30th November 1830

The women in our family have ever been strong, determined bodies, with an independence of spirit that brooks servitude to no man – and indeed explains, perhaps ,the absence of any but those on the distaff side in our home when I was growing up. 'Twas not to be wondered at then, that my mother and my grandam were loud in condemnation when I first went for to be a scullery maid and enter into Service.

Yet after the recent troubles which have spread across the land, and indeed the events of the past se'enet I hazard they would reck my decision anew were either of them alive today.

For to-day has Eliza come in tears to tell me of the events where my sister, her mother, settled, when Eliza's father were killed, near to Preston. Every ale-house and market place has been full of the news of the riots and the burnings and the affrays which have beset the countryside – and indeed there are many who claim boldly they would take up the cause for Captain Swing, the times having been so bad since our last bitter winter and the rain and winds of this summer.

The bairns in cottages across the land be wide-eyed and big bellied, the goodwives hollow cheeked and the men all a-pother and a-steam with news of revolution abroad and reform to hand, and daft talk of 14 shilling a week for every man-jack on 'em.

Yet in the house above all goes on as usual and the Mistress and Miss Martha sups their chocolate and their coffee, and the plates come down with food half-nibbled and pawed about, while the coal burns like to pure gold itself in every hearth in the house. So I 'specs as how my mother and my granddam would not think I were half so green as I was cabbage-looking to see me sitting with my feet among the coals and supping ale while all around, in village and in hamlet, folk greet the coming winter with trepidation and empty bellies!

But then, in the midst of all these violent events in the countryside, and the ink not yet dry upon the petition the men of Wonston have but recently presented here to the New King, what does that daft lummock Young Olliver do, but let it be bruited abroad that he has bought a threshing machine! He may just as well have let it be known he was to dash the bread from the very lips of all who depend upon the threshing to get them through the winter!

Now none can help but like young Ned Bushby, with his twinkling eye, and the hair on his forelock that doth fall just so across his merry green eyes, and though Eliza doth blush to write it, I ken well that her tears would not fall so heavy were he a red-nosed, ham fisted curmudgeon like his father. But all do know also, that he has a wicked temper on him, and even those that loved him dearly could not claim that were he and his old dog, Captain,put to a task 'tis Captain who would prove the more cunning of the two.

So what does this lack-a-brain do, when Young Olliver, realising that his threshing machine could yet prove his undoing, seeks to offer him a fine wage and a way through the winter for all the village; but start prating of the wretched 14 shillings he wants instead, and shouting, red-faced at his Master, and swinging his fists so the two of them are gobbling and strutting round each other for all the world like a pair of turkey-cocks.

That, says Eliza, were on the Wednesday, and by the Sunday naught had been resolved but that young Ned, spurred on, no doubt, by that mealy-mouthed, wicked brother of his, Will, and coming once more upon his Master, do lose his head completely and start shouting again, for all the world to hear, that he will become an outlaw and take to the woods and the greensward and wax fine upon the poaching and the smuggling that will one day see him the master. So Olliver says demned if he want him to work for him anyway and off stumps one to his hearth and home, and off stomps the other to the ale-house.

And in the night do Master Ollivers ricks burn down.

So now it's off to Horsham goal with Ned, and all the young women hereabout do weep, and wail of The Rope or Van Dieman's Land, and the Lord alone knows what will come to pass.

Oh, I do wish all men to perdition! For still their babies cry for food and their wives do look about with fear. And all the maidens weep.