The Barrel Organ

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        Owd shoon an' stockins,
An' slippers at's made o' red leather!
        Come, Betty, wi' me,
        Let's shap to agree,
An' hutch of a cowd neet together.

        "Mash-tubs and barrels!
A mon connot olez be sober
        A mon connot sing
        To a bonnier thing
Nor a pitcher o' stingin' October."

    "Jenny, my lass," said owd Nanny o' Twister's, "see who it is ut's singin'.  It's oather 'Skedlock ' or 'Nathan o' Dangler's.' "

    Jenny peeped through the kitchen window of the old farmhouse, and said, "It's Skedlock.  He's lookin' at th' turmits i'th' garden.  Little Joseph's wi' him.  They're comin' in.  Joseph's new clogs on."

    Skedlock came shouldering slowly forward into the cottage, a tall, strong, bright-eyed man, of fifty.  His long, massive features were embrowned by habitual exposure to the weather, and he wore the mud-stained fustian dress of a quarryman.  He was followed by a healthy lad, about twelve years of age, a kind of pocket-copy of himself.  They were as like one another as a new shilling and an old crown-piece.  The lad's dress was of the same kind as his father's, and he seemed to have studiously acquired the same cart-horse gait, as if his limbs were as big and as stark as his father's.

    "Well, Skedlock," said Nanny, " thae's getten Joseph witho, I see.  Does he go to schoo yet?"

    "Nay; he reckons to worch i'th' delph wi' me, neaw."

    "Nay, sure.  Does he get ony wage?"

    "Nawe," replied Skedlock; "he's drawn his wage wi' his teeth, so fur.  But he's larnin', yo known he's larnin'.  Where's yo'r Jone?  I want to see him abeawt some plants."

    "Well," said Nanny, "sit tho down a minute.  Hasto no news?  Thae'rt seldom short of a crack."

    "Nay," said Skedlock, scratching his rusty pate, "aw don't know 'at aw've aught fresh."  But when he had looked into the fire for a minute or so, his brown face lighted up with a smile, and drawing a chair, he said, "Howd, Nanny; han yo yerd what a do they had at th' owd chapel, yesterday?"


    "Eh, dear! . . . Well, yo known, they'n had a deal o' bother about music up at that chapel, this year or two back.  Yo'n bin a singer yo'rsel, Nanny, i' yo'r young days never a better."

    "Eh, Skedlock," said Nanny; "aw use't to think I could ha' done a bit, forty year sin an' I could, too though I say it mysel.  I remember goon' to a oratory once, at Bury.  Deborah Travis wur theer, fro Shay.  Eh! when aw yerd her sing 'Let the Bright Seraphim,' aw gav in.  Isherwood wur theer; an' her at's Mrs. Wood neaw; an' two or three fro Yawshur road on.  It wur th' grand'st sing 'at ever I wur at i' my life. . . . Eh, I's never forget th' practice neets 'at we use't to have at Owd Israel Grindrod's.  Johnny Brello wur one on 'em.  He's bin deead a good while. . . . That's wheer I let of our Sam.  He sang bass at that time. . . . Poor Johnny!  He's bin deead aboon five-an'-forty year, neaw."

    "Well, but, Nanny," said Skedlock, laying his hand on the old woman's shoulder, "yo known what a hard job it is to keep th' bant i'th' nick wi' a rook o' musicianers.  They cap'n the world for begin' diversome an' bad to plez.  Well, as I wur sayin' they'n had a deeal o' trouble about music this year or two back, up at th' owd chapel.  Th' singers fell out wi' th' players.  They mostly dun do.  An' th' players did everything they could to plague th' singers.  They're so like.  But yo may have a like aim, Nanny, what mak' o' harmony they get out o' sich wark as that.  An' then, when Joss o' Piper's geet his wage raise't five shillin' a year Dick o' Liddy's said he'd ha' moor, too, or else he'd sing no moor at that shop.  He're noan beawn to be snape't wi' a tootlin' whipper-snapper like Joss a bit of a bow-legged whelp, twenty year yunger nor hissel.  Then there wur a crack coom i' Billy Tootle bassoon; an' Billy stuck to't that some o'th' lot had done it for spite.  An' there were sick fratchin' an' cabals among 'em as never wur known. An' they natters, an' brawlt, an' played one another o maks o' ill-contrive't tricks.  Well, yo' may guess, Nanny――

