14 November 2015

Chapter

- I -
"Shut door!"

"Gie us a minute woman!"

Behind him an old dog stood on the threshold, with its head cocked ever so slightly to the left. It was a subtle signal that Elizabeth Bamford recognised well.

"Alright. In then ye devil!"

Trembling almost imperceptibly, his coat rain-matted and with chin lowered to the flagstone floor, Old Shep crept towards the smoking peat fire. 

Outside, a bitter gale crashed like mighty ocean waves against walls that were as sturdy as those timeless millstone outcrops up at Back Tor. How old the old house was neither Elizabeth nor Samuel knew. He had been born there late one summer when heather bloomed violet pink on the moorland but by then his grandfather was already in Ashopton graveyard, buried with his library of memories.

Samuel put his oilskin cape on the nail behind the door and rubbing his ruddy hands for warmth, joined his old dog by the fire. A black pot hung from the iron spyder and both were dusted with peat ash like snowflakes on gorse.

"Famished I am. What's in pot?"

"I telled ye this morning Sam. Yon rabbit ye trapped last Thorsday. About as much meat on it as a crow."

They ate from their bowls in silence. There were hunks of dry bread to mop up the gravy. Elizabeth threw half of hers on the floor for the dog to devour. It looked up hopefully for more but there were only bones.

"Owt new in valley?" Elizabeth asked. She had not left the old place for weeks which is how it often was in the wintertime.

"Aye. There's more talk of a dam. Them fellows from London were back last week."

"Why can't they build their bloody dam in London and leave us be?"

The chimney spat a gob of rainwater upon their smoking fire where it sizzled and steamed for a moment or two. Outside the gusting gale increased its strength even as the last pale vestiges of daylight dissolved into the dark moors above Alport, leaving a cloak of inky blackness behind.

"Has Hannah's lass ad her babby yet?"

"Aye. I saw Mary Gunston. Er from Hope. She said it were a little girl. Lived for three days she said."

"Dead? Oh dear, poor little mite. She'll be with angels now. Hannah'll be reet upset. Is the lass alright. Young Sarah?"

"Aye. I believe so."

Samuel grabbed two more clods of dried turf from the box and as he placed them carefully upon the glowing fire, Old Shep's ears pricked up. In the bottom field, the blackfaces could be faintly heard from the lee of the west wall, their plaintive bleating carried like flotsam upon the howling wind. 

Elizabeth lit another  tallow candle. She had made a cache of them in the summertime from mutton fat. It flickered because of a draught that was leaking in from under the door. She watched her husband's shadow shifting about on the far stone wall as if dancing to the marauding gale's irregular rhythm.

She thought upon the baby girl and remembered her own lost children. Of course none of them would be there to support her or Samuel in old age and though she was only fifty one, her aching bones had made her increasingly conscious of her mortal vulnerability.

Samuel was unlacing his boots. Soon it would be time for bed. How slowly those night-time hours passed when winter winds were blowing as hard as that wolf in "The Three Little Pigs" - a story she remembered happily from her grandmother's knee - when she lived down in the village. After all these years, it was still very difficult to sleep on nights like these. There on the side of their valley where hardly anyone ever passed by. 

She looked at Sam and he reciprocated, candlelight twinkling in the jelly of their eyes. The ghost of a smile appeared amidst the stubble of his weatherbeaten face. They said nothing but turned to watch those fresh turf clods in the fireplace glowing brighter like fragments of summer.

"Bedtime."

"Aye."

27 comments:

  1. I love this. Your fertile imagination and years of hiking about the Yorkshire countryside have combined to make a good story and an undoubtedly authentic peek at the past.

    I hope there will be more -- another book, perhaps?

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement Bob. I may introduce a third character - Shepherd Bob who lives in a cave under Back Tor or The Very Reverend Robert who preaches fire and brimstone down in the village. Which would you prefer?

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    2. I would prefer the appearance of a young thief who takes only food, turns out to be an orphan boy whom Elizabeth and Samuel take in and raise to manhood, and who becomes the joy of their advancing years, eventually marrying Sarah's younger sister and providing them with grandchildren they can tell "The Three Little Pigs" to.

