Fiction

HOW NOW, GOSSIP?

D. C. CULSHAW April 15 1948
Fiction

HOW NOW, GOSSIP?

D. C. CULSHAW April 15 1948

HOW NOW, GOSSIP?

Fiction

D. C. CULSHAW

IT WAS eight o’clock of a fine Saturday evening in early September when John Willy Wigglesworth dropped his bombshell.

“The wedding,” he announced calmly, “will be put off to the 29th.”

Manlike, he meant no harm, but his mother’s little kitchen suddenly crackled with suspicion. His mother and Polly regarded him silently until, growing uneasy under their concentrated gaze, he pushed back his chair and hitched his belt defensively.

His mother caught the gesture and pounced on him at once. “What are you coming off at?” she demanded. “Invitations are going out on Monday; we cannot alter the date now.”

“We shall have to.”

“What for, ever?”

His mother’s eyes flashed and she snorted with anger. Polly merely looked puzzled. Unlike most inhabitants of the Yorkshire dales, both women were small and, each in her own way, good-looking. John Willy was neither. In fact, folks often wondered out loud how on earth Sarah Ann Wigglesworth had managed to produce a lad on whose face flies wouldn’t settle. They wondered still more why Polly Yarker, the prettiest lass in the valley, had chosen him for a mate.

“Ah—er—ah,” said John Willy.

“Now spit it out,” said his mother, “we’re waiting.”

“Well,” said John Willy, rumpling his rusty-red hair, “it’s like this here. Old Barney—”

His mother corrected him. “Sir Barnes Barraclough.”

“But he alius calls me Wigglesworth,” said John Willy stoutly.

Mrs. Wigglesworth had no particular regard for the minor aristocracy, but it didn’t do to let the younger generation get wrong ideas. “That’s got nowt to do with it. Resjject where respect is due, young man.”

“All right, then, Sir Barnes. He’s offering a special prize this year to the first man home in the Tattlewick fell race. It’s a voucher for goods worth twenty-five pounds.”

“He’s niver isn’t,” said Mrs. Wigglesworth. She would have snapped her teeth on the denial but she knew' her lower plate would never stand the strain. “That old tightwad ’ud nip a caraway seed in two, if he thought it would save him a ha’penny. What’s he doing it for?”

“They tell me he’s running for Parliament next time.”

“Oh, aye? It’ll take more than that to get my vote. Where’d you hear all this tripe?”

John Willy had to grin. “From Mrs. Docker.”

“Oh, her!” Mrs. Wigglesworth waved all such gossips into oblivion. “I’ve lived next door to her for thirty year and if she sees a flea, you’d think it was.an elephant to hear her tell it.”

“She sees plenty of fleas, too,” said John Willy.

“Now that’ll do,” snapped his mother.

POLLY spoke for the first time. “But why haven’t we heard about all this afore?” she asked.

“Nay, I don’t rightly know,” said John Willy, “but I fancy committee has been a bit slack setup, like, about announcing it and old—I mean, Sir Barnes, is up in Scotland for the shooting, so he couldn’t see to it hisse If.”

“Slack setup!” said Mrs. Wigglesworth. “They haven’t done hardly a thing right since they were appointed. They let. Major Carruthers run ’em and he’s no Yorkshireman, the way he sucks up to to the nobs.”

“You’re going to be right nettled when you hear what else they’ve done,” said John Willy. He {jeered at his mother from under his shaggy eyebrows and twiddled his thumbs so long without speaking that the two women could hardly sit still.

“Well, come on, come on,” said his mother impatiently, “ojjen that big trap of yours and say sum mat.”

John Willy spoke very slowly. “They’ve picked on September twenty-second for the Tattlewick.”

For a full half minute, while this sank in, silence wrap{jed the two women tightly. Then Mrs. Wigglesworth spoke.

“Well, of all the gaumless fools! Tattlewick fell race has been held the last Saturday in September for fifty year to my knowledge. You might as well say they’ve decided to hold Christmas a week early.”

“Yes,” said Polly, absently picking currants out of the fruit cake in the middle of the table, “and everybody knows we all go to Blackpool and Morecambe the week end before for our wedding, like, so’s we could have a quiet do.”

“It’ll none be quiet if they hold the Tattlewick that day. All Yorkshire comes to see us run,” said John Willy. He remembered a day when over a thousand people had stood on the village green to watch the local lads race to the flagstaff on Tattlewick Top and down again. Strictly speaking, a thousand people do not constitute the whole of Yorkshire, but John Willy was country-bred. Besides John Willy liked to exaggerate for the fun of it.

