By Roaring Loom I.

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VENGEANCE IS MINE


HE was a man shrewdly observant and of ready wit, with no gods in his creed save his masters and his engine.  He had graduated, too, in a hard school; and of sentiment he possessed little, and that of the coarser grain.

    He was small of stature and lean, with a clean-shaven, tallowy face; nor had fifty years of fire-beating and engineering sweat the spirit out of this ghoul of manufacturing life.

    He used to make the engine-house his home, sleeping in winter by the side of the warm boilers, and in summer stretching himself on the slates of the shed, and closing his eyes beneath the silent stars.  Chick nor child he had none, neither had he wife.  The ponderous machine he tended was, in turn, both wife and child to him; and he knew its every mood and movement, now coaxing with kindly word, now blaming with wild imprecation; while it, in turn, would wink at him with its steely eyes, or nod defiance with its ponderous beam, nor forget to growl in wrath from its revolving wheel.  But he was master, and knew it — and the engine knew he was master too.

    At first he was wont to look upon me with suspicion, counting me a ‘furriner,’ and rebutting my frequent ‘good-mornings’ with an ill-mannered grunt.  In time, however, we became better friends, until at last I was permitted to sit and chat with him in the engine-house, which was his royal domain.  When he was too busy to chat, I would watch him as he stooped and bent and crawled at his dangerous task of lubrication, his arms disproportionately long, stealing like serpents amid a network of cranks and wheels, the sweat oozing from his wizened features, and muttered oaths the while falling from his close-drawn bloodless lips.

    One winter’s afternoon as I thus watched him, dreading lest every moment the monster would devour its little lord, he suddenly swung himself down from where he had been standing, oil-can in hand, and, turning to me, said :—

    ‘It’s a grand ’un, isn’t it?’  And, with admiring glance, continued: ‘It’s addled some brass in its time, an’ no mistak’; an’ it never goes on th’ spree like some o’ them it works for.’  Then, polishing one of its brasses with the wad of cotton waste he held in his hand, he climaxed all by saying ‘Thaa’rt a gradely Christian, thaa art, for thaa welly awlus does as thaa’rt told.’

    I looked up at the engine thus apostrophised.  There it pulsed — a thing almost conscious — the great sway-beam rising and falling in obedience to the rod of steel that moved from out, and then withdrew into, the dark cylinder against which the old man stood.  At the further end swept the huge fly-spur, communicating its driving power to the factory behind; while the out-stretched arms of the governors, rotating in silence, held in check the mighty demon, to me so titanic and threatening.  A jet of gas above my head threw a network of fantastic shadow from the moving machinery on to the white-washed wall beyond; while the monotonous roar seemed to sound applause and assent to the engineer’s rude praise.

    He was in a garrulous mood that afternoon, and continued —

    ‘It’s seen some seets, an’ played some marlocks i’ its time, aw con tell yo’!  Forty year come next Candlemas sin’ it were fixed, an’ it’s never had bud two maisters, Dandy Dick an’ mysel’.

    ‘Yo’ never knew Dandy Dick?  Nowe! he were deead long afore yo’ came i’ these parts.  He were th’ engineer, when aw were th’ firebeater, an’ had a terrible conceit of hissel’.  Like as he thought hissel’ too good for common folk— “aboon porritch,” as we co’ it abaat here.  He’d a bit of larnin’ an’ o’, an’ that made him worse; an’, to top all, he lived wi’ an owd aunt as kept a stockin’ up th’ chimbly flue.  Happen it were no wonder as th’ chap walked a bit higher nor his shoon.’

    ‘And had Dandy Dick a history?’ I asked.

    ‘A what?’ questioned the old man.

    ‘A history — I mean, was there some story in his life you remember him by?’ for I knew the old man was eager to open one of the seals in his strange book of reminiscence.

    ‘Yi, he’d a history,’ was the response, ‘an’ a sad ’un an’ o’.  If yo’ll wait till th’ engine stops aw’ll tell yo’.’

    In a little while the sea-saw of the great sway-beam ceased, and the huge fly paused in its revolutions.  The iron ring of clogs sounded along the pavements, and the voices of the freed operatives were borne on the frosty air.  Then the engineer sat down beside me, and taking off his greasy cap, which fitted his bald head like a skin, and wiping his face with a wad of cotton waste, he commenced:—

    ‘When aw first started workin’ wi’ Dandy Dick he were a thirty-year-owd bachelor, an’ there were a deal of speculatin’ as to who he’d wed.  There were aboon a few of th’ lasses as looked i’ his direction; but he used to say as four-loom wayvers were naught i’ his line.  Those as didn’t care abaat him made aat as he were waitin’ for th’ gaffer’s daughter; bud that were nobbud gam’ wi’ a bit of spite in’t.

    ‘One day, haaever, he were caught, an’ not wi’ gowden bait noather; for hoo were nobbud a poor lass — a dressmaker — but as well favoured as here an’ there yo’ see one.  Her een were as breet as th’ stars, an’ her lips fair axed yo’ for kisses baat speakin’.  Bless her! hoo were as fresh as a spring posy.  A bit soft, happen; bud then hoo were nobbud a lass, an’ like all lasses fine an’ set up wi’ her felley — for Dick were a gradely chap, one as ony woman might be praad on.

    ‘They made a pratty pair, they did for sure; an’ folk used to say they were shapped for one another.  When they’d been agate a bit, an’ th’ shyness were gone, hoo started comin’ on Setterday afternoons to th’ engine-haase when all were quiet like, an’ Dick were fettlin’ up an’ cleanin’.  Hoo fair brought th’ sunshine wi’ her, did th’ lass; an’ Dick’s een would leet up, an’ he’d put his arm raand her, an’ kiss her, an’ co’ her all maks of pratty names.

    ‘It were on one of these afternoons, while hoo were stannin’ i’ th’ beam-chamber, an’ watchin’ Dick agate o’ cleanin’, that hoo axed him, all o’ a sudden like, if th’ engine had getten a name.

    ‘“Yi,” he said, “they co’ it Hercules.”

    ‘“That’s no gradely name,” hoo says; “we’ll change it, an’ co’ it after thee.”

    ‘“Bud th’ gaffer’s daughter’s wet its yed,’ he laughed.

    ‘“Wed its yed?  What’s that?” hoo axed.

    ‘Then he tell’d her how as when th’ engine were first started the gaffer’s lass broke a bottle of wine o’er th’ beam, an’ co’ed it by th’ name he’d told her on.

    ‘“Then aw’ll co’ it o’er again,” hoo said, “an’ by yore name an’ o’.”

    ‘“But,” said Dick, “we’ve getten no wine.”

    ‘“Never mind,” hoo says; “watter’ll do.”

    ‘“Nay,” says Dick, “we mun have summat stronger nor watter;” an’ he sent me for haive a gallon of owd fourpenny.

    ‘Aw wirnd long o’er th’ job, aw con tell yo’, an’ come back wi’ it in a can, wi’ a couple of tots.  Then Liz, for that were her name, filled one on ’em, an’ degged (wet) th’ engine wi’ it, an’ told it it were co’ed after its maister — Dandy Dick.  An’ when hoo’d finished, we sat daan an’ laughed aar fill.’

    ‘And drank your fill too, I suppose?’ I said.  ‘Yo’re reet, we did.  We sat daan an’ supped; an’ him an’ her supped sorrow, as yo’ll hear; for in a bit we geet merry, an’ when aw left ’em they’d both had aboon their share.

    ‘Well, yo’ know th’ owd story.  Women’s nobbud women at th’ best of times, an’ they durnd mend theirsel’s by suppin’ ale.  If Dick had married Liz, an’ not left her to her shame, there’d ha’ bin no tale to tell.  Bud he didn’t, an’ a weary (regrettable) job it turned aat.

    ‘Yi! he threw th’ lass up.  Not as aw blamed th’ lad altogether, for yo’ see his aunt were awlus at him, an’ th’ owd woman said as if he wed her hoo’d leave him baat brass.

    ‘One day aw cornered him.  “Dick,” aw says, “thaa’s never baan to sell thy honour for thy aunt’s brass, arto?”

    ‘At first he shamed; then he stammered aat summat abaat his aunt bein’ worth a thaasand paand.

    ‘“A thaasand paand be d—!” aw said.  “If that’s th’ price thaa sells yon lass for thaa’ll never live to spend it.”

    ‘Mony’s th’ time aw’ve thought abaat those words sin’ then.  For once i’ my life th’ Almeety gave me wit, and aw spoke th’ truth.  Bud aw’m gettin’ on too fast wi’ my tale.

    ‘Folk didn’t let Dick alone, aw con tell yo’.  Th’ parson geet hold on him, an’ gave him a bit of religion; an’ his mates cried shame on him; an aw welly think he’d have wed the lass if hoo hadn’t settled th’ job for hersel’, an’ him an’ o’.’

    ‘Settled it?  How?’ I asked.

    ‘Naa aw’m geddin’ at it.  Yo’ know th’ gangway that runs aat into th’ lodge yonder, wi’ th’ sluice at th’ end on it?’

    I nodded assent, having often seen the old man walk the plank to turn the wheel at the farther end.

    ‘Well, one mornin’, a bit afore six o’clock, Dick went to turn on th’ watter.  Aw watched him, for he were in a merry mood, an’ whistlin’ “The girl aw left behind me.”  It were a grand mornin’ an o’ — th’ sun risin’ o’er th’ hills, an’ th’ mists liftin’, an’ as quiet as though it were a Sundo’.  Just afore he geet to th’ end he pulled up, and looked raand abaat at th’ moors, an’ at th’ meadow, an’ th’ trees ’at slope to th’ lodge banks.  Then, when he geet to th’ wheel, he looked daan into th’ watter, an’ his een seemed to leet on summat he hadn’t reckoned on.  Aw thought he were never baan to lift his yed no more; an’ when he did he staggered back across th’ plank into th’ engine-haase, an’ fell in a heap on th’ floor.  Aw con see him naa,’ said the old man, rising from his seat, the light of memory kindling in his eye.  ‘He lay there,’ and he pointed to a slab near the door, ‘wi’ his face bleached, an’ sweat pourin’ off him as though he’d been poo’ed aat of th’ lodge hissel’.

    ‘Curious like, aw ran to th’ end of th’ plank to see what it were as had freetened him, an’ aw see’d what aw’ve never forgetten.’

    The old man paused, for his voice grew thick; and lifting the wad of cotton waste, which he held in his hand, to his old rheumy eyes, he tried to staunch the rebellious tears that stained his grease-smeared face.

    ‘You saw Liz, I suppose?’ I said.

    ‘Yi! it were Liz, poor lass, wi’ her face turned upwards — th’ face aw’d seen him kiss so mony times; but th’ colour were weshed aat on it, an’ th’ lips were drawn, and her yure were thick wi’ th’ slutch o’ th’ lodge.

    ‘Well, it were a village, aw con tell yo’.  There were more at the berrin’ than aw’ve ever seen afore or sin’.  Then, i’ a bit, th’ lass were forgetten; for where folks has to work for their livin’ they don’t fret long o’er spilt milk.

    ‘But there were one as didn’t forget her, though he tried to; and that were Dick hissel’.  Like as he couldn’t ged o’er it — and no wonder!  He were like a chap possessed, wi’ his een on th’ strain, as if he were awlus expectin’ to see summat.  It were a change, aw con tell yo’ — him as used to be th’ coolest hand i’ th’ factory startin’ an’ tremblin’ an’ sweatin’ as though he were followed by summat he couldn’t lay.

    ‘Afore long he fell off his meat, an’ like them as cornd eat he took to suppin’ more nor were good for him.  He couldn’t bide to be alone, noather; an’ yet he did naught but curse if yo’ spoke to him.  In a bit everybody took to keepin’ aat of his gate; an’ th’ childer’ ’at used to follow him, an’ ax him for hawpennies, would run away an’ skrike when he offered ’em brass.

    ‘I’ those days we kep’ a cat i’ th’ engine-haase co’ed Brimstone, becose it were so fond of caarin’ i’ th’ fire-hoile.  It took agen him an’ o’, an’ th’ craytur ’at used to rub itsel’ abaat his legs, an’ eyt his meat, would fly fro’ his shadow as though it were that of th’ dule hissel’.  One day he co’ed it to him; bud when he geet hold on it, it spit an’ scratted so ’at he threw it wi’ a curse into th’ wheel-race.  All th’ same, when th’ engine stopped, th’ cat climbed up th’ cogs an’ maaed an’ scuttered raand till he felled it wi’ a bar.

    ‘Well, th’ days went on as days will do, an’ wark wi’ ’em, bud they brought no rest to Dick, an’ he geet wurr an’ wurr.  He took to talkin’ a deal to hissel’, or else to sombry as noabry could see but hissel’.  Then like as he geet reckless, an’ would oil th’ engine when it were runnin’, an’ i’ those parts we nobbud reckon to oil when it’s stannin’; an’ he’d play th’ maantibank an’ th’ fool among th’ wheels.  Mony a time aw’ve trembled as aw’ve watched him.  Bud he wirnd to be killed by th’ machinery — there were no such luck for him.

    ‘It were th’ worst for th’ poor lad when he’d to go an’ turn on th’ sluice for th’ wheel, an’ many’s th’ time he axed me to do it for him.  But aw wirnd awlus abaat, an’ then he were forced to go an’ do it hissel’.  It were one of these times aw met him as he come back, reelin’ as though he were drunken, an’ wi’ a face like a chap as had seen summat fro’ another world.

    ‘“Harry,” he says, grippin’ me by the arm an’ leavin’ a bruise that were aboon a bit i’ leaving me, “Harry, who’s brought yon lass back?”

    ‘“What lass?” aw says.

