grown. Ted re-entered the house,
scraping his feet carefully this time, and looking at Margaret with
increased respect as she bustled about. The kettle already sung merrily
on the hob, a plateful of most inviting buttered toast was keeping warm
within the fender, and Miss Hep. was in the act of placing on the table
a smoking dish of nicely-browned sausages.
"I made 'em mysel'," she explained briefly. "I dunnot often have 'em
at this time o' day, but this here's an occasion."
Ted looked blank for a moment, then, suddenly remembering that this
was practically a betrothal-feast, responded heartily, and drew in his
chair to the table with pleased anticipation.
Miss Heptonstall, he remarked, had everything "gradely" about her.
The table-cloth was not only snow-white and beautifully mended, but of
fine quality; the spoons were silver, worn to egg-shell thinness, but
resplendently bright; the teapot, a heavy, old-fashioned Britannia
metal one, was polished till it might have been of the same precious
ore; the cups and plates were of delicate transparent china. Margaret
came of good old north-country stock, and these possessions were
heirlooms. Ted looked at her, and a queer feeling suddenly came over
him. Supposing--only supposing--that instead of a jest his
wooing had been undertaken in sober earnest, he would be doing rather
well for himself than otherwise. Now that he was at leisure to survey
Miss Heptonstall with an impartial eye, it appeared to him that she
really was not ill-looking, and he didn't believe she could be more
than nine or ten years older than he was. She certainly was a notable
sort of body; she kept her place wonderful nice, and she had a tidy bit
of brass laid by in the bank. There was a very comfortable ring about
this last item. It was odd that from the time these reflections took
possession of him Ted became pensive and serious. The conversation
flagged, and by-and-by he rose to take his leave. Margaret accompanied
him to the door.
"Ye'll be lookin' in again, I fancy, afore th' weekend?" she
Ted cleared his throat and replied that very like he would. He
walked rather slowly till he reached the corner of the lane, and there
he paused, slapping his thigh as he suddenly remembered something.
"I haven't said a word about the shoutin'!" he cried in a vexed
tone. He retraced his steps more quickly, and presently re-entered
"Miss Heptonstall," he began, screwing his head insinuatingly round
"Well?" returned Margaret. She was standing with her back to him,
gazing meditatively into the fire.
"I were thinkin'," continued Wharton, "you an' me, ye know--theer
isn't much use in waitin', is theer?"
Margaret turned and looked at him, but did not speak.
"We met as well let Canon begin o' shoutin' us, dunnot ye think?"
Margaret reflected. "It 'ud be a pity for ye to gi' up your house
afore th' end o' th' year," she remarked. "Th' agent wouldn't let ye,
would he? Ye'll ha' to gi' six months' notice, wunnot ye? Theer's time
enough as how 'tis."
Ted bethought him of the cask of beer, and his face fell. If he was
to win his wager the banns must be published before the end of the
month, and but ten days of it remained to run.
"Well, I'd as soon as not hurry up things," he said, screwing a
little more of his person on the other side of the door. "I'm awful
tired o' livin' by mysel'. An' we met let my house an' turn o'er a bit
o' money that way. If we was to get wed at once ye'd be havin' the
benefit o' that as well's me. It 'ud be more to our mutual advantage,"
delivering this phrase, culled from one of his favourite papers, with
great emphasis, "nor for both of us to remain single. That's what I
think, Miss Heptonstall, but ye mun do as you choose."
"Well, theer's summat i' what ye say," returned Margaret. "Happen
'twould be best to get the job done. Dear o' me, it seems sudden like!
I raly never thought o' changin' my state. Once before, ye may ha'
heerd, Mrs. Alty wanted me to wed her Thomas. I was again it, dreadful
again it at first, but hoo persuaded me, so I very nigh gave in. But
him an' me didn't agree so well at arter, and Betty didn't dee, so that
settled it. Well, then, I said to mysel', 'It's all for th' best,' an'
I reckoned to bide as I were. But raly now, as ye've coom," a sudden
smile lit up her face, a smile less frosty, less sour, less grim than
any that had hitherto found their way there, "I dunno how it is, but I
seem to ha' taken a fancy to ye. I did fro' th' first. I reckon ye'll
mak' a good husband."
Ted left off embracing the lintel of the door and walked straight up
to her, quite forgetting to wipe his feet. His face was very red and
his eyes avoided hers; making a sudden dart at her hand, he shook it
"I will, Margaret, I will," he said huskily, "an' I reckon ye'll
mak' a good wife--better nor I deserve."
