How Jan Stewer Played The Fiddle




Cuse, yu mus’ understand wat I be tullin ’bout now ’uppened a gude many years agone, wane I wiz a young chap bout tu or dree an’ twenty, tha age wane ev’ry young feller gits zum vuleish idaya or anuther intu ees ’aid.

Wi’ some his vallin een luv way a maid, an’ writin’ luv- letters up een tha hay-tallet zo’s nobody shant zee. Wi’ others tis local praichin’, or makin’ out poetry, but wi’ me twas the viddle.

I carn tull ’e zackly ow I kom to get the idaya, but I ’ad bin thinkin’ vir some time that I shid like to be a musicker o’ some zort.

Wane us waz ta church I use ta lukee to the musicker— Miss Westaway twaz, an’ ’er did play mos’ bootivul sure nuff—an’ it did luke zo aizy, I thort I cude du it mezul eef I waz to try a bit. Zo wan avenin’ wane tha church door ’ad bin leff open by mistaake in I flipped, an’ lift up tha cuvver o’ the horgin, an’ zaut down pin tha sate. I blawed een zum wind, zame’s I’d zeed Miss Westaway du, an’ put down me ’ands pin tha kays jiss tha zame ’er mid erzull.

Bit laur bless yer ’art, tha thing med up aitch a turrable noize, jig like yude stapped tap o’ the dog’s tail; I wiz veared I’d done zum ’arm tu en droo not understandin’ propper the ways o’n, zo I zhut un up sharp an’ kom out, an’ niver zed word to nobody. An’ tha nex Zinday I wiz veared ta go ta church vir veared thay shid vine zummat wrong wi tha horgin, an’ vokes wid zee be me vaace I knawd zummat o’t.

Owsumever, thay didden notice nort, bit I niver did yer sitch a noize een all my live as the old thing mid up zunes ever I titch en.

Wull, twadden a gurt wile arterwads us ’ad a penny- raydin up yer een skulerume, an’ a young lady stude up an’ played pin a viddle—or vi’lin as ’er called en.

My ayes, wat muzic ’er did bring out o’n tu be sure. Zum times twid be down low an’ saft, an’ yu wid veel et een yer backboan an’ down een yer ligs, then aul to wance twid urn up tuther een like a wumman zingin’ an’ higher still, an’ make yer air stan’ up pin een.

Wull, I watched ’er duin o’t an’ et didden zim nort vurry ’ard, ony kape on scraa in up an’ down way a bit of a stick vir all tha gude in the wurdle like sawing a bit o’ ude, an’ viddlin ’bout way tuther hand jiss as though yu wiz castin up a cullum o’ viggers pin yer vingers.

“Wull,” I thort ta mezel, “Jan,” I zes, “I knaws yu baint zitch a vule but wat yu kin play wan o’ they things. Yu bes’ way get yerzul wan.”

Wull, twiz no zuneder zed than doan. Twiz ony a day or tu arterwads my vather zen me up to Exter Market way zum wets, an’ arter aul tha bizness waz doan I car-led een thair ta Gess’s, een Vore-strate; I zee the shop’s still thair, I offentimes laffs wane I passes.

“If you plaize,” I zes, “I wants ta buy a viddle. I wants a gude wan cheap.”

Wull, ’e shawed me wan, an’ a vurry purty viddle twaz tu, but I simmed twiz a dewsive lot o’ money ’e axed vor un; vive poun’ vive wiz tha price u’n.

“Wat be axin vir thik dirty lookin toad up thair?” I zes pointing up tu a black looking ole thing of a viddle up pin tap of a peanner.

“ ’E, aw I wants vowerty-vive guineas vir ’e, an cheap at tha price.”

Darn eef I didden think ’e wiz maazed, pon me word.

“Thicky viddle’s awver undered years old,” zo a-zed.

“Du em get more munny tha older they be,” I sez.

“Ees as a rule.”

“Wull," I zes, “ I think I’ll be buyin a colt plaize.”

Wull, kom ta lass, ’e shawed me wan vir vifty zhullins, an I bate en back ta two an vowerty and zixpence, way a a bow ta play en way, an a buke ta tull ’e ow tis doan, an a piece o’ rozzum an a box wi a brassen ’annle ta keep aul o’t een.

Wull, I carr’d en oam, an when mother yerd wat I’d got er axed een wan or two o’ tha naybers to yer Jan play ees nu viddle, arter tha work wiz aul done away.

Ole Jim Cann an ees missis kom een, an Uncle Tom’s vather, ole Wi’yum Cobleigh, an ees wive Mary, thay wiz passin an they drapped een.

Mother wiz turrable proud tu, I kin tull ’e wane er zeed me way a vine new viddle, an rubbin tha bow pin the rozzum, zame's I zeed the lady du.