    ‘“Thaa knows,” he shaated; “an’ if thaa’s done it, by G—, aw’ll do for thee.”

    ‘“Aw durnd know what thaa’s ravin’ abaat,” aw says; “thaa should sup less, an’ then thaa’d talk sense.”

    ‘“Doesto mean to say thaa doesn’t know as Liz is lying i’ th’ lodge yonder?”

    ‘“Nowe, nor thee noather; there’s eight foot of earth to get through afore Liz can ged to th’ lodge.”  An’ then aw told him agen to sup less.

    ‘“Harry,” he whispered, “a chap mun do summat when he carries hell i’ his inside;” an’ he swung raand on his heel an’ left me.  Bud after that he awlus walked o’er th’ plank to th’ sluice wi’ his een shut.

    ‘Aw’m wearyin’ yo’, but aw’m welly done — there’s not much more to tell.  One November afternoon, just as th’ dayleet were deein’, an’ they were leetin’ up i’ th’ factory, th’ wheel geet too much speed on, an’ Dick went aat to the sluice.  Aw never gave it a thought what he were baan to do, or aw would ha’ done it for him; though aw could remember ’at after haa he shut his een as he walked aat of th’ door on th’ gangway.  But like as it never come to me at th’ time, or things would ha’ turned aat different, happen.  An’ yet, aw durnd know — it tak’s a deal of wit to fight agen fate, and then yo’re like to be licked i’ th’ end.

    ‘Well, as aw tell yo’, aw went on wi’ my wark baat givin’ a thought to Dick till it were stoppin’-time; then aw remembered aw hadn’t seen him sin’ he went to slow daan th’ wheel, an’ that were aboon an haar afore.  Summat told me as all weren’t reet, an’ aw took th’ lantern an’ ran aat to th’ sluice; but there were naught bud th’ watter, an’ aw could see naught as far as th’ shine of th’ lantern carried.

    ‘I’ a bit there were a cry after Dick, an’ they leeted fires an’ dragged th’ lodge.  Bud they didn’t find him till they ran it off, an’ then they come on th’ poor lad fast i’ th’ mud, an’ just underneath th’ spot where they fun’ Liz.’

    ‘And what was the verdict at the inquest?  Accidental death?’

    ‘Yi, accidental deaath.  Bud if he didn’t slip off th’ plank wi’ walkin’ wi’ his een shut, he—’

    ‘He what?’

    ‘Oh, nothin’,’ said the old man.

    I hid my curiosity by silence, for I was eager for the sequel, and knew that silence was its only key.  Nor was I mistaken, for in a minute or two afterwards, as I was about to leave him, he beckoned me and whispered:—

    ‘Aw’m not a religious chap, an’ aw’ve never troubled churches or chapels i’ my life, bud if Dick didn’t slip off th’ plank wi’ his een shut he slipped off becose he opened ’em an’ saw her ’at had come to fotch him.’


――――♦――――

 
THE TRANSLATION OF ESTHER GRAHAM


IT isn’t ony fool ’at con fire up.  It seems yessy chuckin’ coals on like that — doesn’t it?’  And the old man shot the fuel along the roaring furnaces, kindling them into a still brighter glow.  ‘But aw tell yo’ it isn’t ony fool ’at con do it.’  Then, clashing-to the door and leaning on his shovel, the sweat the while pouring off his face, he continued, ‘It’s not my job, as yo’ know; but my mate’s daan wi’ th’ influenzy, an’ him as is doin’ for him cornd fire up to my likin’.’  And once more the old man turned to the boiler fires and pursued his self-imposed task.

    In a little while he again paused in his labour, and turning round said, ‘Dun yo’ know what mak’s a gradely fire-beater?’

    I confessed my ignorance, much to his professional disgust.

    ‘Well, aw’ll tell yo’,’ said he oracularly: ‘economy i’ coal, economy i’ smoke, an’ steady presser.  When aw were on th’ job aw burnt a couple o’ load less nor ony man i’ th’ valley as had th’ same tackle to keep agate; an’ there were never a volcany comin’ aat o’ th’ top o’ my chimbly, nor steam blowin’ off fro’ my valves noather.’

    To me all this talk was in an unknown tongue, nor was I interested in it save that I knew it would lead up to one of those stories in which he was so rich, and which he could narrate so well; for from being shoppy he often became interesting, at times even original.

    Addressing me again he said, ‘Yo’ durnd tak’ somehaa to a boiler as yo’ tak’ to a engine — aw mean, yo’ durnd feel akin to it i’ th’ same fashion; though No. 2 there could tell a tale if it could nobbud speyk.’

    ‘It has its chronicler in you, though,’ I replied.

    ‘Its what?’ he asked.

    ‘Its chronicler.  I mean, you could speak for it if you liked.’

    ‘If yo’ mean aw could turn Queen’s evidence yo’re reyt, for there’s blood on those plates;’ and he struck the middle boiler with his shovel, as though some past recollection roused his ire.  ‘An’ yet, aw durnd know ’at it were its own fault oather; an’, bi th’ mass! it were no fault o’ mine — that aw’ll swear ony day afore onybody.’

    ‘An explosion?’ I said.

    ‘Naa thaa has it.  There’s aboon one cripple i’ th’ village ’at lost their limbs by it, to say naught o’ a two-thre mounds up i’ th’ chapel-yard ’at wouldn’t ha’ been there but for its marlock.  But it’s too hot for the likes o’ yo’ daan here — come up aboon an’ aw’ll tell yo’.’

    I followed the old man into the shed, seating myself by his side, the only discomfort being the pungent fumes from the rank clay, with the rhythmic whiffs of which he punctuated his story.  With this, however, there was no dispensing — it was the live coal that touched his tongue and made him eloquent.

    ‘It were when th’ great revival were agate, an’ that’s aboon five-an’-thirty year sin’.  Not as revivals is aught i’ my line; aw’ve hardly time for eatin’ or sleepin’, let alone shaatin’ and prayin’.  Aw nobbud mentioned th’ revival becose it has to do wi’ my tale.’

    Reference to revivals set my ears at once on the tingle, for their phenomena had long been my study, and they possessed for me a fascination greater even than the romance of machinery or the heroics of labour, the recounting of which had so drawn me to this old man’s side.  So, to enlarge the limits of his story, I asked, ‘What revival was that?’

    ‘Han yo’ never yerd?’ he cried in tones of surprise, as though the facts of a quarter of a century ago were common information to strangers.

    I shook my head.

    ‘What! never yerd of Peter Ruddock, ’at come fro’ Yorshur, an’ geet th’ whole village convarted i’ six weeks — all but me, an’ Infidel jack, an’ a two-thre more of the same breed?’

    ‘No,’ I said, ‘I never heard of him.’

    ‘By Guy!  But there were some goin’s-on i’ those times, aw con tell yo’.  Everybody were “baan to glory,” as they co’ it.’

    ‘Everybody but you and Infidel Jack?’ I suggested.

    ‘Yi! an’ a two-thre more as weren’t ta’en i’ that road; but aw mun ged on wi’ my tale, an’ Infidel Jack brings me back to’t.  Jack had a lass, an only child hoo were, co’ed Easter (Esther).  Haa he come to give her a name aat of th’ Bible aw durnd know, for like as he never oppened it but to find fault wi’ it, or to show us ’at owd Moses were a gradely liar, or summat, an’ King David a deal wurr.  Ony road, oather he or th’ missis co’ed th’ lass after th’ queen of th’ Owd Testament.’

    Here the story came to a full stop, a succession of whiffs from the malodorous pipe accounting for the pause, the old man the meanwhile looking into the smoke wreaths as though therein he saw the departed actors of the scene he was seeking to recall.  Soon, however, he continued:—

    ‘Hoo were a clever lass were Easter — hoo were for sure — awlus oather readin’ or rootin’ among plants an’ yarbs; an’ there were some ’at said hoo were of her faither’s way of thinkin’.’

    ‘What! an infidel?’ I asked.

    ‘Summat of that sort; it were nobbud what folks said though, for hoo were a daycent lass, an’ kept a still tung i’ her yed.  Ony road, hoo were not gradely religious, as they co’ it; hoo didn’t go to chapel an’ Sundo’-schoo’, but walked wi’ her faither i’ th’ fields getherin’ yarbs an’ flaars when t’others were agate o’ singin’ an’ sayin’ their prayers.

    ‘Well, one neet, when th’ revival were agate, Easter thought hoo’d go aat of curiosity like.  Aw durnd mean to mak’ gam’ — for hoo wernd a lass of that sort — but to see an’ yer what were goin’ on, for they’d getten agate of shaatin’, an’ puncin’ th’ forms, till all th’ countryside were fain to join ’em.  Them at were there that neet tell’d me after ’at Easter were a bit freetened at first, an’ wanted to get aat; but th’ dur-hoile were choked wi’ th’ craad, an’ hoo were like to stop where hoo were.

    ‘When th’ preychin’ were o’er, an’ th’ prayer-meetin’ were i’ full swing, a lass as wove next Easter, an’ had getten convarted, stood i‘ th’ communion to give what they co’ “a testimony,” an’ then sang a bit of a ditty ’at seemed to fair fotch Easter.  Poor lass!  Aw believed hoo cried to some tune that neet, an’ it ended wi’ her gettin’ convarted an’ o’.’

    Here came another pause, filled up by a succession of obnoxious whiffs; then the old man wandered into a soliloquy.

    ‘Aw wonder haa it is there’s more women gets convarted nor men.  Happen it’s a good job, for they need it more — they’re a queer lot at th’ best.  Not as aw’ve a word to say agen Easter; hoo were as good as they mak’ ’em oather i’ this world or t’other; ony road, that neet hoo geet “new made o’er agen,” as they co’ it.

    ‘As yo’ may suppose, th’ news run fast, an’ when Easter geet home her faither were stannin’ at th’ dur wi’ onything but an angel’s smile on his face.

    ‘“What’s this aw yer abaat thee!” he axed, shappin’ his maath for a curse, an’ a good many on ’em an’ o’.

    ‘“Nobbud what’s good,” says th’ lass.

    ‘“— thee an’ thy goodness!” he shaated.  ‘There’s no room for convarted folk i’ this haase.  Thaa mun oather give up t’one or t’other.”

    ‘“Come, faither, thaa’rt gammin’,” hoo says.

    ‘“T’one or t’other!” he shaated, an’ pushed her off th’ threshold into th’ garden pad, where hoo fell an’ cut her yed on th’ scraper.

    ‘Pikin’ hersel’ up hoo brast into tears, an’ said, “Faither, doesto mean it?”

    ‘“Thaa knows me too well to ax that question,” he says.  “T’one or t’other, aw tell thee, an’ be — to thee!”

    ‘Then hoo turned on her heel into th’ neet, leavin’ him stammerin’ an’ starin’ i’ th’ dark.  At first his missis said he made as though he would ha’ gone after her; but his back were up, an’ turnin’ to th’ owd woman, who were cryin’, he towd her as yon were a speciment of th’ followers of Him as said He’d come to divide haaseholds an’ set childer agen their faithers an’ mothers.’

    ‘And what became of Esther? I asked, now fully interested in the story, and eager for the climax which the old man was keeping so well in the background.

    ‘Howd on a bit, or aw shall mar (make nonsense of) my tale.’  And once more he looked up at the smoke-rings for the faded forms that peopled his story, drawing inspiration the while from his companionable pipe.

    ‘It were i’ wintertime when Jack quarrelled wi’ his lass — a neet when th’ ground were white, an’ a yest wind howlin’ off th’ moors, an’ a hawve moon shinin’ wi’ his face daan’ards as though he were bound to blow a bit more snow.  Aw’d gone i’ th’ boiler-hoile to get warm like, an’ were caarin’ i’ th’ nook, when o’ at once aw chonced to look up, an’ see’d a woman stannin’ at th’ top o’ th’ coal-tip.  “By Guy!” aw says to mysel’, “what’s up naa?  There’s a marlock agate an’ no mistak’;” an’ aw lay snug i’ th’ shadow, thinkin’ as aw should know more if aw didn’t show mysel’.

    ‘For a bit hoo stood still as if hoo were harkenin’, then hoo ran daan th’ coal-tip an’ come close agen where aw were sittin’.

    ‘“Thaa’rt in for it naa, owd lad,” aw thought; an’ aw were none so pleased, aw con tell yo’, at th’ thoughts of spendin’ th’ neet wi’ a woman i’ th’ fire-hoile, so aw shuffles my clogs an’ gives a as’matic cough.

    ‘Then th’ lass spoke.  “Harry, is that yo’?” hoo says.

    ‘“Yi!  Who else should it be?” aw axed.

    “But what arto doin’ here — an’ a neet like this an’ o’?”

    ‘“A quarrel wi’ my faither,” hoo says.

    ‘“A quarrel wi’ thy faither?”

    ‘”Yi! aw’ve fun’ salvation; an’ he says there’s no room for convarted folk i’ aar haase.”

    ‘”Thaa’s been a very silly lass,” aw said.  “What didto want wi’ gettin’ convarted?  Thaa were good enough as thaa were; thaa should ha’ left well alone.”

    ‘Then hoo put her hand on my shoulder.  “Harry,” hoo says, “aw’ve getten a new heart.”

    ‘“Tak’ care as thaa doesn’t swop wurr, for they’re not all angels as is convarted.  But sithee, aw’m none goin’ to talk religion wi’ sich as thee,” an’ aw made as though aw were baan to leave her.

    ‘“Cornd yo’ find me a place to lie daan in?” hoo says.

    ‘Aw were in a quandary like.  Owd Jack an’ me were mates, an’ aw couldn’t see takkin’ agen him.  At th’ same time, aw couldn’t turn agen his own flesh an’ blood.