In another moment he was gone, walking very rapidly this time,
almost running indeed, as though to give himself no time for thought.
When he reached home, he shut the door hastily behind him and sat down
on the nearest chair.
"Well," he said, scratching his head, with an exceedingly perturbed
expression, "this here's a queer kind o' business! I didn't quite know
what I were lettin' mysel' in for, it seems."
Once or twice during the week he called upon his lady-love, who, on
one occasion, permitted him to inspect her Savings Bank book, and, on
another, presented him with a handsome silver-mounted pipe, which her
father had won many years before at some village sports. It was
bestowed, it must be owned, on the understanding that it was never on
any account to be used, but Ted's pride of possession was none the less
great. At the conclusion of each visit she had not failed to make him
drink Her Majesty's health.
On the following Sunday, when the Canon with the portentous "Hem,"
and solemn glance round which invariably preceded the announcement of
banns, began: "Be it known unto all here present," it was observed that
the corners of his mouth were twitching in a most peculiar manner, and
his voice actually trembled as he coupled the names of Margaret
Heptonstall and Edward Wharton.
Had any stranger chanced to enter Thornleigh church at that moment,
I fear he would have been much disedified; every single member of the
congregation was a-grin; the Canon himself was smiling; the only person
who preserved his entire seriousness being Radical Ted himself.
Those among his cronies who were in the secret of the wager
considered this gravity affected, and part of the joke; and greeted him
hilariously on quitting the church.
"Well done, owd bird! Thou's lost no time as how 'tis."
"Ah," replied Ted, still solemn, "I haven't lost mich time."
"Well, thou's won th' bet i' gradely style! When wilto coom to
Thornleigh Arms to have th' five shillin' paid over?"
"Eh, I doubt Ted 'ud sooner ha' th' five shillin' worth," suggested
one of Ted's boon companions.
"I dunno," replied Ted; "I reckon I'd as soon ha' th' brass."
"Ah, but thou'lt coom to Orme's for it?"
"Nay--I fancy one on you had best bring it to my place--hoo met get
to hear on 't, ye know," he explained with a sheepish smile.
There was a great guffawing and stamping of feet at this. Ted was
slapped on the shoulder, his friends declaring that nobry could beat
him. By-and-by he managed to make his escape, and walked pensively
homewards, shaking his head now and then, and muttering to himself:--
"Ah, hoo'd happen get to hear on 't if I went yonder; aye, the brass
'ull coom in reet 'nough. I'll say nought about that."
He continued his courting assiduously during the ensuing week, and
on the Sunday he and Margaret were "shouted" for the second time.
The ecstasy of his friends knew no bounds. Was there ever such a
chap as Ted for a marlock? How long would he keep it up? they wondered.
In a day or two the news flew from mouth to mouth that Ted had given
the agent six months' notice, and that he had announced his intention
of letting his house and taking up his abode at Margaret's after their
"Well! well!" cried the initiated, casting up their hands and eyes
to heaven; the more moderate among them were of the opinion that Ted
was carrying things a bit too far, particularly when' it became known
that Margaret was boiling hams and killing chickens--yes, Sophia and
Ernest, William and Augusta were laid low--in preparation for the
forthcoming nuptial feast.
On the third Sunday the general excitement reached fever-height, and
when once more the Canon linked the names of Edward Wharton and
Margaret Heptonstall, a kind of amazed murmur rippled from bench to
bench. All those who had been party to the plot against Margaret's
peace were totally at a loss to account for the conduct of the chief
conspirator. They made up their minds to take him to task at the
earliest possible opportunity; but, as on that particular morning he
did not come to church, they were forced to restrain their curiosity
till later in the day.
After dinner, therefore, a select deputation waited on Mr. Edward
Wharton at his own residence, but was again doomed to disappointment;
that gentleman having gone to call on his charmer, and not returning
till evening. However, the ardour of the deputation, though damped, was
not extinguished, and when the shades of night were falling, it again
betook itself to the abode of the bridegroom elect.
As the half-dozen members who made up the embassy walked at the
usual slow and somewhat shambling pace which the Lancashire rustic
assumes at times of leisure--pausing every now and then to emphasise
the point of some remark, switching at the hedge with their sticks,
playfully kicking up the dust, or sending a tempting pebble spinning
along in front of them--faint notes of music reached them, coming
apparently from the direction towards which they were bending their
steps. These notes were feeble and faltering, as though the player were
practising an unfamiliar air; in another moment or two it became
evident that the sounds proceeded from Ted's cottage, and that the
musician was no other than Mr. Wharton himself.
