Mad Martha Roby’s as bony and brown as any Romany I ever laid eyes on, though she’s riddled with the Pox. She and her lass Belle live rough in a cave, some place at the back of Fell Woods. Belle’s the young slattern Our Jim took a fancy to.
I know Martha can’t show her face in town – been banned ever since she caught the French Disease off some soldier a good few years back – so they scrape by from begging. Then Belle got hired by the swineherd at Roughlee Hall and filches the best scraps of meat from the pigs. But since she’s been sent to the castle alongside Jim, I wonder how Martha’s coping.
Ali’s got no time for either of them. She says Martha’s moonstruck – away with the fairies – as mad as the locals claim. And Belle’s a simple soul. Ali hates how free that wench is with her favors. She’ll lift her smock for aught that’s shiny or worth eating. But they don’t get Ali that cheap!
(Picture: Matthijs Maris)
I hear tell they’ve also arrested the Bulcocks – Jane her lad Big John, o’fMoss End Farm. They’re not down here with our lot either, so they must’ve bartered the mistress’ fancy broach for finer lodgings. That diamond pin will like be the death of them both. It certainly caught ourJenny’s green eye, and earned her a rare old thrashing.
Still, that light-fingered lassie did find out summat I never knew. Turns out, Mistress Bulcock’s great granddad was a knight, made Lord of the Realm for his service to the old King Henry. That’s how they got the diamond – for saving His Majesty’s life in the Battle of the Spurs at Guinegate. After Jane’s grandma died whelping their only daughter, he re-wed. But when he passed away afore his new wife, everything went to her side of the family, except the farm. And the pin Jane got as a keep-sake.
Now our Jenny loves aught shiny. She couldn’t keep her grubby paws off that broach, and a whole heap of bother it caused. They took pity on the lass being just a bairn – but if me or Lizzie or Jim had filched summat that costly we’d have swung from the nearest crossbeam for sure.
Yet here they are in the castle accused as witches! I’ve never heard aught so daft in all my born days. Jane Bulcock was one of my patrons, aye, but a wise woman herself? It’s utter nonsense. Then again, happen the jailers are merely baiting us. Let’s wait up and see.
Pssst! Wear silver today for good luck.
I’ll warrant you’re curious what Mistress Nutter’s doing here at the castle. I haven’t the foggiest notion. All I can say is they didn’t put her down in the Well Tower with us lot. She’s paid handsome for a room above ground, waiting for the Justice to come to his senses. I expect she’ll hire some fancy lawman from London, and that the governor won’t be keeping her long.
I knew Mistress Nutter as a bairn, back when she was Alice Whitaker, though that must be nigh-on sixty years ago now. We all stood outside the church as she wedded Master Richard, and our Lizzie and me helped birth her last lad Myles, who came out backwards.
You can tell she’s well-placed just by looking at her alongside my lass. Alice is a good ten years older than Lizzie, but you’d swear she was the youngster of the pair. Of course, she’s grown a bit stouter over the years, yet was ever grand and tidy. Her chestnut hair’s now faded to ash and her lips are thinner, which makes her seem fussy and cold. Yet for all that, there’s many-a grateful pauper in Pendle who’ll not hear a word said against her. We’ve all known her charity at one time or another, and I can’t for the life of me fathom who’d point a finger at that kindly soul. But someone must have a grudge to bear otherwise she’s still be at Crowtrees Farm . . . which just goes to show that we’ve all got enemies.
So you’d best wear white today. For protection.