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THE REVEREND JACOB JENKIN’S CHRISTMAS PUDDIN’


The Reverend Jacob Jenkins wur a bachelor.  Of course, yo’ll say ’at there’s nowt extraordinary in a mon bein’ a bachelor.  Well, p’rhaps ther’ isn’t, considerin’ heaw mony o’ these sort o’ chaps we come across neaw o’ days.  But ther’ wur one or two things i’ Jacob’s favour ’at wur rayther extraordinary in a bachelor.  I’ th’ first place he wur not an’ owd bachelor.  Aw’m quite aware ’at every wed chap has been a bachelor, an’ some on ’em wish they’d tarried so.  Aw co’ that chap a gradely bachelor ’at made up his mind when he wur eighteen year owd never to get wed, an’ hasn’t awthert his mind by he’s turned fifty.  Then yo’ know ther’s thoose bachelors ’at conno’ get a woman to have ’em.  Ther’s noane so mony o’ these, aw’m happy to say, an’ what ther’ is, yo’ may put deawn as a bad lot.  Ther’s lots o’ chaps ’at’s strutted on th’ first o’ these two stages, an’ thowt they’d tarry theer for ever, but they hanno’ been up theer long afore they’ve spotted amung the creawd o’ wenches below two bonny blue een, a pair o’ rosy dimpled cheeks, an’ sich smackin’ ’ticin’ lips, that they’ve come’n deawn, as th’ childer say, for good.

Neaw, Jacob Jenkins wurno’ one o’ thoose ’at nobody would have, for aw could name mony a one, ’at wur considerably yunger than he wur, ’at would ha’ jumped at th’ chance if it had been offered ’em.  Eh! nawe, bless yo!  Parsons have no need to be bachelors unless they’re very mich determined that road, becose if they’ll nobbo’ just show thersel’ willin’ to tak’ on, they con ha’ th’ pick o’ the’r flock.  Han yo’ never noticed when a new parson comes o’ takkin’ up his quarthers at yo’r church or chapel ’at th’ first question th’ women ax abeawt him is, “Is he wed?”  An’ if he isno’, ther’s a sudden revival o’ th’ dressmakkin’ an’ th’ millinery trade i’ that locality, an’ it continues till one o’ th’ fair shooters brings th’ owd mon off his peearch.  An’ it’s his own fault if he is no’ browt deawn wi’ one ’at’s plenty o’ brass.

The Reverend Jacob Jenkins had gone throo o this, an’ yet he could fairly say ’at he wur heart-whole.  He wur often tempted to give in, an’ clip one o’ his numerous admirers to his heart, an’ kiss her lovin’ lips, but his stern sense of duty prevented him, an’ so things had gone on.  But they didn’t give him up, bless yo’!  While ther’ wur life ther’ wur hope.  One knitted him a very nice muffler, another made him a pair o’ snug carpet slippers, another sent him a hondsome smookin’ cap, an’ when this wur known some kind admirer sent him a box of cigars, an’ a beautiful pipe an’ some ’bacco.  Then, when these had no effect, one tried sendin’ him a bed quilt, another sent a pair o’ blankets, an’ aw do believe ’at if he’d nobbo’ just ha’ mentioned ’at his bed wur rayther owd fashion’t some on ’em ’ud sent him a new bed.  See yo’, at that time Jacob could have had owt he wanted welly. Sometimes of a weekend a ham or a flitch o’ bacon would lond at his heause witheawt him havin’ to pay owt for it.  Occasionally his present would tak’ th’ form o’ a duck, or a goose, or a turkey, an’ Jacob took ’em o in, an’ havin’ thanked his Maker for these special blessin’s, he wur satisfied ’at he’d done his duty.

But as year after year went by, an’ still ther’ wur no signs o’ th’ fish bitin’, some o’ th’ anglers began o’ throwin’ th’ lines i’ other places.  Folks began o’ forgettin’ to send him presents.  He had to mak’ his blankets last as long as he could, he dint less o’ ham an’ bacon, he seldom tasted goose or turkey, an’ he had to buy his own ’bacco.  Ant neaw it wur Christmas, an’ he wonder’t whether he’d have ony better luck.  It wur a gradely owd fashion’t Christmas, too.  It had been freezin’ pretty keenly for mony a day, an’ at th’ Christmas Eve ther’ wur a middlin’ heavy deawnfo’ o’ snow.  Eh! heaw pratty th’ heauses, an’ th’ gardens, an’ th’ fields, an’ th’ lones looked when folks wakken’t o’ th’ Christmas mornin’.