    "One Sunday mornin', just afore th' service began, some o'th' singers slipt a pepper-box, an a hawp'oth o' grey peighs an' two young rattons into old Thwittler double-bass; an' as soon as he began a-playin', th' little things squeak't an' scutter's about i'th' inside, till they thrut o out o' tune.  Th' singers couldn't get forrud for laughin'.  One on 'em whisper's to Thwittler, an' axed him if his fiddle had getten th' bally-warche.  But Thwittler never spoke a word.  His senses wur leavin' him very fast.  At last, he geet so freeten't, that he chuck't th' fiddle down, an' darted out o'th' chapel, beawt hat; an' off he ran whoam, in a cowd sweet, wi' his yure stickin' up like a cushion-full o' stockin'-needles.  An' he bowted straight through th' heawse, an' reet upstairs to bed, wi' his clooas on, beawt sayin' a word to chick or chighlt.  His wife watched him run through th' heawse; but he darted forrud, an' took no notice o' nobody.  'What's up now,' thought Betty; an' hoo ran after him.  When hoo geet upstairs th' owd lad had getten croppen into bed; an' he wur ill'd up, o'er th' yed.  So Betty turned th' quilt deawn, an' hoo said 'Whatever's to do witho, James?'  'Howd te noise,' said Thwittler, pooin' th' clooas o'er his yed again, 'howd te noise!  I'll play no moor at yon shop!'  an' th' bed fair wackert again; he're i' sich a fluster.  'Mun I make tho a saup o' gruel?' said Betty.  'Gruel be!' said Thwittler, poppin' his yed out o'th' blankets.  Didto ever yer ov onybody layin' the devil wi' meighlporritch?'  An' then he poo'd th' blanket o'er his yed again.  'Where's thi fiddle?' said Betty.  But as soon as Thwittler yerd th' fiddle name't, he gave a wild shrike, an' crope lower down into bed."

    "Well, well," said the old woman, laughing, and laying her knitting down, "aw never yerd sich a tale i' my life."

    "Stop, Nanny," said Skedlock, "yo'st yer it out, now.

    "Well, yo seen, this mak o' wark went on fro week to week, till everybody geet weary on it; an' at last, th' chapel-wardens summoned a meetin' to see if they couldn't raise a bit o' daycent music, for Sundays, beawt o' this trouble.  An' they talked back an' forrud about it a good while.  Turn o'th' Dingle recommended 'em to have a Jew's harp, an' some triangles.  But Bobby Nooker said, 'That's no church music!  Did onybody ever yer "Th' Owd Hundred" played upov a triangle?'  Well, at last they agreed that th' best way would be to have some sort of a barrel-organ one o' thoose that they winden up at th' side, an' then they play'n o' theirsel, beawt ony fingerin' or blowin'.  So they order'd one made, wi' some favour-ite tunes in 'Burton,' and 'Liddy,' an' 'French,' an' 'Owd York,' an' sich like.  Well, it seems that Robin o' Sceawter's, th' carrier his feather went by th' name o' 'Cowd an' Hungry;' he're a quarryman by trade; a long, hard, brown-lookin' felley, wi' e'en like gig-lamps, an' yure as strung as a horse's mane.  He looked as if he'd bin made out o' owd dur-latches an' reawsty nails.  Robin, th' carrier, is his owdest lad; an' he favvurs a chap ut's bin brought up o' yirth-bobs an scaplins.  Well, it seems that Robin brought this box-organ up fro th' town in his cart o'th' Friday neet; an' as luck would have it, he had to bring a new weshin'-machine at th' same time, for owd Isaac Buckley, at th' Hollins Farm.  When he geet th' organ in his cart, they towd him to be careful an' keep it th' reet side up; and he wur to mind an' not shake it mich, for it wur a thing that wur yezzy thrut eawt o' flunters.  Well, I think Robin mun ha' bin fuddle't or summat that neet.  But I dunnot know; for he's sich a bowster-yed, mon, that aw'll be sunken if aw think he knows th' difference between a weshin'-machine an' a church organ, when he's at th' sharpest.  But let that leet as it will.  What dun yo think but th' blunderin' foo, at after o' that had bin said to him, went and 'liver't th' weshin'-machine at th' church, an' th' organ at th' Hollins Farm."

