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Billy Stidstone

Billy Stidstone

This story appears in a book of 1910:

I dunno if you chaps ever met my Pal, Billy Stidstone. You oughter! You’d cotton to him straight away. ‘E’s a raal good soort is Billy! ‘E’s what the papers call a Filanderpist: ‘E’s all for givin’ of ‘is things away, for doin’ a good turn to poor folk, for ‘elpin lame dogs over stiles. I dunno’ how ’tis but ‘e never can’t ‘elp me. ‘E allus comes out top side of me somehow. ‘E’s my Pal and ‘e’s done ‘is best, but e’s cost me a sight of money fust and last.

Fust time Billy tried to ‘elp me was just afore last Buckfastleigh races – ‘E came to me and ‘e sez “old Pal, I’ve got hold of a raal good thing for you. A friend of mine wants me to lay 3 sovereigns to 1 for ‘im agin old Hero for the Vittler’s Cup, You’ve only got to pick the money up: you puts down 1 sovereign and you takes up 4. It’s a dead cert E’s a grand fencer is old Hero. You may bet your life e’ll never come down.” Well! Billy was right enuf: my sovereign come down but the ‘oss didn’t: ‘e never come nearst the place! – e’ weren’t at the races at all!

Next time as Billy tried to ‘elp me was over that bull terrier of ‘is – “Old Pal” ‘e sez “I’m a givin’ up the fancy – I’ve made a fortune out of dogs and it’s your turn now – It’s these tricky dogs as fetches the money now-a-days. I’ve eddicated ‘im so as ‘ell fetch and carry and trust, and die for Mildmay, and take a chap’s cap off. ‘E’s worth a fiver but you’re my Pal and you shall ‘ave im for a sovereign. – I’m makin’ you a present of 4.” Well I gived ‘im a sovereign for Tackler – but that wasn’t the end of it – Fust trick as he performed was enough for me – I telled ‘im to take a chap’s ‘at off, and ‘e got hold of the poor beggars ear; and what wi’ the compensation, and the doctors bill and givin’ Billy 5 bob to take ‘im back agin there wern’t much profit on Tackler.

Next time as Billy tried to ‘elp me was over ‘is fowls. “Old Pal,” ‘e sez, “I’m given’ up the fancy (that’s the best of Bill, ‘e’s that king ‘earted, ‘e’s allus givin up some fancy for the benefit of ‘is friends) there’s lots of fellers after ’em,” he sez, “but you’re my Pal and you shall have my grand pen of Cup winners;” (I knowed very well the only cups Bill ever won was quarts as ‘e tossed for at the Blue Boar). “I was offered a tenner ‘e sez, “last year, but I cleared £25 with eggs and chickens – I took up to 1000 eggs from those 3 hens, honour bright, and reared 10 broods of chicks besides.” “They must ‘ave laid whiles they was settin,” I sez, “Unless they laid 2 eggs of a day” – “In course they did,” sez ‘e “that’s nought for cup birds: its the soort on ’em! You’ve only got to take away the fresh uns whiles them settin’, and them as ain’t settin’ ‘ill give you one for your breakfast and another for your supper as long as you feeds ’em right.” Well I thought ’twas a proper soort sure enuf so I bought ’em for 50/- but I ain’t fed ’em right yet, for they ain’t begun this year. I reckon they laid that heavy last year they’m a bit weak and tired!