But Jacob had no’ mich thowt for th’ snow.  His mind wur too mich occupied wi’ thinkin’ what he should have for his Christmas dinner.  Someheaw he kept it in his yed ’at they could no’ o ha’ forsaken him, but th’ wish wur fayther to th’ thowt, an’ as th’ neet wore on, an’ nowt coom, he began to give it up for a bad job.  So at last he sent theer Nancy, that wur a sister, an’ an owd maid, ’at kept heause for him, to th’ butcher’s for a peaund or two o’ pork, which he consoled hissel’ wur th’ nearest substitute ’at he could get for a goose.  But for o that, yo’ known, he felt ’at it wur a gradely drop.  He wur in no humour that neet for preparin’ his sarmon for Christmas Day, so while Nancy wur kneadin’ th’ puddin’ he wur huntin’ amung his owd compositions for summat suitable.  At last he fund one ’at wur dated a toothri years back, an’ feelin’ sure ’at nobody would remember it, he geet a pipe o’ ’bacco, an’ just looked it o’er again so as he’d mak’ no blunders i’ readin’ it i’ th’ church.  Bi’ th’ time ’at he’d finished it, theer Nancy had getten th’ puddin’ ready, an’ havin’ teed it in a rag, an’ bein’ as hoo wur spending Christmas Eve an’ Christmas Day wi’ some friends, hoo gan Jacob full instructions heaw to go on wi’ cookin’ it th’ day after.  Hoo wanted to show him heaw to roast th’ pork, too, but he said hoo’d no need, for he knew o abeawt that.

“Well,” hoo says, “happen theau does, an’ happen theau doesno’; but if theau should get fast ony roadjust co’ o’ Mrs. Dyson; aw’m ure hoo’l be glad to gi’ thee a bit of a hond.“

Jacob protested that he should do nowt o’ th’ sort, for he could manage owt ’at ther’ wur; an’ wi’ that Nancy bid him “good neet,” an’ left him.

Jacob sat awhile smookin’ his pipe, an’ thinkin’ things o’er.  His pipe went eawt, but still he kept it in his meauth, an’ sat theer while his mind wander’t back to th’ days when he wur a lad.  He could see th’ village schoo wheer he used to attend, and he could remember o th’ lads an’ wenches ’at he used to play wi’ when they had “all eawt.”  An’ he should never forget that little wench ’at he used to co’ his sweetheart.  Heaw strange it wur ’at lads an’ wenches, as soon as they begin to mix amung one another at schoo’, begin o’ matin’ thersel’ i’ the’r own childish way.  Then he wonder’t wheer that little wench ’ad getten to.  Swallowed up i’ th’ world mooist likely; happen deeod.  Then he felt a tear trickle deawn his cheek.  It wur th’ fust ’at had travelled that road for a good while.  He wiped it off, but another coom at th’ thowt o’ th’ possibility of her bein’ laid i’ th’ greawnd o’ that frosty Christmas Eve.

