15 May 2003
Weren't seen any of them near on a year. The triplets. Not that they were triplets. No, not at all. Weren't even all brothers, to tell the truth. John and Samuel, they were. One year apart, and both fine strong men. Went to school with them. Well, nothing much to boast about that, of course. Everyone in the village did, or taught them, or tanned their hides for stealing apples. Things those two used to get up to! Regular devils.
Good lads, though. Always a smile, and a kind word for their mother. And then there was Timothy Wright. Quiet lad, and quieter yet when his da passed. His poor ma couldn't take that, not at all. Just faded away, she did, 'til there was nothing much left but to put her in the ground. Eleven years old, the boy, and a terrible business it was. Wasn't much of a mother to him, but the best of wives. It's worth remembering
So anyway, Timothy Wright was orphaned, and there was some talk of some family or something over east, the other side of the city, but by the time they thought even to get in touch he was over at John and Sam's house three weeks, eating at their table and sleeping in the boys' room. And that was that; they had more than enough food and more than enough money for a third child, that house, and so they did, and they were the triplets. Not a spit of difference between 'em, each from the other. Tall and sturdy as trees, and hair like straw, and never one without the other two.
Surely they did their share of hard work in their father's fields, and their share of drinking at plough's side after the day, but they were all bright lads, and not one fellow with a tankard behind the bar didn't think one or two of them were off to the city.
Still, though, all three. That was a blow to their mother, but they swore they'd be back, and they wrote every week. She read them to Bob Galt's wife, and she told her husband, and before you know it everyone would be toasting their latest successes at the University. Wasn't quite the learning they'd grown big on, their dad used to say, but they couldn't all three run the farm, so why not?
Then five weeks ago the news came through, and then this morning they came back home. Which was a bit of a shock, although my sister Emma met Timothy on the big street and he'd said they wouldn't be staying long. Not long at all. They'd lost weight, she said, and they were wearing the strangest caps. But she didn't like to ask if they'd got them in the city. I say, would you? And there wasn't hide nor hair after that; they were up at the house till after dinner. Still, surprised we were, though, when they walked into the snug that night.
"Evening," said Sam, and pointed to his tankard. "Might want to give that a bit of a rinse, lover."
Well, that broke the ice, and before you knew it they were just as they always were - laughing, joking, exchanging those little looks. They told us about the city, and what they'd been up to, and we caught them up with all the doings in the village. All a bit dull for them, maybe, but they did keep asking about everyone, remembered every name. And then we all settled down and fell to drinking. Went a bit cold, though, when Nick Croft asked if they'd seen any of his little sister Jenny, who'd gone down to the city not much after. And one of those looks again. Felt like they'd never speak a word again if there wasn't another in the room.
"Oh, Jenny," said Samuel, but it might have been John, with the dark and the ale. "We took her out for a drink soon after she arrived. She wasn't used to wine, and we dosed her with spirits. Then we snuck her into our lodgings and took turns. Next day she was so sick she messed her clothes, and we chucked her out before dawn. Timothy held that over her a few times; he has funny tastes. Jonny and me, we thought she was a drabe. Good fun, though."
Well, snug went quiet. Then Timothy spoke up.
"We're not boasting. Not confessing either, really. We're just...we're disinterested now, you see. She's a brave girl, though, Nick. Not saying you should be proud, like. But still, eh."
Nick was pretty good about it, really. Said later he thought swinging for them might have broken a rule or something. But I had to ask.
"So, did you get up to much, then?"
Three shrugs. "Enough, probably, for young 'uns."
"And you....kept your place?"
Quiet Jonny, the eldest, gave that big half-cut smile of his and spread his fingers wide on the table.
"We went where we went to. And we'll be going back soon. Come on, you two. Early start tomorrow."
And that was the last we saw. They were gone before cockcrow. And their mother wasn't any the better for seeing them. Wore black till she died.