    "Well, well," said Nanny, that wur a bonny come off, shuz heaw.  But how wenten they on at after?"

    "Well, I'll tell yo, Nanny," said Skedlock.  "Th' owd clerk wur noan in when Robin geet to th' dur wi' his cart that neet, so his wife coom wi' a leet in her hond, an' said, 'Whatever hasto getten for us this time, Robert?'  'Why,' said Robin, 'it's some mak of a organ.  Where win yo ha't put, Betty?'  'Eh, I'm fain thae's brought it,' said Betty.  'It's for th' chapel; an' it'll be wanted for Sunday.  Sitho, set it deawn i' this front reawm here; an' mind what thae'rt doin' with it.'  So Robin, an' Barfoot Sam, an' Little Wamble, 'at looks after th' horses at 'Th' Rompin' Kitlin',' geet it eawt o'th' cart.  When they geet how'd ont, Robin said, 'Neaw lads; afore yo starten: Mind what yo'r doin'; an' be as ginger as yo con.  That's a thing 'ut's soon thrut eawt o' gear it's a organ.'  So they hove, an' poo'd, an' grunted, an' thrutch't, till they geet it set down i'th' parlour; an' they pretended to be quite knocked up wi' th' job.  'Betty,' said Robin, wipin' his face wi' his sleeve, it's bin dry weather latly.'  So th' owd lass took th' hint, an' fotched 'em a quart o' ale.  While they stood i'th' middle o'th' floor suppin' their ale, Betty took th' candle an' went a-lookin' at this organ and hoo couldn't tell whatever to make on it. . . . Did'n yo ever see a weshin'-machine, Nanny?"

    "Never i' my life," said Nanny.  Nor aw dunnot want.  Gi me a greight mug, an' some breawn swoap, an' plenty o' soft wayter; an' yo may tak yo'r machines for me."

    "Well," continued Skedlock, "it's moor liker a grindlestone nor a organ.  But, as I were tellin' yo:

    "Betty stare't at this thing, an' hoo walked round it an' scrat her yed mony a time, afore hoo ventur't to speak.  At last hoo said, 'Aw'll tell tho what, Robert; it's a quare-shaped 'un.  It favvurs a yung mangle!  Doesto think it'll be reet?  'Reet?' said Robin, swipin' his ale off, 'oh, aye; it's reet enough.  It's one of a new pattern, at's just come'd up.  It's o reet, Betty.  Yo may see that bith hondle.'  'Well,' said Betty, if it's reet, it's reet.  But it's noan sich a nice-lookin' thing for a church that isn't!'  Th' little lass wur i'th' parlour at th' same time; an' hoo said, 'Yes.  See yo, mother.  I'm sure it's right.  You must turn this here handle; and then it'll play.  I seed a man playin' one yesterday; an' he had a monkey with him, dressed like a soldier.'  'Keep thy little rootin' fingers off that organ,' said Betty.  'Theaw knows nought about music.  That organ musn't be touched till thi father comes whoam,mind that, neaw. . . . But, sartinly,' said Betty, takin' th' candle up again, 'A cannot help lookin' at this thing.  It's sich a quare un.  It looks like summat belongin' maut-grindin', or summat o' that.'  'Well,' said Robin, 'it has a bit o' that abeawt it, sartainly. . . . . But yon find it's o reet.  They're awterin' o' their organs to this pattern, neaw.  I believe they're for sellin' th' organ at Manchester owd church, so as they can ha' one like this.'  'Thou never says!' said Betty.  'Yigh,' said Robin, it's true, what I'm telling yo.  But aw mun be off, Betty.  Aw've to go to th' Hollins to-neet, yet.'  'Why, arto takin' thame summate?'  'Aye; some mak of a new-fangle't machine, for weshin' shirts an' things.'  'Nay, sure!' said Betty.  'A'll tell tho what, Robert; they're goin' said on at a great rate up at tat shop.'  'Aye, aye,' said Robin.  'Mon, there's no end to some folk's pride, till they come'n to th' floor; an' then there isn't, sometimes.'  'There isn't, Robert; there isn't.  An' I'll tell tho what; thoose lasses o' theirs, they're as proud as Lucifer.  They're donned more like mountebanks' foos, nor gradely folk, wi' their father's hats, an' their fleawnces, an' their hoops, an' things.  Aw wonder how they can for shame o' their face.  A lot o' mee-mawing snickets!  But they're no better nor porritch, Robert, when they're looked up.'  'Not a bit, Betty, not a bit!  But I mun be off.  Good neet to yo.'  'Good neet, Robert,' said Betty.  An' away he went wi' th' cart up to th' Hollins."