Then someheaw or other he fund hissel’ thinkin’ abeawt Mrs. Dyson ’at theer Nancy ’ad mentioned.  He’d seen her at th’ church mony o’ time, but hoo didno’ come reg’lar.  Her husband had deed three or four years afore, an’ sin’ then hoo’d kept hersel’ very reserved.  Still, hoo wur a nice meterly body, an’ would, no deawt, as th’ sayin’ is, “clog again.”  It wur strange, though, heaw little he seed on her, considerin’ ’at they wur next dur neighbours.  Of course, th’ heauses wurno’ close together, but ther’ wur no great distance between.  He felt that, as a parson, he owt to go an’ visit her ofter than he did, an’ he made up his mind that as soon as Christmas wur turned he’d do his duty i’ that respect.  Then he went to bed, but, strange to say, th’ chamber seemed darker an’ lonelier than it ever had done before.  He geet into bed, but he hutched his knees up under his chin, for th’ bed felt cowder than ever it had felt before.  At last he fell asleep, an’, what wi’ dreamin’ abeawt his young days, an’ his girl sweetheart, an’ th’ happy times they used to have, though in his sleep Mrs. Dyson kept flittin’ across the scene in the most extraordinary manner, he slept till he’d nobbo’ just time to get ready for th’ church i’ th’ mornin’.  He took two or three bites at his breakfast, an’ then puttin’ th’ puddin’ i’ th’ pon, and th’ pork into th’ tin i’ th’ oon, and thrutchin’ his sarmon into his pocket, he darted off across th’ fielt ’at separated his heause fro’ th’ church.  Th’ organist wur just finishin’ th’ voluntary when he landed i’ th’ church, quite eawt o’ wynt.  Th’ sarvice went o reet as usual till Jacob wur readin’ a lesson eawt o’ th’ Bible which towd abeawt th’ Progidal Son, when he stopp’d o of a sudden.  Th’ congregation wonder’t what ther’ wur to do, but Jacob soon collected hissel’, an’ went on wi’ his readin’.  An’ what dun yo’ think it wur?  Well, yo’ see, wi’ readin’ abeawt this fatted cauve, he began o’ thinkin’ abeawt his Christmas dinner, when o at once’t it chocked into his mind ’at he’d made a mistake.  He bethowt hissel’ ’at he’d put th’ puddin’ i’ th’ pon beawt wayther.  That wur just when he stopp’d readin’.  It made his blood very nee stop circulatin’.  But he soon made up his mind what to do.  As soon as he’d finished readin’, he gan eawt a lung hymn, an’ though th’ organist an’ th’ choir stared at th’ change i’ th’ programme, they wur obliged to accept it.  Then th’ organ started, an’, as luck would have it, wi’ a slow tune, an’ as soon as Jacob yerd it he crept deawn th’ pulpit steps, an’ into th’ vestry, an’ then eawt an’ across th’ fielt as hard as he could go.  He’re soon awhoam, an’, unlockin’ th’ dur, he darted straight to th’ pon to see heaw th’ puddin’ wur goin’ on.  But, alas! he wur too late.  Th’ pon wur red wot, an’ th’ puddin’ wur burnt to a cinder.  Well, yo’ know that chap wur in a gradely pickle.  He didno’ know what to do.

Just then, heawever, ther’ wur a rap at th’ dur, an’ when he went to oppen it, who should be theer but his next dur neighbour, Mrs. Dyson.  Hoo’d seen him run across th’ fielt fro’ th’ church, with his white geawn on, an’ hoo thowt ther’ wur happen summat seriously wrung, an’ hoo wur willin’ to help a bit if hoo could.

Well, yo’ known, it wur like an angel’s visit to Jacob.

“Eh! bless yo’, my good woman,” he said, ”aw’m some fain ’at yo’ve come, for aw’m in a gradely mess, for sure.  Aw’re tryin’ to cook a bit o’ a dinner, as yo’ see, for eawr Nancy’s away to-day; but look at this pon an’ puddin’.  Whatever mun aw do?”

“Well,” hoo says, “aw connot tell.  ‘Fellies are nobbut poor cooks.  But if it’ll be of ony sarvice to yo’, an’ yo’ve no objection, aw’ll try to trim yo’re dinner up while yo’ go an’ finish yo’r wark at th’ church.”

“Eh! aw wish yo’ would, Mrs. Dyson, aw wish yo’ would.  It’s very kind on yo’ too!  Aw’m sure yo’re a very kind woman.  Aw wish — aw wish — aw meeon to say that — that — that the late Mr. Dyson must ha’ been very happy wi’ sich a wife.”

“Well, we’ll say nowt abeawt that,” replied Mrs. Dyson, “but aw think yo’d better be gettin’ back to th’ church or else yo’ll be havin’ th’ congregation stopp’d for bobbins.”

“Aye,” he said, “aw’d liked to ha‘ forgetten that.  But aw’ll go back at once.  Yo’ll mak’ it o reet winno’ yo’, Mrs. Dyson?  Aw’m sure yo’ will, becose yo’r sich a good woman.”

