The Story Of Missis Coombes.



I doan’ spoas yu avur yeered tha story o’ Missis Coombes, did ’e, an’ wy tis ’er wadden niver mar-rid?

Twadden vir tha want o’ chances nuther, that’s vir zurtin.

Missis Coombes ta Borley; ev’rybody most knawth Missis Coombes; ev’rybody out thees way wunts, who’s avur bin zick or een need o’ a kind word or bit o’ komvort.

Cuse us orwiz carls ’er “missus,” though ’er wadden niver mar-rid, zame’s us orwiz carls Emma Steevins missis, who’s bin a zingle wumman aul ’er live. Us orwiz carls em missis whane thay begins ta get up along. I dunno wy us do’s et, but us du.

Twull be ony a vew vokes that’ll mind what I be gwain ta tull ’e ; bit I can mind et wull, vir I wiz gettin’ vore tu a young man at tha taime.

Polly Coombes, az ’er wiz carled tho, wiz a vine maid zhure nuv, up andy twenty yer old at tha taime I be tullin o’. I dunno whur yu zhall zee zitch a maid as ’er waz tho; tarl, an’ pliant, an’ purty as a picture, an’ eet, vir aul that mind, ’er wiz a rare maid ta work.

Vir miles around thur wadden a maid vit tu ole a cannle ta Polly; nit vir gude lukes an’ aul like thiky-thur, nor eet vir work nuther.

Een ouze ’er wiz zo nate an’ clane yu cude ate yer mate auf tha vlure any taime, an’ nit bother yer ade vir a platter nuther. ’Er wiz orwiz pin the go, vir ’er du-d et aul be erzel; niver keep nuther zarvant maid Polly’s muther didden. Polly wid mulkee an’ make butter, an’ zar tha pegs an’ cuke tha denner—ay, an’ cuke ’en prapper tu, zo’s a man cude ate whane a- wadden ungerd. I mind patickly tha rabbut pais ’er use ta maake. I’ve yeered my vather zay scores o’ taimes that a veller cude ate Polly’s rabbut pai arter ees bul-ly wiz vule.

An’ eet, vir aul ’er work za hard, ’er wid orwiz be ta church regler wance on a Zundy, oftentaimes twice, an’ ’er use orwiz ta zit vore ta tha zingin zates, an’ zing ’er wid like a burd; or ’er wid go to a dance or a penny-raydin or ort tha like o’ that; an’ I’ll maake a bet ’er shid luke azakly like a quane, an’ as much a lady as uther wan o’m een tha rume. An’ eef a stranger shid appen een, ’e widden knaw no utherways but wat ’er waz a rale lady way nort ta du but drave ’bout an’ play tha peanner.

Wull, jiss lukee tu ’er now. Er’s up zempty year old, an’ yu carn carl ’er’s any utherways than butivul. Way tha zad whit vaace o’er an’ ’er zilver ’air, an’ tha way ’er’s orwiz got o’ zmilin tu ’e; whane ’er staps een church zo gentle like, the church seems the better vor’t.

Zo yu can jiss imagin’ wat Polly wiz like whane ’er wiz twenty. Thur wadden a chap vir tain miles around but wat wiz ade-auver- yers een love way ’er.

But Polly ’ad wan vot. Whane yu koms ta think o’t, tidden ta be wandered at; an’ the ’mazin’ peart o’t is, that ’er adden got vifty. But ’er adden! ’Er adden got tu, ony wan.

Twiz like thees yer, do-e-zee. Way zo meny chaps kommin arter ’er an’ tullin o’ ’er ’ow ansum ’er waz, an’ aul tha like o’ thiky thair, Polly got a bit spoiled like, eef yu understand. Wull yu carn wander at et, vir their they aul waz tullin ’er thit ’er wiz butivul an’ like a angel, an’ buyin’ o’ ’er presents an’ sitch like, tull kom ta last tha pore maid beginned ta vancy that ’er mus’ be a bit above tha rest like, don’-e-zee. Although zame taime, lukee, twadden the nater o’ ’er ta be zo; an’ eef ’er knawed o’ uther pore body as wiz zick or een trubble, thur wadden nort ’er widden du ta ’elp em like, an’ ’er wid spend ’er las’ varden ta du anybody gude.