    ‘At last aw says, “Thaa can sleep i’ th’ engine-haase if thaa’s a mind;” an’ aw fun’ her some sackin’, an’ see’d her reyt for th’ neet, as aw thought.

    ‘But, bless yo’, th’ lass never slept — hoo did naught but sing an’ pray, till th’ owd engine-haase were like th’ prison where Paul an’ t’other chap were put for preychin’.  Aw felt noan so yessy, aw con tell yo’; but aw were fain to listen.  Haa hoo did treble it that neet!  Hoo’d awlus a gradely voice; but aw’d never yerd her sing i’ that fashion afore.  It were grand.  Hoo’d getten howd of a bit of a hymn as th’ revival folks sung abaat a Name as were “high over all,” an’ hoo couldn’t drop it — hoo kept at it o’er an’ o’er agen, an’ every naa an’ then hoo shaated aat, “Glory!”  Aw’m none a religious chap, as yo’ know; but aw were nearer to th’ better shop that neet, caarin’ by th’ engine-haase dur, than aw ever were afore or sin’, or ever shall be agen, for that matter.  A bit afore six o’clock hoo come aat to her work: an’ as th’ gas leeted up her face it fair shone.  Aw con see her naa as hoo stepped aat that morn, her shawl fallen back o’er her shoulders, her een lookin’ up’ards as though hoo saw summat, an’ her maath oppened as hoo said, “Glory!”

    ‘“Well, that’s a corker,” aw says, an’ aw went an’ set th’ engine agate.

    ‘They say ’at that mornin’, afore the breakfast-haar, th’ weyvin’-shed were like a oratory (oratorio).  Welly all th’ lasses had getten convarted at th’ revival, an’ they did naught but sing abaat th’ Name “high over all.”  Th’ tacklers towd me ’at they fair draaned th’ sound of th’ shuttles; an’ it tak’s some lung power to do that, aw con tell yo’.

    ‘Aw daresay yo’ think aw’m a long while geddin’ to th’ end of my tale, but it’s welly done.  Boilers, yo’ mun know, is nobbud like human bein’s — yo’ may put too much on ’em; an’ if yo’ don’t, the best on ’em will wear away.  They want a bit of lookin’ after — an’ they ged it naa; but i’ th’ days aw’m speakin’ on th’ maisters were noan partic’lar — there were no inspectors agate then.  Well, No. 2 yon had been wastin’ away, an’ noabry were any wiser until it wakkened ’em wi’ blowin’ its front out.

    ‘Aw’d just left th’ boiler-haase as good luck, or ill luck for th’ matter of that, would have it — for aw’m noan so sure ’at them as is livin’ or them as is dead has th’ best on’t — aw’d just left th’ boiler-haase, aw tell yo’, an’ had turned raand to th’ factory end, when aw yerd a terrible noise as aw could liken to naught aw ever yerd afore nor sin’.  It seemed fair to rive th’ air i’ pieces an’ lift th’ ground under my feet.  “That’s i’ th’ boiler-haase,” aw said, an’ ran raand into th’ yard.  But aw could see naught, for th’ steam were everywhere.

    ‘As aw were makkin’ my way my foot come agen summat th’ like of which it never touched afore.  “What’s that?” aw axed mysel’, for aw could tell by th’ feel it were neither wood nor iron, nor onythin’ as aw knew were lyin’ abaat th’ yard.  So, stoopin’ daan, aw groped i’ th’ steam until aw geet howd on it, an’ fun’ it were soft an’ warm; an’ when aw drew my hond back it were weet an’ red — an’ not wi’ paint noather.

    ‘Aw’m noan a white-plucked ’un, but for once i’ my life aw lost my nerve, an’ ran up and daan shaatin’ an’ swearin’, blinded an’ maddled wi’ steam.  It weren’t long afore aw banged up agen th’ manager.  “Nay, Harry,” he says; “come, lad, poo thisel’ together.”  But he’d no sooner spokken than he tumbled o’er summat hissel’, an’ messured his length i’ th’ snow.  It were a lass, poor thing, wi’ her face scalded th’ colour of a Red Indian, an’ her yed smashed in like a egg.  Then he lost his nerve an’ o’, an’ aw could see his face were as white as th’ ground he piked hissel’ up fro’.

    ‘I’ a bit, when th’ wind had lifted th’ steam, we took in aar bearin’s.  Talk abaat seets! — it were like a knacker’s yard.  There were two on ’em blown to jam-rags, an’ arms an’ legs that were never to work nor run ony more were scattered abaat like branches after a back-end storm.’

    I looked at the old man’s immobile face as he recounted these horrors: a piece of granite, so set was every feature, anointed with the sweat of labour, and wrinkled by the relentless hand of years.  Then the muscles slowly relaxed, and a tear started from his countenance of rock, and turning to me he said:—

    ‘Yo’ guess th’ rest?’

    I nodded.

    ‘Yi! poor lass, hoo were among th’ killed; but hoo weren’t touched — not a bone brokken, nor a scrat on her skin nowheere: it were what th’ doctor co’ed death fro’ shock.  Aw helped to carry her into th’ waggon-haase wheere they were layin’ aat th’ dead, an’ her face were th’ same as when aw see’d her come aat of th’ engine-haase three haars afore, all leeted up as if hoo’d seen Him as hoo sang abaat — Him as they said were “high over all.”

    ’Th’ first mon aw see on th’ job after this were Peter Rudclock; an’ aw’ll say this for th’ chap — he knew haa to fashion hissel’ to dyin’ folk.  He walked up an’ daan quiet like, an’ he’d howd their honds, an’ shap’ his tongue i’ prayer like a angel.  Aw’m noan takken, as yo’ know, wi’ parsons; but aw believe i’ givin’ everybody their due.

    ‘It weren’t long afore Jack come runnin’ up baat cap or coat, winter as it were, an’ axin’ everybody after Easter.  Some of th’ folks knew naught abaat her, an’ them as did said naught becose they were feared on him.  At last he see’d me, an’, geddin’ howd on me, said, “Wheer’s th lass?” but aw were th’ same as th’ rest — aw said naught

    ‘Then Ruddock come up, an’, layin’ his hond on Jack’s shoulder, he said, “Thy lass is up aboon; the Bridegroom co’ed her, an’ hoo were ready.”  ‘Aw expected naught but Jack would ha’ knocked him daan, or else, cursed him to his face.  But he did noather — he let him lead him away as quiet as a little child.’


――――♦――――

 
WAITING NELLY


IT was a bleak morning in March.  An east wind, wild with its career over miles of moorland, hissed and howled through the village, sweeping into eddies and spirals the dust and dirt of the street.  A lowering sky hurried along before the driving couriers of the gale, and stray flakes of snow, after gyrating and chasing each other over the straggling roofs, died in blots of moisture on the pavement below, where the wayfarer bent his head before the fury of the storm.  Nor could the vapour from the knotted stacks of chimneys rise; it fell, too, like the snow.  Cottage doors, used to be open all day long, were shut, their dwellers cowering over well-fed fires, and looking now and again through the rattling windows, and muttering to themselves that it was ‘a weary day.’  And for once, the name of the weather was not taken in vain.  It was, indeed, a day of depression — a day that wrought a nameless melancholy on the sensitive mind.  A factory village in the summer-tide is far removed from Eden — its narrow streets ever in shadow, its grey walls cruel in monotony, its square mills with their crash of cruel labour and their belching sentinels of smoke — these respond not to the transforming touch of the god of light in his longest diurnal rounds.  But in the days of driving wind, of long black frost, of pall of sombre cloud, — well, we can only pray on behalf of those who live beneath them, for the pity of an infinite God.

    It was on one such day as this that I first saw the child whose sad story was to be shortly narrated to me by old Harry.  She was standing beneath the shadow of the lodge gate, the dark vomitory of labour from which at ‘losing hours’ poured the freed operatives of the mill.  The sharp angles of her lean shoulders showed beneath the folds of her threadbare shawl, and her skirts were drawn about her with the boisterous wind.  Her face was pale and drawn, yet animated with a look of expectation, as though a light of hope were kindled in the childish eyes.  Those who passed to and fro paid her little heed; she seemed no more to them than the door through which they went in and out, or the great stones which built up its jambs; yet she eyed them with a hungry look, glancing up in their faces, and questioning them.  Was she begging?  I wondered; and pitying a dog called to shiver in such a blast, and cower in such a storm, my heart went out towards the little one, and I offered her a coin, and bade her home, if such she had, to seek its shelter and its warmth.

    No hand, however, did she extend to my proffered gift; and I soon found from her broken speech it was not money she sought, but ‘mother.’

    ‘And does she work in there?’ I asked, pointing to the mill.  And then the little hungry face was turned on me, and I saw not hunger only, but vacancy, the vacancy that bespeaks an unhinged mind.  Yet the heart was there, burning with its fervid passion — kindling with the fires of love.

    As I again questioned her, bending over her with more than a curious interest, a head, all white with cotton fly, was thrust out of the second storey of the factory window, and above the roar of the machinery a voice cried — ‘Hoo’s noan reet, poor lass; yo’ll mak’ naught on her.’  Nor was I surprised to be confirmed in my judgment of the child’s insanity; so, forcing the shilling into her hand, I left the child where I had found her — alone, under the shadow of the gloomy mill.

    About ten days afterwards I again passed the lodge gates.  The frost was broken; but the east wind still held its relentless sway, hurling down showers of chilling rain.  Pedestrians were few; the village was deserted.  Occasionally, a loud-voiced woman would shout across the street to her neighbour, or noisily place an empty bucket under some spout relieving the over-burdened roofs of their watery deluge.  Only those were out upon whose shoulder compulsion had laid its hand.  Judge then of my surprise when I saw on the same spot, and in the same garb, the same child whom I had seen there in my previous round.  There she stood, her eye fixed on the gloomy gates, keenly alive to all who came therefrom — expectant, hopeful, yet ever to be clouded by the disappointment that comes from the unfulfilment of long desire.  I had not forgotten her; but engagements had driven her from my nearer memory.  Now, however, the sight of her a second time, whetted all my curiosity, and daring the fury of the storm I again sought to draw from her the secret of her weary waiting.

    ‘How is it you are out in this rain?’ I asked.  ‘You are wet through;’ and laying my hand upon her shoulder, the gathering moisture of the shawl that oozed beneath my touch told of the girl’s drenched condition.

    Looking up into my face with the same mute hope in her eye that before arrested me, she uttered the cry — ‘Mother!’ and pointed to the mill.

    A woman standing in the lodge gates, and who overheard us, said: ‘Her mother’s been deead these two year; but like as hoo wil1n’t believe it — wilta, Nelly?’ to which the child shook her head.

    Just then old Harry crossed the factory yard, and seeing my perplexity, beckoned me to follow him.

    ‘What,’ I said, ‘and leave this child out here in the rain?’

    ‘Yo’ con do naught wi’ her,’ he replied.  ‘Lots has tried their honds as weel as yo’; but hoo stops on as yo’ see; an’ hoo will do until hoo dees.’

    Seeing that further parley was useless, I followed the old man into the close atmosphere of the engine-house, glad of the change to a warmer temperature, yet sorrowful for the child whom I had left in the storm.  At first he was too busy to satisfy the curiosity that shared the pity of my heart, so I sat and mused and dreamt of the waiting waif by the factory door, wondering what sorrow had portioned out her burden, or mixed the ingredients of her bitter cup, Harry the while dodging amid his maze of wheels and network of cranks, lubricating, sweating, or swearing, as the case might be, yet all the while deftly defying the movements of what seemed to be an all-devouring monster — humanity amid a web of steel, the skill of man against the speed and revolution of piston, spur and beam.

    I was suddenly aroused from my reverie by the touch of the engineer’s greasy palm upon my shoulder.  ‘It’s th’ dinner haar,’ he said; ‘an’ aw con find yo’ a bit o’ time.  Yo’re full o’ yon lass;’ and he pointed through the doorway to the child who was still standing in the driving rain.  ‘It’s a sad tale, aw con tell yo’; but then, what tale isn’t, if yo’ hear it to th’ end?  There’s a deeal o’ mixin’ i’ life’s cup, sweet an’ bitter — better an’ wurr, as they say; leastways aw’ve fun it so; an’ there’s much o’ a muchness among all o’ us, rich an’ poor, wise uns an’ foolish uns — we’ve all to go through th’ mill.  But yo’re fain to know abaat th’ little lass, aren’t yo’?’

    ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘she has a warm place in my heart; and I confess I am curious to know her history.  To see her standing yonder in all weathers, looking up at the black wall of the mill, and welcomed by no other sound than the roar of the machinery, is to me unaccountable.  Surely she’s some one’s child! for even when our fathers and mothers forsake ou, there’s parish shelter and parish dole.’

    ‘Hear my story, an’ then yo’ll know.  Hoo were born o’ daycent stock, but come into th’ world wi’ a shadder o’er her mind.  What were th’ cause on’t aw durnd know — there is as says it were her faither’s deeath; for he were snuffed aat wi’ fayver six months afore hoo were born.  Onyroad, th’ little un were short weight — short witted aw meean; an’ it weren’t long afore folks seed hoo’d never fend for hersel’.  But th’ lass had a good mother, an’ geet all th’ more love for bein’ shorter o’ wit nor other childer.  Like as th’ Almeety has His own way o’ squarin’ an’ sattlin’; an’ i’ th’ long run, He leaves noabry a loiser.

