“Tiddy Mun.”

Whiles syne, afore tha dykes wor made, an’ tha river-bed changed, whan tha Cars wor nobbut bog-lands, an’ full o’ watter-holes; tha wor teemin, as thou mayst a’ heerd wi’ {150} Boggarts and Will-o’-tha-Wykes, an’ sich loike; voices o’ deed folks, an’ hands wi’outen airms, that came i’ tha darklins, moanin’ an’ cryin an’ beckonin’ all night thruff; todlowries dancin’ on tha tussocks, an’ witches ridin’ on tha great black snags, that turned to snakes, an’ raced about wi’ ’em i’ tha watter; my word! ’twor a stra-ange an’ ill place to be in, come evens.

Folk wor gey skeered on un nat’rally, an’ wouldna goo nigh un wi’outen a charm o’ some sort, just a witches pink or a Bible-ball, or the loike o’ that. A’ll tell thee ’bout them another toime. Tha shook wi’ froight, a tell thee, whan tha found their sels i’ tha Cars at darklins. For sartain, tha wor mostly shakin i’ they toimes; for tha agur an’ fever were terrible bad, an’ thar wor poor weak crysoms, fit for nowt but to soop gin an’ eat op’um. In ma young days, we’d all tha agur; tha women ower tha fire, tha men out i’ tha garth, even tha bairns had tha shakes reg’lar. Ay mebbe, tha’s better off noo, but a don’t know, a don’t know, tha’s lost Tiddy Mun. Weel, weel. Tha kenned foine that tha fever an’ agur comed fra tha bogs, but so come as tha heerd tell, that tha ma-ashes mun be drained as tha ca’ it, tha wor sore miscontented, for tha wor used to un, an’ ther feythers afore em’, an’ tha thowt, as tha sayin’ is, bad’s bad, but meddlins wuss.

Tha tell’t un fine tales, ’at tha mists ’ud lift, an’ tha bogs ’ud come i’ tha molds, an’ th’ud be no’on agur; but tha misliked tha changement, an’ wor main fratched wi’ tha Dutchies, who comed across tha seas for tha delvin.

Tha folk would na give tha Duchies vittles, or beddin’, or fair words; no’on let ’em cross tha door-sill; an’ tha said to each ither, tha said, as t’ud be ill days for the Cars, an’ tha poor Car-folk, so-be tha bog-holes wor meddled wi’, an’ “Tiddy Mun” wor unhapped.

For thee know’st, Tiddy Mun dwelt in tha watter-holes doun deep i’ tha green still watter, an’ a comed out nobbut of evens, whan tha mists rose. Than a comed crappelin out i’tha darklins, limpelty lobelty, like a dearie wee au’d {151} gran’ther, wi’ lang white hair, an’ a lang white beardie, all cotted an’ tangled together; limpelty-lobelty, an’ a gowned i’ gray, while tha could scarce see un thruff tha mist, an’ a come wi’ a sound o’ rinnin’ watter, an’ a sough o’ wind, an’ laughin’ like tha pyewipe screech. Tha wor none so skeered on Tiddy Mun like tha boggarts an’ such hawiver. A worn’t wicked an’ tantrummy like tha watterwives; an’ a worn’t white an’ creepy like tha Dead Hands. But natheless, ’twor sort o’ shivery like when tha set round tha fire, to hear the screechin’ laugh out by the door, passin’ in a skirl o’ wind an’ watter; still tha only pulled in a bit nigher together, an’ lispit wi’ a keek ower tha shouther, “’Arken to Tiddy Mun!”

Mind ye, tha au’d Mun hurted none, nay, a wor real good to un at times. Whan tha year wor geyan wet, and tha watter rose i’ tha marshes, while it creepit up to the doorsill, an’ covered tha pads, come tha fust New Moon, tha feyther an’ mither, an’ a’ tha brats, ud go out i’ tha darklins, an’ lookin’ ower the bog, called out together, thoff mappen a bit skeered an’ quavery like:

“Tiddy Mun, wi’-out a name,
tha watters thruff !”

an’ all holdin’ on togither an’ tremblin’, a’d stan’ shakin’ an’ shiverin’, while tha heerd tha pyewipe screech ’cross tha swamp; ’twor tha au’d Mun’s holla! an’ i’ tha morn, sure ’nough, tha watter ud be doun, an’ tha pads dry. Tiddy Mun a done tha job for un.

What’s that? Ay’ a called ’un Tiddy Mun, for a wor none bigger ’n a three year’s bairn, but a hadn’t rightly no sort of a name—a niver had none. Someday a’ll tell thee how that comed.

So’s a wor sayin’. Tiddy Mun dwelt i’ tha watter-holes, an’ noo tha Dutchies wor a emptyin’ ’em out, while a wor dry as a two year au’d Motherin cake—an’ thou’ll no take much o’ that. Hast heard tha au’d rhyme, as says:


“Tiddy Mun, wi-out a name
White heed, walkin’ lame;
While tha watter teems tha fen
Tiddy Mun ’ll harm nane.”