Quickening their pace, the hilarious party burst open the door,
discovering the master of the house seated astride a wooden chair,
concertina in hand; his face wore a most serious, not to say dismal,
expression, and his whole attitude betokened absorption.
Joe Lovelady advanced and clapped him on the shoulder with a loud
laugh; the others followed, less jubilantly; one or two of them,
indeed, felt themselves somewhat aggrieved at Ted's unaccountable
"Coom," cried Joe, "thou mun explain a bit, Ted, lad. We're gettin'
fair moidered wi' this job; how long dost thou mean to keep it up?"
"Haven't you and Margaret fallen out yet?" put in another. "Ye're
carryin' on th' coortin' longer nor we looked for."
"Ah, thou said thou'd content thysel' with bein' shouted, didn't
thou? Thou allus said thou didn't mean it to coom to wedlock."
Ted heaved a deep sigh, and looked solemnly from one to the other.
"Theer's no knowin' i' this warld what folks cooms to," he replied
seriously. "We says one thing an' we reckon we'se do it, an' when th'
time cooms it's impossible."
A blank silence fell upon the company, broken presently by Joe.
"Why," he said, "thou doesn't mean thou'rt goin' to carry out this
Ted nodded, seriously and regretfully.
There was a general shout.
"Thou'rt never goin' to wed owd Marg'ret Hep.?"
"Hoo's noan so owd as that cooms to," retorted Ted indignantly. "Her
an' me's mich of an age--I am goin' to wed her. Now then! I've
coorted her, an' we'n been shouted, an' I'm goin' to let it go forrud.
Theer! I hope nobry hasn't got no objections."
Nobody hadn't none, it appeared, though from certain low murmurs and
a general shuffling of feet, it was evident that this unexpected
outcome of Ted's joke caused a good deal of dissatisfaction. Joe,
indeed, gave voice to the universal opinion when he observed that it
wasn't what he had looked for, and he couldn't think it altogether
'andsome of Ted. Somebody else wanted to know what about their five
"Well, an' what about the five shillin'?" repeated Ted, reddening,
however, a little uncomfortably.
"Well, this here isn't what we expected; nay, not by a long road. We
was lookin' for summat joy'al, a gradely marlock, thou knows. This
here's an ord'nary kind o' business."
"Ah, we all paid up--we did that, an' we'n been waitin' for thee to
look in yonder at Orme's! We was all expectin' a bit of a do, thou
knows--an' thou's never so much as coom nigh th' place. An' thou
settled to get wed an' all, wi'out namin' it to nobry! It's scarce
Ted scratched his jaw reflectively; the argument seemed to touch
him. After a pause he rose and crossed the room to a chest of drawers
in the corner. Unlocking an upper drawer he took out a greasy leathern
purse with which he returned to the expectant group. Opening it, with a
kind of groan, he extracted five shillings, which he handed over to Joe
"Theer," he said, "it is but fair when all's said an' done. Theer!
ye can have a wet wi' that."
"Reet, I knowed ye wasn't one as 'ud play us a dirty trick. Coom
along, an' we'se have a drop all round, an' drink thy 'ealth an' th'
bride's too. Ho! ho! ho! Aye, we'se wish thee an' thy missus good luck!
Coom, we'se step out an' mak' up for lost time."
"Nay, nay," said Ted, shaking his head with gentle melancholy. "I'll
noan go wi' you--I met rue it at arter. Nay, I'll wish ye good-bye an'
good luck, all on you, but I'll bide wheer I am."
He returned thereupon to his concertina, meeting all further
persuasions by deep sighs and obdurate shakes of the head; and, finding
their efforts useless, the party withdrew at last, to drink his health
As they retraced their steps the uncertain notes of Ted's concertina
came floating after them, borne upon the evening breeze; gradually
these shaped themselves into a tune, a tune which their incredulous
ears were at last forced to identify. Joe Lovelady suddenly paused and
threw out his hand.
"'Ark, all on ye, 'ark at that! Do ye know the tune th' owd lad's
They all paused, holding their breaths; and then shouts of laughter
broke the stillness.
Radical Ted was playing God Save the Queen.