    "Aw'll tell tho what, Skedlock," said Nanny; "that woman's a terrible tung!"

    "Aye, hoo has," replied Skedlock; "an' her mother wur th' same.  But, let me finish my tale, Nanny, an' then ――

    "Well, it wur pitch dark when Robin geet to th' Hollins farmyard wi' his cart.  He gav a ran-tan at th' back dur wi' his whip-hondle; and when th' little lass coom with a candle, he said, "Aw've getten a weshin'-machine for yo.'  As soon as th' little lass yerd that, hoo darted off, tellin' o' th' house that th' new weshin'-machine wur come'd.  Well, yo known, they'n five daughters; an' very cliver, honsome, tidy lasses they are, too, as what owd Betty says.  An' this news brought 'em o' out o' their nooks in a fluster.  Owd Isaac wur sit i'th' parlour, havin' a glass wi' a chap that he'd bin sellin' a cowt to.  Th' little lass went bouncin' into th' reawm to him; an' hoo said, 'Eh, father, th' new weshin'-machine's come'd!'  'Well, well,' said Isaac, pattin' her o'th' yed; go thi ways an' tell thi mother.  Aw'm no wesher.  Thae never sees me weshin', doesto?  I bought it for yo lasses; an' yo mun look after it yorsels.  Tell some o'th' men to get it into th' wesh-house.'  So they had it carried into th' wesh-house; an' when they geet it unpacked they were quite astonished to see a grand, shinin' thing; made o' rosewood, an' cover't wi' glitterin' kerly-berlys.  Th' little lass clapped her hands, an' said, 'Eh, isn't it a beauty!'  But th' owd'st daughter looked hard at it, an' hoo said, 'Well, this is th' strangest weshin'-machine that I ever saw!'  'Fetch a bucket o' water,' said another, 'an' let's try it!'  But they couldn't get it oppen, whatever they did; till, at last, they fund some keigh, lapt in a piece of breawn paper.  Here they are,' said Mary.  Mary's th' owd'st daughter, yo known.  Here they are;' an' hoo potter't an' rooted abeawt, tryin' these keighs, till hoo fund one that fitted at th' side, an' hoo twirled it round an' round till hoo'd wund it up; an' then yo may guess how capt they wur, when it started a-playin' a tune.  'Hello!' said Robin.  'A psaum-tune, bith mass!  A psaum-tune eawt ov a weshin'-machine!  Heave's that?'  An' he star't like a throttled cat. 'Nay,' said Mary, 'I cannot tell what to make o' this!'  Th' owd woman wur theer, an' hoo said, 'Mary; Mary, my lass, thou's gone an' spoilt it the very first thing, theaw has.  Theaw's bin tryin' th' wrong keigh, mon; thou has, for sure.  Try another keigh.  Turn th' washin' on, an' stop that din, do.'  Then Mary turned to Robin, an' hoo said, 'What-ever sort of a machine's this, Robin?'  'Nay,' said Robin, 'I dunnot know, beawt it's one o' thoose at's bin made for washin' surplices.'  But Robin begun a-smellin' a rat; an', as he didn't want to ha' to tak' it back th' same neet, he pik't off out at th' dur while they wur hearkenin' th' music; an' he drove whoam as fast as he could goo.  In a minute or two th' little lass went dancin' into th' parlour to owd Isaac again, an' hoo cried out, 'Father you must come here this minute!  Th' washin'-machine's playin' "Th' Owd Hundred!"  'It's what?' cried Isaac, layin' his pipe down.  It's playin' "Th' Owd Hundred!"  It is for sure!  Oh, it's beautiful!  Come on!'  An' hoo tugged at his lap to get him into th' wesh-house.  Then th' owd woman coom in, and hoo said, 'Isaac, whatever i' the name o' fortin' hasto bin blunderin' an' doin' again?  Come thi ways an' look at this machine thae's bought us.  It caps me if yon yowling divle 'll do ony washin'.  Thae surely doesn't want to ha' thi shirt set to music, doesto?  Thou'll ha' thi breeches agate o' singin' next.  We'n noise enough i' this hole beawt yon startin' or skrikin'.  Thae'll ha' th' house full o' fiddlers an' doancers in a bit.'  'Well, well,' said Isaac, aw never yerd sich a tale i' my life!  Yo'n bother't me a good while about a piano; but if we'n getten a weshin'-machine that plays church music, we're set up, wi' a rattle!  But aw'll come an' look at it.'  An' away he went to th' wesh-house, wi' th' little lass pooin' at him, like a kitlin' drawin' a stone-cart.  Th' owd woman followed him, grumblin' o th' road, ― 'Isaac, this is what comes on tho stoppin' so lat' i'th' town of a neet.  There's olez some blunderin' job or another.  Aw lippen on tho happenin' a sayrious mischoance, some o' these neets.  I towd tho mony a time.  But thae tays no moor notis o' me nor if aw're a milestone, or a turmit, or summat.  A mon o' thy years should have a bit o' sense.'  'Well, well,' said Isaac, hobblin' off, 'do howd thi din, lass!  I'll go an' see what ails it.  There's olez summat to keep one's spirits up, as Ab o' Slender's said when he broke his leg.'  But as soon as Isaac see'd th' weshin'-machine, he brast eawt a-laughin', an' he said: 'Hello!  Why this is th' church organ!  Who's brought it?'  'Robin o' Sceawter's.'  'It's just like him.  Where's th' maunderin' foo gone to?'  'He's off whoam.'  'Well,' said Isaac, let it stop where it is.  There'll be somebody after this i'th' mornin'.'  An' they had some rare fun th' next day, afore they geet these things swapt to their gradely places.  However, th' last thing o' Saturday neet th' weshin'-machine wur brought up fro th' clerk's, an' th' organ wur takken to th' chapel."