An’ this wor tha pother! for tha watter-holes wor most dry, an’ tha watter wor drawd off into big dykes, so that tha soppy, quiverin’ bog wor turnin’ in firm molds, an’ wheer’d Tiddy Mun be than? Iverybody said, as ill times wor comin’ for tha Cars.

But, however, tha wor no help for’t; tha Dutchies delved, an’ tha’ Dutchies drawd tha watter off, an’ tha dykes gotten ever langer an’ langer, an’ deeper an’ deeper; tha watter runned away, an’ runned away down to tha river, an’ tha black soft bog-lands ’ud soon be turned to green closin’s.

But thoff tha work gotten done, it wor no’on wi’ out trouble. At the Inn o’ nights, on tha great settle, an’ i’ tha garths, an’ i’ tha kitchens to home, tha lispit strange an’ queer tales, ay dearie me, stra’ange an’ queer, but ’true’s death! an’ tha au’d folk wagged ther heads, an’ tha young uns wagged ther tongues, an’ tha anes thowt, an’ tha ithers said:

“Ay, an’ for sure, it’s ill comes o’ crossin’ Tiddy Mun!” For mark ma words! ’twar first ane, syne anither o’tha Dutchies wor gone, clean sperrited away! not a sight o’ un anywheres! tha sowt for un, an’ sowt for un, but no’on a shadow of un wor iver seen more, an’ tha Car-folk kenned fine, that a’d niver find un, nay, not if a sowt till tha gowden Beasts o’ Judgement come a-roarin’ an’ a rampin’ ower tha land, for to fett tha sinners.

Tiddy Mun a’d fetted un away, an’ drooned un i’ tha mud holes, wheer tha hadn’t drawed off all tha watter! An’ tha Car-folk nodded an’ said:

“Ay, that comed o’ crossin’ Tiddy Mun!”

But tha browt more Dutchies for tha work, an’ thoff Tiddy Mun fetted un, an’ fetted un, tha work gotten on natheless an’ tha wor no help for ’t.

{153} An’ soon tha poor Car-folk kennt that tha au’d Mun wor sore fratched wi iverybody.

For soon a sneepit all i’ turn: tha coos pined, tha pigs starved, an’ tha pownies went lame; tha brats took sick, tha lambs dwined, tha creed meal brunt ’issen, an’ tha new milk craddled; tha thatch fell in, an’ tha walls burst out, an’ all an’ anders went arsy-varsy.

At first tha Car-folk couldna think ’at tha au’d Mun ’ud worritt’s ain people sich an’ away; an’ a thought mayhap ’twor tha witches or tha tod-lowries, as done it. So tha lads stoned tha wall-eyed witch up to Gorby out o’ tha Market-Place, an’ Sally to Wadham wi’ tha Evil Eye, she as charmed the dead men out o’ ther graves, i’ tha kirk garths; tha ducked she in tha horse-pond while a wor most dead; an’ tha all said “our father” back’ards an’ spat to the east to keep tha tod-lowries’ pranks of; but ’twor no’on helping; for Tiddy Mun ’isself wor angered, an’ a wor visitin’ it on ’s poor Car-folks. An’ what could tha do?

The bairns sickened i’ ther mothers’ airms; an’ ther poor white faces niver brightened oop; an’ tha feythers sat an’ smoked, while tha mothers grat, ower tha tiddy innocent babbies lyin’ theer so white an’ smilin’ an’ peaceful. ’Twor like a frost ’at comes an’ kills the bonniest flowers. But tha hearts wor sore, an’ ther stomachs empty, wi’ all this sickness an’ bad harvest an’ what not; an’ somethin’ mun be done, or the Car-folk ’ud soon be a’ deed an’ gone.

Endlins, some ’un minded how, whan tha watters rose i’ tha marshes, afore tha delvin’; an’ tha folk ca’ed out to Tiddy Mun, come New Moon i’ tha darklins; a heerd un an’ did as a wor axed. An’ tha thowt, mappen if tha ca’d un age’an, so’s to show un like, as tha Car-folk wished un well, an’ that a’d give un tha watter back if tha only could—maybe a’d take tha bad spell undone, and forgive ’un again.

So tha fixed ’at tha should a’ meet togither come tha next New Moon doun by tha cross dyke, ly tha au’d stope nigh on to John Ratton’s garth.

{154} Weel, ’twor a reg’lar gath’rin’, there wor au’d Tom o’ tha Hatch an’ Willem, his sister’s son, from Priestrigg; an’ crooked Fred Lidgitt, an’ Brock o’ Hell-gate, an’ Ted Badley, as wor feyther’s brothers to me; an’ lots more on ’em, wi’ women-folk an’ bairns. A’ll no say a warna theer masel, just mappen, thee knawst!

Tha comed i’ threes an’ fowers, joompin’ at ivery sough o’ wind, an’ screechin’ at ivery snag, but tha didn’t need, for tha poor au’d Boggarts an’ Jack o’ Lanterns wor clean delved away. Mebbe ther’s boggarts an’ bogles still, an’ witches an’ things, a dunnot say; but they good au’d times is gone i’ tha marshes, an’ tha poor swamp-bogles mun flit wi’ tha watter an’ a seen ’em go, mysel.