But jiss pin that wan point ’er idayas grawed ta zade as yu mid zay.

’Mongst aul thay chaps as wanted Polly, thur wiz wan worth aul tha rest o’m putt togather, an’ that wiz young Urchet Lee, zon o’ ole Maister, who owned Lee Barton, whur tha Parkers lives tu now. Thay bought an vrim tha Lees vowerty yer agone.

Young Dick, as us carled un, wiz a quiet, ’ard- working young veller, way tha hade o’n straight up auver ees back, an’ ees vaace tarned ta tha vrunt. Thur wadden a better varmer een Demshur that Urchet Lee, I warrner, an’ ’e wiz a vine match vir any wumman; ees even vir Polly Coombes, and that’s vir sartin.

An’ et wiz generally considered that thay tu wid be married, an’ a better cupple niver stude up tu tha altar nuther.

But Dick niver wadden the chap ta be zingin up zongs ta Polly ’bout ’er ayes nor ’er golden air, an’ nort the like o’ that. Urchid [Urchet] orwiz wid spake ees mind. ’E tole Polly ’e waz een love way ’er, an’ intended ta marry ’er zunes avur ’e tuke auver tha varm vrim ees vather, who wiz gwain to retire pin the vollyin lady-day.

And Urchet wiz abble ta promise Polly that ’er shid wear a zilk-dress pin Sundy, an’ ’ave a ’oss ta drave whenever ’er wiz mind; vir ’e knawed vurry wull ’e wid ’ave the munny ta du et way.

But, as I zay, ’e niver widden rite potry tu ’er zame’s Arry Down wid an’ zev’ral o’ tuther chaps; an’ zo Polly wiz vule nuv ta think Dick wadden za much een love way ’er as ’e shid be.

Zo zumtaimes ’er wid bide an’ tull a bit way uther chaps jiss ta turrify Urchet; an’ wance, arter church-practiss wan Wensdy night, ’er ’lowed Arty Down (whu wadden vit ta ’old Dick’s ’oss vir ’e ta mount) to walk ’ome way ’er, right avore tha vaace o’ Urchet Lee.

Dick niver zed nort tho, but tha nex’ avenin ’e went vore tu Polly’s ouze, an’ meet ’er out be tha well.

“Poll,” ’e zes, “Why did ’e let Arry Down zee 'e ’ome vrim church practiss vor, whane I wiz thur mezel?”

Now, ta tull ’e truth, Poll ’ad been zorry vor’t tha night avore, ’vore ’er ’ad gone tain yards; an’ zunes avur thay wiz out o’ zite o’ Dick, ’er zend Arry gwain, an’ went ’ome be erzel.

But, zilly-like, ’er niver tole Dick nort o’ thees, an’ zo putt et aul ta rights, but ’er mus’ needs go an’ try ta turrify en still more like. Zo ’er zes—

“Cause I’d a mind tu.”

“But yu shidden o’ done et, Poll,” zes Dick.

“Tidden tha right thing vir yu ta be gaddin about way uther chaps whane yu’m gwain ta be married ta me.”

“But I don’ knaw as I be gwain ta be married ta yu,” zes Poll. “Eef yu carn trate a body no bedder than this is, I’ll ’ave Arry Down. ’E du ak like a Christian—not orwiz vindin vot.”

“Luke yer, Poll,” zes Urchet, een ees quiet zort o’ way, “I wants ta knaw, wance vir aul, where yu’m gwain ta mar-ry me or no.”

“An’ sposin’ I want tull ’e?” ’er zes.