    ‘But aw were tellin’ yo’, hoo’d a good mother, an’ th’ child stuck as close to her, as hoo did to th’ child.  As soon as th’ little un geet owd enough, it used to run by her side to th’ factory, waitin’ at th’ lodge gates, till hoo come aat again at losin’ time.  It were a touchin’ seet, aw con tell yo’, an’ fotched tears to mony een.  There were no keepin’ th’ little lass awhom.  Summer an’ winter, wet an’ fine, mornin’ an’ neet, it were all th’ same, hoo trotted by her mother’s side backwards an’ forrards, laikin’ abaat th’ yard, till hoo’d done her wark.  Sometimes hoo’d pick up hawpennies off folks as passed her, or hoo’d chase th’ cotton-fly as it flew through th’ winders, or hoo’d sit on th’ lodge* banks gathering posies; but hoo were awlus at th’ gates at losin’ time, ready to tak’ her mother’s hond; an’ if it were wet, snuggle under her shawl by her side.  There were as blamed th’ woman, an’ said as haa hoo ought to keep th’ little un awhom.  But it were no use; hoo wouldn’t stop awhom.  Th’ truth were, it were oather th’ ’sylum or th’ factory yard; an’ th’ mother’s love for th’ child made her keep her wi’ her at her side.

    ‘Aw’ve mony a time watched ’em come daan th’ street together, th’ mother pattin’ th’ little curly head at partin’, an’ kissin’ th’ little upturned face.  Then, i’ a bit, hoo’d put her head through th’ winder o’ th’ room hoo were workin’ in, an’ say summat kindly to th’ chilt as hoo were stonnin’ aatside; an’ th’ little un would say, “Thaa’ll noan be long, mother,” an’ th’ mother would tell as it would soon be losin’ time, an’ haa hoo mun laik abaat a bit longer, an’ then hoo would be daan wi’ her to go whom.  Then th’ child, like, would seem more content, an’ walk raand th’ yard till th’ time come for th’ honds to leave their wark.

    ‘Yo’ never heard her murmur, an’ yo’ never seed her cry.  Hoo were more like a saint nor a lass, “Patience on a moniment,” as they say; an’ folk were so takken wi’ her that they gave her th’ name o’ Waitin’ Nelly.  But one day hoo waited an’ naught come; for her as hoo waited for went aat by another dur, an’ feet furmost an’ all.’

    ‘What,’ I said, ‘was her mother killed in the mill?’

    ‘Yi’; it were done wi’ th’ fly-wheel yon, abaat ten minutes afore th’ breakfast haar.  Aw were stonnin’ where aw’m sittin’ naa, when a segment flew, an’ lifted th’ roof wi’ it, crossin’ th’ yard, an’ smashin’ through th’ stonewark into th’ inside o’ th’ factory, where it leeted on a frame, carryin’ it an’ them ’at were warkin’ at it daan into th’ floor below, an’ th’ little lass’s mother were one on ’em.

    ‘That’s two year sin’, but yo’ cornd get the child to believe but what her mother is still inside th’ mill.  All through th’ day as th’ accident happened hoo stuck by th’ lodge gate; an’ when they telled her as th’ one hoo waited for were deead, hoo nobbud shook her head, an’ pointed up to th’ brokken winder o’ th’ room where her mother used to wark; and when neet come, they’d to carry her whom skrikin’ an’ tearin’ wi’ all the passion ’at belongs to them as is noan reet.

    ‘That neet, when all were quiet i’ th’ haase, th’ little lass geet up an’ dressed hersel’ an’ stole off to th’ factory yard.  Th’ mechanics were agate wi’ th’ breakdaan, passin’ in an’ aat through th’ lodge dur wi’ their tackle; but somehaa or other the child managed to slip in baat bein’ seen, an’ fun her way into th’ room where her mother used to wark.  Aw were stonnin’ near one o’ the frames an’ tryin’ to get some strappin’ loose as had been tangled i’ th’ smash.  There were a deeal o’ hammerin’ goin’ on, an’ th’ men were noan so quiet i’ their talk.  All at once aw heard a cry.  “What’s that?” aw said to th’ head mechanic.  “What’s what?” he axed.  “Hasto supped aught lately, Harry?”  “Nay,” aw says; “aw’ve had summat else to do nor sup to-day.”  Just then aw heard it again, an’ th’ mechanic heard it an’ all.  It seemed to come through th’ darkness at th’ back o’ th’ frames, an’ it were a child’s voice.  “Harry,” says th’ mechanic. “aw’m off; there’s summat noan reet abaat yon;” an’ he daan wi’ his hammer an’ left me.

    ‘Aw were awlus a chap wi’ a steady nerve; but it were in my mind to run an’ all.  Then aw says to mysel’, “Nay, Harry, thaa’s noan a white-plucked un, surely.”  So aw stood where aw were, an’ swore if aw heard th’ voice again aw’d foller, shuzhaa.  Aw’d noan so long to wait noather.  This time it were laader, an’ aw could mak’ aat what it were axin’ for.  “Mother, where arto?” it said.  An’ when aw lifted my leet aw seed th’ little lass as yo’ve been speakin’ to this mornin’, searching for her as were a corpse.

    ‘When hoo seed my leet, like as hoo come toward me, an’ when hoo fun aat who it were, hoo axed me if aw’d seen her mother.

    ‘What could a felley say?  For sure aw’d seen her — seen her that mornin’ as we dragged her aat fro’ under th’ frame — seen her as aw ne’er wish to see onybody agen, oather i’ this world or any other.  But then aw couldn’t tell th’ child so.

    ‘“Come along wi’ me,” aw says; an’ aw took her by th’ hond.  “Nay,” hoo sobbed; “aw willn’t leave baat my mother;” an’ hoo started lookin’ raand as though hoo were somewhere near.  “Hoo’s noan here, lass,” aw said; “so come along wi’ me.”  “But aw seed her come in this mornin’, an’ hoo mun be here yet, for hoo’s noan awhom.”  Weel, thinks aw, aw’ll humour thee a bit; so we started walkin’ raand i’ th’ darkness, th’ only leet bein’ th’ lantern aw held i’ my hond.

    ‘“Sithee, Harry, hoo’s there,” said th’ little un; an’ hoo pointed to where th’ floor were brokken away, an’ th’ frames had gone through, an’ her mother wi’ ’em.

    ‘Aw’ve been i’ some tight corners i’ my life, but never i’ one tighter nor aw were in that neet.  What wi’ th’ darkness, an’ th’ smash, an’ th’ gapin’ floor, an’ th’ child talkin’ to her mother as were deead — it were welly more nor aw could ston.  Then th’ little lass started pooin’ me to where hoo said hoo seed her mother; an’ just i’ th’ middle o’ th’ struggle my leet went aat.  “Lord have mercy on us,” aw said; for aw knew if th’ lass geet me too near th’ hoile it were deeath for both on us.  E’ haa hoo pooed.  If aw’d let go her hond hoo’d ha’ rushed on to destruction; an’ if aw kept howd on her hond aw felt aw should go an’ all; for hoo’d th’ strength o’ a horse.  It were a feight for life, aw con tell yo’; an’ me howdin’ on like grim deeath, an’ her pooin’ like a locomoter.  It were what hoo seed, an’ what hoo said, as took th’ narve aat o’ me.  Aw con face an engine when it runs away, an’ aw’m noan partic’lar abaat a factory fire; but when there’s summat near yo’ as yo’ con noather see nor feel — summat that’s noather flesh nor blood — an’ naught else ’at belongs to this world — th’ gumption goes, an’ mine went on that neet an’ all aw con tell yo’.’

    ‘I’ a bit th’ mechanic turned up wi’ a two-thre more, bringin’ leets wi’ ’em.  There’s naught like leet for givin’ a chap nerve; an’ when aw caught th’ shine o’ their lanterns th’ owd strength come back to me, an’ aw dragged th’ child away fro’ th’ hoile.

    ‘“Why! thaa’s getten th’ little lass wi’ thee, aw see,” he says.  “What is hoo doin’ here at this time o’ neet?”  Then aw telled him hoo were lookin’ for her mother.  An’ aw seed him turn his head away an’ draw his hond across his een.

    ‘Weel, there’s not much more to tell.  They never let th’ child see th’ mother, for to speak th’ truth, there were naught to see ’at were fit for een like hers.  Happen that’s th’ reason ’at they cornd get her to believe her mother’s deead.  Hoo thinks hoo’s still i’ th’ mill, an’ wonders haa it is hoo’s so long afore hoo comes aat.  As yo’ see, hoo waits for her, an’ looks up i’ every face expectin’ it to be th’ one hoo misses.’

    ‘Then the child is waiting yonder for her mother’s return — waiting for one whose only return will be when the grave gives up its dead?’

    ‘Yi! that’s puttin’ it i’ fine language; but it’s God’s truth for all that.’

    ‘But surely,’ I continued, ‘there is some one to take care of her, and see that she is not starved and sodden with wind and rain as she is at present.’

    And I again looked through the factory door to where she stood drenched in the yard beyond.

    ‘Th’ lass is noan baat friends, an’ they’ve done all they con for her; but they cornd get her away fro’ th’ factory gates.  Hoo’s never reet but when hoo’s there — hoo’ll sattle nowhere else.  They sent her to th’ warkhaase; but hoo pined away to a skellinton; an’ more nor once when hoo’d th’ chance, hoo get away fro’ th’ imbeciles, an’ were fun where yo’ see her stonnin’ naa.  Then her grandmother, as lives over th’ moors, took her to live wi’ her; but th’ child fun her way o’er the moss an’ th’ scars as though hoo were drawn by instinc’ to where her mother used to wark.  Hoo’d come i’ all weathers, frozen wi’ snow, or soppin’ wi’ rain, an’ waited yonder as hoo’s waiting naa.  Then one o’ th’ maister’s wives took pity on her, an’ hoo pays for her keep an’ lodgin’ at owd Mary’s ’at lives next dur to where the child’s mother lived afore hoo were killed; an’ naa hoo seems more restful an’ content like.  But they cornd geet her away fro’ the factory gates.  There hoo waits, axin’ everybody if they’ve seen aught of her mother, an’ haa it is her mother willn’t come whom; an’ there hoo will wait till her mother comes to fotch her.’

    ‘Till her mother comes to fetch her?’ I asked in a tone of surprise.  ‘I thought you said her mother was dead!’

    ‘Han yo’ never heard o’ th’ deead comin’ back for th’ livin’?  Hoo’s noan forgotten her little un; deeath noan puts aat love.  Hoo’s noan so far off an’ hoo’ll come back for her an’ noan so long first noather.’

    It was one of old Harry’s prophetic utterances, and the meeting came sooner even than he anticipated.  It was a mild, sunny morning, with neither bite in the wind nor cloud in the sky.  Winter, wearied with its months of storm, was resting in its Northern home; and little flowers, emboldened by its retreat, lifted their bashful heads amid the freshening green, and nodded to each other in the gentle breeze.  The moors no longer wore their wreaths of mist, and in the scattered meadows the cattle were loosed, sportive in their late gained freedom.  Even the grey monotony of manufacture was yielding to the spell of Nature’s springtide touch; and the horrible wen — the blot of the blackened village — reflected the light and glory of the scene.  As I stepped from my lodgings, buoyant with the quickened pulse-beat of the season, and aglow with its returning life, I forgot the monotonous months of the past, and entered with rapture into the spirit of the morning.  Sorrow and sighing seemed to have passed away; while a great hand, unseen but felt, was, with gentlest touch, wiping away the tears from all eyes.  Before I had gone far, however, a woman hurried after me with a message that discovered how shadows darken the brightest hours, and how even springtide, which is the world’s great resurrection, cannot stay the sweep of the hand of Death.

    ‘Nelly’s deein’, poor lass, wilta come an’ mak’ a prayer o’er her?’

    ‘Nelly,’ I said; ‘who’s Nelly?’

    ‘Waitin’ Nelly, thaa knows; her as stons agen th’ factory gates waitin’ for her mother as is deead.  We could like yo’ to come an’ mak’ a prayer o’er her, just to give her a bit o’ a lift, poor lass, wi’ her deein’.’

    Responding to her rude request, I followed, entering the cottage to find the girl near a darker portal than even the gloomy gates of the factory yard.

    She was stretched on a bed that stood in a recess between the chimney jamb and a little window that looked out on the gloomy shadow of the adjoining mill.  By her side was the wife of the master whose interest in her had been so keen; while a knot of neighbours, their eyes red, their aprons pressed to their lips, ever the mute signs of mourning among the working-classes, stood silent near the door.

    As I looked at the dying child, I once more traced the sharp lines of suffering of her whom I had met at the factory gate.  It was the old face radiant with a transformation that told how the days of her waiting were ended.  The look of hunger was gone, and in its stead a gleam of gladness played like the reflection of light from another world.  The lips moved — but silently; words unheard by the watchers were being spoken to one whom the watchers could not see.  Then the little lean hand was stretched above the coverlet — stretched eagerly and joyously as though to give a welcome grasp to some hand long expected, yet long withheld.  A moment more, and the eyes closed, and the gladness of a great satisfaction fell with the calm of death.

    ‘Her mother’s fotched her at last,’ said one of the rough-spoken women.

    ‘Yi, hoo’s done wi’ her waitin’ naa,’ remarked another.

    Then the master’s wife, in a voice of gentler accent, though no whit less sincere, said: ‘He hath swallowed up death in victory, and wiped away the tears from all faces.  Lo! this is our God: we have waited for Him; this is the Lord: we have waited for Him, we will rejoice and be glad in His salvation.

* The lodge of the factory is both the entrance gate and the reservoir that supplies the boilers.


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BROKEN ON THE LOOM


THERES brokken hearts of all sorts,’ said old Harry to me one day when in loquacious and philosophising mood.   ‘Aw’ve known lasses break their hearts o’er their felleys, an’ mothers o’er puttin’ their little uns under th’ sod, an’ aboon a few o’er loisin’ a bit of brass; bud owd Fanny, aw tell yo’, were brokken-hearted o’er her looms.’