Here’s John Willy again, loping over the moors with trouble at his heels and thoughts of a lass called Polly in his addled head

He went on: “There’ll be millions here if they

offer a special prize.”

“We know that,” said Polly.

“And —er I want to run meself.”

“What!” The exclamation came simultaneously from both women.

Polly looked at her fiance reproachfully. “John Willy, lad,” she said, “you promised me a year ago you’d run no more.”

“Well, I’ve not run this year so far.”

“I know, that’s partly what I mean. You’ll none be fit to run.”

This remark made no impression on John Willy. “Nay,” he said, “my job as postman keeps me fit. Ten miles a day, six days a week. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke and I don’t chew and I get to bed in good time and I’m up like a lark in a morning and—”

“A flaming funny lark,” said his mother. “I practically have to drive you down for the seven o’clock mail.”

John Willy ignored this. “I’ve kept me that fit, it’ll take me five years to get me out of training.” “But, John Willy,” said Polly, coming back to the main point, “you can’t run on the twentysecond. We’re getting wed that day.”

“I know. That’s why I want the wedding put off For a week.”

The casual way he shoved the wedding date about, as if it were something on wheels, made Polly that, mad she could have slapped him, but all she said was: “I don’t understand. I never have understood. It all seems a lot. of daftness to me. What is it you like about running?”

TOHN WILLY pondered. There flashed through •I his mind the thought that his limbs were loose and his breathing easy. Memories came to him of the smell of damp bracken, of the give and t hrust of hardy turf beneath his feet , of the blast of a moorland breeze drying the sweat on his overheated body as he reached the crest of a fell, of the excitement of leaping like a goat from ridge to ridge in a breakneck descent, where the slightest error of judgment or timing would mean a broken bone or at least a terrible shaking on the bare limestone rock. It all sang together in his mind making a glorious harmony; but, like most Yorkshire folk, John Willy was powerfully emotioned but almost inarticulate. He could only shake his head. “It keeps me out of the pubs,” he said and grinned uneasily.

Polly began to lose patience. “Well, if that’s all it does,” she said, “you’ve no call to worry. I’ll see to that after we’re wed.”

“It’s given me other things, too.” John Willy waved his hand vaguely round his mother’s little kitchen that held the accumulated trophies of fifteen years of running. “I’ve got me enough shaving sets to last four generations, as you might say.”

“You’ll be the last of your line, so far as I’m concerned, if you run,” said Polly.

“But there’s twenty-five quid going begging.” “We can do without it.”

“Ah.”

“And I’m none having my wedding mucked about for the sake of a measly pound or two.”

“Ah.”

“And what does that mean?”

“What?”

“That there ‘ah’ you keep cornin’ out with.”

“It means”John Continued on page 27

Continued on page 27

How Now, Gossip?

Continued from page 11

Willy leaned back comfortably in his chair—“that I’m a man and you’re a woman.”

“Oh, does it?”

John Willy didn’t like Polly’s tone. He sat bolt upright. “Aye, it does. A man’s expected to provide for his mate, isn’t he? Well, then. If 1 say as the wedding mun be postponed, I’m nobbut saying what any chap as could do a bit o’ running would say.”

“And if I say I don’t want the date altered, I’m only saying what any woman would say.”

They fairly glared at each other. Surprisingly, though they were very, very fond of each other, in nearly a year this was the nearest they had ever come to a downright quarrel and the violence of their emotions startled them both. Mrs. Wigglesworth, who knew when to keep her trap shut, now opened it.

“That’ll do,” she said. “Polly’s right, John Willy.”

“No, she isn’t. She’s wrong.”

This was a mistake. Polly was not yet old enough to take a flat accusation of error with ease.

“Right or wrong,” she said, “you’re not running.”

“That’s it,” said Mrs. Wigglesworth, “you tell him, Polly lass, and if telling does no good, thump him. I had to thump Wigglesworth many a time when he were alive, poor chap, and you mun do likewise wi’ John Willy. There’s no living wi’ Wigglesworths else.”

Johny Willy slapped his hand hard on the table and stood up. “I’m running,” he shouted.

“Then you’re not wedding me.”