“I shan’ let ’e go vrim yer tull yu do,” zes Dick, ketchin ’er ’olt be tha arm.

“Than I shant ’ave ’e tarl,” zes Polly, “I’ll ’ave Arry Down, zee if I don’t;” an’, way tha zame, ’er ketched up tha bucket an’ way-da-go vore yu cude zay Jack Robinson.

Dick lukid arter ’er vir a bit, an’ tho ’e tarned about an’ walked away wayout takin’ a bit o’ count wur a-waz gwain tu.

But as vir Polly, ’er adden bin een ouze vive minnts avore ’er wiz zorry as cude be vir wat ’er ’ad du-ed, an’ ’er wid go tu tha coort get ev’ry wips-wile to luke vore auver tha ro-ad ta zee eef ’er cude zee ort o’ Dick kommin back.

But ’e didden kom.

Een the night ’er keep on wakin’ up, an’ aitch time ’er wid luke out tha winder an’ carl un sof’ly like een case ’e shid be near about any- wheres.

But ’e wadden.

Dick ’ad walk-id on an’ on, maile arter maile, not thinkin’ a bit whur ’e wiz gwain tu, an’ ta las’ ’e vound issel ta Barnstable.

Jiss at that taime tha Crimea War wiz at ets wist. Tha guverment wiz lukin aul ways ta wance vir sawjers; an’ vore Dick knawed whur ’e wiz tu, ’e ’ad got tha zhillun een ees ’and; an’ een a munth or tu, ’e wiz zend off tu tha war.

But Poll knawed nort o’ thees; an’ vir tu or dree days ’er bide een ouze vir fear ’er wid zee wan or uther o’ tuther chaps. ’Er wid a-gid ’er tung tu a-ad back wat ’er ’ad zed ta Dick.

Wull ta las’, jiss as ’er wiz gwain ta rite a bit o’ a no-at ta Dick axin o’n ta virgive ’er like, their kom a knack pin tha do-ar.

Poll vlied out an’ zid--Arry Down.

“Gude avenin’, Miss Coombe,” zo a-zed; “ ’ave ’e yeered tha news?”

“Wat news!” zes Poll; but 'er tarned mos’ turr-able whit vaaced.

“Wy Dick Lee’s urned away an’ gone sawjer,” ’e zes. “ ’E want kom back na more, vir ees gone ta the war, zo thur’ll be nort ta stap ’e vrim avin me now.”

Poll lukid tu’n vir a minut, an’ tho ’er valled along like wan dade.

* * * * * * * *

Vir tu yers Urchet Lee waz away, an’ tho they bringed wat wiz leff o’n back ’ome agean. ’E ’ad winned the Victoria Cross, wan o’ the vurst, an’ the gude Quane Victoria ’ad pinned en way ’er awn ’ands pin ees jacket.

But Dick adden niver zid en, vir a shell ’ad bust an’ blawed out both ees ayes.

Dick was dyin’. E’d got dree shats in un, an’ tha doctor’s zed nort cuden zave en. ’E beg-ed o’n ta zend en back ta the ole village, zo’s ’e cude lie een the liddle churchyard ’e knawed so well.

Zo they did.

But travellin’ wiz divvurnt een they days ta wat et es now; an’ whane Urchet Lee got vore tu ees ’ome, ’e ’ad ony a ’our or tu ta live. Ees muther an’ vather wiz both dade, died o’ broken arts, vir they wiz old, an’ ’e wiz tha ony cheel.

Poor Dick; ony tu yers ago thur wadden a vineder or stronger man een tha kontry; an’ now they wiz vorce ta kneel down ta ketch wat ’e wiz zayin.

“Thur’s tu things I wants ta yer,” ’e zays, “avore I goes. I wants ta yer tha bells ring, an’ I wants ta yer Poll’s voice.”