    ‘How came she to lose them?’ I asked.  ‘Was she discharged through some fault of her own?’

    ‘Nobbud a fault ’at all have who live long enough — an’ that’s th’ fault of owd age;’ and the old man relapsed into one of his tantalising silences, dreamily drawing from his pipe.  Then, as though unconscious of the interrupting pause, he continued:—

    ‘Yo’ see, hoo’d getten past it.  Hoo couldn’t ged her weight off so hoo had to mak’ room for them as could.’

    ‘Was the old woman destitute, then?’ I inquired, supposing for the moment that penury was the source of her sorrow.

    ‘Nay,’ said the old man, ‘hoo were noan baat brass.  Hoo’d awlus addled good wages, an’ ta’en good care on ’em.  Bud then, yo’ see, hoo’d worked so long at th’ looms they’d become a part of hersel’, an’ when they took ’em fro’ her it were like tearin’ the owd lass i’ two.’

    ‘Do you mean to say that the people here get so fond of factory labour that they don’t care to give it up when they can afford to, and fret their hearts away when they are forced?’

    ‘They used to,’ said my companion.  ‘It were like as though they geet incorporated into th’ factory, an’ Fanny were one of th’ owd sort.’

    ‘Then I understand you to say that you knew of an old woman who, with money enough to keep her without work, died of a broken heart because she was discharged from her looms?’

    ‘Thaa hes it naa,’ said old Harry, and fell once more to vigorously drawing at his pipe.

    ‘It would have been an easy thing for the masters to let her work out the remainder of her days, would it not?’ I asked.

    ‘Happen it would, bud it were after they’d floated th’ mill, an’ Boards of Directors is noan like maisters.  Aw know which aw’d rather work for.  Give me th’ gaffer ony day afore th’ manager, when th’ manager’s getten no gaffer o’er him.  When yo’ worked for th’ owd gaffers yo’ felt as though yo’ were workin’ for yore own; bud workin’ for a company is like as yo’ belong to noabry.  Aw’ll warnd (warrant) if th’ owd gaffers could have had their way Fanny would ha’ worked on to th’ end.’

    To me there was something more than touching in these rude philosophic musings of the past — the conservatism of labour now too seldom found.  But the engineer gave me little chance for reverie on his quaint conclusions, for without further delay he continued :— .

    ‘Aw remember th’ mornin’ as hoo geet her notice.  Th’ under-manager co’ed her into th’ office an’ said, “Fanny, thaa’rt noan baat brass, arto?”

    ‘“What’s that to thee?” hoo says.  “What aw’ve getten aw’ve worked for, an’ that’s more nor some folk i’ this shop con say.”  Th’ under-manager, yo’ see, were a moneylender on th’ interest principle.

    ‘“Well, well, Fanny,” he says, “no offence; only we’ve been wonderin’ if yo’ could live baat work.”

    ‘“Aw’se work aslong as aw like, shuzheaw” (right or wrong) hoo says, an’ turned on her heel to go aat of th’ door.

    ‘But th’ manager stopped her.  “Thaa’rt noan as young as thaa used to be, thaa knows, Fanny,” he laughed.

    ‘“Aw durnd need th’ likes of thee to tell me that.  Th’ years is noan makin’ thee ony prattier, aw con tell thee.”

    ‘But th’ manager made up his mind not to loise his temper wi’ her, so he says, coaxin’ like, “Aw’m sorry for yo’, Fanny, bud yo’ll be like to tak’ yore notice.”

    ‘“Noan fro’ thee!” hoo shaated.  “It were a gradely gaffer as set me agate fifty year ago come Kesmas, an’ it’ll be a gradely gaffer as gives me th’ sack.”

    ‘“There is no gradely gaffers naa,” laughed th’ manager. “It’s Board of Directors, yo’ know, Fanny.”

    ‘“Board of Directors?  Aw’m noan baan to tak’ my notice fro’ a Board of Directors.”  An’ hoo went back to her work, thinkin’ haa grand hoo’d sattled him.

    ‘There were as telled her when hoo geet into th’ shade that th’ manager were th’ maister, an’ ’at a young lass co’ed Lennock (slender) Sal were baan to tak’ her looms on Mondo’.  But th’ owd woman swore it were a lie, an’ when Setterdo’ come hoo cleaned up ready for startin’ at th’ beginnin’ of th’ comin’ week.  An’ hoo were theer an’ o’, aw con tell yo’, th’ first o’ th’ batch at th’ lodge gates; an’ hoo geet into th’ shade, an’ were at her looms ready for startin’, when th’ engine were set agate.  Gam’, thaa sees, seventy year owd though hoo were; an’ when Lennock Sal come up wi’ th’ tackler to th’ looms, Fanny towd her to tak’ her matchwood shanks somewhere else, an’ leave daycent folk alone.

    ‘Then they fotched th’ manager, an’ when he come up he says, kindly like, “Fanny, aw want thee.”  Bud hoo went on wi’ her wark as though hoo didn’t hear him; so he towd th’ tackler to let her alone till th’ breakfast-haar, for felley as he were, he were a bit feard.

    ‘When th’ breakfast-haar come, owd Fanny went aat wi’ th’ rest to ged her two-thre porridge, an’ were as lively as ony when th’ whistle saanded for th’ honds to go in agen.  Bud as hoo were steppin’ through th’ lodge door th’ timekeeper said, “Thaa munnot go through there ony more, Fanny;” bud hoo pushed through i’ spite on him.  Then he poo’ed her back into th’ factory yard.’

    ‘It were a seet fit to mak’ th’ stones cry aat.  There hoo lay, wi’ two men stonnin’ over her, an’ her a woman an’ o’ as had done naught wurr nor wark till hoo could wark no longer.  “Yi!” aw said, as aw passed ’em i’ th’ yard, “that’s th’ end of fifty year o’ labour.  Yo’ know naa what yo’ve to come to.”  Then aw helped her to pike hersel’ up, bud hoo did nowt bud sob “Mi looms, mi looms!”  It were fair like a mother cryin’ for her chilt.’

    ‘And you say it broke her heart?’

    ‘It did, for sure; like as hoo never looked up agen.  At first hoo took to hangin’ abaat aatside th’ factory, walkin’ up an’ daan afore th’ manager’s office, an’ sittin’ on th’ lodge steps.  Hoo come all weathers, wet or fine, snow or blow.  It were no wonder hoo geet rheumastis an’ browntitis; bud like as it neither meant nor mattered — hoo couldn’t poo’ hersel’ away.  Hoo used to ged up at wakin’-time, an’ don her shawl an’ clogs, an’ hurry up wi’ th’ weyvers as hoo’d been like to.  Bud they never let her through th’ lodge.  Th’ timekeeper were awlus there wi’ his “no admittance except on bisness,” an’ owd Fanny’s bisness days were o’er.  Bud hoo used to walk back’ards an’ forruds aatside, watchin’ ’em takkin’ th’ goods to Manchester, or peepin’ through a bit of brokken winder at them as were workin’ i’ th’ inside, or else stonnin’ against th’ shade wall listenin’ to th’ looms.  One afternoon, when th’ rain were comin’ daan dree (continuously), an’ hoo were stonnin’ shiverin’ i’ her soppin’ shawl, aw said to her, “Fanny, why durnd yo’ go home?”  “They willn’t let me,” hoo said.  “Mi home’s yon,” an’ hoo pointed to th’ factory; “mi home’s yon, an’ they’ve shut th’ door on me.”  “Nay, Fanny,” aw says, “thy home’s i’ th’ Croft (a knot of old houses in a Lancashire village).  Thank Him ’at’s aboon as thaa’s a nook o’ thy own where thaa con go an’ caar i’stead of starvin’ thysel’ i’ th’ wet an’ cowd.”  Bud it were all no use: as prayin’ Jim towd me th’ same neet, “th’ weyvin’-shed were th’ owd woman’s heaven, an’ th’ clash of th’ shuttles th’ harpin’ o’ th’ harps.”

    ‘They say ’at time heals all things, fro’ a brokken leg to a brokken heart,’ mused the old man.  ‘Bud it were noan so kindly wi’ owd Fanny, for fro’ frettin’ hoo took to fratchin’, follerin’ th’ manager an’ sayin’ what hoo’d do at him if he didn’t set her agate agen.  One day hoo threw a stone through th’ office winder, an’ when th’ book-keeper ordered her off th’ flags hoo turned on him an’ o’.  Then they took her afore th’ magistrates, an’ bun her o’er to keep th’ peace, an’ when th’ owd woman seed it were no use feightin’ agen law, hoo gave up to’t, an’ settled daan to fret i’ her own home.’

    ‘Then you had no further trouble with her?’ I asked, only too desirous to know the fate of this old unfortunate of labour.

    ‘Not mich,’ was the old man’s reply.  ‘Like as hoo never looked up no more.  Not bud what hoo had her restless fits; then hoo would turn aat, an’ look raand.  Bud hoo were very quiet — th’ heart were eyten aat o’ th’ owd woman, an’ hoo said naught to noabry.  It weren’t a case of axin’ for bread an’ gettin’ a stone; hoo’d bread enough, bud hoo couldn’t eyt it becose it wernd sweetened wi’ wark.

    ‘One Sundo’ afternoon, as hoo were peepin’ raand, hoo come across me i’ th’ yard.  “E’, Harry,” hoo says, “aw’m fain to see thee — thaa’rt just th’ chap aw wanted to leet on.”

    ‘“What doesta want to leet on me for, Fanny?” aw axed.

    ‘“To beg a favour of thee,” hoo smiled; “an’ aw know thaa’ll not say me nay, wilta?” an’ then aw towd her aw muh first yer what it were.

    ‘“Let’s ha’ a look at th’ owd looms agen — them, thaa knows, ’at aw used to run.”

    ‘Aw were quiet for a bit, for my heart fair warked for th’ owd lass.  Then, kindly like, aw reminded her it were agen orders to let her come on th’ job ony more.

    ‘“Noabry need know, Harry, an’ aw’ll mak’ it worth thy while;” an’ hoo whipped haive a suvrin aat of her pocket, an’ tried to slip it i’ my hond.

    ‘“Nay,” aw says, “Fanny, we durnd run this factory wi’ palm-oil;” an’ aw turned on my heel to leave her.  But hoo geet howd o’ me, an’ brast into tears.  “Thaa mun forgive me, Harry,” hoo sobbed, “bud aw feel ’at aw couldn’t dee yessy till aw’ve seen th’ owd looms agen.”

    ‘“Then aw’ll see thaa dees yessy, lass,” aw stammered, for my throat were full.  “Come along, thaa shall see thy looms.”  An’ aw took her.

    ‘It were fair wonderful haa owd Fanny wakkened up an’ were new-made o’er agen as hoo felt her feet on th’ owd graad.  “Aw’ve worn some clog-iron on these steps, Harry,” hoo said as we went through th’ lodge, pikin’ hersel’ together, till hoo were as nimble as a lass.  “Sithee,” hoo shaated as we passed th’ warehaase door, “owd Chris, th’ cut-looker, used to ston there.  He’s fun’ his last float, poor lad,” — for th’ cut-looker, yo’ mun know, were just deead — “he’s gone where they’ll find floats i’ his own piece naa; but th’ Maister’s just, whatever Chris were — he did a deal of batin’ i’ his time, he did for sure.”  An’ so hoo went on — hoo’d summat to say at every turn hoo come to; it were as if hoo were readin’ a book an’ seed picters everywhere.

    ‘Bud when we geet into th’ weyvin-shade hoo were fair wick wi’ glee, an’ aw welly think if there’d been a bit of music th’ owd girl would ha’ danced to it, hoo were so pleased.  “Same as it awlus were,” hoo said, “nobbud it wants th’ looms agate.  Aw could like to yer th’ shuttles agen.”  It seemed as though th’ stillness bothered her; bud hoo were hersel’ as we walked daan th’ alleys, an’ telled me who used to tackle th’ looms an’ who used to run ’em, an’ what kind of wark they turned off an’ who were wed, an’ who were deead, an’ who had left an’ gone to live in furrin parts.  Nay, hoo’d forgetten nowt, noather good nor bad, nor indifferent oather.  Then hoo began a-tellin’ of th’ marlocks hoo’d had when hoo were young, an’ showed me th’ nook where one of th’ maisters once tucked her under th’ chin when hoo were a lass, an’ towd her hoo were gradely-lookin’.  Aw con tell yo’ aw fair felt young agen mysel’, an’ aw began a-seein’ th’ picters i’ mi own past as aw’d forgetten for years.

    ‘When hoo geet to her own looms it capped all.  Hoo were as tender wi’ ’em as if they’d been childer; nay, flesh an’ blood weren’t i’ it.  Hoo walked raand ’em, an’ looked i’ th’ weft-can, an’ played wi’ th’ startin’-handle, an’ when hoo ran her fingers along th’ selvedge hoo said, “Aw never had a bad side like that, Harry, had aw?”  “Thaa never had,” aw laughed.  “Nowe,” hoo said, “it never were a trouble for me to weyve; bud aw’ve woven my last piece;” an’ then hoo brast into tears.

