The Wise Woman’s Bedtime Prayer:
“Four newks in this house, for haly Angels,
A post in the midst, that’s Christ Jesus,
Lucas, Marcus, Matthew, Joannes,
God be into this house, and all that belongs us.”
I first met Tibb nigh-on twenty years ago, near Gouldshey stone-pit. He came to me in the shape of a lad, dressed up all fancy in a black and brown coat. I thought he was some young master who’d got himself lost ’til he beckoned me over and demanded, “Give me thy soul!”
“Why would I do that?” I asked him, staring at the face of a fallen angel.
“If ye do, thou can have all thy wants,” says he.
I thought on his words and requested he utter his name.
“Tibb,” he told me – and I knew then it was a spirit or devil stood afore me.
I pondered the offer. Such a promise was mighty tempting indeed – and so I verily agreed.
Most folk don’t know much about my best mate Kate Hewitt. Everyone round here calls her Mouldheel’s Wife as she’s wed to John Hewitt of Colne. He’s a weaver in Waterside – a slippery knave, and not much to look at either. I know he bulks out his cloth with tallow. You can tell from the shine, even afore the mould starts growing. And each time there’s an official complaint they’ve to pack up shop and move on.
For a while they lived here, in Barley. It was years ago, when all our bairns were just scraps. That’s when Kate came and asked me to cure her rabbits. She raises them like chickens until they’re firm and plump and then wrings their necks for market. But that year summat made the whole bunch sick, and it was a couple of weeks afore I worked out a cure. Then she was that glad I’d saved the kits she invited our lot to supper – treated us more decent than anyone outside of the clan ever had – and we became friends.
When me and Ali were arrested, Lizzie invited Kate (and her neighbor Alice Gray) to the Good Friday gathering at Malkin Tower, to see if they’d any suggestions for getting us free. They came on Alice’s ponies, which is likely why she was asked along in the first place. I don’t know much about Goodwife Gray, except for the rumor a while back that she fell out with some lot at Folds Farm and was accused of putting their young lass in hanck. Now I’m told both women have been arrested, I’ll warrant on account of some old scores that needed settling.
I hope they put Kate in the Well Tower so we can find out what’s been going on out there. It won’t seem quite so grim if my mate’s in here with us too.
After Our Ali lamed that peddler in Colne they came for me. I told the justice about that lot over at West Close, and afore we knew what’d happened we were rounded up and sent to Lancaster – me, Ali, Old Chattox, and Anne Redferne.
Lizzie and Chris called a meeting of the locals. They even invited Bessie Whittle, since her mum and sister were also in the Well Tower. They summoned up all those neighbors who owed us favors to find who’d been named, and to chat about what might be done for them.
This gathering took place last Good Friday at Malkin Tower. I’m told two dozen souls or more came, and Jim stole a sheep from Barley so they’d have mutton for roasting on the outside spit. Someone suggested trying to rescue us, but that was a daft notion as you’d need gunpowder or summat to blast through walls this thick! So common sense won out, and they ended up making a list of who’d bring our food here each market day, instead.
Now Constable Hargreaves is going round telling folk that this gathering was a secret sabbat – a great assembly of witches – and that everyone who attended it is in league with demons.
What do YOU think they were up to?
Let me tell you a bit about that lot over at Hay Booth. Folks round here usually call them The Holgates as they all look that much alike even I’ve to squint to tell one from the other. Christopher and Isobel have four bairns – three strapping lads and one lass. Nick’s the eldest, then there’s Eddie, Will and Gracie. They’ve all got their mum’s curly black hair and mass of freckles, which is fine for the boys but doesn’t sit well on the wench. Gracie’s not a patch on our Ali. Never will be.
I don’t have much to do with the lads. Issy does her damnedest to keep them away from Malkin Tower as she’s worried they might turn out like our Jim. Nick must be close to twenty-or-so now, and being the tallest everyone calls him the Big Holgate. He helps his dad out in the pasture most of the time and has the makings of a grand shepherd, which is just as well as he’ll likely inherit the farm one of these days. He’s a serious lad, thoughtful and steady – but different to Eddie as chalk from cheese – which is odd being that there’s only a year between them.
Eddie’s the one that lands up in bother. You’ll find him on a treebranch or in a scrap with one o’ the local lads – and mischief should be his nickname, instead of Holly. When someone says that Holgate lad he’s the first one you think of because he’s always mixed up in summat or other. He’s the best looking of the clan and has already got quite an eye for the lassies, or so I’ve been told.
Next comes Will, the one we’re all pinning our hopes to complete his apprenticeship as a cooper in Lancaster. He’s known as T’other Holgate. Will’s got a rare talent with wood and he’s dead good at mending our Great Wheel whenever one of the spokes gets stuck or broke. I think he’s the most like Isobel, though I don’t know if he’s got half her ambition or business head. I’ll warrant they’ll just have to wait and see.
And then there’s Gracie. Most folk don’t realize she’s my granddaughter as she’s not a bit like Ali or Jenny. It’s a good job she can spin and dye wool as her chances in wedlock are slim, and she’s none o’ my cunning. Shame is, she tries so hard. Ali teases her all the time, and because they’re best mates the foolish wench takes no notice o’ what’s being said. I’ve given up trying to teach her aught. I think there’s too much of Issy’s church teachings got through and the lass can’t bring herself to do what needs doing.
Perhaps because she’s going to Confirmation instruction our Gracie’s not been named in the witch hunts. But I half expect she might join us here in the castle afore we’re done. I wonder if she knows where Jenny is?
Well ta for visiting and here’s your reward: Wear brown for good health and a happy hearth!