Zo tha ringers rised the bells zo well as thay cude way tha tears urniu down auver thur vaces; an’ Polly Coombes kom ta tha badezide.

“Poll,” zes Dick as well as ’e cude. “I be glad I carn zee ’e, vir I widden like ta zee uther man’s ring on yer vinger but mine, although I’ve no doubt you’m ’appy.”

Polly wiz cryin’, ees vit ta brake ’er art, but ’er didden make no zound. ’Er tuke Dick’s vingers an’ passed them auver ’er ’and. ’E cude veel ’er adden got nuther ring ’cept wan ’e gid ’er izzel.

“Spake ta me, Polly,” ’e zes.

“I’ve waited vor ’e avur zince, Dick,” zes Polly. “ an’ now yu’ve kom back I wants ta kom way yu. I pray tha gude Lord ta let me die wane yu du, m I don’t want ta live wayout ’e Dick.”

Dick smiled, but ’e didden live long ’nuv ta make no answer.

Polly ant joined Dick eet, but ’er’s niver tuke no intrest een live, ’cept vir uther voke. I make no doubt that vir vifty year ’er’s prayed ta tha Lord av’ry day ta take ’er away.



The Story of Missis Coombes.



I don’t spause you ever yeard the story of Missis Coombes, why her never married.

Twad’n fer the want o’ oppertunity that’s fer certin.

Missis Coombes to Borley. Ev’rybody ’most knaw’th Missis Coombes; ev’rybody out thees way, be-as-twill, who’ve ever been zick or in want of a kind word or a bit o’ comfort.

Cou’se, us orwis caals her “missis,” though her never wad’n married, same’s us caals Emma Steevins missis, what have bin a zingle wumman all her life. Us orwis caals ’em “missis” when they gets up along.

Twill be aunly a vew volks ’ull mind what I be gwain to tell ’ee now, for tis a goodish while agone when it apm’d. But I was a young chap grawin’ up at the time. Polly Coombes, as her was caaled then, was a fine maid sure nuff, ’andy twenty year old at the time I be tellin’ about. I dunno where you’ll see sitch a maid as her was. Taal an’ pliant as a withy, an’ purty as a picter. An’ ’eet fer all that her was a rare maid fer work. Fer miles around there wad’n a maid cude ’old a cannle to Polly, eether fer gude looks or fer ’ard work.

In houze her was so nate an’ clane you cude ate yer mait off the vloor any time, an’ not bother fer a platter.

Her was orwis ’pon the go, fer her do’d it all herzell. Never kept a zarvant maid, Polly‘s mother did’n. Poll wude milkee, an’ make butter, an’ zarr’ the pigs an’ veed the poultry, an’ zeck the caalves, an’ cook the meals— ay, an’ her cude cookee proper too, min, so’s a fella cude ate when he wad’n hungerd. l’ve yeard my vather say scores o’ times that a chap cude ate Polly’s rabbut pies arter his belly was full.

An’ ’eet, fer all her worked so much, her was orwis to church reg’ler wance ’pon a Zindy, an’ oftentimes twice. Her use to zit in the zinging sates, ay, an’ zing, her wude, like a burd. Not that her was bigotive. Her wude go to a penny-raidin’ or a dance, an’ her shude look like wan quane, an’ as gude a lady as uther-wan in the rume.

Wull, aunly to look at ’er now. Ovver zempty year old, and you can’t caal her’s anything else but butifle. Wai’ the zad, whit’ face of ’er, an’ her zilvern ’air, an’ the way her’ve got o’ smilin’ to ’ee ; when her staps into church zo gentle an’ swate, the church sims better vor’t.

Zo you can imagine what her was like when her was twainty. There wad’n a chap fer tain mile around but was haid-ovver-yers in love wai’ the maid.

Polly ’ad wan fau’t. When you come to think o’t tid’n to be windered at, an’ the ’mazin’ part is that her ad’n got vifty. But her ad’n. Her ad’n got two, aunly wan.

