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 A MIXED WEDDING

In spring the young mans fancy fondly turns to love.

I am not quite sure whether this quotation is strictly correct or not, but the poet’s refrain lingered in my mind as I stood near Bobbin Cloof Church on Easter Monday, and watched the cabs rushing to and fro, and bearing smiling couples whose only thoughts of the future centred round a vision of uninterrupted and unalloyed happiness.

What though misery and sorrow had followed in the wake of marriage in the past, these young and joyous people meant to show the world that true love made all crooked paths straight, and all rough places plain.  What a delicious dream it is, and how cruel it would be to mar it by a premature awakening.  Difficulties and trials will come soon enough, and why not let the wedding day be free from care and the thoughts buoyant as the wings of love?  I stood silently gazing at the pretty scene — familiar in all ages, and destined to be familiar in all ages yet to come — when my reverie was disturbed by a cheery voice beside me saying, “Neaw! what dun yo’ think abeawt that, Mesthur Jones?  Th’ owd picture, isn’t it?  It’s been painted an’ re-painted theausands o’ times, and it’ll be painted theausands an’ theausands o’ times again, an’ every fresh artist ’ll think ’at he or she con improve it i’ one place or another.  Some on ’em may try to alter it by colourin’ it a bit different here or puttin’ a bit leeter shade theer, but we con awlus tell ’at it’s same picture after o.  It looks weel neaw, but time ’ll tell whether th’ colours ’ll stick or not.”

It was my old friend Penky who spoke, and I shook him heartily by the hand and wished him “good morning.”  “Yes,” I answered.  “It is the old, old theme, and fortunate indeed are those who do not, at some portion of their lives, feel an inclination to turn the picture to the wall.”

“Aye! aye!” said Penky; but aw think ’at there’s moore ’at doesno’ want to do nor what does.”

“I hope so, my friend,” I replied.

“Well, sp’akin’ for us sel’ that is so, isn’t it? ”

“Yes, I am glad to believe that it is, and may those who are engaging in life’s most sacred ties this morning be as happy as we have been.”

“Well, bad as th’ world is said to be, aw believe ’at there’s moore joy nor sorrow, an’ moore love nor hatred in it.”

“You are an optimist, I perceive.”

“Aw dunnot know what that is, Mesthur Jones, but aw find ’at the mooist unlikely weddin’s dunnot awlus turn eawt th’ worst i’ th’ lung run.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, aw meeon ’at aw’ve seen some queer weddin’s, when aw’ve almost thowt ’at Nature wur playin’ one of her pranks i’ matin’ sich unlikely folks together.  Aw remember one ’at took place fro’ th’ Cloof when aw wur nobbut a lad.  Th’ neighbours said what a pity it wur, an’ they predicted o sorts o’ ill luck, but see yo’, aw dunnot believe ’at ever happier folks lived i’ th’ Cloof nor what they wur after.”

“Why, was there something peculiar about the wedding?”

“Aw should think there wur.  But aw’ll tell yo’ o abeawt it if yo’ve a mind.”

“Oh! I should be pleased to hear it,” I replied.

“Well, yo’ see, th’ mooist o’ folks i’ thoose days geet wed at th’ Prestwich Church.  They thowt ’at they couldn’t be wed gradely onywheer else.  There wur no cabs, nor coaches, same as there is neaw o’ days for th’ worchin’ folks.  They had to walk, an’ trust to gettin’ a lift in a milk cart on th’ road.  Talk abeawt weddin’s!  They used to wed ’em wholesale at Prestwich.  An’ th’ happy couples had to stond i’ rows i’ th’ front o’ th’ altar, an’ be teed together i’ batches.  At ’Asther trade wur generally so busy i’ this line, ‘at th’ parson had to get an extra mon to help him so as they could get through ’em i’ time.  They hadn’t o day to do it in then same as they han neaw.  An’ some curious things happen’d at times, aw con assure yo’.  Th’ parson used to tell ’em ‘at he couldn’t bother so mich wi’ ’em, he’d wed ’em in a lot an’ they must soart theirsel’s after it wur o’er.  Aw recollect one time there wur a weddin’ theer fro’ th’ Cloof.  Yung Matty o’ Bob’s wur bein’ wed to Ikey o’ Lung Yeb’s o’ th’ Brookside, an’ as Matty’s fayther wur th’ ceawmon for big Joe o’ th’ Know Farm he geet th’ loan o’ th’ spring cart ‘at they generally took th’ milk reaund to their customers in.  Of course he wur beawnt’ drive ’em to Prestwich, an’ give his dowter away at th’ ceremony.  Then Jimmy Red Yed, an’ he had a red yed aw con tell yo’, wur goin’ to be th’ best mon, an’ his girl, Selina, wur to be th’ bridesmaid.  There wur some preparations made for it aw con assure yo’, an’ some talk abeawt it i’ th’ Cloof afore it coom off.  Th’ women had new hats an’ dresses deck’d wi’ ribbons an’ fleawers, an’ aw thowt aw never seed a prattier seet i’ my life.  Bob, Matty’s fayther, had borrowed a silk hat ’at wur a size or two too big for him, an’ though he pack’d it weel it coom very nee to his nose.  He’d a check’d senglet an’ an owd swallow-tail’d cooat ’at wur his grondfayther’s, an’ he flourished his whip an’ stretch’d his neck as preaud as a paycock.  Ikey o’ Lung Yeb’s an’ Jimmy Red Yed had booath getten a new second-honded suit o’ clooas, speshly for th’ job, an’ rare’n weel they looked in ’em, aw thowt.  Nearly o th’ folks i’ th’ Cloof wur eawt to watch ’em off, an’ sich sheautin’an’ throwin’ o’ owd shoon there wur for sure as they drove off.