Wull, I tuke old ta tha small aind an tucked een the big aind intu me neck, zame’s er du’d, an I drayed down the bow crass tha strings.

Aw my stars!

It med a noize like vowerty cats way the toothache.

You uiver yerd sitch a row in all your born days.

Mother looked angshus an ole Maister Cobleigh got up an went oam wayout a word.

“I reckon I didden put me vingers een tha right plaace,” I zes.

Zo I tried agean an gid en two or dree gude strokes vore an back.

Pon me zaul I niver yerd a noize tu equal thiky. Yu cude veel et urning down yer back like coad watter, an at zot yer teeth on adge. But I wadden gwain ta be done be an ole viddle now I gone zo var, zo I viddled an viddled an viddled an I twiddled me vingers up an down, an the cat sticked up er back an jumped out a-winder, an tha dug ’e zot down an howled, wi’ ees aid up een the air an ees yers back, an the cocks beginned ta craw, an the hens kom down off tha roost, an tha ole zow counted er pigs ta zee eef twaz wan o’ thay, an I viddled, an viddled, an viddled, but no chune widden kom; an tha swattin wiz urnin down auver me vaace, an me arm wiz aching mos dewsive, but no chune widden kom; ony a noise like ringing a dizzen pigs, an grindin a score sives on a grinestone till ta lass pore ole Jim Cann stude up where e zaut tu an zes,

“Young man, let bide wull ’e. Let bide vore thairs any arm doan, vir I tull ’e a man’s stummick wunt stand it.”

Nex day mother zed er reckoned tha bes thing I cude do wid be ta walk auver ta Barleycombe wance or twice an take a vu lessons vrim Measter Grigory auver there, wat larns vokes tha vi’lin.

Zo I did vir a bit, but I zune vound out twadden zo aizy as it looked. Measter Grigory tried ard to make me onderstand, but twadden much gude, zo arbor a bit ee zed my vingers was too thick. But I reckon ’twas more to do wi’ me ’aid than me vingers.

Owsumever, I didden ha’ no more lessons, an I zode thik viddle to yung George Parkouse vir thirty Zhillins; an ’e wiz a vule vir I wid willingly let en ad en vir twenty, or even vifteen tu a-got urds o’n.

Or vir tha matter o’ that I wid a gid en tu en, eef eed promised me not ta play an where I cude yer en.



When Jan Stewer Played the Fiddle




Cou’se, you must understand that what I be gwain to tell ’ee ’bout now ’app’ned a good many years agone when I were about nineteen or twainty; jis’ the age when ev’ry young fella gets some foolish idaya into his haid.

Wai’ some tis vallin’ in love wai’ a maid an’ writin’ love letters up in hay tallet an’ brishin’ yer hair twice a day. Wai’ others tis local praichin’, an’ some goes in fer makin’ out poetry. But wai' me twas the viddle.

How I come to get the idaya o’ the viddle into me ’aid was like this yer.

I’d orwiz considered I shude like to be a musicker o’ some soort cuz I reckoned twude be nice to be abble to play up tunes of a winter’s aivmin when there wad’n nort else to do.

Wull, wan night us ’ad a penny-raydin’ up to the skulerume, an’ a young laady stood up an’ played the viddle, or the vileen as her called ’en.

My ayes, what music her did fetch out o’n to be sure. ’Pon times ’twude be all down low an’ sauf like a black- burd zingin’ hisself to sleep of a aivmin, and then all of a sudden you’d veel it rinnin’ up yer backboan an’ out droo yer hair, an’ twude be a skylark right up ovver a vield o’ com on a butivle zummer’s day.

I watched her doin’ o’t, an’ it did’n sim very difficult. Nothin’ like playin’ the pe-hanna. I knawed I cude’n manage the pe-hanna cuz that took both hands to wance, an’ it orwiz was a marvel to me how anybody cude watch ’em both at the same time. But this yer caaper was aunly a wan-’anded job. The tuther ’ad only got to keep gwain up an’ down, an’ wad’n no more than zawin’ wude. An’ there wad’n but vower strings altogether, so you cude’n go very fur wrong. Nit like a pe-hanna wai’ scores o’ notes stretched out so fur as a fella could raiche. That orwiz did seem redicklus to me, cuz I’ve watched dizzen o’ volks play, an’ they did’n use wan quarter o’ they notes. I reckon they putts the rest there jis fer show.

Owsumever, arter thik lady ’ad vinished playin’ her vileen zolo as they caal’th it, I thought to mezell, “Jan,” I says, “I knaws you ban’t sitch a fule but what you cude do that. Tiz nort but scrapin’ thikky there stick up an’ down wai’ wan ’and an’ twiddlin’ about the tother vingers as if you was castin’ up a cullum o’ viggers. You better get yerzel wan,” I says.