“Oh well then, nah then, then,” said John Willy, using the formula that signifies to one and all in Yorkshire that matters have gone beyond discussion. He stretched his long six feet to unhook his cap from the beam that ran across the centre of the kitchen, gave his Airedale, Shunt, a slap on the behind to indicate he was wanted, and stalked out.

MRS. DOCKER saw him leave and saw Polly go a few minutes later. Mrs. Docker lived next door and Polly had not been gone more than a couple of minutes before she lumbered in—without knocking—and squeezed herself into the rocking chair by the fire. Mrs Wigglesworth shuddered. Her neighbor weighed 300 pounds if she weighed a long ton. She always kept a man’s flat cap on her unkempt hair by means of a hatpin. She was the biggest gossip in a day’s march.

“I seed your John Willy going off up t’lane in a huff,” said Mrs. Docker, “and Polly Yarker was none looking too pleased with herself when she left, neither. Is that kettle on for tea? I’m that dry I could spit sovereigns.”

Mrs. Wigglesworth did not want to appear unneighborly and the cups stood at Mrs. Docker’s elbow. “Aye,” she said, “will you have one?”

“I don’t mind if I do. Have you heard the latest?”

“No. What?”

“Old Barney’s giving a nextry prize for the Tattlewick worth a hundred pound. And committee this year have picked on our September week end for the race. That’ll cause a lot of talk”— she all but drooled at the prospect— “folks’ll not like that. I shouldn’t wonder if your John Willy didn’t want to run in t’race and postponed his wedding, like. That might not suit Polly, might it?”

Mrs. Wigglesworth started and the start did not go unobserved. She wondered for the hundredth time how it was that Mrs. Docker learnt the

Wigglesworths’affairs so quickly. The ! explanation was simple. In the kitchen cupboard of Mrs. Docker’s house there ! was a loose brick; if she opened the j cupboard door, shoved her head inside and removed the brick, she could hear what was going on through the intervening wall well enough to put two and two together to make ten.

“Aye,” said Mrs. Docker, wriggling deeper into the chair in her enjoyment, “it’ll be a pity if t’wedding doesn’t come off, because after all, your John Willy’s not getting any younger and if he doesn’t get Polly now she’ll likely take up wi’ somebody else afore he can turn around. Ah me, young love, young love.”

She sighed ponderously and Mrs. Wigglesworth cringed. No ordinary j chair was built to stand Mrs. Docker’s j sighs. Mrs. Wigglesworth made the i tea and poured it, saying nothing. It Î made no difference whether she denied I or confirmed her neighbor’s hints, the j

results would be the same......a great

deal of speculation that bore too near ! the truth to be comfortable.

Mrs. Docker gulped tea and eyed the cup. “I see you’ve gotten a new set j of tea-things, S’rann,”—the usual ' Yorkshire corruption for Sarah Ann— “you’ll niver leave your John Willy nowt if you don’t hang on to your brass.”

“Drink up your tea, will you, Charity?” said Mrs. Wigglesworth, “I mun just slip over to me sister’s. There’s summat I forgat to ask her.”

Mrs. Docker was eyebrow deep in tea again. “What was it you forgat to ask her?” she said, when she finally came up for breath. But Mrs. Wigglesworth was already taking the back-door key from behind the clock on the mantelpiece. Mrs. Docker took the hint. She unsqueezed herself from the rocking chair and paused at the back door.

“I’ll not breathe a word to anybody about your John Willy’s spat wi’ Polly,” she said.

Mrs. Wigglesworth nodded wordlessly and set off on her useless errand. Mrs. Docker began not breathing a word to the whole village.

When the news went round that Saturday night, Tattlewick stood on its head with astonishment, first because the committee was so daft as to choose the September holiday week end for the Tattlewick fell race, and then because, according to Mrs. Docker, the wedding between Polly Yarker and John Willy Wigglesworth was off.

The women sided with Polly and said John Willy was off his chump to run instead of making a proper do of getting wed, but the men said he had his head screwed on the right way to try for the 25-, 50or 100-pound prize. There was a good deal of argy-bargy over the week end. Mrs. Docker enjoyed herself to some tune.

ON MONDAY John Willy went about his job with a glum face.

He came back from his rounds in the afternoon to find his mother franking the outgoing mail. She stopped as soon as he entered and called him behind the counter of the little post office.

“Here, lad,” she said, “finish this job off, will you? I’ve getten socks in t’ washtub and they’ll be shrunk to blazes, if I leave ’em there much longer.”

“Ah,” said John Willy.