“When they geet to th’ Church Inn Bob pood up an’ th’ landlord browt a two-gallon bottle eawt an’ put it i’ th’ cart an’ off they set again.  When they’d getten nicely eawt o’ th’ seet o’ folks, as they thowt, Bob wanted to sup, an’ as Ikey an’ Jimmy wur agreeable, they uncorked th’ bottle.  Then they bethowt ‘em ‘at they’d browt no pot to burn eawt wi.”

“Pot or no pot,” said Bob, “aw’m beawnt have a sup before aw goo ony fur,” an’ he began o’ shappin’ for suppin’ eawt o’ th’ bottle.

Th’ women tried to persuade him to wait while they geet to a heause an’ then they’d borrow a gill pot, but Bob wouldn’t be put off.  He lifted bottle up to his meauth as weel as he could, an’ wur just takkin’ a good swig when a weasel or summat coom eawt o’ th’ hedge an’ ran across th’ road, causin’ th’ hoss to give a bit of a start.  This upset Bob’s balance, an’ th’ ale ran deawn his neck, an’ o’er his frilled shirt, an’ deawn his senglet till ho wur a bonny seet to look at.  Ikey and Jimmy laughed till they nearly fell off th’ seeat, but Matty gan her fayther a warnin’ look, an’ ax’d him heaw he could for shame mak’ sich a foo’ of hissel’?

As soon as they geet to a heause they borrowed a pot, an’ then th’ fellies went for that ale wi’ a will.  It wur above hauve done when they londed at th’ “Three Arrows,” so they had th’ bottle filled up again, an’ they wur suppin’ nearly o th’ road to Prestwich.  Yo’ may he sure they cut a bonny figure when they raych’d Prestwich Church.  Bob an’ Ikey wur deeod drunk, an’ Jimmy couldn’t walk straight.  Th’ women wur in a way, an’ Matty couldn’t tell whatever hoo must do, for Ikey geet laid deawn on a gravestone i’ th’ churchyard, an’ they couldn’t get him to stir.  Bob wur proppin’ another yedstone up, an’ wur vainly tellin’ somebody to “burn another gill eawt.”  Matty tried to rouse Ikey.

“Come! Ikey, my lad, come!  Theau knows we han to be wed this mornin’, an’ we’st be too late soon.”

“Wed?” said Ikey.  “Wed?  Who’s beau — beaun’t be be — hic — wed?  They’re nobbo’ fo—foos ’at ge — get wed.”

“But theau knows we’ve come to get wed.”

“Who has?  Has theau — has theau comn’ Matty, has — hic — has theau comn to get wed?”

“Aye! an’ so has theau, Ikey.”

“We — well then, Matty, thee goo — goo an’ get wed then.”

“But aw conno’ get wed beawt thee,” pleaded Matty.

“What!”replied Ikey, “theau conno’ — theau conno’ get — get wed beawt me.  Heaw’s that?”

“Theau knows aw connot.  Neaw do come.”

“Aw tell thee — hic — Matty, ’at they’re nobbo’ foos — foos ’at get wed.  If theau — theau wa — wants a felly goo i’ th’ church an’ get one.  Tell th’ parson to p—p—hic—pike thee a good un eawt.“

As Ikey said this he turned o’er an’ wur soon fast asleep.  Matty wur at her wit’s end.  Hoo swore ’at hoo dursno’ go back to th’ Cloof beawt bein’ wed.