But, hawiver, as a wor sayin, tha comed, every one wi’ a stoup o’ fresh watter in ’s hand; an’ whiles it darkened, tha stood a’ togithur, lispin’ an’ flusterin’, keekin’ i’ tha shades ower tha shouthers, an’ ’arkenin’ oneasy-like to tha skirlin’ o’ tha wind, an’ tha lip-lap o’ tha rinnin’ watter.

Come tha darklins at long last, an’ tha stood all on ’em at tha dyke-edge, an’ lookin ower to tha new River, tha ca’d out a’ togither, stra’ange an’ loud,

“Tiddy Mun, wi-out a name,
Here’s watter for thee, tak’ tha spell undone!”

an’ tha teemed tha watter out o’ tha stoups in tha dyke splash sploppert!

’Twor geyan skeerful, stannin’ holdin’ on togither, i tha stillness. Tha ’arkened wi’ all ther might, to hear if Tiddy Mun answered ’em; but ther wor nothing but on-natral stillness. An’ then, just whan tha thowt ’twor no’on good, ther broke out tha awfullest wailin’ an’ whimperin’ all round about ’em; it comed back’ards an’ for’ards, for all tha world like a lot o’ little cryin’ babbies greetin’ as if to break ther hearts, an’ none to comfort ’em: a sobbed an’ sobbed thersels most quiet, an’ then began again louder ’n ever, wailin’ an moanin’ till a made uns heart ache to hear ’em.

{155} An’ all to wanst the mothers cried out as ’twor ther dead bairns, callin’ on Tiddy Mun to tak tha spell undone, an’ let tha childer live an’ grow strong; an’ tha pore innocents, fleein’ above us i’ tha darklins, moaned an’ whimpered soft-like, as if thea kenned ther mothers’ voices an’ wor tryin’ to reach ther bosom. An’ tha wor women as said ’at tiddy hands ’ad touched ’em, an’ cold lips kissed ’em, an’ soft wings fluttered round ’em that night, as tha stood waitin’ an’ arkenin’ to tha woful greetin’. Then all at once, tha wor stillness agean, an’ tha could hear tha watter lappin’ at ther feet, an’ tha dog ye’ppin’ i’ tha garth. But then comed soft an’ fond-like from tha river hissen, th’ aud pyewipe screech, once an’ again a comed, an’ fortrue, ’twor tha aud man’s holler. An’ tha kenned a’d tak tha spell undone, for ’twor so kind an’ broodlin’ an’ sorry-like as never was.

Ay dearie day! how tha laughed an’ grat together, runnin’ an’ jumpin’ about, like a pack o’ brats comin’ out o’ school, as tha set off home, wi’ light hearts, an’ never a thought on tha boggarts. Only tha mothers thought o’ ther dead babies an’ ther arms felt empty an’ ther hearts lonesome an’ wearyin’ for tha cold kiss an’ tha flutterin’ o’ tha tiddy fingers, an’ tha grat wi’ thinkin’ on ther poor wee bodies, driftin’ aboot i’ tha soughin’ o’ tha night win’.

But fro’ that day, mark ma words! ’twor strange an’ thrivin’ i’ tha Cars. Tha sick bairns gotten well, an’ tha cattle throve, an’ tha bacon-pigs fattened; tha men folk addled good wages, an’ bread wor plenty; fur Tiddy Mun had taken tha bad spell undone. But every New Moon as was, out tha went in tha darklins, to tha gainest dyke-edge, feyther an’ mither an’ brats; an’ tha teemed tha watter i’ tha dyke cryin’,

“Tiddy Mun wi-out a name
Here’s watter for thee!”

An’ tha pyewipe screech ’ud come back, soft and tender an’ pleased. But for certain-sure, if wan o’ un didna go out, {156} c’ep a wor sick, Tiddy Mun missed un, an wor angered wi’ un, an’ laid tha spell on ’un ’arder nor ever; while a went wi’ tha others, come next New Moon, to ax tha spell undone. An’ whan tha bairns wor bad, a tellt un as Tiddy Mun ’ud fett ’em away; an’ a wor good as gold to once, for tha kenned as a’d do it.

But thae days is gone by, an’ folk now ken nowt about un. Ay, faix, is it true for a’ that; a’ve seen un mysel, limpin’ by i’ tha fog, all grey an’ white an’ screechin’ like tha pyewipe, but ’tis lang syne a’s ben by, an’ a’ve teemed tha watter out o’ tha stoup too, but a’m too aud now, thou seest, an’ a cannot walk, since years gone. But a guess Tiddy Mun ’s bin’ frighted away wi’ a’ tha new ways an’ gear, for folk dinna ken un no more, an’ a niver hear say now, as we used to say when a wor young, an’ annybody had a mort o’trouble an’ mischance, an’ wry luck, us said,

“Ah, thou arnt bin out i’ tha New Moon lately, an’ for certain-sure, it’s ill to cross Tiddy Mun wi-out a name!”