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Luddite Spring: 23 - Thou Art The Man

...“I’ve had a visit from Brother Jackson. He came late last night, and we discussed some things that involve you.”

“Me?” exclaimed Gledhill, surprised at the news. “What about me?” ...

Seth Gledhill agrees to take on a responsible position.

Ronnie Bray continues his epic novel based on turbulent events in the early days of England's industrial revolution.

A week to the day after the twisting-in ceremony, Crowther asked Gledhill to meet him on the green after the mill loosed for the night. Gledhill arrived first and lolled against the green’s giant elm tree. His day’s work had been arduous and he was almost spent. Although the lane did not rise steeply, Gledhill had found the climb hard and enjoyed relaxing while he waited for Crowther. He did not have to wait long before his friend hove into view as if materialising in out of the gloom. He straightened up as Crowther approached and extended his hand.

“I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long,” said Crowther, labouring for breath after the long climb. “I was delayed by some shop business and came as fast as I could.”

“I’ve only been here five minutes or so, Jack. What did you want to see me about?”

“I’ve had a visit from Brother Jackson. He came late last night, and we discussed some things that involve you.”

“Me?” exclaimed Gledhill, surprised at the news. “What about me?”

“He wants you to assume leadership of the Huddersfield Luddites. Are you agreeable?”

“Me?” Gledhill was stunned. “I’ve just barely come in. Are you sure about this, Jack?”

“Your name’s Seth Gledhill, isn’t it?”

Gledhill laughed. “Well, of course it is but …”

“Then thou art the man! Seth, we’re about to step up our campaign before working conditions get any worse and we need a reliable man to be the overall authority in the area, and organise the activities.”

“But, what about you? You have been at it longer than I have. You should be the leader.”

“I have a different role. I am the liaison chap for several districts so we can regulate our activities and not be covering the same ground. What do you say about accepting the appointment? Shall I tell him you are for it?”

“It is a big responsibility, but I will do my best.”

“That’s all we ask of you, Seth. We know you are right for the assignment. Brother Jackson and me talked about you for a long time. We are confident that you will do your duty well. You are a straightforward and reliable man who inspires confidence in others. We sounded out several men that we know will be faithful to our cause and each of them pointed at you as another good man. My next duty is to arrange a meeting with as many local men as we can to get things moving and take advantage of the news from other quarters that is stirring the countryside. Every attack made in that is reported in our local newspapers moves our cause onward.”

“Right, Jack. You say you will give me news of our next meeting. Will it be at the Moorcock?”

“It will, Seth. I shall let you know when after the arrangements have been made. Nevertheless, whatever you do, make no written reports or documents. We don’t want to leave a trail of evidence that might lead to any of us. That way we can avoid a lot of trouble.”

Gledhill touched by the confidence that was placed in him, was anxious to begin to make amends for his personal loss, although he knew that it was not only about his personal quest for satisfaction in the death of his Mary, but many men and women, hundreds of them, perhaps thousands, depended on him to represent their grievances and set matters right. He recognised that his private thirst for revenge would have to be set aside as he pursued the greatest good for the greatest number. “First things first!” he said to himself, setting off back down the lane towards his home.

“What’s that, Seth?” asked Crowther, thinking Gledhill had addressed him.

“Oh, nothing, Jack. I was just thinking aloud.”

The pair left their meeting place under the bare shade tree separately so that they were not seen together in their home streets. The slightest suggestion of collusion could likely lead to trouble for the innocent as well as for the blameworthy, and the noose was no respecter of persons. It cut off saint and sinner alike without encouragement. With the inauguration of the brotherhood in the area, discretion was essential.


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