“Do wakken him, Jimmy,” hoo said.  “Eh! whatever mun aw do?”

Jimmy shook him as weel as he could, but it wur no use.

“Ikey! Ikey!  Doshta yer?  Ge — get up.  Th’ pa — parson’s waitin’ on thee.”

But Ikey didno’ care just then if there’d been fifty parsons waitin’ on him.  As th’ time slipt by Matty grew moore unyezzy, an’ then hoo started o’ skroikin’.

“Eh, dear!  Aw never thowt theau’d ha’ sarved me like this, Ikey!  Whatever will folks say when we o get back?  Whatever mun aw do?  Whatever mun aw do?”

Selina tried to console an’ comfort her but it wur no use.

“Eh! aw darno’ go back; aw darno’ go back.  Whatever mun aw do?”

“Jimmy, why doesno’ poo him up?” said Selina to her felly.  But it wur as mich as Jimmy could do to keep hissel’ up beawt pooin’ onybody else up.  Suddenly a breet idea occurred to Selina which hoo at once started to put into practice.

“Here, Jimmy,” hoo said, “it’s no use botherin’ ony fur wi’ him.  Thee tak’ his place i’ th’ church.  Nob’dy ’ll know, an’ it’ll be o reet.  An’ thee, Matty, fotch thi fayther, aw con happen manage to howd him up while th’ sarvice is gone through.”

Jimmy objected a bit like at th’ first, sayin’ as he hadn’t looked through th’ sarvice, not expectin’ to have to go through it.

“Ger off wi’ thee, theau great leatheryed,” said Selina.  “Onybody con do it.  Theau nobbut has to say it afther th’ parson.  Besides, it’ll be a bit o’ practice for thee again theau has to go through it gradely.”

Jimmy said no moore, an’ as soon as Matty had getten her fayther steady enoof to walk in at th’ church dur beawt tryin’ to knock th’ dur-cheek deawn, they o managed to get up to th’ Communion just as th’ parson wur finishin’ th’ last lot off.

“I am afraid that you are rather too late,
he said, lookin’ at his watch.

“Eh! Mesthur, dunno’ say that,” cried Matty.  “We’ve been pushin’ o ’at we con, an’ we’ve comn a good way.  Connot yo’ cut th’ sarvice a bit shorter so as to bring it i’ time?”

“No, I can’t.  You don’t want to be half married, do you?”

“Aw dunno’ care whether it’s hauve or quarther so as aw con say ’at aw’m wed when aw get back to Bobbin Cloof.”

“Well, don’t let us waste any more time about it,” replied th’ parson, kindly, for he could see th’ stew ’at Matty wur in; “there is just time to go through the service if we do it quickly.”

“B — brast off then,” said Jimmy.

Without heedin’ Jimmy’s remark th’ good owd soul started a runnin’ through th’ marriage sarvice as fast as he could.  Jimmy blunder’d terribly i’ respondin’, but th’ parson took th’ will for th’ deed an’ went on.  O went on reet till it coom to findin’ th’ ring, an’ then Jimmy wur in a bit of a pickle.  He pretended to feel in his pockets for it, but he knew ’at it wur noane theer.  Matty went o of a cowd swat, but her woman’s instinct wurno’ lung i’ findin’ a road eawt o’ th’ difficulty.

“Hast lost it?” hoo axed.

“Nawe, aw hanno’ lost it, becose theau knows aw never had it.”

“Eh! bless thee, lad, theau’rt reet.  Aw’d forgetten.  Eawr Ike has it in his senglet pocket.  Yo’ winno’ mind waitin’ a minute, will yo’ Mesthur, while aw fotch it?  My brother’s nobbut i’ th’ churchyard, but he didno like comin’ in as he’d had a misfortin’ on th’ road an’ rent his breeches.”

“Well, you must make haste then, or the marriage cannot proceed.”

Matty darted eawt o’ that church like leetnin’, an’ off hoo ran to wheer they’d laft Ikey laid deawn.  He wur theer still, an’ hoo had to roll him o’er afore hoo could get th’ ring eawt of his pocket.  Hoo wur back again in a jiffey an’ th’ parson went on wi’ his job.  When he geet to th’ end th’ clerk coed eawt “Amen,” am’ Jimmy, thinkin’ ’at he had to respond, coed eawt “A — Amen.”  Th’ parson stared at him indignantly.