He took her place behind the wicket and carried on where she had left off.

His mind was four miles away in Keddleby and he had franked a postcard without noticing anything special, when it suddenly occurred to him that it was going to Sir Barnes Barraclough.

He flipped back a couple of letters. Aye, that was right. There was the j

postcard from the committee, apprising j Sir Barnes that the Tattlewick would I be held on September twenty-second, j John Willy stared at it. His breath came j thick and heavy.

“John Willy, whativer art ta doing j in theer?”

John Willy started guiltily. “Nowt.” He finished (he job, filled the bag, j locked it. and put his cap on. He was ! just, going round the counter when his mother emerged from the house. She glanced at her son. “Are you badly?” she asked suddenly.

“No.”

“You’re looking fearful white.

I What’s up, like?”

“I’m all right.” John Willy was edging round her.

“You don’t look it. In fact, you look as if you were just going to gaol.”

John Willy repressed a shudder and ran.

“Now what have I said?” Mrs. Wigglesworth wondered. She was still wondering when John Willy returned from the station.

“I’m going over to Keddleby to see Polly,” he said.

“But you’ve had no supper and I’ve a right nice pig trotter for you, luv.” “Not hungry.”

This was a real shock. It was many a baking since John Willy had refused food. Mrs. Wigglesworth put her hand on his forehead. “Are you sure you’re not poorly, lad?” she asked.

John Willy jerked his head away. “No,” he said, “I’m in love. They say everybody loses weight afore they get spliced. Now I know why.”

Before Mrs. Wigglesworth could exclaim against so brazen an expression of his feelings, the shop door banged and John Willy was on his way to Keddleby.

When he got there, he found Polly ! doing a bit of ironing.

“Now, lass,” he said, leaning against I the jamb of the door.

“Now, lad,” said Polly. She went on I ironing.

John Willy appeared to meditate. “Nice night,” he said, after a bit.

Polly dampened a sheet and spat delicately on the underside of the sad¡ iron to see whether it was hot enough. “For them as has time to enjoy it.” “Haven’t you?”

She gestured toward the clothesbasket. John Willy eyed it and estimated an hour and a half before ; Polly would be free.

“Ah,” he said.

I There was another long pause. John Willy broke it.

“I want to get wed,” he said.

“That’s news.”

“On the twenty-second.”

“Oh,” said Polly affecting surprise, “not on the twenty-ninth. The wind’s changed since Saturday.”

“Ah.”

“But I ammot a weathercock, you know, and I don’t know as I’ve changed with it.”

Polly looked at John Willy. He was much paler than usual and very quiet, j “What is it?” she asked.

John Willy glanced up briefly, but j he would not speak. He was that there stubborn.

“It’s no use saying there’s nowt j wrong, because I can see there’s sum! mat. So cough it up, like.”

“Nay, I nobbut want to get wed on I the twenty-second.”

“Aye, and on Saturday you said the i twenty-ninth. And besides that you I went and told Mrs. Docker and she’s said more than enough. Now you’re off to change the date again and you know varry well what folks’ll say. They’ll think I nagged you into it. They’ll say John Willy Wigglesworth is henpecked before he’s wed and I’m not having that.”

Polly felt hurt by the rumors assiduously spread by Mrs. Docker and she was only working off her feelings. She knew perfectly well that neither John Willy nor his mother would ever breathe a word of their private affairs to Mrs. Docker. John Willy knew she knew—and he just looked at her. There was so much hurt behind his eyes that Polly almost cried aloud.

If, at that point, he had said one word more, she would have given in. He didn’t. Instead, he tugged his cap straight over his head, nodded twice as if to say, “Well, that’s that,” and mounted his bicycle very slowly.

ON THURSDAY the village had something more to talk about. Sir Barnes, through his secretary, replied that he would be pleased to see the Tattlewick run on the twenty-ninth and that there would be a second prize of ten and a third of five pounds. The first prize, and this scotched all rumors, would be twenty-five pounds.

Major Carruthers, the chairman of the committee, was very annoyed that the baronet should have mistaken the date, but, as one who would fain stand well with his social superiors, he never questioned any decision the baronet might make. He stumped into the post office and asked Mrs. Wigglesworth to paste the letter in her window for all to see.

If asked, Major Carruthers would have described himself as a fiery little man, of a full habit of body, but the village only thought him a runt of a chap with a belly like a bartender and a temper.