Twiz like this-yer, daun-ee zee. Wai’ so many chaps comin’ around an’ praichin’ up to her ’ow ansum her was, an’ sitch like, Polly got a bit spoiled as the sayin’ is. Wull, you can’t winder at it, fer they was ever- lastin’ sayin’ her faace was like a angel’s, an’ her was butifle as paint an’ all sitch-like, an’ to-last the maid beginned to fancy her mus’ be a bit above ord‘nery, although, same time, twad’n her nater to be like it, an’ if her knawed anybody was bad or in trouble her’d spaind her last ap’my if her cude do ’em any gude.

But jist ’pon that wan point her idays simmed to go to zade a bit. Well, arter all, her wad’n much more’n a cheel.

’Mongst all the chaps that wanted Poll, there was wan worth all the rest putt together, an’ that was young Urchet Lee, zon to ole maister that owned Lee Barton, where the Parkers lives to now. They bought the property ovver vowerty year agone.

Young Dick, as us caaled ’en, was a quiet ’ard-workin’ young fella, wai’ the haid o’n straight up ovver his back, an’ eyes that orwiz looked ’ee in the face. There wad’n his better in Deb’mshur fer farmerin’, an’ he was a gude match fer any wumman, ay, aiven fer Polly Coombes, an’ that’s sayin’ purty much.

Twas orwiz considered that they two wude be man an’ wife when time come, an’ a more suited couple never stood to the altar.

But Dick wad’n the chap to go singin’ Polly’s praises all the time an’ makin’ up zongs about her goldy ’air or her butifle eyes. He jis’ told the maid he loved her an’ intainded to wed her whane his vather gived up an’ raytired, which he intainded doin’ the Lady-day arter Dick was vower-an-twainty.

An’ Urchet was abble to ’sure Poll that her shude wear a zilken gown ’pon Zindy, an’ ’ave a ’oss to drive whenever her was minded, fer he’d got plenty o’ what they do’s it with.

But, as I say he never made out bits o’ potry about her eyebrows or her rid lips, same’s Arry Down wude. An’ zo Poll got the idaya that he wad’n properly in love.

An’ zometimes her wude bide an’ tell with the other chaps jis to terrify Dick an’ make ’en jellis. An’ wan aiv’min, arter church-practice, her ’lowed Arry Down, who wad’n fit to ’old Dick’s ’oss, to zee her ’ome, right bevore the face of Urchet Lee.

Dick did’n say nort at the time, but next aiv’min he went up around to Poll’s place an’ meet her out by the well.

“Poll,” he saith, “why did ’ee let Arry Down walk ’ee ’ome from church-practice when l was there mezell?”

Now, to tell ’ee the honest truth, Poll ’ad been zorry fer’t herzell avore her’d gone tain yards, an’ soon’s ever they was out o’ sight her zend Arry gwain, an’ went home alone.

But, stoobid like, her never told Dick nort o’ this and so putt things to rights, but her must needs go an’ terrify ’en still more. Zo her says,

“Cus l’d a mind to.” “But you shude’n a-done it, Poll,” says Dick. “Tid’n right thing fer you to be gaddin’ about with other chaps when you’m tokened to me—or as gude.”

“I dunnaw that I be,” says Poll. “If you can’t trate a body no better than this is I shall ’ave Arry Down. ’E do behave hissell proper, not orwiz findin’ fau’t.”

“Look at yer Polly,” says Dick, in his quiet sort o’ way, “l wants to knaw, definite, wance for all, be you’ gwain to marry me or no?”

“An’ spausin’ l waunt tell ’ee,” her says.

Dick ketched her hold by the arm. “You shan’t move from yer till you do,” he says.

“Then I shan’t ’ave ’ee ’taal,” her says. “l’ll have Arry Down, zee if l daunt.” An’, with the same, her ups with the bucket an’ away-da-go.