Wull, so the very nex’ time I was into Exter I caaled into a shop where they ’ad all sorts o’ musics in the winder. A young vella was inside with a long black coat an’ his ’air parted down the middle.

“If you plaize,” I says, “ I shude like to zee a viddle.”

“What price did you want to give for’n?” he says.

“Aw. I dunnaw ’ardly,” I says. “I daun’ want a very big wan,” I says.

“There’s wan,” he says, “I can let ’ee ’ave fer vive pound.”

“Vive pound,” I says. “Why whatever’s inside ’en? I shude want a cupple o’ sheep ver that money.”

He says, “You cude’n get much of a tune out of a cupple o’ sheep.”

“No," I says. “An’ you cude’n shear much wool off thikky viddle.”

Then I zeed a black lookin’ ole viddle lied pin top of a pe-hanna.

“What be axin’ fer that dirty lookin’ toad?” I says.

“I wants zempty guineas fer he,” says the fella. “He’m ovver a hundred year old.”

“Do ’em get more money the older they be?” I says.

“Ees, as a rule.”

“Wull, let I zee a colt then, plaize.”

Come to last he shawed me wan fer vifty shullins, an’ I bate ’en back to two an’ vowerty an’ zixpence, wai’ a bow-thing to scrape ’en wai’, an’ a buke to tell ’ee how tis doan, an’ a piece o’ rozzum, an’ a butifle box wai’ a brassen annle to keep it all in.

So I carr’d ’en ’ome, an’ when mother zeed me wai’ ’en her was so proud as a quane. Her made me take’n up to grammer’s an’ back so’s I shude carr’n droo the village fer the volks to zee. Her stood to the vore- geat to watch me comin’, an’ her told me to carr’n more dilicate, not like as if twas a virkin o’ cider.

Then her went around an’ axed in all the naybers to hear her Jan play the vileen. Her’d agot the proper name off as pat as a Frenchman.

So when all the work was done away they beginned to drap in. Ole Jim Cann an’ his missis was the fust, an’ then come Tom Cobley an’ his vather ole Wi’yum Cobley, wh’s as deeve as a paust, an’ Ned Annavird an’ his missis, an’ sivverl more bezides.

When I tooked the viddle out from the box mother was ’most bustin’ wai’ pride, an’ when I rubbed the bow on the rozzum her looked around as gude as to say, “He knawth all about it, daun’ er?”

Wull, I ketched ’n hold by the scruff o’ the neck an’ putt the tail end in under me cheen, same’s I’d seed the young lady do, an’ then I give the how a good strake across his chest.

Aw, my days.

You never heerd a noise to aiqual thikky. Twas like vowerty cats wai’ their tails in the mangle. Mother her looked anxious, an’ Ned Annayird got up an’ zed he’d jis remembered that he promished to meet somebody.

I zed I was aunly tryin’ o’n thik time, an’ I ad’n railly started a tune.

So I tried'n again, an’ give’n two or dree gude strokes vore an’ back, an’ twas a wiss noise than the tother. Tom Cobley got up an’ went out wai’out a word.

An’ then I got angerd. I zed I wad’n gwain to be bate by a ole thing of a viddle.

“You waunt play a tune waunt ’ee?” I says. “Wull, us’ll see whe’er you waunt or no.”

So I viddled. An’ you cude veel it rinnin’ down yer back like coad water, an’ it zot yer teeth on aidge. But I wad’n gwain to be bate by no vileen, an’ I viddled an’ viddled an’ twiddled me vingers, an’ the cat putt up her back an’ jumped out droo the winder an’ the dog zot up an’ howled till the tears rin down his faace, but I viddled an’ viddled an’ viddled, an’ wan by wan the naybers went ’ome, an’ the cocks beginned to crow. an’ the hens come down off the roost to zee which wan had laid a aig that time o’ night, an’ I viddled an’ viddled an’ no chune did’n come, only the shriek of the scythe on the grindstone an’ the squail o’ the wheel wai’out graise, an’ the squaik o’ the gate, an’ the wind in the chimley, an’ the scraich o’ the owl, an’ the noise o’ the bucket down the well, but no chune wude’n come, an’ I viddled an’ viddled, an’ the old sow got up an’ counted her pigs to zee if twas wan o’ they, an’ the swattin was rinnin’ down me in strames, an’ me arm was raddy to vall off, but I viddled. An’ to last Jim Cann stood up where he zot an’ says,

“Young man,” he says, “let bide wull ’ee? Let bide, I tell ’ee, bevore there’s any ’arm done, fer the human stummick waun’ stand it.”