    "Well, well," said th' owd woman; "they geet 'em reet at the end of o, then?"

    "Aye," said Skedlock; "but aw've noan done yet, Nanny."

    "Wha were'n they noan gradely sorted, then, at after o?"

    "Well," said Skedlock, "I'll tell yo.

    "As I've yerd th' tale, this new organ wur tried for th' first time at mornin' service, th' next day.  Dick-o-Liddy's, th' bass singer, wur pik't eawt to look after it, as he wur an' owd hond at music; an' th' parson would ha' gan him a bit of a lesson, th' neet before, how to manage it like.  But Dick reckon't that nobody'd no 'cation to larn him nought belongin' sich like things as thoose.  It wur a bonny come off if a chap that had been a noted bass singer five-and-forty year, an' could tutor a claronet wi' ony mon i' Rosenda Forest, couldn't manage a box-organ, beawt bein' teyched wi' a parson.  So they gav him th' keys, and leet him have his own road.  Well, o' Sunday forenoon, as soon as th' first hymn wur gan out, Dick whisper's round to th' folk i'th' singin'-pew, 'Now for't!  Mind yor hits!  Aw'm beawn to set it agate!'  An' then he went an' wun th' organ up, an' it started a-playin' 'French;' an' th' singers followed, as weel as they could, in a slattery sort of a way.  But some on 'em didn't like it.  They reckon't that they made nought o' singin' to machinery.  Well, when th' hymn wur done, th' parson said, 'Let us pray,' an' down they went o' their knees.  But just as folk wur gettin' their e'en nicely shut, an' their faces weel hud i' their hats, th' organ banged off again, wi' th' same tune.  ''Hello!' said Dick, jumpin' up, 'th' divle's off again, bi th' mass!'  Then he darted at th' organ; an' he rooted about wi' th' keys, tryin' to stop it.  But th' owd lad wur i' sich a fluster, that istid o' stoppin' it, he swapped th' barrel to another tune.  That made him warse nor ever.  Owd Thwittler whisper's to him, 'Thire, Dick thae's shapt that nicely!  Give it another twirl, owd bird!'  Well, Dick sweat, an' futter't about till he swapped th' barrel again.  An' then he looked round th' singin'-pew, as helpless as a kitlin'; an' he said to th' singers, 'Whatever mun aw do, folk?' an' tears coom into his e'en.  'Roll it o'er,' said Thwittler.  'Come here, then,' said Dick.  So they roll't it o'er, as if they wanted to teem th' music out on it, like ale out of a pitcher.  But the organ yowlt on; and Dick went wur and wur.  'Come here, yo singers,' said Dick, come here; let's sit us down on't!  Here, Sarah; come, thee; thou'rt a fatten!'  An' they sit 'em down on it; but o wur no use.  Th' organ wur reet ony end up; an' they couldn't smoor th' sound.  At last Dick gave in; an' he leant o'er th' front o'th' singin'-pew, wi' th' sweat runnin' down his face; an' he sheawted across to th' parson, 'Aw cannot stop it!  I wish yo'd send somebry up.'  Just then owd Pudge, th' bang-beggar, coom runnin' into th' pew, an' he fot Dick a souse at back o'th' yed wi' his pow, an' he said, 'Come here, Dick; thou'rt a foo.  Tak howd; an' let's carry it eawt.'  