Dick[ed--sic!] looked arter her fer a minute or two, then he turned right around and walked away, an’ twas the fust time he’d walked with his haid ’anging down.

As fer Polly, her ’ad’n got inzide the door bevore her was vexed fer what her’d done. Her knawed her was in the wrong, an’ her went out to tell Dick so. But he were gone. Ev’ry wips-while her went to the coort-gate to zee if he were comin’ back along the rawd.

But he did’n come.

In the night her keeped wakin’ up, an’ then her’d get out ’o bade, an’ caal his name soft out o’ the winder. But aunly the trees sighed back a answer.

Dick ’ad walked on, mile arter mile, without takin’ count a bit where he were gwain, an’ nex' mornin’ he found hissell to Barnstable.

Jis’ at that time the Crimean War was at its heighth. The Government was lookin’ all ways to wance fer sawjers, an’ bevore Dick knawed what he was doin’ he’d tooked the shullin’ and was off to the war.

Poll waited fer Dick to come, but he did’n come. Then her wraut ’en a letter to say how wrong her had bin an’ to ax fergiveness. An’ bevore her’d done writin’ there come a knack to the door. Her rished out to meet Dick as her thought, an’ there stood Arry Down, smilin’ all ovver his face.

“Gude aiv’nin, Polly,” he says. “Have ’ee yeard the news?”

“What news?” her whispers, an’ her blood veeled all like cold watter.

“Why Dick Lee’s rinned away, an’ gone fer a sawjer. He’m gone to the war, an’ won’t never come back no more. There's nort to keep ’ee now from havin’ me.”

But Poll ’ad valled along like wan dade.

* * * * * * * *

“Dick did come back. Two years arterwards they fetched home what was left o’n. The Victorian Cross was ’anged to his rid coat, but Dick ’ad never zeed ’en. A shell ’ad burst bezide ’en, an’ he never looked out of his eyes again.

Dick ad come ome to die. They knawed nort cude save ’en. But he beg~ged of ’em to let’n lie in the li’l ole churchyard, so they took ’en ’ome to die.

But travellin’ was different in they days to what it is now, an’ poor Dick suffered tremendous. When they lied ’en down he only ’ad a vew hours more to last. Poor fella. When he went away there wad’n a finer lookin’ chap in the county o’ Deb’m. When he caaled to the cows you cude yer’n all ovver the parish, an’ now they was fo’ced to kneel down to ketch what he was saying.

“There’s two things I shude like to year avore I goes,” he wispered. “l wants to year the ole church bells, an’ shude like to hear Polly's voice jis’ wance.”

So the ringers rised up the bells as well as they was abble, fer the tears was rinnin’ so fast they cude ’ardly see the tribble.

An’ Polly come to the bedzide. Her was gone past weepin’.

“Polly,” says Dick, so well as he cude manage, “I’m glad you’m come, an’ l be glad I can’t zee ’ee, fer I cude’n abear to zee another man’s ring on yer vinger, but I ’ope you’ll be very, very ’appy, my dear.”

An’ that made Polly cry. Her cried fit for her heart to break, but not with any noise. Her took Dick’s poor fingers an’ passed ‘em ovver her hand. And he veeled that her ad’n got no ring seps the wan he gived her.

“Say summat to me, Polly,” he says.

“I’ve waited for ’ee, Dick,” her says, “ever since. l’ve waited and suffered for ’ee. An’ l want to go with ’ee now, my love. l pray the gude Lord to take me when he takes you.”

A smile come on Dick’s face, an’ all they that seed ’en arterwards said he looked like he died in happiness.

Polly ab’m joined her Dick yet. But her’ve never ’ad no intrest in this world seps for other volk. And I make no doubt that ev’ry day fer vifty years her’ve prayed to heaven to take her ’long of Dick.

Hard to read this without tears

OK, Victorian sentiment--but ...

makes up for a lot. (leibowitz)