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    3. Creative ideas Bob. Good but instead of Young Thief Bob marrying Sarah's buxom blonde younger sister he will marry Loopy Lee, the clothes peg seller and they will live in a rough shelter made of sticks.

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  2. There would've been many tales similar to the one you've created here lived between the walls of Bamford House in its day, that is for sure. Laughter, tears, love, happiness, sadness, births and deaths...lives lived.

    Well done, Mr. Pudding! :)

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    1. And thank you for your kind encouragement too Lee! Perhaps you can be a fourth character - Lady Lee, the wealthy mistress of Derwent Hall or Loopy Lee who resides in hedgerows and sells clothes pegs from a wicker basket, chased by taunting village children. Which would you prefer?

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    2. Loopy Lee would be more appropriate, Yorkie. I sure am not wealthy!

      A friend many years ago used to call me "Leapy Lee"....when the song "Little Arrows" was shooting about. And then another I met when I was looking after Newry Island nicknamed me "Lethal Lee"! She had great pleasure calling me Lethal Lee....I introduced her and her fellow to Margaritas at sundown....and she never forgave me...but on the other hand, she thanked me! She didn't know how to make up her mind! :)

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    3. In the story you will fall in love with Young Thief Bob (see above) and you will live happily ever after down by the river whittling wooden clothes pegs together and catching fish.

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  3. I really enjoyed this Yorkie, you really have a talent for writing.

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    1. You are so kind and thanks for calling by once more Leishy.

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  4. Your description puts me right in the stone house and simple life these people lived.

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    1. Good. That is exactly what I was trying to achieve Red. Thanks for the feedback sir.

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  5. Lovely....... and I like Robert's ending too. Go on, make it into a book.

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    1. The landlady at The Ashopton Hotel will be a gregarious Australian returnee who was transported to Van Diemen's Land having stolen a sheep. Back after twenty five years away her name is...yes - Helen. The local policeman is a a lanky fellow called Tony.

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  6. Oh, a bedtime story. Can we have another chapter next week?

    Ms Soup

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    1. Soup will be Samuel and Elizabeth's temperamental cat. She sleeps all day, catches mice all night and is highly suspicious of strangers. Another chapter? Maybe.

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  7. I would like another chapter, too! I like this story and want to hear more. And the new characters you've suggested so far are great. My favorite is Soup the cat!

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    1. Another character I have considered is Jennifer - a shy serving wench at The Ashopton Hotel. She is preyed upon by Samuel Bamford who will be played by George Clooney in the film. She only speaks one line but says it several times - "As you wish milord".

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    2. George Clooney can "prey" upon me as often as he likes! I shall repeat my one line with enthusiasm as many times as necessary!

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    3. HA! HA! Naughty girl!

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  8. Lovely. Just lovely. x

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    1. In the film version of "Bamford House" you have been selected to play Elizabeth and George Clooney will be Samuel. I hope you will not prove too bashful during the steamy love scene - when Samuel leads Elizabeth to a sunlit hollow amidst the heather.

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  9. Steam with George I'm more than happy to provide, but I know from experience how prickly that heath can be on tender parts and the ling flowers get EVERYWHERE when they shed, so I hope the director has the grace to throw down a home-spun patchwork quilt or is prepared to rub salve on any ensuing rashes. I'll start rehearsing...

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    1. As the writer, I shall be helping to direct the film Elizabeth but unfortunately I have no salve, just an old can of dubbin that I used to apply to rugby boots. I trust this will be a suitable alternative to sweet-scented salve. And for authenticity the homespun patchwork quilt will need to be replaced by a couple of old hessian wool sacks.

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  10. I join the crowd asking for another chapter!
    Since I already know (not only from your blog) how well you can write, I am prepared to buy your new book as soon as it is available.

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    1. Thank you Meike...But now I have to introduce ANOTHER character. The story flips forward to 2016 when a German hiker called Heidi arrives at the tumbledown building with her sister Gudrun. They sit on the stones eating their bockwurst and sauerkraut. Kicking her toe in the debris, Heidi discovers a rusty old key. But what will it unlock?

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  11. Can't put my mind to this story yet, Mr. Pudding. Maybe next week.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.