Dick whisked round an' rubbed his yed, an' he said, 'Aw say, Pudge, keep that pow to thisel', or else I'll send my shoon against thoose ribbed stockin's o' thine.'  But he went an' geet howd, an' him an' Pudge carried it into th' chapel-yard, to play itsel' out o'th' open air.  An' it yowit o'th' way as they went, like a naughty lad bein' turn't out of a reawm for cryin'.  Th' parson waited till it wur gone; an' then he went on wi' th' service.  When they set th' organ down o'th' chapel-yard, owd Pudge wiped his foryed, an' he said, 'By th' mass, Dick, thae'll get th' bag for this job.'  'Whau, what for?' said Dick.  Aw've no skill of sick like squallin' boxes as this.  If they'd taen my advice, an' stick's to th' bass fiddle, aw could ha stopt that ony minute.  It has made me puff, carryin' that thing.  I never once thought that it'd start again at after th' hymn wur done.  Eh, I wur some mad!  If aw'd had a shool-full o' smo' coals i' my hond, aw'd ha chuck's 'em into't. . . . Yer, tho', how it's grindin' away just th' same as nought wur.  Aye, thae may weel play "Th' Owd Hundred," divvleskin.  Thae's made a funeral o' me this mornin'. . . . But, aw say, Pudge; th' next time at there's aught o' this sort agate again, aw wish thee'd be as good as keep that pow o' thine to thysel', wilto?  Thae's raised a nob at th' back o' my yed th' size of a duck-egg; an' it'll be twice as big by mornin'.  How would yo like me to slap tho o'th' chops wi' a stockin'-full o' slutch, some Sunday, when thae'rt swaggerin' at front o'th' parson?'

    While they stood talkin' this way, one o'th' singers coom runnin' out oath' chapel bare-yed, an' he shouted out, 'Dick, thae'rt wanted, this minute!  Where's that pitch-pipe?  We'n gated wrang twice o' ready!  Come in, wi tho'!  'By th' mass,' said Dick, dartin' back; 'I'd forgetten o about it.  I'se never seen through this job, to my deein' day.'  An' off he ran, an' laft owd Pudge sit upo' th' organ, grinnin' at him. . . . That's a nice do, isn't it, Nanny?"

    "Eh," said the old woman, "I never yerd sich a tale i' my life.  But thae's made part o' that out o' th' owd yed, Skedlock."

    "Not a word," said he; "not a word.  Yo han it as I had it, Nanny; as near as I can tell."

    "Well," replied she, "how did they go on at after that?"

    "Well," said he, "I haven't time to stop to-neet, Nanny; I'll tell yo some time else.  I thought Jone would ha' bin here by now.  He mun ha' co'de at 'Th' Rompin' Kitlin'; but I'll look in as I go by."

    "I wish thou would, Skedlock.  An' dunnot go an' keep him, now; send him forrud whoam."

    "I will, Nanny I dunnot want to stop, mysel'.  Con yo lend me a lantron?"

    "Sure I can.  Jenny, bring that lantron; an' leet it.  It'll be two hours afore th' moon rises.  It's a fine neet, but it's dark."

    When Jenny brought the lantern, I bade Nanny "Good night," and took advantage of Owd Skedlock's convoy down the broken paths, to the high road in the valley.  There we parted; and I had a fine starlight walk to "Th' Top o'th' Hough" on that breezy October night.




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