“Nuisance,” fired the Major, when Mrs. Wigglesworth had done as he asked. He then paused, as it were, to reload.

“Aye?” Mrs. Wigglesworth had learned by long experience behind the counter that the less you said, so long as you said it sympathetically, the more you were likely to hear.

“Yes. Got to go south on the twentysixth. Miss the race. Disappointed. Won twenty quid on Wigglesworth last year. Grand runner. Day.”

The volleys ceased and the Major was gone, taking his disappointment with him. The shop door had no sooner closed than Mrs. Docker opened it.

“And what did Lord Muck want?” she asked.

“To put the letter in the window.” “Aught else?”

“No.”

“Well, he looked mad enough to bite a wasp when he left. I shouldn’t wonder if he weren’t the one as wanted the race on our holiday week end, wouldn’t you?”

“I know naught about it.”

“Now S’rann”—with a quick glance at Mrs. Wigglesworth’s face—“you know I’ve hit the nail on the head. I usually do.”

“Aye, at the tenth attempt.”

Mrs. Docker smiled and retired. She had another bit of gossip.

The evening brought Polly over from Keddleby after shop hours. A nonconformist conscience, allied to a disposition naturally affectionate, had given her several sleepless nights and she was willing to forget and forgive. She had been mean to John Willy and, young as she was, she had already discovered that meanness like mercy cuts both ways. For his part John Willy was glad she had come.

“Come in, come in,” he said, grinning. “Me mother’s over at me Aunt Lizzie’s. Shunt, lad, get they head off of that there cushion and let Polly sit down.”

Obediently, Shunt moved his forequarters a matter of inches and, when Polly sat down, promptly put his head in her lap.

John Willy stared. “Well,” he said, “if that doesn’t beat all. He’s a man’s dog, is Shunt. He’s niver liked women and he fair hates Mrs. Docker.”

“What’s she done to him?”

“I fancy it’s not what she does, it’s what she doesn’t do. He’ll stand out here at the back whining and she’ll walk by him without lifting the sneck. He gets fearful peeved about it.”

Polly smiled. “If he doesn’t get his own way, he doesn’t like it. Happen he’s a Wigglesworth.”

“Happen so,” said John Willy, “but this time everybody’ll be satisfied.”

Polly could not follow the shift, in topic. “What are you blethering about?” she asked.

“The letter.”

“What letter?”

“Why, the letter as came today saying that old Barney agrees to having the Tattlewick run the twenty-ninth. It’s in the shopwindow now. Isn’t that what you’ve come about?”

Polly said nothing for a full minute. It was evident that she was thinking; it was more than evident that her thoughts were not pleasant. John Willy, ignorant as yet of the cause of the impending storm, suddenly felt as if the kitchen would not hold them both and automatically he backed a step.

A single word fell from Polly’s lips. “Men,” she said quietly, and then again, “Men.”

“What have I done?” said John Willy.

“You know.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You’re lying.”

Now, Yorkshire folk, blunt as they are, will not accuse one another of flat lying unless they have good reason, or unless they are so angry as to forget even the few proprieties they normally observe. John Willy knew this.

“ ’Ere, ’ere,” he said, “that’s no way to talk.”

Polly looked at him steadily. “You’ve made a fool of me.”

“No, I haven’t,” said John Willy, but, even so, his eyes dropped.

Polly’s was not the sort of anger that flares and dies between two breaths. She spoke quietly now and her very quietness gave her words added power.

“John Willy, I’m not a fool, so don’t think it. I know there’s been some hanky-panky somewhere and I want to know where. See you here. First, you want the wedding put off for a week and I’m right grieved, because when a lass makes up her mind to wed she wants to get wed on the day she’s fixed on. It’s very unsettling to change it and—and all the pleasure goes out of it, like. Well, then you come round and say, “Let’s get wed on the twenty -second after all,’ and I’m right suited because I think as you’re doing it to please me. But now it seems you knew all along the race would be held on the twenty-ninth. You knew that. Didn’t you?”

John Willy flinched. “Now, lass,” he began, incautiously, “Who told you

I—”

Polly’s indrawn breath ^topped him cold. “So, I’m right.”

They looked at each other.

“John Willy,” said Polly, sadly, “there’s only one way of making a go of marriage, that’s to be honest with 1 your mate. There’s no other road as | I knows on and I’m telling you straight I’m in no mind to go snacks with any chap as would lie to me.”

“1 didn’t lie to you.”