“What do you mean?” he said.  Please to remember that you are in God’s House.”

“Aw — aw ax yo’r pardon,” stutted Jimmy.  “Shay that last bit o’er again, owd cock, an’ aw’ll see — aw’ll see if aw conno’ do betther th’ next time.”

He thowt, dunnot yo’ see, ’at he hadn’t said it quite th’ reet road.  Well, th’ parson turned back a bit, an’ when he geet to th’ end again the clerk bawled eawt “Amen.”

“A — hic — A — Amen,” responded Jimmy, imitatin’ th’ clerk as weel as he could.

Th’ parson turned reawnd to him, an’ said “If there is any more of this frivolity I will stop the marriage at once.”

“It’s o reet, mon,” replied Jimmy.  “Aw’st be able to say it as nice as that chap theer th’ next time.”

Matty an’ Selina whispered to him, ’at he’d betther keep his meauth shut if he didn’t want to spoil o.  So he said nowt no more till he geet i’ th’ vestry, an’ wur beawn t’ sign th’ register, when he ax’d th’ parson if he’d ha’ to sign his own name.

“Certainly!” replied th’ parson in a rayther dignified an’ surprised tone.

So Jimmy laid deawn to th’ task o’ writin’ his name. He dipped his pen i’ th’ ink at every stroke, an’ twisted his meauth, an’ roll’t his tongue in his cheek as he went on.  Then Matty signed her name, an’ Selina followed, while Bob had a job to touch top o’ th’ pen while th’ clerk made his mark.  When this wur o’er an’ Matty had paid th’ parson his fees, th’ owd mon turned reawnd to Jimmy, for aw dar’say he felt a bit curious to know, an’ said:

“What made you ask if you must sign your own name?”

“Well, dunnot yo’ see, Mesthur, it’s this road.  This is noane o’ my weddin’.  Me, an Selina theer are comin’ on eawr own acceawnt in a bit.  Aw’m nobbut doin’ this like for sick, dunnot yo’ see?”

“For sick!  Why, man, you must be mad.”

“O nay!  It’s — it’s o reet, mon; ax Selina theer.  Hoo towd me to do it as a favour, an’ so’s it wouldno’ be a jow fair.”

“A favour! jow fair!  I do not understand you,” said th’ parson.

“Well, it’s this road,” explained Matty.  Me an’ Ikey o’ Lung Yeb’s coom here to be wed this mornin’, but Ikey’s getten drunk, an’ my fayther, an’ Jimmy theer, are no’ so mich betther.  We couldn’t get him into th’ church, an’ he’s fast asleep on a gravestone eawtside neaw.  So we persuaded Jimmy to stond in his place.  It mak’s no difference, does it?”

“Makes no difference, woman!  Why, this man is now your husband!”

Never!” cried Matty.  “Aw dunnot want him.”

“But no man can alter it now,” he said.

“What’s that ’at yo’ say’n, Mesthur?” vagerly enquired Selina.

“He says ’at Jimmy’s my lawful husband neaw,” answered Matty.   

“Well, then aw’st have Ikey if he is, an’ awst ha’ that ring ’at he’s bowt,“ replied Selina.

“There, that is a sensible view to take of the situation,” said th’ parson.  “Now, my good women, get home, adapt yourself to the conditions, and perhaps everything will turn out for the best after all.”

They piked eawt o’ th’ church as quietly as they could, an’ wakkenin’ Ikey off th’ gravestone, they bundled him into th’ spring-cart an’ drove off.  Jimmy wur a bit sobered neaw, for he’d getten a wife ’at he hadno’ bargained for.  There wur no coin’ shops on th’ road back, an’ hardly a word wur spokken’.  Folks wur surprised to see ’em lookin’ so solit when they geet back to the Cloof, but th’ cause on it wur soon known, an’ there wur sich talkin’ an laughin’ i’ th’ Cloof as yo never yerd.

“And how did they agree ultimately?” I asked.

“O very weel, considerin’,” replied Penky.  “In a twothri weeks after th’ same lot went to Prestwich again, wi’ th’ exception of Selina’s fayther takkin’ owd Bob’s place.  They borrowed th’ spring cart again, but Selina wouldn’t have a bottle in it.  Th’ same parson wed Ikey and Selina as had Wed Jimmy an’ Matty,‘ an’ he very earnestly wished ’em much happiness.  An’ what’s noore, Mesthur Jones, they had it.  There wurno’ two happier couples i’ th’ Cloof.”
 

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