An’ wi’ that he went back.  Th’ hymn had been finished some minutes, an’ th’ congregation wur sit wonderin’ what had become o’ th’ parson.  One or two wur suggestin’ that th’ clerk should pronounce th’ Benediction an’ let ’em o go whoam to the’r turkeys an’ geese, when th’ parson reappeared an’ went on wi’ th’ sarvice as if nowt had happen’t.  An’ yet some o’ th’ women thowt ther wur summat different some road.  Ther wur summat strange abeawt it ’at they couldno’ mak’ eawt.

Heawever, th’ sarvice wur o’er at last, an’ after chattin’ wi’ a few o’ th’ owd folks, an’ wishin’ ’em a merry Christmas, Jacob pike’t off across th’ fielt once more.

Mrs. Dyson wur i’ th’ heause when he geet whoam, an’ hoo’d o ready for th’ dinner.  A nice cleeon cloth wur laid upo’ th’ table, th’ pots wur set eawt, th’ pork wur ready roasted an’ stood upo’ th’ oon, th’ potatos wur ready for teemin’, an’ he’d nowt t’ doo nobbo’ clap hissel’ deawn an’ get his fill.  He couldno’ help thinkin’ heaw nice it wur.

As soon as hoo’d seen ’at o wur reet, hoo said ’at hoo’d be goin’ whoam to her own dinner, but Jacob wouldn’t hearken to owt o’ th’ sort.  He said hoo must stop an’ have her dinner wi’ him.

“Eh! aw darnot,” hoo said, ”it’ll look so.”

Never mind heaw it looks,” Jacob answert, “if it feels o reet.”

“But aw’m not sure ’at it feels o reet,” hoo said.  “What would folks say if they knew?”

“It doesno’ matter what onybody says,” replied Jacob.  “Nice as this dinner is, aw dunno’ feel as if aw could touch it if aw ha’ to have it by missel’.  Yo’ dunnot know heaw it is to feel as lonely as aw’ve felt for mony a year, an’ neaw when aw’ve dropp’d of a nice cheerful body hoo wants to go an’ leave me.  Come, Mrs. Dyson, yo’d better have a bit o’ dinner wi’ me this once.”

Well, wi’ a bit o’ persuadin’ hoo stopp’d, an’ a very good dinner they had.  There wur sage an’ onions an’ apple sauce wi’ th’ pork, an’ when th’ puddin’ wur browt eawt it looked as if it had never ail’t owt.

“That’s noane th’ same puddin’ is it, as aw brunt?” enquired ]acob.

“Nawe, it isno’,” hoo said.

“Well, wheer han yo’ getten this fro’?”

“Aw fotch’d it fro’ eawr heause,” hoo replied.

“What! an’ th’ apple sauce too?”

“Aye.”

“Eh! bless yo’r heart for a good woman,” he said.  “Aw should like to know yo’r gradely name, for someheaw aw dunno’ like to keep sayin’ ‘Mrs. Dyson.’”

“Well,” hoo said, “my name’s Maria.”

“Is it for sure?  Well, aw’m some fain.”

“Why! whatever for?”

“Well, aw hardly know, but when aw wur a little lad aw used to have a little girl sweetheart ’at wur coed Maria.


“An’ have yo’ never forgetten her?


“Never!”

“Hoo must ha’ been a good girl.”

“Hoo wur.  But aw say, Mrs. Dyson, aw meeon Maria, had yo’ never a sweetheart when yo’ wur a little wench?”

“Yigh,” hoo said, “aw had.”

“An’ what wur he coed?”

“He wur coed Jacob.”

“He never wur!  But howd on!  Aw con see ’at he wur.  Aw con see it i’ thoose bonny blue een, that are not as yung as they wur, but they’re as fresh an’ as pratty, an’ as lovely as ever.  Eh! bless thee, Maria, let me touch thoose lips o’ thine again.”

For a minute or two he forgeet ’at he wur a parson as he clipped an’ buss’d his owd sweetheart.  He forgeet o abeawt theer Nancy too, when he said ’at he wur glad ’at he’d brunt that puddin’, for Maria should mak’ ther’ Christmas dinners i’ future as lung as they lived.  Maria promised to do that, an’ as the’r wur one other matter ’at Jacob objected to — an’ that wur th’ name o’ Mrs. Dyson — hoo agreed to change that.

An’ hoo did.


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