“You did as good as have,” said Polly, her grammar going all to pot under the impact of emotion.

At this point John Willy turned nasty and began to shout. Whereat Shunt began to growl. “I’ve done nowt of t’sort. Shut thy face, Shunt, lad, do.”

“Even your own dog Icnows who’s j right,” said Polly.

“He niver doesn’t.”

“Well, he’s not showing his teeth at ' me.”

THIS was true. To his master’s stupefaction, Shunt stood by Polly’s chair, his hackles up and his eyes aflame, while from the depths of his cliest came ominous growls. Neither of them suspected that the dog, conditioned to the high-pitched outbursts of Mrs. Wigglesworth, was only reacting in his own fashion to the unwonted basso of John Willy’s anger.

“Now,” said Polly, in triumph, “can we have a hit of truth?”

“No, we can’t,” John Willy shouted. “We’re going to let the whole thing drop.”

Polly rose to her feet and shouted right hack at him. “We’re not doing any sich thing.”

Shunt harked loudly.

Neither knew that Mrs. Docker, at her usual post in her kitchen, cursed Shunt with a right ugly Yorkshire word and made for her hack door, kicking off her shoes as she ran. For a whale of a woman she could move with surprising speed and silence over short distances and she didn’t intend to miss a word of this.

The battle still raged. Polly was saying: “For the last time, will you

gi’ me a straight answer?”

John Willy fairly swayed on his feet, like a boxer on the verge of a knockout. “All right, all right,” he said, “I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you. But if this goes any further, I’m finished, I’m done for . . . Well, it were like this ’ere—”

He paused in midsentence. There was a draft coming from somewhere. He turned slowly toward the hack door. It was slightly ajar.

“Shunt,” shouted John Willy, suddenly, “rats, lad, rats. Seize ’em.”

He flung open the door and Shunt with one hound was outside. Polly heard a small scream, a swift scuffling of feet, a door hang loudly, and a little yelp from Shunt who just missed Mrs. Docker as she slammed into her own house.

John Willy looked at Polly and his shoulders sagged. “Come outside,” he said.

The moon was rising over the edge of the moors and a light mist magnified ! it to twice its normal size. A brace of pheasant, not a common sight on open land, rose from beneath their feet with a “chock” of alarm and soared across the face of the moon. A slight breeze, with a nip of frost in it, drifted

down from the heights above. John Willy shrugged his shoulders, but whether from outer or inner unease Polly could not tell. His first words enlightened her.

“Polly, lass, if what I tell you now goes a foot further, I’m sunk, so think on that. Up here, only the curlews can hoar us and Mrs. Docker can’t. By gum! if she'd got an earful—

Hi“ shook his head in dread at the more thought.

"John Willy, what have you done?” John Willy gulped. “I’ve tampered with His Majesty’s mail, that’s what I’ve done. And if anybody ever hears tell of it, it’ll — it’ll be gaol for me and no post office for me mother.”

His voice trailed away. “Go on,” said Polly. John Willy nerved himself again.

“I were franking mail, see you, la'st Monday, when I come on a postcard from Major Carruthers to Old Barney, telling him as committee had decided to hold t’race on Sept. 22. And I reads it.”

“Oh, is that all?” Polly sounded relieved.

“Nay, hold yer bosses,” John Willy gasped. “There’s more to come. I takes a bit of an eraser. I rubs out the second two. I turns it into a nine.” Polly took the blow like a man, but spoke like a woman. “Ee, luv, that’s serious, that is. Whatever made you do it?”

“You,” said John Willy, simply. “I’m that there fond of you.”

“H’m,” said Polly. John Willy waited. He felt a lot better now he had confessed; the heaviness was draining from his limbs.

A second later he didn’t feel nearly so good. Polly had given him a right good clip over the ear hole.

“Oy,” said John Willy, clapping a hand to the side of his head and backing away. “What’s that for?”

“Because I’m fond of you,” said Polly calmly. “Your mother said there was no living wi’ Wigglesworths unless you thumped ’em and I didn’t know what she meant. I do now. So after we’re 'wed, you know what to expect if you misbehave—and from now on misbehaving includes fell racing.”

John Willy looked rarely chap fallen for a minute and then he grinned. “I reckon I deserve that,” he said, “but no hard feelings.”

Polly smiled. “All right, no Tiard

feelings.”

“Then give us a kiss to prove it.”

A long silence followed—broken only bv the derisive hooting of an owl in the valley below.