    ‘Well, as aw were sayin’, time were noan so kindly toward her, an’ little, if ony, of th’ berm of healin’, as th’ wiseacres say falls fro’ th’ hond o’ time, fell owd Fanny’s road.  Hoo were soon nobbud a shadow of what hoo had been; th’ leet went aat of her keen grey een, an’ th’ blossom that had kept her cheek as fresh as ony lass’s died away.  Like as hoo gave up to’t.  Th’ cottage ’at had been her pride were never sided, an’ th’ dust an’ dirt hoo’d awlus foughten lay all along ith’ nooks an’ shelves.  Th’ winder plants as used to flaar welly all th’ year raand lost their bloom an’ hung their yeds for want of sombry to love ’em, an’ th’ cat as used to be awlus purrin’ were as silent as a maase, for th’ fender were raasty an’ th’ grate were cowd.  Sometimes hoo’d lie i’ bed for days, freetenin’ th’ naybors; then hoo’d wander o’er th’ moors an’ be fun’ an’ fotched whom.  Then her memory left her, an’ hoo didn’t know th’ owd faces, nor th’ owd places noather; an’ hoo were awlus losin’ summat, an’ sayin’ as hoo’d been robbed, when there was noabry i’ th’ village ’at would ha’ touched a yure of her yed.  But hoo awlus knew th’ owd factory, an’ hoo never forgeet her looms.

    ‘At last they’d to shift her to th’ workhaase, for hoo’d getten past takkin’ care of hersel’, an’ hoo’d noabry akin as was near to her.  There were some tears shed, aw con tell yo’, when th’ cab coom to tak’ her away.  At first hoo wernd for goin’, bud th’ relievin’ officer told her he were baan to tak’ her to her looms; an’ then hoo went as quiet as a chilt.  Bud when th’ cab drove up at th’ warkhaase gates they’d more trouble wi’ her than they’d reckoned on.  “This is noan th’ factory,” hoo says; “aw’m noan baan in there.”  “Yi, Fanny,” th’ officer says, “this is th’ factory.  Yo’ve forgetten it like.”  “It’s noan th’ factory,” hoo says.  “Where’s th’ chimbly?”  “They’ve poo’ed it daan,” he says.  “Then there’s no work there for me!” hoo shaated.  Then he lost his temper, an’ he an’ th’ gatekeeper took her aat, an’ carried her skrikin’ into th’ Haase.

    ‘Aw daresay hoo were well takken care on, for hoo weren’t a common pauper, havin’ brass of her own; bud for o’ that it took off her days.  Aw’ve yerd ’em say haa hoo used to climb a bit of a broo i’ th’ grounds where hoo could look daan into th’ valley an’ see th’ chimblies as they were smokin’, an’ th’ factory winders all glintin’ i’ th’ sun, while her een would fill an’ a look of longin’ come into em; an’ when hoo took to her bed hoo used to ax th’ nurse to oppen th’ winder when th’ wind were i’ th’ reet direction, so as hoo could listen to th’ saand of th’ looms.

    ‘One day when th’ parson were talkin’ to her abaat th’ other shop, hoo axed him if he thought there’d be any factories up aboon.

    ‘“Nowe,” said th’ owd chap, “there’ll be no factories i’ heaven, Fanny.  Them as goes there rests fro’ their labours.”  But hoo said nowt, an’ like started a-frettin’.

    ‘“What is it ’at bothers thee, Fanny?” he says.  “Yo’ll be fain to go where th’ weary are at rest.”  Bud still th’ owd lass said nowt.  Then he said he’d mak’ a prayer o’er her, an’ he axed th’ Almeety to tak’ His handmaiden to Hissel’, an’ give her grace for th’ haar of death which were so near.

    ‘When he geet off his knees he took howd of her hand an’ axed her if hoo felt ony better like.  Then hoo looked up into his face an’ said —

    ‘“Do yo’ say ’at up aboon they rest fro’ their labours?”  And when he towd her “Yi,” hoo turned away fro’ him an’ said, “Aw’m noan tired of weyvin’ yet.”

    ‘But that neet th’ Maister come, an’ hoo laid her weyvin’ by, for good an’ o’.’


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MAISTER REGINALD’S COURTSHIP


OLD HARRY followed no sequence in his narrations.  He spake as the spirit moved him, and the spirit was whimsical in its choice.  Forty years with the old man were but as yesterday; and from telling a story in which the ‘young maisters,’ as he called them, played their part, he would follow on with one about their grand-fathers, the original founders of the firm.  This was confusing to me; I could not disentangle the incidents told so as to duly arrange them in my own mind.  Hence I determined to ask him to outline the pedigree of the family that I might know them in their order of age, and secure that perspective without which I was left in hopeless confusion.

    ‘Boy an’ man,’ said he in reply to my question, ‘aw’ve worked for three lots of ’em; th’ owd uns, the young uns, an’ th’ young uns’ sons — an’ aw’ve done my duty by them — an’ aw cannot say but what they’ve done their duty by me an’ all.’

    ‘Who were the original founders of the firm?’ I asked.

    ‘Michael and Jonas,’ was his reply; ‘an’ Michael had lasses, and Jonas lads.  The lasses were soon piked up, for they were gradely ’uns, wi’ plenty o’ brass; but Jonas’ stock stop’d awhom an’ worked th’ factory.  Two on ’em died — Jimmy and Ernest — an’ Reginal’ and Frank lived, an’ geet wed — but nobbud Frank had childer.’

    ‘Reginald seems to have been a favourite with all, for the people still talk about him, although he has been long dead,’ I said, anxious to encourage the old man in his recountings of the past.

    ‘Yi,’ was his reply,‘ Reginal’ were a grand mon, he were, forshure.  There were noabry but had a good word for him; like as he were one of aar own; an’, if th’ truth mun be spokken, he wed one of aar own, an’ hoo never shamed him noather.’

    ‘I understand you to mean that he married one of his own workpeople?’

    ‘Yi, a factory lass; but hoo were a lady for o’ that.  An’ aw did my share i’ th’ job an’ o’.  Not bud what aw were axed; for aw were never a chap to meddle wi’ what didn’t belong to me.  Bud aw could never say “Nay” to Maister Reginald, though this time it welly cost me my shop.’

    The old man wiped his face with the wad of cotton waste he always carried ready to hand; then, as was his wont, slowly filled and lighted his pipe, in silence waiting for the vanished forms that ever peopled the blue wreaths ascending in these moods of indulgence.

    ‘Her name was Bella,’ he continued. ‘“Bonnie Bella,” we used to co’ her; an’ th’ name fit her an’ o’.  I’ those days lasses used to wear curls —ringlets, yo know — an’ hers hung i’ black clusters raand a neck an’ shoulders as white as blossoms i’ May.  Hoo’d a wicked ee an’ o’ — but it were the wickedness of mischief, and not malice; an’ hoo were as lithe i’ her step as a colt.’

    ‘Well, as yo’ may suppose, there weren’t a single chap i’ th’ factory but wanted her, an’ for that matter some of th’ wed uns wouldn’t let her alone.  Bud hoo knew haa to tak’ care of hersel’; an’ when hoo were fairly roused there weren’t many bud kept aat of her gate.

    ‘Aw knew as Maister Reginald were sweet on th’ lass, for he towd me as mich.  “Harry,” he says, one afternoon as th’ mill were losin’, an’ th’ honds were crossin’ th’ factory yard, and her among ’em, “Harry, yon lass were made for summat better nor a loom.”

    ‘“Hoo’s better at a loom nor i’ mischief,” aw said; “th’ same as some of yo’ young chaps would lead her.”

    ‘Well, see yo’, he turned on me like a demon.  “By Guy!” he shaated, “if thaa talks to me like that, Harry, aw’ll pitch thee daan i’ th’ fire-hoile.  Doesto think aw mean Bella ony ill?”

    ‘“Thaa doesn’t mean ony, aw know; but th’ best on us does things as we durnd mean;” an’ aw shook mysel’ loose fro’ his grip, for he were holdin’ me like a vice.

    ‘“Aw mean to mak’ her a lady, Harry,” he whispered, “and give her a name as noather her nor onybody else need be ashamed on.”  An’ th’ lad, did, as yo’ll hear, though it were noan such yessy work.

    ‘At that time there were a chap weyvin’ i’ th’ shade ’at went by th’ name o’ “Stand-at-Ease.”  He’d been i’ th’ Regulars, an’ were lazy an’ o’, so that were haa he come to get his name.  He were a forrad sort of a chap, an’ awlus oateer persecutin’ or insultin’ th’ lasses, an’ noan of ’em were safe where he come.

    ‘Well, one neet, there were as laid a bet at th’ “Sheaf an’ Sickle” ’at Stand-at-Ease daren’t kiss Bella afore th’ weyvers i’ th’ shade; an’ as yo’ll hear, he were noan slow to tak’ it an’ to shap’ hissel’ for th’ winnin’ on’t.

    ‘Aw happened to be i’ th’ public-haase mysel’ at th’ time, an’ as aw met Maister Reginald as aw were comin’ home aw towd him of th’ little game ’at Stand-at-Ease were baan to play; he didn’t say nowt, bud he thought all th’ more.

    ‘Th’ next mornin’ he were there before th’ shade started, fixin’ hissel’ in a place where he could see everybody bud couldn’t be seen hissel’.  Up to th’ breakfast-haar nowt happened, bud abaat ten o’clock Stand-at-Ease began a-makin’ tracks for Bella’s looms.  But Maister Reginald were as sharp as he were, an’ when the powse (dirty rascal) were raisin’ his hands to poo’ Bella’s curls, an’ mak’ her turn her face up fro’ th’ warp o’er which she were stoopin’, Maister Reginald seized him fro’ behind, and threw him face daan’ards on th’ alley floor, co’in’ him a varmin, an’ tellin’ him to walk hissel’ away, an’ never darken th’ shade no more.

    ‘They say courtin’ starts wi’ accidents; onyroad the row in the weyvin’-shade brought th’ young folk a deal more together, an’ where afore there’d been nobbud a bit of talk abaat them, their names were naa in everybody’s maath.  At first folks said Maister Reginald meant nowt; but aw knew better.  An’ there were as blamed th’ girl, an’ said hoo’d gone after him, an’ were forrard like; but that were false, as all knew ’at knew her best.

    They’d both on ’em aboon a few as wished ’em onythin’ but weel, th’ lasses bein’ spiteful like, an’ th’ young maister’s relations put aat wi’ his pairin’ wi’ a factory lass.

    ‘Bud if yo’ want to mak’ onythin’ go i’ th’ love line, set agen it — it gains motion by resistance, as they say.  Try an’ blow th’ fire aat, an’ yo’ll end by blowin’ it breeter; let it alone, says aw, an’ it’ll die of itsel’.  Leastways, that’s as aw reads lads an’ lasses.  Not as it would ha’ been so wi’ Maister Reginald, for his mind were made up, an’ he bred off them ’at never changed.  Bud th’ opposition made the lad a deal more open; an’ as for th’ lass, it made a woman of her.

    ‘Th’ first they had to get over to their side were Bella’s mother.  Martha hoo were co’ed; an’ hoo were a Methody — a strait-backed un an’ o’.  Hoo were great at th’ class-meetin’ an’ th’ prayer-meetin’, an’ were never known to miss th’ Sundo’ service, haa it were.

    ‘When Maister Reginald co’ed to ax her abaat th’ engagement — for he were a gentleman — th’ owd lass said as hoo mut mak’ it a matter of prayer.  An’ so hoo did; bud like as hoo didn’t geet an answer to suit her mind.  As hoo said, “hoo didn’t wish to stand i’ th’ lass’s gate; an’ yet hoo were afraid ’at Master Reginald might be up to some marlock or other, as ‘lads were nobbud lads.’”  So hoo made up her mind to go to th’ parson — superintendo, as they co’ him — an’ ax him what hoo mut do.

    ‘“Well,” he says, “my good woman, th’ law an’ th’ testimony’s plain; it says ’at we munnot be unequally yoked together wi’ unbelievers;” an’ then he towd her, as Maister Reginald were not a perfesser he were noan a fit husband for a woman as were a member of Society like their Bella.

    ‘If th’ owd chap had stopped there it would ha’ been o’ reet; but he spiced his spiritual advice wi’ a bit of th’ priest, sayin’ as haa if even Maister Reginald had been a perfesser he were noan th’ sort for th’ likes of Bella, as he belonged to another order.

    ‘“An’ what order does aar Bella belong to, aw’d like to know?” axed Martha.

    ‘“To th’ lower orders,” replied the parson; for he were one of th’ owd schoo’.

    ‘Then th’ owd woman’s pride geet th’ better of her Methodism.  “Lower orders!” hoo shaated.  “Aw’d have yo’ know aar Bella comes of as good a breed as Maister Reginald.  There’s nobbud a generation between his lot an’ aars, for his grond-feyther an’ Bella’s both fotched their own warps an’ carried their own pieces i’ th’ owden days; an’ that’s not so long sin’.”

    ‘Then th’ parson talked to her abaat th’ evils of pride, tellin’ her it were a sin to look higher nor her station.  Bud it were all no use; hoo could preych a deal more powerful nor he could, an’ a deal better doctrine an’ o’.  “It’s sich as yo’,” hoo says, “as is afraid of yore order; aw rests on my character, an’ aw’m content.” An’ the owd woman stumped aat of th’ parson’s haase, an’ left him fair gloppened; an’ after that Martha said ’at if Maister Reginald were jannock they might keep company, an’ they did.  Bud there were a deal of bother wi’ his own relations; th’ uncles, th’ aunts, th’ cousins, an’ everybody as could claim to be onythin’ to him, set their tungs waggin’ all raand th’ countryside.  E’ dear, haa soon folk forgeet th’ pit they’ve been digged aat on!  There wasn’t one of ’em had a grondfeyther as were aught.  Two or three of th’ young lady taychers o’ th’ Sundo’ schoo’, an’ were akin to Maister Reginald, sent in their resignations becose Bella were a taycher an’ o’.  Yo’re a man of larnin’; can yo’ tell me haa it is that brass divides folk so?  Aw cornd; bud it is so.  Talk abaat th’ root of all evil!  It plays the dule wherever it con ged wi’ its cloven foot.