But the wus time I ever ‘ad with Billy was when ‘e ‘elped me at a shootin’ match. Us ‘ad done a bit of poachin’ when us was young and there was our old muzzle loaders a ‘angin’ up over our chimbly pieces. One day Billy comes round and ‘e takes down my old gun and ‘e sez, “I reckon you can’t draw a fine a bead as you could years agone, Johnny.” Now I know’d my old gun was a powerful close shooter – a sight better nor ‘is’, and I thought I seed a way to get a bit of my own back agin’, so I sez “Yes, I can, Billy, and if you’m minded to shoot a match 25 yards, same loads, at a card, I’m your man.” “Right, sez ‘e, and I’ll tell ‘e what we’ll shoot for – We’ve got a pig apiece fit to kill, same litter and all, so the stakes is fair and we’ll shoot fair and I’ll get Charlie Hawk to judge.” Next day there was a sight of people in the backyard of the Blue Boar to see the match. Charley Hawk snapped a cap in the gun to see they was all right, and loaded up from the same powder-flask and shot pouch. I shot fust, and all on ’em thought pig was as good as won. I got 13 shots in the card. Then t’was Billy’s turn and he looked white and skeart (scared) enuf ‘afore ‘e pulled trigger (and no blame to ‘im known’ what ‘e knowed) for ‘is gun went off like the one o’clock gun down to Plymouth and knocked Billy topsy turvey backwards, and the card – well there wern’t  no card! it were fair blowed to pieces – and my pig was lost. I knowed there was foul work some where but I couldn’t prove it. Howsomever a long time after Billy let out one night at the Blue Boar over a glass or two ‘ow t’was done. E’d a loaded is gun wi’ 4 drams of powder and 2 oz. of shot and put a flat ‘edded pin (drawing pin) in the nipple for Charlie to snap the cap on, but ‘e was mortal ‘feart ‘ed bust and kill ‘im with t’other load on top; that’s what made ‘im look so white and skeart.

Well! my mississ was fair mad when she ‘eard about the pig – for t’was ‘er pig. I darsn’t bide in the ‘ouse for the tongue of ‘er! “You’re a gert soft ‘eaded fule (fool) of a man,” she sez “that Billy Stidstone ‘ull bring ‘e to the work’us yet if you don’t give him up. You don’t deserve to ‘ave a ‘ard workin’ ‘onest woman a slavin’ to git good money for sharps like Billy to sneak out of you. But I ain’t done wi’ Billy yet – the pig ain’t gone and ‘e ain’t goin’. I’ll get the pig back right enuf as long as you promise me faithful to give up Billy.” I was a bit mad with ‘im too over the shootin’, cos I know’d ‘e didn’t play fair – so I promised – and she sez, “You can ask ‘im to supper to-morrow night to take ‘is pig, and I’ll see to him.”

Next evenin’ Billy comes round to fetch ‘is pig and my old woman gives ‘im a rare supper of tripe and onions and a gallon of cider, and gets tellin’ with ‘im about old times – what a runner and jumper he was and what a lissome lass she was, and how none on ’em could ever catch her at kiss-in-the-ring – and she sez “They days is gone for you Billy; I reckon you’m too old and fat now to run and jump.” Billy ‘d ‘ad a main drop of cider and I could see as he was gittin’ a bit wicked and ‘e jumps out of ‘is chair and ‘e sez, “I’m none so old and fat but I’ll run and jump any man of my own age.” Don’t you Billy,” she sez, “You’ll only get beat, why anybody could beat you – I’m only and old ‘oman and I could beat you easy.” “I ain’t such a fule,” ‘e sez, “as to run and jump agin an old ‘oman.” “You’re a feart,” she sez: ” No I beant,” sez ‘e. “If you beant,” she sez, “I’ll make a match with you now – There’s 2 pigs in the sty yet – yours and mine – I’ll jump you a match and the winner can have both – You put that walkin’ stick of yours on the floor and I’ll jump over ‘un, and then I’ll put un on the floor and you’ll try and jump over ‘un and who jumps highest wins.”

“You’re an old fule,” sez ‘e, “and I’m sorry you won’t have no bacon this year, but fules is fules, and 2 pigs I’ll drive home better ‘n 1, they’ll go along comfortable.” And ‘e flings stick on the floor and my old ‘oman jumps over ‘un light as a feather. “Now,” she sez, “I’ll put un down for you to jump over,” and she puts un in close agin the wall and she sez, “Jump Billy, tis your turn now.” “Put ‘im out a bit further,” sez Billy, “I can’t jump over un there.” “Nay,” she sez, “I sed I’d put un on floor and I’ve put un on floor you must jump un or leave un.”

Billy seed as ‘e was beat, so ‘e picks up ‘is stick and ‘e sez, “Good night, my dear; I’ll make a bit out of that myself – ’tis fust time I was ever bested – but I ain’t the fust man as was bested by a ‘oman.”

“Good night, Johnny,” ‘e sez, “and mind you stick to your ‘oman like a good boy – ‘ers got more brains nor you!”

That’s how I lost my Pal, Billy Stidstone.” – How I Lost My Pal – pp.153 – 158

Perry-Keene, C .J. 1910 Songs of the Dean Bourn, Bowring and Co., Plymouth.


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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