    ‘Aw will say this for th’ owd maister — he were abaat the most reasonable o’ th’ lot — but then he were awlus a philosopher.  He were talkin’ to me one neet, an’ he says, “Harry, my lad, Reginald shall go his own gate.  It’s not me he’s to mak’ happy, it’s hissel’.  Aw could ha’ liked him to ha’ looked elsewhere; but aw’m noan goin’ to look for him, nor square his een to my likin’.  Aw never axed onybody who aw were to wed; an’ th’ lad ought to have as mich sense as his faither.”’

    ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘the man who could talk like that was a philosopher; it was sane reasoning.  I don’t wonder that he made his way in the world, nor do I wonder that you were so attached to him.’

    Old Harry was silent, sitting, chin in hand, and meditatively drawing at his pipe, and little conscious of the strange page of life he was opening to me in his reminiscence of a love story, none the less romantic because it was a love story of every-day life.  The wind blew in through the open arches of the boiler-house, bearing on its aerial wings the shouts of children and the voices of those who were idling in the evening hour.  The farewell tints of the sun glowed behind the summits of the distant hills, leaving a blood-red track across the sluggish waters of the lodge and the turbid stream that ran below.  Beyond, in the dotted meadows, where the new-mown hay sent up its odorous offering, and scattered trees began to cast a darker shadow, wandered youth in the first blush of its romance — living over again the lot of Reginald and Bella, and keeping the world young with the old yet ever perennial story of the heart.  To me, if not to old Harry, even in this prosaic centre of toil, and surrounded by the commonplaces of labour, the hour was as the evensong of ardent passion and of holy fire.

    In a little while the old man recommenced: ‘It were his mother ’at were th’ stickler; an’ there were folk as said hoo’d never give way.  If hoo hadn’t, aw durnd know what Reginald would ha’ done; for there were no measurin’ th’ length of his love towards his mother; though there were no mistakin’ his love for Bella come first.  Bud, yo’ know, he were his mother’s favourite — th’ apple of her een, as they say; an’ hoo’d fair set her mind on his marryin’ a lady.  Well, yo’ know what it is when a woman mak’s up her mind.  A thaasand-horse-power isn’t in it where th’ movin’ of her is consarned; an’ mich as hoo loved Reginald, hoo wouldn’t hear on him marryin’ Bella; an’ happen hoo were th’ stronger becose of her love.

    ‘At first hoo tried to force him; bud he were of th’ same stock as hoo come hersel’; he were his mother o’er agen, an’ hoo fun’ hersel’ matched agen hersel’ i’ th’ shape of her lad.  Then hoo tried shamin’ on him, an’ telled him haa hoo would ax Bella up to th’ Hall when th’ grond ladies were there, an’ mak’ him blush when he seed haa they laughed at th’ way hoo would eyt an’ speyk.  Bud Reginald stuck to Bella.

    ‘Well, this sort of thing went on for two year Bella bein’ the one skelington i’ th’ haasehold cupboard, th’ flee i’ th’ ointment pot.  Mich as th’ mother an’ son loved one another, noather on ’em would give in, th’ mother sayin’ hoo loved her son too weel, an’ th’ son sayin’ th’ same abaat Bella.

    ‘One Sundo’ afternoon, when the owd woman were too weak to go aat, an’ sittin’ wi’ th’ Bible open before her, Reginald chanced to come into th’ room.  He see’d as hoo were failin’ as he’d never seed it afore; an’ there were tears in her een an’ o’.  “Mother,” he says, “what ails yo’?” an’ then he stooped daan an’ kissed th’ wet away as were tricklin’ daan her fadin’ cheeks.

    ‘“Sit thee daan,” hoo says; “aw want to talk wi’ thee.  Thaa knows thaa were awlus thy mother’s favourite.  Two of yo’ lie under th’ sod, an’ yo’ve a brother livin’, an’ God knows yo’re all yore mother’s pride; bud like as aw awlus took to thee.  Aw could talk to thee as aw couldn’t talk to t’others; an’ if the truth mun be told, aw’ve prayed more for thee an’ o’.  Thaa’rt my first thoughts on wakenin’, an’ aw awlus see thee when aw close my een to sleep.  Happen aw’ve been sinful, an’ th’ Lord’s punishin’ me.”  An’ then Maister Reginald towd me ’at th’ owd woman brast into tears, an’ haa he had to choke hissel’ to keep fro’ joinin’ her.

    ‘Then hoo looked up i’ his face an’ co’ed him “Reggie,” a name as he said hoo hadn’t co’ed him by sin’ he were a lad.  “There’s a thorn i’ my pillow, Reggie, an’ aw cornd lie yessy.”  Bud he never said nowt, bud stared at th’ carpet an’ trembled, for he knew what were comin’ next.

    ‘“Reggie,” hoo said, “kneel thee daan as thaa used to;” an’ he were a childt once more, kneelin’ by her side.  Then hoo ran her lean lingers through his yure an’ played wi’ it as hoo did when he were a lad.

    ‘“Reggie,” hoo sobbed, fit to break her heart, “wilta tak’ my thorn away?”

    ‘At first he said nowt,for he knew he couldn’t do it baat drivin’ a thorn into sombry else’s heart as dear to him as his mother.  Then he turned to th’ owd lass an’ said, “Mother, aw’se wed where aw love; my word’s spokken, an’ my heart’s wi’ my word.”  Then hoo poo’ed hersel’ together, an’ th’ owd een ’at blinked wi’ tears, flashed fire as hoo said, “Then tha’ll never ha’ my blessin’!”

    ‘He come to th’ engine-haase th’ same neet an’ telled me word for word all ’at had been said.

    “Harry,” he says, “it’s a cross fire when a man’s between his mother an’ th’ lass he loves.”

    ‘As th’ autumn passed, an’ th’ neets stole big slices aat of th’ afternoons, th’ owd woman grew weaker an’ weaker.  Bud though hoo’d all as heart could wish for, th’ owd smile of contentment, which used to crown her like a queen, were gone.  Then, as hoo said, hoo’d a thorn in her pillow — hoo wanted to be reyt wi’ her lad.  Bud nowe, th’ rulin’ spirit were strong i’ death, hoo’d have her own way, or no way at all; th’ weakness of th’ body couldn’t shake th’ praad owd heart.

    ‘One neet, haaever, hoo had a dream, an’ i’ th’ mornin’ hoo sent for Reginald an’ said he mun bring Bella wi’ him, so as hoo could see her afore hoo died.

    ‘At first th’ lass weren’t for goin’, an’ no wonder; bud when hoo knew it were to satisfy a dyin’ woman hoo smoored (smothered) her pride, an’ let Maister Reginald tak’ her.

    ‘Bella had never been i’ such a chamber afore — a big room wi’ a big bed all hung wi’ curtains, where th’ owd woman were lyin’i’ daan, wi’ a nurse by her side, an’ a Bible open at her elbow on th’ table.  At first noabry spoke.  Then hoo beckoned Bella to stand i’ th’ sunleet, where hoo could ged a fair look at her.

    ‘“Thaa’rt a lass ony man would be praad on,” said th’ owd woman, wi’ a quaver in her voice; “an’ if thaa hasn’t getten brass thaa’s getten goodness, for aw con read it i’ thy face.” Then hoo turned to Reginald an’ said, “Tha’ll be good to her, Reggie, aw know; for him as has been true to his mother is like to be true to his wife.”

    ‘Then hoo raised hersel’ up i’ bed, an’ them as were there tell as a strange leet come into her een, an’ hoo said, “Childer, join hands o’er yore mother.” An’ when they did as hoo’d towd ’em, hoo laid her wasted hand i’ theirs, an’ closin’ her een, said, “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”  An’ them were th’ last words hoo ever spoke.

    ‘An’ noabry never did put ’em asunder bud death; an’ if yo’ll climb the Chapel Hill an’ read their tombstones, you’ll find haa it says ;—

    ‘“They were lovely an’ pleasant i’ their lives, an’ i’ their deeath they were not divided.”’


――――♦―――

 
THE MARRIAGE THAT WAS MADE
IN HEAVEN


WHEN I first saw her she would be about seventy-five years old, but in no way decrepit with the wear and tear of time.  The winters had dealt kindly with her, for her hair was scarce frosted, and each summer had left its glow upon her ruddy cheek.  There was an erectness in her walk that seemed to scorn the hand of the avenger, and her kindliness of tone gave proof that the proverbial crabbed element had not disenchanted the glory of her age.  Whenever we met, a greeting was upon her lips, accompanied by some religious ejaculation, for she was a Methodist of the Methodists, a saintess among the saintly — at least, so it was said.  Nor did I ever meet with or hear of any word or act of hers that contravened her reputation.  She was the critic of the sanctuary, the leader in what was termed ‘the means of grace.’  More than once she had declaimed, or proclaimed, shall I say, on the village green, and she was often sent for to the bedsides of the dying.  She was the product of what old Harry called ‘natur’ an’ grace’; and the old man was not far wrong in his estimate; there was, as he put it, ‘aboon a bit o’ both.’  But, as I once heard Rachel say to him, when he was telling her of this contradiction in her nature, ‘Thaa knows, lad, where sin abaands, grace doth much more abaand,’ climaxing her retort by telling him that he was past grace, and leaving him the worse for conflict in this war of words.

    The air of the village was rife with stories told as to her quaintness and the prodigies wrought by her prayers of faith, while many of her sayings were current coin.  She was often spoken of as ‘a wrostler wi’ th’ owd lad,’ or in other words, with the devil.  She had been known to pray two hours at a stretch in the days of the great revival, many of the congregation in the meanwhile retiring for their tea and returning for the evening service to find her still ‘agate.’  It was told how once when a youth came to preach at the chapel from what the masters called the Theological Seminary, that she cried out in her prayer, ‘Save us, Lord, fro’ preychers fro’ th’ Theological Cemetaries, if they’re all as deead as th’ chap thaa’s sent to-day;’ while on another occasion during the profound discourse of an erudite M.A., somniferous in its effects upon the congregation, the plain walls of the barn-like Zion echoed the cry, ‘Thaa’s sewin’ wi’ too fine needles, lad.’

    These had not always been Rachel’s moods.  In her earlier years the mirth and indifference of ‘an irreligious life,’ to use her own words, had been hers.  She could tell of feasts and fairs and junketings; of summer Sabbath afternoons spent in nutting in the cloughs, and of rambles on the moors; of trips to the city over the hills, in those days a world-wonder to the operatives in the rapidly developing manufacture of the county.  But, as she once said to me in one of her talks of the past, ‘Th’ things ’at were gain to me aw caanted loss for Christ.’  Then, as if the memory of those days was not altogether without its sweets, she continued, ‘But them were grand owd times, them were.’

    One day I determined to ask old Harry to give me the history of this remarkable woman, and so quaintly did he tell it, and so realistically too, that it would mar the story if I were to give it in any other fashion save his own.

    ‘Aw’ve known three Rachels,’ he said, ‘Rachel as th’ lass, an’ a wick un hoo were an’ all; Rachel convarted; an’ Rachel wed.  Aw welly think as th’ first Rachel were th’ best.  Not as aw’ve a word to say agen convarsion, though aw never tried it mysel’.  But aw know plenty as has, some for better, an’ some for wurr.  Aw noan believe i’ a religion ’at draws a felley’s face like th’ toothwark; that comes noan fro’ aboon.  Not as owd Rachel’s one o’ that sort.  Hoo con still laugh an crack her joke wi’ ony o’ us; but whose noan as breet as hoo were afore hoo geet convarted.  E’ dear! hoo were th’ merriest lass i’ th’ village; up to all sorts o’ marlocks, and wi’ een as wick as Owd Nick’s wi’ noan o’ his malice in it, an’ a lip ready for onybody.  Aw con remember when hoo were weyvin’ i’ th’ shade yonder, haa hoo used to keep ’em all in a roar.  There wasn’t a single felley i’ th’ village hoo couldn’t have wed, but like as hoo thought hersel’ aboon porritch, an’ hoo kept ’em all aat o’ th’ gate.  Not as hoo awlus did fair by ’em, for hoo had a way o’ leadin’ ’em on an’ then makkin’ foos o’ them, an’ hoo kept on doin’ this until th’ lads fought shy on her an’ left her to hersel’.  But hoo were as well favvered as hoo were faulty, an’ for th’ most part folk used to forgive an’ forget.  If ever aw seed a reg’lar witch, a Lancashire witch, aw meean, it were Rachel i’ th’ days when hoo were young; but like as religion took some o’ the steam aat on her, leastways it did to my fancy.’

    ‘You mean her gaiety, I suppose,’ I said; for the old woman had plenty of life left, as it seemed to me.

    ‘Yi! like as after hoo were convarted, hoo took things more serious an’ began to talk a deal abaat deeath, an’ judgment, an’ fleein’ fro’ th’ wrath to come.  Hoo stopped off wi’ her owd companions, or else they stopped it off wi’ her, becose hoo were awlus axin’ ’em abaat their souls.  Hoo geet plaguey religious, an’ folk willn’t have it; they like to go their own gate; onyroad yo’ connot drive ’em through th’ strait gate, as they co’ it; if they durnd go through by theirsel’s they willn’t go through at all.’

    After the old man had finished this somewhat philosophic deliverance he paused, and then continued:—

    ‘Have yo’ ever noticed haa religion turns a chap reet raand till he puts his back on his owd mates an’ turns his face toward new uns?  They co’ it a new natur’ up at th’ chapel yon; an’ it is wi’ some on ’em, an’ no mistak’.  Aw’m content wi’ what aw am.  Not but what aw might be better; but aw might swop wur, so aw’m content to remain as aw am.’

    I had heard many dissertations on conversion, but never one as quaint and as original as this one which fell from old Harry’s lips.  Nor was he altogether mistaken, for the gloom of faith is almost as fearful to contemplate as the frivolity of thoughtless youth.  Dogma is a terrible force in retarding the development of that otherwise spontaneous life which is truly Nature’s gift, and which it is Nature’s purpose to perfect.  Here was a rude, unlettered man, who had seen in others that sudden transit from gaiety to gloom, leading him to shrink from the so-called faith which was its factor.

    ’When Rachel geet convarted hoo spent all her spare time up at th’ chapel, where hoo were singin’ an’ prayin’ as though hoo’d been an angel.  Then hoo took to throwin’ off her bits o’ finery.  Hoo poo’ed th’ feather aat o’ her hat, an’ took th’ droppers aat o’ her ears, an’ began o’ dressin’ i’ black, as though hoo were baan to a berryin’.  Hoo took to makkin’ a deal o’ th’ parsons, an’ hoo’d fotch their tea for ’em to th’ vestry, an’ then hoo took to suppin’ tea wi’ ’em hersel’,an’ joinin’ wi’ ’em i’ prayer.

    ‘There were a young local preycher as used to come o’er th’ moors fro’ Dandyshaw, an they used to say as haa he an’ Rachel did a deal o’ prayin’ together by theirsel’s i’ th’ vestry.  Then hoo’d walk wi’ him a bit o’ th’ way home at neet when th’ preychin were o’er, an’ then it began to be whispered that they’d getten engaged.  An’ if Rachel could have had her own way they would ha’ been an’ all.  But then hoo couldn’t.  An’ as the young felley were recommended for th’ ministry an were sent to th’ college, he come no more that road, an’ ended up by marryin’ a lass whose feyther run a mill o’ his own.

    ‘Then it were Rachel began talkin’ abaat th’ vanities an’ pomps o’ this wicked world, an’ tellin’, i’ what they co’ her experience, what a vain thing it were to put one’s confidence i’ man; an’ when th’ leader o’ th’ class hoo met in would say, “Sister Rachel, give aat a verse,” hoo used to give aat:—


“Let me cast my reeds aside,
 All that feeds my knowin’ pride,
 Not to man, but God submit,
 Lay my reasonings at Thy feet.”


An’ when hoo come to the third line, “Not to man, but God submit,” hoo used to bring her clog daan on th’ vestry floor, an’ bang her neave (fist) on th’ table, an’ shaat aat, “No, Lord, not to man, never; not to man, but God submit.”

    ‘There were as wondered haa it were hoo awlus gave aat this verse; an’ there were as thought they knew.  Th’ truth were, th’ lass had been crossed i’ love, an’ set all men daan as deceivers.  Hoo welly persuaded hersel’ as hoo’d have naught more to do wi’ felleys.  Nay, aw believe as hoo made up her mind hoo’d never wed.  Not but what hoo’d th’ chonce; but them as come were none o’ th’ reet sort, for a bit o’ th’ owd pride were left though hoo were convarted.  But hoo kept on shakin’ her head an’ sayin’ “No,” till they gave o’er comin’ an’ axin’; an’ as th’ years went on hoo sattled daan into a reg’lar owd maid.

    ‘Hoo used to co’ hersel’ “th’ Lord’s spouse,” whatever hoo might mean by that; an’ hoo were very fond o’ raisin’ her finger an’ pointin’ to th’ chapel ceilin’ an’ sayin’ summat abaat her “house an’ portion bein’ aboon.”  But the owd lass had a cottage o’ her own, an’ knew haa to tak’ care on’t an’ all; an’ hoo’d a stockin’ full o’ brass as hoo’d saved fro’ her earnin’s.

    ‘One clay, when hoo were talkin’ to’ th’ Superintendo, he axed her haa it were as hoo’d never wed.  “Aw’m wedded to th’ Lord,” hoo said.  “Well, thaa knows,” said th’ owd mon, “th’ Lord’s noan aboon sharin’ thy love wi’ a daycent husband if thaa can find one, for as He’s towd us i’ th’ Book, it’s noan good for man to be alone, nor woman noather.”  “Eh, Mr Jones,” says Rachel, “a mon’s naught i’ my line; aw’ve done wi’ ’em long sin’; they’re vain things for safety, an’ th’ fear of mon bringeth a snare.  Aw’m wi’ th’ poet when he says:


“Not to man, but God submit,
 Lay my reasonings at Thy feet.”


“Thaa’ll happen live to change thy mind, Rachel,” said th’ owd felley.  “Aw’ve seen owder ones nor yo’ caught afore to-day.”  “Yo’ll never see me caught,” said Rachel — “leastways, if thaa does, thaa shall wed me.”  But it turned aat th’ owd Superintendo knew more nor hoo did, as yo’ll hear.

    ‘Yo’ were never at th’ Charity Sarmons, were yo’?’ asked old Harry.

    ‘No,’ I said, ‘ I’ve heard much of them.  Why?’

    ‘Weel, Charity Sarmons is th’ day when all th’ lasses look their best, when th’ plain uns looks bonny, an’ th’ owd uns looks young.  Th’ chapel’s fair like a garden o’ posies, for there’s flaars i’ their hats an’ roses i’ their faces, an’ as mony colours i’ their dresses as there is i’ th’ bow i’ th’ claads.  Even Rachel used to don hersel’ up a bit at th’ Charity, an’ as religion hadn’t marred her past lookin’ at, hoo come aat bloomin’ that day, for all hoo were fifty year owd an’ turned.

    ‘Aw saw her as hoo walked up to th’ chapel i’ th’ afternoon, an’ aw thought to mysel’, thaa’rt as straight an’ shapely as when thaa wert a lass; it’s a gradely shame thaa should be an owd maid.  An’ aw began to think o’ th’ owd days when hoo could crack her jokes, an’ poo’ all th’ young felleys i’ th’ village at her tail.  Thirty year ago, aw says to mysel’; by Guy, what changes sin’ then.

    ‘Weel, that afternoon they were goin’ in for a big collection, an they gave th’ plates to all them as were likely to give gowd.  One o’ these was owd Gideon o’ th’ Tops a grass farmer as lived abaat four mile away, an owd Methody, an’ a bachelor an’ all.

    ‘It fell aat as he’d to tak’ th’ plate to Rachel, an’ when hoo put her haive soverin on hoo looked up i’ his een, an’ them as were near said as haa hoo blushed.

    ‘E’ dear, they were th’ owd een, though hoo had been convarted thirty year; an when they oppened their fire on Gideon he let the plate drop.  Then like as they both had to stoop to pick up th’ brass, an’ th’ owd chap’s spectacles somehaa or other geet fastened i’ Rachel’s bonnet, an’ when they poo’ed their heads apart their faces were as red as th’ poppies as nodded i’ the children’s hats.  There were as said he popped th’ question when their heads were daan i’ th’ pew-bottom; but aw durnd believe that.  Onyroad it were th’ bringin’ on ’em together, an’ it were th’ beginnin’ o’ th’ end; for at the next lettin’s Gideon took a sittin’, an’ started walkin’ o’er th’ moors to Rachel’s Zion, an’ worshippin’ there.

    ‘There’s mony ways o’ doin’ a bit o’ cooartin’; but when folks is gettin’ owd, an’ when they’re both convarted, like as it’s different wi’ what it is wi’ most when they’re nobbud lads an’ lasses.  Onyroad, it were wi’ Gideon an’ Rachel.’

    ‘Why, what do you know about it, Harry?’ I inquired of the old man.

    ‘Naught but what aw’ve heard.  Rachel telled it hersel’ at th’ Lovefeast, an’ them ’at heard telled me at after.’

    ‘Well, what was the story; can you remember?’

    ‘It were summat like this,’ said Harry.  ‘One Sundo’ neet when th’ prayer-meetin’ were o’er where Rachel had given aat her favourite verse,—


“Not to man, but God submit,
 Lay my reasonings at Thy feet,”


an’ towd th’ Lord aboon a two-thre times ’at hoo never would submit to mon, or lay aught as hoo had at his feet, Gideon walked home wi’ her, an’ says, “Rachel, thaa seems very fond o’ that hymn abaat not submittin’ to mon.”  “Yi!” hoo says, “it’s a gradely un, an it’s four lines sevens an’ all, an’ it goes well to Clayton Heights, a tune my mother used to sing when aw were a little un.”  “Aw want noan to know abaat four lines sevens, nor Clayton Heights noather,” says Gideon.  “It’s the sentiment o’ th’ hymn aw’m talkin’ abaat; thaa fair seems savage when thaa sings that third line, —


‘Not to man, but God submit,’


Has a mon wronged thee at some time, or summat?”  But Rachel said naught.

    ‘Then Gideon plucked up, an’ telled her hoo’d no reet to judge all men by one; an’ that he knew of a mon ’at were a mon, an’ knew a woman when he see one, an’ knew haa to tret her an’ all, an’ ’at that mon were hissel’, an’ hoo were th’ woman he loved.

    ‘Then hoo telled him what hoo’d telled th’ owd Superintendo, ’at hoo were “th’ Lord’s spouse,” an’ that her heart were “up aboon.”  “But,” says Gideon, “thy hymn says as thaa’ll submit to God, doesn’t it?”  “Yi!” hoo says, “it does.”  “Weel, supposin’ God telled thee thaa were to submit to mon, what then?” “Aw should be like to do it,” hoo says; “there’s no stonnin’ agen Providence?  An’ Rachel telled as haa there were a little brid as kept singin’ o’er their heads, an’ sayin’ to her, “Do it, do it, do it.”

    ‘After a bit Gideon said, “Rachel, th’ Lord’s sent a message; He says thaa’rt to be my wife.”  “Does He, forsure?” hoo axed, lookin’ daan at th’ grass hoo were treadin’ on.  “Yi!  He does, an’ thaa says thaa’ll submit to Him.”

    ‘Rachel telled as haa th’ little brid kept sayin’ “Do it, do it, do it,” an’ said as haa hoo daren’t but tak’ it as th’ voice o’ Providence.  So when Gideon axed her agen if hoo’d submit to God, hoo wept, an’ said hoo’d be like to.  Then, owd man as he were, he caught her i’ his arms an’ kissed her, an’ telled her haa he’d love her both for time an’ eternity.

    ‘Rachel telled ’em at th’ class-meetin’ as hoo couldn’t have believed as love would ha’ made th’ world so breetsome as it did that neet.  Hoo said as haa th’ dyin’ sunleet flashed more colours nor hoo’d ever seen afore, an’ haa th’ little stars fair glinted at her wi’ joy.  Hoo’d heard th’ wind among th’ trees mony a time, but this neet it saanded like th’ beatin’ o’ th’ angels’ wings; as hoo said, it were “Heaven begun below.”  Poor lass! it were a new world to her, an’ hoo’d waited long enough for it; but like a deal else, it come at last.  Hoo’d often sung, as aw’ve told yo’, ’at hoo’d never submit to mon; but hoo were fain to when th’ reet mon come.  Dash it! it’s natur’.  What woman’d live baat bein’ wed if hoo’d a chonce?  Convarted or unconvarted, aw durnd care which.  It’s natur’, an’ yo’ cornd ston’ agen it; grace or no grace, it mak’s no matter.’

    ‘And did they marry?’ I asked.

    ‘Did they marry?’ he replied, in a tone of suppressed scorn, as though he pitied my lack of insight to read the sequel.  ‘Forsure they married.  As Gideon said, “they’d no time to loise”; when a chap gets to threescore years, an’ th’ lass is nobbud ten year younger, they’re both on ’em well on into th’ afternoon o’ life.

    ‘It were a weddin’ an’ all, aw con tell yo’.  They raised th’ flag at th’ factory, for Rachel were an owd weyver, an’ th’ chapel were as thronged as it were at th’ Charity Sarmons, when Gideon an’ Rachel upset th’ collectin’-plate between ’em.  An’ th’ owd Superintendo married ’em an’ all, an’ when they were signin’ th’ book i’ th’ vestry, he looked at Rachel wi’ a twinkle i’ his een, an’ said, “four lines sevens.”’

    ‘What did he mean by that?’ I asked.

    ‘Why, he meant to ax Rachel if hoo were ready to sing th’ owd hymn, abaat not submittin’ to mon.  But Rachel were noan o’erfaced wi’ him, an’ towd him haa it were becose hoo’d submitted to God that hoo’d submitted to Gideon, for, says hoo to th’ Superintendo, “It were th’ Lord’s will as Gideon wed me, an’ woe to them as strives wi’ their Maker.”’

    As I left the old man, and walked across the fields that led from the factory to the moors, I overtook Rachel walking in all the dignity of the calm assurance which health and religion confer.  Greeting her, I told her of the story I had just heard from the old engineer, and thus recalled to her the scenes of former years.

    ‘It were i’ these meadows,’ she said, ‘where we’re walkin’ naa, as Gideon first telled me what th’ Lord’s will were concernin’ him an’ me.  Aw took th’ Lord at His word, an’ Gideon an’ all, an’ aw’ve never sorrowed o’er it.  Gideon’s i’ glory naa, an’ when th’ time comes aw shall join him.  But he’s noan left me baat a bit o’ brass, praise th’ Lord.  Aw submitted to His will, an’ He rewarded me accordin’ to my obedience.  A paand a week is noan parish pay.  Nowe! th’ Lord’s mindful o’ His own; their bread an’ their watter’s sure;’ and the old woman left me singing some religious ditty in which the refrain of the verse was,


‘The Lord will provide.’


――――♦――――


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